Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Post-Potter Post #1

SPOILER ALERT!! Skip this post if you are still avoiding Harry Potter Book 7 spoilers!

This is the first of (hopefully) two posts with my thoughts on the 7th and final Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Since many of the comments I want to make relate to my Predictions from just a month ago today, I will start with a followup to that post, item by item:

1) Neither Harry, Ron, Hermione, nor Ginny will die in book 7. I am certain of this for a number of reasons, but chiefly because Rowling has been building up to the eventual Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione romantic pairings since the very start of the series. She has invested far too much care and focus into this story arc for her to allow it to be rendered pointless at the end...

OK, I nailed this one, both in terms of their survival and the reason why. In fact, the Ron/Hermione romance was one of the major subplots of Book 7. Of course, many if not most people predicted as much, but quite a few did not, so allow me a little bit of a gloat!

Ron and Hermione also had some of the best interactions in the book. I particularly loved the following exchange. When Ron and Tonks made it back safely to the Burrow, after the Death-Eaters' attack early in the book, Tonks was describing how skillful Ron was in warding off their attackers while flying. Hermione, with tears of joy, said "you did??" and Ron retorted "always the tone of surprise." In a later chapter, when Hermione came down dressed for Bill and Fleur's wedding, Ron said "you look great" and Hermione said the same line in response. Wonderful touch by Rowling in depicting their budding relationship. And a give and take quite reminiscent of the classic "I love you" "I know" of Han and Leia (Star Wars) fame.

2) Voldemort will die, but not at Harry's hand. No matter how evil Voldemort is, when it comes down to it I don't see Harry becoming a killer.

Correct again - See #4.

3) Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail will have a positive role to play before the end. However, I don't see him directly killing Voldemort (too derivative of Tolkien), nor do I see him directly saving Harry (too obvious). Rather, I think Pettigrew will sacrifice himself saving Ron's life. After all, he should owe as much or more loyalty to Ron, who kept him as a beloved pet for several years, as to Harry for saving his life on one occasion. And rescuing Harry's best mate from death would surely repay Pettigrew's debt to Harry as well.

I guess I get partial credit for this one. Wormtail's relationship with Ron didn't come into play at all, though he was trying to kill both Harry and Ron, but then hesitated momentarily when reminded of his debt to Harry. This was enough to trigger his death at - literally - his own (silver) hand. Apparently, Voldemort had put a spell on the silver hand to ensure Wormtail's absolute obedience, with his life an immediate penalty for the most minor of rebellions. Not quite a redemption, but definitely a contribution.

4) Given 2 and 3, how will Voldemort die? Though of course I cannot guess the details, I think he will end up destroying himself in some fashion, via his own greed, cruelty, overreaching, and carelessness.

I think I was on the right track here as well. Most pointedly, in the final battle Harry did not use a killing curse, but rather the purely defensive "Expelliarmus" spell - which he had even been criticized by several of his allies for favoring. It was Voldemort's own killing curse which rebounded onto him and did him in. It could also be argued that his splitting his soul into so many parts is what made him relatively vulnerable at the end.

5) Hagrid and his half-brother, full-Giant Grawp will be pivotal to the downfall of Voldemort's forces, if not the wizard himself. I see both of them being lost in battle, but their struggles and deaths triggering great loss to Voldemort's side as well. Possibly their murder will open the eyes of the other Giants - whom we saw Voldemort recruiting to his side in book 5 - to just how little Voldemort really cares about them, and incite them to revolt.

I wasn't very close here, though a battle between Grawp and Voldemort's giant allies was featured. And of course Hagrid survived. But I note that it initially seemed he had perished, sacrificing himself protecting the students from a horde of giant spiders. While of course I'm glad Hagrid made it, it would have been fittingly ironic for his end to come in that fashion, given his love for strange and dangerous creatures, and especially since he was responsible for the spiders' presence in the Forbidden Forest.

6) On a related note: a consistent theme of the series has been that prejudice against non-human, sentient magical beings is evil and despicable; e.g. Lucius / Dobby, Draco / Buckbeak, Umbridge / centaurs, etc. Therefore, I believe that such creatures, held in contempt and scorn by Voldemort's allies, will be key to the victory against them.

This guess was certainly correct, as Elves, Centaurs, Hippogriffs, and others played a significant role in the climactic battle. Like #1, perhaps a somewhat obvious development in hindsight.

7) The primary question of the book six-seven interregnum was "Is Snape Good Or Evil?". I believe this will not have a simple, binary answer. I am definitely sure that Snape's killing of Dumbledore was intended by the latter, and that Snape was not working for Voldemort. However, I don't think all of his behaviors can be explained altruistically, or as part of a master plan of Dumbledore. Snape is a deeply troubled and flawed individual, and a complex balance of the noble and the self-serving in his motivations and actions will be revealed before the end.

So, far so good! Or to use Rowling's own words from a recent Web Chat:
Q: You think Snape is a hero
J.K. Rowling: Yes, I do; though a very flawed hero. An anti-hero, perhaps. He is not a particularly likeable man in many ways. He remains rather cruel, a bully, riddled with bitterness and insecurity - and yet he loved, and showed loyalty to that love and, ultimately, laid down his life because of it. That's pretty heroic!
Of course, then I had to go and add:

Which will not be his end - I expect him to survive the climax of book 7, and he and Harry will, at least on some level, make their peace with one another.

Though the latter clause was true - Harry ultimately admired Snape and even named a child for him - Snape was brutally disposed of by Voldemort when it became convenient for him to do so.

The chapter in which Harry views Snape's memories is some of JKR's most riveting and poignant writing. It is probably my favorite chapter in the book, except for perhaps the climax.

8) When I first read book 5, I was 100% sure that Sirius Black was not dead - as we never saw him actually killed, but just fall through a veil to some unknown plane. I fully expected his return in book 6. Since that didn't happen, I'm no longer convinced that he will ever come back to full life, but I do think he will make some kind of appearance in book 7 and provide support to Harry.

This one I got totally wrong, of course. I guess when it came to Sirius, I wasn't much better than the "Dumbledore is not dead" crowd. In fact, notwithstanding JKR's firm statement (a whole year ago - wow!) that DD definitely met his end in book 6, he did play a rather active role in book seven, in flashbacks and in Harry's mind, while Sirius was all but absent.

9) Dumbledore's drinking of the potion in book six caused him horrific suffering and weakened him drastically, making him vulnerable to Snape's final curse. Yet all this seemed to be in vain, since the locket underneath the potion was apparently not the real Horcrux. But if the Horcrux was previously removed by the mysterious "RAB", why would Voldemort's potion have still been there? I think the potion Dumbledore drank will turn out to be something planted by "RAB", and his suffering will end up being of value after all. This may relate to the previous item, if "RAB" is in fact, as widely believed, Sirius' brother Regulus Black.

Right track, wrong train here, as one of my High School teachers liked to say. The ravings were definitely significant, but they were not planted by Regulus. Rather, they were deeply personal to DD as he relived his own worst memories. But I guess I'm in good company, as I don't recall anyone predicting the major Book 7 subplot concerning DD's painful and problematic past.

10) Longtime enemies Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley will battle, with the former murdering the latter. Draco Malfoy will rebel against his father and Voldemort, and prevent additional Weasley deaths from occurring. He may or may not lose his life in return for this ultimate bravery.

Though this prediction was well off base, a couple of aspects were at least in the general ballpark of events in the book. One was the key - albeit indirect and unintentional - role that the Malfoys played in helping Harry defeat Voldemort. Though the drastic fall from grace and humiliation of the Malfoy family was completely unforeseen, at least by me. Another was the thrilling and thoroughly awesome battle between Bellatrix and Molly Weasley. Probably JKR's best action scene in any of the books.

HOWEVER! I do think I deserve partial credit here for a different reason. JKR recently confirmed in an interview that Arthur Weasley was the character she famously "reprieved" and had planned to kill! Until I read that interview, my guess for that character had been Hagrid; see #5 above.

Finally, my live and die list:

LIVE: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Snape: Four out of five right, but in a sense just 1 out of 2 right, since the first four were all for the same reason.

DIE: Voldemort, Wormtail, Hagrid, Mr. Weasley, Dobby or Neville Longbottom: Three out of five right here, plus as above Mr. Weasley had been planned to die by JKR, as of at least the end of book 6.

Of all the deaths in the book, Dobby's was the most affecting, even edging out Fred Weasley's. "Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf." Bravo, Rowling!

That's all for now. I'll have some additional comments on the book in a later post.


At 8/2/07, 3:20 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I was off on quite a bit of this. I think that I spent too much time looking at this through adult eyes and expecting more of an adult plot than we got.

But I still enjoyed the book.

At 8/3/07, 3:24 AM, Anonymous Kylopod said...

Except for perusing a book by Galadriel Waters written after Book Four, I avoided all fan speculation. I didn't even want to hear Rowling's hints that she liked to drop in interviews. I actually did not know Book Seven had an epilogue until I reached it. I'm proud I was able to maintain my ignorance.

After Book Six, there was only one matter that I cared about: whether Snape was good or evil. He had always been the most interesting character in the series, and it would have seemed a major copout if he would be finally revealed as a conventional villain.

I really couldn't have cared less about the Harry=Horcrux theory. My reaction to friends who mentioned it was, "So what?" It seemed a pretty standard fantasy device, and it didn't much affect the characters, except for raising the possibility that Harry would die at the end, an outcome that wouldn't have been satisfying for this type of story.

The romantic chemistry between Ron and Hermione was fairly obvious early on in the series, but I never really thought of it as a "prediction" that they would get together. I thought they might, and I thought they might not. I wasn't sure that Rowling was even going to resolve the issue.

While I was happy that Hagrid lived, he didn't have any good scenes in the book, so in a way I did miss his presence.

I loved how the Snape/Dumbledore stuff was handled. Both were atoning for past sins. Dumbledore did so by adopting a "sacrifice for a larger cause" ethic, to compensate for his past selfishness. This caused him to go too far in the opposite direction, basically using Harry as bait. In a way, Snape came out seeming more moral, valuing human life more. And he did have a sort of love/hate relationship with Harry, seeing him as a combination of the man he hated and the woman he loved. Thus, what this book revealed cast Snape's relationship with Harry, which had always been complex and believable, in a new light.

I pretty much expected Snape to die in this book. He just seemed too morally flawed to survive. I didn't think Harry could go on living with Snape alive, because I didn't think there was any way for them to mend their conflicted relationship. Only through Snape's death would they be able to reach a common understanding.

I also pretty much expected that Dumbledore would make another apperance, not necessarily that he would literally come back to life. I imagined him returning as a ghost, or something along those lines--and I was right. There is a tradition in fantasies of the bearded wise man returning from the dead.

Here are my thoughts about the Harry Potter series from about a year ago:



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