Guest Post #3 – The ‘Harrying of Hell’ The Harrowing in Philosopher’s Stone 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 finishes off her discussion of the thematic axis of the Hogwarts Saga, Stone-Goblet-Hallows, with a brilliant revelation of the shared Christian symbolism in each of the beginning, central, and final Harry Potter novels. It is Part 3 of 3 Guest Posts Professor Groves will share with us to celebrate the publication of her wonderful book. 

The ‘Harrying of Hell:’ The Harrowing in Philosopher’s Stone and Deathly Hallows — Part 3 of 3 Literary Allusion Guest Posts

As noted in my previous blog-post, a deepening of the Christian symbolism in Harry Potter is visible along the Stone-Goblet-Hallows story axis, as early events gain in significance as they are repeated through the series. This is likewise the case in the topic explored in this concluding post: the echoes of the Harrowing of Hell within Harry Potter. There is a comic harrowing in Philosopher’s Stone, a brief echo of this scene in Goblet of Fire and then a final fulfilment of this harrowing imagery in Deathly Hallows.

The Harrowing of Hell is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. It was a particularly popular part of the Christian narrative in the medieval period and describes how – between his death and resurrection – Jesus enters hell, frees its captive souls and defeats the powers of darkness. It is depicted in the medieval dramatisations of salvation history (known as the mystery cycles) as well as stained glass, manuscript illuminations and poems such as Langland’s Piers Plowman. And it is part of the medieval aesthetic of Harry Potter’s world that its imagery of the triumph of good over evil draws on the harrowing.

It might be natural to assume that ‘harrowing’ refers to Christ ‘ploughing up’ hell – a verb which the Oxford English Dictionary vividly describes as ‘to break up, crush, or pulverize with a harrow.’ The OED claims, however, that the ‘harrowing’ of hell comes instead from the verb ‘harry’ – which means ‘to lay waste, sack, pillage, spoil.’ This is obviously pleasing for the current discussion as it means we could talk of the ‘Harrying’ (rather than the ‘Harrowing’) of hell.

But it also means that the name does not point to the destruction of hell but its despoliation: the crucial narrative event is the freeing of captives. The climactic harrowing of Deathly Hallows – discussed at the end of this post – is anticipated by earlier, comic examples which focus precisely on this aspect; moments in which Harry is freed by his wizarding friends from the hell that is his life with the Dursleys. [Read more…]

Guest Post: ‘Stone, Goblet, Hallows:’ The Series Axis in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows (Beatrice Groves, Part II)

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of the just published Literary Allusion in Harry Potter sent us this 4th of July present yesterday as an Independence Day gift (no hard feelings in the UK). It is Part 2 of 3 Guest Posts Professor Groves will share with us to celebrate the publication of her wonderful book. 

‘Stone, Goblet, Hallows:’ the Series Axis in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows — Part 2 of 3 Literary Allusion Guest Posts

This post – following on from my previous exploration of mirrors and riddles – argues that repeated themes across Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows show an increase of significance as the series progresses. This blog entry is a response to John Granger’s contention that the first, central and final novels of Harry Potter form the ‘story axis’ – the three novels whose interrelation is most telling – and it will explore a number of pieces of evidence for this theory. Among these are Christian echoes in Rowling’s story and this post will bring together some evidence for the plausibility of finding Christian ideas within the series. A final post (to follow next week) will conclude this exploration of the ‘story axis’ by arguing for a new link to the Christian story that occurs comically in both Stone and Goblet but whose latent symbolism is only finally realised in Hallows.

Of the many Stone-Goblet-Hallows links (and all those discussed below – and many more! – have been helpfully tabulated in John Granger’s Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle [2010]) there are a number in which something that was a fairly simple part of the plot in the opening novel, becomes more reflective in the central novel, and freighted with new significance in the final novel (seven is the most magical number, after all). Live dragons, for example, appear only in these novels and Granger notes that they pass through a life-cycle as they do so: baby Norbert in Stone, the nesting mother dragons of the Triwizard tournament and finally, the escape on the ‘ancient of days’ Gringotts dragon.[1]

[Read more…]

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…]

Fantastic Beasts: ‘Original Screenplay’ Compared to Actual Film – What the Movie Makers Changed or Left Out

A Team Effort Guest Post by Kelly Loomis and myself! At my urging, knowing her skills as a literary detective, Kelly watched the Fantastic Beasts DVD with the ‘Original Screenplay’ in hand. She noted any differences between published text and released movie. We already knew that the ‘Original Screenplay’ was actually not the shooting script, which included at least fifteen scenes, props, and plot points that didn’t make it to us in the theaters. Kelly’s check of ‘Original Screenplay’ with the actual movie reveals that there are even major differences between the film and what seemed like just a transcript with enter-and-exit stage notes and descriptions. Enjoy her findings and our shared thoughts on their meaning!

When I heard that JK Rowling would be writing the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, my Potterhead self was excited and gratified. “Now,” I thought, “the film wouldn’t be missing the important details she weaves into her writing!”

I have been disappointed again.

First, as we’ve seen from John’s Fantastic Beasts posts about the shooting script and deleted scenes, the final film product is very different from the initial story Rowling approved for filming. The many cut scenes disappointed serious Rowling Readers as they were crucial to what we felt were key elements of the story. I’ve put a Round-Up of John’s posts below about the grand canyon separating the shooting script and the movie released last November and even the DVD we have now.

Second, incredibly, even the published ‘Original Screenplay’ doesn’t match up with the movie. Having compared the one with the other, scene by scene, I‘ve found that even the final printed screenplay is different in some areas than the film. Prompted by John, I’ve put these into writing for you all to ponder.

The good news? The “original” in ‘Original Screenplay’ used to seem ironic if not flat-out dishonest. What I’ve learned from comparing the published text, however, has shown me that this book is not just a transcript. It’s another window into the shooting script that Rowling wrote and approved for filming.

I list after the jump all of what I found. All citations are from the first edition of The Original Screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. All opinions are subject to 180 degree shifts consequent to your corrections! [Read more…]

Guest Post: Why No ‘Cormoran Mania’?

COEFans, Noir, and the Question of Violence: Speculations about the Popularity of J.K. Rowling’s Detective Fiction — A Guest Post by ChrisC!

With the impending release of Lethal White, the next volume in J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike Mysteries, an old question occurred to me.  Has there been any uptick in enthusiasm from her fanbase?  Maybe I don’t pay enough attention, however I still don’t know whether the series has yet to pick up steam.

I hope the series does pick up notice.  It’d be a mistake for her fans to neglect what so far has proven to be a more or less fine-tuned storytelling machine.  At the same time, it is possible to take a few educated guesses at just why the series might be held back from total popularity.  It can even be argued what elements of the books themselves might keep it from a wider appeal.  I bring the topic of the books’ reception up because I think that if the response to Cormoran Strike should ever turn out to be more guarded than that given to the Potter series, then it helps to understand the reasons why longtime fans might turn out to have a surprising amount of ambivalence with regard to the latest fictional exploits of their favorite author.

With that in mind, after the jump, you’ll find a list of aspects about the series, Jo Rowling’s fans, and what a potential clash between the two could mean for the series’ prospects. [Read more…]