Guest Post: Harry’s Visits to the Forbidden Forest

The following is a guest post by commenter Christine aka Nana. She graciously agreed to share this essay she wrote some while back on the trips that Harry took into the Forbidden Forest. It is a good complement to Kris Swank’s post on Harry Potter Numerology: Seven (Completion). Enjoy!

Considering the number seven and its relationship to Harry’s journey, I wondered how many times he actually went into the Forbidden Forest because I always felt each time was significant.

The Forbidden Forest is the deep place, a place of mystery, and a fearful place because it is not certain what we will find there. It is also a place of initiation where we make acquaintance with the unconscious. Harry did indeed enter the Forest seven times. Each provided him the opportunity to face his fears and acquire knowledge about the world and himself.

1. In Philosophers Stone, Hagrid leads Harry deep into the Forest for the first time where they find the unicorn and Quirrelmort drinking its blood. Harry notices that it remains beautiful even in death. The contrast between this pure creature and the grotesqueness of Quirrelmort shows Harry there are worse things than death. He states that death is preferable to living a cursed life.

2. In Chamber of Secrets, Harry searches deep in the Forest for Aragog who tells him the truth. Confirming Hagrid’s innocence was important for Harry because he needed to know his instincts were correct. Although it was a frightening experience, Harry learned that there is something to be gained by facing fearful things, and that the truth, even when coming from an unlikely source, will set you on the right path.

3. In Prisoner of Azkaban, the Dementors show Harry he fears fear more than death. When he sees the stag at the edge of the Forest, he thinks his father has come to rescue him. Harry discovers that the power to protect and preserve is inside himself and that he can tap into that power by focusing on the goodness and happiness in his present life instead of dwelling on the sorrow of the past.

4. In Order of the Phoenix, Hagrid takes Harry deep into the Forest to see the Thestral herd. Despite their rather creepy appearance, they are gentle and useful creatures. Since Harry witnessed death firsthand, he can now see the thestrals, something he has in common with Neville and Luna, who are also a bit misunderstood and undervalued. Harry realizes that the unseen isn’t always to be feared and that many qualities are hidden from view.

5. Later in OOTP Hagrid takes Harry to meet Grawp. From Hagrid’s own example, Harry learns that no matter how difficult or inconvenient, those who need us must not be abandoned. Even if your cause is righteous, it is irrelevant if it is fought only for those you love.

6. Near the end of OOTP Harry and Hermione take Umbridge deep into the Forest to trick her. They encounter the Centaurs who become angry and dangerous. Grawp arrives to save them. Harry learns that you should never underestimate the power of kindness and the unexpected ways in which it is repaid.

7. In Deathly Hallows Harry walks into the Forest for the seventh time alone. He recalls his lost loved ones to his side to help him face his fear. They show him by their presence that death cannot separate them. They are inside him always. The power of their love provides the courage he needs to willingly enter into the Mystery for the final knowledge of life and death. Harry, like his ancestor the third brother, accepts death.

Harry has come full circle carrying within him knowledge you cannot learn in a classroom or be taught by a teacher. He clearly saw there were worse things than death and understood the soul was more precious than the body. He discovered there was much to be gained by facing your fears and that we have the power within us to overcome those fears. He understood instinctively how kindness has its own rewards and that loyalty and inclusiveness matter. He recognized that we are responsible for each other including the least among us and that what is essential is often invisible to the eye.

And finally he understood that death does not have to be feared because it cannot separate us from Love. Harry himself is initiated into the Mystery when his experiences in the Forest become internalized. When the lessons learned reside in the heart and not just the mind. And we know his heart is the biggest thing about him. Then his unconscious is revealed to us through the larger events and ordeals. He has attained everything he needs for transformation and transcendence.


6 thoughts on “Guest Post: Harry’s Visits to the Forbidden Forest

  1. This is wonderful! Thank you, Christine, for greatly enhancing my understanding and appreciation of the Forbidden Forest visits and how they work progressively together n forming Harry’s character. There’s a lot to think about.

  2. Wow–great guest post, Christine/Nana! I had never thought about the number of times that Harry entered the Forbidden Forest, but that it was seven times is pretty remarkable. Your commentary about each visit and about what Harry generally learns from his visits is, as Kris says, quite insightful.

    Forests are supposed to be scary places full of things you cannot see, so I appreciate your parallels to Harry’s unconscious in that regard. He goes inside/within to face those fears of the unseen. Like the boggart, the feared is manageable once it’s named and made visible outside of one’s head.

  3. Thanks. For me these excursions into the deep were the most meaningful experiences. I heard complaints from people who thought that a book written about a boy could not offer the insight of a more mature protagonist without just delivering those insights through dialogue stating the message directly. What I loved was that she gave Harry (and us) these experiences that impacted him emotionally and on a soul level that went deeper than any teaching or message or intellectual understanding could. I call it heart knowledge. The other stuff, the words, all banging around inside our heads are incomplete, but heart knowledge results from the experience of reality. And ultimately becomes who we are as it influences our choices. I think Jo wanted to remind us that getting out there and having real experiences is more valuable in the long term than staying at a safe distance and merely thinking things over. It’s kind of a Gryffindor point of view.

  4. Nana, I loved these insights. John Granger would call it cardiac intelligence.

    There are many such experiences for Harry including the Mirror of Erised (even though Dumbledore gives warning in words, Harry had already felt the addiction), and his time digging Dobby’s grave. I’m really tired and that’s off the top of my head, but I’m sure others can come up with more.

  5. Oh by the way, centaurs in mythology don’t exactly have a relationship with women based on what you might call mutual respect. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I seriously feel sorry for Umbridge now. Rowling the great feminist of all people.

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