In medieval symbolism, in the Arthur stories, and even in Narnia, we get the pursuit of the White Stag as a symbol of the human pursuit of the Christ. In Harry Potter, we’ve seen a white stag, but there’s not much pursuit of it. On the contrary, Harry himself produces the stag, and it’s an internal echo of his father.
But in chapter 19 of Deathly Hallows, in Harry’s darkest moment to date – wand broken, having survived the Bagshot-Snake attack, Dumbledore denounced, and his parents’ graves visited – he pursues not a White Stag, but a “Silver-white Doe” into the forest. The reason for this is simple enough: Harry’s pursuit in this story is not of his father. It’s of his mother. At the end, he tells Voldemort, “I’ve done what my mother did.” In order to defeat Voldemort, he has to go through the way of Lily, which is the way of the Christ. So J.K. Rowling gives us a feminine version of the Christ symbolism. This is Christ, the Sophia of God, as St. Paul says.The pursuit leaves him to “a silver cross,” the Sword of Gryffindor, lying in the frozen pool. We learn later from Dumbledore that it had to be taken under conditions of bravery, underscoring my assertion that the Sword is a Hallow (just not a Deathly one). As we saw with the hat in Book 2, one has to be worthy to possess the sword. This is our second clear Arthurian moment in the chapter – especially as the sword is then retrieved from a pool by the “kingly” Ron Weasley.
Here is where Ron must face his fears and overcome them. After raising Harry to life after he “dies” at the silver cross in the pool of baptism, Ron is tested, mid-story, in the same way he was tested before the Mirror of Erised midway through Book 1. Only this time, the stakes are much higher. In Book 1, he didn’t know what the Mirror was, and he hoped it showed the future. There were no serious consequences at the time for his looking into it and seeing himself with glory and fame – the consequences of being overshadowed by his talented brothers. In Book 7, we find – next to a pool, no less (think Narcissus, and you’ve got the Mirror imagery present) – that Ron is still wrestling with the same fears, only they’re about Harry and Hermione as well. Voldemort tells him out of the two-eyed Horcrux that all his fears may come true, that he really is least-loved, and that Harry and Hermione hate him.
But Ron triumphs, showing himself to be a “true Gryffindor” and a worthy participant in the quest to defeat Voldemort.
This is easily one of my top 5 favorite chapters of the entire 7-book saga. There’s more to say about it, and I leave the discussion on the hands of the Pub and look forward to your comments!