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July 22, 2007

Thoroughly spoiled Harry Potter
Posted by Teresa at 12:56 AM * 743 comments

A thread for everyone who wants to discuss Harry Potter without having constant recourse to circumlocutions and ROT-13. (Thanks to Susan for the suggestion.)

Comments on Thoroughly spoiled Harry Potter:
#1 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 01:13 AM:

Hooray Neville! Beaten, tortured, driven underground, and he still stands strong, and kills Nagini while his head is on fire. All the major youths look terrible choices in the face and do the right thing: Ron refuses to be baited by the locket, Harry does what has always been required, Hermione obliviates her parents (!!!) and sends them off to Australia with no memory of her, and Neville, well, see above.

This is their final test, and they pass with flying colors.

#2 ::: Coyote ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:02 AM:

While I enjoyed a lot of it (Grindelwald backstory! Dobby represents! Neville the Barbarian!), we're definitely in the land of Harry Potter and the Land of Enforced Heteronormativity, where you're damned well either married or dead (or both.) (Neville, McGonagall, and Hagrid- and a few students, obviously- are the only exceptions among major characters that I can think of.) She works so hard at bowtie-ing so many plott and character arcs, most of the plot twists and deaths don't have anything like proper weight (Lupin's marriage and his death occur offstage? Does she stick pins into a Lupin voodoo doll at night?)- although when she does work a scene up properly (Dobby), it can be incredibly wrenching.

I don't know what to say about Snape's death; he shaped his own life so relentlessly, I really thought that his end would follow suit- his choosing to break an Unbreakable Vow to Voldemort, or some such. I felt very strongly that she wrote this book specifically to close the door on fandom- not in any sort of a meanspirited way, but this book does feel- preplanned plot or no- like a deliberate attempt to close the door.

#3 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:19 AM:

Still working through the book, and I tried not to read the above comments...

But I've just got to the wedding, and the phrases from the ceremonial that slip in are not default-heterosexual.

#4 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:32 AM:

I was so pleased to see my preexisting theories about Snape -- both as to his actions and his motivations -- confirmed.

#5 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:33 AM:

Okay, I have got to link to this detailed, um, review:

HP&tDH: practically page by page

#6 ::: Avantika ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:04 AM:

*delurk*
Mike Smith has started reviewing them, chapter by chapter, I loved his review of HBP, and am looking forward to this one too

@#5, Rachel Heslin, I know, read that yesterday, it was linked from the Whatever comment thread on HP, I was literally ROFL at that :DDD

*back to lurking*

#7 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:09 AM:

Finished it about five minutes ago (and am thus happy to find this thread). Liked it a lot, although I'm too tired to really write a decent review.

As far as deaths go, I like the fact that not everyone who died got a Big Dramatic Heroic Death right in front of Harry. Mad-Eye, Tonks, and Lubin died in the heat of battle, the way some characters should die.

Also, count me surprised (but happy) that the Big Three all lived, and that both Lubin and Tonks died.

That said, Hedwig is still the one I'm mourning the most.

I loved the view of Snape's life, and how well Neville has grown as a character.

The only place where I don't feel a sense of resolution is the lack of any real revenge on Umbridge and Skeeter (the latter of whom, by the end, had to be working for Voldy).

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts tomorrow. Overall, I'm happy with it.

#8 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:22 AM:

This book was entirely predictable and hokey. Too much adolescent angst, not enough Snape (the Pensieve scene was too little, too late). Too many random things with no explanation: Why can Ron suddenly speak Parseltongue? Why can Neville draw Gryffindor's sword out of the hat, after Griphook took it? What are any of the characters doing afterwards (we get an epilogue 19 years later, and we never find out what any of them are doing besides raising kids?)? Harry saw Lupin and Tonks dead and didn't even ask how they died? And for the love of god, why Harry/Ginny?

And let's face it - Harry and Ginny naming their kids James, Lily, and Albus Severus is a horribly cruel act.

Argh.

Although Hermione obliviating her parents was kinda cool...

#9 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:24 AM:

I thought she wimped, personally: I expected really major characters to die and although I liked Fred Weasley and Lupin is one of my personal favorites, they're not truly core characters. She even brought Hagrid back after seemingly killing him off. Not entirely sure how the whole philosophical "Harry's dead, no, wait, he isn't" reasoning is going to play with the pre-teen crowd.

The one place I thought she didn't completely wimp was in not whitewashing Snape.

As for Hermione's parents, didn't she say that she'd be able to reverse the memory wipe if they won? Not that getting them to move to Australia wasn't resourceful, mind you.

On the whole, I thought it was ok but not as clever a wrap-up as I expected.

#10 ::: michael ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:43 AM:

Ah, someone else read the mightygodking review. My biggest motiviation for reading the book as quickly as I could is that I wanted to read that review, and didn't want to be reading spoilers.

I think that the epilogue was the biggest swing and a miss of the whole book.
I realise that in the potterverse, Hogwarts is the defining time in a persons life. I also recognise the opportunity for a "circle of life" type moment. That being said, the epilogue seemed to me to doom 19 years to nothing much happening, and passed up the opportunity for providing a place to deal with the short term results of the Order's victory, wrap up some of the minor characters a bit, especially those supporting voldy and to leave the characters as new adults, going forward into a future with a strong direction and open opportunities, instead of going forward with complete and utter certainty that their choices from hogwarts are the sum total of their destiny.

#11 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:59 AM:

rmb@8: Ron can't speak Parseltongue, he can imitate Harry speaking it, and it took him several tries to get it right. Neville can draw the sword from the hat for the same reason Harry could back in book 2.

And someone beats me to Chris Bird's review. I thought he was a little harsh overall, but there were several places where he skewered the book very nicely.

My own grade: E-. (Although I suppose the OWL grades don't get + and - on them.) I thought it was worth the wait, and there've been plenty of things along these lines that haven't been.

#12 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:27 AM:

David@11: When Harry drew the sword out of the hat, the sword was presumably still under wizarding control (somewhere in Hogwarts, or somehow attached to the Hat, or something). When Neville draws it, a goblin has taken possession of it several hundred pages earlier (and we know goblins are pretty darn good at keeping objects safe from thieves, making the Sorting Hat a ridiculously powerful artifact). (I agree with you about why Neville was able to draw the sword; it just doesn't make sense to me from a plotting/worldbuilding perspective). The Parseltongue still strikes me as low probability (Ron heard Harry open the Chamber once, 5 years earlier, and has heard Parseltongue maybe a handful of other times), but that explanation makes more sense to me than the sword thing does.

#13 ::: Charles Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:27 AM:

I liked it. It was entertaining, and it tied up the series nicely. Nothing was particularly surprising, plot-wise and there was far too much "tell rather than show", especially at the end, but that's a par for the course.

I don't really see any problems with only middle-tier characters dying in this one. A major character dying at the end would have out-heroed Harry (again), and after Dumbledore and Sirius bought it in the last two books it would have looked like quota-filling anyway.

I was a bit surprised at how the relationships were played. Having paired the characters up in book six, Rowling seemed not to want to do anything with them but have the couples snog occasionally to remind us they were together. Nothing interesting was done with them, even when you had two seventeen year-old best friends shacked up together for long periods of time in a tent with nobody but each other for company. (I guess there wasn't really room for any _more_ teen angst in the series, but it did make the relationships seem flat and obligatory)

For US readers: pretty much every soap opera and TV serial in the UK, when they want to get rid of a character but hold open the possibility of their return, will have that character "move to Australia". (In Australian soaps, the character will move to Perth)

#14 ::: rmb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:29 AM:

David@11: When Harry drew the sword out of the hat, the sword was presumably still under wizarding control (somewhere in Hogwarts, or somehow attached to the Hat, or something). When Neville draws it, a goblin has taken possession of it several hundred pages earlier (and we know goblins are pretty darn good at keeping objects safe from thieves, making the Sorting Hat a ridiculously powerful artifact). (I agree with you about why Neville was able to draw the sword; it just doesn't make sense to me from a plotting/worldbuilding perspective). The Parseltongue still strikes me as low probability (Ron heard Harry open the Chamber once, 5 years earlier, and has heard Parseltongue maybe a handful of other times), but that explanation makes more sense to me than the sword thing does.

#15 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 05:31 AM:

I'm still scratching my head over the fact that the three kids go to Tottenham Court Road and find an all-hours greasy spoon complete with gum-cracking waitress.

And then they order cappuchino. Instead of, say, grits.

Also, someone said that after Hermione wipes her parents' memories with a Memory Charm and exiles them, she says a few chapters later that she's never done a Memory Charm. Can anyone verify?

#16 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:02 AM:

My boy Neville made it out with flags flying. I've been a Neville fan since book one, and I had my fingers crossed he was going to have a big role in Voldemort's end - Neville became his literally his ultimate underestimation of something he doesn't value. I was also tickled that Molly Weasley got to take out Bellatrix.

Mostly, though, I felt as if the characters were being shuttled in and out in obedience to what Rowling had scheduled to fit into the book and I didn't have much sense of them as people (Kreacher and Lupin in particular were beamed in from planet plot diagram). It's a shame, because one of the reasons I liked this series was the way she drew her characters.

I really regret Ron and Hermione. Back in the first book, their talents really made a difference and they did interesting things. Both of them have long since become pretty standard tiresome teenagers standing at a respectful distance from Harry's Lonely Destiny unless they're needed to throw a wandblast at someone or have their scheduled squabble with each other.

Poor Ron has it the worst, I think. At least Hermione occasionally gets to retrieve an important plot point from her bag of pedantry. Ron has spent the last three books too Hermioneswoggled to do much of anything. I didn't realize until he pointed it out that the locket was supposed to have negatively affected him. Ron's been behaving like that all by himself since at least Goblet of Fire.

I sniffled when Dobby died.

#17 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:15 AM:

Found it:

Chapter 6:
"I've also modified my parents' memories so that they're convinced they're really called Wendell and Monica Wilkins blah blah Australia blah emotion."

Chapter 9:
"You're the boss," said Ron, sounding profoundly relieved. "But I've never done a Memory Charm." // "Nor have I," said Hermione, "but I know the theory."

#18 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:53 AM:

And then they order cappuchino. Instead of, say, grits.

Ha! "What the **** are grits?", quoth the gumcracking waitress.

#19 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:59 AM:

I believe grits are things one is supposed to kiss that gumcracking waitresses carry about with them.

#20 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:12 AM:

Wh does Voldemort whisper "Rosebud" when he snuffs it?

#21 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:34 AM:

JaniceG, when you say

The one place I thought she didn't completely wimp was in not whitewashing Snape

I wonder why you don't include the way she darkens Dumbledore's character.

My nomination for the sentence that Matters in the whole story:

"You know, sometimes I think we Sort too soon..."
#22 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:48 AM:

John: The darkening of Dumbledore's character was a nice touch but I didn't think it came out of as much of a leadup as the Snape "is he really evil?" question that everyone has been debating since book 1, which is why I didn't mention it specifically.

Julia: Thanks for mentioning the Molly Weasley/Bellatrix thing, which was definitely one of the better touches in the book.

Everyone: I sort of, kind of gathered that the flayed child whimpering in the corner in the final Harry/Dumbledore scene was some sort of Voldemort relict but I was absent the day they did symbolism so did anyone else get a clearer picture of what that was all about?

#23 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:59 AM:

Hmmm, maybe it's the bit of Voldemort's soul that got blasted out? Now Harry's free of it?

#24 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:06 AM:

Hmm, or maybe not.

"So the part of his soul that was in me..."
Dumbledore nodded still more enthusiastically, urging Harry onwards, a broad smile of encouragement on his face.
[man, it's lines like this that keep fandom strong]
"...has it gone?"
"Oh, yes!" said Dumbledore. "Yes, he destroyed it. Your soul is whole, and completely your own, Harry."
"But then..."
Harry glanced over his shoulder, to where the small, maimed creature trembled under the chair.
"What is that, Professor?"
"Something that is beyond either of our help," said Dumbledore.

Guess it depends on whether 'destroyed' means 'blasted into smithereens' or 'here in limbo'. The other Horcruxes screamed upon being destroyed, but they were the intentionally-made ones.

#25 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:25 AM:

The Dumbledore revelations made the book for me. I was particularly tickled by how close to the truth Rita's writing was (much closer than when she was writing about Harry in GoF). She must have gotten an upgrade on her quill.

And the creepy flayed child bit was pure Rowling. She keeps doing that. Whenever things start looking all happy-skippy someone starts having to crush live animals for a potion or something.

#26 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:33 AM:

Also, this comic (spoiler-free, published before the book came out) sums up a lot of the reactions I've seen online (does anyone doubt, for instance, that the LJ review linked at #5 knew exactly how he'd react to the novel?).

#27 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:52 AM:

I figured that screaming thing was Voldemort himself, dead (or not) like Harry. When Harry decided not to go "on", Voldemort didn't go on either. Voldemort was getting a second chance, though one he was clearly not going to take advantage of.

#28 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:04 AM:

I'm a little miffed that *none* of the Slytherin students joined Neville's rebellion in the Room of Requirement and that none stayed to help fight. And that in the epilogue Harry reinforced his son's belief that being sorted into Slytherin was something to avoid at all cost.

Also, the Lupin-Tonks marriage was a trainwreck from both Watsonian and Doylist viewpoints. JKR really messed up if *that* was supposed to be an adult romance. They'd have had a messy divorce in year or two if they'd both survived.

#29 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:47 AM:

I'm a bit surprised that none of the Slytherins were in the rebellion as well. It's not like Slytherins were pre-Sorted to be evil SOB's.

I'm thinking that the Battle of Hogwarts could have been shorter if some of the Ministry types, the ones who dealt with Muggles, showed up with a 12-gauge or two.

There was a lot of death. Some of it offstage, and you only see the bodies. But in a war, that's as it should be. The power of Love as a redeemer was constant, though, and that was nice. Why did Ron come back, even if he was being a prat? Why did Snape protect Harry? That nice little bit with Narcissa, "Is Draco alive?" Servant of the Dark though she is, she's still a mother.

Snape's dry tone at "Would you like me to kill you now, or would you like me to wait until we've had lunch."

I'd really rather they didn't have the epilogue, though. Bleh.

#30 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:53 AM:

I'm still processing the book, but something struck me almost immediately. I posted this on my LJ and will just quote myself here:

Does anyone else think that the symbolism of the two important components of the ending are oddly in tension? Voldemort is made mortal by Harry's loving self-sacrifice, and Harry is saved by the remnants of his mother's loving ditto. And then Voldemort dies because under wandlore (hello, new magical principle just introduced!), Harry is actually the master of his wand, having defeated Draco, who defeated Dumbledore.

So, on one hand love and self-sacrifice, on the other dominance and mastery. It strikes me as kind of weird, and I'm not sure that Harry's choice to give up the Elder Wand is enough of an acknowledgement or reconcillation of the two.

(Even if V. was doomed just from the first bit, as people have pointed out there, the Elder Wand stuff is still treated as just as important. And, not incidentally, is a way for Rowling to have her cake and eat it too about the prophecy.)

#31 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:02 AM:

John @ 27 - I figured the creature was some aspect of Voldemort (it was very close to the description of the physical body pre-restoration), most likely the soul fragments that'd been sent ahead - but I believe what bound Voldemort here was still Nagini.

#32 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:05 AM:

neotoma,

It was James in the epilogue, not Harry, who was still anti-Slytherin. Harry told his son it'd be fine if he were in Slytherin.

We also saw Slughorn return for the final battle. I took that to suggest some of his students came with him.

#33 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:20 AM:

Dorothy @ 15:

I'm still scratching my head over the fact that the three kids go to Tottenham Court Road and find an all-hours greasy spoon complete with gum-cracking waitress.

And then they order cappuchino. Instead of, say, grits.

And I'm scratching my head over what you thought odd about this. I live in London, have eaten at a Tottenham Court Rd all-hours cafe, and saw nothing odd in the scene at all.

#34 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Her focus on Harry's POV seems to have limited what parts of the story she could tell, which was a shame. I'd much rather have read about Ginny, Neville, and Luna deciding to steal the sword than about Harry's nth emo watch outside the tent.

The epilogue felt like the easy way out. Not a cheat, exactly -- but there were definitely other ways she could have tied up the series that might have let Ginny and Hermione be something more than wives and mothers.

I know the need for a family of his own has been one of Harry's driving urges since Chapter II of the first book -- sending things out with him as the father of his own happy family might have felt like the only option. But I still found it frustrating.

Did anyone else find themselves mentally marking down the parts there'll be fanfic about? (I'm betting that the first Rose/Scorpius and Albus Severus/Scorpius is already being written, as I type these words.)

#35 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:37 AM:

rmb: I believe Neville drawing Gryffindor's sword is an aspect of the sword, not the hat (though possibly the hat is involved). The goblins may be pissed, but that's what the sword, we're told, does: help Gryffindors in need. (Here we see some nuance, as though "All creatures are deserving of respect" is a major theme, it's made very clear that the Goblins aren't necessarily nice. They still deserve respect, but that doesn't mean that their rule of "All sales to Wizards are life estates" needs to be the rule. We've seen similar with the centaurs -- they're deserving of respect, but that doesn't mean that their treatment of Firenze is appropriate. Ditto Giants.)

I agree the epilogue was unsatisfying. I would have preferred nothing or more. Either just end it with the dawn over Hogwarts, or give me a full chapter with professions, the love lives of minor characters, the current political climate, the pound:galleon exchange rate, etc. etc. etc.

And as far as Ron/Parseltongue goes, it's not like he held a conversation, or it's a voiceprint-activated lock or something. It's the open sesame principle, and while I wouldn't have minded seeing Ron going "SsssSSSssshss" "sSsssSSssshss" at a rock for a few minutes, I'm fine with it offscreen. Presumably, parseltongue is learnable (the line between "learnable" and "just a knack" is often a bit confusing in HP. Consider Animagi and Morphimagi).

Harry doesn't ask how Tonks/Lupin died, but he does freak out upon seeing them dead. "They were killed in battle" is enough for me. The epilogue remains my only objection to the book, and it's one I can live with. Though yes, Albus Severus Potter is a bit of a thing to hang on a child.

#36 ::: Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 11:10 AM:

As I was reading it, I knew the epilogue would be a sticking point for many. But here's the way I saw it: Harry has had the crummiest, hardest life possible for sixteen years. Fair enough that we get to see he has nineteen years of normal in reward. It matters that Hogwarts continues on as it did when Harry first went there -- that's really what he was saving with all his Voldemort-bashing (it was quite revelatory when he recognizes that Dumbledore, Riddle, Snape and Harry found their first true homes at Hogwarts).

#37 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 11:36 AM:

Kate #30:

Prophecies pretty much go hand-in-hand with authors having their cake and eating it too. Both the Cirque du Freak series and the first Warriors series, amongst recent works, pull something similar. I'm okay with the way Rowling handled it here, although it's clear that other people's mileage varies.

As for wandlore, it doesn't bother me that much in that it was also just deduced by the characters themselves.

#38 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 11:41 AM:

Not naming a profession for Ginny and Hermione doesn't mean that they're SAHM. We don't know what Ron and Harry do, either; Neville is the only one whose job gets a mention, IIRC.

#39 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 11:50 AM:

in fairness, Ollivander says in book 1 that the wand choses the wizard, so at least part of it isn't new.

#40 ::: Becky ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 12:03 PM:

My nomination for the sentence that Matters in the whole story: "You know, sometimes I think we Sort too soon..."

John A @ 21: Oh, yes. Especially since at the end it was a Slytherin who had been the bravest, and a Gryffindor who had been the most cunning. I wish Rowling had touched on that just a hair more.

#41 ::: Criada ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 12:11 PM:

I didn't think I'd be phazed by any deaths. One of the biggest reason's I love Harry Potter is because we genuinely can't tell who will live or who will die. And I love it when characters die well. In large numbers. But then I hit Hedwig's death and I was screaming at the book. ( I was in a waterfront park, I wonder what the kayakers just offshore thought.) While I don't like the cutesy, telepathic, may-as-well-be-human animal buddies fantasy characters often get saddled with, I kept waiting for something to happen with Hedwig, for her to do something, or at least for Harry to have some kind of relationship her beyond, "sorry, we're miserable on Privet Drive and I can't let you out of your cage." I can see why she died -- he'd have to go apparating around the backwoods with her. Actually, no, screw that, all the other characters got to do something, but all Hedwig gets is "sniff, sniff, she was my only link to the magical world when I was stuck with the Dursley's." We didn't even get to see that relationship in the other books! Poor window trappings. Dude. If they had her in the woods, she totally could have gotten them some voles to go with their mushrooms.

okay, I'm better now. Thanks for the thread. My roommate is all, RAR! I hate Harry Potter! I couldn't even get into book 5! ... but I love Snape... And I might read books 5,6,7 so don't spoil them for me.

And let me just say that when I hit the Jesus bit, and realized this was the closest anyone has come to actually paralleling Jesus (Harry literally died so that Voldmort couldn't hurt everyone else!) I was both horrified and exhilarated.

#42 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 12:24 PM:

Rob @33 - My memories of TCR are of electronics shops occasionally interspersed with an upscale coffee and/or sandwich shop. And this page isn't showing much in the way of greasy spoons.

#43 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 12:53 PM:

7: "The only place where I don't feel a sense of resolution is the lack of any real revenge on Umbridge and Skeeter (the latter of whom, by the end, had to be working for Voldy)." I can't agree with this at all. Harry's real vengeance on Umbridge is that, in the end, she doesn't matter. Despite her own obvious yearnings for power, and ability to obtain that power, she never appears again after Harry curses her during that "hearing." And Skeeter isn't working for anyone except herself. That's a distinct variety of "evil" that has appeared as a thread since the beginning of HP3 (when Fudge lets Harry off for using magic, more out of PR motivation than anything else).

Really, too, that interpretation is completely inconsistent with Rowling's stark delineation between evil deeds and evil intent. It's a somewhat uncomfortable distinction, because to observers — and frequently the doers themselves — it's a post hoc determination. Example: killing per se seems to qualify as an evil deed in Rowling's schema, but it's perfectly all right for the DA to use Unforgivable Curses against the Enemy... or, at least, it doesn't seem to impact their souls (or records with the MoM) the same way as was explained in HP4.

* * *

16: Sarcastically, one might infer that (however much she might consciously deny it) JKR had the relative talents of Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in mind when further limiting Ron's range and prominence. By this time, it's virtually inconceivable* that she hasn't come to her own conclusions about the actors who will be playing the central characters; there were certainly hints of that in HP5 and HP6.

From a more-theoretical point of view, I think too many adult readers of the HP series expect Ron to be a true sidekick to Harry — Sam to Frodo, Sancho to the Don, Jim to Huck. One theoretical problem is that the true sidekick can't fit into the roman fleuve structure and theme that — with varying success, but definitely points for trying — JKR followed for the series as a whole. Twain could do it (to some extent) because there wasn't any real expectation of what the roman fleuve was, or how it worked, when he was writing; we can't make the same claim today.

* * *

And I'm going to learn — and actually use — both the Cruciatus Curse and the Killing Curse on the next ignorant reviewer who tries to compare HP to Dickens without actually having read Dickens. Rowling is better than that. Dickens is vastly overrated; if nothing else, at least Rowling can manage to foreshadow plot turns without either resorting to Charles-Darnay-like coincidences that make no sense — all someone would need to do is listen to the (unbelievably foul and offensive expletives deleted) accents — or blinking-neon-sign changes in tone that say "This paragraph is foreshadowing, a sign of quality literature; ignore it at the potential peril of your grade." Perhaps the best example of this is that Neville's primary weapon until the final set-piece with the sword is his talent for, and hard-earned knowledge of, magical herbology.

* That word does mean what I think it does.

#44 ::: Rich Boye ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 01:00 PM:

I was very satisfied to see that Neville really manned up in this book, but I've long been a Neville proponent, so, yeah, Go Neville Longbottom!

Luna also has matured nicely, I thought. She was still slightly spacey, but she was so calm and reserved even after her captivity, and she goes such a pithy, slightly goofy yet profound eulogy for Dobby.

There were several articles floating about the Internet that Rolwing's world is somewhat sexist, and even though she shows us powerful witches, none of them are adept or puissant as say, Dumbledore - There were inklings that she meant to create Madam Bones, the Head Auror, as Dumbledore-esque, but she killed her off-screen quickly and with no real fanfare.

However, she certainly gave Minerva McGonegall her rousing scenes in this one, and I was thrilled to see her taking on Voldemort personally (although with some help). The leading of the charge of the mobilized desks with her hair down and blood on her face was awesome. I also really, really enjoyed Neville's matter-of-fact description of his Gran taking out the Death Eater who came for her with utter ease.

Go Granny Longbottom!

(I, however, remain 'enh' regarding Molly Weasley and Bellatrx Lestrange)

#45 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 01:12 PM:

Michael @10

I think that the epilogue was the biggest swing and a miss of the whole book.

That epilogue didn't do anything for me, either. I think it was written for the eventual screenplay. It's the happy bit just before the credits roll. It Just Wouldn't Do to end a family adventure movie with a pile of rubble and wizard bodies everywhere.

#46 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 01:15 PM:

Harry's real vengeance on Umbridge is that, in the end, she doesn't matter.

I dunno - I think his real revenge is that her career is over. Now that her side has tried to slaughter wizard children right out in public and lost and Kingsley Shacklebolt is running the ministry, what's Umbridge got? If Percy the neo-wiz careerist ran out on her faction, she has no support left at the ministry at all.

I'm guessing whatever the new iteration of Azkaban, but definitely not in public life, and that's got to kill her.

#47 ::: deCadmus ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:31 PM:

14:, 35:

I believe the sorting hat has already been established as not only an extremely powerful magical artifact (having something of the powers of all house founders in it) but a sentient one, too (e.g. it composes the sorting song in sings at the beginning of each year.) As a magical artifact its powers have long been discounted by those who never looked beyond its scruffy appearance, and Voldy was a fool of the greatest sort (eh) to bring it into the fray.

21:

"You know, sometimes I think we Sort too soon..."

I agree that this is among the best lines of the book, and really, it's part of the arc that's revealed in the last several chapters, where any number of characters display strengths that aren't consistent with their houses' traits. And just in case we missed this, JK has Harry make his little speech about sorting and houses to young Albus Severusin the Epilogue .

Overall, I think JK did an admirable job of tying up lots and lots of loose ends, and in such a way that the entire book doesn't come off as a bunch of less than natty stitchery (which was my greatest worry as I opened the cover.)

#48 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:36 PM:

I read some interview with JKR, years ago, during the course of which she took out a sealed envelope from her desk and said it was the last chapter of the last book, and had been done since pretty much the beginning of the series. (I imagine that if it had been stored in her desk, after this article it ended up in a safety-deposit box...)

What I wonder is, did she in fact use a several-years-old ending, as written? And if she did...why? Because I agree that it felt a bit thin and unsatisfying, and I personally would have enjoyed a little more of what had happened to pull the wizarding world back from the brink.

As to the rest, cried over Hedwig and Dobby; was surprised about Mad-Eye, Lupin, Tonks, and Fred; was kind of surprised Hagrid wasn't among the casualties; figured out the locket Horcrux at the end of Book 6 but was quite surprised and pleased by the final location and retrieval; I knew Snape wasn't a baddie, but his reason for following Dumbledore was one that had never occurred to me (honestly, did anyone else see that coming and I was just incredibly dense or something?); I think the flayed child in Kings Cross was indeed the portion of Voldemort's soul trapped within Nagini, hence D.'s comment about it being beyond their help; and yay on Luna, Neville, Ginny, the rest of the D.A., and Minerva!

I'll probably read it again fairly soon, just in case I mentally elided stuff in my eagerness to finish.

#49 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Dorothy wrote: "I'm still scratching my head over the fact that the three kids go to Tottenham Court Road and find an all-hours greasy spoon complete with gum-cracking waitress.

And then they order cappuchino"

Nah, espresso and cappuchino have gone decidedly down-market in the last few years (at least).

After all, what they get isn't necessarily good cappuchino.

#50 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Yes, according to multiple interviews, she wrote the final chapter in 1990, as "an act of faith" and incentive to finish all seven years. She also used it like a lodestone, to give her writing direction.

She has said in interviews that she revised the epilog since she first composed it (she always said it would need rewriting), including changing the fates of three characters.

From an interview last year:

"The final chapter is hidden away, although it's now changed very slightly. One character got a reprieve. But I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die."
I'm wondering which characters she's talking about.

#51 ::: tracy ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:04 PM:

Yay, Neville. I was hoping he'd come back and kick butt. If JK ever does another book, I hope it's about Neville and his Gran.

#52 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:10 PM:

G. Jules @34:
Did anyone else find themselves mentally marking down the parts there'll be fanfic about?

Young Dumbledore and Grindelwald.

#53 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Having thought about it some more, it seems I was hoping for more from Draco Malfoy. His character began to get really interesting in book 6 and I thought that he'd do something active and positive to help defeat Voldemort. I saw him as the key to bringing the Slytherins back into the fold -- something Snape could never publicly do. Oh well. Neville's blossoming into independence and courage and taking charge of the Hogwarts resistance was exactly right, so I'll just be grateful for that.

Syd #48: honestly, did anyone else see that coming and I was just incredibly dense or something?

If you're talking about "Snape loves Lily" then that's been a pet theory in HP fandom for a long time.

Lis Riba #50: I'm wondering which characters she's talking about.

The most reasonable answer would be that Draco Malfoy got the reprieve, and Lupin and Tonks got the chop.

#54 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Who the heck is Victoire? Bill and Fleur's daughter? She appeared in the Epilogue, being snogged by Teddy. And Teddy was orphaned in the final battle, so presumably he was raised by Tonks' mother, alone.

There's "The Next Generation" plot point: another orphan!

#55 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:07 PM:

I'm in two minds over this one. On the one hand the book feels thin - too much ticking off of plot points, too much explanation. And does anyone else think it reads like a novelisation of a film? Look at the pacing: big action opening sequence, two CGI specials (ministry,gringotts), then two thirds in and the hero's on his own, everything's lost but then there's the unexpected return of the sidekick. Then two thirds into the last third and Harry dies,all seems lost. But then he isn't dead, big battle (CGI to die for), wrap with happy ending coda. There's not a lot there for the scriptwriters to do.

But I loved it all the same. Snape's a good guy, because he loved Lilly, and he killed Dumbledore at his own request. Exactly what I figured out from the last book. (OK I thought he was dying from drinking the potion in the cave and had told Snape telepathically - I'd forgotton the ring) And I never got the cloak - but then none of the pure-bloods ever did either, and they presumably had read the fairy tale.

Not sure I take the explanation about why Harry didn't die in the Forest - Harry's blood in V? I prefer to think of it as, since he owned the cloak, the stone and was the true master of the wand he had all three hallows and so was effectively immortal at that point. Hey, maybe Dumbledore didn't want to tell him that, so he made up the story about the blood.

Oh and personally I figure the flayed thing in the station is the portion of Voldemorts soul that's still in him. V zaps Harry and they both pass out. Seems reasonable to think they both end up in the same place.

#56 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Particularly since the question of whether he'd be a werewolf was never answered. It would be interesting to see whether, for example, Bill Weasley would be called on for advice in raising him.

#57 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:11 PM:

If she changed the last scene because two characters died who weren't expected to, isn't that likely to be Tonks and Remus? They're the only missing parents of a child who's present she mentions.

On the same note, if only one character got a reprieve, it's likely to be Malfoy, since he's the only one there with a child whose other parent isn't identified as a known character.

#58 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Lila @ #56, Hey, nineteen years. Big Pharma found a medication for chronic werewolfism somewhere along the line. And it's the UK, so the NHS covers the cost.

#59 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 04:48 PM:

I really enjoyed the book as a whole. There are parts I thought awkward and parts that felt rushed (as I plunged through it at top speed, which probably affected my reading of it), but on the whole I thought Rowling did an excellent job of tying things together. Go Neville! The reveal of Snape's memories really twanged my heartstrings--he's kind of the hidden hero of the series. I couldn't help but think of him looking at Harry for the first time and desperately wanting to loathe him because he looked like the hated James, knowing he had to protect him all the same, seeing signs of Lily in him, and having to wonder--if he hadn't joined in with the Death Eaters, would this be his little boy that someone else had to protect?

I'm fine with the epilogue. I didn't need to have anything else tied up, or see what any characters in specific did; the purpose the epilogue served for me was to show that the characters didn't just survive the war against Voldemort, but afterwards, lived. Once the rubble was cleared and the mourning was over, they picked up their lives and lived them as loving, growing people, not damaged things. The wheels of life kept turning.

I liked that a lot.

#60 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 05:03 PM:

34: I'd love to read Neville Longbottom and the Year Without Harry Potter or something like that.

54: Since one of the kids refers to him as "our Teddy", and Harry's his godfather, I suspect Harry and the extended Weasley family were closely involved. (Though as a more sarcastic reviewer pointed out, a 17-year-old fugitive on a dangerous quest during a time of war is perhaps not the safest choice as your child's godfather.)

#61 ::: patchmulberry ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 05:45 PM:

I ordered the 6 book set and the last book at the same time. Amazon only sent me the 7th book! Argh! Now I have to wait two more weeks for the 6 book set to arrive.

#62 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 05:57 PM:

I was very impressed by this line from p. 93 of the American edition: "The room was just as messy as it had been all week; the only change was that Hermione was now sitting in the far corner, her fluffy ginger cat, Crookshanks, at her feet, sorting books, some of which Harry recognized as his own, into two enormous piles."

We knew from book 3 that Crookshanks was an unusually talented cat, but I had no idea just how much.

#63 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:02 PM:

Madeline Kelly #53: HP fandom, eh? That explains why I'd never heard of it before, as I only got caught up in the books (as I was already a Trekkie, I figured one set of conventions, etc., was about all I could handle).

Of course, now I'll have to go through the earlier books again, looking for whatever clues tipped off everyone else. Unless it was simply a case of "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" that turned out to be right...

#64 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:16 PM:

Syd @ #63, I suspected Snape had a thing for Lily on the basis of his constantly ragging Harry about his dad, but seldom or never about his mother--despite the fact that James was a pureblood and Lily was muggle-born.

Andy @ #55, I too thought it was the potion, and furthermore I thought Snape had made it for Voldemort in the Bad Old Days and either recognized the symptoms or was reading Dumbledore's mind. Rowling's version makes more sense.

#65 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:18 PM:

By the way, is anyone else as tickled as I am by the Evans girls being named Lily and Petunia? Poor Petunia.

#66 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:31 PM:

#34: Lots of potential Harry/Hermione during Ron's absence, of course. Probably Luna/Draco during the former's imprisonment at Malfoy Manor (someone may possibly attempt Luna/Ollivander, because fandom is warped that way, but there won't be much). Probably a wide range of Aberforth material -- I'm thinking Aberforth/McGonagall may be the lead pairing there, but who knows?

#43: Rowling certainly did lay down a good many clues ahead of time, but it seemed to me that both Dumbledore's back story and the lore of the Deathly Hallows showed up in this book more or less out of left field. Both worked decently well in the context of the present book, but I think the overall series would have been strengthened had both matters been more clearly foreshadowed early on.

#10/#58: More to the point, the epilogue silently raises at least one other question of wizardly medical/social practice -- namely, the astonishing patience of all four principals in waiting at least seven years from the end of the main action to have children. (First-years Albus S. and Rose are necessarily eleven; James, to whom his parents wrote thrice weekly the prior year, is almost certainly twelve and the oldest of the five kids.)

Three or four years I can see, especially given that Ginny's younger to start with (and that in all likelihood, Harry, Ron & Hermione do after all need to complete their seventh-year studies). But seven years? Especially for Hermione & Ron? The mind boggles.

#67 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:47 PM:

We'd figured Smape as Dumbledore's man for a long time. Spy-novel stuff as Snape goes out into the cold.

Anyway, this one should have been entitled Harry Potter and the Grail Hallows. Note the appearance of the Spear of Antioch, Excalibur, the Tarnkappe, and the Holy Grail itself.

I was disappointed in one way: the appearance of Dudley as a late-bloomer would have been lovely.

#68 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 06:58 PM:

It was superb. Back to the fast-paced drama that thrilled me in Book Four.

(My own take on the series is that books Five and Six, though not unpleasant, are the Harry Potter equivalent of Season Five of Babylon Five - having promised the fans that there would be seven books, the author was obliged to construct them as well as she could in spite of the Story, which would have preferred to pick up the pace and finish itself, already.)

For those who wonder why I'm pleased that so many scenes were off-screen rather than on-screen, I offer Terry Rossio and the Mystery of Point of View. (With special guest appearance by Will Shetterly!)

For those who wish that the book had lingered longer on the noble sacrifices of some of my favorite characters: I offer North by Northwest and the Amazing 43-Second Wrapup. In the rush to the finish, one cannot afford to slow down, even for Tonks.

#69 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:01 PM:

I found the Epilogue to be the right scene, in the right place, but not especially well executed. It should have given a much stronger sense of how much time had passed, and how the characters had and had not changed.

But I had the sense that the metatextual reason for its existence was the most important: nobody can now demand another book about Harry Potter.

(Previous generation, next generation, sure. And -- those of us partial to Bujold could imagine a story about a hero who's a forty-year-old dad with his kids in school. But I don't think we're the ones who will be subjecting Rowling to temptation. :)

#70 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:45 PM:

Madeline at @53: I was hoping for more from Draco Malfoy... I saw him as the key to bringing the Slytherins back into the fold.


I thought it was poetic justice that Draco served the side of light by doing what he was best at - being a helpless pawn, unable to act effectively on his own, who is controlled by one authority figure after another. In the end, it was his mother's desire to reclaim him that made the difference at a crucial moment, not anything that he did.

#71 ::: Jaquandor ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:50 PM:

I have longer thoughts on my own blog here, but to boil it down: Yay Neville; I loved Snape's dying as he looked one last time into Lily's eyes; I thought there to be an awful lot of Wayne's World-esque "Wow, he had an awful lot of information, for a security guard!" moments.

And hey, did anybody else on the planet other than me think that the Dursleys would turn out to be important somehow? Turns out I was totally wrong, but I figured they'd have something to do in the last book other than be mean to Harry (excepting Dudley) one last time. I was hoping for a Horcrux to be hidden at Privet Drive, but no such luck.

#72 ::: MAO ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:52 PM:

I nominate the John Carpenter of "Big Trouble in Little China" to write and direct the film of #7. That is the movie that prompted my 7-YO to say of Kurt Russell's character "He's not the hero. He thinks he's the hero, but he's really the stupid helper."

MAO

#73 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 07:54 PM:

It was an amazing roller coaster ride from start to finish. I was half-tempted to put it down when it got thoroughly bleak in the middle, after Ron left Harry and Hermione, but I slogged on through, and was glad I did.

I had a feeling that Lupin was marked for death -- all of the Marauders are gone now. Seems like the characters that are about to die kind of fade away for a while, and/or show themselves to be less than spotlessly clean. But did Tonks have to die, too, leaving an orphan behind?

I felt that Snape was marked for death after all that he'd done and appeared to have done. But I was hoping he'd have a more heroic send-off than that. I guess he had to keep his secrets from the Dark Lord right until the end, when Harry collected his thoughts, and knowing Harry's connection with Voldemort, he couldn't even reveal them to Harry before then.

Hoorah for Neville! I knew the kid had it in him. The Sorting Hat didn't put him in Gryffindor for nothing, after all those years that fans thought he should have been in Hufflepuff.

Boo, hiss to Luna's father for caving in and betraying Harry.

Ironic, I thought, that after years of trying to overcome people's reluctance to say the Dark Lord's name, that in the end, it turns out that the people who refused to say it were right all along.

I thought Wormtail's death was way too much of a throwaway. He owed Harry his life, and payback should have been more than a mere moment's hesitation.

Draco's role was played just right. He learned real quick that being a Death Eater isn't a glamorous thing, and hateful though the little niblick is, I'm glad that he wasn't a killer after all. But even though Harry saved his life, he never became Harry's best bud. That would have been too saccharine.

Making up with Dudley was a bit, well, almost-but-not-quite believable. We never saw the Dursleys again, and I wonder if it was even necessary to put them in the story at all?

I was sure we'd see the Department of Mysteries again. There are so many unanswered questions from Book 5. What IS the veil, where does it lead to, and why is it there? How did it kill Sirius, yet leave no body behind? What is behind the locked door that Harry couldn't open? And what was up with the brains, the hummingbird belljar, and some of the other goodies we saw?

The epilogue was kind of cute, a sigh of relief, and you KNOW that young fans would be demanding to know what happened to the character afterwards. I don't know why people get all cheesed that a handful of heterosexual couples found happiness in each other. Besides, it puts closure on the series, vastly reduces the possibility that there will be a "Harry Potter Book 8," and even if there's temptation to write a story about the next generation (which doesn't seem likely at this point), it won't be Voldemort who rises again. It also puts all the Harry-Hermione vs Harry-Ginny vs Ginny-Draco "shippers" to rest.

Two books I hope JKR writes just for her fans:
1) Hogwarts, a History
2) The Mysteries of the Department of Mysteries, Exposed

#74 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:00 PM:

I was appalled to see so many Order of the Phoenix people using the Unforgivable Curses. It was an important detail in book four that Crouch Sr was doing wrong when he allowed the Ministry to use them, yet here are Harry, McGonagall and Mrs Weasley using them with apparently no qualms at all. Did they suddenly get reclassified as Forgivable Curses? Actually they probably did, the way the Ministry behaves in this book.

I loved the lore of the Elder Wand. Draco being the master of a wand he's never touched, and nobody realising it except Harry, is way, way cool. Also that Expelliarmus - Harry's signature move, according to Lupin - should be the one that finally does Voldemort in. I had worried that Harry was going to have to AK him, and it just wouldn't have been right. And look, at last the wizarding world has some literature! Up until Beedle the Bard, it's always seemed like no wizard ever read fiction. I always thought that was odd considering that the author is, after all, an author and clearly a keen reader herself.

I would have liked to see more Snape. Harry should have had a big confrontation with him at some point. I also wanted to see the Dursleys again at the end and find out how they got on and whether Dudley was really becoming nice.

Werewolfism is an acquired characteristic, so it's not genetic, surely. If the children of werewolves are werewolves it's probably because their parents inevitably bite them (but Lupin wouldn't, because he has Wolfsbane Potion). Otherwise I suppose what Teddy inherits is a social stigma.

#75 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:03 PM:

Point of interest: Lupin and Tonks presumably got married in between Books 6 and 7, so— in between mid June and the end of July.

Tonks has the baby when? Before the end of the school year, for certain, but is it really almost ten months later? (Mid March at the earliest.) So... is the timeline badly broken, or is Rowling implying pre-marital hanky-panky?

If it is the latter, I only have one thing to say:

Remus, you dog...

#76 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:12 PM:

I feel like I've missed a plot point, though. If Grindelwald had the Elder Wand, which is unbeatable in battle, how in the world did Dumbledore defeat him?

#77 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Lis Riba #50: I'm wondering which characters she's talking about.\

I agree with everyone else that it feels like Lupin & Tonks were the previously-unplanned deaths. And it created what I feel to have been a wasted plot point. When Harry has his "will you go back or go on" moment he knows that he has an orphaned godson. And way back earlier he made this big ranty point to Lupin about how you don't walk out on your kid. So why in the world doesn't this come when he's making the decision to return? There's just Dumbledore mumbling something vague about "families being broken up". Now maybe that moment of choice scene was worked up before the decision to casually kill off Tonks & Lupin, but then it's a fault in the continuity check.

#78 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:42 PM:

John @ #66, speaking of foreshadowing, what the hell is up with Aberforth and goats? Even his damn patronus is a goat!

Writerious @ #73, that's why they call them mysteries!

#79 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:44 PM:

"I loved Snape's dying as he looked one last time into Lily's eyes."

There's a song in the musical of "The Secret Garden" called "Lily's Eyes," and now I can't get it out of my head.

I love the way Neville turned out!

#80 ::: Jon Mann ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 08:54 PM:

The Smashing Pumpkins song 'Lily (My One and Only)' is also strangely appropriate, with the narrator being some sort of Peeping Tom.

I loved the early entendre about wand-work - it's nice when Rowling makes her own fan-fic jokes.

#81 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:04 PM:

a lot of the scenes felt like they were written for the movie, but none so much as the scene with the stripped-down Harry taking that swim in the forest. he'll be 20-something by the time that movie gets made, and my wife already thinks he's a hottie. oy.

#82 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:15 PM:

Jim #67:

Don't forget the Lady of the Lake.

#83 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:19 PM:

Doesn't the actor currently appear naked in a play?

#84 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:39 PM:

Just to share: best parody I've seen so far is at http://diogenes-sinope.blogspot.com/2007/07/potterdammerung-mega-spoilers.html

It's very cleverly written, thorough, and exposes weak points in the plot, including many that didn't strike me on first reading.

#85 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 09:40 PM:

Melissa, he's in Equus.

#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:09 PM:

#76 I feel like I've missed a plot point, though. If Grindelwald had the Elder Wand, which is unbeatable in battle, how in the world did Dumbledore defeat him?

Treachery. (E.g.The old "Your shoelace is untied!" trick.)

#87 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:20 PM:

MAO (#72), recently I watched the DC of BTiLC with commentary from John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, and Carpenter said (and Russell agreed) that "This is a movie about a guy who thinks he's the Action Hero, when he's really the Comic Sidekick."

#88 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 10:43 PM:

So, I've only read books one and two so far. I read a spoiler describing all of Deathly Hallows, and I just had this weird sensation that every book is nothing more than a magical deus ex machina, where the "cavalry" that comes in the end to rescue the hero and heroine is some never-explained-until-after-the-finale bit of magic that fixes the problem at hand.

I mean, seriously, how many people knew while reading the Chamber of Secrets that Dumbledore's pheonix would show up because Harry thought of him? Or that you could pull a magic sword out of the sorting hat? It's the cavalry arriving in the end to rescue Harry in friends who've gotten themselves way over their heads, bringing him a concealed weapon capable of killing the snake, healing the snake bite that would have otherwised killed him, and giving him an elevator ride back to the surface. I mean, seriously, Harry and his crew basically stumbled recklessly into a heavily armed crack den, and some character introduced in the first third of the book arrives as the cavalry to save his butt.

Even when Han Solo came back "out of the blue", at the end of episode 4, Luke had already gotten to near the end of the trench on his own, and all Han actually did was shoot one Tie Fighter, which got Vader off his tail. Not to mention, it wasn't actually quite so out of the blue, since Han is human, and Luke actually asked him to help, and it was the last scene right before the attack on the death star, whereas, the pheonix is a bird, and Harry didn't plead with it to help him down in the Chamber of Secrets only to have the bird tell him he's got a price on his head and so on and so forth....

Now, as I'm reading this whole business in Deathly Hallows about the wands, and the "master" wands, and how Harry is the master of Voldemort's wand, because draco failed to kill dumbledore, confused the hell out of me. As I'm reading it, I'm just completely turned around, and can't make any sense of it, but it seems like it's nothing more than another arrival of the cavalry. I don't know of anything up until the Order of the Pheonix that says anything about this "master wand" business. And it seems like her magic is completely arbitrary and based on whatever is convenient at the moment for a plot turn. And no, if I got the whole "master" wand thing wrong, you don't have to correct me about how it works based on what you find out after the fact. The only thing I'm really interested in is anything about the wands that we learn before Harry and Voldy face off, and that bit of magical rule affects the plot.

I've read two of the books so far, and both of them give me the same sort of feeling as if I'd read some story about some teenagers who watch aliens invade earth and they decide to go off and fight them on their own, and so they pack some lunches and a toothbrush and go off to war, and walk a long time, and we find out their lunch pail never gets empty, and they keep walking, and a week later, as they happen over a hill, this Alien warship comes over them, and blasts their lunch pail, and the kid picks up his toothbrush and for the very first time, mentions that it has a button labeled "proton cannon", pushes it, and destroys the warship.

Technically, one could argue that such an ending is fair because the kid had everything he needed and because the lunch pail was magical, it should be enough of a hint that maybe everything in it is magical and is not as it seems. But I always feel that the basic idea is that you present the reader with the character, the rules of the world they operate in, the restrictions and the capabilities, and then you have the big finale, with no additional "Oh, yeah, and when you look at the mirror and think of the sorcerer's stone but don't want it for yourself, then you'll get the stone".

The two books I've read, and the movies I've seen so far, all seem to have endings that involve a "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention..." twist at the very climax that completely changes the balance of the power, without anything other than some vague, "hint" at the beginning that Han has a space ship and can shoot Tie Fighters and that you never see him through the rest of the movie until the very end when he shows up to save Luke is a sufficient "hint" that it somehow disqualifies it as the deus ex machina that it is.

When Harry stumble into the spider's den in the dark forest, or more accurately, get carried off to the spider's den, and meet Hagrid's old pet, by all rights, they're dead.

That the magic car shows up right at that moment is pure "cavalry to the rescue" out of the blue twist.

It doesn't appear to be a problem for Rowling. She's obviously found plenty of people to pay good money for books with deus ex machina's running around all over the place.

But I think reading this thing about the "master" wand is the last straw. If everything is possible, nothing is interesting, and in Rowling's world, everything is always possible, because she can spring information on you at any time, even after the big finale.


#89 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2007, 11:41 PM:

MAO:

I saw an interview on TV when Big Trouble in Little China came out and Russell described Jack as "Someone who thinks he's John Wayne when he's really Eddie Hascall."

#90 ::: Robert C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:34 AM:

This book exceeded all my expectations. i was sort of dreading Book 7, thinking it would disappoint. It didn't.

I could feel Rowling tying up the loose ends and giving each character a satisfying conclusion throughout the book. Should that be annoying? It was very well done. Dobby's death was touching.

The only qualms I had came in the last few chapters. Tonks' and Lupin's deaths were meaningless--to the plot and to the emotional state of the characters. Lupin deserved more.

I agree strongly with comment #2: I thought Snape would die differently, and his death didn't fit his life. He didn't choose death or make a sacrifice there. Voldemort never knew of Snape's betrayal. Snape's death should have been more important than it was.

I think those two elements were sloppy, or maybe just poor choices, but there was so much packed into this book that some of the decisions were probably made out of convenience. There was much plot to get through, and so many loose ends to tie up, that some elements got lost. Still, I think this might be the best book of the series.

#91 ::: Michael Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:45 AM:

76.
The wand doesn't make you unbeatable in a duel. There are at least two sources about the wand, and one says it makes you invulnerable while the other says that it makes you much harder to beat.

One of those sources is a somewhat gullible man who believes every conspiracy theory in the wizarding world. The fact that he is very occasionally right does not make him right all the time. He is an unreliable source of information. And he makes radish hats.

The other is a wand maker who is the recognized master of wand lore, who seems to find essentially nothing in the world to be as important as wand lore. He probably knows almost nothing outside of his field, but he is a master in his own specialty.

Radish hat man is the source of "this wand makes you invincible."

OCD Wand Guy is the source of "Well it makes you much more powerful, but you can be beaten"

#92 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:48 AM:

Robert C at 90

I do believe that Voldemort knows of Snape's betrayal - Harry tells him.

Whether it registers or not - who knows?

#93 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:49 AM:

Jaquandor @71 - I, too, was expecting more in the way of the Dursleys for this plot. Aunt Petunia discovering her inner, long-denied, wizard talents, perhaps.

#94 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:19 AM:

I was sorry that more wasn't made of the wedding, as one of the few points that raises the question of where the hell religion has got to in the HP universe. There are attempts, though not very satisfactory ones, to shadow muggle economics and politics, but when it comes to the other prime mover everybody inexplicably appears to be atheists. As someone whose memories of boarding school include church three times every Sunday, this stands out.

And Andy 55, to say that it reads like a novelisation of a film is to underplay considerably the screaming horror that must now be overtaking the person who is presumably already tasked with the screenplay.
1) it's impossibly long;
2) it's impossibly packed;
3) its action sequences are interrupted by frequent gobbets of multi-page plot exposition by Dumbledore, Snape, and practically everybody else.
It's going to have to be a three-parter all by itself.

#95 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Chris @ #94, well, Phoenix was impossibly long, and it was cut into a little over two hours worth of film, so it can be done. Most of the complaints I've heard about it are of the "how could they leave that out" variety, though.

But I was one of the ones who felt Jackson should have left Bombadil in Fellowship and was seriously surprised that the chapter "The Scouring of the Shire" was left out of Return. So I lean toward more rather than less.

#96 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:19 AM:

Greg London #88: So, I've only read books one and two so far. I read a spoiler describing all of Deathly Hallows

I'd like to gently suggest that it may not be entirely productive to attempt to deconstruct the plot of books you haven't actually read. While I'd be the first to agree that the books have flaws, I think you picked very bad examples.

Now, as I'm reading this whole business in Deathly Hallows about the wands, and the "master" wands, and how Harry is the master of Voldemort's wand, because draco failed to kill dumbledore, confused the hell out of me.

Well, it didn't confuse the hell out me, because I'd read the book. It's true that Rowling sometimes pulls stuff out of left field, and it's also true that the Elder Wand and its associated lore were never mentioned in earlier books, but she does provide a fully adequate explanation (I thought) in this one, well before the fact. When Harry explained why he was the rightful master of the wand, I wasn't confused; my reaction was more along "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?" lines.

When Harry stumble into the spider's den in the dark forest, or more accurately, get carried off to the spider's den, and meet Hagrid's old pet, by all rights, they're dead. That the magic car shows up right at that moment is pure "cavalry to the rescue" out of the blue twist.

Again, you're judging somebody else's version of the story, not Rowling's. That was one place where I thought the movies left out something important. In the book there's more back story about the car, and the rescue makes a good deal more sense.

I'm not trying to claim the books are flawless, just that you should either read them and be able to discuss their actual faults, or at least stop blaming Rowling for what a Hollywood screenwriter or some anonymous online dude made of her story.

#97 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:21 AM:

Did anyone else get the distinct impression that all that aimless wandering about in the middle chapters was there mainly to stretch the plot out over enough time for Lupin and Tonks to produce a sprog?

#98 ::: Mark Gritter ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:24 AM:

The first half of the book seemed to me an apt demonstration that Harry, Ron, and Hermione haven't actually learned anything useful at Hogwarts, and that Harry hasn't learned anything useful from the last six books, either.

Harry and his friends have been badly served by their magical education. They have learned a lot of tricks but they have no framework from which to innovate. Adult wizards of long experience somehow create useful artifacts and new spells. Fred and George have managed to pick up the trick, but probably due to long hours spent experimenting and self-teaching rather than attending classes. (Even James Potter manages to make the very useful Maurader's Map? And Snape develops his signature combat spell while still at Hogwarts.) But Harry, Ron, and Hermione perform no magic they haven't been explicitly taught. Hermione's magic bag is perhaps the sole exception.

So instead of trying to develop Horcrux finders, Death-Eater communication blocks, infiltration tools, or better combat spells... they sit on their rear ends waiting for the plot to advance.

Harry still has the go-it-alone problem. He's needed his friends to overcome obstacles before. He should have learned that he needs allies--- and informed allies--- to defeat Voldemort. But we're back to the usual routine of secrecy and Harry trying to solve things himself, until help is shoved down his throat for the big climax.

If Harry can't think of ways to thwart Voldemort, he could at least periodically raid the Ministry of Magic and free captured Muggle-born. Perhaps some of them have ideas he doesn't. Maybe a campaign of attrition against the Death Eaters would save lives (that were instead sacrificed as a delaying action at Hogwarts.) Heck, anything that annoys He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named seems to thin the ranks of Death Eaters quite rapidly.

(Also I am annoyed at Harry for getting his owl killed. If she had been left to find her own way instead of being caged up...)

Once the heroes manage to get captured, the plot rolls along nicely but it strikes me too much as a James Bond-ish "wait for the villain to advance the plot." Had Harry decided to take a more active role, perhaps the prisoners could have been sprung from the Malfoy estate that much sooner.

#99 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:22 AM:

Harry still has the go-it-alone problem. He's needed his friends to overcome obstacles before. He should have learned that he needs allies--- and informed allies--- to defeat Voldemort. But we're back to the usual routine of secrecy and Harry trying to solve things himself, until help is shoved down his throat for the big climax.

I'm surprised anyone is surprised he still has that problem. Harry was emotionally abused by the people who raised him--I'm not surprised at all that he continues to have difficulty asking anyone for help, when it was long since engraved on his brain that he couldn't expect help, ever. It's not rational or reasonable but it's very, very accurate to the way abuse survivors think, and unfortunately he's just had that viewpoint reinforced by people in power during his time in school.

#100 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:38 AM:

rmb@12: Ron heard Harry say "Open" in Parseltongue when they destroyed the locket.

Also, those who said that Ron did nothing: it was his idea to get the basilisk fangs from the Chamber of Secrets, and he who managed to get there.

Writerious@73: The rooms in the Department of Mysteries represented, well, mysteries. Time, space, intelligence; the archway of course was death, which is why Harry and Luna heard voices from behind the veil but nobody else did. (During the fight scene they even get called the "Time Room" and "Brain Room" and so on...and of course the prophecy storage chamber is off of the Time Room.) I somehow got the impression that the unlockable door was love, though I can't adduce much textev in that regard. Perhaps it was mystery itself.

#101 ::: cosmicfroggy ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:37 AM:

jaquandor@71: there was a Horcrux hidden at Privet Drive, but he left.

And it's stretching the truth to call Snape a "good guy", I think. He did become a Death Eater off his own bat, remember. I see him as someone who came to goodness late and with difficulty; the Sorting Hat was right about the eleven-year-old Severus. His death, so lacking in dignity, was surely the ultimate act of redemptive humility.

Interesting, though, that Snape's motivations all along were so simple while Dumbledore's were so complex.

#102 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:56 AM:

Mark said in #98:

Harry and his friends have been badly served by their magical education. They have learned a lot of tricks but they have no framework from which to innovate. Adult wizards of long experience somehow create useful artifacts and new spells. [snip] But Harry, Ron, and Hermione perform no magic they haven't been explicitly taught.

Remember, they haven't done their last term yet so maybe that's what you learn in year 7, which would make a lot of sense to me in terms of how their education progresses: years 1 - 6 give you your foundation and year 7 they teach you how to weave it all together and make it your own.

#103 ::: Jaquandor ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:59 AM:

Cosmicfroggy@102: there was a Horcrux hidden at Privet Drive, but he left.

Well, yeah, but I was thinking of the "intentional Horcruxes that Voldy actually meant to make" variety. I thought it would be funny if one Horcrux turned out to be some stupid little tchotschke above the Dursley's fireplace, or Dudley's beloved teddy bear, or something.

And it's stretching the truth to call Snape a "good guy", I think.

Not really, depending on what I meant by "good guy". I didn't say he was good from start to finish, pure as the morning dew and so on. When the chips were down and it came time for Snape to make his final choices, they were all good ones, even though it took a long time before they were revealed as such.

#104 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Mark Gritter #98: Harry still has the go-it-alone problem. He's needed his friends to overcome obstacles before. He should have learned that he needs allies--- and informed allies--- to defeat Voldemort. But we're back to the usual routine of secrecy and Harry trying to solve things himself, until help is shoved down his throat for the big climax.

One of the contrasts between the good and bad guys in this book is the "go-it-alone" problem that you mentioned. We keep seeing Voldemort (through Harry's convenient scar connection) travelling alone across Europe, intent on achieving the one thing he needs. When he needs other people's assistance he makes sure they do exactly as he tells them, on pain of punishment. They have no choice, no free will (with the exception of Bellatrix, who appears to be unhinged anyway).

Compare that with the good guys and how they deal with the Horcruxes. Harry destroys the diary, without really understanding what it is. Dumbledore destroys the ring, after almost killing himself because he DOES understand what it is. Ron destroys the locket in a scene that finally justifies, to me, his position as Harry's best friend. Hermione, with help from Ron (wonderful turning-upside-down of things!), destroys the goblet. Crabbe accidentally destroys the diadem. Voldemort zaps the one in Harry. Neville lops off the snake's head.

None of them acted through fear or compulsion. With the exception of Crabbe and Voldemort, they were choosing to act based on trust, friendship, duty, a sense of what's right and what needs to be done. Teamwork of the best kind.

#105 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 08:26 AM:

#102, JaniceG, My memory of the British system that JKR echoes is that the transition started after the O-levels, which would bring it in for Book 6. And, a couple of times, Hermione says of something that she knows the theory.

There are a lot of things that seem to be done by lone wizards which, from a Muggle point of view, you would expect to find at a university. Look at Mr. Weasley: he wokrs in the Ministry but his interest in Muggle would easily fit into a university.

Maybe too much has been drawn into the clutches of the Ministry; maybe there was a University College of Magic. Look at how Dumbledore was always trying to fend them off, even before Voldemort was an obvious threat.

I can see there being a resolution of that in the seven-year gap implied by the epilogue. And Hermione, at least, is a natural to be one of the first students of an independent college.

Look at what the Ministry does, even before the takeover. Wizards are going to say it was a concentration of too much power: make the law, send out the enforcers, try the accused, and carry out punishment.

Think Psi Corps.

(OK, you write the crossover fanfic.)

#106 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 09:32 AM:

Ross@96, I've read the first two books, and they're just as bad, with no need to blame "Hollywood" for a bad script.

For example, book one, Sorcerer's Stone, it turns out that the stone is hidden in the mirror, and the only way you can get it is to want it without using it (or some such thing, I can't recall Dumbledore's post hoc explanation exactly). That little bit of information is withheld until after the big climax. A new rule to how the universe operates is introduced to explain the final battle after the dust has settled.

It is sufficiently out of the blue that it would have been impossible to predict that it was the case.

you're judging somebody else's version of the story, ... In the book there's more back story about the car, and the rescue makes a good deal more sense.

I read the book, and I don't recall any backstory to the car.

And more importantly, you seem to miss the point about going into the den of giant spiders, putting yourself and your friends in grave danger, with absolutely no plan of getting out.

Harry didn't have a plan, he stumbled into far more than he could handle, he and his friends were put into far more peril than they could possibly handle, and then Rowling calls in the cavalry out of the blue to rescue them.

Do you understand that if they either had the car from the beginning as they went into the forest, or if they had the car on standby to call in when needed that the "peril" Harry was in would have been far less?

If Ron's brothers had been in the car, with a walkie talkie, on standby to do an evac, then as the spiders start closing in, you'd know they had one more card to play.

Because she hides this information from the reader, it is false peril. You think they're in more peril than they really are, because she's witheld information from you.

Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix was similarly injected out of the blue in the finale. If they had gone to dumbledore's office and gotten Fawkes to go into the Chamber with them, or at least had some sort of arrangement with him to come when called, then the trip down into the chamber would have been far less "peril" than Rowling wrote it.

Rowling wrote it as if Harry, Ron, and Hermione are going into the chamber by themselves, and then, when things seem completely unsalvagable, Fawkes appears out of the blue.

Rowling does this repeatedly, creating false tension where you think you know everything that Harry and friends have at their disposal, and when they've exhausted all those things, you assume they're dead meat, only to discover that they have artillery and helicopters on standby. You know, the artillery and helicopters they saw while shopping for books at Daigon Alley.

If you knew they had artillery and helicopters ahead of time, then the scene wouldn't have felt as much tension, so she doesn't tell you they're part of the list of Harry's resources. She inserts a hint about them on page 50, so that by page 300 you'll have forgotten about them, and then at the big climax, they'll appear when needed.

Put another way, just because the hero bumps into a camp of cavalry on page 50, if the cavalry are unrelated to the hero, and are never seen again, then it is still a deus ex machina when the cavalry comes to rescue the hero on page 500.

Just because Rowling lets Harry ride the flying car or see Fawkes in Dumbledore's office, on page 50, it's still a deus ex machina if you don't see them again until the big finale on page 300.

#107 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:24 AM:

A few people above have complained about the middle section, where HH&R basically troop around England for a number of months hoping to stumble on a horcrux. I actually liked this part. The mission of finding the horcruxes always struck me as nearly impossible because there just isn't enough data to start the search with. If our heroes are not going to rely on luck or outside help, the only thing they have available is a brute force search of all of the known locations Voldemort has visited. This would be a pretty boring and frustrating project, and I thought that JKR did a good job of depicting this without making me feel bored and frustrated as well. I think any plot where they got the relevant information right away would strike me as too contrived.

Now, a question. When and why did Draco become master of the wand? Is there some scene in Book 6 that I've forgotten where he picks up Dumbledore's wand? Thanks!

#108 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:33 AM:

106: Greg, I think your position reflects a common misconception about both fiction and the nature of "discovery": that one must understand the theoretical explanation for an action before it works. (If I were really going to draw on my own academic past, I'd insert a paper on "The Tension Between Hermione's Theoretical Knowledge and Harry's Ability to Do Something as Thematic Plot Foundation" about here.)

The reality for childen — and, indeed, for virtually all students of the sciences who are not studying at the PhD level or above — is that virtually every action gets its understandable explanation post hoc. I'm supervising my son in a high-school chemistry class at present, and the the experiments (and, for that matter, textbook) are written using exactly the same sequence as one finds throughout the series:
* Harry, often with the assistance of his friends, learns just enough about the theory behind the method to perform an "experiment" under controlled conditions
* Harry performs the experiment under uncontrolled conditions (usually without a clean lab, either) and obtains certain data that he understands, and certain data that he does not
* An instructor assists Harry in understanding some of the data in terms of theory he has not yet been exposed to, and points out that some of the data cannot yet be explained and/or point toward another experiment that must be performed to confirm an expected explanation

This is a distinct contrast to the neat, complete explanations of everything that are provided after the events in too much "classical" (that is, Victorian and Modernist) fiction (or, worse yet, in detailed prophetic materials that, with our outside-the-system perspective and ability to stop and use other reference works, is far easier for us to understand as readers than it would be for the characters); LOTR, for example, falls prey to this problem, which is its principle flaw. This is far from limited to speculative fiction, either; if you don't believe me, take a look at just about any non-Postmodernist novel that concerns itself even a little bit with political maneuvering as a central plot element (the contrast between Graham Greene and John LeCarré exposes this in a disturbingly "obvious" way... that is, it's obvious if you're looking for it).

In short, Rowling understands the Einsteinian/quantum mechanical concept of "reference frames," even if she never explicitly describes what she's doing that way. Sure, her use of them is flawed; but this particular talking dog deserves praise for the vocabulary it has rather than criticism for the vocabulary that it doesn't.

#109 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:41 AM:

#107, David: when Draco disarmed Dumbledore near the end of Book 6 (p. 384 in my edition). The reason he was able to do so is that Dumbledore used a wordless spell to immobilize Harry rather than defending himself (neatly anticipating questions about the supposed undefeatability of the wand). Also, there's a nice irony in Draco's using Harry's "signature" spell.

#110 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:49 AM:

For what it's worth-- I figured out that Snape was connected to Lily when Slughorn (Potions-master in HBP) went on about how talented Lily was in Potions-- the reason Lily did so well, presumably, was that she was getting help from Snape.

#111 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:53 AM:

A couple of days before I got the book, it struck me that there is a sort of symmetrical design to Harry Potter, and I wondered if that idea would be totally demolished by book 7, but I don't think it was. It may not amount to much, and I'm kind of embarrassed to put it out there, but see what you make of this.

Taking book 4 as the center, 5 is like 3, 6 is like 2, and 7 is like 1, though in all cases the later books are much darker, of course. Both 3 and 5 are about Sirius, feature Trelawney's true prophecies, and show the government as villain. Both 2 and 6 are about untrustworthy magic books, reveal the history of young Tom Riddle, feature secret rooms in Hogwarts, and spotlight the Harry/Ginny relationship.

Book 7 has several direct quotes from book 1, and both have magic items to grant immortality, tasks for each member of the team to do (in book 1, the challenges at the end; in book 7, each Horcrux to get destroyed), reveal Snape not to be a villain in the end (Actually, I was surprised that that wasn't more of a theme of this latest book.)

Probably this is all just me making things up of a Paul-is-dead variety, but I wonder if it was on purpose. Anyway it's fun to think about, which is why I bring it up.

#112 ::: Naomi ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:57 AM:

Harry and his friends have been badly served by their magical education. They have learned a lot of tricks but they have no framework from which to innovate.

You know, I attended school in England for one year when I was 13, and maintained a long correspondence with my best friend from that year as we completed our educations. This rather aptly sums up the greatest weakness of the British style of education. We learned tricks, but no framework, in pretty much every class. It's possible that this was a deficiency in my particular school (which was deficient in everything from funding to supervision) but the impression I had was that this approach was largely the result of the high-stakes testing they did. (They had just moved from O-Levels to GCSEs the year I attended, and all the teachers were emphasizing that you couldn't completely fuck off in class now because your classwork counted for a whopping 25% of your grade, or something like that, instead of the big final test being 100%.) Since Harry Potter's educational system uses exactly the same high stakes testing (with OWLs instead of O-Levels and NEWTs instead of A-Levels) it's not surprising that his teachers focus on reproducible skills rather than theory. Except for Umbridge, of course...

#113 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Greg London: Harry meets Fawkes earlier in the book when he is sent to Dumbledore's office. And the reason he comes to Harry in the Chamber can be found in a statement of Dumbledore's, when Dumbledore is forced to leave Hogwarts by Lucius Malfoy:

"At Hogwarts, help will be given to those that ask for it."

In addition, Dumbledore says to Harry afterwards that he must have shown true loyalty to Dumbledore, because ONLY that would have summoned Fawkes to him. Plus, Harry carries a wand with one of Fawkes' feathers as the core...

As for the Sword of Griffindor, it's obvious that Rowling is ringing changes on the Matter of Britain throughout the books. (Thank the gods, she left out the Arthurian love triangle, though I'd be willing to bet Ginny's given name is Guenivere.) Note, in Severus' final memory the sword can only be found or given when the potential bearer shows "valor and need."

WRT the ending of Sorceror's Stone, Dumbledore modifies the enchantment on the Mirror of Erised, to hide the Stone. Normally the Mirror only shows your the "deepest desire of your heart." Dumbledore does boast about his idea of having someone get it only because they don't want to use it to Harry.

Has anyone else noticed that the final sequence of Sorceror's Stone is a template of the action in the final book?

#114 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Matt:
I figured out that Snape was connected to Lily when Slughorn (Potions-master in HBP) went on about how talented Lily was in Potions-- the reason Lily did so well, presumably, was that she was getting help from Snape.

Or maybe she was just good at potions? Girls can be good at something without getting help from a boy, you know, and the implication in the books is that both Harry's parents are highly talented. I seem to recall that in the first book Snape goes on a bit about how few people really appreciate potions; if Lily was also good at them, that was probably an added bonus for his fantasies about her - a fellow potions-geek!

I see more than enough sexist elements in the books without making up more.

#115 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:29 AM:

C.E.Petit@108, for training purposes, I understand the concept. I took some training that was specifically geared to teaching people based on how they learn, not just some info dump, and the sequence is (1) give short bit of information, (2) have students try it, (3) students usually fail somewhere in the process, (4) post experiment lecture.

The basic idea is that people often think they know some topic, and by having them try to actually do something, and fail somewhere, they're much more likely to listen to new ideas, and they're much more likely to be able to see where they failed, and much more likely to see where they don't know something, or have made some false assumption about something.

I've used the process. It works.

The thing is it works in the real world, where the basic scientific assumption is that the rules of the universe do not change, we just don't know what they are, and by experiment we can figure out what they are because we assume they don't change, they are consistent, and we assume the rules are not consciously aware of our experiments.

But I don't read fiction to learn the rules about someone's imaginary world. I read to come to care about some character, to care that he overcomes the obstacles in his way to achieve whatever goal it is he wants.

In the real world, the rules are fixed and unknown and we discover them through experiment. Fiction is not like the real world. Fiction is like a game. In a game, someone makes up the rules.

If you want to play a fun game, you first learn all the rules, then you play. It's no fun to play a game where the person who made the rules, knows all the rules, but you don't.

There's a story about a guy who is in a foreign town, and goes into a bar to play some poker. Everyone knows everyone else, but he doesn't know anyone. At some point, one of the players puts down a 2,4,6,8,10, (crap hand) and declares "bingo", then explains to the guy that if you have a hand that adds up to thirty, you can declare "bingo" and it beats any other hand. The others at the table confirm that this is a "house rule". So the guy shrugs, loses that game, but keeps playing. Later, he gets a crap hand, but it adds up to thirty, so he goes all in, and puts down his cards saying "bingo". The other guys shake their heads saying "You can only say bingo once in a night". Since someone else called "bingo", no one else can. The other guys confirm this is the house rule. So the guy loses everything.

THe rules are withheld from the player to take advantage of his ignorance.

Rowling does something similar. She doesn't send HHR into the forest looking for spiders with the magic car, she invents a "house rule" so that when all seems lost, you the reader are so scared for Harry and comapany, and then she can save them for another book.

So, for the purposes of learning something in the real world, yes, doing experiments, playing, making mistakes, learning hands on, is extremely important.

But Harry Potter isn't the real world. It is, basically, a game, a set of rules that explain how the board (Harry's world) and the pieces (the characters) can move and interact. And Rowling is telling us the rules as we go along, rather than up front. So every time Harry is in a pinch, because the rules, board, pieces, all seem to look like Harry's dead meat, she'll say something like "Oh, I forgot to mention, that car way over here on the other side fo the board, that car can now show up and rescue Harry". Or Fawkes, or the mirror, or whatever.

If it were like chess, it's like she introduced the board and the basic moves of each piece, but doesn't explain "castling" until after someone does it during a game. oops. forgot to mention that little tidbit. What you thought was a perfect setup, the other guy can easily slip out of.

#116 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Lori@113: "At Hogwarts, help will be given to those that ask for it."

This is meaningless and unactionable information. It is, at most, Rowling saying she reserves the right to call in the cavalry when things get dire.

Had Harry, Ron, Hermione, gone into the chamber with Fawkes and the magic sword of Griffindor, would you have felt Harry was in the same amount of peril than when he went in, essentially, unarmed and clueless?

If not, then Rowling created false peril in the final climatic scene in the Chamber of Secrets.

#117 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:47 AM:

invididualfrog @ 111, I don't think you should be embarrassed at positing that. Even if Rowling didn't mean it, it is a nice little symmetry, and having it pointed out makes me like the books that much more.

#118 ::: Scott Spiegelberg ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Greg London, can you give an example of true peril? To me false peril would be finding out that it was all a dream or a hallucination or a Star Trek Hologram Room with the safeties on. And more importantly in terms of reading for the characters, did they feel they were in peril while facing the basilisk or the spiders? I would say "yes," and therefore it was true peril.

#119 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:48 AM:

Or maybe she was just good at potions? Girls can be good at something without getting help from a boy, you know,

Harry was lousy at potions until he got Snape's book with all the notes in it. Why is it sexist if Harry's mother was also lousy at potions until she got help from Snape? Maybe her gender and her skill are unrelated.


#120 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Scott@118: Greg London, can you give an example of true peril?

In fiction? Sure. Any story where you know the inventory of characters, skills, and supplies by the time you start reading the final climax.

The ending is then an outcome of the individuals working together, using their combined skills, using whatever supplies they have at their disposal, and failure has consequences rather than some "do-over" where the author adds new characters, skills, or inventory, not previously mentioned to be known and available.

"Braveheart" is a really good example. "Wrath of Khan" is another. See also "Empire Strikes Back". Although "Return of the Jedi" kind of cheesed it with the teddy bears, if you can squint and imagine them to be on Planet Wookie as Lucas had imagined, then it works. "The Searchers" is another.

I'm not sure how many examples you want, but that's a few.


#121 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Greg (119): An individual girl being bad at Potions is not sexist. Assuming that the only reason a girl could be good at Potions is because she had help--that's what's sexist.

#122 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:18 PM:

Hm, as weird as it sounds, "Predator" is actually a good example of true peril. there is mystery surrounding the alien. People die as we discover what it can do. But by the time you get to the climatic battle, we pretty much know what it can do, and what Arnold has at his disposal (mud, vines, logs, and a knife), and the fight scene doesn't suddenly introduce a new weapon, a new skill, or more aliens or more US special forces.

As another example, "Alien" would be a great example of true peril. By the time you get to the final scene, you as a viewer know enough of the alien, of Ripley's capabilities, of the ship, of the surroundings, that the ending contains no cavalry rescues of any kind. You know the players, you know the board, you know the rules of the universe. And the finale works inside of those constraints.

Even "Aliens" manages to give you everything you need to know so that by the time Ripley says "Get away from her, you bitch", you're probably cheering for her, and even if you're not, you are NOT muttering, "Where the fck did that exoskeleton come from and how did she know how to drive it????"

Whether or not these stories worked for you or not other reasons is a different matter.

#123 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:19 PM:

Greg:
Harry being bad at potions until he got help is established in the books. But I find it sexist that when a girl is described as good at potions, that with no evidence whatsoever two men immediately jump to the conclusion that it must be because she's getting help from a boy.

Given how much you seem to dislike the books, and that you haven't actually read five out of the seven, I'm also wondering a little why you're in this thread in the first place. It looks like your objective is to recenter the discussion around your mostly uninformed opinions and force people who want to discuss the books to instead spend their time arguing with you, which is a tactic that reminds me unpleasantly of what you've done in a few other threads lately.

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:25 PM:

Greg London @ 122... Actually, it was clearly established early in Aliens where Ripley's exoskeleton came from. It even showed Ripley using it to move some cargo pods around. Meanwhile, I could have used one of those this weekend, what with the contractor coming in today, which meant my having to move all that heavy furniture from the livingroom to the garage.

#125 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Greg, I see what you're saying, but the structure works for me, particularly in the first two books, because the kids are, well, kids. They make the best choices they can, and reveal quite a bit about their strengths and weaknesses, but, ultimately, they are limited, and require outside help to succeed. (In this, Snape is absolutely right about Harry - he isn't some blessed savior, he's just a kid with a lot of nerve, some powerful patrons, and a ton of luck.)

I don't think this pattern continues - I didn't get that feeling from the last couple of books at all. It did feel that the heroes were making what were, ultimately, the choices that mattered. This is, for me, on of the strengths of the series - the characters really do grow up.

#126 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:35 PM:

Mary@121: Assuming that the only reason a girl could be good at Potions is because she had help--that's what's sexist.

But that isn't the only interpretation of what Matt is saying at #110.

the reason Lily did so well, presumably, was that she was getting help from Snape.

Snape is one of the best potions wizard ever. Good enough to become potions professor at hogwarts. So, it isn't sexist to think that he could take any potions student and make them measurably better. Or take a great potions student and make them stellar.


#127 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:37 PM:

I was pleasantly suprised by the last book; I'd half been expecting a by-the-numbers trek from one Horcrux to the next - find, defeat tricksy magical protections, destroy, rinse, repeat - so was pleasantly suprised that wasn't the case.

I agree with Robert C at #90 and was also a little disappointed by Snape's death - at the end of the last book I was certain he was working for Dumbledore (too many misdirections and reveals for that not to be the case, finally), but I thought the purpose to Snape killing Dumbledor was so Draco wouldn't be made to, to save Draco's soul. So the "Dumbledore was dying anyway" bit actually took away some of the pathos for me there.

My prediction would then have been a heroic/dramatic death for Snape as he stood up to Voldemort, and I agree with Coyote at #2 that the Unbreakable Vow was already the perfect setup for that. Being killed by the snake was a bit of a let down.

I generally found the "it's my wand because...", "aha, but what you don't know is it's really my wand because..." a bit confusing, but maybe that's the speed I was trying to get through the book to avoid accidental spoileration.

I had to reread the paragraph about Lupin and Tonks bodies several times, and look back to see if I'd missed something. When Tonks was first introduced I though she'd be killed (she's such a lovable minor character), but they both deserved a little more attention - did anyone else feel almost as though their deaths were just filling some kind of quota?

All in all, though, I loved the book and thought it had the same strengths and weaknesses as the rest of the series - JKR brought the sequence to a good, solid end, and gave me everything in the last book I could reasonably have asked for :D

Did the King's Cross chapter remind anyone of the Matrix, where Neo meets the Architect?

#128 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:48 PM:

YEAH, NEVILLE!!! Although I think we all knew he was going to do SOMETHING big at some point.

And lay off Ron, people. He not only saves Harry's ass and retrieves the sword, but remembers the fangs to destroy the Horcruxes. Not to mention he grows in understanding. In fact, all the juvenile characters grow, which is nice to see.

I got pissed off about Dobby, though. Although the funeral made up for it a little bit...

As to the final chapter I agree with Renatus @59. It's the "see? you can survive cataclismic events and have a real life" part. I think for kids reading this book it would be reassuring and satisfying. Not enough information for those like me who really, really knew what SHOULD happen :-), but enough to know that everything turned out ok.

And Greg? There's plenty of literature to your liking out there, I'm sure. Why make yourself miserable reading books you don't like? Life's too short to spend it fulminating...

#129 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Serge@124: Actually, it was clearly established early in Aliens where Ripley's exoskeleton came from. It even showed Ripley using it to move some cargo pods around.

Yeah, that was the point. The movie introduces the exoskeleton, establishes what it can do, establishes that Ripley can drive one. So when the climax comes, you're not going "What the hell is that?"

The flying car saving Harry from the spiders is a sort of "what the hell?" moment. Fawkes showing up with Griffendor's sword and tears-that-heal-any-wound-no-matter-how-fatal, that was more of a "WTF?" moment. Both show up in unexpected places, completely out of context. The car shows up in the magic forest months after it was seen leaving the whomping willow (It just hung around the grounds for months?). Fawkes shows up in the Chamber of Secrets because Harry wished for help. And up till that point, no one even knew where the chamber of secrets was located, but Fawkes finds it as soon as Harry makes his wish.

Ah, that's it. It's a world of wishful thinking.

#130 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:02 PM:

The thing I was most pleased about was that Snape wasn't bad for the sake of being evil--and that Harry (and the others) had to deal with that knowledge. Snape's task was probably in some ways harder than Harry's, because unlike Harry, Snape was only reviled for the work he did.

I also liked the fact that many of the characters--including Snape--had non-dramatic deaths, and I also appreciated that the body count was so high. They did something difficult and dangerous. It was WAR. And in war lots of people die, and not everyone gets to die a heroic, tragic death where everyone is gathered around. I thought that Lupin an Tonks deaths off-screen (so to speak) emphasized that. (Much of this book also emphasized that when you're doing something important, you often have to miss important events in the lives of your friends and loved ones.)

And sometimes deaths--like Snape's-- are meaningless. That's just the way things are.

In other words, I thought she did a very good idea of making sure we saw that war is an ugly, dangerous thing, not to be undertaken lightly, because there's no coming back from death, even if you have a Resurrection Stone.

I also liked the slogging through the woods. Sure it was a bit boring, but any work that's good and important requires lots of boring leg work. Things shouldn't be too easy, and should require lots of wandering around, lost.

And *I* think the reason they all waited so long to have kids was so they could pursue their chosen careers before Harry and Ron settled down to become house-husbands.

#131 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:03 PM:

The reason for the off-camera wedding, deaths, discoveries, and the lightweight epilogue is obvious: J.K clearly left huge wide-open areas for fanficcers to leap merrily into. I anticipate lengthy, conflicting explanations of each of these scenes and lots of "Harry Potter: The Missing Years" stories to keep those fan sites active for years to come.

#132 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Greg,

It might be time to back away from the thread for a bit.

#133 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:06 PM:

I disagree, however with the idea that Snape was Good. Snape was in love with Lily, and that determined his actions. If protecting her or her memory required him to do evil things, I suspect he would have done them just as promptly. I liked that about the character, because he was too much of an arrogant jerk in the first 6 books to suddenly become an angel.

#134 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:11 PM:

C. A. Bridges: Good does not equal angelic. It also doesn't equal nice. It is entirely possible to be a good person while having the personality of an utter bastard.

#135 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:15 PM:

Susan@123: Given how much you seem to dislike the books, and that you haven't actually read five out of the seven, I'm also wondering a little why you're in this thread in the first place.

Do you wish to "disqualify" me from the thread because I don't meet the minimum requirements of having read all the books and liking every single one of them unabashadly?

Sorry. I just started reading the books a couple weeks ago, got through the first two and then stopped. But I couldn't figure out why. Then I saw "Order of the Pheonix" and started digging around trying to figure out how the last book was going to end the series. When I read the run-down of how "Deathly Hallows" plays out, that's when I realized what was bothering me about the first two.

It is primarily a young children's story based on wish fullfillment.

Which explains why the rules of the world aren't important. Harry has a ton of luck, and always gets what he needs. Not neccessarily what he wants (his parents remain dead, he must go back to the Dursley's, the adults never tell him what is going on, etc), but always what he needs (magic mirrors, magic cars, magic swords, magic birds, when he needs them to survive).

The real world doesn't work through wish fullfillment. But it is how children often view the world. It's just that the "magic", if it happens, happens through parents and adults who do things outside their worldview.

And it is the one mode of storytelling for which I cannot suspend disbelief. Maybe I wasn't born with that gene, or maybe the wish fullfillment fairy was beaten out of me as a child, or maybe something else, I don't know.

But at least I now know what was bugging me about the two books I did read. And if I do read the rest of the series, I know what sort of mood I'll have to be in to finish them.

#136 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Greg:
Snape is one of the best potions wizard ever. Good enough to become potions professor at hogwarts. So, it isn't sexist to think that he could take any potions student and make them measurably better. Or take a great potions student and make them stellar.

The evidence is equally strong for Snape being so good at potions because Lily was privately tutoring him (as shown by all the notes in his book of what she told him). Why do you think he had any skill at all before she helped him out? She was a natural talent and a really superb teacher, good enough to raise his skill level dramatically.

#137 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:19 PM:

Renatus - True. But had Lily never been threatened by Voldemort I have no doubt Snape would have remained a faithful Death Eater. He didn't turn good, he turned vengeful and determined to honor her memory. Brave, yes, ultimately doing good works, yes. But the goal was never good. The goal was to get the guy who got Lily.

#138 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:21 PM:

Greg:
Do you wish to "disqualify" me from the thread because I don't meet the minimum requirements of having read all the books and liking every single one of them unabashadly?

Strawman argument. Bored now; I've seen your tactics before. You're coming across as a troll who's just here to bash the books and by extension everyone who likes them. I decline to feed you further.

#139 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:29 PM:

C. A. Bridges @ 137:

I saw his goal as preserving what was left of Lily, not getting back at Voldemort. It mush have eaten at him that he was simultaneously preserving what was left of James.

In any case, if his actions were good, does the motivation matter? Everything he did from that moment on furthered the cause of the good guys, even if he was schmuck while he did it.

I do love the fact that everyone spent six books thinking that it was all about James, and finally got confronted with the fact that, no, James was nothing special, it was all about Lily.

#140 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:29 PM:

C. A. Bridges @ #137: True. But had Lily never been threatened by Voldemort I have no doubt Snape would have remained a faithful Death Eater.

And I do. Yes, he made his choices of who to join up with and was accountable for those, but at the same time, I think it was only a matter of time before he realized he was disgusted or frustrated with being a follower of Voldemort, and that his revenge didn't taste as good as he thought it did, especially considering his words to Dumbledore in his memories and his reactions to Dumbledore's words.

He's much too complex a character to be reduced to 'only a good guy if it's convienent'. Being a double agent is not very convienent.

#141 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Susan @ 138:

Bored now

That reminds me - I kept seeing Buffy parallels while I was reading. Damn, I ought to have made notes or something. Did anyone else notice that?

#142 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:32 PM:

Greg,

STOP.

Please.

#143 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:50 PM:

Fair enough, he may well have changed anyway. As you say, he's a very complex characters. But there is a lot of discussion about how he was a good guy the whole time and I don't think that's true, either.

#144 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Greg, maybe you needn't have read all the books. But bashing a book you have not read based on other books in the series and a plot synopsis -- no matter how well done -- makes your remarks pretty much completely useless.

Also, you want deux ex machina? What else is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe?

But it is how children often view the world.
FYI, the books were children's books -- especially the first two. They starting getting more complex with three.

Which is fine by me, I also loved The Hobbit and the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Susan, I am personally of the "fellow potions-geek" school of thought. I agree that there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Snape ever tutored Lily.

C.A. Bridges, By their fruits shall you know them. It doesn't really matter why Snape turned to doing good things, merely that he did. There are things Snape did that had nothing to do with saving Harry: he saved Draco from killing Dumbledore, he objected when Phineas Nigellus used the word "Mudblood" to describe Hermione, when asked about letting people die, he replied "These days, only those I cannot save." Creating the wolfsbane potion for Lupin. Snape wasn't Mr. Nice Guy, but he wasn't merely acting out of revenge, even if that might have been his original motive.

#145 ::: deCadmus ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:05 PM:

I'm thinking Snape was the posterboy to illustrate how Houses are sorted too soon.

Certainly when he came to Hogwarts as a student he was ambitious, and more focused on the ends than the means... much as Riddle was. Snape came from an extraordinarily challenging background (which had been hinted at before, and only fully revealed in DH) and he was surely focused on the idea that power would solve his problems. If sorting were done in, say, year three, maybe Snape would have learned that the means are as important -- or more so -- than the ends.

In the end, it was finally revealed that Snape was perhaps the most courageous player on the field, by far. While certainly he had made terrible mistakes -- done awful things -- he was trying to atone for them. By agreeing to Dumbledore's wish that Snape kill him (rather than allow Draco to) he was at the same time agreeing to end the life of the only living individual who knew Snape's real motivation, who knew that Snape had, in fact, chosen to work for the Order, and against Voldemort. There would have been no "get out of jail free" card for Snape, and his name would be infamous forever, for all the wrong reasons.

And, as J.K. has pointed out countless times in the series, it was all for love.

#146 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Russ @ 127 - Either way, Dumbledore was going to die anyway. He'd just drunk a great deal of poison.

Hey, Greg? Not liking the genre doesn't disqualify you from discussing the book. Not having read the book might make you ask yourself what it is that you're trying to accomplish by posting close to ten percent of the comments in a thread full of people who have.

You have definite thoughts, and that's fine. You've expressed them, and people have disagreed. That doesn't mean they didn't understand what you said. It means they didn't agree with it.

Ramping it up and repeating yourself aren't going to convince anyone. All you're accomplishing at this point is giving everyone the impression that you've given up on (or weren't looking for) dialogue and you're simply trying to annoy people who have offended you by not adopting your POV.

That's really not a terrific way to interact with people.

Also, not knowing what your strengths are going in? They call it "life" who do speak of it.

#147 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:13 PM:

I second all of Susan and Mary Aileen's remarks about Lily and potions. Why on earth *shouldn't* she be good at them? Potions skills are not a zero-sum game. And as for why Snape got the potions job and Lily didn't -- when they graduated, Slughorn was still teaching. And by the time Snape got hired, Lily was dead. As such, I see no reason to accept Snape teaching potions at Hogwarts as evidence that his skills were so much greater than Lily's that she could only do well with his tutelage.

#148 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:17 PM:

I didn't see the kids waiting a few years before having kids to be surprising or bad--one of the things that comes up a few times in the books is "relationships move fast in times of war"--look at Fleur and Bill, Lupin and Tonks, or Harry's parents. At the point where the kids all just getting together, the war is over, so there's no hurry. (and anyways, being in a relationship for 5-10 years before starting a family seems consistent among my friends.)

I always thought Lily had helped Snape with potions, or else that they were both good, and by working together were spectacular.

One thing I really liked throughout the series was that no one is Pure Good or Pure Evil--Hagrid drinks too much, Tom Riddle never had love given to him, Ron loses his nerve and ditches his friends, the Malfoys are devoted to their family, Dumbledore thought the fascists had a good idea going as a young man, Snape's loyalties flipped when he saw death eaters from the victim's POV. I really wish they hadn't had the kids using Unforgivable Curses, but I get that it's part of that theme. There's a lot more complexity there than in average children's literature.

I haven't seen any mentions of the password to the headmaster's office--that Snape's password was "Dumbledore", that just killed me, even before we'd seen his memories. I thought his death was appropriate; it showed that Voldemort didn't care even for the wellbeing of his closest associate.

#149 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:29 PM:

Susan@114

I'm not sure where you get the sexism from?

So far as I can see, Harry would be dead without Lily's sacrifice, and Hermione is not only the best student at Hogwarts and saves everyone on numerous occasions, but most of the time they would never advance the plot without her.

I agree there are some paper thin characters in the book, but they're by no means all female.

I go with the "Lily was talented at potions, and if anything helped Snape" option, by the way.

#150 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:35 PM:

I found the wait to have children reasonable.

At the end of the book, Ginny has another year of school to complete, and I'm betting Harry, Ron and Hermione went back for their 7th year too.

Now, if Harry followed his ambition to be an Auror, he'll have an additional 3 years of schooling to complete. I'm betting that he and Ginny weren't married until after Harry has a job.

So if we figure 4-5 years to finish school, and they get married then, it's only 2 more years until little James comes along.

Not all that unreasonable to me.

#151 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:45 PM:

About not reading and discussing: I stopped reading the series about a third of the way into the third book, for a complex welter of reasons in which my problems with holding large books and reading them through bifocals was at least as important as my lack of passion for the writing style of J.K.Rowling. I'm interested in the behavior of the fans (especially since my 19YO daughter has a close group of friends who have been reading the books together since middle school) and the ways in which the series has fanned the current side-skirmish in the culture wars between spolerphobes and what the former call spoiler whores and what I like to think of as people who have an interest in narrative which transcends mere novelty (WEG, as we used to say on Prodigy).

I can't criticise the writing and plotting, not having experienced them first hand; I can read the discussion of the fannish and note the ways in which this series of books has woven itself into the culture in the past ten years. In order to make sense of that, I spend a certain amount of time on Wikipedia, as well as questioning my daughter on story details.

Just so you know I'm reading and ethnologizing.

#152 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:48 PM:

pat@114: Also, you want deux ex machina? What else is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe?

I didn't like that one at all.

FYI, the books were children's books

The reason I started reading them was because a number of adults were going ga-ga over them. Usually, the response to a complaint of some hole in a movie was something like "Oh, it's explained so much more in the books".

Yeah, it's explained more. But all the explanations don't change the deus ex machina into something that isn't.

But I didn't figure that out until this morning.

Now, what I've heard since is that the first couple of books are children's books and the later books become more adult.

Julia@146: Also, not knowing what your strengths are going in? They call it "life" who do speak of it.

Since this isn't a repeat, I'll answer. "Not knowing your strengths" is more than slightly different than "not knowing you have a magic car, magic phoenix, and magic plus-d-six-to-nagas sword" on wish-standby.

And the really simple question that shows how different they are is this: "Would the level of concern you had for Harry as he was going into the spider's den been the same had you known the Weasley twins were on standby in the magic flying car?"

If not, then the two are not comparable.

Would your level of concern for Harry as he was going into the Chamber of Secrets been the same if he had the magic sword in his hand and Fawkes up at the entrance waiting for his call?

If you would have had the same level of concern, then fine, we disagree. If you wouldn't have had the same level of concern, then that's all I'm trying to say here.

So, would you say you would have felt the same level of concern with the sword and Fawkes directly present? Or would you feel more concern with the sword and Fawkes hidden by the author so that you didn't know they were available?

#153 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:51 PM:

I would say that I don't demand guarantees from adventure stories.

#154 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 02:57 PM:

Greg (126): What Susan said in 136. And my name's not 'Mary'.

#155 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:02 PM:

julia@153: I would say that I don't demand guarantees from adventure stories.

I was asking a question to try and better understand what you think of the story. It really does have a yes or no answer. Because the story could have been written the way it was, or the way the question was asked. And both versions would have produced a reaction in you.

Would they have been the same reaction or a different reaction, is something only you can answer. I don't know, that's why I was asking you.

You can say you disagree with me, but don't say I've "given up on dialogue" and then not answer a fair question from me.

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Greg... What did Abi ask at #142? Frankly, is there any point in ruining other people's enjoyment of discussing something you don't seem to care that much about?

#157 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:10 PM:

Serge: I think that's an error; it seems to me that Greg's posting in this thread indicates that he *does* care very much about it.

#158 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Greg, we get it that you don't like the books or JRK's writing style.

Fine, you don't need to belabor the point -- is there some reason why you're seeking to spoil this thread for the rest of us who wish to discuss them?

#159 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:15 PM:

115: This post is precisely what my invocation of "reference frames" should have prevented, because this post demands that every action in a work of fiction occur within the reader's reference frame. In Rowling's books, everything occurs within an overlapping set of reference frames that excludes the reader's frame.

Specific example (quoted from that post):
But Harry Potter isn't the real world. It is, basically, a game, a set of rules that explain how the board (Harry's world) and the pieces (the characters) can move and interact. And Rowling is telling us the rules as we go along, rather than up front. So every time Harry is in a pinch, because the rules, board, pieces, all seem to look like Harry's dead meat, she'll say something like "Oh, I forgot to mention, that car way over here on the other side fo the board, that car can now show up and rescue Harry". Or Fawkes, or the mirror, or whatever.
That passage assumes — in fact, demands — that the only valid reference frame for storytelling is the reader's. Stanley bloody Fish couldn't have said it more directly. (Actually, Stanley bloody Fish can't say what he means directly at all, but that's another issue.)

In short, post 115 misses my point entirely, and would have earned a T on an OWL.

#160 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:24 PM:

OKAY! Everyone not talking about sex*, in here. Everyone else, elsewhere!

In all seriousness, anyone who doesn't want a conversation to continue should not continue it.
-----
* for values of sex that include how much they dislike/haven't read Harry Potter, beyond an initial position statement†

† full disclosure: I alighted from this train at Phoenix. But that's not a sign of my moral probity or anything. And I like the early volumes enough to own them in three languages†.

‡ Spanish and Dutch, if it's of interest. YA novels are good if you're just learning a language. I should get the Latin too, shouldn't I?

#161 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:26 PM:

Put me in the "I guessed pretty right about Snape, woo-hoo!" camp. One of the things I'd been noticing about Snape was his inability to get beyond his very poor opinion of James (and James EARNED it, say I) long enough to see that the son who looked so much like James wasn't really like him in spirit. Very tragic, very human.

I'd have liked to see a bit more about Hagrid. During my traditional rereading of the preceding books, it occurred to me that Hagrid was, in many ways, the most loving of all the characters in a series of books where the big difference between hero and villain was the ability to love. That is, while Hagrid had definite likes and dislikes of various characters, it was the individuals he was reacting to. He was always, however, ready to look at other creatures as not automatically something to be loathed because they were giant spiders, thestrels, dragons, giant, or what have you. He wasn't always wise, but without Hagrid, The Good Guys would have missed out on a lot of help.

I also found it intriguing that this volume was the only one that opened with a couple of quotes. Being American, I'm not familiar with Aeschelus(sp?) other than general name recognition, but I'm a bit more familiar with Friend Penn. And both were talking about how death isn't the end of the world, something Voldemort was completely unwilling to see or accept.

Oh, yeah - Go Neville - I noticed both he and Harry performed better at things they "weren't good at" when they weren't under pressure from others to do the expected and fail.

#162 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Abi, I have a friend who buys them in Spanish to help her learn the language.

#163 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Greg: To use your examples, having the sword in hand and a Phoenix nearby would still have been suspenseful, since a 12-year-old boy going up against a giant snake would have been touch and go no matter what he was carrying with him. And there were indications earlier on that he could call for help and it would be given. Didn't take away from the danger to Harry or the bravery he displayed.

And the car was not manned by Weasleys. It had earlier escaped on its own into the woods and emerged, nearly feral, to rescue the boys. I didn't see it as a cheat or deus ex machina at all, more like "oh, that's where it went."

When it comes to increasing peril through withholding facts, I think there's a degree where some is acceptable as long as it doesn't invoke the "oh, come on" response. Your level may be much lower than mine...

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:32 PM:

abi @ 160... What's this about sex and trains?

#165 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:34 PM:

I was given the first one in Japanese, but I don't know if I'll read it. Maybe. I did read Kiki's Delivery Service in the original Japanese, and agree that kids'/young adult books are great for learning.

#166 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:35 PM:

VCarlson @161 -- My predictions to my partner were:

One of the Horcruxes will be in the "storage" version of the Room of Requirement.

Harry is one of the Horcruxes.

And if Snape's good, Snape's dead by the end of the book.

I had not realized how restricted Snape's agenda actually was, that it would boil down to the fact that he was in love with Lily. I thought he was playing both ends against the middle. I was pleased that wasn't his motivation.

So I got to pat myself on the back for the things I got right and I enjoyed the book immensely!

#167 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:38 PM:

abi - they're available in Latin? How'd I miss that? (I have Latin versions of Charlotte's Web, The Wizard of Oz, and Winnie the Pooh. It's kind of fun, although I know that they're somewhat abridged.)

#168 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Ah Snape. What happened to him, the sorting, and his morality is the most interesting thing to me. And now I can present things I've been thinking about for the last seven books, but have been unable to say because until now they were just supposition.


If you put Harry and Snape side by side and examine their childhoods, I think Snape has the worse life. I also find it interesting that while Harry gets his rainbow, Snape has never had anything in his life but pain and sacrifice. And pretty much all because he was in Slytherin.

It reminded me a of a line in the Sluggy Freelance parody of the original Harry Potter:

"[Slytherin] is the house for bad guys. Reward them amiably? Treat them with respect? They may become good, and then our paperwork would be all screwed up."

I don't think that Dumbledore meant Slytherin to be what it was, or purposely allowed it to be the house that encouraged evil. But the point isn't what he meant. The point is that Slytherin did become a house that made you evil, or at least pulled you towards selfishness, bigotry, and pride.

Snape obviously had a decent level of tolerance for muggle-born before he entered Slytherin. Five years later, he's yelling out slurs on the playground. That says something very important about the harm that sorting does, and about Slytherin-as-it-was-then. I don't believe it was the fault of anyone there specifically... but at that time it seems nearly impossible that you could go to Slytherin and come out untainted. That still seemed true in Potter's era: not one Slytherin managed to overcome the house's opression and act on their own. Hell, it looks like only a small minority escape with anything like honor or compassion in tact. Phineas, Slugworth, and Snape being the only examples ever presented us.

House cultures are oppressive, and the segregation of students is brutal. It seems that breaking the rules is the only way to have a serious connection with the other houses. (The DA, secret late-night snogging, etc.) If not for the DA, could they have come to know Luna so well, and gained her help? She's the only non-Gryffindor anywhere near the real action, and for obvious reasons.

Look at Luna's room, and you'll see the power of friends. Now imagine that she'd been a Slytherin, and the people who had been kind to her, kept her company, and shown her respect had been other Slytherins. She could have wandered, just as hungrily, toward the dark. when people are kind to you, you tend to think that they are right. When they are cruel to you, you tend to think that they are wrong.

If he hadn't been sorted into Slytherin, I strongly believe Snape wouldn't have been a death-eater, and would have remained with Lily. Whether they would have been romantically involved, who can say? But imagine, just for a moment, that Snape had been in Ravenclaw. I don't remember the numbers, but I know that nearly every wizard who ever went over to Voldemort was from Slytherin. Not only that, but nearly everyone in Slytherin from that era competent enough to become a death eater became one. Did Snape make the decisions he made himself? Sure he did. But Lucius freaking MALFOY was his prefect, the person who was supposed to show him how to act and what to be, the person his teachers would tell him to look to and ask questions of. He made the first choices when he was twelve and thirteen and fourteen, trying to emulate the upperclassmen he idolized, and trying to fit in with his fellow house students. I can still remember being a relatively outcast 14-year-old, and finding somewhere where I could finally fit in, be liked, and be important. And I hated bullies and fashion zombies as much as Snape hated the Gryffindors.

It reminds me of a T-shirt I'm seeing around lately. On it is written: "I wish I could hate you to death." Kids who are victims of bullying usually wish they could cause pain they feel to be returned to their tormentor. The difference being, if you're a wizard, you actually CAN hate someone to death. Other than Lily, the only people who ever showed Severus an ounce of respect or friendship were Slytherins. And in that era Slytherin basically meant 'wannabe death eater.' This is why it's important to show kindness and compassion to the 'bad guys." Because a lot of people are on the wrong side because their friends are on that side.

In a lot of ways, Kreacher demonstrates this most aptly. He is an 'evil' house elf because he has only ever been treated kindly by evil people. As soon as the good people start treating him nicely, he becomes as faithful to them as he previously was to the evil ones.

Ask 11 year old Snape if he wants to rule over the mudbloods... he'd probably say no. Ask him if he wants to be powerful, to be popular, to get revenge on those who have hurt him, he'd say Yes. Harry would have too. The difference... the main difference in their destinies, was that Harry had seen the hate and evil of Slytherin house, whereas to Snape Gryffindor were the bullies. To base the influences that will shape you in the next seven years entirely on less than a minute of thought while you're eleven is just... insane.

Snape was basically doomed by his sorting. I don't mean to say he didn't make conscious decisions after he was in Slytherin. I don't mean to absolve him from all the wrongdoing he did when he was working with the Dark Arts. I think Snape and Harry were very similar people when they entered Hogwarts. The difference was that Harry grew up surrounded by the teamwork and bravery that were Gryffindor, whereas Snape grew up surrounded by the pride and wrath that were Slytherin.

It all comes back to that line:

"You know, sometimes I think we Sort too soon..."

Yes, in there is a recognition of Snape's bravery, and an acknowledgment of Dumbledore's deviousness. But there's also, in my eyes, a quiet, unspoken apology. "I'm sorry the Sorting ruined your life. I'm fairly sure that it did. The fact that it did may have saved the world; otherwise we would not have a spy in the Death Eaters. But... in the end... there is nothing I can give you to make up for it."

Snape was able to look at the one true case of love and friendship he had experienced in his life, and use that to pull himself up and atone. If he’d been in a place where he could have been exposed to more love and friendship, he might not have fallen in the first place.

Love saves you.

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:46 PM:

I have often thought that Harry Potter is what Anakin Skywalker could have been. Or perhaps that Anakin is Harry Potter gone wrong. This is based, to a large extent, on what the Sorting Hat said about him*, later, in Dumbledore's office.

-----
* Harry, not Anakin. Anakin got Yoda's feedback instead, and look how well that turned out.

#170 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Abi @160 -- that's a fantastic idea! I think I'll get them in Italian -- I've been looking for something to read other than classics or history books...

#171 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:54 PM:

PJ Evans @167:
Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis.

(I have Winnie Ille Pu too...I love how Pu's songs all rhyme.)

#172 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Leah @ #168: That's a beautiful analysis. Thank you for sharing it.

I'm really, really loving what JKR did with Snape and the entire 'lost boys' theme, now that I can see it all at once.

#173 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:00 PM:

C.A.Bridges@163: Your level may be much lower than mine

I guess that's what it comes down to. I just need to keep that in mind when all my friends are raving about some book. Thanks for answering the question though.

Leah@168: House cultures are oppressive, and the segregation of students is brutal.

In the very first book, the very first scene on Hogwarts ground, is the sorting hat, and it made my "collective punishment" alarms scream like all get out. I kept waiting for Rowling to soften the blow, but nope, it's just brutal institutional processing. Dumbledore tells Harry that it's what you choose that makes the difference, but, wow, once you're put in a house, your goose is pretty much cooked on certain choices.

#174 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Snape was basically doomed by his sorting.

seems that way.

but remember, the hat takes your wishes into account, too.

#175 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Greg: it's true, Rowling does throw in more than her share of last-chapter "oh, by the way Harry, there's this bit of lore no one knew about" endings, but I enjoy the books enough to let them slide.

Re: houses. Since HP was also a satire on British boarding schools, the casual cruelties and competitions were pretty much required. However, several people act in ways their Houses were not known for, especially in the last book.

#176 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:09 PM:

Well said, Leah. I think you're right. I also think that, from the first book on, Harry does generally show Snape far less respect than he does other teachers. Snape has every reason to find Harry less than charming. As far as we know, Harry doesn't change his attitude or opinion even after he knows Snape has saved his life in Book One.

#177 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:19 PM:

#168: To base the influences that will shape you in the next seven years entirely on less than a minute of thought while you're eleven is just... insane.

So, the Sorting Hat is the Eleven-Plus exam.

Of course.

#178 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:20 PM:

#176: Actually, that's in the epilogue - by 8 years after the end of the action in DH, anyway, Harry (or Ginny) has recognized Snape enough to name their (second) son after Snape - even if it was his middle name. And by 19 years later, anyway, Harry acknowledges that Snape was the bravest person he'd ever known. But throughout the rest of the books, yes, Harry does not show Snape respect, even after he's seen enough to know better. However, Harry was a child, and there were times when he might have softened, if he hadn't been rebuffed by Snape, who was the adult, and should have known better. His blind dislike of Harry kept Snape from teaching Harry Occlumancy properly, when it definitely would have been in Snape's best interests as a double agent to do so.

That said, I think Snape was the tragic hero in all this, and I agree he's what Harry might have become had Harry not had the support he'd had. And vice versa.

#179 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:23 PM:

You know -- Snape set out to alienate Harry from the very beginning. You can't blame the kid for reacting badly to the treatment Snape was dishing out.

Even near the end, Snape rips apart a photo of Harry, James and Lily - and keeps the section with her. He does not, and never will, value Harry, or consider him to have any redeeming qualities. I'll bet Snape seethed when Slughorn praised Harry's ability in his Potion classes.

The one thing Snape didn't have was an open mind. Maybe that's why he was so good at Occlumency.

#180 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:35 PM:

from however high up (can't find it again): Ginnie is from Ginevra, so very close.

#181 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:36 PM:

would Occlumency have even helped Harry ? it's presumably effective in blocking other people from reading your mind, but what if the soul of that other person partially resides inside your own mind?

#182 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:46 PM:

cleek @181: FWIW, I don't think Occlumency would have helped Harry keep Voldy out of his mind -- because the connection was at soul-level, which to me implies that it was deeper than mere conciousness or thought processes.

In Order of the Phoenix, it was Harry's emotions, his loving thoughts of joining Sirius and his parents that drove Voldy out, not any strength of mind.

Hmm, maybe Harry's an empath -- it's Voldemort's anger that links Harry to what is going on in Voldy's part of the world. Not mind-reading, but emotion-sensing.

#183 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:47 PM:

C.A.Bridges@175: I enjoy the books enough to let them slide.

What aspect of the whole series do you like the most?

#184 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Lori@179

I don't get the feeling that Snape never valued Harry at all. Rather, I get the feeling that it was constantly a battle inside him, where his words expressed the worst part of him and his actions expressed the better part. I will admit that Snape likely didn't see Harry as his own person, but rather as a manifestation of two other people. (Which essentially seems to be how most adults view young children.)

I don't think you can use Snape tearing that picture as a demonstration of how Snape views Harry. That picture was, to Snape, the future he had lost. Looking at it would have been like looking at your true love's wedding photos. But just to see her face... happy... might have given him a last bit of strength he needed to carry on, reminded him of what he was doing and why he was doing it. To keep the whole picture with him would have been torture (and if you think Snape needs more personal torture, I'm not sure what to say to you). To keep only her... might have helped.

And yes, the Harry Potter books are simply full of adults who should just grow the hell up and let bygones be bygones. But even real adults don't always do that. I am always that person in the world of interpersonal conflict: the person who wants all her friends to be friends, and everyone to be mature and turn the other cheek. Only within the past two years or so have I come to admit that most adults don't actually act that way. Snape's actions towards Harry were partially resentment and loss, partially reverence for Lily, and partially (I think) a cover. If he had been kind and nurturing to Harry Potter then he wouldn't have been able to do his much more important job of seemingly joining Voldemort in working towards Harry's destruction.

#185 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:57 PM:

The characters, their relationships and dialogue (most of the time). The attention to world-building detail. The attraction of the hero's journey story. Pretty much in that order.

#186 ::: harthad ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:58 PM:

Ah, the lost boys! In fact Harry, Snape, and Voldemort are all lost boys: victims of loveless childhoods, incredibly talented outsiders who like breaking the rules. They embody three outcomes: Voldemort, who reacts to his isolation by making himself into a peerless class of one; Snape, who screws up early by venturing into Voldemort's territory and spends the rest his life trying to make up for it; and Harry, who has the crucial difference: he's able to accept love when it's given, and to return it. (Notice that Harry screws up most whenever he isolates himself from people who want to help him.) Poor Severus, as double-agent, is stuck in isolation; the only one who can know him well enough to love him is Dumbledore, and he ends up having to kill Dumbledore. I too find Snape the most tragic figure of the books.

#187 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 04:59 PM:

Lori@113 writes I'd be willing to bet Ginny's given name is Guenivere.

No, Muriel calls her Ginevra during the wedding.

#188 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Leah, I don't wish Snape any additional torture. I'm not sure Snape could have been loving and kind with anyone by the time Harry reaches Hogwarts.

While he 'favors' the Slytherin students, his behaviour to the class as a whole comes across as more like a 'drill sergeant' than a teacher. In some respects, Snape and Umbridge are reflections of one another.

#189 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Ginevra = Italian form of Guinevere

#190 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:07 PM:

Ambar: Ginevra/Guenivere are related. In fact, Ginevra is considered to be a diminuative of Guenivere. Both trace to St. Genevieve, whose name has many diminutives (from it we get Jennifer), courtesy of many Catholics who named their children based on the Saint's day on which they were born.

#191 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Julia@146 writes Either way, Dumbledore was going to die anyway. He'd just drunk a great deal of poison.

No, we have Kreacher's evidence that the potion in the basin, while agonizing to drink and inducing a raging thirst, doesn't kill of itself. It's drinking the lake water afterwards, which triggers the Inferi, that's supposed to kill. And of course it's about as reliable as those Bond-villain multi-step death-traps always are.

#192 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:15 PM:

Leah @ 168: Yes, yes YES.

At one point I was an avid writer of Snape fanfic. You are saying, in essay form, EVERYTHING I tried to put into my narrative. (I put the first instance of bullying by the Marauders on the initial ride on the Hogwarts Express. And a friend said that my description of Snape trying to find a seat on the train made her teeth hurt -- and I took it from my own daily struggles to find a seat on the school bus.)

I didn't predict the Snape/Lily connection (I am, after all, a slasher) but what you said, what was so clearly shown, about love and acceptance and overwhelming motives?

YES.

#193 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:21 PM:

harthad #186: I think you've almost nailed it. You've also got to include Dumbledore, whose own weaknesses only become wholly clear in this final volume, as a lost lad who found his way.

#194 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Serge #164: It involves tunnels and steam, I think (I learn these things watching films involving characters named Frank Drebin).

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Fragano @ 194... When Abi brought up sex and trains, I immediately thought of North by Northwest. In case you don't remember, it ends with Cary Grant helping Eva Marie Saint climb onto his bed, immediately followed by a shot of his train speedily going into a tunnel.

I know, I know, sometimes a locomotive is just a locomotive.

#196 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:35 PM:

And Ginevra is Dutch for juniper (whence we get "gin," as juniper berries are one of the major flavorings), and juniper has certain magical uses, and also adds a sweet note to anything to which the berries are added. There's also a YA novel called Juniper, which is named for the main character, a Cornish witch.
Yes, I'm the sort who got all excited about the geomantic meanings of Albus, Rubeus, Fortuna Major, and even Draco (which has not one but two geomantic sigils).

#197 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Serge #195: You're right.

#198 ::: harthad ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Fragano #193: Quite right about Dumbledore, I hadn't made that final connection yet.

#199 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:00 PM:

In the Latin translations of Harry Potter, are the spells in English?

#200 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Book 7 also moved Petunia from classic "wicked family member driving Our Hero down" to someone who had had a bitter dissapointment in her life and reacted poorly but understandably to it. Snape's memories showed that Petunia really really wanted to go to Hogwarts (even asked her sister to intercede on her behalf, if memory serves) and couldn't. A much more human character.

And, of course, I love Arthur Weasley, the enthusiast. The geek, in fact - one of us, but on the "other side."

#201 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:17 PM:

When I saw the name Ginreva, I asked myself, "What does John M. Ford have to do with this book?"

#202 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:37 PM:

It probably would have been pretty easy for Snape to save himself by pointing out to Voldemort that Draco had disarmed Dumbledore before he got there, so he was not the true master of the wand. I don't know whether he knew that Harry subsequently bested Draco, but he could have saved himself either way. That he did not do so is another point in his favour. He's smart; knowing as much about the wand as Voldemort does, I think he could have worked out what Harry worked out.

I've always admired how Rowling can make important plot points hinge on tiny details from way way back. Harry is the master of the Elder Wand because he Expelliarmused Draco. He avoids having to show Scrimgeour the message on the Snitch because he originally caught it in his mouth. Sirius Black escapes Azkaban because of a photo of the Weasleys in the newspaper. The answer to a riddle posed in book 6 and solved in book 7 is a character mentioned in passing in book 5. Harry is told in book 1 of the dangers he would face if he took it into his head to rob Gringotts, and that's exactly what he does six years later. The means of Pettigrew's death is planted, with no explanation, three books before it is used. And of course, "The wand chooses the wizard."

#203 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:47 PM:

The Hogworts education isn't just weak because it's a series of tricks without connection. It's weak because a significant proportion of the core subjects are badly taught.

History of magic - a dull ghost who puts everyone to sleep

Divination - Trelawney can't actually do any controlled divination herself. She's in the position for protection, not because she's qualified to teach.

Care of Magical Creatures - Hagrid is sweet, but most of the students are more terrified than educated.

Potions - Snape seems more interested in insulting students than teaching. You'll get assigned an essay if you mess up your potion, but no assistance in the potion making itself. He's there because Dumbledore needs to control him, not because he can teach.

Defense Against Dark Arts - the instructors are widely variable. Lockhart and Umbredge are worse than useless, and Snape does no better teaching this than he does potions. I can't remember offhand how well Quirrel taught. But there were no more than three good years out of the six that the trio were in school.

The only topics consistently well taught seem to be Transfiguration, Charms and Herbology. It isn't clear how good the Astronomy professor is, or the instructors for Hermione's extra classes.

There also isn't any integration of Muggle knowledge into the curriculum. It might be useful, for example, to incorporate botany and biology into herbology, or Muggle history with the history of Magic, etc. Some math and business classes might be useful, particularly since if you don't work for the Ministry, you're likely to be running a small business. Also languages - the students who visit for the Triwizard competition know English, while none of the Hogwort's students know their languages.

Muggle history strikes me as particularly needed - the fact that no one in the Order saw the commonalities between Fascist/Nazi methods and what the ministry was doing is pitiful, and being able to make that connection might have helped them convince others to join them.

There also aren't any Wizard primary schools, and I can't imagine that it's safe to let a 6 year old wizard who can't control her magic loose in Muggle school. The general ignorance of Muggle cultures suggests that few families send their children to Muggle schools, which would bring the whole family in contact with Muggles regularly for several years. Harry and Hermione are probably better educated, in many ways, than kids who grew up in wizard families. The Malfoys could probably afford tutors for Draco, but where would someone like Crabbe or Goyle pick up the basics?

Hogworts' program, and wizard education in general, is poor. And it's a systematic problem, which seems to be closely linked to wizard culture, with its isolation and secrecy, and the way that control over the school is a political fight between the school administration and the Ministry.

#204 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 06:56 PM:

Eleanor @ 202:

The answer to a riddle posed in book 6 and solved in book 7 is a character mentioned in passing in book 5.

I'm sure I'm going to feel stupid when you tell me, but what are you referring to here?

#205 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:03 PM:

Is anyone else tempted to plant fake spoilers around the web?

For example:
I love the way Dudley turned out to be the key to the whole thing, as the final Horcrux. But three whole chapters of Harry's anguish over finding so much pleasure in having to kill him was a bit much, I thought.

And:
I can't believe that Dumbledore was a Death Eater all along! He was just pretending to help Harry, while all the time secretly hindering him, and crippling his efforts. Wow!

#206 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:14 PM:

Sarah @ #204, "R.A.B."

#207 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Lila, 206:

Duh! Thank you. I plead up-too-late-reading.

#208 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Is anyone else tempted to plant fake spoilers around the web?

Yes, but then I realized it would spoil the pleasure for people who would then be reading the book wondering "were they lying? if so then that DIDN'T happen, right?"

He does not, and never will, value Harry, or consider him to have any redeeming qualities.

Rather, that Harry is a living symbol that Lily chose James Potter and had a child with him--not with Snape, who foolishly chose the Death Eaters and lost Lily because of it. (Though I wish Rowling had explained more why Lily married James.)

#209 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:40 PM:

Ursula@203: Hogworts' program, and wizard education in general, is poor.

Rowling is simply writing for her demographic: kids in school. How many famously popular children's stories involve a school where the classes are generally helpful, informative, useful, and the teachers are generally intelligent, understanding, and fair?

#210 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Ambar, 191, Dumbledore was going to die from the curse placed on the ring, regardless of the effect of the poison in the lake. The book makes clear he was going to die anyway -- within a year of him putting on the ring. Also, just because a house-elf could survive something does not necessarily mean that humans could; they're different species, after all.

#211 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:48 PM:

One of the things that disappointed me was that Lily remained pretty much a cipher right to the end. Apart from a few fragments where her life intersected Snape's, we're told almost nothing about her. We know much more about James, even though it seems fairly clear that Harry took after his mother more than his father in many ways.

#212 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 07:51 PM:

I was expecting some form of redemption from Draco, but it didn't come -- or did it?

When Draco is asked to ID Harry, Hermione & Ron, he claims he's not sure. Is he really not sure, or is that as close as he can get to saying it's not them to allow them to escape?

#213 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 08:27 PM:

Rowling is simply writing for her demographic: kids in school. How many famously popular children's stories involve a school where the classes are generally helpful, informative, useful, and the teachers are generally intelligent, understanding, and fair?

True.

My point was more that it goes well beyond merely reflecting the problems of the current UK system (both the high stakes testing and the boarding school culture) that others have mentioned. Getting rid of Voldemort is only half the problem - a government where that sort of megalomaniac can't take control twice in half a century is needed.

It would be interesting to see a well written adult (in the non-pornographic sense) fanfic with various characters working for political and educational reform in the post-Voldemort world.

#214 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 08:53 PM:

re: the unforgivable curses

When she began orchestrating the defense of Hogwarts, McGonagall made clear to Slugworth(?) that they would be dueling to the death - and so, I'm assuming, would use the unforgivable curses. (Maybe they're unforgivable because killing people is all they're for - and killing someone who's not trying to kill you is what's unforgivable?)

The other characters may have been thinking along the same lines - Lupin is angry with Harry for just trying to disarm Stan Shunpike because that's his signature move, but also because the other side is trying to kill them.

Also, yay Neville! He had quite the character arc, and it's unfortunate that most of it was off-screen.

#215 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 09:17 PM:

#184
I don't think you can use Snape tearing that picture as a demonstration of how Snape views Harry. That picture was, to Snape, the future he had lost. Looking at it would have been like looking at your true love's wedding photos.

Also, it might've been hard to watch her smiling at her baby knowing that said child had been raised for the slaughter. Snape must have liked to imagine how Lily would have praised/thanked him for helping Harry survive over the years.

I'd always thought that Snape had had a full turning point when he betrayed Voldemort the first time (I was leaning towards "disgusted by the killings" instead of "in love with Lily"). Now I wonder if he didn't complete his change until after Voldemort's return. Did he fully grasp the difference between "arrogant toerag" and "evil" that Lily explained to him, and, if so, when? I could see him not thinking too much about it during the intervening years.

#216 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:22 PM:

Also, yay Neville! He had quite the character arc, and it's unfortunate that most of it was off-screen.

Ah yes, but then we wouldn't have 100 pages of thrilling camping-related action. (rimshot)
In fairness, many of the developments in the book take place offscreen, due to Rowling's glue-like adherence to Harry's POV. The bit where McGonagall (I think?) tells Harry to stop watching and start "looking for something" took this to the logical endpoint. Harry can't leave too soon, or the reader won't get to know what's going on.

I suppose it's Rowling's style, like it or not. It's easy to imagine a version of this story where our view of events isn't quite so claustrophobic, where we can follow the politics, see Lupin and Tonks go down fighting, have Snape at least get to say a few more words once his mission is finished (or hey, even appear in the resurrection stone scene), and where a visit to the Chamber of flippin' secrets isn't just a throwaway reference, but that's not how J.K.R. rolls. And in the end it is Harry's story, after all.

And was I the only one who read Harry's walk in the woods and thought of Aslan in TLTW&TW?



#217 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:33 PM:

Ursula@213: It would be interesting to see a well written adult (in the non-pornographic sense) fanfic with various characters working for political and educational reform in the post-Voldemort world.

With the kids who started out on Sorcerer's Stone now going off to college, that might be feasible. Rowling wrote a world with a child's view of morality (i.e. good and bad), and now that the readers have grown up, maybe the fictional world can too.

As for the discussion about Snape, it's another child's point of view of morality. You're either good or bad. Harry didn't like Snape, even after it was confirmed by Voldemort himself in the Sorcerer's Stone that Snape had saved his life. The idea of redemption and/or forgiveness is an adult concept. Harry has little knack for it. I'm not sure if Rowling has a knack for it or not. But trying to determine where Snape was on the moral meter is impossible, because in Harry Potter's world, the meter is a binary "good" and "bad".

The only "gray" about morality in the HP world is that some people are actually good, but a lot of poeple (not Harry, because Harry "knows") think the person is "bad". All the people who thought Hagrid was behind the Chamber of Secrets, when he wasn't. All the people who thought Sirius Black was a bad man, when he really wasn't. All the people who thought Voldemort had not returned, when he had. And finally, all the people who thought Snape was a double agent, when he wasn't.

The reality is that we all can and do things in a very grey region of the morality scale. Some of them we fix. Some of them we don't. We are little different from Snape, except that our circumstances kept certain decisions from presenting to us. It's just that when presented with Snape, we want to know if he is good or bad, and the reality is that he's pretty much just like us, he's human, and the problem is we don't know what to do with humans, we just know what to do with good people and bad people.

#218 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 10:50 PM:

Abi #160: Friends of mine who were getting married had been living separately for years so they pretty much had all the household goods they needed. When I asked the groom if there was anything he could think of that I could get them, he suggested the HP books in Hebrew, because the books they were using to learn the language were getting boring! So that was my gift :->

#219 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:06 PM:

Greg London: What aspect of the whole series do you like the most?

What impresses me most is that fact that as the characters in the book matured, so did the story and the writing. The first book is clearly written for younger children, and the reading levels progress as the series progresses, until you reach the final books which are written for teenagers/young adults.

As children continue to read the story, the level at which they must read increases. And the complexity of the story and the relationships increase. Things are much more black and white in the early books, but as the characters mature, they discover that the world holds much more gray, and that what they believe to be good and evil are not necessarily as clear cut as they thought. (Which is just another way of saying what everyone else has been saying, which is that I love how Snape was not that evil character everyone believed, but was instead a complex character who, even when doing what was right, didn't always do good.)

I find that steadily increasing level of complexity completely amazing.

As my mom (the elementary school teacher) said, that's something she's never seen a children's book author do before.

Ever.

And she spent years on the West Virginia Children's Book Award committee.

#220 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Do any of the potterphiles here read Minisinoo's fanfic? She's an excellent writer who started doing HP fanfic mostly from the Cedric POV (if he had survived), and one major theme is how the barriers between the houses work to everyone's disadvantage. She has a very different tone than JKR does but since JKR's prose usage has always been my biggest beef with her, I actually like the writing better.

www.themedicinewheel.net

#221 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2007, 11:56 PM:

Yay Neville! Whoever said that book 1 parallels book 7--yes, exactly. This is how I knew that Neville would save the day.

That LJ mentioned in comment 5 has been suspended. Are there any caches anywhere?

I'm okay with the epilogue. It added a nice touch of "Well, I'm home."

#222 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:01 AM:

While everybody's here, can I ask a question? How large is the wizarding population in the UK? I read most of the series in bookshops, so tended to skip, but I don't remember a figure being given. I ask because this volume did say, I think, that almost all wizards went to Hogwarts, which would mean that the maximum figure was one graduating class x 100 - and if you divide that hallful by 7 a class can't be much more than 100, making the total population only a couple of thousand at most. Which would seem to make anything selling to wizards- the Weasley brothers company, for example - very much a niche market.

On another point, one should also note that one of the reasons people like Hagrid is that he's the only character coded as proletarian. Very important in England.

One thing nagging at me; how did Arthur Riddle get himself raised to the peerage as Lord Voldemort? Strictly speaking, I suppose,Arthur Riddle, Lord Voldemort. It's definitely not done in England to invent your own distinctions. Is he a life peer? Though I suppose if you intended to live for ever the issue would be moot. The world of magic appears to have a college of heralds, but what about baronets?

#223 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:02 AM:

Surely, surely, surely, the Latin Harry Potter should have the spells in Greek?

I think I'm going to be most disappointed if that is not the case.

#224 ::: Anamika ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:11 AM:

That mightygodking review linked way upthread at #5? His LJ got suspended for TOS violation.

And @ Russ, #127, actually it reminded me of the beginning of Matrix Revolutions, the platform scene.

#225 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:17 AM:

Chris - it's Tom Riddle, not Arthur. I think he's a Lord because he says he is "I am Lord Voldemort". Rather the same way that Xena is a warrior princess - arguing with them about it might not be good for the health.

There have been many attempts to work out a British wizarding population sufficiently large enough to maintain a Quidditch league and all the other jobs mentioned, yet small enough for one graduating glass a year. It can't be done - the general explanation given is that JK Rowling isn't great at maths. As a rule the wizarding population size is whatever you need it to be for your essay or fanfic, supported by whichever facts and handwaving work for you.

#226 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:27 AM:

Chris at #222: I don't think a wizarding population figure was ever given. And although Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are mentioned in book 4 as being the best wizarding schools in Europe (IIRC), I don't recall it being said that they're the only ones, which means there may well be other schools available in the UK to throw off your calculation.

As to "Lord" Voldemort (formerly Tom Marvolo Riddle)--he started calling himself that, very quietly, while still at Hogwarts. In no way was he elevated to a title, and I honestly don't think such things are mentioned as being used in the wizarding world. If they were, then both the Weasleys and the Malfoys, as two of the oldest pureblood families (again, if I remember my reading), would likely have had titles attached to them--and if Draco's dad had been "Lucius, Lord Malfoy" there's no way Draco wouldn't have mentioned it! (Stuck-up little pig...)

#227 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:30 AM:

Aquila beat me to it...rats...

#228 ::: Ariel ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:06 AM:

Re: #75, and the question about Tooks' pregnancy: I'd been speculating that she was pregnant since she started acting off in book 6. Not being able to shapechange as well as usual seems like just the kind of first symptom one would expect; add in stress, irritability, and an unexpected-to-most-people marriage which never seemed to produce newlywed cheerfulness? My bet is that the kid noticably predated the wedding.

#229 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:17 AM:

it seems fairly clear that Harry took after his mother more than his father in many ways.

Ross @ 211: I'm not disagreeing with you, I just wonder how you arrived at this.

#230 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:18 AM:

Nah, we're told that Hogwarts is the only school in Britain (attendance is made compulsory in 7).

Given that the wizarding population works out, at most, in the tens of thousands, and that the Ministry covers multiple floors, I think that the wizards suffer from the most insane example of over-governance in the world. Cato Institute for reforming the Ministry of Magic!

Also, I'm pretty sure the Ministry of Magic uses highly, highly irregular internal naming; ministries don't contain departments, any more than cats contain dogs. (Also, ministries are incapable of independent action, at least as I was taught it. They may only advise the Minister, who then takes action.)

I don't really care; J K Rowling isn't an expert on governance and the British Civil Service, but it does annoy me that she is claimed to be good at world building; she isn't. She just makes sure you don't care about the ridiculously bloated government, the cruelty and illegality of the whole set up, etc, etc, by keeping your eyes off those parts.

#231 ::: Jim Satterfield ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:39 AM:

"The epilogue felt like the easy way out. Not a cheat, exactly -- but there were definitely other ways she could have tied up the series that might have let Ginny and Hermione be something more than wives and mothers."

OK...two things occur to me after reading this. First, who says that's all they do? One scene at the train? Secondly, it's that the phrase seems so dismissive of what it takes to be a good mother to several children.

Rowling chose a POV that is solely Harry's. So what? It has strengths and weaknesses, dependent largely on what you want out of the book.

Greg criticizes the books as having a purely black/white viewpoint because of it being a child's view, including this:


The idea of redemption and/or forgiveness is an adult concept. Harry has little knack for it. I'm not sure if Rowling has a knack for it or not.

But in the epilogue Rowling shows that the adult Harry has most certainly learned that lesson if his son's name shows anything.

#232 ::: Ema ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:45 AM:

Tchem @ 148:

I'm pretty sure the password to Dumbledore's office was (at least once, and I think it was Minerva using it) lemondrop(s?).

#233 ::: antukin ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:57 AM:

I was really hoping it would turn out that Percy Weasley, on Dumbledore's instructions, had gone over to the Ministry's side in order to spy on them. Wouldn't that be interesting? And all the family drama he created was a necessary sacrifice to make his story believable to the Minister. I couldn't believe that a Weasley kid would go over completely, though he still did come back in the end.

Oh well, at least one of my other pet theories was right -- the Snape-Lily connection ;)

mythago@208: I also wanted more exploration of what finally attracted Lily to James. I liked Rowling's twist that James was an arrogant kid who had much to learn. But we never did get to see how he shrunk his ego enough to redeem himself in Lily's eyes.

#234 ::: Meowse ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 02:13 AM:

Greg: thank you very much for your useful and insightful comments. Your "toothbrush and lunch pail" analogy was delightful.

To those asking Greg to stop talking--in my experience, discussions benefit from dissenting views. And Greg was never less than polite in arguing his.

Anamika #224: To the best of my knowledge, mightygodking's only supposed "TOS violation" was posting his Harry Potter review again, after the book's release, when he'd been given a cease-and-desist for posting it prior to the book's release. Pretty poor practice on the part of LJ.

Anyone who's interested in a copy of mightygodking's review, please email me, and I'll be glad to send it to you. Well worth the read, IMHO--a bit gratuitously snarky in parts, but very funny.

#235 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 02:19 AM:

203: The assumption that the overall education at Hogwarts is poor presumes that we've actually seen the full curriculum, which is demonstrably not the case -- note that there is in fact a course in Muggle Studies (formerly taught by one Professor Burbage, who becomes Nagini's dinner at the end of Chapter One).

More likely, we have not seen classes in any number of mundane subjects that would be dull for Rowling to write about and equally dull for us to read about. Hermione's breadth of knowledge, to some degree, suggests that she's been paying attention in some of these classes.

#236 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 02:39 AM:

John @ #235, Good point. The only classes we were shown were classes where the instructors had roles to play in the overall story somewhere, even if it was just as O.W.L. proctors. At least that's how I remember it.

#237 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 03:09 AM:

Actually, I think we do get given enough of the curriculum to work out it is extremely substandard. After all, we get told directly about 5/6 subjects in first year, when the're no subject choices. 5/6 subjects is a full timetable; yes, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, but if there are more than 6 subjects in a week then you're getting too little face time.

Of course, it could be argued that this is a pretty extreme time for Hogwarts, or that most skills are passed down in family/on-the-job/whatever, and Hogwarts plays a part more akin to Oxbridge, as a social networking environment. (Or, even better, you know Unseen University? They've started satellite campuses. Hogwarts has got the big meals, disregard for students, and odd architecture down, but not yet the memos in place of curses memo.)

But after all, school in a full blown post-scarcity society? They have cornucopia machines. 2 + 2 doesn't have to equal 4.

#238 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:07 AM:

208 and 233, regarding why Lily married James: Even if he was a bit arrogant, he had a sense of humor, too. He also had friends very loyal to him, which speaks of other good qualities that we might not have heard about in the brief snippets about him. (Of course, I might not be the best person to postulate, being married to a fairly arrogant geek myself :-> )

#239 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:58 AM:

Several people above are claiming that Harry was bad at Potions up until he got the Half Blood Prince's book. But that's not true: he thought he was bad because he had a teacher who was biased against him, but he got an E, the second highest grade, in his Potions O.W.L.

One thing I wonder about the Hogwarts curriculum is enchanting objects. Hermione is able to do very advanced object enchantments by her fifth year; Fred and George Weasley do quite a bit; Harry's father and friends were able to make the Marauders' Map. But if anyone in Harry's first six years ever tells Harry the first thing about how to do it, I can't recall it.

individualfrog@111: Very nice! Your analysis is convincing, and I'm pretty sure that Rowling intended the parallels -- Eleanor@202 gives several examples of things that were planned out in advance. My own favorite example there is the mention of Sirius Black in chapter 1 of book 1.

abi@160: Did you know that book one has been put into ancient Greek? (Attic dialect, not modern.) ἉΡΕΙΟΣ ΠΟΤΗΡ καὶ ἡ τοῦ φιλοσόφου λίθος.

#240 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 06:41 AM:

Renatus, David Goldfarb: thanks! Sometime when I have all the books with me I'll see if I can find any more parallels. It's fun.

#241 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 07:27 AM:

I find it interesting that people look at JKR's view of boarding school as if it is drawn from actual, modern-day boarding schools. As far as I can tell, it isn't -- her view of boarding schools closely parallels the classic British boarding school and girl's school novels. And moreover, she didn't attend boarding school.

Similarly, Laurie Faria Stolarz's YA series set at a boarding school -- I think it starts with Blue Is For Nightmares? -- is a version of boarding school which seems to be based not on classic boarding school novels, but on some weird admixture of college and public high school. I'm not sure how else to explain it.

I love reading boarding school novels -- yes, even as an adult, and yes, even while I was *at* boarding school -- but very few of the modern American ones bear much resemblance to any of the schools I attended or visited. I'm guessing the British books are similarly different from the actual schools.

There are a couple of recent American novels that were pretty close to my experience of boarding schools -- John Greene's Looking for Alaska and Daniel Parker's Wessex Papers trilogy. (Daniel Parker is a pseud., but the real author of the Wessex Papers and John Greene both went to boarding schools in the US.)

#242 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 07:40 AM:

Re: 231: The reason Ginny and Hermione specifically interest me is that they're two of my favorite characters. We don't find out anything else about Ron, or Harry, or Percy, or -- anyone really, except that they're now a big happy family.

Did Hermione get SPEW off the ground? Did Ginny get to play Quidditch professionally, or did she go on to help George out at WWW? What did Hermione and Ginny go on to do? Seven years before having kids -- even if you assume that they immediately became SAHM after the children came, that's a long time. (For that matter, did Harry and Ron become Aurors, or decide to go for something quieter?)

I can guess at why JKR did it -- she did it because Harry has always been looking for a family, and she's ending the series with resolution in Harry's POV. Ending it with happy families is natural. It's just that what interests Harry isn't what interests me.

Secondly, it's that the phrase seems so dismissive of what it takes to be a good mother to several children.

That's your interpretation, not my position.

Re: 233: That was one of my pet theories, too.

#243 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:27 AM:

If no one's noted it previously, this comment over at Shakesville made me smile:

Harry Potter, Heinlein-style

#244 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:28 AM:

If no one's noted it previously, this comment over at Shakesville made me smile:

Harry Potter, Heinlein-style

#245 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:51 AM:

mythago (208): YOu're absolutely right. That's why I put my fake spoilers here, rather than where someone unspoiled would find them.

#246 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:57 AM:

Here's one thought about the epilogue. Of course I turned to the back and read that chapter first.

And found it answered all the most pressing questions - who lives, who dies - without addressing any of the most tantalising ones set up by the end of Half Blood Prince. Well, apart from 'Snape. Good or bad?' and the sub-text to that answer was pretty much 'okay, and now you can go back and start reading from the beginning to find out how.'

Maybe that why the final chapter's there. To deal with the likes of me.

Oh and yes, three resounding cheers for Neville!

#247 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:02 AM:

me@somewhere: I'm not sure if Rowling has a knack for it or not.

Jim@231: But in the epilogue Rowling shows that the adult Harry has most certainly learned that lesson if his son's name shows anything.

That might only mean that Harry now sees Snape as "good", which could be just more of the black/white view. Forgiving someone after they're dead isn't quite the same as telling them face to face that you love them and that you'll never hold their past against them.

I'm not saying she doesn't understand the difference, I'm just saying I think there's a couple of different ways to read some of those things.

I think it would have been more definitive if Snape had lived, and Harry kept some kind of friendly relationship with him. But in popular fiction, characters who fall far into the dark usually have to die in the end, no matter how close they come back to the light. Maybe that's because the general population isn't so forgiving.

#248 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:19 AM:

My assumption is that Harry winds up in Auror administration/training -- he can't be a field agent because he can't risk being defeated by someone unpleasant.

#249 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:42 AM:

Sarah @ 204: I was referring to R.A.B.

#250 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:44 AM:

D'oh! Lila @ 206 got there first. Thanks, Lila!

#251 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:56 AM:

Michelle K. @ #219

Making the prose style of a series "grow up" along with the main characters and (presumably) the reader is a fairly common technique.

Laura Ingalls Wilder does it with the "Little House" books. Maude Heart Lovelace does it with the "Betsy- Tacy" series. If I remember correctly, Sydney Taylor does it with the "All of a Kind Family" series.

#252 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:16 AM:
Getting rid of Voldemort is only half the problem - a government where that sort of megalomaniac can't take control twice in half a century is needed.
True, but although study of Muggle history might help you realize that this is a problem, it's not exactly a *solved* problem in Muggle history. I don't think it's that unreasonable that wizards haven't solved it either.
"The epilogue felt like the easy way out. Not a cheat, exactly -- but there were definitely other ways she could have tied up the series that might have let Ginny and Hermione be something more than wives and mothers."
Why didn't you say "that might have let Harry and Ron be something more than husbands and fathers"? Are you assuming that Harry and Ron have lives outside their families and that Ginny and Hermione don't? It seems to me that if there's a double standard here, it is not in the book, but in the head of the person reading the book. If you're using your own assumptions to fill in between the lines, what you see between the lines as a result isn't Rowling's fault.
#253 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:20 AM:

BSD #248: Keeping Harry out of the field makes the same sort of sense as keeping John Glenn grounded for lo those many years.

Count me in with the bunch glad to see Neville step up (and sorry not to see more of that), and also glad to see Luna portrayed as perhaps not as nuts as she had been previously (though we had seen hints that she's not quite as nutty as her dad). But her performance at the finale of the book, providing the diversion Harry needed to slip away, had me practically giving her a standing ovation (okay, in my seat :-). I'm a bit sorry we didn't see what happens to her (married to Neville? Publisher of the Quibbler, research wizard, Auror, or Minister of Magic?).

One thing I'm curious about (but haven't gone to look for) is that, before the book was released, one common prediction was for one of the Weasley twins to buy the farm, along with a reaction along the lines of "but that wouldn't be FAIR!" Now that it's come true, I think I've seen one person espousing that sentiment. (I agree, and also understand that Fred's death is more realistic than otherwise, given how many people died and that he was on the front lines.) Has this reaction been suppressed in fandom because of the acknowledgment of that realism, or have I just missed it?

#254 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:41 AM:

I was somewhat bothered by the retconning of Snape through the Pensieve. He made the hardest choices, and accepted the most dangerous role, even giving his life for the cause, but we learn of all that in an infodump.

#255 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:56 AM:

On how Ron could suddenly imitate Parseltongue: he'd recently heard Harry asking the locket to open.

#256 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:18 PM:

232, Ema:

In book 7, though, the headmaster's office belongs to Snape. When the kids go up there to use the Penseive, Harry shouts "Dumbledore" out of frustration, and the door opens, which I interpreted to mean that that was Snape's password to the office. It just touched me--Dumbledore always had a goofy candy-related password, but Snape doesn't joke around.

#257 ::: Kellie Hazell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Greg at #217 & 247: Actually, one of the principal arcs of Book 7 was Harry's shedding of his last grip on the black/white view of things as he finally saw Dumbledore in grey and, after a great deal of resistance and anger over it, accepted it and forgave Dumbledore. Given that arc and Harry's feelings about Snape's death as it happens (and let's not forget that it's Snape's memories that tell Harry about the full extent of Dumbledore's plan and its greyness, and he doesn't once thing about it like that), I think naming his son Albus Severus shows exactly how much Harry has changed from a black/white view of things to seeing the gray.

At least with regard to anyone but the Dursleys. Even with Petunia's backstory provided to him in Snape's memories, and even with Dudley's shaking his hand in the beginning of the book, Harry never once examines the Dursley's in any light other than the terrible way they treated him. They are pretty much beyond redemption for it, and I don't begrudge Harry that.

The black/white morality of the HP world started to shake up toward the end of Book 4, which is probably why Harry was such a whinging git through all of Book 5: his worldview had taken a tumble and he had to bother himself with looking at things differently, seeing more than it was easy to see.

I find it interesting that Book 6 was all about understanding how Voldemort became what he did--understanding evil, in essence, and even empathising as Harry saw parallels in his own life. But the hardest journey for Harry, Book 7, was having to understand that good comes with its own complexity as well and isn't pure and doesn't exist as its own grand thing the way he had thought.

#258 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:11 PM:

#257, Kellie Hazell:

I think that Harry not being willing to re-examine the Dursley's is about as emotionally convincing as anything I've hears about the series. People who abuse us as children, when we are defenseless and entirely at their mercy, are, in fact, pretty much the hardest to forgive. (I'm still working on one family of old neighbors).

#259 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:29 PM:

#257, #258: Not quite. Harry has given up on Vernon and Petunia but (much to his own surprise) seems to have some hope for "Big D".

#260 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Keir@230: "I don't really care; J K Rowling isn't an expert on governance and the British Civil Service, but it does annoy me that she is claimed to be good at world building; she isn't. She just makes sure you don't care about the ridiculously bloated government, the cruelty and illegality of the whole set up, etc, etc, by keeping your eyes off those parts."

Do you mean to say that a world that's not a Utopia is a poorly built world? How do you get the idea that JKR means to distract readers from the cruelty, injustice etc? What makes you think that Rowling disagrees with your opinion of the Ministry?

"Also, I'm pretty sure the Ministry of Magic uses highly, highly irregular internal naming; ministries don't contain departments, any more than cats contain dogs."

That they don't do so in the present-day real-world British government doesn't mean that they principally can't, ever. And keep in mind that the equivalent of the entire real-world British government is called "The Ministry", so some other name was needed for the equivalent of
individual real-world British Ministries.

"(Also, ministries are incapable of independent action, at least as I was taught it. They may only advise the Minister, who then takes action.)"

In theory, you might be right.

"Given that the wizarding population works out, at most, in the tens of thousands, and that the Ministry covers multiple floors, I think that the wizards suffer from the most insane example of over-governance in the world."

What do you think you would get if you would put all goverment/state/public institution offices in an average British town of that size, except for the local schools, prison and hospitals, into one building? Not counting the Atrium, the Ministry seems to have eight floors. If we assume that there are fifty people working on each floor, that's a total of 400, wich, if we assume a total population of 10000 people, means about 4 percent government, police, military and administration employees in the population. Perhaps that's too much, but I'm not sure that it's unusually high.

#261 ::: Tony Di Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Putting the dumb epilogue aside, it was my favorite book. I loved the whole WWII behind the enemy lines feel, especially when they were in a tent listening to the wireless. The whole thing reminded me of those '40s combat films when a bunch of GIs are sent on a suicide mission. This one should be shot in B/W.
I think she neatly wrapped things up although on another webpage it was pointed out that when Dumbledore tells Snape to reveal when Harry is being moved (D is in a portrait) how did Snape get in the Headmasters office? Harry was moved during the summer, no?
Other people complained about Neville getting the sword out of the hat, but that makes sense. The hat is supposed to work that way.

#262 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Ursula @203 - To a large extent, this is Dumbledore's fault. His primary concern was the ultimate defeat of Voldy, not the quality of education for the students.
The Map, for example, doesn't seem to be something that any of the recent graduates would be capable of.
Even the older Weasleys are better wizards than Harry's class.

#263 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 02:28 PM:

In response to criticisms of the poor quality of education at Hogwarts, the cruelty and inconsistent enforcement of wizarding laws, etc.:

I think this is one of the strengths of the book. Rowling is deliberately creating institutions that, while populated mainly by "good guys", are demonstrably imperfect to begin with, and capable of becoming much more so under stress.

Kind of like the real world.

#264 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 02:35 PM:

(Oops, Raphael beat me to it!)

#265 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Raphael @ 260

Just for a reference point, I lived in a small city of 25000 people, which had fewer than 250 city employees.

#266 ::: Kellie Hazell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Jon at #259: I'm not so sure it's hope. Seems more like a realization that they can at least be polite, perhaps even cordially interact, in public, should life bring them back into the same sphere again.

I've been trying to remember whether Harry ever mentions the Dursleys again in Book 7. I have some niggling memory of him comparing their treatment of him to Sirius's treatment of Kreacher, but I can't seem to find it. Anyone else remember something like this?

#267 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Re: #228 Ariel: "Not being able to shapechange as well as usual seems like just the kind of first symptom one would expect; add in stress, irritability, and an unexpected-to-most-people marriage which never seemed to produce newlywed cheerfulness? My bet is that the kid noticably predated the wedding."

Ooh, I hadn't made that connection. Heh. Good to know that my math wasn't off— and also that the Down With Immoral Harry Potter crowd hasn't picked that up as another instance of the horrible practices of the books.

There is actually an Amazon comment that goes off about the sex, violence, nudity, and bad language. In those terms. Um... nudity? Well, Harry's doubles change in front of him, and he takes off his clothes to go diving for the sword, but still, nudity? Do people really have that little sense of proportion?

#268 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 03:44 PM:

257: I thought perhaps the fact that Snape was another person whose life Dumbledore thought was less important than his master plan was what gave Harry enough fellow-feeling to name his son after him. They certainly do have that in common.

#269 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 03:45 PM:

The best joke spoiler I've heard was from a friend who said, "The end of the last book, we find out that Harry Potter's father is actually....
.
.
.
Darth Vader"

#270 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:29 PM:

What? Snape was really Harry's father using polyjuice to look like a former Deatheater? Hermione was really his mother hiding from Voldemort and keeping an eye on Harry? I didn't see that coming, but now that you menion it, it makes sense.

#271 ::: Sharon MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Re the argument that the books are sexist. When you think about it, Lily (Evans) plays a big part in the story, sacrificing herself to save Harry, and then Snape's devotion to her right up untill the end. Then you have Mrs Weasley taking on Bellatrix to defend Ginny, and by extension, her family. Also as previously mentioned, Hermione is smartest student in Hogwarts.
I loved the fact that Luna always finds a way to say something to Harry that makes him feel better or ground him, at the right time. Anyone else wonder if she was more suited to Harry than Ginny?
Thought the last chapter was sweet, loved the glimpse we got of Teddy Lupin (anyone else do a double take when they read "snogging Victoire" and think it was refering to a guy?!).
However, found it hard to picure H, R, H & G as adults (in my mind future Ron has a moustache!) it made me think of the Simpsons where Lisa sees her wedding in the future and her and Bart look pretty much the same, just streched out!
Missed Ron's usual humour in this book, the only classic Ron moment was his "'Blimey, a baby!'As if he'd never heard of such a thing before "
To whoever mentioned Buffy parralels (all that way up) TOTALLY AGREE! Definately unintenional (on JKR & Whedon's parts) but fun to compare. Harry=Buffy, Ron=Xander (loyal friend, seemingly not as useful as others in terms of power but steps up) Hermione=Willow

#272 ::: Sharon MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Re the argument that the books are sexist. When you think about it, Lily (Evans) plays a big part in the story, sacrificing herself to save Harry, and then Snape's devotion to her right up untill the end. Then you have Mrs Weasley taking on Bellatrix to defend Ginny, and by extension, her family. Also as previously mentioned, Hermione is smartest student in Hogwarts.
I loved the fact that Luna always finds a way to say something to Harry that makes him feel better or ground him, at the right time. Anyone else wonder if she was more suited to Harry than Ginny?
Thought the last chapter was sweet, loved the glimpse we got of Teddy Lupin (anyone else do a double take when they read "snogging Victoire" and think it was refering to a guy?!).
However, found it hard to picure H, R, H & G as adults (in my mind future Ron has a moustache!) it made me think of the Simpsons where Lisa sees her wedding in the future and her and Bart look pretty much the same, just streched out!
Missed Ron's usual humour in this book, the only classic Ron moment was his "'Blimey, a baby!'As if he'd never heard of such a thing before "
To whoever mentioned Buffy parralels (all that way up) TOTALLY AGREE! Definately unintenional (on JKR & Whedon's parts) but fun to compare. Harry=Buffy, Ron=Xander (loyal friend, seemingly not as useful as others in terms of power but steps up) Hermione=Willow

#273 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:40 PM:

#259: The Dursleys aren't mentioned again, and, given their relationship with Harry and Voldemort's takeover of the Ministry, I doubt they survive to the end of the book. Unlike, say, Hermione's parents, Voldy has a long, long file on Vernon and Petunia. Not that Harry is going to give much of a thought about their survival, of course ...

#274 ::: Kellie Hazell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:41 PM:

julia at #268: A fair point, though I think naming a child after someone speaks more to a stronger connection than that. Also, I don't see Harry being that cruel because naming a child "Albus Severus" in that sense means that he's invoking the things that made Dumbledore grey in one name rather than honoring the good qualities of two men that played enormous roles in his life.

But either way you slice it, it's still a helluva name to give a kid, as has been said above. I can just imagine the conversation a seventh-year Albus might have with his father about it.

#275 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:47 PM:

#274 Kellie, only if the kid grows up in Muggle World. "Albus Severus" is not that odd a name in the wizarding community. Not to mention that EVERYONE in the British wizarding community would know where the names came from.

#276 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Regarding "Albus," aw, c'mon. It was good enough for Paul Simon.

#277 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 05:03 PM:

252: Gee, you're right. 1950s — HUAC and J. Edgar; now — George III. That's twice in a half century, right?

#278 ::: Ema ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Tchem @ 256:

Oh yes, if the door opens, that's the password alright; how like Snape. He's really one of my favourite characters. I haven't read seven yet (and yet! I do not fear spoilers!) and I'm looking forward to seeing more of his motivations.

#279 ::: Kellie Hazell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 05:13 PM:

Lila at #275 - I didn't mean the names were unfortunate in the schoolyard teasing sense. I meant that being named after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape is a lot to hang on a kid.

#280 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Re Tonks/pregnancy, she was "off colour" already at the beginning of book six, early enough for it to be put down to grief at Sirius's death. (Harry thought her new Patronus was Padfoot - only later did he realise it was Moony.) That would be one long pregnancy. Internal evidence suggests to me that the earliest she could have consummated her relationship with Remus would be the night Dumbledore died; that's when he stops resisting her. That's not too long before they get married. Maybe it's long enough.

#281 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 06:37 PM:

Albus Severus Potter (ASP) will be a Slytherin ...

#282 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Think Albus Severus goes by 'Al'? I would.

#283 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Albus Severus Potter (ASP) will be a Slytherin

You're mean.

;)

#284 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 07:34 PM:

Kellie Hazell@279

Worse than that. It's being named after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape AND being Harry Potter's son.

(With respect to 274, Note that in the epilogue Harry calls Snape "probably the bravest man I ever knew")

#285 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 07:54 PM:

On the subject of forgiveness, Harry also understood and forgave Kreacher's betrayal in book 5 (that I gather lead to Sirius's death. I don't recall much about books 5 and 6). At least he seems to be thinking of Kreacher in different terms after the revelation about the locket.

I wasn't entirely convinced by the line about sorting too soon. If the process was as simplistic as that implies, I'd expect Hermione "smartest witch in her generation" Granger to be in Ravenclaw, Neville in Hufflepuff and young Dumbledore either in Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Yet somehow the Hat saw that they'd fit in Gryffindor.

Kellie @279: I meant that being named after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape is a lot to hang on a kid.

People keep saying that, but this is Harry Potter's kid. I don't know if there would be a noticeable difference if he'd been named Billy Bob.

#286 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Oops, Michael@284 beat me to it.

You know what I'd have liked in the epilogue? If some of the kids were really excited about being in Slytherin like Snape and the other great Slytherins that helped rebuild Hogwarts in the years after the battle. As it is, nothing really has changed.

#287 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:02 PM:

#193: What aspect of the whole series do you like the most?

In a word, characters. By that I don't mean that the characters there are particularly complex or intriguing. Frankly, I think character complexity is a bit overrated in literature anyway- I think that there are a lot of people in the real world who, if they were fictional characters, would get their creators accused of writing them two-, one-, or zero-dimensionally. (And I don't think that this means that there's something wrong with those people.) So books with some more and some less complex characters ring more true to life for me than books where the author tried to make everyone internally complicated to the point of borderline MPD.

No, what I mean with liking the characters is that I can't think of any other work of fiction right now- and that includes a lot of stuff of wich I think that it is in many other respects much better than Harry Potter- in wich the characters seem so much "alive" to me, in wich I'm so much engaged by them- with "engaged by" meaning anything from loving or liking them to finding them interesting to being amused by them to being upset by them to more or less strongly disliking them.

Your mileage may vary; indeed, in your case, it most certainly does. But you weren't asking about why on Earth you should like the books, but about what aspect others like most about them.

That aspect is closely followed by the genre mixing/something for everyone aspect, and, in Order of the Phoenix, the "word duels" with various characters trying to out-snark each other.

(For the record, I think your Deus Ex Machina accusation holds true for the first five books (allthough I don't really mind it); in the sixth book, Harry doesn't get into any really hopeless situation to start with; and in the last book, the way he's saved can, IIRC, be concluded from information before the fact, allthough that might not be clear from a plot synopsis.)

P J Evans @265: Ok, point taken. However, how many of the usual government functions are performed by the city government, rather than other levels of government, for the inhabitants?

#288 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:16 PM:

Since everyone who's answered said their best part of the series was the characters, who would be the character(s) who most engaged you in the series?

not necessarily the character you most liked, but the one that drew you into the story, which might be Snape, or even Voldemort. I seem to recall that when Star Wars Episode 4 first came out there was a bit of a Darth Vader subculture that came out afterwards, so, who knows.

So far, I'd say the one for me would be Hagrid.

#289 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:41 PM:

Despite the sleazebag reputation of double agents, and his own devious way with words, Snape displays an internal rigor.

This rigor makes him a harsh and intolerant teacher, but it also suggests why he supported Dumbledore and the "good guys."

His choice of wizardly expertise is Potions, or Alchemy. A profession attracting totally amoral charlatans, displayed by Slughorn's teaching the subject in Prince. (Various mishaps involving students' love potions appear in this volume, too.)

With this alchemy doubtless Snape could have made James admire him, and Lily love him; at some point, he chose not to. He threatens Harry with Veritaserum at one point in Goblet, but doesn't use it on him.

The more evil purposes of Potions are hinted at (Hermione, searching for information on the Horcruxes, reads about them but Rowling doesn't give details).

As for the General Theory of Magic, Rowling does address the problem briefly in Hallows, explaining why you can't just conjure food out of the air (when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are starving in the forest).

#290 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 08:54 PM:

With regard to the size of the ministry, and in slight defence of JKR's proportioning of things, I suppose that "wizarding society" does consist of more than just the actual witches and wizards. That is, there's plenty of goblins, house-elves, veela etc on hand to require managing, and none of these will have ever attended Hogwarts.

Although, of those, I suppose that only the goblins are likely to be much use as consumers, so I think that the world's economy does rather rely on wizards spending very highly on luxeries- oddly, since most basic items (certainly food, and almost certainly clothing) seemingly cannot be conjured into existance. (BTW- I loved getting more insight into goblin/wizard rivalry and history, would actually have liked more of that. I think the dynamic between their contrasting attitudes to ownership etc is interesting considering that the goblins have been put in charge of an institution designed to uphold ownership according to very "wizard-ish" rules.)

But it certainly seems possible to suppose that the human witches and wizards do not actually make up the majority of wizarding society (all of which must be kept secret from muggles), but that witches and wizards DO form the largest or most powerful group within that society, which is consequently managed largely for the convienience of this priviledged group.

Giants don't get to go to school, and half-giants are not treated well there. House elves have been systematically subjugated. Dementors act on wizard orders. Creatures like centaurs are mostly tolerated, provided they keep to themselves, but they aren't exactly invited to take part in governing.

Actually, the more I think about things, with Voldemort or without, this society was pretty unwell. Hmm

#291 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 09:22 PM:

Wrye @216

And was I the only one who read Harry's walk in the woods and thought of Aslan in TLTW&TW?

More Garden of Gethsemane for me, (in a forest and all. Noone could accuse Rowling of being subtle) but then, so did the Aslan scene, even when I first read it as a wee thing.

#292 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 09:25 PM:

I have to sheepishly confess it was Snape from the start not because of the complexity of the character -- although I came to respect that as it went along -- but because in my mind's eye he was always Alan Rickman (even before they cast the first movie) and I am a total Alan Rickman fangirl. And let me tell you, I can hardly wait for the movie of HP7.

#293 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 09:29 PM:

Sharon Mcleod at 272, it took me a bit to realize that "Victoire" wasn't a guy, as well.

#294 ::: MIchael Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Greg All sorts of posts:
The car didn’t just swoop in and save them at the spiders.
Early in the book it disappeared in the forest.
Later in the book, a little bit before the spiders, they ran into it in the forest, and made a big deal about it going feral. It at this point behaved in an affectionate manner toward Ron and Harry.
While in the car’s presence, they are abducted by spiders and brought to talk to the giant plot device in the clearing. After a minor info dump the car finds them again, saving them from the big scary monsters. (Ron should have been catatonic by this point by the way.)


Mary 205:
Oh yes. I want a forum crawling bot that makes posts from place to place in the general form of:

OhmyGOD! X killed Y in manner Z on page ###.

Where X and Y are complementary lists of names, and Z is a list of setting appropriate manners of demise.

#295 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 09:50 PM:

In the Epilogue, Harry does call his son Albus "Al".

#296 ::: Naomi ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 09:52 PM:

A friend of mine noted in defense of the epilogue that it's basically a coded way to say, "and then they all went and had LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF SEX." Because you really can't just straight-out say that in children's lit.

#297 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 09:52 PM:

#272: It's funny you should mention the Hermione/Willow parallels: both of them, for one, end up erasing the memories of their loved ones.

I was talking about this with a friend who was annoyed about Hermione sending her parents to Australia, which she interpreted as an arbitrary action she probably took without consulting them. It would be in keeping with the way she secretly cursed the sign-up sheet for Dumbledore's Army, and imprisoned and blackmailed Rita Skeeter. My friend had to re-read the passage to confirm that the book never mentioned anything about consent being given.

On the other hand, when I read that passage, all I got was that she was quite upset about having to do that, and it never occurred to me that she might not have at least explained matters to her parents first. (How much they would have understood is another question.)

If it were Willow doing something like that, we wouldn't have had to discuss it: Willow wouldn't bother consulting anyone.

#298 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Vian@291:

I guess I don't think of forests when I think of Gethsemane, though of course, that's what both CSL and JKR are referring to.

I have to say, I too was momentarily misled by both Victoire (first thought: All right, JK!) and "her fluffy ginger cat, Crookshanks, at her feet, sorting books". I mean, that's not even an unlikely thing for a cat in the Harryverse to be doing, is it?

#299 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Vian@291:

I guess I don't think of forests when I think of Gethsemane, though of course, that's what both CSL and JKR are referring to.

I have to say, I too was momentarily misled by both Victoire (first thought: All right, JK!) and "her fluffy ginger cat, Crookshanks, at her feet, sorting books". I mean, that's not even an unlikely thing for a cat in the Harryverse to be doing, is it?

#300 ::: Kellie Hazell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 10:49 PM:

Michael @ 284 & Spiegel @ 285:

I think that's what makes the name Albus Severus even more rough. I mean, if Lee Jordan or Cho Chang or one of the Patil twins or [insert name of minor character not all that caught up in events here] named a kid Albus Severus, that's not nearly the same kind of pressure as being Harry Potter's kid and bearing the names of the two men who helped Dad defeat Voldemort. If there was a way to give any of Harry's kids added pressure, that was it.

#301 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:13 PM:

274: I see your point. I just thought that Harry having experienced years of being targetted for suspicion and ridicule because he was doing the right thing might have made him feel a bond with Snape, who clearly suffered greatly when he was regularly treated without respect by eleven year olds because he was ordered to behave like someone Voldemort could trust.

That he clearly resented Harry for being a symbol of what he'd lost and was forced to protect him could only have made it worse.

#302 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:13 PM:

pat@292: because in my mind's eye he was always Alan Rickman

Yeah, Snape would probably be number 2 on my list, and it is because of Alan Rickman. The man is an awesome actor.

Another actor I am continually amazed by is Gary Oldman who played Sirius Black. That he was the same actor who played the man who would become Commissioner Gordon in "Batman Begins", and Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (the bad guy) in "Fifth Element" just blows my mind.

#303 ::: Kellie Hazell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:33 PM:

julia at 301: I think we're saying the same thing just with different approaches. At the end of the book, Harry doesn't hate Snape anymore and doesn't see him in terms of black and white because he's digested everything you laid out in your comment. Or, at least, that's what I think can be implied in his naming his kid Albus Severus.

#304 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 12:07 AM:

From a different perspective...does anyone else wish that there were fewer books set in Hogwarts and that the material in Hallows was spread out over several books? I'd have liked fewer school stories and more of: the takeover of wizardly society by the Death Eaters; Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the run; other figures at the same time; the Battle of Hogwarts; and perhaps even the aftermath.

And is anyone else reminded of McKillip's Riddle of Stars?

#305 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 01:05 AM:

Randolph Fritz, 304:

Oh yes; the political turmoil, the war, and the reconstruction - bring it on! But then, I suppose, it wouldn't really be a children's book, would it? Could you write a dystopia for children?

Pat Greene, 292:

I'll second (third?) the squeeing over Alan Rickman; he was my pick for Snape as well, back when I was playing imaginary casting director.

Sharon McLeod, 272:

Agreed on the confusion over Victoire. I wonder whether that's more obvious to someone who knows French. Before I figured it out, I had a moment of "well, the wingnuts are already boycotting the books."

#306 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 01:28 AM:

Greg, I felt compelled to jump back over here to report that my sixteen-year-old son, who finished the book about an hour or so ago, said he liked it, but was sort of annoyed by the way that "things just come out of left field to rescue Harry. Like Neville and the snake -- where did THAT come from?"

You're not alone.

#307 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 01:55 AM:

Ok, question time.

Does anyone else feel that Rowling is particularly bad at showing people falling in love? I don't really get ANY of her couples. I know she thinks they're in love, and I'll believe that when she sees and feels their feelings she knows it, but she hasn't shown me any indication.

The only relationship in her stable that feels real to me is Lily and Snape. But at the same time she is adamant in telling (not showing) us that Lily and James were this marvelous, happy couple. It's a strange disconnect.

I sort of get Ron and Hermione, but I'd get it a lot more if there was more tenderness, even a little bit. Anyone else have opinions?

#308 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 04:01 AM:

I'm not certain about the "falling in love" business. All we ever see is HP's viewpoint.

One thing I rather liked was the depiction of the Malfoys, and how Draco is their only child, despite all the "pureblood uber alles" business. One rather expects that Lucius hasn't been getting any for quite some time. Which actually explains Lucius as well.

I imagine the upcoming Malfoy divorce proceedings. It will probably become case history for Wizardry Law.

I'm also rather pleased to have called it wrong but also called it right on Narcissa Malfoy: Aside from expecting Snape and one of the Weasely Twins to bite it, I thought that Narcissa had the biggest Xs over her eyes since Rowling made a point volumes back that she was the reason Draco hadn't gone to Durmstrang, and moreover, for all the Death-Eatery of her husband and her sister, she was pretty much the ladies auxilary at best. I expected that Voldemort would notice that she wasn't really with the program and would kill her to make an example, giving Draco a reason to, if not befriend Harry and Neville, at least elbow them out of the way so he could take his own Potshots at Voldemort.

What I did not expect was that the Voldemort who had been so previously adept at reading people and manipulating them would have a complete brainfart where she was concerned and not realize that if it came to a choice between him and her son, she'd throw Voldemort straight under the Night Bus. Which she did, and stylishly too. Yeah Mrs. Malfoy! I look forward to your upcoming divorce proceedings.

As for Voldemort, he really needed a remedial look at the Evil Overlord List:

1. Killing fools, incompetents and traitors is fine, but once you start killing minions at random, everyone with sense leaves, and all you have left is fanatics, morons, and people waiting for the right moment to stab you in the back.

2. If you're going to put your soul in multiple vessels, don't put it in elementally themed sets in elementally themed locations (ie. the locket of Slytherin in the seacave, the cup of earth/Hufflepuff in the underground vault, the crown of air/intellect, ahem, diadem of Ravenclaw, in the highest tower of the magical school). Yes, it looks cool, but it makes it easy for people trying to find them (not the point with Horcruxes) and moreover makes you look like you ran out of budget or evil plot coupons since you never made the Sword of Gryffindor into another horcrux and hid it up a dragon's butt or somewhere similarly thematic.

3. Conjuring Gryffindor's hat at the last minute and lighting it on fire doesn't count. And if you'd read HOGWARTS, A HISTORY, you'd note that handing that hat to a Gryffindor is plain dumb.

4. No, you didn't turn into a snake, but it also doesn't help to have a big snake as your familiar. People tend to cut off their heads with swords. Really, it happens. That's why three-headed dogs are a better choice.

Beyond that, while I realize it's a children's book, and there are of course limitations of what can be talked about, the whole business with everyone wondering where all the Muggle-born wizards were coming from...hello, Polyjuice Potion or Love Potion or Imperius Curse + Memory Charm = ?

After all, we all know that Lucius wasn't getting any from Narcissa. And since we've never seen a brothel in Hogsmeade or even Knockturn Alley, one expects that someone would have SOME use for Muggles.

Of course we never saw the Weasely Brothers Adult Novelties line either, though you know they had it.

Admittedly this is straying towards slash, but the whole business of "Muggle-born" could be solved by someone inventing a magical blood test or slightly better divination..

As for the epilogue, I was wondering who Draco's unnamed wife is. This will obviously be solved in the movie credits, unless she's listed as "Draco's unnamed wife," but the bets are as follows:

1. Pansy Parkinson (Draco's old girlfriend)

2. Goyle in a dress (explaining the lack of description)

3. Established character we might not expect (Luna Lovegood would be interesting)

4. Character we've never seen. (I'm leaning towards a Texan witch who says, "Draco, fine, you can call him 'Scorpius' if y'all feel like it, but I'm gonna call our son 'Billy Bob,' y'hear?")

5. Dudley in a dress. (Saintly George Weasely decided to test out his new love potions. They work.)

#309 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 04:15 AM:

As another note for Evil Overlords, if you're going to kill someone for extra evilness, fine, but please remember that you live in a world where some wizards, especially ones who suffer ghastly and grisly deaths, occasionally come back as ghosts.

You've dangled Professor Redshirt, ahem, Professor Burbage, over the Malfoy's dining room table while discussing all your plans for Eevil, and then, after taunting her with a light possibility of rescue by Snape, you feed her to your snake.

Wouldn't it be inconvenient if the ghost of the chatty professor who wrote a nasty letter about you AND HAD IT PUBLISHED went to Rita Skeeter and gave her an exclusive about where you were hanging out, what your plans were, and her opinion of the Malfoy china pattern?

Actually, come to think of it, Narcissa Malfoy was probably plotting to throw Voldemort under the bus for that idiocy alone.

#310 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 05:16 AM:

#260 Direct comparisons of government size don't work, because (trivially) wizards are different. Frex, a large proportion (1/3 approx. in most OECD) of government spending goes on healthcare. Wizards don't need so much healthcare. Nor do they need a benefit system, etc. etc. Essentially, the wizards lack a Welfare State. Also, as far as I can tell, a Ministry of Defence equivalent, and Education is presumably subsumed into Hogwarts. (Or at least should be.)

So, really, the wizards have a very bloated government, given how little it does.

As for `how do you know Rowling doesn't share your opinion of the Ministry'? Well, I don't. However, I find it highly doubtful that wizarding society could exist as it does for any period of time.

The Minster for Magic is a crown minister that doesn't answer to Parliament; that's not just unconstitutional, it is the sort of thing that heads literally roll over. (See Charles I, James II.)

The Ministry of Magic taxes without Parliamentary consent, a gross violation of the British constitution, and again, an action that leads to heads rolling.

The Ministry of Magic asserts the right to use violence against people, including Muggles. It also denies Muggles various elements of natural justice. The use of force is a right exclusively reserved to Parliament; see the various Crimes Acts, etc., for what illegal use of force gets called.

Furthermore, it violates the assumption of a neutral Civil Service, in that several Ministers are drawn from within the Ministry. (Including one from the police equivalent. I'd mutter about police independence, etc., but the Minister is involved in so many conflicts of interest it isn't worth it.)

So, to sum, the Ministry is highly illegal, and by the standards of a liberal democracy somewhere between the pre-Civil Rights South and Apartheid Era South Africa, in terms of asserting rights to take action against disenfranchised people. It is deeply dysfunctional, and violates pretty well every constitutional convention the British have ever thought of. Certainly, should any Muggle Prime Minister find out about, I would judge it a grave duty to implement some form of Parliamentary oversight.

Furthermore, Azkaban qualifies pretty fully as torture, and, as far as I can tell, no-one expresses regret at sending people off to be tortured. (Possibly Dumbledore, but I think he merely sighs about how awful Azkaban is, in the same way that people sigh about how bad it would be to be locked up in prison, with out disparaging the penal system as a whole.)

All in all, the Ministry lacks a constitutional remit, taxes without consent, claims rights to use violence against non-voters, and tortures.

Come to think of it, maybe it could be highly stable...

I don't think that's how Rowling's Ministry works, in the sense that I don't think that she ever thinks about just how nasty it would be, were it internally consistent. Furthermore, I don't think that her characters think about that fact, although I did find the Oblivation of Hermione's parents quite creepy.

#311 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 07:23 AM:

Leah Miller@168: the message "Love saves you" is omnipresent, but I've been thinking enough about the topic to otherwise arbitrarily infer from your post an invitation to comment on it more generally: Yes, but not unconditionally.

Alan Watts included a story in his lectures of a westerner, I think he even said it was someone he knew, visiting a Buddhist temple in Japan. He was mystified by the priests bowing to the Buddha as they passed by it, because he remembered that there is no divine consequence in Buddhism for misbehavior. Nirvana, for example, is the Sanskrit word meaning "nothing."

The Buddhists bowing and praying to the Buddha seemed as arbitrary as an atheist bowing and praying to the Buddha, so he approached one of the priests and said as much, and then said he would as soon as spit on the Buddha as bow to it. The priest replied, "You spits, I bows."

The Buddhists, like Kierkegaard, know angst is omnipresent in joy and in despair. The Buddhists therefore deny reason can be all things to anyone, and pray to the Buddha.

I think, to paraphrase Roosevelt, the only thing we have to fear is angst. Angst is the enemy because our mistrust in ourselves coerces us into strapping down our spontaneity and deny the inherent authenticity of our existence. Where love heals that mistrust in one's self, I agree "love saves you" is absolutely true.

However, in making themselves dependent on something they need the consent of others for, people will -- not always, but to a degree that nurtures the dysfunctions in a society -- conform to and identify with roles. Ironically, to keep love, which is supposed to validate us, we will invalidate ourselves by repressing our feelings and intuitions, which turn us eventually into ghostly worm-like things scurrying under Darth Vader armor. Love in these cases (which may be most of them) then becomes I think the menu we starve ourselves for confusing for the meal.

#312 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 07:57 AM:

Kellie Hazell@300

It also doesn't help that Albus apparently looks like a miniature version of Harry.

#313 ::: Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 08:19 AM:

On the pulling-the-sword-out-of-hat -- it's also a way of underlining the Neville-as-shadow-Harry theme. When you absolutely have to cut the head off a big snake, pull a sword out of a hat

#314 ::: Michael Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 08:47 AM:

313

I've been saying that the next 7 books she writes will be a "Potter's Shadow" series, covering the same time span but following Bean... er Neville.

#315 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 08:53 AM:

#308 Kevin Andrew Murphy: Quoting from my LJ:

Voldemort ought to have read The Evil Overlord List, because then he would have made damned certain Harry was dead, and cut off his head to bring back to Hogwarts.

But this makes me think he might have read it after all:

5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

Yeah, quibble that it was Bellatrix's box and not his own. It was actually in the bank.

Thus proving that there is no One True Way for anything!

Also, I think it's pretty clear that Minister of Magic Luna Longbottom wouldn't be hooked up with Draco; she's too smart for him.

#316 ::: Sharon MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 09:14 AM:

Pat Greene @292
I agree, Alan Rickman as Snape is perfect casting. Although he was hardly in the hp5 movie, his occlumency lesson scene stole the show.
Kevin Andrew Murphy @ 308
It has to be Goyle in a dress!
Looking forward to the hp7 movie despite being worried about how much they'll cut out. Wonder if they'll have older actors playing Harry & co for the end scene or have the young actors in clever aging hair and make up...would probably work since the young actors will be in their early 20's by the time they film it.
Really hope JK never uses the tales of young Albus Severus, Lily etc for a series of next generation stories, it would just be wrong, like Muppet Babies or Scappy Doo.

#317 ::: Naomi ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 09:24 AM:

I had the same thought about the Evil Overlord List and the safe deposit box. Even though Harry figured it out and retrieved it, putting the Hufflepuff cup into Bellatrix's vault was the smartest thing Voldemort did in the entire series. The dumbest thing he did was to tell the Room of Requirement that he needed somewhere to hide something, instead of saying to himself, "I need a room that only someone with a Dark Mark can open....I need a room that only someone with a Dark Mark can open..."

#318 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 09:40 AM:

Kellie @ 279: Oh, I see. How right you are!

Raphael @ 287: I can think of very few books from which I can remember so many of the characters, even quite minor ones. The only characters I have trouble telling apart are Fred and George. I think the presence of multiple vivid (to the point of near-caricature) minor characters is one of the reasons Rowling keeps getting compared to Dickens (the other reasons being sales, and "Is Little Nell dead??"). Incidentally, I am not a Dickens fan, nor do I like Roald Dahl, with whom she is also often compared.

Sian @ #290: Actually, the more I think about things, with Voldemort or without, this society was pretty unwell. Hmm.

Necessarily so--it makes it plausible that Voldemort would have followers.

Kevin @ #308, I could actually see Luna and Draco, considering how uncannily clearsighted and straight-to-the heart sympathetic she is. She'd be capable of seeing him as a human being rather than an ex-Death Eater. Also, she's a pureblood, and blonde. And Draco is bound to be vulnerable to the Nth degree.

#319 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 10:24 AM:

I finally got it back from the beleaguered husband and went in for my second reading, and it hit me - Dumbledore died because instead of using the sword on the second horcrux he tried to use the stone for his own purposes.

Or in other words, Dumbledore failed because he couldn't bring himself to destroy the ring of power.

#320 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 10:35 AM:

I don't really see the problem with the length of Tonk's pregnancy being consistent with post-wedding consummation of the relationship. They were married between the end of the school year and the end of July, right? Counting nine months from the end of July, that's end of August - September - October - November - December - January - February - March - April. She has the baby in April, so, assuming a marriage mid-June through end of June, plenty of time.
Did I miss something, or did Crookshanks sort of disappear in there somewhere? Of course, half the interesting characters disappear - Winky and Madame Maxime, for instance, and Krum is reduced to a fairly obnoxious appearance at the wedding. But for all the flaws of plot, writing and logic, the woman can tell a story.

#321 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Pat@306: You're not alone.

good to know.

Kevin@308: he really needed a remedial look at the Evil Overlord List:

dibs!

;)

julia@319: he couldn't bring himself to destroy the ring of power.

that would make him... Borimir?

I was expecting Dumbledore to either come back as Dumbledore the White, or to come back as an Obi Wan Kenobi styled ghost. Or maybe come back and explain that polyjuice was involved and someone else had been killed by Snape. Or, possibly that his evil twin, with amnesia, had actually been killed.

I didn't expect him to come back as the Architect in Matrix Revolutions.

#322 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 10:58 AM:

Pat Greene @292: You do know that JKR signals who she wants cast in the Snape role in Chamber of Secrets?

If you didn't catch it, in the scene where Harry and Ron think they're going to be expelled from Hogwarts for stealing the flying car, Dumbledore says he won't do it this time, and Snape's expression: "looked like someone had cancelled Christmas."

That's a direct lift of one of Rickman's lines from his appearance in _Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves_...

#323 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:05 AM:

According to a story in NBC.com, in an interview to be shown Thursday and Friday in the morning show (and supposedly repeated in Keith Olbermann's show), Rowling says she will publish a "Potter Encyclopedia" that will go in depth into back stories and what happens in the years between the end of the story and the epilogue.

The encyclopedia would include back stories of characters she has already written but had to cut for the sake of narrative arc (“I've said before that Dean Thomas had a much more interesting history than ever appeared in the books”), as well as details about the characters who survive “Deathly Hallows,” characters who continue to live on in Rowling’s mind in a clearly defined magical world.

She also says she "couldn't bring herself" to kill Arthur Weasley.

#324 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Interesting thread to read, thanks everybody! :-)

I read the book straight away on Saturday, liked it quite well, and have since itched to start reading the whole series again from the beginning (but no time so far). Instead I've been coming up and playing around with all sorts of questions in my mind:

- In HBP, did Dumbledore give Snape the DADA post as a some sort of reward? (Obviously, it was the last chance to do that if this was the reason.)
- In HBP, did Snape's old Potions textbook end up in Harry's hands entirely by accident?
- Did Dumbledore tell Snape more about what he expected Harry's fate to be than what Snape chose to show Harry by way of his memories? (I'd guess he did, because Harry's survival was Snape's first priority and it would otherwise have been difficult to motivate him to act in the desired manner.)
- Did Dumbledore ever explain the Elder Wand thing to Snape at all?
- Which sword did Ginny et al. steal from the Headmaster's office – the real Gryffindor deal or the fake?
- Was Snape about to try and confide in McGonagall when she attacked him? (This couldn't have been anything but very difficult though.)
- Snape vs. McGonagall – which one would have won an all-out duel? :-) (Obviously, Snape didn't fight to kill when he faced her.)

And oh, I don't really either do or read fanfic, but what I'd very much like is the story of Snape breaking into Hogwarts in order to communicate with Dumbledore's portrait, which he must have done at some point in July. I imagine that the necessity of this maneuver was foreseen and discussed between Snape and Dumbledore before Dumbledore's death, and that Dumbledore took some sort of action to make it possible – although Snape being a highly capable wizard himself (and thoroughly familiar with Hogwarts), he may have managed it just about on his own. I'd also venture to guess that it was Dumbledore's portrait who leaked the time of Harry's removal from Privet Drive by the OotP gang to Snape, and that Snape told Voldemort the source was Mundungus... unless he was coolheaded enough to just plain tell Voldy that he'd extracted the info from Dumbledore's portrait in some manner.

#325 ::: Megan Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Greg @ 302: Don't forget Oldman's performance in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead! I can't wait to see the fifth movie, mostly because I know there's more Sirius. I would actually have liked to see him as Lupin, now that I think about it; we know he can do anything, and Prisoner of Azkaban didn't make me a huge David Thewlis fan.

Leah Miller @ 168: Brilliant, eloquent, right on the mark. Harry's comment to Albus Severus in the epilogue was too little, too late in terms of putting Slytherin into the gray area, too, which seemed to be the major theme in DH.

Also, I might be a little S-L-O on the uptake, but Grindelwald didn't strike me as so bad until I saw his prison's name was "Nurmengard." I wonder if she actually played "Nazi Scramble" to get that name or if it's just that it sounds German.

#326 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Story here.

#327 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:25 AM:

I finally finished this morning at 1am, having had to timeshare the book with my daughters. Due to the timesharing and the desire not to be spoilered (as painful as disemvoweling), I may not have had time to marinate fully in the plot and style.

That being said, it was a very satisfying windup to the series. It had the rabbits-from-hats flaws that Greg is on about, but also had the strengths most of the other posters have seen as well. A good contrast to the rabbit-out-of-hat stuff is the many little hints JKR drops that become important or even crucial later, such as the Expelliarmus spell being Harry's "signature move."

There's a strong emphasis throughout the series on friendship, love, and helping. Harry almost always messes up when he goes it alone. Voldemort is the complete extreme on that, of course. And so on, well covered above.

Wizard society, culture, and government have the same problem. Wizards and their society are continually portrayed as idiosyncratic, self-obsessed, nutty, touchy, disorganized, inefficient, absent-minded, excitable, etc. This seems to be nearly the norm; it's hardly surprising their government exhibits the same characteristics.

As for its relationship to Muggle government, wasn't there a scene in HP6 where the Muggle PM (I think this would have been John Major -- see below) was warned about what Voldemort was doing? The implication was that although Wizard government is connected to Muggle government, the relationship is tenuous and intermittent.

A lot of Wizard society, including the government, looks like a fuzzy copy of Muggle society. I think Harry, Hermione, and the other Muggle-knowledgeable wizards spend the next 19 years working to reform the government and society, make it a little less a fuzzy copy; maybe even to have a Constitution... Perhaps the hypothetical project of interbreeding more with the Muggles was originally launched with precisely that intent; perhaps Harry is actually the Kwisatz Haderach. (Of course, then he would have been "supposed" to be a girl and marry Draco Malfoy.)

On the topic of time, we learn that Harry's parents died on Halloween, in 1980 (Harry was one year old). So the action of HP7 takes place in 1996 and 1997, and "nineteen years later" is 2015 or 2016. I have a strong suspicion that somehow the seven-year gap between the end of HP7 and the birth of Harry and Ginny's first child somehow relates to the complex math involved in reconciling the in-book date of 1997 with the real-world date when JKR last revised the epilogue. I'm not skilled enough to work it all out; it's more fun to imagine seven years of them playing hide-the-wand.

#328 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Naomi @ 317: You're assuming that Voldemort has a Dark Mark. I don't recall him having one, otherwise, he wouldn't have used Pettigrew's Mark to summon the Death Eaters in GoF.

#329 ::: Retterson ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 01:12 PM:

I would love to find fault with HP7 and I'm sure I could.

I'm sure there are many flaws. But I think I'd only go there if I wanted to make myself feel less inadequate as a writer than I already feel.

JK took old, tired ideas and wove them into a saga that has caused millions to love dear Harry & Co. THAT's magic.

#331 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 01:38 PM:

abi @ 330... I feel like I just stepped thru Monty Python's Harry Potter. (Michael Palin as Harry, Carol Cleaveland as Hermione, perhaps?)

#332 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 01:50 PM:

Lori @113:

Ginny's given name is Genevra.

#333 ::: Eli ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 02:43 PM:

To the best of my knowledge, mightygodking's only supposed "TOS violation" was posting his Harry Potter review again, after the book's release, when he'd been given a cease-and-desist for posting it prior to the book's release. Pretty poor practice on the part of LJ.

According to someone who posted to an LJ community after hearing from mightygodking, mgk did receive a takedown order from Scholastic after posting the summary -- but he had previously received one for something he did regarding Archie Comics, and he then received a third one for the archive of altered Archies. The third notice was the anti-charm, as it were.

Fun convo. Thank you.

#334 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 03:05 PM:

I agree with everyone above! Seriously, nice discussion. All I can add:

1. It's nice that Umbridge and Skeeter, who were built up as formidable villains earlier, don't really come to any particular good or bad end. They're just part of the adult world that we often have to deal with. And Skeeter is also yet another example of Harry jumping to conclusions about Bad Guys: a lot of the awful stuff she wrote about Dumbledore was fairly accurate, even if by accident.

2. I hope I'm not the only one who noticed an unusual number of *possibly* inadvertent obscene double-entendres... or at least things one might consider obscene double-entendres if one were 12 years old. I won't mention what any of these were, because it'd be really embarrassing in case I am the only one.

I will just say that one of them occurred on the last page of one of the final chapters, and involved the ambiguity of whether an em dash at the end of a sentence just indicates a suspenseful pause, or word(s) left out. I'm not sure how an editor let that one pass. But then, I may just be 12 years old.

#335 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 03:11 PM:

And, um... the other one involved something someone said about what Grindelwald might have done. I'll say no more without my lawyer present.

#336 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 03:28 PM:

#334 Hob

You weren't the only one. I cracked up when Ron gave Harry the book about "Ways with Witches" or whatever it was called on how to get girls, and assured him that it wasn't "all about wandwork."

In fact. I'm still giggling a little.

#337 ::: cw ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 03:35 PM:

130: "And *I* think the reason they all waited so long to have kids was so they could pursue their chosen careers before Harry and Ron settled down to become house-husbands."

Here, here! Best comment of the whole thread!

#338 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 03:48 PM:

By the way, is anyone else out there as far in the dark as I am concerning the question why exactly Voldy couldn't kill Harry there in the forest?

I can see two different explanations, but neither completely satisfies:

#1: Dumbledore said afterwards in that Matrix-style place that because Voldemort had used Harry's blood to rebuild his body, and Harry's blood in turn carried his mother's protection, there was this weird protection bond between them and Voldemort couldn't kill Harry as long as he himself lived. Apparently this didn't cover that bit of Voldemort's soul inside Harry, because Harry had acquired it after his mother cast the protection spell, and Voldemort in turn had lost it before he had acquired a share of that protection, so Voldemort's killing curse conveniently only killed that bit of his own soul.

#2: Since Harry was the master of the Elder Wand, Voldemort couldn't kill him with that wand, so again he only succeeded at killing that bit of this own soul inside Harry.

In both cases I wonder why Voldemort himself collapsed as well. The way I figure that creepy flayed baby in the Matrix (sorry...), it was the piece of Voldemort's soul that had been inside Harry and was now, like Dumbledore, dead. Voldemort reportedly could not feel the destruction of his Horcruxes in any way, but was this particular bit of soul actually a Horcrux? Maybe it was something that had maintained a rather closer connection with Voldemort and therefore caused a physical reaction?

I'm getting a headache here. :-)

#339 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 04:24 PM:

abi@330, that's deeply, deeply awesome. Thanks for sharing.

#340 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 04:29 PM:

Paula @338: I think Voldy didn't up and die right then because the last Horcrux, Nagini, was still alive.

#341 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Nagini, was still alive.

and full of midi-chlorian....

;)

#342 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 05:02 PM:

#336: Uh, wait a minute. Ron gave "Ways with Witches" to his sister's boyfriend?

Well.

Of course, in Book 6 it's clear Ginny has had a bit more experience than Ron ...

#343 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 05:10 PM:

Paula, that 'bit of Voldy's soul' that was inside Harry meant that Harry was a Horcrux. I agree that the 'flayed baby' is that soul fragment.

What saved Harry was the blood that Voldy took from him, as it was the physical element that contained the protection Lily's death accomplished.

So Voldy zaps Harry, destroys the soul fragment, and collapses from the backlash of the spell's effect on Harry.

While Harry is playing dead, Neville manages to wipe out Nagini -- taking out the next to last soul fragment. Then Voldy is stupid enough to try one more killing curse using a wand that knows Harry is it's Master...and because Voldy has no more soul fragments to spare when the curse rebounds, THIS time he dies.

#344 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 05:16 PM:

Renatus @340: Umm, but none of Voldemort's then six (?) Horcruxes saved his body from being destroyed the last time, when he tried to kill the baby Harry. So I don't think Nagini explains anything. (Of course Nagini had to die for the complete and final destruction of Voldemort though, since it was a Horcrux.)

#345 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Lori @343: Would you care to elaborate what

What saved Harry was the blood that Voldy took from him, as it was the physical element that contained the protection Lily's death accomplished.

actually means? How did it save him? I know what it says in the "King's Cross" chapter, I just don't understand it.

And why was there a backlash?

#346 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 06:07 PM:

Paula, do you remember what happened to Professor Quirrell in the first book? He died from touching Harry. This is an example of Lily's protection in action.

When you boil it down to basics, it's LOVE.

Lily's love forms a sort of shield that protects Harry, her death dumps all of her magical ability/power into that shield. When Voldemort takes Harry's blood in Goblet of Fire he's doing it so he can defeat Harry.

What Voldy forgets is the Law of Contagion, which dictates that what happens to one part happens to the whole being. Voila, backlash! (Which is one of the reasons he collapses when he zaps Harry, the other is that he's just destroyed one of his Horcruxes, which would produce a backlash as well.)

#347 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 06:09 PM:

How did it save him?

I believe the prophecy said that only one can live, and that one must kill the other. But because part of Voldy's soul is in Harry, and part of Harry's blood is in Voldy, neither can be killed completely, so neither can die. Catch-22.

When Harry gets hit by the killing curse from Voldy, it doesn't kill him, but sends him to the train station, which is some kind of limbo, and Dumbledore explains the catch-22.

But the killing curse from voldemort killed the part of voldy's soul that was in Harry, so now if Harry kills Voldy, he kills all of voldy, and voldy can die.

That's my understanding.

Now, why this catch-22 existed is something I have no clue about. It would appear to be purely a writer's invention to make the plot more than just a "harry kills voldy" straight shot story.

As far as I can tell, the "prophecy" basically introduced a plot token that needed to be dealt with before the finale could be reached.

#348 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 06:12 PM:

And why was there a backlash?

That had to do with the fact that Harry was master of the elder wand, not anything to do with Harry's blood or the love from Harry's mother or anything.

So Voldy's spell against Harry bounced back to Voldy.

#349 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 07:19 PM:

Greg London, @348: I believe you've lost the plot. "Why was there a backlash" appears to me to have been in reference to 343: "So Voldy zaps Harry, destroys the soul fragment, and collapses from the backlash of the spell's effect on Harry."

Which makes it clear that the backlash in question is the attack in which Voldemort kills his own horcrux rather than his intended victim.

#350 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 07:27 PM:

About Teddy - at Harry's birthday party, Tonks is described as "radiant" and Remus as "troubled" - so I'm guessing they'd just found out that Teddy was on the way.

#351 ::: Kinsley Castle ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 07:49 PM:

I think those of you arguing the wizarding community is over-governed are probably underestimating the wizard population. You're only considering one data point -- that there's only one wizard's school -- and ignoring all the contrary evidence.

First, we know, from book five, that there are enough wizards in Britain to fill half of a very large stadium. And not everyone would have gone to the Quidditch World Cup. There are enough wizards to justify maintaining Azkaban and the ministry (but not so many there needs to be more than one prison or one tier of government). There are enough wizards to keep two newspapers in business, a specialist wand-maker, several rock bands, a large hospital, the flue network, and a whole department of aurors. To me, that suggests a population in the hundreds of thousands, at least.

Second, consider that wizard society in general is quite archaic. I don't find it unusual a modern idea like universal education might have passed them by. I suspect that large numbers of kids just don't go to school at all; they're home schooled, or privately tutored (which would explain why Voldemort had to hire gangs of thugs to hunt down truants, who must have numbered in the thousands).

I think this idea of no universal education is supported by Hogwarts itself. Hogwarts is quite reminiscent of Rugby school, as it's described in Tom Brown's Schooldays. That is, it's an elite boarding school. I'd say kids go to Hogwarts because: (1) they're muggle-born and have to be introduced to the wizarding world; (2) like the Weasley's, they have a family tradition of going to Hogwarts; (3) their parents, like the Malfoys, have political ambitions, and seek status by sending their children to Hogwarts.

#352 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 08:07 PM:

Are there gods in the Potter stories, or just wizards and demons?

#353 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 08:09 PM:

the backlash in question is the attack in which Voldemort kills his own horcrux

I didn't realize that the first attack harmed Voldemort, other than killing the bit of his soul that was in Harry. If there was a backlash on the first spell that directly harmed Voldemort, it was because of the Catch-22 in the prophecy. Why there was a backlash is as much a mystery as why there was a catch-22 in the first place. Maybe because Sybill Trelawney's prophecy made it true? Don't know. It appears to be an arbitrary magical rule that has no "why".

The why for the second backlash was because of the whole "elder wand" thingy, and Harry was its master. Voldy's spell bounced back and killed Voldy.

Which is convenient because I believe that means that, technically, Harry doesn't kill anyone in the entire series while a war rages on around him. Voldy kills Voldy.

#354 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Kinsley #351: Not to mention that the Ministry has to deal in various ways with non-humans too - either regulating and/or hiring them (dementors, house-elves) or at least maintaining diplomatic relations; plus keeping watch over interactions with Muggles. That'll add a few floors even if there aren't millions of wizards.

#355 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 09:03 PM:

#352: No gods appear on stage. I'm not even sure there's anything qualifying as a demon or angel, to be honest. A personification of Death appears as part of a legend told within the story, there are purely secular celebrations of Christmas and other nominally Christian holidays, and characters sometimes say something like "My God!", but that's it.

#356 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 09:22 PM:

Dan MacQueen @ 355... Thanks. So basically there is magic floating around, and various beings tap into it in their own way. No Elder Races out to enslave/destroy/eat humanity.

#357 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 10:01 PM:

Sharon MacLeod @272: To whoever mentioned Buffy parralels (all that way up) TOTALLY AGREE! Definately unintenional (on JKR & Whedon's parts) but fun to compare. Harry=Buffy, Ron=Xander (loyal friend, seemingly not as useful as others in terms of power but steps up) Hermione=Willow

You forgot one-- Draco = Cordelia. (Bwahahah.)

Unfortunately, I don't think there are a lot of other close correspondences within seasons 1-3; Giles doesn't have nearly as much authority within the high school as Dumbledore does (who in turn isn't as inimical as Principal Snyder), and as entertaining as it is to envision Viktor Krum as Oz, it just doesn't work. Mind you, the Mayor *does* turn into a giant snake at the end, so he might have some Voldy potential after all (though it's a stretch to squodge Bellatrix into Faith-- wrong generation, wrong role wrt Harry, though if Draco had been more successful at Death-Eating...?).

#358 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 10:12 PM:

Pat@306 and Greg, to me the rescuer that came out of the left field was Dobby, to the point that I didn't even mind his death. I kept wondering why Dobby didn't rescue people more often and why nobody thought to call Kreacher out of Sirius' house.

At least with Neville and the snake, well, the minute Harry told him about it, I knew Neville would be the one killing Nagini, and when the Hat appeared, I knew Voldemort had underestimated it. Voldemort's idea to put everyone in Slytherin was kinda bizarre, though.

Has anyone mentioned the Snape/Lily, Spike/Buffy parallel?

#359 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:04 PM:

Spiegel: it was explained that once the Death Eaters were able to get into Grimmauld Place, the trio didn't dare summon Dobby because they were afraid a DE would be able to grab onto him as he apparated, as one had with Hermione.

#360 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:07 PM:

Er, didn't dare summon Kreacher. And I previewed that, too. Sheesh.

#361 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:23 PM:

Ooh, James Marsters as Snape.

Which leads to the thought of Marsters as a Malfoy. Or a Black.

#362 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Finished reading book 7 about an hour ago.

Probably not much more new I can say. (Yay, Neville.)

Didn't figure out who the flayed baby was. Good call!

I suspect the epilog wasn't for us. It was for Rowling. She needed it to keep going. The literary equivalent of a soldier in a muddy trench thinking about the girl next door and a nice house and the kids they'd have together.

I was surprised that Lupin & Tonk's boy wasn't immediately adopted by Harry.

Last night, after finishing reading through the Snape's memories chapter, and it was clear that Harry was going to have to die, I lay awake for a bit wondering how things would shake out. One thing I got right: Harry telling Narcissa that Draco was alive.

I really like the bit where Harry hears that Neville, Luna, and Ginny were having heroic adventures of their own. And their "punishment" confirmed that Headmaster Snape was still Dumbledore's guy.

Disappointed that the Dursley's totally dropped out of sight. I always liked imagining Harry returning home after graduating and giving them some expensive but tacky gift. And like someone way uptopic, I thought Petunia might have a role to play.

#363 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 12:11 AM:

#330

OH!

The puppet show on which that was based:

Harry Potter Puppet Pals

Was by Neil Cicierega.

Who?

He's the kid who did THIS:

Hyakugojyuuichi!!!

TV Says donuts are high in fat! Kazoo! There's a hobo in my room! Princess Laia, the yodel of life!

#364 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 12:27 AM:

I figured that despite Harry's godfather relationship to Teddy Lupin, the boy would've been raised by Andromeda like Neville with his Gran.

On reflection, I'm surprised that when Bill talks about hiding at Shell Cottage, he doesn't mention anything about the effects of pureblood chauvinism on himself (wrt marginal werewolf contagion) or Fleur (as part-veela).

#365 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 01:23 AM:

First, we know, from book five, that there are enough wizards in Britain to fill half of a very large stadium. And not everyone would have gone to the Quidditch World Cup. There are enough wizards to justify maintaining Azkaban and the ministry (but not so many there needs to be more than one prison or one tier of government). There are enough wizards to keep two newspapers in business, a specialist wand-maker, several rock bands, a large hospital, the flue network, and a whole department of aurors. To me, that suggests a population in the hundreds of thousands, at least.

Circular argument! Wizards aren't over governed because there are enough of them to support that size of government...

I'm pretty sure that it is mentioned that nearly every wizard goes to Hogwarts.

What I am saying is that either (a) Hogwarts is too small; or (b) the rest of the wizarding world is too large. The facts are severely inconsistent.

#366 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 01:27 AM:

Julie L @364

I get the feeling from various notes in the books that veela are socially acceptable magical creatures. Probably because they're so charming... it's hard to discriminate against someone who entrances nearly everyone they meet. This is also illustrated by how Fleur never makes any effort to hide her mixed parentage, whereas all other mystically-blooded humans do.

#367 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:55 AM:

#310: Much of the seeming unconstitutionality of Wizarding government may be explained by various components of the Statute of Secrecy, enacted (if I recall the brief mention in Book 7 correctly) somewhere back in the 1600s. That piece of legislation appears to have implemented the Wizarding shadow-government, and also (by implication, anyhow) the action by the Wizarding population to physically hide themselves from the Muggle world. There are indications that this has involved major modifications to sizeable chunks of local spacetime -- thus there's room for Platform 9-3/4 at King's Cross station, there's no large hole in satellite maps of London where Diagon Alley and its associated buildings ought to be, and any Muggles that happen to go camping near the Forbidden Forest do not get eaten by spiders, trampled by centaurs, or whomped by the Whomping Willow.

#365: One other possible variable in the population equation lies in the assumption that all members of the Wizarding population are, in fact, practicting wizards and witches. What we see of Wizarding folk in the books tends to promote this assumption, but I don't think it ever quite comes out and says so firmly. Thus one might argue that there is a large class of Wizarding citizens whose innate power levels are too low to go into active magical practice (much as not all Muggles are qualified to become Olympic athletes). If that were the case, then the "everyone attends Hogwarts" tradition could then be read to mean "everyone whose powers are strong enough to need formal training". Yes, this is stretching, but it's one of the easier ways I can think of to simplify the population problems.

#368 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 03:40 AM:

Stefan @ 363 -- I would have thought Harry would have adopted Teddy right off too, until I realized a) Harry's still only seventeen and by the time he'd realistically be in a position to raise the child Teddy would be at least four years old and b) Teddy's grandmother (Tonks's mom) is still around and perfectly able to raise the boy. That Harry was involved in Teddy's life is shown in the epilogue.

#369 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 05:44 AM:

Hob @334:
I hope I'm not the only one who noticed an unusual number of *possibly* inadvertent obscene double-entendres

Being in Harry Potter fandom means that someone has always seen the double entendre before you. Minerva McTabby is collecting the Deathly Hallows - The Rude Bits. I was reading the book with fannish goggles firmly in place, but certainly didn't see all these (I don't think I catch wand jokes automatically).

Stefan Jones @363:
I think you are totally right that the epilogue exists for her sake - both to give her something to work towards, and to provide a "nothing else happens, the story really is over" sense without having to resort to "rocks fall, everyone dies". A friend quoted the end of Jo's Boys on the subject which I think says it all.

#370 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 05:44 AM:

Keir @365, John Brunnell@367

Note that "everyone attends Hogwarts" would only apply to British wizards. There are at LEAST two other wizarding schools (probably more).

#371 ::: berkowit28 ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 05:47 AM:

#239 (David Goldfarb): "Did you know that book one has been put into ancient Greek?"

If abi@160's clever idea that the Latin translation should have spells in ancient Greek were true, then I'd expect the Greek translation to have spells in Egyptian. Or maybe Minoan.

But I suppose that both these translations have spells in the same language as the text?

#372 ::: berkowit28 ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 05:48 AM:

#239 (David Goldfarb): "Did you know that book one has been put into ancient Greek?"

If abi@160's clever idea that the Latin translation should have spells in ancient Greek were true, then I'd expect the Greek translation to have spells in Egyptian. Or maybe Minoan.

But I suppose that both these translations have spells in the same language as the text?

#373 ::: Kinsley Castle ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 08:56 AM:

"Circular argument! Wizards aren't over governed because there are enough of them to support that size of government..."

That isn't my point. My point is that most of the details invented by J K Rowling for her fictional world point to a population in excess of 100 thousand British wizards. If you're arguing that the wizarding world is over-governed, you're assuming a much smaller number. The only real argument in favor of a small population is that there is only one school.

Clearly, it's better to explain the dearth of schools than to argue that the whole look and feel of J K Rowling's world is wrong. Frankly, the most likely explanation is that JKR fudged the figures to make Hogwarts a more significant component of the wizarding world than it otherwise might have been. But I'm sure everyone would be happier with an in-world explanation.

"I'm pretty sure that it is mentioned that nearly every wizard goes to Hogwarts."

Reference?

If it was ever said that "everyone goes to Hogwarts", was it meant literally, as in, "Everyone is born with a brain." Or is it meant loosely, as in, "Everyone has an iPod." Is it literally everyone who goes to Hogwarts, or just everyone who's anyone?

#374 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:10 AM:

Rowling, in an MSNBC interview, supplies a few details she left out of the epilogue, such as people's jobs. I particularly like the careers Luna and Hermione ended up in.

#375 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:19 AM:

Is it literally everyone who goes to Hogwarts, or just everyone who's anyone?

Well, it is stated in the last book that only during Voldemort's newest reign did Hogwarts attendance become compulsory (except to Muggle-borns, who were hunted and imprisoned instead). The way I read it though was that practically every British kid with magical abilities did go to Hogwarts and only the odd case was either home-schooled or sent abroad to school by their parents.

I think Rowling has stated it quite clearly in the past that Hogwarts is the only school for young witches and wizards in GB, there are no other inferior schools which kids get sent to.

#376 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:46 AM:

re: population:

Dumbledore was about 150 when he died, and if he had retired before then, he would have retired as one of the most powerful wizards around. There could be more wizards than the school system allows for simply because wizard and witch lifespan go into two centuries. There would be wizards and witches around now who were alive during the American Revolution.

Also, this could effect population booms. The Weasleys could have been atypical of a population lockdown, with every other family honoring, say, a 3-4 child guideline.

#377 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:48 AM:

On the size of Hogwarts:

I suppose it is possible that Harry-era Hogwarts has an unusually small student population, perhaps because of recent events WRT Voldemort etc. I mean, Harry's parents certainly don't seem to have chosen the optimum moment to settle down and raise a family, all things considered.

It may be that witches and wizards likely to have been having children at around the same time as Harry's parents were also those most likely to fall foul of the Dark Lord, either for consorting with Muggles / Muggle-borns or for having independant opinions or for just not killing their victims quite gruesomely enough. Voldemort's inner circle certainly seems to have been quite young at that time, as was the Order of the Phoenix (mark 1). If there were other anti-Voldie groups, they may also have been largely made up of witches and wizards who might otherwise have been starting families.

I'm not sure whether this can explain all of the difference in scale between Hogwarts and the British Wizarding world, but assuming that Harry's generation is unprecedentedly small does help a little.

#378 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Paula #375: Talk of 'inferior schools' makes me ponder what the stories of a bog-standard wizard comp might be like... An idea which I'm sure has been explored in fanfic.

#379 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:57 AM:

Lila @ #374: thanks for the link, but why couldn't some of that have made it into the epilogue? Arrgh.

#380 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:59 AM:

You'd think there'd be a postwar population boom in Ginny's year, then.

#381 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Lila@374,

from that link:

Harry, Ron and Hermione don’t join the same Ministry of Magic they had been at odds with for years; they revolutionize it and the ministry evolves into a “really good place to be.” “They made a new world,” Rowling said.

i iz in ur miniz3,
rev0lushunizing ur dudez.

#382 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 11:10 AM:

Nina Katarina @ 380

Depends how many potential parents have been killed off...

I mean, Harry and Neville (for example) would not necessarily have been only children Had Things Been Different.

And some may have put romance (as well as childbearing) on the backburner during the Voldemort years.

But I think Mike's point about wizard longevity is probably a more important factor.

#383 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 11:36 AM:

Re: the size of the wizarding community and the proportionality of the administration, my take is quite frankly that Rowling never thought about these things much until it was too late to do anything much about it. I don't really care. (Although I daresay that a partial explanation to there being such a lot of people at the Quidditch World Cup would be that there were quite a lot of foreign witches and wizards there as well as British ones. Think soccer.)

As for the sense of sorting people into houses the way it's done at Hogwarts, I've always considered it an excellent recipe for disaster. I mean, honestly, would you really separate the students into groups like this:

#1 the ambitious, cunning and unscrupulous,
#2 the hotheaded and daring to the point of recklessness,
#3 the intelligent,
#4 the nice and hard-working,

then strongly encourage competitiveness between the houses and NOT expect trouble?

But it is, of course, a way to get colorful stories. :-) And I'm not really complaining, I love to read the Harry Potter books.

#384 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Sian @ 377 is thinking what I'm thinking. Hogwarts used to be much bigger, the birth rate has gone down drastically, and a high proportion of the wizarding population are older than we think they are.

One of the reasons, apart from the high death rate in Harry's parents' generation in the first Voldemort war? The quill that writes down the names of children who are offered places at Hogwarts, or whatever it is, has always been faulty and is becoming progressively more so. There are far more Muggle-born witches and wizards than it picks up. These are never inducted into the wizarding world, and they go on to appear in other authors' books; they're the kids who discover they have special powers, or are educated in other forms of magic.

I don't completely understand Harry's non-death in the forest either, but it's got something to do with him being prepared to die; I'm reminded of Cazaril in Bujold's Curse of Chalion. In terms of plot mechanics, though, it's clearly so that Harry can have another chat with Dumbledore, like he has in every other book.

#385 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 11:46 AM:

I don't completely understand Harry's non-death in the forest either, but it's got something to do with him being prepared to die;

The way I figure it now is that Harry's mental state had nothing to do with it really. I think that the point was that by not defending himself (the way Harry saw it, there was no point since he had to die anyway), Harry made it possible for Voldemort to (unintentionally) kill the Horcrux or Horcrux-type thing that was inside him. By defending himself he would have defended the Horcrux as well.

This could be just my theory, of course. :-)

#386 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 12:24 PM:

With reference to the flayed baby in the Matrix scene...

I assumed it was to Voldy what Harry was to Harry (if that makes any sense) - his soul, or self, or whatever you'd call it. In a severe state of disrepair from having the Horcruxes ripped out of it - although why it's a baby, I don't know. State of emotional maturity?

Perhaps I just need to look up "flayed baby" in the forthcoming Encyclopaedia.

#387 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Anyone else catch a glimpse of Feanor and the Silmarils in the goblin attitude towards ownership of things they have made?

#388 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Rowling has a frigging CASTLE?

Man, think of the Halloween parties she could host...

#389 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 12:56 PM:

@388, from the interview linked above:

And when 14 fans crowded around her in Edinburgh Castle in Scotland earlier this week as part of TODAY’s interview...

So it doesn't say it's her castle, and I doubt it is. :-)

#390 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 01:01 PM:

Edinburgh Castle either belongs to the Crown or to the People of Scotland, I believe (there are actually private castles in Scotland, though. Just not that one).

#391 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 01:44 PM:

Delightfully, it seems the Hindi edition of Harry Potter has its spells in Sanskrit.

#392 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Ah. I mentally switched "her" and "in."

Mind you, if I had Rowling's kind of money, I might buy a castle. Not to live in, but to entertain. Kind of like "Lord British" does.

#393 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:03 PM:

I'm trying to think how far out from Harry you have to get before you get to a character who killed someone.

Harry killed the basilisk, but I don't think he's killed any humans. I don't think he killed Voldy so much as Harry was in a set of circumstances such that Voldy killed Voldy, but that might be somewhat debatable.

Neville killed Nagani.

Ron/Hermione?

Some students were killed, but I don't know if any students killed anyone.

Some instructors were killed, and some instructors killed other characters, Snape->Dumbledore would count.

The Deatheaters handed out a lot of killing curses, and Voldy, of course.

Is there a tally somewhere that anyone knows of?

#394 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Molly Weasley kiled Bellatrix, of course. And Bellatrix has probably killed lots of people (plus a hapless fox near the start of HBP), depending on how "closeness" is being tallied-- after all, she is a cousin of Harry's godfather, which is probably enough consanguinity for the medieval Church to've refused to marry them.

Somewhat similarly, there's Pettigrew as a friend of Harry's parents, though if the tally is limited to white-hats, things get more difficult.

#395 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:14 PM:

Greg London, as an example of why WP needs to be cured instead of euthanized:

Deaths in the Harry Potter Series

#396 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:14 PM:

Greg London, as an example of why WP needs to be cured instead of euthanized:

Deaths in the Harry Potter Series

#397 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Bellatrix killed Sirius, Molly Weasley killed Beatrix. Mad Eye was killed by a group (or several) Death Eaters.

There were very few one-on-one duels.

#398 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Oops, Molly killed Bellatrix. Lost a couple of "Ls" in typing.

#399 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:38 PM:

JESR: Deaths in the Harry Potter Series

Molly Weasley is the only one? Wow. I was trying to think of any professors or any of the Order of Pheonix members who might have gotten a shot in somewhere. I didn't think any of the students got their hands dirty, but I was thinking more of the adults (the ones with the white hats) had gotten into the mud.

So, the only white hats who killed any human-like characters (during voldemorts return, not the first war) is Molly Weasley killing Bellatrix and Severus Snape killing Dumbledore?

#400 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Julie @ #391, cool article! Thanks!

#401 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Trelawny's crystal ball dropping several floors possibly killed someone, I would think.

In the real world it would, anyhow. But this is magic.

Kids, don't drop crystal balls on your parents' heads at home.

#402 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 03:18 PM:

There might have been off-stage killings of Death Eaters by various named aurors. Not deliberate "hits," but in the heat of battle. The battle depicted at the end of "Half Blood Prince" looked way crazy; plenty of opportunities to get killed by the equivalent of shrapnel, friendly fire, and ricochets.

Will Molly Weasely get in trouble for using a killing curse?

#403 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 03:24 PM:

Greg London @ #399: "...any of the Order of Pheonix members who might have gotten a shot in somewhere."

There were a lot of Death Eaters who got debroomed during the Incident of the Seven Harries, and since Voldemort was apparently very unusual in being able to fly on his own, it seems likely that at least some of them didn't survive.

So, not directly striking people dead with AK or similar, but I don't think there was much doubt on the part of the Order that death was going to result.

#404 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Jon Meltzer @ #336: "#336: Uh, wait a minute. Ron gave "Ways with Witches" to his sister's boyfriend? Well."

But then he burst in just as Ginny was about to remind Harry what he was fighting for (or whatever the exact phrasing was). Maybe he was hoping Harry would use the book to get a different girl?

(I can't deny I have a dirty mind, but I don't think I'm imagining that Ginny was going to jump Harry's bones. As evidence, that was the only instance I can think of since book five that gave more description of making out than "X and Y snogged". Even Harry's first kiss with Cho was off-screen.)

#405 ::: Wendy Bradley ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 04:01 PM:

On the final chapter, I think there's a category error in a lot of the objections to it. JKR isn't writing a bildungsroman but a boarding school story - not This Side of Paradise but the Malory Towers or Dimsie books, with a side order of magic. In which context, the focus at the end isn't on "Harry has now grown up and moves on into the bright future" but "Hogwarts goes on, and another generation stands on platform 9 3/4..."

In which case, the key moment in the HP7 movie ought not to be Mrs Weasley's bitch-sluggery but Minerva McGonagall leading a charge of animated Hogwarts desks.

There's a reason the climax is the Battle of Hogwarts, after all.

#406 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 04:09 PM:

#405: Interesting point. For readers in love with Hogwarts, the notion of another load of kids to imagine about and relate to is probably very welcome.

Hmmm. Do you think Rowling would be mercenary enough to allow [strikethrough]sharecropping[/strikethrough] licensed "next generation" stories? Picture an endless series of short books of the same quality as Chamber of Secrets where nothing of world-changing import ever happens and the characters pretty much stay the same year after year. Ugh.

#407 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 04:14 PM:

#407

Sweet Valley Hogwarts?

#408 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 04:41 PM:

So, not directly striking people dead with AK or similar

Hm, sort of set up the circumstances, and then let gravity do the dirty work. Kind of like the way Harry didn't have to out and out kill Voldy, just bounce his killing spell back at him.

So, I have the impression that the white hats manage to win the war with pretty much clean hands, and that seems to be the case. One direct kill (bellatrix), one voluntary sacrifice (dumbldore), a reflected killing spell (voldy), some disappearing brooms with very long falls (OotP), and the rest is non-lethal warfare (stun, disarm, etc).

#409 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 05:03 PM:

So, I have the impression that the white hats manage to win the war with pretty much clean hands, and that seems to be the case.

Well, unless there's a lot of what we aren't shown, that would seem to be the case. From earlier books I gather that Aurors have killed Death Eaters in the past, and I wonder whether that's been all about the latter falling unconscious from the sky, but on the whole it's the Death Eaters who kill while the good guys try to capture and imprison.

I wonder though whether anyone outside of Harry who faced, say, Voldemort himself, would have considered Expelliarmus an appropriate and adequate spell to use in the circumstances...

#410 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 05:50 PM:

Paula @ #409, personally I'd have wanted an RPG.

#411 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 05:58 PM:

Re: the flayed-baby thing in the Kings Cross of the sort-of-afterlife, I assumed it was Voldemort's last intentional Horcrux, the one locked inside Nagini.

In HBP, Dumbledore theorizes that Voldemort made Nagini a Horcrux when he killed Frank Bryce, the caretaker of the Riddle property, at the beginning of Goblet of Fire. Voldy had a physical body at that time, because he could hold a wand, but it wasn't a healthy body, since he needed Wormtail to carry him around. In the graveyard scene at the end of GoF, Harry gets a looks at Voldy just before Wormtail puts V. into the cauldron for the regeneration spell, and the description seems quite like that of the creature in the train station.

#412 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 06:20 PM:

Paula @ 385, I think you're right. I figured it out on the way home tonight. Since Harry is the master of the Elder Wand, it's always on his side in any confrontation, so it wouldn't have been able to do anything to him if he hadn't volunteered for it. When Harry and the wand meet again, Harry is definitely not willing to die, so Voldemort's curse rebounds on him. (And so Harry kills Voldemort with Expelliarmus, his "signature" charm, which he's been ridiculed for using against Death Eaters for the last three books. Nice.)

So Harry does die, sort of (at least, enough to destroy the Horcrux) but at the same time he doesn't, because his blood in Voldemort's body is tethering him to life. This is reminding me of Cazaril more and more.

It's not true that the power of the Elder Wand will be broken if Harry dies a natural death, even though he says so in the last chapter. He's forgotten that Draco got the wand off Dumbledore without killing him, and that he got the wand from Draco by Disarming him of a completely different wand. So all it takes is for someone to Disarm Harry while he's unprepared, and that person will be the master of the wand.

#413 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Nina @ 401 : Sybill's first crystal ball landed on Greyback's skull. Of course, he was already severely unhappied by Hermione flinging him across the hall, but he's still skulking amongst the DEs in the Forest when Harry goes out to meet Voldemort. Ron and Neville finally "bring Greyback down" in the final battle, but who knows exactly what that means.

Her second ball smashed one of the large windows, just as the DEs were getting into the Great Hall. There is no mention of any more.

#414 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 07:08 PM:

Eleanor (412): It's not true that the power of the Elder Wand will be broken if Harry dies a natural death, even though he says so in the last chapter. He's forgotten that Draco got the wand off Dumbledore without killing him, and that he got the wand from Draco by Disarming him of a completely different wand. So all it takes is for someone to Disarm Harry while he's unprepared, and that person will be the master of the wand.

That's if he's defeated. But if Harry does die a natural death while still master of the Elder Wand, I think he's right.

#415 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 07:10 PM:

If there's one DE ally who "needs killing" (or Life Without Parole in the Demontors' restroom in Azkaban), it's Greyback.

#416 ::: maidstragedy ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 07:48 PM:

I am prepared to be criticised for my point of view here, but there is something that all the reviews I’ve read seem to have forgotten. We are not the intended audience for this book. It's a young teen novel and that fact that adults can get into it is a complete bonus. The true magic that Harry Potter has is that magic that is seen at its very strongest in Milne's two Winnie-the-Pooh books, the magic the enables the books to appeal to all ages, and in the case of Milne's books, for all times. Those of you who want more development in the Ron/Hermione or Harry/Ginny relationships are asking for more than the HP series was ever designed to deliver. I first encounter Harry when I read the Philosopher’s Stone to my then 10 year old (she’s now 16) and although Harry himself has aged with her, my sense from the books is that Rowling’s intended audience has only travelled about half that distance. In general, a teen novel with a main character aged 17 is not intended for a readership of the same age since many children prefer to read about heroes older than themselves.
I loved the book, I thought the epilogue was a little weak from my point of view, but then I am 45 years old, it was not meant for me.

#417 ::: maidstragedy ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 08:45 PM:

Ah, seems I spoke too soon (as usual). Some people in this list have indeed pointed out the main age demographic of the novels. My point still stand though.

#418 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 08:59 PM:

So all it takes is for someone to Disarm Harry while he's unprepared, and that person will be the master of the wand.

Except that both Dumbledore & Draco never reclaimed their wands/recovered from the defeat. I suspect that if Dumbledore had managed to fight back and win, he would have retained ownership, and Draco's wand-losing fight with Harry was a clear loss.

#419 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:31 PM:

personally I'd have wanted an RPG.

At close quarters, you're looking at potential friendly fire issues in a radius centered on Voldy. May I recommend a Barrett 50 instead? If not, christmas is coming up and nothing is currently under my tree.

As for the elder wand thingy, I consider it unwise for Harry to set himself up for a circumstance such that for the rest of his life, at any moment, someone could do so much as a disarm spell, and become master of the elder wand.

Of course, I grew up in a country with a history including cowboys and gunsligners, and the idea of people lining up to challenge the fastest wand in the west, with the added bonus that winning means they get the ring of power, seems like an invitation for a life time of Harry looking over his back.

Even if someone inadvertantly defeated him, even not knowing Harry was master of the elder wand, anyone could suddenly gain a huge amount of power.

And as we know, Hobbits like Harry, folk who can resist the ring of power, are few and far between.

One Wand to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.

#420 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:39 PM:

Greg @ #419, who said I wanted close quarters? With an Invisibility Cloak, I could have been half-a-mile off with my RPG. Even further if I had a good sniper rifle; I seem to remember Billy Dixon was reputed to have killed an Indian with a Sharps .50 at a distance of a mile at Adobe Walls 100 years ago.

#421 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:46 PM:

#406 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 04:09 PM:

#405: Interesting point. For readers in love with Hogwarts, the notion of another load of kids to imagine about and relate to is probably very welcome.

Hmmm. Do you think Rowling would be mercenary enough to allow [strikethrough]sharecropping[/strikethrough] licensed "next generation" stories? Picture an endless series of short books of the same quality as Chamber of Secrets where nothing of world-changing import ever happens and the characters pretty much stay the same year after year. Ugh.

I have, in my imagination, a share-crop series set at the magical school in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It would take place after Harry's series, and a major event in year 3 or so would be Katrina. The American death-eater types would be magical neocons. The hero would be a Haitian restavek orphan.

I am so, so ashamed.

#422 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 09:49 PM:

who said I wanted close quarters?

You did, when you said "RPG". They are not known for high accuracy. I assume you'd need a direct hit on voldy to take him out.

#423 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Ah. I figured that if I got the grenade close enough fast enough that would do the trick. Never having actually held or studied RPGs...

#424 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Jen @359, thanks, I must have forgotten that detail by the time they got kidnapped.

Was Draco in the crowd during the final duel? Because he must've been kicking himself house-elf style when he heard Harry's explanation.

#425 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:17 PM:

I know I'm coming late to the discussion (cuz the wife and I went through it the first time reading it aloud to each other and then I had to go back and read it again to make sure I got all the bits in the chapters I listened to), but I thought we should consider an example where I think JKR really successfully establishes the frame of reference...Polyjuice Potion.

If we had never heard of Polyjuice, having Mad-Eye turn out to be Crouch Jr. after some 650+ pages might, indeed, have seemed like a cheat. But we know how the potion works and how it is made--the first time I read "GOF", when Snape accuses Harry of stealing the necessary supplies from his office, it skated right by me. So what if the theft I thought he was referencing had been 2 years ago--Snape had a proven record of harping on old crimes. It didn't occur to me that someone was brewing up a fresh supply, just like it didn't occur to Harry.

What I like even better is how it gets deployed in Book 7--the kids know and (think) they understand Polyjuice, so they rely on it...and it gets them into trouble, not once, but twice. Breaking into the Ministry, they know they'll have perfect disguises, appearance-wise; they don't think through all the other implications of what it means to really be able to "pass" as the employees they're impersonating.

The Hermione-as-Bellatrix plan is even less well-thought-out. Harry goes so far as to say that having her actual wand will make the trick easier, realizing too late that the exact opposite is true--the Death Eaters know who stole the wand, so having it is a dead giveaway.

And this gets me to what I love most about these books. Dumbledore tells Snape to keep an eye on whatever schemes Draco might attempt, because "a frightened teenage boy is a danger to others, as well as to himself." This is hardly less true of Harry, Ron, and Hermione...granted, the Cattermoles are already in a precarious position before Ron takes on Reg's identity, but we're clearly meant to recognize the kids' ability to cause grave collateral damage.

Aberforth's derision, when he asks if the job Harry has been left is "the sort of thing you'd expect an unqualified wizard kid to be able to do without overstretching", echoes this exact concern, except he is speaking of Dumbledore, rather than Voldemort.

#426 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Greg London, one reader's deus ex machina is another reader's eucatastrophe.

#427 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Though the mental image is hilarious, I don't think Draco would have been kicking himself at all. I suspect that the defeat of Voldemort was a tremendous relief for him.

#428 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:42 PM:

I want to note something here: Kingsley Shacklebolt becoming Minister of Magic -- Barbadian accent and all -- parallels Stephen Black becoming King of the Fairies in Susanna Clarke's wonderful Jonathan Strange and Mister Norell.

#429 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 10:45 PM:

Department of autocorrection: 'Barbadian' should be 'Grenadian'. I should know better.

#430 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 11:20 PM:

#417: "Some people in this list have indeed pointed out the main age demographic of the novels."

I think it's a point that is worth repeating. That fact that a YA series has got us literary minded adults going on like this is a testament to Rowling's skills as a story teller.

The newspaper comic "Sally Forth" is Deathly Hallows themed this week. Sally's daughter is upset because that's it. No more adventures with Harry, Ron, Hermione et al.

And I know how she feels.

#431 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2007, 11:54 PM:

I am fascinated by the number of people who piled on Greg; he's put in coherent language one of my feelings of dissatisfaction with the books. There are plenty of other good writers of readable-by-adults YA who don't need nearly the number of di ex machinae that Rowling piles up. (\That/ for the late thread of "These are just YA".) In particular, I'm appalled at the number of people whose answer to a coherently-reasoned argument that these are really bad books amounts to "Go away!" I wonder what Blish would have made of the books; I expect he would have sliced and diced this reaction.
Specifically to #159: to me, "frame of reference" implies \some/ degree of logic (says I, sitting a mile from where the film was made).

#10: I don't think Rowling is \capable/ of doing a proper wrapup; wrapups are seriously messy. For one thing, what do you do with all those defeated Death Eaters? They can't be trusted and can't be rehabbed; Azkaban is just a holding pen. The interview where JKR says Ron and Harry reformed the Ministry? Now \that/ would be magic, especially when neither of them has shown the day-to-day leadership ability that would require.

wrt the thread on when the heroes started families: IMO, 24 is \early/ in the modern first world, especially when both partners are talented.

#73, re the dept of Mysteries: why was there a watermelon in Buckaroo Banzai's lab? Sometimes set dressing is just set dressing. And I read the Veil as being the dividing line/symbol, not fatal in itself.

#79: That song was going through my head for the last couple of hundred pages -- IMO Rowling overdid the eyes even by comparison to the other things she overdid, such as Harry's angst.

#94: Why have religion when you yourselves are Powers? (I suppose the real reason is that JKR had the sense not to touch that one.)

#184, re "adults should grow up": remember the saying attributed to the Jesuits (about age 5)?

#168: Mostly yes -- but we're told at least two books back that Slytherin was intended for purebloods, which means it was \founded/ on bigotry; I'm not convinced Dumbledore could have touched that.
wrt #175: Satire? That's not what I saw; respectful pastiche of slavishly admiring books is how it looked at the start. JKR \may/ have had the weaknesses of sorting in mind from the beginning -- or may have learned enough to backstory out of that corner as she did out of others (e.g. Snape).

Ursula@213: a government where that sort of megalomaniac can't take control twice in half a century is needed. What government is that? Certainly not U.S.-style democracy. I'm unconvinced other choices are better (anyone want to be a citizen of Turkey or Thailand?). I do wonder what sort of government they have; from this angle the Ministry looks rather like present-day China, with power (absent Voldemortian intervention) coming from Byzantine covert maneuverings.
wrt #277: I would have pointed to Nixon rather than Hoover, but I'll compromise with "Muggle history is \worse/ than wizard history."

Sharon@316: there are plenty of examples of young actors playing middle-aged characters; consider the now-vanished 2015 we're shown at the beginning of Back to the Future 2.

various: why would Snape have to break into Hogwarts in the summer? I don't remember any indication that the faculty members have housing elsewhere; if they did, there might be some adult supervision on the Hogwarts Express. But this leaves me with a question: why is Teddy on platform 9.75 when he's almost 20? It's the first indication that near-peers accompany students; if Victoire has graduated, why is either of them there?

Chris@222, Keir@365: Hogwarts is like Ginny's bag, or the trunk in Glory Road, or their many antecedents -- adjustable to suit. JKR is pretty vague about numbers, and the movies are even worse -- a House common room that can hold a handful, but a packed stadium for quidditch? Various people have pointed to the markers of a large economy, but not to the fact that the Weasley twins are certainly moving into an existing market; \somebody/ is making chocolate frogs, all-flavor beans, etc.

John@367, answering 365: I read the last few books as saying Squibs are rare -- that almost anyone with power has enough power that the world is better off with them trained.

Greg@247: re characters falling into the dark having to die: then why is Draco left alive?

#432 ::: maidstragedy ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:37 AM:

Stefan@#430: That fact that a YA series has got us literary minded adults going on like this is a testament to Rowling's skills as a story teller.


I couldn't agree more, and I also am mourning the future dearth of new Harry. The epilogue quashed my future hopes that JKR might wait 10 or so years and then write a one-off adult HP story now that all her devoted teen readers had become adults. That's been a fantasy of mine ever since book 3.

#433 ::: maidstragedy ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:46 AM:

#94: Why have religion when you yourselves are Powers? (I suppose the real reason is that JKR had the sense not to touch that one.)

And yet they celebrated Christmas? I'm agnostic but I still remember what it's supposed to be all about.

#434 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:50 AM:

Go read Orwell on boy's stories. While Hogwarts owes something to Rugby, it owes most to Grayfriars and St. Jim. Read Orwell's description of the idealised public school; swap out Rookwood for Slytherin, and football for Quidditch, and you have the Gryfindor common room, as is described multiple times.

Now, this might be part of the reason I have such a reaction to the Ministry of Magic. A bunch of public school twits running a country, and bossing around a democratically elected Parliament? That, my friends, is the sort of thing the past five hundred years was meant to prevent. The fact that the Prime Minister in the books fails to tell the Ministry of Magic in no uncertain terms that he was elected, and they weren't, and that therefore the `chain of command' runs rather the other way, is quite the black mark against him for me.

That Magna Carta was signed, that Lenthall defied the King, that the Reform Acts were passed, that women gained the right to vote, just to defer to poxy public school fools? Well...

(Again, the Ministry of Magic breaks all sorts of laws. No matter what the Statute of Secrecy may claim, Parliament is Sovereign, and as such, things like memory wiping Muggles are so foully illegal that Fudge should probably be spending a long time at Her Majesty's pleasure. This leaves aside the inherent human rights issues of a great many of the Ministry's actions, even the benign, `historic' Ministry.)

Of course, Rowling never thought this through, in the same way she never added up the figures. The fact that Rowing wrote a nasty dictatorship by accident is pretty immaterial, because Rowling didn't mean for it to be a nasty dictatorship, and people don't read it as a nasty dictatorship. The fact that any body that rules without the consent of the governed is repugnant means despite her best attempts to avoid it, the Ministry is always going to be a Bad Thing.

By the way, YA readers do not notice stuff like the numbers not adding up. I know I did.

CHip @431characters falling into the dark having to die: then why is Draco left alive?

Because he doesn't go all the way; he pulls back from killing Dumbledore.

Re: Muggle/wizard governance: Quite why you are comparing British wizards to US Muggles is beyond me. I don't think that the British Muggles have had any truly repressive rulers in going on a hundred years now. Certainly no one as bad as Voldemort, nor as quickly.

#435 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:00 AM:

CHip @431
I am fascinated by the number of people who piled on Greg...

It wasn't what he said, but the pattern of the discussion that was shaping up. You can tell this by the fact that at least two of the people "piling on" him weren't otherwise involved in the thread. And I suspect Greg knew what we were talking about, considering this has come up recently on another thread.

What I, at least, wanted, was to keep this from turning into another "the sky is evil" discussion, where the group dynamics exacerbated an already difficult thread. (It was a risky one anyway, just due to its topic, but it went badly, damagingly wrong for meta reasons as well.)

I didn't want Greg to stop discussing his opinions - indeed, I never do. He says interesting stuff; I like reading it. But I could hear the exasperation building among other posters, and I could see the signs of another exhausting, frustrating discussion on the horizon.

Normally, I'd wait for Patrick or Teresa to come in, of course, but the chances are good that they are not reading this thread. Spoilers, y'know.

You'll note that (a)the flow of the talk smoothed out, (b)Greg is still in the discussion, and (c)no one is asking him to stop. That's because it was never about his - or anyone else's - opinions, but about the dynamics of expressing them.

(Greg, apologies for talking about you in the third person.)

#436 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:54 AM:

CHip, a lot of people, myself included, were objecting to Greg arguing about the merits of a book he admitted he had not read, having only read books 1 & 2 and a plot synopsis of 7. You clearly read the book, but it sounds like you got little enjoyment from it.

Part of me has to wonder, though, if you think the books are such drivel why you are bothering commenting here. I mean, why spend the energy on a Harry Potter thread when you have such clear disdain for the HP books?

I will note, however, that at least two of your items are cleared up by information in other books.

why would Snape have to break into Hogwarts in the summer? I don't remember any indication that the faculty members have housing elsewhere;

At the beginning of Half Blood Prince, Snape is clearly living off campus -- it is in the summer between school years -- when Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy visit him.

why is Teddy on platform 9.75 when he's almost 20? It's the first indication that near-peers accompany students; if Victoire has graduated, why is either of them there?

Near-peers do at least see people off/meet them at the station: the Weasley twins were on the train platform when the train pulled in at the end of Order of the Phoenix.And you really have indication that Victoire has graduatede.

#437 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:56 AM:

CHip@431: That's di ex machinis. Ablative case.

#438 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 05:21 AM:

Still enjoying this thread! Whether each contributor likes the book or not is really beside the point: the discussion's been really interesting.

Anyway, I had a thought about the sorting. In Philosopher's Stone we see Harry repeating "Not Slytherin" in his head while the Sorting Hat deliberates. Its first impulse was Slytherin, but it listens to him and chooses Gryffindor. Fine. But would he have thought "Not Slytherin" if he hadn't met Hagrid and Malfoy?

And JKR draws a strong parallel with Harry's meeting with Malfoy, and Snape's meeting with James. Malfoy says he'd "leave" if he got sorted into Hufflepuff. James says he'd "leave" if he god sorted into Slytherin. Malfoy says Slytherin is the only house worth being in. James says Gryffindor.

What I'm wondering is if she's trying to get us to imagine Snape's sorting scene. There he is, eleven years old and terrified, with the hat on his head.

"Plenty of courage there," says the hat. "You'd do well in Gryffindor--"

"Not Gryffindor!" thinks Snape, already putting his dislike of James ahead of his friendship with Lily.

"Not Gryffindor? Are you sure? Oh well, in that case -- better be Slytherin!"

#439 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 05:39 AM:


CHip, a lot of people, myself included, were objecting to Greg arguing about the merits of a book he admitted he had not read, having only read books 1 & 2 and a plot synopsis of 7. You clearly read the book, but it sounds like you got little enjoyment from it.
Part of me has to wonder, though, if you think the books are such drivel why you are bothering commenting here. I mean, why spend the energy on a Harry Potter thread when you have such clear disdain for the HP books?

I don't like this at all. First and foremost, it's an ad hom attack. Instead of engaging with what CHip has to say, you attack his reasons for posting.

Furthermore, there was quite a thread here on Dan Brown. Why waste such time on tripe?

Heavens, why waste time discussing Bush?

Because we want to is the answer, and provided our points are good, and the resulting discussion interesting, then I should hope it is enough. I don't see what it is to you why CHip spends his time here, any more than it is any of my concern why you post.

#440 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 06:43 AM:

Keir @439

I'll see your ad hominem and raise you a reductio ad absurdum.

Or we could stop trying to do a worked example on the flamer thread and go back to talking about Harry Potter.

#441 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 07:31 AM:

why would Snape have to break into Hogwarts in the summer? I don't remember any indication that the faculty members have housing elsewhere; if they did, there might be some adult supervision on the Hogwarts Express.

That little episode with Snape talking to Dumbledore's portrait about how to get Harry safely away from Privet Drive happened by definition between Dumbledore's death and that date toward the end of July when the OotP gang came to get Harry. So Snape's status was ex-teacher, now-Dumbledore's-murderer on the run (although thanks to all the Death Eaters and Imperius-controlled people in the Ministry, I guess that officially no one knew how Dumbledore had died but Harry was sort of suspected). Since the Ministry had not yet fallen at that point, I rather doubt that Snape had free access to Hogwarts at the time - even if the place was relatively empty.

As to where the teachers lived, the beginning of HBP shows Snape staying in his own place on Spinner's End. I imagine some other teachers probably lived at Hogwarts through the year, maybe just went away for a vacation.

#442 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 08:02 AM:

Keir at 434: despite her best attempts to avoid it, the Ministry is always going to be a bad thing

What makes you think this is unintentional? I think there's plenty of evidence that we are supposed to question pretty much everything about the Ministry and how power/connections work in the wizarding world:

--Arthur Weasley's love for all things Muggle is cited as part of what keeps him from getting promoted to a higher post

__the first time we see Fudge is in "Chamber of Secrets", when he bends to pressure to send Hagrid to Azkaban and dismiss Dumbledore as headmaster, the latter attributed to Lucius Malfoy's direct involvement

--good, decent wizards, like the Weasleys. may have afforded a house-elf better treatment, if they'd had status enough to get one, but still see nothing wrong with the treatment of house-elves in general

And those are just off the top of my head. It seems to me that Rowling is working rather directly along the lines of "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely"--I don't see how you think she could've gotten there by mistake.

(I did see the link to the interview above where Rowling says the Ministry they re-build afer Voldemort is a better place--as Hermione, the founder of S.P.E.W. at fourteen, is said to have gone on to do important work in re-thinking magical law, I see no reason to believe this might not be true....)

#443 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 08:39 AM:

Paula @441: We do have empirical evidence that Lucius Malfoy has undue influence over the Hogwart's Board of Govenors (ref Dumbledore's first sacking). We also, from HP:HBP, know that the members of the Order trust Snape, and are unwilling to believe Harry's story of Snape's actions on the tower.
I can easily see Snape being named Headmaster by the Board of Govenors (having been appropriately, ahh, reminded of their own mortality) well before the end of July.

#444 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 08:45 AM:

I thought that the crying thing in the King's Cross chapter is the bit of Voldemort's soul that was stuck to Harry (but that wasn't actually a Horcrux). Harry & it are AK'ed, Harry lives (that is, is able to leave), it doesn't.

A nice bit of illustrated fanfic on the topic: http://trickofthedark.livejournal.com/148325.html

Also, there are lots of people who have noticed that the Ministry, pre-Death Eater takeover, is deliberately portrayed as a corrupt dictatorship. Really.

#445 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 09:15 AM:

Duncan @443: But e.g. Lucius Malfoy was nowhere near the school board any more. I gather his status at the time was fugitive from Azkaban (or officially, still in Azkaban).

The situation at Hogwarts was certainly tricky at the time - I'm not very sure that anybody had yet even made up their mind about whether the school would open that year at all - but since the Ministry had not yet fallen, I doubt Hogwarts was in enemy hands yet either. As for Snape being Headmaster, the way I read his and Dumbledore's discussion, he was not in that position yet (Dumbledore was advising him to act his part convincingly in the Potter chase so that Voldy would make him Headmaster and he would be able to protect the students).

Of course, I'd love to hear what JKR has to say about this. :-)

#446 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 09:41 AM:

CHip@431:

characters falling into the dark having to die: then why is Draco left alive?

Not sure. Rowling seems to treat the students differently than the adults. Cedric is the only student I can think of off hand who was killed since Harry started at hogwarts.

The reason I was trying to figure out the body count further up was because Harry is, I believe, now old enough to join the British Army and kill bad guys, in spades. Which means he is exactly of the age where he could come of age and engage in deadly combat. But instead, all the students finish the series with clean hands.

Some of the adults with white hats get their hands dirty, and more of it is assumed to be happening off stage, but none of the students.

Which is a trait common to a lot of children's books, especially the ones geared to the younger folks.

It almost has a Peter Pan quality to it. Captain Hook is presented as someone to fear, but, really you can look at it and know that the children are fated to be safe.

Voldemort has actually killed people. Hook might have but if he did it's off screen and/or happened before the story started.

Which to me means that a story with Voldemort as the antagonist shouldn't have a Peter Pan ending. Kids should be killed and should have to kill if they are thrown into a war with Voldemort because Voldemort has killed people on stage, which shifts the emotional state of the story into a "real war" story, not a "Peter Pan" story. But Rowling gives us a Peter Pan ending for the most part.

You can look at the story in hindsight and you can tell that the children were always safe. Cedric Diggory was a sacrificial lamb used to up the ante, but he wasn't introduced until GoF, he was in Hufflepuff, and was sufficiently separated from Harry so that his death would have a slightly more detached impact than had it been Ron or someone else we knew from the very first book.

Stories in general often reflect a rather fickle nature of people. Hook might have killed as many people as Voldemort did, but because it isn't part of the story other than some possible backstory/history, isn't part of the reader's experience, there isn't the same emotional expectation for him to get his dues: Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. But although Hook lived by the sword, he doesn't kill anyone on screen. If he's done any killing it was prior to the curtain rising.

And humans have a fundamental "out of sight, out of mind" filter, which, for the most part means that their expectations of Hook's justice in the end is different than Voldemort's.

Hook was tossed into the crocodile at the end of the story, but the sequels keep bringing him back. I think people want to see Pan and Hook keep going at it in sequel after sequel, because they don't mind if Hook lives. I think people wanted Voldemort to die and never return because they think he deserves it.

So, Draco left alive in the end, I think, is an outcome of this Peter Pan mentality that Rowling uses where the children are pretty much off limits from harm. Crabbe, (or goyle?), died because his own spell went wrong and killed him. Which is emotionally different than, say, Harry offing him.

Which is exactly why Voldy was killed by his spell being reflected, rather than by Harry engaging with his own deadly force. Harry remains safe and his hands remain clean.

This, I believe is one of my fundamental problems with the series. We are presented with the makings of a real war, people being murdered on screen, and yet the main heroes, Harry, Hermione, and Ron give us a peter pan ending, and never get their hands dirty.

If you are going to have a peter pan ending, you need to have a peter pan styled war. If you're going to show a real war, you should have a realistic war ending.

One of my biggest pet peeves is any fiction that portrays the makings of a real war, but has a Peter Pan ending. I find it morally irresponsible.

*Peter Pan could probably be substituted with A-Team.


#447 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Fragano Ledgister: is a reader supposed to be able to tell that Kingsley Shacklebolt has an accent from the books, or is this a movie thing?

#448 ::: Nick ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Greg #446:
Cedric is the only student I can think of off hand who was killed since Harry started at hogwarts.

IIRC, Colin Creevy is killed in the final battle. Lavendar Brown may have died, though the wording is ambiguous. The general descriptions of the aftermath of the battle indicate that numerous death eaters and defenders are dead though not named specifically.

I think a general problem with your analysis is that in Rowling's world, wizards clearly have multiple very effective non-lethal ways of incapacitating an opponent. Even in a melee, a wizard doesn't need to use lethal force, unless he wants to. Death eaters want to. White hats presumably don't, unless greatly provoked like Molly Weasley. Contrast that with the real world where non-lethal methods are less effective and more expensive than a bullet, but even here police and military are experimenting with non-lethal weapons.

Given the background that Rowling has set up, having the good guys spray lethal spells like bullets, while it might satisfy your moral sense, would be inconsistent with what we already know of their capabilities.

#449 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:05 AM:

JKR says she's not going to write another Harry Potter series, but my immediate thought on reading the last line ("Harry's scar hadn't hurt him for nineteen years") was that this was the ideal first line for the sequel...

#450 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:21 AM:

With Snape's fondness for Dumbledore, I can see him commissioning or painting his own Dumbledore portrait before he's named Headmaster. The ability to paint would fit in with his Moody Artistic persona. Probably the first time he'd ever used white paint, though.

#451 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:10 AM:

Nick@448: having the good guys spray lethal spells like bullets, while it might satisfy your moral sense,

Fundamentally, I think it boils down to the difference between a young person's view of life versus an adult's view.

Young people (and people who haven't matured) tend to think that the outcome of their actions will be guided solely by their intentions.

Adults who've had to deal with the messy bits of reality tend to think that the outcome of their actions is, in part, completely out of their control.

Which is to say that even in a world where every manner of non-lethal force is developed, things will still go very wrong, to the point that people will die even if that wasn't your intention.

See, for example, the woman who was killed about two years ago by a policeman using a paintball gun with pepperspray-filled bullets. You're supposed to aim the gun at the ground, have the bullets break, and the pepperspray disperse. Maybe shoot the person in the legs where it'll sting like hell. In this case, the cop shot her right in the eye and ended up killing her. And she wasn't even part of the crowd that was being rowdy. She had just walked out of a bar or something.

The notion that the outcome of your actions is controlled solely by your good intentions is a childish idea. It is the perfect backdrop for a children's story, because it is how children view the world to operate. Some people begin to understand as they get older and interact with the world and other people, that even good intentions can turn to shit.

Others live a sufficiently sheltered life that they can continue to hold this belief that good intentions yields good outcome well into their old age.

So, while some might find it interesting to think of a world where perfect nonlethal weapons will result in pefectly clean hands for anyone with perfectly white hats, others might find it the ultimate in childish wish fullfillment that good intentions always come true.

Ya know, like when Peter Pan tells the audience if they just wish hard enough, Tinker Bell will come back to life. That scene exactly reinforces a child's view of the world.

OK, so the writer created a world where wishing someone back to life is possible, therefore it's textually consistent. Great. In the end it's still doing nothing but reinforcing the wish fullfillment notions that the audience has.

Which I'll say is "fine" if you're doing a Peter Pan story or an A-Team story where the "war" on both sides is nonviolent. It's suffieciently unreal that I'll let it slide.

But to portray a real war from the black hats, while everyone in a white hat is fighting a Peter Pan/ATeam war, that to me is irresponsible. Real war is messy and doesn't go according to plan, and I don't like stories that show the bad guys fighting a real war while the good guys fight a wish fullfillment, everything-will-go-according-to-our-best-intentions, war, and then have the good guys win.

If Rowling was going to have a peter pan ending, she should have had a Peter Pan bad guy fighting a Peter Pan style war.


#452 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:25 AM:

Greg London...

I think it was fantasy anthologist Terri Windling who once said she had seen plenty of the world's ugliness when she was growing up that she had little wish to find it in fiction.

Have you ever wondered why The Avengers's John Steed never used a gun, usually prefering to bop villains on the head with his steel-plated bowler? That was because actor Patrick Macnee had seen enough of guns during the War.

#453 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:29 AM:

I honestly still don't understand the "Peter Pan style ending" complaint. People died, on both sides, in the last battle. An actual child died, if off-screen. There was certainly death all around, even if the biggest protagonist-types made it through alive, and didn't kill anyone directly.

And I really can't see how you can claim the whole series pretends that good intentions from good people always lead to good results. Dumbledore's backstory reveal includes "I was a good person with good intentions, and look at the lousy moral standpoint I subscribed to that would have led to awful things." The kids break into the Ministry of Magic with the best of intentions, and still possibly manage to make things worse for certain other people in there.

To me, the complaint about "Peter Pan style endings" sounds very much like the complaint I heard about how happy endings make something Not Real Literature, because of course it's a much more mature work if everyone is miserable and morally compromised at the end. Good people managed to die, kill other people, screw up, make things worse, make things better, get confused, figure things out... and somehow this is childish because the on-screen teenagers did not actually personally kill someone, when they were specifically trying to avoid doing so?

#454 ::: Nick ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:48 AM:

Greg,

I'm losing the thread of your argument, and it seems to be have less and less relevance to the book under discussion.

In 446, you seemed to be complaining that the White Hats didn't have the same willingness to kill as the black hats. Your later comments about rubber bullets actually contradict your first point. Though, as you point out, they are imperfect, rubber bullets represent an attempt by the police to be morally better than the people they oppose. I presume that you don't require absolute moral equivalence between black and white hats in the real world. If our enemies use torture and terrorism, must we do the same if we are to win? Is it a sign of moral immaturity to think that we can win while remaining true to our ideals?

Now, in 451, you complain about the childish idea that good intentions are all that matters. When you find a book like that, let me know. It seems to me that in the book under discussion, major subplots turn on the failure of good intentions and the flaws of characters we admire.

#455 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:52 AM:

I honestly still don't understand the "Peter Pan style ending" complaint. People died, on both sides, in the last battle. An actual child died, if off-screen. There was certainly death all around,

Yes, but how many of the children in the stories actually got their hands dirty? Even the story of Peter Pan starts out in real world London with real world problems. Just because real world problems exist somewehre in the Peter Pan universe doesn't negate that the story is, ultimately, wish fulfillment. OK, fine, if you're doing a children's wish fullfillment story that involves pirates and sword fighting, and all that fighting is non violent, then you can get away with a non-violent ending.

The thing is that Harry Potter, the character, has a Peter Pan ending. He and all his chums from Neverland manage to live to the end without having to get a drop of blood on their hands.

However, they do this while a number of white hat adults around them do the dirty work for him. Mrs Weasly kills Bellatrix. The Auror's apparently kill death eater's offstage. The Order of Pheonix cause death eater brooms to disappear while in flight, apparently allowing death eaters to fall to their deaths.

And I call that unfair from a story telling point of view.

Luke gets to torpedo the death star because he had plenty of people around him helping him, shooting down tie fighters, and so on. And then Luke actually does the deed in the end, he gets his hands dirty just like everyone else. He kills a whole bunch of empirial troops blowing up the death star.

Harry gets plenty of help from the people around him, OotP are killing death eaters, Aurors are killing death eaters, Mrs Weasley is killing death eaters, all which allow Harry to get into the trench to set up for his attack on Voldemort. But Harry doesn't actually do the deed. While everyone around him helps him by killing people so he can get near Voldy, Harry doesn't kill voldy. Voldy tries to kill Harry and by way of circumstances surrounding the elder wand, voldy's spell bounces back and kills voldy.

So while everyone helped Harry get close to voldy by getting their hands dirty and killing death eathers, Harry keeps his hands free of blood because he doesn't actually pull the trigger.

And that to me seems like a Peter Pan ending.

Peter doesn't kill Captain Hook. Peter kicks Hook over the side and the crocodile eats Hook, allowing Peter to keep his hands clean.

Only problem is that in Rowling's version, the Lost Boys have to get dirty and kill a bunch of pirates so that Peter can get to Hook. But then Peter keeps his hands perfectly clean all teh way to the end.

And that doesn't work for me at all.

#456 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Peter Pan doesn't kill Captain Hook. Peter kicks Hook over the side, and the crocodile ends up eating him.

Harry Potter doesn't kill Voldy. Voldy tries to kill Harry and Harry's possession of the elder wand causes the spell to reflect back and kill Voldy. Harry was just doing a "disarm" spell.

That, to me, is a Peter Pan ending.

The difference is that in Peter Pan, the Lost Boys don't kill any pirates either, they do all manner of stuff, but they don't kill anyone. So it seems balanced that Peter doesn't kill Hook.

But for Harry Potter to have his Peter Pan ending, a whole bunch of people on his side end up killing people to help Harry.

That people help Harry by getting their hands dirty, but Harry gets to have a Peter Pan ending where he manages to keep his hands clean, is the bit that I"m having a problem with.

It seems nothing more to me than Rowling setting up a world with a "real" war going on all around Harry, but Harry gets to defeat the bad guy with his Peter Pan ending.

I think if you portray a realistic war, you should have a realistic ending. If you're going to give your hero a fairy tale, peter pan, non-violent, ending, then you ought to have a fairy tale, peter pan, non-violent, war.

That Rowling used a realistic war to up the tension while still giving Harry a Peter Pan ending seems like an unfair trick to me.

#457 ::: Scott Spiegelberg ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:04 PM:

Per the question above about gods in Potterverse, Harry has a godfather, and is named a godfather. This is treated as a big deal. Granted, it could be a naming convention borrowed from the Muggles, but it seems to suggest a religious intent. Likewise the dead who don't stick around to be ghosts "move on" as Dumbledore says in the Matrix scene.

#458 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:06 PM:

So the problem is that, in the end, Harry doesn't directly kill anyone? Despite the fact that he deliberately takes actions he knows will lead to the death of at least one person? I mean, when Voldemort goes down at the very end, this is because Harry and his friends have been systematically destroying every possible piece of the man's soul that they can find, and Harry is not exactly shocked when Voldemort keels over during the last fight. It was the intention all along.

I'm really not seeing how it would be less "Peter Pan" if, along with destroying all the pieces of Voldemort's soul so that he could be killed, and setting up a situation so that he could be killed, and carefully acting in such a way with the wands at the end such that Voldemort died, Harry had also said "Die, you bastard!" and tried to kill him directly. Harry and his friends did kill Voldemort, in bits and pieces, all through that book; it's only that the last blow was somewhat indirect. It's not as if Voldemort did a Disney villain "trip and fall off a ledge" during a fight: every step of breaking the Horcruxes along the way was explicitly with the purpose of being able to kill Voldemort.

#459 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:15 PM:

Nick: If our enemies use torture and terrorism, must we do the same if we are to win? Is it a sign of moral immaturity to think that we can win while remaining true to our ideals?

No, you miss the point about "good intentions". Back at #448 you said:

Even in a melee, a wizard doesn't need to use lethal force, unless he wants to.

That is exactly what I'm talking about. It is the idea that a person can achieve the result they want, because he wants to.

The example of the paintball death was trying to show that even if the cop wanted to use nonviolent means to disperse a crowd, that wasn't the result. Your sentence above says the outcome is based solely on what the person wants. The paintball example shows that the real world works otherwise.

If our enemies use torture and terrorism, then it would be immature to think we can go to war against them and have the outcome be exactly what we want it to be. There will be friendly fire. Our troops will end up killing innnocent civilians. Accidents happen. As the violence increases, some individuals on our side might commit evil acts. That's how war works, whether you want it to work that way or not.

A child's view is that the outcome of some action can somehow be forced to line up with what they want. A mature person will realize that some things are out of their control.

#460 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:27 PM:

Greg London... Unless I'm mistaken, aren't you telling Rowling what story that she should have written instead of the story that she wanted to write? Is there a point to that exercise?

#461 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:29 PM:

Abi/pat greene: Sorry. The last place I'd seen `if you don't like it, why do you care?' was a review of the Gor books, so I was transferring a bit.

(I did see the link to the interview above where Rowling says the Ministry they re-build afer Voldemort is a better place--as Hermione, the founder of S.P.E.W. at fourteen, is said to have gone on to do important work in re-thinking magical law, I see no reason to believe this might not be true....)

Because the Ministry of Magic is never revealed to the public? Talk of a better Ministry of Magic is like talking about a better secret police -- one that only gets the guilty. It is still repugnant. While the Ministry of Magic claims jurisdiction over Muggles, as it has to to maintain secrecy, it can't be anything but wrong. It can vary in degree of wrongness, but at root, you've got a government without consent of the governed.

#462 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Fade@458: So the problem is that, in the end, Harry doesn't directly kill anyone?

Pretty much. While the adults are killing Death Eaters, Harry and most of the kids emerge with clean hands.

With a real war going on all around Harry, Harry lets the crocodile eat Hook.

I think it's pretty cheap. I don't care that Harry was going around smashing physical objects that had Voldy's "soul" in them. I don't care that Harry was planning all along to kill Voldemort.

I care what he actually does, versus what his intentions were.

And while his intentions were to kill voldy, his actions are that he didn't. He is spared the weight of doing that nasty bit of work, the thing he was working towards, really, from since the first book. Well, at first it was just "survive voldemort", and then it was "stop voldemort", and then by the last book it becomes clear that either he or voldy must die, the plan is "kill voldy".

There's a little side trip where Harry thinks he can't kill voldy because voldy's soul is inside Harry, so he offers himself up to be killed by voldy so that maybe someone else can then kill voldy after Harry's dead.

But then Voldy kills the bit of his soul that's in Harry, and Dumbledore explains that now Harry can kill voldy, and would Harry like to go back, and harry says "Yes, please".

So then when he goes back, the mission is "kill voldy". But when it comes down to it, Harry does a disarm spell instead. And exactly what happens I'm not sure, but it seems to boils down to a lot of handwaving that means Harry doesn't have to do the actual killing.

So, yeah, I think that's basically the issue I have with Harry getting out of not having to kill Voldemort, and instead letting some weird magical (writer's tool) circumstance create the scenario such that Voldy kills Voldy.

#463 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:46 PM:

Anyone else wish that instead of seeing Malfoy at the train station with his offspring, that it was Dudley and child?

#464 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:49 PM:

I can't argue with "I didn't like how this ended." It's perfectly fair to dislike the way a story was resolved. I'll admit to some confusion as to why you feel so strongly about a book you haven't read, but since I feel very strongly about that one Pullman trilogy** and I never finished it, I'm not one to start arguing that you shouldn't.

In any case, I found the end perfectly satisfying, and would not have found it more or less satisfying if Harry, Molly Weasley, or Kreacher had been the one to finally kill off Voldemort instead of it being a bounced spell of Voldemort's own.* (Heck, Kreacher getting Voldy in the chest with a kitchen knife would have been hilarious, and marvelous. I can see why Rowling didn't go for it, but I would've loved it, myself.)

To me, what felt important about doing in Voldemort was that in the end it was a community effort, down to Neville taking off Nagini's head, and Harry really didn't have to go it alone. The final blow was nearly irrelevant, compared to all the leadup. The series has always been a balancing act between "In the end, you have to do what you know is right, no matter what the cost" and "In the end, you can't do it all by yourself; friends and family matter." So it wasn' who got in the killing blow: it was that the school fought back together and wouldn't have given Harry up, and also that Harry walked alone into the forest to die, because he knew it was the right thing to do.

And, heck, I read fiction because I want it to be more intersting than real life. In real life, rubber bullets can kill people, knocking someone over the head can leave them in a slow death by brain damage, and sometimes brilliant, talented people get hit by cars. But unless it's part of the theme of the book I'd rather my fiction not include the protagonists accidentally killing people, dying off in a completely random way without ever finishing their plots, or wandering off to be less interesting from lack of conviction. I like happy endings, and I admit I was tired more than a decade ago of being told that happy endings were childish, and that my tastes were immature for not appreciating tragedies and "literary" books that ended in moping ennui instead of a victory.

* Especially given the setup for bounced spells, set way back when students were practicing duels and it was established that you really could have your own spell ricochet back into your face. Which was a pretty good argument right there for being careful about the Unforgivables. Hurrah for foreshadowing!

** In the "I hated the books so much it makes me angry just thinking about them" sense. Which is why I don't participate in extensive discussions of those books; I know I get frustrated when people start telling me how much things I like suck, so I try to avoid doing the same to other people.

#465 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Greg:

In "Order of the Phoenix", Harry tries, and fails, to use the Cruciatus Curse against Bellatrix, even though he has just watched her kill Sirius, arguably the most important person in his life at that moment.

This scene is deliberately recalled in "Deathly Hallows", when he curses Amycus Carrow. Harry even says that he now understands what Bellatrix meant by "you have to mean it" in order to perform such a curse.

While I admit I found Carrow spitting in Minerva McGonagall's face quite provoking, you can't really compare it to Sirius dying. Harry can use Cruciatus not because the inspiring act is sufficiently terrible, but because of who has become over the intervening 2 years.

It is oversimplifying to insist that just because a given character has not killed, their innocence has not been lost. And I think we could fill several feet of parchment with examples of characters in these books being forced to face that things are out of their control.


#466 ::: Nick ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:56 PM:

Me:
Even in a melee, a wizard doesn't need to use lethal force, unless he wants to.
Greg:
That is exactly what I'm talking about. It is the idea that a person can achieve the result they want, because he wants to.

Clearly we are not communicating. Above, I am not making any statement about whether outcomes always mirror intentions.

When police use pepper spray instead of shotguns to control a riot, I have no problem with saying that they have chosen to use non-lethal means, even though I know that the outcome may no always be non-lethal.

It's pretty clear in the books that a stunning spell (or whatever) does not take significantly more time and effort than a killing spell. That a stunning spell might sometimes result in the death of the victim is irrelevant. The point is that a wizard can choose not to use the killing spell without sacrificing effectiveness. Death Eaters rely on the killing spell, because they want to.

I understood you to be complaining that Rowling's good guys were, figuratively speaking, bringing knives to a gunfight, simply because Rowling didn't want her heroes sullied. My points were that a) the weapons used by good and evil in the book aren't really all that asymmetric, and b) in the real world it is not uncommon for "bad guys" to use weapons that "good guys" won't touch.

#467 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 12:59 PM:

David Goldfarb @ 437

That's di ex machinis. Ablative case.

Okay, I now have a Latin-geek crush on you.

#468 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Keir@461:

I see your point, but the original purpose of the Ministry of Magic was not to govern Muggles at all--it was not a shadow government, but a separate one, two countries sharing the same boundaries. Both the ability and the desire of the wizarding world to maintain such segregation is, in fact, one of the central questions.

And we don't know, 19 years later, to what extent such secrecy is still the case.

#469 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Delurking to offer my opinion on the heroes-with-dirty-hands thing. I share Greg London's pet peeve of Peter Pan endings, though possibly for a slightly different reason. My issue with this phenomenon is that the heroes act like they're killing people--they're in a situation in which they could hardly avoid it, even if only accidentally or in self-defense; if you stun somebody who's flying through the air on a broomstick, and they fall to earth, their chances of survival are not large. But within the story, circumstances just sort unfold around the heroes in such a way that they seem to have gotten away without blood on their hands. At the very least, Bad Guy deaths at the hands of Good Guys just go unmentioned.

This is, I think, a species of magical thinking, and in the context of this story it feels as convenient as the various ex-machina devices, which do tend to pop up from time to time. In general, I thought Book 7 was more or less satisfying, in a really long-winded way. But Rowling's occasional overreliance on narrative convention is worth mentioning.

#470 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 01:49 PM:

#463:

Nice idea.

I can certainly picture Dudley as an usher at Harry's wedding.

#471 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:11 PM:

Serge@460: aren't you telling Rowling what story that she should have written

In #446, I was answering CHip's question about "Those who fall" and Draco being allowed to live even though he started to fall down the dark path as well.

Is there a point to that exercise?

Telling Rowling what book she should have written? No, not much point in that. But that wasn't the exercise I was in. I was having a conversation about Harry Potter with some folks I know on Making Light. That was pretty much the extent of any "point" I had.

I have a tendancy to pick apart fiction and try and understand what worked and what didn't work for me, as well as what worked and didn't work for other people.

As far as I can tell, Rowling seems to be a great story teller, an OK world builder, and an absolutely horendous plotter. But most importantly, she crafted an entire series of books to exactly the predisposition of her primary audience: children.

I'd be interested in discussing it further and trying to understand it better, see what other people think, pick people's brains.

Or, would you rather discuss something else?

#472 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Greg London,

I will admit that I came to this thread largely to discuss the Harry Potter series with other fans who had read all the books and wanted to go "Isn't that cool?" and "How did that bit work?" Consequently, I do find long discussions of how the books failed, or are morally suspect, or should have been done differently, a great deal of stomping on my fun.

However, this thread was not posted with a stated intent of "Only for positive comments" or even "Only for people who have read and enjoyed the series." So if it is making other people happy to shred things, I am quite willing to go look for my type of fun in other places. I would rather discuss "Wasn't Neville awesome?" and "I liked the way Kreacher showed that Sirius was not exactly an all-around-awesome guy, despite being a hero in many ways" than talk about how much it sucks that Harry did not kill someone at the end. If the thread's going to be about the latter, well, that's what people want to talk about. This thread was not started to be Fun For Me, and so I'm not in any position to demand it be that.

#473 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Nick @454 (addressed to Greg London): Now, in 451, you complain about the childish idea that good intentions are all that matters. When you find a book like that, let me know.

I'm not Greg, but I believe that book would be Ender's Game.

#474 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Greg London @ 471... would you rather discuss something else?

Not really. It's just that it seems like the current criticism will go on and on, without any resolution. Some things bother some people, and those same things don't bother others. Some people even like those things that bother others.

#475 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:43 PM:

I don't have the fortitude to slog through all four hundred odd comments. JKR has stated that Arthur Weasley is the character who got the reprieve. Not surprising - I always thought one of the parents would die. He was supposed to die in Book 5 when the snake bit him, but she rescued him at the last moment.

Also, she notes that Harry and Ron are now in the Auror Department, Harry being the head. Hermione is very high up in the Magical Law Enforcement Department.

Victoire is Bill and Fleur's oldest daughter (took me a couple of minutes to figure that one, then I remembered how much Fleur liked Victor Krum)

I cried over Dobby. the others just made me sad. Especially for George - how do you cope with losing your other half?

And poor Colin Creevey!

Knew Snape loved Lily. Knew it in Book 5. Also figured that was why he left the Death Eaters, Voldy went after Lily.

The Ron copying Parseltongue thing did seem a little forced to me - as did the Chamber of Secrets thing. How did they get out of there? When they went the first time, they held on to Fawkes' tail. You can't apparate inside Hogwarts, so how? It just seemed like she had written herself into a corner and used it to get out. Felt a little cheap.

Loved the rest of the book. Thought the whole locket making them feel strange was a bit too LOTR, but there you are.

#476 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Fade, somewhere further up, I asked what people liked most about the series as a whole. I think a couple people answered saying it was the characters and their relationships. I asked who people thought were their favorite characters, and I think a couple poeple answered.

In another post, I said something about why I thought Snape had to die. (i.e. "those who fall into dark cannot come back into the light" or something.) And someone asked why Draco was allowed to live. At which point, I went into a meta-analysis that tried to look at what Rowling was trying to create, a sort of Peter Pan story where the kids, for the most part, are safe from harm, even from the author.

That got a much bigger, and just a bit angry, reply. I've thrown in some posts to try and clarify what I meant, since my first post was sort of thinking out loud, and wasn't exactly clear.

But the point is I wasn't looking to say how much it sucks. I was having a conversation, which kind of meandered over many varied topics. I had previously asked people for their favorite parts of the whole series, and favorite characters. That my questions for positive comments got a fraction of what my "Peter Pan" comment got is sort of out of my control.

No, I'm not here to go "isn't that cool", but I'm not here to simply repeat "It sucks". I have been digging around, rooting around, the different parts of the books, trying to get a better understanding of how they did and did not work for people.

When I asked a straight out "What character did you like best", I got a few replies. When I mentioned something that didn't work for me, I got a lot of replies, some of them quite angry. But I didn't come here to praise or kill Harry Potter, I came here to study him.

If you'd rather discuss something positive, I'd much like to know what was your most favorite singular scene in all seven books and what it was that made it your favorite.


#477 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:49 PM:

Kate Nepveu #447: In the books he's just described as black, if I recall correctly. In HP&TOTP he has a distinctive accent (not surprising since the actor is Grenadian).

#478 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 02:54 PM:

Serge #474: I'm with you here, I think we are falling into metadiscussion, and that can get very annoying very fast.

#479 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:04 PM:

Serge@474: It's just that it seems like the current criticism will go on and on, without any resolution.

What resolution do you need? I just said I didn't like some aspect of the story. The rest of my posts about peter pan stuff were responding to misunderstandings in what I was trying to say, or what part I was talking about, or how it was a "peter pan" thing, or whatever.

It's just my opinion and other people have their opinion. As far as I can tell, the only thing that needed resolving was some confusion cause I can't seem to point very well. Fade in #458 pretty much got what I was pointing at, and that's all I was trying to do.

So, what was your best, favoritest scene in the whole series?

#480 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Greg London @ 479... What resolution do you need?

What do I need? To tell the truth, I want to know why Abi brought up sex and trains earlier in this thread.

#481 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:47 PM:

Huh!

Apparently, ordering HP&TDH through Amazon just keeps on paying off. I got an unexpected $5 credit for use next month.

They lose money on every book sold, but make it up in volume.

#482 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Greg London @ #476,

My favorite scene? That's a tough one to answer.* The one I reread the most was the whole fight scene in OttP, because it was complex and exciting and involved several characters I liked, rather than just one or two. But my favorite was probably when Harry sees Neville visiting his parents in the hospital. It's touching, tragic, quiet, and for once, it really isn't about Harry: it's about the pain and loss of someone else. And it's also about how much courage it takes that kid, who can't even remember his parents from when they were happy or sane, to keep coming back, and to keep caring about them.

There were lots of scenes I loved, but that one really sticks with me.

* Because a cat just dumped tea over my keyboard, and I now need to use ctrl-v for spaces because the space bar isn't working anymore. I love cats. Really.

#483 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Dawno @463: Dudders would just have sent the little woman to see his daughter off to school -- since she hasn't let him know that she and their daughter are both witches. Wouldn't want to shock him, after all. He goes all queer whenever the fog rolls in anyway, or if it gets a mite chilly. No need to worry him, poor lad.

#484 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:08 PM:

me: So, what was your best, favoritest scene in the whole series?

Serge: sex and trains earlier in this thread.

I... don't remember that one. Was this on the way to Hogwarts?

#485 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:16 PM:

CHip, please allow me to apologize for flaming you with my post @436 last night. It was very late, I was unwell, and I should not have been posting. None of which excuses my trollish behavior.

I have not had a chance to read the comments since that point (and can't right now -- no time), so I would also like to apologize to the community at large for any damage I may have done to the tone of what has been a lovely conversation.

#486 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Greg London @ 484... Was this on the way to Hogwarts?

The city of Phoenix was involved, if I correctly understood Abi at post #160.

#487 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:50 PM:

$msg[484] .= "\n\n ;) ";

system("reboot");

(sigh)

#488 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Christine #475 -- it hadn't occurred to me that Victoire might be in part named after Victor, but it makes some sense. What I thought was the obvious source of the name was that she was born soon after the final victory over Voldemort.

#489 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Actually, comment 160 was a mish-mash of quotes, metaphor and casual references.

Quote: "Everyone not talking about sex, in here. Everyone else, elsewhere!" (In other words, this conversation is wandering.*)

Metaphor: "got off the train" - gave up on the series of books

Casual references: Phoenix, Order of, not Phoenix, Arizona

But...sex on the train to Hogwart's? Bet it happens. Bet it's the equivalent of the mile high club, in certain circles.

-----
* I was hoping someone would find a context to say, "That's why I never kiss 'em on the lips." I love that line, and the silence that follows it.

#490 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 05:10 PM:

abi @ 489... I knew this'd draw you away from packing the family's stuff for the Amsterdam move. Bwahahah!!!

#491 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Greg:

Thanks for asking about favoriteist scenes! I usually hate that question, cuz I can never make up my mind and just pick one. Thinking about it, however, made me come up something that also kind of answers one of your earlier questions (what do I like best about the series overall.)

In book 5, there is a scene where Harry sneaks a look into one of Snape's memories, and sees his father and Sirius subjecting Snape to some very cruel bullying. It rocks him--because he has been that kid, but also because it shakes his faith in the idea he has of the kind of person his dad was. When he goes to Sirius looking for some kind of comforting explanation for James's behavior, being told that they were only 15 just makes him feel worse--he's 15, he knows that no excuse.

But the worst is that he does not want to feel, even for a moment, any empathy for Snape. Snape has been horrible to him, he wants to be able to hate him with a clear conscience. It is a totally wrenching, totally real moment, the kind of thing that I think happens to most of us growing up, when we finally begin to learn that everything isn't necessarily the way we thought it was.

Harry's mother is also in the memory--she attempts to intercede on Snape's behalf, and he tells her he needs no help from a Mudblood. The antagonism between James and Lily is clear, and it is natural for Harry (and, I think, the reader) to focus on that, rather than the interaction between Lily and Snape.

Rowling titles this chapter "Snape's Worst Memory."

In Book 7, Harry sees this memory again, along with several others that reveal that Lily and Snape had, at one time, shared a close friendship that could trace its end to that very second, when mortified that she should see him in this position, he lashes out and breaks something he will never be able to fix. It is another wrenching, human moment, a reminder of how costly our mistakes can be, and it changes, utterly, the context of why this memory is so very painful.

I find that this happens again and again when I re-read these books, moments that make me re-evaluate what I think I already know, and I find that a richly satisfying experience.


#492 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 06:25 PM:

Abi @489: For what it's worth, I caught that first reference of yours and laughed out loud. :-)

(Oh, and the second line is pretty priceless too...)

#494 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Trip, that's by an SF fan.

#495 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 07:55 PM:

Marilee,

I fail to grasp the connection, possibly because it is 17:00 on Friday.

Meep?

#496 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 08:39 PM:

Harry has plenty of blood on his hands. He's fully aware when he's Stunning those Death Eaters off their broomsticks that they're unlikely to survive the fall. That's why he only Disarms Stan Shunpike, because he believes Stan is an innocent under the Imperius Curse. Remember, in the previous book he criticised Scrimgeour more than once for sending Stan to Azkaban apparently without clear evidence.

I wonder if Rowling paired Harry with Hagrid, who was expelled from Hogwarts in his third year and had his wand broken, specifically so that Harry would have to do the dirty work of defending them both. Not that the brick wall and dragon fire Hagrid shoots out of the back of his bike are precisely harmless either.

Harry also casts the Cruciatus Curse on Amycus Carrow, as previously noted. In addition, during the Gringotts break-in he casts the Imperius Curse on a bank employee who's only doing his job. (To me that's better than injuring or killing the guy, but still, this is an Unforgivable Curse! And Harry seems to have no trouble with it at all.)

Remember the wording of the prophecy? And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. If Harry doesn't kill Tom Riddle, then that prophecy has failed to come true. I say Harry does kill him. I say he can predict easily that Voldemort will react with a killing curse - Voldemort's not imaginative enough to do anything else - and engineers the situation so that the move will spell Voldemort's end. It's like putting down a mousetrap, or poisoning someone's food in the knowledge that they'll eat it. It's Harry's checkmate.

Why doesn't he use Avada kedavra? Because it would be boring. Actually, I love Rowling's twists of plot logic, such as the idea that the mechanics of Voldemort's death can be traced back to Harry winning Draco's wand weeks earlier. There's also the fact that it's a children's book, and the editor might have had a fit if the hero - a child for most of the series although technically not by this point - had done the magical equivalent of shooting his enemy at point-blank range. The other reason John Steed didn't use a gun was that it just wasn't the sort of thing heroes did in that kind of series - hypocritical as that might be when a death from some other cause could easily be just as horrific.

I also like the fact that the killing curse forms Voldemort's last words - I can't think of any more fitting ones - and that, among the white hats, it's reserved for the use of Molly Weasley, whose worst fear is the death of her children, who has already seen one son killed that night (and is this the real reason for Fred's death?), and who is driven into berserk rage by the thought that Bellatrix is about to kill her only daughter. She deserves to use it. Having Harry use it too on the man he's been preparing to murder for the past two years would lessen its impact.

#497 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Oh yes, and people can dodge Avada kedavra. Voldemort probably would, and you'd end up with a whirlwind duel with green light flying thick and fast until one of the combatants scored a lucky hit. I suppose Rowling didn't feel like ending the war that way.

#498 ::: Lisa Noste ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 09:09 PM:

I read an article by JKRowling that expanded on what the characters were doing.
Harry and Ron are Auror's at the Department of Magical Ministry, Harry is the Head of the Department. Hermione is pretty high up in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The 3 of the revolutionalize the Ministry of Magic and make it a "really good place to be". Luna is the equivilent of a wizard naturalis traveling the world looking for various mad creatures. Possibly her and Neville get together.
JK may write a Harry Potter dictionary.

#499 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 09:28 PM:

Duncan @ 483 - I guess I'm a hopeless optimist, thinking that Dudley would have come that far. I can certainly see it working out the way you put it, as well.

#500 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 09:31 PM:

I just returned from watching Order of the Phoenix, and I can be counted in the "it needed 10 more minutes" group. Not enough explanation, and they missed the magnitude of the final battle scene (not enough CGI? What am I saying?) by not having the statuary crumble as collateral damage.

And, to top it off, I left my ballcap, a gift from my niece, in the theater.

#501 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 09:50 PM:

Dawno @ 499: [Shakes Sarcas'O'Meter and hears tinkly bits floating around inside.] Dang it! I just had this thing calibrated too!
I'll grant you that Dudley grew enough to thank Harry at the opening of the book - over twenty years later I don't see him having grown any more (except in girth) without nearly continuous interactions with the Wizarding World. I doubt that that happened.

I'll see your hopless optimism, and raise you a never half-full glass.

#503 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:00 PM:

I second Fade Manley at #464 and Julie L. at #473.

Christine at #475, didn't they bring a broomstick?

Greg London, I think the peter-pan quality that bothers you is a perception caused by a category error. I'm not telling you to like what you don't like, but I'm trying to define what Rowling's purpose and genre are. This is not the kind of story which sets up rules for a world and then has fun working within those rules, which defines most F-and-SF. Instead, it is (1) a kid version of Arthurian romance, (2) an updated _Tom Brown's Schooldays_ (which was also full of Arthurian romance), and (3) a revision of Narnia (in which children are allowed to grow up and non-Anglicans are not all hellbound). The magic is almost all symbolic of spiritual issues -- for instance, the Veil of Death had lots of fans speculating about Sirius not really being dead, Harry going through and coming back, and so on, all of which presumed this was an F-and-SF kind of game. But the Veil is just a Big Literalized Symbolic Metaphor. It isn't a rule-bound object; it's a Mystery. This is more like magical realism than fantasy.

Like its sources, HP's plot is all about refining the hero's character, not solving problems. The knights questing for the Grail do not learn the rules and follow them; they either pass the spiritual test or they don't, in a thoroughly enchanted environment which is directly miraculous, which does not follow rules ('cause he's not a tame lion), and which they have zero control over. Tom Brown isn't tasked with solving any problems; he is put through ordeals which refine his character. Same with Harry -- he is put through a series of crucible moments, each involving a symbolic death, and comes back a more spiritually refined person each time. He's not ready for the ultimate self-sacrifice even close to the end -- he's still using Unforgivable Curses -- but then he sees Snape's memories, learns his true role, and is ready to die. Because he's finally refined, he doesn't have to. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. It's Christian symbolism, but part of Rowling's revision of Lewis is that she doesn't preach about it.

If there is an organizing principle that supplies some rules, it is alchemy. Alchemical symbolism runs through the whole series, and Harry's passive or non-lethal responses to Voldemort make sense in an alchemical symbolic order, even if they don't in a Potter, Harry Potter 007 magical spy thriller order. Alchemy explains why Dumbledore was able to forsee what Harry had to do.

The happy endings are Rowling's version of what Tolkien called eucatastrophe in "On Fairy Stories":

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

#504 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:10 PM:

Go on, and on and on you say? Very well. I just kept typing. Here's the next paragraph from Tolkien:

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the “turn” comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality.

Now, I think readers differ over whether HP gives them the catch of the breath, beating and lifting and stuff. But that's what she's after. That symbolic turn, I think, is always a little bit metafictional (Tolkien says it "rends indeed the very web of story"), because it screams to us "This is Symbolism Which Applies to You, Reader" and thus is not such a good place to be looking for internal rule-bound consistency.
I think these moments are what people mean by "the sense of the numinous," which so many don't find in Potter. I do find it, but I think it's often drowned out by the verbose style and the presence of a totally different mode, satire. I admire the fact that she can hold satire and Faerie in the same book and make both of them work pretty well.

#505 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:31 PM:

rm,

You have just made me want to go back to college and get another a degree for the sheer joy of being able to write about literature in those sorts of terms. Thank you for explaining what I wasn't quite able to articulate.

#506 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:37 PM:

Mr. McDonald, sir . . . dude . . . you were saving that for late in the thread, weren't you?

I'll see your Lurlene Tyranna Shores and raise you one Cutting Edge Ministries, the people who not only believe that Harry Potter is Satanic, they think Satanists can actually do magic in real life. Check out that illustration.

Also, I meant to link to Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" but I forgot. There it is.

#507 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:39 PM:

wrt #502, I offer the complementary story Harry Potter and the Search for a King. Aside from the Elvis eyeworm, I was edified to see that Americans are the most effective modern apostles and experts on Jesus.

#508 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 10:44 PM:

#433: JKR calls it Xmas for convenience (as part of the boarding-school model), but the only celebratory aspects mentioned are English Yule (crackers and such) -- IIRC nobody even \hears/ carols, let alone going caroling, let alone going to late-Xmas-eve services, tuning in to the Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College, .... (Long rant deleted on Xmas being a pagan holiday taken over, and not matching the possible birthday of the alleged Christ, plus comments on it being banned in Boston as insufficiently reverent....)

abi@435: I read #132 as \you/ asking him to go away -- and too many of the responses as approaching how-dare-you-rain-on-my-parade.

#441 (beyond 443): Even if he hadn't been appointed yet, I contest "break in", given that other people live there; the school certainly isn't shuttered in the summer. (For that matter, a sensible school would have summer programs -- even prep schools do so in this country -- but JKR was too locked into the boardingschool-story model.)

#485: I'd say "Spoken like a gentleman!", but I don't like the sound; please consider that I've provided the appropriately appreciative words.

#489, re sex on the train: It's a cute idea, but it seems ... incompatible ... with JKR's universe. e.g., what would the prefects do during this interlude? Everybody on the train would know, even if they didn't gather around encouragingly as has been reported at various conventions.

#509 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:03 PM:

It's a well-known fact that the Hogwarts Express sweets cart is stocked with goodies specially doped with magical saltpeter.

The Hogwarts kitchen-elves also use the stuff by the sackful.

#510 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:15 PM:

On the religion angle, note that the magical maladies hospital is named after Saint Mungo, who, so far as I can determine, was not any actual real life saint. This does not mean that any of the wizards are necessarily religious now, but does suggest that they were acquainted with some sort of religious tradition in the past. It is also possible that a wizard's saint is something very different from a Catholic saint, in much the way that the Deathly Hallows have only a distant relationship to any standard readings of a hallowed anything.

Or it's possible that the hospital is named after a saint because hospitals are frequently named after saints, and it doesn't quite fit into anything else in the setting because not that much thought went into the name. But I like one of the other two explanations better. (Consider the difficulties of performing three miracles by wizard standards, when visions, levitation, and healing are downright standard.)

#511 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:30 PM:

I also love the "Snape's worst memory" scene, and the way it's reinterpreted in book 7. Brava to Ms. Spadafora in #491.

Another of my favorites is in _Order of the Phoenix_. Harry is mourning Sirius, and has tried every way he can to see if there is a way of communicating with the dead. There is not. He wanders the halls and finds Luna Lovegood putting up a notice asking for all of her property stolen by bullies to be returned before she goes home. She tells Harry about her mother's death, and says something like "but we'll see them again. Didn't you hear them talking, just behind the veil?" He offers help finding her property, but she refuses, out of absolute faith that what was lost will be found. Harry is comforted in a way he can't explain. It's one of those moments where the Symbolism breaks out of the frame of the story (the Veil, faith in an afterlife) but does not seem intrusive, because Harry himself is having a mind-expanding moment. And there is mundane allegory too -- her lost belongings standing for bigger kinds of loss.

#512 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:52 PM:

510: St. Mungo is an actual saint, as it turns out.

#513 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2007, 11:59 PM:

Saint Mungo is a real saint?

Well, I'll be darned. It certainly sounds like the kind of name wizards get. I take back my theories about the whole wizard saints issue, then.

#514 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 12:18 AM:

#511: Before meeting up with Luna, Harry asks Nearly Headless Nick about death. The ghost admits that he doesn't know. He really hasn't quite gotten there, and is afraid to go.

That's pretty damn neat right there.

#515 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 12:42 AM:

Greg@456:
But for Harry Potter to have his Peter Pan ending, a whole bunch of people on his side end up killing people to help Harry.

That people help Harry by getting their hands dirty, but Harry gets to have a Peter Pan ending where he manages to keep his hands clean, is the bit that I"m having a problem with.

It seems nothing more to me than Rowling setting up a world with a "real" war going on all around Harry, but Harry gets to defeat the bad guy with his Peter Pan ending.

I think if you portray a realistic war, you should have a realistic ending. If you're going to give your hero a fairy tale, peter pan, non-violent, ending, then you ought to have a fairy tale, peter pan, non-violent, war.

That Rowling used a realistic war to up the tension while still giving Harry a Peter Pan ending seems like an unfair trick to me.

Greg, did the ending of Spider-Man I, which also seems to fit your qualification as a Peter Pan ending, invite your ire as well?

Rowling did a 7 volume story starting with Hagrid telling Harry all the bad wizards -- like the kind that killed Harry's parents -- went to Slytherin, and ending with Harry telling his son if he goes to Slytherin, their relationship will not change. You are criticizing a story about the tolerance of diversity -- because it disregards your fixed ideas of human nature.

Rowling devotes a lot of time humiliating her characters. But not all bullied children become violent. In Harry, Rowling gave the public a character who was acquainted with shame enough to decide to avoid killing anyone, but brave enough to still risk his own life. Are you saying shame and bravery are incompatible, that a person cannot know shame and still shake off the paralysis of fear?

#516 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 02:40 AM:

CHip @ #508: I recall a few mentions of Christmas carols in the various books— Dumbledore leads one at one point. And a chapel gets mentioned in Godric’s Hollow.

#517 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 09:10 AM:

rm @ 503-504... Thanks for the posts.

#518 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Thanks, guys . . . you like me, you really like me. Greg, I really appreciate your clarifications, and your asking about favorite scenes.

I thought of something that really disappointed me in _Deathly Hallows_. I think other folks have mentioned it above somewhere. Rowling writes for the movie version too much. This hit me the most where she changes details from the earlier books to conform to the earlier movies. The gargoyle in front of Dumbledore's office used to "spring aside," but since fershlugl$%^&#@!!! Chris Columbus had it move aside mechanically (needed more CGI), now in _Deathly Hallows_ it "moves aside." Hermione in _Azkaban_ "slapped" Draco, but since the wonderful Alfonso Cuaron had her punch him, now in _DH_ we recall her "hitting" him. I already have a problem with the movie scene eclipsing the book scene in my memory. I don't want to think that happens to the author, too.

(More on the shi$#$$%#@@# Chris Columbus movies -- who told him to make mechanical staircases? Nothing could have been less magical. I always imagined that you walk by a staircase one day and it's there, the next it's not. You go up one day and reach X, go up another day and reach Y. Oh, and, don't you know a secret chamber made a thousand years ago is going to have nineteenth-century ironwork doors. Sheesh.)

#519 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 11:44 AM:

Fade Manley #513: Saint Mungo or Kentigern is the patron saint of Glasgow.

#520 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Jim@502, from that link:

This Tom Riddle is clearly the God of Christian tradition

wow. just. wow.

#521 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 01:57 PM:

rm@503: it (eucatastrophe) denies universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world

I think that eucatastrophe is little more than another word for an empathic universe, that something out there will make sure that defeat, ultimately, is not possible.

As an example, I think that during the cold war, it was entirely possible that nuclear war could have broken out and wiped life off of the face of the earth, that events such as the cuban missile crisis showed how men could save the planet from it's own destruction because they were smart enough to know that complete annhilation is really, truly, possible.

Bush would seem to be operating by the notion of eucatastrophe. He does not appear to have any fear that his actions, his wars, his own brand of international and domestic terrorism might possibly put us on a path of destruction from which the US cannot recover. I think such an end is improbable, but I think it is possible.

So, when I read/watch a story where the end of the world as we know it is presented as a possible conclusion, I view it as a possible conclusion that the protagonist must make sure does not happen.

I view an intervening eucatastrophe as little more than an empathic universe, or "the gods", making sure to right the wrongs so that the protaganist doesn't have to.

There's a series on TV called "House", which is about this genius doctor (named House) who is a complete asshole. He saves just about every patient, but he's a complete jerk. I have been watching it off and on, and couldn't figure out what was drawing me to the show, but then there was this episode where some 5 year old girl was dying, and they couldn't figure out why.

House thinks that she has fless-eating bacteria on her arm. Apparently the test to find out if it was flesh-eating bacteria takes some time, and according to House, by that time, the bacteria would have spread to her chest, her heart, and killed her.

He's arguing with some other doctors, and when he suggests its flesh eating bacteria, he says there isn't time for a test, they must amputate the little girls arm right now. They all object. They go back and forth for a while, but they don't have any reason to show that it isn't flesh eating bacteria, they just dont' think it is. At some point, House gets upset and yells at them "Why not? Because it would be unfair if six year old girls got flesh eating bacteria? Life isn't fair!" or something to that effect.

At which point, I got why I keep going back to the show. The writers don't seem to entertain the notion of an empathic universe or whatever would be needed to be behind a eucatastrophe saving his patients at the last minute.

Generally, House and his other doctors save more patients than they lose, but they do it, not some random chance, or some empathic universe intervening. If they do nothing, or if they do something but fail, the patient dies. They had an episode like that where they fail to diagnose the simple problem in a woman, thinking it's all sorts of really complex stuff instead, and she dies. End of story.

It turns out it wasn't flesh eating bacteria, it was some other weird thing, but they figure it out before the amputation, not due to some universe that's out to make sure bad things don't happen.

Now, if your story involves mythology, or gods, or supreme beings who intevene on the behalf of mankind, then fine, having them intervene in the end to save the day is at least consistent, even if I might find it a bit annoying.

But as far as I can tell, in Rowling's world, there is no such mythology or gods or supreme beings to intervene on behalf of Harry Potter. Which makes his "eucatastrophe" in the end that much more annoying to me.

Basically, in Rowling's world, six year olds don't get flesh eating bacteria because that wouldn't be fair. Unless it is needed to show just how evil Voldemort is. And in Harry's case of his parents being killed, that was explained in backstory, not as part of the current timeframe, the experience of the reader. In the stories we watch in Harry Potter, the endings always work out, and much of the time, not because Harry "made sure" it happen, but more because Harry wanted it to happen, failed, but then the universe made sure it happened anyway.

As far as I can tell, a eucatastrophe is indistinguishable from wishful thinking or an empathic universe or the "gods" intervening.

#522 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Christmas Carols: doesn't Sirius sing 'God Rest Ye, Merry Hippogrifs' in, what, Order of the Phoenix?

#523 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Mike@515: Greg, did the ending of Spider-Man I, which also seems to fit your qualification as a Peter Pan ending, invite your ire as well?

I'm on record (somewhere on Making Light when the movie came out) complaining about the "With great power comes great responsibility" line. It seemed to mean nothing more than "If you have power, you should use it, rather than stand by and do nothing". Because we see what happens when Spiderman does nothing, right? His uncle is killed.

Superhero stories are often little more than exercises in the physical domain, which happens to be a place that children are most familiar with. The first spiderman movie was no exception. The other domains that adults hopefully operate in, emotions, language, negotiations, spirituality, being, leadership, and so on, are something a child can't understand, comprehend, or really even see. And they morph into an access for wishful thinking instead.

When presented with a choice from the Goblin of (1) save the tram or (2) save Mary Jane, Spiderman manages to save both, avoiding any messy bits of reality coming in. The child's view of reality is "if you want something bad enough, you can get it." The adult who has dealt with the messy bits of real life will usually have the view of "some things are just out of your control".

As for the ending where the Goblin kills himself trying to kill Spiderman, yeah, that's about as comic book, children's, ending as you can get.

Try fighting Al Queda that way. Try fighting a war that way, Iraq, Somalia, Darfur, you name it. Hell, try fighting some idiot who starts shooting up a school that way. Even if they do kill themselves, it's only after they're either about to be captured, or they're about to run out of bullets.

It doesn't work. It isn't real. It is nothing more than a convenient way for writers to present the hero to appeal to as many viewers as possible by keeping his hands clean.

People who want to see Goblin die, get to see that. People who would be turned off by seeing Spiderman actually kill the Goblin with his own hands don't have to see that either. Even people who are against the use of lethal force are less likely to have an issue with the Goblin impaling himself on his own sword.

It's all about writing the story to appeal to the widest audience. And it's done at the expense of reinforcing a false view (a potentially dangerous view) of violence and war, that we will be welcomed as liberators, that nothing can possibly go wrong because we don't want it to go wrong, that we will keep our hands clean, that any wrongdoing on our part will be the act of individuals and not some systemic problem, and so on.

So, yeah, I had a problem with the ending of Spiderman 1. People die all the way through the movie, but Spidey manages to keep his hands clean. When presented with an either/or choice, he somehow selects "all of the above". His only mistake, really, is not using his power which gets his uncle killed. If you have a weapon, you should use it, and yet you'll never misuse that weapon because you're the hero.

#524 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Wow, that Satanic Harry Potter article was totally crazy. What I love is that they're so concerned with their creepy esoteric symbolism that they seem to have forgotten the entirety of the moral message of Christianity. They've lost the thread somewhere.

WRT the religion of the wizarding world, my general assumption is that it's more or less the same as that of non-wizarding Britain - nominally Christian, but not very. They celebrate Christmas and Easter, for instance. They have a hospital named for a saint. But no one is particularly religious. Perhaps in the eighteenth and nineteenth century things were stricter - students at Hogwarts had to be CoE, and dissenter wizard kids had to go to their own schools, and so forth. But it seems likely Rowling hasn't thought about it very much.

Beyond that, the whole world-building aspect is somewhat confused, and I'm fascinated by the question of the exact provenenance and nature of the ministry of magic. The connection with the muggle prime minister appears to be complementary - the Minister of Magic isn't part of the Muggle Cabinet, or something (he isn't like a magical equivalent of the Lord Chancellor, where he's some politician who's a member of the government party, but also has to be a practicing wizard). How he's chosen, though, seems completely unclear. As others have suggested, it appears to be through some kind of Byzantine internal maneuverings. None of the three Ministers of Magic we see appointed - Scrimgeour, Thicknesse, and Shacklebolt - seem to be elected. They just emerge as minister after the fall of the previous minister. The question I always wonder about is relationship to the monarchy. Are they appointed by the Queen? Do they have to kiss hands? If there's no connection to the muggle United Kingdom government/crown, why does the Ministry of Magic's purview appear to extend to exactly the borders of the UK? I think wonder particularly about the situation wrt Ireland - did Ireland's wizarding community get its own ministry of magic when the Irish Free State was established in 1922? If so, why? Was there an equivalent struggle in the wizarding world over Ireland in 1918-1922 that there was in the muggle world?

There also doesn't seem to be any kind of wizarding parliament. There's the Wizengamot, maybe, but it's unclear exactly what this does, and how it works. Overall, the governmental structures of the wizarding world don't really make any sense. The Wizarding World seems to be autonomous and more or less completely separate from the muggle world, but yet international boundaries seem to function in more or less exactly the same way in the wizarding world that they do in the muggle world.

#525 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Greg @ 521:

I guess it's just a case of YMMV.

Textually, Rowling's resolutions just don't strike me as relying on wishful thinking at all, whereas House keeping his job, not to mention any semblance of a relationship with his colleagues, in the face of his grand-scale prescription forgery, seemed ridiculously false, something viewers are expected to buy because there's no show if he loses his license and/or goes to prison.

Anyway, I'm still enjoying the discussion!

#526 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 05:57 PM:

The text doesn't specify which curse Molly Weasley uses to take down Bellatrix; it says only that the curse "hit her squarely in the chest, directly over her heart." We don't even know if it killed her. We do know that a direct hit from something like a strong stunning spell can be quite a blow; McGonagall ended up in St. Mungo's after taking four stunner hits.

I was hoping to see more of Neville and Ginny. (Everyone is likely to have their own "I would have liked to see more of..." items, I suppose.) I'd always had the idea that Neville got sorted into Gryffindor in the first place because... well, given his apparent general lack of magical ability (possibly due in part to having to use a wand not matched to him), and his grandmother who kept oh-so-kindly telling him what a disappointment he was, and the situation with his parents, the poor kid was showing his bravery just by getting up every morning and slogging through the day. And Ginny was showing a startling combination of wisdom, nerve, skill, and outright deviousness -- for much of the book, I was half-expecting that she was setting up some of the stuff that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were encountering.

I would have liked to see less of HR&H getting crucial information by overhearing chance conversations. There's been far too much of that through the series.

I was left wondering about Pettigrew's death. Was that an extremely odd intrinsic property of the "hand"? -- "if you ever hesitate to follow my orders, even for a moment, the Hand will turn on you"? Or a consequence of the "special bond" between two wizards when one spares the other's life -- some sort of geas activated by the attempt to murder one's benefactor?

We never did find out how Voldemort's wand got back into his hands after his original attack on Harry backfired.

I'm not fussed about Hermione and Ron getting out of the Chamber of Secrets without Fawkes; they could levitate themselves. "Levicorpus" if nothing else. I'm boggled that they could get in, Ron never having shown any signs of that kind of mimicry or linguistic talent. "Open" in Parseltongue is "a hiss and a snarl". Now, if Ron had explained to Harry about getting in, "Easy, mate. I had a DVD of the second movie and a hand-held player, I just played the scene where you told the thing to open up, and it opened for me!"

#527 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 06:08 PM:

Joel #526: Sadly, electronic equipment won't work in Hogwarts. In fact, electronics and magic don't seem to go together at all in the HP world, which is a pity because that could be an interesting combination.

#528 ::: Argon ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 06:48 PM:

First-time poster, long-time reader ...

I'm moved and sad that it's all over. A work of genius, even with all the expectations to fulfil.

My predictions were:

Harry Potter survivies (y)
Ron Weasley survivies (y)
Hermione Granger survivies (y)
Harry Potter saves Ron Weasley from death (n)
Harry Potter saves Hermione Granger from death (n)
Snape turns against Voldemort (n)

I thought these were completely safe to point of trivality, and I still only got
50% right!

On p88 I had another predicition:

Harry misses Year 7 at Hogwarts. The book ends with him going back for an 8th year, for catchup, free of the threat of Voldemort. He looks ahead to a new lease on life. The world continues.

I think the thing in the train station was the peice of Voldemort's sould that had been knocked out of Harry himself, and that he is now free of.

I liked the fact that HP has finally learned that he needs his friends. Instead of running around doing everythin gon his own, he spends most of the time in his "gang", and remembers to keep them up to date as soon as he can.

#129 Greg London writes ...

> It's a world of wishful thinking.

Well, duh!

#148 TChem writes ...

> the Malfoys are devoted to their family

Isn't that a good thing?

"You know, sometimes I think we Sort too soon ..." J K Rowling's condemnation of the 11+ system, leading to Grammar or Comprehensive, which sadly seems to be making a comeback.

When asked about letting people die, he replied "These days, only those I cannot save." What if Snape was actually Harry's father?

And they all lived happily ever after! Yay!

#529 ::: Smurch ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 06:59 PM:

Dawno @463, I also really wanted to see that. In fact, when Harry (or maybe Ginny) pointed out to one of their children that their cousin was on the platform, for a second I thought it meant Dudley's child... of course, it meant Ron & Hermione's child. But still.... Dudley did seem to get some start at redemption, I would have liked to see that developed more.

#530 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Late to the thread here because I only got the book last night (finished it at 5:30 this morning), and only just finished reading through the first 519 comments here.

On overt Christianity in HP -- the customs and rituals are there, sure, if only because the vestiges of Establishment are inextricably embedded in British culture. That is not only Rowling's own world, but also that of her inspirational sources such as earlier boarding school fiction. The form she's working in requires it. But it's de-emphasized, because that's not what she's writing about. At the symbolic level, though, the Christian framework is pretty hard to miss.

rm, #518: The knowledge that the novels she was writing were guaranteed to be blockbuster movies has noticeably affected Rowling's style. She knows, not only that it will, without a doubt, be filmed, but also who the principal actors will be, the strengths and limitations of CGI, and in general what transfers well to the big screen and what doesn't. As a result, she isn't entirely writing novels any more. There are set-piece scenes in #7 where you can just about guess the camera angles she's envisioning.

#531 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Madeline @ 527 -- But you're not bothered by the notion of Ron having the movie..?

<tongue-in-cheek>
I mean, this part of the story is set in May 1998, and the movie didn't come out until 2002.
</tongue-in-cheek>

#532 ::: Smurch ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 07:26 PM:

Sylvia Li @530: I've noticed that too. Her writing has become much more 'cinematic' in the last few books. Chapter 3 of HBP, which opens in Harry's room while he's still asleep, seems to be constructed of camera pans, close ups, zoom outs, etc....

#533 ::: Teresa Rogers ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 07:37 PM:

This Tom Riddle is clearly the God of Christian tradition

Wow, that's a whole bucket full of crazy right there, isn't it? And the bit about Potter furthering the Gay Agenda by showing his ankle? I really had to reach to remember what on earth the author was referring to there.

Also, I don't care too much for their god if they really think he resembles Voldemort. Why is it always such a nasty god that the nutballs have?

#534 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 07:45 PM:

Joel #531: Ah, but Ron-from-the-future could've downloaded the movie onto his handheld player and used a Time Turner to pass it on to Ron-in-the-past. I say "could've" because of course we know that ALL the Ministry's Time Turners were destroyed in that battle at the end of Order of the Phoenix -- presumably because JKR didn't want to write another time travel story. I do wonder why no-one at the Ministry got on with making a new batch of Time Turners straightaway. They could've had another go at destroying Voldemort right there in the Ministry. Shame.

Sorry, wandered off the original intent of this post a bit there (the original intent being to let Joel know that I knew he was being silly all along).

#535 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 07:47 PM:

All you UK residents will be interested to learn this (from the link provided in #502):

In England, the saying every Tom, Dick and Harry is highly popular and in this case alludes to the omnipresence of God in our world.

(rhetorical question)

How in the world do people get so delusional?

#536 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 07:52 PM:

Trip, #495, just that fans are bright, y'know. I keep seeing references to that page and I think people ought to know it's one of us.

#537 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 08:03 PM:

Teresa Rogers #533: That sort of argument is what I call Southern Baptistry. For a less-than-wonderful example google 'Laura Mallory'.

#538 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Linkmeister @ 535 -- "Tom, the Father; Dick, the Spirit (better known in the series as the ghost Sir Benedict de Mimpsy Porkington, affectively called Nearly-Headless-Dick by the children); and Harry, as the Son, the false Christ."

Nick just doesn't get any respect.

Though it does emphasize how completely delusional that site's author is. Never mind her creative interpretations, she's got the most basic facts wrong.

#539 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 08:18 PM:

For ease of reference, here's the same link provided in #502 again: Satan and Potter books

#540 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 09:05 PM:

#539: Surely that page is a parody! Surely!

What Ron should have done to get into the Chamber of Secrets was borrow the Pensieve, put in some of his own memory of Harry speaking Parseltongue, and get it to play back the memory.

#541 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Ursula L @203:

The education system we're shown at Hogwarts is one of the more serious flaws in Rowling's world-building. No math or foreign languages (especially Latin) or nonmagical sciences: those are implausibilities. But no history except as it relates to their insular subculture: that's consistent with the general way Ms Rowling portrays wizarding society.

Another related flaw -- it's implausible that the wizards, hiding among nonwizards, would know so little about them. Maybe some wizards can live their whole life with little or no contact with Muggles, but almost all of them? Including ones who are supposed to be obsessed with Muggle-lore like Arthur Weasley?

Chris @222 and various others:

I think this had bothered me before, but it popped up again when I read the passage in HPatDH about how almost all wizardly children had traditionally gone to Hogwarts except for a minority who went to school abroad or were home-schooled. Even assuming long lives and an aging, shrinking population, the disproportion between Hogwarts class size and the population implied by various other cues is extreme.

Also, given that food can't be conjured magically, where do the wizards get their food from? Buy it from Muggles? In which case why is even Arthur Weasley unable to make change in Muggle money? Are there wizard farmers somewhere? (Aside from household gardens like the Weasleys', which can't produce enough food to support the family by itself, much less feed others.) Or are their Field-Elf slaves toiling away somewhere raising staple crops? My pet theory is that there are Squib and Muggle-born brokers somewhere who make a nice living off of arbitrage of goods that are relatively cheap in the Muggle and Wizarding worlds respectively. Not magical goods, but nongmagical goods produced magically and cheaply, sold to buy food staples that Muggle scientific agriculture produces better than the field-elves the wizard relied on until the mid-19th century.

Keir @310 and 434: I think the "Ministry of Magic" and "Minister of Magic" have misleading titles. The "Minister" isn't a minister of the Queen of England, but seems to be an elected president of the wizards and witches (there are references to elections somewhere, IIRC, but maybe not consistent). The "Ministry of Magic" is an entire government, with jurisdiction over the same territory but a disjoint set of persons as the mundane British government. True, it's corrupt and tyrannous even with respect to wizards, much less members of other magical races, and becomes more so as the series progresses. And it does great wrong in exceeding its jurisdiction by acting on Muggles (e.g. wiping their memories when they learn too much) -- but hey, at least it isn't taxing the Muggles without representation!

All that aside, I've greatly enjoyed the books, including the seventh, and will probably read them a third time if not more, mainly for the characterization and storytelling (not for the worldbuilding). Ms Rowling's storytelling is good enough that I can ignore the sloppy worldbuilding most of the time when I'm actually reading the books -- it's after I finish them that all these nagging questions pop up. And for whatever reason, I find it easier to analyze worldbuilding than characterization and plotting -- which means, with respect to HP, I find it easier to articulate what I don't like about the books than the more important things I do like about them.

#542 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 09:38 PM:

I should clarify that I'm well aware that the Ministry is shown as evil when it mistreats wizards and others of the magical ilk; just not when it mistreats muggles.

For example, we never get told how many muggles are killed by Voldemort. No one ever bothers to try and find out. We get told wizarding deaths, we are given indications of magical creature losses, but never muggles, despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, they suffer the most losses from Death Eaters, being unable to defend themselves.

The wizards screw up, a bunch of innocent bystanders die, and the wizards sit around moaning about how awful it is to lose family members. At least they know they truth abut the deaths of their friends, which is more than can be said about any of the muggles' families...

Shacklebolt, knowing that muggles were in danger, completely fails to take any step to warn them of the danger. That's not an isolated occurrence: every time muggle/magic conflict comes up, the muggles will always lose out, even on basic things like the sanctity of one's own head.

This is the unavoidable result of a system making decisions for a group that has no input into the system, not even the basic knowledge that it exists. The Ministry is wrong in ways that are never addressed in the books; the fact that it is also wrong in ways that are addressed doesn't excuse that.

#543 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 09:48 PM:

Eleanor #540: Not a parody at all; those folks are in deadly earnest.

#544 ::: Teresa Rogers ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 10:36 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @537

Oh dear. Well, living in Georgia, I have met a few of that type.

#545 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 10:45 PM:

The wizards screw up, a bunch of innocent bystanders die, and the wizards sit around moaning about how awful it is to lose family members. At least they know they truth abut the deaths of their friends, which is more than can be said about any of the muggles' families...

Well, that's the case in just about any conflict. People think their losses are the ones that count, and ignore or downplay the others.

I was struck by this listening to NPR today, when someone mentioned that the US had now lost more people in Iraq than on 9/11. To most people in the US, the Iraqis who have been killed don't really count. Also something I noticed watching a History Channel program on WWII battles - the US soldiers were interviewed in person, and named, while the Germans or Japanese were nameless and faceless things.

When one type of human becomes more important than some other type of human, things can only go wrong.

#546 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 11:10 PM:

Lisa@525: House keeping his job ... in the face of his grand-scale prescription forgery

I haven't seen all the episodes. I seem to have started watching after that event took place, I'm not exactly sure what happened and how it worked out, but there are occaissional vague references to it.

For the episodes I've seen, the way they relate to the patients always seems to avoid a eucatastrophe or wishful thinking or anything like that. The episode where they all miss the basic diagnosis and the woman dies sort of set the tone for the way I watch the show. If they screw up, the patient dies. If they figure it out, the patient might live (some of the health problems they deal with have no cure). But I've never seen an episode where the patient came back "just because", or because the universe refuses to let bad things happen to nice people, or whatever.

#547 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 11:27 PM:
Greg@521: So, when I read/watch a story where the end of the world as we know it is presented as a possible conclusion, I view it as a possible conclusion that the protagonist must make sure does not happen.

Well, the world as Harry knew it does end. The world as he knew it ends in the beginning of the series when Harry learns he was living a lie, and the world as he knew it ends at the very end, where he tells his son being sorted into the house he associated most with his own personal misery won't change their relationship.

The "protagonist must make sure [the end of the world as he knows it] does not happen" angle -- that's Voldemort's justification for preserving his life at all costs, is it not? This may be why from the view of someone like Voldemort, and apparently also from you (which I'm under the impression you won't disagree with), no one is as big a loser as Harry Potter -- because he simply lacks the dedication to kill to preserve the world he loves.

Isn't faith a trust that events in the universe will unfold as they should? Is faith so incompatible with achievement that you reserve your most severe criticism for faith, not magic, as the most unbelievable aspect of the Harry Potter series?

#548 ::: Trout ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Re 456: Greg, I think you're missing something on the whole "Peter Pan ending" thing. Harry DOES kill Voldemort, not by using an "unforgiveable" curse, but by using superior knowledge and reason to deliberately and cold-bloodedly lead Voldemort into a trap.

The fact that Harry "outthinks" Voldemort doesn't leave him without moral responsibility. Harry is still a killer. Even with Harry's mastery over the "super" wand, Voldemort is clearly the superior fighter, and if Harry hadn't out-thought Voldemart, he'd have been carbonized.

(My apologies if this idea has already been posted. I came to the discussion late, and wanted to make the point before I forgot all about it.)

Alex

#549 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Mike@547: Well, the world as Harry knew it does end.

I meant literally end, like a nuclear holocaust.

That Harry tells his son what house he's put in won't change his relationship, isn't quite what I meant as world ending.

For one, that wasn't an end that was presented at the beginning that Harry was trying to avoid. The end that was presented was the possibility that Voldemort might take over the world and start a new dark age.

I don't think Harry causes this end to not occur. I think Rowling's world is a wishful world, or a eucatastrophe world, or a empathic world. So that when Harry was told the prophecy that either he must kill Voldemort, or Voldemort must kill him, Harry didn't actually have to do the killing, instead, Voldy killed Voldy because the spell reflected.

The only problem is that as far as I can tell, there is no reason that the world is a eucatastrophe world. There are no gods that can intervene, there is no mysticism in Rowlings world, there is nothing that she introduces that would explain and justify a eucatastrophic ending. It just happens because that's how Rowling writes it. And since there is nothing to justify a eucatastrophic ending, it is indistinguishable from a deus ex machina ending.

#550 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Trout@548: Harry DOES kill Voldemort, not by using an "unforgiveable" curse, but by using superior knowledge and reason to deliberately and cold-bloodedly lead Voldemort into a trap.

The prophecy said: "either must die at the hand of the other". Voldy must kill Harry. Or Harry must kill Voldy. That's the choice we're given.

That Voldy cast a killing curse and it rebounded because Harry had the elder wand isn't really dying at Harry's hand. Harry doesn't pull the trigger. Voldemort impales himself on his own sword, and Harry happens to be there.

I think that given the circumstances at that last spell, Harry could have cast a killing curse and it would have killed Voldy.

The only legitimate reason I see that it didn't happen that way was because Rowling wanted Harry's hands to remain clean. Sorry, there wasn't "cold blood" when you let someone else pull the trigger.

Someone earlier said that Harry "had blood on his hands", and they also seem to miss the wording of that phrase. Harry did not have blood on his hands. Literally. And he didn't pull the trigger. He could have, but Rowling gave Harry a free pass on the end-all-be-all finale to the series.

That is the point. Harry wasn't the cause of Voldy's death. Goading someone into casting a kiling curse is an act of language, not action. The action that killed Voldy was initiated by Voldy.

You can give Rowling a pass for that writing or not, but you can't say Harry pulled the trigger, or that Harry had blood on his hands, or that Harry did anything in cold-blood. Harry wasn't the one who initiated the action that kiled Voldy. Voldy did.

Meanwhile, the Aurors and the Order of Pheonix people are apparently killing Death Eaters left and right. They weren't goading anyone into casting a killing curse knowing it would reflect. They were out and out casting the spell that would lead to the death of someone. They pulled the trigger, they were getting their hands dirty. Their actions were causing people to die.

That the prophecy says "either must die at the hand of the other" seems to have not come true. Voldy died at his own hand. His own spell.

#551 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 12:34 AM:

Greg.

1. Eucatastrophe is God intervening. Yes. It happens in fairy tales. It doesn't happen much in medical dramas.

2. The entire fabric of Rowling's world is set up to give us reason to expect eucatastrophe. What is magic? It's mastering the vocabulary of reality -- saying words that are close to what God used to create the world, so you can manipulate creation. The alchemical and Christian symbolism that permeates the series lead us to expect this ending. Also, every book's ending follows the same pattern -- spiritual crisis, crucible experience, descent into tomb, symbolic death, miraculous rescue, spiritual refinement. Some readers like this kind of story, some don't. But the endings don't come out of the blue.

3. The possibility that Harry really had to avoid was personal: that he would hold on to his life and lose his soul. That's what Voldemort, an object lesson for Harry, does. Snape, Dumbledore, and Harry are all tempted to hold on to life at the expense of spirit, and all choose the right thing -- but Snape and Dumbledore only do so after first going wrong, while Harry gets it right the first time.

4. There is mysticism in the HP world. True, there are not gods to intervene. There is God. This is religious symbolism, like the Grail Quest in Malory's King Arthur. But it's hidden because it's metafictional -- it's not that Harry has to learn something religious, it's that we, the readers, are encouraged to from Harry's story. Wizards don't make any show of religion (though we see a minister in 7), but their world is a Big Spiritual Metaphor. _House_ it ain't, you got that right.

Enough already. There comes a point where people agree to disagree. That's when the conversation stops, among Earthlings, I have observed. Thank you, though, for making the point that a "war" of good vs. bad in a children's novel can be a misleading template for the real world. But please don't tell me that _Harry Potter_, which bitterly satirizes the "war on Terra," leads directly to George Bush. Or that religion in general does. Allowing a 50-year-old child to seize power is our problem with George, not the qualities of books written for children.

#552 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 12:40 AM:

Mike@547: Well, the world as Harry knew it does end.

Greg@549: I meant literally end, like a nuclear holocaust....

The end that was presented was the possibility that Voldemort might take over the world and start a new dark age.

First the end of the world you refer to tolerates no life, then the end of the world you refer to is one where there are survivors. You are literally contradicting yourself.

In the latter case, which was the scenario presented in the book, my posts are still valid responses to your criticism. Since what I've said hasn't been disqualified, let me repeat myself (515): Rowling did a 7 volume story starting with Hagrid telling Harry all the bad wizards -- like the kind that killed Harry's parents -- went to Slytherin, and ending with Harry telling his son if he goes to Slytherin, their relationship will not change. You are criticizing a story about the tolerance of diversity -- because it disregards your fixed ideas of human nature.

As I asked before: Are you saying [the kind of] shame [that would stop someone from killing] and bravery are incompatible, that a person cannot know shame and still shake off the paralysis of fear? (547) Is faith so incompatible with achievement that you reserve your most severe criticism for faith, not magic, as the most unbelievable aspect of the Harry Potter series?

These are yes or no questions, so I can't imagine any hardship in indicating whether you agree with them or not.

#553 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 12:45 AM:

In the interests of having a conversation about something other than whether or not the ending was suitable and/or good:

Kreacher! Let's talk about Kreacher! Who is now up there with Luna as my second-favorite minor character in the series.

Consider Harry's ability to forgive Kreacher for his complicity in Sirius's death, where he's shown a distinct inability to extend the same sort of potential sympathy to other people for smaller offenses. (Forex, Snape, in previous books, before the whole Dumbledore-killing thing.) I wonder if that's because Kreacher, as a house elf, feels to Harry like he's in a different category of moral responsibility for his own actions than someone like Snape, or if it's more because Harry didn't have to deal personally with Kreacher for so long (unlike Snape or Draco). Or if it's because Harry can appreciate the suffering Kreacher's had, and identify with it, unlike the pain of several other people. He's one of three house elves who get any real screen time and names in the entire series, and of the three, he's the only one who I found interesting rather than annoying.

(Sure, Dobby was a hero, and his funeral was heart-rending in its own quiet way, but he was still an annoying squeaky bastard every time he appeared.)

Kreacher's also interesting because he's not "I'm abused and want to be free" like Dobby, nor is he "I adore servitude and would be aghast to be out of it" like Winky. He's a house elf who's thoroughly dedicated to doing his job, but has a strong enough sense of his own ability to make moral decisions that he managed to deliberately get Sirius, his master at the time, killed off by working through loopholes in commands. That's both clever and skirting up to the borderline of what a house elf can possibly do, by his very nature.

And at the end, he's not only perfectly loyal to Harry... he's proactive enough to go grab all the other house elves and lead them into battle. A battle house elf! And without Dobby's excuse of being free, at that.

#554 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 12:54 AM:

The only problem is that as far as I can tell, there is no reason that the world is a eucatastrophe world. There are no gods that can intervene, there is no mysticism in Rowlings world, there is nothing that she introduces that would explain and justify a eucatastrophic ending.

There is, however magic. And magic, in Rowling's world, is human intent given supernatural manifestation. (At least the "wand" magic, as opposed to, say, potions.) For example, to make the torture-curse work, they couldn't merely repeat the words, they had to have powerful intent ("mean it") behind the words.

The final scene was the result of a combination of different intents. In particular, both Voldemort's intent to kill, and the creator of the super-wand's intent that the wand be powerful and protective for its proper owner.

Lily's intent to protect Harry saved him as an infant is another example of this. Dumbledore described it as "love", but her actions went beyond the emotion of love, to the point of a powerful will to protect Harry whatever the consequences to herself. Harry's intent to protect his friends in the school led to Voldemort's magic being ineffective after Harry's death/resurrection. (Such as Neville not being harmed by the burning Sorting Hat.)

On the other side, Voldemort's actions had significantly reduced the will of his Death Eaters. Sure, Bellatrix was still crazy about him. But the other Malfoys had been driven away by his machinations, and the Death Eaters seemed similarly cowed. Their intent was motivated by fear of Voldemort, not desire for the action they were taking, which to some extent weakened their effectiveness. Their intention and attention was divided. This is a plot point that has been building since Voldemort returned, and particularly since Narcissa's demand of Snape that he take a vow to protect Draco, caring more for her family than the cause of the Death Eaters.

By the end, the Death Eaters may have agreed with the Muggle-hating, but they were no longer effective to fight for it, because of their fear of their own side.

By contrast, when Harry and the Order fought, they had the common goal of protecting each other from an identified threat, giving them great focus. And their intent had only increased with each loss.

It's the same phenomena you see in any army, or really, in any organization. The difference between a cohesive unit working for a cause they believe in, versus a unit where the workers don't trust or rely on each other, and where they are not particularly interested in the official goal.

Even in Iraq today - US soldiers have no more idea than the rest of us about what the heck they are doing there. They mostly want to finish up their tours and get home alive. At the same time, the Iraqi insurgence gains motivation with each day their homeland is occupied, and with each bullet fired by the US. Having your country invaded and occupied really annoys people - Iraqis who saw their gov't overthrown, as much as Order members who saw the Wizard gov't and institutions they care about (such as Hogwart's) overthrown.

The magic itself is a supernatural intervention, just as a god or a mystical principle could be. And it provides sufficient explanation for a "eucatastrophic" ending.

#555 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 01:17 AM:

New thoughts! How wonderful.

Fade, you just made me think about the parallel between Kreacher's cubby-hole and Harry's closet under the stairs. Harry's been a house-elf too. In his first scene he's ordered out of his closet to cook breakfast for his master's family.

Also, Harry gains some sympathy for him for having drunk the potion in the cave, and for having been made to give the potion to Regulus and then not tell anyone.

I think the house-elves in Hogwarts are definitely within their obedience mandate when they defend Hogwarts. That would be obvious when Dumbledore was master, but now Snape is. So they must have the sense that Snape would be okay with this.

#556 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 01:25 AM:

Jim Henry @541: ? Are there wizard farmers somewhere? (Aside from household gardens like the Weasleys', which can't produce enough food to support the family by itself, much less feed others.)

While it's true there's no indication of the Weasleys selling/bartering any excess produce etc., I think it would be hasty to dismiss their horticultural autonomy.

Their yard is large enough to host a respectably-sized wedding and reception with enough extended family for Harry to masquerade as a random cousin without being detected; the associated gardens could easily be functional as well as decorative, and there's also a pond which could contain fish (and is probably the source of Ron's occasional tanks of tadpoles, though I doubt they'd eat the resulting frogs without substantial persuasion from Fleur).

They keep chickens (hence eggs) in a henhouse with enough open space inside for Mr. Weasley to stash Sirius Black's motorbike, which in turn was large enough to accommodate Hagrid. At a distance from the main grounds of the Burrow, they also have a "paddock" (although no type of livestock is specified[*]; there are none in evidence when the kids go there to practice Quidditch) which is completely concealed from normal view by surrounding orchards (hence fruit, maybe nuts).

[*: sheep? goats? something that can provide both milk and wool? The yarn for all those Weasley jumpers has to come from somewhere...]

Ron may complain sometimes about dry (tinned) corned-beef sandwiches, but HP7 notes that he has *always* been accustomed to three plentiful meals per day-- probably in the same healthful "stay close to the dirt" dietary mode mentioned in another thread. Watsonianly, perhaps the reason we're never told about Where Food Originally Comes From is that it's not the sort of thing that a teen boy would bother to think about; as long as food appears from somewhere, all is well.

#557 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 01:58 AM:

As a general rule I don't need (or want) to be told all of the details of a world. Books where the author gives long infodumps on the history leading from our world to the world in the book tend to be boring, and most good authors know better than to do something like that. Mostly authors work by hints, allowing readers to fill in the details by themselves, allowing readers to imagine a larger world that the book only shows a glimpse of.

So I'm not sorry that Rowling didn't tell us about wizard farming, or give us the results of a wizard census, or show us wizard diplomats, or print the wizard constitution. Those things don't belong in a book.

But just as I don't need to see all the details, I do have to believe that those details could exist. I have to believe that there is some consistent picture of a world out there, even if the book is only showing me a small fraction of it. I don't mind that Rowling never showed us wizard farmers. I do mind that, given what we've told about how the world works, there don't seem to be any possible answers that make sense if you ask questions like "where do the characters get their food", or "what was going on in France while England went fascist", or "how many wizards are there in England, and what fraction of them went to Hogwarts", or "how can wizards go through life without knowing anything about the non-wizard world", or "how is the government chosen." The book doesn't have to answer questions like that, but I do think it's a shame that we've got a world where questions like that can't have reasonable answers.

The problem, I think, is structural, and showed up early in the series. In the very first book the wizarding world was a joke. We had pompous bureaucrats who paralleled the ones we know because they were funny. Wizards wore robes, and knew nothing about our ordinary lives, because that was funny. The first novel was lighthearted in tone, and it was OK that the world in that book didn't bear examination. But then Rowling started writing books with a very different tone, and elaborated the original world that started off as a series of jokes, and piled on more details. It stopped working as well.

#558 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 03:56 AM:

#543 ::: Fragano Ledgister: Not a parody at all; those folks are in deadly earnest.

Er, yes, and no.

The folks who appended it to their Satanist site are in earnest, and we assume irony is but another metal to them. But the lady who wrote the original intended it as a parody. Here's a discussion of it.

http://gehayi.livejournal.com/101391.html

#559 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 04:53 AM:

Mike@552: Are you saying [the kind of] shame [that would stop someone from killing] and bravery are incompatible,

Uh, I don't know what this means as it relates to what I was saying. I was saying Harry is in a world with no mythological gods to intervene, and the story leading up to his big showdown is a war where people kill and people die. Therefore, there is nothing in the story to justify Harry not having to kill Voldemort with his own hand. There is nothing to justify a sudden bout of conscious universe that intervenes and slays Voldemort for Harry so Harry can keep his hands clean.

If Harry felt any regret about having to kill Voldemort, I know of nothing that says his regret was so much more than, say, some Order of Pheonix person's regret for having to kill a DeathEater. Harry's regret isn't special, other than that the universe looks out for him.

that a person cannot know shame and still shake off the paralysis of fear?

Again, everyone who wore a white hat likely felt as much regret for having to kill Deatheaters as Harry did. Harry isn't special, other than Rowling makes him special because the universe looks out for him. Even though the universe is unconscious as far as Rowling shows us, the universe always manages to wake up in the final act to help out Harry.

(547) Is faith so incompatible with achievement that you reserve your most severe criticism for faith, not magic, as the most unbelievable aspect of the Harry Potter series?

Faith isn't any part of the Harry Potter universe. So I don't know what your question has to do with anything other than try and change the subject somehow.

#560 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 05:18 AM:

Ursula@554: The final scene was the result of a combination of different intents.

Except Harry never has the intent of pulling the trigger. I don't even know if he knew that the elder wand would reflect any killing curse and kill voldy.

Say the elder wand would not reflect the killing curse and Voldy lived. Would Harry still have the intent to kill voldy himself?

I would say yes. That would be Harry's intent, if he had to, he would kill voldemort with his own hands.

What is the point, then, of Harry bouncing Voldy's spell back at him? Did Harry know that would kill voldy? Or did he only know the elder wand would protect him?

The thing is that everyone else with a white had had the intent of killing voldemort, and many of them had to go through the dirty work of actually killing other people. They didn't have the luxury of the elder wand. They had to fight the old fashioned way, killing people with their own hands, their own spells.

Harry gets this thing, this "get out of jail free" card, this "keep your conscience clean" card, that allows him to forgo killing voldy with his own hands, and creates the circumstances so that Voldy will end up killing himself.

Given all the killing that happened up to this point, Harry getting a note from his doctor saying he doesn't have to kill when everyone else does, is a cheat.

It is done specifically by Rowling to maintain as many readers as possible to remain sympathetic to Harry. Had Harry been forced to kill Voldy with his own hands, some number of readers would lose some level of sympathy for Harry. So, Rowling gives Harry a Peter Pan ending. Peter Pan pushes Captain Hook over the side of the boat. The crocodile eats him. Such an ending would be fine if everyone else also got a "get out of jail free" card. In Peter Pan, that is the case. The Lost Boys don't kill any of Hook's crew. And so Peter doesn't have to kill Hook.

But Rowling presents a world where killing is neccessrary by all the white hats except Harry. And it is exactly fulfilling the child fantasy that everything will go according to my intentions, even though it might not go according to anyone else's intentions.

It is, in it's own way, war porn. I was flipping through the channels a couple weeks ago, and the tail end of some Chuck Norris movie was on. He was supposed to go in to some central american country and nab some drug lord. He gets him, and they're getting out on some ropes hanging from a chopper. The bad guy says some stuff to Norris that really ticks Norris off. Norris reaches for his knife, and you think he might kill the guy in cold blood. But then the camera pans up, and we see that the rope is frayed, because it had snagged on something in the jungle. A few more seconds, and the rope breaks, and the guy falls to his death. Norris wants the guy to be dead, but he doesn't have to do the actual killing, so he maintains his position of holier-than-thou righteousness.

Harry Potter gets the same thing. He wants Voldy dead. And if he had to, he would kill Voldy. But Rowling gives Harry some McGuffin that allows Voldemort to end up dead without Harry having to do the deed.

Given how everyone else had to get their hands bloody up to that point, Harry's option to avoid having to actually pull the trigger is little more than the same reason Norris doesn't have to kill the main bad guy. Everyone gets their hands dirty, except the hero, allowing the Hero to maintain his personal superiority, and maintain maximum sympathy from the readers/viewers.

If Harry had to kill Voldy with his own hands, like everyone else around him was doing, then that would have been a much more deserved ending, given what happened up to that point. But Harry would have lost sympathy from some viewers/readers for killing a man.

#561 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 08:00 AM:

Greg, when you say

That is the point. Harry wasn't the cause of Voldy's death. Goading someone into casting a kiling curse is an act of language, not action. The action that killed Voldy was initiated by Voldy.

I think you come to an essential difference in our ethical views.

To my mind, the person who verbally manipulates others into doing something is, all else equal, much, much worse than the person who uses overt action to achieve the same end.

Language is much more capable of evil than action.

#562 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Oh, the cubbyhole parallel with Kreacher and Harry! I hadn't thought of that, and it's a good one. Which goes a long way to explaining why Harry can forgive Kreacher for the elf's part in Sirius's death.

And, come to think of it, Harry felt quite responsible for that death himself, for a long time, since it was also his fault in certain ways (if unintentionally rather than intentionally); if he can forgive Kreacher, he can forgive himself.

(I wonder, sometimes, why Rowling chose to kill off Sirius. Some of it, I think, was because someone Harry really cared about had to die to give that book the proper serious tone in its last battle. And maybe some of it was because Sirius was Harry's new attempt at family, and he wasn't allowed to have that just yet. But I still feel like I'm missing some thematic or plot element for why it was necessary for Sirius to die, there.)

Kreacher referring to himself in third person didn't annoy me nearly as much as it did with Dobby. Maybe because Dobby was so perky and twee it seemed like an affectation, whereas with Kreacher it started out all passive-aggressive and Gollum-like, especially with all the references to how Mistress wouldn't have liked this or that.

#563 ::: Eva Whitley ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 09:55 AM:

I don't have exhaustive recall of all the novels, and I can't consult them as they are still in boxes (which I should be unpacking, rather than doing *this*) but was there a character named "Hugo" anywhere else in the series, other than the epilogue? Anyone else think it was a shout-out?

#564 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 10:11 AM:
Greg@456: But for Harry Potter to have his Peter Pan ending, a whole bunch of people on his side end up killing people to help Harry.

That people help Harry by getting their hands dirty, but Harry gets to have a Peter Pan ending where he manages to keep his hands clean, is the bit that I"m having a problem with.

It seems nothing more to me than Rowling setting up a world with a "real" war going on all around Harry, but Harry gets to defeat the bad guy with his Peter Pan ending.

I think if you portray a realistic war, you should have a realistic ending. If you're going to give your hero a fairy tale, peter pan, non-violent, ending, then you ought to have a fairy tale, peter pan, non-violent, war.

That Rowling used a realistic war to up the tension while still giving Harry a Peter Pan ending seems like an unfair trick to me

Mike@515:
Rowling did a 7 volume story starting with Hagrid telling Harry all the bad wizards -- like the kind that killed Harry's parents -- went to Slytherin, and ending with Harry telling his son if he goes to Slytherin, their relationship will not change. You are criticizing a story about the tolerance of diversity -- because it disregards your fixed ideas of human nature.

Rowling devotes a lot of time humiliating her characters. But not all bullied children become violent. In Harry, Rowling gave the public a character who was acquainted with shame enough to decide to avoid killing anyone, but brave enough to still risk his own life. Are you saying shame and bravery are incompatible, that a person cannot know shame and still shake off the paralysis of fear?

Greg@559:
Uh, I don't know what this means as it relates to what I was saying.

Since I was summarizing what I inferred from the series, the relevant observation doesn't seem to be that you don't know what my summary has to do with your criticism, but that I don't know what your criticism has to with the value of the story.

Greg@521:
So, when I read/watch a story where the end of the world as we know it is presented as a possible conclusion, I view it as a possible conclusion that the protagonist must make sure does not happen.

Mike@547:
Well, the world as Harry knew it does end. The world as he knew it ends in the beginning of the series when Harry learns he was living a lie, and the world as he knew it ends at the very end, where he tells his son being sorted into the house he associated most with his own personal misery won't change their relationship.

The "protagonist must make sure [the end of the world as he knows it] does not happen" angle -- that's Voldemort's justification for preserving his life at all costs, is it not? This may be why from the view of someone like Voldemort, and apparently also from you (which I'm under the impression you won't disagree with), no one is as big a loser as Harry Potter -- because he simply lacks the dedication to kill to preserve the world he loves.

Isn't faith a trust that events in the universe will unfold as they should? Is faith so incompatible with achievement that you reserve your most severe criticism for faith, not magic, as the most unbelievable aspect of the Harry Potter series?

Greg@559: Faith isn't any part of the Harry Potter universe. So I don't know what your question has to do with anything other than try and change the subject somehow.

When you complain an act of faith on the main character's part results of the intended outcome, then deny faith has any part of the story, you contradict yourself. Whatever non sequitur you refer to does not belong to me.

Greg@560
Say the elder wand would not reflect the killing curse and Voldy lived. Would Harry still have the intent to kill voldy himself?

I would say yes. That would be Harry's intent, if he had to, he would kill voldemort with his own hands.

What is the point, then, of Harry bouncing Voldy's spell back at him? Did Harry know that would kill voldy? Or did he only know the elder wand would protect him?

The same criticism applies to charging Al Capone with tax evasion when he was killing people and he simply could have been assassinated, does it not?

The first actionable principle of the Art of War is that you must follow moral law. When you complain about Harry ending the civil war with no resolve to kill -- following his own moral law in a conflict he was roped into not by choice but by circumstance -- you seem to be in effect criticizing the first actionable principle of the Art of War is unrealistic.

Although Sun Tzu doesn't say so explicitly, the benefit of following moral law seems to be in reducing angst from the resolve of your side to fight, and building the angst of your enemy to obstruct their resolve to fight. Bush has been criticized for disregarding the challenge of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, when breaking the resolve of the insurgency should have been his first indicator in predicting success.

#565 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 10:20 AM:

Or maybe it's this simple: Harry's way, he was less likely to choke confronting someone who indulged in killing. Hesitation is the reason carrying gun makes people more vulnerable to crime -- it gives them a false sense of security, making them careless, and still leaves them unprotected.

#566 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 11:22 AM:

#516: Godric's Hollow doesn't count, IMO; my recollection is that it had a large number of mages, but no village was \exclusively/ mage, so the chapel could have been mundane. I hadn't remembered Dumbledore (or Sirius, in another mention) leading a carol.

#524 re religion: more plausible and better expressed than mine. I get the impression that Europeans \generally/ don't pay as much attention to religion as USians do, so your model (and comments about JKR's omissions) make sense. Although I doubt there were separate dissenter schools -- wasn't Secrecy established in the early 17th century, so that Muggles who cared about denomination wouldn't have known there was only one school for mages in the 18th and 19th? That does lead one to wonder what the 16th century was like.

#535: "How do people get so delusional?" Plenty of examples in ]literature[; my favorite is the Bromden's recollection in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest of the white visitors testing his statement (about x not being hot inside) into their worldviews and discarding it when it doesn't fit. Beyond that, many people pick authorities and believe whatever those authorities say -- witness the numbers \still/ believing in Iraqi WMD.

#540: As far as I can tell, Pensieve memories play back entirely in your head; no{body,thing} else can see/hear them.

#563: If you mean a reference to her award for #3, I doubt it; her publisher didn't even designate somebody to receive it, and I haven't seen any indication that she ever got the award or even knows about it.

#567 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 12:45 PM:

562: But I still feel like I'm missing some thematic or plot element for why it was necessary for Sirius to die, there.

Well, Sirius did make a bit of a point of his willingness to die for his friends when he was getting ready to kill Pettingrew at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban. And he really did spend a great deal of Order of the Phoenix half in love with easesome death - I'm sure it was comforting for Harry to have Sirius associate him so strongly with his father, but they rarely discussed Harry himself, only how he reminded Sirius of happier times and departed friends.

At the risk of reading intentions into the story, Sirius' end, and how Harry's/Snape's/Sirius' inability to get over past injuries (or at least put them into some perspective) helped cause his end, were important object lessons for Harry when he faced his own final battle.

--

Greg, I really am a little confused at this point what your specific objection is, but the only consistent thread I see running through your various discussions is that you don't like the way the book is written. That's an entirely valid basis for discussion, except that (correct me if I'm wrong) you still haven't read the book. The way the book is written is not something you're qualified to discuss, any more than I'm qualified to discuss what it feels like to be a seventy year old man (and I don't have the option of dropping eighteen bucks at Barnes and Noble and finding out).

Which, in a convoluted way, brings me back to what's been disturbing me about this conversation: your objections to the book are not based on the book, they're based on what people here have reported about their subjective reaction to the book.

Arguing about subjective reactions is kind of a fool's game to begin with, since by definition they're subjective. They can be influenced by new information, but you don't have any new information to contribute here because you haven't read the book. What that leaves us with is you arguing with all comers that their _reaction_ to the book is wrong and they have to defend it to you, who has no first-hand information of what they're reacting to in the first place.

It's entirely possible that this is not your intent here, but I really find it a bit abusive, Greg, and if it's a pattern you find that your interactions follow you might want to give it some thought. It's not a recipe for a happy life.

#568 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 02:05 PM:

There were a lot of wizards and witches buried in the churchyard, though. Or is that simply because it would have been the only burial ground in the village?

#569 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Teresa Rogers #544: Which place in the fine state of Jawjuh do you ornament? I'm in Etlanna (as are a couple of other Fluorospheroids, Mary Aileen comes to mind).

#570 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 02:51 PM:

Vian #558: Ah, that makes sense -- once more we have fundies taking parody and satire for the thing parodied and satirised (and me looking at the context of the whole site and assuming that the piece was consistent with it).

#571 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 03:09 PM:

#566: As far as I can tell, Pensieve memories play back entirely in your head; no{body,thing} else can see/hear them.

Not true - there's a scene in book 4 where Dumbledore makes his memory of Bertha Jorkins rise up out of the Pensieve where both he and Harry can see and hear it.

#573 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 03:35 PM:

So what's the final conclusion on house-elves? Hermione's campaign to free them seems to have petered out, and it's clear that most of the house-elves don't even want to be freed. Hermione began by equating house-elf servitude with slavery among Muggles, but she's learned that she was wrong. My question is, why was the story constructed so that she was wrong? It seems a really strange thing for a modern liberal author to do. Or is it just that the problem is far more complex than Hermione thought, and that the house-elves are so enslaved that (barring Dobby) they can't even imagine being free? That eventually there will be reform, but as yet it's too soon? So Hermione gives up?

There isn't even a big song and dance about it. She just gives up. What are we meant to take away from this?

#574 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 04:18 PM:

Eleanor@573: I think the fact that Kreacher, Dobby, and the house elves of Hogwarts play a major role in defeating Voldemort, partly because they were overlooked, underestimated, and oppressed, is all we can take away from it. Full elvish equality would take a long time, and would require a process almost as complicated as developing parliamentary democracy in Rohan and Gondor. Both stories are about the defeat of a dark lord, so we don't get to see either event happen.

Matt Austern@557: This points to one aspect of the movies which I thought was an improvement over the books: the wizards in the movies wear fairly normal clothing when not wearing robes, can understand enough Muggle science to read A Brief History of Time, and the hunchback who works at the Leaky Cauldron apparently has a car with a remote starter and theft alarm.

#575 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 05:10 PM:

About Harry getting his hands dirty... In Order of the Phoenix (the book, not the movie), he attempts to use the Crucio Curse (one of the Unforgiveable Curses) on Bellatrix Lestrange. And I don't have the book in front of me, but at one point in the end of Half-Blood Prince, I think he tried to use Avada Kedavra on Snape.

He was unsuccessful both times, but he clearly meant it.

#576 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 05:27 PM:

With the Voldemort crisis over, we might see the equivalent of a post-war liberalization. Maybe that's why Hermione got into magical law enforcement?

#577 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 07:29 PM:

pat greene @ 575: Harry tried to use the Crucio Curse on Snape at the end of HBP, not the killing curse. Snape didn't actually let Harry complete any of the spells.

And I think that Harry's use of the disarming spell to bounce Voldemort's AK back at him did show Harry to be morally superior. Yes, Voldemort died as a result of Harry's action, and Harry expected the events that happened. But he gave Voldemort fair warning about the situation, and all that Voldemort needed to do to avoid being killed was to not try to AK Harry. If Voldemort had used, say, a stunning spell, all that could have happened as a result would be that he'd have it bounced back. Things would probably have escalated from there... but as things turned out, Voldemort fired the killing shot; Harry just bounced it back at him.

#578 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 09:01 PM:

Fade Manley @553:

(and others since talking about Kreacher....I actually started this comment about 8:15 this morning, right before our power went out. Since it was already 80-something here in Boston, the sudden lack of fans/internet/fully-perked coffee drove us rather precipitously from the house. But we spent a lovely day in Salem, so I can't complain.)

While I think that all the positive reasons you suggest for Harry's ability to forgive Kreacher are definitely in the mix, I'd like to add one that's less worthy—it's expedient. Harry forces himself to be nicer to Kreacher because they need his help and that's the way to get it.

As he becomes more useful, the kids' appreciation of him increases...Ron all but says his personal change of heart has mostly been influenced by the fact that Kreacher makes them such good dinner.

I think this is why the change in the relationship seemed entirely believable to me, rather than mawkish or preachy. Harry does begin to understand and feel compassion for Kreacher as he gets to know him, but the opportunity only comes up because he's willing to use and manipulate him. Not pretty, but oh so very real.

I also like that when Kreacher leads the charge into battle, it is Regulus's name he shouts. I don't think Kreacher is unaware of the motives behind Harry's seeming change of heart during that first encounter in the kitchen, but it is consistent with his character that the gift of the locket would still resonate powerfully. It is a recognition of his love for the Black family as worthy of praise, the opposite attitude to the kind of scorn Sirius thought Kreacher's devotion to his relatives deserved.

The transfer of his loyalty to Harry is only possible because it is laid on this foundation. This, too, seems far more credible to me than if everyone just suddenly starts doing something because it is the right thing to do...I've see that kind of easy sentimentality in way too many other stories (for kids and grown-ups) not to appreciate its absence here.

(and rm...I never thought of that Harry-as-house-elf motif, either, but I love it!)

#579 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2007, 11:50 PM:

562: But I still feel like I'm missing some thematic or plot element for why it was necessary for Sirius to die, there.

What Julia said, and . . .

There is a Alchemical Symbolism Checklist which Harry has to complete during his journey, and Sirius's death is one of the boxes. It goes something like this:

  • Harry has to become the Philosopher's Stone to complete his quest (or you could say he has to find the Holy Grail -- he has to become spiritually purified).
  • The first thing you do to a stone to refine it is drop it in vitriol (acid). Snape is vitriol. He's the most necessary teacher for Harry -- he gives the best information but he burns away Harry's imperfections too.
  • Then it bubbles and its imperfections are burned away. This is the nigredo stage, the black stage. Someone black has to die (really or symbolically). Sirius Black is pretty imperfect, and he's, well, Black. The black stage covers the first four books, in which Harry is knocked dead for three days, poisoned, burned by dragons, sunk to the bottom of a lake (more vitriol), mentally tortured, and done up with other stuff that burns, boils, eats, and bubbles away his imperfections.
  • Then comes the whitening stage, albedo, which stands for the alchemist's enlightenment. Albus has to die. Lots of fans predicted Albus's death based on this symbolism. Harry's enlightenment about the true nature of his quest begins when Dumbledore ends.
  • Then comes the red stage, rubedo, where the stone becomes the blood-red Philosopher's Stone. It symbolizes union with God, final spiritual purification. Fans were predicting a major red-character death. Could have been Rubeus Hagrid, any Weasley, or, in a pinch, a red Gryffindor. Turns out it was Fred. I was hoping this death would be only symbolic.
  • Harry's spiritual purification shows when he willingly sacrifices himself, as his mother did for him. There is a bunch of play with magical rules that tells how he can die and come back, but symbolically he has just become a big Christ-Symbol, like the Stone itself. In his final confrontation with V., he's fully self-possessed and serene for the first time.

#580 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 12:07 AM:

Eleanor @ 573 wrote:

what's the final conclusion on house-elves? Hermione's campaign to free them seems to have petered out, and it's clear that most of the house-elves don't even want to be freed. Hermione began by equating house-elf servitude with slavery among Muggles, but she's learned that she was wrong. My question is, why was the story constructed so that she was wrong? It seems a really strange thing for a modern liberal author to do. Or is it just that the problem is far more complex than Hermione thought, and that the house-elves are so enslaved that (barring Dobby) they can't even imagine being free? That eventually there will be reform, but as yet it's too soon? So Hermione gives up?

There isn't even a big song and dance about it. She just gives up. What are we meant to take away from this?

The lesson to be taken away, I think, is not the US lesson from slavery (that people are equal), but the UK/European lesson from imperialism, that different cultures need to be respected, and you can't just go in and decide what is best for others without asking them what they want and need.

#581 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 01:02 AM:

The house-elf issue also reminded me of a quote from Marion Zimmer Bradley about feminism that made me furious the first time I heard it, and I'm still not sure how reconciled I am to that sentiment: "You can't liberate people who don't want to be free."

#582 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 01:04 AM:

rm@579:

Okay, I'm fascinated...I don't know anything about alchemical symbolism except what you posted, so I hope you won't mind a question.

This seems terrible to say, but though Harry (and I) love all the Weasleys, it seems hard to see Fred's death as carrying the same weight as Sirius and Dumbledore's.

But the way your use of the phrase "blood-red stone" made me think immediately of the "half-blood prince"...and I can certainly see how Snape's death might be described as a final purification (but maybe this is more for him than for Harry?) Would his signifigance in the earlier steps of the sequence preclude his also playing this part?

I'm so glad you posted this (and that Julia asked)! (and I hope everyone will forgive me, I don't really mean to suggest that Fred's dying is unimportant.)

#583 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 01:07 AM:

Ugh, I shouldn't be posting after midnight...that should be "But your use of the phrase..." without the extra 2 words that belonged in my first attempt at that sentence.

#584 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 07:38 AM:

(grits teeth)

Of course, it was Fade Manley's question, to which Julia was responding...sorry to you both. I am now officially afraid to re-read that post and see what other goofs may be lurking.

I think I'll blame Jenny (my better half)--she was already in bed, so she couldn't help me proofread (of course, she isn't following this thread, so she's probably not going to catch the name mistake. But I can still blame her, right?)

I'm going away now (literally, because I am in no way stealthy enough to pull off posting from work.) I'll try to have all my wits about me when I come back.

#585 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Marilee @ #536:

Ah, sure!

If he were not One Of Us, we might have to eat his brain!

#586 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 12:35 PM:

rm @511: Luna's attitude at the end of OotP boils down to:

"Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you..."

I don't think it's a coincidence that Harry's position in Quidditch is "Seeker."

#587 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Even more "What Happened To" stuff:

http://www.comcast.net/entertainment/index.jsp?cat=ENTERTAINMENT&fn=/2007/07/30/727195.html&cvqh=itn_tristaryan

So, Hermione did become a subjugated creatures champion.

#588 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 04:17 PM:

1) I always assumed that the Ministry of Magic was part of somekind of world government--the universal and rigorous enforcement of the Secrecy Act speaks to a fairly well-coordinated world-wide effort. It never even crossed my mind that the Ministry of Magic was a part of the British government. I always assumed that they were separate and parallel.

2) Re: Wizard population of England - The real limiting factor, assuming that Hogwart's is the only school in England, is the faculty size. They have only one professor per subject: Snape is THE Potions Professor. He teaches everyone. Assuming he teaches five or six classes of thirty students each year, that's a total of less than 200 potions students at Hogwart's. It's a required class through fifth-year, which means that each year Hogwart's can't accept more than forty students. (This is ignoring the known existentence of advanced potions classes, which would push that number down.) Clearly, this is not the case, though I can't remember if the books give any details about the size of the student body. All I can come up with is that JKR really has a lot of problems with scale.

3) My favorite moment in DH was the bit between Griphook and Ron about the resentment of the goblins about the wizards' refusal to share their wandlore. I almost instantly imagined the next Potter series--which I regard as inevitable as the coming of winter--about the rise of the Goblin Wizard, with his metal wand, upsetting the balance of power and rallying the various magical races against the long and unfair dominance of the wizard race. Starring the next generation, scrambling to prevent all-out war between the hot-headed fanatics on both sides. I think it would be great--if I wrote fanfic, I'd've started already.

4) The best thing about HP in general, in my humble, is the way Harry's perceptions of people and events are always shifting and becoming more complex. Things always seem straightforward at first, but become progressively more muddled as he learns. At first the wizard world seems an amazing and magical escape from the mundane horror of the Dursley's, but by the end it's pretty clear that it has its own set of problems and cruelties. Dumbledore seems to be his protector and friend, noble and kind, but it turns out he's been using Harry all along, and has his own dark past. James and Sirius, his childhood ideals of manhood, turn out to be a right pair of arrogant bastards. Snape turns out to be the bravest one of them all. In portraying this transition from childhood innocence and adult pragmatism, it straddles several different genres, all with very different attitudes towards children and violence. It isn't always a smooth transition, which I think might be bugging Greg.

5) The thing I hated the most about book seven was that, in the prologue, Hogwart's is still sorting kids on the first day! Argh! Isn't the whole point of the book that sorting doesn't work well? What I wouldn't give to have read "Don't worry, young Albus, you have two years to make friends and explore yourself before you get sorted" instead. *sigh*

#589 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 05:00 PM:

Paula @ 383, Eleanor @ 384, and a bunch of other folk who have been discussing the wizarding population/size of Hogwarts, etc...

At one point in... I forget which book, but I think 4 or 5, Rowling says explicitly during a Hogwarts Quidditch game that 200 people were supporting Slytherin, and that this was a quarter of the people in the stands. Because I have too much time on my hands, I did some headmath at that point and figured that this meant the mean number of students per house per year had to be 28-29 (not even allowing for the fact that, given Fred & George's example, we know some students don't continue on past their O.W.L.s). But we also know, since the descriptions of Harry's dormitory say so plainly, that there are only 5 boys in his year/house. Are there seriously 24 girls on the other side of Gryffindor tower? Any suggestions on how to riddle this?

Apart from that, thank you, rm, for articulating all the LitCrit things I've had vaguely bumping around in my head in regards to the series. And also neatly encapsulating my gut-level response to Greg (and not a few of my RL friends). Some people really don't like Arthurian stuff. My partner is one of them, even. And so she doesn't read them, doesn't like them, and doesn't see what I see in them. But that doesn't make The Mists of Avalon a poorly written Diana Gabaldon novel. Despite some superficial similarities, it's obeying different tropes. Criticisms of prose, of characterization, of pacing can all be made regarding HP, but criticism of the books for following the tropes of their genre does seem weird to me. Like criticizing Louis L'Amour for all the stupid cowboy stuff.

#590 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Are there seriously 24 girls on the other side of Gryffindor tower? Any suggestions on how to riddle this?

My folks sent me to a small private school for elementary, about 25 kids per class. This type of skewed class wasn't uncommon - my class averaged about 18 girls and 5 boys, my brother's class was around 4 girls and 18 boys, with some variance from year to year. Other classes were more evenly divided.

Over the whole school, all the houses and all the years, I'd expect the breakdown to come closer to 50/50, but for a small group, such as a class year within a house, having it skew one way or the other occasionally seems reasonable.

I wonder if Hufflepuff is a larger house than the others? The other houses look for specific traits, but Hufflepuff takes "the rest" which seems likely to be more than just 1/4 of the school.

#591 ::: kathryn.sunnyvale@yahoo.com ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 07:01 PM:

The Leaky Caldron has a version of Bloomsbury's extended chat with JKR. She explains things like why Hermione's spell on her parents wasn't a memory spell, etc.

#592 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 07:45 PM:

Mike @ 515 - The ending of Spider Man I is what robbed III of most of its strength. Hollywood just doesn't like tragedy, so ending with a death, particularly after Uncle Ben's death wasn't commercially viable. But the death of Gwen Stacy, and the possibility that he was responsible, so that he knows that even if he does his best, people close to him can still die, make Peter Parker's doubts and confidence crises more convincing. Whereas in Spider-Man 3, he's whiny and self-absorbed.

#593 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 07:57 PM:

#591: That extended chat was really interesting. Rowling obviously had a lot of details under her hat, and enjoyed talking about them.

The "how big is Hogwarts?" question is one that is both legitimate (from the perspective of a worldbuilder) and kind of picky, given that the series started as a juvenile. Rowling wasn't designing the setting of a role playing game. She managed to achieve Suspension of Disbelief for my purposes.

#203, #541: In HBP, Hermione mentions she owes math homework to Professor Vector. Who knows what other professors are lurking about?

I'm wondering what young wizards do before going to Hogwarts. The obviously arrive knowing how to read. Home schooling? The local grammar school?

#594 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Steve@592: You seem to be saying that the ending of Spider-Man I hurt Spider-Man III. I'm not sure what you you're saying, but attributing the shortcomings of a sequel to the movie that spawned the franchise sounds counter-intuitive to me.

Spider-Man III sucked because Peter went to Mary Jane's workplace specifically to humiliate her and, when he heard her shriek his name, he hit her. Then, when he returned to her workplace (which is understandable, as he's the hero of the franchise and we know his heart is in the right place), she forgave him without an explanation when beating him with a baseball bat would have been more appropriate. Mary Jane Watson's love really belongs to me.

#595 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Stefan @593: Re: what kind of schooling wizard children get before Hogwarts, someone asked this from JKR a while ago and she answered on her website. I quote:

"They are, as many of you have guessed, most often home educated. With very young children, as you glimpsed at the wizards' camp before the Quidditch World Cup in 'Goblet of Fire', there is the constant danger that they will use magic, whether inadvertently or deliberately; they cannot be trusted to keep their true abilities hidden. Even Muggle-borns like Harry* attract a certain amount of unwelcome attention at Muggle schools by regrowing their hair overnight and so on."

*JKR must have written this in a hurry, as Harry is hardly Muggle-born, just living with Muggles.

Yes, one may wonder how and when (and how well) wizard children learn basic skills like reading, writing and math. Okay, so I personally learned to read at home before I went to school, but...

#596 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 01:42 PM:

alsafi @ #589:

On the basis of no evidence which I can now remember (possibly because it never existed), I always assumed that there were several rooms of half a dozen boys each (and probably likewise for the girls).

#597 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 01:51 PM:

alsafi @ #589:

On the basis of no evidence which I can now remember (possibly because it never existed), I always assumed that there were several rooms of half a dozen boys each (and probably likewise for the girls).

#598 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Trip #596:

I just looked, and although it seems to say, when Harry first gets to the dormitory, that there were only five boys, there are some remarkably vague pronouns just there, so that the next time "they" (who were the boys in the dorm) gets used, it's strictly Harry and Ron. So it's possible there could be more than one first-year boys' room.

How many male Gryffindors do we end up seeing in Harry's year? Him, Ron, Neville, Dean Thomas and who else?

#599 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 04:04 PM:

Seamus Finnegan is the fifth.

It talks about there being only 5 beds in his dormitory, and that they keep the dormitories as they move up in years. The way it's written it didn't occur to me that there might be more than one dorm per sex per year per house (that's a lot of pers), but neither does it seem to preclude that being the answer.

Still, it does seem like that would make the class sizes unacceptably large (especially for something like Potions) when they have them with another House. There's nearly 60 people in a Potions class? I'd be a crankier than Snape in that case.

#600 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 04:23 PM:

alsafi #599:

And yet, there are 142 moving staircases in Hogwarts, and I don't mean escalators.

#601 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Since Rowling appears to retrofit her books to adhere to the movies, couldn't someone solve the population of hogwarts question by counting all the students in one of the banquet scenes?

#602 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Greg said:
That Voldy cast a killing curse and it rebounded because Harry had the elder wand isn't really dying at Harry's hand. Harry doesn't pull the trigger. Voldemort impales himself on his own sword, and Harry happens to be there.

Yes, he's there. in fact, he's holding the sword. More importantly, he talks Voldemort into running into the sword, essentially talking the bad guy into committing suicide. Harry knew that Voldemort would use a killing curse. He was counting on it. He may not have committed murder, outright, but he's at the very least guilty of aiding an abetting manslaughter. Splitting hairs, really.

If anything it's a lot worse, seeing as how it was premeditated, even set up with Rube Goldburgian complexity. Harry spent the last year collecting the necessary materials, arranging circumstances and covering his tracks, as he plotted the death of his sworn enemy, going so far as to kill him not once but eight times. Technically, not only is Harry a murderer, he's a mass murderer, verging Serial Killer territory, seeing as his victim(s) were chosen because they fit an arcane set of internally consistent symbols and signs.

So yeah, just like Peter Pan.

#603 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 10:07 PM:

#588.5: Hogwarts has a problem of where to put people if they're not sorted. Some colleges have the same problem; MIT solves it by giving frosh a week to look over dorms & frats and decide, Harvard (which has a strong living-group/social-group linkage, almost like Hogwarts or Oxbridge) has separate frosh housing, Yale (ditto) Sorts (or used to) by some arcane algorithm. Dealing with this (possibly including raising funds to construct unsorted housing) would have been a worthwhile project for Dumbledore if he hadn't been up to his ass in alligators. (IMO it should have happened in the quiet decade before book 1, but then the story would have been radically different.) I doubt any of this crossed JKR's mind, but it's at least a plausible excuse.

589: #588 suggests much smaller classes; maybe alumni show up for the games? (Is that a UK tradition for final schools, as it is at US universities?) Or, 588 may be missing how \often/ a subject happens, e.g. Potions is MWF for half an age group and TRS for the other half.

#604 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 10:30 PM:

CHip @503: Hogwarts has a problem of where to put people if they're not sorted.

Actually, the Hat identifies Hufflepuff as the default house for "all the rest" who don't meet the particular criteria for the other three houses. In combination with Dumbledore's description (in Cedric's eulogy) of an ideal Hufflepuff as "a good and loyal friend, a hard worker [who] value[s] fair play"-- a team player with strong group solidarity-- imho that rather suggests the four houses are not all equally-sized, and Hufflepuff may be the largest one.

#605 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 10:31 PM:

Lisa @ #589 -- Thanks for your extremely kind words. I'm flattered, but I'm afraid that post pretty much exhausted my knowledge of alchemy.

I agree that Fred is not as big a character. But maybe Rowling just didn't want to kill off Hagrid or Ron. Maybe Ron's horcrux-induced depression counts as part of the red stage.

I also agree that Snape's death is a huge event, and maybe it's necessary for Harry's preparation. Definitely Harry seeing Snape's memories is necessary -- he wouldn't really understand if he were just told about it -- and I can't see Snape giving those up if he weren't about to die. (I also guess that Snape may be thinking of his place in history, his reputation in the wizarding world after he's gone.)

But . . .

I don't know if Snape's death fits the alchemical symbolism or not. The phrase "half-blood prince" could be another christ-symbol, like the Stone and the phoenix and the holly-wood wand and the Griffin in Gryffindor, and the Hippogriffs, and the golden lion on Gryffindor's emblem, and the unicorn, and King's Cross Station, and the white stag, and "expecto patronum," and probably other stuff I'm too tired to remember. I think the only one of those that fits alchemy is the Stone.

Places like Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron have good fan articles on alchemy, and also dedicated alchemical discussion boards. From those I learned there's a whole lot of color symbolism that points to the stages of transformation, and there's elemental symbolism. Like, in _HBP_ everything is wet -- it's always raining, and the plot's climax involves the lake and the potion. That's got something to do with the stages. Also, there's John Granger (no relation) who has the hogwartsprofessor.com website and wrote _Looking for God in HP_, who talks about alchemy, but be warned -- he is an "Everything Proves My Pet Thesis!!!!!" kind of writer, and his Pet Thesis is that Rowling is secretly an American evangelical conservative Christian, and this means he is pretty blinkered. There's a name for what he has -- can't remember it -- but Fred Clark at Slacktivist has described it: the trouble people in the evangelical subculture have understanding what it's like NOT to be in the subculture. They really don't know what the references are. (And the guy is Orthodox, not Suthen Babtis, but we know "evangelical" is a tribal identifier not a religious one). So Granger has taught me a lot about this symbolic order in HP, but at the same time he writes this assuming his reader is a conservative American evangelical who would "naturally" be suspicious of that devil-book HP. That may be a hard reader-role to play, depending on how many church-induced scars one retains from childhood. As a lefty Christian, I can deal with it, but wish he'd write a better book. His analysis of the symbolism is right on. Where he goes wrong is in not understanding a liberal, human-rights-supporting, British lefty Christian like Rowling. He imagines that the Riddle-diary-left-among-the-textbooks in _COS_ is a metaphor for the evil godless public school curriculum; I think that's just funny. Worse, he thinks that Rowling is identical to C. S. Lewis, a Christian allegorist. I think it's almost the opposite: Rowling is fixing Lewis's flaws, one of which is his stuffy exclusivity and ham-handed proselytizing. She wants to demonstrate love, not preach religion.

I really dunno. These are just my thoughts as they've evolved to date.

#606 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2007, 10:43 PM:

Wait -- finally understanding your question, I am now thinking -- is Snape in any way "red"? I don't know.

#607 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 09:46 AM:

603: I had wondered that myself, about the alumni--and does Hogwarts have day-students?

I think it's certain that the teachers have more than 6 classes in a term, though. Harry, Ron, and Hermione talk frequently of their schedule "today"--implying that it's not the same every day. There seem to be six or seven periods in a day, since one year they have something like double Potions, then Herbology, then lunch. So I always thought classes met something more like 3 periods in a week, so you could have a schedule that had one period of Transfiguration, one of Charms, one of Care of Magical Creatures, lunch, Sport (else why have Madame Hooch--just for Quidditch?), Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Divination all on MWF, then double Herbology, History of Magic, lunch, double Potions, and Arithmancy on Tuesday, and Herbology, double History of Magic, lunch, Potions, and double Arithmancy on Thursdays. Plus, since the teachers are doubling up on many (all?) of the classes (Herbology with Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, Potions with Ravenclaw and Slytherin), and not expected (as far as we know) to "publish or perish," I think it would be do-able.

#608 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Keith@602 (sarcastically): So yeah, just like Peter Pan.

I think you miss the point of "distancing". Even if Peter Pan had conspired with the crocodile, and gone to great lengths to set up some Lethal Rube Goldberg Machine, Peter still distances himself from the actual act of killing Hook, because Peter doesn't do the actual killing act. The crocodile does it.

Whether Harry created the LRGM or whether it happened by accident, the point is that Voldy actually initiates the action that results in his own destruction. That distances Harry from having to pull the trigger. Harry is at best part of the LRGM, but it is a passive role. He holds the elder wand. Voldy pulls the trigger.

So, you can talk all you want about how Harry Potter is some bad ass serial killer, but the truth of the matter is in every situation, there is some distance between him, the action that causes death, and the person killed.

For the horcruxes, the distancing is the fact that Harry is breaking things, not flesh and blood people. The objects have a "soul", we are told, but if they suffer at being destroyed, we are distanced from that pain. Show, don't tell, is the standard rule. But if you want to distance the reader from the actual violence, then tell, don't show. Which is exactly what Rowling does with the Horcruxes.

Had Rowling put the horcruxes in various Death Eaters, then Harry going about destroying the horcruxes would have been quite a different experience. He'd have to kill living poeple, rather than smash some bits and bobbles. It was possible to make living poeple a horcrux, Harry was one, but Rowling chooses to use inanimate objects for all the horcruxes except Harry. This is not by accident. She could have made the death eaters horcruxes, but she didn't want to show Harry going about and whacking a bunch of death eaters one by one.

The simple test for distancing is if you remove the LRGM and you remove the meat puppets and you remove all the other stuff that distances Harry from the death of Voldemort, and if you rewrite the story so that Harry has to directly pull the trigger, then the simple question is would some readers distance themselves from Harry?

Above, someone admitted that this is a children's story and some people would have been upset if Harry had been shown directly killing someone. Which I think is sufficient to say that Rowling used quite a lot of distancing between Harry and the death of Voldemort so that the kiddies wouldn't distance themselves from Harry.

Now, whether or not you enjoyed Harry Potter is completely independent of whether or not Rowling used distancing to keep Harry from the violence. But I see suffiencient distancing going on in the story that I think to deny it is driven by some motivation other than an objective look at the story.

Just because a story might have a character that shows traits of being a Mary Sue doesn't mean you can't enjoy the story. But liking the story doesn't mean it doesn't score Mary Sue points on the litmus test.

#609 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 01:12 PM:

#607: I could be wrong about this, but I think only Potions, Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology have double periods, and it's always two houses together - at least, I think those are the only ones mentioned, which leads me to interpret double period as roughly equivalent to lab time, and Potions, Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology as roughly equivalent to chemistry, zoology and botany - science courses.
As to the disappearance of Madame Hooch as an actual teacher seen actually teaching, although one can assume that Harry is excused from gym class by virtue of being on the team, one does wonder about the rest of them. Did they all skip flying lessons after the first one?

#610 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 01:19 PM:

Greg @608: It was possible to make living poeple a horcrux, Harry was one, but Rowling chooses to use inanimate objects for all the horcruxes except Harry. This is not by accident. She could have made the death eaters horcruxes, but she didn't want to show Harry going about and whacking a bunch of death eaters one by one.

Except that since the whole point of Voldemort's Horcrux exercises was to ensure his own immortality, it hardly made sense for him to make a lot of Horcruxes out of mortals.

The way I read the whole thing, Harry becoming a Horcrux was an accident, and he wasn't exactly your standard Horcrux anyway.

Just because a story might have a character that shows traits of being a Mary Sue doesn't mean you can't enjoy the story. But liking the story doesn't mean it doesn't score Mary Sue points on the litmus test.

If you mean you think Harry is a Gary Stu, I think you should really read the series before you make that judgement. :-) I expect most readers find him annoyingly realistic (stupid, slow, adolescent...) rather than annoyingly perfect.

#611 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Greg, the "Mary Sue" character in the Harry Potter series is Hemione Granger, not Harry.

#612 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Greg, you should also notice -- when you read it -- that Harry tries to help Voldemort. The only way to heal a torn soul, we are told, is remorse. Harry counsels Voldemort to feel some remorse before it's too late, and Voldemort rejects that advice and tries to kill him. This goes along with my contention that you are asking for this to be a completely different genre than it is. The magic is all metaphorical for character development; the symbolism is all Christian; it is indeed a fairy tale romance.

And Lori is right -- Rowling freely admits in interviews that Hermione is the Mary Sue. Harry is downright inept much of the time.

#613 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 02:19 PM:

The second paragraph of this explains the Mary Sue thing:

Like the concept of a “Mary Sue”, that a piece of fiction involves some aspects of war pr0n doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable piece of fiction. The goal here is to introduce some concepts for critiquing fiction. If you don't like a particular piece of fiction and it has something to do with the Mary Sue in the story, then knowing how to identify a Mary Sue, and what makes a character a Mary Sue, can help you point to what did not work for you in the story. Likewise, if you run into some fiction that takes license with the use of force, and that bothers you, this can help you identify what's qualifies as war pr0n and why.

So, the point I was trying to make in #608 was not whether Harry Potter contains Mary Sues or not. I was saying that just because a story contains traits consistent with a Mary Sue doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. Just because a story contains some traits consistent with war pr0n doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

As Keith says in 602: "He may not have committed murder, outright". Which is to say Rowling distances Harry from outright pulling the trigger. Given that Voldemort does outright pull the trigger, but Harry does not, is something I think earns the story a point for war pr0n. You can still enjoy the story. The misrepresentation of the use of force in fiction just happens to be a personal pet peeve of mine, and it is enough to turn me off from the story. But that doesn't mean you can't like the story.

Just because a character in a story gets some points for being a Gary Sue doesn't mean you can't like the story. But I think it is safe to say that Harry Potter earns some points for war pr0n. Your tolerance for how many points is too many point may be higher than my tolerance. But to categorically deny Harry gets a single point for war pr0n seems to me a misrepresention.

#614 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 02:24 PM:

rm@612: my contention that you are asking for this to be a completely different genre than it is.

Whether some fiction contains a Mary Sue is independent of genre. You can have a Mary Sue in science fiction, fantasy, westerns, romance, thrillers, horror, you name it.

Whether some fiction distances the sympathetic characters from the violence that happens on their behalf is also independent of genre.

Just because some fiction happens to be a kids cartoon (or insert any particular genre you wish), doesn't mean you can't apply a Mary Sue litmus test, or a war pr0n litmus test.

#615 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 03:19 PM:

Greg, if you've read it, how would you rate the climax of "Lost Dorsai"?

#616 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 03:41 PM:

John, I haven't read it. Since this is a Harry Potter thread, it would probably be better (better for me at least) if you post non-Harry-Potter questions to me on the open thread or via direct email.

#617 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 04:24 PM:

I think a lot of this boils down to two things: Chaos and magical theory.

I'm a fairly chaotic person. I mean, I lean back and forth between neutral good and chaotic good. I think that's an issue here, the idea of moral consistency, and of things being fair, and of books following the rules. For some people it's as core to their nature as love for the unexpected is to mine.

I've always disliked the idea that "it's this kind of book, so it has to end this way to be internally/morally/genre consistent." "It's a Chinese tragedy, so everyone has to die at the end." Someday, at the end of a Chinese tragedy, I'd like for someone to somehow pull it all together, say "goddamit, stop it! stop it you silly warring families! you're all going to die!" However, fans of stories going the way they're supposed to wouldn't be fond of that.

I realized sometime in college that not everyone thinks they're in the same genre of story. Actually, She Hulk and Deadpool are two of the best examples of this. Everyone around them sees their life as a war movie, or a drama. Deadpool sees it as a comic book. She Hulk sees it as a sit-com. And when people are brought in contact with them they often fail to process it... "THESE PEOPLE AREN'T FOLLOWING THE RULES!" Not everything fits easily into a genre, and how the people around you view the world changes how the world is.

Now Genre bending isn't for everyone, and it's not everywhere, but I love it. I want the unexpected. The world isn't fair, it isn't consistent (science and math excluded), and things that just shouldn't work too often do, while perfectly intended and planned things go horribly awry. Chaos! I want to see the serial killer catch a flu and die in his apartment. I want to see the couple who hate each other and fight like they're married end up not married at the end, and still hating each other. And I'm ok with someone dying from their own ricochet. I don't see that as inconsistent, because that kind of thing happens all the time. It may not be "morally" consistent with the "tone" of the story, but it makes sense to me based on my experiences with the chaotic way the world works.

The other thing I've been thinking about a lot is the magical system of the Harry Potter world. A lot of people who have only seen the movies don't understand it. But for me, magical systems are probably my number one focus when reading books in fantasy worlds. I've had to pay a great deal of attention to a lot of non-summary-relevant asides to get a good idea of what's going on here, and I often have to explain it to my friends who have only seen the movies (which are basically elaborately staged plot summaries.)

Here's something you have to understand about the Harry Potter world: magic carries with it sentience and emotion.

It was mentioned earlier that there are no gods to intervene: there aren't (as far as we're aware). But magic is there to intervene. And well... magic is magic. When things contain magic for a long time, they become not just things, but entities. This is how the Sorting Hat is sentient and intelligent enough to not only come up with rhymes but to have career counseling with you inside your own head in a matter of thirty seconds. It wasn't exactly designed to do all that... rather it was designed to perform the simple action of sorting, and pushed and pulled at by four incredibly powerful wizards, in the end absorbing enough magic to become a sentient, independent organism.

That's why the feral car exists and likes Harry and Ron... because it is now an entity, not a thing. And Harry and Ron are the ones who freed it from its chains of servitude and gave it the final push towards sentience... of course it would take an interest in their well-being, like the lion who had a thorn pulled out of its paw.

That's what the wand thing all boils down to: it doesn't matter how powerful you are. A wand is an entity too. It doesn't matter if you think you are a wand's master, it matters if the wand thinks you are.

So for me, the final revelation about the Elder Wand wasn't complicated "oh by the way, there's this secret bingo" footwork, but rather an issue where something that had been reinforced the whole time for me finally came to its ultimate conclusion.

The lesson of the wand wasn't one of hidden rules, but rather that you've got to be aware that every other entity must be treated with respect and nothing can truly be mastered unless it willingly submits. Servant and master relationships should always contain mutual agreement and respect.

Wands are people too. Or entities. Yeah, I've used that word too much.

Actually, that's a secondary point of the books: everyone matters. Be they wizard, or muggle, or animal, or object. Anything that has feelings is worthy of respect.

#618 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Leah, I don't think Harry Potter's world has anything at all to do with chaos. Real life is chaotic. War is chaotic. Which is to say good people with good intentions can get killed by random chance through no fault of their own.

Harry doesn't live in that sort of chaotic world. If he did, he would have been dead by book three. He lives in a very consistent world. He consistently takes on battles with people who kill at the drop of the hat, he consistently does this without making any sort of real military plan, or backup plan, he consistently gets in way over his head, and something consistently saves him. If the bad guys are defeated, this consistently plays out such that Harry does not have to directly cause their death. I wouldn't call that chaos.

#619 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Greg,

Harry fought a duel to the death with Lord Voldemort and won. We can debate his tactics if you like but he still killed him. Just because it was the magical equivalent of a well timed ricochet instead of a shotgun blast to the chest doesn't mitigate the fact that he is responsible for the death of another person. True, he was an evil, snake faced soulless wizard, but still a human being.

Also, from a basic story telling perspective, it would have been out of character for Harry to use the killing curse. He never used that one and eventually decided that the other unforgivable curses were not to his liking either. Nothing in the story suggests this was a reach or a cop out but a natural decision on the par tof a character who drew a line in the sand and said, "I will not cross it. I'll go up to th edge and do what has to be done but I'll die before stepping over that line."

#620 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 05:59 PM:

I think we're talking about different kinds of chaos and chance here.

If Harry repeatedly goes into a situation where there's a 50-50 chance he'll be killed, logically he's probably dead after the third or fourth chance. But that's not a guarantee. You can have one of those nickel-flipping days when you flip for an hour and get only heads. If someone was betting their life on 'no tails' they'd be stupid as hell, but they'd also still be alive.

That Harry lives isn't inconsistent with chaos. Anything can happen. If an outcome is possible, it might happen.

Also, I think Harry is much more rarely in the type of danger you describe than you assume (I count three times in the entire series, maybe four). There are a number of very powerful forces and people making sure that he's safer than he thinks, while still allowing him enough freedom that he can develop. And most of his enemies have been specifically instructed not to kill him. You have to look carefully, but there's a mile of subtle wizardwork behind a lot of what happens.

Dumbledore was clever about setting up the mirror's trap/solution. Dumbledore keeps a bloody phoenix. A lot of the early stuff is based really extensively on Dumbledore setting it up so Harry can't die while in Hogwarts.

There was a really good gag on the simpsons where Lucy Lawless comments about plot and effects inconsistencies in Xena "Whenever you notice anything like that, a wizard did it." It was somewhat crass in its original, but in Harry's world it has a different meaning. Someone in the past recognized a danger and planned for it, most often Dumbledore. Imagine a man with the talent and mastery to run the wizarding world, to defeat any comer, devoted instead to a single cause: keeping a young kid alive while turning him into a great hero... Most "deus ex machina" seeming sections of the book turn out to be Dumbledore ex Machina. He'd know there was still a basilisk somewhere inside the building, so of course he'd make sure Harry met the phoenix, and he'd ask the phoenix to watch out for Harry (I attribute some sort of sentience to all magical creatures, and I think this is supported as far as Fawkes goes). Long ago Godrick Gryffindor planned ahead, thus there is the hat, and it works as it does.

Of course I also think that Harry did directly cause Voldemort's death, so there's that. If you fight someone on the crater of a volcano, then make sure they have their back to the volcano, then advance on them... and they eventually stumble into the volcano while trying to attack you - congratulations, you just killed them! You gave them adequate chance to surrender, but they chose not to, so you put them in a deadly situation, and they died. I think Harry backed Voldie into a corner and did just that... used the environment to cause his death.

To me this doesn't make any moral difference. However I will agree on one thing: by doing it this way, Harry probably looked better to the public, and felt better. Some people would never stab someone in the back, but they'd be glad to strangle that person, or kill them in a fist fight. It's all about your choice of weapon and your perception of honor. It's about choosing pistols at dawn rather than slow poisoning.

Everyone's got a different sense of honor, and a different set of rules as to what is murder, what is manslaughter, what is accident. This is clearly shown by the division of people who feel Harry's hands are clean and those who believe that he killed Voldemort.

Harry not using a killing curse is like someone making a decision that guns are evil, so instead of coming armed to the shootout they rig their enemy's gun to explode when the trigger is pulled. I actually think the thing that makes Harry a BIT whiter is that he told Voldemort the gun was going to explode, Voldemort just didn't believe him.

#621 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 06:55 PM:

rm,

Thanks for all that! I will definitely have to check out those sources. You're right, I was asking whether the blood allusion could be used to argue that Snape was the red death (perhaps this is cheating, but maybe Dumbledore's "Sorting too soon" comment could also be used as evidence.) I guess I still think like a comp teacher, though I haven't been one for a while--in order to support the theory, I wanted the black, white, and red deaths to carry equivalent thematic weight.

That aside, story-wise, I have to say the death of one of the twins seems exactly right. The death of one of the Weasleys seemed inevitable--witness Molly's boggart. They're just too big a family to expect everyone to survive when they're all on the front lines.

Though I know Rowling has said that at one time she intended to it to be Arthur, I think there are only so many times you can have Harry lose a surrogate parent. And, IMO, Ron and Ginny are both too important to Harry not to have losing one of them fundamentally alter the story. Bill and Charlie are too remote, and Percy's death would also have seemed charged with too much extraneous meaning, considering his estrangement throughout the last 3 books.

Though I've seen some disagreement on this, I think the readers see enough of the twins to have an idea of them as people, rather than just names--we don't get to know a lot about their interior lives because they're Harry's best friend's big brothers, with all the attendant ambivalencies that can imply. (Not to mention, the thought of one of the twins having to go on without the other is just heart-breaking.)

Funny you should mention Slacktivist, another of my favorite blogs. Jenny's mother, who gave us the boxed set of the first 4 Potter books (all that were in print at the time), also gave me, at the same time, the boxed set of the first 4 "Left Behind" books. I think you would have to have known Jane to understand how she could give her lesbian daughter-in-law LB for Christmas and truly not have any motive other than that she was enjoying them and wanted someone to talk about them with. I don't know if she would've seen LB through to the finale (I certainly didn't), but I have no doubt she would've loved the resolution of HP. One of the unexpected gifts of finishing the series has been an unassailable sense that, somewhere, she knows how the story ends and is thoroughly pleased.


#622 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 08:01 PM:

Leah @ 620: Bravo! That's what I wanted to say but couldn't express so well.

Re school timetables: the norm in British secondary schools is to have different classes on different days of the week, with the timetable staying the same or almost the same for a year. I expect this is what we're meant to assume happens at Hogwarts too. My school week was divided into 40 35-minute periods (arranged in pairs, so most lessons would be "double" lessons of 70 minutes). In the first year I had at least 15 named subjects on my weekly timetable, with between 1 and 5 periods spent on each one, and each with a different teacher. This went up in the second year when I started two more languages, then down from then on as we dropped most of the things we weren't taking formal exams in.

#623 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 08:30 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale:

Thanks for the link to the Rowling chat at the Leaky Cauldron. I enjoyed most of her elaborations, but I must admit she seems awfully blithe about Hermione's ability to reconcile with her parents once her spell is lifted.

I can't imagine it would be easy to find out that you'd been forced to leave behind a career, friends, family, etc., for a year, with the possibility that, if the worst had happened, it would all have been lost to you forever. Plus, I'm not a parent, but I think learning after the fact that your child had been in such grave danger could cause some pretty heavy post-tramautic stress.

Leah Miller:

what great analysis! I especially love your take on the feral car and all of Dumbledore's careful planning.

#624 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 10:03 PM:

I think we're talking about different kinds of chaos and chance here.

Maybe. I don't see any chaos in Harry Potter. The only "surprises" I see in that world are things that Rowling mentions in page 50 and then uses to save the world in page 500. It is chaotic for the passing reader, but the world is completely hemmed in and unchaotic.

Yeah, sure, Dumbldore. Why not. OK. So Big D has it all figured out from the beginning. Great. Only thing is that every time Harry goes into the mouth of Hell, we don't know that Big D has already set up magical artillery and magical medivac for Harry.

Great.

In the world of Harry Potter, that is perfectly consistent. Big D sets up the big guns. Harry goes into the mouth of Hell. Harry can't do it on his own. Big D calls in the artillery. It makes complete logical sense.

But from a reader's point of view, Rowling always takes us into the mouth of hell with Harry, a slingshot, and a stick of gum. The tension rises as we find out the slingshot just won't cut it. And the tension rises further as we think Harry is about done for.

And then the cavalry trumpet blares, and Big D rides in to save the day, having been waiting all along for this moment.

Sure, sure, if you go back to page 50, you can find some vague line about asking for help that will justify Big D's rescue in the end.

That doesn't make it any less of a deus ex machina for the reader.

Had we known the resources available to Harry at any given instance, most of the "big finales" would have been much more boring. So Rowling hides the cavalry, and then explains it afterwards. Swell.

Sure, sure, it's consistent within the world of Harry Potter. Great. But when the military goes into the suck, the tactical folks don't make plans based off of some "Help will be sent when asked" comment that a general made six months ago. They get all the details. What kind of help. How to contact them. How long of a lead time.

And then when you read the story about them going into the suck on their op, you know they've got artillery on standby, air medavac on the ready pad, fixed wing close air support in orbit, and chopper gunships just off the horizon.

As a reader, following the military team into the suck with that knowledge is more than a little different than following Harry into the chamber of secrets thinking he's got nothing but a slingshot on his side.

When the mil folks run into a division, you know that close air will bomb the hell out of them. When some get wounded, you know they've got medvac. Of course, in a chaotic world, half of this won't work as planned. But you know as much as everyone in the story knows.

In Harry Potter, you know as much as Harry knows, which is fine in and of itself, since that's the POV of the story. But on top of that, Rowling makes sure that every character who knows anything MORE than Harry is for one reason or another not talking to Harry. Ever. For seven books spanning seven years, with a major battle each year.

The term for that is "plot driven". The characters such as Dumbledore and Sirius and anyone else who could help Harry are always acting in a way that furthers what Rowling wants to happen, not in a way that neccessarily would be in their own best interests.

Sure, Rowling always injects some explanation, but when the deus ex machina cavalry shows up at the end to save the day, having the cavalry colonel remind the hero (and the reader) that they had run into each other back on page 50, doesn't mean it no longer qualifies as deus ex machina.

#625 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 11:50 PM:

Lisa -- a comp teacher! That's why we're on the same wavelength. All hail Rhetorica.

Leah -- Thanks for those wonderful interpretations.

Greg -- Pumpkin cookies are really good.

Ingredients:
* 1 cup pumpkin
* 1 egg
* 2 cups flour - all purpose
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup shortening
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350.
Step 2: Cream sugar and shortening.
Step 3: Add vanilla, egga, and pumpkin.
Step 4: Sift dry ingredients.
Step 5: Add remaining ingredients - mix well.
Step 6: Use teaspoon to drop cookies on cookie sheet.
Step 7: Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes about 6 dozen.

Pumpkin Cookie Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk

Directions:
Step 1: Bring above ingredients to a boil in sauce pan. Cool for a short while.
Step 2: Add: 3/4 teaspoon vanilla and 1 or more cups powdered sugar.
Step 3: Put onto cookies and ENJOY!

I recommend using fresh pumpkin. Just bake a halved, de-pulped pumpkin in about 1/2 inch of water like any other squash. Scoop out the meat. If it's still stringy, put it in a blender. I would also add nutmeg.

#626 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 11:55 PM:

Credit where it is due -- I forgot the link. Pumpkin Cookies. Thanks, Madame Rosmerta.

#627 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 12:02 AM:

Pumpkin cookies are really good.

You didn't omit one of the ingredients in the recipe and hide it in some passing comment a hundred posts up, did you?

#628 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 12:19 AM:

. . . and we end with a smile. :) Ginger. I left out ginger. It was symbolically alluded to in the discussion of Ginevra Weasley.

#629 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 12:38 AM:

Pumpkin cookies:

Skip the icing, add chocolate chips. Mmmm... Pumpkinandchocolate.

#630 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 03:36 AM:

"Yeah, sure, Dumbldore. Why not. OK. So Big D has it all figured out from the beginning. Great. Only thing is that every time Harry goes into the mouth of Hell, we don't know that Big D has already set up magical artillery and magical medivac for Harry."

Greg, you use "we" a lot and "the reader." To me that implies a universality to your particular experience that I'm not seeing. If you'd used I, it'd be easier to take your statements with a grain of salt. Among my friends, I've never heard that expressed once (except, once again, by the friends who only watch the movies and do not read the books. They say it all the time.)

By the time I get to the ending of a Harry Potter, I see it as a coming together... sort of like the end of a Guy Ritchie movie like Snatch. No, I don't know exactly what is going to happen, but I know what Dumbledore has been asking after and working on the whole book, I know what Harry has been studying, what Hermione's found out, and about 90% of the figues in play are in the front of my mind. I also don't always remember all the apples that are up in the air and about to fall down, but I know enough that I see where it's going.

If the reader is me, this stuff doesn't come out of nowhere. It comes out of the stuff I've been paying attention to. It comes out of generalized magical theory. And yeah, I DO know Dumbledore has set up the artillery and worked things out. Dumbledore is Vetinari but with some compassion and whimsy. Of course he's worked things out. The question is HOW.

Sometimes the story is about taking what you have and doing your best, about plans and lists and common knowledge. That's the magician, the first Arcana. And sometimes the story is the 0 Arcana, the fool, the innocent stepping over a cliff. To me that is one of the archtypical stories, the beginning storie: standing on one leg on the edge of the pool, eyes closed, nose held shut. You know you're going to be hitting the water sometime... but how cold will it be, and when will you finally lose you balance, that's what you have to find out. That's where the tension and fear and excitement come from.

You don't care for this kind of story. It doesn't speak to you. You've made that abundantly clear. But I don't believe that the Fool's story is any less true, or well-constructed, or valid, or realistic, or honest. It's just a different kind of story, and one that you don't like.

I'm sorry I'm getting so fired up here. I don't universally love everything Rowling does, and there's a ton of stuff I won't defend at all (size of wizarding world vs. Hogwarts being one of them), but you keep asking what people's favorite part of the books are, and you keep criticizing the endings. That's made me think about the ending more... and you know what, I do like them.

Other than her characterization and set design and magical rules, her endings are what do it for me. The endings and a lot of the unwinding that happens just before the ending. I am talking about the endings to Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven. I didn't like the first two as much, so I haven't reread them as recently.

I go through the story picking up things, internalizing magical principals, remarking on things I find strange, remarking on things I like. So I end up walking up the staircase with cupped hands filled with trinkets. Then, when I get to the last landing, someone takes three or four of the pieces I've have out of my hand and makes them into something (this is the big pre-show reveal that often happens right before the conflict. Pensieve, fairy tale, what have you) and now that I'm excited and giddy, I advance further up the staircase, not really looking at anything anymore but my hands.

Suddenly, I feel the familar texture beneath my feet. It's the diving board... and I know what I have to do. I stand at the edge, I don't look down, and I keep looking at the things in my hands.

Eventually I start to fall. And, as I fall, it's very slow... and I see the objects that were in my hands hang in the air. I see them from different angles, and somehow I'm noticing them while I'm being thrilled by the fall. And just when I'm about to hit the water, they all fall together just right and it makes sense.

Now I know the fall is just going to end in water. But falling is still exciting, and I'm distracted by my shinies, which I'm seeing in a new light. So when I finally hit, I'm filled with ideas and thoughts and joy.

I'll admit it. There is some part of the story where you KNOW that if something is called "Harry Potter" he's not going to die before book 7. So you know that (at least up until the last one), the pool's going to be filled with water of a survivable temperature. But that's not the point. The point is the fall and the trinkets.

And you're standing there at the edge of the pool when I come up laughing, saying "where the hell did these trinkets come from? They were lazily hidden, and that's cheating" and I'm here saying "No, I was carrying them the whole time. Ok, maybe not ALL of them, but I think I put the ones I wasn't still carrying in my pockets, I remember now.

If you aren't someone who carries things like that, then I can certainly see your problem. The ending is for the trinket collectors and the divers. And it's absolutely and foremost for the trinket-collecting giggling divers.

Or that's my take anyway. It's about 2am here, and I've been unable to sleep because my head has been filling with words.

#631 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 05:52 AM:

Greg, it still bothers me a lot that you're bitching about books which you haven't even bothered to read. I don't understand that at all.

#632 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 06:39 AM:

Greg #624: Had we known the resources available to Harry at any given instance, most of the "big finales" would have been much more boring.

Had you read most of the big finales, your opinions might be worth addressing.

#633 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 08:27 AM:
Greg@624: It is chaotic for the passing reader, but the world is completely hemmed in and unchaotic.

Physics in the 20th century has established that:

  1. the future is written, re: Einstein, but
  2. we are fated to be uncertain of that future until we experience it, re: Heisenberg.

What you complain of here seems to be true of the very nature of reality.

Re: war pr0n:

Part of justifying the public presentation of a story is to make it accessible. We who are cognizant or our own mortality immediately identify with mortal threats, which you aren't denying. This seems to be why war pr0n is omnipresent.

Rowling has explicitly said that her chief theme in the Potter books was our acceptance of our own mortality, therefore presenting an antagonist who does not tolerate his mortality oppressing the world is not unreasonable. So no, she did not write Ratatouille, which is as non-war-pr0n as anything presented to a general audience, but that wasn't the challenge she took upon herself.

I think your criticism would be better served by providing an alternative approach to the challenge Rowling took on. Rowling became a billionaire writing on the theme of "tolerance of our own mortaility." Feel free to show us how to do it the right way, and maybe there will be something in it for you when someone here becomes wealthy also.

#634 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Ginger. I left out ginger. It was symbolically alluded to in the discussion of Ginevra Weasley.

Well, that's OK, then. If you had left out "shortening" but then explain to me after I pull the pan out of the oven that the short orchestra professor (can't think of his name) was a reference to the missing shortening, then that would have been a bit troubling. I can go without ginger.

#635 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 09:08 AM:

Mike: Rowling became a billionaire writing on the theme of "tolerance of our own mortaility." Feel free to show us how to do it the right way,

Argumentum ad crumenam. 'Nuff said.

#636 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Leah: Guy Ritchie movie like "Snatch"

I loved that movie. It was crazy chaotic. When crazy stuff happened at the end, like the dog eating the homework, or the guy shooting his own henchman by accident, that worked perfectly for me. The whole movie was chaotic and crazy stuff was happening to people all the time, so when that stuff happened near the end, it was just part of the world being crazy chaotic. When the big twist comes, it was perfect.

Not to mention, it had violence without getting a high war pr0n score. None of the characters fart around with LRGM's, if they want someone dead, they do it themselves. And when you're shown a lot of violent prone people setting up to fight each other, you end up with a lot of people being killed directly by folks on the other team. They make plans for really dangerous jobs. The plans never go according to plan. Things go wrong. And the ending for me was unexpected, but damn near perfect.

I never got that chaotic feeling from a Harry Potter book. It seemed completely linear, almost like on rails. Until we got to the big finale, and something out of the blue happens. Like that wizard we saw out the window about three train stations ago? He's on the last station. And he's going to save your main charcter.

Dumbledore is Vetinari

I get the impression that some of the people here defending Harry Potter are justifying the story plot by saying something like "Rowling was writing an (____) genre book, and she followed the expectations of that genre."

I think that might actually be the big difference between how I look at fiction and how some folks here look at fiction.

I wouldn't read a story and as I recognize it to be following the pattern of some other story then expect the story to follow that pattern, even to the point that the story I'm reading can skip some of the setup, and skip doing some of the work.

I expect that if Dumbledore's character has some sort of major influence in the outcome of the story, then the reader must be told, in the story being read, whatever sort of setup works so that the reader knows that Dumbledore has some sort of influence.

If I'm reading some story that apparently fits the fairy tale genre, and hints at showing me a Snow White character, plus seven vertically challenged characters, then if the story I'm reading doesn't bother to introduce the wicked witch until the very end, as a complete surprise, twist ending, then I'd call it bad writing.

I wouldn't say "Oh, these are all Snow White characters, I'll assume this is a Snow White story, and read it as if the writer did all the work that the original Snow White story did, and let them skip over it for expediancy. She probably has a wicked witch running around somewhere off stage that we haven't met yet."

If you see Dumbledore and say "Oh, he's a such and such character" based on some similarity between Dumbledore and the other character, I still fully expect Rowling to do the work and write the whole story as if the other character and the other story never existed.

Otherwise, you get a deus ex machina in the story, with some people going, "Oh, but if you read this other story, you'd see she was following this pattern, so we were all expecting it."

I mean, I've been told here by some that we can't really look at something in Harry Potter as war pr0n because it's actually following the pattern in (insert other story, other genre, other style fo fiction). And I've still not figured out what to make of stuff like that. Maybe this is actually the big difference between how I look at it and how some people here look at it.

#637 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Mike@633: Rowling has explicitly said that her chief theme in the Potter books was our acceptance of our own mortality, therefore presenting an antagonist who does not tolerate his mortality oppressing the world is not unreasonable. So no, she did not write Ratatouille, which is as non-war-pr0n as anything presented to a general audience, but that wasn't the challenge she took upon herself.

I think your criticism would be better served by providing an alternative approach to the challenge Rowling took on. Rowling became a billionaire writing on the theme of "tolerance of our own mortaility." Feel free to show us how to do it the right way, and maybe there will be something in it for you when someone here becomes wealthy also.

Greg@635: Argumentum ad crumenam. 'Nuff said.

Asking you to distinguish your criticism from disasturbation is a logical fallacy?

#638 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 02:17 PM:

I am only an occasional poster here, not part of the "family", and this might make me subject to disembowelment, which I will accept with humility, but...

Jesus on a Harley, Greg! Why in the world are you so bent on souring the rest of us on books we enjoy? Books you, by your own admission, haven't even read?

Don't read them if you don't want to, hate them if you want to, feed them to your pet goat... If it's validation of your viewpoint you're looking for, you ain't gonna get it. Got it?

The world is full of books to every taste. We might even share some, and we can have productive conversations about them. Let's ask Teresa to open a thread about "my favorite fantasy book and why?" and we can all pitch in.

#639 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 02:38 PM:

Jumping ahead (I'll catch up gradually), here are some things I sort-of expected that didn't happen:

Harry didn't have to fight Mad-Eye as an Inferius.
Petunia never relented in her fixed stupidity (but at least we saw why, I guess).
None of the Slytherins ever turned good (except Snape).

I read the last three books in the last week. Even up to the end, there were good parts and there were background details that would have fallen over if you poked them with your finger -- stuff that might suffice for a joke, but not for a novel. At least the endless exposition of every plot gimmick was largely gone, and some degree of mystery replaced it. That was good.

Cathy never read any of the books. This week she decided to read them all. I told her that Moldy Mort dies at the end of book six, and after that they just go after counterfeiters and stuff.

#640 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 02:57 PM:

Mike, I don't know what to tell you. As far as I can tell, your arguments are little more than veiled attempts to tell me to stop criticizing anything about Harry Potter. I don't recall you admitting a single problem with the book, so forgive me if I doubt your objectivity in looking at the books. At least Emma takes the straight approach.

I've actually been learning some stuff from Leah's posts. I don't agree with all of it, and I still don't understand all of it, but I've read everything she's said with a tone that she's trying to point at something that I don't see. You, not so much.

Leah, I appreciate your help, your guidance, and your answers. But the majority of people here don't want to hear any criticism of HP, so I'll stop. I've put the next book back on my "to read" list because of some of the things you've pointed out. I don't understand them exactly, but asking more questions will probably raise more objections, so I'll just try to read it and imagine you pointing the way. And thank you, most of all, for your patience.

#641 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 03:22 PM:

I get the impression that some of the people here defending Harry Potter are justifying the story plot by saying something like "Rowling was writing an (____) genre book, and she followed the expectations of that genre."

I wouldn't read a story and as I recognize it to be following the pattern of some other story then expect the story to follow that pattern, even to the point that the story I'm reading can skip some of the setup, and skip doing some of the work.

I expect that if Dumbledore's character has some sort of major influence in the outcome of the story, then the reader must be told, in the story being read, whatever sort of setup works so that the reader knows that Dumbledore has some sort of influence.

I'm a bit confused by that. When I was specifically talking about genre, I said that certain kinds of stories are about the unknown, and certain kinds of stories are about the known. Certain endings are about watching the plan unfold and people react to the unexpected, an some endings are about watching the events, ideas, and outside forces of previous chapters come together. If you don't like one of those kinds of endings it is ok, but I don't believe that either is inferior to the other.

I did not get the impression that Dumbledore was planning for Harry's Safety because of some literary convention. I think he is planning everything because, while reading the book, I found and noticed evidence and characterization that indicated it was so. I observed actions, considered possible motivations for those actions, and built an internal portrait of the character from them. As time went on, I realized more and more who he was and what he was doing.

It all hinges, for me, on the feral car. That's the moment from the two books you read that I remember most clearly. For you it is an unreasonable and inexplicable intrusion on logic. For me it is the logical end of a plot arc, foreshadowing, and a magical principal inherent in the world.

And that's it. That's point number one.

For me it's not buried on page 43 with a bad pun. It's just good sense. I put myself in the character's shoes... and not just the main character. Of all the characters, I identified most with Dumbledore. For me it was bloody obvious that he was setting things up and had influence.

And now for Point the second:

You seem to indicate that you would have found it more "fair" to us if Dumbledore said to Harry earlier "I'm telling this phoenix to protect you. if you ever get poisoned, call the phoenix." But that's not an inherent quality of a good story. In fact, I bloody hate stories that say that (personal preference!). They make me think 'oh great, now he's going to get poisoned.' And I think he's going to get poisoned not because of past stories I've read, or literary convention, but because of chekov's gun... if you introduce a mystical creature who can cure poison, someone's gotta get fatally poisoned by the end of act three. You don't make someone drag a VW up the hill unless the VW is going to be useful.

Because of Chekov's gun I like it when something is introduced and implied, but left up to the reader. Like if you meet someone who is later going to be revealed as a blacksmith, you notice weird ash and rough hands with a lot of burns on them... rather than being introduced to "Joe the Blacksmith. If you ever need any blacksmithing, call on him."

So, I guess to sum up, I am saying two things:
1. In my opinion various things others might find jarring were adequately foreshadowed in my reading of the books. It's all about reading style.

2. The revelation of the importance and function of a character (or item) before that character arrives to perform that important function is not required for a quality story. Whether you prefer this form of revelation or not is a matter of personal preference.

#642 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 03:26 PM:

Doh, extremely delayed cross-post based on lengthy composition time.

Heh, sorry!

#643 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Greg, darn it, just when I thought I owed you an apology you pull this stuff: But the majority of people here don't want to hear any criticism of HP, so I'll stop.

That is patently untrue. A number of folk have discussed the books' shortcomings, and explained at great length why they like the books in spite of them. Nobody here thinks HP is the greatest bit of children's literature since the first storyteller hitched up her furs, pointed at the fire, and said: Once upon a time... That judgment we do not make; the vast majority of fiction disappears, unmourned, in a couple of decades. Only those that survive are considered for the pantheon, and most of us will be dead by then.

I think I've said it before, way up thread: the problem is that you seem to want the book you think Rowling should have written rather than the one she wrote. That makes it impossible for you to give it a fair reading.

Or maybe it's just a matter of personal taste. Me, I hate most cyberpunk. Sue me. Having tried by level best to like it, I don't. So I don't read it, but I also don't expect them to write what I think they should have written!

#644 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 05:21 PM:

In book 6, I was expecting that Tonks had been taken over... Imperius curse, or whatever it's called... and that explained her strange mood, lack of color changes, different Patronus, and so on. But no, she was just lovestruck and/or moping, like one of the other characters had suggested.

Red herring, I guess.

#645 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 06:09 PM:
Greg@640: Mike, I don't know what to tell you. As far as I can tell, your arguments are little more than veiled attempts to tell me to stop criticizing anything about Harry Potter.

Normally, I would have thought criticism that cannot be acted upon was simply not justifiable. I didn't realize tailoring criticism to be constructive was counter-intuitive to the point of logical fallacy.

#646 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 06:20 PM:

Re #5 (and others): Googling on mightygodking potter produces some results. This one hasn't gone away as of [date/time this was posted].

#647 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Greg, this is unworthy of you. We don't want you to stop criticizing Harry Potter. We want you to read the goddamn books. Stop carping about books you haven't even read!!!!

#648 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 06:52 PM:

Wrye @298: "her fluffy ginger cat, Crookshanks, at her feet, sorting books". I mean, that's not even an unlikely thing for a cat in the Harryverse to be doing, is it? Well, obviously, it's a Sorting Cat.

#649 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 06:54 PM:

What Emma said.

And, Greg, I tried to end it nicely, but . . .

Disarmo!

Petrificus Totalus!

Okay, now listen.

Sometimes you are nice, but then you have to lash out. Something's going wrong there, in your rhetorical style if not deeper. You were nice to Leah, but you had to jab at everyone else in doing so. You'll concede a point only to reiterate it.

Lemme tellya, if you weren't insistently repeating the same broad-brush attack on these books, you would have heard a lot more discussion of the books' faults. As it is, you've made the thread all about defending them. So for everything we have to thank you for (being the vitriol to make us refine our thoughts), we also must mourn the discussion that did not take place.

What you are missing is Joy, Joy Beyond the Walls of the World. The Land of Faerie doesn't work like ours. But it has its own kinds of perils. You don't want to end up like Lord Flee-From-Death who could not understand redemption or sacrificial love. Those are the themes. If you want to access them, do this: think of the greatest joy of your life, and say expecto patronum. Now read. I hope you find Joy.

#650 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 07:43 PM:

If there's any character I want to write wish-fulfillment "They didn't really die!" fanfic about, it's Tonks.

It seemed entirely appropriate that she'd die off-screen, quietly, because even when Tonks first appeared, it felt like part of her quality was showing that the world did not, in fact, revolve around Harry. That there were other people out there doing important work, with their own Special Powers, and they were necessary too. I mean, I know a lot of fans felt that the Tonks/Remus thing came out of left field, but I loved that! People Harry knew were allowed to have their own drama and love lifes and issues off-screen in places he didn't see. Not everything important happens in front of him.

So of course when she dies, it's off-screen, because it's a reminder that while Harry is doing important things, other people are also doing important things, and paying for them, in places he can't see. It felt very thematically appropriate.

But, dammit, I liked Tonks. I really really liked Tonks. I want an entire series about what she did back when she was in school (imagine the prank possibilities of being that kind of shapeshifter since birth), how she became an Auror, what she did in that job, how she became part of the Order of the Phoenix, the work she did during the darker times while Harry and the others were off looking for Horcruxes, her friends...

It's a pity that I'm no good at writing anyone else's characters. Because that's a story I'd really love to read.

#651 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Fade Manley @ 650: I think that's the sort of thing which makes me enjoy the books, despite the many legitimate criticisms which could be leveled at them. Even the minor characters are interesting enough to me that as I follow the story, I'll forgive problems in plot and setting (for example, did no one ask the Gray Lady the right questions in all those years? Why did they just leave a dead basilisk to rot in the Chamber of Secrets for five years? Are some curses more Unforgivable than others now? What kind of society has one bank, one secondary school, no universities, and thirteen professional sports teams?)

It's too bad some of these supporting characters either didn't have a significant part in the seventh book, or died abruptly. But then again, the novels aren't told from their point of view, and even the surviving characters won't have any more adventures anyway.

#652 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 09:37 PM:

Kip W @639: None of the Slytherins ever turned good (except Snape).

I noticed that... and also that while some of the baddies were partially redeemed (Pettigrew and the Malfoys), it was always by failing to do evil rather than actively performing a good deed (except maybe for Narcissa's lie to Voldemort?)-- sort of the reverse of "The only thing needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing".

And Kip again @644: In book 6, I was expecting that Tonks had been taken over... Imperius curse, or whatever it's called... and that explained her strange mood, lack of color changes, different Patronus, and so on.

I was expecting that like Mad-Eye back in book 4, someone was wandering around in Polyjuiced disguise as Tonks, but was only able to wear her default face instead of being able to Metamorph into other ones.

#653 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 10:33 PM:

I haven't been reading this thread because I've only read the first two books and, believe it or not, it's possible I might eventually want to read the rest. And although I'm extremely tolerant of spoilers, reading an entire thread that's nothing but spoilers is more than I even want to do.

However, having now skimmed the last two or three hundred messages, I have to say I've learned something, which is: the next time we put up a thread like this, it's going to be signposted with something along the lines of "This is a thread for discussing the details of $NARRATIVEWORK, not for conducting flamewars about whether $NARRATIVEWORK is worthless and its fans stoopid." This notice may conceivably be accompanied by the dread runes GREG LONDON, THIS MEANS YOU.

Heck, maybe the real canny social-engineering solution is to always start two simultaneous discussions, one a detail-fest and the other for dinosauric gronk-off of the What-You-Like,-It-Sucks-Rocks variety. And then again: Tranquilizer darts.

#654 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 11:24 PM:

It's late. I have to pause now at #500 and take it up again on the morrow. Here are thoughts I've accumulated while reading this far.

Greg London @461 - It seemed interesting (and a little lame, perhaps) to me, that when the chips are down and their lives and everything they cared for was on the line, the good guys kept using "hit 'em on the head" or "tie 'em up" spells, while their foes were using "killkillkill" spells. Hmmmm, maybe they're the only spells those kids knew. They know the words for the harsher spells, but they've probably never practiced them.

One quibble I have with the books is that the corroborative detail tends to make it seem more like a bald and unconvincing narrative in many cases. It's as if you were walking down a street and it seemed convincingly real, but if you went five yards from the sidewalk, you'd find tottering cardboard building fronts with nothing but sky behind the windows. The sort of details that might suffice for a joke, but not for a world-building novel. Examples? Products that do awful things to users -- not subtle things, but things that mutate them or make them projectingly ill. Setups that seem more suited to Bored of the Rings and the quick laff than to a sustained story line.

Okay, I'm going to break this into shorter comments, in an attempt to spare the reader from "Kip W fatigue."

#655 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 11:29 PM:

I've always thought the observance of Christian holidays in Potterworld was a bit odd. (Heh... Potterville... scurvy little spider...)

I'm sure somebody's pointed out the similarity in names between Nagini and Nagina (she-cobra in The Jungle Book), but just in case.

About a thousand posts too late, but I also thought that spells in the Latin edition should be in Greek, largely from having read I, Claudius. I also saw this as the answer to Seminole Sam's question in Pogo, "I wonder what language the Romans used for the 24-karat bamboozle?"

One more and I'm off to bed.

#656 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 11:31 PM:

I sort of wondered why Harry didn't get a portrait painted of Sirius if he was so lonely. (I think they use an imp in a box. Or maybe it's a bird who turns out to the audience and says, "Awwk! For this I went to night school?")

Dawno @463 - Anyone else wish that instead of seeing Malfoy at the train station with his offspring, that it was Dudley and child? Well, in addition, perhaps. No reason Dudley's child might not be a wi*.

And a quote from Movie Movie (specifically DYNAMITE FISTS) that seems appropriate: "The real winner tonight was Love. It wasn't the State that sent Vincent Marlowe to his death... it was Love!"

Good night, Gracie.

#657 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 01:02 AM:

Apparently Naga means cobra in Sanskrit.

#658 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 06:51 AM:

I'd agree with Kip in #654 that Rowlings worldbuilding is pretty thin stuff in places.

Two minor niggles in the last book:

Firstly, I don't buy Harry figuring out more about wand-lore than Voldemort ever did. A wand is everyones first, most personal and most used magical possession, and the facts about wands are not like esoteric knowledge of how to split your soul while committing murder. The differences between ones own wand, a borrowed wand and a wand taken by force should all be very common knowledge.

Secondly, Ollivander is a master of wand-lore and well familiar with the Elder Wand stories, yet he's never even heard that it's one of the deathly hallows? That jarred me, I would expect him to laugh at Harry dragging out that old nonsense.

Query: Is Ollivander a trade name, like Cooper or Thatcher? Or does the English word wand come from the Ollivander family name?

#659 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 07:50 AM:

Re: 639, 652

Slughorn actively fought against Voldemort.

#660 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 08:47 AM:

Michael I @#659: And was secretly working for Willy Wonka.

#661 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 09:32 AM:

Niall @658: See, I looked at it different. It's not that Harry knows more than Voldemort, it's that he approaches it from a different angle, so he assimilates different information. One of the things that distinguishes Voldemort is imho, his inability to assimilate anything except what he needs to further his plans. Secondly, he's at his greatest moment of triumph here: he thinks he's won, and that's all he needs. Extrapolating from the real world, I've seen people who were so assured they were winning the race that they missed the gopher hole. Voldemort is so certain he's invicible, that he forgets the basics.

Harry, on the other hand, is looking for whatever edge he can get; grasping at wands, as it were. Everything is important because he doesn't know where that little thing that will allow him to defeat Voldermort will be.

#662 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 09:36 AM:

It's darn lucky that Tom Riddle had the highly unusual middle name "Marvolo," so he could rearrange the letters and get "I AM LORD VOLDEMORT!" By subsequently ignoring the first part, he made a pseudonym for future use as a scary murderer and hanging around Internet chat rooms. How different life would have been without that middle name!

When Harry and Hermione went through his few effects, an old piece of parchment turned up that we believe represents the agonizing turmoil of his creative process. He apparently used many eldritch resources to find a name that absolutely had to be an anagram for his full name (and no, it's not "Thomas," it's "Tom," thank you very much!).

Here, with You-Know-Who's original notes on each one, are

LORD VOLDEMORT'S TOP TEN REJECTED NAMES!

X. Mot Olovram Elddir! too obvious
IX. Doormat Dill Mover doormats too passive!
VIII. Immortal Lord Dove maybe... wizards are a cowardly and superstitious lot... nah, ending too weak
VII. I'm Tom Rollover, Dad! no! Dad abandoned me! I'm never speaking to him again, even rhetorically!
VI. Rammed Ovoid Troll trolls suck.
V. Devil Marmot Drool devil and drool okay, but marmots right out
IV. Armored Doll Vomit close, close, but dolls for sissies
III. Drool Lover, Dammit! very strong, but sense they'd find way to make fun of this
II. Lord Male Vomit Rod too butch -- seems like overcompensation

And the number I top rejected name:
Overlord Maim Dolt* tough, descriptive -- might be the one -- will sleep on it

* (This one is written on the back of the parchment in a variety of flashy styles... highly stylized letters, variously emphasized capitals, mix of cursive and block, snake-like Ms, lightning-like Ms, scowling skull dotting the "i", and with numbers in place of some of the letters.)It's thought that if Riddle had adopted one of these, he'd be referred to obliquely as "He-Who-Really-Should-Not-Be-Named."

#663 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 09:48 AM:

The flayed baby in King's Cross was the piece of Voldemort in Harry that was making him such a whiny git.

#664 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 10:19 AM:

Joel @577 - Was it, perhaps, strategy that Harry didn't fire a killing spell at Voldemort? Every time he tries one, it's blocked or ducked. A spell that bounces back on your foe after he's just fired what he thinks will kill you and is watching to see the effect would probably be more of a surprise.

#665 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 10:23 AM:

Matt Austern @557 - I do mind that, given what we've told about how the world works, there don't seem to be any possible answers that make sense if you ask questions like "where do the characters get their food", or "what was going on in France while England went fascist", or [...] Did we just change which book we were talking about? In the heat of discussion, another series is rather a far thing from my mind just now.

#666 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 10:25 AM:

I feel guilty for this, but since I'm all alone in the place today...

Six Sixty Sixth! woo hoo!

(slinks off)

#667 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 10:36 AM:

Darnit Kip. 662 nearly made me snork boiling hot coffee!

#668 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Keith @602 - Harry spent the last year collecting the necessary materials, arranging circumstances and covering his tracks, as he plotted the death of his sworn enemy, going so far as to kill him not once but eight times. ... So yeah, just like Peter Pan. More like this cartoon I saw once, with the cat's nine souls are being dragged off to Hell, one by one.

rm @606 - I am now thinking -- is Snape in any way "red"? No, he's extremely pale, because of being "half blood." I'm surprised he can stand up.

#669 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 10:57 AM:

Hmm, further to Kip's list, what if You-Know-Who had used "Thomas"? Let's assume he wanted a title of some kind:

Lord Marshal Ed Vimtoo too curryhouse
Earl Validrod Shotmom And your little dog, too!
Lord Shivto Melodrama I do have a flair for it
Lord Admiral Homovest Good title, not so keen on the name
Lord Larvae Doomsmith Buggy
Marshal Odd Vomit Lore Pukio!
Lord Aviator Moshmeld I can fly, you know
Marshal Dormvote Idol Most popular boy in Slytherin
Lord Shitmoved Amoral but I'm immoral

#670 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 10:58 AM:

GREG LONDON, THIS MEANS YOU.

To Leah and others, thank you for your patience.

To everyone else, my apologies.

#671 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 11:04 AM:

Greg London @608 - Even if Peter Pan had conspired with the crocodile, and gone to great lengths to set up some Lethal Rube Goldberg Machine, Peter still distances himself from the actual act of killing Hook, because Peter doesn't do the actual killing act. The crocodile does it. There's a difference of opinion on whether that counts. Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op sets up scenarios where somebody kills somebody else, and it seems fairly obvious that he is not without (objective) guilt. The fact that he doesn't stay up at night over it is an aspect of his personality that makes him so good at what he does, but he knows, and so does his boss.

Paula @610 - (Heh, Harry Sue.) V'mort should have put the Horcruxes into scary talking toys that would creep people out so much they couldn't go near them, like Teddy Cruxpin.

#672 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Leah Miller @617 - The sentience of objects here and elsewhere creeps me out like animated advertisements where smiling pigs jump into sausage grinders. Things get to have little personalities, but when their usefulness is gone, they can be discarded or destroyed without compunction. This is another 'cute' detail of the books that seems poorly thought out to me.

Mary Dell @660 - Oh yes. Thank you for that.

Well, that appears to be it. There are some more comments, but they almost all seem to be that Kip vos Williams guy jumping up and down, and anyway my head is starting to throb.

#673 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 11:16 AM:

Kip@654,671,

I was going to email you, but couldn't find your address anywhere on your livejournal page.

Email me if you would like to discuss your posts off thread.

I think it best if I make no further comments about Harry Potter on this thread.

#674 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 11:37 AM:

#662: Ow, I think I just hurt myself from laughing too hard.

#675 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 12:15 PM:

#662 and #667, you're making me howl with laughter here! :-)

#676 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Dudes. Dudettes. Greg.

Have a cookie.

#677 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Greg London @673 - It's convoluted, I admit, but it can be done! There's a subtle little link, in small type, at the bottom of ZN, which is my dusty old website with pictures and things. I don't feel driven to keep discussing the small points I raised, though if you do I have no objection either.

In addition to the LJ and ZN, I also have an unknown blog that I add to at irregular intervals, and a photo page on flickr (that seems to have protective spells keeping people who don't have their own flickr or Yahoo accounts from seeing it, which is irksome). I posted the Poetical Cookery Book to it the other day. I mention this just because, I guess.

I gave MOG a try a while back, but it seemed to be mostly just irritating. I guess my eardrums are darn near calcified, and resist anything new. Some new stuff slips by and gets in, of course. Resistance is indeed futile sometimes.

#678 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 12:50 PM:

Greg, I didn't particularly mind your posts but I did find them a bit purposeless. You may not have meant your POV to sound like "I don't like these books, so nobody else should like them either", but it did rather sound like that, and since you haven't even read the books...

Just for the record, I started reading the series in 2001 (I was 25, so I've never exactly been the target audience), and had I originally read them in the correct order I'd probably never have got past Chamber of Secrets, as I still find the first book only moderately interesting and the second even less so. Instead I grabbed Goblet after reading the first book (which had to do with the availability of the books in the local library) and, well, here I am.

The Potter books are not perfect stories, nor has Rowling created a perfect fictional world. I don't think anyone here pretends anything different either. But they can still be very fun and exciting reads even for adults, starting from Prisoner of Azkaban anyway.

You don't have to either read the books or like them, but if you want to discuss them in depth it would make sense for you to read them first. Otherwise you and us fans are pretty much talking right past one another.

#679 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 12:55 PM:

I mean I posted the Poetical Cookery Book to the blog.

Must. Stop. Posting.

#680 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 01:25 PM:

wrt 662 & 669: At the end of the article here is a long list of the ways "Tom Marvolo Riddle" was back-hacked into various languages from their equivalents of the original anagram "I am Lord Voldemort".

I am particularly fond of the French "Tom Elvis Jedusor", althought the Danish "Romeo G Detlev Jr." also has a certain flair.

#681 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Kip @672

See, I don't see much evidence of disposability in the Harry Potter Universe. Things seem to be recycled and reused until they break. And the more magic that is put into something, the more personality it gains, the more precious and cherished it becomes.

People don't want to give up their wands. To do so is somewhat horrifying, even though they could technically kill anyone else and take their wand, or buy a new wand.

Yes some things are a bit disposable (like letters that fly to their recipient and explode) but I don't get the feeling they have enough magic to be any more self aware than a microbe. The sorting hat and Gryffindor's sword both are treated as incredibly precious, because they have enough magic in them to gain personality.

I don't get the impression that anything terribly magical is ever thrown away. That's reinforced on the last page, actually, where Harry gives up the Elder wand in favor of his old friend, and recognizes the mutuality of their reunion.

Hmm. I think the fundamental difference between disposable items (like joke wands and screaming letters) versus actual magical items (like wands or artifacts) is that the former is an item that has had a spell cast on it that can be released/used... but will only ever do what it was set to do - while the latter is something that has had magic put into it so that it IS magical, and thus possesses an independent identity or life.

The more magic and care and lore you put into something, the closer to this line you come. It seems to me that wizards are very conscious of this line... though whether this is due to actual respect or to the inherent value of a truly magical item, I'm not certain. But people are certainly emotionally attached to their wands, and it follows logically that they would be similarly attached to other deeply magical possessions.

#682 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 02:48 PM:

From the Bloomsbury interview:

Snapedinhalf: You promised that someone will do magic late in life in book 7. I’ve now read it three times but cant work out who it might have been! Please help!!
J.K. Rowling: I’m sorry about this, but I changed my mind!
Hmmmm... Petunia, perhaps? Interesting to speculate.

#683 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Ooh, Paula @678! That's a good topic. When did you start reading the books, how many were out at the time, an in what order did you read them?

I got into the books in the Summer of '99, shortly after the second book came out here. I'd say the books were "curious phenomenon" status at the time, but there weren't worldwide simultaneous launches or anything like that (there was actually delay of over a year between U.K. and U.S. pub dates back then. Sort of unimaginable now). If you mentioned Harry Potter to someone on the street in the U.S., I'd say less than 1% would have recognized it. It actually had a significant jump in the two or three months after I started.

I was stuck in a cramped city apartment for a week... it was a small place in an old building that my mother had rented so my brother could finish his last year in Jr. High before the whole family made the move to Upstate NY (where my Dad had recently been transfered). I didn't have a car, downtown was a moderately dangerous walk away, and I was bored.

I was going through my mom's newspaper stash when I saw an article about some weird phenomena where this British children's book was being released with a sneaky, serious-looking cover so that adults could read it on the train without embarrassment. I found that idea hilarious and resolved to get the books to read them myself. I finished both of them in the next 36 hours. Luckily for me, due to the previous delays, I only had a few months to wait for the third one. I remember walking the half-mile from my college to the bookstore on launch day to get it... it was the third book that really made me fall in love, I think. Chocolate, Patronuses, Remus Lupin... I was hooked. I probably still consider the Prisoner of Azkaban to be the book that holds together the best.

I was definitely disappointed, as the series went on, that Lupin didn't get the focus or use that I thought he deserved. I think that Rowling limited herself a lot here, with her dedication and focus on the format and pacing she had chosen.

I think that allowing yourself the freedom to change pacing, to go back and do a flashback book, to break a book into two pieces if it simply contains too much story to be in one piece is important, and by cutting those options off Rowling harmed herself a bit in a creative sense. For instance, she always had this side-story planned for Dean Thomas that never made it in, and a Slytherin Weasley cousin, and a lot of other things. She's mentioned several times regretting being able to do more with certain characters, due to text limits in the books.

But while I think the world would have been more convincing, it might have been a lot less marketable and easy-to-catch-onto if she hadn't stuck to her set pattern. It's something interesting to think about, at least.

#684 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 03:45 PM:

Leah #683:

I for one could see a really thick book filled with short stories and/or novellas that were all the missing bits. Sort of a "Pieces of Modesty" or the Apocrypha, maybe.

Should we agitate?

#685 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Leah @683: In many ways Azkaban is my favorite too, although I like Goblet a lot as well and very much enjoyed the last three books (although they, and Goblet too, might have been simmered down a bit).

By the way, are people here familiar with Rudyard Kipling's school-story collection Stalky & Co.? I gather it's largely autobiographical (Kipling portrays himself as a schoolboy as the character named Beetle), but it's a very entertaining, mischievous read. Many characters, both teachers and students, have their counterparts in Hogwarts. I recommend it quite warmly.

#686 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 05:43 PM:

#662 Kip W and anagrams: I have vague memories of writing a book about this series, which inter alia pointed out that Lord V had narrowly escaped being known to the world as Darrell Doom Vomit, Tidal Overlord Mom or Mild Doormat Lover.

#687 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 06:40 PM:

Dave Langford @662 - I should have known the point wouldn't have escaped you. I haven't read the book, because I mostly skip reading about the series, though I read a couple of articles and interviews after it was all done.

#688 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 11:32 PM:

Paula @685 --

If we're looking for good school stories, I also recommend Molesworth, many highlights of which have been hypertextually remediated here. Origin of the name Hogwarts, clear forerunner of the Weasley twins. I didn't know, before reading this, what "wizard wheeze" actually means.

If we're looking for insipid school stories that are also important for the HP universe, here's Enid Blyton.

#689 ::: Nina Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 01:06 AM:

I just finished watching the interview Rowling did with NBC that aired on both the Today Show and Dateline(I didn't want to watch it until I'd read the book as it was spoilery),anyway Rowling said that she killed Tonks and Lupin because she wanted an echo of Harry's story-that in war real parents are killed and leave orphans. She said she spared Arthur Weasley and decided to kill those two. She also said that part of the reason for the epilogue is so that we can see that he's okay,he's happy and having a good life.
And she also said that the main reason she spared Arthur was that Harry had lost too many parent figures,that there were very few good fathers in the books,and so she didn't want to kill him.
Oh,and one other small thing-part of the reason Harry and Ginny wait to have kids is that Ginny spends a couple of years playing professional Quidditch.

#690 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 01:55 AM:

Nina @ #689, Yes, Ginny played pro Qidditch. And that causes me to realize that the school Qidditch squads were mixed gender teams; presumably the professionals were too.

No Title IX required in Harry's world, I guess.

Dear me, now I'm imagining Rebecca Lobo and Chamique Holsclaw on the same basketball team with Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett.

#691 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 02:09 AM:

On feeding the wizarding world: someone on rasfw pointed out that while you can't create food from nothing, you can do all kinds of things to any bit of food that you do have -- including increasing its quantity. Conceivably the Weasleys' back garden could feed all the wizards in England.

#692 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 02:14 AM:

Julie L. - in the Wikipedia article you link, in amongst the various born names Lord V was given in different languages in order to accommodate the anagram (and that must have been obnoxious, editing through all the family backstory in books 6 & 7 to accommodate the name change)... there's one that totally cracks me up:

Portuguese (Brazilian)
TOM SERVOLEO RIDDLE => EIS LORD VOLDEMORT, "Here's Lord Voldemort"

Robot roll call! Hee. Crow was obviously an animagus. In a not too distant future!

#693 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Julie L @ 604: but is there any neutral space? Does Hufflepuff have enough beds for everyone? (I suspect not; most schools offer places to enough people that living spaces are pretty well filled.) Even if it did, would putting everyone there suit the intent of not sorting people? Also,
I suspect making Hufflepuff oversize would contradict other facts (e.g., 1/4 of the game attendees being Slytherin, H not dominating Hogwarts Quidditch by greater depth); those could be argued around by seeing H as full of spiritless mediocrities, but I doubt JKR intended anything so unbalanced.

Emma@643: A number of folk have discussed the books' shortcomings, and explained at great length why they like the books in spite of them.
But has anyone else said, with chapter and verse, that the books are so flawed as to be unlikeable? Is that an illegitimate position?
Continuing the meta-thread with PNH@653: it's your blog, and if you want to declare a fanboy thread it's your right; but I think it's a more interesting discussion when people can say "This is not good" -- at least if they work from more detail and understanding than, say, Bloom (who I haven't read in detail but have heard summarized as contempt for popular work mostly because it's popular rather than obscure).

#694 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 10:41 AM:

CHip @693: But has anyone else said, with chapter and verse, that the books are so flawed as to be unlikeable? Is that an illegitimate position?

If I understand the English language correctly, "unlikeable" means "it's not possible to like them".

As an universal statement, that's a ridiculous position, since plenty of people do like the Potter books (myself included) - unless one wants to start telling people that they actually only think or pretend that they like the books, which is a stupid, arrogant and fruitless position.

I'll grant you it's obviously very possible to dislike these books for various reasons, since many people do. (But in that case, why read them?)

#695 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 12:19 PM:

As for dorm room sizes, most recently mentioned in 604 and 693, I always kind of thought of the Houses as being as big as they need to be at the time, subdivided into as many smaller rooms as needed to be comfortable for the kids.

Also, WRT CHip'ssecond comment in 693, I interpreted PNH's comment not as requiring one thread to consist entirely of OMG! Genius! (wich would be dull beyond belief) but of the thread to include, as much as possible, a discussion of $NARRATIVEWORK (good and bad), and not include why $NARRATIVEWORK is a waste of time/resources/electrons.

#696 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 12:44 PM:

VCarlson #695:

One could also assume that classrooms expanded/contracted as needed, which causes one to wonder about why Gryffindors and Slytherins might be put together for the classes they are. (Aside from narrative reasons requiring Harry and Malfoy to cement their rivalry.)

#697 ::: Nina A ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 01:15 PM:

Linkmeister@690 Actually,the team Ginny played for was all women(actually the same team Snape's mother played for.) Of course,it's never said that all Quidditch teams are all same-sex-they(the Holyhead Harpies)are specifically mentioned. One assumes that they play in the same leagues.
And Rebecca Lobo w/Shaq would be cool.
I wish I'd liked the book overall more than I did-they're were moments(the walk through the forest,Molly going all Riley on Bellatrix,but I felt oddly unsatisfied with the book as a whole.

#698 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 12:44 PM:

joann @ 696: why Gryffindors and Slytherins might be put together for the classes they are -- only so many professors to do the teaching, and each has time for only so many classes. And some of the subjects require specialized equipment which might not be handled by simply making the rooms larger, and might not be easily "created" at a moment's notice.

#699 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 05:09 PM:

joel #698:

Actually, I was thinking "why Gryffindor and Slytherin?" Why not Gryffindor and Ravenclaw? Or Hufflepuff? Is there, perhaps, some combination of G/S house traits that could produce something, some interaction, more interesting in a Potions class than Gryffindor combined w/ either of the other houses? (Or am I being Harry-centric, and what is really needed is something that arises from the combination of Ravenclaw w/ Hufflepuff?)

Or maybe they're the two smallest houses that year, so they get combined for some things, while the other two houses have individual sessions?

#702 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 09:56 PM:

Paula@694: Okay, the word choice wasn't the best, shall I say "actively criticize", "argue that they're overrated", or something sufficiently abstract?

Why read them? For the same reasons I try many things that other people like; e.g. understanding that I'm not the sole measure of the universe and that a first taste can be a misreading. (For this reason I even read half of Thomas Covenant 1.2 (after finishing 1.1 only because I was shut in by a blizzard).) I've also been assured by people I generally trust that the books got better. Some people may be interested in participating in discussions without being dissed for not reading the works discussed. Some may even read them solely to have material for a knowledgeable trashing. (This last doesn't apply to me -- life's \way/ too short -- but you asked.)

VCarlson@695: I haven't seen anyone here call HP a waste of time/resources/electrons; Greg has presented detailed comments on the "bad" side of your "good/bad" suggested discussion.

I realized after I posted my previous message that the plethora of details (e.g. the ones that have taken up much of this thread) were one of the things that grated on me. Different people like different levels of artistic verisimilitude; a novel is big enough that Chekhov's dictum isn't absolute, but throwing in everything one can think of instead of picking telling details makes the work more likely to turn out a mess -- e.g., a self-contradictory tangle. Worse, the piling up of details can go very quickly from "Cool!" to "This is the mummery hiding the flaw that lay in the theory that Jack built." -- given that key pieces don't seem to fit together, the details look like a sloppy coverup.

And the punning names ("Spellotape", "Floo powder", etc.) \may/ attract younger readers, but there were enough to set off my twee-dar. That's another subjective evaluation, but somehow other great contemporary YA authors manage to do with few or none of them.

#703 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 10:05 PM:

PS to 695.1: I suppose self-adjusting rooms are possible (even when the walls are masses of stone, given enough magic), but I don't recall any suggestion of that in the books -- except for the Room of Requirement, which IIRC was noticed as exceptional.

#704 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 10:22 PM:

joann @ 699: We do know that Gryffindor sometimes shared classes with Hufflepuff and/or Ravenclaw. There were some shared Herbology sessions with Hufflepuff, for example. There did seem to be more classes shared with Slytherin, though it's possible that the difference isn't as great as it seems, merely that there was more notable conflict in those classes.

#705 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 10:51 PM:

Kip @ 672: It hadn't started bothering me nearly as much in these books as it does in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. (Why yes, I have a 5 year old boy, how did you know?) In those stories, the train engines - and certain other large machines - are all self aware, conscious beings - yet human beings send them off to be cut up and melted down for scrap without compunction. (Or rather, only a few train nuts who are sentimental about old engine types show compunction.)

#706 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 11:19 PM:

In re-reading the first book, one of the things that I noticed was this stuff, from Dumbledore:

"Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!"
Thank you!"

And it struck me: one of the things that I find irritating is JKR's tendency to put in silly bits of nonsense that really doesn't work with the more serious stuff. If Harry Potter is meant to be an echo of the Matter of Britain, some of this stuff is like having Merlin waving a rubber chicken for no particular reason, or Lancelot putting a whoopie cushion on Arthur's throne. And yet the story is not consistently a parody or humorous work.

Yet I do like Pratchett, who tells serious tales, and yet also has loads of silliness. What's the difference?

Perhaps it is something that PTerry once explained - I vaguely recall it being something like: his characters don't realize that Discworld is a parody of the real world; they take themselves and their lives quite seriously, and try their best to maintain, even when they are a human who has been magically transformed into an orangutan.

But perhaps I am simply deficient in humour.

#707 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 11:30 PM:

700, 701: Nice art.

Now I'm wondering why there hasn't been an HP gra . . . OYE, GAHHHH! NeeeeYAHAHHHHHH!

I just had a vision of a shelf at Borders full of manga-style teenybopper Hogwarts: The Next Generation comics.

#705: I once daydreamed a spoof in which Thomas the Tank Engine is melted down for the war effort and becomes Thomas the Tank.

#708 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 01:59 AM:

After reading some of the comments suggesting that HP7 had a Peter Pan ending, I started musing about it, and it occurred to me that the story arcs of HP and PP are almost completely opposite.

Peter Pan is about eternal childhood. Peter never changes or learns; his entire mode of being is eternal thoughtlessness. The very idea of considering his actions, of realizing that those actions have consequences that affect real people, just never occurs to him. He even sees death as something he can conquer if he just believes hard enough.


The Harry Potter stories are specifically about growing up; the process of maturation. At first, Harry enjoys the wizarding world like a breath of fresh air after the mindless pettiness of the Dursleys. This is the world where he finally has some measure of power, friendship, control over his own life, and even fame and glory. He has heroes to look up to — Dumbledore, his father and mother, Lupin, and later, Sirius. He has enemies to set himself against — Malfoy (Draco and Lucius), Snape, and of course, Voldemort.

Yet as the story arc progresses, all of what he attains is slowly stripped from him. He loses control, as the Death Eaters gain power, and the Ministry turns against him. Fame and glory turn to mockery, as the Ministry accuses him of attention-seeking or madness. His father is revealed as having a cruel and malicious streak. His friendships becomes strained, sometimes near the breaking point. Sirius is reckless, then dies. Dumbledore's flaws become more and more apparent, and then he dies as well. Harry must live with knowing all of his own mistakes, and the mistakes of others.

Towards the end of the last book, the inversions are complete. Everything that Harry thought he knew about his heroes and enemies was wrong — or at least sadly incomplete. Draco is kind of pathetic at this point, terrified of the true evil that being a Death Eater requires. Dumbledore was once arrogant and power-hungry, eager to abandon his familial responsibilities; his life is defined by shame and regret for what he once was, yet still cold-bloodedly manipulating events towards what he hopes is the greater good. Snape, whom Harry considered to be his greatest enemy after Voldemort, was eternally faithful, to Dumbledore and to Harry's mother, and to Harry himself.

And after the scene in limbo, I think it would be safe to say that Harry's attitude towards Voldemort changes as well. While he still feels horror and rage, and is utter committed to stopping him, Harry now feels a certain degree of pity.

And I think that is why Harry doesn't use a killing curse against Voldemort. Harry realizes that Dumbledore's scheming worked: Voldemort's Horcruxes are all destroyed at this point, his soul almost entirely destroyed. (It might be a worthwhile speculation to suggest that that's another reason, or the real reason, that Voldemort isn't getting any power boost from the Elder Wand; his soul is broken, and the wand will only work for a complete soul.) Voldemort is greatly weakened, although he doesn't even realize it. All of Voldemort's planning has failed, and while he's holding off the three teachers, "holding them off" is really all he can do. And when he goes up against Harry, Harry is confident of his own success, and pitying Tom Riddle, who can't even realize that he's failed.

Which I think is why Harry uses a simple disarming spell against him. Yes, Voldemort tries to kill him — but Harry knows that any spell that Voldemort tries to throw at him will fail. Yes, he could kill Voldemort directly, but knowing that Voldemort is doomed no matter what, Harry is willing to take the chance that Voldemort might listen to reason, might not throw a killing curse — so the rebounding spell would have only disabled him temporarily. And then what? Presumably, Voldemort, overpowered, would have been captured and put on trial.

That was why it perhaps looked like Rowling was "keeping Harry's hands clean". But Harry had already defeated Voldemort, and was willing to show mercy. Voldemort, unwilling to receive mercy, or to give mercy, died from his own cruelty and lack of comprehension that his cruelty, at this point, would only be reflected back on himself.

Harry also gains enough self-awareness to realize the personal cost of the major curses by actually throwing a Crucio, in a fit of rage. I think that's the point when Harry perhaps decides that if that degree of rage is what it takes to use those curses, then perhaps that isn't who he wants to be. It's all very well to say that Harry lets others kill for him, but Harry does do his own attacking and defending elsewhere. He just doesn't want to cross the particular line of being a deliberate killer if it isn't necessary. And against Voldemort, at the final confrontation, it isn't necessary.

Or something like that.

Anyway, Harry grows and learns and shows mercy. Peter Pan doesn't. It is his most defining characteristic.

#709 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 02:13 AM:

For Book 6, rules laid down by the kidlet included my not being allowed to read even one single page until she had finished the book, and that I must then read the book as quickly as possible so it could be discussed. She was allowed to pull an all-nighter to finish it, and woke me up at 2 am, sobbing hysterically and refusing to tell me why.

For Book 7, the same rules were supposed to apply, but it turned out that the very same kid who had complained of being kind of bored for a couple of weeks this summer had also put off doing all the required summer reading until just before the semester started, plus there have been many graduation parties to attend, and so she is on chapter 5. She graciously allowed me to read and finish the book first (did it in 5.5 hours straight - one of the occasions in which a 2-hour bus commute is looked forward to), and now the strain of not discussing it with her is beginning to show.

I had a few of those "this doesn't add up" moments, a feeling that the story didn't naturally fit into 7 books (but I understand why Rowling would want to do it that way), and a powerful urge to rip the last 5 pages out so that the kid wouldn't have to read them (but of course I won't). I was still pulled in by the story, though, deeply enough so that I completely ignored the guy trying to chat me up on the bus (mister, if you have to ask me what book I'm reading when it is a thick hardcover with a rather distinctive cover - forget it, I'm not interested).

I'd agree that the worldcrafting got a little rough. The population issue discussed here got me to thinking about it - what is the birthrate? Infant mortality rates? As amusing as it might be for some to blame Lucius Malfoy's foul temper on "not getting any", wouldn't it make a lot of story sense for the Malfoy's to have fertility problems, with Draco as a deeply cherished/spoiled/heavily pressured only child? It could be that the Malfoy's had Draco and then became unable to have more (complications stemming from his birth? Injury to one or both of the parents? Just one of those things?), and by the time the series begins, the Malfoys know or at least suspect that they are not likely to have more of their own offspring, if that was what they wanted (which, with all their concern for purebloods, I would assume they would). I wonder if there has been a rise in infertility in their generation - seems to be a fair number of only children at Hogwarts, which I find a bit odd for a post-war population that doesn't appear to be having serious economic problems. Of course, I don't have a good idea of how many only children there are in the HP world, or how many wizards and witches actually died in the war. I'd go with a general feeling of "why bring a child into this horrid world" but the new class sizes don't seem to be shrinking as the series goes on - Harry's year was born pre-Voldemort, right? Again, without actual numbers. This is mostly something for me to chew on during a long commute.

#710 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 02:21 AM:

Oh, and I'm one more member of the Neville Longbottom fan club. I saw HP movie 5 and was disappointed by (among many other things) the loss of Neville's, Ron's, and Hermione's character developing sub-plots.

...and it's been several years since I've walked down Tottenham Court Road, but I don't think it's that odd for them to order cappuccinos. The thin, grey, unpleasant liquid that arrives seems pretty accurate from what I remember of British cafes (when in London, only order espresso drinks from a place owned, staffed, and patronized by Italians, or, if you must, go to an American chain).

#711 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 01:21 PM:

The snogging scenes got old. Not enough variety or realism, or something. I guess Rowling's just not good at HP lovecraft.

#712 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Kip, 711: I hold my nose and run screaming into the night.

#713 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 02:26 PM:

TexAnne #712:

I didn't realize you had gone Under The Penitence?

#714 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 02:43 PM:

joann: Er, what?

#715 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 03:07 PM:

TexAnne:

You were talking about running into the night; it was broad daylight in these parts at the time you posted. I could only assume that you'd been taken over by an interesting aberration in Mary Gentle's alternate histories, where a large portion of Europe and Northern Africa is covered by a large dark cloud called the Penitence; in those areas, it's dark at noon.

I hope some creative person can tie this back to HP; I just realized I've gone *way* off track.

#716 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 04:12 PM:

I think, rather than infertility, the model for the Malfoys is those older bourgouise and aristocratic families wanting only to produce a limited number of heirs so as to keep the money and the mansion in the family. The alternative is the Weaseleys, who do have pure blood but absolutely no money, from the simple fact that if every child inherits something and you're not rich to begin with, there's nothing to give them except magic and pureblood status (and one expect that there are a whole bunch of Blacks, LeStranges and even Malfoys who may have at some point married a Weaseley daughter, with as incestuous as the wizarding family trees are).

On an unrelated but amusing Harry Potter note, picked up the satiric online game "Kingdom of Loathing" at Comicon and have been amused to see that the fundraiser this month in the in-game "Mr. Store" is a new familiar, the "wizard action figure," with this highly entertaining text:

wizard action figure

This is a limited-edition promotional action figure of an awkward-looking robed teenage wizard, still in its original blister pack. The poorly-translated text on the back says that he's a student of "Hugwallow's School of Magic and Mysticism," and urges you to collect the whole set.

Type: familiar
Cannot be discarded

http://www.kingdomofloathing.com

#717 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 04:16 PM:

The population issue discussed here got me to thinking about it - what is the birthrate?

I'm thinking that the birthrate is somewhere just under replacement, with Muggle-born folks keeping the population stable. That may actually lie behind some of the prejudice against Muggle-borns - as western Europeans both need and fear immigrants, so do the "pure bloods."

However, given the longer lifespan, it seems that the ratio of adults to children is even greater than in most of modern western Europe. People also seem to have their children young, so that life winds up being childhood and child-rearing gotten through fairly quickly, followed by a longer period as an adult without children at home. Parenthood might even be considered as a second phase of childhood, with full adult respect coming in one's late 30s or 40s.

There doesn't seem to be much of a construction business - it is all old houses and buildings, that have been controlled by magical families for years. This isn't a population that is expanding, needing new homes constructed, new towns growing up, etc. There doesn't seem to be much creative energy, and of that energy, a lot seems to be put toward "jokes" rather than serious development and improvement of society. It is a stagnent society.

#718 ::: Billegible ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 04:29 PM:

As to why Harry killed Voldemort by hokery-pokery with the wand instead of with his bare hands, or with a direct spell - personally, I thought it was because Voldemort was a bloody damn powerful wizard, and if he could be killed (or hurt, horcruxes blah blah) by something as straightforward as a physical blow or a spell within the reach of your regular wizard (and Harry only seems to know and use spells in the common vocabulary), then someone would have already done so. Thus Voldemort can only be killed by something both extraordinary and potent, in which case himself being the only person capable of a spell strong enough to kill himself makes perfect sense. Harry didn't kill him obliquely to keep his hands clean - he did it that way because he couldn't have done it by any other means.

On the topic of deus ex machina - is it just me or is Hermione a continual, er, deus ex amica? She's always read something that has a spell that solves a pressing problem. That always bugged me rather more than rescues from hitherto mysterious sources.

Loved Luna. Kinda wanted her to marry Harry, she was always exactly what he needed at any given moment.

I thought it was wonderful that the character who had seemed to be the most driven by love was the most crooked, and the character who seemed the most crooked was the most purely driven by love. I cried buckets over the Snape pensieve bit.

Last comment: GO NEVILLE!

#719 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 06:58 PM:

joann: I had never heard of Mary Gentle until just now. Dang. Now I have to go in search of more noisy heptalogies.

Hm. Tying it back to Harry Potter...um, Voldemort cast an impenitent shadow across the wizarding world?

#720 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Re #718 on Hermione

Hermione is established early on as someone who:

1) Is an avid reader of books related to matters of wizardry.
2) Very smart and very talented.

Given that, the fact that Hermione often turns out to have read something that contains a solution current problem is something to be expected.

#721 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 08:27 PM:

TexAnne, I'd recommend that you get hold of the all in one volume of ASH: A Secret History so you don't suffer through the "need the next one now" pangs and can read it as it was supposed to be read.

Go, read, enjoy, we'll expect to hear back from you in a couple of days/weeks/months (depending on amazon speed/reading speed/ and the amount of RL interference to reading).

ASH was one of my most delightful discoveries of 2006 and prompted me to go out and buy everything else Mary Gentle had written.

#722 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 10:25 PM:

Hmm. "When you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not underestimate the power of obsessive love..." -- Horace Slughorn, in the first Potions class in HBP.

#723 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Bits and pieces--

Billegible #718, I also thought that Luna was the ideal soulmate for Harry. I started thinking that at the end of OOTP, when she was the first person who lightened Harry's grief over Sirius.

Snape accomplished his mission. I don't mean "mission" in the military sense, ugh, but of what he was sent to do. He was neither discovered by Voldemort nor forced by events to reveal himself. He did what he set out to do. He succeeded. After a lifetime of frustration, his (forthcoming, I presume) portrait on the wall of the headmaster's office can take satisfaction in that accomplishment.

Harry's pause between life and death--In the U.S. there is an old children's phrase, "King's X" (pronounced ex). It means a temporary safe moment in a game, so that the other person can't tag the one who says it. Harry pauses between life and death in a station that looks like King's Cross. By any chance, is there an expression like "King's X" in Britain, and by any chance, is it "King's cross"? JKR either used the perfect name or hit on a wonderful coincidence.

#724 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 03:08 AM:

mk@709:

Harry's year was born pre-Voldemort, right?
The Boy Who Lived was quite definitely not born pre-Voldemort.

#725 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 10:48 AM:

mk@709:
Harry's year was born pre-Voldemort, right?

Harry was born when Voldemort was at the height of his powers the first time.

#726 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 10:21 PM:

Kevin @ 716:
I can see limiting the number of heirs; limiting it to one seems a bit much to me - I'd expect le choix du roi or "the heir and the spare", which seems to be the pattern for Lucius and Narcissa's generation and families. The kid, by the way, is totally rolling her eyes at me and says she will never let herself get as lame as me.

724, 725: thanks for the clarification. I figured Harry to be about a year old when he became The Boy Who Lived, but I wasn't clear on how long Voldy had been in power when that happened. Come to think of it though, humans have a tendency to make babies regardless of the regime they live under, so that's not likely to be relevant.

#727 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:40 AM:

Brenda, I'm glad you mentioned Snape's forthcoming portrait. I don't write fanfic, but if I did, I would write about Harry going into the Headmaster's office and apologizing to Snape's portrait for having been an insufferable ass towards him for seven years. And thanking Snape for saving his life -- something which he should have done after the first book.

#728 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 06:36 AM:

mk@726: You're right that Harry was about a year old. (And James and Lily were only 22!) But Voldemort was described as doing a lot of stuff; James and Lily joined the Order of the Phoenix, which they surely wouldn't have been allowed to do until after they graduated; Snape joined the Death Eaters. So surely the first war had been going on for longer then a year.

(I don't recall if we have any definite dates for it.)

#729 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 07:51 AM:

Pat Greene@727 Harry going into the Headmaster's office and apologizing to Snape's portrait for having been an insufferable ass towards him for seven years

Of course Snape was also an "insufferable ass" toward Harry for all of that time. Snape was a hero, but he was NOT a nice person.

(Harry owes Snape an apology for some things, but not for disliking Snape. Snape EARNED that dislike.)

#730 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Michael @729, I was about to say the same thing. I gather though that Snape treated Harry as horribly as he did for three reasons:

#1: Harry was the spitting image of James Potter, and Snape saw torturing Harry a sort of way to revenge himself on James, never mind who Harry's mother was. (Not very grown-up behavior if you ask me.)

#2: Snape's life was pretty much one lonely, bitter private hell with very high pressures on top due to his dangerous position as a double agent; he needed to vent somehow. (Which is the main reason I figure Dumbledore didn't do anything much about it.)

#3: It was a way to avoid suspicions that he might have a good motive (such as undying love for Lily Potter...) to work hard to protect Harry and be loyal to Dumbledore.

#731 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:44 PM:

726:

Voldy had been in power at least long enough so that a prophecy made before Harry's birth that refers to the "Dark Lord" was clearly meaning Voldy.

Voldy seems to be about the same age as Hagrid - they were in Hogwort's at the same time, which we know since Tom framed Hagrid for Moaning Myrtle's death.

It can probably be assumed that Voldemort was out of school by the time James and Lily started at Hogworts, since it would have been rather memorable, to Snape and others, if they'd been in school together. So we have a lower limit on his age as being 7 years older than James and Lily.

We also know that Voldy started his "Death Eaters" group while still in Hogworts, and that Lucas Malfoy was there from the beginning. Malfoy was a prefect when Snape, James and Lily started at Hogworts, so that puts an upper limit on Voldy's age - if Malfoy is in his 7th year, and Voldy was 7th year when Malfoy was 1st year, Voldy is no more than 14 years older than James and Lily.

So Voldy would be between 7 and 14 years older than James and Lily, and perhaps 28 to 40 years older than Harry, depending on how old James and Lily were when Harry was born.

#732 ::: Paula ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Before the tread gets too serious again: anybody care for Loldemort humor?

#733 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:28 PM:

Ursula, I'm not sure those years add up, which might be another instance of Rowling's inconsistent world-building.

  • Tom Riddle opened the Chamber of Secrets 50 years prior to _HPandtheCOS_, which takes place in the 1993-4 school year, so that's 1953 or so. Dumbledore was still just a professor then, and had auburn hair.
  • James, Lily, Severus, Sirius, and the gang were all late-Seventies grads. I think 1979.
  • Lucius Malfoy must have been, at earliest, a mid-Seventies grad. I think Prefects are all fifth-years, so Lucius is only four or five years older than the rest.
  • That is to say, Severus is in his thirties during the series, and Lucius is in his forties. But Voldemort and Hagrid are sixty-ish or seventy-ish.
  • So I think this is solved by Lucius not being there from the beginning. If a book says that, it must be wrong, or it means "from the beginning of the all-out war in the Seventies." Tom Riddle spent the fifties and sixties working on his dark magic skills, apparently. And applying to teach DADA.
I have a similar confusion regarding Dumbledore's age. People keep telling me, based on an interview with Rowling I think, that Dumbledore's time at Hogwarts was in the 1840s, and he began teaching in the 1890s, and that wizards have long, long lifespans. But my impression from _The Deathly Hallows_ is that Dumbledore's friendship with Grindelwald, when he was 17, immediately preceded Grindelwald's participation in the Nazi era. (Rowling once said that "when there's a war in the muggle world, there's a war in the wizarding world," so I take Grindelwald to be an opportunist allied with Nazis, not the actual cause of WWII, as speculated far above). If Dumbledore met Grindelwald a full century before Grindelwald acted on his ideas, well, that's a looooooong time. It would make perfect sense for Dumbledore to be 10-15 years older than Tom Riddle, since his hair was still auburn in the 1950s. And for the teenaged friendship to take place in the late 1930s. That's how I'm gonna remember the story, regardless of what other evidence turns up.

#734 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Ooops.

1993
- 50
---------
1943

You can see why this confuses me. So, actually, Dumbledore was a REALLY young professor at that time. We learn from Rita Skeeter that D. goes to be a professor after his sister dies. Before that, he had to stay home to take care of her. So all that is the 1930s sometime. Rita says D. "waits five years" to confront Grindelwald, so I think he gets hired at Hogwarts in 1940.

#735 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 04:21 AM:

James and Lily were both born early in 1960, so they would have graduated from Hogwarts in 1978. (And they got married at 19, and died at 21....)

Chamber of Secrets takes place in the '92-'93 school year, Nick's deathday party is explicitly given as 31 October 1992.

#736 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 06:25 AM:

From The Goblet of Fire, Chapter Two:

Harry had been a year old the night that Voldemort - the most powerful Dark Wizard for a century, a wizard who had been gathering power for eleven years - arrived at his house and killed his father and mother.

James and lily died in 1981, so Voldemort had been "gathering power" since 1970.

Harry starts school in 1991, and TGoF is set in his fourth year, 1994. In Chapter 1 we learn that Voldemort killed Tom Riddle 50 years earlier, in 1944. In Chapter 17 of The Half Blood Prince, we learn that Voldemort killed the Riddles "in the summer of his sixteenth year", so he was born in 1928.

He leaves school at 18 to work for Borgin & Burkes, and soon after kills the witch Hepzibah Smith (Chapter 20). Ten years later, he asks Dumbledore for a teaching job, and has four Death Eaters in tow.

So:

1928 - V born
1939 - Starts at Hogwarts
1944 - Kills Tom Riddle
1946 - Finishes school
1947? - Kills Hepzibah Smith
1957 - Asks for a job at Hogwarts
1960 - James and Lily Born

So what does it mean that he starts "gathering power" in 1970? He been calling himself Lord Voldemort and his followers Death Eaters for years before James and Lily were even born.

#737 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Thanks for the corrections. It took me a minute to realize you meant the senior Tom Riddle. So, V. opens the Chamber and kills Moaning Myrtle in 1942.

I think that from the 40s through 1970, Voldemort's Death Eaters are more like a secret club. He's practicing and preparing, and getting his Horcruxes stashed away. Then they go public. That does seem kind of a long time.

Another length-of-time problem is the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. If Voldemort curses it in 1957, it goes a solid 40 years without anyone holding it for more than a year. I guess that explains why Dumbledore hires such incompetents for it. Quirrell, previously of Muggle Studies, only applies because he's possessed, I think; Lockhart is a fame-hungry fool. (After that D. starts sacrificing OOTPHoenix members; after that he lures Umbridge into the trap). One imagines an amazing string of ridiculous characters over the years -- I might read that fanfic. No wonder the wizarding world is so helpless against the Death Eaters.

#738 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2007, 12:50 PM:

For All, regarding HP Timelines: I'm not flogging something that I've done, but the folks over at The Harry Potter Lexicon have produced a rather detailed timeline, including data from all seven books, the movies to date, plus various interviews and public appearances, and the two accessory books -- Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Timeline here

#739 ::: Arielle ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 08:36 PM:

Yea,this book S T I N K S.Harry\Ginny?Ron\Hermione?PLEASE!You are only sane if you know that HARRY AND HERMIONE ARE MEANT TO BEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Okay,I'm calm now.After Ron and Hermione have the kiss thing,Ron says "So it's now or never"Not sure,but I think that means Harry likes Hermione.


Poor Dobby.Poor Hedwig.Poor stupid bad book.

#740 ::: Arielle ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Also,if you could choose one pairing to be shown in the bbok (or married) which would it be?

#741 ::: Marisa ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 04:19 AM:

to Arriele:

I don't think that there was ANYTHING in any of the book s that would make it seem like Hermione and Harry had affection for each other, other than friends.

It was obvious that Harry and Ginny were going to get together
and from the 4th book on it was easily infered that hermione and Ron would end up together.

I'm not sure if you were just kidding or not...
but Harry and Hermione never had anything going for them.

#742 ::: Arielle ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 09:57 PM:

to marissa:
You spelled my name wrong.
also, i dont care if u ask me j.k. rowling can be extremely annoying.
i loved the potter books but the 7th really ruined the whole thing for me.
I'm not sure if you will all think im just a HR/H fan, considering my last comments and also the fact that no one has posted since January, but it has been 1 year and 1 month since the last book came out, but it really did nothing for me. I really think I would have liked the book a lot better overall if she had just left out the epilouge.
quoting my friend, whom i read the book to along with his two other best friends because they were nervous to find out what happened, after I finished:
"ALBUS SEVERUS????Okay, the Albus part maybe, but SEVERUS? Oh my god...."
Meanwhile his friend was saying "Luna and Dean?"
And finally the other person was whispering "Ron? Oh my god.....ROn of all people.....what's wrong with Harry?!"
So they were'nt very happy about it either. They played a huge part in te production of the book, and it basicaly ruined it for them. They were planning to send J.K. a "Howler" but finally I convinced them tat it would do no good, so now they're just furious.

#743 ::: David Harmon sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2012, 07:59 AM:

delivery refused.

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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.