‘Steerpike – the high shouldered (soon to be high handed) one’

Mervyn Peake's Steerpike, what a truly wonderful artist he was

When we first encounter Steerpike the kitchen boy, he is trying to escape from Swelter’s kitchen.  Using Flay’s footsteps as a marker to get  into the upper world of the castle, he seems well – just a boy.  He is seventeen years old with high shoulders, smouldering eyes and obviously intelligent.  From this first meeting, Steerpike seems harmless enough.  He is quick to observe Flay’s dislike of Swelter though and play on it.  Indeed, this quickness coupled with keen observation helps him insinuate himself at every opportunity.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Steerpike

In the BBC adaptation, Steerpike was played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who I felt was much too good looking (though these looks do ‘improve’ as the story unfolds).  There are many sides to Steepike’s character and  none of them sentimental.  He is indeed an opportunist – even creating opportunities where none exist, – which shall be seen. 

HERE is the wonderful website of Gormenghast

Lot’s of information about Peake and his work at Peake Studies

4 thoughts on “‘Steerpike – the high shouldered (soon to be high handed) one’

  1. Aren’t the names in Gormenghast wonderful? ‘Swelter’ and ‘Flay’. They have a Dickensian ring to them, the sort of names he might have chosen if he had been writing in the 1930s and 40s. JRM’s eyes do portray a nasty glint, so maybe we’ll forgive him for being so handsome!!

    1. I’ve often thought how like Dickens Peake is when it comes to characterisation and the descriptive and often ludicous names he has for the Gormenghast folk. I love the way he introduces Flay to his kitchen boys;-
      ‘Mr Flee, I will introduce you,’ said Swelter as the boys approached, glueing their frightened eyes on their precarious cargoes. ‘Mr Flee – Master Springers – Master Springers – Mr Flee. Mr Flee – Master Wrattle, Master Wrattle – Mr Flee. Mr Flee – Master Spurter – Mr Flee…….

      Very Dickensian! The Beadle from Oliver Twist might have named them 😀

        1. Steerpike – the original anti hero! He dared to NOT conform – yet aspired to be what he despised (heirarchy, privilege etc) I think he just liked order…on HIS terms 🙂

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