Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #27: The Bloomsbury Chat

After the disappointment of the Nightline/TODAY interviews, Ms. Rowling’s Bloomsbury Chat was a lot of fun. There was quite a bit of interesting material here mixed in with fan questions about ‘shipping and “whatever happened to…” despised and beloved characters. Please do go to Accio Quotes and read the whole thing, if you haven’t already. Thank you again to Lisa and the house-elves at Accio Quotes for the wonderful and speedy work they do!

Here were my five favorite points from this Chat and some quick, bracketed notes for your comments and correction:

#1: King’s Cross
Elisabeth: In the chapter of King’s Cross, are they behind the Veil or in some world between the real world and the Veil?
J.K. Rowling: You can make up your own mind on this, but I think that Harry entered a kind of limbo between life and death….

Katie B: Why was Kings Cross the place Harry went to when he died?
J.K. Rowling: For many reasons. The name works rather well, and it has been established in the books as the gateway between two worlds, and Harry would associate it with moving on between two worlds (don’t forget that it is Harry’s image we see, not necessarily what is really there)….

Jon: Since Voldemort was afraid of death, did he choose to be a ghost? If so, where does he haunt or is this not possible due to his Horcruxes?
J.K. Rowling: No, he is not a ghost. He is forced to exist in the stunted form we witnessed in King’s Cross.

[Ms. Rowling is not offering a dogmatic position about the soul’s passage after death, though “Limbo” is a destination in Catholic cosmology. She is, however, insistent that there is a life after death for the soul and consequences for those not prepared for that life. In this, she seems to be pointing to the Patristic position that all souls go to the same “place” at death but their experience in that non-local destination is a reflection of their preparedness in this life.]

#2 Unforgivable Curses
Barbara: I was very disappointed to see Harry use crucio and seem to enjoy it; his failure to perform that kind of curse in the past has been a credit to his character. Why the change, and did Harry later regret having enjoyed deliberately causing pain?
J.K. Rowling: Harry is not, and never has been, a saint. Like Snape, he is flawed and mortal. Harry’s faults are primarily anger and occasional arrogance. On this occasion, he is very angry and acts accordingly. He is also in an extreme situation, and attempting to defend somebody very good against a violent and murderous opponent.

[Ms. Rowling said there were 120,000 questions submitted for this chat. Interesting that she chose to address this concern, which has been the subject of discussion at many sites, including this one.]

#3: Literary Allusions
Jessie: Were the Deathly Hallows based on any real world myth or faerie tale?
J.K. Rowling: Perhaps ‘the Pardoner’s Tale’, by Chaucer.

Smallbutpowerful: On behalf of all Harry Potter fans who consider themselves to be Hufflepuffs, could you please describe the Hufflepuff common room as it is the only common room harry hasn’t visited?
J.K. Rowling: The Hufflepuff common room is accessed through a portrait near the kitchens, as I am sure you have deduced. Sorry – I should say ‘painting’ rather than portrait, because it is a still-life. It is a very cosy and welcoming place, as dissimilar as possible from Snape’s dungeon. Lots of yellow hangings, and fat armchairs, and little underground tunnels leading to the dormitories, all of which have perfectly round doors, like barrel tops.

[Let’s consider that an invitation to discuss some Chaucer and Tolkien! Hallows and the Pardoner’s Tale? Hufflepuffs and Hobbits living at BagEnd?]

#4: The Forest Again
Kristy: What was your favorite scene to write in deathly hallows?
J.K. Rowling: Chapter 34: The Forest Again.

[She has said that finishing this chapter caused her to weep. In light of her asides about “Struggling to Believe” in the Nightline talk, what if anything could be made of her tears at writing Harry’s sacrificial death and his Via Dolorosa into the forest in the presence of Lily, James, John (Remus John Lupin), and his God-father. Dante, anyone? Gibson’s Passion? Relief at finally reaching the goal of the series after 17 years?]

#5: Sinatra!
J.K. Rowling: I like this question, so I’ll take it for my last.
Tess: What muggle song do you imagine would be played at Dumbledore’s funeral?
J.K. Rowling: Surely ‘I did it my way’ by Frank Sinatra.

[Okay, I chuckled. But is she talking about Dumbledore here or the satisfaction she feels at her successful negotiation of all the trials of Potter-Mania? She certainly took a road less traveled and made her way heroically through the controversy with story-line and family intact.]

As always, I look forward to your comments and corrections. Please number your responses with respect to the five comments I made or say whatever you like about the Bloomsbury Chat.


  1. porchlight says

    Regarding question #4 and Harry’s walk in the forest – JKR mentioned in the Vieira interview as well that she wept when writing that chapter. She also talked about how sad she was that her mother died when she was only six months into writing Philosopher’s Stone, and that one of her greatest regrets was that she had never told her mother about the novel. She then said that her mother’s death was a profound influence on the books.

    I believe I read in another earlier interview (perhaps in response to a question about the Mirror of Erised?) that JKR has often wished for just an hour with her mother, to tell her all that has happened, but that she realizes it could never be enough, she would always want more.

    So, not to get too biographical here, but my feeling has always been that Harry’s intense longing for communication of some sort with his parents, and the enormous amount of communciation with the dead in the stories, especially in Deathly Hallows, has been in some way an expression of JKR’s grief at the loss of her mother, sadness that she could not share with her this wonderful story she had created, and desire that this could somehow be resolved.

    Thus it seemed to me that Harry’s sense of calmness and peace at finally being able to be with and communicate in a meaningful way with his loved ones who have departed this life, are a part of what make the forest walk so emotional and beautiful, for us and perhaps for JKR. (This is echoed later in the reunion of Harry and Dumbledore at King’s Cross.)

    Personally, I find this theme – grief for the dead and desire to communicate with them – to be incredibly powerful in all the books, perhaps the most resonant emotional theme.

    Sorry for the length and clumsy wording. But thank you for the chance to comment. I’m so glad to have found this site – only wish I’d stumbled on it earlier. Oh, and may I take the opportunity to say on this July 31, Happy Birthday, Harry! And to J K Rowling as well!

  2. Jayne1955 says

    I have found inconsistencies in Jo’s last couple of interviews that make me really wonder if she had all of this as well planned as she said she did. I don’t take her interviews as so-called canon, and this is why.

    The woman should just be quiet. I agree with Carol Burnett, who once said, “Words, once they are printed take on a life of their own.” She was talking about tabloids, but I think it fits here. If Jo wanted me to know something, she should have put it in the book.

    So, sue me.

  3. I believe she had things very well planned, because the series could have become a hopeless mess, published in pieces as it was, with no chance to go back and rewrite something in an-already published volume. But I agree that the interviews expose that this planning could never have been perfect or perfectly complete. Besides that, an author’s own books surprise him/her in unexpected ways, even with planning. I think she should be quiet, too, although an initial willingness to meet with fans was probably the smart and gracious thing to do. But I truly hope she goes home now and takes that private time with her family. She has said everything she needs to say, and allowing any further probing won’t benefit anyone.

  4. Oh, John, you shouldn’t have shown me that. I was right about so many things the temptation to gloat is going to be overwhelming.

    It’s not surprising that the book doesn’t always follow the things she said in interviews several years ago. Being a writer myself, I know that stories grow in the telling. Rowling always knew where her ultimate destination lay, but she may have made an unexpected turn or two in getting there.

  5. Jayne1955 – Thank you!!!! I have said to my husband many times (for months, now, actually) that she should quit giving interviews. The Bloomsbury chat (reported on gave Ron a different career and Luna a different future ‘love interest’ as the Today/Dateline interview. I have also read of other places (I cannot find them right at the moment) where she says that Harry’s fate was not certain until recently, yet says in the Today/Dateline interview that she has had it set since the beginning. I am becoming more disillusioned with her the more she speaks. I know, that borders on heresy in some quarters! 😉

    So, maybe had she had more time, I would not have been so disappointed in the ending?!?!?

    I think maybe some of my frustration comes from when she tried to take control FROM the story, to make it come out differently. That may be why the last chapters (and especially the epilogue) seem to be written by someone else. Maybe she has lost touch with the story, and the inconsistencies in the recent interviews highlight this?

    I’m wondering . . .

  6. Exactly. That interview tells me she knows her world so well.

    And John can I ask… what was so disappointing about her Dateline/TODAY Show interview?

  7. No, no, please don’t ask her to go home and stop talking. It is such a pleasure to have this sort of semi-dialog with her on how to understand the books. Socrates (in Apologia) found no writers who understood their own books. But I think we have found one! So, please go on answering questions, Jo!


  8. Yes I agree. It’s like she… she knows all! Is anyone really excited for her future books? My mouth is watering at the prospect.

  9. I feel that it is okay that some ideas have changed through the process. I think that one misconception is that a lot of people thought from that first interview that Luna and Neville were going to end up together. She did say that as she wrote, they seemed to be drawing in to eachother romantically, but for her to write the romance in would be a little to neat. In her most recent interview, she stated that Luna went on to marry someone completely different. I don’t actually think this is a contradiction. I think that it is very likely that Luna and Neville became romantically involved at some point and it just didn’t work out.
    Another option is that they were attracted to eachother and never did anything about it and their lives carried them in two different, but satisfying directions.

    I also fully admit that I love what Rowling is doing with the universe that she created. I love the interviews and her letting us know what has taken place in her world. It’s something that few authors have ever done. She’s taken real ownership of her Wizarding World and has shared it with us. And, to the chagrine of many copycat artists, she’s also prevented people from spinning off their own mediocrity from her excellence. I can’t imagine how many times George Lucas must have cringed when some spin-off king took StarWars to a place that he didn’t intend for it to go (granted he gave plenty of people their own cringing recently). Rowling is indulging the fans, something that I think too many storytellers forget to do.

  10. Arabella Figg says

    About Ron having a different career. In the Dateline interview, Jo says: “Harry and Ron utterly revolutionized the Auror Department in– at the Ministry of Magic. So they– I mean, they are now the consummate– they are experts. It doesn’t matter how old they are or what else they’ve done. So Harry and Ron lead the way in recreating the new Auror Department. And by the time– 19 years later — I would imagine that Harry is heading up that department, which is not corrupt in any way. It’s– it’s a really good place to be.”

    This isn’t completely inconsistent with saying Ron works with George in the Bloomsbury interview (“Ron joined George at Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, which became an enormous money-spinner.”). Ron may have worked with Harry at the Auror Dept. for a year or couple years and then gone with George. Or both. Or perhaps he’s an Auror consultant. In the Today show interviews, she said Harry pops up to Hogwarts now and then to teach a DADA class. In the same interview she indicated Neville and Luna wouldn’t be an item.

    I agree, Stacie, let the woman play! Why give her grief over what, where, when, why and how she speaks? After 17 years of hard work, she deserves to roam a bit in her imagination if she wants.

    Thanks heaps, John for the link to this interview. What a blast! Getting the scoop on the Happily Ever After is delish. I didn’t think her Dateline interview was disappointing–it was more personal about how Rowling felt and I found it moving to watch. That said, the Bloomsbury one had more in-depth detail, backfill/prognostication and was loads more fun. Ginny as a professional Quidditch player. Go, girl!

    I commented on the King’s Cross thing twice in the Christian Ending thread and don’t feel disappointed by her words above!

    Uh oh, Mrs. Fleasley is meowing a nasty word at Fullatricks and the other kitties are shocked–shocked!

  11. One thing that rather surprised me in the Bloomsbury chat was this exchange:
    Was the absence of snapes portrait in the headmasters office in the last scene innocent or deliberate
    J.K. Rowling: It was deliberate. Snape had effectively abandoned his post before dying, so he had not merited inclusion in these august circles.
    J.K. Rowling: However, I like to think that Harry would be instrumental in ensuring that Snape’s portrait would appear there in due course.

    I don’t see how Snape “fleeing” when he did could possibly be construed as abandoning his post, in light of his true loyalties and true reason for being Headmaster under Voldemort in the first place: the protection of the students of Hogwarts. After a very showy duel, which interestingly left neither McGonagall nor Flitwick even slightly incapacitated, he “fled”– leaving the Carrows trussed up like pigs in a poke and Hogwarts in control of a faculty stirred up at last to actively oppose Voldemort — that is, a faculty that was now roused to fight on the same side of the war as Snape himself, though no one knew it at the time.

    JKR’s speculation that Harry will see to the addition of a portrait of Snape suggests another theory to me: that the portraits of the Headmasters are painted by ordinary artistry, probably during their tenure, and only what you might think of as the “personality overlay” is magically added upon the death of the Headmaster. And while Snape was serving, who would have seen to the painting of his portrait? Not those who saw him as a traitor and a murderer, set over them by a tyrant. And not the tyrant or his servants. The followers of Voldemort struggled with each other like crabs in a bucket to come to his notice and find favor with him, and he treated them all like dirt. There was no room for honor or recognition for anyone but Lord Scalyface under that regime.

    And no, I don’t expect that there will ever be a portrait of Dolores Umbridge on those walls.

  12. Well, I’m wondering if she isn’t like my husband (and a least a couple of his sons) who simply ‘dreams out loud’. By that I mean, they sort of test how ideas sound out loud and talk about ‘plans’ they have when they are more like daydreams or musings. When we were first married, it took me awhile to learn that my husband did this – he’d be simply floating an idea to see how it ‘looked’ and I’d think he’d made a decision and act accordingly. So, after much frustration at his lack of action on his ‘decisions’, I learned that this was simply a daydream.

    Maybe that’s what JKR does – except her audience is *much* larger than her husband! So, these apparent inconsistencies are due to ‘thinking out loud’ or floating ideas, rather than concrete plans which change.

    However, my husband has also had to learn that when he discusses these ‘plans’ with others, if he does not specify that these are only thoughts, he may lead others into believing something he hasn’t decided yet – maybe that’s something JKR may need to learn???

    wondering . . .

  13. So I am not the only one who has a husband who dreams out loud, eh? Unfortunatelly we have a decent sized audience for his day dreams as well…
    You know, choosing not to give any interviews would really be the easy way. I respect JK Rowling a lot for not taking the easy route. How I wish I could withdraw from our fans and from interviews.

    But the reality is I cannot without communicating arrogance and withholding the extra help some of our fans long for in understanding our art. How often do I grow frustrated with the demand for more explanations, more insight into my personal life. Often I feel used, trodden on, exploited. I am highly tempted to hide behind my art, convincing myself that it is enough.

    As for using the Unforgivable Curses – maybe it is a rebellion against certain culturally established moral absolutes that simply do not hold in certain situations? I resonate with that. Maybe there’s situations where a harsh cuss word is not out of place? A slap or a punch against someone? To call religious leaders “brood of vipers” in light of their outrageous hypocrisy and injustice? To use violence by swinging a whip through a house of worship turned into a supermall?

    It becomes easy to hide between our established absolutes and to categorize people into good and bad, black and white. I don’t think it’s that easy. I don’t believe everything is gray either, though. I want to believe it’s a rainbow, a plethora of color, that beauty and love matter more than rules and our established absolutes…

  14. #2 – have previously discussed in an earlier post on this site. I believe her explanation fits perfectly with the tone and reality of the situations in the books.

    #3 – Loved the description of the Hufflepufff common room. Hobbit abodes immediately jumped to mind!

    Thank you for pointing out, Arabella Figg, that different answers in different interviews don’t necessarily add up to inconsistencies. Thinking of all of the different twist and turns my career has taken over 20 years, Ron doing more than just one “job” is more realistic than not!

  15. I found J.K. Rowling’s reference to the Pardoner’s Tale as the real world myth or faerie tale basis for the Deathly Hallows to be interesting because of the obvious Christian references in Chaucer’s work. The Pardoner’s Tale is a morality tale and JKR tapping into Chaucer implies that Harry Potter is a morality tale for the 21st century. JKR has always said that she never sets out to preach in her writing but that morals are definately drawn. The parallel between the Pardoner’s Tale and the Deathly Hallows is uncanny. Both have three brothers and both involve Death as a character. The Pardoner’s Tale starts off with a grotesque and hypocritical Pardoner (seller of Indulgences extraordinaire) who is honest enough to say in 400-404:

    “Of avarice and of such cursedness
    Is all my preaching, to make them generous
    To give their pennies, and namely unto me.
    For my intention is only to make a profit,
    And not at all for correction of sin.”

    The Pardoner discusses the the sins of greed, avarice, gluttony, lechery, and more before he tells his tale. Three rioters agree to become brothers and go after Death to kill him. On the way they encounter an old man who tells them that they can find Death underneath a tree. When they find the tree, they find gold coins and they forget about Death. One of the brothers is sent to a nearby town to fetch food and drink while the other two guard the treasure. The two brothers conspire to kill the one sent to the town while the brother sent to the town conspires to poison the wine. When the brother returns, the other two brothers kill him and then drink the posioned wine. They also die as a result. So all three brothers did in fact meet Death there. The theme played out here is Radix malorum est Cupiditas, which is Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6.10, “Greed is the root of evils”.

    JKR takes this story and spins a new morality tale (with a Arthurian twist almost…Grail Hallows or Deathly Hallows), that of the Peverell brothers in The Tale of the Three Brothers, which starts off with three brothers using magical means to cross a very dangerous river. Death appears and is enraged that these three outsmarted him so he decides to give them each a gift. The oldest asks for a wand that is unbeatable in battle, the middle brother asks for the power to recall the dead so Death gives him a Resurrection Stone, and the youngest asks for a means to hide from Death so that he would not follow him and Death gives him his Invisibility Cloak.

    The oldest, equipped with the Elder Wand, goes after a man who wronged him and kills him with the wand. He then enters a bar where drunk, he boasts of his wand and its power. He is killed in the middle of the night and his wand is taken. Death claims him. The middle brother uses his stone to bring back his love whom he was going to marry. The woman appears sad, cold, and distant so the brother then kills himself so that he can join his love. Death claims him. Finally the youngest brother evades Death all his life and in the twilight of his years hands his son his Invisibility Cloak and meets Death as a friend and walks with Death as equals.

    The moral is similar but told differently with a different emphasis. The Pardoner’s Tale warns of the sins of greed. The three brothers not only found treasure near the tree but they unknowingly found Death and were not able to kill him. The Tale of the Three Brothers we also see a desire to master Death but eventually the first two brothers were not able to master Death because of their misuse of their “Hallows” articles. The youngest chose a wise gift (judging from Death’s unwillingness to part with it) and when he was ready, embraced Death on his own terms, as a friend, as an equal. Dumbledore’s words to Harry are poignant when he says that the true Master of Death embraces that he or she will die. Whereas Chaucer was discussing greed, JKR brings up the question of how we face Death to the forefront. This is evident through the quotations that she uses before the novel starts. Harry faced death and sacrificed himself for others. JKR gives profound answers for how we face Death and in the end we are reminded that love conquers all. JKR’s debt to Chaucer is telling and of course Deathly Hallows and the Pardoner’s Tale point backward to the one who suffered on our behalf and three days later, truly conquered Death. Our hope is the Resurrection: Christ’s and ours, and this hope allows us to say to Death, “Where is your sting?”

  16. From Nikenipter this link to a Chaucer essay on Scribbulus/TLC:

    Chaucer, J.K. Rowling, and All of Us
    A Journey from Harry Potter to The Canterbury Tales … and Back Again
    By Fidelia

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