Saturday, November 10, 2007

Future Auction of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard"

This is week-old news, but J.K. Rowling has handwritten seven copies of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard"; six will be given as "'thank you' presents for the people who have been most closely involved with Harry Potter over the years" while the seventh will be auctioned on December 13, 2007. The starting bid is £30,000 (or $62,000).

As every reader of Deathly Hallows knows, "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" are a bound collection of folktales, which Dumbledore bequeathed to Hermione in his will. One of the stories, "The Tale of the Three Brothers" had special relevance to the last novel as Harry Potter was tempted to find the Deathly Hallows. The four other stories are:

  • "The Fountain of Fair Fortune"
  • "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot"
  • "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump"
  • "The Warlock’s Hairy Heart"

The first three were mentioned in the last novel while the last is a new story (presumably with the collection in Dumbledore's copy, but never mentioned in the novel itself). Unfortunately this collection will not be published although I am hoping she will include these stories in her Harry Potter Encyclopedia. Whoever those six "real insiders" are, they are lucky. Even more important is that proceeds from the auctioned copy will go to a good cause:

I have therefore decided to auction the seventh book for The Children's Voice (previously the Children's High Level Group), the charity I co-founded to campaign for the rights of institutionalised children.

Each of the seven copies of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" has a different dedication; all are leather-bound and embellished with silver and different semi-precious stones. The seventh book (the Moonstone edition) will be auctioned at Sotheby's in London on December 13th 2007. The book will be on display to the public for a short period before the sale, and catalogues will be sold, all profits going to the Children's Voice.

There is a special commemorative catalogue of the item being auctioned; this 48-page catalogue includes photos of the soon-to-be-auctioned manuscript and a message from JKR herself and is only $16.00. Finally while we are on the subject of "Tales of Beedle the Bard", I want to reference two past articles at Sword of Gryffindor. The first is my own "The Pardoner's Tale in Deathly Hallows", which draws a parallel between the "Tale of the Three Brothers" and Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale" (a parallel that JKR herself suggested). The second is written by Dave, "The Tale of the Three Brothers", which examines JKR's usage of literary metanarrrative in this tale and its interpretation by several characters in the last novel, before concluding that perhaps JKR is topying with her readers and that:

It’s both the literal and figurative fulcrum of Deathly Hallows over which Harry teeters, dragging us along with him.

Forgive my shameless plugging of these two articles by the Blogengamot. Wink, wink.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Latest SOG Post on Halloween

Yesterday I posted my latest entry at Sword of Gryffindor, "Laughter and Mockery in Halloween", which references an article, "Concerning Halloween" which looks at the Christian origins of the holiday. The author is James B. Jordan, who is the director of Biblical Horizons. In his article, Jordan looks at the traditions of Halloween where laughter and mockery are used to overcome fear and usher in the joy of the Kingdom. J.K. Rowling seems to recognize this through the Riddikulus charm introduced in Prisoner of Azkaban. Read the rest of my short entry and let me know what you think.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Farewell, Madeleine L'Engle

I was told that Madeleine L'Engle passed away this Thursday and it really sunk in after reading her obituary in the New York Times today. Madeleine L'Engle is of course well known for her John Newberry award winning masterpiece, A Wrinkle in Time, as well as her other Time Quartet books.

I bought A Wrinkle in Time many years ago, but never read it until last year after my friend Erica kept urging me to do so. The first sentence of the book, "It was a dark and stormy night", drew me into the adventures of Meg Murry, Christopher Wallace Murry, and Calvin O'Keefe. I was moved by the Christian elements within the book, especially L'Engle's quotation of Isaiah 42.10-12; Romans 8.28,30; and 1 Corinthians 1.25-28. Consequently Wrinkle has drawn the ire of many Christians because of the character Mrs. Which (sounds like "witch") and the appearance of a crystal ball. This and other concerns over L'Engle's liberal Christianity earned Wrinkle a spot on the ALA's list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. L'Engle spoke on the controversy by saying:

It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.

I am reminded of the past controversies surrounding the Harry Potter series and the author, J.K. Rowling. In a May 2003 interview with Newsweek, L'Engle was asked if she read the Harry Potter books:

I read one of them. It’s a nice story but there’s nothing underneath it. I don’t want to be bothered with stuff where there’s nothing underneath. Some people say, “Why do you read the Bible?’’ I say, "Because there’s a lot of stuff underneath."

I'm assuming that she read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone since that is the first novel. I wonder if she would have changed her thoughts on Harry Potter if she continued to read the entire series until its conclusion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Rowling also quotes from scripture in the final book (Matthew 6.21 & 1 Corinthians 15.26) and expounds on the Christian principles of sacrifice and love's power over evil. Contrary to L'Engle's first impressions of a "nice story", there is a lot underneath. I'm not sure if she decided to read the entire series before her death, but I'm hoping she did.

In the same interview Melinda Henneberger asks L'Engle, "I ask about the Potter books because, like “Wrinkle,” they have Christian themes yet have been criticized by some Christians, for similar reasons" (emphasis mine) to which L'Engle responded:

Well, the Fundalets [fundamentalist Christians] want a closed system, and I want an open system.

L'Engle was known for her unique perspective on scripture and myth, but there was no question that she was a Christian, devoted to her faith and her craft. She poured her heart into her various works and her readers are better for it. She wrote in Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life:

All art, good, bad, indifferent, reflects its culture. Great art transcends its culture and touches on that which is eternal. . .True art has a mythic quality in that it speaks of that which was true, is true, and will be true.

L'Engle spoke profoundly on what true art is because she was a literary artist. Reflecting on her work makes me want to find out more about this extraordinary woman, who stands up there with other Christian mythmakers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. And though she will be missed by all her readers, including myself, she is with her Saviour now.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Relevant Magazine and Latest S.O.G. Post

A friend of mine that I mentioned earlier in this blog told me recently that Relevant Magazine, a magazine geared towards young twentysomething Christians, gave a positive review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in their latest September issue. The article is Harry's Last Stand by Dustin-Lee Casey, who is the webmaster of Christian Writers Forums, and is a short but worthwhile read. Here is a quote:
There were also similarities in the story to what some Christians think the "end times" might be like if the anti-christ came to power and began to fight and exterminate believers. Harry, his band of followers and their adventures reminded me that no matter what, we as Christians should never lose faith and continue to fight for what we believe in.
This is interesting because Voldemort does have some parallels with the "antichrist" figure in the New Testament. Voldemort brands his followers with a mark, takes over the wizarding government, and comes back, so to speak, in the middle of the seven novels. One could make the argument that Harry Potter has more in common with the Left Behind novels than Wicca. That said, I prefer reading Harry Potter.

Relevant Magazine's review is just another article to add to the overwhelming positive reception to the Christian themes and symbols in the last novel. Of smaller note, I posted my latest entry at Sword of Gryffindor, No God in Deathly Hallows? giving some brief words about Michael O'Brien and Lev Grossman's view that the series is devoid of God. If we consider the presence of biblical scripture and a church in Godric's Hollow, then we can say ontologically that God exists in the series. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Behold a Phoenix at the Blogengamot

I usually announce things late in the game but Travis Prinzi posted the following at his blog last week:

A few weeks ago, just after Prophecy 2007, I sent 40+ pages of my work to Zossima Press, and they have agreed to publish a book! More details will follow in the coming months, and the book should be on the shelves sometime next year. For now, I need time to write, so I have formed the Blogengamot (BLOGG-en-guh-mott), a council of incredibly talented, magical blogging brethren who will carry on the work of SoG in the coming months. I will continue with the weekly (hopefully) Hog’s Head PubCast, while the writing duties will be taken up by Matthew (Korg20000bc), Dave the Longwinded, and Johnny (Behold a Phoenix). Ben S is now our official Tech-Elf. Matthew is also the official moderator.
Now Blogengamot is a brilliant play on the Wizengamot, first mentioned in Order of the Phoenix, which is the high court of wizarding law in Great Britain. Of course we won't be writing any laws, but we are responsible for the content at Sword of Gryffindor while Travis writes his book. I'm patiently waiting for more details on that but I would like to say that I can't wait to buy my copy. I'm just flattered to be brought aboard by Travis. He's been a big part of this blog and I will always be grateful for his comments and advice. I'm also humbled to be among talented writers and fellow devotees to JKR's series, Matthew Boyd and Dave the Longwinded. I would also like to mention Ben S, who is the tech-elf at Sword of Gryffindor and is just brilliant with web design. I'm glad to be a part of this group. I lift my pint of Butterbeer to the members of the Blogengamot and wish Travis all the best in writing his book.

I just submitted my first post The Pardoner's Tale in Deathly Hallows yesterday so enjoy!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Alan Jacobs Reviews Deathly Hallows

Alan Jacobs posted his review of Deathly Hallows at Books & Culture earlier this week, The Youngest Brother's Tale. Regarding the last novel, Jacobs writes:
What could one say in defense of these books, so unliterary, so unsophisticated in their morality and style, so bourgeois, so heteronormative? Perhaps only this: that J.K. Rowling has produced, in the vast, seven-book, thirty-five-hundred-page arc of Harry's story, the greatest penny dreadful ever written.

There is a great deal to say regarding this article, which I'll cover in a future post but check it out.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Eeyore's Reflections on Albus Dumbledore

While reading Deathly Hallows, I found myself experiencing the same angst-ridden feelings of doubt over Albus Dumbledore as Harry did. He longer struck me as a man unafraid of death ("After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure" anyone?) but as one tempted to become the Master of Death by uniting the three articles of the Deathly Hallows along with his friend, Grindelwald. It was really something to see a teary Dumbledore lamenting to Harry about what a fool he was. Dumbledore's usage of "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," on the tomb of his mother and sister, show how foolish and selfish he was. Dumbledore was lured by power and a fear of death, which led to a fate worse than death, that of remorse and alienation from his family. Pat Henderson of Eeyore's Reflections has a fantastic article, Albus Dumbledore -- Not Who We Thought He was, which explores the humanity of Dumbledore in greater depth. She wrote:

Rather than being disappointed in who Dumbledore turned out to be, I found it encouraging. Here is a hero who is not so different than any of us--one who has made choices, one choice which was devastating, but which set his feet and heart on a life-long path of redemption, as he tried to live the rest of his life as he now knew he should have done. The past could not be undone, as Dumbledore learned when he was once again tempted to try to use the Resurrection Stone, but except for that one last stumble, his choices for the future showed that he had learned from his mistakes, had taken responsibility for them, as he spent his life teaching students, being an example of mercy to all, and in the end, tried to help Severus and Harry accomplish what he, the greatest wizard of all, could not do--defeat the evil that terrorized the world in the form of Lord Voldemort. So even though Albus turned out not to be the perfect person many of us built him up to be, I think what Rowling gave us in Albus Dumbledore was much better.

Excellent piece. Go check it out!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Christianity Today on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This is old news but I wanted to mention some noteworthy articles on Deathly Hallows coming out of Christianity Today's cauldron. Besides reviewing the last book in The Gospel According to J.K. Rowling, CT's website has such pieces as What Would Jonathan Edwards Say About Harry Potter?, which examines what the eighteenth century preacher would have thought of JKR's masterpiece, and even a look at changing Evangelical opinions concerning the boy wizard in (A Bit Less) Positive About Potter. Finally Harry Potter 7 Is Matthew 6 explores the use of scripture in the last book and Spoiler Alert shows that the Harry Potter craze suggests that we are not telling the Gospel story correctly. I'm still waiting patiently for Alan Jacob's thoughts on the last book in his column, Rumors of Glory at Books & Culture at CT's website. Fingers crossed but until then enjoy the above articles.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Comment on Richard Abanes

This is old news but I want to comment on something that Richard Abanes wrote concerning Deathly Hallows, most specifically in the Hogwart's Professor post, "Smuggling the Gospel" Fallout. Much of what Abanes wrote in his comments were ably responded to by John Granger, Travis Prinzi of Sword of Gryffindor, dcramer of Conciliar Press, aussieseeker71, and others. On to what Abanes wrote:

And as for the supposed “Christian” ending to HP that I am hearing about, I assume you ARE familiar with the dying-rising, savior-deliverer myth motif that is present in virtually every culture and actually pre-dates Christ? Rowling is using a very powerful, standard, ancient formula to pack a serious punch into the end of her book that will resonate (as the savior-myth has always done) with readers/listeners.

First things first, the concept of dying and rising gods in antiquity was popularized a century ago by Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Scholars in the fields of anthropology and comparative religion have mostly rejected this concept, citing that Frazer over interpreted the evidence in his conclusions. Glenn Miller of Christian Thinktank (a great website on Christian Apologetics) quotes from Jonathan Z. Smith, who contributed the entry "Dying and Rising Gods" for The Encyclopedia of Religion (Edited by Mircea Eliade; Macmillian: 1987):

The category of dying and rising gods, once a major topic of scholarly investigation, must now be understood to have been largely a misnomer based on imaginative reconstructions and exceedingly late or highly ambiguous texts.

Smith examined the cases of ancient deities such as Adonis, Baal/Hadad/Adad, Attis, Marduk, Osirus, and Tammuz/Dumuzi and came to the following conclusion:

As the above examples make plain, the category of dying and rising deities is exceedingly dubious. It has been based largely on Christian interest and tenuous evidence. As such, the category is of more interest to the history of scholarship than to the history of religions.

Therefore the concept of "dying-rising" pre-Christian deities has, by and large, been disproved by scholars across the spectrum, and Abanes is inaccurate in his statement. It is worth nothing that resurrection is a purely Jewish concept from which the Christian movement flourished; the pagan world believed that resurrection was impossible. N.T. Wright in The Resurrection of the Son of God goes into this in his chapter "Shadows, Souls and Where They Go":

The great majority of the ancients believed in life after death; many of them developed, as we have seen, complex and fascinating beliefs about it and practices in relation to it; but, other than within Judaism and Christianity, they did not believe in resurrection. 'Resurrection' denoted a new embodied life which would follow whatever 'life after death' there might be. 'Resurrection' was, by definition, not the existence into which someone might (or might not) go immediately upon death; it was not a disembodied 'heavenly' life; it was a further stage, out beyond all that. It was not a redescription or redefinition of death. It was death's reversal.

Pagan nonbelief in the resurrection shows the folly of the concept of "dying-rising" gods. Compared to what the ancients boasted about their gods, the resurrection of Jesus stands alone as an event that never occurred before. Folly indeed.

Second, even if the "dying-rising, savior-deliverer myth motif" was true, it does not matter. J.K. Rowling has said that her Christian faith is the key towards unlocking the ending of the series. She did not say that her belief in Osirus or any other pagan deity was the key to what's coming in the books. No, rather it was her Christian faith, and of course the resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the heart of that faith. No wonder JKR's favorite painting is Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio, which shows a resurrected Christ appearing to three of his followers. Abanes is just grasping at straws here. JKR statements are what counts and in light of everything that occurred in Deathly Hallows, they are very telling.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Berit Kjos Just Does Not Get It

Berit Kjos, one of the most staunch opponents of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, reveals her gross misunderstanding of Deathly Hallows in her review, "Harry's Last Battle & Rowling's Beliefs". Concentrating on the Vancouver Sun quotation where JKR told Max Wyman that if she discussed her faith then the "intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what's coming in the books"; Kjos comes to the following conclusion about the novel's climactic ending where Harry sacrifices himself and later comes back to defeat Voldemort:

By presenting a counterfeit version of Biblical salvation, Rowling prompts her readers to imagine a false Christianity that embraces the occult. To most readers, it will feel true, for such dialectical lies (union of opposites) -- taught through occult systems such as the Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism, and Unity -- have now become an accepted way of thinking around the world. Indeed, what God calls evil, now seems deceptively good.

Several points must be made. JKR is not trying to seduce her readers into the occult. In fact JKR has said that "[the] two groups of people who are constantly thanking me are wiccans (white witches) and boarding schools. And really, don't thank me. I'm not with either of them. New ageism leaves me completely cold, and Jessie would never go to boarding school" (Hattenstone, Simon. "Harry, Jessica and me," The Guardian, July 8, 2000). She has said on another occasion that "I'm neither a practicing witch nor do I believe in magic" (Rogers, Shelagh. "INTERVIEW: J.K. Rowling," Canadian Broadcasting Co., October 23, 2000). The magic in the Harry Potter series is purely mechanical and often resembling science and technology; more important is that the magic does not resemble anything in Wicca or the occult. Basically it's fantasy magic that one would find in any fairy tale or fantasy novel. Therefore based on the above statements by JKR, Kjos is wrong when she argues that the novels allow readers to "embrace the occult".

Kjos also does not understand the Vancouver Sun quotation. Harry Potter's sacrificial death is a powerful plot point that echoes that true sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. Since Deathly Hallows is fiction, Harry's actions are not meant to replace Christ's sacrifice. To say that JKR is perpetuating a "counterfeit version of Biblical Salvation" and a "false Christianity" is dishonest. JKR uses Christian symbolism in her novels and she admitted herself to Meredith Vieira on the Today Show that there is a "religious undertone" in the series. Kjos does not treat Harry Potter as a work of literature and does not understand concepts of symbolism and the rules governing them. Instead she sees them as a portal to the occult, which is not accurate in light of JKR's statements and an honest reading of the novels.

Kjos quickly glosses over the "Christian" elements and fails to mention either JKR use of scripture on the tombstones of Kendra/Ariana Dumbledore and James/Lily Potter or her use of Chaucer's "Pardoner's Tale" as inspiration for the story of the Three Brothers and the Deathly Hallows. Kjos also makes dubious use of a mysterious person named "Peter" who was supposedly a former occultist and Temple Master of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. For reasons of safety, Kjos will not reveal Peter's identity, which is suspicious enough. Given Kjos' inaccuracy concerning the series, "Peter" probably knows as much about the occult as David J. Meyer does. The same tired arguments are peddled throughout this piece showing the age of the anti-Harry movement. I mean the last novel itself pretty much settled the issue. Perhaps there is a relief that Harry Potter is finally over. Now one only wonders whether Berit Kjos will move on as Laura Mallory has done.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Interviews with J.K. Rowling

Earlier this week Harry Potter fans enjoyed a early Christmas present as J.K. Rowling gave two interviews, one with Meredith Vieira of the Today Show and the other a webchat courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing, answering some questions regarding the last novel. Both interviews are a treat and I suggest any fan to check them out, provided of course that you read Deathly Hallows as there are spoilers. Here are some excerpts from each interview that I found interesting:
Young voice: Harry's also referred to as the chosen one. So are there religious--
J.K. Rowling: Well, there-- there clearly is a religious-- undertone. And-- it's always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on, it would give away a lot of what was coming. So … yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book.

Meredith Vieira: And what is the struggle?
J.K. Rowling: Well my struggle really is to keep believing.
Meredith Vieira: To keep believing?
J.K. Rowling: Yes.

And the other:

Jessie: Were the Deathly Hallows based on any realworld myth or faerie tale?

J.K. Rowling: Perhaps ‘the Pardoner’s Tale’, by Chaucer.

The above excerpts from JKR's interviews were probably the most blatant in regards to her religious beliefs. JKR is very honest with the young viewer and with Meredith Vieira when she says that she struggles with her religious beliefs and faith. She has said in the past that she is a Christian and she is a member of the Church of Scotland. This struggle probably has something to do with the death of her mother over a decade ago, which profoundly affected JKR. She hinted at this in an interview in the summer of 2000 with Evan Solomon. We see in Deathly Hallows, Harry struggling with his belief of Albus Dumbledore and probably serves as an echo to JKR's own internal struggle. This makes her a very human and of course honest Christian. Of course JKR's usage of 'the Pardoner's Tale' shows that she is familiar with The Canterbury Tales and the obvious Christian references found within. Being that she is a classics major from Exeter University, JKR mostly read Chaucer's work in its entirety.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Brief Comments on Deathly Hallows

Spoiler Warning: This blog entry contains many spoilers of the last Harry book. Do not read unless you read the novel.

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I'm going to spend some time giving some reasons why I loved it. The symbolism she uses in this book is so profound and the Vancouver Sun quotation was fulfilled to the letter. I can understand why she wanted to keep her faith under wraps because it would practically give away the novel's climax, namely Harry's death and coming back again. Harry walking through the forest on the way to his death is a throwback to Aslan, although Harry walking with James, Lily, Sirius, and Remus invokes a more powerful image, reminding anyone of the entourage of the dead that accompanied Christ's death and resurrection in Matthew 27.52,53 or the "cloud of witnesses" of Hebrews 12.1. Harry's sacrifice extending to all on the side of good and protecting them is certainly reminiscent of Christ's sacrifice extending to all those who call on his name. This does not make Harry into Christ but it does make him a Christ figure in the novels. Another powerful symbol was Harry taking the Sword of Gryffindor out of the lake reminding us of King Arthur. Powerful imagery indeed.

J.K. Rowling provides clear answers on the nature of evil. One does not even have to glance at the title of the first chapter ("Dark Lord Ascending") that Voldemort is the "Satan" figure (or even "Antichrist") in the novels reminding me of Isaiah 14.13,14. You can add Adolf Hitler to the names you can give Voldemort. In the novel you see Voldemort and his Death Eaters taking over the Ministry of Magic and enforcing the "Magic is Might" act where Muggleborn wizards and witches have to register. A statue of a witch and wizard standing over the naked bodies of Muggleborns (or "Mudbloods") reminds us of the horrors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust. You can substitute Jewish people with Muggleborns and you get the point. I absolutely loved it when Harry, Ron, and Hermione smuggled many innocent Muggleborns, whose only crime was their magical ability without obtaining it biologically, out of the Ministry. The actions of Harry, Ron, and Hermione remind us of the bravery of Harriot Tubman or even those Germans who risked their lives to save Jews.

There are many references to churches in this novel than any other Potter novel. Of course most of these references are in the sixteenth chapter ("Godric's Hollow") where Harry and Hermione visit the graveyard outside a church in Godric's Hollow. It is here that we see JKR quote two scriptures for the gravestones of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore ("Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" is found in Matthew 6.21), and Lily and James Potter ("The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" is found in 1 Corinthians 15.26). Of course if JKR is a Christian then we could expect this but I still find this interesting in light of the many Christians who consider the novels to be handbooks on Wicca (however despite these claims we never find the Wiccan greeting "Blessed Be" or any concept of the Wiccan Rede in Harry Potter). What was awesome was that after Harry Potter visited his parents grave, he was going to suggest to Hermione to take refuge in the church nearby with the parishioners singing Christmas carols but Hermione interrupted his thoughts and they had to press on with their mission.

What about Severus Snape and Professor Dumbledore? We learn that Snape really is Dumbledore's man through and through and that he loved Harry's mother. We also learn that Snape's patronus was a silver doe, which was the same as Lily's. A doe is a female stag, which is a Medieval symbol of Christ because of their afinity for stomping on serpents, their enemies. When Voldemort turned on Snape in order to gain control of the Elder Wand, I was saddened at the death of this complex character in the Potterverse. I am glad that Harry really got to know who this man really was and this will prove to be one of the pivotal scenes in the series. The revelations of Professor Dumbledore show him to be human from his friendship of Grindelwald, a dark wizard before Voldemort, the views of Muggles he shared with his friend, and his temptation over uniting the Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore seems almost evil in some of his actions but he has turned from his mistakes and became the man that we all know and love. I loved the part where he said that Harry is a better person than himself in that "afterlife" scene at King's Cross. We truly see a complex Dumbledore.

The deaths of Mad-Eye Moody, Hedwig, Dobby, Remus, Tonks, and Fred were very sad and show that war and evil have casualties. One of the running themes of the novel was how does one face death and JKR's view is that we should face death without fear and that what we do in this life is important. One need only glance at the powerful quotations of Aeschylus (ancient Greek playwright) and William Penn (a Quaker Christian, by the way) and the meaning behind the Tale of the Three Brothers. Harry sacrificed himself for others and the other people I mentioned died for the same reason.

I loved the emergeance of Neville Longbottom. He really came into his own and is truly did his parents proud. Kreacher becoming nice was great since all he needed was kindness and respect. I loved how he led the other house elves to battle. Another crucial piece was Harry Potter extending kindness and respect to both Kreacher and goblins as well. He truly is an odd fellow as Griphook mentioned in the book. Who else can save Draco Malfoy's life and in the same breath command Voldemort to show some remorse? Harry's alchemical transformation is truly complete and he is an image of the Philosopher's Stone.

There is so much that I loved about this novel. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is replete with profound symbolism, great action, moving moments, and ties the whole series together nicely. As I said earlier, I love this book!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Will Harry Potter Die...And Rise Again?

In my previous post, I mentioned Abigail BeauSeigneur's Mugglenet editorial, Is Harry Potter the Son of God? In fact there is an interesting discussion concerning this editorial over at Sword of Gryffindor. Abigail argues (she is not the first person to argue this, check here) that there are many similarities between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ and that Harry is the Christ figure in the novels. What is important to this discussion here is the scenario she paints for the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, namely that Harry Potter will sacrifice himself by going into the Veil (probably dragging Voldemort along with him) and then conquering death by appearing on the other side (she theorizes that the mysterious room in the Department of Mysteries a.k.a. "the love room" might be connected to the Veil). This, she argues, is tantamount to a resurrection.

The concept of Harry dying and rising again minds me of a piece I wrote on January 13, 2005 and submitted to Mugglenet. I had hoped that they would publish it on their Editorial page but unfortunately they never published it. They receive hundreds of submissions and mine just did not make the cut. It was a small theory I had based on different messages in the first novel concerning Harry's ultimate fate. Looking back I probably should have tweaked this editorial here and there and expounded on some points. I'm not sure if this theory is strong enough, although it does remain a possibility. However I want to submit here for consideration so enjoy:

Recently as I was reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, my thoughts went to the question of whether Harry will live past the seventh novel or die at the hands of Voldemort. I believe that the first novel offers conflicting clues concerning this question giving the impression that the ambiguity of Harry’s fate is intentional.

Consider Harry’s words to Ron and Hermione after he served detention (along with Hermione) with Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest:

Firenze saved me, but he shouldn’t have done so….Bane was furious…he was talkingabout interfering with what the planets say is going to happen….They must show that Voldemort’s coming back….Bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me….I suppose that’s written in the stars as well (p. 324).
Harry’s words here points back to Professor Trelawney’s prophecy, which he did not find out about until his fifth year:
…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…
The prophecy is conditioned that either Harry or Voldemort will die in the future. Harry’s perspective that his death was written in the stars based on Bane’s reaction to Firenze saving “the Potter boy.” I cannot help but think that this was a deliberate clue given by J.K. Rowling herself.

There are, however, other clues that Harry will survive past Hogwarts. Consider Hagrid’s words to the Dursleys regarding Harry, “Seven years there and he won’t know himself” (p. 73). Or how about these next two quotes?

In years to come, Harry would never quite remember how he had managed to get through his exams when he half-expected Voldemort to come bursting through the door at any moment (p. 326).

It was the best evening of Harry’s life, better than winning at Quidditch, or Christmas, or knocking out mountain trolls…he would never, ever forget tonight (p. 382).
The important word here is ‘would’ and for good reason. William Strunk wrote in The Elements of Style that ‘would’ is “commonly used to express habitual or repeated action” but is often too general in its usage. ‘Would’ is not as precise regarding the future as say ‘will’ but there are many possibilities with ‘would,’ one of which is that Harry will survive past Hogwarts based on what the rest of the sentences say, i.e. “in years to come” and “never, ever.”

Ultimately I believe that Harry’s destiny is that he will die…but will come back to life. That is why Rowling is ambiguous in the clues in book one. Think about it. Every theory on Harry’s death focuses on Harry sacrificing himself for the Wizarding world making him a Christ figure. This idea is not so far fetched because J.K. Rowling in fact downplays her Christian beliefs because “If I talk too freely about that, I think the intelligent reader – whether ten or sixty – will be able to guess what is coming in the books.”

However we forget that while Jesus Christ was crucified, the story goes that three days later he was resurrected. If Rowling is a Christian then she will certainly bring Harry back to life since the Resurrection is at the heart of that faith. She is also a big Caravaggio fan, whose “Supper at Emmaus” painting (where it shows a risen Christ) is her favorite. This certainly explains her ambiguity in the first book and throughout the novels concerning Harry’s fate. Why did Professor Trelawney predict Harry’s death until his fifth year where in front of Professor Umbridge, she said that he will live to a ripe old age? Will she change her mind in Half-Blood Prince? Further proof that Harry will live again is provided in a clue in where else but the first novel. After Harry passed out or went unconscious after battling Quirrell, he woke up three days later. Does that remind you of anything?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

J.K. Rowling Speaks Out On Leaks

Things are heating up in the Potterverse. People like Lev Grossman are heralding secularism as triumphant in the series. Travis Prinzi of Sword of Gryffindor has responded brilliantly to Grossman and others who just do not see any hint of religion in the series. Now every person who considers themself a Harry Potter has to be concerned with spoilers. Supposedly pages of the last novel has surfaced on the web. I haven't seen them and to be quite honest, I don't want to. Mugglenet reported that the New York Times obtained a copy of Deathly Hallows from an unnamed bookstore in New York City. I believe that the bookstore in question is most likely a small business as Barnes & Noble has strict policies on the handling of the boxes containing the novel. I should know; I work for one of their stores. The Times posted a review online and is full of spoilers. I definately won't be reading that review anytime soon. Also Scholastic is going to take legal action against and distributor Levy Home Entertainment, for distributing and selling copies of DH before Midnight, July 21. J.K. Rowling has some words in the midst of all this madness:

We are almost there! As launch night looms, let's all, please, ignore the misinformation popping up on the web and in the press on the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'd like to ask everyone who calls themselves a Potter fan to help preserve the secrecy of the plot for all those who are looking forward to reading the book at the same time on publication day. In a very short time you will know EVERYTHING!

Yes! Everything will be revealed. Resist the temptation and stay away from the spoilers. Only 2 more days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter, the Son of God?

I know of a story that has enthralled billions. A baby is born without any fanfare. This child is special with a destiny to become the "Chosen One" because of a prophecy. It is because of this oracle that the baby is sought after by an evil and murderous man. The child escapes and we do not see him again for another decade where he is living in humble surroundings. No I am not talking of Harry Potter but a much greater and historical figure, Jesus Christ.

You might have caught it but there are many similarities between the famous character J.K. Rowling created and Jesus. Perhaps this was intentional on JKR's part. I found a gem of an article at Mugglenet, which argues that Harry Potter is the Christ figure in JKR's series, titled Is Harry Potter the Son of God? The usual interpretation (including John Granger, author of Looking for God in Harry Potter) is that Harry represents "everyman" but Abigail BeauSeigneur's heavily researched editorial deserves a reading.

Lev Grossman, you should read this editorial!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lev Grossman, God, and Harry Potter

I find it fascinating that Lev Grossman of Time Magazine is heralding God's funeral because of His supposed absence in the Harry Potter series. Grossman writes "[i]f you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God" and "Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind". This flagrantly contradicts J.K. Rowling's statements that she believes in God. What about that famous Vancouver Sun quotation of hers in response to whether she is a Christian:

''Yes, I am,'' she says. ''Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I've been asked if I believe in God, I've said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what's coming in the books.''
Travis Prinzi responds to Grossman point by point in his recent (and brilliant) Sword of Gryffindor post, Lev Grossman Strikes Again. Prinzi scoffs at Grossman's secularist view of the series by bringing up the fact that Harry Potter does have some religious elements such as Christian holidays and christenings. Grossman clearly has an agenda (he's admitted that he's an atheist and that he likes the supposed absense of God in the series) , which is evidenced by the fact that he ignores statements made by JKR herself. If Grossman was a journalist then he should have scoured her many interviews looking for a quote or two to support his 180 degrees wrong views on the series. He would find no such evidence but what he would find is a author who is keeping her religious views under wraps until the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

John Granger a.k.a. Hogwart's Professor has suggested in a recent post that perhaps JKR is using Lev Grossman to protect her storyline and take the heat of her religious beliefs this close to the Deathly Hallows release. JKR has said in the past that:

There is one thing that if anyone guessed I would be really annoyed as it is kind of the heart of it all. And it kind of explains everything and no-one's quite got there but a couple of people have skirted it. So you know, I would be pretty miffed after thirteen or fourteen years of writing the books if someone just came along and said I think this will happen in book seven. Because it is too late, I couldn't divert now, everything has been building up to it, and I've laid all my clues (Paxman, Jeremy, "JK's OOTP interview," BBC Newsnight, 19 June 2003).
Could this be a reference to a religious ending that Grossman seems to ignore? Whatever the case, if we are to believe Granger, maybe Grossman's article is a good thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

John Granger's Book is Ludicrous?

I was glancing at the Sunday edition of the NY Daily News (yes I'm a barbarian for not reading the NY Times, sue me) and I noticed the insert of USA Weekend. On the cover it said, "How will Harry Potter end? Muggles weigh in". Curious, I turned to the page and was treated to a barrage of predictions by various muggles including Emerson Spartz, founder of Mugglenet whom I seen in person at a Barnes & Noble but sadly never met. The predictions are a treat but what really got my attention was the opposite page. It read:

Some Potter goods we could live without

We adore the Harry Potter books and movies, but Hogwarts' hero also has been exploited for a lot of junk that makes nose-biting teacups seem useful by comparison. Among the ludicrous Potter products we won't be sorry to see vanish:

Scores of absurd tie-ins include If Harry Potter Ran General Electric, Looking for God in Harry Potter and our personal favorite, Harry Potter and International Relations, in which the boy wizard is linked to real-life globalization and geopolitical issues.

Other products were mentioned from crazy costumes to wands and brooms; the exact specifics not important to this discussion. The fact that the author of this two-page piece, Jeffrey Ressner, has John Granger's book Looking for God in Harry Potter, proves that he is merely judging a book by its title. I highly doubt that Ressner read Granger's book (ditto for the other two titles he mentioned) for a small piece in an article that focuses exclusively on "Harry Potter Predictions". Now why would Granger's book be labeled "ludicrous", "babbling", "junk", and something "we could live without"? Could it be the possibility of a religious underpinning in the Harry Potter series? After all J.K. Rowling has went on the record before and said that her faith is a clue to the end of the series. What is so "absurd" about looking for God in a series about wizards and Dark Lords?

I also take issue with Ressner's statement that Granger's book is exploiting Harry Potter. Granger in his book has written that as a homeschooling father, he was wary of JKR's novels but after reading them he changed his opinion of them. Granger's reason? "These stories resonate with the Great Story for which we all are designed". Granger's intention in writing this book was to show why these novels are popular. Is it exploitation to write a book discussing the Christian meaning behind the Harry Potter series? After all JKR has said that she is a Christian and that she attends church. Once again I ask what is so "absurd" about looking for God in Harry Potter?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review of Order of the Phoenix

Spoiler Warning: If you have not watched the film then do not read this review as there are details from the film being discussed here.

In the middle of watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I realized that this was a very different Potter film. With a new director (David Yates), new screenwriter (Michael Goldenberg), and new composer (Nicholas Hooper); I expected this going into the movie but it just hit me forcibly in the theatre. This was such a different Potter film that after watching it, I was not sure what to make of it. My overall reaction was mixed as I enjoyed much of the film but was left with a feeling of disappointment as the movie ended.

The chillingly haunting rendition of John William's "Hedwig's Theme" by Nicholas Hooper plunged me into Order. Harry Potter is vilified in the wizarding media and what's worse he is expelled from Hogwarts because he performed underage magic even though it was done in a lifesaving situation. Harry is tried like a high priority criminal by the Wizengamot. Even though he's acquitted, it gets worse for Harry. He endures the stares and disbelief of the student body, a growing anger problem, and a sadistic professor who tortures him for telling the very truth of Voldemort's return that most of the wizarding world believes is a lie. Pushed by Ron and Hermione, Harry heads a subversive student group called Dumbledore's Army whose aim is to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts to those dissatisfied with the curriculum. The film moves with a lightning pace as Albus Dumbledore is ousted from Hogwarts and a new regime begins at the school. Add to that Harry's dreams of corridors and fears of a potential darkness within him, Harry needs to learn Occlumency by Professor Snape although he fails to master this discipline. This failure leads him to believe a dream about Voldemort torturing his godfather Sirius Black and he leads Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Luna, and Neville to the Department of Mysteries where he learns of a prophecy, watches Sirius die, and experiences Voldemort possessing him but not before expelling him and the Ministry sees that the Dark Lord truly has returned.

Clocking in at 138 minutes, Order is the shortest Potter film so far. This was my second biggest complaint of the film. I understand that film is a different genre than novels and that there is always difficulty in translating a 870 page tome to the Big Screen but the movie should have been longer. The climactic scene in the Ministry should have been longer. That's a given. It also could have used an additional ten to twenty minutes touching upon elements that simply went unexplained. For example when Dolores Umbridge dismisses Professor Trelawney from Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore reminds the High Inquisitor that while she can dismiss school professors, Umbridge cannot throw them off the grounds. We are not given the real reason for Dumbledore's insistence that Trelawney stay, namely that she is the one who uttered the prophecy we find about in the climax (not to mention the plot hole of who is going to replace her as Divination professor). Another example would be when Harry gives Professor Snape a cryptic message regarding Sirius, we are given no indication that Snape alerted the Order of the Phoenix even though he did. Ditto for any explanation for what we saw regarding Harry's father picking on Snape when they were at school. Kreacher and Percy appear in the film suddenly and with no explanation either.

My main problem of the film was the Harry's temptation to the Dark Side. Now I understand that heroes have to be tested but one good thing about Harry is that he has no desire for turning evil. Harry cannot even perform the Cruciatus Curse properly because he has "righteous anger" as Bellatrix tells him in the novel. This dialogue is absent in the film and when he has Bellatrix at his mercy, Voldemort tells Harry to kill her because she killed his godfather. Now I have no doubt that Voldemort would do this because he has no concern for anyone least of all his faithful followers. But this scene is eerily similiar to Return of the Jedi. Harry is Luke Skywalker, Bellatrix is Darth Vader, and Voldemort is the Emperor. Come on, this did not happen in the book and in a crucial scene like this, a director cannot afford to mess this up. And it gets worse. After Dumbledore is dueling Voldemort, Voldemort enters Harry's body hoping that Dumbledore would sacrifice Harry in order to kill him. I admit that the possession scene was interesting but is ruined when we given Harry's admission that Voldemort has no friends as the reason that Voldemort is expelled from Harry's body. Where is Harry's desire to die and his immense love for his departed godfather? That was the real reason why Voldemort could not possess Harry for a long period. Would you want a director to quickly gloss over or change significantly the climax of the film version of Deathly Hallows? I mean we don't know the plot for the seventh novel but we would want the ending faithfully rendered even if other plot points were changed or left out due to time constraints.

Let me briefly give some high points in the film. Evanna Lynch was brilliant as Luna Lovegood. She had the dreamy voice and that unique perspective of the world showed through her character. She was a delight to watch. Imelda Staunton was delightfully horrible and nasty as Dolores Umbridge. I literally could not stand her just like her novel counterpart. Fred and George were at their tricks again and they provided comic relief in what was otherwise a dark film. I loved the chemistry between Ron and Hermione, which should give shippers a cause for celebration. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have really come into their own and are very good at what they do. I loved the scenes in the Hog's Head, Dumbledore's Army, Dumbledore's escape, and the fight between the Aurors and the Death Eaters (although it should have been longer). I also loved the interaction and closeness of Harry and Sirius especially in the Grimmauld Place scenes and the Ministry scenes where they fight side by side against Lucius Malfoy. Sirius forgets himself and calls Harry "James", which made it even sadder when Sirius is killed soon after.

In the end, Order of the Phoenix is a very dark film with a fast pace. This fast pace weakens the film especially at the end where you are left wanting more. I am not sure where this film stands with the other Potter films but it is definately not the best one. I went in with high expectations and left disappointed. As the end credits were rolling I still could not believe that the movie was over. This was the first Potter film where I had this feeling. I would probably need to see this film again before I change my opinion but then again there is always Deathly Hallows to look forward to next week.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Christianity Today and Sword of Gryffindor

Christianity Today's website posted an interesting article today discussing the debate over Harry Potter in Christian circles, Harry Potter Once Again Sparks Christian Debate. Also I watched the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at midnight on July 10. I will definately post my thoughts on the movie soon. Until then, you should consult Sword of Gryffindor's massive review of the movie. I agree with much (not all) of what Travis Prinzi says there. And if you have not watched the film then make sure you catch a showing. Oh and yes, one week till Deathly Hallows comes out. Yay!

Thursday, July 5, 2007


After 24 days and 16 days to go, I finished my reading of the Harry Potter series after midnight today. I finished the first three books in a week while Goblet of Fire took me the same amount of time to read. Order of the Phoenix was longer but I finished that along with Half-Blood Prince in a week-and-a-half. I have to say that reading the series over has been an exciting experience. My coworker at Barnes & Noble was doing the same thing and it was fun touching base with him and seeing where each of us were in the series. I believe he has just the sixth book to read now. Now that I finished reading all six novels, I have to say that I am sad. This would be my last time reading the series before Deathly Hallows comes out, after which I will know the ending. The reading was enlightening and I saw many things that I did not notice before or just simply forgot. If anyone has not done a reread before, make sure you do so now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Religious Agenda in Harry Potter?

I mentioned in a previous blog that J.K. Rowling is a Christian, giving evidence from her own mouth that the reason why she does not elaborate on her faith is because "the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books" and that "there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I’ve written book seven. But then maybe you won’t need to even say it ’cause you’ll have found it out anyway. You’ll have read it". Both statements, spoken within months of each other, point to a possible ending of the series that will inform her faith.

This potential scenario may shock many fans of the Potterverse, particularly the non-Christian fans of the series. But there is a distinction. Several times JKR has said that she does not set out to preach. In her acceptance speech for the Príncipe de Asturias Prize, JKR said, "I didn’t intend to teach or preach to children. In fact, I think that, except for some rare exceptions, fiction literature works for children lose interest when the author is more focused in teaching morals to their readers than in captivating them with his or her tale." Another time, JKR contrasts the world she created with that of Narnia:

Narnia is literally a different world, whereas in the Harry books you go into a world within a world that you can see if you happen to belong. A lot of the humour comes from collisions between the magic and the everyday worlds. Generally there isn't much humour in the Narnia books, although I adored them when I was a child. I got so caught up I didn't think C.S. Lewis was especially preachy. Reading them now I find that his subliminal message isn't very subliminal at all. Really, C.S. Lewis had very different objectives to mine. When I write, I don't intend to make a point or teach philosophy of life (Renton, Jennie. "The story behind the Potter legend: JK Rowling talks about how she created the Harry Potter books and the magic of Harry Potter's world," Sydney Morning Herald, October 28, 2001).
JKR's words on the matter go along with her response to the inevitable comparisons to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. She simply says, "I've read both of them, er - both of them were geniuses, I'm immensely flattered to be compared to them, but I think I'm doing something slightly different again" (Lydon, Christopher. J.K. Rowling interview transcript, The Connection (WBUR Radio), 12 October, 1999). How can we reconcile JKR's "Christianity" as a clue to the ending of the series to her abhorrence over "preaching" in her writing? Is there a contradiction here? Not necessarily. JKR has said many times that her novels have a moral framework and many times morals are drawn, although it appears unconsciously while she's writing. It is important to remember that hidden religious meaning, especially one that flows from the author's own beliefs, will not scare readers as an overt religious agenda.

Now I do not believe that JKR has an overt religious agenda or wants to preach "Christianity" and convert the masses. However I do believe based on her statements and others that her beliefs will spill forth in Deathly Hallows. Maybe it won’t be as obvious as what C.S. Lewis did in Narnia for Christianity and Philip Pullman in His Dark Materials did for atheism. But I’m hoping she will. All we know is that we will get a clear idea of her beliefs in book seven on the matter. Just look at this gem of an article:

“Rowling, aware of the protest, said she couldn’t answer the questions about the book’s religious content until the conclusion of book seven” (Tucker, Ernest. “No end in sight for Pottermania,” Chicago Sun-Times, October 22, 1999).
Mark those calendars.

Monday, June 18, 2007

How Did Fred and George Time Travel?

I came across Mrs. Lovegood's recent post, Can Fred and George predict the future, or can they time travel? and my thoughts turned to how Fred and George knew the exact outcome of the Ireland-Bulgaria match at the Quidditch World Cup. I agree with Mrs. Lovegood that time travel is a more likely explanation for the Twin's knowledge of the match than sheer Divination:

How would they do it? The Fred and George who went to the match then go back in time and tell their other selves, the ones who haven't seen the match yet, who won? Or do Fred and George somehow go forward in time? We don't see anyone going forward in time in PoA, so we don't know if Wizards can do so or not.

If Fred and George have mastered this, without a time turner, this might be useful for Harry in the last book.

Now Fred and George are very talented wizards despite what their O.W.L. results indicate; however I find it highly unlikely that they found a way to time travel without the use of a time turner. There is no indication in the series that there is an alternate method of time travel and any revelation of the twins using a different method of time travel this late in the series is not likely. There are more important loose ends that need to be addressed in Deathly Hallows than this. There is a better explanation for the Twin's time traveling.

After finishing Prisoner of Azkaban Sunday morning, one of the details that I took for granted was how many subjects Hermione Granger took that year. Let’s count them off: Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Divination, Herbology, History of Magic, Muggle Studies, Potions, Transfiguration. Twelve subjects in all. There was no way she could take all these subjects without the use of a time turner. This is a important fact to consider. We know that she left Divination forever around Easter and at the end of POA, she dropped Muggle Studies. Fast forward to Half-Blood Prince when she receives her O.W.L. results. She passed 11 subjects (10 Outstanding, 1 Exceeds Expectations), which means that she took exams for the 10 subjects she was taking and sat one "unknown" exam (probably Muggle Studies since she is a muggleborn witch herself meaning that you can probably sit an exam even if you are not officially taking it).

Hermione's prowess and academic excellence is very impressive when we consider that the most O.W.L.s you can take is twelve. We know at least two characters that achieved that, Bill and Percy Weasley. Considering what Hermione went through in POA, it is highly likely that Bill and Percy each were allowed to use a Time-Turner to get to their classes. I believe that Fred and George snuck into Percy's room and discovered his Time-Turner and "borrowed" it. They have a history of borrowing Percy's things like when they enchanted Percy's Head Boy badge to say Bighead Boy so it is not far fetched that they would do the same here. The only problem is that we have seen the Time-Turner go back in time not forward to the future. Three turns of the hourglass allow the user to go back three hours in time but we do not know how the Time-Turner can transverse the future or how many turns (in the opposite direction) it takes to go several years forward to the Quidditch World Cup. Despite these problems, the clues we have in the series regarding Percy's O.W.L. results and Hermione's use of the Time-Turner make the case for the Time-Turner theory all the more compelling.

Monday, June 11, 2007

My Harry Potter Reading Plan

Last night I started to reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in accordance to my plan to read the entire series before July 21, 2007. With 39 days to go, this means that I have to finish each novel in 6 days and 12 hours. I probably should have started this earlier, but I have full confidence that I can do this. When OOTP and HBP came out in June 2003 and July 2005 respectively, I finished both novels in less than two days. I generally like to read books slowly and that includes Harry Potter; however something different happens when reading J.K. Rowling's words and if you spend a good hour of reading without interruption, you can get a lot done. Hopefully I will notice certain details and themes that I did not catch before and allow me to put the entire Septology in perspective before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Concerning Dragons, Villages, and Sunsets

The cover design for the deluxe edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released last Friday. Imagine my surprise and excitement as soon as I logged on and saw the news via Sword of Gryffindor. It was essentially the same reaction two years ago when I saw Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore walking in a forest in the deluxe cover for the sixth novel. This brilliant cover by Mary GrandPré raises a whole lot of questions; the main one concerning the dragon.

We have seen dragons before in the Harry Potter series especially with Norbert in PS/SS and explicitly in the second task in GOF. Since those are the first and fourth novels in the Septology, it was probably inevitable that we would see a dragon in the seventh novel. We just didn't see it coming. Is the dragon actually Norbert whisking Harry, Hermione, and Ron off to some horcrux hunting adventure? The old, torn wings suggest that this is an old dragon we are dealing with here and Norbert is only seven-years old. Dragons in myth and folklore tend to live a very long time so we can rule out Norbert. My guess was the Common Welsh Green. They are native to Wales and probably the only dragon species found in Great Britain. Where else would the Trio find a dragon? Through Charlie Weasley? We know he's an expert in dragons but what is the possibility that Ron's brother would just happen to have a dragon on him? I mean is Charlie going to give a dragon as a wedding present to Bill and Fleur? I highly doubt it. Perhaps they simply "borrowed" a dragon from Gringotts although I'm not sure how does one simply go up to a dragon and ride it. According to Ron in PS/SS, "you can’t tame dragons, it’s dangerous..." I suggested that maybe there is a way to gain a dragon's confidence like when you need to bow before a Hippogriff but there is no going around the fact that dragons are very dangerous creatures and the Trio's lack of experience with them.

One intriguing idea is that the dragon might be an animagus. Pat Henderson of Eeyore's Reflections has written that this cover reminds her of the third Narnia novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, "where Eustace turns into a dragon and then sheds the scales in his transformation into a new person, getting rid of the things that made him so horrid to others." Later on in her comments at Sword of Gryffindor, she makes the connection with Draco Malfoy because "Draco means dragon" and perhaps the cover shows "a transformed Draco, helping the trio to get somewhere?" Travis Prinzi reminds us that "Rowling has mentioned that Eustace is her favorite character from Narnia, which we covered here quite some time ago." The only drawback to all of this is that it's extremely difficult to become an animagus (the Marauders minus Remus Lupin all became animagi in their fifth year). Draco Malfoy does have exceptional magical ability. He created an enchanted coin using the difficult N.E.W.T. level Protean Charm to communicate with Madame Rosmerta in HBP and probably was responsible for the Imperius Curse on Rosmerta. He is also can do Occlumency, something that Harry never mastered. Draco certainly has the ability and since Draco failed to kill Dumbledore, he probably would think of some way to hide from Voldemort even if it is becoming an animagus. If true all this suggests a possible redemption for Draco Malfoy? JKR weighed in after her reading at Radio City Music Hall (August 1, 2006):

[T]here is the possibility of redemption for all of them. Draco, I think -- in Harry’s view, even given unlimited time, would not have killed (I assume all of you have finished the book? I don’t wish to deprive some kid who’s got 5 pages to go. They’ve been in a coma all this time.) Harry believes that Draco would not have murdered the person in question. What that means for Draco’s future? We’ll just have to wait and see.

I will find it interesting if JKR chooses to go there. But finally I want to move onto something I suggested in my comments at Sword of Gryffindor concerning dragon's blood. We all know from the chocolate frogs that Albus Dumbledore discovered the 12 uses of dragon's blood. JKR was asked by Kelsey Biggar (age 9) about the 12 uses and JKR answered, “I have a very good reason for not telling you — the movie script writer wants me to give him that information for the film. But I can say that the 12th use is oven cleaner” (Chonin, Neva. “Harry Potter’s Wizard: Creator of children’s book series tours Bay Area,” The San Francisco Chronicle, October 30, 1999). Based on this we can assume that dragon's blood will play a key role in DH including the potential that dragon’s blood can disarm a horcrux (of course if true this rules out my theory of Harry’s blood but we can’t know for sure until the book comes out). This could be interesting because in myth, dragon’s blood was known to be a poison, medicine, or acidic (check out the article on dragon’s blood at Wikipedia). In any case I find it interesting that back in 1999, JKR wasn’t answering any questions about dragon’s blood. Both Pat and NCMcGonagall mentioned that there was "an ornate crystal bottle with a large opal set into the stopper, full of what Harry was quite sure was blood" at Grimmauld Place in OOTP. The text doesn’t say it was dragon blood but given that dragon’s blood has 12 different uses and thereby making it valuable, we cannot rule out that possibility.

What village are they flying over? I tend to believe it is Godric's Hollow but there are other possibilities: Ottery St. Catchpole, Hogsmeade, or Little Hangleton. The sunset obviously indicates that it is late in the day and the evening is approaching. There is a cloudy mist and mountains and rivers surround the village. The cover is beautiful and harkens to some exciting moment in DH. This cover raises a great deal of questions and any attempt at deciphering the cover raises even more questions. If anything we will not know for sure until July 21, 2007. Only 40 days to go!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Harry Potter: What Does David J. Meyer Have To Say?

A peculiar tract “Harry Potter: What Does God Have To Say?” has circulated around the web since 2000. Written after the publication of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, this tract argues that the Harry Potter novels are “orientational and instructional manuals of witchcraft woven into the format of entertainment”. The author is David J. Meyer, a former occultist, now Pentecostal minister who founded Last Trumpet Ministries, which publishes a monthly newsletter that is circulated around the world. Meyer’s ministry focuses on exposing the dangers of the occult and secret societies. The track makes many claims that are at the surface laughable but also betray a disturbing use of fear and misinformation to seduce the reader into believing what it says about Harry Potter.

According to Meyer’s tract, the Harry Potter novels are manuals of witchcraft in the guise of entertaining reading for children and the implications for this are dire since “[i]n order to succeed in bringing witchcraft to the world and thus complete satanic control, an entire generation would have to be induced and taught to think like witches, talk like witches, dress like witches, and act like witches”. Meyer essentially believes that an Illuminist conspiracy exists to bring “forth a one-world religion with a cleverly concealed element of occultism interwoven in its teachings”. One of the early signs of this “satanic set-up” is the infusion of Eastern and New Age teachings into a compromising Church. Keep in mind that there is no way to prove Meyer’s conspiracy theories because they are just that, conspiracy theories.

When Meyer writes that the Harry Potter novels are training manuals for witchcraft, he means specifically Wicca. Space here will not permit me to fully examine this claim but I will go through a few key differences. The moon is very important in Wicca because it represents the Mother Goddess. Since the moon is considered by Wiccans to affect people’s emotions and give off energy, they perform many of their rituals around the four general phases of the moon: the full moon, the waning moon, the new moon, and the waxing moon. Meanwhile in Harry Potter, the moon does not figure prominently in any ritualistic fashion. The only time the moon plays a role is in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where the character Professor Remus J. Lupin transfigures into a werewolf (an imaginary creature in mythology and folklore) at every full moon. Not only are there no Esbat ritual celebrations in Harry Potter but there is no worship of the Mother Goddess either. One other crucial difference is magic. Wiccans do not have any special powers but rather they tap into the energy of Nature. In contrast the characters in Harry Potter are simply born with magical ability as evident by J.K. Rowling's comment on her website that “magic is a dominant and resilient gene”. This is certainly comparable to the mutants in the X-Men movies and comics rather than real life witchcraft. It is because of these and other differences that led Catherine Edwards Sanders to write, “The stories and themes that fill the pages of the Harry Potter books have little to do with Wicca at all, in fact” (Wicca’s Charm, Shaw Books: Colorado Springs, 2005, pg. 33).

The differences between Harry Potter and Wicca calls into question Meyer’s claim that “[a]s a former witch, I can speak with authority when I say that I have examined the works of Rowling and that the Harry Potter books are training manuals for the occult”. We can even be more skeptical of Meyer’s “authority” when he posits that the following words, “Azkaban”, “Circe”, “Draco”, “Erised”, “Hermes”, and “Slytherin” are referring to real demons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Three of the these words are made up. Azkaban is Harry Potter’s version of Alcatraz prison, Slytherin is the name of one of the four houses at Hogwarts, and Erised is simply desire spelled backwards. There is no way that these three words refer to anything in the demonic realm. Now a case can be made for Circe and Hermes, both of whom are deities in Greek mythology. Circe was a goddess living on the isle of Aeaea who in Homer’s Odyssey she transforms all of Odysseus’ men into animals. After Odysseus is given the herb moly by the god Hermes and is immune to Circe’s potions, the goddess (astonished and impressed) falls in love with Odysseus and frees his men. Hermes was a god who lived on Mount Olympus and was known as the messenger of the gods. Since Circe and Hermes are deities, one can argue that they are demons but that would be stretching it because they are mythological characters. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8.4-6 that idols are nothing in this world compared to the reality of the one God of the Christian faith. The fact that Circe and Hermes were deities in the Greek world is inconsequential to our discussion of Harry Potter because Greek mythology is part of our literary tradition which JKR taps into, and is not indicative of any ancient world pagan reality today. Besides out of the two, Circe appears in passing on a Chocolate Frog trading card in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and is not even important to the content of the novels. Finally Draco just means dragon in Latin and is the name of a character in the novels. It is clear that these six words are not the names of real demons and Meyer is grasping at straws here.

Throughout the rest of the tract, Meyer makes inaccurate statements about Wicca. For one thing, he is content to equate Wicca with Satanism. Consider this statement:

As a real witch, I learned about the two sides of “the force.” Apparently, so do many “Christian” leaders. When real witches have sabats and esbats and meet as a coven, they greet each other by saying “Blessed be”, and when they part, they say “The Force be with you.” Both sides of this “Force” are Satan. It is not a good side of the force that overcomes the bad side of the force, but rather it’s the blood of Jesus Christ that destroys both supposed sides of the satanic “Force.”
This flies in the face of Wiccans who urge that Wicca is not Satanism. For one thing Wiccans do not believe in Satan, whom they see as part of the Christian tradition and not theirs. Because there is no Satan, Wicca do not believe in the concept of absolute good or evil and to say that Wiccans worship Satan is inaccurate. Besides Satanism is very different from Wicca. Defining Satanism can be problematic but Wikipedia comments on the various meanings:

These range from the obviously fanatiс sects to the groups of people in search of themselves; from the literal deistic worship of a malevolent spiritual being (Theistic Satanism) to the monography of the atheistic philosopher; from a subversive ritual performance stressing the mockery of Christian symbols (most notably the Black Mass) to denying all rituals; from the claimed rediscovery of an ancient but misunderstood religion (e.g. Setianism, associated with the Egyptian god Set who is conflated by some with the biblical Satan) to the exaltation of hedonistic recreation and the celebration of selfishness and pleasure.
Satanism was coined around the end of the Middle Ages to indicate a group aimed at destroying Christianity and setting up the worship of Satan. Christian rituals such as the Eucharist were mocked while orgies and human sacrifice were part of the macabre Black Mass. Of course this brand of Satanism never existed and has been regulated to the status of urban legend even though people still fear this religious group as evident by the Satanic panic in the 1980's. Anton LaVey’s version of Satanism is merely a philosophy that is highly critical of Christianity and does not worship Satan but rather sees Satan as the human instinct (emphasis on lust and desires) within ourselves. A key difference between Wicca and LaVey’s Satanism is that Wiccans worship a god and goddess while Satanists revere themselves as god. Despite this Meyer continues to push the Wicca equals Satanism comparison by writing:
High level witches believe that there are seven satanic princes and that the seventh, which is assigned to Christians, has no name. In coven meetings, he is called “the nameless one.” In the Harry Potter books, there is a character called “Voldemort.” The pronunciation guide says of this being “He who must not be named.”
Now there are no “seven satanic princes” in Wicca because once again Wicca is not Satanism. I cannot emphasize this enough. However Meyer's notion that seven satanic princes exist is a very curious belief and I wonder where he got this idea from because it has no parallel in Wicca. I have two suggestions. The first being that Daniel 10.13 says Michael is “one of the chief princes” and Jewish lore (also later Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition) says that there seven archangels. Since there are evil angelic princes in Daniel 10 as evidenced by the presence of the “prince of Persia” and the “prince of Greece”; perhaps there are seven anti-archangels in the hierarchical structure of Satan’s kingdom. The second place is probably Revelation 17.9-11:

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.

The language in Revelation is eerily similar to Meyer's especially in regards to the seventh prince except that John calls him a king. I am not saying that Revelation’s seventh king is the same as Meyer’s seventh prince but the language and emphasis is similar so as to suggest some borrowing on Meyer’s part. This mysterious seventh prince with no name cannot be associated with Christianity as Meyer argues because Wicca does not believe in the Christian tradition so how can they have a prince that represents Christianity? Wicca does recognize two deities, the God and the Goddess, which are both nameless and Wiccans usually adopt names to refer to the two but the idea of a singular “nameless one” is foreign to Wicca. The fact that Voldemort is referred to as ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ does not prove that he is one and the same with this supposed “nameless one”. Voldemort is a literary character in a fantasy novel. If Meyer wants to push this comparison, he can do so but for the sake of argument, I want to make one observation. If a Goddess in Wicca is nameless and a name is adopted to refer to that Goddess then this is not indicative of that Goddess’ real name. In the Harry Potter novels Voldemort is such a feared figure that people avoid saying his name. However this does not stop Harry Potter or Professor Dumbledore from calling him by his right name ‘Voldemort’. Dumbledore takes it a step further by calling Voldemort by his given name ‘Tom’, his full name being Tom Marvolo Riddle. Any potential similarity between Harry Potter and Wicca (either real Wicca or Meyer’s version of it) here is nonexistent.

Meyer tries to use numerology to prove that the Harry Potter novels are part of a Illuminst conspiracy to deceive children, training them to be witches, and thereby luring them into the occult. This is nothing new for him since he was a former “numerologist”. Of course Meyer would have us believe that it was the publishers of Harry Potter indulging in numerology when setting up their release dates for the publication of the novels. This is clear when he writes:

On July 8 at midnight, bookstores everywhere were stormed by millions of children to obtain the latest and fourth book of the series known as “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” These books were taken into homes everywhere with a real evil spirit following each copy to curse those homes. July 8th was also the 18th day (three sixes in numerology) from the witches’ sabat of midsummer. July 8th was also the 13th day from the signing of the United Religions Charter in San Francisco. Now we have learned that the public school system is planning to use the magic of Harry Potter in the classrooms making the public schools centers of witchcraft training.

This reminds me of the constant theories that the events of September 11, 2001 were part of a vast conspiracy by the Illuminati because of the number eleven. This is the same concept at work here in this tract. Numbers are being floated around and used to prove something that is not there. It is all a coincidence. Many fans and speculators thought that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was going to come out on July 7, 2007 or 07-07-07. The numbering could not be any more perfect because this was the seventh novel and a date like that would not appear again until another millennia. However Bloomsbury and Scholastic could not publish this book on that date (they claimed it was too soon from a publication standpoint) so they chose to release the book two weeks later on July 21, 2007. If you look closely at 07-21-07, you will see that 21 is three sevens in numerology. We all know that seven is the God-given number of perfection, right? The book of Revelation mentions the number seven 59 times (which equals fourteen or two sevens) and let's not forget that God created the world in seven days. I can go on and on but let me repeat what I said earlier. Numbers are being floated around and used to prove something that is not there. It is all a coincidence.

Finally Meyer never gives any details about what coven he was affiliated with if he was in fact a “witch” like he claims. There are no dates and locations and he only gives general details, “I lived by the stars as an astrologer and numerologist casting horoscopes and spells. I lived in the mysterious and shadowy realm of the occult. By means of spells and magic, I was able to invoke the powers of the “controlling unknown” and fly upon the night winds transcending the astral plane.” This last part intrigues me because it is very similar to a early Medieval belief that certain women rode at night with the Goddess Diana. The Canon Episcopi, a tenth century document, addressed this idea by calling it a delusion of Satan, “Some wild women, deluded by Satan, believe that they fly by night in the company of Diana, Goddess of the Pagans.” The image of the wild women or the wild hunt contributed to other beliefs of witches and combined with the socio-economic factors at the time, the Medieval stereotype of witches was formed, which led to the eventual witch hunts throughout Europe. I believe Meyer's words show that he is tapping into some stereotypical views of witches and if true would certainly call into question whether what he’s saying is true or if he made it up.

Meyer never proves his thesis that the Harry Potter novels are manuals for the occult. Instead he uses conspiracy, misinformation, and general facts twisted to serve a purpose which is to instill fear and hysteria in the reader of the Harry Potter novels. These tracts are circulated widely on the Internet and many well-meaning Christians use them as support for their rejection of Harry Potter on religious grounds. Laura Mallory is one of them. Not only that but Meyer tirades Christian leaders, Dr. James Dobson and Charles Colson for supporting Harry Potter and calls them “modern day Judas Iscariots”. This is tragic. Christians should not have to resort to ad hominem attacks and rely on falsehoods to prove an argument. As Christians, we are called to be a beacon of truth and light. We are not to use fear because God is not a spirit of fear. We are not to use falsehoods because God cannot lie. Tracts like these allow Christians to not be taken seriously with the end consequence being that our witness is stifled. In the end we are reading what David J. Meyer, not God, has to say about Harry Potter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My Friend's Thoughts on GrandPré's 'Hallows' Cover

A former coworker and a very good friend recently read my thoughts on Mary GrandPré's 'Deathly Hallows' cover and he was kind enough to provide some observations of his own via e-mail. He allowed me to post what he wrote here. Among the myriad of things we used to talk about at work, literature was chief among them. Our mutual love for C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien led us to discuss Harry Potter and the possible Christian overtones in the series. Keep in mind that he has never read the Harry Potter novels, although he has watched the movies, so without further adieu:

It does seem to me that Harry has conjured something or someone, someone who Voldemort fears greatly, but it is someone in whom Harry has full confidence. It looks to me very much like the return of Christ, or a Christ-like saviour who is coming to deal with Voldemort at last. Harry is the vehicle through which this "savior" is enabled to come into this world. It may not be Christ at all; but rather some evil being that Voldemort has utilized and tied his dark soul to and/or deriving his power from, but who has now been enabled to claim Voldemort's soul. All I know is that Harry is not afraid of this entity, and he knows that it is after Voldemort. It is Voldemort's "just deserts", so to speak. Harry seems to have been given the knowledge he needs to bring this entity, whoever it is, into the world to bring about the end of Voldemort.

There is some kind of structure around them that looks to me like a Roman coliseum, and this setting is often used in stories in a "contest" context; a contest of champions, so to speak. The curtains reinforce this idea. This contest or battle between the two powerful wizards is being watched, and the victor will be rewarded somehow with greater status. It seems to me that it is the hour of doom for Voldemort, but the moment of victory for Harry. Harry knows what he is doing, but Voldemort is completely surprised and undone by Harry's action. There is the look of shock and dread in Voldemort's stance. The outcome of this contest of champions has universal implications, and will determine the futures of many; most probably the crushing blow that brings about the end not just of Voldemort, but also those who follow him (are "marked" as belonging to him) and all the dark forces he represents. He is an Antichrist figure.

I do not get the sense though that Harry is the Christ figure, only that he is the one chosen to open the door through which the actual Christ figure will make his debut. Look for the death of some great sage or wizard earlier than this who might come back from the dead or rise in glory and power to take care of Voldemort -- that is the One who is off page, that is if it is a Christ figure. If it is a dark power that Voldemort has made a deal with or getting his power from, again, Rowling may give a brief reference to that being earlier. Where does Voldemort get his power from? It would have to be a being darker and more powerful than he, who is coming to "stake his claim" on Voldemort, or collect the soul as was agreed. I hope that helps. I don't know anything about the storyline in Harry Potter-- and have not read the books, only seen the films, but Rowling is accessing themes and archetypal characters that redemption stories always contain-- to her credit!

P.S. Keep "Hallows" in mind. It may be tied to "Dawning", or "debut". It looks like Harry is welcoming the entrance of someone of great deadly power.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Blood of Harry Potter

Forget about how Harry Potter will find the four remaining Horcruxes or whether his scar is actually a Horcrux (or not). Harry still has to destroy those Horcruxes and judging from Dumbledore’s “blackened,” “withered” right hand; it will not be an easy task for the Boy-Who-Lived. Or will it?

There are at least two ways Harry could destroy those Horcruxes. One of them is simple enough. If a Horcrux by definition is an object where a fragment of a soul is concealed then why can’t Harry just get rid of those Horcruxes by just chucking them through the Veil? Jodel of Red Hen Publications wrote, “It stands to reason that’s how you get rid of a Horcrux safely. Let it anchor Tom Riddle’s soul on the other side of it” (emphasis not mine). Sounds like a brilliant idea; however I do not believe J.K. Rowling will choose to go there. It just sounds way too easy for Harry.

What is the other way? We have to keep reminding ourselves that Dumbledore was not the only wizard to destroy one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Harry destroyed one also. Tom Riddle’s Diary. When Harry plunged the basilisk fang into the diary, we are supposed to believe that the basilisk venom was what destroyed the Horcrux. But the text strangely is silent and for good reason. It is not venom. We are given a clue a few pages before when Harry kills the basilisk with the Sword of Gryffindor.

But as warm blood drenched Harry’s arms, he felt a searing pain just above his elbow. One long, poisonous fang was sinking deeper and deeper into his arm...He gripped the fang that was spreading poison through his body and wrenched it out of his arm...Even as he dropped the fang and watched his own blood soaking his robes… (Chamber of Secrets, pg. 320).
Do you see a pattern here? It is Harry’s blood. The basilisk fang was stained with the blood of Harry Potter. It is through Harry’s blood that the rest of the Horcruxes can be destroyed. This would explain Dumbledore’s words to Harry in the cave, “But your blood is worth more than mine” (Half-Blood Prince, pg. 560). We are never given an explanation for the headmaster’s words and I believe the final novel will give us the answer. The shedding of Harry’s blood to destroy a Horcrux serves as a nice parallel to Jesus Christ, another “Chosen One” who shed his blood for the saving of mankind from evil.

What are the implications if in fact Harry’s blood is used to take out the remaining Horcruxes? How will Harry perform the deed? Does Harry need to simply sprinkle his blood on one of the Horcruxes to destroy one of Voldemort’s divided soul? Will Harry need a Blood-Replenishing Potion just like the one that the medics at St. Mungo’s gave to Mr. Weasley in Order of the Phoenix? Finally what will happen after Harry destroyed all the Horcruxes and Voldemort is standing alone. You have to remember that Harry’s blood flows through Voldemort’s veins. If drinking the blood of a Unicorn, a medieval symbol of Christ, gives the drinker a half-life then Harry’s blood containing the traces of his mother’s sacrifice will present a problem for Voldemort now that traces of Harry’s blood runs through the Dark Lord’s veins. This would certainly explain that mysterious “gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes” (Goblet of Fire, pg. 696). Can the final downfall of Voldemort be linked to Harry’s blood? It would certainly seem so. To conclude, I would say that there is a very good possibility that Harry can destroy the remaining Horcruxes through the use of his blood. He has done it before without any damage or harm.

The only question is how Harry will figure out that he needs to use his blood to destroy the Horcruxes? I would imagine that Harry will simply act on instinct, just like in Chamber of Secrets. If anything all this brings new significance to Voldemort’s words in the Goblet of Fire movie, “Astonishing what a few drops of your blood will do, eh, Harry?”

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Deathly Hallows Covers, Part I

The covers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were released a little more than a month ago, and a great deal of fans have weighed in on what the covers show and how they pertain to the final novel. This article will be the first of a two-part series on my take on the covers. I doubt that I'll say anything new but I do hope to contribute somewhat to the discussion. Enjoy.

Mary GrandPré is a brilliant artist whose covers for Scholastic, at least from Order of the Phoenix on, fascinate me. And she does not disappoint with her artwork for Deathly Hallows (hereafter DH), which is in my opinion better than the British covers from Bloomsbury.

At first glance Harry seems to be hailing or welcoming something or maybe more importantly, someone. I have heard Snape or Fawkes as possibilities and while both are viable options, we won't know for sure until DH comes out. Harry's posture is particularly interesting because in the full jacket image (located at the bottom of this post), he is not facing Voldemort, who is also preoccupied with what Harry is seeing. Unfortunately we cannot see what they are seeing. Voldemort's pose suggests fear as he places his hands in front of him, shielding himself (or perhaps pushing something away) from what he is seeing. Harry, in contrast, is showing no fear and his pose suggests victory and triumph. Rumor, a regular poster at Hogwarts Professor (John Granger's blog) has some interesting words on the cover in the thread, Waiting for Harry: The New Cover at the Barnes & Noble message boards.

O.K. I am now going to employ my wisdom of how to critique a work of art since that is what my major in college was, Art History. First of all in the U.S. version Harry is in the Christ pose (in the shape of a cross). That was my first hunch, as it goes with the Christian theme. If you have studied as many images, (1000's) as I have of Christian art, you will notice that right away. Grand Pre would have had to learn art history if she attended any college in the western world and would definitly know about this. Of course it is JKR's book, and she would know her story...Just my take, but you can take the Christ pose symbolism to the bank. Oh and I cannot believe I missed this, but Harry is looking up toward heaven and at his feet are the destroyed fragments of wood, symbol of the cross.

I took an art history course in college and although I do not claim to be an expert in art history and criticism, I do agree with much of what rumor wrote above. The outstretched arms of Harry Potter have their parallel in Christian art, which a cursory glance of paintings, mosaics, and sculptures will attest to, specifically in the figure of Christ on the cross, his resurrection, and his ascension into glory (a good resource is Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art by Neil MacGregor with Erika Langmuir). Travis Prinzi of Sword of Gryffindor mentioned in the comments in his post, Deathly Hallows Cover Revealed, that even "though all the letters in “and the Deathly Hallows” are [in] CAPS, the T’s are in the shape of crosses". So we are seeing "cross" imagery being invoked in this cover as proof by the lettering of the title, the shattered wood nearby, and Harry's pose.

Another theme that the cover explores is the downfall of Voldemort. I mentioned earlier that Voldemort's look and pose suggests fear. Now the image on the left that is eerily similar to the DH cover is an oil on canvas titled The Fatal Hour: Fantastic Subject by Alexandre Evariste Fragonard (1780-1850). The subject of the painting is clutching a curtain as a devil approaches him amidst the yellow, sulfuric sky. This scene hearkens to the tragic story of Doctor Faustus (there are many variations on the Faust legend but I will concern myself with the play by Christopher Marlowe), who sold his soul to the Devil for magical power, and wrestles with the implications of his ill fated decision. At the heart of the Faustian legend is the evil of bargaining your soul for forbidden knowledge (a great essay on this topic is Tom Riddle and the Faustian Pact by Canis sapiens). We know from Voldemort's (whose name means "flight from death") back story that he fears death and wants to live forever. His quest for eternal life leads him to seek forbidden knowledge through the study of horcruxes thereby dividing his soul through murder. Voldemort best exemplifies what Christ said, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt. 16.26). The DH cover gives us a glimpse of Voldemort's "Fatal Hour" when he will be confronted with the implications of his Faustian pact and show fear. Perhaps he will utter the words of Faustus when the clock struck twelve, "It strikes, it strikes! Now body, turn to air, Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell! O soul, be changed into small water-drops And fall into the ocean, ne'er be found" (5.2.190-194). The only difference is that the Dark Lord will only possess only a fragment of his soul and that will be enough for his opponent, Harry who boasts an untarnished soul filled with the power he knows not, to exploit and vanquish him. This power is love.

Notice the red lettering of "Harry Potter" and "J.K. Rowling" on the cover. John Granger, who writes frequently on the alchemical imagery in Harry Potter wrote, "If we had any doubt, we are certainly in the rubedo now" (emphasis not mine). According to Lyndy Abraham, the rubedo is "the reddening of the white matter of the Stone at the final stage in the opus alchymicum" and the "silvery moonlight and dawn light of the albedo phase develop into the golden illumination of the midday sun, symbolizing the attainment of the philosopher's stone, the attainment of the consciousness of God, the goal of the opus" (Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, 174). This certainly explains the yellow sky in the DH cover invoking the golden imagery of the finishing of the Great Work in Harry Potter, culminating in the vanquishing of Voldemort.

In the back of Harry and Voldemort, there is a old circular stone structure with arches that is similar in style to a roman aqueduct. There are many aqueducts in Great Britain; chief among them is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee valley in north Wales. Another possibility is the raised stone platform where the Hogwarts Express rides on its way to the school. These seem like tempting options although I have no idea why Harry and Voldemort would choose to face off near a aqueduct or a train platform.

Much has been written on the curtains and the possibility that we are seeing a glimpse of the two beyond the Veil. I doubt this for several reasons. First the stone archway in the cover does not fit the description of the "ancient, cracked, and crumbling" archway in the Ministry. In addition the archway is hung with a "tattered black curtain or veil" while the curtains in the DH cover are certainly not black but a mix of orange and brown. Furthermore in the cover, the curtains are disassociated from the archway therefore the archways are not the same. The only viable explanation, in my opinion, is that the presence of curtains signal the end of the series, like the closing of the play. If you take a glance at the full cover jacket of the first novel, you see curtains as well.

In the amphitheater-like background, there are figures (I do not believe these are graves we are seeing) looking down on Harry and Voldemort. We do not see their faces but they are most likely Death Eaters although some have theorized that they are Voldemort's victims watching the battle. Pat Henderson of Eeyore's Reflections wrote in her blog that "With the arches behind them, and something that looks like spectators in the background, the picture calls to mind a place like the coliseum--and that reminds me of this passage from "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", after Dumbledore explained to Harry that the Prophecy was only important because he and Voldemort chose to act upon it." Here is the quote again from the previous novel:
But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew - and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents - that there was all the difference in the world (HBP, 512).
Harry understands the importance of choosing how he meets his end. In Goblet of Fire, Harry was dragged via the Triwizard Cup portkey and was forced to duel the Dark Lord. In the final novel Harry will confront Voldemort in that arena on his terms. Harry had no choice or control over the events that led Voldemort to visit Godric's Hollow that Halloween night and kill his parents. Harry survived the Avada Kedavra curse because his mother sacrificed herself for him. She had a choice. Voldemort gave her one and she chose death to give her son life. Harry has a choice and we all know that he has made it already. Harry will walk into that arena and if this cover is any indication, Harry face Voldemort with his head held high.