Thursday, January 26, 2012

Good Story 026: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

Episode #26 is the first of the year, and Julie and Scott talk about J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. Julie marvels at the end of the series, and Scott can't believe he didn't mention Luna Lovegood.

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  1. I was introduced to the series via the first couple of movies and finally ending up reading all the books back to back except the last one which was not out yet. When Deathly Hallows was released I cleared my weekend to read the whole thing in two marathon sessions. So I definately am a fan of the books and quite enjoyed them and Deathly Hallows was a great ending.

    The whole can Christians read HP thing was one that did not much affect me. The underlying morality is really quite solid with much to recommend it. Though not perfect and I certainly had some quibbles. I also really enjoyed SQPN's podcast on the HP books in drawing out all the Christian symbolism. As for Michael O'Brien's book "A Landscape with Dragons" I totally object to his basic premise as I understand it. The Sci-Fi Catholic blog had a very good critque of the book especially in regards to the use of Dragons in SF & Fantasy.

    What I did have quibbles about was how often Harry lied or hid things and there were almost always zero consequences for this. It always turned out allright. Dumbeldore was secretive, but Harry would outright lie - especially to Dumbledore. I would liked to have seen some consequences for these actions.

    The other major plot point that annoyed me was what I call "Wizard Assisted Suicide' because really Dumbeldore having Snape kill him was a form of assisted suicide. Consequentialism really annoys me and while I can certainly see how this plot point was used to advance the plot and add tension, I would have liked to have seen this done another way. Though I realize it was just a plot point to advance the story.

    I also find it interesting the experience of the books and the movies since rarely do you have a series of movies start before the last book in the series is written. Though of the number of movies in this series is rare indeed. Seeing the actors in the movie grow up I think enhances the book in how iconic they are to it. There is more of an overlap between the book in the movies than is usual and part of it is of course the authors involvment with the movies. The movies themselves ranged in quality, but the worst of them was still fairly good. I rate the 3rd and then the last two movies as being the best in the series. I recently watched the whole movie series again and Part 1 and 2 back to back on the same night.

    Oh and Scott you really need to watch Pushing Daisies. What a great series and since it was so imaginative, quirky, and well writtet it was cancelled after two seasons.

  2. I second (or third, actually) the recommendation of Pushing Daisies to Scott. What a great show! Last time I checked, you could watch it via streaming on Netflix.

    We've been debating going to the Holy Land while we are living in England for the next couple of years. We have a two-year old and a four-year old. Going on our own is outside our comfort zone but if we find a kid-friendly (and faith-friendly) tour and the nerve, we may go just since we are so close. The associate pastor at our church here in England is leading a trip, we should check with him. We definitely plan on going to Rome.

    Also, since Julie mentioned it and I just watched it, I would recommend you all tackle In Bruges. There's a lot of good stuff to sink your Catholic teeth into with this film and it is quite hilarious. Though you probably won't be able to quote much from the film. The movie would definitely spark interesting discussions.

    Thanks for your great podcast!

    p.s. I received Eifelheim for Christmas, so hopefully I'll read it soon and listen to your first episode.

  3. I will definitely watch Pushing Daisies! Why do the best shows get cancelled?

    Jeff: Do you think that wizard-assisted suicide has anything to do with why Dumbledore was unable to move on in the afterlife scene?

    Joseph: Yes, we've been talking about In Bruges for a while. We've both seen it (I on Julie's recommendation) and both love it. We ought to just get it on the schedule.

  4. This is the first time I've listened. Great job! Just one quibble: Voldemort did actually go to Godric's Hollow intending to kill baby Harry. Remember that there was the prophecy that a baby boy born in July would have the ability to kill Voldemort: "Neither can live while the other survives." It could have been either Neville or Harry. Voldemort goes to kill Harry first. The parents only got in the way. Remember, Voldemort says to Harry's mon, "Stand aside." So her sacrifice is a true one because she could have been spared. That's why the protective charm is so powerful.

  5. I also love your comment about Neville's being similar to John. John and Jesus had some similarity in their birth stories; Neville and Harry were linked by the prophecy, their birthdays, and the fact that their parents were Aurors.

  6. I have to ask ... is this Julie Siegel from Dallas? My long-lost pal?

    Either way, your comments are right on target. In the case of Voldemort's actions toward Harry because of the prophecy, Rowling says that she was directly influenced by MacBeth because she always thought about how actions were influenced by the prophecy so that they became self perpetuating. In other words, would Voldemort have done what he did if he hadn't heard the prophecy? Probably not ... and his blind adherence to worrying about it sealed his doom.

  7. Yes, it's me! (Or, in a more literary tone: 'Tis I!) I've been reading your blog for a while ever since we ran into each other at Central Market and you told me about it. This is the first time I've listened to your pod cast. How fun! I, too, have been re-reading The Deathly Hallows, which is why the quotes are at my very geeky fingertips. I loved the Neville character, and this weekend I enjoyed mulling over the idea of him as a John-like figure. Thanks for that.


    I have been looking for your email in vain. And have been stalking the dairy section of CM on Fridays hoping to run into you again! I now have more time for coffee and suchlike so I try to schedule one per week ... I'd LOVE to catch up! Email me!

    I'm so excited!

    Oh, and thank you again for your geeky comments. All true and I hadn't thought about that further connection with John/Neville and Jesus/Harry ... if I may be so bold as to link them that freely in text.

  9. I've been having conversations with Manuel Alfonseca at GoodReads about this episode. He makes some great remarks so I'm sharing them here:

    1. You discuss the changes done on the books in the American versions. Yes, I'm also concerned about this. They are not many, but so important. For instance, the title of the first book (Harry Potter & the philosopher's stone) was changed to Harry Potter & the wizard's stone. Why this assumption that American readers know very little about history, so that the term philosopher's stone would be unintelligible for them? If they don't know, then teach them, don't hide knowledge! By the way, they did the same with the Chronicles of Narnia! And I bought the whole series in the American version, during a trip to New York (except for The silver chair, the first I ever bought and read).

    2. Your analysis of the epilogue in the last book in the series was suggestive for me. I had always disliked it. I didn't see the need of Rowling telling us what had happened 19 years later in five pages. After listening to you, I agree that it was her way of telling the readers: Look, folks, this is really the end. Don't wait for a continuation. Although the epilogue is a clear letdown, compared to the previous chapter.

    3. You analyze the Christian undertones in the books. I did it also in a paper about Christianity in science-fiction & fantasy literature, where I wrote this:

    In the second book in the series, Harry faces Voldemort in the secret chamber under Hogwarts castle, to save Ginny Weasley, abducted by the basilisc. In his fight against the monster, when he seems defeated, Harry is suddenly helped by the phoenix, sent by Dumbledore. It is easy to set a parallel between the plot and the Christian message. The secret chamber is the world; the basilisc, sin; Voldemort, the devil; Ginny Weasley's abduction is original sin; Harry represents humanity. In his fight against evil, man can only win with the help of Christ, sent by Got the Father. During the Middle Ages, the phoenix was a symbol of Christ, because it was said to resurrect from its own immolation. Rowling shows a good knowledge of medieval culture and must have done it on purpose.

    In the seventh book, in the graveyard at Godric's Hollow, Harry visits his parents grave and the grave of Dumbledore's family, in each of which there is a biblical inscription: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Mat. 6:21) and The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (I Cor. 15:26). Both are closely related to the plot, but given the present religious ignorance, few readers will have noticed.

    The final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort in the seventh book is again a clear, explicit description of the Christian message. In the latest chapters Harry delivers himself to his enemy, offering his life to save his friends, dies and descends to hell (King's Cross station, where he meets Dumbledore and has a vision of Voldemort's spiritual state), then resurrects and now is able to defeat Voldemort in a direct encounter. In this case Harry represents Christ rather than humanity, as in the second book.

    The same as The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series is not an allegory. Trying to find the meaning of every detail would be to split hairs.

  10. It was long ago (over three years), but I just read Jeff Miller's comments on Dumbledore's "suicide." I think the situation was too complex to decide easily that Dumbledore's death was an assisted suicide:
    a) Dumbledore fell in the temptation of trying to use the second deathly hallow (the ring that would invoke the dead) and found that Voldemort had made it into one of his horcruxes. The subsequent fight destroyed the horcrux, but also Dumbledore, whose arm was burned and his life could only be prolonged (for about a year) by the use of all his wizardly powers. So, Dumbledore was technically "dead" since the beginning of the school year and would just live till about its end anyway.
    b) Taking this into account, and the fact that he knew that Voldemort would make Draco Malfoy try to kill him, Dumbledore made Snape swear that he would do it before Draco, to save Draco from becoming a murderer. This made it possible for Snape to make the unbreakable oath to perform Draco's mission if Draco couldn't, thus allaying Voldemort's and Bellatrix's suspicions about him, as Dumbledore wanted.
    c) When Dumbledore and Harry came back from their search of the alleged horcrux, Dumbledore was dying: his time was gone, and his drinking the water protecting the horcrux had poisoned him. So, at this point in the sixth book, Dumbledore was minutes from death. When he begged Snape to kill him, he was not wishing to shorten his pain, but to save Draco from murdering him.
    So was this an assisted suicide? I've heard people say that Christ's death was an assisted suicide, for he could have called twelve legions of angels to protect him and didn't! So things are not always as clear as we would like.