New Book from David Martin, Hogwarts Tournament of Houses Champion!

Christos Anesti!

Some grand good news today, besides the victory over death that is! David Martin, long time friend of this weblog and senior member of the Hufflepuff squad that that won the premiere series of ‘Hogwarts Tournament of Champions,’ has written a book, Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches and Other Thoughts about Harry Potter, which is now available on Amazon. You can follow David on Twitter @DavidTheHufflep and in Instagram at DavidTheHufflepuff. 

David spoke with Louise Freeman about his experiences at ‘Tournament of Champions’ in her “I could not have survived without my colleagues:” David Martin of Hufflepuff Gives the Inside Scoop on the Tournament of Houses. He doesn’t say much there about the book beyond that he is working on a sequel (‘How to Win Friends and Influence Wizards: Learning Social Skills from the Harry Potter Novels’) but here is what the book’s Amazon page says about Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches and Other Thoughts about Harry Potter:

The book blurb goes like this:

  • What were the charms that Ron used to win Hermione’s heart?
  • Why do wizards use old-fashioned things?
  • What do Americans misunderstand about the Harry Potter books?
  • Could there be a connection between the Harry Potter novels and Little Women?
  • What is blood status really about?
  • What is the connection between D-Day in World War II and the way Harry and Hermione use the time turner to save Sirius Black and Buckbeak?
  • Why is it important that Voldemort’s wand is made of wood from a yew tree?
  • What advice would Ginny Weasley give about how to handle boys?

These and many other topics are covered in this collection of essays (along with two chapters of comical fan fiction) mostly based on presentations made by David the Hufflepuff at Harry Potter conferences. Laugh some, learn, some, and deepen your appreciation of the Harry Potter books.

David Martin is a grandfather who has been reading, thinking about, and writing about Harry Potter for more than twenty years.

One thing David did mention in the interview was something he was working on, an essay “on the symbolism of trees, which was a pure wild guess. I said, I’ll bet there’s something there. Let’s take a look. And by golly, I found some rather surprising things.” I have his permission to share it today with HogwartsProfessor readers, an especially apt one for Pascha. Read that essay after the jump and be sure to chack out David’s new book, Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches and Other Thoughts about Harry PotterCongratulations, David, on the book and again for your team victory on Tournament of Champions!

An Unexpected Bible Reference in Deathly Hallows

I stumbled upon something last October while preparing for the Chestnut Hill conference. It is a puzzling detail in “The Silver Doe” chapter of Deathly Hallows, just after Ron has miraculously reappeared in time to rescue Harry from the icy pond and retrieve the sword of Gryffindor. Here’s the relevant passage:

The Horcrux was still swinging from Ron’s hand. The locket was twitching slightly. Harry knew that the thing inside it was agitated again. It had sensed the presence of the sword and had tried to kill Harry rather than let him possess it. Now was not the time for long discussions; now was the moment to destroy the locket once and for all. Harry looked around, holding Hermione’s wand high, and saw the place: a flattish rock lying in the shadow of a sycamore tree. (HALLOWS Page 373, emphasis added)

Mystery: JKR is a skilled writer who does not waste words. Why should she bother to tell us that this rock is in the shadow of a sycamore tree?

If there is a symbolic meaning here, it seems likely that it is a meaning associated with Ron, because he is the one who is about to do battle in the shadow of this tree.

In Egyptian mythology the sycamore tree was associated with several goddesses. Some web sites assert that a sycamore tree symbolizes strength, protection, eternity, and divinity. If those were the meanings intended, then Ron’s battle with the Horcrux could be understood as spiritual warfare, with Ron under divine protection. But I suspect that this is not what Rowling intended.

Sycamore trees are mentioned several times in the Old Testament (for example, the prophet Amos refers to himself as a dresser of sycamores in Amos 7:14.) I can’t see why that would be related to this scene.

There is also the well-known reference to a sycamore tree in the New Testament. In Luke 19:1-10 we have the story of Zacchaeus, a tax-collector at Jericho, who climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus over the heads of the crowd. I believe that this story, the Zacchaeus story, is the relevant reference here; I believe it is the story Rowling is trying to invoke.

Here’s the Zacchaeus story (as translated in the New International Version of the Bible):

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.

2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.

4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The similarity between the Zacchaeus story and Ron’s story in “The Silver Doe” is this: They are both stories of confession, repentance, penance, and forgiveness. According to my Sunday School teacher when I was ten years old, forgiveness is the last step in a four-step process:

  1. Confession (admitting that you did it),
  2. Repentance (being sorry you did it; resolving not to do it again),
  3. Penance (making amends if possible), and
  4. Forgiveness (reacceptance in the community.)

All four of these steps are present both in the Zacchaeus story and in Ron’s story.

Zacchaeus, as a tax collector for the hated Roman rulers, had been rejected by the other Jews. But because of the way he changed, repented and made amends (verse 8) he is forgiven and re-accepted as a “son of Abraham” (verse 9).

Ron had deserted Harry and Hermione. But because of his return and his redeeming actions, by the end of the chapter Ron has been forgiven and re-accepted as part of the trio (though Hermione continued to give him dirty looks for a several chapters.)

Ron’s conversation with Harry, showing Ron’s repentance, mentioning Ron’s penance, and ending with Harry’s forgiveness of Ron is brief and to the point:

I’m sorry,” (Ron) said in a thick voice. “I’m sorry I left. I know I was a — a —”

He looked around at the darkness, as if hoping a bad enough word would swoop down upon him and claim him.

You’ve sort of made up for it tonight,” said Harry. “Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.”

Simultaneously they walked forward and hugged, Harry gripping the still-sopping back of Ron’s jacket. (HALLOWS, pages 378-379)

The roughly similar conversation between Ron and Hermione takes the rest of the chapter, but in the end Hermione climbs back into her bed and:

About the best you could hope for, I think,” murmured Harry.

Yeah,” said Ron. “Could’ve been worse. Remember those birds she set on me?”

I still haven’t ruled it out,” came Hermione’s muffled voice from beneath her blankets, but Harry saw Ron smiling slightly as he pulled his maroon pajamas out of his rucksack. (HALLOWS, pages 386-387)

My conclusion: By telling us that the flat rock is in the shadow of a sycamore tree, Rowling is telling us that this is a story of confession, repentance, penance, and forgiveness. And indeed it is.

For more David Martin brilliance, check out Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches and Other Thoughts about Harry Potter, Table of Contents, below!

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