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Notes from Prophecy 2007: Friday Luncheon

I am just getting back on my feet after two days in Toronto at Prophecy 2007. Because both my talks were about Deathly Hallows, a book I had only managed to read twice in the thirteen days since it was published, I was something of a wreck getting my notes into something like a lecture while moving my family from Point A to a distant Point B. That I had volunteered to say something meaningful about the Christian Content of the finale and the Literary Alchemy of Deathly Hallows, my supposed areas of expertise, didn’t make my preps any easier. Self-inflicted wounds are the worst, right? [Read more…]

Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #25: John Granger in Toronto — and a DH Hat Tip?!

I am moving my whole famn damily to our new home in Fogelsville (wonderfully, an old jarhead friend from DLI has materialized to help; gotta love the magical friendships made in the Green Gun Club…) while starting a new job and trying to get to my two Deathly Hallows talks for Prophecy 2007 next Saturday. Yes, I’m a little distracted.

And did I mention that there is a lot more interest in my “Christian Content of Deathly Hallows” talk then there was before 21 July? The Prophecy programmers months ago made the Alchemical report card my “Featured Presentation” and put the “Christian talk” early in the morning, first thing Saturday. I expect there will be a much bigger crowd for that than the Rubedo update.

The talk subjects?

Harry’s Victory over Death: The Christian Content of “Deathly Hallows” – Presentation
John Granger
Saturday, August 4, 9:00 a.m.-9:50 a.m. – Osgoode Ballroom (East & West)

For several years, Christian objections to Harry Potter were “*the* Controversy.” John Granger helped slay that dragon. His Looking for God in Harry Potter, by approaching the books as literature and explaining how the books could only have been written by a Christian within a Christian literary tradition made the idea that the books were demonic hard to take seriously. Granger’s discussions of the themes, resurrection motifs, and specific images of Christ (the phoenix, unicorn, Philosopher’s Stone, white stag, griffin, etc.) Ms. Rowling uses has made it clear that she is what she says she is, namely, a Christian artist. She told an interviewer in 2000 that her faith would be evident to any reader after the seventh book. Join the entertaining authority on Rowling as a Christian author in his lively discussion of the *Deathly Hallows*’s Christian content and the similarities and differences between Rowling, Lewis, and Tolkien.

The Alchemical End-Game: The Rubedo in “Deathly Hallows”
John Granger
Saturday August 4th – 2:00 PM to 2:50 PM – Grand Ballroom West

Ms. Rowling has said that her study of alchemy set the magical parameters and internal logic of her Harry Potter novels. John Granger, author of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, is the leading authority on Literary Alchemy in Fandom. He has explained at how *Phoenix* and * Prince* were each a step in the alchemical work and featured images, themes, and the death of a character with a name specific to that stage. *Hallows*, consequently, is expected to be the final, red stage or Rubedo, complete with the Alchemical Wedding, the resolution of contraries, and perhaps even the death of the red character or characters (Rubeus, Rufus, and the Weasleys.). Granger’s talk on Alchemy at Nimbus 2003 was chosen “Best Presentation” of the 65 talks and panels in Orlando. His talk on the alchemical meaning of *Deathly Hallows* promises to be at least as good.

I am also moderating the Friday luncheon panel with many of my favorite University professor friends that are Potter Mavens. Given the quality of thinking in that group, I will be taking a lot of notes to share with you here…

My ten minutes of Warholian fame ended last weekend with the Deathly Hallows publication. It was gratifying, frankly, to see that Ms. Rowling delivered on the prediction she made in 2000 that our questions about her faith would be answered in the last book of the series. I have received a few notes from friends in the UK and the US congratulating me on having “gotten this right” so long ago and having insisted on it when the ideas of Ms. Rowling being a Christian writer and of her work being worthy of literary examination and exegesis were both considered silly. Stratford Caldecott’s brief note written immediately after reading Hallows was especially kind.

I’m afraid Toronto must be anti-climax after reading Hallows and receiving these notes. Those fans and readers at Prophecy 2007 who remember those days probably don’t want to recall their resistance to my thesis; those who don’t remember “The Controversy” think the alchemical, postmodern, and Christian keys have always been Fandom cannon (canon?) fodder and are immunized against a sense of history in these things. Which suits me fine. After Prophecy 2007 and updating my books, I expect to restrict my Harry Potter work to this weBlog and occasional talks at colleges.

But before this resignation of my public persona, I offer this bizarre possibility for your consideration. Could Ms. Rowling have read my books and appreciated my defense of her work way back when? Enough to have mentioned me by name in the text of Deathly Hallows?

On page 126 (Scholastic, Deathly Hallows), Ms. Rowling apparently changed Hermione’s middle name from “Jane” to “Jean.” “Jean,” of course, is French for “John” so we see Dumbledore giving the book that must be interpreted correctly at well below the surface meaning to “John Granger.

Or so a few people have written me. The truth is that it was a typo Cheryl Klein didn’t catch at Scholastic or that Ms. Rowling has a close woman friend named “Jean” (it is one of Mackenzie’s middle names according to the Lexicon) or that she didn’t like Dolores and Hermione sharing “Jane” as a middle name. Each of these possibilities is more credible than the andogynous reading of “John Granger,” I’m afraid; when I was reading the book aloud to my children, I didn’t make the connection. I thought it was a typo for “Jane,” the first (and only) mistake I caught in the book. I didn’t even understand the first email I received congratulating me on the Hat-Tip.

But other people thought the meaning of the name-change was a no-brainer. To these readers it meant, “Thank you, John.”

The following is a combination of two letters sent to me last week:

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Jul 23, 2007 8:00 PM
Subject: Jean Granger?
To: John Granger < >

Birthname: Hermione Jean Granger. In 2004, Jo told us Hermione’s middle name was Jane (WBD); however Rowling changed it to ‘Jean’ in Book 7, possibly so that Hermione and Dolores Umbridge would not share the same middle name. ‘Jean’ is also one of the middle names of Rowling’s daughter Mackenzie.

kylie: Thanks for writing such wonderful books, Ms Rowling :). Just one question: What are Ron, Hermione and Ginny’s middle names? Thank you 🙂
JK Rowling replies -> My pleasure:) Middle names: Ginny is Molly, of course, Hermione ‘Jane’ and Ron, poor boy, is Bilius.

From Deathly Hallows (Scholastic pages 126-127):

“‘To Miss Hermione Jean Granger, I leave my copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, in the hope that she will find it entertaining and instructive.”

Dear John,
I’m thinking Ms. Rowling is tipping her hat in your direction! ‘Jean’, after all is the French for “John” (the woman was a French major, right?), and Dumbledore’s dedication is a pointer to Spencer’s note about literature frequently quoted by CSL that it should “instruct while delighting.” Could it be that the original “Jane” in 2004 after Hidden Key was a pointer, too, but, because it was not picked up, she made it more explicit in Deathly Hallows?

In a book with the meaning and ending you’ve written about for more than five years, I think it’s possible she’s telling the world how smart you are the only way she can short of a certified letter. Look at it this way…

“The Tales” reminds me of Dickens (The Tale of Two Cities, a connection you explored at length in HogPro last week), The Bard (Shakespeare, the literary alchemist), and Beedle (alternate Beadle) might be another Dicken’s reference: “a parish constable; in the Scottish church one who attends the minister during divine service . A famous fictional constabular beadle is Mr Bumble from Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist.”

She has the Greybeard WiseMan of the series give a book to once “Jane” now “Jean Granger,” the French version of “John Granger.” The book’s title points to Alchemy and Christianity in literature and the Granger character has to figure out its hidden meaning to solve the mystery that drives the action in Deathly Hallows.

And, again, there’s Dumbledore’s expressed purpose in the bequest, that Granger find it “entertaining and instructive”! Rowling must be refering to the traditional purpose of literature – echoing what Sydney and Lewis have said before her, namely, that Great Books “instruct while delighting,” something mentioned in almost everything you have written about Rowling.

It obviously could be a coincidence, as Rowling’s daughter’s middle name is “Jean” or if the Lexicon knows Rowling says it was a mistake to give Dolores and Hermione the same middle name, but it is a meaningful coincidence just the same – since the Dumbledore dedication reflects a major tenet of English literature that you have discussed in each of your books.

So, congratulations! You been revealed in the last book of the series as “spot-on” about all the Five Keys you mentioned in Unlocking Harry Potter and as the first and best interpreter of Rowling’s books within the context of traditional Christian literature. And best of all, the author herself may have acknowledged you within the text.

Three Cheers! How rare is it to have been right and to be acknowledged for it in print?

The worst thing that can happen in my being the one to publish this possibility for public consideration, is of course, that Ms. Rowling will be asked about the possibility, she will deny it, and I will be known ever after as “that arrogant git who ‘looked for god in Harry Potter’ and only found his own name.” If it is my name hidden there in the text, though, I take it as a hat tip to all the readers who have championed Ms. Rowling’s edifying message through thick and thin and from long ago. My name only worked because she didn’t give Hermione the last name “Byatt,” “Bloom,” “Grossman,” or the other critics who locked onto Ms. Rowling’s message so perceptively and persuasively…

As you’d expect, I am asked (by reporters who may or may not have read the books…) as often as not if I am related to Hermione. I usually say I am a Squibb cousin. Maybe I should say now that Hermione and I are not related – but Hermione was named after me. What do you think? Typo or Hat-Tip?

Cast your ballots:

The change from Jane to Jean was:

(a) to distinguish the very similar Dolores and Hermione so readers wouldn’t confuse them;
(b) to honor the lady “Jean” that is a friend of Ms. Rowling;
(c) a typo that the Scholastic folks missed on their continuity checks; or
(d) a tip of the hat to “John Granger” and the HogPro All-Pros who take Harry seriously.

Votes will be counted and the final tally posted on my Hotel Room door in Toronto.

PDay Minus Three — Prediction #5: The Rubedo

HPEF invited me early in 2003 to participate as a Featured Speaker at Nimbus 2003. I learned later that it was not a unanimous decision of the HPEF Board to invite me. It seems several Potter-philes, even at the height of ‘The Controversy,’ thought Connie Neal’s invitation was sufficient to cover the “Christian Interpretation” sub-category. The few board members who had read my Hidden Key to Harry Potter explained that mine was a literary rather than theologically driven approach to the books and that my thoughts on Alchemy were sufficient to warrant an invitation as Featured Speaker. I got in through the back door.

In 2003, “literary alchemy” was terra incognita to all but the few in Fandom who were subscribers to Cauda Pavonis, the academic journal devoted to the subject. Google “alchemy” and “Harry Potter” today and prepare for an afternoon of reading (most of it, unfortunately, will be time spent “wading” through papers not having been read by editors or “peer reviewed” by people familiar with the subject).

My talk at Nimbus 2003, “Alchemy, Doppelgangers and the Irony of Religious Objections to Harry Potter” (which was published in Touchstone magazine later that year as ‘The Alchemist’s Tale,’ brought Ms. Rowling’s use of alchemy to Fandom at a popular level — and the Slash writers, homeschooling soccer moms, and professors of Medieval Literature there were pretty excited about it. They voted that talk the “best presentation” of the 65 talks and panels at Nimbus. [Read more…]

Harry’s Hero Journey: Is He Going Through the Veil in Deathly Hallows?

If I have neglected one key here at HogPro that I discuss at length in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, it is Harry’s Hero Journey. In Unlocking I explain it in great detail (with other repeated story patterns and elements) in a chapter that is something of a break between the more challenging material in the literary alchemy and postmodern themes sections.

Events of last week, though, call for a closer look at Harry’s formulaic journeys here with special attention given the descent, literal or figurative, he makes in each book before his annual confrontation with the Black Hats. An article by Anne Johnstone in the Glasgow Herald reminded us (via Lisa and her ever industrious house-elves at Accio Quote!) that Ms. Rowling had told Ms. Johnstone in a 2000 interview that in Deathly Hallows we would see “how close we can get to the dead.” [Read more…]

Great Expectations: What Sort of Ending Can We Expect?

Today is my daughter Sarah’s 17th birthday and we celebrated it by going to the movies. Our family usually skips out on the cinema during fasts but, as it isn’t an obedience of the Orthodox Church (just a reminder for the children), Mary and I let it slide on special days. Sarah likes movies; her birthday, consequently, was three movies: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer with dad, Ocean’s 13 with mom, and Ghost Rider with a sister and two friends from church. Not especially edifying, I’m sure, but she was “wow’ed.” And dad got to enjoy the alchemical delights again of the Fantastic Four….

For the younger guys I bought a collection of Dickens and Austen novels (16!) made into movie serials by the BBC. While mom and Sarah were at the movies this afternoon, I watched two or three episodes of the 353 minute version of Great Expectations. Mary wanted to leave for my dad’s place before it got dark and started raining, though, so they left in the middle of Episode 10 (just before the arrest of Magwitch on the river).

That was too much for me! After I packed the children into the car, I ran to the computer and brought up a text version of the last six chapters of the book. What a great read…. Really, if you haven’t read it for a few years, there are few uses of an hour that I’ve enjoyed this much at the great white screen.

I bring it up here on HogPro because I want to begin the discussion today, before the Interlibrum reaches what promises to be a frenetic ending next month, about what our individual and collective expectations are for Deathly Hallows. Dickens’ ending of Great Expectations is a good place to start — for a different reason than you might think. [Read more…]