Category Archives: Voldemort

The Scariest Harry Potter Book Is . . . The Half-Blood Prince

pensieveWith the penultimate novel in the saga—Half-Blood Prince—we know that things must become much worse before they can become better and reach resolution in the seventh and last novel.  We should thus expect that it will be chilling in unmatched fashion, and I shall argue that it’s the scariest of them all!  Let’s take an eerie walk through the dark corners of Half-Blood Prince, to places seemingly devoid of light or hope . . . .

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The Scariest Harry Potter… the Goblet & the Graveyard

“Little Hangleton Graveyard” © Willi Wiegand 2013, all rights reserved. Used with kind permission of the artist.
“Little Hangleton Graveyard” © Willi Wiegand 2013, all rights reserved. Used with kind permission of the artist. .

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire – Book 4 – has the absolutely scariest scene in the entire series… forget the vicious Hungarian Horntail… forget the grindylows and the merpeople with their grey skin, broken yellow teeth and wild green hair leering at Harry and shaking their spears… forget the eerie disappearance of nearly everyone Harry cares about: Ron, Hermione, Cho… the SCARIEST thing about what I think is the scariest volume in the series is that just when Harry and Cedric appear to have victory at their fingertips, they are jerked away from the maze, from Hogwarts, and portkeyed to the creepiest, most dangerous location yet: the Little Hangleton graveyard.

“They were standing instead in a dark and overgrown graveyard; the black outline of a small church was visible beyond a large yew to their right… It was silent and slightly eerie.”  Dark shapes approach, walking steadily through the graves, and Harry’s scar explodes with pain. Cedric is struck and Harry is captured. “The short man in the cloak… was dragging Harry toward the marble headstone. Harry saw the name upon it flickering in the wandlight before he was forced around and slammed against it. TOM RIDDLE.”
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House-Elves, Hogwarts, and Friendship

The next article in the June 2012 Harry Potter and Philosophy collection is “House-Elves, Hogwarts, and Friendship: Casting Away the Institutions which Made Voldemort’s Rise Possible,” written by Susan Peppers-Bates and Joshua Rust (both philosophy professors at Stetson University, FL). 

This essay begins the collection’s journey toward an exploration of some of the darker themes present in the Harry Potter series (though with the ray of hope that is friendship!).  For an abstract of their article, please read below the jump.  As always, questions and comments on the full article and its topic are welcome in the comments box below.

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Choices, Love, and Death

The third essay in the Imagining Better: Philosophical Issues in Harry Potter collection, is “buy viagra in uk href=””>Harry Potter and Humanity: Choices, Love, and Death,” by Shawn Klein, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College, PA. (He’s also a co-editor of Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts.)

After discussing the central role played by choice, which is best captured in Dumbledore’s famous quotation that it is “our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” (CoS p. 333), Prof. Klein explores how Harry’s humanity is best shown in his recognition of his mortality. Harry’s acceptance of his mortality enables him to love and to be a whole person; having a limited life span allows one to realize just how precious and valuable life is. On the other hand, it is Voldemort’s rejection of mortality that undermines his ability to love–either others or himself.

(Coming soon: A guest post by Prof. Joel Hunter on his essay about the Mirror of Erised and existentialism.)


The Metaphysics of Soul-Splitting

In early July, we saw a post about Travis’s new article, “cheap viagra online/pdf/341/rp_341_1.pdf”>Don’t Occupy Gringotts.” The second of the eleven essays in the Imagining Better: Philosophical Issues in Harry Potter collection, “Harry Potter and the Metaphysics of Soul-Splitting,” is by Gregory Bassham, Professor and Chair of Philosophy at King’s College, PA. (He’s also a huge Tolkien fan!)

Here’s an abstract of his article (below the jump), which takes us into the difficult terrain of the metaphysics of souls and personal identity:

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Double Riddle

Villians and Folklore, pt.2

There’s more than one Harry at Hogwarts. In fact, I count at least three, with perhaps a fourth and a fifth if we include the staff. But which Harry is the real Harry is a decision that Harry himself has to make. It takes him the better part of the series to do it, but the process largely begins in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998). It’s Harry’s second year of school and Hogwarts isn’t new to him. What’s new is the array persona for him to put on, role models other than Dudley and the Dursleys. The choice arguably begins for Harry when he looks into the Mirror of Erised and sees himself as he could have been; more precisely, it begins when he arrives at Hogwarts and discovers more than one him: Hogwarts is filled with doubles.

After creepy old mansions, vampires, and fainting women, one of the most easily recognisable Gothic topoi is the double, or döppelganger. It features in such classics as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), and of course Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (1886). It is, then, no surprise that Rowling would have turned to such a potent image for her own writings. John Granger has discussed the links between the Harry Potter books and some of these earlier classics in Harry Potter’s Bookshelf; I will not try to replicate his work, but will examine how the topos has been re-appropriated within the context of the Harry Potter stories—where is it, and how is it used.

Doubles about in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry, Ron, and Hermione use Polyjuice potion for the first time. Gilderoy Lockhart surrounds himself with his own likeness. An heir with a unique set of magical skills is needed to release an ancient curse—a Gothic concept if ever there was one. And, of course, Harry and Hagrid are wrongly accused of being that heir.

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See No Evil…

While attending a conference a few months back, I became engaged in a fascinating conversation about Harry Potter with Dr. John Hare (of Yale Divinity School).  Though we both enthused about aspects of the saga, one point on which we were a bit at odds was whether or not there is a Manichean strain in the novels that one should be concerned about—he taking the affirmative and I the negative* (and I want to note that he was not lapsing into the “magic in HP is bad” tirade).  After pressing me on these matters that are a bit outside of my element (seeing as I’m not theologically trained, so please jump in to correct anything Travis, Revgeorge, Danielle, others…), I promised that I would re-read the novels with this concern in mind.  I did so, and I’m still not persuaded that there is any Manichaeism at work.

*[Note added: Just to clarify, he was not necessarily holding this interpretation, but noting that some might do so.  I thank him very much for triggering me to revisit the texts in a new way.] 

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Just Desserts… or Cauldron Cakes?: What Does Justice Look Like in Harry’s World?

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about what the Harry Potter series might be able to teach us about justice.  What does justice mean?  How should it be carried out? One of the reasons I started thinking about this was because I assisted with a course at Boston University this semester on Restorative Justice, which is considered to be an alternative to our current justice system.

Our current justice system is rooted in something called Retributive Justice, which is punishment-based.  So if you murder someone, you get punished in proportion with your crime, usually by going to prison.  Hence, an accidental killing gets less time than a premeditated crime because the premeditated crime is seen to be more duplicitous and therefore more punishable.

Or here’s a more concrete example, and I know it’s a sensitive one for me and for others: When Osama bin Laden ordered the September 11th attacks, our country responded with the understandable response: He killed our people, therefore we will kill him.  (This event, alongside the course I mentioned above, was actually the reason I started thinking about justice and Harry Potter because I think that, for those of us in the United States, at least, bin Laden is the closest equivalent to Voldemort we’ve had in this millennium).

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