With the penultimate novel in the saga—Half-Blood Prince—we know that things must become much worse before they can become better and reach resolution in the seventh and last novel. We should thus expect that it will be chilling in unmatched fashion, and I shall argue that it’s the scariest of them all! Let’s take an eerie walk through the dark corners of Half-Blood Prince, to places seemingly devoid of light or hope . . . .
Saw this short article and brief video the other day. To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone J.K. Rowling made a few brief comments on Good Morning America.
In answer to a question about who she would introduce Dumbledore to, if she could chose anyone in the world, she would actually chose herself. She says Dumbledore is the character she misses the most. Rowling also offers a bit of insight into the writing process. She notes it felt she wrote Dumbledore from the back of her head. That is, oftentimes Dumbledore would tell Harry things that she never knew she herself knew or believed until she saw them in Dumbledore’s words.
A few quick questions for you. One, can you believe it’s been 15 years since Harry Potter has been released? How has Harry affected you and primarily your reading habits? Two, if you could have Rowling bring back any one character from the books so that they could have a chat with you, who would it be and why? Thanks in advance for your thoughts and answers.
(Oh, one more thing struck me as I watched the video clips. In all the shots of Dumbledore, they always used Richard Harris’s portrayal.) 🙂
Found in the papers of Albus Dumbledore, written longhand on a piece of foolscap
You would understand, I think, the words
I never thought I’d want to say. And yet
the want itself is deathly. I can’t forget
the weeping nights, silence screaming, absurd
ideas of words to say—as if you heard.
How much could you still understand?
As you watched us laughing, as we planned
to change the world for good—for those preferred—
you kept the frightened silence that now rings
thundering inside my every dream,
to warp with magic stronger than my own
the words I still can’t say—a thousand things
that weren’t—or were they?
How do these words seem?
Words and silence die unheard, alone.
Professor Minerva McGonagall, the estate’s executor, entrusted this manuscript along with other personal effects to Aberforth Dumbledore, the next of kin. The manuscript was rediscovered after Aberforth’s death, when it was found sewn into the lining of his jacket.
MSN Parallel Universe has a story or rather brief snippets with pictures of their compilation of best movie wizards & witches, both good ones and bad ones. A lot of the usual suspects are there. The Wizard & the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Growing up in an age when, for the earliest part of my life, there were only 4 TV channels, the showing of Oz every year was a big event. And for a child, at least for me, it was usually pretty scary. From the tornado, which is still one of the best special effects ever, to the flying monkeys & the cackling evil of Margaret Hamilton’s inspired performance. Although I have to admit that the picture they use in the article I’ve referenced makes the Wicked Witch look pretty hot. But maybe that’s just me.
There’s also Merlin & Morgana from the 1981 Excalibur both brilliantly played by Nicol Williamson & Helen Mirren. Of course, there is Gandalf and Saruman from the Jackson abomin…er, Lord of the Rings films. James Earl Jones as the sinister Thulsa Doom & Mako as Akiro in Conan the Barbarian. Warwick Davis as Willow & Jean Marsh as Bavmorda in Willow. There are a few others I’ve left out because I really never saw the movies referenced.
Oh, there are two wizards who are near & dear to us here on the list. Dumbledore and Voldemort. Although I really have to take exception to one particular line in their blurb: “…kindness radiates from both actors who have portrayed him [Dumbledore], the late Richard Harris and Michael Gambon.” I really can’t believe someone who could write a sentence like that has really seen the movies.
Anyway, feel free to share your thoughts on their choices of best movie wizard and witches. Any ones you felt were left out or should have been included? I hesitate to mention this because of the gender wars that seem to have arisen lately on this site, but it is quite obvious in their list that the three women sorcerers they picked are all bad. Are there no good women sorcerers in the movies? Or at least none that stood out enough for the compilers of this list to take note of them?
Feel free to check out the story and offer your comments here. (Please note, I found their site to be rather difficult to navigate at times and kind of buggy so hopefully you will have better luck with it.)
In this chapter, we have:
- the escaped Trio’s discussion of the Lovegoods, Harry’s affirmation of Luna’s toughness, Hermione’s brilliance and compassion, and Ron’s budding optimism and leadership
- the inspiring and hilarious Potterwatch, in which we learn of the heroism and deaths of magical martyrs, and Remus’ grace toward Harry; also that “Muggle slaughter is becoming little more than a recreational sport….” (Royal/Kingsley also neatly of sums up some opinion here about Voldemort: “The air of mystery is creating more terror than actually showing himself.”)
- the Trio’s capture due to Harry breaking the Name Taboo
- Hermione’s steadfast faith in Dumbledore. Often pegged as rationality personified, her unwavering faith in Dumbledore and his Horcrux mission is inspiring. You could say that she (rationality) and Harry (faith) have switched places since Godric’s Hollow.
But, most importantly, we have the Deathly Hallows.
Many don’t care for the Hallows, feeling that they were introduced too late, weren’t adequately built up, or are a distraction. However, the Hallows are the climax title and title of this chapter, which is at the center or heart of the book. Harry has had the Cloak from the beginning, though with no explanation of magical origin, and we get some foreboding in HBP, with the destroyed Horcrux ring Dumbledore wears and then mysteriously leaves to Harry in his will.
Throughout the series, we’ve seen the power of magical objects, literally and symbolically. The Hallows are freighted with both symbolic and personal meaning. Actually, the Hallows are the most critical factor in Harry’s character development and moral growth, in his victory over himself and Voldemort, and in his becoming “the better man” at King’s Cross. As both object and crucible, the Hallows lead to Harry’s finest hour and his triumph as Gryffindor/Slytherin androgyne.
In his book Harry Potter and Imagination, Travis Prinzi writes that, with the Hallows, “Rowling has taken up Arthurian themes of the flawed hero and the battle for worthiness.” In Harry Potter there are seven powerful Hallows or “sacred things” – the sword, cup, locket, diadem, stone, wand, and cloak – with only the last three labeled as deathly. Each Hallow parallels a specific Hallow in Arthurian lore (see HPI for details). “In Arthurian Hallow lore,” writes Prinzi, “one does not simply find a Hallow and use it. The hero must be worthy of the Hallow. In Harry Potter, unworthy people do possess and use the Hallows – but neither well nor successfully.” Like Sir Gawain who “held onto “a magical item that would protect him from death,” Harry, tempted by the Elder Wand, is a flawed hero searching for a physical object (a wand) to overcome a spiritual problem (a multiply-split soul). “[Gawain’s] temptation here,” writes Prinzi, “is key because it strongly parallels Harry’s most important temptation in the series.” Grindelwald, Dumbledore, Voldemort and Harry – all are seized with this temptation, and only Harry overcomes it unscathed.
In the context of Arthurian lore, Harry must be virtuous to succeed. “One must be worthy of a Hallow, or the Hallow will not unlock the fullness of its power for the possessor,” writes Prinzi. “Hallows must be acquired by the virtuous for virtuous ends.” And Harry must also need courage, the virtue Rowling most highly prizes (Edinburgh “Cub Reporter” Press Conference). “In Harry’s attempt to defeat evil, “writes Prinzi, “the great paradox is this: the only way Harry could possibly be worthy of the Hallows was to forget about them, and to choose to pursue and destroy the Horcruxes. He does this only when, in the crucible of Dobby’s grave, he finally realizes that ‘no magic could defeat Voldemort,’ only the sacrificial love he had earlier scorned.” HPI (88, 90-96).
In answer to the question “Why does Rowling mix in the Hallows Temptation with Harry’s Horcrux hunt?” John Granger, author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures, writes “The books are largely about the corruptive influence and temptations of power on the hero’s journey to ‘corrected vision’ and theosis (see chapters 5-7). For Harry to complete the journey he began in Philosopher’s Stone, in which ending he was able to get the Stone because he didn’t want to use it, he would have to become the Master of Death by overcoming the temptation of immortality available to him in possessing all three Hallows” (253-4).
Both books mentioned above are outstanding for understanding themes and symbolism in Harry Potter, including the Hallows and their triangular eye symbol.
How did the Hallows impact Harry? Throughout the series, we’ve seen Harry’s disgust over the Dark Lord’s obsession for power; throughout this book, we’ve seen his disgust over Dumbledore’s obsession for power in his youth (“He was our age,” Harry fumes). To his credit, Harry has never lusted after raw power (having often been the victim of it, or seen others victimized) and has thus never experienced the slavery of obsession for it. Therefore, with all the arrogance of youth, Harry the boy considers himself superior to Dumbledore the man.
But once Harry grasps the potential of the Elder Wand, he becomes consumed by the same obsession for power that gripped his predecessors, becoming exactly like those he’s previously scorned. This “weird obsessive longing” (378-9) is described as possessing, consuming, and swallowing him, and as a flame lit within him. He’s lost in feverish contemplation, agitated thinking, self-absorption, a preoccupation with opening the Snitch, a descent into listlessness, distance from Hermione and Ron, and idleness on guard duty. He abandons leadership to Ron and joins in the Horcrux hunt only to stop Hermione’s “pestering.”
Hoping to get a lead on the Elder Wand, Harry ominously begins to seek connection with Voldemort, “because for the first time ever, he and Voldemort were united in wanting the very same thing.” He dismisses Hermione in Lovegood’s terms (limited, narrow, close-minded) and labels her opposition to seeking the Hallows as fear. He forgets about Luna’s suffering on his behalf. He blames others – Ron, Hermione, his adopted blackthorn wand – and is impervious to “veiled criticism.” Similar to Gawain, “He felt armed in certainty, in his belief in the Hallows, as if the mere idea of possessing them was giving him protection,” and his “certainty remained absolute.” He targets the wrong enemy (death rather than Voldemort). He isolates himself and seeks solitude. “He would have been happy to sit alone in silence, trying to read Voldemort’s thoughts, to find out more about the Elder Wand.” But, “the fiercer the longing the less joyful it made him,” which he blames on Hermione and Ron’s “obsession” with finding Horcruxes.
Most alarming, the visions “he and Voldemort were sharing” become “blurred” which “disconcerted” Harry. “He was worried that the connection had been damaged, a connection that he both feared and prized.” Yes, the lines of distinction are certainly blurring between Harry and Voldemort. They are now alike in coveting a powerful magic weapon to defeat the other “for the greater good.”
The result? Harry’s obsession causes him to break the Name Taboo when he blurts out Voldemort’s name, thus bringing about the Trio’s capture.
Harry snaps out of his obsession while digging Dobby’s grave by hand, eschewing magic. With Dobbly’s example of faithful service in blind trust, Harry also eschews pursuing the Hallows. He begins to understand that the problem is really the Dark Lord’s evil soul, and no weapon, magical or otherwise, can overcome it.
Through experiencing for himself how powerful obsession can be, and overcoming the lure of the Hallows, Harry becomes an adult: one who can faithfully complete the Horcrux mission given him to defeat Voldemort; one who can finally close his own mind to Voldemort intrusions, yet easily read his enemy with intuitive understanding; one with humility and superior moral character who can offer a last chance to Voldemort and comforting forgiveness to Dumbledore at King’s Cross. As with the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry has passed the test and is the virtuous man worthy to have possession of the Hallows, because he doesn’t wish to use them for his own gain.
Last summer I came up with a simple equation to explain the Hallows and Horcruxes:
Hallows/Horcruxes Test/Quest Equation:
Horcruxes = Quest – Character – Mastery of Voldemort = Defeat of the Dark Lord
Hallows = Test – Faith – Mastery of Self = “Better Man”, Gryffindor/Slytherin Androgyne
The Horcruxes are Harry’s QUEST:
Through completing his given mission to find and destroy Horcruxes, Harry masters and defeats the Dark Lord. (The Horcruxes refine Harry’s character)
The Hallows are Harry’s TEST:
By choosing to not pursue the Hallows, or use them for personal gain, Harry masters himself and proves himself “the better man” of King’s Cross who unites the Wizarding World. (The Hallows refine Harry’s faith)
I won’t attempt to summarize the whole chapter since there’s so much packed in there. Instead, I’ll have some random thoughts on things that stood out for me.
As the chapter begins, Harry is dreaming of Voldemort searching for Gregorovitch. For HP obsessives, we should remember way back to Goblet of Fire and the passing reference to Gregorovitch as Krum’s wand maker. Did anyone catch this on first reading DH? I don’t think I did. This reference, combined with the actions of Harry’s wand three chapters ago, should get us thinking about wands and wand-lore as something important to which we should pay attention throughout the story. Continue reading
- John Granger in Touchstone – Book Binders: What I Learned About Great Books & Harry Potter. This is an interesting read, and Mr. Granger has much more about this coming in his book, Harry Potter’s Bookshelf, available for pre-order.
- You’ll also want to stop over at Hogwarts Professor, where John’s been on a roll with posts the past couple days, including a big one on Dumbledore’s commentary in Beedle, and an argument – and effective one, in my estimation – that “The Fountain of Fair Fortune” is about gay marriage.
- HP Progs Episode #95 is on Beedle. I haven’t had a chance to listen yet, because my weekend’s been busy, and I’ve been occupied with this recording of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Once I’m driving back and forth to work on Tuesday, I’ll finally have a chance to listen.
- Yesterday, Thinking Matters, an online Christian publication in New Zealand, ran a lengthy article on Potter – Muggle Matters: Is Harry Potter a doorway to the occult? I have to agree with the Hogwarts Professor in saying that it’s nice to see that, on the whole, the “Harry Potter is evil” battle is over.
- I’m out of town today – traveling to Schenectady for Andrew Peterson‘s Behold the Lamb of God concert. After we get back tomorrow, and in between trying to get all my final papers in, I’ll be writing more about Beedle and fairy tales in the coming few weeks.