Archives for June 2017

Guest Post – ‘Mirrors, Paper, Stone:’ Literary Links and Riddles in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows (Beatrice Groves)

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of the just published Literary Allusion in Harry Potter sent us this 20th Anniversary Celebration present yesterday. It is Part 1 of what we hope she’ll share with us in the coming days (Thank you, Prof Groves!). Enjoy!

‘Mirrors, paper, stone:’ literary links and riddles in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows

The anniversary of the publication of Philosopher’s Stone seems an auspicious moment to look at some of the connections between the first, middle and last Harry Potter novels. As Rowling has noted, echoes between the opening and closing novels are particularly clear, and she has said of a number of plot points: ‘that was closing a circle.’ At the publication of Goblet of Fire she likewise noted the central novel’s pivotal position: ‘it’s literally a central book, it’s almost the heart of the series, and it’s pivotal’. As has been convincingly demonstrated by John Granger and J. Steve Lee the series forms a ‘ring’ or ‘chiastic’ structure in which the first novel is paired with the last, the second with the sixth and the third with the fifth, leaving the fourth novel as the ‘pivot’ around which the pattern turns. John Granger, in particular, has argued for ‘the central place of the Stone-Goblet-Hallows axis’[1] to the series and this blog-post will look at two examples – mirrors and riddles – in which Goblet acts as fulcrum for crucial moments in the opening and concluding novels.

The mirror-writing around the Mirror of Erised – Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi (Philosopher’s Stone, Chap 12) – is a message about reading carefully. If you read the riddle attentively it will enable you to discover what Harry is really seeing. The literary tradition of magic mirrors (noted by David Colbert in 2001[2]) which lie behind the Mirror of Erised are also surrounded with messages about careful reading. Britomart, the female knight-hero of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1590/96), sees her heart’s desire, likewise, when she looks into Merlin’s mirror in Book 3 of Spenser’s epic poem. The narrator notes how such magical mirrors are common ‘in bookes hath written beene of old’ (3.2.18). Spenser was a great admirer of Chaucer and he refers, in particular, of the magical mirror in Chaucer’s ‘Squire’s Tale’ (an unfinished story which Spenser will write a continuation for later in the Faerie Queene). In Chaucer, too, the magical mirror is connected with book-learning as its properties are ‘knowen’ by those ‘that han hir bookes herd’ (l.235) (Chaucer’s original readership, like Rowling’s original readership, were used to ‘hearing’ rather than reading their books). [Read more…]

Happy 20th Anniversary, Harry Potter! Announcing a new podcast!

Dear Hogwarts Professor readers:

Happy Anniversary! It’s been 20 years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. And it seems it’s been almost that long since the last gripping, academic discussion of Harry Potter by your favorite Potter pundits on the podcast Mugglenet Academia (RIP). But never fear! A new forum for over-educated Potter nerdiness is on its way! The new podcast, Reading, Writing, Rowling, hopes to match and even one day surpass Academia in both erudition and geekiness. How could it not, with Katy McDaniel and John Granger at the helm? We hope you enjoy this teaser trailer for the new production.

Mischief definitely NOT managed!

The Origin and Meaning of ‘Voldemort:’ Allingham’s ‘The Tiger in the Smoke’?

Can it really have taken us twenty years to track down the origin of the name and the essential meaning of J. K. Rowling’s pathological villain, Lord Voldemort?

I read a mystery novel yesterday, Margery Allingham’s The Tiger in the Smoke, that seems to have a passage that satisfies the several tests I’ve been able to come up with for verifying a true Voldemort source. Let me share those tests or metrics, the passages in question, as well as the several competitors for the title of ‘Original Dark Lord’ all of whom I think Tiger in the Smoke trumps.

First test: The Presence Herself has to have said she read (and enjoyed?) the book which is being cited as a possible source for Voldemort’s name.

The most frequently cited source for the name on the Internet is “Voldemortis,” a supposed wizard who battled Merlin. Sadly, this idea seems to have appeared out of thin air in 2004, the earliest source I found for it, and you can tell it has been cut and pasted in every names meaning list since because they all begin with “In another language, Voldermortist means “Lord of Evil” or “Dark Lord”. Legend has it that Voldermortist once tried to destroy Merlin…” I kid you not. MuggleNet, Korean Potter fan sites, the whole spectrum.

Rowling never mentions ‘Voldemortis’ or the Arthurian legends as a Dark Lord point of origin. I was a little disappointed that she hasn’t discussed The Master and Margarita, either, because the plot of that book — not to mention ‘Woland De Mort‘ (?) –is a great match for Lord Thingy, too.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “M. Valdemar“? This is the best name reference match-up, hands down, and the gruesome finish of The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar corresponds with the Dark Lord’s (sort of). But we have no comments by the author about loving Poe…

Second Test: Lord Voldemort is a psychopath, full stop. The Original Can’t Be Mister Rogers.

He is “a raging psychopath, devoid of the normal human responses to other people’s suffering” (EW). “If you are writing about evil, which I am, and if you are writing about someone who’s, essentially, a psychopath – you have a duty to show the real evil of taking human life” (BBC Christmas). “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” (Radio City).

Third Test: The Name Itself — French, Fictional, ‘Invented’

Rowling has said publicly that the name ‘Voldemort’ is French (not Latin, Lexicon!); that she made it up, and that she pronounces it sans final ‘t:’  “Vol-de-mor.” And, no, “I didn’t base Voldemort on any real person!” (Though what about all the men named ‘Tom Riddle’?)

She is sometimes cited as the source of the translation from the French, “flight from death.” I could not find verification of this ‘internet-fact,’ i.e., a seeming-truth that is believed because it is repeated in thousands of places. It is not in the index of Rowling quotations about Voldemort.

How does The Tiger in the Smoke stand up to these tests? Answers after the jump! [Read more…]

John Dawlish and – Margery Allingham?

Hogwarts Professor Louise Freeman said in the ‘Reading Writing, Rowling’ premiere podcast in Roanoke, a discussion of the ‘Top Twenty Harry Potter Moments’ that “‘Dawlish is still in St. Mungo’s and Gran’s on the run’ is one of my top ten lines from the series.” It certainly reflects the nadir in the never especially bright life of Auror John Dawlish. Being toyed with by an escaping Dumbledore and then, one hopes under the Imperius Curse, being made the heavy for the Dark Side Ministry of Magic in Deathly Hallows, Dawlish never seems to catch a break. Professor Freeman told me that she thinks of him as “the Harry Potter equivalent to the red-shirted Star Trek security guard.

I bring this up today because I think I have found the origin for Auror John Dawlish’s last name.

If you’re a Cryptonym Specialist, Harry Potter division, you may be scratching your head about this “discovery.” We already have two decent explanations for Dawlish’s last name and the author herself has explained Dawlish being named ‘John’ (the Leaky Cauldron’s John Noe is the most celebrated Dawlish fan and The Presence anointed her character ‘John’ in Noe’s honor). The two explanations for ‘Dawlish’ are that it is a city in Devon near Exeter where Rowling went to college (see The Harry Potter Lexicon on Dawlish for more on that) and, more importantly, it’s referenced in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.

I wasn’t looking for an alternative to this rather mechanical explanation when I stumbled over it. Now that I have seen it, though, I much prefer it to the Sea Coast town with thin literary echoes having no connection to an Auror, even a can’t-win nebbish like Dawlish, the Wizarding World’s equivalent of an FBI Special Agent.

Here’s how I stumbled over the name Dawlish in an important novel by one of Rowling’s favorite mystery writers —

[Read more…]

After-Action Report on the Amazing Roanoke Harry Potter Festival!

In case you did not see all the stars shooting up over the Star City of Roanoke recently, May 12 and 13 marked a very special event. The town’s first ever-Harry Potter festival was fantastic and included a rare gathering of the four Image may contain: textHogwarts Professor Faculty Members in one place! John Granger, Elizabeth Baird Hardy, Louise Freeman, and Emily Strand don’t usually get to be at the same event in real life, as most of our faculty meetings are virtual ones, so it was a great experience for us to chat, record a live podcast for the new Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast (stay tuned for more on that!), and take part in a festival that was both academically rich and fun for everyone. We’ll each be sharing our thoughts on this wonderful event, which we joined primarily through the tireless efforts of Dr. Lana Whited, friend of this blog, professor at Ferrum College, and Minister of Magical Education for the Festival. Dr. Whited put together a stellar program, and we were all delighted to be part of it, though we were in different areas, which means we have some different insights on this enchanting festival that we all hope will invite us back in 2018! [Read more…]