Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #17: Phallic Thriller?

Steven Greydanus, the Catholic film critic, once wrote me to say that he thought my ideas about the battle in Chamber of Secrets were risible; that story, he said, could as easily be understood as a Freudian adventure in phallic and yonic imagery (giant serpents, swords and broken wands, chutes and floods in the girls bathroom, etc) as a Morality Play. He saw these interpretations as exclusive rather than complementary so neither could be true rather than both. We return to the meaning of swords, wands, wand cores, and wand mastery in Deathly Hallows with a vengeance, and, necessarily, to how Ms. Rowling is using these phallic images. Men and women pursue more powerful wands, have their wands broken or taken, replaced or not, and the decisive battle turns on who is the Master of the Elder Wand. Harry ends the drama by a semi-miraculous “healing” of his broken holly and phoenix feather original. Is Ms. Rowling using wands as tokens of power, identity, ego, sexuality, or what?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #18: Fairy Tales

Dumbledore leaves Hermione the original (if glossed by symbols) runic version of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, in which Grimm Brothers like collection we find The Tale of the Three Brothers. This story turns out to be a cipher of sorts for the “real-world” Peverell Brothers, of whom Harry is a descendant, and which story drives much of the Deathly Hallows action of the book. As interesting, the Ravenclaw ghost, The Grey Lady, tells the story of stealing her mother’s diadem and the agonies and consequences of the Bloody Baron’s unrequited love (see point #11). Ms. Rowling seems to be suggersting that literature, even kids’ fairy tales, need to be taken very seriously, even as “real-world” events. What are the messages of the “Kid-lit” she is writing and how seriously are her readers to take them?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #19: The Lives and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Much of the action of Deathly Hallows is the peeling of the onion to get to the truth about Albus Dumbledore and his relationship with Harry. We learn with Harry (and everyone else) a lot of information about the late headmaster that is true from Rita Skeeter in The Daily Prophet and in her book. These facts even shorn of the Skeeter/Ministry spin are still very disturbing. What we learn on the travels, from Aberforth, and from the Pensieve and Severus’ memory don’t do much to reassure us about Dumby’s personal history, his intentions and his methods. “Secrets and lies” are his natural currency, it seems; using people his forte. And yet Harry willingly sacrifices himself in The Forest Again and is happy to see and speak with the man in King’s Cross. What is Ms. Rowling telling us, if anything, about sacred cows and authority figures? About understanding and judging others? What is your final verdict on Albus Dumbledore as a person and wizard?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #20: Disappointed?

I put up three “sure thing predictions” this time last week at www.HogwartsProfessor.com before posting my more speculative guesses using the Five Keys in my Book ( Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader): (1) Deathly Hallows would sell well, (2) We would see spoiler books by the time of release, and (3) a lot of folks were going to be disappointed in how Ms. Rowling ended this series. I got the first two pints right (duh). Are you disappointed with the finale? Scratching your head about which person late in life does magic? Confused (and upset) about the mechanics of Harry becoming a Horcrux (“only living object nearby”?)? What questions do you still have or faults do you see in how it all turned out?

PDay Minus One: Prediction #7 “Does Harry Die?”

Here are the Six Previous Predictions in this Series for your convenience and easy reference:

Prediction #1: “Deathly Hallows Will Be Very Much Like the First Six Harry Potter Novels” (with 3 Sure-Things We’ll See at Deathly Hallows’ Publication)

Prediction #2: “The Master Plan Will Be Revealed”

Prediction #3: “Mistaken Identities”

Prediction #4: “Through the Veil”

Prediction #5: “The Rubedo”

Prediction #6: “The House-Elves”

Prediction #6.5: “Tale of Two Cities: Why We Should Expect a Beheading in Deathly Hallows”

There isn’t much here that’s especially mind-boggling or off-the-wall (unless you count some of the guesses at mistaken identities) because each prediction is an illustration or pointer to one or many more of the Five Keys that Serious Readers use to get under the surface of the Harry Potter novels. Ms. Rowling works in patterns and formulas, some of which are fairly easy to understand and see (the Hero’s Journey for instance), others of which require some study (the Literary Alchemy and Postmodern Themes come to mind).

I like these predictions, not because I think they’re “winners” or “bull’s eyes” — I’d be more foolish than I am if I thought more than a few have a chance of proving to be Ms. Rowling’s actual plot points — but because they require readers to think seriously about the patterns Ms. Rowling will be following in what ever direction she takes the series in its finale. Sales of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader continue to be strong while other Interlibrum titles like the MuggleNet guesses about HP7 have fallen off; readers are telling other serious readers that it isn’t just a pre-Deathly Hallows title.

Thank you for these word-of-mouth sales.

My last prediction is in answer to the question Ms. Rowling has fostered in our minds, “Will Harry die in Deathly Hallows?” I am certain the answer is, “Yes, he will.”

But what sort of death will it be?

Harry, after all, has died a figurative or “near death” in every book so far, only to rise-from-the-dead in the presence of a symbol of Christ. Will that pattern be continued in this last episode or has that periodic resurrection only been a prologue or perumbration for the hero’s real and final demise in Deathly Hallows?

Both versions, of course, would satisfy Ms. Rowling’s patterns that we see in the Five Keys so I won’t pretend to have a definitive answer. My thoughts about specific plot points are perhaps better than the average readers but not so much more that I’d want to bet more than I have in my wallet (never very much, alas).

I don’t know what Harry will learn at the Dursleys’, at Godric’s Hollow, or at the Alchemical Wedding in The Burrow, or even if Harry’s itinerary will conform to his stated destinations at the end of Half-Blood Prince once VoldeWar II breaks out in earnest. I doubt very much there will be the grand Horcrux Hunt many expect or, if he does find the Horcruxes, that he’ll find them in working order. The Rubedo will reveal what happened in the White Stage of the work and much of that Harry just doesn’t understand (see prediction #2). I have a hard time seeing Albus and Severus leaving Horcrux destruction to a self-important man-boy without any clear instructions about destroying them or clues about finding them.

I do imagine that Harry will travel underground and visit the Dead (see prediction #4). If he goes through the Veil, we’ll know why Ms. Rowling had Harry go deep every year and, perhaps, why she thought her faith would be self-evident in the finale. A three day “harrying of Hell” and return-to-life would suffice for that, no?

As much as this trip would satisfy a checklist requirement for “death” and “resurrection,” even Ms. Rowling’s assertion that we’d see in Deathly Hallows how near we could get to the dead, my gut feeling is that we’ll see another death, this time by beheading (see Prediction #6.5). Harry may learn something about his ScarCam Horcrux (which I think Severus disarmed at the end of Prince before leaving the Hogwarts grounds) and foolishly believe his decapitation will destroy the Horcrux (logic says it wouldn’t; only blowing up his head entirely or removing and destroying the Horcrux itself would do that because it isn’t dependent on Harry’s life, it rests on his skull).

Whatever, it seems there is so much beheading and near-beheading in the books that I suspect, as Linda McCabe has said, Chekhov’s Dictum that a loaded gun brought on stage must be fired seems to require that we have a Sydney Carton-like finish to Deathly Hallows. I hope you’ll forgive me for not believing that it will be Harry’s demise.

We know that Unicorn blood will save your life no matter how weak your hold on existence (if drinking this cipher for the Blood of Christ will damn anyone drinking it unworthily, a la 1 Corinthians). We know, too, that Dumbledore was the man who discovered the 12 uses of Dragon’s Blood and that Dragon’s Heart Strings are magically powerful. It turns out that “Dragon’s Blood” is alchemical language for the “Elixir of Life,” another cipher for the Blood of Christ. We saw a little of this power in Phoenix when Hagrid manages to endure Grawp’s beatings for months via the judicious application of Dragon steaks.

Look for Norbert to return like the calvary to Harry’s Cavalry and, with some help, to do for him what Fawkes did for his wounds in the Chamber of Secrets. A little trickier, of course, if Harry is doing his impersonation of Nearly Headless Nick, but certainly doable.

Harry then, may die not only once but twice in Deathly Hallows. He may pass through the Veil and join the Dead. He almost certainly will return. I expect then that Harry will die in a way that convinces us he is “dead and gone” but we will be wrong. In a “big twist” and probably via the services of the Dumbledore men on the scene, Hagrid and Snape, Harry will be revived with Dragon’s Blood. Severus, however redeemed and revealed as a hero and the Great Physician and the Man the World Knew Not, will not be so lucky. Look for Wormtail to be Severus’ bane, thinking he is doing what Harry (and Harry’s father) would want….

It’s getting late and I have a very long night ahead, speaking at Barnes and Noble Saucon Valley and then reading aloud to my three youngest children, Stasia, Timothy, and Zossima. Thank you for reading these predictions and, in advance, for your charity in the coming hours as you find out that all my guesswork has been wrong, at least superficially, as it must prove to be. Reflection on the Five Keys of Narrative Misdirection, Literary Alchemy, the Hero’s Journey, Postmodern Themes, and Traditional Symbolism will help us unravel the meaning of Deathly Hallows more than these guesses made using the Keys have unraveled Ms. Rowling’s finale beforehand.

I hope you have had even half the fun and friendship through your thinking about Harry Potter, here and elsewhere, that I have had. If you have, these books will always have a very special place near your heart.

“Accio Tomorrow!”

Hogwarts Professor will be closed until Monday when I will be appearing at the Barnes & Noble Book Club online as Guest Host for a day, beginning the international and all-comers discussion there of Deathly Hallows. “See you there and then!”