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.


  1. I read Deathly Hallows with the expectation it would have very strong parallels to Prisoner of Azkaban, and while I did find many, I found even more to Goblet of Fire. I think the Triwizard Tasks are repeated in the discovery of Gryffindor’s Sword in the icy pool, the retrieval of the Hufflepuff Cup with a dragon guarding it, and the search for the Ravenclaw diadem with it’s Sphinx-like question at the tower.
    Here is a lengthy post about these from my blog:

    I think reading Deathly Hallows specifically for these parallels would reveal a list for each book in the series, I really enjoyed coming across these in the book, and I look forward to reading other peoples’ take on this. I’m sure others will see things I didn’t think of. I never considered the parallel of Neville and the defeat Slytherin, but it’s really obvious now that it’s been pointed out.

    Some that really stood out for me were:
    The Shrieking Shack scene (PoA)
    An (offscreen) visit to the Chamber of Secrets (CoS)
    The Deluminator (SS and OotP)
    The retrieval of the Gryffindor Sword from the Sorting Hat (CoS)
    Like the Firebolt, the anonymous gift at Christmas of the Sword (PoA)
    A sneakoscope for Harry’s birthday (PoA)
    Like the Time-Turner, turning the Resurrection Stone 3 time to activate it (PoA)
    Various asides and comments by characters made reference to all the previous books.

    As for your question about the trials of the Trio, I feel they were more similar to the Triwizard tasks, as I mentioned above.

    I do think the surprise endings were setting us up for the ending of Hallows. Each book had a case of mistaken identity, and Voldemort, when he appeared at the end, always underestimated Harry. The series was inevitably leading to a major case of mistaken identity, and Snape filled that role for the entire series.

  2. I thought Hagrid would have been a key for helping harry unlock a mystery, turns out a false lead. The Dursley’s are very different than they were in the beginning, as now being thankful to have known Harry in the end and for his help. Harry, being able to talk to snakes helped tremendously in the last book, a major and helpful clue. Evidently, Dudley and fam did get to break on through to the other side of the glass to achieve a higher level of spirituality, forgiveness. The motorcycle almost killed Harry in the end, so not very helpful. Of course Ron and Hermione helped tremendously in the end and all the way through the series in many ways. We learned from Snape’s memory that the draught of living death was real and he did cook it up for someone important, even though he did not get the chance in time to prolong his life longer. We also learn he was a good guy in the end working for DD, and was in love with Lily and even knew Petunia (and she even wished to go to Hogwarts after all she put Harry through). McGonagal was faithful and very supportive and helpful to the end. The entire Weasley family was so important through the series. We did see a dragon in the end as I predicted, but I would have like to have known it was Norbert, why introduce if you don’t play him out later. The sorcerer’s stone was not helpful really, but did introduce us to the theme of alchemy and the structure of coming books and ends up turning Harry into gold after all. Of course Gringotts was important after all, but I thought LV would have a vault there, never would I imagine Bellatrix would have a vauly of LV’s things, but especially Griffindors. Even though the sword was a fake. Obviously Ollivander was important, but not as useful as I would have expected concerning the deathly hallows. Goblins were very useful, but dangerous as Hagrid described. We did learn most of what happened on Halloween night years ago, although I still have questions about that night.

  3. I think it’s very significant that the series, which can be seen as an extended meditation on death, begins and ends with the chiasmus of two stones, one of which keeps its user alive in this world for so long as the stone exists, and the other of which brings back, imperfectly, those who have gone on. And ultimately, both of these stones are laid down, their use forsworn. Although John was quite right in the pattern he saw repeat in the books, and Harry did have his death experience in the presence of a symbol of Christ, the Resurrection Stone was only a symbol, and therefore not to be clutched at. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. “

  4. I also see a chiastic structure, with Goblet of Fire as the turning point. But book 7 also contains elements from all previous books.

    I loved the Neville act in the defeat of Voldemort, it clearly mirrored his act in book 1.

  5. fastboy21 says

    i’d thought for a long time that Ron was a dead man walking since he sacrificed himself in PS during the wizard chess challenge in order for harry to get to the end. I thought he would very likely have to repeat the sacrifice again for Harry to get to Voldemort, only his death would be real this time.

    turns out, of course, that I was wrong.

  6. Well, there was sort of a mirror in his retreaving of the Sword of Gryffindor. Both that and his sacrifice in Philosopher’s Stone had to do with courage and daring.

  7. I didn’t even have to go back and look for all the foreshadowing and reiteration, from Half-Blood Prince all the way back to Philosopher’s Stone. The instant Horcruxes were explained in HBP, I knew Harry had to be a living Horcrux, mostly due to the constant theme of there being an intrinsic connection between Harry and Voldemort. There are, however, echoes back to every single book that I can see, which can be found at my DevArt Journal:

  8. A very strong hint as to what the series was really all about, and one I completely missed at the time, was Harry’s position on the Quiddich team: Seeker.

  9. Bob Hawkins says

    Note that Philosopher’s Stone ended with Harry getting the Stone because he didn’t want to use it. Deathly Hallows ended with Harry getting simultaneous ownership of the three Hallows, but refusing to even unite them; where Grindelwald and Dumbledore, far more powerful wizards who wanted the Hallows precisely to unite and use their power, had failed.

    I think this confirms the “Seven Challenges” theory, which is that the seven obstacles which Harry overcomes in Philosophers Stone, foreshadow key points in the respective books.

  10. Arabella Figg says

    Love these comments! Only take issue with one.

    Rumor says ” Evidently, Dudley and fam did get to break on through to the other side of the glass to achieve a higher level of spirituality, forgiveness”

    Only Dudders seemed to transcend the family dance. He even hoped to see Harry in the future. But I saw no transformation or breaking through in Vernon and Petunia. They stayed true to themelseves to the end; very sad.

    I think Dudley began to see Harry and himself differently after the dementor attack in OotP and Dumbledore’s visit in HBP. Perhaps there’s hope for him yet.

    There goes Thudders, hogging the kitty dish again…

  11. I’ve been re-reading Deathly Hallows and am nearing the end–they are searching for the lost diadem (which I’m quite pleased to say was something that I acutally got right, though not with the back story or the way they find it, of course).

    On my second read-through, I’ve been jotting notes in the margins. Often they are about echoes of previous books. I see them more as an echo than a direct retelling of something. Take a look at Sirius’s motorbike, for instance. Hagrid arrives at Privet Drive in PS/SS, riding/flying it, bringing Harry from the wizarding world to the Muggle one. And in DH Hagrid takes Harry from the Muggle world back to the wizarding world on the same bike. Yes, it is somewhat of a disaster, to put it mildly, but that’s because there are other things going on.

    So while it’s an echo–a reminder–we also see how much more complicated and dangerous Harry’s life is now that Voldemort has truly returned. But with that motorbike, we are also reminded of Sirius, and that’s without any particular exposition; Sirius, though gone, is still in Harry’s heart.

    The rescue group itself is an echo of Harry’s Advance Guard in Order of the Phoenix. This one, unlike the first rescue, is seemingly better planned, even though things go horribly awry. But that’s all tied to Dumbledore’s advice to Snape that he leak the date–but not the information that there were mulitple Harrys. It’s one of those uncomfortable reminders that Dumbledore did have a grand plan and that he did put his plan ahead of everyone, including Snape and Harry, the two who had been most loyal to him.

    But anyway, back to Philosopher’s Stone. Someone already mentioned the Stone in both books and that Harry doesn’t want to find them so that he can use them but to prevent them from falling into Voldemort’s hands, or someone else as evil. The Stones are similar in their purpose. The Philosopher’s Stone will enable the user to have eternal life, while the Resurrection Stone will enable the owner to bring someone back, though not in human entirely form. They will return in ghostly form, much as Nearly Headless Nick, who (in OP) told Harry that he had not been brave enough to “go on”, that most people would not prefer an existence that is neither here nor there. So both Stones have a sort of commentary about what happens when a person tries to cheat Death, and Harry would not have done either.

    Then there are the seven trials in PS. There may be an echo of each one, though I don’t think it’s all in book 7. And I don’t think that some are particularly more than a nod to the trials. The one that stood out to me was the chess reference. When they arrived at Xeno Lovegood’s house, it looked like a giant rook (which Hermione thinks of the bird *snort*). And Ron, the chess player, tells her that’s a castle. But likely, it is the shape that makes Ron think of a rook. (It also made me think of a book JKR said she liked–“I Capture the Castle”.) And when Ron sees it as a rook, we are taken back to all the times he played wizard chess in book 1, and throughout the books, and especially to the chess game when he sacrificed himself to save Harry. It doesn’t so much foreshadow Ron sacrificing himself at that moment, but that he has been willing to do so in the past, and will be again.

    The potions in PS, which were Snape’s protection, are an echo of the green potion in the Cave in HBP, with the explanation coming in Deathly Hallows. The reason I see it as an echo is that in both one and seven it was necessary to work out the puzzle of how to get round a potion that is intended to poison the drinker–Hermione works out the puzzle in book one and enables Harry to go on while she can go safely back to get help, while in book seven we learn what the potion made Dumbledore see (not at all what I thought), but also how Regulus solved the puzzle and outsmarted Voldemort. Both puzzle solutions lead to the same thing–a way for Harry to have the opportunity to defeat Voldemort as well as a resolution to some of the hatred between the races–the understanding between the trio and Kreacher (something I never in a million years expected to happen–and one of the nicest surprises in DH).

    Another big echo was the return to Gringotts in book seven. We may have been back inside the bank in the books in between, but I don’t remember them as anything significant (and without looking, I’d say we weren’t there–only references to Harry’s money being taken out, once by Bill). But in book one we spent a lot of time there, learning about goblins, about the bank itself, about the rumor that there was a dragon (and there was some fire coming from one of the side tunnels), about what happens to people who try to rob Gringotts. All of that, while being rather exciting and interesting, was as Janet Batchler would say, the set-up for Harry’s return to Gringotts in search of the cup, and possibly other Horcruxes.

    The goblins, it turns out, are every bit as cruel to other creatures as they complain the wizards are to them. Imagine forcing a creature like a dragon, something huge that lives alone in the wild, to live its life underground and chained, fearing the sound of clankers because its been tortured, never allowed to smell fresh air or see the hills and lakes. They’ve also devised some pretty awful methods for trapping would-be thieves–the duplicating, burning treasure. (A warning of what happens when one is too focused on acquiring earthly treasures?) Of course, as Ron points out to Griphook, the bank has been broken into–when Quirrell tried to steal the Philosopher’s Stone and failed. But Quirrell did come out of that unscathed–at least unscathed by any of the goblin protections. So, the goblins show themselves, just as Voldemort does, to be arrogant in a way that leads to their defeat–defeat, because Harry is able to “steal” the cup from the Lestranges high-security vault, and he, Ron and Hermione escape.

    In book one, Gringotts almost seems to hold a place of reverence when Hagrid talks about it. Yet in book seven, we watch the destruction of the only wizarding bank. The protections, the ones set by the goblins, were effective when the goblins were true to their purpose of protecting the treasure of its depositors, but once the bank itself was corrupted by wizards, Death Eaters, not even the goblin protection was enough to stop Harry from doing what was right. So in that way, we came full circle on the bank, with the realization that an institution is only as good as its true purpose and its security is only as good as those who are in charge.

    Harry first hears of and sees Hogwarts in book one, of course, when he learns he’s a wizard. But in that first book and in HBP as well, we spend over a third of the time NOT at Hogwarts. In fact, in HBP, there is little time spend in the normal everyday activities that we saw in the middle books, except in Slughorn’s Potions class which are nearly a complete opposite to Snape’s first classes. We, and Harry, spend a lot of time learning things from Snape in HPB, though Harry has no idea that his beloved Prince is the one person he is the most determined to hate. That’s one of the things I really liked in the Epilogue and especially in the chapter, “The Prince’s Tale”–finding out that Snape, disagreeable and nasty as he was, was true to his promise to Dumbledore in ways that Harry had never imagined. The character of Snape in the first book was so flat to me–the mean teacher who went out of his way to assert his authority over all the students, not just Harry (but especially Harry), turns out to be a hero because there was so much depth to his character. And I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way Rowling wrote Snape’s story–she didn’t turn him into some cuddly warm-hearted character but left him as the flawed, but finally understood and appreciated hero that he always yearned to be.

    Half-Blood Prince focuses on things in the past and in the future, things that have nothing to do with regular classes and Quidditch (I’m one of the few who didn’t miss Quidditch, btw). But the point was that Harry needed to prepare for what he needed to face, and sitting in the Great Hall for a cozy meal, or having Quidditch practice and games, or sitting around the Gryffindor common room studying and chatting, were the things of his childhood, and things to be left behind. The simplest way to make the point was to deprive Harry of all of those things by not having him return to Hogwarts. By sending the trio on the run, with all the camping and moving and near misses at being caught, Rowling gave us a real picture of the kind of war they are fighting. It’s not a neat and tidy one, but one that means the freedom fighters have to go underground, into hiding, very often working in small groups rather than as a large organized (and well cared for) army. I thought of the people all over Europe who hid Jewish families during World War II or helped them to freedom, much to their peril, when the trio was rescued and hid at the Tonks’s house before going to Auntie Muriel’s and at Shell Cottage, and of the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, smuggling the slaves to safe houses, with Aberforth smuggling them in and out of Hogwarts and providing the refugees in residence with food and information.

    Quite honestly, who would have wanted to spend more time at Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows, given what it’s become. When we see Neville and Seamus and all the others, and hear how the place that Harry (and all of us) loved has been desecrated, I was glad we didn’t have to see the daily details of that horror. Just imagining them was bad enough.

    And of course, we have Neville, who in book one was brave enough to stand up against his friends, showing in book seven that he is brave enough to stand up FOR his friends against all enemies, in ways we never dreamed possible for Neville. Fantastic complete circle, that one.

    In the first book, we see Harry being left at the Dursleys, a place where he will wait until he is old enough to take his place in the Wizarding world; in Deathly Hallows, we see Harry forced once again into the Muggle world, apart from the world where he belongs, once again waiting until the right time for him to return, but this time it is with a terror hanging over the heads of all of them, where in the first book it was with a feeling that the terror had gone. The difference between the two books is that we don’t know what we are missing of the wizarding world in book one and in book seven, we do. But both are frustrating times for Harry, both show his helplessness, with it being even more frustrating in book seven when he knows what he is missing.

    I thought Rowling did an excellent job of tying up all the lose ends. No, she didn’t answer every question, but it turns out that was because we had way too much time and too many questions to answer. There has to be something of mystery left in a book or it reads like an encyclopedia–boring. There has to be something where the reader fills in the missing information. She wrote the story that she wanted to write, and it does seem to come full circle–or more like a spiral, I suppose. Each book comes back around to Harry returning to his Muggle existence, but with more knowledge and understanding of what his life is to be. With the last book, we see Harry and Ron and Hermione putting all those puzzle pieces from their previous six years together, we see that they have all overcome their short-comings from the first books, and that they have remained the true friends they were meant to be and true to their original goals of doing the right thing, making the right choices, and of making the world a better place to be.


  12. Thank you, Pat! Really wonderful post, as always….

    Grateful John

  13. Pat, I’m so glad you brought up Neville. I have always loved his character, and I think we definitely get wonderful Philosopher Stone kinds of echoes when we see him play such an important role at the end Deathly Hallows. Just as those ten points awarded to Neville by Dumbledore put Gryffindor over the edge for the house cup all those years ago, so Neville’s contribution really pushes things over the edge again at the end, and places Harry in the exact place he needs to be to finish off Voldemort. And in both cases, Neville’s contribution shows courage…just different kinds of courage, as you point out. Neville has grown.

    And less we miss the point that he’s grown in courage, JKR made it clear for everyone to see that Neville was a true Gryffindor by having him pull the sword out of the sorting hat. And he kills a serpent with it! And not just any serpent, but one who protects a piece of Voldemort! Major, major echoes from Chamber of Secrets, with Neville taking on Harry’s role here! (And I love that, because it seems to tie in so well with the fact that the prophecy really could have been about Neville all along…his story and Harry’s stories seem so closely bound together.) I had hoped for Chamber echoes, but had wrongly speculated that we might get a Fawkes/Nagini showdown, like we had a Fawkes/basilisk showdown earlier. I am very glad that it was Neville, instead, who killed Nagini. A much more satisfying “full circle” kind of conclusion.

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