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?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #19: The Lives and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Much of the action of Deathly Hallows is the peeling of the onion to get to the truth about Albus Dumbledore and his relationship with Harry. We learn with Harry (and everyone else) a lot of information about the late headmaster that is true from Rita Skeeter in The Daily Prophet and in her book. These facts even shorn of the Skeeter/Ministry spin are still very disturbing. What we learn on the travels, from Aberforth, and from the Pensieve and Severus’ memory don’t do much to reassure us about Dumby’s personal history, his intentions and his methods. “Secrets and lies” are his natural currency, it seems; using people his forte. And yet Harry willingly sacrifices himself in The Forest Again and is happy to see and speak with the man in King’s Cross. What is Ms. Rowling telling us, if anything, about sacred cows and authority figures? About understanding and judging others? What is your final verdict on Albus Dumbledore as a person and wizard?

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #20: Disappointed?

I put up three “sure thing predictions” this time last week at before posting my more speculative guesses using the Five Keys in my Book ( Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader): (1) Deathly Hallows would sell well, (2) We would see spoiler books by the time of release, and (3) a lot of folks were going to be disappointed in how Ms. Rowling ended this series. I got the first two pints right (duh). Are you disappointed with the finale? Scratching your head about which person late in life does magic? Confused (and upset) about the mechanics of Harry becoming a Horcrux (“only living object nearby”?)? What questions do you still have or faults do you see in how it all turned out?