Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #9: Traditional Symbolism

Ms. Rowling includes a “resurrection” scene in every Harry Potter novel (see, yes, Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader) and Deathly Hallows conforms to pattern . Instead of “symbols of Christ” helping Harry, however, through his figurative death, in Hallows Harry seems to be a Christ figure at least in offering himself in obedience and as agnal sacrifice to free the world from evil. We see snakes again used consistently (contrary to Michael O’Brien’s assertions) as evil, an afterlife “holding area,” and a “seekers symbol” misunderstood as a political device. What symbols did you notice in Deathly Hallows and how effectively were they used?


  1. Couple of things jumped out at me. First, when Hermione, Harry, and Ron all disagree on which part of the Deathly Hallows was most valuable, I immediately thought of the tripartite view of the soul that John thought was a major dynamic in the first book. (“It’s all in Plato.”) The fact that Harry returns to save the day from King’s Cross seemed pretty important to me. Finally (for this short take), Harry and Ron both undergo baptisms to retrieve the Sword. That hit me over the head when I first read it.

  2. hotochan says

    You also have the holy grail which is Hufflepuff’s cup that they have to go through all kinds of things to get to it in Gringotts.

    Neville Longbottom could be seen as a King Arthur figure finally coming into his own as when King Arthur pulled the sword from the stone so did Neville pull the sword from the sorting hat. He then slayed the evil monster.

  3. There was the ressurection stone, a cross, a wand, a submersion sacrifice, walking into the forest to LV, Neville cutting off the head of the serpant, green eyes (color symbolism) being turned to gold, souls were mentioned a lot, and I am sure I can think of more.

  4. Miss Prewett says

    Each of the Horcruxes was destroyed by a different person:
    -the diary by Harry in 2nd year
    -the ring by Dumbledore between OotP and HBP
    -the locket by Ron
    -the cup by Hermione
    -the diadem by Crabbe or Goyle’s fire (which was surely convenient and almost a deus ex machina)
    -the scar/Harry by Voldemort
    -the snake by Neville

    Thus, despite Harry’s insistence that he stand alone to complete the task, it truly was a team effort. Even the best heroes need assistance along the way; perhaps it was Dumbledore’s independence and lack of an equal that led to his isolation and even downfall? Harry, however, is surrounded by colleagues and friends who are truly his equals, and this is one of his greatest strengths. Most archetypal heroes have a similar circumstance – no matter what sort of final test they undergo, getting there requires a lot of help, usually in the form of allies or friends.

  5. One bit of traditional symbolism I don’t think anybody has mentioned yet is that when Dumbledore’s grave is opened, his body is apparently incorrupt, like the bodies of some of the saints were supposed to have been.

  6. From Hans Andrea’s Harry Potter for Seekers website, this important post on Dean’s Wood, the site of “Harry’s baptism”. Read attentively; it’s a wow!

    Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2007 23:48:58 +0000
    Subject: [harrypotterforseekers] Re: What’s going on?

    Actually, I was waiting for somebody to post something I could reply
    to… but here’s a little mini-post about some of the symbolism in DH.

    Chapter Nineteen, ‘The Siver Doe’, is a pivotal chapter, in my
    opinion. It marks the moment when Harry first realises that he has a
    chance to ultimately defeat Voldemort, and contains the ‘baptism’ of

    It is set in the forest of Dean. This is, I think, important. The
    first magical person Harry meets, Hagrid, is from the forest of Dean
    as well — Jo Rowling gave him a forest of Dean accent. Note that
    Hagrid was not only the one who introduced Harry to magic, but the
    one who carried him after he had ‘died’ and became Master of Death.

    The forest of Dean is prominant in Arthurian and pre-Arthurian legend
    as a place with mystic importance. It was associated with ‘Annwn’,
    the celtic Underworld, filled with immortal beings, the fair folk:


    “An underground Netherworld region found in Welsh legend. Surviving
    from pre-Christian Celtic mythology, its immortal inhabitants are the
    fair folk, demons or thinly disguised deities depending on the
    viewpoint. Neither Heaven nor Hell in the Christian sense, humans can
    enter spiritually or corporeally.

    “Annwn, or Annwfn, is ruled by Gwyn ap Nudd or Gwyn, son of Nodons, a
    Briton god whose temple was at Lydney in the forest of Dean. He often
    appears among mortals to meddle in their affairs. Found at Arthur’s
    court in Culhwch and Owen, where God is said to have given him
    dominion over the demons, “lest this world be destroyed.” Folklore
    transforms him into the leader of the Wild Hunt, riding through the
    clouds raising human shades, along with the red-eared hounds of Annwn
    and occasionally by the undead Arthur himself.

    “Contained within the alleged Book of Taleisin is “The Spoils of
    Annwn,” an obscure, inauthentic Welsh poem dating from perhaps the
    tenth century. It is the tale of a raid on the part of Arthur and his
    knights through the underworld, questing for a magical, talismanic
    cauldron in the custody of nine maidens. Only seven survive this
    perilous expedition. Due to the pagan substance of the poem, it has
    been claimed to be a foreshadowing of later Grail Quests.The number
    nine relates to real groups of nine priestesses in pre-Christian,
    Celtic society. Geoffrey of Monmouth tells of a sisterhood of nine
    led by Morgan le Fay in his poetic Vita Merlini. The coven was
    located on the Isle of Apples, or Avalon, another otherworld
    sometimes identified with Annwn.”

    The forest of Dean is also associated with Arthurian legend. As well
    as being the location of the proto-Grail Quest mentioned above, we
    find that King Arthur hunts the Great White Stag here:

    Arthur decides to hunt the White Stag:

    On Easter day, in springtime,
    at Cardigan, his castle,
    King Arthur held court.
    So rich a one was ever seen,
    for there were many good knights,
    brave and combative and fierce,
    and rich ladies and maidens,
    daughters of kings, noble and beautiful;
    but before the court concluded
    the king said to his knights
    that he wanted to hunt the white stag
    in order to revive the tradition.
    My lord Gawain was not a bit pleased
    when he heard this:
    “Sire,” said he, “from this hunt
    you will never have either gratitude nor thanks.
    We have all known for a long time
    what tradition is attached to the white stag:
    he who can kill the white stag
    by right must kiss
    the most beautiful of the maidens of your court,
    whatever may happen.

    The next day, as soon as it was light,
    the king arose and made ready;
    to go into the forest
    he put on a short tunic.
    He had the knights awakened,
    the hunting-steeds readied.
    They had their bows and their arrows,
    and set off to hunt in the forest.
    The queen mounted up after them,
    accompanied by an attendant;
    she was a maiden, daughter of a king,
    and sat upon a good palfrey.
    A knight came spurring after them:
    his name was Erec.

    Erec left the queen
    and followed the knight.
    And the queen remained in the woods,
    where the king had caught up with the stag:
    at the taking of the stag
    the king arrived before any of the others.
    They killed and took the white stag.
    All started back,
    carrying the stag as they went;
    they arrived at cardigan.
    After the evening meal, when the nobles
    were joyful throughout the house,
    the king, according to the tradition,
    since he had taken the stag,
    said that he would bestow the kiss
    in order to observe the tradition of the stag.
    Throughout the court there was much muttering:
    They promised and swore to one another
    that this would never be done without contention
    by means of sword or lance of ash-wood.
    Each one wanted, by deeds of arms,
    to contend that his lady
    was the most beautiful in the hall;
    these words did not bode well;
    When my lord Gawain heard this,
    You may be sure that he was not at all pleased.

    The taking of the White Stag causes dissent to develop over who gets
    to kiss who. This is reminiscent of what Ron experiences when he
    tries to break the Locket Horcrux.

    The White Stag, of course, is also a symbol of kingship and nobility,
    very fitting to be Harry’s patronus and his father’s animagus form,
    and would be closely linked to his mother’s (and Snape’s) patronus,
    the Silver Doe — which Harry follows while in the forest of Dean!


  7. Dr JA Sykley says

    I would just like to say how insightful and delightful I found Miss Prewett’s note (July 24, 2007 at 3:39 pm) regarding the team effort involved in destroying each Horcrux (I know, I know – it’s taken me nearly 4 years to respond to her post, but better late than never). While I did ‘catch that main theme’ (Phew!) and mention in my upcoming book, a psychological analysis of HP7, I am proud of Miss P identifying 7 different players. It’s such an important message, isn’t it? Helping each other.
    Regards, Dr JA Sykley, Aussie Psychologist (Author of Harry Potter Power, 2010)

  8. I really noticed two major symbolisms that I have yet to see others get. The first is the death of Hedwig. Hedwig is white. The color of inoccence, and she had been with Harry since his first year. When she died it was essentialy the death of Harry’s inoocence.
    Another thing I noticed is that the snitch says “I open at the close”. This could be a symbol of how the first book came out (1997) when the series was ending (1998), because the first book is based in 1991-1992.

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