MuggleNet: “Harry Potter Should Have Died”

A new title from the undergraduates in Indiana is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

It promises “literary criticism” so I thought you’d be interested. Your thoughts?


  1. revgeorge says


  2. Harry Potter did die. Therefore, I could interpret this title to mean a vindication of the series and its finale(s). That would perchance be a very reader-centric reading but, hey, it’s a postmodern world and some people claim that all the meaning is derived from the reader.

    On the other hand, I ain’t a buying this pig in the poke until I see some more information. Then, maybe…………..

  3. Arabella Figg says

    What’s that I smell? I already cleaned the cat box this morning.

    Consider the source. LIterary. Experts. Snicker.

    I second RevGeorge. Sigh.

  4. Red Rocker says

    It’s a book for teen-agers by teen-agers.

    And wouldn’t it have been more accurate to call it Harry Potter should have stayed dead?

  5. revgeorge says

    Lily Luna,

    Didn’t it have to do mainly with Harry giving his life sacrificially like his mother did? The effects of him doing that for the wizarding world don’t kick in unless he gives himself up as it were.

    Plus, wasn’t it Harry’s idea to stow his wand away so he wouldn’t be tempted to use it & fight back? He knew he had to die so he put his wand out of reach. But there’s nothing said, that I can remember, about he could survive ONLY if he didn’t fight back. In fact, nothing was said about Harry surviving at all. All indications were that he was to die; except for Dumbleodore’s belief that Harry & Voldy were tied together by the sacrifice of Harry’s mother that resided in his blood.

  6. Lily Luna says

    From a literary point of view, it wouldn’t have made sense for Harry to die for real since the snake and Voldy himself still needed to be killed. Every book in the series wasn’t titled “Harry Potter and the …” for nothing! Really, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — the Deathly Hallows had to be resolved with Harry getting the wand. And from an alchemical viewpoint, Harry needed to live.

    Now what I never understood was why Harry could survive the killing curse ONLY if he kept his wand in his robe and didn’t try to defend himself. Shouldn’t the magic of his mother’s sacrifice taken by Voldemort into himself at his rebirth been enough to tether Harry to life even if he fought back (as long as he didn’t try to kill Voldemort when he fought back – maybe that’s what Dumbledore was afraid of)?

  7. I agree that at first glance this is a book by and for teenagers. There is some information re the title here:

    The site includes an entry dated May 5th where Emerson writes:

    “…The title is a double entendre – it references the view some people hold, that Harry Potter (the character) should have died. It also speaks to those who thought Harry Potter (the buzz) should have died.

    But Harry Potter didn’t die. It didn’t go away when DH came out. In coffee shops and on message boards, we’re all still fiercely debating the most controversial issues….”

  8. RRocker: “It’s a book for teen-agers by teen-agers.”

    I guess it’s time to acknowledge that Harry Potter fandom is largely a tennager phenomenon, then, at least among book buyers? The book was listed at Amazon for pre-sale and is at #3000 at Amazon today, the #1 Harry Potter title not by Joanne Rowling. If ‘Harry: A History” is the relevant historical model, it will hold the #1 non-JKR spot through its publication and perhaps through the Christmas buying season.

    Or are these sales simply a testimony to MuggleNet’s ability to reach their target audience easily and effectively?

  9. Arabella Figg says

    Okay, let’s look at it this way.

    You’ve got a large youth audience who has grown up with Mugglenet (and Leaky Cauldron), as they’ve grown up with HP. So yes, you have a built-in target audience; an audience still obsessed with plot details and fan arguments. Therefore, you have an of-the-moment chart-burner, aided by a fan base, and possibly money (in aggressive marketing and placement).

    However, these same young people, as they mature, are going to want more than such speculation and plot-wrangling. They’ll discover there’s a lot more to their beloved books than they thought, when they take university courses already using books written by John, Travis and others who explore and untangle Rowling’s literary and alchemic influences, and open up great literature. These books will move the M/L cadre beyond the surface stuff because they give keys to open more than one or two doors in the Dept. of Rowling Mysteries.

    Therefore, the question is not “who is writing the most popular books at the moment?” but, “who is writing books for the long haul?” Books for the serious reader may have a slower start in recognition, but will be those that last and have the most long-term impact. People may go to M/L books for nostalgia, but they’ll go to John and Travis for depth.

  10. revgeorge says

    Lily Luna,

    I’m not sure anything is necessary to these scenarios except that Harry die or that Voldemort attempts to kill him. Everything else that happens is contingent on the way that dying happens but the dying definitely has to happen & would’ve happened except for those contingencies that Voldemort himself set up unknowingly!

    And certainly Harry’s survival isn’t contingent on him sacrificing himself but it would not be Harrylike if he didn’t do that. And by setting himself up to die sacrificially, even though he’s not thinking about that at the time he sets himself to die, he accomplishes for the wizarding world what his mother accomplished for him. All he knows is that he has to die, so he arranges things so that will happen, which involves not fighting back, because every time he’s faced Voldemort before & fought back he’s survived against all odds. He doesn’t want to do that here; he wants to die because it’s necessary for Voldemort to be defeated.

  11. Lily Luna says


    Point taken; I reread the relevant portion of the Prince’s Tale. I knew Harry stowed his wand so as not to be tempted to fight back and that he had no idea of his survival, but I was thinking that Dumbledore didn’t want him to fight back. On rereading, he doesn’t say that. He talks about Harry setting out to meet his death, and he says (with his eyes closed!) “And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential.” So it wasn’t necessary for Harry not to fight back, it’s just that there’s no point in fighting back if he’s supposed to die. Now, we/he should have wondered why it was essential for Voldemort to do it. After all, anyone could have killed Harry and it would have killed the horcrux within him, too, because the container (Harry) would be dead and the soul fragment dies if its container is put beyond magical repair. Dumbledore seems to be saying that the protection of the blood connection works only when Voldemort tries to kill Harry, not when anyone else tries to kill Harry, just like Voldemort’s original wand that shared a core with Harry’s could not do battle against its brother, but Hermione’s wand could break it.

    It’s not clear to me that Harry sacrificing himself is necessary for his survival versus if he had never seen Snape’s thoughts, had dueled Voldemort and Voldemort had hit him with a killing curse. Surely the protection of the blood tie would have worked in that scenario, too. In other words, if Harry hadn’t entered the protective bubble around the Tonks’ house when he did Voldemort still could not have killed him.

  12. What if JKR was writing a book about religion, Christianity to be clear, and the theme was that in the end the evil in the world will be extinguished by the the King of all King’s sacrifice and ressurection. Very simple and clear, but if you are not religious or superstitious and do not beleive in good vs. evil, well…… Most people today do not and are encouraged to not be religious. It’s sad but true, especially with the newer generations. The Christian church teaches that the demonic are on the rampage in this age, and not many are believing or paying attention. They just turn to science and psychology, which really holds more questions than answers to life’s mysteries. Read it and weep!!!!

  13. revgeorge says

    All I did was sigh. That could mean many things. But what it mostly means for me is “I’m up in the air about the new Mugglenet book.”

    The Mugglenet crew was pretty good on speculation. But I’ve found them woefully lacking on analysis, which is why I’m skeptical of the claims of literary criticism. Hey, I could be surprised. But I’m just thinking of where they might have learned literary criticism. I know I didn’t learn much literary criticism in public high school & that was back in the early ’80’s. I can only imagine how deconstructionist & post-modern any teaching of literary criticism would be today.

    Again, I could be surprised. And I’ll probably get the book, just like I got their first book. Which I ended up not keeping.

    Anybody around here been listening to Mugglecast lately? I haven’t listened for over a year or so.

  14. Well, here we all sit debating the merits of the “Potter” books. So why should we get on a high horse if another group of people is doing the same? Actually, I happen to be friends, on livejournal, with one of the people involved in this book, and she is not a teenager, but a woman in her forties.

    That doesn’t mean I am likely to buy or read the book. But I don’t think people should put it down before they have even seen who the authors are or what they have to say. It hasn’t even been published yet!

  15. Red Rocker says

    I based my conclusion on a cursory reading of the blurb at the Amazon site:

    Product Description
    Combining literary criticism with school yard boasts, the famous teenage founders of take their unequaled knowledge of the seven book series and apply it to fun, fascinating and contentious questions about everything Potter. J.K. Rowling not only told a wonderful story of a boy wizard, she also created a endless, magical world where not everything is fully explained – a world where the reader’s imagination is free to consider millions of ‘what ifs?’ And whether the fan is a 10 year old in the school lunch room or an adult fan posting on one of the countless potter websites, debating ‘what ifs’ is exactly what Potter fans do everyday. And no where are the debates better than on’s own posting boards. So who better then the experts behind to select the 100 most interesting and contentious debate topics. And who better to make the debates original and entertaining than these very same experts. Digging into every reference in every potter book, the authors apply their same unmatched insight to the debates in this book that allowed them to be so incredibly accurate with their predictions in “What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7”.

    About the Author
    Emerson Spartz founded the MuggleNet website in 1999 as a homeschooled twelve-year-old. He is a third-year student at the University of Notre Dame. Ben Schoen was webmaster at during high school and is now a freshman at the University of Notre Dame. They are both from Indiana.

    Reading level: Ages 9-12

    I’ll admit that I was wrong. The authors are probably in their late teens to early twenties. And the target audience could be adults. And lots of adults read at the age 12 level.

    But I’m going to go out on a limb here and venture to say that literary criticism, it aint.

  16. Lily Luna says

    From the blurb it doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to be literary criticism at all, but an entertaining discussion of “what ifs.” If they discuss 100 of the most contentious topics, they can’t be spending very many pages on any one topic (maybe two pages per topic including headings and explaining the topic), which means they can’t be doing much in depth analysis.

  17. Lily Luna says

    I looked at mugglenet about a year ago. A lot of the comment threads were dormant and the discussion wasn’t on a very sophisticated or interesting level, so I haven’t been back.

  18. qwertyuiop789 says

    In reply to Lily Lunas question about how Harry survived, it had nothing to do with the wand, it had to do with his blood; the fact that some of it was in Voldemort. In the 4th book, the goblet of fire on page 696 in the sort covered book after he gets back from the maze and he’s in Dumbledore’s office telling them what happened, after he says that Voldemort used his blood ect. “For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes.” Dumbledore knew that Harry wouldn’t really die, as long as Voldemort was alive. That’s really what kept him alive I think; the fact that part of him was still living somewhere. Sort of like a Horcrux you could say, but in a good way.

  19. Lily Luna says

    Yes, but I never asked how he survived. Obviously it was the blood connection. I was merely making the point that the self-sacrificial aspect wasn’t necessary to survival, although a beautiful and moving part of the book. If he had dueled V or otherwise fallen into V’s hands and V had cast the AK at him, the blood connection still would have cast Harry into the King’s Cross limbo between life and death and Harry could have survived.

  20. qwertyuiop789 says

    Oh, I’m sorry. I just re-read the conversation. I think that it probably was mostly for the story. It’s possible that he wouldn’t have come back if he had fought back. Also, what’s the point of fighting back if he’s going to die anyway? And/or if he fought back, he could have won, or gotten away (like every time they met previously), therefore defeating the entire purpose. In hindsight, it gave everyone the special protection that his mother gave him, therefore protecting them. That could be the sole reason J. K. Rowling had that chapter. All of these are just guesses, and I don’t know how much of it you thought of already, but I hope it helps 🙂

  21. Lily Luna says

    Most of that’s in the earlier comments, but that’s okay. I think we were just debating the point of whether a self-sacrifice was technically necessary vs. just helpful/moving/a great story element, etc.

  22. Brooke Wynne says

    Harry Potter never died, although Dumbledore says in the book harry is the seventh horcrux, the horcrux is gone out of him, when Harry went into the forest in the seventh book chapter the forest again he was hit with the killing curse except it hit the horcrux that’s why harry was alive in the end so he had one more horcrux left to destroy which neville did the honours of

  23. You guys should watch your ageism there! Just because it’s a book “by teenagers for teenagers” doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It may not have the same goals you have, but that’s another matter entirely (the differences between fandom and academia, in which age and class play a huge part). Don’t you realize the Harry Potter books themselves are written for young people? How can such condescension exist even among people who are (laudably!) taking “kid lit” seriously, for once? It’s sad.

    Please don’t take this comment as an attack or a reason to get angry. I was simply looking for information about the Mugglenet book, and read your thread, and it needed to be said. Thanks for listening.

  24. revgeorge says

    H.G., I don’t think it’s ageism at all. I certainly never looked down on the book because of the age of the authors but I have doubts about it because I’m familiar with the way the authors have analyzed the series previously.

    Anyway, funny that you start off your comment with an attack by calling those with doubts about the book ageist & showing condescension & then say, “Hey, but don’t take it as an attack.” Isn’t that similar to telling someone, “Hey, your mother dresses you funny…but don’t take it personally?”

  25. Ah, I didn’t mean my comment to sound like an attack, but obviously I really failed. For that I apologize. Let me try and explain myself more accurately.

    I was looking for opinions on this mugglenet book, to see if it would be worth buying or searching out in the library. 🙂 As someone with a degree in English Lit and a love for discussing children’s literature in a serious and open-minded way, I like this site, and I came across this old thread.
    The comments seemed to contain generally negative expectations of the mugglenet book. Okay, good to know. Then I read a comment, by Red Rocker, that “It’s a book for teen-agers by teen-agers,” and this made me feel suddenly and surprisingly unwelcome. Previously to that, I’d felt quite welcome on this site, because I’m a (young) person who likes taking children’s literature seriously, and so does the discussion on this site. But, because the “teenager” comment was surrounded by generally negative comments such as Arabella Figg’s, it read to me like a dismissal based on age.

    Now, reading the rest of the thread a second time, it’s quite clear to me that the age question is settled further on and the conversation is really about large fandoms like Mugglenet and their tendencies not to dissect books on a “very deep level”. That’s not an ageist take, and I’m sorry to have vaguely and unfairly accused the whole discussion of being ageist when it isn’t. I certainly don’t take any issue with what you said, revgeorge. And as for what others said about fandoms, the tendency of large fandoms like Mugglenet to not discuss the books on a deeper level is something I have been frustrated by before, too.

    My comment above was hasty and vague, and for that I truly apologize. However, I think it’s worthwhile to point out when peoples’ words could unintentionally make others feel unwelcome. Some of the tone of the discussion above, which seemed to me to put large fandoms and young people in the same dismissive category, made me feel that way, and that’s why I commented.

    🙂 Hopefully that was clearer! It’s always better not to respond in the heat of whatever moment… sigh. Thanks for listening.

  26. revgeorge says

    H.G., no problem. Your follow up comment is certainly clear & more helpful. I apologize for the terseness of my reply.

    Anyway, I had only skimmed through the past comments so I missed the one by Red Rocker on the book being a book by teenagers for teenagers. I was primarily checking to make sure my own comment wasn’t ageist. 🙂

    While I can’t speak for Red Rocker, I personally never thought the book might not be good because of the age of the authors. I had listened to many Mugglecasts, though, in the past & was disenchanted with their way of analyzing the books. Of course, to be honest, I haven’t read the book yet, so I’m not making any claims about it per se. Just expressing my expectations of it based on my prior knowledge of Mugglenet. Which can be unfair of course but which if we’re honest is often how we evaluate things & our desire or willingness to read or buy them or whatever.

    You say: ” I think it’s worthwhile to point out when peoples’ words could unintentionally make others feel unwelcome. Some of the tone of the discussion above, which seemed to me to put large fandoms and young people in the same dismissive category, made me feel that way, and that’s why I commented.”

    Yes, that can be true. Conversation on the Internet is often a delicate thing. If communication is hard enough in person, then it’s even more difficult when it’s completely faceless & often anonymous. And it’s also a two edged sword. Commentators need to be aware of how their words will be taken but readers also need to be aware of context.

    Anyway, I’m glad you left a follow up comment. As I said, it was very clear & helpful. On the subject of the actual Mugglenet book itself, have you had a chance to read it, & if so, what did you think? Thanks.

  27. No problem!

    I haven’t read it yet, but I did read the first few pages on amazon’s look inside feature. I found it surprisingly entertaining and it made me want to read more, something I hadn’t expected. However, it doesn’t seem to be criticism per se. It’s a series of witty discussions about various questions. The questions themselves are creative and fun to ponder, but they’re not necessarily doors to analysis. More like doors to an entertaining argument.

    For instance: “Should JKR have kept Dumbledore’s sexuality private?” or “What is the most useful magical object for preserving history?” (I’d go with the pensieve, myself) or “Who would you rather make out with: Voldemort, or a Dementor?” (Voldemort? Um.)

    So it probably depends what you’re looking for (Personally, I’m very picky about literary criticism of things I love up; it can be fun, but it can also be like killing something you love, so I’m wary.. but that’s a discussion for another time). This book isn’t criticism per se and it looks fun, so I’ll probably settle for getting it from the library at some point.

    If you read it (or the excerpts online), what are your thoughts?

  28. “Who would you rather make out with: Voldemort, or a Dementor?”

    Beyond satire.

  29. revgeorge says

    H.G., I actually have the book but have done nothing more than look at the topics & that was awhile ago.

    You said, “…it doesn’t seem to be criticism per se. It’s a series of witty discussions about various questions. The questions themselves are creative and fun to ponder, but they’re not necessarily doors to analysis. More like doors to an entertaining argument.

    And that seems to be the main issue people had with it here. Not that it’s a witty discussion of various questions but that it was kind of billed as literary criticism & analysis. Certainly your description of it is more in line with what I would expect from Mugglenet.

    Of course, I don’t want to diss on Mugglenet too much. Mugglecast was the first Harry Potter podcast I listened to & I listened to it throughout the run up to the last book & for shortly afterward until the podcast became less about Harry Potter & more about their supposedly progressive attitudes. But back in the day they were tops on general speculation about the books.

  30. revgeorge says

    Actually I’m being somewhat inspired to go downstairs & try to find my copy of Mugglenet’s book.

  31. revgeorge says

    Well, last night I finished the Mugglenet book. While I can’t say I got dumber reading it, it also isn’t a scintillating piece of intellectually stimulating literature. It was nothing more, nothing less than what I expected from Spartz & Schoen.

  32. Arabella Figg says

    H.G., I apologize if my first comment made you feel unwelcome. It was negative and snarky, and I regretted it. Which is why I made my followup comment on the transience of books that target fun fan stuff, versus those of serious exploration having significant literary value, that will stand the test of time, and I stand by that one.

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