D-Day and Harry Potter:The Longest Day

Last Thursday, 6 June 2019, was the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe in 1944. ‘Operation Neptune,’ usually known just as D-Day, remains the largest invasion from the sea against a fortified beach-head. It led to the liberation of France and eventually to victory on WWII’s Western Front.

D-Day is often called ‘The Longest Day’ because of Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 popular history of the invasion that had that title as well as the blockbuster film made in 1962 based on the book. David Martin wrote me on Thursday, 6 June this year, to suggest that Rowling deliberately made the longest day in the Hogwarts Saga the 50th anniversary of the invasion, 6 June 1994, as a kind of tribute. 

We should, of course, honor the heroes of D-Day – June sixth, 1944.  That day is sometimes called “the longest day” because of the great struggle and because of the uncertainty as the whole world waited for the outcome.  There is a classic film about D-Day with the title “The Longest Day.”

J. K. Rowling appears to have honored that day in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  One of the few specific dates given in the Harry Potter novels is the date of Buckbeak’s scheduled execution – June sixth.  (Prisoner, page 400) 

The year would have been 1994 – fifty years, to the day, after D-Day.  In Prisoner June sixth, 1994, is the day when Hermione used her Time-Turner to take Harry and herself back three hours.  Thus they experienced a 27 hour day – their longest day.

Since none of us mere Muggles has yet mastered legilimency it is doubtful that we will ever discover all the hidden meanings and references in J. K. Rowling’s books.

A fascinating possibility, especially in a book with so many Nazi-Death Eater correspondences that more than one critic has suggested the series is an extended WWII allegory (e.g., Voldemort is Hitler, the Weasley-Delacour wedding is the Anglo-French alliance, etc.). MuggleNet gives the date as 9 June on its calendar but the Lexicon timeline for Prisoner has it as 6 June 1994 as David writes.

What do you think? Is the 6 June 1994 longest day in Harry Potter a word-play hat-tip to the Longest Day invasion of Europe in 1994?

T. M. Doran’s ‘The Lucifer Ego’

I am a serious fan of T. M. Doran’s novels. I have read, enjoyed, and recommended everything he’s published since I stumbled upon his Toward the Gleam back in 2010. You can read my ’10 Questions Interview’ with him  about Gleam here and about his Terrapin here. Doran’s Iota is another excellent read.

When I heard that he had written a sequel to Gleam, consequently, I was all over it. I read The Lucifer Ego when it came out last summer and re-read it today. I recommend it to you for four reasons.

(1) Lucifer Ego is a Thriller-Mystery featuring a Great Trio of Characters — and The Lord of the Rings: Toward the Gleam told the tale of John Hill’s discovery of an ancient manuscript and his struggle to understand what it reports while protecting it from the wicked men trying to steal it. It is a barely disguised historical fiction turning on J. R. R. Tolkien and how he came to write LOTR with a great cast of characters to include C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and even Winston Churchill. We get glimpses of Tolkien, Lewis, and some of the Gleam characters in a few Lucifer Ego brief-flashback chapters, but the adventure in the sequel is contemporary England, France, Bosnia, and Germany and what the three new heroes, a paleoarcheologist, a psychologist, and an Intelligence agent for MI6, have to do to find the ancient manuscript. Hill/Tolkien had left it in a monastery but a mad monk had made off with it…

(2) Doran Can Write: Reading J. K. Rowling for two decades and discussing it with serious readers for almost as long have given me an appreciation of and taste for writers who are writing as much about other stories inside their own works as they are about the stories they’re telling in the surface plot. Rowling does this with her mythological story scaffolding, references to favorite books, and alchemical and Christian symbolism. Doran in The Lucifer Ego is all about texts ranging from Virgil’s Aeneid to The Lord of the Rings, which you’d expect, but also with interior stories characters are trying to figure out (the best being a children’s book called Beakie the Turtle) and a master villain whose psychological super power is creating narratives to manipulate anyone and everyone he meets to do his bidding. Like most good books, repeated reading reveals the careful drops and structuring you miss on the first quick page-turning.

(3) There’s a Message: Doran is someone who gets the spiritual crisis and the philosophical errors that define our age. He doesn’t beat you over the head with the meaning he wants you to walk away with, but, by having the bad guys act on ideas they believe and discuss and by presenting the good guys’ struggle with temptations both with respect to these ideas and their own internal issues, the reader confronts them, too, and, as Doran said in my Gleam discussion with him, 

I desired to expose these crooked ideas while, as Tolkien might have said, respecting the freedom of readers to reach their own conclusions. I wanted the malignant characters in the story to be more than one-dimensional, even if they were unattractive; in this mission, I struggled as Lewis described struggling with The Screwtape Letters. Like Tolkien, Lewis, and Chesterton, I wanted readers holding different beliefs to be able to ponder and reflect on the ideas in the story, while still enjoying a (hopefully) rousing story.

A writer and story craftsman who thinks seriously, presents challenging ideas in his novels, and yet one who respects intelligent readers sufficiently not to have to draw out the moral of the story in painfully obvious fashion — Doran is a keeper. And The Lucifer Ego is worth every minute you give it because of that care and respect, if Iota may be his best book in this regard.

(4) Good News and Bad News: I don’t think someone who hasn’t read Toward the Gleam will get half the enjoyment of the reader who has — which is just one more reason to get a copy of Gleam. The odd thing and good news was that, after reading the first book, I didn’t think a sequel was possible or even desirable. I looked forward to re-reading the book, as I do with everything Doran has written, but I was more than satisfied with the ending. With The Lucifer Ego and its three heroes, I again cannot see how they can continue the story, at least not with the ‘Manuscript that Becomes Lord of the Rings‘ backdrop, but I want very much for there to be more Lyle-Sam-and-Beatrice adventures.

Mail Bag: Rowling on Draco as Werewolf

Here’s a mailbag item that has been in my drafts folder for sharing since 2015. My response was a little harsh, well, ‘mean and bitter’ might better catch the sense of it, but I share it for your reflection and correction.

John, Professor, Sir,

http://hellogiggles.com/jk-rowling-shut-down-fan-theory/

I’ve never seen that one before. Draco definitely isn’t a werewolf (and Snape’s not a vampire).

I don’t think I remember we had this theory back in the day.

And, for once, this is an elucidation of the text, not some errant addendum.

Still Potter-ing about,

David

My response?

Sad, really. I really wonder why she felt obliged to tweet this. It doesn’t answer the questions serious readers had about the many clues Rowling placed in the books about Snape’s vampiric qualities and Draco’s transformation in Half-Blood Prince. And it’s not an “elucidation of text.” You lost me there.

The better fan theories, based on speculation from canon and tested in conversation at conferences and in internet debates, were not “Draco is a Werewolf” or Snape = Vampire as this article and her tweet suggest. The interesting speculation was that Draco was bitten by a werewolf, probably Fenrir, but not one fully transformed (just as was Bill Weasley) and that Snape’s father was a muggle vampire so, as son of vampire and a witch, Severus was a Half ‘blood-prince‘ and half-blood Prince, but not a real, teeth-to-the-neck vampire needing blood, etc. The two, as with so many Rowling characters, were liminal figures between worlds not conforming to type (and to people’s prejudices). Think ‘Hagrid as Half-Giant.’

If Rowling wanted to close down these conversations, she had her opportunity before July 2007. Now she is just asserting her command of all disputes to protect the Wizarding World and Warner Bros Franchises. 

Which, of course, is her right. I am at least as free, however, to ignore her claims to perpetual authority and updates, especially when she misrepresents the serious reader speculation she is dismissing.

I say this is “sad” because the excellent discussions about the psychological aspects of Snape as vampire and the Malfoys as elitist werewolves have been closed in the minds of many by Rowling’s imprimatur in reverse. Shame on her.

Thank you, David, for sending!

John

Exorcist: Stay Away from Harry Potter

From the Women of Grace weblog post about this priest’s claims (e.g., that Rowling “went to ‘witch school’ before writing the books,” that “60 percent of the names in the Potter books are the names of demons who have been booted out of people,” that “there is something diabolic about the whole thing,” etc.):

It’s very difficult to argue with exorcists who have first-hand knowledge of the demonic. They don’t have the luxury of hiding behind the excuses that we often erect about these books, such as how “everyone else is reading them,” and how “they’re in our school library!” and how such-and-such said they’re okay. Instead, they must confront the reality of evil and can attest to the fact that demons are regularly destroying lives as a result of the trivialization of the occult in our time.

Regardless of what the prevailing culture has to say, let us humble ourselves and learn from those whom God has appointed to keep us safe from evil.

Discuss.

Stephen Fry Recordings of Harry Potter?

A letter in my inbox this morning:

Hi John, 

My husband and I listen routinely to Jim Dale’s reading of the HP series. I wanted to also listen to the English version read by Stephen Fry.

I clicked on a website about buying a set and it took me to an obvious dark web site that started downloading something on my computer and flashing multiple popups of porn content. An unpleasant experience and scary to boot. I am now spooked about searching for it.  My local library doesn’t have it.

Do you have a suggestion for a reliable site and a reasonable price?

Thought I would ask the guru of all things Harry Potter! Thank  you!

Kathleen

Great question, Kathleen, and one I really wish I had an easy answer to. The site you refer to is akin to the HPAudioBooks.club website, the first thing to pop up in a google search for ‘Harry Potter Stephen Fry.’ It offers you the audiobooks read by Fry for free — in exchange for access to your computer’s inner workings and all your data. Some deal!

It used to be that you couldn’t buy the Fry recordings in the United States because Bloomsbury did not have publishing rights here, Scholastic did (and does), and Scholastic published the Jim Dale recordings. This agreement held over into the Audible versions available via Pottermore. End of story unless you purchased the Fry books through Amazon.co.uk as CDs and paid the trans-atlantic shipping fee (still an option if you’re willing to sign up for a UK Amazon membership). Which was tough for families that routinely listen to Dale while driving on long trips or fans who work out while tuned in to Harry’s adventures.

It seems, though, that this barrier has been relaxed, albeit at a price. The complete Stephen Fry readings of the seven Harry Potter novels can be had via Amazon for ~$275, more than 100 CDs at more than $350 off the list price. That’s no bargain if you don’t like CDs and if you’ve purchased the Audible audiobooks as read by Jim Dale for $15 each, the whole set instantly downloaded for just over $100 (and plenty of us are doing just that; 7 of the top 11 fiction books this week at Amazon.com are the PotterMore print and audio editions of Harry Potter).

Nota bene: I don’t know if that Fry ‘Complete Set’ will be available for long. It is listed as a ‘paperback’ which seems a dodge on the Amazon system controls to keep the Bloomsbury audiobooks off the American market. If you want a set and don’t live close to the Canadian border (the Fry recordings can be bought anywhere in Canada… Travis Prinzi raves on Fry’s recordings over Dale’s — he lives in Rochester, NY, so getting them did not require even a long drive for him), you may want to make the purchase promptly.

I’m no expert in this sort of thing so I open the floor to the HogPro All-Pros and whatever suggestions they may have for Kathleen and her desire to buy some Stephen Fry audiobooks. Do you know of any deals Kathleen can use to get copies of the Fry audiobooks?

Two quick Stephen Fry notes: (1) The “he pocketed it” story and (2) it was Fry who took Rowling to ‘Pratt’s Club’ in London where Cormoran Strike meets Jasper Chiswell (and Pratt’s is not happy about it?).