Harry Potter PreQuel Posted Online

by John on June 11, 2008

The Handwritten story card Ms. Rowling did for charity is now posted at “What’s Your Story.” She closes the story with the explanation: “From the prequel I am not working on — but that was fun!”

I have two thoughts.

First, there is a Harry Potter prequel in her mind or back-story notebook pile, one that evidently features James and Sirius in their adventures in the Golden Age Order of the Phoenix. With the Epilogue that points to the Hogwarts escapades of Albus Severus Potter, Rose Weasley, and Scorpius Malfoy, we now have past and future possibilities for extended story development. Ms. Rowling tells us she enjoys writing these stories and I’m guessing she has them plotted out. I half-expect the pressure to create new Wizarding World stories, internal pressure because of frustration in writing other things that “won’t be as good,” external pressure from publishers and movie makers, before the end of the decade will win out over her resistance to being imprisoned by her sub-creation.

Second, the story is a teaser. Who is “Elvendork” and what is the importance of the name being “unisex”? Order of the Phoenix tee-shirts? Death Eaters on broom sticks? The card reads almost like a film story-board and the policeman are right out of 1960′s teevee comedies.

I look forward to reading your reactions to this “badboys” Prequel and your thoughts about why Ms. Rowling wrote it. Dare I think we’re being groomed or prepped for a new series of adventures?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Red Rocker June 11, 2008 at 7:49 am

Elvendork is too “Mugglesian” a term to be part of a wizarding world storyline, I think. I confess that whole byplay about the names leaves me in the dark.

But the episode does sound like a part of an ongoing storyline, or backstory. I want to know the identity – and affiliation – of the three men on broomsticks. Death Eaters, presumably. But why specifically are they chasing James and Sirius? What’s the MacGuffin here?

I think she wrote it because it was on her mind.

John June 11, 2008 at 9:21 am

I think there are two reasons she wrote this story for the charity auction, neither of which is exclusive.

(1) She has the front and the back of a card to fill. How best to fill it in order to draw the most attention to the event and to raise the most money for the charity? As interested as we may be in the “next thing” Ms. Rowling will write, we know that the most generous thing she could do for the cause would be to offer a Harry Potter story. True to form, the collectors came, bid like mad, and the charity benefited from cash raised and from the flood of publicity. A non-Harry Potter story would have been big news but not as big. She was obliged to do the sure thing.

(2) Echoing Red Rocker, this is on her mind. More than a third of her adult life has been spent in “Harry World,” a place of her own creation and which has transformed her life and, in significant ways, the world. Ms. Rowling has, to my knowledge, always said she was going to walk away from Harry Potter and fantasy when the seven books were done. This pre-quel suggests what several All-Pros here have said for some time is the case: you don’t walk away from “identity,” and Ms. Rowling would have to be something inhuman not to have taken on as her identity that role by which she is almost universally recognized, namely, “Harry Potter author.”

To risk repeating myself, the pressures bearing on Ms. Rowling to keep writing Wizarding World stories will be similar to the pressures Michael Jordan felt to come back to the NBA from minor league baseball. I think we’ll see a similar result, too.

oshove June 11, 2008 at 11:31 am

Lily and James, and surely also Sirius, were born i 1960. But they are now «late teenagers». Which probably means between 17 and 19 years old. They must have graduated fropm Hogwarts to be allowed into the Order. Lily and James were probably 19 when they married, since they were 21 when they died, and Harry was at that time one year old.

My guess is that the event on the card is taking place in 1977 or 1978. They are old enough to fight in the Order. But they are young and crazy enough for James not to worry about making Lily a widow.

In 1977 we are in the hotest age of «feminist unisexism». The name Elvendork as a unisex name could be JKR making fun of feminist unisexism excesses (= sexological deconstructionism) of the 1970s – ?

Yours Odd
(Bergen, Norway)

Beth June 11, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I think it will be the “inner pressure” that gets to her in the end, and hopefully in a good way — when she writes in Harry’s world again, it will be because she wants to and is really ready to! I think my favorite part of this fun little story about James and Sirius was that line she wrote at the bottom and which you quoted here, John, saying how much fun she’d had writing this and how she’s NOT working on a prequel. :-) I think the operative word here is “working.” She may not be actively engaged in plotting/writing either a prequel or a sequel, but her mind and heart must be playing around with these characters often. I know that when I’m working on a story, I often fall asleep creating scenes between characters. Given how much time and energy (and how many pages!) she has already invested in this very creative sub-creation, it must be absurdly easy for her to fall back into it again, and such fun.

In fact, it dawned on me how easily the words seemed to trip off her pen…I like that we saw it in her handwriting. Given what we know of James and Sirius in their younger years, and given the magic motorbike, this must’ve felt like a scene that practically wrote itself. I found it funny and delightful. In fact, it made me realize how much I miss Harry.

pj June 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

How much fun was this little piece of writing?! I loved it!!! I found the Muggle responses from the police officers to be just the right touch of irony, causing me to return to the interchange between Harry and Stan Shunpike in PoA:

“How come the Muggles don’t hear the bus?” said Harry.
“Them!” said Stan contemptuously. “Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.” (p.36)

I would have never equated Wizard wands to drum sticks…but how appropriate for the officers to be thinking “rock band” with the emblazened t-shirts, the youthfulness, the attitudes, and of course the loud and speeding motorcycle!

As for ‘Elvendork’…does this particular name have a real-time, historical connection? It came across as more LoTR-ish, I thought. Not Mugglish at all…more like Elvish!

pj, not looking any deeper than the bottom of an ice cream bowl :-)

Travis Prinzi June 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm

How much you want to bet the name “Elvendork” begins popping up as a screen name like crazy?

I’m particularly intrigued by the “Wilberforce” reference. William Wilberforce was the Christian member of Parliament whose faith motivated him to stay in Parliament and fight for the abolition of the slave trade in England, a fight which was successful. I think this underscores some of the fundamental ways that her Christian faith informs her stories and her life.

revgeorge June 12, 2008 at 7:19 am

John said, “To risk repeating myself, the pressures bearing on Ms. Rowling to keep writing Wizarding World stories will be similar to the pressures Michael Jordan felt to come back to the NBA from minor league baseball. I think we’ll see a similar result, too.”

So, it was a good result, right? Jordan going back the NBA? Didn’t he lead the Bulls to an additional three NBA championships? Sure, his career ended on a down note but that was because he was playing for the Washington Wizards after his second comeback from retirement. And sure, the Wizards sucked at the time, but individually Jordan was still pretty good, despite being hampered by injuries. Among other things, he became the first 40 year old to score 43 points or more in a game.

Gladius Terrae Novae June 12, 2008 at 11:10 am

This is starting to make me wonder. Wilberforce- an abolitionist and a unisex name from, as oshove so brilliantly discovered, a time when feminist unisexism was at its height. This prequal she “is not working on” might have some political points.
Travis Prinzi, I think you have a good point. And Bathsheba was the other name, which I think is worth noting.
It sounds to me like there is some sort of inside joke going on between Sirius and James. She might not be working on it, but I think she has it a little more developed than a basic plot outline. I wonder if she’ll fill us in in the Encyclopedia.

Beth June 12, 2008 at 11:10 am

Yes, the mention of Wilberforce is intriguing, isn’t it? Good Anglican history/Christian social justice reference!

It’s also interesting that her mind turned to another Biblical name — though one wonders why Bathsheba!

And I had to laugh about Travis’ comment about “Elvindork” showing up as a screen name. I think you’re spot on, Travis. I too thought it sounded Tolkien-ish, with just a touch of VeggieTales about it (my young daughter’s been watching their parody “Lord of the Beans” in which Larry sings a song as an “Elvish impersonator…” groan.)

Did anyone else get a real “Fred and George” vibe while reading this scene? I do miss those two.

Red Rocker June 12, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Yeah, John’s example would suggest that it would be a good thing if JKR returned to producing Potter, although I’m not sure if that’s what he meant.

I am reminded of Arthur Donan Coyle, who killed off Sherlock Holmes because he wanted to get on with writing other things:

‘This (lack of customers for his opthalmology practice) gave him more time for writing, and in November 1891 he wrote to his mother: “I think of slaying Holmes… and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things.” His mother responded, saying, “You may do what you deem fit, but the crowds will not take this lightheartedly.” In December 1893, he did so in order to dedicate more of his time to more “important” works (his historical novels).

Holmes and Moriarty apparently plunged to their deaths together down a waterfall in the story, “The Final Problem”. Public outcry led him to bring the character back; Conan Doyle returned to the story in “The Adventure of the Empty House”, with the explanation that only Moriarty had fallen but, since Holmes had other dangerous enemies, he had arranged to be temporarily “dead” also.’

And then we have Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot:

‘By 1930, Agatha Christie found Poirot ‘insufferable’ and by 1960, she felt that he was a ‘detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep’. Yet the public loved him, and Christie refused to kill him off, claiming that it was her duty to produce what the public liked, and what the public liked was Poirot.’

Better for JKR, I believe, to let Harry Potter go. She has given his story an uncommon resolution: death, followed by resurrection. I think she – and we – should be content with that.

One possibility (which this 800-word snippet) keeps alive, is that JKR will write of Potterverse without Potter. I think she might be toying with this, not because of public demand but because she has spent so much time building that world, and building it well. I’m sure that the resulting works would be best-sellers months before publication – as soon as they were announced. I would buy and devour them myself. But again, I don’t think this is such a hot idea. If she went back to Potterverse, she would be blocking herself in the children’s fantasy genre even more than she has already (if that’s possible!) Something tells me she’s ready to start writing for adults. She couldn’t do this in Potterverse, for many reasons. And to stay in a genre which you’ve outgrown – that would be a waste of talent, I think.

Red Rocker June 12, 2008 at 12:34 pm

BTW, I’m quoting from Wikpedia in the above post.

I love Wikipedia: the lazy man’s solution to doing his research!

John June 12, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Red Rocker, you think she hasn’t been writing for adults? Certainly she writes a PG or PG-13 narrative line and an edifying sub-strata of “instructing while delighting” imagery, but these layers and the esoteric and subliminal artistry informing them that is after a bigger prize are the stuff of all good reading not just “childrens’ literature.”

Okay, help me down from that soapbox… Sorry, Red Rocker; you just touched one of my buttons. I’m responding to your, as always, thoughtful and challenging comments above in a proper post about prequel/sequel possibilities.

Disclosure notice! Be forewarned: as a Potter Parasite who stands to profit from Potter-mania reaching new heights, I am half-obliged to argue and to hope there will be new Wizarding World novels, with or without Harry.

david June 12, 2008 at 6:00 pm

John,

It’s obvious isn’t it! Elvendork.
A past master of the Elves before their enslavement as house-elves by the pure blood movement in the Wizarding World.
Unisex? I won’t go there.

David

ZoeRose June 14, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen – we are Elvendorks. You may be a male Elvendork or a female Elvendork. Elvendorks appear at Border’s on the night Potter books are released. Elvendorks go to conventions and give seminars. Elvendorks argue over whether Lewis’ centaurs rock over Rowling’s centaurs. Elevndorks serve lambas bread with their coffee. They woke up at 2:00 in the morning this week to see if the prequel had been posted yet.

There is a Star Trek/Star Wars variety called Vulkendorks – you probably know a few.

-ZR

ZoeRose June 14, 2008 at 1:17 pm

er, Vulcandork. I remember a long college dorm debate going into the early morning hours that focused on the pros and cons for the Federation and the Klingon/Romulan alliance. There was lots of shouting and popcorn throwing. Now that’s being a Vulcandork.

How does one spot an Elvendork? Did you cry when Dobby died?

Well, there you are.

-ZR

Arabella Figg June 14, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Perhaps Elvendork is a sly and gentle poke at rabid fandom?

Rowling’s quandary reminds me of Louisa M. Alcott and L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables, etc.). Both wrote family-friendly literature, enjoyed by all ages (though not at Rowling’s level, certainly). Both attempted to break new ground through writing adult novels; though good, these never achieved the popularity of their earlier works. Fans wanted more stories with their favorite characters. Poor Montgomery came to practically dislike Anne.

Though I love Potterverse, I’ll admire Rowling if she’s able to successfully move beyond it. I bet she has loads of stories like the Non-Prequel. She could write a short-story collection which could provide great backfill and not tie her down to a huge narrative arc.

I agree with John—she used her power (her Potter characters) for the best good (raising oodles of charity cash).

The Non-Prequel was interesting (name/term-wise) and highly entertaining. How teenage—gotta have the showy T-shirt! Tweak authority! Very “I Get Around/Fun, Fun, Fun.”

revgeorge June 15, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Arabella said, “Rowling’s quandary reminds me of Louisa M. Alcott and L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables, etc.). Both wrote family-friendly literature, enjoyed by all ages (though not at Rowling’s level, certainly). Both attempted to break new ground through writing adult novels; though good, these never achieved the popularity of their earlier works.”

Great examples, Arabella. I think herein lies the problem for Jo: write more HP or try to totally break away from it. It’s kind of like what Dan Radcliffe is attempting to do as an actor, establish himself as an actor proper & not just Harry Potter. Certainly Equus was a tremendous choice in trying to set himself apart as just that Harry Potter actor. And from all accounts he’s played the part well. So, I think he’ll have a good future in film. Hopefully, Jo will be able to do the same thing, without being too dramatic of an image shift.

RenaBlack June 15, 2008 at 6:35 pm

ZoeRose,

How could you NOT cry when Dobby died? *cowers* I suppose I’m sort of half-elvendork. I feel an impostor to fandom sometimes, actually, because I’ve done less full-on obsessing and next to no ‘shipping…but I did spend my last year of college writing a paper on Harry–that’s got to be worth some major points. :]

This was a fun read. Personally, I think I’m in favor of JKR actually *not* doing prequel/sequel work, at least not with this particular cast. Maybe start from some in-passing character or plot line, and develop that. The Harry canon, as-is, just does so much already I’m not sure it would be a good thing to try to make it do more…or even to share the back-stuff she already “knows about.” Hmmm…I guess I haven’t fully formed my opinion on this. A space-triology type of turn (rather than a full-blown Simarillion universe move), though, might be wonderful–do something quite different, but not completely unrelated and definitely not soul-less.

*shrug* 800 words is a nice little nibble, either way. :]

Mya March 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I am troubled by the amount of HP-related hits I get for the name Elvendork on Google! I assumed, because the other two names are real, that Elvendork is some historical name (presumably in another fiction.) But the speculation by other searches is obscuring any facts that might be gleaned from the web! Does ANYONE know the real-world significance of the name Elvendork? Or is it, as some have conjectured, just Jo’s attempt to poke fun at her readers? This is frustrating.
WONDERFUL story though. I hope that she succumbs to her addiction. But even if she doesn’t, I will be the first in line to buy anything non-Harry that she publishes. It’s her story telling that brings the books to life, not vice versa. :)

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