Guest Post: Mad-Eye Moody — Allegorical Figure?

Mail Bag Annex this week: I just received a great letter that I think deserves its own thread. First, the writer says s/he loved my book. Second, s/he pointed out an obvious error in an argument I made in such a way that I could walk away from it without feeling I’d lost a limb. Third, s/he advances an argument I think is flawed but serious enough to deserve your attention and discussion. Letters from and meeting serious readers are the best part of Potter punditry; I look forward to reading your responses to this reader’s suggestion that Mad-Eye Moody is an allegorical stand-in for… well, you’ll have to read the letter yourself. I’ll post my response(s) in a few days.

Mr. Granger–

I wanted to compliment you on How Harry Cast His Spell, which I have just finished. I read the previous versions and was happy to see that the new one was thoroughly updated. I also have The Deathly Hallows Lectures and Unlocking Harry Potter on my To-Be-Read pile.

I wanted to comment on Rowling’s response to the Harry Haters and your theory that she does so in The Chamber of Secrets. Given that this book first came out in 1998 and that she probably was writing it even before the release of The Sorcerer’s Stone, my feeling is that this was too early for her to have crafted a full-flowered response to the Harry Haters, although your arguments for why Chamber of Secrets could be used to respond to the Harry Haters’ arguments are indeed interesting.

My belief is that J. K. Rowling responded to the Harry Haters in The Goblet of Fire with the creation of Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. Here are some reasons (I don’t have the books in front of me to reference, so this is a rough sketch):

— “Mad-Eye” Moody was well-known to Dumbledore as an Auror who had become somewhat paranoid by the evils he had battled throughout his career. Nevertheless, Dumbledore believed he could be a good teacher in Defense Against the Dark Arts.

— Because of Moody’s known paranoia, no one took much note of the ruckus that occurred at his home right before he left for Hogwarts to start teaching. He had “cried wolf” so many times that everyone put down the ruckus to his agitation. That was why the evil guys (i.e., the wolf in sheep’s clothing or Polyjuiced form, if you will) were able to succeed in their plot to impersonate Moody.

— Throughout Year 4, the real Moody is locked in his own trunk stuffed with his evil detectors. (If I remember correctly, Dumbledore found some of the evil detectors when rescuing Moody from the trunk.) Quite a nice picture of the dangers of being unable to “think outside the box.”

— Dumbledore realizes the switch when the fake Moody takes Harry away despite Dumbledore’s orders. Whatever his faults, the real Moody knew the value of obedience and loyalty to legitimate authority.

— After his rescue, Moody is even more paranoid (naturally) but is still a valued member of the Order of the Phoenix.

— When Moody dies, Harry rescues his “mad-eye” (a relic, perhaps?) from desecration by Voldemort’s minions at the Ministry and buries it, marking the grave with a cross.

— Finally, look at his name. Moody fits his personality, sure, but “Moody” is also the name of American evangelist Dwight L. Moody, after whom is named the Moody Bible Institute. Also, Moody’s Scottish background — in the books, he sometimes uses the word “laddy” — might be a nod to one of the most belligerent of the Protestant Reformers John Knox, who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.

I welcome your comments on this idea (and correction, if need be) If you’d like to post this to HogPro, that’s fine with me. Thanks, and thanks also for your wonderful work in defending the Harry Potter books and J. K. Rowling.

[Author’s name withheld by request]

Comments and Corrections, please.


  1. I think the application perspicacious but I don’t buy into the direct allegorical intent. The dangers of books have long been touted by many regimes: socialist, communist, fascist, liberal, and capitalist. JKR could well have written COS with that preparation in mind as the Harry Haters raised their pitchforks to toss Harry and author onto the bonfire. I would say it was to all of the above who prefer Farenheit 451to ideas they object to and seek to consign to the flames.

    The Moody references to the evangelist or school are too far a reach, IMHO, and so also is the allusion to John Knox. The “laddy” referencing is Scots characterization surely, but they are noted in such contexts for pragmatism (CS Lewis’ “The Great Knock” and McPherson in THS) and engineering (e.g., Scotty on Star Trek) or fierceness (Hae Scots wha ha for Wallace bled).

  2. Arabella Figg says

    Although I agree that CoS was written and published too soon to answer Christian critics, I also agree with Inked that this is too far a reach, although nicely reasoned out.

    It was really at the time GoF was released, that the Christian fur really began flying as the books just blew into international attention, and Harry-haters became loud, shrill and unrelenting. Rowling declared she was a Christian (was it at this time, John?) and said the last book would fully answer questions. But every book shines with faith and gospel influences, metaphors, imagery and downright demonstration.

    While the name Moody might have been a hat-tip to Christian righteousness, his eye…well, you’ll just have to read The Deathly Hallows Lectures, folks!

    A book, a cat on the lap…does it get better?

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