Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #25: John Granger in Toronto — and a DH Hat Tip?!

I am moving my whole famn damily to our new home in Fogelsville (wonderfully, an old jarhead friend from DLI has materialized to help; gotta love the magical friendships made in the Green Gun Club…) while starting a new job and trying to get to my two Deathly Hallows talks for Prophecy 2007 next Saturday. Yes, I’m a little distracted.

And did I mention that there is a lot more interest in my “Christian Content of Deathly Hallows” talk then there was before 21 July? The Prophecy programmers months ago made the Alchemical report card my “Featured Presentation” and put the “Christian talk” early in the morning, first thing Saturday. I expect there will be a much bigger crowd for that than the Rubedo update.

The talk subjects?

Harry’s Victory over Death: The Christian Content of “Deathly Hallows” – Presentation
John Granger
Saturday, August 4, 9:00 a.m.-9:50 a.m. – Osgoode Ballroom (East & West)

For several years, Christian objections to Harry Potter were “*the* Controversy.” John Granger helped slay that dragon. His Looking for God in Harry Potter, by approaching the books as literature and explaining how the books could only have been written by a Christian within a Christian literary tradition made the idea that the books were demonic hard to take seriously. Granger’s discussions of the themes, resurrection motifs, and specific images of Christ (the phoenix, unicorn, Philosopher’s Stone, white stag, griffin, etc.) Ms. Rowling uses has made it clear that she is what she says she is, namely, a Christian artist. She told an interviewer in 2000 that her faith would be evident to any reader after the seventh book. Join the entertaining authority on Rowling as a Christian author in his lively discussion of the *Deathly Hallows*’s Christian content and the similarities and differences between Rowling, Lewis, and Tolkien.

The Alchemical End-Game: The Rubedo in “Deathly Hallows”
John Granger
Saturday August 4th – 2:00 PM to 2:50 PM – Grand Ballroom West

Ms. Rowling has said that her study of alchemy set the magical parameters and internal logic of her Harry Potter novels. John Granger, author of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, is the leading authority on Literary Alchemy in Fandom. He has explained at how *Phoenix* and * Prince* were each a step in the alchemical work and featured images, themes, and the death of a character with a name specific to that stage. *Hallows*, consequently, is expected to be the final, red stage or Rubedo, complete with the Alchemical Wedding, the resolution of contraries, and perhaps even the death of the red character or characters (Rubeus, Rufus, and the Weasleys.). Granger’s talk on Alchemy at Nimbus 2003 was chosen “Best Presentation” of the 65 talks and panels in Orlando. His talk on the alchemical meaning of *Deathly Hallows* promises to be at least as good.

I am also moderating the Friday luncheon panel with many of my favorite University professor friends that are Potter Mavens. Given the quality of thinking in that group, I will be taking a lot of notes to share with you here…

My ten minutes of Warholian fame ended last weekend with the Deathly Hallows publication. It was gratifying, frankly, to see that Ms. Rowling delivered on the prediction she made in 2000 that our questions about her faith would be answered in the last book of the series. I have received a few notes from friends in the UK and the US congratulating me on having “gotten this right” so long ago and having insisted on it when the ideas of Ms. Rowling being a Christian writer and of her work being worthy of literary examination and exegesis were both considered silly. Stratford Caldecott’s brief note written immediately after reading Hallows was especially kind.

I’m afraid Toronto must be anti-climax after reading Hallows and receiving these notes. Those fans and readers at Prophecy 2007 who remember those days probably don’t want to recall their resistance to my thesis; those who don’t remember “The Controversy” think the alchemical, postmodern, and Christian keys have always been Fandom cannon (canon?) fodder and are immunized against a sense of history in these things. Which suits me fine. After Prophecy 2007 and updating my books, I expect to restrict my Harry Potter work to this weBlog and occasional talks at colleges.

But before this resignation of my public persona, I offer this bizarre possibility for your consideration. Could Ms. Rowling have read my books and appreciated my defense of her work way back when? Enough to have mentioned me by name in the text of Deathly Hallows?

On page 126 (Scholastic, Deathly Hallows), Ms. Rowling apparently changed Hermione’s middle name from “Jane” to “Jean.” “Jean,” of course, is French for “John” so we see Dumbledore giving the book that must be interpreted correctly at well below the surface meaning to “John Granger.

Or so a few people have written me. The truth is that it was a typo Cheryl Klein didn’t catch at Scholastic or that Ms. Rowling has a close woman friend named “Jean” (it is one of Mackenzie’s middle names according to the Lexicon) or that she didn’t like Dolores and Hermione sharing “Jane” as a middle name. Each of these possibilities is more credible than the andogynous reading of “John Granger,” I’m afraid; when I was reading the book aloud to my children, I didn’t make the connection. I thought it was a typo for “Jane,” the first (and only) mistake I caught in the book. I didn’t even understand the first email I received congratulating me on the Hat-Tip.

But other people thought the meaning of the name-change was a no-brainer. To these readers it meant, “Thank you, John.”

The following is a combination of two letters sent to me last week:

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Jul 23, 2007 8:00 PM
Subject: Jean Granger?
To: John Granger < >

Birthname: Hermione Jean Granger. In 2004, Jo told us Hermione’s middle name was Jane (WBD); however Rowling changed it to ‘Jean’ in Book 7, possibly so that Hermione and Dolores Umbridge would not share the same middle name. ‘Jean’ is also one of the middle names of Rowling’s daughter Mackenzie.

kylie: Thanks for writing such wonderful books, Ms Rowling :). Just one question: What are Ron, Hermione and Ginny’s middle names? Thank you 🙂
JK Rowling replies -> My pleasure:) Middle names: Ginny is Molly, of course, Hermione ‘Jane’ and Ron, poor boy, is Bilius.

From Deathly Hallows (Scholastic pages 126-127):

“‘To Miss Hermione Jean Granger, I leave my copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, in the hope that she will find it entertaining and instructive.”

Dear John,
I’m thinking Ms. Rowling is tipping her hat in your direction! ‘Jean’, after all is the French for “John” (the woman was a French major, right?), and Dumbledore’s dedication is a pointer to Spencer’s note about literature frequently quoted by CSL that it should “instruct while delighting.” Could it be that the original “Jane” in 2004 after Hidden Key was a pointer, too, but, because it was not picked up, she made it more explicit in Deathly Hallows?

In a book with the meaning and ending you’ve written about for more than five years, I think it’s possible she’s telling the world how smart you are the only way she can short of a certified letter. Look at it this way…

“The Tales” reminds me of Dickens (The Tale of Two Cities, a connection you explored at length in HogPro last week), The Bard (Shakespeare, the literary alchemist), and Beedle (alternate Beadle) might be another Dicken’s reference: “a parish constable; in the Scottish church one who attends the minister during divine service . A famous fictional constabular beadle is Mr Bumble from Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist.”

She has the Greybeard WiseMan of the series give a book to once “Jane” now “Jean Granger,” the French version of “John Granger.” The book’s title points to Alchemy and Christianity in literature and the Granger character has to figure out its hidden meaning to solve the mystery that drives the action in Deathly Hallows.

And, again, there’s Dumbledore’s expressed purpose in the bequest, that Granger find it “entertaining and instructive”! Rowling must be refering to the traditional purpose of literature – echoing what Sydney and Lewis have said before her, namely, that Great Books “instruct while delighting,” something mentioned in almost everything you have written about Rowling.

It obviously could be a coincidence, as Rowling’s daughter’s middle name is “Jean” or if the Lexicon knows Rowling says it was a mistake to give Dolores and Hermione the same middle name, but it is a meaningful coincidence just the same – since the Dumbledore dedication reflects a major tenet of English literature that you have discussed in each of your books.

So, congratulations! You been revealed in the last book of the series as “spot-on” about all the Five Keys you mentioned in Unlocking Harry Potter and as the first and best interpreter of Rowling’s books within the context of traditional Christian literature. And best of all, the author herself may have acknowledged you within the text.

Three Cheers! How rare is it to have been right and to be acknowledged for it in print?

The worst thing that can happen in my being the one to publish this possibility for public consideration, is of course, that Ms. Rowling will be asked about the possibility, she will deny it, and I will be known ever after as “that arrogant git who ‘looked for god in Harry Potter’ and only found his own name.” If it is my name hidden there in the text, though, I take it as a hat tip to all the readers who have championed Ms. Rowling’s edifying message through thick and thin and from long ago. My name only worked because she didn’t give Hermione the last name “Byatt,” “Bloom,” “Grossman,” or the other critics who locked onto Ms. Rowling’s message so perceptively and persuasively…

As you’d expect, I am asked (by reporters who may or may not have read the books…) as often as not if I am related to Hermione. I usually say I am a Squibb cousin. Maybe I should say now that Hermione and I are not related – but Hermione was named after me. What do you think? Typo or Hat-Tip?

Cast your ballots:

The change from Jane to Jean was:

(a) to distinguish the very similar Dolores and Hermione so readers wouldn’t confuse them;
(b) to honor the lady “Jean” that is a friend of Ms. Rowling;
(c) a typo that the Scholastic folks missed on their continuity checks; or
(d) a tip of the hat to “John Granger” and the HogPro All-Pros who take Harry seriously.

Votes will be counted and the final tally posted on my Hotel Room door in Toronto.


  1. John, I really couldn’t guess as to the four choices, but I’d certainly be thrilled to find that the answer is (d).

    I did, though, have a thought about something exciting in the post-DH period. After HBP came out, JKR gave the famous interview to Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron – representing the fandom community. It’s a longshot, but wouldn’t it be extremely cool for her to now give an interview to, say, you and Janet Batchler, to answer the sort of questions that “our lot” would be interested in?

    Now that the series is over, I wonder if she’d be willing to give us the *real* reason behind Harry’s name.


  2. I don’t know if it helps, but I don’t know if Scholastic is to blame. If they are, the Bloomsbury folks share it as well, because the British edition calls Hermione ‘Jean’.

  3. Didn’t “Jane” come from an oral interview given by JKR, so that she could have said “Jean” but been misheard? I believe this is the first time we’ve seen Hermione’s middle name in print from JKR, isn’t that correct?

    So her name was always Hermione Jean Granger. Not that this helps answer your multiple choice question, John….

    I just wish I could be at Prophecy to hear you and Travis! Sigh….

    –Janet B.

  4. Our friend Lisa at Accio Quotes and the Lexicon tells me the World Books Daily interview was online so Ms. Rowling typed “Jane” in as her answer. It can’t be a misunderstanding. “Jean” is either a typo the editors created/didn’t catch, an intentional change by the author for unstated reasons (the Lexicon give two possible reasons), or a Hat-Tip.

  5. Not sure at all! I wanted to welcome you to the Lehigh Valley. I am a Harry Potter fan and writer, as well. Not quite so accomplished, but with seven children (the other similarity we share), I don’t always have time to write as I would like.


  6. Wo! I’ve always been a sucker for John’s theories. I still hold out hope that Argus Filch and Irma Pince are Snape’s parents. The hat tip looks real, though. The name change, the book title, the “delight and instruct” allusion… I’ll stick my neck out and vote for D. I know John is used to receiving prickly correspondence, so I can’t even imagine the excitement of being acknowledged in the canon itself!

    I don’t know, though, this is almost as much acknowledgement as Snape received, which may make the Snape fans even more unhappy. After all, John isn’t even a character! Well, you know what I mean.

    John, if JKR contacts you, you’ve got to tell us.

  7. jerrybowyer says

    John, retire from public life? Are you kidding? This isn’t the end; it’s the beginning. You got it right. Those of us who were following you, or on similar tracks ourselves stuck our necks out, way out. The HP success and the vindication of the classical Christian lit theory is an enormous teaching opportunity. None of us are supposed to be the guy to do this; it should be you. You’re the one who has to go on.

    p.s. the book is more than I’d hoped for – from the revelation that the only way to cure a soul fragmented into horcurxes is ‘sorror’ to Harry’s via dolorosa (complete with stumble and encouragement from Mother ((named Lilly, which is the medieval symbol of Mary)) to the ressurection at King’s Cross no less to the Christus Victor atonement stuff to the great meal celebration without walls of division or partition…Harry’s willingness to die for Hogwarts blocks Voldemort’s curses from them. Will hard-core fundies recognize any of this and concede? No. They’ve too much stake in the other view.

    Congratulations John, well done!

  8. jerrybowyer says

    Whoops, meant ‘sorrow’.

  9. chrystyan says

    John, I think it’s a hat-tip to you. When I saw the word “doppelganger” in DH, I immediately thought of you, and said WOW! JKR must have read your work. Will be praying for your travels and presentations in Toronto. Go, John, Go!! We love you out here!

  10. korg20000bc says

    It’s like Captain James R Kirk becoming Captain James T (Teberius) Kirk in Star Trek!


  11. For non-Trekkies, James Kirk (Bill Shattner) sees his tombstone in an adventure and it reads “James R. Kirk” with the dates. His real name was “James Teberius Kirk” so real fans have either laughed at the error or searched for who “James R. Kirk” really was. There was a song/jingle writer named “James R. Kirk” who worked in NY and California at the time but no link with Gene Roddenberry has ever been positively established.

  12. d). Definitely d). If we have learned nothing else, we have learned narrative misdirection as an in-your-face technique yielded by the maestro who is JKR! I had the thought that this was the clearest validation of the coming ending as I read DH for the first time. I even thought it a specific validation of understanding her as an Inkling-in-our-time-and-culture!!! – while tearing through the text on my first read! (True!)

    I have re-read DH the second time and found that my initial impressions were even more strongly corroborated the next time through. After all, I knew the ending, then. So I take that to mean that my first impression was not misunderstanding but true understanding.

    I mean we have spent a decade in a school in which we are not to ticle sleeping dragons being delighted while being instructed and and have a tainted hero who purifies himself and achieves theosis! Jean Granger who also delights while instructing is no BIG reach.

    I would love it if this ere verified by our authoress, of course. And it is happening only in our minds, of course! But I ask you most seriously and indebtedly, does that make it not true?

    Ever grateful for your leadership and education in this process, Professor John; and for the insights and erudition and imagination of my fellow students; and for JK Rowling who brought us all together under the Mercy in the school of Hogwarts,
    I remain,

    Inked (aka dwstroudmd)

  13. Carrie B says

    John–have a great time at Prophecy 2007! My friend James and his brilliant daughter Alexi will be bringing my greetings from CA. Sometimes I wonder if the more important challenge for us is not the Harry-haters, but the non-believing Harry Potter fanatics who read and write fanfic into places JKR never intended Harry and his colleagues to go. There will be hundreds of them at Prophecy 2007. They love Harry; maybe Harry can sneak past their sleeping dragons. Perhaps all it will take is a little proper literary interpretation. Prayers and good wishes!

  14. well, it’d be super-cool if it were d., and it is possible, but I think it’s unlikely. On the other hand, it could still be intentional. Thus, I would like, if you don’t mind, to present options e. and f.:

    e. Dumbledore made a mistake in his will, confusing her middle name because he did not know her particularly well;

    –this would support the book also saying, in contrast to Hermione’s defense of Ron getting the deluminator, that Harry was the only one who really got close to Dumbledore of the three of them–

    f. Dumbledore deliberately put the wrong name to try to get Hermione to realise that there was something important about the book.

    — the problems with this are a. wouldn’t the ministry pick up on it that it was the wrong name? (unless they were trying to get her to reveal something about it) and b. why wouldn’t she remark on it later?

    All likelihood, it’s a typo… alas.


  15. I am new to the board and can’t say that I have formed an opinion on the Jane/Jean thing. But I have been labeled Hermione by everyone who knows me and has read Harry Potter and am excited to join a discussion with others who have strong Hermionistic tendencies…

  16. In an interview, Rowling says that she changed Hermione’s middle name because she didn’t want it to be the same as Delores Jane Umbridge’s.

  17. Can you get a source for this interview? Lisa Bunker, who is the webmaster at Accio Quotes and the person who made the changes to the Lexicon (in which she speculated that it might be because of Dolores’ middle name), did not mention an interview in which this was said. As Ms. Bunker is the maven of canon interviews, it surprises me she would have missed this! If you have a source for this interview, it would put this issue to rest.

  18. I was totally wrong on this one. I saw an article that speculated that this was the cause of the change and thought that it was in quotations. My apologies for any confusion.

  19. Personally, I think it’s a nod to Jean Val Jean and a reference to the fact that Hermione will be a fugitive fleeing an overly harsh law enforcement officer.

  20. rsmitchell says

    I might have to agree that Andy Warhol’s quarter-hour-glass of fickle fame may have run out for you, Mr. Granger, but long after the masses have moved on and even sites like Mugglenet are ghosts of their former selves, Hogwartsprofessor will be going strong, since the search for deeper meanings and interpretation continues, after the whodunits and surprises have gone cold.

    Is Hermione Jean Granger a hat-tip? I would consider it the most likely possibility. In Half-Blood Prince, Slughorn calls Ron nearly every R-name in the book but his own, and in one instance calls him ‘Rupert’. Even though I am appalled at how the movies must butcher the story to fit their time constraints, Rowling seems fairly pleased with their products, and I immediately assumed it was a nod and a wink to Rupert Grint and to everyone involved in the films. Since you have almost certainly found the true meaning of her books, you would be even more deserving of acknowledgement, but it would be important to the ‘smuggling’ aspect that it not be done openly.

  21. harry_mione_love says

    Oh dear. Someone’s got a bit of an oversized head to think that much of themselves.
    I highly, highly, highly doubt that Mrs. Rowling considered you in this “name change”. I dont know why or how they did it or what it is about but for some reason, they changed the name.
    I mean, yes, there is a sliver, one percent change that it was a, as you call it, “tip-of-the-hat” to you..but i dont think so.
    ~e. Dumbledore made a mistake in his will, confusing her middle name because he did not know her particularly well—Nzie this is a very good theory, one that i have not thought of.

    THough yes, it would have been likely for her to mention it later, but who knows.
    I guess none of us will know until she sets it straight.

    But knowing JKR–she will never do that. Tha’d be too final for her.

  22. As I wrote:

    The worst thing that can happen in my being the one to publish this possibility for public consideration, is of course, that Ms. Rowling will be asked about the possibility, she will deny it, and I will be known ever after as “that arrogant git who ‘looked for god in Harry Potter’ and only found his own name.” If it is my name hidden there in the text, though, I take it as a hat tip to all the readers who have championed Ms. Rowling’s edifying message through thick and thin and from long ago. My name only worked because she didn’t give Hermione the last name “Byatt,” “Bloom,” “Grossman,” or the other critics who locked onto Ms. Rowling’s message so perceptively and persuasively…

  23. JohnABaptist says

    I think we may have a little bit of “po-tay-toe” / “po-tah-toe” here. Both Jane and Jean are feminine variants of the masculine John. (Along with 92 other variant forms of Jane) c.f.

    So I think the true reason for the change from the English Jane (as in Austen et al) to the Scottish Jean (Yup, Scottish, not French c.f. is perhaps to tie in with Lady Joanne’s more current Scottish roots.

    To have been French, the spelling would have had to be Jeanne as in Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc); in French Jean is a masculine name…

    So in the masculine translation, our Hermione is now, and has always been Hermes John Granger: The Greek messenger of the gods, telling of God’s Grace and Love, to all the fields. (In Medieval England a Granger was an Owner’s agent overseeing a collection of manor farms.) As such she is and will remain, an extended parable of the Gospel of Luke.

    Nonetheless John, I think Lady Rowling owes you a hat tip, so I’m going to vote answer “d” anyway, even if it flies in the face of all my foregoing logic. After all we engineers are paid to make things come out the way the boss wants them, only scientists are forced to stick to logic.

    Cheers and a hat tip from this end regardless.

  24. Thanks for your vote, JAB, if I’m struggling with the Gospel of Luke reference. “Granger” in Norman French is just “barnkeeper” (for obvious reasons, a position of no little authority in feudal Europe which becomes the agency of a Lord you describe). I think Ms. Rowling switched to “Granger” from her first choice because of the “Hg” beauty of her initials which suggest “Hermione’s” hermetic meaning (like the dentist parents; who else works with mercury?…). The only barnkeeper in Scripture features the only person/character whom Christ calls a “fool,” which name-calling in the Sermon on the Mount He reminds His disciples is a punishable offense, if not quite an Unforgivable Curse. I’ve always been of the opinion that “Granger” was a throw-away except for the first letter.

    But your interpretation both supports the “John Granger” interpretation of “Jane/Jean” and denies it is a hat-tip because it has another meaning that would pre-date anything I wrote. I confess, though the meaning you assign “Hermes John Granger” doesn’t ring true with me, that your working assumption that the name is meaning-full and “from the beginning,” i.e., all about Hermione and her role in the larger meaning of the books (their Christian/hermetic content) does impress me as the best starting point for figuring out the Jean/Jane change. No one commented on it, Ms. Rowling noted that Delores Umbridge had the same middle name, so she made a change to refocus attention on Hermione’s place in the story and the appropriateness of her name.

    Thank you for your insights about how best to approach this — and for your compliment at note’s end to soothe the pains of my self-deflation. Much appreciated!

  25. And as Ms. Rowling has frequently noted that Hermione is something similar to what she remembers being like as a young woman, the Jane/Jean/Joanne link made in JohnABaptist’s last post may be the simplest interpretation, “hidden in plain sight.” Would that mean Professor Umbridge also is a reflection of Ms. Rowling, perhaps as a young teacher? Scary…

  26. JohnABaptist says

    John! You of all people trapped by a bit of narrative misdirection! I’m shocked.

    You say, “And as Ms. Rowling has frequently noted that Hermione is something similar to what she remembers being like as a young woman,”

    But if you are looking for the young woman seeking the Christ she can truly love, look not to her words but to her actions.

    Who loves Arthur (the Christ figure), is disenchanted, plays the field, but in the end returns to her first love (Albeit in the Arthur legends in the form of a “bride of Christ” in a nunnery). [Guinevere]

    Who was the unattainable first love of F. Scott Fitzgerald who became the model of Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby? The woman who “played the field” with Fitzgerald, but returned in the end to a Mr. King who represented the ideal from her youth? [Ginevra King]

    Who inspired Leonardo d’Vinci to paint his haunting tribute to seemingly unattainable beauty and virtue? A figure who in real-life lived through a “sea of troubles”, was unfaithful to her husband, but then reunited with him? [Ginevra d’Benci]

    Who loves Harry with the faith of child, feels unrequited, plays the field, yet returns to him with a love all the stronger and more passionate because it has been tried through the flames and found to be true? [Ginny Weasley]

    Who therefore is the best model of our young English Mother making her first serious search for the answers to life’s deepest questions “Who is the King of my Heart”? “What shall I make of Death?” “Why does a Loving God allow Evil to Exist?” with even a trace of “What’s it ALL about, Alfie?”

    I would say none other than our own Ginny Weasley. Ginevra–Italian form of Welsh Guinevere–fair and virtuous, Molly–Welsh/Irish form of Mary–bitter, sea-of-troubles, Weasley–from the House of English Kings although this last is too lengthy a derivation to sort out here.

    Fair representation for a young Englishwoman experiencing economic hardship, the unanticipated burdens (and joys) of parenthood, the guilt and confusion of a marital relationship gone sour, the immediately pending death of a dearly beloved parent; faced for the first time with the need to consciously seek out, as an adult, a safe anchorage for her spiritual being.

    We profit from the tale of how her search led her far and near, and how in the end, she returned to her first love, secure now in the knowledge of why she loved Him.

    There is a little bit of Lady Rowling in every single character she creates. Lady Rowling is as quick to acknowledge her faults and weaknesses as she is to claim her virtues and strengths–so yes, she does see a piece of herself in:

    Dolores–lady of sorrows, from the virgin Mary.
    Jane–the Lord is Gracious.
    Umbridge (likely a variant spelling of umbrage)–to take insult, to grow enraged.

    The picture of a person who has let themselves be so bounded and defined by crushing sorrow and prideful rage that the grace of God is swallowed up between them and can not shine through. An embodiment of Dylan Thomas’ advice to “Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

    I think Lady Rowling might want us to understand that she could easily have gone down that road as so many others have, but that she chose another way instead.

  27. Another wonderful post, JAB! I especially enjoyed the Ginevra tour of history, legend, and literature and the working assumption that Ms. Rowling is talking about herself in major characters, who she was, is, and might have been. Harry and Hermione are the most obvious connections and you make an excellent case for Joanne/Ginevra.

    Open mike on Rowling character connections: Any others? Neville? Dobby? State your case!

  28. Well, Neville is fairly obvious… Neville who still loves his incurably ill parents even when they cannot respond to him. From Cruciatus to multiple sclerosis is not much of a stretch.

  29. JohnABaptist says

    Helen, thank you!

    Even though it should have been, it was not at all obvious to me! I guess I inherited Ron Weasley’s sensitivity.

    But what a beautiful observation, and again, involving one of Lady Rowling’s signature tricks of reversing some aspect of a situation to make us look more closely at what is under our noses.

    Under the Cruciatus Curse, the mind is destroyed while the body is little affected until the very end. Under the MS curse, the body is destroyed while the mind is little affected until the very end. In the reversal, Lady Joanne perhaps finds the distance she needs to make a fair portrayal of the condition as seen by the eyes of strangers. Thus she speaks to us through Neville of the emotions that she experienced as the child of an MS sufferer in a world that does not look beyond the outer defect to seek the perfection within. Perhaps also in Neville’s reaction to references and incidents of the Cruciatus Curse we also get to share Lady Joanne’s awareness that MS susceptibility is an inheritable genetic condition; that until a cure is found, she and her children are particularly exposed to its dangers.

    Neville also gives us a parable of Neville Chamberlain in his effort to stop the three adventurers from setting out to oppose evil on the grounds that “…Gryffindor [England] will be in even more trouble….”[Philosopher’s Stone (in the paperback Scholastic Edition with the Bowdlerized title) page 272] quite easy to find echoes of Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time.”

    From the name however, we also have:

    Neville — meaning “new city” which may tie in with the elements of the “New Jerusalem” from Revelation strongly present in the final volume.

    Longbottom — which though comical in appearance, really means some one with true grit or moral courage that sustains across time.

    Of all the books in the bible, Revelation is the only one whose events are still playing out ( I often remind my Sunday School classes that we are living today, somewhere in the middle of the Book of Revelation). likewise, of all our protagonists, Neville is the only one still teaching at Hogwarts in the epilogue. A character, who though scared of his very shadow, never once backs down, and who silently demonstrates the incredible courage required to stick the course no matter how much anyone stares, or laughs, or ridicules. As such he presents a parable of the Spiritual Jesus whose strength comes not from arms or armies, but from His Soul.

    So I also believe that Neville is a parable of the message of the Gospel of John/Revelation and the faith and solace a seeker can draw from them.

  30. JAB, are you confusing “bottom” and “bottle”? The slang dictionaries I have checked online don’t have “bottom” meaning “true grit” though that is the current meaning of “bottle” (cf, the current PM canceling elections was described in headlines as “Broken Brown Bottle”). Give us a reference, please — but the meaning you ascribe certainly fits Neville. Wonderful, if you’re right, that the name could mean both “lard butt” and “courageous.”

    I should note that your belief that Neville is a “parable” of the Gospel of St. John and the Book of Revelation is one of the more bizarre assertions ever made on this site. How does a character become a “parable” of scripture? You don’t strike me as someone who chooses his words carelessly; can you share instances from English literature — and Harry Potter specifically — in which a character represents in some way the message of a specific passage from or whole book of the New Testament?

    Curious John

  31. Found it! In a regular dictionary: American heritage, no less.

    Check out the very last definition of ‘bottom’:

    15. Staying power; stamina. Used of a horse.

    Its use as a transitive verb is also telling:

    1. To provide with an underside. 2. To provide with a foundation. 3. To get to the bottom of; fathom.

    For a survey of online dictionary definitions for ‘bottom,’ go to:

  32. Here are another couple of “bottle” results from Google as applied to horses:

    “Of such a horse we say, in English, he has bottom, good staying qualities or good wind. Hence un cheval de fond is a horse of bottom, or good bottom, …”

    “Keyes called for one of his orderlies and said, “If your horse has bottom enough to catch up with the Vermont Brigade, I want you to overtake them and order …”…

  33. JohnABaptist says


    You said above: “You don’t strike me as someone who chooses his words carelessly; can you share instances from English literature — and Harry Potter specifically — in which a character represents in some way the message of a specific passage from or whole book of the New Testament?”

    With pleasure: Kreacher as a parable of the Apostle Paul.

    Paul tells us of his original fanatical love of all traditions Jewish, of his pure blood ties to that faith, and of his faithful service in defense of those traditions against the impurities of Christianity; how he held the coats of those who stoned Stephen and sought to encourage the eradication of every follower of the one called Christ. How he considered all the trappings of traditional Jewishness to things of beauty and priceless beyond measure. THEN in a heartbeat on the Damascus road it all changed. “Something like scales fell from his eyes” and he saw all things differently. He reversed course completely and now saw all that he previously treasured as being filth and trash. [c.f. Acts and various epistles.]

    Does this not sound like our Kreacher? Stunned on the floor of Grimmauld Place, suddenly seeing that his whole faith and life had been wrongly placed, he went from there to labor in the kitchens of Hogwarts carrying the new Gospel to all the House Elves so that on the day of Armageddon [Battle of Hogwarts] he bursts from the kitchens at the head of an army of converts who had once been thought to be outside the Covenant.

    The parallels go even further. Consider for a moment the only known description of St. Paul taken from the apocryphal book The Acts of Paul:

    “3 And he went by the king’s highway that leadeth unto Lystra and stood expecting him, and looked upon them that came, according to tbe description of Titus. And he saw Paul coming, a man little of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace: for sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel.” [text available here:

    Does that not sound like the very description of Kreacher at the close of DH? But more importantly, in an age when we are so attuned to the reformed Paul that we tend to condemn the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem for not immediately welcoming him; does the parable of Kreacher not restore the proper level of hatred, fear and distrust that they would have felt? Thus a perfect example of the parable–a story that shows us a principle in simple ordinary terms, and then allows “those who have ears to hear” to comprehend through that understanding the meaning of a higher spiritual message.

  34. Leaving aside the similitude of Kreacher and the Apostle Paul as an open question — it seems very unlikely to me that the two are linked in any fashion — if it were a direct match, i.e., Ms. Rowling was writing about the one using the other, that wouldn’t be a parable but something like allegory and it wouldn’t be an allegory to a scriptural passage or book but with a historical figure we know through scripture.

    So what did you mean when you said that Neville is a parable of St. John’s Gospel and Book of Revelations?

  35. JohnABaptist says

    But John, by definition, parables are frequently allegories, c.f. the definition given at :

    “Parable – a short, simple story designed to convey some religious principle, moral lesson, or general truth by comparison with actual events. A parable is often an allegory in which each character represents an abstract concept—such as obedience or honesty—and is illustrated through real-life events.” []

    What I still maintain to be the Parable of Kreacher teaches us the value and necessity of repentance and the total change such repentance can bring in a life by showing us Kreacher as absolute evil, turned to Kreacher as absolute good; and in that lesson, at least for me, it breathed new life into the narrative of Saul of Tarsus as portrayed by the passage in the 9th Chapter of Acts.

    As I assemble together the story of Kreacher the House Elf from its beginning in Order of the Phoenix to its climax in Deathly Hallows, I certainly find that it reminds me very forcefully of the story of Saul of Tarsus who later became Paul. Not the specific events, Saul after all was on a road outdoors, Kreacher was in a kitchen, Saul was struck blind, Kreacher was not; but the form of the story elements, both protagonists being in full rage, both suddenly confronted by the unexpected, both finding love and kindness where he had every right to expect hatred, both being turned 180 degrees by the experience.

    It is the story, the scripture passage in Acts 9:1-22 and following events, which forms, at least in my mind, the higher moral lesson, the “throwing alongside”, required of the parable form.

    When I read the climatic passage in DH [Chapter 10, Kreacher’s Tale], I immediately thought, “Oh this is ridiculous this does not happen, people don’t change on a dime like that. ” And in the next moment I remembered the story of Paul and I actually put the Deathly Hallows down to marvel how a passage of scripture that I had read so many times that I was inured to its true magnitude and impact had just been brought into totally new focus for me.

    I realized that something like callouses had dropped off of my understanding of scripture, I had always known intellectually that Ananias had reason to distrust Saul, but I realized that because of the emotional involvement I had established with the story of Kreacher, I now had an emotional involvement in Ananias reactions as well, now when I read that passage from Acts, my whole being literally cries out “Ananias! how can you trust this man! He betrayed Sirius to his death!”

    That’s the power of a parable, it gets you into the moment. That’s why Jesus taught so often in parables, as He explains in Matthew 13:10-18.

    So I have been a very bad student, John. I have ignored the Professor’s instructions to leave aside Kreacher and get on with Neville, and got on with Kreacher instead. But I’m only auditing the course so you can’t flunk me, so there….nyahhh.

    I promise, I will return to Neville and friends soon. But I’m out of time and energy for tonight.

  36. JAB, this is great. I hadn’t made that connection at all. I had somewhat of a similar reaction to Kreacher’s sudden change of heart, but only because I’d grown to think of him as a charicature of evil and not someone with real emotions or reasoning. I hadn’t made the connection to Paul at all, but when I first started reading the description of Paul that you posted (and as you said, that we often tend to forget, knowing what he became), it does fit Kreacher so well.

    Whether or not Rowling did this intentionally we’ll probably never know, unless one of us gets to be her best friend. I suspect it’s the sort of thing she’ll never say in an interview. Though she has thrown in some things none of us expected, but which were quite a delight to learn.

    And all that is the reason, John, that you’ll be around talking Potter for quite a while–there’s still so much to discover and discuss.

    Pat (who has also been a bad student of late by not attending class as I should–and it’s taking me a while to catch up on all I’ve missed)

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