Rowling Confesses Desire to be an Alchemist

This just in — albeit from 1998! The web mavens at Hans Andrea’s Harry Potter for Seekers recently highlighted this money quotation from an interview with Ms. Rowling in the UK that was published soon after Chamber of Secrets was released. The full article can be read at right here.

The quotation:

“I’ve never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that’s a different matter. To invent this wizard world, I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy. Perhaps much of it I’ll never use in the books, but I have to know in detail what magic can and cannot do in order to set the parameters and establish the stories’ internal logic.”

To all those skeptical readers who have asked me with denial in their voices, “Has Ms. Rowling ever said there is alchemy in these books?” I now say, “Yes, she has.”

Not that the books themselves didn’t scream “Alchemy, anyone?” from the cover of the first book on, but what a delight to have this unexpected and undeniable confirmation! Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, of course, features an in-depth discussion of Ms. Rowling’s use of alchemy throughout the series and how it points to certain plot points in Deathly Hallows.

Orders for Unlocking Harry Potter made today at will be mailed on Monday of next week, with autograph and all that. If you are new to the idea of literary alchemy and what Ms. Rowling, alchemist wannabe, is about in her use of alchemical images and themes, read ‘The Alchemist’s Tale’ in Touchstone magazine (taken from my “Best In Show” talk at the Nimbus HPEF gathering in 2003). I’ve also written here about the alchemical meaning of the title, Deathly Hallows.

Let me know what you think and what questions you have in the comments boxes below. An alchemical weather report for Deathly Hallows is already up!

Dumbledore Spotted: Stoppered Death the Solution?

As a rule, I am several weeks behind on Fandom news. I don’t visit the websites that update every half hour with new still pictures of the naked Daniel Radcliffe or the cover of the Goblet DVD just released in the Netherlands (“what does that hippogriff head mean?!”) so, unless a friend sends me a note or one of my cadets asks me a question, I’m clueless about the larger media world of Potter-mania.

I gave a talk last Thursday called “The Five Keys and Seven Predictions for Deathly Hallows” at LaSalle University in Philadelphia where at least one serious reader had heard that Ms. Rowling had just renounced Dumbledore’s real death. I tried to explain “Stoppered Death” to her quickly but made a mental note to check Travis Prinzi’s website,, when I got home.

Sure enough, Travis had posted something on this a week or so ago. The original article is here with commentary here. The meat of the subject is this:

Harry Potter fans around the world cannot help but be excited over Dan Radcliffe’s latest interview. In an interview that appears in today’s edition of The Sunday Times, Dan Radcliffe talks about being Harry Potter and he also talks about his roll in Equus, but the real reason Harry Potter fans are excited is because this interview includes a small bit of a conversation that Dan Radcliff had with J.K. Rowling. Dan shared this information with The Sunday Times:

“Jo came down to the set at one point and I said, ‘Oh hello, why are you here today?’ And she said, ‘Oh I just needed a break from the book – Dumbledore’s giving me a lot of trouble.’ And I said, ‘But isn’t he dead?’ And she said, ‘Well, yeah, but it’s more complex…’ I was like, [briskly] ‘OK, I’m not gonna ask anything else!” [Read more…]

Harry as Horcrux 101 (A): What They are, Why He is One

My new book, Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for The Serious Reader, because it is published in the last days of the Interlibrum, has an unfortunate amount of speculation in it. I say “unfortunate” not because I am an Ivory Tower wonk that despises Fandom and the excitement of waiting on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; as you know, I love a good theory as much as the next Tweenie. The number of pages in Unlocking Harry Potter devoted to speculation, however, are all pages I will have to throw out in August. This book, unlike Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?, is about what Harry Potter is about, which is to say, why we love the books, why they are so good, the artistry and genius of the author, etc. The post Deathly Hallows version, sans speculation, will be the finished product — and a book that should stay in print as long as folks are reading and thinking about Harry and the attendant Potter Mania.

Having said all that, I think you can understand why my editor at Zossima Press made the painful decision to cut a speculative chapter out of Unlocking. It’s fun but it didn’t advance the purpose of the book significantly. My frenetic guesswork from 2005 about what happened in Godric’s Hollow doesn’t tell us anything essential about the Five Keys a Serious Reader wants and needs.

So I’ll post this speculative chapter here for your pleasure and reflection before Deathly Hallows appears. It comes in three parts: part 1 is just a review of Horcrux thinking, part 2 explains how Harry became a Horcrux, and part 3 answers the first reactions I got to this theory in 2005 and 2006 on my private boards. The theory is a lot simpler than the Red Hen’s brilliant explanation of the Horcrux creation/killing curse with Voldemort’s skill at possession. The advantage it has, if any, beyond simplicity, is that it makes Lord Voldemort’s wand a Horcrux, too (which would explain why he doesn’t seem to understand right away that Harry’s scar is a Horcrux). While I dread the inevitable destruction of a pet theory, I put it up here for you all to reflect on, support, or tear apart as the spirit moves you. Please pardon the references to the book of which this chapter was the last word or end cap.


Animampono Baculum: How Harry Became a Horcrux (Part 1)

“I wanted him to be physically marked by what he has been through. It was an outward expression of what he has been through inside. I gave him a scar and in a prominent place so other people would recognize him. It is almost like being the chosen one, or the cursed one, in a sense. Someone tried to kill him; that’s how he got it. I chose the lightning bolt because it was the most plausible shape for a distinctive scar. As you know, the scar has certain powers, and it gives Harry warnings. I can’t say more than that, but there is more to say.” [Read more…]

Harry as Horcrux 101 (B): How Harry became a Horcrux

continued from Harry as Horcrux 101 (A) above:

“But, John, HOW could this Horcrux have been made?”

Okay. I hear you. No need to shout. Let’s review quickly and get to the “how.”

There are seven quick reasons why Harry’s scar being a Horcrux seems logical. A scar Horcrux answers questions that are otherwise mysteries that readers have just come to live with. There is one major objection to this possibility, however.

How could Voldemort have mistakenly made a Horcrux on, of all people, the child prophesied to kill him and not realized his mistake? Good question.

It certainly wasn’t made intentionally. As Dumbledore told Harry in the passage above, Lord Voldemort came to the Potters’ home that Halloween night to kill James and Harry, not create a “Potter Horcrux” on Harry’s forehead. How then could the scar Horcux have been made accidentally and in such a way that Voldemort wouldn’t have known what happened until, like Harry, he realized he had a mind-link with the boy?

Let‚Äôs recreate the events leading up to Harry‚Äôs parents‚Äô murder. [Read more…]

Harry as Horcrux 101 (C): Answers to Objections

continued from Harry as Horcrux 101 (B) above:

Objections and Answers to objections

As most of you know, I do not surf the internet Potterverse. I do post my reflections for feedback on this weBlog where I hope you will all join the conversation. From friends on this weBlog and my provate boards I received five principal objections last year. I’ll try to spell out these objections as fairly as possible (in the words of the original post-er) and answer each one as best I can.

1. The first objection is that Animampono diminishes Lily‚Äôs sacrifice. Beth Krause wrote me to say that ‚Äúwhat has bothered me from the start‚Äù about this theory ‚Äúis that it ignores or trivializes the importance of Lily‚Äôs sacrifice.‚Äù Travis Prinzi echoed this criticism by saying that it seemed I was trying to make Lily‚Äôs love something quantitative that would evoke an almost mechanical response rather than remain mysterious. Several other readers said that they, too, preferred the undefined ‚Äúsaving quality‚Äù of Lily‚Äôs love to the resonance-reaction from Voldemort‚Äôs wand-and-near-Horcrux. [Read more…]