Archives for July 2007

Deathly Hallows Discussion: Five More Points!

Five More Deathly Hallows HogPro Discussion Points!

26. Struggling To Believe: The Dateline/Today Interviews
27. The Bloomsbury Chat
28. Opening and Closing Chapters
29. Arthuriana
30. Best Links for Deathly Hallows Commentary

The First Twenty-Five Deathly Hallows HogPro Discussion Points:

1. The Covers
2. The Opening Quotations from Aeschylus and Penn
3. The Christian Ending
4. Stoppered Death
5. Narrative Misdirection
6. The Hero’s Journey
7. The Rubedo
8. Postmodern Themes
9. Traditional Symbolism
10. Beheadings
11. Unrequited Love
12. Horcrux Hunting
13. Ron’s Departure and Return
14. Transformations
15. Nazi Echoes
16. The Name Taboo
17. Phallic Phantasy?
18. Fairy Tales
19. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore
20. Disappointed?
21. Philosopher Stone Echoes
22. Comparative Battle Scenes
23. Smuggling the Gospel Fallout
24. Three Controversial Points
25. John Granger at Prophecy 2007 and in Deathly Hallows?!

One more time, “Point, click, wax loquacious!”

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #26: Struggling to Believe – The Dateline/TODAY Interviews

Ms. Rowling gave a lengthy interview to Dateline/TODAY and it focused on her “letting-go” of Harry-writing as her raison-detre. There have been interesting revelations on plot points and expansions on the intentionally spare Epilogue but very little about the meaning of the books, per se, or their political and spiritual content. Milk before meat, I guess, but the reporter’s insistence on keeping the conversation about Ms. Rowling’s celebrity was surprising. Incredibly, it was the children on the Dateline/TODAY program who raised the level of conversation from the personal to the literary:

Young voice: Voldemort’s killing of Muggle-borns, it sounds a lot like ethnic cleansing. How much of the series is a political metaphor?
J.K. Rowling: Well, it is a political metaphor. But … I didn’t sit down and think, “I want to recreate Nazi Germany,” in the– in the wizarding world. Because– although there are– quite consciously overtones of Nazi Germany, there are also associations with other political situations. So I can’t really single one out.


Young voice: Harry’s also referred to as the chosen one. So are there religious–
J.K. Rowling: Well, there– there clearly is a religious– undertone. And– it’s always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on, it would give away a lot of what was coming. So … yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book.

Meredith Vieira: And what is the struggle?
J.K. Rowling: Well my struggle really is to keep believing.
Meredith Vieira: To keep believing?
J.K. Rowling: Yes.

This echoed Ms. Rowling’s comments in The Scotsman to Stephen McGinty in January, 2006. In an article titled ‘Life After Harry,’ he reported:

Rowling, who has three houses in Edinburgh, Perth and London, says she still found it “freakish” to find herself in a position where her PA could arrange for her to meet anyone in the world. She decided, however, not to pick up the phone to the Pope after he was critical of her novels “subtle seductions” which, he claimed, could “distort Christianity”. The author, who is an Episcopalian Christian, says of the complaints of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that: “I can remember reading about it and thinking, surely there are more important things for him to worry about than my books – world peace, war in the Middle East.” In the interview she compares her own faith to that of Catholic author, Graham Greene: “Like Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return. It’s important to me.”

I look forward to reading your comments about Ms. Rowling’s public profession that she is a Christian but her faith is not that of a saint, an apologist, or an evangelical. Is this simple sobriety? Humility? Or a desire not to be pigeon-holed as a Christian writer because of the strong “religious undertones” of the Harry Potter finale?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #27: The Bloomsbury Chat

After the disappointment of the Nightline/TODAY interviews, Ms. Rowling’s Bloomsbury Chat was a lot of fun. There was quite a bit of interesting material here mixed in with fan questions about ‘shipping and “whatever happened to…” despised and beloved characters. Please do go to Accio Quotes and read the whole thing, if you haven’t already. Thank you again to Lisa and the house-elves at Accio Quotes for the wonderful and speedy work they do!

Here were my five favorite points from this Chat and some quick, bracketed notes for your comments and correction:

#1: King’s Cross
Elisabeth: In the chapter of King’s Cross, are they behind the Veil or in some world between the real world and the Veil?
J.K. Rowling: You can make up your own mind on this, but I think that Harry entered a kind of limbo between life and death….

Katie B: Why was Kings Cross the place Harry went to when he died?
J.K. Rowling: For many reasons. The name works rather well, and it has been established in the books as the gateway between two worlds, and Harry would associate it with moving on between two worlds (don’t forget that it is Harry’s image we see, not necessarily what is really there)….

Jon: Since Voldemort was afraid of death, did he choose to be a ghost? If so, where does he haunt or is this not possible due to his Horcruxes?
J.K. Rowling: No, he is not a ghost. He is forced to exist in the stunted form we witnessed in King’s Cross.

[Ms. Rowling is not offering a dogmatic position about the soul’s passage after death, though “Limbo” is a destination in Catholic cosmology. She is, however, insistent that there is a life after death for the soul and consequences for those not prepared for that life. In this, she seems to be pointing to the Patristic position that all souls go to the same “place” at death but their experience in that non-local destination is a reflection of their preparedness in this life.]

#2 Unforgivable Curses
Barbara: I was very disappointed to see Harry use crucio and seem to enjoy it; his failure to perform that kind of curse in the past has been a credit to his character. Why the change, and did Harry later regret having enjoyed deliberately causing pain?
J.K. Rowling: Harry is not, and never has been, a saint. Like Snape, he is flawed and mortal. Harry’s faults are primarily anger and occasional arrogance. On this occasion, he is very angry and acts accordingly. He is also in an extreme situation, and attempting to defend somebody very good against a violent and murderous opponent.

[Ms. Rowling said there were 120,000 questions submitted for this chat. Interesting that she chose to address this concern, which has been the subject of discussion at many sites, including this one.]

#3: Literary Allusions
Jessie: Were the Deathly Hallows based on any real world myth or faerie tale?
J.K. Rowling: Perhaps ‘the Pardoner’s Tale’, by Chaucer.

Smallbutpowerful: On behalf of all Harry Potter fans who consider themselves to be Hufflepuffs, could you please describe the Hufflepuff common room as it is the only common room harry hasn’t visited?
J.K. Rowling: The Hufflepuff common room is accessed through a portrait near the kitchens, as I am sure you have deduced. Sorry – I should say ‘painting’ rather than portrait, because it is a still-life. It is a very cosy and welcoming place, as dissimilar as possible from Snape’s dungeon. Lots of yellow hangings, and fat armchairs, and little underground tunnels leading to the dormitories, all of which have perfectly round doors, like barrel tops.

[Let’s consider that an invitation to discuss some Chaucer and Tolkien! Hallows and the Pardoner’s Tale? Hufflepuffs and Hobbits living at BagEnd?]

#4: The Forest Again
Kristy: What was your favorite scene to write in deathly hallows?
J.K. Rowling: Chapter 34: The Forest Again.

[She has said that finishing this chapter caused her to weep. In light of her asides about “Struggling to Believe” in the Nightline talk, what if anything could be made of her tears at writing Harry’s sacrificial death and his Via Dolorosa into the forest in the presence of Lily, James, John (Remus John Lupin), and his God-father. Dante, anyone? Gibson’s Passion? Relief at finally reaching the goal of the series after 17 years?]

#5: Sinatra!
J.K. Rowling: I like this question, so I’ll take it for my last.
Tess: What muggle song do you imagine would be played at Dumbledore’s funeral?
J.K. Rowling: Surely ‘I did it my way’ by Frank Sinatra.

[Okay, I chuckled. But is she talking about Dumbledore here or the satisfaction she feels at her successful negotiation of all the trials of Potter-Mania? She certainly took a road less traveled and made her way heroically through the controversy with story-line and family intact.]

As always, I look forward to your comments and corrections. Please number your responses with respect to the five comments I made or say whatever you like about the Bloomsbury Chat.

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #28: Opening and Closing Chapters

Every Harry Potter adventure from Stone to Prince opened in such a way that the ending was heavily foreshadowed in the beginning, a classical “joining-of-the-circle” formula. Go back and count the references to telescopes in Prince‘s first chapters and how Harry leaning on the window resembles Dumbledore at the base of the Astronomy Tower if you think I’m making this up.

We’ve started discussion about how Deathly Hallows is the completion and vibrant echo of events and themes in Philosopher’s Stone. Let’s talk here about the first three chapters of Hallows and how they prepare us for Harry’s struggles throughout the year and his eventual triumph.

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #29: Arthuriana

Philosopher’s Stone was laden with references to the legends of King Arthur, from Harry’s life in secret as a Muggle, unaware of his heritage and the protection of a Merlin-esque wizard to specific plot points (remember the King and his crown on McGonagall’s chess board?). As we reached the story’s conclusion, Ms. Rowling seemed to reach deeper into Arthur lore for Harry’s heroic quest — corny word? nah –with Harry falling in love with Ginevra and the Graille elements of Harry’s Horcrux search and fascination with the three Deathly Hallows.

Travis Prinzi, as usual, is right on this over at Sword of Gryffindor; what are your thoughts on the Arthuriana in Deathly Hallows and the series as a whole? Ms. Rowling uses the alchemy to advance both her traditional and postmodern themes and concerns; how do the Arthurian backdrops and set-pieces, not to mention the names and story points reinforce what she has to say about love’s victory over death? Prejudice? Choice?