The Epilogue’s “All Was Well”: Context, Themes, and a Possible Literary Reference

A not uncommon reaction from serious readers who have tackled Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader and its chapters on literary alchemy has been, “Where can I read more about this?” or “What other authors can I read that write like this beside Ms. Rowling?” I met Travis Prinzi in his pre-Sword of Gryffindor days through this very question (and I can now refer readers to his web site’s essays on the subject as an excellent resource). My usual response is “Read C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.” The alchemy is right on the surface (I think), it works in ways very much like what Ms. Rowling attempts, and the books can be found in every decent sized bookstore or library. Not to mention that Christian readers won’t think they’re visiting the dark side if they are reading St. Clive-Staples (St. Jack?); the three novels are very edifying as well as being great stories.

Lewis’ pre-Narnia fantasies are the perfect place to learn more about alchemical artistry in English literature, consequently, but there are other very good starting points. Shakespeare is the touchstone for the whole thing, of course; his plays are so stuffed with Hermetic references and meaning that it is hard to get through any of his plays without having to review Tillyard’s Elizabethan World Picture before, during, and after to keep track of the hierarchical and alchemical points that make Shakespeare the greatest. For readers who don’t care for either Shakespeare (and they are legion; supposedly J. R. R. Tolkien thought the Bard over-rated) or for Lewis, there is Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, which was, I suspect, his attempt at writing a Shakespearean historical and alchemical drama in the form of a novel. Poe, Mary Shelley, Hawthorne, and MacDonald, too, have a hermetic streak in their gothic work. Most Charles William’s novels, I am told, also have alchemical imagery and meaning; the standing joke about That Hideous Strength is that it is “a Charles Williams novel as written by C. S. Lewis.”

If this is true, I suspect it is because of Lewis and Williams’ love of poetry and, specifically, the poetry of the so-called Medieval and Renaissance periods. Poetry, from Shakespeare and the Metaphysical poets to Blake and Eliot, is the natural home of literary alchemy and the amber in which its magic has been preserved. Which brings us finally to the subject of this post: the question about the meaning of the last words in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: “All was Well.” “Why did Ms. Rowling end her 4100 page novel with those three words?”

I suspect she chose them because the thought completes the work of the Epilogue, because it ties together several themes and artistic threads, and because it echoes the ending of a famous piece of poetry that Ms. Rowling might want the reader to link with her efforts in the Harry Potter books. And, yes, I think it comes back to the alchemy.

To save you the trouble, here is the ever invaluable Accio Quote link to what Ms. Rowling has said about the last words and why she used them instead of “scar:”

MV: The end of the book: I had read that the last word was supposed to be “scar.” But the last–

JKR: And it was for a long, long time. For a long time the last line was something like: “Only those who he loved could see the lightning scar.” And that was a reference to the fact that as they were on the platform, people were milling around. And that Harry was kind of flanked by, you know, his loved ones. So they were the only ones who were really near enough to see it, even though peo– other people were looking. And it also had a kind of ambiguity. So it was– is the scar still really there? But I changed it because I wanted a more– when I came to write it, I wanted a very concrete statement that Harry won. And that the scar, although it’s still there, it’s just– it’s now just a scar. And I wanted to say it’s over. It’s done. And maybe a tiny bit of that was to say to people, “No, Voldemort’s not rising again. We’re not going to have Part Two. Harry’s job is done.” So that’s why I changed it.

MV: To “All was well.”

JKR: “All was well.”, yeah.

MV: And you knew when you came up with that line, that was it.

JKR: It just felt … I felt a kind of [sighs]. And that– that felt right. Yeah…. And I really wanted Harry to have some peace.

She wanted “a very concrete statement that Harry had won,” that the story really is over, and for “Harry to have some peace.” I suggest for your consideration that the thoughtful, natural follow-up question to these assertions would have been, “And how do the words ‘All was well’ do any of those things?” Interviews are fascinating exchanges and sometimes they allow us a glimpse into what Ms. Rowling was thinking or what she hoped we might understand from what she wrote. I’m struggling, though, to think of a time when she was asked a point blank question about the meaning of a specific point in her stories that she answered with anything more profound than “what felt right” or “I saw that name on a gravestone in Surrey.” If her story-drawing of a horse doesn’t make you think of a horse, the artist is not going to label it for you with a sign spelling out, THIS IS A HORSE. Harry Potter’s dog barks; don’t ask Ms. Rowling to bark for him (or to boil roses!).

Back, then, to what “All was well” might mean.

Just as the first words of the story, “The Boy Who Lived,” are meaningful, so are the last. Unlike the first, however, the last may require a review of their context and a speculative leap or two. This speculation may take us pretty far afield but I pledge my best efforts to make the trip a rewarding one. Chasing a rabbit trail to and through Kyoto may not be the fastest or surest way to London or Hogwarts but we’d all learn something on the detour, right?

The Context of the Closer: Deathly Hallows’ Epilogue:

Every talk I have given since Potter Week last July has finished with questions-and-answers. No matter what I’m talking about, one of the first questions is, without fail, about the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows. Readers seem to have been disappointed and intrigued simultaneously so they ask, “What did you think of the Epilogue?” The feeling in the room each time I have heard this question has been an expectant one, as if I am sure to explain what was missing in Ms. Rowling’s re-opening and quick closing of the curtains on her magical play.

Unlike one celebrated BNF, however, and the fans he has taught to chant, “Expelliepilogus!,” I didn’t think and don’t think there was anything missing from the closer. The Epilogue seems a masterful tie-off of what the books are about; it’s so good, in fact, the Fandom passion to learn what happened to every character rather escapes me. There’s an understandable wish for every story to go on forever, but Ms. Rowling did an excellent job in her send-off and especially in the last words of leaving us with a snapshot of what her Harry Potter novels were about and what she wanted us to take away from them. To get the thrust of the last three words, we have to understand the work the Epilogue had to accomplish.

First, there is the formula consideration. Every book except Half-Blood Prince ends with Harry’s resurrection from a figurative death in the presence of a symbol of Christ, a conversation with Dumbledore (the Dumby Denouement), and a return to King’s cross Station. By the time of the Epilogue, of course, Harry has already been to King’s Cross and spoken to Dumbledore but this preceded Harry’s resurrection in the Forbidden Forest as a figure of Christ himself, his victory over the Dark Lord, and his conversation with Dumbledore’s portrait in the Headmaster’s Office. Formula dictates a return to King’s Cross at this point. A return in sequential time, i.e., right after the Battle of Hogwarts, and, after the pattern of the other books, as a return to the Dursleys would seem mechanical and pointless. Ms. Rowling, consequently, moves the King’s Cross farewell to a point well off in the future.

This temporal leap allows for more than formula requirements; those previous endings may just have been perumbrations of the Epilogue rather than the Epilogue being a consequence of formula. The nineteen year gap between Harry’s forsaking the Elder Wand and Resurrection Stone after repairing his “chosen” wand gives the reader characters who have digested their adventures. married and had children, and seen the world come to terms with Voldemort’s demise. Ms. Rowling is able to answer in the future King’s Cross the most important unresolved questions we must have after the Battle that could not have realistically have been resolved while the dead bodies are still laid out in the Great Hall and antechambers.

The two big questions that I had after Harry regains the wand that chose him in Philosopher’s Stone were:

(1) “What about Snape?” and
(2) “So what? Is that all there is?”

When we last saw Severus Snape, memories were running out of every cranial orifice as he died in the Shrieking Shack begging for a last look into Lily’s green eyes. The Potions Professor become Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher become Headmaster wasn’t given any sort of send-off, and, even after a Pensieve review of his life story, expertly edited to “just what Harry needs to know,” we don’t get a strong signal or even much of a clue about Harry’s appreciation of what Severus has done for him or how wrong he was about Severus. We need a Snape sub-plot tie-off, especially as this sub-plot and mystery threatened in many ways to overarch the main conflict between Harry and You-Know-Who in the last three books.

And the Epilogue delivers on this point. Harry and Ginny Potter name their second child ‘Albus Severus Potter.’ Harry explains to young Albus in the two-hanky scene by the Hogwarts Express that “you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.” Harry admires Severus, tags his children with the name to make this admiration public knowledge, and encourages his son to be at ease about being sorted as a Slytherin because all Slytherins aren’t bad guys. Severus Snape was a good guy, after all.

Got it. Harry has come to terms and peace with his age-old prejudice about Severus specifically and Slytherin House in general. More on Gryffindor and Slytherin relations in a minute.

I confess the Snape thread was my big question as I started the Epilogue and whatever other relationship (or “shipping”) concerns I may have had were neatly answered in the couples we meet at the train station. The folks in Fandom who were disappointed that we didn’t get a run down of every character’s conjugal future (to include names and number of children, et cetera, ad nauseam) and felt the Epilogue was a failure because Luna, Neville, Lee, George, and the house-elves weren’t highlighted or featured were reading the book’s finale for different reasons than I was.

The “So what?” question I had after Harry tells his closest friends and the Headmaster living portrait gallery that the Elder Wand is “more trouble than its worth” and that he’s had “enough trouble for a lifetime,” though, persisted through much of the Epilogue. What did Ms. Rowling want us to take away from this 4100 page novel in seven parts? How will she communicate the meaning of the experience we have shared? Will we get an Alyosha at the rock with the children moment a la The Brothers Karamazov? A big twist last-line surprise in the spirit of Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? A neo-Platonic cosmological experience echoing the big finish to the Narnia novels?

We didn’t get anything like that, which is just as well. Ms. Rowling chose instead to give us a quick review in her last seven (!) pages of what the seven books were about and the five keys that unlock this meaning.

Narrative misdirection? At the end of the series we realize with Harry how much we never knew about Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape and how this ignorance made us incapable of seeing things as they really were. Harry’s younger son’s first and middle names are markers of his appreciation of the two headmasters with those names and, more importantly, of his never knowing who they were when they were alive. Check that key off.

Hero’s journey? We’re back at King’s Cross to complete the circle. The beginning of Albus Severus’ adventures and seven years at Hogwarts bring us back to where we began in Philosopher’s Stone with Harry. The end (telos) and beginning (arche) meet as they must and Harry has returned as the Enlightened man to redeem the process. Check.

Literary Alchemy? The Epilogue is full of that, too. Start with the second line: “The morning of the first of September was crisp and golden as an apple.” Okay, I’ve eaten my share of Golden Delicious apples so I know there are yellow apples. But when you hear the word “apple,” do you see the color “gold”? Red, maybe green if you’re a Granny Smith sour apple fan like I am, but gold? We’re at the end of an alchemical drama so we should be expecting cues like this one that echo the Alchemical Wedding of Bill and Fleur and the sunrise in the Great Hall at Harry’s victory over Voldemort. Gold is the end and the resolution of all contraries and imbalances…

And the whole Epilogue turns on the resolution of contraries that have dominated the whole series, namely, the hot and dry of Gryffindor Tower and the cold and wet dungeon of Slytherin House. This has been an internal struggle of Harry’s as much as an external one played out at Hogwarts. The alchemical work of the “quarreling couple” on Harry throughout the series has its last touches in Harry’s conversation with Albus on the Train platform.

We’ve seen Teddy Lupin, the philosophical orphan or “philosopher’s stone” and echo of Harry that marks the beginning and end of this alchemical work, but it is the name of Ron and Hermione’s daughter that tells us that Quicksilver and Sulfur have at last been resolved and are at rest as reagents. “Rose” is another name for the Philosopher’s Stone so this revelation and the happiness of the Weasleys on the platform (especially Ron’s joke about his fame when standing next to Harry) let us in on the most important alchemical marriage with a helpful pointer to the remaining conflict in one of Ron’s asides.

Ron says to his daughter and Albus, “If you’re not in Gryffindor, we’ll disinherit you, but no pressure.” Hermione protests and denies what he says to the very nervous Albus and Rose (a meaningful pair, the White Rose) and Ron nods to Harry so he looks over through the fog to Draco Malfoy and boy Scorpius. Ron immediately suggests and fosters a conflict between his daughter and Scorpius, to which suggestion, of course, Hermione protests. Ron apologizes but adds, meaningfully, “Don’t get friendly with him, though, Rosie. Granddad Weasley would never forgive you if you married a pureblood.”

Okay, I understand this is a joke. Arthur Weasley is a pureblood and his son has married a Muggle-born witch so the fun turns on Granddad’s Muggle fascination and Blood Traitor celebrity. But think how much Ron has changed since his appearance on the King’s Cross Platform 9 3/4 twenty six years ago. His parents were both purebloods if very poor and they didn’t talk about the Squib accountant in their family. Now Ron is apologizing about making Gryffindor/Slytherin rival noises and telling jokes about purebloods and, by implication, Muggle-borns. Big changes have happened, if Harry and Draco still aren’t drinking buddies.

Perhaps with one more turn of the seven cycle alchemical process, this time with Albus Severus as the material to be worked and Scorpius and Rose as his “quarreling couple” friends, we can resolve the Gryffindor/Slytherin metanarrative antagonism in an echo of Lily and Severus with a positive resolution via Rose and Scorpius. Ron’s joke points to this possibility and Albus Severus’ name and his conversation with dad point to it as well.

Harry came to the platform way back when as the son of two Gryffindor icons but with the burden of a Horcrux scar that made him the de facto Heir of Slytherin. He chose to be in Gryffindor House and “worked out” his Slytherin baggage. His son Albus, the only child with Lily’s eyes and hence Harry’s echo in this generation, is very worried that he will be sorted into Slytherin. Why would he be thinking this is a strong possibility? James his older brother is teasing him about it, of course, but I doubt this would have bothered him except for his name. Albus — Severus — Potter.

Now, take a second and think about that name. To veterans of the Battle of Hogwarts, it would sound much like the name “Winston Adolph Roosevelt” would to survivors of the Battle of the Bulge. What a burden to hang on a child, no? But it’s meaningful. It signals, as I’ve said above, that the Potters, Deliverers of the World from Lord Voldemort and Gryffindor champions, have embraced as their own a Slytherin namesake. The boy’s initials say it all: A. S. P. This Potter is a serpent — and, as a Gryffindor legacy with what seems to be a Slytherin destiny, he has every right to be concerned and confused, especially after Uncle Ron’s disinheritance joke. Can you be a Potter and a Slytherin?

Harry says, “Yes, you can,” when he tells the ASP, “It doesn’t matter to us, Al.” The alchemical baton has been passed. The ASP may very well deliver the Wizarding World at last of what vestiges remain of the Grand Myth dividing magical folk.

Which brings us to “postmodern themes,” right? There was no great destruction of the metanarrative or eucatastrophe re-ordering the magical world after Voldemort’s defeat. Sure, the houses at Hogwarts on the night of the battle all sat at each others’ tables but it was a snapshot of what could be rather than a lasting eclipse of their divisions. But with ASP and Rose and Scorpius there is a suggestion that, in time, as contraries continue to resolve, that these dividing lines will continue to erode and dissipate.

How? By choices that individuals make.

Harry points to the importance of this, sharing the great Dumbledore lesson with Albus, his younger self, when he tells the boy he will “be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin” and that this was what Harry himself did years ago. Albus is astonished at this revelation and we are left to wonder what he makes of it.

Whatever he chooses, either ASP destiny in Slytherin or the Potter legacy by special request in Gryffindor, we know this Severus-namesake and Lily/Harry echo will further the dissolution of the metanarrative. I think the suggested Albus-Rose-Scorpius trio will, as Harry-Hermione-Ron (Longbottom) versus Draco did to James-Remus-Sirius (Pettigrew) versus Severus, dramatically change Gryffindor-Slytherin polarity by incorporating the Slytherin antagonist. ASP’s choice is not critical except in how he gets along with Scorpius.

Fan fiction? Maybe. The pieces are laid out pretty deliberately for this trio, though, with few distractors or alternatives and several explicit pointers. The most important one of which is Harry’s recognition that “All was well.” Remember, this comes to him only after he has passed the World Savior baton to the ASP, after the train has pulled out, and he has “absentmindedly” “touched the lightning scar on his forehead.”

I was unable to confirm the following speculation in several searches of wonderful etymological dictionaries online; if anything, my research was contra-indicated. So this is only a possible suggestion of the last words, not a connection of any substantive kind. Please take it at that.

“All is well” to me set off alchemical alarms. It is something of a truism that the words “hale,” “healthy,” and “holy” all are derivations of the Old English word “hal.” (“Hal’s” association with “Harry” is notable in this regard.) They each contain a sense of being “whole,” another progeny of “hal.” Physical and spiritual well-being in English, to be healthy or holy, consequently, resonate with the meanings of completeness, harmony, having-it-all-together, even “whole-i-ness.”

So what?

Harry touches his scar, the remnant of the duality he carried with him from Vapormort’s murder of his parents to his destruction of the scar-Horcrux by willing sacrifice as a seventeen year old. Or was he only “well” or “whole” after sharing the secret of his choice with Albus Severus on the platform? That exchange launches his son’s alchemical odyssey to resolve his serpent nature and Gryffindor destiny, a resolution only possible via the choices he will make. Harry has passed the postmodern key: choose the right, hard thing rather than the easy metanarrative belief. In Ms. Rowling’s 2005 interview with MuggleNet Emerson and Leaky Melissa she said about Slytherin in Hogwarts that:

the deeper answer, the non-flippant answer, would be that you have to embrace all of a person, you have to take them with their flaws, and everyone’s got them. It’s the same way with the student body. If only they could achieve perfect unity, you would have an absolute unstoppable force, and I suppose it’s that craving for unity and wholeness that means that they keep that quarter of the school that maybe does not encapsulate the most generous and noble qualities, in the hope, in the very Dumbledore-esque hope that they will achieve union, and they will achieve harmony. Harmony is the word.

In one of Ms. Rowling’s two alchemical moments in more than ten years of interviews (this one followed up by the inevitable shipping question, “Was James the only one interested in Lily?” which, of course, she wouldn’t answer beyond, “No”), she explains the qualities of the four Houses:

It is the tradition to have four houses, but in this case, I wanted them to correspond roughly to the four elements. So Gryffindor is fire, Ravenclaw is air, Hufflepuff is earth, and Slytherin is water, hence the fact that their common room is under the lake. So again, it was this idea of harmony and balance, that you had four necessary components and by integrating them you would make a very strong place. But they remain fragmented, as we know.

“All was well,” Ms. Rowling told her interviewer post-Deathly Hallows, was meant to be:

a very concrete statement that Harry won. And that the scar, although it’s still there, it’s just– it’s now just a scar. And I wanted to say it’s over. It’s done. And maybe a tiny bit of that was to say to people, “No, Voldemort’s not rising again. We’re not going to have Part Two. Harry’s job is done.

At the departure of the train, “Harry’s job is done.” His scar no longer represents his internal Gryffindor/Slytherin polarity. He has harmonized these contraries, he is in balance, he is a union of opposites, he is whole, “all was well.” I don’t think his “absentmindedness” is a throw-away, either. At a point of peace and love, when contraries no longer play, there is a nothingness or absence of activity. Harry is in a no-mind condition quite different than his brain-challenged state through most of the novels.

And the traditional symbolism? I think this “peace that passeth all understanding” is the conjunction of Ms. Rowling’s alchemy as explained above, her postmodern themes (because this peace is a consequence of choice, self-actualization, and the transcendence of the metanarrative), and her “religious undertones.” Ms. Rowling’s faith is less about atonement theology and proof texts than it is about union with what is real by love, sacrifice in the face of evil, and tolerance of what is different. It’s an esoteric, alchemical Christianity with heavy postmodern shading but it isn’t a departure from much of English literature.

In fact, my thinking about all this was jump started by a student at Biola/Torrey who, over lunch asked me what I thought of the “Eliot reference” in the ending of Deathly Hallows. I told him I didn’t see one but that I’d be very grateful if he’d help me. He and the table feigned polite surprise (they’re charitable people at Torrey as well as being very well read) before he said,
“you know, ‘All shall be well/ And all manner of things shall be well’, the Julian of Norwich line with which T. S. Eliot ends Four Quartets and Ms. Rowling ends Deathly Hallows: ‘All was well.'”

I noted only that it wasn’t a very clear echo but promised to follow up on it. And, of course, I did.

And my doing so was more than just being polite.

Yes, it’s a “stretch.” But it is a very edifying and challenging stretch. Thomas Howard, legend in Christian literary circles and author of Dove Descending: A Journey Into T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, wrote about Four Quartets:

This sequence of four poems represents the pinnacle of Eliot’s whole work. Four Quartets stands as Eliot’s valedictory to the modern world. I would place it, along with Chatres Cathedral, the Divine Comedy, van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, and Mozart’s Requiem as a major edifice in the history of the Christian West.

How does Four Quartets, Eliot’s favorite of all his poems, end?

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
All shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Pfortuny, one of the more challenging Wikipedia contributors from ages past, wrote about Four Quartets on that site:

The poet meditates on the meaning of our actions, the many instances when we realize that what we called an end was just the beginning of another move, and vice versa (Every poem an epitaph). Birth and dying are moments of equal importance, we are born with the dead… but in God’s hands, though we be unconscious, He takes care of us. The “crowned knot of fire” is an image of the Trinity. In the end,

[…] All shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

And towards the end of Section 5, it evokes the great spiritual idea of coming home, evocative of the Prodigal Son story:

[…] We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

The final lines of the poem evoke the joining of the fire of Dante’s Inferno with the rose of Paradiso, an image of the ambiguous duality of heaven and hell, right and wrong, and the mystic’s search for the complete conflation of all reason in this world, with the unity only mystical experience can hint at.

My bet is you can see why I would think there is a connection between Ms. Rowling’s alchemical send-off and Eliot’s “All shall be well” via Julian of Norwich that he uses in another quartet as well as the ending. As one commenter has noted about the Julian of Norwich selection:

“Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.”
Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, the 13th revelation; a modern translation of which might read “Sin was necessary, but it is going to be well, everything is going to be well”.

Donn Allen, a HogPro All-Pro, has written me twice to encourage me to explore the Julian connection; she thinks Julian of Norwich, a cloistered nun and anchorite, may be Ms. Rowling’s model for the locked door in the Department of Mysteries behind which Love is sequestered as well as the inspiration for “All was well.” I think Eliot is a better bet, if second hand, for two reasons.

The first of which reasons is simply the enormity of T. S. Eliot in modern English letters and poetry. If Ms. Rowling is going to send us off with a meaningful hat-tip, I’d expect it to be to something we all would recognize (or should recognize!). I’m betting more of us know Eliot than Julian.

The more important reason is that Eliot was a Christian hermetic artist, some would say “occultist.” If Ms. Rowling is going to allude to another author in her finale, I’m betting it will be to a writer writing in what she thinks, at least, is the same stream of English literature, which is to say, the implicitly Christian and alchemical one.

But this really is a stretch.

The Rev. Dwight Longnecker, an Eliot and Inklings scholar who alas has not read a single Harry Potter novel, expressed skepticism in answer to my emailed question about this connection:

Thank you for your email. I confess, I have not read any of the HP books, but my hunch is that you and the fellow at Biola are reading too much into the words ‘All is well.’ Had JK finished with a direct quote of Julian of Norwich: “All Shall be well” or “All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well” I would be more inclined to see something in it.

I’m not sure that Four Quartets is an alchemical work as such. My understanding of the four elements parallels are that this was a device Eliot imposed on the quartets within the process of composition, and that it is more there for unity of symbolism than for any particularly alchemical reasons. The ‘rose’ and the ‘fire’ are far more likely to be straightforward Christian symbols–the rose being a reference to Dante’s rose of paradise and the Virgin Mary and the fire a reference to Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.

But you should read Tom Howards’ book on the Four Quartets for complete elucidation.

Prof. Howard’s book does not explore the alchemical meaning of Four Quartets. I’ve checked.

That would normally be enough for me and I won’t be asserting anywhere that this is a “sure thing.” There is, however, more to the Four Quartets and alchemy, Eliot and hermetic Christian artistry than Rev. Longnecker or Prof. Howard allow.

Eliot scholars, for instance, debate at length the extent and nature of his indebtedness to his occult studies, the influence of Pound and Yeats on his work, and the degree and meaning of his continued use of hermetic symbols and themes in his work after his conversion to Christianity. One text, Modernist Alchemy: Poetry and the Occult, includes an entire chapter arguing that the poet used occult images to demonstrate the occult was heresy (Chapter title — Eliot: Occultism as Heresy). What none of these literature mavens dispute is that Eliot was profoundly shaped by his occult experience, that he incorporated hermetic meaning in his longer poems, and that Four Quartets is organized on a four element structure. Eliot’s great admiration of English Renaissance poets like Chapman and near adoration and frequent echoes of Dante mean the debate is not about “if” he is a hermetic poet but “how much” his greater meaning rests on this artistry.

Donn Allen sent me a MuggleNet editorial about a possible reference to Henry Scott Holland‘s most famous poem, Death is Nothing At All, that ends “All is well.” It is about transcending death and there is no doubt that Ms. Rowling is writing about love’s victory over death. As interesting, the poem is in the shape that mirrors the opening dedication in Deathly Hallows, a dedication that closes with “to the very end.” The very end of the book, you’ll recall, is “All was well,” almost a direct hit. It’s hard to discount these connections and I offer them here for your comment and corrections.

I think, though, if there is a meaningful hat-tip being made here, it is to the Four Quartets, as interesting as I find the Holland poem. One online commenter, at least, shares my suspicion that Eliot’s rose and fire is not the placid, near pedestrian image of the Holy Trinity but an alchemical image of the Philosopher’s Stone as well.

I have known this poem for almost half my life and am surprised that no-one has ever really probed the depths of its profusion of esoteric Christian images – the Rose Garden is a central metaphor in both Christian Alchemy and Rosicrucian mysticism as are images such as those in the final lines:

‘All shall be well/ And all manner of things shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are infolded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one’

There is a fascinating study still to be written which really plumbs the depths of the esoteric Christianity of this poem and its use of images of transformation, harmony and the still centre. Someone should analyse it via Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy. We forget that Eliot’s central poems all use these images – the Grail Quest in The Waste Land, the images of mystical death and resurrection in Ash Wednesday. His work is steeped in this Christian mysticism and yet we probably know more about the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in his work.

Whether a reference to Eliot, to Holland, or to no one at all, the Epilogue (for this reader, at least) is a profoundly satisfying tie-up of Rowling’s Christian, alchemical, and postmodern messages. “It felt right” to her because it works. Because of its Dante echoes, four element resolution, and Rosicrucian imagery (the fire and the rose intertwined), Eliot’s esoteric Christian and alchemical masterpiece would be an excellent final hat tip pointing to what Harry Potter has been about. Like the Four Quartets’ “All shall be well,” even if not explicitly alluding to them, Ms. Rowling’s “All was well” is apt poesy and epitaph for her seven volume work describing the human telos: freely choosing love and sacrifice to transcend a fallen world embracing death and self.

My apologies for the delay in putting this still hastily assembled essay up and my thanks to Donn Allen, the students at Biola/Torrey, and to the Rev. Dwight Longnecker. I covet, as always, your comment and corrections.


  1. JohnABaptist says

    Three additional thoughts bounding the reaction I had to the closing of the epilog:

    From the hymn:

    When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.

    “All was well” is also the acknowledging response of the listener to the assurance “All is well.” that ends the unsung words to the military bugle call known as “Taps”. A call that ends a soldier’s day, and echoes one last time over his grave.

    Since one of Dumbledore’s functions is to reflect a “Father God” image, and Snape’s actions on Dumbledore’s behalf reflect a “Holy Spirit” image, and undeniably Harry reflects a “Christ the Son” image. Then Albus Severus Potter is (with only a slight rearrangement of order) “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen” followed by the priest’s sotto voce comment, “The Mass has ended, go in Peace.”

  2. HallowsFan says

    Excellent post, John.

    I seem to be in the minority (?)** of HP readers who not only didn’t mind the Epilogue, but thought that it couldn’t have ended any other way. In fact, I rather enjoyed it and also had the impression that it simply “felt right”.

    I will agree with you that some of your theories about the Epilogue (and the “All was well” phrase) may be a bit of a stretch. 😉 But they are very interesting, nonetheless. And who knows? Maybe they are spot on.

    When I read those words at the close of Deathly Hallows, my heart smiled. For me, I think it was because it filled me with a sense of “that peace which passes understanding”. It was a reminder to me of the glorious feeling of tranquility that can only come from faith in Christ.

    I find myself unable to rationally explain my affinity for her closing the saga with “All was well”. She must have struck some archetypal chord within me… but like I said, reading that ending phrase put me at once in mind of “the peace that passes understanding”.

    ** perhaps it is not a minority, but the group who doesn’t seem to like the ending is extremely vocal.

    On a side note… I might be wrong in this observation, but it seems to me that the folks who did not like the Epilogue are the same folks who seem to be happy with Jo’s “revelation” about Dumbledore… and vice versa (those of us who enjoy the Epilogue aren’t quite basking in the “tolerance is god” glow of the gay rainbow). I don’t know if there is anything meaningful in that comparison or if it speaks to a larger truth about differences among readers… but it’s interesting (to me at least).

  3. Perelandra says

    Thanks, John, for teasing out the signification of the children’s names . I think they’re going to be important for furthing the harmonization among the Four Houses, which also fits a basic Indo-Europan myth.

    A quick check of astrological and lapidary references noticed this: the Sun must be in Scorpio for the alchemical transformation into gold to occur. The colors and gem colors of Leo and Scorpio are reciprocal:Sun-sign Leo’s color is gold but its gem is ruby while Mars-sign Scorpio’s color is red but its gem the golden topaz or sapphire. Leo is a fire-sign, Scorpio a water sign.

    Has anyone looked into the significance of the various star and constellation names in the Black family? This would surely be a fruitful field of research.

  4. My reaction to the epilogue has morphed over the course of 5 separate readings of DH due to the incredible insights posted here at HogPro. Thank you, everyone, for helping me find my “inner literary critic,”
    a work in progress, for sure.

    At first I was shell-shocked; I just couldn’t believe that I’d come to the end of the series. I probably reread the epilogue twice before laying down the book and walking out of the room. “All was well” seemed too quick; I was left with a sour taste in my mouth which I now can attribute to my selfish desire to hold on to the reading experience. I couldn’t get my head around anything more than an obvious, (and from an emotional viewpoint)superficial meaning to those final three words. I also wanted to interpret “was” to mean “maybe not in the future,” somehow keeping the door open for Harry Potter/Generation 2, or something like that.

    I don’t feel this way anymore. “All was well” tells me of the presence of peace in Harry’s life. He has found answers to the tough questions (Dumbledore/Snape/Voldemort), resolved the conflict in his soul and spirit (Griffindor/Slytherin/sacrifices of family and friends), and has accepted who he is and what his life’s purpose entails. The DH scene in the Great Hall after the final battle with LV shouts, “IT IS FINISHED!” to me. Good has overcome evil in Harry’s story just as Christ has overcome sin in reality.

    The final three words of the epilogue now breathe softly across my sensibilities and leave me contented. Seeing Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione with their children is gratifying. I’m glad to find them apparently happy and seemingly in good health. Draco’s presence reminds me to live life without predjudice and to choose my allegiances wisely. I don’t have the sour taste in my mouth any longer.

  5. John, that was great. Thanks for all the insights into the epilogue, especially the naming of the children. (Isn’t Albus Severus the middle child of Harry and Ginny rather than the third, though?)

    I’ve not read Eliot, but in skimming over some of the Four Quartets from the link, it is something I will definitely do. I had read about Julian of Norwich a bit, because of the inclusion of her in a novel, “The Illuminator”, set in Norwich, England.

    Like you, I was very satisfied with the Epilogue. When I finished that last phrase, I remember smiling through my tears and just feeling content with the story. I have come to realize, amid all the complaining that some are doing about not enough detail in the Epilogue, that I don’t need more detail. Everything that needed to be said there, was said. I’m very glad that Rowling didn’t end with her very long version that she wrote first.

    And I think that HallowsFan is right about the people who aren’t happy with the Epilogue. They were looking for their version of the story and that isn’t what Rowling gave them; she gave us all her own version. And that’s just as it should be.

    JAB, I thought of the same hymn, one of my favorites. Thanks for bringing that up.

    Thanks again, John. You’ve just reminded me again why I love reading your books and your blog. You manage to sort out all the things that I sense in the books but can’t quite explain on my own.


  6. John,

    Once again you helped to instruct me on the hidden meaning and richness of the text that did not appear to me at all.

    I was scratching my head at the name of Rose.

    I hope you can explain the name of Ron and Hermione’s other child: Hugo.



  7. Excellent and thought-provoking, Professor, as always. I have never considered the Eliot connection. My thought went immediately to Julian of Norwich (love the Department of Mysteries suggestion, btw) and her famous imagery of God holding the whole creation in the palm of His hand… ALL SHALL BE (WAS) (IS) WELL…redemption is a DONE DEAL even though Harry and we have to work it out. To me it completed the series and offered hope for the future of the wizarding world for exactly the same indicatiors as for my world…the servant, when he has done all that he has to do, rests in the care of the Master. He can rest all his future and the future of his offspring to that never-failing care and love which holds the universe in being and redemption! Harry’s beatitude in this is a reflection archetypically of the servant who hears “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into rest prepared for thee from the foundation of the world.”

    None of which it to remove the necessary workings out of the process in the individual and community and society and culture and world and universe. But, when one (transiently now and eternally eventually hopefully) enters TELOS one is at ARCHE.

    I think this whole Kings Cross scene parallels without mimicking the end of THE LAST BATTLE – after the door is passed and the questions basically answered – when the vision of Narnia spread out in all time and space literally connected – becomes the impetus for the Friends of Narnia to run into the Reality which awaits “higher up and further in”. For this reason, I find your explanation of the satisfactory nature of the closing most personally satisfying as well. Boarding a train to be sorted and grow up into adulthood is not so different -is it?- from Dante’s vision of the heavenly rose (if linear rather than curved). Harry at King’s Cross is given a preview of the possibilities and interconnections in the Rest that is and is to come and never ends. All creation in harmony with that Rest! Truly, all (was,is, shall be) well! All whole! Eternal wholeness!

    We do not yet know the glory that shall be revealed but we know that when He comes we shall be like Him. All was well – pluperfect future prophetic imperative?


  8. Please excuse me for inflicting a spot of fan fiction on this illustrious thread, but… I wrote this snippet very shortly after I read DH (and yes, before I heard John speak at Biola). I think John must have trained me to notice the right things…. 🙂

    The hat settled softly over the boy’s head, completely hiding his green eyes. The bridge of his nose tickled where the brim rested.

    “Hmmm… So you’re the younger one. I remember all of you, of course. You’re quite like your father and your brother. What shall be done with you?

    “You’re bright enough to go in Ravenclaw, but I think I won’t put you there. Learning isn’t your first passion.

    “A strong sense of loyalty and fair play here… ah, that’s why you were afraid of where I might put you, isn’t it? You don’t like underhandedness and double dealing. Well, there’s very little of that in Hufflepuff. But somehow I don’t think your gifts would be best employed among the badgers.”

    The boy thought, “Gifts?”

    “Yes, child, you have many. You’re brave as any Gryffindor, certainly, but I believe your greatest gift is the one your grandmother had: to see the good in your friends, so that they can become what you see. Are you brave enough to let me put you where your gift is needed most?”

    A tiny nod from the boy under the hat.

    “Well then, remember that there’s nothing wrong with ambition if you choose your means and your goals rightly, and go help remake your namesake’s House. Go to SLYTHERIN!”

    Albus Severus Potter scrambled down from the high wooden stool and went over to sit at his new House table, next to an obviously gobsmacked Scorpius Malfoy.

    “Your father’s going to go off like a Blast-ended Skrewt when he finds out where you got Sorted, Potter!”

    “Nah, Dad’ll be all right. He named me after Headmaster Snape, didn’t he? Hey, maybe I was supposed to be here in Slytherin! Do you know what my initials spell?”
    We now return you to more edifying reflections.

  9. Great Post!

    I also am in the group of fans who LIKED the Epilogue. I liked it on my first read and of course will appriciate it more now that John has analyzed it so well!

    I’m curious — I have yet to see an explanation of Hugo Weasley’s name – any thoughts on that one?

  10. IMournForTonks says

    Wow! That’s a lot of heady stuff to get out of a seemingly “mundane” epilogue, and a relatively bland (at first glance) last three words!

    And to think that I liked the epilogue just because it made me feel warm inside!

    The Julian of Norwich reference is intriguing. In his collected letters, C.S. Lewis (who was no big fan of T.S. Elliot for most of his life, by the way) quotes the line “all shall be well” more than once when struggling with the problems of reconciling a belief in a loving God, and the doctrines of hell and damnation; and particularly in his concern for the eternal destiny of those who had never had the opportunity to hear of Christ and His salvation.

    Has anyone ever considered the possible connection between “Use it well” from The Philosopher’s Stone and “All was well” in The Epilogue?

    I confess that the first literary allusion that I was reminded of when reading the Epilogue was the end of the Lord of the Rings when Sam returns home from the Grey Havens and simply says: “Well, I’m back.” The only way to end a massive epic is with a breath of homely contentment.

  11. thanks for more thoughts on the Epilogue, John! 🙂 I was also one of the few who really liked it (although we seem to congregate around your boards, apparently!). As an aspiring writer, I was prepared to give JKR a lot of leeway anyway (the whole agonising over whether Harry would survive or not… if it serves the story, I’m okay with it), but I really thought it was nice. After all the drama and excitement of the work, the darkness, it was like coming home again after a long journey. If she had tried to give us every single detail, it would’ve been madness and never end! If she had tried to give some details, but not others, well, folks would’ve whined such: “She told us about XX– so why couldn’t she tell us YY?” Giving sparse details but ones that latch onto the important things- the alchemical journey, that however difficult one’s struggle with evil is, there is something on the other side of it (a happy life), etc., well, some folks complain, but I think it was just right. 😀

    Also, I am totally indebted both to JKR and John, the first for putting in these literary allusions, and the second for pointing them out, because I have so many interests now in reading works. Eliot’s Four Quartets are now on my reading list. 😀


  12. Arabella Figg says

    Thanks so much, John, for expanding my appreciation of the Epilogue. When I read the last line of the book, “All was well,” and closed it, I felt so happy and peaceful.

    For seven books little was well and now ALL was well.

    While I love the Epilogue as is, however, I’ve still enjoyed the infill from Rowling. I don’t feel we have to categorize readers into oppositional camps, creating ill feeling where none should be.

    The kitties have awoken from their morning naps and all is NOT well…

  13. I hope some people reading this will be moved to investigate Julian of Norwich, who’s an unusually visual as well as profound spiritual writer.

  14. Coppinger Bailey says

    I actually did catch the “golden” apple description when I first read the Epilogue, but that’s only because I’d read “Hidden Keys” before DH was released! 🙂

    I loved the Epilogue. I peacefully cried all the way through it, and practically broke down in sobs over the reconciliation when I first read Harry say, “Albus Severus.” I agree with John’s observations that the little glimpses of the main characters, their children, & the dialogue they share tell us as much & all we need to know.

    Helen – I never read fanfic, but yours temps me to start!

    Perelandra – thanks for this: “the Sun must be in Scorpio for the alchemical transformation into gold to occur. The colors and gem colors of Leo and Scorpio are reciprocal:Sun-sign Leo’s color is gold but its gem is ruby while Mars-sign Scorpio’s color is red but its gem the golden topaz or sapphire” I was wondering about the name “Scorpio” & how it fit in beyond being a water (Slyterin) sign.

    And I second Nzie: my reading list & literary horizons have grown tremendously!

    So what about Hugo Weasley? Surely he wouldn’t be named for just some common ol’Muggle… 😉

  15. Coppinger Bailey says

    whoops- meant to say it was “Unlocking Harry Potter” that I read before DHallows in my last post, not “Hidden Keys.” Thought I better get that John Granger reference correct… 🙂

  16. Could Hugo Weasley be named in honor of Hagrid; a humorous, loving tribute to Hogwarts’ gentle half-giant?

  17. I am puzzled by the name Hugo for Ron and Hermione’s son. It’s just not that common a name. Also, all the other children’s names have significant reference to symbols or people. Does “Hugo ” refer to a friend of JKR, a literary character or a symbol?
    Anyone have any ideas?

  18. I bought two books today at Barnes and Noble as a result of this topic–“The Waste Land and Other Poems” and “Four Quartets”. Time to expand my reading with a bit of poetry that I’ve avoided for a very long time. (The trouble I’m having with The Waste Land is all the languages that I don’t speak–namely German. The French I can sort of figure out, but having to flip to the footnotes every half page is disruptive to the flow. It’s definitely going to be something I have to read more than once. I guess I should be glad there are footnotes and endnotes with Eliot’s notes.)

    Helen, thank you for that bit of fan fic. It was lovely, as your other things have been from several years ago after Half-Blood Prince. 🙂

    Arabella Figg, you are so right that we shouldn’t be dividing ourselves into opposite camps. The problem that I have is that whenever I’ve said to people on other forums that I really liked DH and especially the Epilogue, they have had only criticism and dissatisfaction with the book and the ending, especially the obvious Christian aspects. So like it or not, we do seem to be divided. It’s unfortunate when we all managed to cross so many barriers of age, gender, nationalities for the first five, even the first six books. So I find that I now have quit trying to discuss the books with people I once counted as close on-line friends. But I just can’t keep arguing with them and I refuse to let them tarnish something that I really like and appreciate.


  19. Thank you, John (and everyone!) for your thoughtful insights and speculations. I loved the Epilogue too. It is as it should be, in my opinion. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you why I loved it so much, except that it just seemed perfect and got me all warm and fuzzy too. But after reading this analysis, I think I understand a little more about why it appealed to me so much and why I was so satisfied with it.

    Every time I revisit this site (which is often since it is my browser’s home page), I am uplifted and encouraged to dig deeper into the meaning of HP and to explore other works of literature that I have yet to discover. I am finally becoming the reader I have long wished to be!

    A special thanks to Helen for her short fanfic post above. That was brilliant! I am teary-eyed and my mind is now filled with images and ideas of what events may be unfolding in the wizarding world. I don’t know if we’ll ever get any more stories from JKR (and maybe that’s all for the best), but it sure is fun to imagine. Your bit has contributed to my ongoing fantasy plots. Thanks. 🙂

    “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
    The world and all its people belong to him.”
    Psalm 24:1 (NLT)

  20. Perelandra:
    I do have an abridged version of Julian’s visions, and you’re right… the image of God holding everything that exists, and it’s no larger than a nut, in His hand is memorable. And it might be that “all was well” does trace back directly to Julian, and not only via Eliot. Didn’t JKR say at one time that she might write a book about medieval saints? Surely reading about medieval saints would be a necessary precursor?

    Coppinger Bailey:
    about my fic: thank you, but if I tempt you to explore further, all I can say is “mea culpa!”

    I’m puzzled by Hugo but I’m much more puzzled by Ariana and Kendra Dumbledore. They seem to have such contemporary given names, not Victorian or wizardly in the least. Maybe they were shout-outs to friends or acquaintances of JK?

  21. JohnABaptist says

    Hi Tweak,

    About Hugo, while the name is not that common in the United States, this site shows it to be hovering around number 400 on the U.S. List of 1000 Most Popular Names, the same site also shows it coming in as a Top Ten Performer in Sweden.

    As to meanings, this site traces the origin of the name to the Dutch language where it means “heart and mind”. That is certainly what you would get from the marriage of Ron and Hermione–Heart and Mind conjoined.

    As to literature, my first thought was of Hugo Gernsback creator of the first science fiction magazine after whom the annual award for Science Fiction Writing–The Hugo–is named. However if Ms Rowling ever gets around to naming sources of inspiration for little Hugo I expect it to be Victor-Marie Hugo an author whom English speakers admire for “Les Miserables” and “”Notre-Dame de Paris” (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) but who is most famous to students of French Literature as a poet and dramatist.

    As a member of the House of Weasley, of course he would also have to have a link to the Legends and Literature of England (Arthur, Parsifal [Percival] or Guinevere [Ginevra]), the Monarchy of England (William, Charles, George and [died on his way to be invested as Prince of Wales, Friedrich (Fred) older brother of George] or the Saints of England (Molly (Mary), Charles (a double appearance! The only person to be canonized by the Church of England after the English Reformation).

    Hugo translates to Hugh in English, a name fairly common there but I know of know Kings or Major Literary Characters of that name, however in the Hall of English Saints there are two possibilities: St. Hugh of Lincoln and Little St. Hugh of Lincoln of the two I prefer the first as his actions before and after his elevation to Bishop seem to speak of the spirit of Ms. Rowling’s writing. However the events of the second also reflect the kinds of prejudice, intolerance and mass hysteria that Harry and Friends were fighting their way through in the seven volumes.

  22. Arabella Figg says

    Pat (Eeyore), thanks for your affirmation on my distress over finger-pointing and derision Are we HP fans going to sort ourselves into competitive Houses to fight for the House Cup of Righteousness? It seems to me we all bring something to the table (as adroitly demonstrated by Rowling) and our various viewpoints and understandings add to the whole, as long as we don’t point our wands at each other, yelling “Obliviate!”

    Helen, I loved your fanfic piece. What a wonderful thought that Albus and Scorpio could be come friends, further cementing the oneness of WizWorld. Actually, their friendship could have more lasting impact than the defeat of Old Moldy.

    Speaking of impact, I see Mrs. Fleasley and Fullatricks are at it again, the fur is flying…

  23. Arabella Figg says

    Actually, what surprised me most about the Epilogue was how insecure Albus seemed to be, considering his heritage and such nurturing, healthy parents, parents’ friends, etc.

    Although not a parent, I know from my own experience that a family can produce very different child personalities. Still, despite Albus’ unease about being sorted into Slytherin and his brother’s teasing, his anxious nature puzzled me. You’d think the Potter kids would be pretty self-confident. James certainly was. Perhaps James was the problem.

    Anyone have any thoughts about this?

    Little Flako wouldn’t know a thought if it came up and bit him…

  24. Well, judging from Harry’s remarks about the house being demolished, it would seem that both Potter younglings could be scrappy on occasion.

    As you might infer from my fic, I didn’t see ASP as being insecure, but rather one of those children who is just unusually conscientious. Usually that’s the eldest child in the family, but I don’t see why it always has to be.

  25. I expounded on the name Weasley in the second edition of Looking for God in Harry Potter, chapter ten, ‘Fun with Names,’ page 116. Here’s the link to a page I referenced in the footnote for the exegesis. But I yield to you, Perelandra, on bestiaries and the like. Your mythological and medieval lore reach is much longer than mine!

  26. Has anyone ever expounded on the name Weasley itself? The weasel has a flood of symbolic connections: the perfect disciple, the enemy of the snake and the basilisk, the purifier. The mother weasel is supposed to be able to revive her dead offspring, as the lion does. The weasel even became a symbol of the Virgin Mary

    In Greek mythology, Galinthias, a woman in the form of a weasel, distracted the hostile goddess of childbirth so that Herakles could be born and attracted worship of her own.

    In addition to alchemy, I’d bet Rowling was also busy with bestiaries, lapidaries, and herb lore.


  27. We have two children who are as different as night and day. I agree with you, Arabella, that Albus appeared insecure; a behavior I did not find unusual in light of James’ teasing. I have no doubt that Albus has been led a merry chase through his first 11 years and Harry and Ginny are just glad he has so far survived the rigors of growing up *Potter-Weasley!* (Think about summers with Grandma and Grandpa Weasley at the Burrow… the antics Uncle George would encourage!)

    I have cousins who mirrored similar behaviors in their childhood: the older was confident of his place as firstborn and quite full of himself. The other cousin was sensitive, like Albus appears to be, without a mean bone in his body. I remember my mom talking about the day the younger cousin beat the stuffing out of his older brother in self-defense and how the grown-ups were glad to see some backbone in the boy! Eventually the elder worked through his issues and became a decent human being…but he could never hold a candle to his younger, kind-hearted sibling.

    James may have the spotlight at the moment…firstborn of Harry Potter, energetic and fun to be around. James will NEED the limelight as did his grandfather. But I think Albus will be the *quiet giant* in the long run: a recognized leader; wise, sensitive, an honor to his namesakes. I can see ASP as a future Headmaster of Hogwarts. If James takes after his father on the broom, I would imagine him to seek his fame in the International Quiddich arena.

  28. Louis Charbonneau-Lassay (1871-1946) was a French Catholic archeologist/historian with a profound knowledge of medieval Christian art and symbolism who wrote Le Bestiaire Du Christ – a book of of a thousand pages and over a thousand of the author’s woodcuts. It was published in Brussels in 1940 just after the outbreak of WWII. I have an abridged English translation copyright Parabola Books, 1991. It is a book to which I think JKR would have been drawn by francophilia and education and interest.

    The text I have devotes pages 147 to 152 to the weasel. It is wonderfully suggestive. I append a few quotations.

    “Searching for symbolic images that would convey serious Christian lessons, the early glossarists pointed out that although the weasel is the smallest of the carnivores, yet it can win combats with much bigger animals than itself – so, they said, the weasel is the perfect symbol of a Christian who, no matter how weak in himself, can still triumph over Satan, the most terrifying monster of hell.” p.147 (Can you say, Chamber of Secrets?)

    “The weasel conceives through the ear and gives birth through the mouth” is a dictum from the ancient world attested by Plutarch, Aristotle, and Ovid.
    “Likewise, the disciple and also the initiate, listening to the word of the master, receives through the ear the seed of wisdom and of inner light which impregnates his spirit; then having thus learned much through attentive listening, the candidate for initiation becomes in his turn a teacher, and through the wise and eloquent speech of his mouth gives birth to disciples who are his spiritual children.” p.148
    (Here I would add the Bible citations from ACTS chapter 8 and 15, Romans chapter 10: 5 – 17, and 1 John 5:13 – all of which refer to the hearing, believing and confessing of faith in Jesus Christ which gives new birth.) Can you say EPILOGUE?

    The familial care of the weasel made it a symbol of carefulness, vigilance, and active paternal affection for some symbolists. This, and the power of revivication shared with the lion and the pelican made it easy for the weasel to become one of the fauna symbolic of JESUS CHRIST. p.149. (Can you say Mollie and Arthur?)

    “Pliny also tells us in two other passages of his great work that the weasel is the most implacable vanquisher of that terrifying reptile, the basilisk or cockatrice: ‘This monster as has often been proved for kings wishing to see its corpse, cannot withstand weasels, which lure it into a cave and kill it by the odor they exhale’. In another passage he says that the weasel itself will pursue the cockatrice into its lair, where everything nearby is burned by the reptile’s breath. Then, with nothing but its odor, the weasel kills it, and dies at the same time. All the ancient Christian symbolists took note of this… . In the works of medieval writers and artists, the weasel becomes the image of the Savior.” pp.149-150 (Dan you say Ron and Deathly Hallows?)

    Interestingly, “A slightly larger (huge – o ?) variety of the weasel is the ermine… . Medieval heraldry took the ermine as the symbolic image of a man determined to protect the purity of his conscience – an image that is, above all, that of the perfect knight who prefers to undergo any misfortune rather than tarnish his name and his escutcheon by the slightest act contrary to loyalty, fidelity, or knightly honor. …Thus placed as the perfect sign of the soul’s purity, the ermine shares the symbol of the crucifixion with the swan, the dove, THE LILY, and the snow, embodying the innocence of CHRIST. Also, the ermine was one of the rare winter symbols of the Resurrection, because, while brown in summer, it then seemed to disappear, only to reappear in all its whiteness with the return of the snowy season.” p151. (Can you say HUGO – the larger weasley?)

  29. Please take the name discussion over to the Hugo Weasley thread two posts up!

    Grateful John

  30. The more I look at info on Julian of Norwich the more I see a link to the locked room in the Department of Mysteries. The main clue is that the room is always locked – as was the anchorhold where Julian lived. The study of the power of love goes on behind the locked door. How does anything get in or out and why is door locked? Yet we have her profound work “Showing of Love” which came from behind the locked door. There is so much available on the internet with Google and check on Amazon books if you think her work is forgotten and obscure. Not so!! It matters not whether Lady Joanne tapped this stream of thought at its source or through Eliot or Holland or Lewis or others or all of the above. It is a most beautiful conclusion to her work with closure, resolution and understanding. Great good can be accomplished by flawed (i.e. sinful) human beings inspired by love. Some times the first part of Julian’s quote is omitted but it really should not be. “Sin is needful, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Dumbledore, Snape and Harry all have their flaws – but look at the good driven by love and choices made.
    Dobby (muggle alias Donn) and deep appreciation to John for the moniker Dobby, I treasure that!

  31. One more for the literature buffs.
    Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam , Fitzgerald 2nd editon # 35

    There was the door to which I found no key;
    There was the Veil through which I could not see;
    Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
    There was – and then no more of Thee and Me.

    The locked door – the veil – Wow! Enjoy!


  32. So glad to see these possible literary and theological connections being explored. Julian of Norwich was practically the first thought that popped into my mind after reading the “All was well” line (well, the first coherent thought beyond the tearful “oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-believe-I’ve-just- finished- Harry-Potter” sorts of thoughts).

    I don’t think the Eliot/Norwich choice has to be either/or. They’re both part of English history, literary and theological. I almost wonder if she didn’t choose the line for its aesthetic rightness before she even realized its connotations. I love that some expressions contain within them such a richness of allusion, showing that Harry Potter is part of a long, ongoing conversation.

    And I love the epilogue. I kept going back to read it, and each time I became more impressed by its artistry. We know JKR can wield words, lots of words, well. All the more reason to be impressed, I think, by the modest, almost sparse (or do I mean spare) feel to the epilogue. It seemed so carefully planned and so well executed. I kept getting the sense of a beautifully set-up photo, or a finely edited three-minute home movie (the kind my dad used to take on our old film camera). The last chapter ended well, but we needed, desperately need, that epilogue to put things in perspective and to come full circle on some themes and emotions. So thanks for unpacking the alchemical underpinnings of that masterful epilogue, John!

  33. rosesandthorns says

    How come I didn’t see this essay on the epilogue earlier! I’m glad I found it!

    Your reading of the epilogue and the hopes for Rose/AlbusSeverus/Scorpius is spot on. Though I think ASP might choose Gryffindor as a house, he might also choose a Slytherin (Scorpius) as a best friend, which might finally mean an end to the Gryffindor/Slytherin prejudices, and be an echo back to the founders (didn’t the Sorting Hat say during one of the songs that Godric and Salazar – as well as Helga and Rowena – were best friends at first?) [It would be ironic if Albus chose Slytherin and Scropius chose Gryffindor, though.] And with a successful Gryffindor/Slytherin love affair in Rose/Scorpius as well, what a resolution of contraries! And I can image the amusement of the DumbledorePortrait and the SnapePortrait when the new trio appears in the headmasters office – can you see the look on their faces at the possible friendship of the Harry and Draco lookalikes of Albus and Scorpius? Or the Rose/Scorpius romance? And the Snape portrait will have some sneering (but inner-ly amused) comment about the Albus Severus name? Okay, I’m stopping now before this deviates into fanfic territory!

    Back to the topic.

    John, you wrote: “freely choosing love and sacrifice to transcend a fallen world embracing death and self.” What a way to describe the whole series! :claps:

    Poster DA1 wrote: “Great good can be accomplished by flawed (i.e. sinful) human beings inspired by love. … Dumbledore, Snape and Harry all have their flaws – but look at the good driven by love and choices made.” I applaud you too!

  34. yewtree says

    Thomas Howard may not show any references to alchemical imagery, but an earlier critic of Four Quartets, Helen Gardner, refers to “a fifth element,” “the quintessence,” that opens up the possibilities: On p. 45 of The Art of T. S. Eliot, she says: “We could then say that the whole poem is about the four elements whose mysterious union makes life, pointing out that in each of the separate poems all four are present; and perhaps adding that some have thought that there is a fifth element, unnamed but latent in all things: the quintessence, the true principle of life, and this unnamed principle is the subject of the whole poem.” I have missed this on previous readings, but this time, thanks to John Granger’s presentation of alchemical imagery in Harry Potter and English literature, I took note and find it a helpful way to look at the Four Quartets.

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