Category Archives: Magic Items, Spells, and Potions

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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Love Is in the Air . . .

Snoopy ValentineLiterally!  Throughout Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley have been juxtaposed—both in the air of the Quidditch field and on the ground—as Harry’s possible love interests: 

“Yeah,” said Ron slowly, savoring the words, “we won.  Did you see the look on Chang’s face when Ginny got the Snitch right out from under her nose?” (OotP, chap. 31, p. 704)

Boy, did Ginny ever get “the Snitch right out from under” Cho’s nose!  As we see yet again, when “Ginny play[s] Seeker against Cho” in Half-Blood Prince and Gryffindor beats Ravenclaw 450 points to 140, the other Snitch that Ginny was “Seeking” enters the Gryffindor Common Room and stumbles upon the big celebration of the Quidditch win:

“Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him.  And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.” (HBP, chap. 24, pp. 532-33)

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The Mirror of Erised and Existentialism

Here is a special guest post by Dr. Joel Hunter, who teaches in the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. His post discusses

the context and content of his article “Kierkegaard’s Mirror (of Erised)“:

My article in Reason Papers is a follow-up research paper to the general argument I presented in the essay on technological anarchism published in Travis Prinzi’s collection Harry Potter for Nerds. The gist of my approach to the HP saga in the previous article is to draw a close correspondence between magic in the world of HP and technology in our world, with particular attention to its social effects. Once that close connection is established, we have a basis to compare how magic affects the HP world with how technology affects our world.

The Mirror of Erised presents one of the most suggestive magical devices in the series because its primary effect is precisely anti-social. It amplifies any narcissistic moral defect that might be lurking in the folds of one’s heart. A sociological analysis, therefore, seems less amenable to exploring the Mirror’s meaning.

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Advanced Potions – Sixth Year Lesson- 1

Advanced Potions / Sixth Year N.E.W.T. Potions class

buy viagrastyle=”font-size: medium”>Professor Horace Slughorn

Lesson 1- Draught of Living Death – Preparation and brewing.

I– Using your herbology text book, One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore, read, become familiar with, and pay special attention to the cautionary remarks for the following herbs:

Herb # 124 – Asphodel

Herb # 722 – Sopophorus Bean

Herb # 836 – Valerian Root

Herb # 874 – Wormwood

II– Read the instructions for brewing the potion The Draught of Living Death in Advanced Potion-Making by Libatius Borage beginning on page 10.

III Ponder these questions for class discussion:

1– Under what circumstances would it be acceptable or unacceptable to give this potion to someone?

2– What are the rights of the person who is given a dose of this potion?

3– What are the responsibilities of the person who makes this potion in order for another to use it?

4– What are the responsibilities of the person who gives a dose to someone?

5– Consider the following, unsubstantiated, times the Draught of Living Death was used & the results.

  • Juliet Capulet used this potion, brewed by Friar Laurence, in order to convince her family she was dead. The plan was to run off with her new husband, Romeo Montague. Alas, the plan backfired. Romeo received news of his brides death before a messenger arrived to inform him of the plan. Romeo raced to Juliet’s tomb and committed suicide. When Juliet awoke from the potion, she found her husband dead. Juliet was so grief struck she killed herself using the same knife Romeo had used to end his own life. Friar Laurence was never punished for the parts he played in this tragic story

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Got Your Wands Ready?

Sony has very recently announced a partnership with J. K. Rowling for a new product called “Wonderbook: Book of Spells.” Here’s the relevant bit fro

m the news link:

“The PlayStation Move controller will work with the Wonderbook as a magic wand to cast spells in the Book of Spells. The demonstration video showed words appearing on the Wonderbook while the PlayStation Move controller turned into an on-screen wand, replacing the remote with a wood stick and directing the book to cause dragons to come alive on the page and light the book on fire. The pages became sooty, requiring the player to rub it away. A fire spell let the player draw pull from the book and draw it in the air using augmented reality, showing the fire on screen as the Move controller directed it into shapes. Finally, the book opened up into its own virtual world for practicing the newly learned fire spell, showing the augmented reality area as a small portal through which the player threw fireballs to destroy pests.

The game also turned the book into a pop-up theater that told the story of the discovery of the levitation spell used in the Harry Potter books. The book will have more looks into the world of Harry Potter, with each chapter culminating in a poem describing a failed Hogwart’s student, using their folly as an Aesop lesson.”

This might be even more interesting than practicing spells and engaging in Wizard Duels on Pottermore. How many of you might practice the old “flick and swish” with this new product, which is scheduled to come out in the Fall? Don’t forget about May-Eye Moody’s admonition: “Constant vigilance!”

 

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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Moving Pictures*

Almost everyone has them, whether in your wallet or safely tucked away at home.  I’m referring to pictures.  We take them, treasure them, show them, longingly look at them, tell the stories behind them—and yet are more often than not dissatisfied with them.  Why don’t we ever look like our pictures (especially our driver’s license photo, which could often be mistaken for a mug shot)?  How come when we go to put a picture of our favorite person in a special frame, it’s not easy to select the one that looks like the person, I mean really looks like him.  And none of them ever quite does….

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Chapter 22: The Deathly Hallows

In this chapter, we have:

  • the escaped Trio’s discussion of the Lovegoods, Harry’s affirmation of Luna’s toughness, Hermione’s brilliance and compassion, and Ron’s budding optimism and leadership
  • the inspiring and hilarious Potterwatch, in which we learn of the heroism and deaths of magical martyrs, and Remus’ grace toward Harry; also that “Muggle slaughter is becoming little more than a recreational sport….” (Royal/Kingsley also neatly of sums up some opinion here about Voldemort: “The air of mystery is creating more terror than actually showing himself.”)
  • the Trio’s capture due to Harry breaking the Name Taboo
  • Hermione’s steadfast faith in Dumbledore. Often pegged as rationality personified, her unwavering faith in Dumbledore and his Horcrux mission is inspiring. You could say that she (rationality) and Harry (faith) have switched places since Godric’s Hollow.

But, most importantly, we have the Deathly Hallows.

Many don’t care for the Hallows, feeling that they were introduced too late, weren’t adequately built up, or are a distraction. However, the Hallows are the climax title and title of this chapter, which is at the center or heart of the book. Harry has had the Cloak from the beginning, though with no explanation of magical origin, and we get some foreboding in HBP, with the destroyed Horcrux ring Dumbledore wears and then mysteriously leaves to Harry in his will.

Throughout the series, we’ve seen the power of magical objects, literally and symbolically. The Hallows are freighted with both symbolic and personal meaning. Actually, the Hallows are the most critical factor in Harry’s character development and moral growth, in his victory over himself and Voldemort, and in his becoming “the better man” at King’s Cross. As both object and crucible, the Hallows lead to Harry’s finest hour and his triumph as Gryffindor/Slytherin androgyne.

In his book Harry Potter and Imagination, Travis Prinzi writes that, with the Hallows, “Rowling has taken up Arthurian themes of the flawed hero and the battle for worthiness.” In Harry Potter there are seven powerful Hallows or “sacred things” – the sword, cup, locket, diadem, stone, wand, and cloak – with only the last three labeled as deathly. Each Hallow parallels a specific Hallow in Arthurian lore (see HPI for details). “In Arthurian Hallow lore,” writes Prinzi, “one does not simply find a Hallow and use it. The hero must be worthy of the Hallow. In Harry Potter, unworthy people do possess and use the Hallows – but neither well nor successfully.” Like Sir Gawain who “held onto “a magical item that would protect him from death,” Harry, tempted by the Elder Wand, is a flawed hero searching for a physical object (a wand) to overcome a spiritual problem (a multiply-split soul). “[Gawain’s] temptation here,” writes Prinzi, “is key because it strongly parallels Harry’s most important temptation in the series.” Grindelwald, Dumbledore, Voldemort and Harry – all are seized with this temptation, and only Harry overcomes it unscathed.

In the context of Arthurian lore, Harry must be virtuous to succeed. “One must be worthy of a Hallow, or the Hallow will not unlock the fullness of its power for the possessor,” writes Prinzi. “Hallows must be acquired by the virtuous for virtuous ends.” And Harry must also need courage, the virtue Rowling most highly prizes (Edinburgh “Cub Reporter” Press Conference). “In Harry’s attempt to defeat evil, “writes Prinzi, “the great paradox is this: the only way Harry could possibly be worthy of the Hallows was to forget about them, and to choose to pursue and destroy the Horcruxes. He does this only when, in the crucible of Dobby’s grave, he finally realizes that ‘no magic could defeat Voldemort,’ only the sacrificial love he had earlier scorned.” HPI (88, 90-96).

In answer to the question “Why does Rowling mix in the Hallows Temptation with Harry’s Horcrux hunt?” John Granger, author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures, writes “The books are largely about the corruptive influence and temptations of power on the hero’s journey to ‘corrected vision’ and theosis (see chapters 5-7). For Harry to complete the journey he began in Philosopher’s Stone, in which ending he was able to get the Stone because he didn’t want to use it, he would have to become the Master of Death by overcoming the temptation of immortality available to him in possessing all three Hallows” (253-4).

Both books mentioned above are outstanding for understanding themes and symbolism in Harry Potter, including the Hallows and their triangular eye symbol.

How did the Hallows impact Harry? Throughout the series, we’ve seen Harry’s disgust over the Dark Lord’s obsession for power; throughout this book, we’ve seen his disgust over Dumbledore’s obsession for power in his youth (“He was our age,” Harry fumes). To his credit, Harry has never lusted after raw power (having often been the victim of it, or seen others victimized) and has thus never experienced the slavery of obsession for it. Therefore, with all the arrogance of youth, Harry the boy considers himself superior to Dumbledore the man.

But once Harry grasps the potential of the Elder Wand, he becomes consumed by the same obsession for power that gripped his predecessors, becoming exactly like those he’s previously scorned. This “weird obsessive longing” (378-9) is described as possessing, consuming, and swallowing him, and as a flame lit within him. He’s lost in feverish contemplation, agitated thinking, self-absorption, a preoccupation with opening the Snitch, a descent into listlessness, distance from Hermione and Ron, and idleness on guard duty. He abandons leadership to Ron and joins in the Horcrux hunt only to stop Hermione’s “pestering.”

Hoping to get a lead on the Elder Wand, Harry ominously begins to seek connection with Voldemort, “because for the first time ever, he and Voldemort were united in wanting the very same thing.” He dismisses Hermione in Lovegood’s terms (limited, narrow, close-minded) and labels her opposition to seeking the Hallows as fear. He forgets about Luna’s suffering on his behalf. He blames others – Ron, Hermione, his adopted blackthorn wand – and is impervious to “veiled criticism.” Similar to Gawain, “He felt armed in certainty, in his belief in the Hallows, as if the mere idea of possessing them was giving him protection,” and his “certainty remained absolute.” He targets the wrong enemy (death rather than Voldemort). He isolates himself and seeks solitude. “He would have been happy to sit alone in silence, trying to read Voldemort’s thoughts, to find out more about the Elder Wand.” But, “the fiercer the longing the less joyful it made him,” which he blames on Hermione and Ron’s “obsession” with finding Horcruxes.

Most alarming, the visions “he and Voldemort were sharing” become “blurred” which “disconcerted” Harry. “He was worried that the connection had been damaged, a connection that he both feared and prized.” Yes, the lines of distinction are certainly blurring between Harry and Voldemort. They are now alike in coveting a powerful magic weapon to defeat the other “for the greater good.”

The result? Harry’s obsession causes him to break the Name Taboo when he blurts out Voldemort’s name, thus bringing about the Trio’s capture.

Harry snaps out of his obsession while digging Dobby’s grave by hand, eschewing magic. With Dobbly’s example of faithful service in blind trust, Harry also eschews pursuing the Hallows. He begins to understand that the problem is really the Dark Lord’s evil soul, and no weapon, magical or otherwise, can overcome it.

Through experiencing for himself how powerful obsession can be, and overcoming the lure of the Hallows, Harry becomes an adult: one who can faithfully complete the Horcrux mission given him to defeat Voldemort; one who can finally close his own mind to Voldemort intrusions, yet easily read his enemy with intuitive understanding; one with humility and superior moral character who can offer a last chance to Voldemort and comforting forgiveness to Dumbledore at King’s Cross. As with the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry has passed the test and is the virtuous man worthy to have possession of the Hallows, because he doesn’t wish to use them for his own gain.

Last summer I came up with a simple equation to explain the Hallows and Horcruxes:

Hallows/Horcruxes Test/Quest Equation:

Horcruxes = Quest – Character – Mastery of Voldemort = Defeat of the Dark Lord

Hallows = Test – Faith – Mastery of Self = “Better Man”, Gryffindor/Slytherin Androgyne

The Horcruxes are Harry’s QUEST:
Through completing his given mission to find and destroy Horcruxes, Harry masters and defeats the Dark Lord. (The Horcruxes refine Harry’s character)

The Hallows are Harry’s TEST:
By choosing to not pursue the Hallows, or use them for personal gain, Harry masters himself and proves himself “the better man” of King’s Cross who unites the Wizarding World. (The Hallows refine Harry’s faith)