|Harry Potter Prognostications|
Monday, September 18, 2006
OK, hopefully some people are still reading this...it's been a long, long time, but I'm happy to say, we're back (and it really is a we this time).
Please update your bookmarks, tell your friends, and alert the media, 'cuz the prognostications have begun anew, this time in podcast form. When you get a chance, mosey on over to the newly reclaimed www.hpprogs.com, and take a look; we've even got a brand-spanking new prog up already!
I'm going to leave everything here as is, but all new stuff will be over on the hpprogs.com site. We're hoping to podcast (progcast?) over there on a weekly basis, Wednesday's if all goes well (it didn't this week).
Thanks again to everyone who has read and commented in the past, I hope you'll join us over on the new site, and I hope you'll tell your friends!
Prognosticated Monday, September 18, 2006
Monday, November 21, 2005
Book 4, The Movie
Saw GoF on Saturday night; it was great.
What I love most about the movies is that, due to the obvious time constraints, the writers are forced to focus the plot line around a central theme. Those of you who have read this blog thoroughly know that my main thesis is that each book has a central theme around which all the action takes place. Particularly with Books 3 and 4, the movies have added incredible support to my theories.
As regards Book 4, if you recall, our theory was that the essential theme was pride. Harry fell victim to pride, but by the end is able to overcome his pride and work with others to escape from Voldemort. The pride that Harry confronts is mostly in his refusal to trust or accept help from others; but we also see the way the Death Eaters display their pride...
The movies are also good at pointing out the meaning of things in the book that were somewhat unclear. I find it interesting in that most everyone watching Snape in this movie will be thinking, "Oh gosh, he's going to kill Dumbledore in two more movies time..." But instead of a any ominous smiles from Dumbledore, or mysterious comments to Snape about what he knows he has to do now, we get a single moment with Snape alone with Barty Crouch Jr. Snape, with a look of utter revulsion on his face, points his wand ominously at Barty Jr., as if to say, "You're going to pay for this, you worthless piece of dragon dung." I really got the impression that Snape was on our side at that point. Of course, we at least think we know differently come Book 6.
Prognosticated Monday, November 21, 2005
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Flight of the Bumblebee
I stumbled upon a set of posts on ParshaBlog (which happens to be written by a fellow I went to college with) with an interesting theory regarding Dumbledore's "death." I have heard many of the theories speculating that Dumbledore did not die, mostly based on some nuance of his language or the way in which his body responded to the death curse. None have been, in my mind, convincing enough to merit serious consideration. Until today.
Take a look at the theory, with part 1 and part 2. The theory can be summarized as: Dumbledore does not appear at all in Book 6. Rather, Wormtail or Lucius Malfoy are impersonating him using Polyjuice Potion.
I realize it sounds a little farfetched (and oh-no-not-another-polyjuice-potion-plot-point), and many of the points made aren't well-presented, but once you read through the whole thing, you do have to admit that there are some good points. Wormtail's presence at Spinner's End is never accounted for (for this main reason, I would lean more towards Wormtail than Lucius). All the points about the necklace and Tonks, while they have explanations that we know of, might work out better if considered as presented here. Dumbledore's torutured screaming while retrieving the horcrux are also begging for a better explanation. At the very least, taking the "if a gun appears in the first act, someone will be shot with it in the fourth act" principle as our mantra, the theory does point out several unfired guns that need to be accounted for (I've suggested this approach in the past...but never really followed through with it).
It does seem that what we have is a plot that is infinitely more subtle and complex than what we have taken it for. JK Rowling, from a literary style perspective, has always been closest to the mystery format, the red herring being the ultimate plot point. If the above theory is correct, Book 7 should be very interesting. What would be really cool is if JKR went existential, and did not explain the puzzle, but instead left it up to us to decipher (read The Big Sleep for an example).
What do you think?
Prognosticated Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Thursday, July 21, 2005
The (Half Blood) Prince
Tazmy does it again! Check out her post explaining the parallels between Machiavelli's The Prince and Snape. Perfect! Considering the theme of Book 6 looks to have at least a little bit to do with politics, I'd say Tazmy is on to something.
Prognosticated Thursday, July 21, 2005
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
An interesting thing to watch will be the proliferation of the term "horcrux," which, to the best of my knowledge, was unknown to the world as of less than one week ago. Google and Yahoo both report about 700 instances of either horcrux or horcruxes (horcruxi?). It will be interesting to track the growth as the term enters our cultural vocabulary.
The likely plot path from here does seem fairly obvious, which naturally makes me suspicious. R.A.B. is likely Regulas Black; it would account for the numerous times he is mentioned in Books 5 and 6. We all know that JKR is fond of the old adage: "if there's a gun hanging over the mantlepiece in Act 1, someone will get shot with it in Act 3." I wouldn't put aside the possibility that R. Amelia Bones was R.A.B. (credit to Penny for that one), although the language of the note implies someone who knew Voldemort personally...combined with the mention of a locket in 12 Grimmauld Place from Book 5 (pg 116, I believe) and the Mundungus Fletcher incident, it's all clearly pointing to Harry following the footsteps of R.A.B. to find the locket, etc. Which is why I'm a bit skeptical of the whole thing. It's too obvious.
Harry as Horcrux is also not a bad theory, and would match one of our previous prognostications, that Harry was in some way invested with power because of Voldemort's attack, and that he would have to give that up in order to defeat him, which could include his death. A more thorough treatment is warranted, to say the least.
My own wacky theory: when Harry and Dumbledore enter the Pensieve to view Voldemort's last atttempt to obtain a teaching position at the school, there is a brief mention that as Voldie is sitting down, Harry thinks he sees him flash his wand for brief second. Keep in mind that we have been learning this year about non-verbal spellcasting. Could it be that Voldemort quietly created a horcrux while in Dumbledore's office, perhaps of some Gryffindor artifact or one of the ex-headmaster portraits? Granted, he didn't kill anyone at the time, but who knows.
Going forward, I think it's worthwhile to compile a list of all the things we haven't resolved, which will give us a good idea where things will have to go in Book 7. Two quick ones: why Lily was given a choice to live or die by Voldie, how will the Pettigrew/Potter relationship pan out.
Prognosticated Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Monday, July 18, 2005
Just finished, or, nearly finished, I've got the last few pages to go, but I'm pretty sure I've covered all the important stuff. This book was good, reminds me why I liked them in the first place; JKR is back, big time.
A few first thoughts: obviously, one of the larger themse of Book 6 is politics. You cant help thinking the current war-time situation influenced the writing in some fashion. Quite a few of our progs were proven true, and quite a few were proven wrong, I'll do a recap tomorrow. At any rate, I think we can all agree that the good ship H/H has been forever sunk. Thank you!
All in all, well done!
Prognosticated Monday, July 18, 2005
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Just in case anyone still visits this site, here's what things will be like over the next week. This site will be Spoiler-FULL - don't come back if you don't want to learn how things end. I'm probably going to read this one at a more leisurely pace (no need to rush it, we've only got one more after this...). I think what I will do is post thoughts as I read, so, for example, immiedietly after reading the first section, I'll write a post about the theme from the Dursley's perspective, and so on.
I, honestly, have withdrawn a bit from HP over the past year or so, so I hope I still have my chops, we shall see. Most important is the discussions that we have, since that's where the real good stuff comes out.
See you next week!
Prognosticated Thursday, July 14, 2005
Prognosticated Thursday, July 14, 2005
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Still here...sort of
Hi Janice, and everyone else. I'm still out here. Anxiously awaiting Book 6. Hope everyone is doing well. Talk to you soon!
Prognosticated Thursday, July 07, 2005
Monday, December 20, 2004
Book 6 is DONE!
Walk, no, run over to JKRowling.com; the door is open once again, with some very good news. Watch the newswires, we should know the release date for Half-Blood Prince within 24 hours.
Update: Mark your calendars, July 16 is the date. Preorder from Amazon US here.
Prognosticated Monday, December 20, 2004
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
New stuff at JKRowling.com
There's some new stuff over at JKRowling.com. If you go soon, you just might be able to find out the names of three of the chapters of Book 6! I don't want to spoil it for you, but in case you're frustrated, try this link. Also, I hadn't seen this before, it's possible I simply overlooked this the first time around, but if you click on the gum wrapper immiedieatly to the left of the coffee mug, you are taken to a page that I'm sure was not there before: The Rubbish Bin. Therein, JKR goes through some of the rubbish that's been spread about either her personal life or the background of the HP books. And if you look carefully, there's some new objects to click on: find three, I believe, one from this page, and others from various places around the site, and you are treated to a new prize, a sketch of our favorite almost-beheaded Ghost.
Please, only check this out if you have already voted. Otherwise, go out and vote! If you're under 18, by all means, carry on.
Prognosticated Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
About.com review of Book 1
Tazmy's got another gig, this time at About.com. Check out her review of Sorcerer's Stone. Very nice!
As for me, I'm still really busy. I do want to post an email I got from a reader; it's in my inbox, I've read it, and just want to ask his permission before posting it, because I think it's spot on, and meshes well with the theories presented here for Book 6.
One other person wrote in with a rumor Book 6 would be released in May 2005. I don't think this is possible, but it would be nice!
Prognosticated Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Friday, July 16, 2004
Tazmy on Snape
Tazmy's got a gig with MuggleNet, and recently wrote a piece on Snape. She deftly combines some of the HPProgs theories on Snape and Lucius Malfoy with her own ruminations to come up with an excellent theory as to what is going on with Snape. Check it out.
For those of you visiting from MuggleNet, check out Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy and The Lion and the Snape. Then check out the rest of the site; I happen to think there's some pretty good stuff in there ;)
Also, I like Blogger's new rich text editor. One step closer to perfect XHTML. I'm sur that none of you care about that though...
Prognosticated Friday, July 16, 2004
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Or, as we shall call it, Book 6.
Check out JKRowling.com for the sordid details. In all seriousness, JKR's site is becoming a vital source of clues.
Prognosticated Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Book 3, The Movie Clips
I'm still reading Book 3 ( I took a day off to read Book the Fifth, if you catch my meaning). Anyways, check out the Yahoo Movie clips for the upcoming movie. They look good.
Update: Yahoo has added another bunch of clips to the page; there are about 10 in all. A quick comment:
You might recall that our discussion of Book 3 revealed the major theme to be emotions. Harry, and the other various characters, must learn to master their emotions in various situations, using a combination of reason, compassion and common sense to appropriately address a situation. We begin with Harry failing miserably at this, by inflating Aunt Marge out of anger. The conclusion of the story comes with Harry sparing Pettigrew's life out of mercy, even if emotionally he would have like to kill him.
So check out the clip where Harry first meets Buckbeak. I'm assuming that this clip is unedited; if it's not, then this might not apply. Harry approaches Buckbeak slowly and cautiously, but the movie omits the bowing ritual detailed in the book, where Harry humbles himself before the proud Hippogriff in order to gain his favor.
I always thought the ritual, and Buckbeak's hard-nosed sensibilities, to be an important facet of the theme. One of the interesting things that J.K. Rowling does is show you how characters that we consider "good" get into trouble because of certain facets of their personalities. In this case, Buckbeak's pride, while natural for his species, really is a bad thing; although Draco should have known better, Buckbeak's pride gets him into a spot of trouble. Had he the power (perhaps, the choice) to conquer his natural emotion, to overlook the (in greater scheme of things) slight that Draco played him, he could have spared himself, Hagrid and everyone else a lot of anguish.
Just an observation, we'll see the whole story when the movie comes out. So far, it looks good!
Prognosticated Thursday, May 27, 2004
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Surprise, surprise. I've been long away from HPProgs, and I'm thinking it's about time to revisit this site. There's been a bunch of HP-related goings-on over the last few weeks, spurred on by the upcoming release of Book 3, The Movie.
For those of you in the know, you'll have visited www.jkrowling.com, personal site of, yep, J.K. Rowling. There are lots of goodies on this site, it is definetly worth taking a look at. I've managed to find four (4) secret documents; if you've found more, please let me know (I'm beyond the need to solve these things myself...I'll take your answers, if you've got them). I have a few theories as to other puzzles that might be hidden or hiding on the site...for example, have you noticed, on the Extra Stuff page, the multiple business cards for a car service? If you combine the numbers visible on all three cards, you can discern the whole phone number...I tried it on the cell phone on the home page, but to no avail. Is there a secret hidden here?
Looking back at our prognostications and Patterns in Potter series, we left off around Book 3. Perfect! With Book 3, The Movie coming out soon, it's a perfect time to revisit the themes of this most exciting Harry Potter novel. I'm going to start re-reading PoA, and hope to offer a series of thoughts on the story before the movie comes out, for your general perusal and consumption.
Oh, and one more thing about web sites. As I noted over on HPProgs.com, I'm going to be sticking with the Blogspot site for now. There's a lot of nifty features on the new Blogger that I want to mess around with; we've even got an Atom feed (http://hpprogs.blogspot.com/atom.xml), so you can subscribe to HPProgs in your favorite news aggregator (or search for it on Blogdigger, by far the best blog search engine I have ever built). So check here for your HPProgs goodness.
That's it for now, I'm re-starting Book 3 tonight, so watch this space. Peace out!
Prognosticated Thursday, May 20, 2004
Monday, February 02, 2004
Welcome to HPProgs.com!
I've finally had the time to set up HPProgs.com, the new home of Harry Potter Prognostications. Requests for the old site should get forwarded on to here, and I'm in the process of updating links (for now, they will take you to the old blogspot site). I'm still working on a way to import comments from the old commenting system to this site, so that we can keep the conversations going. In the mean time, feel free to start commenting here!
The good news about the new site is that HPProgs content is not syndicated. You can subscribe to HPProgs in your News Aggregator, if you have one. Look for the link to the RSS feed on the side bar.
Welcome to HPProgs.com!
Prognosticated Monday, February 02, 2004
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Now that the registration has gone through, I thought I would announce it:
Harry Potter Prognostications will be moving to its very own domain, www.hpprogs.com. This wont be for a bit, and I will definetly send out a note letting everyone know. We'll also set this page up to automatically forward you on to the new site. I'm going to work on exporting all the comments as well. The new blog will be run by MovableType, a pretty nifty blogging application that, amongst other things, will allow me to create a proper RSS feed for the site. Hopefully I'll post a bit more often as well.
In other news, I saw Return of the King last week. What a fantastic movie! If you haven't seen it, check it out.
That's all for now. See you soon, at the new site!
Prognosticated Saturday, December 20, 2003
Thursday, November 13, 2003
I would be remiss if I didn't link to The Prisoner of Azkaban teaser trailer.
In a word: Excellent.
Prognosticated Thursday, November 13, 2003
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Truth in History?
I did a little "research" (that means I did a Google search until I found an illicit copy of Book 5 somewhere on the Internet), and came up with the text in question. As background, go to the above post over at Baraita and read the comments. In particular, the Anonymous Commenter (heretofore referred to as AC) writes:
History of Magic is appallingly taught at Hogwarts because WIZARDS ARE AFRAID. They are afraid of their own history because of their own guilt. Look at the statue in the Ministry and how it is treated in the book itself, and then look back at what Bill says about the attitudes to goblins, and its impact on goblins themselves, comparing it to how the "false" newspaper the Quibbler talks about Fudge and goblins (given how the Quibbler is, surprisingly, right in essence if wrong in substance - Sirius Black, anyone - much of the time) and then look at the precise question Harry gets stuck on in his OWL.
My research turned up the question in question (found here; we'll see how long that link stays up).
He was finding it very difficult to remember names and kept confusing dates. He simply skipped question four (In your opinion, did wand legislation contribute to, or lead to better control of, goblin riots of the eighteenth century?), thinking that he would go back to it if he had time at the end. He had a stab at question five (How was the Statute of Secrecy breached in 1749 and what measures were introduced to prevent a recurrence?) but had a nagging suspicion that he had missed several important points; he had a feeling vampires had come into the story somewhere.
After reading this, let's go back to the end of the AC's comment:
No. History of Magic in Harry Potter isn't treted [sic] that way because JKR despises history but because the society she is in despises it and it is one of the things she - like the Quibbler - is able to point to because the field in which she writes is sufficiently despised itself by those in whose interest it is to despise history that things can be said in it which would be ruthlessly suppressed if said elsewhere.
The AC's point is that JKR treated history the way she did on purpose. The Wizarding World does not learn from the truths of history; it intentionally ignores them. Instead of teaching history, and preventing those in Hogwarts from repeating its mistakes, the Wizarding World erects false monuments, rewriting history in one swift stroke (notice that Dumbledore "accidentally" destroys this monumnet in his battle with Voldemort; the Battle against Evil includes the Battle for Truth). We've noted before (see below, esp. 'The Boy Who Knew Too Much') the similarity between Book 5 and Orwell's 1984, but the attitude fostered here by the Ministry of Magic echoes the mantra espoused by Oceania's Ministry of Truth:
'There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,' he said. 'Repeat it, if you please.'
The Ministry controls the present, rewriting the past to fit the image that serves it best. This in turn controls the future attitudes of the constituients of the Wizarding World. That being said, it is strange to me that Dumbledore does not realize that History is given short shrift at his school. You would think that he would recognize the importance of the subject and feature it more prominently in the curriculum.
As Book 5 represents Harry's quest for Truth, it is fitting that, during an exam where he is asked to recount historical truths, Harry is unable to make sense of the questions, and passes out. Instead, he finds himself in the Department of Mysteries, searching for knowledge. On a subconcious level, Harry knows the truths he has come to believe in as history, as objective fact, are in fact subjective, only true because the society he lives in says they are true. The path to truth involves realizing the difference in perpective that each individual brings to their interpretation, and the subjective nature of such truths. Rather than rely on history, Harry must learn to cultivate his sense of right to show him how to act.
Perhpas, then, this is the answer. History by its very nature is subjective; it is practically impossible to relate objective historical fact. As such, using History as a guide for your moral actions is somewhat questionable, as the history you are relying on is a product of the value system that recorded it, defined by their perspective. To act, one must rely on a highly-developed moral sensitivity, not a historical imperitve. Harry has all the makings of a Stoic hero; he acts based on what he considers right and wrong, and our journey with him tracks his moral evolution. Often Harry makes incorrect decisions, and often pays high prices. Perhaps this is why Dumbledore deigns to focus on history at his school. He would rather his students develop morally.
On the other hand, one of Harry's greatest faults is pride. He often refuses to learn from others, or from the past. All his great defeats (and Voldemort's victories) have come at the hand of Harry's pride. It would seem that Harry does have something to learn from History.
I am presenting two conflicting opinions here (I'm not sure which one is correct, or which one I believe - maybe neither). Any thoughts?
Either way, it's good to be back ;)
Prognosticated Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Sorry, didn't mean to scare you.
Found a good Harry Potter post, about the attitude JK Rowling displays towards History of Magic. Particularly the comment by the anonymous poster is encouraging me to go back and look through Book 5 a bit more (his/her comments dovetail with our analysis of Book 5 quite nicely). Which means, maybe I'll write something...who knows?
Prognosticated Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
First off, thanks to all who signed up for the auto-email-notifications. This will be a good first test of the system.
I was trying to find "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", and to my consternation, the link to the archive was not working. I have tried republishing a number of times, but it doesnt seem to help. So I made the home page display the fifty (50) most recent entries. I'm pretty peeved at Blogger right now. If you really need to find a post, and the links on the side arent working, just do a text search on the home page. I'll keep messing with it and hopefully get it working again.
In other news, I went comment trolling today, going through all the old posts and responding to comments where I had missed. Some good stuff in there. My most popular posts seem to be: 1) The Hermione and Ron post, 2) Neville/Prophecy stuff and 3) Snape.
A few comments on Ron and Hermione, and Harry. I still think Ron and Hermione are a go. There seems to be a lot of discussion about who Harry will end up with. We already saw his relationship with Cho fail. Other possible candidates are Susan Bones, Luna Lovegood and Ginny. But I think the most obvious and likely option is not being discussed.
I think Harry will end up with noboby. Nobody at all.
Whatever happens in the end, Harry is not going to be whole. Either he'll be dead, or so broken that a personal relationship would be impossible. Remember, by all accounts, Harry is going to use Love to beat Voldie. After using the power so globally and self-sacrificially, I'm not sure he'll have any left for just one person (maybe he cant limit it, or he cant use it at all). There is also my personal theory that Harry will have to abandon his magical abilities in order to defeat Voldy, in which case, he wont really be a part of the wizarding world, and might marry a Muggle.
In other news, I started a personal blog for myself. It's called Presence, and it's hosted by Baltiblogs, an incredible free blog hosting service for people who live in Baltimore (like me). I'm not putting any HP stuff over there, so feel free to ignore it if your only interested in HP. If you care to find out more about me, then check it out.
That's all for today; I'm musing over a post about a person we should have covered a long time ago, but I'm glad we didnt, because things got much more interesting after Book 5. Guesses go in the comments.
Prognosticated Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Thursday, September 11, 2003
You asked for it, and you got it. I just set up a Yahoo Group for email notifications of updates to HPProgs. All you have to do is go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hpprogs, follow the easy-to-follow instructions, and you will get an email each time I update this site (I would still appreciate a visit every now and then, though ;). Let me know if you have any questions, I will try and help as best I can. Enjoy!
Prognosticated Thursday, September 11, 2003
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
The Lion and the Snape
Many words can be used to describe Harry Potter (the boy, not the books). Courageous, brave, faithful. Some words can't. A good example of a word that can't be used to describe Harry is "perfect." Harry is not perfect.
The problem is that Harry would like to think that he is perfect. Any number of events in Harry's past could have contributed to this; the death of his parents, making him feel as if the world owed him something, or the sudden knowledge that he was a hero to the Wizarding World. Either way, Harry is not sufficiently in touch with his Dark Side. Throughout the books, we see the proverbial little red devil on Harry's shoulder sway him towards untoward actions. And all the while, Harry's ego is calmly ignoring the pleas of his conscience.
[Slight tangent: the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione can be equated to many of the three-part relationships out there. In this particular one, Harry as Ego, Ron as Id and Hermione as Superego is most relevant. This helps in understanding Harry's initial affinity for Ron in Book 1, and his distaste for Hermione. Eventually (and continually) Harry is incorporating Hermione into his conscience. The final resolution will be the "marriage" or resolution of these competing forces in Harry consciousness. So quit trying to set Harry up with Hermione - Harry needs her to hook up with Ron. There are other explanations of the trio, for example Heart (Ron), Mind (Hermione) and Soul (Harry), as well as Rational (Hermione), Emotional (Ron), and whatever the synthesis between them would be (maybe religious or existential?).]
Try as he might to ignore the fact that he is not perfect, one person constantly reminds Harry of this fact: Snape. Time and again, just when Harry thinks he's on top of the world, Snape comes along and takes him down a few. From their first meeting in Book 1, Snape shows his contempt for Harry's self-righteousness. Repeatedly, he presents us with a clear and concise explanation as to why he feels this way: Harry is a boy who thinks he is above the rules, that he can decide for himself what is right.
The striking aspect of Snape's character, aside from his loathsomeness, is the fact that he is the exact opposite of Harry in this regard. Snape has shown he has the moral strength to not get down with his bad self. Despite his inclination towards the Dark Side, in which he indulges quite copiously in ruling his Potions class with iron-fist, when the big decisions come around, Snape makes the "right" choice. He chooses to defy Lord Voldemort, turning spy for Dumbledore (despite the fact that James and Sirius, his arch-rivals, would not only be on his side, but would be able to harp him for admitting his failure in judgment). He does this even when it puts him in danger; in Book 5 it is apparent that he has some contact, if not with Lord Voldemort himself, then at least with some of his Death Eaters.
In Book 5 we get a bit more history on Snape, when Harry delves into his memories in the Pensieve. What we learn of Snape is not pretty, but adds to our knowledge and understanding of him considerably. We learn, amongst other things, that as a boy, Snape liked to kill spiders with his wand, practicing the Unforgivable Curses. His family was, in a word, dysfunctional. He was disliked at school, despite being an exceptional student. And he was picked on and tortured by James and his gang, who relied on their house affiliation to keep their images pristine. As a result of years of this kind of pressure, Snape becomes the person who is today: a bitter, jaded and sometimes cruel soul.
Here we come to the crux of who Snape is, and what to expect from his character. Snape represents the injustice paid to people who have affiliations and connection they can not break to unfavorable elements of society. His natural tendencies are towards Slytherin, which really shouldn�t be a big deal. We see that Snape is able to make moral decisions in important situations. Yet he is still accused of being a Death Eater, and only the testimony of Albus Dumbledore saves him from Azkaban. Even after repeated events that should have convinced Harry and the Gang that he is trustworthy, Snape still finds himself having to win over the Gryffindor's trust and respect. Nonetheless, Snape stays true to himself, not compromising his identity to placate the masses into accepting him.
What Snape experiences is the exact opposite of the racism preached by Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort's elitism excludes all but the purest of blood. But the so-called inclusiveness heralded by the Gryffindor's in fact alienates those Slytherins who are not pure Evil, like Snape. Due to their association with the house that Voldemort built, they are branded as outcasts. True, so far no one in the books appears to exhibit redeeming qualities, but the prevailing attitude is "Kick out the Slytherins" and not, "Kick out the Bad Guys." But as soon as it becomes about the house and not the person, it�s the same racism espoused by Voldemort. No doubt Snape's dislike for Harry stems from this; within himself, he has conquered his Little-Red-Devil, making sacrifices beyond most others, yet he is still considered an outcast. Harry, on the other hand, quietly gives in to his desire quite frequently, yet is still publicly thought a hero. Harry pleaded with the Sorting Hat to keep him out of Slytherin, yet he calls on their powers ever so often, all the time wearing the pure badge of Gryffindor. Snape senses this hypocrisy, sees in himself the result of its distinctions, and fights back.
In the end, I think Snape will be presented with a choice, where if he makes the "right" decision, it will be detrimental to himself, and beneficial to Harry. This in turn will drive home to Harry the nature of his own selfishness, and cause him to consciously change his attitude. Snape will help Harry take a major step away from the James he saw in the Pensieve, towards a Harry that is able to look past his own insecurities and join together even with those he loathes. And he will be one step closer to fulfilling the advice of the Sorting Hat in Book 5; that all houses must work together in order to conquer Evil. Don�t forget, this was the major advice of the Sorting Hat in Book 5, and by the end we are no closer (in fact, we are much further) away from this goal than before. Snape may be the rare individual who has the power to join the two houses, of integrating the Lion and Snake into a single, whole beast, stronger and more terrible than Lord Voldemort can imagine.
Prognosticated Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Monday, September 01, 2003
Happy Birthday, HPProgs!
I just realized, Harry Potter Prognostications is one years old, today.
Thanks to all the readers, who really make this site what it is.
Prognosticated Monday, September 01, 2003
In the mean while...
I know I have promised a Snape post, but I am suffering from an acute case of prognostication block. But that is no reason for y'all to suffer. Reader Tazmy has started her own literature discussion site (with many an HP article) over at Tazmy's Pensieve, and she has some good posts over there that you should check out. In particular, for your Snape-o-philes, there is Snape's Job and Do Snape and Harry Have to Reconcile. Check it out.
I will offer a few of my thoughts on the "Snape's Job" post. I like the thread's that Tazmy draws between the various plot elements (especially since she used some of our work here as support!). But in the end, I have to conclude (as Tazmy does) that we really dont have enough information yet. Tazmy does lay out most of the key sources for this discussion, however, so that article is worth a read.
(That ought to buy me a few days...) ;)
Prognosticated Monday, September 01, 2003
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Book 5 chapter summaries
Just stumbled upon David Harris' Science and Literature, a site that has summaries of each chapter from Book 5. Very cool. Looks like he is also from MD. I wonder if he has heard of O.A.R.?
Prognosticated Thursday, August 28, 2003
Thursday, August 21, 2003
I just started listening to the audio book version (narrated by Jim Dale) of Book 5. So far, so good. The one major thing I notice is that JKR is much more verbose and descriptive in this book than in the past, even than in Book 4. I'm just in the beginning of Chapter 1 right now, but I am hoping that listening to the book helps me concretize some ideas about the themes.
In other news, I just finished listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I cant recall having ever read all the way through before. What a fantastic story. They certainly dont make them like that anymore. Here is my one comment/question about Huck Finn - I realize the themes of the book are liberty and freedom - both from the perspective of Huck, who wished nothing more than to be left alone to do as he pleases, to Jim, who is literally running for his freedom from slavery. But I couldnt help noticing, right from the very beginning, that the entire book, and I mean every single scene is about Death. Either someone dies, fakes their death, gets mortally wounded, is found dead, is impersonating a dead person's brother, or something. Huck approaches all this in his matter-of-fact way, dealing with it as best as he can. I think there might be something deeper here, a connection between Death and Liberty/Freedom, but I cant quite get at it. Any ideas?
Either way, if you're waiting for the next Harry Potter book, check out Huck Finn. It'll do ya right well, considerable. So I done it.
Prognosticated Thursday, August 21, 2003
Saturday, August 16, 2003
Sorry for the delays...
Hi guys, sorry I havent posted in a while. I have been working on a few things with Blogdigger, my RSS search engine, and havent had much time to gather my thoughts. I am trying really hard to come up with a Snape post, since he is by far the most-requested character.
One other new thing you might notice: there is an ad bar on the left side of the page with some books from Amazon. I wrote a little service that goes out to Amazon and returns the top 10 results for any keyword search, formatted into that little tabel you see there. So if you want to support this site (or really Blogdigger, as all proceeds go towards it) then you can buy a book by clicking through to Amazon. I have it set to query for Harry Potter books, which probably is useless for this site, as if you are here, you probably already own the books ;) Oh well, I think it is cool anyway. If you would like to get an ad bar like that for your site, customized for whatever search terms you like, get in touch with me and we can work something out.
Thanks for reading, I'll do my best to get back to you soon!
Prognosticated Saturday, August 16, 2003
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Doubting the Marvelous Riddle
One of the great things about weblogs is that they make conversation so easy. In the beginning it was just me posting, and Peninah leaving comments. Now there are whole gaggles of people who leave great comments, building on the ideas here. Sometimes I get emails that blow me away. One such email came from Janice R. Janice gave me permission to reprint her theory here (sorry it took me so long Janice!). Hold on to your seats, folks, this is a good one.
Your last prognostication, Prophecy Boy, put me in mind of something I've been wondering about since, oh, Book 2 or so. I've never seen this mentioned anywhere - although of course I may have just missed it. (If so, I apologize.)
If this explanation is correct (and I think it is) then we have one more piece of the puzzle of who Lord Voldemort is. Fear of death is indicative of a materialist outlook; this world is all that there is, only that which I can prove is true. Those that have no proof of the greater mysteries in life will doubt that there is anything to those mysteries. They will come to view this world as the end, and so will fear that end, and flee from it by any means. So we see the natural progression of a boy who doubts that there is more to life than this world, and believes that all will end when this world ends. This causes him to refuse to love, since love is letting a part of you die when the object of your love passes on. This, combined with the terror of impending Doom, causes one to flee, at all costs, from Death, even if this means others will have to die. So was born Lord Voldemort.
I believe I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Harry Potter is the story of a boy growing up in the Mordern World, a world that offers him everything in the here and now, and yet seems not to answer the greater questions. The magical world is a substitute, an allegory, for our modern technology and science, all of which aims, ultimately, either to help us get "more" out of this world, or to prevent us from dying. Harry is thrust into this world, and must learn, each year in a different way, to deal with and confront the temptations and travails that this life presents. With his triumphs and failures, we begin to see that magic, while technical in nature, has deeper roots.
I think this points to the real reason why Harry Potter is so popular. Most children's books are materialistic in nature; Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew, Lemony Snickett. These characters get by with their intelligence, creativity and strength (Klaus, Violet and Sunny match these attributes exactly, for those of you who enjoy the incredibly coy and delightfully entertaining Series of Unfortunate Events. If you havent read them, check them out. And dont ever let the Virginian Wolfsnake anywhere near the typewriter). Harry gets by on none of these. None said it better than Hermione (the archetype of mind):
�Harry -- you�re a great wizard, you know.�
Harry's battle is for his soul, not his life. I think this resonates with us more than we care to admit.
Thanks again to Janice R for the great email! Keep 'em comin!
In other news, I'll be heading to New York tommorrow to watch the taping of the David Letterman show. My brother's band O.A.R. will be playing. The show airs Friday night, so check it out, if you can!
Prognosticated Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Ron does it again
Just a short post, I am working on a summary of the supporting casts' role in connection with the main theme of Book 5, but until then, here is an interesting tidbit to grind your gears on.
It has been documented that Ron often, unknowingly, makes stellar predictions as to what is going to transpire in the future. I think I found another one.
At one point in Book 5 (I promise to update this later with the page number) Ron says, "We have about as much chance of winning that Quidditch Cup as Dad does at becoming Minister of Magic!"
Well, Gryffindor does win the Quidditch Cup. In which case, I somewhat abashedly refer you to the Arthur Weasley prog.
Prognosticated Thursday, July 24, 2003
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Would you please take a swipe at the fourth part of the prophecy: "�and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.� This sentence seems crafted with great care and with such ambiguity.. Does it even mean something in and of itself, without further explanation? Could Dumbledore's interpretation be wrong?
Great question! We here at HPProgs have been hard at work analyzing this passage. The common assumption based on the text is that this means either Harry kills Voldemort or Voldemort kills Harry. But as Cole points out, the language is somewhat ambiguous. With the help of Brother Mike, HPProgs resident logician, we have come up with a logical analysis of the text, with some pretty startling conclusions.
Logically there are two parts to this prophecy: the first is "either must die at the hand of the other..." This uncommon verbiage can be unclear at first blush. Brother Mike suggests replacing "either" with the phrase "one of the two" to make it easier to understand. The new phrase reads: "one of the two must die at the hand of the other." This states that the vanquisher (Harry) must kill the Dark Lord (Voldemort) or Voldy must kill Harry.
A few quick points: First, it does not does not rule out both of them dying. It�s quite possible for Harry to kill Voldy and then at some later time die at the hand of a third person or of natural causes.
Second, this part of the prophecy doesn�t preclude the odd possibility of both dying at each other�s hand, as in a old-west-style duel in which each participant simultaneously and lethally shoots the other as he himself is about to die.
Third, if a third person�not Harry and not Voldy�does kill Harry or Voldy it will have to happen after the other one is already dead at the other�s hand. That is, in most cases while both Harry and Voldemort are alive, no one else can kill either of them. We say in most cases because there is an exception to this claim typified by the following. Suppose Voldy feeds Harry a slow acting poison that will kill Harry, but not for several weeks. In the meantime Neville kills Voldy. Neville has killed Voldy while both Harry and Voldy were alive, but still Harry is soon to die at Voldy�s hand fulfilling the prophecy. Notice that in this case Neville can not kill Harry. For if he did then neither Harry would have killed Voldy nor would Voldy have killed Harry.) Harry has been killed at Voldy�s hand; he just hasn�t died�yet.
In summary, excluding the bizarre or unusual, Harry must kill Voldemort (and then someone or something else could kill Harry) or Voldemort must kill Harry (and then someone or something else could kill Voldemort). But, neither can die by anyone else�s hand before one of them (or both of them) is killed by the other.
Very good, let us continue. The second part of the prophecy, which states "neither can live while the other survives�, is trickier than it appears. One way to try to understand this statement is to use logic. (This might get a bit technical, for those unfamiliar with the art of logic, so bear with us.)
If we let H and V stand for �Harry is alive� and �Voldemort is alive� respectively, we can write :
(H -> ~V) & (V -> ~H)
This can be thought of as stating that "Harry�s being alive implies that Voldemort is not alive, and Voldemort�s being alive implies that Harry is not alive"�which seems, at first, a fair interpretation of the prophecy. Those familiar with logic know that:
(P -> Q) <=> (~P OR Q)
(I leave proof of that as an exercise to the reader.) Using this, we can rewrite the above expression as:
(~H OR ~V) & (~V OR ~H)
which is the same as
(~H OR ~V) & (~H OR ~V)
which is the same as
~H OR ~V
i.e., either Harry is not alive or Voldy is not alive, or both are not alive.
(This simple truth table below shows that ~H OR ~V is true if and only if at least one of Harry or Voldy is not alive.)
One thing to note about the above interpretation: it assumes that we treat the word �survives� just the same as it would treat the phrase �is alive,� and that might not be proper because doing so already falsifies the prophecy. That is, the interpretation given above treats the prophecy as if it states "neither can live while the other is alive," clearly already not true assuming Harry is the vanquisher and Voldy is the Dark Lord because both are currently alive! Harry is clearly alive, and Voldemort more than once states that he has never died. An optional modification would be to understand the prophecy as referring to some point in the future.
Therefore we might suggest another possibility, namely that the word survives is meant to be interpreted in one of its other senses, either:
(1) To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere, or
Perhaps �survives� might be meant to modify something unstated (as of yet). Perhaps there is some critical, implied event, E, that either the vanquisher or the Dark Lord is not permitted to survive if the other is to live. At such time as E unfolds, it will not be the case�according to the prophecy--that both the vanquisher and the Dark Lord live through E. (Interestingly, if both are alive to experience E, then according to our analysis of the first part of the prophecy, one or the other will kill the other at the end of E.)
In conclusion, we see from this carefully and cryptically worded prophecy that, if our analysis is correct, not only must Harry kill Voldemort, or Voldemort kill Harry, but it is possible, within the logic of the wording prophecy, for both of them to be killed, as long as one of them kills the other. It also follows from our analysis that neither Harry nor Voldemort can die by another�s hand until one of them has been offed by the other. Dumbledore only told Harry that it was a kill-or-be-killed situation; he never mentioned that it might be kill-and-be-killed.
Please let us know if you find any holes in the argument. Big thanks to Brother Mike for his analysis!
Prognosticated Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Sunday, July 13, 2003
There seems to be some confusion about the prophecy as explicated at the end of Book 5. I thought I would give you my take as to what it means and doesnt mean. Take it or leave it.
Just for the record, let's set the text down:
The One with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies....and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...The one with the power to vaquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."
Dumbledore tells Harry that this prophecy could have applied to two people: Harry and Neville. Upon hearing this, Harry is hopeful that perhaps this was all a big mistake. Call up Voldemort, let him know, he's got the wrong guy. No such luck, says Dumbledore:
"Then -- it might not be me?" said Harry.
Dumbledore's answer to Harry is that there was no wrong choice for Voldemort to make. Whomever he saw as the greatest threat, whoever he marked, would be his enemy, and eventually have to face him. This fits with JK Rowling's overall theme of personal choice: we are not defined by our abilities, but by our choices. Harry became the Prophecy Boy, not because he is the great-grandson of so-and-so, or the mixture of this house or that house's bloodlines. Harry became the Prophecy Boy because Voldemort chose him. Had Voldemort chosen Neville, it would be his burden to carry.
A little insight in to this, I think, will show us where things are going to go with Harry and Voldemort. Voldemort's essence (indeed, even his name, the French Vol-de-Mort) represent a Flight from Death. Voldemort is terrified of one thing only: death. He does not wish to die, to fade from this world. Because of this, he can not love. When we love, we invest a part of our selves in another person, but in doing so, we open our selves up to pain and loss. Because when a loved one dies, when they leave this world, they take a part of us with them, and we can never get that part back. It is a bitter bargain that we make. Voldemort, fearing Death in any form, refuses to love, refuses to invest part of himself in others. When he hears of one who will vanquish him, he sets out to destroy that person, and all connected to him.
And here is the trick. Voldemort goes to kill Harry and his parents. Harry, who is saved by the love of his mother, has a preternatal connection to both Death and Love. Part of Harry is gone from the beginning, his parents having sacrificied themselves to save him. Harry knows of Death, and is not afraid of it. In the Death Room at the end of Book 5, Harry is drawn to Death, to the voices behind the veil, unlike the others (apart from Luna). Harry's connection to Death allows him to love without fear. He has experienced Death, the pain that comes from losing someone you have invested part of your soul in.
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
This knowledge of Death gives Harry the ability to Love. His soul is already incomplete, his parents having died before he knew them. But this gives Harry the ability to love, to invest in others without fear of Death taking it away.
And who gave this to Harry? Voldemort did. By killing his parents, Voldemort created the exact type of person who will have the power to defeat him, the person who Loves, and does not fear Death. Dumbledore says as much to Harry, intimating to him that his one strength over Voldemort comes from his ability to love. It is with this Love that Harry will overcome Voldemort, unafraid to die to protect that which he cares about.
So Neville is not the guy; his life experience does not give him the proper knowledge to ultimately defeat Voldemort (that is not saying he isnt a great guy...). The marking of Harry by Voldemort created in him the unique consciousness of Love and Death that is required to take on he who flees from Death at all costs. He, and only he, is the Prophecy Boy.
Prognosticated Sunday, July 13, 2003
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Susan Bones Rules!
Just a short note, of which I am very, very proud.
Harry Potter Prognostications is the #1 site returned on a Google search for "Susan Bones."
Thank you, Chris Columbus.
Prognosticated Saturday, July 12, 2003
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
The Boy Who Knew Too Much
As we discussed before, in Book 5 Harry is entering the stage of life where what he thinks he knows about the world begins to fail him, what he once thought true no longer seems to hold. Harry leaves the Dursley's under the influence of a Disillusionment Charm, representing his feelings about the world he has come to know. The Wizrading World, once hailing him as the hero of a generation, now considers him a certifiable quack. Even those who believe Harry's account of Lord Voldermort's return keep him at a distance, refusing to fill him in on the goings-on of the Order of the Phoenix. Ron, Hermione, even Sirius participate in withholding knowledge from Harry. This disillusionment causes frustration that leads Harry into one of the worst bouts of literary teenage angst since Holden Caulfied. Harry wants the truth, he wants answers, and he wants them now (insert Jack Nicholson line here).
Harry heads off to Hogwarts, the root of his experience of knowledge and answers. Expecting a year filled with learning, Harry and Co. are surprised and dismayed to find that their school has been taken over by those that wish to suppress knowledge. Umbridge's curtailing of the curriculum, at first just DADA, but later the entire school, represents an attempt to further distance Harry from knowledge and truth. Umbridge redefines DADA, similar to the tactics employed by the Ministry of Truth (from Orwell's 1984). Any attempt at real, practical learning is thwarted, either by cruel and unusual punishment (Harry's forced self-branding as a liar, a blatant attempt to redefine the truth) or by legislation from the Ministry.
Harry (and Hermione's) response to this represents a key facet of the theme of the book, truth and knowledge. Instead of believing what they learn in books, what they are told by others, they choose (and influence others to choose) to define their truth based on experience - Harry's first-hand experience of the return of Voldemort, as well as his experience over the years at actual, practical Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry becomes the leader of a subversive underground militia, the D.A., whose sole purpose is to teach the truth, both historically and practically. Hiding from truth you experience, pretending that it does not exist, won�t help you. In the end you will have to face up to it, and no amount of wishing can make it go away. As we shall see, this indeed comes to pass.
As Harry continues his year, he learns some new truths as well. One of the most important encounters Harry has is with Snape, or more precisely, with Snape's memories. While peeking in the Pensieve, Harry gets a glimpse of his father in his youth. Far from the pristine, upright father-figure Harry had in his mind, James turns out to be much different than Harry had believed or had been told. This leads Harry to question all that he thinks he knows. Perhaps his father was the evil one, and Snape was just a poor wizard-geek who everyone picked on because he was different? Perhaps Snape's hatred of Harry was justified, and James really was bad? After speaking with Sirius and Lupin, Harry learns that the truth is somewhere in between. Second-hand truth is always conveyed from a particular perspective, When understanding Snape's memories, Harry has to keep in mind where it is coming from. It is not an objective recording of facts, but a subjective experience, colored by the emotions, prejudices and perspective of the one experiencing it. To learn the whole truth, a more holistic approach is required, providing multiple perspectives, illuminating difference and discrepancy. Sure, James had a bad side. But he also had plenty of good, and Harry learns to approach things from a broader perspective. This is an excellent argument for diversity.
Continuing our quest for truth and knowledge, the students begin studying for the dreaded O.W.L.s. The tests represent an attempt by the ministry to quantify the knowledge of each individual, and determine a suitable life-path for them based on this knowledge. Each wizard's future rests on their performance on these tests, their future career choices limited if the don�t succeed. This, of course, is a real-life challenge we all must face at some point in our lives. We will revisit this theme later in discussing Fred and George Weasley, who eschew the idea of an inherent connection between knowledge and success.
And now the final climax of the book. No Harry Potter tale is complete with out Harry facing down Lord Voldemort (except Book 3...whatever). Harry is under attack this year, not physically, but mentally. He is dreaming, dreaming of some mysterious place (which, not coincidentally, turns out to be the Department of Mysteries), which he strives to learn the truth of. What is at the end of the dream? What is at the end of the hallway? What is the mystery at the end, what is the answer, what is the truth? These questions, this need to know, consume Harry. The more he digs to uncover the mystery, the further he gets from understanding. Despite the advice of Dumbledore, who tries to council and teach Harry to ignore the dreams, and to let the mystery go unexposed, Harry continues to pursue the knowledge, the understanding of what is revealed in the dream, believing, hoping that upon discovering what it is, he will be satisfied, complete.
In the end, this couldn't be further from the truth. We find out that the dreams were false, fabricated by Lord Voldemort to lure Harry into exploring them, believing them and, ultimately acting upon them. There are two ideas here, intertwined. The most obvious is that of trusting your senses to bring you knowledge. Voldemort acts here as the malicious entity that Descartes feared was deceiving his observations of reality (you can substitute Satan, if you like). Harry is coached into blocking out this influence, but relents and gives in, accepts it as truth, and is enveloped in the eagerness to understand it. This leads him to the Department of Mysteries, where the wizarding world�s brightest "scientists" attempt to do just this; study, analyze, know the mysteries of Mankind. Death, Love, Time; each has its own laboratory in which it is studied, prodded, poked and attempted to be understood, to reveal the truth behind the mystery. Yet all attempts are fruitless. "And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly--I perceived that this also was a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18).
Voldemort seeks knowledge of the future, as if knowing it will allow him in some way to plan to manipulate it. He views the world as objects, as a scientist who learns to manipulate and predict. He removes all mystery from the world, attempting to know the future, the thoughts of all men and their actions. And he convinces Harry of the same outlook, causing him to strive to uncover at any risk, the mystery of the dream. This was his trap, the trap of knowledge, and Harry�s main challenge in this book. Harry wants to know it all, as if by having all the answers, he will somehow be able to rest, to deal with his situation, confront his problems, and attain salvation. In the end he learns that no matter how much he tries to understand, to uncover the mysteries of the world, there will still be things hidden from him. But his view of the world will be forever changed when he learns the truth of who he is, and what he must do.
Dumbledore tries to hide the truth from Harry to save him from anguish, to simplify the world for him so as not to cause him pain. But Harry learns the truth, and his two worlds collide, leaving Harry angry and resentful. He lashes out at Dumbledore, accusing him of misleading him. Dumbledore, earnestly repentant, realizes his error, and begs Harry�s forgiveness, insisting on his good intentions. But all the forgiveness in the world can not change the fact that Harry�s view of the world is forever changed now. He sees the world through new eyes, all that was once true now crumbling around him.
I think the best way to understand the conversation between Dumbledore and Harry is to imagine God appearing to Modern Man, tears in His eyes, begging forgiveness from His children for the conflict He has put them in. The Western World has systematically uncovered mystery after mystery of the world through science, exposing the order beneath nature, removing God from the process. Man has come to believe with utter faith in this science. But ultimately, man comes face to face with his destiny and finds he can not understand everything, cannot remove the mystery from all aspects of life. Death, Time and Love all stare Man in the face, insolently mocking his attempts to expose their dark secrets. Never the less, Man's relationship with God is forever changed, nothing the same as it was before. He needs to rebuild the relationship, to find a new way to believe, to know.
Harry learns the truth from Dumbledore, but it is not easy to accept. It comes with much pain, the knowledge that Harry must either become a killer or be killed. It is the pain that comes with realizing that the world you thought you knew was false, and that the real world has different, more exacting demands of you. It is the pain that comes with realizing that no matter how hard you strive, you will never have all the answers. At heart, it is the story of the consciousness of Modern Man (maybe all Man?), facing up to his existential situation. Had he left well enough alone, things would be different. But he didn�t. He ate from the fruit of that tree, and now must pay the price.
Harry concludes the book by making one last chance at crossing that boundary, of uncovering the mystery. In his anguish, he tries to get in touch with Sirius after his death. He speaks to a few different people, but the one who is closest to helping him understand is Luna Lovegood (my favorite character from the book � for this reason). Luna, who lives in mystery, blissfully ignorant of modern science, modern opinions, offers Harry the most hope in reaching Sirius. Luna knows, don�t ask her how, but she knows, that those we love most are still out there. She can hear them, just beyond the veil. It is that clear, and that obvious to her, mostly because she senses the mystery, the unknowable-ness of it all. She doesn�t try to understand, but she believes.
So Harry learns the perils of truth and knowledge. Harry finds that the truth will not set him free. He learns that there are some mysteries that are better off left unknown, and that by uncovering them, they become cheapened in our eyes. Harry learns that having all the answers will not complete you.
This theme, by the way, is pretty popular. I would like to think that it is one of the main themes of the Old Testament (it is rampant through out the Five Books of Moses, and prevalent in Prophets and Writings, Ecclesiastes particularly), as well as a fair explanation of the motivations behind Christianity (I am Jewish, so I have a somewhat limited understanding of Christianity, but I think this is a compelling explanation; email me for details). Philosophy has struggled with these topics since the beginning. Major contributors (this is by no means an exhaustive list) include Maimonides (in The Guide of the Perplexed), Descartes, Nietzsche (who has a great quote which I cant find right now; in the mean time, here is another good one: �Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions�they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins�) and others. Shakespeare wrote about this, particularly in Hamlet (�There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.�). Rabbis Joseph D. Soloveitchik, and Abraham Joshua Heschel both discuss these themes, in �The Lonely Man of Faith� and �God in Search of Man.� Others that touch on these themes include Orwell�s 1984, Stephen King�s From a Buick 8, and the Coen Brother�s The Big Lebowski. Please add to the comments with any other texts that explore these themes.
Next time, we will take a look at the supporting cast, and how they fit in with the theme of knowledge and truth, in Book 5.
Prognosticated Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Wow - where are you all coming from? Whoever is sending you my way - thanks!
And welcome to all the newcomers. I hope you enjoy the site. Major post coming tommorrow. Hope you like it!
Prognosticated Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Thursday, July 03, 2003
The Sorting Hat's Song
I know I am supposed to be posting about Book 5, and not about things in Book 6 and 7, but little things keep popping into my head. I had another thought for something we will have to see in the later books. Remember the Sorting Hat's song (I dont have my copy handy, so I cant transcribe it)? The basic gist was that all the different houses of Hogwarts need to work together. If you noticed in Book 5, the people in the D.A. were from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. No Slytherins. Before the end of the series, we are going to have to see some Slytherins teaming up with the D.A. (in whatever form it takes). More support for the Draco Malfoy prognostication.
Prognosticated Thursday, July 03, 2003
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Themes for Books 6 and 7
Back to Book 5 shortly, but first, I was thinking a bit about what we learned in Book 5, and what is left unknown, and will presumably be covered in Book 6 and 7. As we said before, love is definetly going to rear its head at some point, probably Book 7, as it seems to be integral to the defeat of Lord Voldemort.
One of the big unknowns that we still havent resolved is the source of Harry's fortune, left to him by his parents, quietly earning interest in Gringott's Bank. It is pretty clear that this is an unusually large stash that Harry has, and it seems key to Harry's parents relationship to Voldemort. The Evans family doesnt seem to come from extraordinary means, so either this money came from the Potter family (in which case there are no other Potters, which seems odd, since all pureblood families of significant wealth seem to be related in some way or another - c.f. Sirius Black's family tapestry) or the money came to the Potters in the course of their post-Hogwarts endeavors. I am going to guess that the money is connected in some way with the Potter's three-time defiance of Voldemort, and that in Book 6 we are going to see some machinations by the bad guys to reclaim the lost booty. Not sure how this will play a role in Voldemort's war, but it would fit nicely with another theme which would be an obvious one for JK Rowling to touch upon before the saga is over - wealth.
There are many story lines that seem to converge on this theme. On the one hand, we have the Weasley family's financial situation, as well as Ron's disdain for his poverty. Combine this with Bill Weasley, who works in a wizard bank, and Fred and George, who at the end of Book 6 seem flush with cash (sporting some fancy dragon-hide bling-bling) from their business venture. The Malfoy's may be thrown into financial distress now that their family is discredited and Lucius went and got himself arrested, which would turn the tables as far as Harry and Ron vs. Draco is concerned. And of course the Dursley's fit nicely into this theme. Throw in a plot to steal Harry's gold to finance some evil master plan, and you have yourself a novel.
The only other theme that I think would come as a challenge to this would be death and loss. Most prominent in Book 5, but present throughout the series, this would make a much better theme than wealth. I am thinking that Book 7 will really feature both love and death/loss, and show the conceptual connection between the two. We have already seen these two concepts posited against each other, most recently at the end of Book 5.
I have been re-reading, this time a bit more slowly, Book 5, so I hope to start my comments on that soon. Any ideas as to what else we have left unresolved? Email or leave comments!
Prognosticated Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Friday, June 27, 2003
In Book 5, Harry Potter is entering that wonderful and, let's face it, horrible, time of life known as the mid-teens. At fifteen years old, kids begin to look at the world in new ways, and most of what they thought to know and be true seems inapplicable and out of date. Harry is faced with the same dilema, not only in his personal life, but also by the fact that a psycho death-fearing evil super-wizard has just returned to power and is about to destroy his society as it has been come to be known. And you thought making junior varsity basketball was a lot to deal with?
Harry is confronted with issues of trust, in various forms. Beginning with the Dursley's, Harry's every action is suspect of some nefarious motivation. They dont trust him any further than they can throw him. On top of this, Harry receives no end of mysterious letters from his best friends, cryptic and unrevealing as to what is going on in the world. Ron and Hermione insist that they would tell him more, but they are not allowed. This is deemed to be for Harry's own good. Even Sirius, whom Harry trusts and relies on above all others, wont fill Harry in on what is going on in the world. Harry feels that no one trusts him with anything important, yet he knows he has a major part to play in the coming battle. Sound familiar? Its called being a teenager.
Harry's response to this is readily apparent. The overall comment that people have had to Book 5 is that Harry is angry. This anger stems from his situation, and is common in all teenagers - the angst created by wanting to be a part of the action, but having little-to-no experience. He wants to understand, he wants to be a part of things, he wants people to trust him.
So begins the fifth year of the adventures of Harry Potter. Along the way, we touch on many different facets of this theme of trust, truth and knowledge. We will see Hogwarts turned into an Oceania-like dictatorship, where true knowledge is suppresed, and truth is taken hold of by those that would prefer it not be learned. Harry must learn what it is to be slandered, to be cast as a liar, as one who purveys the opposite of truth, and how to exist in a world where no one believes a word that you say. We meet characters who have different systems of truth than the mainstream, and we see how belief in those truths helps one to deal with loss. We visit the Department of Mysteries, the Wizarding World's closest replacement for a scientific research institute, where they study and try and uncover the secret truths of the deepest mysteries of man's situation: love, death, time. We see how experience shapes your knowledge and understanding, that certain things are true only to those who have had certain experiences, and thus "see" things in a different light (thestrals, for example). Finally, we learn that you cant trust everything you see, that sometimes memories can be false or others recollections misleading, and that we dont always know the truth about those that we love and hold most dear.
Basically, we learn, as Dumbledore said in Book 1, that
"The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."
We tend to think that truth is good, and that it will set us free. As we learn from Book 5, sometimes, the truth hurts. A lot. This is a hard lesson to learn, but especially hard for teenagers, whose view of the world is changing drastically, all that they thought they knew about the world proving to be unreliable.
Next time, we will follow Harry through Book 5 and examine his interaction with this theme. After that, we will take a look at the supporting characters connection to the main theme. I will just add that, while I found Book 5 to be slow, and not as intriguing as past books, the exploration of the theme is very deep, perhaps even more so than in Book 4.
Prognosticated Friday, June 27, 2003
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
I am almost totally, 100% convinced that love will be the main theme of Book 7.
JKR seemed to be pushing off Harry, Ron and Hermione confronting their feelings in an open manner (Ron and Hermione in particular). I am guessing that Book 7, being the end, will teach us about love and hate, in all its various forms. I think that is when Ron and Hermy will finally get together, Harry will either fall in love (looks like it wont be with Cho; what a big, fat, and particularly red herring that was) or die (honestly, I could go either way on this at this point, after reading that interview). Notice that Dumbledore tells Harry at the end of Book 5 that Harry has love, and this is what makes him different than Voldemort. Plus, we now have Nymphadora Tonks, whose name and character scream out for some sort of romantic activity.
Prognosticated Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Monday, June 23, 2003
I just finished Book 5. The mailman tortured me and didnt deliver until 7:45 PM on Saturday. But I managed to squeeze in a few spare moments over the rest of the weekend, and now, am done.
Overall, I enjoyed it. Besides the fact that the book was way too long (it could have been 300 pages, and still worked), and was not as much as a page-turner as the last ones (you dont really start page-turning till somewhere in 600's, which is a little bit too long), I still liked it. It wouldn't be at the top of my list of favorite Potter books, but that's fine.
But of course, we need to analyze the main theme of this book. Truth is, our previous prognostication was almost spot on (I have inexplicably been using words like nutters and skiving in the last few days...weird). As we said before, the theme of the book was going to be about trust - and it was!
Harry begins Book 5 unsure as to what is going on in the wizarding world, and questions the Order of the Phoenix's trust in him. He isnt told anything about their plans, or even the fact that they are watching him. We see motifs on this theme throughout the story, from the wizarding worlds identification of Harry as a liar, and untrustworthy individual, right up to Dumbledore's grave error in not trusting Harry with the details of the prophecy. I can't write more now, mostly because I am exhausted, but if you get a chance, peruse through the book and notice how many times the ideas of lying, liars, truth and trust are mentioned. You'll find it quite prevelant.
There were some other themes as well in this book, but the trust theme was the main one.
We also have a unique opportunity to check back over our prognostications, and see how many were right (the rest, of course, either being wrong or inconclusive!). To begin with, check out the Harry Potter Part 2 prog. Here is a quote:
Harry�s love, not his hate, will enable him to defeat Voldemort, similar to how Lily�s love of Harry prevented his death. To pin Harry�s fortune to some outside event like a prophecy or lineage completely contradicts the essence of who Harry is and all that he stands for.
As we saw, Harry was never predestined to be the Champion of Good. It didnt have to be him, it could have been another. But it is him, and so it is his burden to carry. And so, Harry must now face his destiny, but he is not bound to a particular fate.
Other good ones include the Susan Bones prediction, the Ron/Hermione one is not far off, and if you look at the end of the Lucius Malfoy post, there is a hint to a Snape prog that never made it to print that seems to be correct. The rest...well, some are definetly wrong, like that rubbish about the guys falling for the new DADA teacher (as if), but others remain to be proven.
Time will tell.
I will try and gather my thoughts a bit more over the next few days...now, I need to sleep.
Prognosticated Monday, June 23, 2003
Friday, June 20, 2003
Its almost time.
I am hopefully getting my copy on Saturday at some time, and hope to have finished by the end of the weekend (how ridiculous - we wait 3 years for the next installment, and finish it in a day. Its like we have a penchant for punishment!). I will do my best to get something together early next week. Remember, this site will be spoiler-FULL, so dont come back till you've read the book!
Prognosticated Friday, June 20, 2003
In Book 4, we begin from a strange perspective - one other than Harry's. Until now, the books were all told from Harry's perspective, he being present in every scene. Now, we begin from someone else's perspective, seeing the events that take place from different eyes. And at the end of the first chapter, we find out, it was all a dream, taking place within Harry's own head. Just a dream - or was it?
Harry awakes from the dream in pain, his scar burning in his head. What a strange occurence. What would you do? Now granted, most of us dont have nasty curse scars given to us by dark wizards emblazoned on our foreheads, but imagine, for a minute, what your response would be. Or consider what you normally do when something is out of place: a bad headache, upset stomach, ringing in the ears. Most of us would go to a doctor. We would ask for help.
Harry has the same gut reaction. Only for him, things are a bit more complicated. Harry is somewhat nervous as to what the pain might mean, what it might portend. He is concerned that Sirius or Dumbledore will make a fuss, be concerned for him, think him in need of help. This is very hard for young Harry. Harry is very proud.
And so we stumble upon our theme for Book 4. Pride is an important thing. It is important to have pride in your work, your country (or your countries Quiddich team), your school and most importantly, in yourself. But pride can be dangerous, leading one to think that he is it, and that he doesnt need others help. Pride leads those who follow it too far into believing that theirs is the only point of view worth seeing, the only perspective that matters. Harry has too much pride, which ultimately causes him no end of troubles, including the rebirth of his arch-nemesis.
How fitting then, that we start Book 4 from a new, different perspective. And how ironic, that in the end, it turns out to have all been Harry. So begine Book 4, where we explore the theme of pride and all of its pitfalls. Stay tuned!
Prognosticated Friday, June 20, 2003
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Quick Book 5 elaboration: the "poisned honey" description of the new DADA teacher - who will be a woman. I am guessing we are going to see a female equivalent of Gilderoy Lockhart - in other words, the guys are going to fall head-over-heels in love with the new DADA teacher. Expect to see the boys backstabbing each other for her affection, and our poisned honey to play each of them off each other for her own benefit or amusement. The theme is shaping up to be about trust, and we are going to see that even those you think you can trust, in certain circumstances, will betray you. Everyone has a price, its just a matter of finding it.
In regards to Harry and Cho Chang - we dont know much about Cho, but I am thinking there are going to be some trust issues there as well. Granted, this is not much, but I am thinking more and more that Cho is a red herring, and something is going to happen to cause Harry to lose interest in her (thanks to reader Nancy for getting me thinking about this!).
Of course, we are going to see Fudge drop the ball. This is in line with the theme of trust, and how those that we place our trust in sometimes dont live up to our expectations.
Those are a few short thoughts. In 2 days, we will know the answer!
Prognosticated Thursday, June 19, 2003
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Book 3 begins, once again, at the Dursley's. This year Harry gets the worst birthday present he could possibly imagine: a visit from Aunt Marge. Aunt Marge has it in for Harry in a bad way, constantly berating him, putting him and his family down. Needless to say, she brings out the worst in Harry. While suffering through a barrage of unfounded insults to him and his parents, Harry cracks. He lets loose with all of his anger, and Aunt Marge takes it on the chin. Ah well, she had it coming.
The point here is that Harry begins the book with a challenge to his emotions. He is overcome by his anger, which manifests itself as an attack of rage on Aunt Marge. There is no question that she desered it; the question is for Harry, as to how he should react in such a situation. Harry gives in to his anger, unleashing the full force of his magical power directly at Aunt Marge.
Once leaving the Dursley's for the cold dark streets of Surrey, Harry experiences another emotion: panic. He is overcome by his sudden circumstances, being all alone with nowhere to go. And of course, there is fear, the signt of the Grim causing him to fear the worst.
So begins Book 3, and sets the stage for the theme of Harry's next adventure. As we will see in Book 3, Harry learns to confront and control his emotions. He is shown this by various different people, some who succeed, and some who fail. Next time we will take a closer look at Harry's challenge, and after that examine the other characters and how they relate to the central theme of emotions.
I am going to try and do the introduction (I have sort of settled on a pattern for these entries about the books; first post introduces the theme at the Dursley's, second post details Harry's experience with the theme, and the third details other characters) for Book 4 before the weekend. I am not sure if I will be able to get the whole thing out before Book 5, but once the introductions are done, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out some examples from the books. This, of course, leads us to Book 5. I have some new ideas about what we are going to see from the new DADA teacher, and a wild guess about what will happen between Harry and Cho Chang. Maybe tomorrow!
Also: A big thanks to the people over at Wizarding World's HP Slueths for their linkage to HPProgs. As the stats show, readership has increased dramatically. Thanks! And of course, thanks to all of you reading for, well, reading! And especially those of you who email.
Prognosticated Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Friday, June 13, 2003
The final loose thread for Book 2 involves the same question of identity. The various victims of the Heir of Slytherin all relate in some way to Harry and his search for identity. Their petrification is more than random; in some way, the each represent a misguided approach to identity, usually focused around Harry, which seems to be the cause of their "punishment." Let's break it down.
The first unlucky victim is Mrs. Norris. Recall that this episode takes place soon after Filch accosts Harry in the hallway, and begins to write him up a citation. Notice what Filch says:
"Dung," he muttered furiously, "great sizzling dragon bogies, frog brains, rat intestines. I've had enough of it, make an example, where's the form. yes."
One important prognostication tip is this: JKR uses italics for important words and phrases. Space does not permit me to document this here, and it is by no means a concrete rule, but often important words or phrases are in italics. The key word here is "example". Filch intended to make an example of Harry Potter, to show he is willing to punish even the most popular students. He uses Harry's identity as a tool to prop up his own agenda.
This might be pushing it a bit, so just in case, we have further justification for Filch being punished with the petrification of Mrs. Norris. Harry escapes punishment with help from Nearly Headless Nick, as well as by stumbling upon Filch's dark secret - he is a Squib. His lack of ability causes him to lose confidence in himself, to see himself as less of a person (or wizard) because of it. Filch puts too much stock in ability, and not enough in personal growth and choice. For this, Mrs. Norris gets it.
Next in line is Colin Creevey. I think Colin's sin is obvious; he worships Harry, following him around like a sick puppy, snapping photos and asking for autographs. He fosters the celebrity image that Harry is confronting, frustrating him to no end. Because of people like Colin, innocent though they may be, we have the Lockharts of the world in positions of power and authority.
Next, we have Justin Finch-Fletchly. I will admit, I need to go back and freshen up on the chronology of Justin's involvement with Harry (the movie has addled my mind), but suffice it to say, Justin perpetuates the negative stereotype cast on Harry as the Heir of Slytherin. Justin and Co. treat Harry based on his past, not his present. Harry's present actions are interpreted based on his abilities (parseltoungue) rather than on his explanations.
Along with Justin goes Nearly Headless Nick (incidentally, some might argue that the real reason all these people were petrified is that they were Muggles or Squibs - but this is not true in two cases: Nearly Headless Nick and Penelope Clearwater. One might argue that they were accidental casualties, the main targets being Justin and Hermione, but it still leaves open the question as to why they were affected at all). Nick saves Harry from Filch's clutches, and in return asks Harry to speak up on his behalf to the Headless Hunt. Nick is using Harry's name, his his noteworthiness in the Wizarding World, to try and curry favor to get him "in." Needless to say, this abuse of Harry as a person deserves some sort of payback.
Moving right along, next we have Penelope Clearwater and Hermione Granger. Starting with Penelope, the reason for her petrification is not so much personal as it is directed at her status - as a prefect. Percy tells Ron and Harry (while they are disguised as Crabbe and Goyle):
"I," said Percy, drawing himself up, "am a prefect. Nothing's about to attack me.",/p>
"When the moment strikes
The point is that our titles and positions will not save us from evil. Percy's belief in his status as a prefect is pompous, and Penny's pertrification proves the folly of his belief.
And that leaves us with Hermione. I have to admit, I am struggling with this one. I have not come up with a satisfying answer. Hermione, who always represents the rational approach to a situation, which turns out to be somewhat misguided, definitely has her moments in Book 2. It is her knowledge of the arcane that starts the trio on the path to making the Polyjuice Potion. What a wonderful trick! A potion that allows you to change your external identity! The gang thought this would be the key to unlocking the secret of Slytherin's heir, but it turned out to not help. If anything, the experience proved to them that, no matter what you change on the outside, it is much harder to change who you are on the inside. Even will masked as Crabbe and Goyle, Harry and Ron betray their true feelings over and over again. Draco is duped, but just barely. The Polyjuice Potion was basically a failure. I am tempted to say that Hermiones belief that they could manipulate others by changing their external identities was just cause for her petrification. But it doesnt fit right; she did turn into Millicent Bullstrode's cat, after all - which is just punishment enough. Here is a chance for those of you out there to shine - send me your theories, or leave comments.
One thing to notice here is the deft artistry that JK Rowling uses in incorporating magic into her stories. So far we have seen that the invisibility cloak and the Polyjuice Potion, rather than simple plot devices, serve to illustrate a key element of the moral theme of the books.
In summation, I think we can understand the basic criteria for petrification: treating others like objects. All those above were guilty in some form or another of objectifying another person, making them into a thing as opposed to a subject, a living, breathing human being. In return, they themselves were objectified, literally, by being pertrified into stone idols, mirroring the idols they created by objectifying others.
Prognosticated Friday, June 13, 2003
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