Category Archives: Alchemy

JKR loses faith in Ron & Hermione as couple

by Deborah Chan/Arabella

Yes, the pub is still in operation. We’re just in that kind of post-New Year’s, snoozy, shut-in-the-house-by-the-massive-winter-storm-and-subzero temps apocalypse.

However, whilst we’ve been busy shoveling snow in the U.S., J.K. Rowling has been shoveling Ron and Hermione out of marital happiness. And right before Valentine’s Day, no less.


She has decided that Ron and Hermione really don’t work as a couple.

In an interview with Emma Watson, guest editor for Wonderland magazine, she says:

“If I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.

“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”

Watson responded,

“I think there are fans out there who know that too and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.”

A huge controversy, while the books were being published, was over the Shipping Wars—who would end up with whom. Some hated the Ron and Hermione pairing, feeling that Harry and Hermione made the better pair. Others liked Hermirone in an opposites-attract-kind-of-way. We had some pretty heated arguments in the pub on the subject.

John Granger has written a post at HogPro on Rowling’s reverse, which you can check out here.

But here are some questions I have for you:

  1. Given the saga’s alchemical nature, did Rowling make a mistake? What do you think she meant by “reasons, but not for reasons of credibility,” “wish fulfillment” and “clinging to the plot”? Did she write her characters into a romantic corner because of her alchemical scaffold? In other words, did she fail to make character sense in order to make alchemical sense?
  2. What do you think of an author who rejects their own storyline and characters as written? Does this make the author wrong at the time but now correct? Can an author reverse herself and not damage her story?
  3. How does this affect your feelings about the original story? Do you feel let down by Rowlings musings?.
  4. Do you ever feel that Rowling, much as we appreciate her for giving us such a splendid story, would do better to stop tinkering with the story post-saga?

Around the Common Room: November 16, 2012

The interwebs are all about the random this week, it seems, but for the gathering around our common room, we’ll start off with some fantastic literary analysis: Chris Russo’s post titled Unknotting Tangled, in which he talks about the roots of Rapunzel’s story, alchemy, and helicopter parents. Says Professor Russo: “I haven’t enjoyed a Disney film this much since Beauty and the Beast, and as a literature teacher, I haven’t had so much fun exploring the deeper meanings of a Disney film since, well, ever.”

And now that you’ve theoretically got that article opened in another browser tab, here comes the not-oft-connected rest:

Balloon artist Jeremy Telford made his living room into Bag End… entirely by means of balloons. It’s exhausting just watching the stop-motion video, but the final result is stunning.

Seattle, which could probably be fairly called one of the nerd capitals of America, is partially protected by a league of superheroes.

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Serious Matters: The Literary Elite vs. The Literary Potterphile

Over in Scotland, with our own Mr. Pond in the organizer’s chair, a group of over sixty Potter scholars is currently discussing Rowling’s work at the University of St. Andrews. Titled A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature, the gathering purports to be “the UK’s first academic conference on the subject and the first in the world to discuss Harry Potter strictly as a literary text.” (From St. Andrews’ news. Note that the conference is not, as the Telegraph claims, “the first event in the world to look at the series as a literary text”–only the first to do so exclusively.)

The media has featured various reports on the conference, including this piece from the BBC. Since the first notice from the press, however, a handful of reporters have turned to the con angle, one every serious Potter student is familiar with: academic dismissal. Both the Telegraph and The Guardian have run stories in which they’ve found some reasonably credentialed speaker to claim that:

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Book Review: Divergent

As we all know, one bestseller induces an onslaught of similar books. When Harry Potter got popular, wizards appeared everywhere. Post-Twilight, paranormal romance still dominates the YA shelves. After The Hunger Games, dystopia began taking over the world.

As a general rule, the original bestseller is vastly better, or at least more interesting, than the swarm that comes after. But in dystopia, that trend seems less stable. Ally Condie’s Matched is a good book, and Roth’s Divergent is even better. Comparison between The Hunger Games, despite its clearer and more shocking concept, and Divergent, which has held a spot on the NYT bestseller list for eight weeks with its still-harsh but more bearable storyline, could potentially be almost on an even level.

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Mockingjay: Is There Redemption amid the Horror?

My first analytical thoughts about Mockingjay involved uncertainty as to how to write about it for any sort of discussion. The response that felt appropriate to me as I processed the last few pages of the book was silence—the sort of thing I would expect in parts of a funeral, or after touring a Holocaust museum. I hesitate to write that, because it might sound like I think John Granger is wrong for his twenty-odd-and-counting posts on the book or you fellow Pub members are wrong for your comments. I do not. There is a time to keep silent and a time to speak, and the tale needs both.

For now, I don’t know how to take Collins’ trilogy in any way other than as a portrayal of ultimate cruelty and suffering. The books might be alchemical; they might be symbolic on many levels; considering John’s proliferating posts on the subject, I’ll assume they are. Maybe someday I’ll be able to read those posts and think about the tale on that level. The fact that I have not may leave me with some wrong conclusions, but tonight, I am still not ready.

Spoilers follow.
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Chapter 4: The Most Magically Powerful Number of Potters

Chapter 4 of the Deathly Hallows Read-Through is brought to you by Lily Luna!

sevenpottersIn Chapter 4 we get many echoes of the past and foreshadowings of the future set in an alchemical framework. First off in this chapter we get a completion of the farewell to the Dursleys with Harry reminiscing about his old cupboard, dreams, and solitude. We learn the final part of the Dursley legacy to Harry: from Dudley Harry learns of the possibility of redemption even in the unlikeliest of people; from Petunia Harry learns muggle cleaning and how to cook breakfast (skills he sadly fails to use on the camping trip to come); and from Vernon he learns some choice swear words (always useful).

There are several instances in which Harry is analogized to Voldemort. When Harry reflects on the times he enjoyed when the Dursleys left him at home in peace, “it was like remembering a younger brother whom he had lost.” This phrasing echoes when Harry looked at the name “TM Riddle” in the diary in “Chamber of Secrets” and thought it was “almost as though Riddle was a friend he’d had when he was very small, and had half-forgotten.” This provides a subtle hint of Harry as Horcrux. Continue reading

The End of the White Stage

John Granger is intending a post in the near future on Snape’s place in Harry’s alchemical transformation, which should be great reading.  He linked this site recently, and I did some browsing and found this description of the state of the soul at the end of the White Stage:

The whitening is a phase when we sense or have a prevision of the end of the work. It is a polar swing from out of the blackening – the appearance of seeds of the future development of the work. It is that stage of catharsis after some intense experience of being consumed in the crucible, when we glimpse the appearance, however fragmentary, of a new possibility – a flickering light in our souls which draws us towards its promise of change.

Sounds like a good description of Harry at end of Half-Blood Prince?  Not completely who he should be yet, but new possibilities ahead: the realization that he is “Dumbledore’s man through and through.”

In fact, this entire article on Animal Symbolism in Alchemy is incredibly fascinating, if you can plug through it (it’s a little wordy, and it’s a type of specialized language we’re not quite used to, perhaps).  Read it, thinking of all the symbols, colors, and animals present in the Harry Potter books.

After a catch-up PubCast (whenever I get to it), I’ll finally do one on alchemy.

Alchemy Proved!

This is big news (at least in my very strange world of thinking about Harry Potter):

John Granger has found a quote that should finally put to rest all the doubters about the alchemical framework of the Harry Potter series:

I’ve never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that’s a different matter. To invent this wizard world, I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy. Perhaps much of it I’ll never use in the books, but I have to know in detail what magic can and cannot do in order to set the parameters and establish the stories’ internal logic.

It’s not actually even news. The quote is from ’98. But there you have it. I’m baffled that there ever was a debate to begin with, but now it’s over. Alchemy was one of the first topics I ever addressed here at SoG. I haven’t spent much more time on it, since John’s got it covered really well already, and I learned about it from him in the first place anyway.