Deathly Hallows Twenty Discussion Points: Round Two (with Five New Questions!)

The discussion here this past week has been nothing short of spectacular! Though I have been pre-occupied with family business (we’re moving!), a new job, and taking notes for my two Prophecy 2007 talks next week, I have tried to check in to HogPro five or six times a day to put up all your insightful posts and send back the two or three that had to be re-written to take off an unnecessary edge. I hope you agree with me that HogPro threads have been the One-Stop site for challenging exchanges about the literary background and the meaning of Deathly Hallows (if I have checked in at Sword of Gryffindor every day to keep up with Mr. Prinzi’s reflections, too). As the site moderator and too-infrequent contributor since P-Day, I can only say “thank you very much” for all you have shared at HogPro.

In thanks and to spur further discussion while I’m packing the moving van today, I have come up with five new Deathly Hallows Discussion Points for your comments and consideration. Enjoy!

21. Philosopher Stone Echoes
22. Comparative Battle Scenes
23. Smuggling the Gospel Fallout
24. Three Controversial Points
25. John Granger at Prophecy 2007 and in Deathly Hallows?!

The First Set:

1. The Covers
2. The Opening Quotations from Aeschylus and Penn
3. The Christian Ending
4. Stoppered Death
5. Narrative Misdirection
6. The Hero’s Journey
7. The Rubedo
8. Postmodern Themes
9. Traditional Symbolism
10. Beheadings
11. Unrequited Love
12. Horcrux Hunting
13. Ron’s Departure and Return
14. Transformations
15. Nazi Echoes
16. The Name Taboo
17. Phallic Phantasy?
18. Fairy Tales
19. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore
20. Disappointed?

Again, “Point, click, wax loquacious!”

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #21: Philosopher’s Stone Echoes

There was no little discussion on this board and others about the structure of the seven book series. Two very well argued positions were that Deathly Hallows had to be a re-telling of Philosopher’s Stone or of Prisoner of Azkaban. I think the Philosopher’s Stone crowd have to be considered the victors here. From the Hagrid echoes (carrying Harry’s body after Voldemort’s attack, his second trip to safety with Harry on Sirius’ motorbike, the pay-back to the Norbert-protectors from the dragon in Gringott’s, etc.) to the Third Day Resurrection in the Hospital Wing and Neville’s part in the defeat of Slytherin, Deathly Hallows seems to be the completion of the circle Ms. Rowling started to draw in Philosopher’s Stone.

This would be the place to post your thoughts on how the septology books worked together (or didn’t) as well as the echoes you heard from Philosopher’s Stone and the other books. I’m especially curious (1) to see if anyone else thought the trials of Deathly Hallows that the Trio endured were similar to the tests they had to pass miles beneath Hogwarts in Stone as eleven year olds and (2) if the surprise endings of the first six books were foreshadowings of the ending in Hallows.

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #22: Comparative Battle Scenes

Something I haven’t read in the many wonderful post at HogPro this past week is discussion of the battle scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, specifically, the Battle of Hogwarts and the Last Battle consequent to Harry’s death that ends in the wizard duels in the Great Hall. Ms. Rowling has said that her writing comes from the compost heap of all the all the things she has read. Her battle scenes seem a remarkable mix of Biblical, historical, and Inkling literature, which seems to support her point. Without neglecting the artistry with which she put together these stories, I thought I saw glimpses or reflections of the battles in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and That Hideous Strength, among others.

We all loved the Frodo wearing the ring hat-tip in the trio wearing the Locket; did anyone else see the Mouth of Sauron and Frodo’s mithril coat when Voldemort showed Harry’s body to his friends? When Voldemort attacked Harry’s body after Narcissa said he was dead, were you thinking of Hektor’s body being dragged around Priam’s towers? When Buckbeak soared into the final fray did you look up to the sky and say, “The Eagles!”?

Please post your thoughts here on the battle scenes in Deathly Hallows and any Biblical, Historical, and Literary references you think Ms. Rowling was making and why she would make these story parallels.

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #23: “Smuggling the Gospel” Fallout

I hope you’ll overlook the unavoidable smugness of this post, which, I’m concerned, borders on the quality of an “I-Told-You-So” put-down. I could, after all, be providing space here for concentrated discussion of the debate between James and Severus hallowers and detractors…

When I finished Deathly Hallows and had put my three youngest children to bed last Sunday, I thought of Don Holmes. My septuagenarian buddy in Bellingham, WA, is a loving giant, well over 6 feet tall and not an unpleasant cell in his body. He graduated from Wheaton College ages ago, has the faith of an elder who has studied and practiced the Gospel message for as long, and reads everything he can get his hands on, especially since his retirement from a career as a Christian book distributor. Don even corresponded briefly with C. S. Lewis when he was a college student. Wonderful man and a better friend.

I thought of Don because of his first two responses to reading Hidden Key to Harry Potter in 2003. First, he called me on the phone (Bellingham is close to the Olympic Peninsula where I was living back then) to congratulate me on “getting it right.” He then wrote Richard Abanes, whose book, Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace behind the Magick, Don had also read. Don asked, nigh on demanded, in light of my book’s demonstration of Ms. Rowling’s faith and the Christian message of Harry Potter, that Mr. Abanes offer a public apology to Ms. Rowling and to the Christian community at large for his mistake and calumny.

Mr. Abanes response was pretty unpleasant. When Don shared the exchange with me, I begged him to drop it. What surprised me was not the response he received, but Don’s surety that I was right. Ms. Rowling, in his mind, after reading the arguments that became Looking for God in Harry Potter, had to be a Christian artist. Even I thought there was a chance I was wrong. Nobody else, after all, was saying what I was saying. Christian defense of the books before Hidden Key had been restricted to saying they were “acceptable” reading for children (with strong reservations) or that they could be read as being Christian stories, if the reader chose to read them wearing that set of tinted glasses rather than another or without eye-wear (see Connie Neal’s The Gospel According to Harry Potter for this sort of reading relativism: “it’s all in how you look at it”).

After finishing Deathly Hallows, then, I thought of Don Holmes and the readers who wrote me to say “thank you” and others who emailed to say they had been won over from the Harry Hating camps by my literary arguments. The Gospel messages and allusions in the series finale were so transparent and edifying, surely, I thought, the Harry Haters must be having second thoughts, if not regrets about things they have said with such conviction the past ten years in print and from pulpit.

I haven’t seen any sign of this. Have you? Richard Abanes wrote me a note during P-Week about his new novel, Homeland Insecurity, but he hasn’t written anything I’ve seen since Deathly Hallows was published. He certainly hasn’t written Don Holmes to apologize for the unkind comments he made about Don’s intelligence and reading ability in 2003. And Brjit Kios? Lev Grossman? Where are the Harry is poison or secular fantasy proponents post Deathly Hallows? And, if they’re not admitting they were wrong, why aren’t they?

Again, please overlook the self-importance of this question. I hope if Deathly Hallows had turned out to be a really nasty piece of work that I would have eaten crow, publicly, in sack cloth and ashes. I’m not asking the same from the many people who have questioned my sanity or suggested I was projecting my beliefs shamelessly into the text. I’m just wondering if any of these people are reconsidering their position in light of Deathly Hallows and, if not, why not?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #24: The Controversial Points

As expected, the Harry Haters and more thoughtful critics found fault with Deathly Hallows, counter-cultural masterpiece and Christian fantasy magnus opus that it is. The sniping and complaints at some Catholic weBlogs friiends have sent me urls to has been especially disappointing, even mind-numbing.

What are the complaints about? How has Ms. Rowling failed this time to meet the standards of acceptable story-telling? Three points come immediately to mind. Please list and discuss the validity and reasoning of others you have seen this past week.

(1) Mrs. Weasley calls Bellatrix Lestrange a “BITCH.”

(2) Harry and other good guys use the Unforgiveable curses, “Imperio,””Crucio,” and “Avadra Kedavra.”

(3) Snape killed Dumbledore on the Astronomy Tower in what amounts to a “Mercy Killing.”

Travis Prinzi raised and responded to the second point at Sword of Gryffindor and Amy Wellborn noted on her weBlog, in answer to RadTrad horror about Albus’ euthanasia and Rowling’s implicit endorsement of the “culture of death” (!) that Aragon’s death was essentially the same agony and acceptance of mortality. But that was St. J.R.R.

Please share your thoughts on these three points, other points you have seen or heard raised as objections, valid and invalid, and interesting discussion of controversial elements or critical failings of the book. I confess to being something like aghast that people are raising the reasons they don’t like the book before saying loudly and clearly how grateful they are that Ms. Rowling wrote these books and ended them as she did. I cannot think of any artist of the 21st Century that has created a book that has “baptized the imagination” and “instructed (in the virtues so profoundly), while delighting” us to laughter and tears, against a rip-tide of pablum and soul-corrosive gunk in reading.

But let’s have some discussion here anyway about things folks didn’t like about Deathly Hallows, even if it is too much like the tourists in Rome who complain about the Michaelangelo painting being so high up on the ceiling and the nudity of the David