PDay Minus Seven (Bastille Day, 2007)– Prediction #1: Deathly Hallows Will Be Very Much Like the First Six Harry Potter Novels

Before I get into the sublimely risible business of making predictions about what we will learn in Ms. Rowling’s finale to her Harry Potter magnus opus, let me make a few guesses that I would bet my daughter’s flute on [I would have said “the family cars” but the flute cost more than our cars….]

(1) The Steve Vander Ark Prediction: Harry Potter “Big Name Fandomers” come in three main tiers. The third tier are the many writers and bloggers who have created followings on the internet via their fan-fiction and better-than-the-average-bear speculations. The second tier is the gaggle, ever growing, of book writers and featured speakers at conferences. The first layer of the hierarchy, those just below Ms. Rowling herself and the players in the films made from her books, are those who lead the fan sites that get hundreds of thousands of hits a day — and whom the publicity folks at Warner Brothers and Bloomsbury and Scholastic court.

The Triumvirate of this upper crust are Lexicon Steve, MuggleNet Emerson, and Leaky Melissa. I almost met Melissa at the BEA in NYC in June when she had lunch with Connie Neal and I almost got to see Emerson Spartz at Enlightening 2007 — but he left Philadelphia and the Family Camp on Thursday night after sending his email apologies to the sponsors (he had a film date in New York he’d forgotten; “sorry, campers!”). These folks are celestial and hard to “run into,” even on the Harry Potter circuit.

Steve Vander Ark, unlike his fellow Potter Fandom top-drawer celebrities, doesn’t do many interviews and focuses just on making his website the best Potter resource imaginable. [Check out his “Canon Portkey” that he and his 12 house-elves are laboring to create and post at the Lexicon if you think that’s hype.] He was on the A&E special about Phoenix and is a featured speaker at every HPEF event but he doesn’t seem to be on the MSM radar outside of Warner Brothers.

Worse, Steve, who is one of the more profound thinkers about the divisions in Wizardry and the dimensions of “canon” I have met, rarely talks about “what will happen” in the series outside private conversations. I asked him at the A&E interviews why he was so close-mouthed on a subject about which he is so eloquent in private. He said, matter-of-factly, “It’s not my job.” In brief, his credibility as a lexicographer is in keeping to the facts, just the facts.

Hence my surprise in finding online an interview and profile of Steve in a Grand Rapids newspaper earlier this month. The big surprise wasn’t that the journalist revealed so much about Steve and his several secret selves, most never shown to Fandom (though, really, it is an excellent article). The stunner was that Steve made a prediction about Deathly Hallows.

This was the conclusion of “Profile: Harry Potter Webmaster Steve Vander Ark (Sunday, July 08, 2007), by Terri Finch Hamilton in The Grand Rapids Press:

“There’s a sadness,” he says. “Because it’s been fun. It’s fun to speculate, to wonder. Part of the delight of the books is wonder.”

Thirteen days until “The Deathly Hallows” will be in our hands.

Will He Who Must Not Be Named finally be defeated? Will Harry survive? Somebody will die — but who?


“I do have one prediction about the book,” Vander Ark says, leaning forward in his chair.

We’re poised like trash journalist Rita Skeeter with her Quick Quotes Quill.

“It will sell a lot of copies,” he says.

Let that go down as my first sure-thing prediction: Deathly Hallows will break a lot of sales records.

(2) The Big Disappointment

Deathly Hallows is also going to break a lot of hearts. There is simply NO WAY this book can meet expectations. Why not? Because the expectations of readers around the world are so unreasonably high. Deathly Hallows will have to raise the dead, get Susan, the dwarves, and the White Witch into Narnia heaven, bring peace to Iraq and the West Bank, cure cancer, wax floors, and hit every checklist point on millions of readers’ agendas.

It ain’t happening.

Ms. Rowling knows that some people “must loathe” this book and seems to be dreading the inevitable backlash from a world of disappointed fans. Lisa Bunker at Madam Pince’s Potter Pages posted this excerpt from Ms. Rowling’s comments to the camera crew filming her (!) the night she finished Deathly Hallows:

“Thank you…yeah, you don’t know, it might be rubbish. Some people will loathe it, they will absolutely loathe it. For some people to love it, other people must loathe it. That’s just in the nature of the plot.” She adds, “I’m actually really, really happy with it”, before bowing her head on the keyboard to exclaim: “Oh my God!”

She has written six wonderful novels, each one of which has created more fans with more theories about how the books must end, with more emotional engagement with more characters. Deathly Hallows will, of course, be a magnificent book. It will also be met with critical scorn (especially if it has an ending that can be considered remotely “spiritual” or “non-secular”) and fan disappointment.

Christmas morning’s gifts were so rarely what we wanted or even what we expected our folks would give us. I doubt many people will say they “loathe” or “despise” Deathly Hallows on Monday, 23 July (PDay plus two). I expect, though, that there will be legions of readers who will volunteer they are disappointed in the ending she chose, that this is the end of the series, and that their hoped-for ending wasn’t anywhere near what Ms. Rowling gave the septology.

Expect an internet and a critical media “bloodbath.” Call it “Rita Unleashed” or “Post-Partum Potter dePression.”

(3) A Potter Week Revelation

I don’t want this last sure-thing prediction to be true. In fact, I dread it. I think, nonetheless, that someone, somewhere, probably in the US with its 12 million floating copies or in the English speaking diaspora (where I cannot believe security is so tight around books that won’t be translated into native languages for months), will get hold of a copy of Deathly Hallows and post facts from or whole sections of text to reveal the ending. And that ending will be public knowledge before we line up at midnight to get our copies.

To believe anything else is charmingly naive.

Boy, do I hope the naive and hopeful are right on this one and that I am wrong. I make this prediction, in fact, only because my track record in predictions has been so very bad. Maybe by my predicting it, I will be able to read the story to my children next Saturday and Sunday without having heard the ending. My fingers are crossed but I’m shaking my head.

I’ve never made a stock tip at HogwartsProfessor, but here is one for the record. If Amazon were making any money on these books (they say they aren’t), and if I had money to invest, I might buy Amazon shares and sell B&N short. Because, if the ending does get out (which has to have a high probability), there won’t be a point of getting the book at midnight in bricks-and-mortar stores at a less-than-Amazon discount; the better price delivered to your door Saturday will suffice. Buy FedEx; Sell Borders/WaldenBooks.

No, I’m not pawning the flute to raise capital. But I would if I were the “Rich Dad” type.

Real Prediction #1: Deathly Hallows Will Be Very Much Like the First Six Harry Potter Novels

I post this first prediction made from the Five Keys I use in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader to explore the patterns and artistry of Ms. Rowling’s work alongside what I think are three “sure-things” because I think this first Five Keys prediction should be a “no-brainer.” There are millions of folks with different expectations, however, so here goes.

Ms. Rowling is a “pattern writer.” I didn’t say “formula writer” only because “formula writer” has the pejorative connotation that she writes mechanically and is bound by the patterns and structures she brings to her story-telling. That isn’t true.

She does have patterns she uses consistently and to great effect. Thinking that she will abandon her themes, structures, and symbols on the last lap of her seven lap journey is a little bit like preparing for a game against the ‘Magic’ Johnson – Kareem Abdul Jabbar LA Lakers with the expectation that Johnson, the NBA All-Time Assist record holder, would not be looking for Abdul Jabbar, the NBA All Time leading scorer, inside. Johnson is going to Abdul Jabbar whenever he can. Count on it.

Running through the Five Keys, then, we should expect that:

(a) Ms. Rowling is going to be using narrative misdirection in Deathly Hallows and revealing all that we missed in Half-Blood Prince. There will be a Big Twist or two or three, any one of which will be bigger than the one at the end of Austen’s Emma, Rowling’s gold standard.

(b) The last book will be the alchemical rubedo, complete with Alchemical Wedding, and the resolution of contraries the drama demands. The lady said in 1998 that alchemy set the parameters and magic of the series; don’t expect her to create a new set of parameters or look for her to “skip the end” of the alchemical Great Work she has carried through six stages. Seven is the most powerful number in these books because alchemy is a seven stage process.

(c) Harry will make one last Hero’s Journey and conform largely to the patterns laid out in the first six books. “But Harry said he wasn’t going back to Hogwarts!” Sorry, but Ms. Rowling didn’t spend six books at Hogwarts to leave that stage and all the wow props there for a trip to Durmstrang, Egypt, or Albania (three sites I have heard discussed as possible Deathly Hallows locales). Ms. Rowling will almost certainly drop the go-to-classes and sweat-the-Quidditch match narrative line in VoldeWar II. But the steps she has used in every Hero’s Journey so far, every year, are a good bet for the steps Harry will take in Deathly Hallows.

(d) The Postmodern Themes Ms. Rowling has been advancing will come to a conclusion with a satisfactory “answer” in Deathly Hallows. The evil Metanarrative and its role in enslaving both Deatheaters and house-elves? Replaced with a metanarrative of love that has no “necessary other.” The revelation that what we think is nearly always wrong because of our preconceptions and narrow view? See “(a) narrative misdirection” above. Strength is in pluralism and unity? The Freak Army of Outsiders and the Excluded will defeat the Pureblood Regiments of Lord Voldemort.

It just isn’t credible that Ms. Rowling will drop her postmodern themes in the finale and pick up The Little White Horse or The Last Battle as her models. Harry Potter is postmodern epic. Look for the author to finish what she has started and to answer the questions she has raised.

(e) This includes Ms. Rowling’s use of traditional symbols. In the last few weeks I have read comments by Christian critics saying such things as “you need a PhD in Classics to pick up on what little Christian symbolism is in the series” and “I consider myself a thoughtful Christian and ‘serious reader’ but what Granger observes escapes me.” Ignoring the laugher of thinking a PhD in Classics makes you competent to recognize Christian symbolism in contemporary literature (the comment was meant as a bone to anti-intellectual readers, but still…), these critics misunderstand the quality and character of Harry Potter‘s Christian content.

It isn’t transparent or evangelical a la Lewis’ “Aslan on Stone Table.” It is relatively opaque, if the use of Fawkes in Chamber‘s climax and the Unicorn blood scene in Stone was borderline allegorical; the symbols Ms. Rowlinguses are only meant to highlight and illumine the narrative line. They don’t drive it or overwhelm it. But the symbolism and the transcendent referents are there. These symbols and the plot line elements of purity of soul, immortal life, and sacrificial love carry substantial spiritual freight, too, atheists and Christian nay-sayers to the contrary.

And we will see the symbols, plot points, and their freight again in Deathly Hallows. Will readers wanting to see only the obvious or what they want to see miss them again? I’d bet on that, too.

So, Prediction #1 is an exercise in common sense. Deathly Hallows will be the end-of-the-line for this invaluable franchise, not Harry Potter leaving-the-rails and traveling in different directions to come to a bizarre end, secular or evangelical. I’ll be expanding on this base-line prediction in the next six predictions, all of which are really just throw-away illustrations of the Five Keys.

Tomorrow, Prediction #2. See you then!

Speak Your Mind