Rowling’s Harry Potter and Victor Hugo’s Cosette


Those of you who have read Deathly Hallows Lectures (and, if you haven’t, please do), know that I think that Ron and Hermione Weasley name their first son ‘Hugo’ as a hat tip to the French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. I discussed this briefly on the PotterCast LiveStream show the Potter Pundits did last Thursday, but I wanted to fill out those comments here.

In brief, Ms. Rowling in bringing up Victor Hugo in the Epilogue to Deathly Hallows, via the name of a child, is completing the circle of her seven book series which begins with a pointed reference to the orphan child of Les Miserables, Cosette, in Harry Potter, the boy who lives in a spider infested space beneath the stairs.

Before I get to that, though, let’s review the Rowling-Hugo connection. Yes, she was a French major at Exeter. But what connections or similarities are there between the Harry Potter novels and Victor Hugo’s work?

Quite a few. [Read more…]

‘Alchemists Everywhere!’ A HogsHead PubCast

Part 1 of the conversation I had with Travis Prinzi about literary alchemy is up at The Hog’s Head. Mr. Prinzi, author of Harry Potter and Imagination, and I have been talking publicly and privately for years about alchemical symbolism in Ms. Rowling’s fiction but this PubCast exchange centers on the remarkable explosion of excellent work — and also the most popular series of novels in print today — all of which feature traditional alchemical story scaffolding: not only Harry Potter, but Twilight and The Hunger Games as well. We try to explain why this is happening and why the alchemical formulae work across widely divergent genres, auctorial focus, and themes as well as they do. Tune in!

The Astrological Hidden Key to Harry Potter?

I have been neglecting my Harry Potter studies of late with only occasional posts here, for which I hope you will forgive me. Except for talks with my friends the Potter Pundits — James Thomas and Travis Prinzi — for Leaky Cauldron’s Potter Cast, the usual correspondence with readers, and weekly trips to the Hog’s Head Tavern for a Taddy Porter, I’ve been neck deep in Twilight work (talks and interviews to get the word out about my new book, Spotlight) and reading books recommended to me by friends here, most notably, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. So, as you know if you’ve been stopping by of late, there hasn’t been much going on at Hogwarts Professor.

I don’t usually post just to post so gaps in action here are okay but I do have one regret about my distraction from Potter matters. Last December I was sent an intriguing idea that may join two of the more interesting qualities of the Hogwarts Saga, namely, the alchemical scaffolding and the chiastic structure of the story circle (a-b-c-d-c-b-a). The idea also solves something of a mystery about the books: the astrological symbolism that I haven’t heard anyone make much sense of. Erin Sweeney, though, may have pulled it off. After too long a time in my “to post” file, here is her theory after a short introduction about why she shared it with me: [Read more…]

‘Sacramental World of Harry Potter’

If you thought the ‘Christian Controversy’ was over because the Boston Globe reported that Harry is now a staple in college curricula across the country, you were wrong. The new face of the controversy is not if Harry Potter is Christian but if he is properly Christian. Frankly, this is a much more interesting conversation.

David Nilsen, a Historical Theology major at Westminster Seminary, posted a wonderfully complimentary essay on the A-Team Christian Apologetics blog (“Speak the Truth, but Do it in Love, Fool!”) about Harry Potter. In ‘The Sacramental World of Harry Potter’ he asserts that while Ms. Rowling’s Hogwarts Adventures are Christian, because they are written in a sacramental literary tradition (English fantasy), they depart from the victory Reformation theology won over medieval Catholicism in having “desacralized” the natural world. [Read more…]

Ms. Rowling’s ‘Real World’ Wizards and Witches: 17th Century Christian-Hermetic Magi ‘Seekers’

[This is the second part of a two-part post on Muggles, Seekers, and their real world 17th Century counterparts. For the first part on Muggletonians, go here.]

Real quick: Name three events of English history that took place in the 17th Century. That’s the 1600’s, right?

My best friend in High School took a year off from college to travel through Europe. As a ‘Harvard man,’ he soon found that German friends at parties after a few beers liked to joke about how ignorant even the most intelligent Americans are by asking him questions about when certain things happened in their country’s history, questions that any French, English, or German child would know. Bob said he realized one night, when everyone thought it was funny that he couldn’t name the date of the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the Unification of Germany, that they weren’t so smart either. He asked them auf Deutsch what had happened in the United States between 1860 and 1865. No one had a clue.

So don’t feel bad if you didn’t very quickly say, when prompted by the words “English history 17th Century,” ‘English Civil War,’ ‘Restoration,’ and ‘Glorious Revolution‘ as most Brits would. How many American high schools offer European History and how many colleges require a Homer-to-Hitler Western Civilization sequence any more?

I bring this up, though, not to congratulate you on being as history-challenged as most of us, but to point out that not knowing even the time-line political benchmarks of 17th Century England makes us ill prepared for understanding why Ms. Rowling places the key event in Wizarding World history in 1692. It isn’t arbitrary and the date really does help understand why non-magical folk in the Hogwarts Saga are disdainfully called “Muggles” and why Quidditch heroes are “Seekers.” And, yes, it’s largely about alchemy. [Read more…]