HogwartsProfessor Mailbag: The Super, the Silly, the Sublime

The mailbag at HogwartsProfessor has been especially heavy the last few weeks and the variety of requests for help, notices of important events, and suggestions of topics for coverage here has been impressively diverse. How about a Post Potter Depression Clothing Line? George R. R. Martin’s Ice and Fire books? The link between the reading habits of Potter-philes and the greatest of all self-help mages, Dale Carnegie? A Canadian Hogwarts in revolt against its Slytherin-esque Ministry — a liberal Bishop? A skype HogPro interview with a Bogota teevee station — filmed at McDonalds? The forgotten ‘yellow’ stage of alchemy? Welcome to my world!

Before I head out for the east coast for my second trip to Virginia in less than a fortnight, I thought I’d empty out the bag with my e-responses for your comment and correction. Let’s start with the letter cum request from Pakistan that I have to suspect is a hoax, if I have no reason beyond cynicism for believing it is.

[1] Dear Sir,

I am an English school teacher in Lahore, Pakistan. I always try my best to encourage my students to read beyond their course outlines. Though often it is difficult, but not altogether disappointing. Students respond really well to certain texts. I have decided to include passages from great children’s literature in the English curriculum. The administration has asked me to undertake an extensive research, which will serve as the primary basis for the final selection, which can hopefully be approved by the State. I have considered several short stories from the The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature. I really feel that Harry Potter is an ineluctable part of any children’s literature curriculum. Students respond most warmly to it than to anything else.

I would be immensely thankful to you, if you would suggest me chapter(s) from the Harry Potter series, an excerpt which makes at the most twenty pages long, and best encapsulates the elements of fantasy/children’s literature. Your word of advice would be immeasurably invaluable to me and to the students of Pakistan. The scholarly associations and the great literary reputation in children’s literature scholarship that your name bears, would make an immense difference to the authenticity of the selection we will make.

Please favour us with your suggestion, which would be the one most important contribution in this endeavour.

Kind regards,

[Name Withheld]

Dear Sir,

I ask for your prayers.

Thank you for your kind words. I doubt my literary judgment in this matter is better than yours and I am sure, because you know the reading audience much better than I do or ever will, that your choice from the many chapters in the Hogwarts Saga would be more appropriate than my own.

That being said, here are three possibilities, offered only in obedience to your request for help:

(1) ‘The Man With Two Faces,’ Chapter 17 of Philosopher’s Stone

In this finale, Harry confronts the bad guy of the series, Lord Voldemort, for the first time before a magical mirror that reveals “the heart’s desire.” He is saved from his enemy, not by magical ability, but by the power of sacrificial love.

(2) ‘The Silver Doe,’ Chapter 19 of Deathly Hallows

This is the chapter the author reads in public when asked to do so and I think it is perhaps her best work. It combines Arthurian, alchemical, and Christian symbolism with great subtlety to deliver the message of evil’s corrosive power and how best to overcome it.

(3) ‘The Cave,’ Chapter 26 of Half-Blood Prince

Harry and Headmaster Dumbledore enter a cave to retrieve a magical object holding a part of the soul of Lord Voldemort. The scene itself — the cave with its entrance requiring a blood sacrifice, a lake with enchanted corpses, an island within it where the object is concealed — and the heroic actions of teacher and student in the face of evil are inspiring and instructive, not to mention thrilling!

Again, I trust that your preferences are a much better guide than my own. Thank you for your kind words, nonetheless, and for this mental exercise! With your permission, I will publish your note, withholding your name and your school, at my website — HogwartsProfessor.com — along with this response to see if readers have any other ideas.



Dear Sir

I am overwhelmed. Thank you very much for your kind words and encouragement. I believe in your selection more confidently than in my own, because yours would be definitely better than mine. You are too kind, of course you can post this on your website. You would favour me immensely. I am so thankful to you, I can hardly express.

My best regards and prayers for you.

[Name withheld]

So… Prankster or real deal? I’m sure I’ll never know. Whether it is a hoax or not, please offer your ideas for the future Norton’s Anthologies that will include a Hogwarts Saga representative fragment.

[2] Angel wrote:
ive been working on post potter depression awareness and a ppd clothing line for awhile now and i was wondering if you could post my video for all to see? before i put my line up

thank you so much for this opportunity

Website: http://www.youtube.com/user/doubleAAandJ?feature=mhee , http://www.facebook.com/pages/Post-Potter-D


Dear Angel, if I may,

I will post this opportunity post haste!



[3] Dear Mr Granger,

I’ve nearly finished reading The Deathly Hallows Lectures and enjoyed it so much I’ve ordered Unlocking Harry Potter and How Harry Cast His Spell. I had got as far as (off my own bat) seeing The life and lies of Albus Dumbledore; as analogous to the Last Days and, of course, clocking that the ultimate power in Harry’s world is agape or love.  However, I was delighted to have my eyes opened to a whole raft of meaning that is certainly there which has illuminated the books.

I’m a writer myself (I write Agatha Christie type mysteries published by Severn House) and I’ve richly enjoyed the Christie echos (such as the Murder at the Riddle House and the way the books are structured to be perfect detective stories) and can only marvel at JKR’s depth and total command of her material.

For instance, apart from anything else, the battle of Hogwarts is a terrific action scene.  Anyone who’s ever tried to write a lengthy action scene will know it can descend into nothing but a shower of adjectives. The sheer technical skill of The Battle takes my breath away!

I’m very much looking forward to reading your other books.
All the very best,
(And my only quibble with JKR is that she used the name ‘Dolores.’  I mean, yes, it fits perfectly but I endured years of Latin lessons with that moniker!)

Website: www.doloresgordon-smith.co.uk

Dear Dolores, if I may,

Wonderful name, if I have to say I’m delighted to share a name with Hermione rather than Prof. Umbridge!

Thank you very much for your kind words about my books. I think as a writer who appreciates Ms. Rowling’s artistry that you’d love the lecture notes I’ve posted at Lulu.com detailing the Ring Composition story scaffolding and series structure of the Hogwarts Saga.

Write when you can to tell me what you think! I’m guessing you’ll be as astonished as I was…



[4] Hi Prof. Granger,

I’m curious if you’ve familiar with a fantasy manga and anime series called Bleach, by Tite Kubo, which has been filling the Harry Potter-shaped hole in my heart for the last few months. It’s another one of those stories about supernaturally-empowered high school kids who get caught up in this big cosmic struggle. I started watching it out of curiosity, since it’s one of the most popular manga/anime series in the U.S., and was surprised at all the layers and how it’s a lot more than just the usual silly fight scenes and fanservice.

The female lead Rukia’s name is based on the Latin word for light, and the colors black, white, and red are VERY prominent in some of the chapter names and character designs, although I don’t think that’s about alchemy, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg…

Even though the characters live in a normal Japanese context, with the fantasy world of shinigami thrown in, there is an interesting use of Christian imagery in the storytelling, along with what seem to be Platonic and Jungian personality theories.


Some major plot points have the main character Ichigo ‘Strawberry’ Kurosaki coming to grips with what sounded a LOT like Plato’s concept of the tripartite soul — the rational self, the zanpakuto spirit (spirited), and the inner hollow (appetitive and instinctive).

Like Satan, the main villain decides he wants to overthrow the unseen Soul King and stand in the heavens taking other traitors with him —
then later he is defeated by being sealed in something with three cross shapes and sentenced to be locked up for 20,000 years, and he’s angry at being defeated by a mere human (who only just found out he was also the son of a shinigami).

Before that, there’s another important plot arc where a character spends a lot of time sitting on a cross-shaped chair contemplating her perceived sins, before being nearly executed and fed to a firebird on something that is obviously made to look like a crucifixion. There are chapter titles referencing concepts like Immanent God, transcendent God, and the seven deadly sins.

Anyway, I was wondering if you might have had any insights on this series, especially since you’re a lot more familiar with Japan, literary theory, Plato, etc. than I am…

Dear [name withheld], if I may,

Your prayers.

Two things along with my apology for the long delay in responding:

(1) I’ve not heard of this fantasy series until your note and have to doubt I will be able to explore it, if only because I am over committed now as it is; and

(2) Your note made my day because in it you demonstrate that I don’t need to do this kind of analysis — readers like you, though overly modest, have the skills, tools, and heart to unlock the artistry and meaning of this kind of work.

Did you see my article in Christianity Today about Harry’s legacy? Readers like you are the biggest part of that.



[5] Whatever Happened to the Harry Potter Readers? An ABE Books collection. They followed the post-Hallows purchases of those customers who bought Harry Potter novels at their web site. That’s pretty creepy but what they discovered is pretty entertaining. Can you say, “Dale Carnegie”?

[6] Hello, Mr Granger,
i would to ask you if you are interested in giving an analysis of the series a song of ice and fire of George  R R  Martin.
Imagine a land where seasons last years,very similar to europe in the middle ages.This land is called westeros,a land where honorable men,bandits,kings,knights and many others struggle for the control of the iron throne.But this is not the most  important struggle,because a menace that is now considered unreal is returning while this shallow  plots continues.

A song of ice and fire is considered by some one of the greatest series of fantasy,even its creator George R R  Martin the american Tolkien.But there is are great differences between the styles of Martin and Tolkien,first Martin doesn’t tell the story in a manichaean way because some characters can be seen  as evil by otheers can show reeeming qualities later in the story (except by some characters),also this series is very explicit about sex;couse language;and religious intolerance.
that is the series that is now being adaptated into a tv show on hbo called game of thrones.
Apologies because English is not my first language.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for this introduction to George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. I think if we were going to run a post on this series at Hogwarts Professor that it would be about the artistry and meaning of the books or just “why should we read them?”

I enjoyed this comment by the author, quoted in the Wikipedia piece:

“Although I differ from Tolkien in important ways, I’m second to no one in my respect for him. If you look at Lord of the Rings, it begins with a tight focus and all the characters are together. Then by end of the first book the Fellowship splits up and they have different adventures. I did the same thing. Everybody is at Winterfell in the beginning except for Dany, then they split up into groups, and ultimately those split up too. The intent was to fan out, then curve and come back together. Finding the point where that turn begins has been one of the issues I’ve wrestled with.”[17]
He seems to be pointing to a Ring Composition formula in Tolkien that he is discovering in his own work! Thank you for writing and for bringing this series to my attention.



‘Colleges Most Like Hogwarts’ — King’s College, Nova Scotia?

[7] Heather wrote: I realize that all of these schools are in the states but i would like to note that University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada is a lot like Hogwarts. Although it is a very small campus it is filled with stone buildings, giant pillars, a quad and a very liberal arts atmosphere. The best part though is the traditions! Each month we have a formal meal where everyone must wear robes and when you enter the enormous Prince Hall dining hall with its sloped ceilings and all of the tables lined with drinks and candles it feels like Hogwarts. To add to this at the beginning and end of formal meal a latin grace is said and sometimes sang by the campuses chapel choir. The 6 residences on campus may not have a great rivalry all year long but it comes out in the april fools midnight water balloon fight (a tradition) And there has recently been talk of creating a Hogwarts Express where students from away can all take the train home and back for the holidays.

I sent Heather’s comment to a colleague and King’s College alumna who wrote back —

When I was there, formal meal was weekly – following Solemn High Mass and sherry in the President’s Lodge – and gowns were worn to all university events.  And we were awakened at the crack of dawn (7:30) by bagpipes.  Some of those evoke fonder memories than others.

We also knew when to use sung and when to use sang.

I learned later that King’s College is having something of a revolution against its version of the Ministry, namely, a Bishop unsympathetic to traditions:


See below on what might be called ‘Recovering Hogwarts at Kings’ – Anglican style.

The Anglican “Bishop” of Nova Scotia (Sue) has decided the Diocese can no longer financially support the chaplaincy at King’s Chapel – probably the only place real evangelism takes place in the Diocese; in part because she considers what happens there to be “antiquated”.

The students have risen up!  And they are being egged on by Dr. Wayne (Severus) Hankey.  (Dr. Robert Crouse – aka Dumbledore – died last year.)

The protest manifesto reads:

There are suggestions that “antiquated” is equivalent to being irrelevant, archaic and/or obsolete.

This Thursday we will be celebrating King’s traditions, including the “antiquated” traditions of the chapel, and the life they provide to the King’s community. As Her Honourable Michaëlle Jean says we must “cultivate a feeling of togetherness”.

“Antiquated” t-shirts will be available Wednesday during FYP lecture break and afterFYP lecture. Also available all day Thursday. Wear them proudly with your academic gowns!

Come out to all of the following events:

7:45 AM – Wake-Up Call with Bagpipes

~Revisiting the 1970’s King’s traditions of using bagpipes for an alarm clock.

8:00 – Morning Prayer

~ The tradition of daily offices dates back 1500 years. Morning Prayer starts the day.

9:10 Dr. Wayne Hankey’s gives an oration about tradition

~ Dr. Hankey: King’s greatest antique.

12 Noon – Noon Time Prayer

~ A very short service. Be on time or you will miss it all!

3:00-4:30 – Manning Room, Tea Time

~ This may be the second oldest tradition at King’s. Tea is not just for old people.

5:00 – Choral Solemn Eucharist in the Chapel

~ Check this out! Five-time Grammy Award Winner, Paul Halley and superstar Chaplain Father Thorne. This is arguably the most beautiful of the services offered by the Chapel. Incense, robes, bells, icons and incredible music all have their roots in antiquity.

6:30-8:30 Sherry followed by Middle Bay Sausage Fest and Poetry Power Hour

~ Sherry Hour. Need we say more?

~Middle bay Sausage Fest = mittleren Bucht Wurstfest. A new tradition is still a tradition. Hosted by the Gentlemen of Middle bay.

~Poetry Power Hour with the Poetry Society.

8:30 doors open, 9:00 Fashion Show for Adsum House started as hosted by YAS. Dress in your best antiquated costume or as your favourite antiquated character. Noah White will be Gilgamesh. Leah Collins will be Cleopatra.

This event in Prince Hall will include antiquated drinks from the Wardroom (the oldest tradition at King’s).

~ Guest Judges: Dr. Georgy Levit, Dr. Laura Penny, The Beloved Dean “Sorting Hatt” and Jazzy John.

~ Following viewing of the newest trends from local Halifax boutiques, recognized King’s folk will be modeling some more retro fashions. Students will also be modeling some more antiquated costumes!

12:15 AM Compline!

~Last office. Most peaceful of services, and candlelit. The perfect way to reflect on your day … and thousands of years of traditions.

[8] HogPro Interview with a Bogota, Columbia, teevee stationfilmed via Skype in an Oklahoma City McDonald’s (loong story!)

[9] Great Web Site find for Serious Readers of Harry Potter and Hunger Games! Check out the Hunger Games posts and Hogwarts Saga analysis at ATRossBooks.com.

[10] John,

Most definitions of Alchemy include a Citrinitas or Yellowing stage. Do you see any symbols of this stage of the great work in the Harry Potter books?

By the way thanks again for opening these literary alchemy themes up to me I’m thoroughly enjoying trying to spot evidence of alchemical structure as I read futher Chaucer, Austen, Dickens et al.



Dear Adam, if I may.

I looked up ‘citrinitas’ at your suggestion in Lyndy Abraham’s Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery and found this:

the yellow stage of the opus alchymicum, following the white albedo , symbolized by the golden flower, the golden rose. From the early Christian era, the opus was divided into four main stages characterized by specific colors: the nigredo or black stage, (2) the albedo or white (silver) stage, (3) the citrinintas or yellow stage, and (4) the rubedo or red (gold) stage. From the fifteenth or sixteenth century, the three main colors and stages of the opus become black, white, and red, and the citrinitas was generally but not wholly, dropped from use [He cites Benjamin Lock as an alchemist who persists in the use] p 42

I haven’t seen the yellow stage mentioned in literary alchemy texts, which, given Abraham’s dating, makes sense, There is no positive literary alchemy pre-Shakespeare, if I remember my Stanton Linden, and that is right at the time frame he says the citrinitas disappears.

The only Potter reference I can think of that works is the Weasley-LaFleur alchemical wedding at the beginning of Deathly Hallows in which almost everything is golden. It’s at the right place for it — between the albedo and rubedo — and the coloring is right. I’ve assumed that coloring was just the function of ‘contraries being resolved in the wedding but have to wonder now if it wasn’t an alchemical hat-tip to the citrinitas.



[11] Hi. My name is Michaella Katz. I am the owner and creator of http://InHonorOfRowing.com.… We a doing a big project in honor of Ms. Rowling and, we were hoping you could possibly take part in the project. It’s really quick and simple… to take part all you have to do is answer the following question: “How has Jo Rowling changed your life?”. This would mean a great deal to us! We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time!~Michaella

I urge you all to go hither and answer that pressing question!

[12] Dear Hogwarts Professor,

We just finished a short-film about Dumbledore as 19 years old, when he meets Grindelwald for the first time, and loses his sister. We received 1900 pounds in support from a film distributor in Norway, which makes this a whole lot bigger than we could ever have dreamt of!

Being huge fans of your site, and work, we  wondered if you could post a link to the just-released film on your site, so that people easily can get to know the project and spread the word!

The reason to why we’re doing this is because Pottermore is launched and we’re hoping to introduce fan fictional film, not just stories, into the world of Harry Potter. We want Harry Potter to live in films as well, not just in stories and fiction.

Here’s the film: http://vimeo.com/32008400

Looking forward to hear from you,

It’s up! Make of it what you will…

Thank you in advance for labeling your comments about the letters and notices above with the apposite number.

Off to a daughter’s wedding! Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. That AbeBooks study “proves” a quote I read recently: Harry Potter is the gateway drug to hard literature.

  2. The query from Pakistan sounds completely authentic. My husband’s family is from Pakistan and a friend of the family is an English professor there. The letter you received sounds exactly like how someone would formally address an authority on a subject-matter. And I’m pretty sure that your suggestion was genuinely appreciated and will be followed “to-a-T” in putting together relevant excerpts for their reader!

  3. Imagine my surprise to find that John linked to my humble literary offerings on The Hunger Games and the Potter novels. Thanks, John!

  4. Louise Freeman says

    In addition to the gold at the wedding, there were several references to the bright yellow robes worn by the Lovegoods to the wedding. I remember at least one comparison to egg yolk. It was them, as I recall, who first introduced the idea of the Desthly Hallows as a spiritual quest. Could that be a nod to the yellowing phase?

    I recall Hermione’s Tales book was supposed to be old, but I don’t remember if the pages were ever described as yellow. That could be another connection.

  5. The citrinitas phase, although obsolete, fills out the four-fold structure of Houses, Elements, Tarot Suits, Temperments, etc. See the charts in my essay on Slythrin in HP FOR NERDS. Also note the topaz gem for Hufflepuff, filling out that set. (If the Houses were united, their collective gem would be a diamond, since white light contains all colors.)

    I’ve not read George RR Martin myself but given my husband’s and daughter’s the profoundly negative reactions to his stories, I doubt that you or your readers would enjoy them–gross, gory, grim, and sexually explicit.

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