All posts by Deborah Chan/Arabella

About Deborah Chan/Arabella

Deborah Chan, previously “Arabella Figg” I read the first three Harry Potter books in 1999 to see what the fuss was about and was hooked. After participating at for several years, and then here at the pub, I joined the Blogengamot in 2009. I enjoy discussing and writing about the books I love, and particularly enjoy looking into characters' psychological and emotional motivations. My husband Rick and I live in Spokane, WA, where I’m a columnist for our newspaper, The Spokesman-Review. Our cat Casey Rose is my gravatar. Butterbeers all around!

Family Ties in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—Part 3

After exploring family dynamics in Part 1—The Magical World and Part 2–Institutions and Groups, we move on to individual British wizarding families. The posts on these families will be shorter than Parts 1 and 2.

To clarify the term “family,” I use it interchangeably in both the exact sense—family through blood and adoption—and broader sense—“found families” who regard each other as if they were biological family, through love, propinquity, and/or shared values uniting them in a family-type unit.

In OotP we see familial connection and disconnection in conventional and unconventional families suffering painful estrangements, death, division, insanity, emotional injury, imprisonment, and absence. Rowling’s imperfect families echo our own and their familiar struggles raise familiar questions. Is the family structure nurturing or chaotic? How are family members supported or shut out? When do parental expectations go too far? How does abuse impact children’s lives into adulthood and are they doomed to repeat unhealthy behaviors? Does the family allow individuality or dominate with the family narrative? How is unity usurped from within and without? What is the breaking point of family relationship and what is the fallout? Can deep wounds and rifts heal?

In OotP we learn more about families with whom we’re already familiar and are given for the first time critical information about others. I’ll examine one or more at a time. (All page references are from the Scholastic editions.)

The Trio

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are not merely a soul triptych of body/mind/spirit, alchemical trio, or even just friends. They are the primary unconventional family in the series, safety net and family to each other in every way. Continue reading

Were You Formed By A Fictional Character?

According to a new study (now unavailable to view) from researchers at Ohio State University, “

when you ‘lose yourself’ inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character”.

As an article in The Guardian reporting on this says,

Good lord above! If this is really true then I dread to think what havoc is wreaked by people who’ve just finished reading A Clockwork Orange; what unrealistic expectations of romance are held by fans of Jane Austen; what heights of passion are reached by Wuthering Heights aficionados on a daily basis.

It goes on to say,

But I’m not sure this is hugely earth-shattering news to anyone who loves reading. I’ve known I tend towards “experience-taking” when I read for ages; when I was younger I even tried to adopt the speech patterns of characters I admired – embarrassingly enough, when it was epic fantasy.

Have you ever found yourself emulating a literary character? How did you do it and how did others react to it?

Family Ties in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—Part 2

This is the second in a series on the theme of family in OotP. Part 1 gives an introduction to this series and explores the global backdrop of the magical world’s racial/family divisions and interrelationship.

A Note on Beings

As we don’t encounter veelas in OotP and learn very little about them, I don’t include them but will reference them under the Weasleys. I also didn’t include werewolves, being/beast hybrids, “shunted between the Being and Beast divisions for many years,” according to Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (xiii). As they are a danger to others (as well as themselves), they lack family structure and don’t usually breed (which is why Remus Lupin fears for his unborn child). Although they share anger against wizard oppression, they seem to be loners who unite under Fenrir Greyback under Voldemort only to achieve power over wizards through infecting others, especially children.

What Is Family?

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “Friends are family you choose for yourself.” For the purposes of this essay series, the terms “family” and “community” may be interchangeable in both the exact sense—those related by blood or adoption (such as Harry, Hermione, and Remus being absorbed into the Weasley family)—and the broader sense—those who regard each other as if they were biological family, through love and shared values. A family community may also be a workplace, school environment or ideal-driven brotherhood.

Of course, not every family or community operates smoothly, or treats its members well.

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Family Ties in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—Part 1

If Prisoner of Azkaban is about Harry’s father and Half-Blood Prince is about his mother, Order of the Phoenix is about family relationships.

Family Ties That Bind, Choke, and Divide

We have many families in Harry Potter’s world, but only four of the ones we meet are intact nuclear families—the Dursleys, the Weasleys, the Grangers, and the Malfoys. The others are splintered by dysfunction, death, and division.

In OotP several families are already familiar to us and we learn more about them, while others are introduced for the first time. Some are conventional families by blood, while others are unconventional, formed of individuals bonded together by love, propinquity, and shared goals. Families of either kind can provide loving, beneficial, and health-giving environments or offer bitter estrangements and permanent, damaging wounds. In both types of families given prominence throughout the series we encounter only one good father figure and three good mother figures.

Familial connection and disconnection are key themes in OotP, with family members shown to be loving, happy, involved, cruel, intolerant, disaffected, emotionally injured, and sometimes combinations of these traits. Several families in the book suffer the loss of a parent or parental figure: Arthur Weasley’s near fatal injury; Dumbledore’s emotional and physical absence; Sirius Black’s death; Hagrid’s absence while on assignment; Frank and Alice Longbottom’s insanity, and Lucius Malfoy’s imprisonment.

In J.K. Rowling’s seven-book saga, and in this book in particular, characters are framed in families and tribes, with many dynamics at play. Their dramas raise many questions. What is the family structure? How does a family support or deny its members, and vice versa? How do parental expectations burden a child and must the child live up to them to be accepted? How does abuse impact children’s lives into adulthood? Is individuality encouraged, or at least allowed? How far does tolerance go? How are families split or mended? Is someone or something outside or within the family usurping it? Should a child become the family caretaker? What is the breaking point of family relationship, and when do family members become “other”? Can deep wounds and rifts heal? What does “brethren” really mean? Am I my brother’s keeper?

There are no easy answers, because Rowling gives us no family that is ideal or without imperfection, one lighting the way by sterling example. Family relationships, blood or chosen, suffer tension, pain, or alienating discord. We follow a family’s progress and growth, but the end result disappoints our hopes for them. We want something better, all the messiness tied up in a hopeful bow.

Rowling refuses pretty ribbons. We see ourselves in her families filled with selfish, noble, immature, wounded, aspiring, sacrificial, unkind, nutty, fallible, relatable people. Restoration and resolution, when it occurs (and often it doesn’t), is hopeful but flawed—sometimes satisfying and sometimes incomplete. Such honesty about family dynamics is one of the strongest aspects of the Harry Potter books. Rowling portrays families as they are, rather than how we’d like them to be. And this reality rings true.

Over the course of three posts, we’ll examine the many family units in OotP. However, before we can discuss individual wizarding families, we must look at the wider picture—the umbrella of the magical world itself. So we’ll begin by examining that umbrella, and how the racial families under it relate to it and to each other. All page references are from the Scholastic editions.

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May the Odd be Ever in Your Favor

This morning I got an email from Sally Beauty Supply. The subject line read: “The Hunger Games Collection from China Glaze. Now at Sally Beauty!” The message said: “Deborah, what will you be wearing to the opening ceremonies?”

Although I’ve been aware of the nail polish and the controversy surrounding the color names, I’m still taken aback by this email that makes me a Capitol citizen eager to glam up for the kill. It reminds me of that old Tom Lehrer song about a bullfight:

“The moment had come
I swallowed my gum
We knew there’d be blood on the sand pretty soon
The crowd held its breath
Hoping that death
Would brighten an otherwise dull afternoon

I’ve been following posts on the film by Potter Pundits John Granger and Elizabeth Baird Hardy at Hogwarts Professor, and John has collected these posts so that I can share them with you. Really, you have to take a look at them. As both pundits write, “it’s beyond satire.”

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T’was the Night Before Christmas (in a manner of speaking)

I first discovered this poem in the early 1980’s. It was in a magazine, credited to Roger Devlin, and reprinted from the Tulsa Tribune. There are differing versions on the Internet, and I think the copy I have was abbreviated. Below is the most accurate version I found.

I read this aloud at a Christmas church party and, once people realized what I was reading, it got a good laugh. I hope you enjoy it. You can find other humorous versions of this traditional poem here.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period
preceding the annual yuletide celebration, and
throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was
not in evidence among the possessors of this potential,
including that species of domestic rodent known as
Mus Musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended
from the forward edge of the wood burning caloric
apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure
regarding an imminent visitation from the eccentric
philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is
the honorific title of St. Nicholas.

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Carlisle Cullen Richest Man in Fiction

You don’t have to be a Twilight fan to appreciate the wonderful humor in this report, in full here.

FORKS, Wash. — Those Goldman Sachs bankers taking home millions in bonuses could take a few lessons from the richest man in fiction, Dr. Carlisle Cullen. Unlike those bankers, Cullen has avoided populist ire by hiding his $34.1 billion personal fortune from charities, the I.R.S. and, until now, Forbes’ intrepid imaginary billionaire hunters.

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Spooky Stories in the Hogwarts Common Rooms

It’s a dark and stormy Halloween night at Hogwarts.

The wind keens, and the Whomping Willow churns and rustles. Fang’s lugubrious howls curl around a full moon hovering between silvery clouds. The Hogwarts ghosts flit silently throughout the still castle. Filch and Mrs. Norris prowl the halls, seeking miscreants.

Having feasted, Hogwarts students are now gathered around sprightly fires in their respective common rooms, telling spooky stories, as they toast marshmallows on long forks. You are one of them, and we want to hear your tale of terror from the wizarding world.

Regale us with a scary story, featuring characters known or unknown to us. It may be a wizard urban legend; a story passed down in magical families, a chilling new tale, or a retelling of something printed in the Quibbler. Adapt a Muggle story, if you wish. But your tale must take place in the wizarding world.

We’re waiting . . .