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

Mailbag: Redheads, Rubeus, & Rubedo

A note in my email inbox from this April:

Dear HP Team,

Rubedo: Is it possible that the Weasley family is part of the Rubedo stage along with Hagrid?

I was listening to an old podcast where the guest speaker was lamenting that not much of Hagrid was in the 7th book, and he should have been since he represents “Rubedo”.

However, all of the Weasley family has shockingly RED hair. I would think this intentional. JK Rowling makes a big deal of their red hair throughout the series. If, in fact, they are part of the Rubedo stage, then we do have a significant representation in the final book as they all play a dramatic part, including Percy.

I am curious what your thoughts are on this idea?

Sincerely,

Joy

Three Rubedo notes, Joy!

(1) Rowling said she had to promise her sister not to kill Hagrid in the finale; little sister had threatened never to speak to her again if everyone’s favorite Half-Giant died. As the character with the most obvious ‘red’ name, though, he seemed the most likely character not to survive. The model of Sirius Black dying at the end of the alchemical black book, the nigredo of Order of the Phoenix, and Albus Dumbledore also taking a dive at the end of Half-Blood Prince, the series albedo, made things look real grim for Rubeus in the run-up to Deathly Hallows. We didn’t know about The Presence’s promise to her sister.

(2) But Rubeus wasn’t the only character named ‘red.’ There was Rufus Scrimgeour, right? In Who Killed Albus Dumbledore? (Zossima Press, 2006), I collected the essays and predictions of six Potter Pundits about what had really happened in Half-Blood Prince and what we would learn in Deathly Hallows. Three of us made ‘Live or Die’ predictions for major players in the finale — and all three of us predicted five characters would die: Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix La strange, Rufus Scrimgeour, and, well, Draco and Narcissa Malfoy. All three of us, though, thought that Rubeus would live. We thought Rufus was going to be the Big Red sacrifice and that Hagrid was a red herring. Good for us.

(3) Not to brag, but I was the only one of the three who said Nymphadora Tonks and Severus Snape would die. I also predicted Fred Weasley’s death as well. This might sound like great prescience and insight, but it isn’t. Like Joy, I was thinking alchemically so I thought every red head in the book was possibly marked for a rubedo death; I marked off every one of the Weasleys, to include Fleur, as doomed. I was also the only Pundit who thought Peter Pettigrew would survive. I had some impressive direct hits — and a lot of misses.

Sorry to go off on that nostalgia tangent, Joy, but what a lot of fun the two years between Prince and Hallows were in fandom!

To answer your question at last: YES, the Weasleys as a family of redheads play an alchemical role through the whole series but especially in the two last book. Harry winds up with Ginny after dating Black-haired Cho and White-haired Luna, fRED Weasley dies, Percy rises from a sort-of worse-than-death, separation from his family, and Molly dispatches the witch who killed Sirius in the rubedo climax of the Battle of Hogwarts. They do everything an alchemist expects in a rubedo and, with fRED’s death, satisfying the color scheme formula of the stages in the last three novels.

Thanks for writing! 

Whom Should We Blame for ‘Crimes’?

Another missive in my email inbox:

Mr. Granger,

I know you do not particularly care for the HP movies and frankly I don’t like most of them as adaptations myself. Just a thought, maybe fans have been going about this all wrong when placing blame at the feet of Yates. I was guilty of this also in the past. I now believe the fault lies with Heyman and WB. They are the true “bosses” of the entire film production. They are the “money men” as it were. 

As soft spoken, thoughtful and humble as Heyman seems when interviewed, he is ultimately who approves of the dailies. As much as he professes to adore Rowling’s stories, it is he who allows Yates the freedom to audible out of canon and change the plot (dumb it down) such as he did in HBP with the “setting the burrow on fire” scene. 

It is such a shame, as someone whose company specializes in adapting books to film, that Heyman doesn’t have the guts to let the canon stand on its own. It is such a shame he doesn’t feel audiences are intelligent enough to follow the canon in a film version. Maybe he should finally have the wherewithall to follow Rowling’s FB scripts instead of fiddling with them. 

Best,

Matthew

Three quick thoughts on this, Matthew:

(1) You’re right that, of the two Davids, director David Yates and producer David Heyman, I tend to focus on the director as the bad guy who films the agreed on ‘shooting script’ and then cuts it into the prescribed formula of the studio. This is a mistaken application of Auteur Theory, the convention of laying praise and blame for a film on the director rather than anyone else; this theory is only truly applicable if the director is acting relatively independently. You’re right to note that Yates’ hands are tied and guided by the studio bean counters so, as much as there is blame for the final product of Crimes of Grindelwald, it falls as much on the other David, producer Heyman, as on director Yates.

(2) It’s probably best to think of the two Davids as the right and left hands of Warner Brothers, though, rather than assigning more responsibility to Heyman than to Yates. Each of them is a studio mechanic rather than free-wheeling artist; both answer to the studio chiefs who answer to stock holders looking for the greatest possible return on investment. The money required to put together and to market these extravaganzas means the age of auteur directors who create films largely unsupervised is long gone.

(3) My biggest mistake is not the proportion of blame that I routinely assign here for the train wreck of the Fantastic Beasts films. [Warner Brothers took what Rowling offered when she said she would write the screenplays and that hasn’t worked out as hoped; I doubt she is interested in returning to the franchise winning formula of novel-first-then-film-adaptation but that is the go-with-your-strengths and division-of-labor solution to the problem.] Where I go way wrong here is the absence of charity I exercise in criticizing Yates and Heyman for something over which they really have no control, i.e., studio film length requirements that allow so many screenings per day at the cine-plex, without mentioning all they do very well. Each of their remarkable skills and their team work as a pair with respect to team building, shot selection, budgeting, lighting, actor coaching, musical score inlay, as well as scene and film editing contribute to the final product and magical experience in the theaters.

I almost always neglect to mention the semi-miracle of technical artistry brought to these films, however incoherent the story may be due to inevitable and unfortunate scene deletions, and that is a function of my ignorance with respect to films and what makes them work beyond the screenplays. My apologies both to the two Davids and to you readers for that omission and a tip of my hat to them, non-fan that I remain, for the visually stunning and fun movies they have made.

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?).

Mailbag: Dumbledore a Manipulator?

I have spoken at an Augustana College retreat for students in Pastor Richard Priggie’s ‘Soul of Harry Potter’ class every Spring for the last nine years. Held at the remarkable Stronghold Castle in Oregon, Illinois, this retreat and my part in explaining the artistry and meaning of literary alchemy and ring composition there have been annual highlights for me and my family (especially my youngest sons).

I offer, in the Q&A session I do every year at the dinner after my last talk, help to the students with their end of term papers. The deal is, if they’ll write me their questions via email, I’ll send answers they can use, agree or disagree, in their arguments. I got this one last week:

Hello Mr. Granger, I am not sure if you remember me but I was on the Harry Potter retreat with Pastor Priggie. I am currently finishing up my final paper for the class and I have a topic I thought you might enjoy shedding some light on. The topic I picked for the paper is “Professor Dumbledore is a wise and compassionate mentor who guides Harry even from beyond the grave/ Professor Dumbledore is a flawed character who deceives and manipulates Harry in order to meet his own ends.” I decided to argue the side of Dumbledore being a manipulator as I feel Dumbledore used Harry for personal gain in much of the 5th and 6th books, as well as in Snape’s memory that Harry sees of Dumbledore in the Pensieve. So with that being said, I would love to know any opinions or examples you can give on the topic of Dumbledore being a manipulator. Thank you!

My off the top of my head answer — seven examples — was: [Read more…]