The Epilogue’s “All Was Well”: Context, Themes, and a Possible Literary Reference

A not uncommon reaction from serious readers who have tackled Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader and its chapters on literary alchemy has been, “Where can I read more about this?” or “What other authors can I read that write like this beside Ms. Rowling?” I met Travis Prinzi in his pre-Sword of Gryffindor days through this very question (and I can now refer readers to his web site’s essays on the subject as an excellent resource). My usual response is “Read C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.” The alchemy is right on the surface (I think), it works in ways very much like what Ms. Rowling attempts, and the books can be found in every decent sized bookstore or library. Not to mention that Christian readers won’t think they’re visiting the dark side if they are reading St. Clive-Staples (St. Jack?); the three novels are very edifying as well as being great stories.

Lewis’ pre-Narnia fantasies are the perfect place to learn more about alchemical artistry in English literature, consequently, but there are other very good starting points. Shakespeare is the touchstone for the whole thing, of course; his plays are so stuffed with Hermetic references and meaning that it is hard to get through any of his plays without having to review Tillyard’s Elizabethan World Picture before, during, and after to keep track of the hierarchical and alchemical points that make Shakespeare the greatest. For readers who don’t care for either Shakespeare (and they are legion; supposedly J. R. R. Tolkien thought the Bard over-rated) or for Lewis, there is Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, which was, I suspect, his attempt at writing a Shakespearean historical and alchemical drama in the form of a novel. Poe, Mary Shelley, Hawthorne, and MacDonald, too, have a hermetic streak in their gothic work. Most Charles William’s novels, I am told, also have alchemical imagery and meaning; the standing joke about That Hideous Strength is that it is “a Charles Williams novel as written by C. S. Lewis.”

If this is true, I suspect it is because of Lewis and Williams’ love of poetry and, specifically, the poetry of the so-called Medieval and Renaissance periods. Poetry, from Shakespeare and the Metaphysical poets to Blake and Eliot, is the natural home of literary alchemy and the amber in which its magic has been preserved. Which brings us finally to the subject of this post: the question about the meaning of the last words in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: “All was Well.” “Why did Ms. Rowling end her 4100 page novel with those three words?”

I suspect she chose them because the thought completes the work of the Epilogue, because it ties together several themes and artistic threads, and because it echoes the ending of a famous piece of poetry that Ms. Rowling might want the reader to link with her efforts in the Harry Potter books. And, yes, I think it comes back to the alchemy. [Read more…]

Invocational or Incantational? A Question About Harry Potter Magic

From today’s mailbag:

Dear Mr. Granger,

I had gone to your lecture you gave at Moravian College and was fascinated by your insight into the knowledge behind the series. You had written your email address when you had signed your book for me and I have a question now. I have now been beginning to read your book on “Looking for God in Harry Potter” and I was wondering about something. In the beginning you mention how Harry potter is not invocational magic or socery and never does it call in evil spirits but rather uses incantational magic. While for the most part I can agree with you there are a couple parts in the series where the characters may have used actual sorcery. [Read more…]

Help Wanted: HogPro Computer Maven

If you know WordPress blogging and WYSIWYG html work as well as you know Harry Potter (or better), and could help us out here at HogwartsProfessor and, please give a shout to me at john at zossima dot com or to Bob Trexler at robert at zossima dot com. We have a bunch of ideas we want to try here but keep running into the walls we couldn’t see. There has to be a light switch around here somewhere; thanks in advance if you can help us find it!

True Story from Carnegie Hall: “Main Line Boy Meets JK Rowling”

This newspaper story about a young man that won a seat in Carnegie Hall the night of Ms. Rowling’s reading and Q&A last month is worth reflecting on and re-reading. Not only what happens to him but his understanding and description of the night in New York are also instructive and challenging. Please let me know what you think.

Main Line Boy Meets JK Rowling
by Phyllis Rubin
Main Line Life

Danny Garfield, lifelong resident of the Penn Wynne section of Wynnewood, was home alone after school. His older sister was at a sports practice and both his parents were working. He was 13 and it was a few days before his Bar Mitzvah. He is tall for his age, with long hair and an engaging smile, giving him the appearance of an older teen.

His dog wanted to go out. As Danny opened the door, something told him to check the gates in the yard, and sure enough, one was open. He rushed outside, closed the gate before the dog got away, and, feeling relieved, went inside. As he reentered the house, he realized he had missed a phone call, since someone was leaving a message. He listened. [Read more…]

New Book from Ms. Rowling: >$62,000 per copy for ‘Tales of Beedle the Bard’

Here’s hoping she releases a cheap edition (sans precious stones) post-auction for us groundlings!

Rowling Completes Post-Harry Potter Book

Thursday, November 1, 2007 5:43 AM EDT
The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — J.K. Rowling has completed her first post-Harry Potter book, a collection of wizarding fairytales titled “The Tales of Beedle the Bard.”

Rowling said Thursday that only seven copies of the book are being printed. One will be auctioned next month to raise money for a children’s charity, while the others have been given away as gifts.

The collection of five stories has been handwritten and illustrated by Rowling.

“The Tales of Beedle the Bard” is mentioned in the final Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” as a gift left by headmaster Albus Dumbledore to Harry’s friend Hermione, and provides clues that help destroy evil Lord Voldemort.

“‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ is really a distillation of the themes found in the Harry Potter books, and writing it has been the most wonderful way to say goodbye to a world I have loved and lived in for 17 years,” Rowling said. [Read more…]