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BNF Notes: WSJ, A&E, Sectus Reversus!, & Book Expo America

If you understand what all the abbreviations and Fandom lingo in the title above mean, you are way ahead of where I was a month ago. Here is a hurried catch-up of my May and June when HogPro was lost in CyberSpace, from BNF and A&E to BEA and BNU. [Read more…]

Snape as Vitriol: The Green Lion alchemical catalyst?

I promised more than a week ago to post something about the place of Severus Snape in the alchemical drama of the Harry Potter novels. I’m still very much of two minds about this; I had hoped to post something definite but I cannot do that now. I don’t think that I’ll be sure enough of what Snape does and does not represent to say “I’m sure” until I can talk to Ms. Rowling about it.

As I don’t think I’m on her A-list for tea invitations, I will jump the gun of academic prudence instead and share with you (1) the Fandom research which has brought this to my attention, (2) my enthusiasm for this work (that is very different from what I have done or have seen elsewhere), and (3) my equally strong misgivings about it.

Let’s start with Severus Snape and my frustration in trying to see him in light of the Great Work taking place in the seven book alembic.

I have been asked several times at conventions, book stores, and on campuses when talking about the alchemy of the series what part the oily Potions Master plays. It’s a natural question, especially after I’ve detailed Ron, Hermione, and Harry’s roles and the meaning of Sirius’, Albus’, and Rubeus’ names in the black-white-red spectrum of the laboratory.

I’ve never given an answer that really satisfied me, if my interlocutors usually have been polite enough not to insist I come up with something better. Talking about Severus as both Dumbledore’s apprentice and his mirror image as an alchemist, the Gryffindor/Slytherin androgyn that is “slytherin-side-out,” is fascinating, even important (if true!), but it lacks the connect-the-dots transparency of Hermione as alchemical mercury or Sirius as the embodiment of the nigredo. I am eager to read anything that suggests something more easily understood about the character of Snape in the light of alchemy. [Read more…]

Harry as Horcrux 101 (B): How Harry became a Horcrux

continued from Harry as Horcrux 101 (A) above:

“But, John, HOW could this Horcrux have been made?”

Okay. I hear you. No need to shout. Let’s review quickly and get to the “how.”

There are seven quick reasons why Harry’s scar being a Horcrux seems logical. A scar Horcrux answers questions that are otherwise mysteries that readers have just come to live with. There is one major objection to this possibility, however.

How could Voldemort have mistakenly made a Horcrux on, of all people, the child prophesied to kill him and not realized his mistake? Good question.

It certainly wasn’t made intentionally. As Dumbledore told Harry in the passage above, Lord Voldemort came to the Potters’ home that Halloween night to kill James and Harry, not create a “Potter Horcrux” on Harry’s forehead. How then could the scar Horcux have been made accidentally and in such a way that Voldemort wouldn’t have known what happened until, like Harry, he realized he had a mind-link with the boy?

Let‚Äôs recreate the events leading up to Harry‚Äôs parents‚Äô murder. [Read more…]

Good Question: How did Dumbledore Know?

The only person I know (I’m sure there are many others; I don’t get out much) who argues seriously that Snape is indeed what he seems, a BAD, make that EVIL character, and doesn’t leave me shaking my head is Nathan Coblentz. Please read his notes on the Scar-o-Scope theory and after the Dumbledore as Christ figure essays for his insights. If he is right, of course, Nathan will have the great majority of us forever at his “I told you so!” mercy.

Nathan wrote me last week about something which, quite honestly, never struck me as important or mysterious before (though I think Joyce Odell, the Red Hen, mentions it more than once in her essays). Dumbledore knows about what happened at Godric’s Hollow the night Hagrid brings baby Harry to Privet Drive. How does he know? Did someone tell him? Was he there himself? Here is what Nathan wrote:

Hi John,

After going around and around in circles with people about Snape (I
haven’t changed my mind, but that’s neither here nor there), I’ve
found myself delving furthur and furthur into the mystery of what
happened at Godric’s Hollow and am wondering what your thoughts are.
The huge, unanswered question for me is how could Dumbledore possibly
have have known what happened so shortly after the fact? [Read more…]

“But Obviously Dumbledore is not Jesus:” The Hogwarts Headmaster as Christ Symbol in Half-Blood Prince

I taught Harry Potter classes at Barnes & Noble University and co-moderated Discussion Rooms there before they changed to their new ‘Book Clubs’ format (and I will be joining them there in March for more “moderated discussion”). These electronic classrooms are a fascinating symposium and slice of Harry Potter fandom that includes not only a diversity of nationalities but the spectra of age, beliefs, and vocations not to be rivaled at any bricks-and-mortar school (six continents and four archipelagoes is the best we’ve done but the 400-800 students that post messages always represent an international community of readers). The best discussion room included a Zarusthustran, a Hollywood screenwriter and blogger, and a teacher in the Kanto Plain outside Tokyo.

When we were trying to make sense of the latest Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when it first came out, the questions, themes, and theories we explored were respectably far ranging from the battle raging everywhere then in fandom, is Snape misunderstood or the murderer he seems to scenes-as-subtext questions, “What do the fox that Bellatrix kills, the telescope that punches Hermione, and the gnomes at the burrow mean?” and real puzzlers. I mean, when you’re asked if Horace Slughorn is Lord Voldemort’s agent inside Hogwarts, the man who brewed Malfoy’s Polyjuice Potion and the emerald phosphorescent frosty that tumbled Dumbledore, you’d better be prepared to argue at length about who this guy is and why (or why not) he is good (or EVIL).

There were a few questions that kept coming up in different forms, most having to do with the dearly-departed Dumbledore. Much of fandom was in serious denial and the other parts were trying to reconcile themselves to a Hogwarts without the affable Headmaster. Every Harry Potter reader, including the Harry Haters, were trying to make sense of his last hours and death (a Catholic seminarian from Louisiana sent me an owl a day for a week to convince me that Ms. Rowling was sending disturbing mixed signals to the children of the world about euthanasia and mercy killing with Dumbledore’s death).

The question I heard then from serious readers and now on this weBlog, especially from those who have read my book, Looking for God in Harry Potter (Tyndale, 2004), is about the Christ symbol in this book. Every Harry Potter adventure features a scene in the climactic battle with evil where Harry dies a figurative death and rises from this death in the presence of a traditional symbol of Christ because of love. The question for Half-Blood Prince has been “Is the sixth year’s salvific symbol Albus Dumbledore?” [Read more…]