Re-Packaging Harry Potter: Why Combine Prince and Hallows

Friend of this blog Bruce Charlton has written a challenging post at his Miscellany weBlog, ‘Harry Potter and the need for a single volume Half Blood Prince/ Deathly Hallows.’ In it he argues that Ms Rowling is very much correct when she noted in an interview that the last two books “slide into one another” and work as a whole. Mr Charlton writes:

I am again re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – and as I began to break down in tears in a cafe (halfway through ‘The Missing Mirror’ chapter), and was forced to lay the book aside and stop reading or risk dissolving into a blubbering mass; I realized for the nth time that many adults are missing reading this wonderful book for the simple reason that they are either unable or unwilling to read children’s books.

The problem is that, according to conventional wisdom, the Deathly Hallows can only be approached via the preceding six Harry Potter stories; two of which are designed for intelligent (approx) eight year olds, the next for ten year olds, two more for 12-14 year olds, and only the last two volumes of being fully adult novels.

His solution?

In fact, in terms of both structure and style, the Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows make up a unit: therefore, the solution is that they should be published together in a single mega-volume marketed to adults – and with all the necessary back story provided in the form or a Foreword or Preface, plus a few explanatory notes (probably as footnotes).

Three quick notes about this idea:

(1) Mr Charlton wrote to me privately to say something not in his original post, namely, that, if we consider a real world’s King Cross ending to be a marker of the end of a Harry Potter novel, then Half-Blood Prince does not qualify as a stand-alone work:

If we take the (this world) Kings Cross ending as definitive of a Harry Potter volume, then Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows are actually one novel.Suppose this were indeed the case, I wonder how your mode of analysis of each of the seven books would work if applied to HBP/DH considered as a single sixth volume? Might be an interesting exercise/ thought experiment?

He’s writing tongue-in-cheek here, I know, to draw me out, but his point is well taken. The Saga’s 10 step story formula is only broken in two places: the failure of Harry travel underground before his rubedo confrontation with the Black Hats in Goblet (he does go to a graveyard in which scene most of those present are underground, but still…) and the failure of Harry to have a private talk with Dumbledore and a trip to King’s Cross at the end of Prince. We get two Dumbledore denouements and two trips to King’s Cross at the end of Hallows as a kind of make-up, instead. Prince and Hallows do work together unlike any other two of the seven novels.

(2) The assertion that Order of the Phoenix is not an adult work, however, or not as adult as the antepenultimate and final novels leaves me scratching my head. Not to say that these books have a unity suggesting a trilogy the way the last two seem to joined, but there is an alchemical pitch to the last three books that mark them as quite different and written at a considerably greater level of difficulty than the first four.

(3) What I most enjoy about Mr Charlton’s suggestion (proposal?) are his enthusiasm for these books, sufficient to recommend them in a more accessible packaging to his traditional Christian readers, and the creative point of entry, a very thoughtful condensation without elision or compromise, he has thought up for this end. I think he has noted a challenge that, though it never would have occurred to me as an Interlibrum reader, is in fact a great hurdle for the potential adult reader of the Harry Potter series: 4100 pages represent a lot of reading time that most people will not commit. This one volume HBP/DH edition may be just the device to help serious readers take the plunge. Still a long book, but nothing epic.

I look forward to reading your thoughts about this challenge and Mr Charlton’s solution.


  1. The thing I think more adults need to realize is that one of the benefits of reading YA literature is the fact that a long novel is still much more readable than the same length adult novel… (or especially adult Fantasy novels in particular). If we don’t have time in our adult lives to read long books, the YA or Children’s novel is the perfect place to get to read something that isn’t going to require as much of our time to get through… So to anyone who looks at the length of Harry Potter – compare that to looking at starting the Wheel of Time series or Song of Fire and Ice – both series I’ve been very leery of beginning because of their length. I read the entire Harry Potter series in a month while working full time. Not bad in my opinion for 7 novels. It will take longer for others (in 7th grade they tested reading speed and I was somewhere about 450 words per minute), but it’s still not impossible by any means…

  2. First, I read the books in public because I enjoy the conversation ignited by unprofessed adult readers and those like you described who do not know how well they will enjoy the experience.

    Second, JKR and her publishers will gladly allow anyone ashamed to be seen with the book to download same to their device so as to read while answering the question with “Oh, I am just re-reading Of Human Bondage.” Perhaps Mr. Charlton can alert the Marketing Departments to tweet about his enticing bundle. I am sure they can buy a precisely focused mailing list from the N.S.A.

  3. I wonder how long the Foreword/Preface would be to do justice to setting up the final two books. Remembering that Janet Batchelor (sp?) wrote an entire book on setups and payoffs prior to Deathly Hallows.

    One could argue that this will entice the reader to go back and read the prior books in their entirety, but those books would then be read with knowledge of the series conclusion, which certainly takes some of the fun out of the journey.

  4. I get what he is saying, but I cannot imagine the last two as a stand-alone piece even with an elaborate preface. A preface that would need to be a couple hundred pages! The entire circular structure of the novels is so important in the experience we enjoy. Most of us on this website agree on the alchemical progression the narrative follows and why we are so moved by it. It would be like giving someone a novel and telling them they could easily skip the first many chapters. Wrong! So wrong. Most of all though, it takes all seven books, all those years for us to understand Harry and what he means to us. Could we love him and be as invested in his success if we hadn’t followed along with all his transformative experiences?

  5. Thanks for the comments. I should point out that what I recommend as a marketing possibility, is (more or less) something I actually did myself. I read Wikipedia summaries of the first five HP novels then went straight into skim-reading HBP, then an out-of-order sampling of DH before reading the whole of DH – then going back to read the preceding novels through, but out of sequence! All I can say is that ‘it worked for me’!

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