Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #14: Transformations

Ron isn’t the only one going through the twist in Deathly Hallows. Remus Lupin, Kreacher, Aberforth Dumbledore, Percy Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy and his parents, the Centaurs, and even Griphook (if the appearance of Ragnuk the First’s sword in Neville’s hands is an indication of his change of heart rather than Gryffindor theft) are much different folks at the end of Deathly Hallows than they were at the beginning or when we left them in Prince. The changes range from the almost instantaneous (Kreacher, Aberforth, the Centaurs) to more developed (Neville, Remus, Draco). Each Harry Potter novel has been about choices and change, especially Harry’s transformation over the book’s adventures. How does Harry change in Deathly Hallows and how do these other characters’ transformations highlight Harry’s choices, right or wrong?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #15: Nazi History Echoes

Beside the Orwellian 1984 hat-tips in the “Magic is Might” statue and policies of the Voldemort directed Ministry of Magic, I was struck by two different Deathly Hallows plot points that seemed conscious signs connecting the Dark Lord and the German National Socialists of the ’30’s and ’40’s. The first was the symbol that Xenophilius Lovegood wears to the wedding which so offends Viktor Krum. The swastika similarly is an ancient spiritual symbol that cannot be shown anywhere without drama (it is illegal in Germany, for instance) because of its use by the Nazis, albeit an inverted swastika. Voldemort’s desire to find the Elder Wand or “Wand of Destiny,” too, points to Hitler’s desire to find and use the so-called “Spear of Destiny” in building the Third Reich. Ms. Rowling even has Dumbledore as a young man fall to this temptation of overlooking individual rights and freedom “for the greater good,” a signature quality of totalitarian regimes. Did you find these Nazi references or pointers disturbing? Effective? What was Ms. Rowling driving at? Bad-Guy points no one in the UK could miss (“he’s like Hitler!”) or effective criticism by association?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #16: The Name Taboo

I was asked at Enlightening 2007 what I thought of the “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” element in the stories. I said then that I expected we would learn in Deathly Hallows that the Name would bring the Person Named (hence the fear if this had been the case in VoldeWar I). I was wrong, of course, but we did see a Pay-Off for this Set-Up as Janet Batchler would put it; the name of Voldemort becomes a Ministry-enforced Taboo that immediately brings bounty hunters (“Snatchers”) and breaks protective spells. As a writer who understands the difference between invocational magic (“sorcery”) and incantational spells, is Ms. Rowling making a point here about taboos in general, the power of names, and government anointed vigilantes and repression of resistance? Why do we have the Name Taboo, other than accelerate the story-line by making Harry’s capture believable?

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?