Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
J. K. ROWLING
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) is J. K. Rowling's highly anticipated seventh and final novel in her internationally popular series chronicling the adventures of a young wizard named Harry Potter. Since publishing the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published as Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone in the United States) in 1997, Rowling has become one of the most successful writers of her time. Amassing a fortune from book sales, film rights, and merchandise distribution, Rowling's influence in early twenty-first-century culture cannot be underestimated. While waiting for the seventh novel to be published, fans all over the world speculated as to the final episode's contents. Is Severus Snape, killer of beloved Hogwart's headmaster Albus Dumbledore, good or evil? Will Harry Potter survive until adulthood or die in a final battle with the evil wizard Voldemort? Such questions clogged media outlets and internet blogs for months preceding the series conclusion, even spawning a few legally punished leaks. When the book finally arrived at stores all over the world, sales skyrocketed to over 11 million in the first twenty-four hours. Readers eagerly consumed the over seven hundred pages detailing Harry Potter's quest to destroy Lord Voldemort once and for all. At the time of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows's publication, five films had been released; the seventh is slated to open in 2010.
In 2007, J. K. Rowling published the seventh and final volume in her world-famous series detailing the adventures of a young wizard named Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows reveals the destinies of characters loved by millions of readers, young and old alike. Rowling's writing career has become something of legend, as she wrote her first novel while struggling financially as a single mother. Her Harry Potter books were reportedly rejected by several publishers before becoming some of the most popular literature in the twenty-first century. Born on July 31, 1965, outside of Bristol, England, Rowling studied French at Exeter University, although she was more interested in English. Her knowledge of classical literature finds its way into each of Rowling's novels through her elaborately developed magical realm, full of mythological character names and creatures.
Rowling's publishing success can hardly be underestimated. She's won numerous literary awards, including the Hugo Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Whitbread Award for Best Children's Book, and the Smarties Prize. With her books translated into over sixty languages and distributed all over the globe, Rowling has buoyed her publishing houses through astronomical book sales. According to Scholastic, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold no less than 8.3 million copies in the first twenty-four hours alone. Total sales for the series have been estimated at well over 400 million copies and have spawned a movie series and a host of Potter-related merchandise. In 2007, five movies had already been launched, to enormous popular success, and the final two films are slated for release by 2010.
At the time of the series conclusion, there was great speculation as to Rowling's next professional move. She cites writing as her first love and plans to continue publishing fiction. She reports little interest, however, in extending her series and chronicling Harry Potter's life into adulthood. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ends with an epilogue describing life in the magical realm nineteen years after the events in the book; Rowling says the Harry Potter series most likely concludes with this narrative.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens with Snape entering a Death Eater meeting at the Malfoy mansion, where Voldemort has a Hog-warts professor, Professor Burbage, suspended from the ceiling. The meeting consists of people seated around a large table, with Snape at Voldemort's right hand. He tells the Dark Lord about a plan to move Harry Potter from his current location, but another Death Eater gives conflicting information. Snape contends that his intelligence information is correct. As Voldemort discusses his plan of attack, he takes Lucius Malfoy's wand for the fight so that his own wand will not have difficulty with the twin core in Harry's wand. The Death Eaters talk about some current events including the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic. Voldemort then uses the Avada Kedavra curse to kill Professor Burbage.
Harry appears in his room at the Dursley house, cleaning out his school trunk. He sorts through many items that have been significant to him over the past several years, including the enchanted mirror Sirius Black left to him. Harry also looks through his Daily Prophet and reads Albus Dumbledore's obituary, which indicates a troubled childhood marked by several family deaths. The newspaper also publishes an excerpt of Rita Skeeter's new Dumbledore biography, which contends that the famous Hogwarts headmaster dabbled in the Dark Arts as a young man.
Harry has been preparing to leave the Dursley house for good, making him remember the poor treatment he received from his aunt and uncle over the years. The Order of the Phoenix arrives to take the Dursleys into hiding, because they will be unsafe once the enchantment on their house lifts. They are not convinced that they are really in danger by Voldemort. But as Harry turns seventeen, he will become an adult and the protection placed on Privet Drive will lift. As they say their awkward goodbyes, Dudley Dursley shows surprising concern for Harry's well-being and even shakes his hand.
More members of the Order apparate, or magically transport themselves instantaneously, into the Dursleys' house and discuss their plan to get Harry to the Weasleys' home, the Burrow, without Voldemort's detection. They drink polyjuice potion and create Harry Potter decoys, sending out seven sets of Harry and a companion. The idea is that if the Death Eaters follow them, they will not know which is the real Harry. But their plan is infiltrated and the Death Eaters attack immediately after the group leaves. A fierce battle ensues, and Hedwig the owl is the first casualty. They end up figuring out the correct Harry, who is flying with Hagrid, and Voldemort attacks him. Harry's wand seems to act independently to save him. Landing at Tonks's parents' house just in time, Harry and Hagrid take a portkey to the Burrow and anxiously wait for the rest of the Order to show up safely. Most characters are safe, if battle-scarred, but George Weasley loses an ear from Severus Snape's attack. And then Bill Weasley announces that Mad-Eye Moody died in the fight. They toast his memory while wondering who betrayed their plan. Harry also has a vision of Voldemort torturing the wandmaker, Ollivander, to find out why Harry's wand defeated the borrowed Malfoy wand.
While Harry stays at the Weasley house, he, Ron, and Hermione help the family prepare for Bill and Fleur's wedding. The three have trouble planning their hunt for Horcruxes because Mrs. Weasley worries about their very secret mission. Hermione teaches Harry and Ron everything she has learned about Horcruxes, explaining that the only way to become whole again after splitting your soul is to feel real remorse. They all decide Voldemort is not likely to feel remorse, and thus they must destroy all five remaining Horcruxes. Throughout this time, Harry struggles with his romantic feelings for Ginny.
As the wedding approaches, Harry has another vision of Voldemort searching for Gregorovitch, another wandmaker. The Weasley family invites friends over on the eve of Bill's wedding, in order to celebrate Harry's seventeenth birthday. Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic, is a surprise guest at the party. He arrives to give Harry, Ron, and Hermione their inheritances from Dumbledore's will. Scrimgeour acts extremely suspicious of the items Dumbledore left the three and tries to find out what their secret mission might be. Ron receives Dumbledore's Deluminator, which gives light and takes it away. Hermione inherits a children's book called The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Harry receives the first snitch he ever caught at Hogwarts. Each item contains a mysterious message that no one yet understands. Dumbledore also wanted Harry to own Gryffindor's sword, but Scrimgeour claims that the sword is property of Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione express frustration at why Dumbledore could not explain these mysteries while he was alive.
Harry participates in the Weasley wedding, disguised as a cousin named Barney. Several of the wedding guests provide new information to Harry. Viktor Krum tells Harry about a symbol Luna Lovegood's father wears on his robes. He claims that the triangular sign was Gellert Grindelwald's years ago and that it represents wizard supremacy. Elphias Doge, the writer of Dumbledore's obituary, allays Harry's concerns about Dumbledore's past, but Ron's Aunt Muriel gossips about Dumbledore's youth. She says his family abused Dumbledore's sister, Ariana, but Doge denies it. During the reception, Order of the Phoenix member Kingsley Shacklebot sends his patronus to announce that the Ministry of Magic has fallen and that Scrimgeour is dead. Harry, Ron, and Hermione disapparate, or magically transport themselves, to a small town for safety. They go to a Muggle diner to discuss their next move, but two Death Eaters attack them. They fight and get away but are unsure how they were found. They arrive at former Order headquarters, Twelve Grimmauld Place, and must face down several curses designed to keep Death Eaters away. They determine to stay there and make plans.
Harry finds it difficult to understand why Dumbledore left him with so little information about how to hunt the Horcruxes. Kreacher, the Black family house-elf that now owes loyalty to Harry, explains the history of the Slytherin locket. The locket is the first Horcrux the three decide to hunt, and they trace it to Delores Umbridge at the Ministry of Magic. They observe the Ministry and then use polyjuice potion to get inside of it. Once inside, they become separated but search for the locket nonetheless. They observe the government's latest policy of investigating and punishing all Muggle-borns. As Umbridge examines a possible Muggle-born in an intimidating hearing, Harry and Hermione manage to steal the locket from their old professor and free many of the suspected Muggle-borns. When their presence is detected by the Ministry, they barely escape to Twelve Grimmauld Place but quickly realize they have been followed. They disapparate to a forest clearing and set up camp indefinitely. Hermione nurses Ron back to health after he has splinched in the disapparation. The three are unsure how to proceed. Harry has another vision, this time of Voldemort seeing the face of a young man who stole something unknown from wandmaker Gregorovitch. Voldemort then kills Gregorovitch.
As Harry, Ron, and Hermione try to plan a next step, they notice that the locket seems to cast a depressing shadow over them. They decide to pass the locket between them, so no one should become too sad for too long. For lack of a better idea, they search Voldemort's old orphanage for a Horcrux but find nothing. Back at camp, they overhear a conversation between a group of wizards on the run and find out that the real sword of Gryffindor is missing. They also learn that there is a resistance at Hogwarts, led by Ginny, Luna, and Neville. Harry becomes increasingly self-conscious because of his uncertainty on how to proceed, and Ron expresses his lack of faith in his best friend. They argue, and Ron leaves the camp.
Harry and Hermione proceed without Ron although they are both upset. They determine to go to Godric's Hollow, the former home of both Harry's parents and the Dumbledore family. It is now December, and they visit the snow-covered graveyard where Lily and James Potter are buried. In their searching, they also come across a grave with the same triangular symbol that Luna Lovegood's father wears on his robes. The grave belongs to Ignotus Peverell, whose epitaph reads, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” They notice someone watching them in the graveyard but proceed to find Harry's childhood home, where his parents were killed by Voldemort. There is a monument in their honor, and Harry feels very emotional. Bathilda Bagshot, the famous historian they hoped to meet, appears and beckons Harry and Hermione to her home. They enter and ask her questions but she does not speak. Harry follows Bathilda upstairs without Hermione, and Voldemort's giant snake slithers out from Bathilda's neck. Bathilda's dead body falls to the ground while the snake attacks Harry. He can feel Voldemort's imminent arrival, and Hermione helps them escape. Harry's mind connects to Voldemort's, and he sees Voldemort's memory of the night he killed the Potters. The attack and the vision send Harry into a kind of coma, and when he awakes he finds that his wand has been destroyed and that Voldemort is closer to getting what he wants.
Hermione manages to steal a copy of Rita Skeeter's unauthorized Dumbledore biography, and she and Harry read it eagerly. They learn that Dumbledore was indeed friends with Grindelwald as a young man, as evidenced by a handwritten letter by Dumbledore that states his plan to rule over Muggles. Harry feels deeply disillusioned about his old mentor, while Hermione believes that Dumbledore made up for these early mistakes by living a good life. Harry remains upset, but they move their campsite because they think they hear people outside. At their new location, Harry notices a silver doe when he stands watch. He follows it to a lake, on the bottom of which, shockingly, lies Gryffindor's sword. Harry realizes what he must do and dives into the freezing water to retrieve the sword. He forgets to take the locket off, however, and it begins to choke him. Out of nowhere Ron appears. He saves Harry from drowning and retrieves the sword. Ron manages to destroy the locket with the sword but not before confronting ghostly visions of his own jealousy toward Harry. The two friends forgive each other, and Ron explains how Dumbledore's Deluminator helped him find Harry and Hermione. Hermione remains angry at Ron.
Ron gives Harry and Hermione information about the wizarding world, including the fact that Voldemort's name is now taboo, meaning that the Death Eaters can trace anyone who says the Dark Lord's name out loud. They realize that is how they were found in the diner. Ron also informs them of an underground resistance that broadcasts a radio show to encourage people to fight Voldemort.
Hermione notices that the triangular symbol they keep encountering has been drawn at the top of a page in her book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard. They decide to visit Luna's father, Xenophilius Lovegood, to find out more about the sign. Xenophilius refers them to the story of “The Three Brothers,” which describes the search for three elements that can defeat Death, called the Deathly Hallows: the Cloak of Invisibility, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand. He believes that the Deathly Hallows exist and that the three brothers were the Peverell brothers. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss this new information, they learn that Xenophilius has betrayed them to the Ministry in hopes of saving his daughter, Luna. The three escape.
Harry believes that the Deathly Hallows are real while Hermione does not. Harry wonders if the Hallows may be the way to defeat Voldemort, and he then realizes that he already possesses the Cloak of Invisibility, that the Resurrection Stone is probably in the snitch, and that the Elder Wand is what Voldemort wants. They finally hear the radio broadcast for the underground resistance, but Harry makes the mistake of saying Voldemort's name. They are instantly captured, but Hermione thinks quickly and casts a spell to make Harry unrecognizable. The werewolf, Fenrir Greyback, still believes that he has caught Harry Potter, however, and they take their prisoners to Voldemort's headquarters. In the chaos, Harry has a vision of Voldemort finding Grindelwald. At the Malfoy house, Harry and Ron are put in the dungeon while Hermione undergoes torture by Bellatrix Lestrange. Griphook the goblin, Luna, and Ollivander are already in the dungeon, and Harry, in despair, looks into his enchanted mirror and asks for help. Dobby appears and rescues Luna and Ollivander. Wormtail attacks Harry, but then is strangled by his own silver hand when he exhibits mercy to Harry. Harry, Ron, and Dobby rescue Hermione, and a battle ensues. The group, including Griphook, disapparates back to Bill's house at Shell Cottage where they realize that Dobby is dead. Harry digs Dobby's grave by hand to show his respect.
Harry has a realization and chooses to search for the Horcruxes over the Hallows. Harry asks Griphook if he will help break into Gringotts bank in order to retrieve another Horcrux. Harry then learns about wandlore from Ollivander, who explains that a wand changes masters if it is won. Harry then understands that Dumbledore won the Elder Wand from Grindelwald in their historic duel and that the wand is now in Dumbledore's tomb. Harry has a vision, watching as Voldemort arrives at Hogwarts to take the Elder Wand. Griphook agrees to help break into Gringotts, as long as he can keep the Gryffindor sword as payment. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Griphook plan their break-in, while the others warn them of working with a goblin. Remus Lupin announces the birth of his son, Teddy.
In order to infiltrate Gringotts bank and open Bellatrix Lestrange's vault, Hermione drinks polyjuice potion and transforms into Bellatrix. They are discovered early in their plan, however, but Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Griphook still manage to enter the vault and locate the Horcrux, the Hufflepuff cup. Curses protect the cup, though, and hot, replicating metal threatens to burn and drown the four. When they are about to be captured, Griphook grabs the Gryffindor sword and abandons them. Harry, Ron, and Hermione fight their way out of the bank, freeing a trapped dragon and flying to freedom through the roof of the building. Once in safety again, Harry has a vision of Voldemort realizing that his Horcruxes are being destroyed. Voldemort decides to check the hiding places of all of his Horcruxes, giving Harry the information that the final Horcrux is somewhere at Hogwarts.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione enter Hogsmeade on their way to Hogwarts and are nearly caught by the Death Eaters when Aberforth Dumbledore, Albus's brother, saves them. Aberforth owns the other half of Harry's enchanted mirror, and it is revealed that Aberforth sent Dobby to help when they were prisoners at the Malfoy house. As they all talk, it becomes clear that Aberforth does not agree with Albus's plans. He wants Harry to abandon his mission and save himself. Aberforth tells them the true story of Albus's family, saying that his brother was seldom entirely honest but instead lived with secrets. The Dumbledore family history included Ariana's attack by Muggle boys, which left her unstable for the rest of her life. Their father, Percival, murdered the Muggles and went to prison in order to protect Ariana from institutionalization. In a terrible accident, Ariana's magic exploded and killed her own mother, requiring Albus to return home to care for his family. In his frustration at not being able to continue his plans, Albus became friends with a young Grindelwald and the two made plans for Muggle domination. When Aberforth challenged these plans, the three boys fought; Ariana entered the fight and ended up being killed. No one ever knew which one of them killed her.
After all of these revelations, Aberforth again encourages Harry to protect himself. Harry decides that it is more important to save the world from Voldemort's evil, even if it means his own death, and asks for Aberforth's help. Aberforth shows them a secret passage into Hogwarts from his bar, and Neville Longbottom appears in the tunnel to show them the way. Neville leads Harry, Ron, and Hermione to the Room of Requirement, where a group of students have formed a resistance. Many others show up, and all are ready to fight with Harry to defeat Voldemort. After struggling to decide how the group can help him, he asks them to hold off Voldemort long enough for him to locate the last Horcrux: the Ravenclaw diadem.
Voldemort arrives at the castle and announces that fighting will begin shortly if Harry Potter is not given up. While the others prepare to fight, Harry finds out the history of the Ravenclaw diadem from the ghost, the Gray Lady. Harry locates Ron and Hermione, who explain how they have destroyed the Hufflepuff cup Horcrux by using a basilisk fang. Harry says that he thinks the Ravenclaw diadem is in a room of hidden objects that he encountered in his previous year. When they find the diadem, they only narrowly escape when Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle arrive and try to kill them. In their escape, Harry, Ron, and Hermione ironically save Draco and Crabbe.
The Battle of Hogwarts begins in earnest, and Fred Weasley is one of its earliest casualties. Harry goes into Voldemort's mind to find his location, because the only remaining Horcrux to destroy is his snake, Nagini. They go to the Shrieking Shack and overhear Voldemort having a conversation with Severus Snape in which Voldemort explains how he must kill Snape in order to become the master of the Elder Wand. As Snape dies, Harry sneaks to his side. Snape tells Harry to bottle up his memories, which are pouring out of him like blood, and Snape dies looking into Harry's eyes. In a series of memories, it is apparent that Snape fell in love with Harry's mother, Lily, at a young age and that all of his actions have been to protect her son. Harry learns that Dumbledore had suffered an irreversible curse shortly before his death, and he asked Snape to kill him in order to protect the Elder Wand. Further, Dumbledore tells Snape that Voldemort transferred part of his soul to Harry on the night he killed James and Lily, so Harry is the seventh Horcrux and must die. Finally, Harry learns that the doe that helped them in the woods was a patronus produced by Snape, and that Snape's patronus had taken this form because of his love for Lily Potter, whose patronus was also a doe.
Harry accepts that he must die in order to defeat Voldemort and walks into the woods in order to allow Voldemort to kill him. Using the Resurrection Stone in the snitch, Harry calls his parents, Sirius, and Remus to comfort him as he walks to his death. Voldemort uses the killing curse, and Harry seems to die but awakes at a strange version of King's Cross Station. He meets Dumbledore, who explains that Harry is now free of Voldemort because Voldemort destroyed himself by killing Harry, but Harry can still be alive because his blood is in Voldemort. Dumbledore also apologizes for keeping so many secrets.
Harry decides he must return to life in order to take the Elder Wand from Voldemort and destroy his power. Returning to the place in the woods, Narcissa Malfoy hides the fact that Harry is still alive in order to protect her son, Draco. Voldemort brings Harry's body up to the castle to flaunt his victory, but Neville Longbottom provides a distraction so that Harry can pull on his invisibility cloak. When Harry disappears, Neville kills Nagini and the final Horcrux. Another battle ensues, and Harry ends up facing Voldemort again. He explains how love and knowledge defeat evil and then tells Voldemort that the Elder Wand does not belong to him. Harry is the true master of the Elder Wand, and he disarms Voldemort. The castle celebrates as Voldemort's own killing curse backfires and destroys him. Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit Dumbledore's portrait in his old office, and he weeps with pride at their success. Harry says that he will keep the Invisibility Cloak but will not use the other Hallows, concluding, “I've had enough trouble for a lifetime.”
Nineteen years later, Harry and Ginny, now married, take their children to the Hogwarts Express. They have three children, James, Albus, and Lily. Ron and Hermione are married and
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is available, unabridged, on audio CD by Listening Library. Jim Dale serves as narrator. Released in 2007, the CD is widely available in bookstores and online.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone opened as a film in 2001. Actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson play Harry, Ron, and Hermione, respectively. The film is directed by Chris Columbus and runs for 152 minutes. It is rated PG. Warner Home Video offers the 2005 DVD version.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets became a movie in 2002, continuing under Chris Columbus' direction. Rated PG and running for 161 minutes, the film is also available as a DVD, released by Warner Home Video.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban opened in theaters in 2004. Alfonso Cuaron directs. Warner Home Video released the DVD in 2005. It runs for 142 minutes and is rated PG.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released in movie theaters in 2005. Mike Newell directs the returning cast, led by Daniel Radcliffe. The 2006 Warner Home Video DVD runs for 157 minutes, is rated PG-13, and is available in a two-disc special edition set.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released as a film in 2007. David Yates directs. Available in a 2-disc special edition DVD set by Warner Home Video DVD, it runs for 139 minutes and is rated PG-13.
have two children, Rose and Hugo. Teddy Lupin, Harry's godson, dates Bill's daughter, Victoire. Draco and his wife also appear with their son, Scorpius. Neville Longbottom now teaches Herbology at Hogwarts.
When young Albus worries that he might be put in Slytherin House at school, Harry reminds him that his choices are what matter most. “Albus Severus,” he says, “you were named for two masters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”
Sirius is Harry Potter's godfather, who dies at the end of Book Five. He was school friends with Harry's father, James.
Fleur is the part-Veela, former Beaux-Batons student who is engaged to Bill Weasley. She and Bill conduct their wedding celebration at the Weasleys' home, the Burrow, and then go on to house Order of the Phoenix members during the prolonged fight against Voldemort.
Harry Potter's close friend, Dobby, is a free house-elf who often comes to Harry's rescue. Unlike most house-elves who are house-bound and must serve their masters, Dobby can use his magic in any way he chooses. Because Harry gave Dobby his freedom from the Malfoy family, Dobby remains devoted to the wizard as he battles Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
Long-lost brother to Albus, Aberforth spent much of his life living in his talented brother's shadow. He and Albus disagree about the circumstances of their younger sister's death, leading to Aberforth's hitting Albus at her funeral. Aberforth is much more gruff and cynical than Albus, but he cares about defeating Voldemort in the end. He runs the bar in Hogsmeade and secretly helps students travel back and forth between Hogwarts castle and the village.
Albus Dumbledore is the most famous good wizard of his time, and the final novel explains his past in extensive detail. Before becoming Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry's most influential mentor, readers learn that Albus was the son of Percival and Kendra Dumbledore, and eldest brother of Aberforth and Ariana. His childhood was full of awards and achievements as he showed extraordinary magical ability from a very early age. But family tragedy marked his youth, first when his father was sent to Azkaban for murder and then when both his mother and sister died in a short period of time. An illbegotten friendship with a dark wizard brought Albus back to believing in wizarding equality, a principle that marked the rest of his life. Albus is killed at the end of the sixth book, by the wand of Severus Snape, but his presence continues to speak to Harry through a variety of means in the seventh novel. His research leads Harry Potter on a double quest throughout the book for Voldemort's Horcruxes and for the Deathly Hallows.
Hermione is one of Harry Potter's best friends, along with Ron Weasley. She is Muggle-born and thus comes under attack in this book because being of non-pure blood status is a punishable offense. She shows an extraordinary talent for intellectual knowledge and problem solving, and she often has the background information needed for whatever dilemma faces the three friends. In the final novel, Hermione plans for the hunt for Voldemort's Horcruxes by packing a magical bag full of necessities from spell books to clothes and food. She and Ron Weasley form a romantic attachment.
Fenrir Greyback is a werewolf who works with Voldemort. Although he is violent and attacks witches and wizards without provocation, he does not enjoy full Death Eater status. Because he is not a pure-blood wizard but instead a kind of half-breed, Voldemort only allows Greyback to do menial work for him.
Known until this year as the famous dark wizard that Albus defeated in a duel, Gellert was actually childhood friends with Albus Dumbledore. He and Albus made plans for wizard domination of Muggles until Albus realized the cruelty of their plot and reevaluated his ideas. Grindelwald later steals the Elder Wand and begins implementing his evil plans until Albus defeats him.
Hagrid is a half-giant and professor at Hogwarts, specializing in the care of magical creatures. He has owned and cared for exotic creatures from dragons to hippogriffs, even befriending his giant half-brother and an enormous spider. Hagrid is a close friend to Harry, becoming an affectionate sort of uncle to him.
Kreacher is the house-elf that lives in Twelve Grimmauld Place. He used to be loyal to the Black family, but since Sirius Black's death, he becomes the property of Harry. He helps give information about the history and whereabouts of the Slytherin locket that contains a part of Voldemort's soul.
Bellatrix is the Death Eater who tortured Neville Longbottom's parents into insanity and killed Sirius Black. She is one of Voldemort's most loyal servants, seeming to hang on his every word and willing to do even his most evil biddings. In the last book, she tortures Hermione Granger and battles Molly Weasley.
Neville is one of Harry's classmates. In the final book, he spends most of his time planning subversive activities to take down the evil witches and wizards now in charge at Hogwarts. Neville has always struggled to be competent in magic, but he exhibits skill and bravery in fighting Voldemort.
Luna is a classmate of Harry's and is known for her eccentric personality. Her father publishes an alternative newspaper that slowly gains respect after Voldemort takes control of the mainstream newspaper. She helps Harry find Ravenclaw's diadem, one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.
Lupin is one of Harry's father's classmates and a former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He is a werewolf and Order of the Phoenix member. He marries another member of the Order, Tonks, and they have a baby in the last book, although they still fight in the final battle with Voldemort.
Draco Malfoy is Harry Potter's nemesis from their first year of acquaintance at Hogwarts. He was in Slytherin House and then becomes a Death Eater for Voldemort. He was supposed to kill Albus Dumbledore at the end of Book Six, but could not go through with it. He and his family are constantly trying to curry favor with Voldemort in the last book, because their mistakes have brought them trouble with the Dark Lord. Harry wins Draco's wand, which becomes important to the search for one of the Deathly Hallows, the Elder Wand.
Professor McGonagall is head of Gryffindor, Harry's house at Hogwarts. She works alongside Albus Dumbledore while he is headmaster and then becomes part of the resistance once Severus Snape is made headmaster. She fights bravely in the final battle with Voldemort.
Mad-Eye is a longtime Order of the Phoenix member and heads up the plan to transport Harry from the Dursley's house to safety. He fights valiantly and dies when the Death Eaters infiltrate the plan.
Harry Potter is the main character of the series—an orphan who, at eleven years old, learns that he possesses magical abilities. He comes of age in this book as he turns seventeen and learns the secrets of his history with Voldemort. After surviving an attack in which Voldemort killed his parents, he also is distinguished as the only person ever to live through the curse of death. Both Harry's mother's sacrifice and Voldemort's own power mark Harry's life, causing him to seek Voldemort's ultimate downfall. While seeking to destroy the six Horcruxes that keep Voldemort alive, Harry learns that he houses a piece of Voldemort's soul within himself. Harry Potter is Voldemort's seventh Horcrux. This revelation makes it necessary for Harry to face death with even more courage than in his six other adventures at Hogwarts. Harry also learns about the Deathly Hallows throughout the year and finds that their power is both compelling and dangerous.
James is Harry's father, who was killed by Voldemort when Harry was a baby. Like his son, he was a Seeker on the Quidditch team and also a member of Gryffindor House. When he was a student, he was known for being slightly arrogant and devious.
Harry's mother was killed by Voldemort when Harry was one year old. In the final book, Harry learns that Lily was friends with Severus Snape when they were children. They had a close friendship until he became involved with the Death Eaters.
Scrimgeour is Minister of Magic at the beginning of the seventh book. He visits Harry, Ron, and Hermione to deliver their inheritance from Albus Dumbledore. He seems to challenge Harry's right to pursue his quest, but reportedly protects the three students to his death.
Snape has served as Potions Master and then Defense Against Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts until this year, when he replaces Albus Dumbledore as Headmaster. He kills Dumbledore at the end of Book Six, and thus his allegiance is suspect. Dumbledore always trusted Snape as a spy with great access to Voldemort, but Snape's loyalties now seem to lie with the Dark Lord. Harry hates Snape for killing his beloved Dumbledore, but ultimately learns that history has a different story to tell. Snape remains a trusted servant to Voldemort until the end, when Voldemort ultimately betrays him for his own selfish purposes. Harry ultimately learns Snape's full personal history and finally understands much more about both his old Potions Master and himself.
Tonks is a member of the Order of the Phoenix and the newlywed bride of Remus Lupin. She becomes pregnant in this book and spends much of her time at her mother's house preparing for the baby. She ultimately joins the fight against Voldemort, leaving her son Teddy behind.
Starting life as Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort endures a lonely life as an orphan and then funnels much of his frustration into gaining power over people. He is in power throughout the final book, with the Ministry of Magic, the Daily Prophet newspaper, and the Death Eaters all at his command. His goal is to kill Harry Potter, however, because the boy is the only true challenge to his power. In order to establish immortality, Voldemort engages in deeply dark magic and splits his soul into six Horcruxes. Harry and his friends make it their quest to destroy the Horcruxes so that Voldemort can be destroyed. Dumbledore knew Voldemort as a student and uncovered the secret of the Horcruxes.
Arthur is married to Molly and has several children including both Ron and Ginny. He is a pure-blood wizard but enjoys Muggles immensely and believes in their equality with wizards, thus gaining disfavor with Voldemort's followers.
Bill marries Fleur at the beginning of this book and helps hide Harry and other Order of the Phoenix members throughout the novel.
Fred Weasley is twin to George Weasley, and brother to Ron. He is a notorious prankster, and, with his brother, owns a successful joke shop in Hogsmeade. He fights and dies in the Battle of Hogwarts.
George is Fred's twin brother and is equally humorous. The two provide comic relief for the novels, until circumstances become more dire in this last year. George loses an ear when the Death Eaters attack the Order of the Phoenix at the beginning of the book.
Ginny is the Weasley's youngest child and Harry Potter's romantic interest. She dates Harry in his sixth year, but they break up because Harry must complete his quest to destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes. She remains important in Harry's life, however, and they eventually marry.
Molly is the mother of all the Weasley children and is like a second mother to Harry. She is stereotypically feminine, both nurturing and nagging. But she shows great magical ability in the final battle with Voldemort when she attacks Bellatrix Lestrange.
Percy is Ron's older brother. He is loyal to the Ministry of Magic for much of the series, despite his family's disapproval. They remain estranged from each other until the final battle with Voldemort, when he admits he was wrong and fights alongside his family.
Ron is Harry's best friend, along with Hermione Granger. He struggles with feelings of jealousy and inadequacy towards Harry, and their friendship is tested when he abandons the quest for Horcruxes. He reaffirms his loyalty by saving Harry at just the right moment and becomes a more substantial member of the team. His newfound confidence helps him destroy one of the final Horcruxes in the battle with Voldemort. He eventually marries Hermione.
Good versus Evil
The Harry Potter series has focused on an epic struggle between good and evil, from the very first book. Lord Voldemort represents evil in its darkest form, characterized by complete selfishness and thirst for power. Harry Potter embodies goodness. Much of the series focuses on Harry's quest to understand: to understand Voldemort's plans for domination, but also to understand the mysteries of life itself. Rowling's presentation of good and evil is more complex than a basic good guy vs. bad guy scenario, as she attempts to illustrate that all people have both good and bad within them. In this final book, readers witness a distinct role reversal in the allegiance of two characters: Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore. As a former Death Eater, Snape has always been under a shadow of evil. Readers have never known whether he is a spy for Voldemort or a spy for the Order of the Phoenix. But his negative reaction to Harry early on made it seem that he was not to be trusted. Of the many revelations in the final installment is that Snape has always been in love with Lily Potter, Harry's mother, and so all of his actions have been aimed at protecting her son. Severus Snape, despite his distaste for some of Harry's personality traits, chooses good. Albus Dumbledore, on the other hand, is exposed as having had at one time more bad inside him than anyone suspected. As a youth, Dumbledore planned, with Gellert Grindelwald, to overpower and rule the Muggle world. Although he abandons those attitudes later in life, he contributed to Grindelwald's short-lived but destructive moment of power. Harry must face the fact that both his vowed enemy, Snape, and his beloved professor, Dumbledore, are not as they appear. Readers are reminded of Dumbledore's axiom from early books: an individual's choices are what determine their destiny. Both Snape and Dumbledore choose good in the end, despite their many flaws.
Rowling even manages to illustrate her point on a quite literal level. Not only do most of her characters display both good and evil within themselves, but Voldemort and Harry Potter actually contain both good and evil in their very souls. Voldemort's evil soul becomes infiltrated by good when he uses Harry's own blood to come back to life in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Voldemort does not realize that he has put love in his soul by using Harry's blood. Similarly, Harry's mother's sacrifice of herself on the night of Voldemort's attack marked Harry with a seal of love. That love often repels Voldemort, because his evil nature cannot bear such pure love. But on that same night, a piece of Voldemort's evil soul also entered Harry Potter. Therefore Harry not only carries his mother's love within himself, but also a piece of the Dark Lord's soul. Harry becomes Voldemort's final Horcrux, linking him to life and power. Once Harry understands this conflict within himself, he realizes that he must die in order to make sure Voldemort cannot live. He becomes an example of Rowling's larger message in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that in order to defeat evil, individuals must be willing to sacrifice themselves for those around them. Harry makes this sacrifice, and the wizarding community finally becomes safe from the wrath of Voldemort.
Life and Death
Harry's quest in this seventh novel is to find and destroy the Horcruxes that hide and protect Voldemort's soul. According to Professor Dumbledore, the Horcruxes are Voldemort's link to immortality and destroying them will ensure that the evil wizard can be killed. As Harry embarks on the quest to find and eliminate the six Horcruxes, however, he finds that Dumbledore had also discovered the secret of the three Deathly Hallows. The Invisibility Cloak, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand instill enormous power on the bearer, conceivably offering the ability to overcome Death itself. Between the Horcruxes and the Hallows, then, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows revolves consistently around questions of life and death. Is death to be avoided at any cost? Is power over death always corrupting to the person who wields it? Several characters in this final novel face their own deaths. For Voldemort, death is the worst and final defeat. He wants to remain alive at all costs because, for him, life is about ego and power. He spends his life attempting to gain power and control, destroying anyone who gets in his way. Since he trusts no one and has no friends or family, his only goal is to amass personal power. Dumbledore could not be more different. Dumbledore has throngs of admirers and several close, personal friends. His life seems full of kindness and love, yet he also seeks a kind of immortality through the Deathly Hallows. Although he abandoned any plans for personal gain in his youth, he continued to seek the secrets of the cloak, stone, and wand throughout his life. This revelation is key to Harry Potter's disillusionment with his former hero. What should Harry believe about life and death if his own mentor, the greatest wizard who ever lived, was also enticed by promises of immortality? Harry Potter eventually matures in his respect for Dumbledore, realizing that humans are flawed and easily tempted by power. But Dumbledore chose wisely in the end, strategically planning his own death when it became clear that he would not survive. Harry learns from Dumbledore's decision and ultimately faces his own death with courage and conviction. He realizes that personal sacrifice is necessary to defeat evil; family and friends have died for Harry's sake, and Harry in turn bravely faces a similar fate. But Rowling's message is ultimately hopeful. She rewards those who make the ultimate sacrifice, ensuring that goodness always defeats evil.
Rowling creates a caste-like system in the world now dominated by Voldemort and his followers. Where witches and wizards once lived in a fragile peace hidden from the eyes of the Muggle world and alongside non-human magical creatures, Voldemort's power has changed everything. Under his direction, all non-magical individuals, human and non-human alike, are systematically persecuted. Beginning with the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, the Ministry of Magic now accuses all witches or wizards from Muggle families of stealing their magic. The Ministry sets out on a metaphorical (and ironic) witch-hunt, rounding up anyone with suspected Muggle blood, subjecting them to an Inquisition-type interrogation, and banishing them to Azkaban prison. Further, non-human magical creatures are openly oppressed. From house-elves to goblins, centaurs to werewolves, Voldemort and his followers treat these creatures as subservient. This position backfires in the end, however, because Harry and his friends benefit from magic unique to these creatures. Dobby, for instance, saves Harry from the Malfoy mansion by using his magic on Bellatrix Lestrange. The goblin Griphook gives Harry secrets of the wizarding bank, Gringotts, so that he can safely enter one its vaults. Non-human magical creatures each have their own brand of magic, and Harry benefits by treating these creatures with the same respect he would afford a human. Voldemort, by contrast, treats these creatures with malice and cruelty, and thus incurs little loyalty and only wrath from them. By the final battle at Hogwarts, many groups of non-human magical creatures become loyal to Harry Potter and help in defeating Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
The Harry Potter series as a whole and each novel in particular fits into the genre of bildungsroman, the German term for a coming-of-age story. In such stories, there is a hero who encounters some kind of tragedy that causes him or her to take an extraordinary journey. That journey in turn teaches the hero valuable lessons about the self and about the individual's place in society.
Harry Potter begins the series as a lonely, unloved orphan living with his hateful relatives. Once Harry finds out his true identity as a wizard, he gets a glimpse of what life could be like with a family and friends. But no sooner does he feel comfortable at Hogwarts then he finds out his destiny is to fight against the evil Lord Voldemort. Each installment of the series has developed this quest for Harry, but the final book teaches him that nothing less than facing his own death will complete his personal journey. As Harry realizes that his own death can set the wizarding world free from the evil powers of Voldemort, he also realizes how many people have died in order to give him life. Once he confronts his circle of family and friends who have died, including both his parents, his godfather Sirius, his former Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Remus Lupin, and his former Potions Master Severus Snape, he gains the courage he needs to accept death. When Harry realizes that giving up his own life for others is an action repeated by so many who resisted evil over the years, he finally becomes a man and a true hero. The end of a bildungsroman also reintegrates the hero into normal society. Harry,
TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Is Albus Dumbledore an admirable character? Until this book, Harry relied almost entirely on his headmaster for guidance and support. Although Harry's questioning of Dumbledore has been growing over the years, this book reveals information that creates a distinct separation between the two and causes Harry to grow up and make decisions for himself. What is the definition of a good person? Is Dumbledore a good person, or do his past mistakes make him a bad person? How do Rowling's books divide characters into good and bad? Compare Rowling's depictions of good and evil with at least one other source from religion or philosophy.
- Discuss the influence of power on the following characters: Ron Weasley, Albus Dumbledore, Tom Riddle, and Harry Potter. How does power corrupt these characters? How does it embolden them? Is power always bad, according to Rowling? Does Rowling provide a portrait of an appropriate use of power? Apply your answer to two current or past authority figures in real life.
- Are the Harry Potter books good literature? Map two or three of Rowling's main plot lines that are typical of hero adventures. How are her story lines similar and different from the other stories? How are Rowling's unique choices significant? How are her similarities important? Is Rowling simplistic if she echoes traditional story lines? Where, in this final book, could Rowling have been more original? Should Rowling's works be considered serious literature?
- Research a historical crisis of equality, such as the American Civil Rights movement, the German Holocaust, or the Rwandan genocide. Compare your research with Rowling's statement on equality and oppression. Trace Rowling's depiction of the struggle between wizarding domination and non-magical creatures, highlighting both the problems she illustrates and the solutions she suggests. Look specifically at the Ministry of Magic's policies regarding witches and wizards who have Muggle blood, and the general community's perspectives on non-human magical creatures. Who are the perpetrators of oppression in Rowling's book? Who resists oppression, and how do they do it? Are there any neutral characters, who neither contribute to oppression nor resist it?
despite facing death, goes on to live a normal life with the very thing he most desperately wants: a loving family.
Lord Voldemort is a terrorist—a terrorist with the ability to move quickly from place to place and literally read the minds of his opponents. He and his followers plan their actions specifically to frighten the public and weaken future resistance. In these respects, Voldemort is certainly a man of our times. Though terrorism itself is nothing new, global terrorist networks such as Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, are. The governments of the world are struggling to determine how to protect themselves from the looming threat of well-organized terrorist activity—and how to fight back. In the wake of Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States and Great Britain, the leaders of both countries made some questionable separate and joint decisions based on public panic and political paranoia. The decision to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003, for example, was presumably motivated by the perceived threat of imminent, devastating attacks
originating from that country. It appears today that no such threat existed, and the invasion and subsequent occupation put Great Britain and the United States squarely at odds with the international community. These two strong nations, like the Ministry of Magic, were unable to determine an effective course of action to combat the terrorists that beset them.
There is no question that daily life in the United States and Great Britain has changed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows mirrors some of these changes. The comical mention of “Probity Probes” as a security measure protecting the magical bank, Gringotts, for example, is an unmistakable reference to contemporary airport security measures. On a deeper level, however, Rowling seems to be exploring what might happen if well-meaning people choose not to resist unfair governmental control over their lives. Seeking to prevent future terrorist attacks, the United States government, just over a month after the September 11 attacks, passed the USA Patriot Act, which gave the government new powers to monitor the lives of citizens. Many reported cases of infringements on civil liberties have resulted. In what turned into a national scandal, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez (who resigned in 2007 as a result of a different scandal) apparently lied under oath, claiming to have no knowledge of such abuses (though records show he did). Gonzalez also defended the government's right to detain citizens and non-citizens alike indefinitely without pressing charges. British citizens are likewise finding their privacy invaded by the government. The new symbols of vigilance and control are the video surveillance cameras, now nearly ubiquitous in London, that record the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every day. Rowling's depictions of questionable Ministry of Magic practices may reflect some of these controversies. The rounding up of Muggle-born wizards under the Muggle-Born Registration Commission calls to mind such historical tragedies ranging from the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during World War II to the Nazi Holocaust or Rwandan genocide. Rowling's message is that evil will destroy entire communities without serious opposition from committed citizens. Her final book stresses the importance of tolerance and equality for creating a free society.
Rowling's mass appeal confirms that her novels are fresh, compelling, and highly entertaining to millions of readers worldwide. But her critical reception has remained unbalanced from the publication of her first novel, and her final book was no exception. While critics generally respect the empire Rowling has created through her writing, they do not always agree on the deeper literary merits of her work.
The New York Times book review by Christopher Hitchens acknowledges the popularity of Rowling's series but claims that her final novel errs on the simplistic side. He cites her ending, where evil seems to be vanquished forever, as overly formulaic. Jenny Sawyer of the Christian Science Monitor provides similar commentary, claiming that Harry Potter does not display any moral complexity over his seven year saga, leaving his defeat of Voldemort anticlimactic and “hollow.” Others, like Baltimore Sun writer Mary Carole McCauley believe that the final book lacks much of the whimsy and comic relief that drew readers to Rowling's writing initially. But not all reviews were negative. Most notably, Stephen King compares Rowling's writing in her seventh book to the American classic Huckleberry Finn, despite more traditional critics' dislike for the books. In all the chaos that preceded Rowling's book releases, King explains, critics don't have time to really consider the novels' assets anyway. “Most reviewers,” King says, “bolted everything down, then obligingly puked it back up half-digested on the book pages of their respective newspapers.” While many critics continue to deride the literary skill exhibited by Rowling, her reputation for telling an entertaining and page-turning story seems secure.
Laura Baker has a doctorate in American literature, and is a magazine editor and freelance writer. In this essay, Baker analyzes how Rowling's message of love and redemption dominates her writing from her first book in the series to the last.
Rowling's successful and highly lucrative series about the orphaned boy-wizard has finally come to a close, answering questions that readers have pondered for seventeen years. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows gives detailed histories of several characters and explains many of the mysteries developed over the previous six novels. Part of Rowling's enormous charm lies in her unending ability to pull a rabbit out of her hat; therefore, her audience cannot be entirely surprised that the answer to their most compelling question—does Harry Potter die?—is both yes and no. Early critics claim Rowling's final message in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is too simplistic. They seemingly look for a more sophisticated ending to what began as a story of redemptive love. Rowling is absolutely consistent on this point, however, establishing love, and the sacrifices required of those who will choose to make the world a better place, as her main message of the series.
Harry Potter's life is defined by love from his earliest years. Lily Potter's willingness to die for her son when she could have saved herself marks Harry in strange and mysterious ways, the results of which both Harry and readers only uncover as the series progresses. A mother's sacrifice for her child can hardly be considered a new concept, but Voldemort's underestimation of love's power leads to his own destruction. Dumbledore explains, “Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.” Harry's very body is marked by his mother's love, making it impossible for Voldemort to even touch his skin without feeling pain. But his mother's love is more than skin deep, and Harry embarks on a journey that teaches him how the love of friends and family can indeed create a new world. That kind of world-altering love sets the tone for Harry's whole life as he learns that sacrificial love is the only way to ever defeat evil. In the end, Harry must face the fact that this particular brand of love not only gave him his life but may also cost him his life.
Just as the Harry Potter series begins with a life sacrifice motivated by love, so it fittingly ends with the same action. As Harry follows the paths of Horcruxes and Hallows throughout his seventeenth year, he begins to understand how his own life will be required in order to defeat Voldemort for good. Just as at the beginning of the series, there is both a physical and a metaphorical aspect to this love. Harry discovers, to his horror, that not only did his mother's love mark him on the fateful night of her death but Voldemort's evil entered him as well. Both Lily and Voldemort—love and evil—quite literally share space in Harry's soul. The only way to make sure Voldemort cannot live on, then, is to destroy the part of Voldemort's soul that exists within Harry. “The Boy Who Lived” will have to die if Voldemort is to be stopped. “Part of Lord Voldemort lives inside Harry,” Dumbledore explains, “and while that fragment of soul, unmissed by Voldemort, remains attached to and protected by Harry, Lord Voldemort cannot die.”
But Harry's maturity also helps him understand that people must continually sacrifice themselves in order to keep evil in the world at bay. As he looks over the history of Voldemort's reign, he sees the willingness of family after family to put their own lives aside to create a better future for their children. Harry realizes that his own time has come; it is his turn to sacrifice his life so that others may live in a better world. Once Harry fully understands both the physical necessity and the moral appropriateness of his own death, he can face Voldemort bravely. “Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive,” Rowling writes, “His job was to walk calmly into Death's welcoming arms.” Certainly Harry fears death—“It was not, after all so easy to die,” Rowling states—but the writer comforts Harry as she always does, with the love of family and friends. The appearance of James, Lilly, Sirius, and Remus in the woods as Harry walks towards his own death is one of the sweetest expressions of love's power in all seven books. Rowling writes, “Less substantial than living bodies, but much more than ghosts, they moved toward him, and on each face, there was the same loving smile.” With his newfound knowledge of how Voldemort must be defeated, along with the support of his family, Harry is able to die with courage.
The striking message of Rowling's final book is that Harry's death is not truly remarkable. Characters have been putting their own lives at risk for the benefit of the larger community for years. The most surprising example of sacrificial love comes from Severus Snape, whom readers have been led to believe is either thoroughly evil or at least semi-corrupt. It emerges, however, that Snape's love is the purest of all for the very reason that he never enjoys the benefits of that love. He falls in love with Lily as a young man, but his own mistake in choosing evil dooms their relationship. He spends the rest of his life repenting for his early choices by protecting Lily's beloved son, even though Harry only reminds Snape of the boy's often-arrogant father, James. But no one besides Dumbledore knows that Snape is spying on Voldemort and protecting the Chosen One, and so Snape only receives jeers and alienation as payment for his dedication. Lily never returns Snape's love, and Snape never even enjoys the secondary love of family and friends; he dies alone with his only consolation coming from looking into Harry's eyes, which are so like Lily's.
Rowling does not limit the theme of sacrifice to Snape. The list of witches and wizards who willingly give up their own security and happiness to defeat evil is long. Neville's parents are tortured into insanity; Sirius Black spends much of his life as a prisoner and then dies before he can enjoy freedom; Mad-Eye Moody loses his life protecting Harry's; George Weasley loses an ear, and then his beloved twin brother, Fred, in direct conflict with the Death Eaters; and Tonks and Lupin die in battle, leaving their only son Teddy orphaned, much like Harry himself. Even Albus Dumbledore chooses to die early in order to protect the secrets of the Elder Wand and thus the security of the magical world. Rowling makes it clear that Harry's sacrifice comes only on the shoulders of so many who have made equally difficult sacrifices of their own. Evil can only be defeated, she writes, when a community commits everything they have to creating a world that values goodness.
Rowling has been building an epic tale of good and evil over seven books, never losing sight of the most basic message: the only power stronger than evil is love. Furthermore, love often requires deep sacrifice in order to keep dark forces at bay. It is no surprise, then, that the Harry Potter saga ends as it begins: with the rejuvenating power of love. The ending of Harry Potter and the Death Hallows can be considered simple if indeed one views the redemptive power of sacrificial love as simple. Voldemort himself makes this misjudgment, claiming that love has no power. “‘Is [the secret] love again?’ said Voldemort, his snake's face jeering. ‘Dumbledore's favorite solution, love, which he claimed conquered death, though love did not stop him falling from the tower and breaking like an old waxwork?”’ But Harry Potter himself challenges this notion: “‘Don't you get it?”’ Harry asks Voldemort in their final encounter, “‘I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people…. I've done what my mother did. They're protected from you…. You can't touch them.”’ If one believes that laying down your life for your friends is a simple matter—a concept that Rowling's seventeen years of writing wholeheartedly disavows—then one will surely conclude that the Harry Potter books are merely children's tales. Rowling offers an alternative, however, by showing how love, simple love, can indeed transform the world.
Source: Laura Baker, Critical Essay on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in Literary Newsmakers for Students, Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009.
In the following essay, Hitchens praises J. K. Rowling'ssuccess in creating a compelling seven-book series, but says her final book falls rather flat and thus thankfully ends.
This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998 in the United States) introduces eleven-year-old Harry for the first time. Harry learns he is a wizard and that he will be required to leave his guardians' house and attend Hog-warts School. While at Hogwarts, he begins investigating an evil plot to take control of the Sorcerer's Stone, an object that can make the possessor immortal. In his first year, Harry establishes lifelong friendships with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999) pits Harry against a ghostly version of Voldemort through a possessed diary. While investigating Voldemort's plan to regain power, Harry must face dark mysteries and a giant poisonous snake.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) acquaints Harry with one of his father's old school friends. Escaped from prison, Sirius Black breaks into Hogwarts to exact revenge on an unsuspecting character.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000) begins and ends with the most violent episodes in the series so far. Harry is unwittingly entered into a contest meant only for older wizards and must ultimately face the depths of evil Voldemort can unleash.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003) details the underground resistance established to fight Voldemort's return. Harry faces his own adolescent anxiety throughout the book and struggles to take a legitimate place among the adults fighting for good. Tragedy strikes Harry by the end of the book, however, and the young orphan must face another devastating loss.
- His Dark Materials (1995–2000), by Philip Pullman, is a trilogy that follows two children who encounter new, magical, and often sinister worlds together.
- Eragon (2003), by Christopher Paolini, follows a young boy who finds both a dragon and a fantastic adventure. Paolini is noted for his youth, having written a first draft of the novel when he was only fourteen years old.
This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.
This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.
This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.
Source: Christopher Hitchens, “The Boy Who Lived,” in The New York Times, August 12, 2007, p. 1.
In the following essay, Smietana credits J.K. Rowling with creating an imaginative world that embodies Christian ideals although it is not directly religious.
I first met Harry Potter when my grandmother was dying.
On New Years Day 1999, she had a massive stroke from which she would never recover. Not wanting her to die alone, we took turns sitting by her bedside, round the clock. The night I spent with her, I brought along my Bible, the biggest cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee I could find, and a new novel, picked up from the bookstore on the way to the hospital: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Both the Bible and the “Boy Who Lived” proved good company during the watches of the night. Both pointed the way to hope in the face of death.
And there was at least one echo from the Scriptures in the Sorcerer's Stone: Lord Voldemort, the Hitleresque dark wizard in J. K. Rowling's fictional works, was defeated not by power but by love—by a young mother who sacrificed her life to save her young son. In Rowling's world, that kind of love is stronger than any magic. It can even conquer death.
By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens, however, it seems that death finally has the upper hand. Albus Dumbledore, Voldemort's greatest enemy, lies buried on the ground of Hogwarts. Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters have launched a reign of terror and are on the verge of replacing the Ministry of Magic with a Nazi-style government that will enslave muggles and “mudbloods” alike. Anyone who stands in their way will be eliminated.
The body count starts early—on page 12, to be exact—and the hunt for Harry and his friends doesn't let up for the next 700 pages.
A master storyteller
Rowling may not be as elegant or precise a writer as C.S. Lewis, or have a mythology as elaborate as J.R.R. Tolkien's, but she is a world-class storyteller. And what a yarn she spins. There are midair broomstick chases, last-minute escapes from Voldemort's clutches, a daring break-in at Gringotts, the goblin bank, and a siege at Hogwarts involving just about everyone from the previous six books. From Harry's departure from No. 4 Privet Drive to his final showdown with Voldemort, the action rarely stops. When Rowling does pause for breath, she reveals a secret that advances the plot.
And once in a while, she sneaks in a magical moment that made at least this reader set aside the book, as there were too many tears to see through. Those moments usually come between a parent and child: when Molly Weasley stands between a death eater and her children; when Narcissa Malfoy risks her master's wrath for her son's sake. There's even a moment, much like the closing graveyard scene of the Goblet of Fire, when Lily and James Potter speak to their son: “We are…so proud of you.”
Then there are all of Harry's friends. Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, and even Luna Lovegood all acquit themselves nobly in the Deathly Hallows. They will not be silent or turn aside in the face of evil. They remain loyal to Harry, even when such loyalty threatens their own lives. They are merciful—only one side in this war uses killing curses. And they are brave beyond measure, especially Neville, who does his parents proud in the Deathly Hallows. If my children grow up to have friends like them—or be such friends—their lives will be immensely rich.
That may be one of the enduring lessons of the Harry Potter epic. Jesus said that our lives do not consist of the abundance of our possessions (Luke 12:15). In Rowling's world, that is certainly true. Love, friendship, loyalty, laughter, joy, family—all of these matter much more than all the gold in Gringotts. Or in the Dursleys' well appointed but soulless home.
A whisper of Christ
Along with revealing the back-stories of Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, and Petunia Dursley—all of which should satisfy longtime Potter fans—Rowling reveals another secret in the Deathly Hallows. It happens when Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit Godric's Hollow, to the house where Voldemort killed the Potters. There, Harry sees the murder through Voldemort's eyes. When the Dark Lord broke into their house, James Potter rushes to defend his wife and son, but it was hopeless. Caught without a wand in hand, he was no match for Voldemort.
Lily, on the other hand, had a choice. Voldemort wants to kill Harry, not her, and tells her to step aside. She could live and let her boy die. Instead, she lays down her life to protect him. The act of substitutionary sacrifice saved her son's life, just before the opening of the Sorcerer's Stone.
As Rowling said in an online interview (mugglenet.com/jkrinterview.shtml), the “caliber of Lily's bravery was, I think in this instance, higher because she could have saved herself. Now any mother, any normal mother, would have done what Lily did…but she was given time to choose. James wasn't. It's like an intruder entering your house, isn't it? You would instinctively rush them. But if in cold blood you were told, ‘Get out of the way,’ you know, what would you do?'”
Jeff Weiss, religion writer for the Dallas Morning News, said the first six Harry Potter books are remarkably secular. After the Half-Blood Prince was released, he wrote: “After 3,365 hardcover pages, we know an awful lot about the orphaned wizard, and as far as we know, neither he nor anyone else in the books has ever set foot inside a church, spent a moment in prayer or acknowledged (or even contemplated) the existence of God.
“In the new book, as in the earlier volumes, Christmas is a holiday of feasts, presents and decorations—with no whisper of Christ.”
Writers such as John Granger (hogwartsprofessor.com), however, argue that Rowling's fictional world is loaded with Christian symbolism, but always in the background. In the books themselves, the only hint of Christianity comes in the form of Sirius Black, Harry's godfather. Since he has a godfather, Harry was baptized as an infant. (Rowling said the baptism, or christening,
was “a hurried, quiet affair” (books.monstersandcritics.com/news/article_858.php).
But Christ begins to whisper in the Deathly Hallows. A few pages before the flashback of the Potters' death, Harry and his friends visit the last resting place of Lily and James Potter, in the church graveyard in Godric's Hallow, on Christmas Eve.
First they see the grave of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, the mother and sister of the late Hogwarts headmaster. It bears this inscription: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (None of the characters seems to know that these words are from Matthew 6:21.)
Not far away is the Potters' tomb, with a different inscription: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” The quotation is from 1 Corinthians 15: 26, part of a long passage about the resurrection. In Godric's Hollow, Rowling begins to reveal that, like Narnia, her world has a “deeper magic.” Love, expressed as substitutionary sacrifice—choosing to lay down your life for your friends—has a power that Lord Voldemort, like the White Witch before him, is blind to. That blindness becomes his undoing—with the help of Harry and his friends.
When C. S. Lewis started out to write The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he didn't have Christianity in mind. “Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something abuot Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tales as an instrument, then collect information about child psychology and decided what age group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them,” Lewis once wrote. “This is all pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way at all.”
“Everything began with images,” Lewis continued. “A faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sled, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them. That element pushed itself in of its own accord.” Something similar seems to have happened to J.K. Rowling. She began writing about wizards and quidditch and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, and somewhere along the way, Christ began to whisper into the story.
And the whole world was listening.
Source: Bob Smietana, “The Gospel According to J.K. Rowling,” in Christianity Today, July 23, 2007, p. 1.
Hallett, Cynthia Whitney, editor, Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter: Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text, Edwin Mellen Press, 2005.
King, Stephen, “J.K. Rowling's Ministry of Magic” in Entertainment Weekly, January 24, 2008, from www.ew.com
McCauley, Mary Carole, “An Inevitable Ending to Harry Potter Series” in The Baltimore Sun, July 18, 2007, from www.baltimoresun.com
Pullman, Philip, His Dark Materials Omnibus, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007.
Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Scholastic Press, 1999.
Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Scholastic Press, 2007.
Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Scholastic Press, 2000.
Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Scholastic Press, 2005.
Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Scholastic Press, 2003.
Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Scholastic Press, 1999.
Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scholastic Press, 1998.
Dickerson, Matthew, and David O'Hara, From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy, Brazos Books, 2006.
A comprehensive guide to elements of mythological and fantasy literature, from biblical times to the twenty-first century.
Hallett, Cynthia Whitney, editor, Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter: Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text, Edwin Mellen Press, 2005.
Using traditional academic approaches to Rowling's writing, this collection of articles treats the Harry Potter series as legitimate literature.
J. K. Rowling Official Site, www.jkrowling.com (July 1, 2006).
Background on Rowling's life and work in addition to regular blog entries, written by the author herself, are available through this website.
Nexon, Daniel, and Iver B. Neumann, editors, Harry Potter and International Relations, Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.
This collection of essays ranges in topics from war to politics to geography, analyzing the many levels of globally relevant topics contained in the Harry Potter series.