‘Ring Composition’ and Pundits’ ‘Smart Talk’ Highlight HogPro Deathly Hallows Speaking Tour

If this is Veterans Day, I must have the day off! I am home for a few days break in the ‘Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Speaking Tour’ and, while I am loving the home cooked food and sleeping in my own bed, I can honestly report that all the places I have spoken in the last three weeks – from Augustana College on the Mississippi River to Church of the Holy Cross above the Chesapeake Bay, from the cool Emmanuel Community United Methodist Church  in Wisconsin in the north to the wonderfully warm University of South Carolina — have all been so welcoming and kind that I didn’t want to leave for the next date. I’ll write a proper ‘thank you’ with stories from the tour when it’s over, but, until then, here are two observations as a welcome to newcomers and a note to old friends I’m neglecting…

(1) I’ve covered close to 5,000 miles by plane and car and spoken at great schools and at beautiful churches, a library, even an independent Book Store. Everywhere I’ve talked and no matter what the subject at hand was on a given night, the buzz at evening’s end was about Ms. Rowling’s writing in rings, both as the structure of her seven story cycle and as her template for the chapters of each book. The reason I’m traveling so much is because of the upcoming Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Warner Bros movie release and the fact that I’m the only person to have written an entire book on the artistry and meaning of Hallows, namely The Deathly Hallows Lectures. What has folks talking, though, isn’t the alchemy of the finale, the eyeball symbolism, or Christian content of Harry’s victory over death and the Dark Lord at King’s Cross, it’s the heretofore unrecognized traditional template for storytelling that Ms. Rowling used for the series and every novel in it. I have written up my talk on this subject with all the necessary charts and images that can be downloaded here or purchased as a short book; overlook the many typos please — and prepare to have the way you look at the world’s best selling books changed forever.

(2) Because I was as surprised and delighted as any Harry Potter reader to discover that there was anything as significant as the stories’ fundamental structure left to be revealed more than three years after Deathly Hallows’ publication,  I was not surprised that this topic became the focus of my conversation with audiences on the current tour. What has surprised me is how many people listen to the Leaky Cauldron’s ‘PotterCast’ and the ‘Potter Pundits’ segment Travis Prinzi, James Thomas, and I do on that program. It seems every talk I have given has been followed by at least one person referencing the program during questions or telling me during ‘Gilderoy Time’ (book autographing exchanges) that they love the Pundits and our new book, Harry Potter Smart Talk. Smart Talk has six new essays from the three Pundits as well as transcripts from our most popular shows, reading which collection Melissa Anelli wrote in her introduction to the book is like finding “the Ivory Tower in Hagrid’s Hut.” As one reviewer wrote,

The formal essays by the individual pundits are excellent in the same way [as their podcast conversations are]. They are fascinatingly informative and profoundly probing, but the writing style is lively and anything but dry. … and these guys really know their stuff – not just what they bring from their respective academic fields, but also just about every detail there is to know from the Potter books.

I’m speaking in Marion, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, next week (details below the jump) and I look forward to meeting you there! My thanks to everyone I’ve spoken and stayed with on the tour thus far for their enthusiasm and their kindness to me — and my thanks to readers here for their patience with me during these travels and the big gaps between posts.

Literary Alchemy: The Secret Magic-Formula of Harry Potter and Today’s Best Selling Books

Of the literary keys that unlock Harry Potter, the strangest and most fascinating door-opener is Ms. Rowling’s use in her books of medieval alchemy, the sacred science of changing lead into gold. She said in 1998 that alchemy “sets the magical parameters” and “establishes the internal logic of the series” and, sure enough, everything from the titles, character names, and the transformations Harry goes through in each book have alchemical roots. John Granger, the author of Harry Potter’s Bookshelf (Penguin, 2009) and the Potter Pundit whom TIME calls “the Dean of Harry Potter scholars,” explains the tradition of this artistry from Shakespeare to C. S. Lewis along with the three alchemical stages in each of the beloved Potter books and the series as a whole. With the tools John shows readers how to use, you will see what Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games have in common not only with each other but with Shakespearean drama, the Metaphysical Poets, and novels by Charles Dickens and C. S. Lewis. Come discover how an “alchemical wedding,” (Bill and Fleur!) the “Quarreling Couple” of mercury and sulphur (Ron and Hermione!), and the colors black, white, and red (and the deaths of Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore, and Fred Weasley) shape and reveal why we love Harry Potter!

  • Thursday, 18 November, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Harry Potter Unlocked: Seven Literary Keys to the Hogwarts Saga

Harry Potter is the “Shared Text” of the young 21st Century and it has created not only a common story vocabulary for readers everywhere but also an imaginative experience we all have been through individually and together. John Granger, who has lectured on Harry Potter as literature at schools like Yale, Princeton, and the University of Chicago, explains how Harry’s adventures with Ron and Hermione provide the tools serious readers need to open up our understanding of English literature and, more important, of human life itself.

With his intellectually challenging but always fun approach, Granger discusses literary alchemy, story setting and genre, postmodern themes, the hero’s journey, ring composition, Christian symbolism, and narrative misdirection to reveal the mechanics of Ms. Rowling’s literary magic, why her themes and symbols resonate within us, and why knowing these details are so useful in interpreting other books and how we understand ourselves and our world. Ever wonder, really wonder, why you love these books the way you do? Come compare your conclusions to what the “Hogwarts Professor” thinks and learn why he believes the Hogwarts Saga will be a cultural foundation for generations.

Talks Given On the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Speaking Tour: Talk Descriptions Can Be Read Here

  • Tuesday, 19 October, 9-10 pm; Augustana College, Founders Hall

Harry Potter Chapter Rings, Character Names, and Magic Mirrors: The Genius Inside the Planning of the Hogwarts Saga

  • Wednesday, 20 October, 7 pm – 8 pm, The University of Chicago (aka ‘Chicagwarts’), Hitchcock Hall (1009 E. 57th Street)

Harry Potter Chapter Rings, Character Names, and Magic Mirrors

  • Friday, 22 October, 6:30-10 pm, Emmanuel Community United Methodist Church, N84 W16707 Menomonee Ave., Menomonee Falls, WI 53051;

The Christian Content  and Symbolism of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’

  • Sunday, 24 October, 4 pm, Black Bear Books, Boone, NC
  • Monday, 25 October, 10 am, Mayland Community College, Spruce Pine, NC
  • Monday, 25 October, 7 pm, Lees-McRae College, Banner Elk, NC

Harry Potter Unlocked: Seven Keys for the Serious Reader

  • Tuesday, 26 October, 7 pm, University of South Carolina (Columbia), Nursing 125

The Spiritual Dimensions of Fantasy Literature

  • Tuesday, 26 October, NPR Interview, Charlotte, NC, 10 am
  • Wednesday, 27 October, 3 pm, Conversation with Freshman Seminar Classes, Lenoir-Rhyne
  • Thursday, 28 October, 7 pm, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC, Belk Centrum

Lenoir-Rhyne Visiting Writers Series: An Evening with John Granger

  • Sunday, 31 October, 3 pm, Christiansburg Public Library, Christiansburg, Virginia

Literary Trick or Treats: Why We Love the Witches and Vampires in the Hogwarts and Forks Sagas

  • Monday, 1 November, 8 pm, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, Virginia

Bella Swan at Hogwarts: The Important Influence of the Potter Novels and Potter Mania on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga

  • Tuesday, 2 November, pm, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna, Virginia

Unlocking Potter-Mania: The Christian Content of the World’s Best Selling Books

Twilight, Harry Potter, and Your Child’s Soul: How Reading Shapes the Whole Person

Harry Potter Unlocked: Seven Literary Keys to the Hogwarts Saga

  • Wednesday, 10 November, 7 pm, Youngstown State University, ‘The Room of Requirement,’ One University Plaza, Youngstown, Ohio, 44555

Harry Potter Chapter Rings, Character Names, and Magic Mirrors:  The Genius Inside the Planning of the Hogwarts Saga


  1. John,

    I downloaded and read your lecture notes about the ring structure of the seven books. They are convincing. This is clearly an intentional and foundational structure for the books.

    My question is, “How does this particular structure increase the impact of the books for readers? How can it affect their experience of the books, especially since it is so subliminal for most people?”

    Love to hear what you think.

  2. What I mean is…
    We connect characteristics and emotions with symbols.
    And we can identify with alchemical imagery through our own experiences of struggle and transformation.
    But how does something as subtle as a ring structure influence a reader’s experience of a book?

Speak Your Mind