Chapter 17: When a problem comes along you must whip it. No one gets away until they whip it.

A belated installment.
Bathilda has a nasty secret and she’s ready to reveal it to Harry. Just wait.

We spend some time with Harry and Hermione trying to work out what’s happening behind the hedge. The blame goes, as usual, to a cat. Why are cats always to blame?
Rowling then gives us a nice little reference to Harry and Hermione taking refuge within the church. but Hermione suggest the dark road before Harry can speak up.
On their search for Bathilda’s house they come upon the ruins of the Potter’s residence. It has been left in ruins as a reminder of the violence that consumed the Potter family. In our own society I cannot imaging this happening. We like to sweep unpleasant images and reminders away. As a society we have a Voldemort-like hatred of death. We wish to avoid any reminder of it. On the fence is a plaque stating the situation and other magical folk have added their own inscriptions. I was hoping for “Spartan-117” but it wasn’t there…

Here’s a good moment to consider the lyrics of Shatner’s You’ll Have Time

Live life
Live life like you’re gonna die
Becasue you’re gonna
I hate to be the bearer of bad news
But you’re gonna die

Maybe not today or even next year
But before you know it you’ll be saying
“Is this all there was?
What was all the fuss?
Why did I bother?”

Now, maybe you won’t suffer maybe it’s quick
But you’ll have time to think
Why did I waste it?
Why didn’t I taste it?
You’ll have time
Because you’re gonna die.

Yes it’s gonna happen because it’s happened to a lot of people I know
My mother, my father, my loves
The president, the kings and the pope
They all had hope

And they muttered just before they went
Maybe, I won’t let go
Live life like you’re gonna die
Because you are

Maybe you won’t suffer maybe it’s quick
But you’ll have time to think
Why did I waste it?
Why didn’t I taste it?
You’ll have time
‘Cause you’re gonna die

I tell you who else left us
Passed on down to heaven no longer with us
Johnny Cash, JFK, that guy in the Stones
Lou Gehrig, Einstein, and Joey Ramone
Have I convinced you?
Do you read my lips?
This may come as news but it’s time
You’re gonna die
You’re gonna die

By the time you hear this I may well be dead
And you my friend might be next
‘Cause we’re all gonna die

Yeah, oh maybe you won’t suffer and maybe it’s quick
But you’ll have time to think
Why did I waste it?
Why didn’t I taste it?
You’ll have time
You’ll have time cause you’re gonna die
Yes, you’re gonna die
You’re gonna die, I tell you
You’re gonna die
You are gonna die

‘Cause maybe you won’t suffer maybe it’s quick
But you have time to think
Why did I waste it?
Why didn’t I taste it?
You’ll have time ’cause you’re gonna die

Live Life
Life life like you’re gonna die
Because you’re going to
Oh yes
I hate to be the bearer of bad news
But you’re gonna die

Maybe not today or even next year
But before you know it you’ll be saying
“Is this all there was?
What was all the fuss?
Why did I bother?
Why did I waste it?
Why didn’t I taste it?”
You’ll have time, baby
You’ll have time
‘Cause you’re gonna die
You are gonna die
Oh yeah

Thanks Bill.

Harry and Hermione meet the untalkative and disgustingly malodourous Bathilda Bagshot. Bagshot Row is where Bilbo then Frodo live in Hobbiton. I felt that Godric’s Hollow and Hobbiton have a similar character. Voldemort’s destruction of the Potter family may have been a similar scene to what we’d have got if Frodo answered the door when the Nazgul came calling.

Back at Bathilda’s place Harry picks up some needful clues to further his quest and the locket stirs on his breast. This is the biggest collection of Voldemort’s soul parts since they were split and the result is appropriately dark -Bathilda shows him her secret. Nagini has been posessing the reeking corpse of Dumbledore’s ally and reveals itself like some grotesque Kundalini. There’s a fight where things are very confusing. A thrashing snake, Hermione suddenly amongst the action, Voldemort’s immanent arrival and splitting headaches. Voldemort’s flashback is an amazing and revealing first-person account of his method of slaying. Harry’s mind link takes some time to recover from. Hermione has saved the day again and bathed his forehead while he was ill. Harry’s maleness, signified by his wand, has been broken (ouch!) and he is at a loss. The guardian role has been take by Hermione whose wand is intact. Harry presumptuously assumes Hermione’s wand and wishes she was somewhere else. Harry is wondering how he’ll continue his fight. His wand has served him so well. Its a connection to Dumbledore via Fawkes’ feather. Its the brother of Voldemort’s wand and that connection has been hugely helpful in their past dealings.

We’re well set up for the rug to be pulled further from under Harry’s feet and for the beautiful images in the future chapters.

149 thoughts on “Chapter 17: When a problem comes along you must whip it. No one gets away until they whip it.

  1. I see you picked up on the symbol of maleness being broken. Hanging limply.

    The imagery of the snake coming out of Bathilda’s rotting corpse is totally, totally gross.

    Nice touch, the lyrics. I think I’ll go and jump off a tall building now.

  2. Korg, if you needed depressive music, why didn’t you go to Brian Eno?

    Before there was responsibility and a mortgage and a nine year old, there was the music of Eno and a lifestyle that accomodated it. A friend used to call it “music to jump off tall buildings by”. Here’s a sample:

    Appropriately enough, Eno did the music for Peter Jackson’s Lovely Bones

  3. Its good to be reminded of our mortality… Kind of reminds me of History of the World Pt 1.
    – “Remember thou art mortal! Remember thou art mortal! Remember thou art mortal!”
    – “Oh, blow it out your A#$!”

  4. Thanks Red Rocker.
    I don’t mind some early Leonard Cohen either and that is pretty downbeat.
    Didn’t Eno do the Prophecy Theme for David Lynch’s Dune? I really liked that too.

  5. Well Korg – I learn something new everytime I log in here.

    Kundalini – Noun; Hindu; Energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine until it is activated, as by the practice of yoga, and channeled upward through the chakras in the process of spiritual perfection.

    Before – this was the only Cundalini I knew –
    That there is Cundalini… and Cundalini wants his hand back!
    – Mad Max

  6. This is by far the creepiest chapter in the entire series. Deathly Hallows was not my favorite of the books, but it certainly had a good creep factor.

  7. My wife and I had a tradition where I would read the HP books to her on the first read through, and so when DH came out, I read the book to her until I could go no further. My voice and I fatigued late the night DH came out right after I had read this chapter to her. So it was with this chapter still fresh in our minds that we went to bed for the night. I had no idea until I finished the book that I had stopped at the nadir of the book. In retrospect, I can’t think of a better chapter to have stopped at for the night.

  8. Really a creepy chapter, one of my favorites in DH. Never picked up the symbolism of Harry’s maleness being broken, but that’s why I still love to read other people’s take on the books!
    I just wanted to add that I can relate to the Potter’s house being left in ruins. We Germans seem to do that, too. I can give two examples offhand, for some reason both are churches destroyed in WWII. One is still in the center of Berlin, they left the church tower as a memorial, the other one was in Dresden. The ruin was there for about 50 years, I still saw it 1990, but it has been rebuilt since because this church also represented a famous landmark of the historical part of the town.

  9. The reason I visit this web site often is illustrated by Korg’s write-up and the comments that followed. Other people’s interpretation of the story is always interesting to me. This is especially so when contemporary music is used to illustrate their points, since my ignorance of anything written after Richard Rogers is almost complete.

    By the way, is the Shatner you mentioned the William Shatner of the starship Enterprise? If so, I didn’t know that he was any kind of singer.

  10. Hey Charlie, you gave me a wonderful set-up line. I just tried to get in there before someone else beat me to the punch.

  11. Okay. Question on the maleness: I get why the wand is representative of Harry’s maleness. It’s vaguely phallic and powerful. Harry has a strong attachment to it, and it partly defines him, or at least it is representative of who he is (a wizard). With it broken, he is impotent.

    But is it only a symbol of maleness because Harry’s male? What if Hermione had broken her wand? Would that be her femaleness? I guess the question is, is it maleness because a wand is vaguely phallic, or is it maleness because Harry’s male, or both?

  12. This chapter seems more about the Dark Lord than Harry to me. Voldemort is evil. We use that word carelessly sometimes and it loses it’s impact. Evil is the concentration camps of WWII, evil is the Final Solution, evil is torture into insanity, evil is killing an elderly woman and then desecrating her corpse, evil is killing children, evil is no remorse. The absolute putrification and the smell of death is what the GIs encountered entering the Deathcamps in Poland. Evidence left by the SS that made even General Patton physically sick.

    This chapter is the physical evidence of Tom Riddle’s ultimate no-going-back evil. These are heinous acts. The house of the Potters is left as it was as a memorial – just like Auschwitz is today.

    What is interesting to me is the line:

    He did not like it crying, he had never been able to stomach ones whining in the orphanage –
    “Avada Kedavra!”

    This is the last thing Riddle thinks about before his own semi-oblivion. Rowling shows his humanity, strangely enough.

    And then she kills it.

  13. Derek D,
    Rowlings use of the wand here is a symbol of Harry’s maleness. They way I take it is that it was necessary to set Harry up for getting the Elder Wand but also a handy symbol to show whats going on for Harry on a deeper level. It is not something that can be applied to Hermione because its not her story.

    So, it represents Harry’s maleness because he’s male and its an obvious phallic image and that symbol sums up well what is happening to him.

  14. The way I look at the wand/male potency thing is that it works better for a guy because men’s sense of overall potency is closely associated with their sexual potency. That’s just the way it is.

    For Hermione losing her wand might make her feel helpless and impotent too, but it wouldn’t have that other association for two reasons. First, women’s sexuality isn’t symbolized by a phallus. Second, I don’t think women’s identity as women is tied to their sexuality as much.

  15. Hmmmm. I am not seeing the wand as a phallic symbol. If this was written by a man – I might. I see this as Harry loses his parents, his godfather, his owl, his girl, his “home”, his mentor, his school, his hideout, his best male friend, his wand. As with all hero stories – the hero has to lose everything – in order to come back from nothing and be a hero. I think that it is a profound point that Hermione is the only one left. Hermione who is the only character Ms. Rowling, who on the record, most identifies with personally.

    But since some men place so much of their indentities on their penis – I can see how you guys would think that the wand is a phallic symbol. I just don’t see the point.

  16. Nagini emerging from Bathilda, the basilisk emerging from the statue of Slytherin in COS, and the snake emerging from the skull mouth in the Dark Mark are similar images, where the snake is an agent of death. And a phallic symbol. Maybe a feminist interpretation is warranted here!

    The defenestration of Harry and Hermione reminds me a bit of DD blasting off the Astronomy Tower, though with a different outcome. It’s also the second time in DH that Harry has disappeared from Voldy’s view during a freefall (other time was on the motorbike during the escape from Privet Drive). And the third time he’s winked out of sight while Voldy was trying to AK him (third time was when Harry escaped by Cup portkey from the graveyard in GOF).

    The only other escape by window in the series I can think of is the escape by Anglia from the Dursleys in COS with Uncle Vernon left enraged at the window watching them fly off.

  17. I’d never heard that term “defenestration” used before, so I Googled it.

    It owes it origins to two famous defenestrations in Prague. In the first one, 13 municipal councillors (plus a judge and the burgomaster) were thrown out of a window by the followers of a mad Hussite priest, and died.

    The second defenestration had a happier outcome:

    At Prague Castle on May 23, 1618, an assembly of Protestants, led by Count Thurn, tried two Imperial governors, Vilem Slavata of Chlum (1572–1652) and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice (1582–1649), for violating the Letter of Majesty (Right of Freedom of Religion), found them guilty, and threw them, together with their scribe Philip Fabricius, out of the windows of the Bohemian Chancellery. They fell 30 metres[2] and landed on a large pile of manure in a dry moat and survived. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title von Hohenfall (lit. meaning “of Highfall”).

    Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of the angels.

    You learn something new at the Hog’s Head everyday.

  18. They fell 30 metres[2] and landed on a large pile of manure in a dry moat and survived.” Perhaps an inspiration for Back To the Future….

    Defenestration is a favorite word of mine; it’s so close to deforestation that connotations can be quite comic. I look forward to commenting on this chapter, probably Monday.Good job, Matthew.

  19. It probably would’ve helped if “defenestration” was used in a proper sentence like “Things would be better if we defenestrated more politicians nowadays.”

    It’s a woefully underused word nowadays. 😉

  20. I only knew it from the root and connected it to a certain special aria that always makes me fall in love with Don Giovanni – no matter how hard I try not to –

    Deh, vieni alla finestra – Come to the window

  21. By the way – that’s Simon Keenlyside, uber-Barihunk. Strangely enough – I heard a rumor about him being considered for casting in Deathly Hallows. Don’t know what they’d have him do – except stand around and look gorgeous. Or sing an aria.

  22. Sorry – back to topic – By the way, this was the second time Nagini bit someone and the victim survived (Harry gets bit in Bathilda’s upstairs room and Hermione heals him). What’s the deal? Why couldn’t Snape have stored a little dittany up his sleeve?

  23. Joivre, maybe Snape couldn’t heal himself because he was bitten in the neck? I understood that he bled too fast for anyone to be able to do something about it.

    Joivre wrote:
    I see this as Harry loses his parents, his godfather, his owl, his girl, his “home”, his mentor, his school, his hideout, his best male friend, his wand. As with all hero stories – the hero has to lose everything – in order to come back from nothing and be a hero.
    Maybe we should add his firebolt to the list. Losing his wand represents Harry’s last connection to his childhood, after losing it too, he is no longer a boy but a man and ready for what he has to face. I agree with you, this makes a lot more sense (to me) than the wand representing his broken manhood, though the concept in itself sounds intriguing. But no, after all, I don’t believe JKR had that in mind.

  24. “I agree with you, this makes a lot more sense (to me) than the wand representing his broken manhood, though the concept in itself sounds intriguing. But no, after all, I don’t believe JKR had that in mind.”
    I thought it was one of the most unsubtle uses of symbolism that Rowling has written. Normally I’m pretty skeptical of seeing symbols everywhere but this one seemed blatant to me.

  25. “I thought it was one of the most unsubtle uses of symbolism that Rowling has written. Normally I’m pretty skeptical of seeing symbols everywhere but this one seemed blatant to me.”

    I don’t know, korg20000bc. Maybe it’s the fact that women really don’t care that much about phallic symbols. All things considered, I am with Joivre there. The lost of childhood is a better bet for me. But then it’s a matter of perspective (like almost everything). That’s the fascinating thing about reading, no two readers will ever have the same experience reading the very same book. It is much more open to interpretation than a movie could ever be.

  26. I’m a bloke.
    I don’t care about phallic symbols.
    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
    I’m sure Rowling wrote on multiple levels. The symbolism can mean both things.

  27. Thinking about it- Rowling may not have even been aware of it. But it doesn’t mean that the symbolism isn’t there or is rendered invalid. To me, it fit the facts and helped me understand what is going on for Harry. I supposed I wanted to share that insight as other people may find it helpful too.

  28. Yeah, I thought the symbolism was pretty unsubtle myself. Like Korg, I don’t easily buy into symbols, but this one sort of hit me between the eyes. And I don’t think it has to do with your sex. Just an understanding of how people are.

    And of course, I went back to it in the write-up for the next chapter, when Harry is still mourning the loss of his (cough) manhood (cough).

    But hey, that’s the thing about symbols. You’re free to accept them, or not.

  29. Every time I re-read the HP books something new strikes me. In this chapter, it is the italicized portion on pages 342-345, representing LV’s thoughts. He really reveals himself as the evil monster he is. He briefly considered killing the child who spoke to him as he was approaching the Potter home. He didn’t do it, not because of any qualms of conscience, but because it was … unnecessary, quite unnecessary. Joivre has compared him to the nazis, and I quite agree that the comparison is apt. We (including me) in past threads have tended to compare the death eaters and even Umbridge with the nazis. Upon reflection, I think that only LV and perhaps Fenrir Greyback should be compared to the nazis. Most of the death eaters are just common thugs, psychos (Bellatrix), or oily opportunists (Lucius Malfoy). (I’m not sure how to classify Umbridge.)

    I would be happy to hear others’ thoughts on these matters.

  30. Korg, I didn’t mean it wasn’t fascinating. Or helpful. You might be right that JKR probably wasn’t aware of it but it’s there all the same. There are more things in the books where I have asked myself if she intended something to be like I understood it or if at the time she wrote it, it just occurred to her because it was useful for the story.

    As for broken wands and manhood, earlier on when I was eating lunch I thought about Chamber of Secrets when Ron broke his wand and wondered if there was some kind of symbolism in it, too. Okay, maybe not. But what about Lucius’s wand that Voldemort borrowed? It broke when it met Harry’s Phoenix wand, and it seemed to me that Lucius’s power (or at least his pride) was broken at the same time.

  31. Charlie, I would classify Umbridge as a hanger-on, someone who probably wouldn’t start a mouvement like the Death Eaters but would be happy to grab the opportunity to abuse their temporary power and act on their lowest instincts without fear of punishment. I would definitely compare the Death Eaters to the Nazis, the parallels are glaring. Like Korg said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. :-)

  32. Minerva, I know cigars and Harry’s wand is no cigar.

    Interesting observations about Voldemort and how JKR gives us a glimpse into his thought processes. Two thoughts here.

    First, JKR is of necessity guessing how a megalomaniacal murderer would think (that is unless she’s spoken to a few). But I think her author’s intuition feels right.

    Second, she presents him as someone for whom killing is a habitual act. It’s high on his response menu. Most of us would need a lot of reasons to kill and even then we’d have to spend a lot of time and effort convincing ourselves killing was necessary. Or we’d have to be really emotionally aroused – angry, afraif, frustrated, what have you – to kill. For Voldemort though, killing doesn’t require a lot of justification. It comes easy. So easy, in fact, that he has to come up with reasons not to kill.

    Based on my knowledge of killers, I think she’s got it spot on.

  33. Joivre wrote:
    I see this as Harry loses his parents, his godfather, his owl, his girl, his “home”, his mentor, his school, his hideout, his best male friend, his wand. As with all hero stories – the hero has to lose everything – in order to come back from nothing and be a hero.

    I wanted to make this comment yesterday and couldn’t think of a good way of writing it. A traditional mythic scenario. I might add that the wand can be both a wand and Harry’s manhood the point is he is loosing everything and a very dear friend soon as well.

  34. All this talk of “losing one’s manhood” got me thinking – what the heck does that mean? So – naturally – I googled it. The Harvard Educational Review did a review of a book: The End of Manhood: A Book for Men of Conscience By John Stoltenberg. I found the review itself affirming what I was suspecting. From a woman’s point of view (my own) my first reaction to people saying the wand is a phallic symbol and Harry lost his manhood was – well, good. Manhood hasn’t had the best history for women in particular. It is a mask of power that has oppressed women and kept men from what Stoltenberg calls their “authentic selves”. Not sure I buy all of it – but you can see it for yourself with the link below.

    Now before everyone runs off and calls this a generalization – it is. I am generalizing from a woman’s point of view. Also – there are certain things I happen to like about manhood. I happen to like wands. And while I’m on the subject – Harry has an 11” wand compared to Pettigrew’s 9 ¼”. Draco’s is 10” – smaller than Harry’s, but it’s reasonably springy. Cedric had 12 ¼ in his pocket – but Bellatrix had 12 ¾ in her bustier – she had balls. Tom Riddle’s was an impressive 13 ½” – ah but Ron Weasley! Ah – Ron has 14 sublime inches! (I always wondered why Hermione liked him so much. 😉 But the winner of the most Manhood is?

    Rubeus Hagrid – 16 glorious inches of Manhood!


    Harvard Education Review

    Except from book's+manhood&source=bl&ots=0pJQikafYd&sig=jimlzrPbUfYOQIHtNwyjWgW1OnY&hl=en&ei=SQpKS_mEI4a0sgPppdD1Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CA8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=to%20lose%20one's%20manhood&f=false

  35. Sometime I think we’re too selective with the NAZI label. There were many, many apparently normal people in the NAZI Party. I’m sure there were people in it who believed in the NAZI ideals without agreeing with the methods. The German people were placed in a difficult position.

  36. Joivre,
    Even though you identified your comment as a generalisation I don’t think the Male=bad argument is really helpful. It is not a generalisation from woman’s point of view, it is a generalisation from a particular woman’s point of view. Every time the male=oppressive/bad comments are made it is reinforcing that thought in the people who read it. From what I know of Travis and the tone of the site we want to be empowering groups not cutting them down.

    Comparing the wand lengths is interesting. Wasn’t one of the headmistresses of Hogwarts a severe witch with a Hazel rod? Almost a staff? But weapon length hasn’t aways been an indicator of the measure of a man. In many martial traditions the shorter the sword- the deadlier the fighter has been the proverb.

  37. Korg,

    Could you please clarify your statements for me? Which groups would you like me to empower? Would you clarify for me the tone I should use if a group does oppress someone and they have a symbol for that group? For instance – I did not call the German People evil – but I do call the NSDAP evil. Should I not refer to the NSDAP and the oppression they put upon non-Aryans? Should I empower them? Did you read the article? Because it states the context of what the definition of Manhood is in my comment. It is not all men.

    When I wrote –
    Manhood hasn’t had the best history for women in particular. It is a mask of power that has oppressed women and kept men from what Stoltenberg calls their “authentic selves”. Not sure I buy all of it – but you can see it for yourself with the link below.
    Did you think I was telling a lie?

    It wasn’t a lie. And it was not meant to cut down an entire gender. But since you were offended and to empower the group here – I acquiesce.

    I must not tell lies.
    I must not tell lies.
    I must not tell lies…

  38. I think the main point about the broken wand is that with it broken, Harry feels weak, vulnerable, feeble and helpless. That the breaking of the wand brings him almost to the point of his nadir. The actual nadir will come in Chapter 18.

    If you read the description of his attempts to repair his wand, you will see the words “feeble” and “feebly” In Chapter 18, the words Harry uses to describe his wandless condition are “weakened, vulnerable, naked”.

    That is what is going on, and that I think we can all agree on. The added step of interpreting the wand as a symbol of Harry’s manhood is one we should probably just walk away from.

  39. I’m backing up slowly even before I got here.

    We’ve thought a lot about the Gothic element of HP but I think this chapter is the only truly horrifying one in the series.
    This chapter has power for me because Rowling hasn’t written another like it: stench of death, a neck-burster of a snake writhing and biting, and at last Voldemort’s memory of the fateful day.

    It all happens so quickly and so grossly! It’s a Hammer horror film, not a gothic novel.

    … and when Harry’s wand snapped my eyes watered. (I know I should be walking away but I couldn’t leave it alone, as they say).

  40. Joivre,
    Thanks for asking a clarifying question.

    The impression I got from you statement “Harry lost his manhood was – well, good… Manhood… is a mask of power that has oppressed women”. was one of pretty high negativity. And to follow that up with a statement that there are certain things you like about men ie. their “wands” was pretty offensive. Can you imaging a man posting on this site about womanhood and his percieved ills and then saying that he really did like some things about women- their mammory appendages? There’d be an uproar.

    So what I’m saying is that rather than a focus on a negative history and oppression in many quarters of male/female relations we should be encouraging both.

    Thanks for pointing out that your comments weren’t trying to cut down Men. I don’t think you were lying. I wasn’t offended just trying to keep the playing field equal and positive.

    I never thought I was and an Umbridge character. I’ll have to think about that one. I take it that was the inference?

    Thanks Red Rocker,
    In comment 48 you summed up the whole point I was trying to make about the wand symbol.

  41. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

    Rev. 12:1-4

    Forget the phallic discussion for a minute–look at what’s really, centrally going on in this chapter. We’re getting an extension of the Holy Family motif begun in ch. 16. As Lily indicates Mary and Harry indicates Messiah, Voldemort is the dragon who seeks to devour–Herod commanding the slaughter of the innocents, the serpent in Eden scoffing at G-d, the Satan who seeks to kill and destroy.

    And look what his proud pursuit of immortality has made him into–a serpent wrapped round and round inside a decaying corpse. There’s a pretty clear reference here to Dr. Kellman in MacDonald’sThe Princess and Curdie, too. Voldemort’s beast-self is consuming him, destroying his humanity, even his human capacity for cruelty, and turning him into a zombified monster–decaying like the Alder Maiden of Phantastes–a face with nothing behind it.

    The significance for Harry is the continuation of his Gethsemane, his Dark Night. He has descended into sadness, now the serpent comes to destroy. The breaking of the wand has reduced him–not to a sexually impotent male (for the record, I humbly but completely disagree with there being any phallic suggestion here!), but to a level of absurdity and silliness he’s seen in a younger Ron. He fights the Dark Lord, and for what? To make the same blinking mistake Ron would make! He breaks his wand like a kid trying to pull off a not-too-well-thought-through prank!

    Who is he, really? A fumbling klutz, a powerless buffoon? A decaying corpse with Voldemort’s loathely consciousness inside? The breaking of the wand–far deeper than loss of maleness–is a loss of identity, symbolizing the crises of personhood he’s suffered for the past three books. All his exterior props and definitions–the scaffolding on which he’s constructed his self-knowledge–are being torn away. He will not find himself or his appointed task until he’s reminded of who he is–until Dobby simply calls him “Harry Potter”, and dies.

    (Man oh man, I love this book!)

  42. Moving analysis Mr. Pond, and certainly JKR is taking things away from Harry, in a God/Job kind of manner. But I don’t think it’s exactly the same as taking away the exterior props so that he can understand who he really is.

    For six books we have seen how important the wand is to the wizard. It’s loss would be pretty severe to any wizard. It’s not a prop, it is part of his identity. Especially for Harry because the wand binds him to Voldemort, with whose destiny his is inextricably mixed (I loved saying that!)

    As well, Harry isn’t the one who breaks his wand, it’s Hermione (and we won’t go into the symbolic ramifications of that!).

    As well, he does get Ron back in the next chapter, so the stripping stops, as it were; if Ron is a prop, he gets him back.

    I think some of what you’re saying is true, but I don’t think JKR goes through with the stripping-to-the-bare-essence process. I think she loves the boy too much to do to him what Mel Gibson did to Jim Caviezel.

  43. As well, Harry’s loss of his wand is also a plot set-up, for him to strip Draco of his wand and by some kind of weird magical domino effect, become the master of the Elder Wand.

    Correction: Harry gets Ron back two chapters later. In the next chapter Harry is still in the process of having things taken away from him. In this case, the last vestiges of the illusion that he ever really knew Dumbledore.

  44. Thank you, Mr Pond, for bringing the discussion to the serious and symbolic aspects of this chapter (magnificently so!), because there are many things to discuss about this most gothic chapter, in which the word “dark” is used many times.

    The previous chapter is about the sacred; this chapter is about the profane. Profanation in bodily desecration, in deceit, in a destroyed house and wand, in multiple murders, a boy’s scar.

    Harry’s Godric’s Hollow home (which I believe to have been the Dumbledore home) is now an empty ruin–“the wreck of what must once have been…’a monument to the Potters and as a reminder of the violence that tore apart their family.'” Bathilda’s innocent body is also an empty ruin, “a reminder of the violence” of her murder, now hideously filled with an evil inhabitant.

    There are mysteries–what really happened to James and Lily that Halloween when Harry defeated Voldemort? Who is this woman? And why, why, why do Harry and Hermione follow a silent, silhouetted, beckoning figure (almost a macabre Ghost of Christmas Future) exhibiting odd behavior in a dark night, into a creepy, dark house?

    And there are clues. Harry has been rejecting or oblivious to clues on this Christmas Eve–the verses and Ignotus’ grave in the graveyard–and continues in this vein. There is the curious silence of Bathilda; the awakening of Locketcrux (the closer he gets to her, the harder it beats); the fact that Bathilda knows who they are despite the Invisibility Cloak and Polyjuice; Bathilda ignoring Hermione, only to refuse her accompanying Harry upstairs. Hermione jumps and and clutches Harry’s arm at Bathilda’s “come.” There is the photograph of Dumbledore and the merry-faced wand thief. And Bathilda’s weird “invitation” upstairs. There are the clues of Voldemort’s memory “he had killed the boy, and yet he was the boy.” And Harry thinking, when he “wakes up,”He was Harry….Harry, not Voldemort….” Locketcrux stuck to his chest, burning him.

    In the graveyard, Harry sees the dates of his parents’ lives. Through Voldemort’s memory he sees them alive. Twenty-one years old; only four years older than himself. He sees the casual carelessness of his father not having his wand to hand, the desperation and sacrifice of his young mother, himself a playful baby…before destruction.

    Ollivander told Harry that “the wizard doesn’t choose the wand; the wand chooses the wizard.” The wand that chose him is damaged beyond repair; the wand which defines him in a way no other magical object does. It is the channel of his magical power and he is defenseless without it. Both holly and phoenix are sacred symbols; now they too are profaned. Only the phoenix (resurrection bird) feather core holds Harry’s wand together.

    He has lost so much. And he turns away from Hermione, his healer and comforter.

    A dark night indeed.

  45. In these last few chapters of Deathly Hallows we all can recognize that Hermione has been “broken-down” and as we see this also happening to Harry himself both are tested, both have been “broken-down” deep down into their human psyche, testing them and tried to their breaking points. Every thing that they both have found in the past that is familiar, easy, comfortable in their lives their very “identity” has been challenged over and over to its very breaking point.

    It can be said that this is akin to an alcoholic or a drug addict finally comes to a realization that enough is enough, then beginning the long hard road up or back out of despair returning from darkness back up into the light.

  46. Yes, the kids are getting quite a battering. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

    Can’t see the analogy to those addicted to drugs or alcohol though. Addicts end up at rock bottom through their own bad choices. Harry and his posse are trying to survive – and win – a life-and-death struggle that is not of their making. As well, it’s not unusual for addicts to stay at rock bottom for lengthy periods. Weeks, months, years. Lifetimes. Or recover a bit and then go back again. The dynamics are fairly dissimilar.

    I just think that JKR wants to make Harry and friends suffer a bit (a lot) so when they overcome the odds, it will have been a worthy struggle. No pain, no gain kind of thing. I mean, if Snape had handed them the sword of Gryffindor right after the wedding, where would have been the fun of it all? Not to mention the horrorshow of Bathilda/Nagini.

  47. I agree with you <b Red Rocker, I was thinking also of the “pain and as you put it, the life-and-death struggle” I did not mean to imply that Harry and Hermione had made bad or incorrect choices, I was not considering that aspect. When someone is at the bottom of the well so to speak there is only one way to continue that’s climb upward. Or maybe call, Lassie!

    I sometimes think very abstract, When I come across or read one item that pushes me to another and another thought. I recently came across an essay by G. K. Chesterton, “A piece of chalk.” from1909 it made me think. It is probably not relevant to this discussion but it made me ponder about the themes we are talking of.

    Perhaps a more fitting analogy is that of two people in a vast storm on the sea they’re thinking we are going down under at any minute.

  48. Thanks, R. Ross for the piece of Chesterton. I devoured it so fast there are still bits of colored chalk stuck between my teeth.

    I like your second analogy better. There seems to be little between Harry and Hermione and complete defeat. They are indeed like two little orphans clinging to a raft lost on the heaving seas.

  49. Forget Potter, let’s talk Chesterton. That is a wonderful thought, that virtue is a positive thing in and of itself, a bright and colourful and vivid thing, not the mere absence of something. Not sure I can relate to the chastity analogy so much. But the golden sun of mercy – now there is a beautiful and true analogy.

  50. Red Rock’er, Gilbert Keith just comes out from 1909 and makes us think doesn’t he. Harry will get his white chalk, he will be setting on it at Kings Cross, the whiteness the contrast the final answers.

  51. Do you think that one reason that the snake Nagini inside the re-animated Bathilda Bagshot could see and respond to the couple under the invisibility cloak was because of the very nature of snakes. Snakes are cold blooded their vision is poor they respond to movement and their tongues are sensitive to heat. And I am not overlooking He-who-must-not-be-named vast dark magic prowess.

    Also it’s interesting: Nagini bit Arthur Weasley in Order of the Phoenix he had to be taken to St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies & Injuries, where the healers had a difficult time keeping the wound closed because the snake’s venom dissolves stitches, (they tried stitches a muggle treatment) and the bites are immune to magical forms of healing, Yet, Hermione was able to heal the bite Nagini gave Harry with only Dittany It is very possible that Nagini intentionally did not give Harry as severe a bite of venom, as Vold-mort ordered her to keep and just hold him, not to kill him.

  52. R.Ross wrote, “It is very possible that Nagini intentionally did not give Harry as severe a bite of venom, as Vold-mort ordered her to keep and just hold him, not to kill him.”

    It’s also possible that Rowling forgot what she wrote about the attack on Mr. Weasley in OOTP. It’s also possible she conveniently forgets because a poisoned Harry who can’t be cured except by intensive medical care & rest in St. Mungo’s doesn’t fit into the plot of DH.

    Plus, Nagini, unless she has been put under an engorgio spell, seems to be of sufficient size to be more of a python or boa constrictor rather than a typically venomous snake. The Harry Potter wiki states that her species is unknown. I’d have to go back & look & see how big she is described as being in the books. The movies depict her as more of a python.

    Of course, it’s possible that Harry, being imbued with a horcrux, could not be harmed as extensively by Nagini as could’ve Arthur, since only things that can damage a horcrux beyond magical repair affect them. Even if Nagini was a venomous snake, she was a normal one, unlike the Basilisk, whose venom could’ve destroyed a horcrux & thus also killed Harry.

    Just speculating.

  53. Of course, apparently vipers and pit vipers can regulate the amount of venom they inject depending on circumstances. Pit vipers can apparently even inflict a dry bite which injects no venom at all. Here’s a quote on vipers from Wikipedia talking about this capability:

    “Experiments have shown that these snakes are capable of making decisions on how much venom to inject depending on the circumstances. In all cases, the most important determinant of venom expenditure is generally the size of the snake, with larger specimens being capable of delivering much more venom. The species is also important, since some are likely to inject more venom than others, may have much venom available, strike more accurately, or deliver a number of bites in a short space of time. In predatory bites, factors that influence the amount of venom injected include the size of the prey, the species of prey, and whether the prey item is held or released. The need to label prey for chemosensory relocation after a bite and release may also play a role. In defensive bites, the amount of venom injected may be determined by the size or species of the predator (or antagonist), as well as the assessed level of threat, although larger assailants and higher threat levels may not necessarily lead to larger amounts of venom being injected.”

    You can find the quote under the article on the viper species here.

  54. revgeorge, I love it when you go all rational and scientific and critical.

    Given a choice between JKR researched how much venom pit vipers can inject or she forgot – conveniently or otherwise – about the medical implications of Nagini’s bite, I’d go with the latter.

  55. Staying up late & having a beer or two helps my rationality… :)

    I’d go with your latter proposition, too, although who knows, Rowling may have spent as much time researching venomous snakes as she did researching alchemy.

  56. revgeorge, that was fascinating. Who knew that snakes were capable of so much decision-making. Unless it’s automatic instinct.

    R.Ross, you wrote: “Snakes are cold blooded their vision is poor they respond to movement and their tongues are sensitive to heat.” Yet Naginicrux only responded to Harry, not Hermione; the only time she did was to forbid Hermione going upstairs. This speaks both of Voldemort’s focus and his indifference to others except as hinderances mentality. Nagini could have attacked and killed Hermione to weaken Harry; Harry would have attacked the snake, of course, but not harmed it, as it could only be killed with a magical object. Voldemort underestimated Hermione’s talent and his greed overcame his sense (as usual).

    However, Nagini’s task was to hold Harry there without harm. I’m guessing her bite wasn’t venemous and was only deep enough to keep Harry from physically tearing away from her fangs, sort of a lock over a bone in the arm–an unmagical gouge that could be healed by dittany.

    From grief in the holiness of a graveyard to terror in a profaned dark house. This chapter is the pit of hell, but I’m still pondering all the clues Harry missed because he’d convinced himself that he’d find the Sword.

  57. I like your explanation, R. Ross, of how Nagini could spot Harry under the Invisibility Cloak. It always bothered me because the Cloak was a Hallow and it was unique in its power to never fail those who wore it. Nice reasoning.

  58. jensenly, the cloak not being infallible has always bothered me too. The fact that Mad Eye can see through it seems wrong somehow.

  59. On the subject of Harry’s broken, we know that it had imbibed some of Voldemort’s power in the graveyard duel in Goblet. I don’t mean to suggest that it was the eighth horcrux, but I found it interesting that one more thing that had some of Voldemort’s essence had been damaged beyond normal repair. Anyone else, or did I read too much into it?

    I also like that we get a first hand account of Voldemort’s mind the night that he murdered the Potters. Arabella points out the line that I found the most profound: …yet he was the boy. The dark lord has a lot of information to understand the situation he’s in and prevent his destruction, but as Travis has pointed out in previous talks and his book, Voldemort as a sociopath fails in the ability of self-reflection.

    jensenly, the cloak thing has bothered me a bit. Dumbledore seems to be able to see through it in Chamber and fake Moody in Goblet. I rationalize it by thinking that it is unaffected by spells and natural wear and tear, but it’s still hiding something that isn’t a hallow, and therefore be can be affected by spells. I know that’s a bit of circular logic, and as I write it I still struggle with it a bit.

  60. Brett, interesting thought about the wand. I think, upon reflection, that there’s a probably a line between essence and soul.

    However, you caught an aspect of “and yet he was the boy,” that I missed: both Harry and Voldemort are given huge insights they fail to realize. Harry, that he was a Horcrux and Voldy what you mention.

  61. Arabella, I agree completely. There is (in my opinion) a strong, thick line between the magical essence of Voldemort’s power that his wand had and the dark lord’s fragmented soul. I found it coincidental that the wand and its Voldy power are lost here too.

  62. Yes, Brent, it’s not something I’d thought of before. Perhaps Harry needed to be separated from his wand, to break that bond, as well as to become strong without it. The wizard chooses, without the wand.

  63. I was thinking – it was a little strange that James and Lily did not have their wands anywhere near them when Lord Voldemort broke in. Surely – they weren’t expecting him to break the Fidelius but still. Have them near. If not to strike back – but Lily and Harry could have apparated out of Godric’s Hollow while James engaged Voldemort.

    I wonder what the story is between James and Pettigrew. James trusted him with so much. So much was lost that night.

  64. Arabella, I had never considered that there might be more to why Nagini ignores Hermione during this scene. I had always assumed it was simply because to acknowledge her would mean speaking aloud (in Parseltongue) and therefore give away her hiding place. I think you are absolutely right in pointing out that Voldemort is again overlooking those who outwardly seem weaker or less important than himself. Hubris has caused the downfall for many a hero and villain (in both literature and life) and Voldemort is certainly no exception.

    Something else that you mentioned got me thinking. You said: Harry would have attacked the snake, of course, but not harmed it, as it could only be killed with a magical object.. Does this mean that making something or someone a horcrux is a kind of perverse form of protection? Nagini cannot be injured (or die?) unless wounded by powerfully magical object that causes damage no magic can repair? What would have happened to Harry if he had been mortally wounded by a regular weapon or spell?

  65. Mmm …. is the thinking that the hallows are of supernatural origin – meaning beyond the scope of ordinary magic? That they are the objects told of by Beedle the Bard? The gifts that death gave to the three brothers?

    I thought that they were merely very powerful magical objects – but not supernaturally so. And that the Tale of the Three Brothers was just a story that was built around them to “explain” their origin. A myth, or a legend, rather than history.

    Should this question wait until Chapter 21?

  66. Yes, Red Rocker, I agree–the Hallows are powerful magical objects, not of supernatural origin. And discussion of the Hallows should wait, because they’re not really applicable to this chapter, except for the Cloak.

    But the Horcruxes do matter here. Both Nagnini and Harry are Horcruxes, and Harry is wearing one; we have an unusual demonstration of their behavior when near each other. Harry’s heart beats faster and harder the closer he gets to Nagini. Voldemort gets quite excited (although that may not have anything to do with the Horcruxes). Locketcrux gets stuck to Harry’s chest, is only removable by magic, and leaves a mark.

    aerisflowers, the Horcruxes are definitely protection for their contained soul fragments. But, of course, Harry was never an intended Horcrux. Voldemort only deliberately made one living Horcrux, Nagini, to carry out his wishes. I had never thought before about Harry’s ability to be killed by a non-powerful magic weapon. Voldemort couldn’t possess Harry; could an AK have killed him?

    I believe a clue missed was when Bathilda said “come” and Hermione jumped. She’s startled to hear a word from this silent figure, the word is so short, and her brain doesn’t have time to catch up to her instinctual reaction and make the connection.

    Joivre, it bothered me from the first read that James and Lily were so careless as to not have their wands at hand, but what parents, with the demands of a baby, haven’t been distracted and consumed with getting through the day? It’s too bad that Harry has to have more myth about his father deconstructed. All these years he’d been told that James valiantly fought Voldemort. Thankfully, Lily was as advertised and more. I’d never thought about it, but if Harry and Hermione could Apparate falling out a window pursued by a snake, why couldn’t Lily have Side-Along-Apparated with Harry? Interesting question.

  67. If Lily had apparated away with Harry, the book would have been called Neville Longbottom and the Deathly Hallows

    The point I was going back to about the hallows is that not being supernatural, they are powerful but not infallible. Therefore the cloak is powerful, but others with powerful magic can see through it.

  68. Brent & Arabella, I also concur about: “Harry needed to be separated from his wand, to break that bond” If he hadn’t lost his wand, the one thing that he is so very dependant on, he probably would not have made the connection about the value of the Death-stick-Hallow and went on searching for the true owner and use it’s magic and wand lore to defeat the Dark Lord..

  69. Mrs. Norris, the cat of Mr. Filch

    We were discussing the snake’s ability to discern Harry under the cloak while ignoring Hermione. Some animals can perceive and are aware of the presence of a person that is not seen. I remember that in Philosopher’s Stone, Harry is on his way to the library at Christmas, at night under his Invisibility Cloak, he passes Mrs. Norris in the halls. Mrs. Norris seems to be able to perceive him, but may not be able to recognize him as Harry or a student; in any event, she allows him to pass without going for Mr. Filch.

  70. Hmm. Mrs. Norris a Horcrux? 😉

    Good points, R. Ross..

    Thanks for the great laugh, Red Rocker, and elaborating. I fully agree with you; the Cloak has been shown to be not infallible (apparently) to all kinds of magic. It makes you wonder about the other two Hallows. And how animals figure in.

  71. I think Harry could have been killed by an AK, Arabella. The only rule we are given for the destruction of Horcruxes (by Hermione, natch) is that they must be damaged beyond magical repair. For living beings, death by any means is beyond magical repair.

  72. Here’s some tidbits from Ms. Rowling about the cloak and Dumbledore and Nagini. (link at bottom)

    Angela Morrissey: Why is it that albus dumbledore can see harry under his invisibility cloak at certain moments? (during the series is the cloak only infallible to those who do not own a deathly hallow).
    J.K. Rowling: Dumbledore, who could perform magic without needing to say the incantation aloud, was using ‘homenum revelio’ –
    J.K. Rowling: – the human-presence-revealing spell Hermione makes use of in Deathly Hallows.
    Jess: How did nagini could see harry and hermione if they were under the invisibility cloak
    J.K. Rowling: Snakes’ sense are very different from human ones. They can detect heat and movement in a way that we can’t.

  73. I am jumping in so late here… What was I doing that I missed so much great discussion?!

    …A little side comment. As a screenwriter, I have long wanted to write a Harry Potter screenplay. But practically speaking, I knew that wasn’t going to happen professionally….. So while between gigs and on Christmas vacation… I went ahead and did it anyway.

    Call it a strange piece of fan fiction, if you will. But I went ahead and wrote my own version of the first DH movie (hey, if they can split it into two, so can I). Just a rough draft (what some indelicately call the “vomit draft”), to get a handle on structure and visuals and transitions, and sticking quite close to the book.

    And I have to say, living through this chapter in that way, imbibing it and visualizing it and feeling and deciding where to put the camera… it scared me to death. It was an experience of out-and-out horror.

    (And I quite agree w/ R. Ross above: Harry *has* to lose his wand. One thing I became even more aware of while structuring my little screenplay was how little we actually *need* the storyline of the Hallows to get to the end of the story — the Elder Wand is the only element that actually matters to the plot, and R. Ross is absolutely right: If Harry had his own wand, the Elder Wand would be so much less attractive.)

    Great comments, all!

  74. Arabella – you are right! I never thought of it that way before. It is another thing Harry loses – this image of his father fighting Voldemort. And then he sees this completely unfair fight. Unarmed father struck down in the first moment. He hears the laughter of Voldemort at the sight of James without a wand. Now besides his wand, he completely loses this image of his Dad. Humiliating and horrible.

    Janet – you are so fun! So while between gigs and on Christmas vacation… I went ahead and did it anyway. You are wildly talented and prolific that you could knock that out over Christmas Vacay! How many pages did you wind up with might I ask? And – more importantly – where’s your split into part 2? I love it! This chapter is so different from the rest of the book – I am interested in how you did it. Can you post a link to it for us?

  75. Thanks, Janet, Your screenplay sounds like it was fun to do. If you ever get it past the “sick”stage others and I would love a look/read. Really sounds great… I second it…

  76. Totally agree that the Hallows are not necessary to the storyline. All the story requires is for the horcruxes to be zapped, for Voldemort to zap Harry, for Harry to dieandberesurrected and for Voldemort to die because of his failure to kill Harry. The Elder Wand is the plot device by which Voldemort fails to kill Harry. I think JKR could have done it in other ways, but I’ve always enjoyed plot lines featuring coveted objects that exchange hands repeatedly. I think this is what Hitchcock called a MacGuffin. (One of the best and funniest examples I know of is The Wrong Box, featuring a young Michael Caine and Nanette Newman).

    Which having said, I also enjoyed the resurrection stone, and see that it too has a valid role in the plot: to provide Harry with company on his otherwise unbearably lonely walk through the forest. I think there are other ways JKR could have accomplished this, but once again, the attraction of an object of power is considerable.

  77. I have always thought the reason LV did not kill Harry in the forest is that LV was using the elder wand to AK Harry and this wand could not kill the wand’s true owner.

  78. Ah, I will be the contrarian and demonstrate down the road just how critical the Hallows, were; perhaps not to skeletal structure, but otherwise. 😉

    Thanks, sevenkeys for the correction on “beyond magical repair.”

    R.Ross, you were on the money about Nagini, according to this Rowling answer, but it still doesn’t resolve in my mind the snake not seeming to be aware of Hermione as it brushes past her and the Horcrux connection.

    Charlie, true, the Elder Wand would not be used to kill it’s own master.

  79. Arabella, you wrote: “…but it still doesn’t resolve in my mind the snake not seeming to be aware of Hermione as it brushes past her and the Horcrux connection…”

    Perhaps The snake Nagini is aware of Hermione’s presence but she is not important enough to the Dark Lord’s plan. The snake is ignoring her, only challenging or acknowledging Hermione when she wants to accompany Harry and Batty-Snake upstairs.

    The Dark Lord is not aware that the Trio has been hunting down Horcruxes. And Voldemort certainly doesn’t know he [Harry] is wearing one around his neck. Maybe, the Horcrux is instinctually reacting to another Horcrux of same kind, in close-quarters . Harry has a small fragment of Voldemort’s soul within him making him also a kind of Horcrux (I have always felt that in Harry’s case he has never been a full-blown Horcrux, only accidentally made. I could be incorrect.)

    Is it true that The Dark Lord never does catch on to Harry having the fragment inside his scar and Harry’s own blood within the Dark Lord himself. Please give your thoughts.

    P. S. Another thought, what if Hermione had been wearing the locket around her neck at this time, and not Harry, would the Snake have reacted very violent towards her and killed her? Then tipped the Dark lord off to the hunt for Horcruxes.

  80. I think the idea of one Horcrux reacting to another is interesting, but I just want to point out that Dumbledore told Harry Voldemort could not have felt the diary or ring being destroyed because those pieces of soul were so separated from his own consciousness. In making a Horcrux, Voldey has damaged his soul making him less whole, less human. While the piece of soul stored within an object/person seems to give the object/person new powers and some kind of protection, I’m not sure I would go as far as to say it creates some kind of a link between each obejct or that one Horcrux can sense another. In my mind, the process of making the Horcrux turns these pieces of soul into entirly separate entities. Therefore in answer to your last question R Ross, I don’t think that the snake would have acted any differently had Hermione been wearing the locket.

  81. Red Rocker @ 54 — Good point, and sloppy wording on my part. When I said ‘exterior’, I didn’t mean ‘physical’, or even ‘separate’ as we commonly use the word. I meant ‘exterior to Harry’s selfhood–to that which is Harry Potter.’ I’m somewhat inverting my thinking and my language usage, really, and referring to those internal things which are exterior to the internal self.

    Harry has used the wand as a self definition. He is linked both to Dumbledore and to Voldemort. It is a ‘prop’ in the sense that he can find identification of his self in how the wand is a part of him. But the wand is not himself. He was Harry Potter before he knew he was a wizard. He is Harry Potter even without a wand. Dobby realizes it–Dobby recognizes who Harry Potter is and can be before Harry does. And that is without the all-important self-definition of the Phoenix core wand.

    What makes Harry ‘Harry Potter’, really, isn’t his status or power as a wizard, isn’t his ability to combat Dumbledore, but is his ‘self’–kind, compassionate, truly courageous (doing the right thing even though it scares him out of his wits), etc. He need to find, independent of all accessories, vital or otherwise, that Godward part of his self that is his self. True to JKR form, he does not find it until confronted with sacrificial love, until he himself offers himself in sacrificial love.

    So, yes–all that was implied in the word ‘exterior’!

    Great points, everyone, on the symphathy (I use the word technically and literally, no ‘sympathetic’ overtones!) between LV and HP. The recognition of the self in the other — the ‘I’ in ‘Thou’, I suppose — is actually very significant in mystic development. So Harry understands that Voldemort is in him, viz, he is capable of becoming what Voldemort has become. In reverse, LV recognized himself in the crying Harry–he is the abandoned child, the forgotten orphan, repressing cruelly and ruthlessly his capacity to become like Harry, shuddering, afraid, and alone, ready to cling with desperate hope to the first gentle hand. It it their mutual struggle against this sympathy that sets the stages for their distinct but intertwined fates.

    And, Arabella, I’m waiting excitedly for that post on the Hallows–confirming my writerly instincts, I suspect! All seven books are about the Hallows, really, aren’t they?

  82. Speaking of wands and identity (no I’m not going there) reminds me much of how a musician feels about their instrument. The greatest Bach interpreter of the last century, Glenn Gould, had a notorious affection for Steinway CD 318 (Steinway pianos are identified by CD numbers) and it travelled the world with him and into the recording studio for the bulk of his brilliant recordings. Steinways are like wands in a way. No two are exactly alike. They are not from an assembly line – but by seriously hard-core craftsmen. Where I work we have a German Steinway B that every pianist who comes in here has tried to by from us. It sings. A term for a piano whose sound doesn’t decay easily. It’s magic. The sound is magic. It does magic.

    In 1971 – Glenn Gould’s CD 318 was demolished in an accident. He searched for a new one. Consulted with experts from Steinway and waited and looked. Although he signed up with a Yamaha – he never found his true love again. He died at the age of 50 – still looking for a replacement. A wand is a voice in a sense. It is like a flute, or a piano, or a violin. It is a prop – but a prop for our selves. And it is ours and we are it’s.

  83. The greatest Bach interpreter of the last century?

    Have they found a better one in this century?

    As requested by Dr. Lecter:

  84. Mr Pond, Love your thoughts about “who” Harry Potter is, and Dobby. You write: “So Harry understands that Voldemort is in him, viz, he is capable of becoming what Voldemort has become.” I disagree; he’s nowhere near that yet. Agree on Voldemort’s identifying as abandoned orphan, though, and eloquently put.

    “All seven books are about the Hallows, really, aren’t they?” Yes, and I look forward to exploring that, and your contribution to the discussion.

    Janet, speaking of horror, the thought of Nagini slowly nibbling out a place for herself in Bathilda’s body and pulling the head back on is right out of Horror 101. Yech.

    R. Ross, you cracked me up–Batty-Snake! Got me going: Nagilda? Batini?

  85. I listened to the 1981 and 1955 versions back to back to back. The earlier one is more “classical” Gould. But I prefer the 1981 one. It has been described as “more introspective” but what I like in it is a quality which Gould himself might have rejected: it’s more lyrical.

  86. Ha! You are spot on! Gould was a Romantic, if not entirely in execution, then in the heart of it. Many people don’t realize that. He would not have rejected the lyrical tag at all though. He sang everything (as you can hear in the background). I love the 1981 too, no more and no less than the 1955. I love them both.

    There’s a lot of Snape in Gould and vice versa. I’m in love with them both.

  87. Ok Red Rocker – that was a two minute laugh out loud for me. You crack me the heck up!

    Well – I suppose Glenn Gould could be seen as the thinking-woman’s bad boy. And I’m going to have to find myself a leather catsuit!

  88. Joivre— thanks for not going there! :) (I’m making enough unsettling connections just with Steinways being like wands…but I won’t go there, either!)

    Glenn Gould is unequivocally awesome.

    Arabella, the operative word is, of course, ‘yet’. Harry is nowhere close to Voldemort’s level of evil. But it’s easier to make the connection to Tom Riddle–arrogant, gifted student, willing to bend the rules if need be, capable of petty meanness. In the wrong circumstances, with different friends, Harry could become that as a matter of course. The descent into Voldemort is a matter of slow degrees. ‘All things were not originally evil. Even Sauron was not so.’

    The recognition not of potentiality but capacity for evil — ‘I am not doing this, I will not do this, but the doing of this is possible in me’ — is an important realization in prayer and contemplation, part of the dark night. Everyone from the Desert Fathers to the Puritans to C. S. Lewis writes about this: recognizing self as chief of sinners.

    At the same time, such a recognition separates Harry from Voldemort even further, by (eventually) awakening compassion for the orphan Tom Riddle that was (and somehow, somewhere, still is)–and the healed, whole, unspoiled Tom Riddle that could have been. A recognition of shared humanity, shared capacity, a shared need for redemption, drives us to purifying and healing Love. To King’s Cross station, actually.

  89. Oh no, Mr. Pond.

    (I’m making enough unsettling connections just with Steinways being like wands…but I won’t go there, either!)

    With your response in mind – I just re-read my comment #97 – and I am blushing and more than a bit flustered. I will never mention “sticks that do magic” again.

  90. Grit teeth, ignore road strewn with loaded double-entres, and move on.

    OK, I’m back.

    I reject both theories: that Harry had the seeds in him to become Voldemort – had the capacity for evil – or that Tom Riddle could become healed, whole and unspoiled.

    On several grounds, but let’s start with your argument, Mr. Pond:

    But it’s easier to make the connection to Tom Riddle–arrogant, gifted student, willing to bend the rules if need be, capable of petty meanness. In the wrong circumstances, with different friends, Harry could become that as a matter of course. The descent into Voldemort is a matter of slow degrees. ‘All things were not originally evil. Even Sauron was not so.’

    Are the similarities that you point out, the arrogance, the talent, the willingness to bend the rules and the capacity for petty meanness, are they really sufficient for a person to become a megalomaniacal murderer?

    I would say that bad behaviour does exist in degrees: cutting people off in traffic, not telling the clerk she gave you back too much change, taking a handicap parking spot, stealing, hitting someone, sexually assaulting someone, killing someone, plotting to kill many people, mass murder. But I don’t see a continuum there. How many of us do the relatively minor bad deeds at the lower end of the distriubution? How many do the worst things?

    I think it takes a lot of extra things to become a megalomaniacal murderer, things which Harry – and in fact almost all the characters in the books with the exception of a couple of Death Eaters – clearly lacks. And looking at it from Chesterton’s perspective on virtue, it takes the absence of qute a few things to make a megalomaniacal murderer, things which Harry shares with many of his freinds and mentors.

    Now I think it’s easier to make that argument, than the following one, that Tom Riddle does not partake in that shared humanity, shared capacity, a shared need for redemption which could bring him back into the fold.

    No need for redemption that I could see. No capacity for doing anything nice for anyone else that I saw. I will grant you the humanity though, few and far between though the glimpses can be. When Voldemort thinks of the crying kids in the orphanage, whenever he feels doubt or fear, yes that looks like humanity. But what does he do with his human feelings? His reaction to them is to try harder to overcome what he sees as obstacles (but whom we see as people) by destroying them. What kind of humanity is that?

    I would not argue that anyone is born without the capacity for good or the chance for redepemtion. I accept – de facto – that we all have that capacity. But I don’t see it in Voldemort. And frankly, I don’t think his maker put it there.

  91. What I said I needed to ignore was double entrendres not entres, although ignoring the latter would be beneficial in other ways as well.

  92. I always wondered about that moment when Harry offers Voldemort the chance for redemption. Harry has seen what Riddle will become – a crying baby – just like the one Riddle couldn’t stomach in this chapter. This crying baby thing in King’s Cross is also perplexing to me (we’ll get there soon enough – so I’ll leave it be for the moment).

    Rowling made Voldemort a psychopath. Redemption doesn’t fit into the equation.

    J.K. Rowling: Well, I believe that almost anyone can redeem themselves… However, in some cases, as we know from reality — if a psychologist were ever able to get Voldemort in a room, pin him down and take his wand away, I think he would be classified as a psychopath (crowd laughs). So there are people, for whom, whatever you’re going to callit — personality disorder or an illness — for whom redemption is not possible. They’re rare.

    There’s probably people on this site who are more adept and qualified than I in explaining the pathology of this illness. But as I see it – there’s no cure.

    Psychopathy is a personality disorder whose hallmark is a lack of empathy. Researcher Robert Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist is widely used, describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators who use charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexual intercourse and violence to control others and to satisfy their own needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse”. …

    There is neither a cure nor any effective treatment for psychopathy; there are no medications or other techniques which can instill empathy, and psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy only become more adept at manipulating others. The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth.

    This really makes me feel sorry for Tom Riddle. He didn’t stand a chance.

  93. Got to disagree with Hare that there’s no effective treatment for psychopathy. Appealing to their self-interest, and guiding them to determine if thair actions are in their best interests in the long term works. So Harry was on the right track. He just didn’t have the right setting for it. You can’t ask a megalomaniacal murderer to think about the long term consequences of his actions when he’s surrounded by hundreds of people for whom he has to keep up the appearance of total domination.

  94. Mr. Pond brought up some interesting points. Is Voldemort’s descent a matter of cascading degrees or was the descent a biological gimme. Red Rocker, given the illness Riddle had – do you think he had the capability of even recognizing his illness and thus was capable of redemption through treatment? And could someone who has not had a history of psychopathy from childhood, like Harry, develop psychopathy if he had sufficient environmental pressures? For the latter – I’m leaning towards no. But I really don’t know.

    In other words – is Tom Riddle not guilty due to insanity? I have never met a psychopath thank God, but one of my uncles did. He was a psychiatrist for the Navy. He said he was never more afraid of, or more sorry for, a person in his life.

  95. Re: My DH “fan fiction” screenplay–

    I don’t have it posted online anywhere, but would be happy to send it to anyone who would like to take a look.

    Joivre — It came in at 137 pages — or appx 2 hours 17 minutes screen time, which isn’t bad. (I allowed myself to go up to a max of 2 1/2 hours, based on the running times of the movies so far…)

    I split it appx after The Silver Doe, so as to end on an up note…. and because structurally that seemed the right place.

    Maybe I’ll say something about this on the forums as well… But again, anyone interested in taking a look, just send me your email and I’m happy to send it to you as a pdf. I would love to hear what the thoughtful and knowledgeable folks here at the pub would think of what I did!

  96. Joivre, there are different ways of looking at psychopathy.

    One system breaks it down into core personality traits – lack of impulse control, callousness, lack of empathy and remorse, grandiosity, glibness – vs the associated life-style factors: substance abuse, lack of long term achievements, antisocial life-style, difficulty following rules and meeting obligations. Those are the two dimensions Hare uses. It’s possible to have more of one or the other dimension, resulting in Type I or Type II psychopaths. White collar criminals, people with organized, high achieving lives who are cold and callous towards others would be more akin to Type I psychopaths. By this scale, Voldemort would be more of a Type I psychopath, but with some Type II traits.

    Not everyone is convinced, however, that psychopathy is a taxon, meaning a thing in itself. Some of them – and I think I’m of that school – believe that psychopathy is a label we use when different pesonality disorders co-exist in the same person: for example antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders. I would consider Voldemort suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder, with some antisocial and paranoid traits. BTW, we have discussed a related concept, malignant narcissism, when we talked about this before.

    Some differentiate between primary and secondary psychopaths (the former are more extraverted, the latter more introverted); primary psychopaths are described as not experiencing fear or empathy, more interpersonally dominant than secondary psychopaths, less prone to experiencing anxiety (no fear!) and also as less capable of change. Voldemort would be your primary psychopath.

    No matter how you slice it, there are different variables involved. And many of those variables are temperamental: the person is born with them.

    Does that make a psychopath insane? Thinking has gone back and forth on that. Some psychiatrists might think so, but the courts usually don’t. I agree. Psychopaths aren’t insane; they just don’t care.

    Can Voldemort change? Well yes. It’s unlikely that you could ever get him to feel empathy or remorse or guilt. That’s not going to change. But he could change his actions if he perceieved that he would not like their eventual consequences, and that he could not avoid the consequences.

    As for Harry developing psychopathy, as in becoming a full fledged psychopath, that’s not possible. He’s not wired that way. And I do mean “wired” in the literal and not metaphorical sense.

    Sorry for going on and on about this. It’s my thing. But you’ll also find that we have discussed this topic on many other threads in the past.

  97. Wow – that is interesting. Great in-depth explanation. I saw you mentioned the narcissistic personality disorder and I googled it and it is very similar to psychopathy (both have lack of empathy). In fact, I had a hard time differentiating them in relation to Riddle. I will look up your past threads in the search engine. Thanks –

  98. I always viewed a distinction between the narcissists lack of empathy and the psychopaths incapacity for empathy. I don’t think narcissists are incapable of empathy, I think they just find it difficult to put themselves in other peoples shoes, rather like a person with Asperger’s syndrome which I’ve always viewed as somewhat correlated with NPD and which used to be referred to as “autistic psychopathy” though given the obvious negative connotations, they changed the name. I consider Voldemort a psychopath, he’s far too full of conflicting passions and emotions for that. A psychopaths mind is rather like a machine as I understand it and he’s too far gone for NPD (which is rather like a house-fire next to the Hiroshima of psychopathy). Rather I would diagnose him with malignant narcissism which is really quite a worrying disorder. They say “Uncle Addy” had it actually.

    On the subject of psychopathy of course there’s the timeless question of insanity. I personally think so, I consider evil itself a mental illness.

  99. Sorry, above I accidentally wrote “I consider Voldemort a psychopath.” I meant to write “I don’t consider Voldemort a psychopath.” Do forgive me.

  100. Actually, I got it Tom. The context made it clear.

    There is a school of thought that says that “psychopaths” are quite capable of feeling irritated, frustrated, angry and enraged. Usually when they don’t get their own way. They can also feel excitement, exhileration and joy. The emotions which are lacking are fear, anxiety, guilt, love, compassion, and of course empathy.

    So they’re not affectively flat. Just missing on the emotions which make people act morally.

  101. Oh wow! Maligant Narcissism is a bitch! That is awful! I never knew that existed. Yes – I completely agree that Riddle might have had that.

    I listened to the podcast – and there’s that interesting bit about choices. I’m not sure that past choices can lead one to a position of irredeemability. No matter how heinous. I don’t think there’s a point of no return – maybe, that’s my God is Love Catholic coming out. I do think insanity can lead to no capability of remorse and thus irredeemability – but I think God redeems them in the end. Like a schizophrenic can have anosognosia – not able to understand one is sick.

    ugh – this is depressing.

    So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’t you know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it.

  102. And your first favorite Coen brothers line?

    Nobody f*&ks with the Jesus.

    Hey, nice marmot.

    Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it’s an ethos. But nihilists? – F*&k me…

  103. I’m praying to you! Look in your heart. I’m praying to you… look in your heart… look in your heart! You can’t kill me… look in your heart

  104. Joivre, you wrote: “I’m not sure that past choices can lead one to a position of irredeemability. No matter how heinous. I don’t think there’s a point of no return – maybe, that’s my God is Love Catholic coming out.”

    And this is why, in the face of all unlikelihood, Harry offered Voldemort redemption. But Voldemort, upon his last chance, refused himself into a point of no return.

  105. That’s one perspective. Arabella. But I’m not sure that Harry was motivated as much by his belief in the possible redemption of Riddle as by mercy. After his visit to King’s Cross, Harry knew for sure that there was an afterlife, and had seen what (the rest of) Tom Riddle’s fate would be. It would take a far more vengeful and hate filled person than Harry to condemn a fellow creature to hell without trying to help. It wasn’t necessarily that he believed Riddle could be redeemed. He just wasn’t willing to stand by and let him damn himself for all eternity.

    Which is sort of Christlike, I think.

    What I also find interesting is that Dumbledore was different. He wasn’t willing to try to help, because he believed that there was no redemption for Riddle’s soul.

  106. Believe me, Arabella, I do see your point. And here comes my religious dorky side. Harry asking Voldemort to show remorse is like me asking Stevie Wonder to see. It’s impossible – he had an illness for which love was not an option – not because of choice. But because God put him in this world that way.

    Nothing causes a crisis of faith in me more – than to think that someone is born with a horrible disease and disability. If by chance I get to Heaven – someone is going to have a lot of explaining to do ’cause I’ve got some questions.

    Riddle was born with an illness that forced his destiny into a blindness of love. By virtue of genetics and biology – a wrong gene here, a chemical missing there – he will never feel the love of God. Because of an illness – he is damned to hell. I happen not to believe that. I believe his illness was an unfathomable burden placed on him by He Who Knew Him before he was born. And free will had nothing to do with it. It makes me wonder what is human? Redemption wasn’t Harry’s to offer. It was God’s. God didn’t place the ability to feel remorse in Riddle and I believe when Riddle died – God knew all this. And my God would never flay a baby, and leave him forgotten under a chair, and ignore this crying child that never stood a chance in this world to begin with.

    I had a Jesuit teacher in High School who once taught me a very good lesson about love – he drew three cups on the chalkboard, one small that was full of liquid, one medium that was half-full and one large that was nearly empty but contained more than the small cup. He then said “Each of these cups holds one person’s love. Which one will get to Heaven?” Of course, I said the largest one will get to Heaven. He said “The smallest one. It is full to its capacity. God has given us all a cup for love – each of us has a different size. All God asks is that we fill our cup.”

    Riddle wasn’t given a cup. And I don’t know why. And it bugs the living daylights out of me. I prefer a more human villain.

  107. Joivre,
    I’m not sure I’m with you about Voldemort. I think “Choice” is one of Rowling’s main themes for the series. Choices make who we are and Tom Riddle made choices that sent him down a certain path.

    You point about liking a more human character is interesting. I suspect that the horcrux-making process has had something to do with how little humanity is left in Voldemort.

  108. Very true about the “choice” theme. I think though that might be more applicable to someone who was equipped to make a choice – like say Severus Snape. I’m just wondering – given an illness where remorse is impossible, where love is impossible – did Riddle have a choice? And yes, I was thinking of the Horcrux soul splitting – but doesn’t an inherant lack of ability to love make someone – well – less human to begin with? I really don’t know.

    But I see your points. And I’m not totally sold on my own ideas here. Your input helps me sort it out. Thank you.

  109. Nah, I just think John Turturro is an incredible actor. Able to invest that worm Bernie with authentic humanity, in a totally repulsive and pathetic sort of way.

    Colin Farrell did something similar in The Phone Booth, when he finds the ability to speak the truth in a moment of desperation after a lifetime of deception. It’s a pale shadow of Turturro’s performance, but there is the same sense of a very shallow man reaching as deep as he can when he’s facing his end.

    BTW, I love Kiefer Sutherland in that movie.

  110. I think you’re right about psychopathy Red Rocker. I’ve always thought that Elizabeth I had it. Just out curiosity, in what film does Turturro play the character “Bernie”?

  111. Hare’s got a book Psychopaths Among Us which talks about what non-criminal psychopaths look like. As I mentioned above, I don’t endorse his views, but it is interesting reading.

    Bernie Bernbaum is the brother of Verna, girlfriend to mob boss Leo (Albert Finney) and secret lover of Leo’s chief advisor, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Bryne) in the Coen brothers’ 1990 masterpiece Miller’s Crossing It’s a gangster film, stylishly shot, with very snappy dialogue. It’s also about the search for one man’s heart, as well as being an Arthur-Guinevere-Launcelot type love story.

  112. Miller’s Crossing is one of the best films I’ve seen. I love it. And John Tuturro is one of my favorite actors. He can do anything. I loved him in Quizz Show along with a brilliant turn by Feinnes, Barton Fink, O Brother…, Do the Right Thing, Five Corners and of course, the great pederast, Jesus Quintana in TBL. Did you ever see him as Howard Cosell in Monday Night Mayhem? Absolutely brilliant! BTW I love Albert Finney. Always have.

    I never saw The Phone Booth – is it worthy of a rental?

    Regarding the Hare book – what is the percentage of psychopaths that don’t turn to crime? Are there a lot of them? It seems to me that crime would come easy to them. Are there many who live normal lives? Maybe I’m placing too much attention on this “no choice” idea.

  113. Joivre, many psychopaths lead relatively normal lives. Some are even successful and can be found in powerful positions on account of their intellect and considerable confidence. I believe Joan of Arc may have been psychopathic, or at least highly narcissistic. One thing’s for sure, she wasn’t a schizophrenic.

    The “no choice” conundrum is one that has puzzled me for some time. I believe many bad people may be psychopaths but not all psychopaths are bad people, nor are all bad people psychopaths. I personally am an atheist, I believe right and wrong are solely human concepts but because of my secular humanist outlook I believe that makes them just as important. My thoughts on the afterlife are ambiguous at best. I’m open to the concept of some sort of Prime Mover so maybe agnostic would be a better description of me. To my mind, the term Theist is far too vague. I just don’t believe that “God” (whatever that means) is something humans can understand.

  114. Tom – That’s interesting about the “normal” psychopaths. Mental illness has so many variables to it. Diagnosing and treating it seems a subtle Art. Re the agnosticism – I get what you’re saying – I go to church every Sunday – and I don’t understand God any better. But I try – man, oh I try!

    RedRocker – here’s John Turturro talking about shining his ball as Jesus Quintana in an interview. Exhilaratingly creative!

  115. Nice clip. I like the part where he says he was embarrassed when he saw the final montage. Great editing.

    I haven’t read much about Joan of Arc, but the hearing of voices is usually a pretty clear indicator of psychosis, or a psychotic episode if not out and out schizophrenia. Why psychopathic or narcissistic?

    But speaking of Joan of Arc, have any of you heard Leonard Cohen’s song of the same name? It’s a dialogue between Joan and the fire, aka death. Makes me think of Harry, a little.

  116. Can’t resist.

    Turns out that right and wrong are not only human concepts: other primates have them too. I described this experiment a while ago, but here it is again. Monkeys (I can’t remember the species, sorry) will work for food. They also prefer sweet treats: grapes and kiwi slices over cucumber slices. Monkeys who saw other monkeys rewarded with grapes for the same work refused to work for cucumbers. Basically, they went on strike for equal pay for equal work. Which suggests that the concept of fairness extends at least as far as to the other primates.

  117. I don’t think Joan did hear voices, she merely pretended to in order to get people to think that she was a messenger of God. Her true goal was simply power. By all means she was a genius, a woman of considerable charisma but also a total megalomaniac. She knew exactly when to feign mental illness in order to get her enemies to think she was too mad to be a threat but in the end, like Voldemort, she was too clever for her own good. Her feigned madness gave the Church an excuse to execute her. Obviously they didn’t want their authority being challenged by a woman! Why did she not acquiesce to the Church’s wishes and thus escape a horrible death? Because she couldn’t bear the thought of losing, of being told what to do. An egomaniac would rather die than suffer what they see as demotion. Going out with a bang and being remembered as a martyr for all eternity was much more appealing.

    That’s my take on it anyway.

    Joivre, you’re absolutely right, psychology is indeed a subtle art, more an artform than a science in my opinion as nothing can be proven. In the words of Oscar Wilde, a personal hero of mine “As soon as a truth becomes a fact, it loses it’s value.”

    That’s fascinating information about the monkeys Red Rocker, a kind of opportunistic morality I suppose but maybe that’s how morality ultimately evolved. After all jewellery comes from sand!

  118. Tom – that’s one way of looking at Jeanne d’Arc. Though I find it a little hard to believe that her aspirations for power began at age 12 and that she had studied complex military strategy and very advanced battle tactics on her little farm in Eastern France. Even for a brilliant psychopath – that’s pretty impressive. And the power she supposedly was after was a moot point since she served her Pope and Charles VII. But I agree with you that she probably didn’t have schizophrenia. She started her visions and hearing voices at age 12 – a bit too young for schizophrenia, since the onset is typically young adulthood. And I’ve seen no psychotic episodes in her short 19 years. Perhaps she had religious psychosis. Or a martyr complex ;-).

    Or perhaps – God really did speak to her.

  119. Joivre, I would point out that Eva Peron was obsessed with dreams of glory from an early age. Born illigimately to a family of peasants, in the male-dominated era in which she lived, she was the lowest of the low, poor, illigitimate and female but she knew that there was no-one as strong or smart as her and that all should bow down (kind of like Voldemort).

    It was more or less the same with Joanne. Like Eva she was a precocious talent and on the tiny farm on which she lived there was nothing she could dream of but getting out and making it to the big time. I have little to no doubt that she imagined if she won France its freedom Charles would take her as his queen but alas, in her arrogance she was mistaken. I’d recommend you watch Luc Besson’s dramatisation of her life in which Joan is played by the gorgeous Milla Jovovich. The film is particularly supportive of my argument that she had NPD. There’s a scene in which the Devil, played by Dustin Hoffman actually says “You did it all for your own glory.”

    I myself think I may suffer from a form of narcissism (though a benign and totally harmless form) and I actually entertained fantasies of ruling the world at the age of five (ala Stewie Griffin!) so I don’t think the idea of Joan developing her megalomaniacal fantasies at the age of twelve is so very far fetched.

  120. It’s about time somebody interjected an extremely relevant C. S. Lewis quote on the subject. Here are a few excerpts from the chapter “Morality and Psychoanalysis” from Mere Christianity:

    “When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved. One is the act of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his psychological outfit presents him with, and which are the raw material of his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what we would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious. […] Now what psychoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the abnormal feelings, that is, to give the man better raw material for his acts of choice: morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves. […]

    “However much you improve the man’s raw material, you have still got something else: the real, free choice of the man, on the material presented to him, either to put his own advantage first or to put it last. And this free choice is the only thing that morality is concerned with. […]

    “We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man’s psychological make-up is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first tune, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.”

    Here’s the link (Google Books) to the whole thing for those interested.

  121. Thanks, Eric, for a wonderful quote, which I find encouraging, and very pertinent to choice in Harry Potter. I don’t see Tom Riddle as psychologically maimed to the point of being doomed from early childhood; many have suffered far worse than he did and have become fantastic people. To see him as hopelessly doomed from birth takes away from choice, and the books are about choice, including Riddle’s choices.

    Riddle had opportunity for a fresh start when he went to Hogwarts–he could have developed his “raw material” and made good choices to strengthen it. Yet he continued to seek advantage, he ruined another student’s career, and murdered to gain selfish ends–all before he even graduated. All through his life, when faced with choice, Riddle willingly chose evil. He carefully developed his own sickness by deliberately eliminating his humanity.

    It came down to moral choice.

  122. I want to add that what we feel is not as important; it’s what we do. We can have all kinds of feelings that cause us struggle in doing the right thing. Overcoming those feelings to do what is right, that is the great moral choice.

  123. Eric — thanks for finding that quote. That was the chapter I had in mind way back in #106 when I referenced Lewis.

    Arabella — spot on. If Riddle was doomed from childhood, that seem to me to subvert the whole intent of the book. Riddle became Voldemort for the same reason Harry becomes himself — not because of the prophecy, as Dumbledore forcefully explains, but because of his willingness to make the choices to become that.

    Joivre — I do think Voldemort had a cup. Maybe a very small cup. But still a cup. Is there a possibility that he could have been redeemed? Yes, I think there was once — long before we meet him in the books, but not before Dumbledore met him, I think. I can’t exactly say why, but I think that’s what redemption is. Everyone has a chance. More people find it, perhaps, than we’d expect.

    Voldemort’s folly — or, dare I say, Riddle’s tragedy — is his determination to make his own redemption. To be his own vehicle of salvation, a self-progenitor of immortality. What he’s gets instead is a splintered, fragmented half-existence. I wonder if the ghoulish, snake-possessed Bagshot isn’t a foreshadowing, or a Dorian Gray style portrait, of the (quoteunquote) “immortality” Voldemort has forged for himself–rotted, un-life, animated by a sentience that is no longer human.

    It’s interesting to note that this same pursuit of immortality becomes Dumbledore’s downfall — he puts on the ring in an attempt to cheat death, and thus signs his own death warrant. Harry Potter, on the other hand, consciously reject the Hallows, and thus inadvertently brings together all three, and discovers another chance at life on the platform at King’s Cross.

    Everyone — great discussion! You guys never cease to amaze me. Thanks!

  124. Eric,
    I found those quotes very helpful over the past week.
    There’s some good questions there to ask myself. Is the goodness in me only there because of the blessed environment/family situation I grew up in and also have now? Good choices are easy when things are easy.
    In my state before God I may more resemble Gollum than my usual George ‘The Animal’ Steele.
    Excellent stuff to meditate on. Thank you.


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