[Show music begins]
Michael Harle: This is Episode 186 of Alohomora! for April 16, 2016.
[Show music continues]
Michael: Welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Alohomora!, MuggleNet.com’s global reread of the Harry Potter series. I’m Michael Harle.
Alison Siggard: I’m Alison Siggard.
Caleb Graves: And I’m Caleb Graves. And we are lucky to be joined this week by our special guest host, Kyla. Kyla, say hello and introduce yourself.
Kyla Mora: Hello, my name is Kyla. You may have seen me on Alohomora! as WhoDoYouKnowWhosLostaButtock.
Michael: Oh, that’s you!
Kyla: Yeah, that’s me.
[Kyla and Michael laugh]
Michael: See, that’s why I love saving the introductions until we’re actually recording because [of] such wonderful surprises. We love your username! [laughs]
Kyla: Thank you very much!
Michael: What House are you, Kyla?
Kyla: I consider myself as having sort of a Hermione situation because I was actually Sorted twice, as most people, probably. I got onto Pottermore, was Sorted, and I was Sorted into Gryffindor. And then I promptly lost my username and password, so then it took me forever to go back in.
Kyla: I ended up having to create a new one, and I went through it again and I was Ravenclaw the second time. So I just pretend that I get to share Hermion’ís little Ravenclaw/Gryffindor [Hatstall], although I’m probably more Ravenclaw.
Michael: We’ve been having a lot of dual House situations lately, ever since Pottermore made the switch and did its new…
Kyla: It’s their fault for taking away our passwords!
Michael: [laughs] I always say I’m so surprised. Usually, what I figure you do… and I haven’t done it because I haven’t done the new Sorting because I still have my username and stuff from the old one. But I figured if that ever happened to me, which it wouldn’t because I always get Sorted into Hufflepuff…
Michael: But even if that did happen, I would just Sort myself three times and take the two out of three personally to break the tie because Id just be terribly curious.
Kyla: That’s not a bad idea.
Alison: But see, I’ve done it four [times] and it split me two and two, so…
Michael: Well, then you’ve got to do a fifth Sorting.
Kyla: This will go on until we have a winner.
Michael: Yes. Well, then I suppose there are people out there who have of course invested in their House robes and ties…
Kyla: No doubt.
Michael: … and to find out otherwise is probably pretty traumatic. But Kyla, how did get into Harry Potter? What’s your story?
Kyla: [laughs] It’s actually kind of a fun one. My sister got me into Harry Potter. She was reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for literary criticism, which is a UIL [University Interscholastic League] event in high school. It’s a competition.
Caleb: Oh my God, she’s from Texas then…
Caleb: Because that’s like my life.
Caleb: I didn’t do lit crit, so my high school… it was a big deal in my high school, UIL was, and the lit crit team was actually really good. It won several state championships…
Caleb: Keep going, sorry.
Kyla: So she was reading it, and my parents were… I guess you could consider them part of the Potter panic…
Kyla: So the fact that she was reading the book in and of itself was a bit of a point of contention, but she read it…
Kyla: And then she grabbed me one day and said, “I don’t care what Mom and Dad say; you have to read this!” Well…
Michael: Ooh, rebellion.
Kyla: But she wouldn’t give me the book! She was using it for lit crit, I guess.
Kyla: But she did have The Chamber of Secrets. So I, like so many people, read them out of order. I read Chamber of Secrets first.
Michael: Oh, fascinating.
Kyla: Because I couldn’t figure out why she was taking so long but it seemed good, so I started reading it and I got completely hooked. And I’m glad that I read Chamber of Secrets first for various reasons, but yeah, that’s how I got into it.
Michael: How fascinating.
Michael: I don’t recall if we’ve ever… Caleb, of course, you’ve been on the show way longer than Alison and I, but I don’t recall if we’ve ever had a guest who actually had parents who were part of – as it’s been wonderfully termed by Kyla – the “Potter panic,” which everybody should call it that from now on. That should be…
[Alison and Kyla laugh]
Alison: I just agree with that.
Caleb: I think that assessment is correct.
Kyla: I mean, they eventually just had to get used to it, which I think they did. Although, I imagine it’s still a point of contention, that their daughters read such terrible, terrible things.
Kyla: But we didn’t turn out to be evil, so I guess it worked out.
Michael: Yeah. Good job.
Kyla: Thank you.
Kyla: It was hard, but I pulled through.
Alison: And that’s a great segue actually into talking about what chapter we’re reading this week, as this is one that will touch on a little bit of religious stuff. And our chapter this week is Chapter 35, “King’s Cross.”
Caleb: But before we get to that very important chapter, we’re going to take a look at some of your comments from last week’s episode. As usual, there were plenty of things to draw from and really great discussions going on. But the first discussion had to do with our conversation about why Hagrid was kept alive when Harry gets into the Forbidden Forest, and two responses here. The first one comes from Gryffindora the Explorer…
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Caleb: … and it says,
“On the subject of why they kept Hagrid alive: Voldemort assumed that Harry would come sacrifice himself for his friends and loved ones. Harry’s death was a forgone conclusion in Voldemort’s mind. He would’ve wanted to present Harry’s death as theatrically as possible to the rest of the fighters in the castle in hopes that it would help to break them. So I think Hagrid was kept alive for precisely the task he ended up performing: carrying Harry’s body to the castle. I wonder if Voldemort actually sent the spiders to bring Hagrid into the forest. Having someone who was so close to Harry be forced to do their bidding would be another blow to the people resisting. The fact that Hagrid is a half-giant and really easy to see upped the drama factor too.”
There’s another response we have, and we can just take them together. And this is in the form of an AudioBoom from Badgermole Butterbeer on the main site, so we’ll go ahead and play that now.
[Audio]: Hi Alohomora!, I’m Badgermole Butterbeer on the main site, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about why Voldemort and the Death Eaters captured Hagrid. It makes strategic sense to keep one prisoner that personally knew Harry and could positively identify him to Harry’s supporters. Voldemort needed total surrender from his enemies, and this would’ve been a mighty step in that direction. Hagrid’s testimony that Harry was indeed dead caused those at Hogwarts to take it as fact, instead of having hopeful naysayers believing it to be a hoax or a trick. This clever strategy would’ve squashed those hopes immediately. I think it likely that Voldemort would’ve sent the Acromantulas to capture his old schoolmate and bring him to the clearing in preparation for Harry’s inevitable reappearance.
Caleb: All right, so we have two really good thoughts on Hagrid being kept alive. What do you guys think?
Michael: I’m sure that the supposing by both Gryffindora the Explorer and Badgermole Butterbeer is correct as far as why the spiders were sent to get Hagrid. Because we had talked about that in the chapter where that occurs, and I pointed out that if that’s not why the Acromantulas grabbed Hagrid, then there’s a huge plot hole there of what happened between Hagrid being grabbed by a bunch of spiders and then ending up with Voldemort. I think that’s kind of implied because the Acromantulas, as far as we know, are working for the Death Eaters and Voldemort.
Kyla: I would agree with that.
Michael: Yeah. I was going to say, too… I don’t know if this would really matter to Voldemort in terms of specifically capturing Hagrid, or if the Acromantulas communicated this information to Voldemort, but Voldemort and Hagrid have history. They know each other.
Alison: Yeah. I forgot about that.
Kyla: I was just going to say…
Kyla: I think this appeals to Voldemort’s sense of humor. I actually think that Hagrid would be exactly the sort of person that Voldemort would find terribly funny, in the sense that he can look down on him [as] half-giant – what did he call him in Chamber of Secrets? – “That brainless oaf Hagrid.”
Kyla: I can see it tickling Voldemort’s sense of humor to send the Acromantulas to get Hagrid and then force him to be the one to do it. I think he would find that amusing.
Alison: Yeah, I think it goes back to… Hagrid was an easy scapegoat before, and now he can use him as a scapegoat again. Yeah, I agree with you.
Michael: This would suggest, too the possibility that when Voldemort – back as Riddle – targeted Hagrid, perhaps he even knew perfectly well that the thing Hagrid was keeping was an Acromantula, and that’s why this connection…
Michael: … kept going up to here. He already knew it was an Acromantula, so he sought them out and maybe asked for that further information about Hagrid, possibly. I’m sure he knows, too that Hagrid is a part of Dumbledore’s Order of the Phoenix and has connections to Harry anyway.
Kyla: Well, also, we’ve got to remember that when they leave Privet Drive…
Kyla: … and when they realize the seven Potters, they realize which one is the real Harry: Harry is with Hagrid.
Michael: He’s with Hagrid, yeah.
Kyla: And Voldemort sees them together, and so I think he would make an assumption that of all the people to be with, Hagrid must be significant to Harry somehow. So why not use that?
Michael: Yeah, I thought this all ends up being interesting in that in that previous chapter, despite all this stuff that ties them together, Hagrid and Voldemort don’t really ever share any real significant interaction with each other. They both seem to be knowledgeable of each other to a somewhat lengthy degree, but they never actually… Hagrid never confronts Voldemort about anything or vice-versa. Nothing’s really ever said about what happened when they knew each other…
Kyla: That is true and I always wished there was a little bit more… Hagrid keeps his perspective on Voldemort to himself, whatever it is, even when… I don’t know. I always found it interesting that he never mentioned that he knew Tom Riddle when Tom Riddle was at school to the students, and Harry and his friends…
Kyla: … he never makes that connection for them, so either it was not very significant to Hagrid or it was too significant. I’m not sure which it is.
Alison: Yeah, I wonder if Hagrid even knew that Tom Riddle became Voldemort. I wonder if he was privy to that information at all or if…
Kyla: No, he must. I would think… I don’t think Dumbledore ever made a secret of it.
Michael: Yeah, I think it was… Dumbledore implied at some point that not a lot of people knew that, but in a way at the same time I imagine with Dumbledore being privy to that info and also, leading the members of the Order, if they didn’t have that information before, I’m sure he would have meant to do it at some point.
Alison: That’s true, yeah.
Michael: I guess it’s funny just in terms of the fact of [in] these last chapters, there [are] so many callbacks to direct connections to the earlier books and that connection that’s established from Chamber gets dropped but maybe it’s here in the undercurrents of the text. But I certainly wouldn’t put it past Voldemort to just be also doing this for the theatricality because that’s very Voldemort, to be showy about it and know exactly the symbolism of having Hagrid carry Harry out.
Kyla: He is a drama queen.
Michael: Yes, he is. [laughs]
Caleb: Although, as we will see in this chapter, he kind of misses the symbolism of some other acts that he does.
Caleb: But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
Caleb: So the next comment comes from DisKid and it’s on our discussion of Harry dropping the Resurrection Stone right before he faces Voldemort. And it says,
”Harry dropping the Resurrection Stone in the forest was for the best. That’s a very dangerous object that could drive somebody to insanity, hence the brother who originally had it. Of course Harry knows this. However, I can’t help but think that, after the war was over, Harry wished in the back of his head that he had kept it. This stone allowed him to have the deepest and most desperate desire of his heart even when it wasn’t real. It’s kind of like when Harry told Lupin his happiest and strongest memory was seeing his parents in the mirror even though they were not really there. I imagine the memory of using this stone hit Harry hard after the war was over. Especially since he may very well cling onto the controversial idea that these figures were real unlike the Mirror of Erised where they were definitely fake. Although he understands this is not a good object to be tempted by, Harry, like Dumbledore, is only human. I’m glad he doesn’t have it still, and I’m sure Harry is as well, but I can’t help but think of how many times Harry thought of this stone later in life. He may have even had a small fantasy of going to the forest, finding the stone, and talking to his parents again before telling himself it was for the best he did not.”
Michael: That last bit is the summary of many a fan fiction out there.
Michael: That’s definitely been capitalized upon… Worth noting, as much as I love that discussion between Lupin and Harry, that is a movie-ism strictly…
Alison: I was going to say that.
Michael: Yeah, it’s a great line, and it’s a great idea but it’s actually a movie-ism. But I think the pulling out by DisKid of the Mirror of Erised is a good comparison. It’s funny because the Mirror and the ring are in many ways similar objects in that they offer this level of temptation and desire, but the ring has slightly more power proper then the Mirror…
Michael: … because in the Mirror you can’t talk to people and they’re not necessarily the people, and in Harry’s case that’s unique to him, it’s not something that the Mirror provides for everybody.
Michael: But yeah, I think it’s best that he left the Stone behind; I think that’s further… and we’ll see in this chapter that’s further proof that Harry has a full and complete understanding of what he’s doing.
Kyla: Yeah, I agree. I don’t believe that he would regret it very much. I think he understands that it was good for what it was but that… I almost got the impression when he was thinking about it, the way he says it did not matter about bringing them back almost as if… I always got the implication that maybe it wasn’t quite right to bring them back and he sensed that in a way that maybe he shouldn’t bring them back. Why disturb them if they’re dead? But as he said it, it wouldn’t matter because he was going to join them. I think he understood the emptiness of that action whether it is the Mirror of Erised or the Resurrection Stone, and I think he appreciated it for what it was but I can’t imagine Harry wasting much time in his later life wishing that he had that back because he understands very much that it is a hollow memory at best, and I think he learned a long time ago that… what Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
Alison: I think especially after this chapter – after I’ve reread this chapter – I think he has a better grasp on life and death, and so he’s not going to want to bring them back in that way. I think he’d just let that lie.
Caleb: So my comment was, I think this response draws on a bigger thing, and Harry does the same thing with the Elder Wand. He uses it for the purpose he needs it for, two purposes, really; one’s more personal and one is to save the world, I guess, or whatever.
Michael: [laughs] Whatever.
Caleb: But then he puts it aside, right? And it’s like this extension of the original story of “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” where only the Invisibility Cloak is the one that can be perpetually used and Harry, being the true master – I don’t want to get into that too much because he’s going to have that conversation with Dumbledore in this chapter…
Caleb: … but I think it’s interesting that he learns to put both aside. But I also get a lot of what DisKid is saying; I do think that there would be moments – and maybe it’s not something that Harry would linger on too much – where he would still consider, not regret, but still consider, like, “Man, I could have used it right now.”
Michael: Yeah, I think having had a taste of the Resurrection Stone, I think Harry is perfectly – like Kyla was saying – I think he’s perfectly aware of the repercussions and the power of that and why it would be unwise to use it again. But I’m sure, like any of us, he craves, perhaps maybe in life… who knows what other things Harry comes upon in life that give him moments where he would love to just have a moment with the dead again, and I think a lot of us have had that, and it’s something I think just like Harry many of us understand would not be practical in practice. It’s just something to reflect on in theory, and that’s why I still have my trepidations about Cursed Child…
Michael: … because there are hints that there are things in Cursed Child about Harry that are… I think the plot summary is even set in his past and his family, the things he’s gone through and that his family have gone through are intertwining with issues that Albus is having personally and mixing together the past and the present, and I wonder if it’s things like that that are going to come up in Cursed Child, which I don’t want them to! But that’s for when we get the script of Cursed Child in the summer.
Caleb: Yeah, all right, the next comment… actually I’m just going to draw attention to it; I’m not going to read it in full, as I’ll explain. But it’s on the structure of the chapter last week, and this comes from Hufflepuffskein, and Hufflepuffskein drew on the fact that in the beginning of last week’s discussion, Eric was talking about how he didn’t find a lot of last week’s chapter… I can’t remember the exact words he used so I don’t want to misquote him, but he just didn’t think… he wasn’t crazy about it. He did not find a lot in it and then at the end of the chapter he re-assessed some things about it. But Hufflepuffskein has this fantastic discussion that was started, basically comparing last week’s chapter to an extended allegory for death, and we don’t have time to read the whole comment…
Caleb: … but it’s so good, it’s so well thought-out, it’s just such a profound read, so I definitely encourage you to go over and read that on the main site.
Michael: Is it okay to…? I just want to jump in and say that I was feeling what Eric was talking about last week in terms of this chapter and how it affects him as a reader because the thing that always… as much as I love “The Forest Again” – I think it’s a beautiful chapter, and it’s a great moment for Harry and it’s necessary – at the same time I still remember being like, “This is like when he talked to his parents in Goblet of Fire. This has already happened.” And it never really… it didn’t strike me as something necessarily new and fresh and unexpected for the Potter series, I suppose. It was something that I saw coming, with him talking to his parents, so I can see why for some readers it may not leave that much of an impression, but I’ll have to check out that comment from Hufflepuffskein to see how they broke it down.
Caleb: Definitely. All right, and the final comment comes from SocksAreImportant on the topic of remembering the first time you read this specific chapter, the chapter where it seems like Harry could snuff it.
Caleb: And the comment says,
“What’s nice about discussing this book is that most fans remember reading it for the first time. I love hearing how other fans first read this chapter. I remember exactly what I was thinking during this chapter. I thought wow this is crazy, I can’t believe Jo is actually letting the main character die. I was naive as to how much was left of the book or the fact that the story was told from his perspective. I thought this was a great way to end the series, sacrifice the main character, and let the ‘minor’ characters finish off Voldemort. What did you guys think reading it the first time?”
Caleb: It’s something we really didn’t discuss last week, but I thought it would draw up some fun things.
Michael: Well, I think Eric briefly said it last week and I was of the same mind: I knew Harry wasn’t going to die.
Michael: I was pretty comfortable in that knowledge, especially because I had been one of those fans who just delved deep into theories and everything that people put out online, and I was pretty confident in the theory that Harry was a Horcrux and that he was going to somehow make it through; I didn’t know how. But I felt, as SocksAreImportant pointed out, the idea that the narration really is through Harry and that there really wasn’t… I guess on my first read, and even more so as I read through it, there’s really no logical reason to sacrifice Harry for the story that Rowling is telling. I don’t know. What did you guys think when you first read it?
Caleb: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. And I think when I read it… I don’t think I’d guessed that he was a Horcrux. Maybe by this point in the book I had. [I] definitely didn’t early on, but yeah, I was pretty convinced he was still going to live somehow. I think the fact that there was so much book left, or relatively enough book left, that that was going to be… that was a pretty telling sign, but I just never could really get sold that it was really going to be the end.
Kyla: I loved this chapter the first time I read it, but I’m in the same place as Michael. By the time I had read Book 6 I had figured it out, and I was actually disappointed…
[Kyla and Michael laugh]
Kyla: … because I felt like I already knew how it was going to end. I was like, “Okay, Harry is a Horcrux, the locket’s in Grimmauld Place, and they’re going to have to go through all this, and they’re going to have to kill Harry to destroy the part of the Horcrux that’s in him, and he’s going to live, and Voldemort is going to die, and that’s great.”
Kyla: And I remember going into it feeling kind of bummed out because I was like, “God, I figured out the ending! I didn’t want to do that!”
Kyla: And I was so happy that she introduced the Deathly Hallows as this whole other thing that I didn’t see coming and had no reason to see coming, so that made me happy again because I was like, “Yay! A whole other plot that I didn’t really think about.” So I totally knew he wasn’t going to die. I was just sitting back enjoying watching it unfold. To me, that chapter is beautiful. It has such a lovely stillness about it as Harry connects all the dots, as everything comes together for him, and you walk with him to the forest and he’s calming himself, and you’re calming yourself, and you really feel what he’s feeling. I think the chapter isn’t so much about plot as it is about emotion and feeling and Harry coming to grips with what he’s doing, and he has to in order for this sacrifice to work. So I loved the chapter and I was super psyched, even though I knew… I was like, “Okay, he’s not dead. It’s okay; he’ll be back. It’s going to work out just fine.” But I loved the feel of it.
Alison: Yeah, I know I cried…
Alison: … because I remember I read half this book lying on the bottom bunk of [my] and my sister’s bunk bed and leaning over the edge and crying, and I think my mom came in at one point and was like, “Are you okay?” But I was only, what, 12 [or] 13 when this book came out, and so I had no idea what was happening. I wasn’t really online looking at theories or anything [and] didn’t really analyze much, so I really just remember being in the moment of this chapter and not even really wanting to think about what was coming next but just really enjoying – if “enjoying” is the right word – but just really sitting in the moment of this chapter, which I think [is] a great chapter to do that for and just reflecting.
Michael: Mm. Yeah, the only… It’s funny because I was thinking, with you saying, Alison, and as SocksAreImportant said here, too… it is funny with the Harry Potter series more than any other book I’ve read how I can… and I think a lot of us can so vividly remember what our first readings and feelings were and even where we were and how we were positioned as we read, and I really… with Deathly Hallows it was just the whole time I was reading it; the only feeling I had mostly was, “This is the end. This is the last one. There’s no more.”
Michael: I still remember… the weirdest thing is I still remember the most shocking feeling to me from the whole series was when Cedric died because I think I was in shock that a student died, and he was so innocent and there was nothing Harry could do. That really threw me for a loop as a reader at that age. But yeah, by Hallows it was like she had done her part to get us used to this kind of intense emotion and I was ready for it. It was just mostly knowing that the whole thing was ending was the part that hurt the most, I suppose.
Caleb: All right, well, I think that’s a good note to end our recap comments on. There are plenty of other great responses on the main site and the discussion goes ever on, so make sure to head over there and join in.
Michael: But before we move onto the chapter, we’re going to look at some of the responses from you guys for the Podcast Question of the Week. The question was,
“As Harry walks toward his fate, he briefly interacts with some form of his parents, Sirius, and Remus, and although we have some thoughts on what those forms actually are, our debate remains unsolved. Based on Harry’s experience spending time with these forms, and the ghosts and other beings we have seen in the past, what exactly do you think these figures are? Are these forms consistent with the Stone within ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’?”
First of all, I have to just say to you guys from last week, this is an excellent question, and this is one of the questions that I love pondering about Deathly Hallows. And to you listeners, we had some excellent responses. First one comes here from Badgermole Butterbeer, who says,
“I sometimes wonder if the Resurrection Stone is sort of like ‘The Hand of Glory’ that we see in earlier books that allows only the person holding it to have light in darkness. Instead, the stone allows the person holding it to see beyond the veil to the dead. They’re not ghosts because ghosts (in the wizarding world) are still in this world. The dead, however, are ‘veiled’ from us, but are real corporeal people. They have substance and mass. There is a New Testament Bible verse (Hebrews 12:1 for those interested) that talks about us being ‘surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses’. It is traditionally thought that these are the dead that have already gone to heaven. They’re gone, but still with us. We just can’t communicate with them.”
And I wanted to see what you guys thought of that because the two things that I really thought were interesting to pull out of here [were] one, the comparison to the Hand of Glory, of all things in the series, and two, the idea of taking the Veil and putting it in a Biblical form and extending the power of the Veil outside of its space in the Ministry. I was wondering what you guys thought of that.
Alison: Yeah, I really like that idea of the Veil. That just really resounds with me, I think. And I think that’s one of the things that we’ve seen throughout the series is these kind of transient tools that can be used to communicate with people through time [and] almost through space… through time and space, whatever. And that kind of lines up with Luna’s comment in Order of the Phoenix where she says to Harry, “You can hear them, too,” when they’re in the Veil room and they’re looking for who’s talking. So yeah, I think that’s a very interesting way of seeing that and [it] matches up with those that know people that have died are closer to that or are almost more in-tune with that idea. I think that’s nice.
Kyla: I have a lot of thoughts on this.
Michael: Ooh, let them all out. [laughs] Don’t hold back.
Kyla: Okay, I don’t know how much… I honestly don’t know if this has come up in podcasts in the past, but the symbolism of numbers in the Bible; I assume you guys may have touched on it at some point.
Kyla: So in biblical studies, seven is the number that signifies heavenly completeness, ten is earthly completeness, and six is earthly incompleteness. It’s the symbol of the thing that just falls short of righteousness or heavenly completeness, which is why 666… the symbology is there. I find it interesting, I’ve always found it very interesting about the series that six… you have, as far as the series goes, Book 1 and Book 7 are definitely Harry’s books. Book 2 and Book 6 are Voldemort’s books, really; that’s where we get the most about him as a person. And I find it also interesting that Book 2 and Book 6 have a lot of Malfoy and the fact that she’s pointing this out about the Hand of Glory; the last time we saw it used was in Book 6. It’s always been something that’s been closely associated with Malfoy and I think that’s a very appropriate parallel.
Michael: Yeah, I was going to say, the hand is only mentioned in Books 2 and 6.
Kyla: Yeah, he reaches the right completeness. Malfoy always comes short of that, as did Voldemort. So it would be very appropriate that [those] would be their numbers. And then the Veil… obviously that ties in with what we know from the Department of Mysteries, but I like that she mentioned that verse about the great cloud of witnesses. It also makes me think of another one in “2 Kings,” which is a story about Elisha when he’s faced with basically certain death. It’s him and his manservant and they are surrounded and his servant begins to panic and asks him, “What are we going to do?” And Elisha tells him, “Do not be afraid for there are more who are with us than there are with them.” And then he prays to God and asks him to show him. And so he does, and when the servant looks around, he can see the vast number of angels that are around them protecting them, that Elisha could see but his servant could not. Which just really made me think of that [and make] that connection; I don’t know if there’s any real intent there on the part of Rowling, but it’s a nice parallel to that type of story, having that faith that there [are] more with me than there are with you because I have completeness and I have righteousness on my side.
Michael: Yeah, and see… Well, Kyla, your biblical knowledge is going to really serve us well in the chapter discussions today. [laughs]
Alison: Yes, it is.
Kyla: Another reason I was really happy I got this chapter.
Michael: And I think it’s worthwhile to point that out, and why I really enjoyed this comment is because, for me personally, it’s I’m Jewish and non-practicing, but I really find it important to examine these biblical parallels because Rowling herself… If we’re going with the auteur theory, Rowling herself has come forth that there are intentional parallels to the Bible in Harry Potter.
Kyla: Absolutely. And even if she was only influenced by, say, medieval art and medieval literature, which so much of her stuff is, that is so heavily Christian in and of itself. You really can’t avoid the parallels at this point. And I agree; even if you’re not religious… As I tell my students all the time when we bring up biblical allusions, I say it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not; you’re talking about a work of literature that’s influenced so much, you should probably know a little bit about it.
Michael: Absolutely. For sure. So I thought that… yeah, I just thought that was a great idea about what those beings are.
Kyla: You have a fantastic connection.
Michael: But we also had another comment from buckbeak is my spirit animal, who said,
”I think that they would have been some sort of soul coming back and being with Harry. I have trouble believing in a traditional afterlife, so while I see that it’s possible, and probable, that it’s actually them, I can’t quite get behind that one. I feel like (since we know everyone has a soul) your soul leaves an impression and a magical memory on the world when you’re living on it. It lingers in the world once you physically die. It isn’t a conscious thing, it’s just the lingering impression. It contains your emotional resonances, memories, etc., but it eventually fades away. But, like in the [P]ensieve, where you can retain a memory and find the most true impression of a moment, this memory-soul thing does the same thing. The memories of all the dead linger on the planet, and the combination of everyone gives an accurate impression of a person. Then, since it has all of this knowledge about the subject, it can also create predictive speech (like an AI or something). So I think what Harry is seeing are these impressions of his loved ones. They can’t come back to life, because it just isn’t possible, but they’re so close to the original person, they can pass as that being. Maybe they’re some sort of physical embodiment of the magic that is harnessed to create the portraits.”
What do you guys think about that?
Caleb: That last line is super interesting.
Michael: And I really like this, too because we go from a comment that pulls out the religious aspects of this idea to going to a comment that is trying to rationalize it in a nonreligious way. The idea that there is no afterlife perhaps and that this is more of a “Where does the soul go?” in a more scientific idea.
Caleb: Yeah, so this comment is interesting. This response is interesting because it plays on, I think, what was one of our bigger points of tension last week for people who are on different sides and I pretty much found myself on the opposite side of where this response is going…
Caleb: … saying that… and I had the idea that I didn’t think that it could be just an impression or gathered memories or something like this response says because I didn’t think that that would be enough, to have them talk about the things that they did. Just the substance of content of the things that they said I felt, for me, persuaded me that they [are] somehow more than that. I think Eric was one of the people that disagreed with me on this. I can’t remember how other people came out. But this is really interesting. I really like the artificial intelligence analogy here with a magical spell in it. I’m not convinced that I was wrong…
[Caleb and Michael laugh]
Caleb: … but I do think that’s a really good way to play on it.
Michael: I’m glad you hit on the artificial intelligence, and I pulled that comment also partially because of that; because I thought it was so coincidental that buckbeak is my spirit animal used A.I. because I was actually thinking there is an excellent movie from Steven Spielberg called A.I. Artificial Intelligence and this description is essentially the ending of the movie.
Michael: I don’t want to spoil it too much because I highly suggest you listeners go and check it out, but there is an individual who is brought back and this individual is brought back in the way that buckbeak is my spirit animal is describing here, where it’s an artificial intelligence impression of this person but it’s as much the person as that can be brought back. But it’s more of a non-denominational but spiritual idea, I guess. But the movie definitely tries to suggest that there’s a scientific element wrapped around it. And in place of science, I guess we’re using the magic as science here, especially with the suggestion that the magic of the portraits is maybe akin to what those individuals are. Do you guys agree with that, that there’s an element of the portrait magic going on here? Or is it something more or less?
Alison: I think that’s a really interesting idea to draw those two things together. I feel like I have to think about it more, though, to come to a conclusion.
Kyla: Yeah, agreed.
Michael: So many ways to transcend death in the wizarding world. Portraits, Resurrection Stone, Mirror of Erised depending on the person who’s looking through it…
Alison: And yet she makes it so clear that death is permanent. That’s so interesting to me, that she makes it so clear that death is permanent, but like you said, there [are] all these ways that people in some form almost come back.
Kyla: Even in the magical world people’s desire to escape death doesn’t change. I could see how people with all of their ingenuity given magic would come up with all these different ways to…
Michael: Cheat death?
Kyla: … get around it. Yeah, at the very least ensure that they lived on in some form. At least they had that knowledge because [for] so many people, that is the terrifying idea, that thought that you end. The idea of the portraits is a lovely one, the idea that “I’ll be gone. My portrait will be there, though, to insult small children…”
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Kyla: “… and move around between hospitals and schools.”
Michael: Yeah, because as I had mentioned before, I always felt like the previous chapter… it reminds me so much of the “Priori Incantatum” chapter and I remember when we discussed that chapter, I really stood up for my belief that Dumbledore is fibbing to Harry when he says that those aren’t his parents, that they’re just an impression. And he equates them to being like the portraits, that they’re limited in their knowledge. But to me, the way that Lily and James express themselves to Harry in that moment suggests that they’re not.
Caleb: Yeah, I agree.
Michael: And I almost believe that there, like you, Caleb, I believe that there is the same thing going on in “Forest Again” is going on in “Priori Incantatum.” It’s just brought about in a different way. Who knows? Maybe “Priori Incantatum” is part of what you do to get the ring to work. I don’t know. But we had one final suggestion from Casey L., who said,
”According to legend, the stone comes from Death…”
Death with a capital, so you know [it’s] that guy over there in the hood and cloak.
” … whose purpose is to collect lives. With that in mind, it seems to me the figures appearing as a result of the stone must vary in form, depending on what will best draw the holder of the stone to his/her death. So for Cadmus Peverell, his former lover takes the form of a sad, forlorn figure that destroys his will to live with her. In contrast, Harry’s guardians take the form of comforting figures who will coax him lovingly into death. The consistency doesn’t necessarily come from the figures themselves, but from the final outcome when they are summoned. What are they? If we go with Harry’s impression, that they’re like the impression of Tom Riddle that escaped the diary, maybe they’re similar to souls, and to some extent, they behave like Riddle did in Chamber – they take form because of Harry’s emotional turmoil, but once he’s at peace and is ready to proceed, they disappear.”
Alison: This is why we have listeners answer questions, because you come up with amazing stuff like this.
Kyla: Yeah, this is fabulous.
Michael: I really liked in this comment the idea that basically [in] both situations there is a temptation but the temptation isn’t necessarily negative in every case for who is… why you’re being drawn to Death because in Harry’s case it’s a support to go to death because he has to, versus Cadmus who perhaps wasn’t intent on dying. So I really liked that, and of course bringing in that idea from… pulling in “Tale of the Three Brothers” specifically, I think it’s just… this comment explains again why Harry is a proper master of death [and] of the Hallows, because he has the correct understanding of how to use the Resurrection Stone. The other thing I liked, too is that the comment referenced Harry referencing Riddle coming out of the diary because in the same way that… I was thinking in terms of this comment, Riddle is also a tempter…
Michael: … in the way he appears to Ginny and he tempts her toward death. And I guess in a way he does to Harry, too because he lures him to the Chamber intending to kill him, so… yet another way I guess you can cheat Death is just write yourself into a diary.
Michael: But of course, that’s a Horcrux so that’s a little different. But there were so many more fabulous ideas from our listeners and I have to give a shout-out to a few of you. Shout-out to – I love this username – FatOldFart, you just wanted to hear me say that, didn’t you, FatOldFart? GinaAswell, SnapesManyButtons and YoRufusOnFire, you guys left fantastic comments and I wanted to make sure and do a Shout-Out Maxima to badonkaTonks which… [laughs] great username…
Caleb: That’s wonderful.
Michael: … Carapace, Efthymia, Hufflepuffskein, Jay Dozier, skgai, and Slyvenpuffdor. You guys left comments that, actually, there were elements of that I really wanted to include in the episode but we just didn’t have the space for it. So listeners, make sure and head over to alohomora.mugglenet.com, where you can see some of these fantastic comments as well as join in the discussion. Just because we’re done talking about it on the show does not mean that the topic is over for you guys to discuss.
Caleb: And before we move on, we want to let everyone know that this episode is sponsored by Megan Chinworth on Patreon.
Michael: Yay, Megan!
Alison: Yay! Thank you!
Michael: Thank you! [laughs]
Caleb: Thanks so much, Megan. And you can become a sponsor, just like Megan, for as little as $1 a month over on our Patreon page at patreon.com/alohomora. We have several ways that you can support the show on… like I said, from as little as $1 a month and it rises up to see what kind of perks you can get, and this helps our cost to keep the show going and… it’s kosher to talk about this now, right?
Alison and Michael: Yes, yes.
Caleb: So I can talk of what we’re doing.
Michael: It is public.
Caleb: So as you guys all know, we are not stopping at the end of Deathly Hallows; we’re continuing to go on with a couple of more books and then a new format. You can head over to our Patreon page to learn more about that. So there are plenty of things for you to help support us on as we move forward.
Alison: And with that I guess it’s time to move into our chapter discussion.
[Deathly Hallows Chapter 35 intro begins]
Albus Dumbledore: Chapter 35.
[Sounds of footsteps]
Albus: “King’s Cross.”
[Sound of train]
[Deathly Hallows Chapter 35 intro ends]
Michael: Oh my God, I’m so excited. [laughs]
Alison: [breathes loudly and laughs nervously] Sorry, I’m trying to breathe. I’m really nervous about this chapter for some reason.
Michael: You’ve got the equivalent to what I got with the Snape chapter.
Alison: I know. I know.
Michael: [laughs] It’s a dangerous chapter.
Alison: Okay. [laughs] After his slow walk into the forest and his confrontation with Voldemort, Harry suddenly finds himself in a bright white space that seems familiar. A strange creature of some sort greets him there, as does Albus Dumbledore. While in this peaceful state, Harry discusses the truth of his old headmaster finally deciding that he must return to the world of the living and finish what he began all those years ago. So yeah, I don’t know why I was super nervous about this chapter, and there’s so much that happens, so… get comfortable, everyone. This could be a while.
Alison: So my first point is the namesake of this chapter, King’s Cross. And though we know it’s kind of King’s Cross – it looks like King’s Cross – I was wondering where exactly we think Harry is. So to start that off, the significance of this being King’s Cross, it’s where his journey began. J.K. Rowling has said in an interview that, “It has been established in the books as the gateway between two worlds, and Harry would associate it with moving on between two worlds.” The first thing that popped into my head was that Harry’s old life died here in Philosopher’s Stone so we have that connection, and every book has in some way begun and ended at King’s Cross.
Alison: So what do you guys think of having King’s Cross be the place that Harry sees when he’s here?
Michael: I’ve… and I almost considered doing this as a Podcast Question of the Week but I decided to do something else because I think the choice is fascinating in that when I reflect on it there [are] a few points that are really intriguing to me. The first is that while he’s in King’s Cross and while Dumbledore later makes a quip about, “You could potentially hop [on] a train,” the interesting thing to me, one, is that there are no trains visible in this space. The actual thing that creates this, that makes this space a transitionary space, is not there. There is no actual train.
Alison: Oh, yeah.
Michael: And in a way, too, I think that there are other areas in the wizarding world that could be considered transitionary between the Muggle world and the wizarding world, a place of in-between. The one that predominantly, for me, comes to mind, and it’s definitely not as significant in the series, but I think of the Leaky Cauldron…
Alison: Oh, yeah.
Michael: … as being perfectly situated between Diagon Alley and London and Harry’s old reality and his new reality, and I feel like there are other spaces within Harry Potter that represent that, too, and I really do find it interesting that she chose King’s Cross.
Kyla: Well, I mean, it only makes sense, and she’s… I don’t know if I would have jumped ahead, I thought this was in the document that you guys put that quote from that interview with her, but it’s a crossroads, it’s a literal crossroads, and that’s why he’s there. I mean, he’s at the crossroads between life and death, if you want to consider it that way. And to your point, Michael, about the train, as we see in the chapter, things don’t come into being in this until it seems like Harry thinks of them…
Alison and Michael: Mm.
Kyla: … which is extremely interesting if you want to look at the religious implications of that. So I think what Dumbledore was saying is, “Should you wish to board a train, you could; if you wanted to board a train a train might appear and take you on.”
Michael: That’s interesting, yeah.
Kyla: But it’s created within this space of what Harry chooses to do; as that line, as Dumbledore says, “This is your party, this is how you see heaven’s waiting room.” I guess this is… you are at a point where you can make a choice and you are in between, and it only is fitting that King’s Cross is the place he goes.
Caleb: Yeah, I always… I thought of it similarly because there [are] a couple of things that happen in the chapter when he gets the robe or whatever his clothing is… early in the chapter he remarks on being naked or whatever but then it’s later in just a couple of… a page or so later he thinks about, “Oh, he suddenly realized he wished he had some sort of clothing and then it pops up.” So I think… I agree that, for me, it was a sign that a train never did come in the chapter. I always knew that he was going to go back to the real world and was going to move on because the train would have come if that was what he wanted from the beginning.
Kyla: Oh my goodness, the religious implications of this. I was thinking about this before but even thinking about it now, there [are] so many.
Alison: And that’s actually our next point; actually, it’s a perfect segue. At the same interview, someone asks Jo if Harry was in the Veil or on one side of the Veil, and she said, “You can make up your own mind on this but I think that Harry entered a kind of limbo between life and death.” And this leads into the… I think it’s pretty overt religious symbolism allegory, just drawing upon traditions, and like Caleb mentioned, the first one that really comes up is we get this line where he says, “He had the uncomfortable feeling that he was eavesdropping on something fur- furtive…” – wow, can’t say that word – “… furtive, shameful. For the first time he wished he was clothed.” And what this really made pop into my mind was Adam and Eve. So in Genesis you have a verse that says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” But a chapter later, after they partake of the fruit, it says, “In the eyes of them both were opened and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” So it’s almost… I really find it interesting that she talks about this idea of shame because I feel like that’s what the second Bible verse is really talking about; the realization that leads to shame. Because beforehand, he doesn’t really care. But when he has this idea that there is something else there with him, that is evil, then he suddenly has the shame and this self-consciousness and starts looking for clothing.
Kyla: That’s the key point, yeah, because when… in the Adam and Eve story, they only become conscious of their nakedness after they have sinned, basically. So after the introduction of sin into this world, then we feel shame; then there’s the knowledge that we are naked. And they want to cover themselves because now they have introduced sin. So it makes sense that up until Harry realizes that Voldemort is there… I mean, Voldemort is the very embodiment of sin and evil, so it would make perfect sense that once he realized he was there, the impulse came to cover himself, almost to shield himself from that.
Michael: And how perfect that the creature that gives Adam and Eve the apple is a snake.
Michael: It’s funny, too; listeners, if you’ve ever read the series all the way through the end, the Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket tried to do the same thing with the Adam and Eve allegory, but it doesn’t come through quite as clearly. But he definitely… it definitely became… this became a thing, to use the biblical imagery. And certainly, Rowling wasn’t the first one to do it, also a few listeners haven’t yet explored His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.
Caleb: Yes. Yes.
Michael: Read it right now.
Caleb: Because – just briefly – that series does such a good job of making it so present, but not hitting you over the head with it, which I think is just such a good balance.
Michael: Yep, absolutely.
Alison: It’s also pretty clear in Narnia, in Magician’s Nephew. I think that’s the one that is really playing with that idea.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s a tradition in young adult literature to go back to this, to the beginning, so to speak.
Alison: And going back to this idea that JKR said he was in limbo; this goes to not what Harry sees as King’s Cross, but what is this place that he’s in? This in-between place. So it’s interesting to compare different religious traditions. I picked up a couple that I thought JKR was probably influenced by and other ones that I’m familiar with. So I’m sorry if I’m not super familiar with something and I get something wrong. But I looked at Catholics, the Anglican tradition, and my own, which is the Mormon tradition. So if I’m remembering correctly, in the Catholic tradition this limbo purgatory is more of a condition of existence, where souls are there to pay for their sins. But it’s also a place of mercy and the souls there can intercede for those on earth, which I think is interesting to put in perspective with Harry’s, where he’s facing this choice of: Should he go back to the people and intercede again between everyone at Hogwarts and Voldemort? Or should he stay where he is and move on? In Anglican tradition, it’s thought of as more of a place of growth in the knowledge of God and in God’s love and mercy, which is interesting to think of here if you think that this is where Harry sorts out all the truth and the knowledge that he gets to make his decision. And then in the Mormon tradition, it’s where people are in a perfect form, which… as this chapter makes clear, Harry says he has no scars, no blemishes, nothing. I mean, he’s even not wearing glasses. And it’s a place where you’re waiting for resurrection in peace and rest, or progressing toward righteousness that will bring you that peace and rest. So we’ve got… It’s interesting to see how she’s mixing all sorts of things – at least these ones that I’m familiar with – and how you can connect all of these different things together here.
Caleb: I think what’s interesting is that because there is so much relatability that’s present, it’s like Jo has crafted a story that I think no matter what we can clearly see the religious influence, but we can spend some more time talking about a different perspective. But there’s so much that individual people can take from this story, and there’s something very inherent that you can relate to it.
Michael: Yeah, I think that in a way by combining almost every tradition she made it non-denominational…
Michael: … and almost, in a way, not religious, if you so choose to read it that way. I’d be interested to see… I don’t consider myself an Atheist; again, I consider myself non-practicing Jewish. But at the same time, there are certain atheist beliefs that I subscribe to. So unless any of you are atheist, I don’t know if any of us can really speak to that about perhaps the atheist view, but I think even atheism doesn’t necessarily… atheism doesn’t discount spirituality, and the idea that this image that she’s created doesn’t necessarily have to be religious but it can still be spiritual. And I think that’s what’s important in terms of the Harry Potter series is that Rowling – as we’ve talked about many a time before – consistently shies away from giving wizards a religion, even though they celebrate things like Christmas and whatnot. And of course, through Twitter we’ve gotten confirmations that there are students of other religious denominations at Hogwarts. But that’s not what’s important, and I suppose in Rowling’s eyes, too. It’s not worth getting hung up on the religious aspect because then you miss the point of the story, I guess. She’s not proselytizing.
Michael: She’s just kind of… like she does with mythology, she’s just drawing upon multiple ideas and mixing them into a pot and making them her own unique idea.
Michael: Which is why it works, I think, so successfully, and really anybody can read this passage and, I think, get something from it, as far as the space that’s created.
Alison: Talking about different spaces, too, Harry first thinks that he might be in a Room of Requirement. Why do we think he had this particular thought? Is this another place he wishes he could be? I thought of this just because Dumbledore talks about leadership and this mantle of leadership. It made me think that’s where… really, the first place that Harry has that put on him in leading the DA is in the Room of Requirement. And so I wonder if… do we think that could be part of why he has this scenario of things that will come when you think of them?
Michael: Oh, go ahead.
Kyla: No, go ahead, Michael. I’ll follow up.
Michael: Oh, I was just going to say that it’s perhaps… this is perhaps for me why I’m so sad the Room of Requirement gets wholly and completely destroyed and becomes unusable. Because I think it’s one of the… To me, I really like the idea, Alison, of leadership and what the DA meant to Harry. I can generally see the Room of Requirement as a safe space for Harry. It’s used multiple times as a place of escape, as a place of safe haven, and not just for Harry; as we see, it’s for many members of Dumbledore’s Army, and I think it mostly has positive connotations sans its use in sixth year when it’s [sullied] by Malfoy, but otherwise, yeah, I think in Harry’s eyes that probably is why he… I mean, for all we know… I guess if he had thought of that sooner or more strongly, the area might have turned into the Room of Requirement, which is why I was thinking [of it as] another perfect transitionary safe space for Harry’s limbo. That would certainly make sense to me to use that, too.
Kyla: See, I read it rather differently. Every time… this whole thing… Like I said, we’re going to probably talk this to death, the parallels to a creation account, but the fact that he realizes he exists and then he wakes up and there he is, and he wonders if he can see and then there is light, and he thinks, “I wish I had robes,” and oh, look, there are robes. So that thought comes immediately afterward when he’s thinking how extraordinary it is that the robes appeared and then he asks himself if he’s in some great Room of Requirement because everything here responds to Harry. He is in control of everything that surrounds him. He is in control of this environment. And to me, that was a bit of a clue for the reader that for the first time in his life, Harry is now in control of his own destiny.
Kyla: He is in a position where he does not have the Horcrux affecting his fate [and] he does not have to deal with whatever Voldemort’s fate is going to be. That’s gone. He is now free to choose. And whatever he chooses, it is his decision and he gets to make it. So this is his Room of Requirement. What he says goes here. And it’s so, so strongly paralleled to the way that… and medieval theologists really explored this notion: The idea that God speaks things into being, that he said, “Let there be light,” and then there was light and that his word is the same thing as the action. And I found that parallel so fabulous, that at this point it might as well be. Harry’s thought is what it is. It comes to be because this is his party, again.
Michael: I really like that analysis, Kyla…
Michael: … because that to me explains perhaps why I feel, personally, when I read this chapter, that Harry as a character reads differently.
Kyla: He does. He does read very differently now.
Michael: And in a way, like you’re saying, I think part of how he reads is [that] there’s this new level of control and confidence within him that he didn’t have.
Kyla: And I know we’re going to mention it later, I saw, but it’s the first time he is able to face Dumbledore as an equal.
Alison and Michael: Mhm.
Kyla: It’s the first time, again, he is fully in control of himself and his fate and he can now be objective and step back and address him on a level. There is no one binding Harry anymore. He is himself.
Michael: Mhm. Absolutely.
Alison: Interesting that you should bring that up that he’s become new. There’s almost this sense that Harry is reborn in this chapter. On the first page, in fact, one of the first… [in] the second paragraph or something it talks about how… I’m just going to read it, actually.
Alison: There are a lot of quotes in this, by the way, everyone. There’s a lot of stuff going on. And it says,
“Almost as soon as he had reached this conclusion, Harry became conscious that he was naked. Convinced as he was of his total solitude, this did not concern him, but it did intrigue him slightly. He wondered whether, as he could feel, he would be able to see. In opening them, he discovered that he had eyes…
”His body appeared unscathed. He was not wearing glasses anymore.”
So we see he’s lost all his scars: He’s lost the lightning bolt scar, he’s lost the “I must not tell lies” scar, and he’s lost the scar from the locket. So all these markers of his journey so far are suddenly gone. I mean, even his glasses. He’s become this new being, which I think works really well with what you were saying, Kyla, of [how] he’s suddenly free. He’s not tethered to anyone. He is himself, finally, at last.
Michael: Yeah, maybe that’s why there [are] – as we just previously referenced – multiple examples of reference to, specifically, the Adam and Eve story in many texts and literature because it’s a signifier of a birth or in many heroes’ journeys of rebirth.
Kyla: Oh! I just remembered something, too. [laughs] This is something… when I was rereading the chapter, I told myself, “Bring this up.”
Kyla: It struck me that Harry’s completely unscarred, unscathed state is reflective of the state of his soul…
Kyla: … which is why when he sees what he sees, it is so very visceral and visually indicating [of] the state of Voldemort’s soul in contrast with his own.
Michael: Mhm. Yeah, the whole theme of the imagery in this chapter for Harry’s character is his rebirth.
Alison: Yeah. Well, speaking of Voldemort, that’s… a huge part of this chapter is explaining and working through the finer points of their connection. We start off… they’re both in this place and Harry hears this noise and just says, “It was a pitiful noise, yet also slightly indecent.” And at the end of this chapter we’re going to get this quote from Dumbledore telling Harry who he should pity. Why does Harry feel pity for this thing that shows up? And why then does JKR decide to use the word “indecent” in conjunction with that?
Michael: I always assumed… in as far as to Harry’s pity, I feel that’s explained excellently by Dumbledore later, who says that it’s just that innate goodness in Harry. I guess if we’re looking at this place as a place that is figuratively and literally stripping down Harry to his basics, one of the most innate basic traits of Harry is that he’s a good person and that he does not take joy in suffering, I guess.
Kyla: Yes, definitely. And I agree with that. And I think… to me, what really struck me with this is that… we were talking about the afterlife earlier. Clearly there is some kind of afterlife in the wizarding world, but I have never gotten the impression that there was anything resembling a hell or that kind of duality of afterlife. It simply is an afterlife.
Kyla: And I thought that really speaks to the overall message that if there is a punishment after death, it is only what you inflict upon yourself. And so yes, pity him because he has done this to himself. He will spend eternity in this state and thinking about what that must mean. That’s not to say that you have to feel sorry for Voldemort or that you have to justify his actions in any way. But at this distance, when life is behind you and you are now looking infinity in the face, I think yes, the good person can look and feel pity for the kind of person that would do this to themselves, completely disregarding the importance of keeping their soul intact, completely disregarding any life that might be to come. They were so shortsighted; you have to pity someone like that.
Caleb: I think that’s a really good reading of it because this idea is certainly not unique, where you feel sorry for them because you’re better than them; because of their mistakes they’re worse off. But I think the reason Jo makes it even more meaningful is, like you said, Harry doesn’t have to feel pity for Voldemort for… as who he was or what he did. And I think that’s very gratifying for us as readers to realize we don’t have to make that tradeoff, but that the pity is actually something much more holistic and beyond the life and what you’re feeling in that life. So I think that’s a very great, solid reading of it.
Michael: I think that also perfectly explains Alison’s second question of why the use of the word “indecent” in explaining Harry, I think we’ve… and what he should and should not pity about Voldemort… because indecent, [in a scholarly voice] as defined by Google…
Michael: … it can mean obscene, [and] not appropriate or fitting. And I mean, that’s a perfect description of a Horcrux and a maimed soul.
Kyla: That’s true. It’s an abomination against nature. And it’s such a visceral word, too. I think anyone reading that sentence; almost immediately you get that visceral feeling… at some point in your life you have probably come across something that was indecent and you remember how that felt. And I think that feeling immediately, at least for me, comes back when I read that line. Yeah. I feel it, that feeling of, “Ugh, turn away. Don’t look at it.” It’s beyond just hatred or fear. It’s a revulsion in a very visceral reaction.
Michael: And it goes so perfectly with the physical description, which it looks like you’ve got coming up here, Alison, because…
Michael: … what Harry sees… [laughs] I think the thing to remember is… what’s described in the book is not exactly what the movie presents…
Michael: … but I think the movie makes great choices because it’s shocking visually. But basically what Rowling… and it’s left to interpretation, which I really like, but I kind of read it as this weird mixture of… Essentially she’s describing a baby, but a baby where something has gone horribly wrong, where some kind of evil has meshed with this baby.
Alison: Yeah, and actually that’s the next point. The description said:
“It had the form of a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed looking, and it lay shuddering under a seat where it had been, unwanted, stuffed out of sight, struggling for breath.”
Michael: Stuffed out of sight, that’s…
Kyla: If that’s not a description of Voldemort, I don’t know what is.
Alison: Well, the thing I found interesting here is King’s Cross is where Voldemort’s story started as well, in a lot of ways. So what does it mean to have him here in this really grotesque and forgotten form?
Michael: I think that’s a great question because as far as we get illuminated from Dumbledore, by the idea that their souls have been disconnected, Voldemort shouldn’t be here. But perhaps we tie in the idea that you guys were talking about earlier: Harry thinks of it and it comes into being.
Michael: And Harry’s fate is so tied to Voldemort, and he has so many questions about Voldemort, that this representation appears here because it’s something Harry’s subconscious is thinking about.
Kyla: I remember when I first read this, I thought that this was a great way to visualize the state of Harry as a Horcrux. I remember the first time I read this I thought, okay, they’re both here. Harry is here and the bit of Voldemort’s soul is here. Whatever Harry chooses, if he chooses to go on or he chooses to leave, the one that’s left is the one that’s going to die and be destroyed. And I don’t know if that’s a little bit of a primitive reading of it – that was my first impression – but it still has stuck with me.
Michael: Rowling clarified, too, right? I don’t know if this was something she said in a chat or not, but didn’t she clarify that in her view, this image is meant to be the last remaining piece of Voldemort’s soul?
Caleb: I’m pretty sure that’s right.
Alison: I’ve never heard that before.
Michael: Some people have termed it the eighth Horcrux because it’s his original piece that’s still tethered to life, as Harry is.
Kyla: That would make sense.
Michael: I mean, it’s interesting – like you said, Kyla – to read it as the piece of soul that got disconnected from Harry.
Kyla: But now that you bring that up, what she said, I think we’re going to hit that point here a little bit further on when we talk about the things that Harry and Voldemort share. That might be the reason why he’s seeing it. We’ll get there.
Alison: But why do we think he’s seeing this particular shape? Why do we think it’s taking this kind of strange shape? Does it have to do with their similar childhoods, or is it just because this was the form [that] Harry saw – this corporeal Voldemort in Goblet of Fire – and that’s what he associates it with? Why this kind of flayed child, as she describes it?
Kyla: It’s possible. It also struck me that we’re all children in death. You go to your end and you are what you were, really. And to me that really drove home the point of pity.
Kyla: I don’t know that it would have been as easy for us to pity Voldemort – the state of his soul and what he’s done to himself – had he [been] presented as a grown man, or as he is now. But seeing him mutilated and flayed, helpless, as a child, that really drives home exactly how hopeless his situation is.
Michael: I think that’s exactly it because that answers, Alison, the question you have here about Dumbledore insisting that Harry can’t do anything and Harry being so drawn to help.
Michael: And I think that what Kyla said is exactly it because that last piece is something that Dumbledore has to clarify to Harry so that when he has his final confrontation with Voldemort… with his speech, Harry hits this point.
Kyla: That magnificent line of Harry’s… oh, I love it. Gives me chills every time.
Michael: Yeah. Harry has this knowledge of what Voldemort will become and what Voldemort could have the potential to do if he simply were to feel any drop of remorse. And Dumbledore also makes clear… It was interesting because we were talking… As you said, Kyla, there’s no direct image of [a] Dante’s Inferno-style hell in this world…
Michael: … but Dumbledore kind of insinuates that that is Voldemort’s hell.
Michael: If Voldemort continues to behave the way he does and does not own up to anything in their final confrontation, that’s the rest of his eternity, that little horrible baby thing.
Kyla: And imagine being that for eternity.
Caleb: That’s pretty low living.
Kyla: I think it’s the closest thing you could get to hell in this world.
Alison and Michael: Yeah.
Michael: It’s like Dumbledore said, that there are things worse than death.
Alison: Yeah. And that goes back to that idea of this limbo state as a state of being more than anything.
Michael: And I suppose that’s another reason that image is here in this transitionary space, because that’s also to remind us that that piece of Voldemort can’t go on to whatever lies beyond limbo. It’s stuck there.
Alison: Yeah. Kind of a side note, there’s quite a bit of circle theory going on in this chapter.
Alison: With the epilogue, this chapter actually lines up to “The Seven Potters,” which is interesting because Harry is the seventh Horcrux.
Michael: Seven, seven, seven, seven, seven…
Alison: So [in] this chapter, we’re talking about how Voldemort was split into seven, whereas it lines up to when Harry was in some ways made into seven.
Michael: Huh. Well, I guess if we hadn’t figured it out as readers by “The Seven Potters,” then we were just missing everything entirely.
Kyla: Yeah, at that point she can only beat you over the head so hard.
Alison: Well, someone mentioned what they share, so that’s the next point. Dumbledore goes on this whole thing about their shared blood. He says,
“He took your blood and rebuilt his living body with it! Your blood in his veins, Harry, Lily’s protection inside both of you!”
This really complicates this idea of this blood protection. So if it can keep Harry alive just because it’s in Voldemort, how far does this really extend? I mean, this obviously goes deeper than just Voldemort can’t touch Harry. So how deep is this going, this kind of blood protection?
Kyla: I think there must be limits because I know that Dumbledore says, “His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives so do you.” But at the same time Dumbledore also tells Harry that if he wants to, he can board a train. So I don’t know exactly how far we’re supposed to take that notion that as long as Voldemort has Harry’s blood in him, Harry is tethered to life. I don’t believe that’s the case.
Michael: Well, and how is that affected, too, by the more concrete rule that… as far as the blood link to Petunia breaks at 17.
Michael: So part of this blood protection has already broken because Harry has become a man.
Alison: Yeah, which is actually… without the epilogue, that’s the chapter this lines up to. So I mean, that idea very much works into it of the severing of what Lily’s blood protection creates.
Michael: Well, because this also goes back to this idea [that] is the confirmation of Dumbledore’s gleam of triumph in Goblet, correct?
Michael: Yeah, so this is where he realizes that Harry has a chance to be kept alive.
Michael: I think the text, at least, explains it away by basically having Dumbledore say multiple times that this magic is deep and unexplored. This is maybe even something that can’t necessarily be recreated again.
Kyla: Which is fair. It’s never been done before, so a lot of guess work involved. And it is [a] very convenient authorial hand waving thing, but…
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Kyla: … but if we take the blood in that statement, too, on a symbolic level, really it’s [that] Voldemort took the protection of love and tried to use it as a weapon. And as long as that love survives, Harry survives, and that’s, at a symbolic level, at least, very strong.
Alison and Michael: Yeah.
Michael: As Dumbledore reiterates, and as I think we, the reader, hopefully get by this point, it’s Voldemort’s fundamental misunderstanding of love.
Michael: Yeah. Like you said, Kyla, love is not meant to be used as a weapon. See? And this is why – she left it ambiguous enough, I guess, in her statement – this is why I hate her statement in that one interview where she was like, “Oh, I think in the Love Room in the Ministry, there’s just a fountain of Amortentia.”
Kyla: I prefer to think she just was not thinking on her feet very well that day and didn’t have an answer and so she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
Kyla: But yes, no, head canon: There’s no way that’s a fountain of Amortentia. It’s not so dangerous that you can’t unlock the room. No, there’s something much more dangerous in there. Love, yes, but… ooh. I love thinking about what that could be.
Michael: Yeah, because that ambiguous nature of what’s in that room, I think, also ties into Dumbledore’s statement that this magic is too deep to be researched and explored.
Michael: I think, to me, that was the point of the room not being accessible in Order was part of this lesson.
Kyla: It was the most powerful thing they have.
Michael: Yep, not a fountain of Amortentia.
Alison: Well, we’ve got another quote that is tied into this, complicating this same thing. And it says,
“He took your blood believing it would strengthen him. He took into his body a tiny part of the enchantment your mother laid upon you when she died for you. His body keeps her sacrifice alive and while that enchantment survives, so do you. And so does Voldemort’s one last hope for himself.”
What is Voldemort’s one last hope for himself? How is that tied into Harry and this blood with Lily’s sacrifice in it?
Kyla: “Try for remorse, Riddle. I’ve seen what you’ll become.”
Alison: But how does that tie into this?
Caleb: Oh, no, I totally read this totally differently.
Michael: What did you read it as?
Caleb: So I need to reread this and make sure I’m not misreading it. So give me just a second. [mumbles while reading] So I took it as not remorse, but as Dumbledore speaking to what Voldemort hopes for himself – so selfishly – and that the only way he can really defeat death is by taking down Harry. And as long as Harry is surviving because of this enchantment, that is what is keeping him alive, so that Voldemort can finish him himself.
Kyla: Ooh, I’m going to quibble with you on that one.
Alison: Ooh, interesting.
Kyla: I disagree and it’s a very, very nitpick-y reason why I disagree, so feel free to ignore this.
Kyla: Dumbledore chooses his words very carefully and the word “hope”… I don’t see Voldemort as considering “hope” a word in his own vocabulary.
[Kyla and Michael laugh]
Kyla: A hope for himself? I don’t think Voldemort hopes to stay alive. He is determined to stay alive. He will do whatever it takes to stay alive, but hope; that’s such a positive thing. To me, that’s something that Dumbledore associates with love and salvation, and Voldemort, possibly, by some miracle saving his soul.
Caleb: So I would tend to agree, except I wouldn’t think that Dumbledore… I would think that Voldemort is so past that that Dumbledore wouldn’t even associate that with him. And that, if anything, if that was his choice, he would have said, “Tom Riddle,” instead of Voldemort.
Kyla: I think Dumbledore knows – as we probably do, too – that even if Voldemort at the last moment were to feel some remorse, it would very likely not be enough. And as Hermione said earlier, it can kill you, it’s so painful. I think even he knows that the odds of that happening are extremely slim. But it is there. It is one last hope were he wise enough to take it.
Michael: Yeah, I’m on the same page as Kyla because I feel like if it were what you were describing, Caleb, I feel like Dumbledore would have used the word “desire” instead of “hope.”
Caleb: Hmm, maybe.
Michael: And I’m going along with that, Kyla, too, because I really like the idea of associating hope with positivity because I think to the story of Pandora’s box, and hope is the one good thing that comes out of the box.
Kyla: The thing that’s left, right.
Kyla: Yeah, I don’t believe Voldemort has ever hoped for things. He’s wanted things.
Michael: But he’s desired.
Kyla: He’s desired things.
Alison and Michael: Yeah.
Kyla: But hope? Hope almost implies faith, and then that’s not something Voldemort does.
Michael: Mhm. I think, in a way, whatever Voldemort does at this point, he can’t live.
Kyla: Yeah, no, he can’t.
Michael: Because he’s got no chance. So the one last hope is more of an idea of perhaps…
Kyla: Yeah, it’s not about saving his life. It’s about his soul. It’s about the state of his eternity from here on out.
Michael: Yeah, same thing as soul.
Alison: Yeah, I feel like I’m almost in the middle, actually, [laughs] of those two ideas.
Kyla: It’s because we’re both right.
Alison: Yeah, where it’s [that] if Voldemort had the desire to have remorse, his only chance to have that is for Harry to still be alive.
Michael: Oh, I felt that the desire would perhaps be more in relation with what Caleb was saying; the desire for Voldemort to continue living, I guess, [and] the idea that Voldemort can escape death. That’s his biggest desire because he fears death. So that’s what, I guess, I meant more by if “desire” had been the word instead of “hope.”
Alison: Okay. Speaking of Voldemort, still, [laughs] another quote,
”That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of House-Elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. But they all have a power beyond his own.”
[Alison and Michael laugh]
”Beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.”
Then going off that again,
“If he could only have understood the precise and terrible power of that sacrifice, he would not, perhaps, have dared to touch your blood. But then, if he had been able to understand, he could not be Lord Voldemort and might never have murdered at all.”
And I think it’s very interesting that these are things that Dumbledore brings up. They’re the little things that end up bringing Voldemort down. You’ve got Kreacher’s sacrifice and obedience. We have “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” We have Harry and Lily’s love. All the loyalty that’s going on throughout the series. The kind of innocence we talked in the last chapter, that Harry sees Colin Creevey dead and bringing up that idea of these innocent children being sent into this war zone. Do we think using the word “magic” in relation to those works?
Michael: It works, but it’s not necessary because it all boils down to love, which is not necessarily strictly a magical thing. That’s what’s important about the Harry Potter series, is that for all the magic and the showiness of magic, that’s not what the end goal is, to use magic to finish it, and that’s not the message. It’s the antithesis to that because really, the message is that magic makes more problems than it solves.
Kyla: Possibly because I come from an anti-Potter household, this line has always felt like a little bit of a message that goes beyond the plot as well. It always felt to me like Rowling [was] also nodding to the people she knew very well that thought her books were dangerous, and were misleading youth, and could destroy faith. And I always liked that she put children’s tales in there. That’s what these are. And that kind of person understands nothing of them. That these have such a power beyond what people see – the outer trappings. People who merely saw magic and turned and ran or started burning things. That, to me, always felt like just a little touch from Rowling saying, “Yes, yes, get the point?”
Michael: Well, that’s why I think Harry Potter has… People are now… Let’s see, we are almost… Oh, goodness, what is it? Next year will mark ten years past Deathly Hallows?
Michael: And 20 years past… well, no, 30, because ’97 was the publication of Sorcerer’s Stone.
Alison: That’s 20.
Kyla: I’m going to have to take issue with how you count time because for me it was five years ago. I don’t know about 30 years.
Michael: I’m a film major! I’m an arts major! That’s why I can’t count. But yes, 20 years, and perhaps the people haven’t really… It’s amazing that in really a short span of time people are willing to lump Harry Potter in as a children’s classic, and I don’t take umbrage with that at all because Harry Potter follows in that tradition of what you were just saying, Kyla, with children’s tales. It’s funny that people are so guarded against children’s tales because they have always been intended as a warning and a way to communicate morals.
Kyla: But maybe that’s why: Because deep down, people understand that children’s tales are powerful. I mean, that’s the whole reason that we use them, isn’t it? They’re the stories that we go back to; the first stories that we know and we’re supposed to live our lives by. Like you said, warnings. Maybe that’s why there’s always been such a strong reaction to children’s tales. Because we know very well that they’re extremely powerful.
Kyla: Just me? No? Okay.
Alison: Yeah, yeah, sorry.
Michael: No, I agree, I agree.
Alison: Nothing to say to counteract. Kind of a rough shift, but the final thing they talk about that Harry and Voldemort share are… we go back to the idea of the shared wand cores, really going back to an idea that we thought we had gotten over in Goblet of Fire, I think. I think it feels almost strange. Not strange; it feels like it’s completing the circle to have this come back here. So Dumbledore says that because Harry accepted death, he was able to overcome Voldemort. Why does Dumbledore relate this to the very physical idea of the twin cores? Why does he bring up this point in relation to the fact that they both have a feather from Fawkes in their wands?
Michael: Isn’t it, perhaps, the idea that the feathers in that way are another representation of both the things that tie Voldemort and Harry together and the things that separate them? Simultaneously? Because they both come from the same phoenix, from Fawkes. Fawkes is associated with very positive ideas and light, and yet a part of that is in Voldemort’s wand. So even though it’s a very physical, straightforward idea of, “Oh, these wands share cores,” there’s still layer upon layer of symbolism represented by those cores.
Kyla: Yeah, merely the fact of rebirth should have given everybody a clue right away. [laughs]
Michael: Mhm. Yeah.
Kyla: They’re very hard to kill, phoenixes.
Michael: Well, yeah. And Alison, you’ve got the quote here, and the funny thing is, every time I read this section, this is the part I’m so mad at the movies for making me forget things! Because the movies completely ignore the wand stuff after a point…
Alison and Kyla: Yeah!
Michael: … and this is the big thing that… It’s funny, too because Part 1 includes this moment when Harry and Voldemort’s wands go at it again and Voldemort loses, and the movie never explains why! It’s just like, “Uh, because Harry is Harry and that’s cool.”
Kyla: I think they just imply that they have personalities and leave it at that.
[Kyla and Michael laugh]
Kyla: Like, “Uh, he was having a bad day! What can you do?”
Michael: [laughs] Versus this idea that in that moment in Goblet, the wand took a power from Voldemort’s wand. Because Harry had already become a master of death in that moment almost, perhaps?
Kyla: It also mimics the fact that Voldemort took something out of Harry. Voldemort took Harry’s blood.
Alison and Michael Ahh.
Kyla: I mean, you would think the wands would almost recognize that as almost being the same person!
[Alison and Michael agree]
Kyla: And of course, would not fight against each other. So Voldemort takes Harry’s blood [and] Harry’s wand takes some of Voldemort’s power, really just intermeshing their destinies even more.
Alison: Oh, okay! But here’s my question then. If Harry’s wand, like we’ve been talking about, takes part of Voldemort’s skill, why doesn’t that do the same thing for Voldemort’s? Why doesn’t Voldemort’s wand take anything from Harry?
Kyla: Because Harry is not that skilled.
Kyla: I mean, really, what could Voldemort’s wand take from Harry? Voldemort has already taken – he’s tried to take – Harry’s defining feature, which is the love that he has from his mother, and the love that is his protection. He’s already taken that. That’s all he could take from Harry. Harry’s skill does not even begin to match Voldemort’s so he certainly wouldn’t take that. But the one thing that Harry could take from Voldemort would be skill, which makes a lot of sense.
Alison: But what Dumbledore says is, “Your wand now contained the power of your enormous courage and of Voldemort’s own deadly skill.”
Michael: Why didn’t Voldemort’s wand take any courage from Harry?
Alison: Well, yeah, but why didn’t it take anything related to courage, maybe. Because I mean, I understand that those aren’t necessarily on par with each other. But why was there no exchange?
Kyla: I know that we feel that courage is a positive thing, but I don’t think that Voldemort is lacking in that. He certainly isn’t lacking in daring. I mean, I really do think that that exchange is one way because Voldemort took Harry’s blood, which is also one way. So the two balance each other out.
Michael: It could also potentially be because Voldemort attacked first, too.
Kyla: Very possible.
Kyla: That little light beam tug-of-war thing.
Michael: Yeah! That’s the other thing that’s kind of pushed – and we’ll see it in the final encounter – that Voldemort casts to kill and Harry casts to disarm…
Michael: … which is also a really important thing.
Kyla: Hugely significant.
Michael: Mhm. That Harry never shoots to kill is, I think, important perhaps in this exchange, too. Because I always just gained from this passage that Dumbledore is basically saying, “You got something because you’re good, and Voldemort didn’t get anything because he’s bad.”
Michael: But in more eloquent terms, I do think it has something to do with the intent.
Kyla: But that’s the irony of it, isn’t it? I mean, Voldemort did take something good from Harry. He took his mother’s love and his blood but, being Voldemort, knew nothing about what he was taking and therefore had no idea what he was doing or had no idea how to value it.
Michael: And did so forcefully!
Kyla: Precisely. Again, trying to use love as a weapon…
Kyla: … because he fundamentally misunderstands it.
Alison: What we get next is kind of this… we touched on this earlier, that Harry and Dumbledore have this very interesting relationship in this scene. So before Half-Blood Prince, we have that point in the beginning of Half-Blood Prince where Harry says he feels weird because he’s never really seen Dumbledore except for behind a desk. And it seems that at this point they’ve crossed another boundary as well. Starting off with Dumbledore saying, “Harry, you wonderful boy. You brave, brave man.” So he elevates Harry’s status from… he’s gone from, “this pupil, really far apart, they’re separated by a desk,” to, “they’re not quite as separated, but it’s still almost mentor and mentee,” and now they’re both men, side by side.
Michael: That’s such a fatherly thing, though, to say, too, because Dumbledore simultaneously sees Harry as a boy and a man.
Kyla: To me, this scene always felt like the completion of Harry’s journey as a hero. Even though I know that he has to go back and he still has to get rid of Voldemort and everything, but to me that always felt like denouement more than climax to me. This always felt like the moment where Harry has done it. He’s done what he needed to do. He’s become the master of death, he has regained control of his own destiny, it’s all smooth sailing from here. I mean… [laughs] And I realize that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but I could see why this would be the moment where Dumbledore grants him that status of, “You are a man. You’ve done it.”
Alison: Speaking of Harry evolving – which makes him sound like a Pokémon, but he’s not…
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Alison: … so he says, “Everything was as he remembered it.” So Dumbledore just hasn’t changed to Harry’s view, but Harry seems to be reborn. Why is Dumbledore not more reborn?
Kyla: Because this is Harry’s party. This is about what Harry wants and needs, and he sees Dumbledore as the man that he loved and respected and admired, as he was. Just brought back.
Caleb: Right, and I think that this shows that this is a very different representation of whatever Dumbledore is versus what we saw in the previous chapter with his parents, Lupin, and Sirius because Dumbledore, I would think, wouldn’t want him to be himself like this. Maybe he would, but I still think the fact that there [are] all these references to “this is your party” and everything else, this is Harry seeing him how he last saw him.
Michael: Yeah, no, I think the perfect evidence… I think there [are] two major pieces of evidence, Caleb, like you said: One from what we saw in the previous chapter because as Harry notices, Sirius and Lupin seem to have personally elected to come back as their younger selves, not as Harry last saw them. And here Dumbledore, the only thing that has changed is that his hands are okay. But the other thing is that Harry can touch Dumbledore here.
Michael: And he can’t physically connect with his parents, or with Lupin or Sirius when he sees them.
Alison: But does that have to do more with what Dumbledore is, or what Harry is at this moment? Because I always got the feeling…
Kyla: I think that speaks to Harry.
Michael: Yeah. Because like everybody’s saying, it’s his party.
Kyla: He’ll see Dumbledore if he wants to!
Michael: Yeah. I mean, it makes sense. Why wouldn’t he want…? At this point, Dumbledore is the person he needs to talk to, and Harry even… When Harry gets to see Dumbledore for the first time as a young man in Rita’s book, Harry is just like, “What?” Harry never has pictured Dumbledore as young. He met him as an old man and he has always pictured him as an old man.
Kyla: That’s a good point.
Alison: Okay. Speaking of a young Dumbledore, we get the backstory of Dumbledore and Grindelwald from Dumbledore’s own mouth. He really says they were drawn together through the Hallows, through their obsession with the Hallows, and how they each had their own plan. And I’m going to go back to this a little bit – Dumbledore and the Hallows is going to come up a little bit later – but Dumbledore says he simply looked away from what he knew Grindelwald wanted to do with these. And this may take us down a strange tangent, but since we were talking about what the Resurrection Stone creates, what it brings back, last week, do we think the Stone could have really created an army of Inferi, or is that a total misunderstanding of what the Stone’s purpose is and what the Stone does?
Kyla: Total misunderstanding. And that’s the point.
Kyla: The point is that these young men fundamentally misunderstand what the Hallows should be and how they should be used. And I know Dumbledore says, “Neither of us really think about the Resurrection Stone,” because Dumbledore misinterpreted it as well. He said to him it meant the return of his parents and lifting of all responsibility from his shoulders, which is not how the Resurrection Stone works, either. They both fundamentally misunderstand how it works and what its purpose is, which is why neither of them is worthy to have the Hallows.
Michael: Yeah, I agree. I think that even if… because one, Inferi are not souls.
Caleb: They’re a totally different thing.
Michael: They’re bodies. And Dumbledore makes that distinction very clear at the end of Half-Blood Prince. I don’t know; now, there’s a possibility perhaps that Grindelwald had some… because we know, too, that Grindelwald was booted out of Durmstrang because he was experimenting with magic that he shouldn’t have been. And I think, listeners… funny comparison, but that passage about Grindelwald always reminds me of Kingdom Hearts, if you’ve ever played it. It’s an excellent Disney game with lots of original characters thrown in, but there’s an idea that there are individuals in that story who experiment with removing hearts and souls from the body and the horrific consequences that come from that. And I think that what Grindelwald had in mind was probably to try and reinsert souls into bodies.
Michael: He was probably trying to tamper with that in a very unethical way, to basically make something that was like an Inferi. But I think eventually, even if he had succeeded, I think at some point that would have all come crashing down against him. Maybe not immediately, but I think it would have eventually turned against him because that’s just what the Stone does if you use it wrong.
Alison: So going off this idea of Dumbledore feeling responsible for looking away, he tells Harry he thinks he should despise him. Should Harry despise him? Because of Dumbledore’s resentment, or his need to take care of his family and the mistakes he made regarding Ariana and Aberforth? Or is this statement just more showing us how much guilt Dumbledore still has, even at this point?
Kyla: I believe it is his guilt.
Alison: Is there any validity?
Kyla: I don’t think so. I think at this point, it’s especially significant that this conversation happens here. If we’re in a space where Harry can look at Voldemort’s soul from a distance and feel pity, then I think we are in a space where Harry can see Dumbledore and not despise him for being human and being imperfect and making mistakes. I feel like this is Dumbledore feeling guilty, especially in comparison to Harry, who he knows is so much better of a person than he is. And he’s ashamed of himself, and he doesn’t like that Harry saw that side of him. I don’t think that Harry despises him at all, or that he should.
Caleb: Yeah, and I think… especially because the background of the whole book has been Harry struggling with how he feels about what Dumbledore has done as he learns more and more, and in the previous chapter he’s finally come to terms with it as he wakes up in Dumbledore’s office and he eventually makes his way to the forest. He’s already moved past this, and I think the bigger issue for Harry wasn’t what Dumbledore did – or that’s earlier in the book, it’s a bigger issue – but more toward the end it is about how… what Harry’s role was and how little Harry knew about it. He’s come to terms with that now.
Caleb: So yeah, I don’t think he harbors any of this resentment. And for Dumbledore, it’s bordering on a level of catharsis to be able to get it out in a way that has probably been bothering him for a very long time with Harry in his presence. And also this is a lot of layers going on here, because this is Harry’s vision envisioning Dumbledore in this way. So what level of “real” that is and what that means is complicated, but I think it’s much more the latter.
Michael: Yeah, I don’t think… I think we’ve rooted out, especially in the Snape discussion, potential reasons to resent or despise Dumbledore. But the stuff with Ariana and Aberforth would not be the reasons for that, anyway. I think that is purely Dumbledore’s guilt because… and that’s always been an important point for me about Dumbledore, and I mentioned this more extensively on the Ariana episode. But in Dumbledore’s particular case, the idea of being in a family with an individual with a disability and simultaneously having this want and need to care for your family but also having this want and need to have your own life is a struggle that many a sibling and parent and relative faces in that situation. And I’ll tell you right now, everybody in that situation feels awful and guilty for even feeling that way.
Michael: So I think this is purely Dumbledore’s guilt. And as you said, Caleb, I think excellently, this is more Dumbledore’s cathartic moment. He has never [gotten] to do this in life, the idea that he has somebody to talk to and finally get this out of himself is very important for him. Because why would Harry resent Dumbledore for Ariana and Aberforth? He knows the truth by this point. He knows the full truth of that, and in the end that’s not really… there are so many other things, like I said, that Harry could resent Dumbledore for, [laughs] and I can’t see this being one of those things.
Alison: So going off this idea of… it sounds like we’re almost saying Dumbledore projected his own guilt and how he was almost feeling about himself onto how he thought Harry should be feeling about himself, but he also seems to be projecting this fear of the truth. He talks about how he was afraid to face Grindelwald because he didn’t know who had actually killed Ariana. So is Dumbledore’s fear of the truth a reason he really withheld a lot from Harry by not telling him all of the plan?
Caleb: I don’t… I think it’s a little different. I think there are some similarities, but… this comes up some in this chapter and I think in the last couple of chapters, but it was really important for Harry… well, he mentions here – I think you have it coming up in the notes – that he counted on Hermione to slow Harry down…
Caleb: … and that was really important, for Harry to figure this out gradually. He was worried that Harry may make some of the same mistakes that he made and just that the plan wouldn’t have been carried out to its full end, the way it needed to. So I don’t think that’s the same thing as Dumbledore’s own fear. I think that was just truly feeling and weighing the options [and] weighing the possibility of telling Harry, and that it wasn’t for the best for the sake of the plan.
Kyla: If anything, I think Dumbledore has learned the power of truth, and I can’t remember if I’m remembering this correctly, but I feel like at one point in the series he says a line: “Truth is a great and terrible thing and, as such, should be treated with caution.”
Kyla: I don’t believe he was projecting his own fear onto Harry but I do think his own experiences taught him that truth is powerful and one must treat it carefully. And then, of course, there’s also grand tradition; I mean, again going back to the religious parallels about this notion that people get truth revealed in stages as the light gradually gets brighter as their understanding gets brighter, but that they must come to that understanding themselves. I mean, if that wasn’t the way that he wanted it to play out, why didn’t God just say, “Okay, look, here [are] the answers. Here’s what you do. That’s it,” rather than speaking in… giving prophecies and riddles and stories to live by. It all seems very roundabout, but that’s part of that journey, I guess, of understanding truth, and that’s maybe why Rowling has Harry follow a similar path because that’s a lot of the way that we understand truth to function.
Michael: I think it’s a really good question, Alison, because I feel like this is one of those many points where, potentially, you could compare Snape and Dumbledore because Snape’s fear of sharing the truth about his feelings for Lily is what complicates that part of the plan. And potentially, the idea that Dumbledore not sharing things about himself complicates the plan, too. I think more in Dumbledore’s… what happens with Dumbledore’s backstory is that it’s not quite as directly relevant to Harry’s journey. It enlightens Harry more but it’s not quite as integral, perhaps – or at least, Dumbledore didn’t think it was – as Snape’s. And as for all the excuses I think that were given for Snape and his past, the excuse for Dumbledore that Aberforth presents as both potential excuse and a cop-out is that Dumbledore learned to be secretive from their mother and that… and again, that’s another thing that attaches to a lot of families with disabilities. I’ve told you all a lot, listeners, on the show, about my family life but I haven’t even told you the half of it and most of those truths are not things you would be interested [in] or want to hear. They would make you uncomfortable, and that’s also an issue with families with disabilities is they’re very secretive because their lives aren’t considered to be the normal life. You’ll grow up and realize – don’t worry, all you families out there – that nobody has a normal life. But I think that’s a piece of Dumbledore, too; [it] is a big issue there for him that makes his past more complicated and his issue with truth more complicated.
Alison: So speaking of Dumbledore’s plan, Harry asks, “Why did you make it so difficult?” and we break it down into a couple things that have to deal with this plan. How did he think Hermione was going to slow Harry down? He knows Harry is very… I mean, he uses the word “hot-headed”; he knows Harry just goes and does things. How did he think Hermione was going to slow Harry down enough that he might not find these, the Hallows?
Michael: Because she does it every year.
Michael: And I say that with love and affection.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Michael: And I say that with total love and affection for Hermione, but… and in many ways, she does it in a positive way. I mean, let’s see… I’m not thinking… [in] Sorcerer’s Stone she does it more in an immature way, where she hasn’t fully developed, where she’s just going by the rules. By Prisoner she’s doing it for Harry’s safety with the broomstick, in Order she’s doing it to keep Harry safe again, [in] Half-Blood she’s warning him throughout the whole year to keep him safe. Hermione always does these things to keep Harry safe, really, in the end, I guess. She has the…
Kyla: And she really tries to keep him from running off to the Ministry in [Book] 5.
Michael: [laughs] All the time. Yes, well, she… in general, her concern is Harry’s safety and she thinks that way because she thinks more practically than Harry. She doesn’t let her heart lead first. And if we go with the idea that Dumbledore has some kind of omnipotence and knows about all of these things, I guess that’s where he gathers that information from.
Michael: Why, what did you think it was, Alison? Why did you…?
Alison: Oh, no. I just was wondering how he thought that would… I always get the feeling that despite everything Hermione does, Harry does what he wants to anyway. [laughs] And so I was just wondering how Dumbledore thought that would play out in a way that was actually…
Kyla: I think that’s why he said he counted on Hermione to slow him down, not to stop him.
Alison: That’s a good point.
Michael: Mhm. To give him the time to learn his lessons and internalize the information.
Alison: So when does Harry then make that switch? Dumbledore says his hot head might dominate his good heart, but obviously, by this point Harry has processed enough that he can… he is the Master of the Hallows; he does have this Master of Death idea that Dumbledore was afraid to give him the information for. When does that change? Can we pin down the moment when that changes?
Kyla: I think it’s when he’s burying Dobby. It’s when he makes the choice. He has been consumed by this fever – which is almost the definition of a hot head – upon finding out about the Hallows, consumed by the thought of finding them, and then he has to make a choice and it’s described as he’s feeling very clear and he has to choose: Do you pursue the Hallows to save your own life or do you go after the Horcruxes to stop Voldemort? Stopping Voldemort via the Horcruxes is the good-hearted decision because it’s not just about you, and Harry makes that choice. So I think when he makes that choice, that is when we see Harry finally conquer his own hot-headedness because he has decided to focus on – as to borrow a very loaded phrase from Dumbledore – the greater good. And so it’s his just reward that he ends up the Master of the Hallows anyway, simply… I mean, by virtue of the fact that he chose to give them up.
Alison: That’s what I think, too.
Michael: Yeah, I’m going to also put in my vote for Shell Cottage, too. I think we discussed that when we were in that chapter. I think we really pulled apart Harry’s reflections after Dobby’s death and why that leads to him picking the Horcruxes over the Hallows. So I would… I think there’s easily other parts that you could argue for this but I, personally, would go with that moment.
Alison: That’s what I would go with, too. [laughs] I just didn’t know if anyone else had any ideas. But the last point that’s really brought up about this plan is they talk about [how] Snape was supposed to end up with the Wand, so why plan on having Snape end up with the Elder Wand? Why not plan for Harry to have it? Was Dumbledore thinking [that] had Snape gotten it from Dumbledore, Harry would’ve had to defeat Snape to unite the Hallows? So why would Dumbledore plan that?
Kyla: Well, are we absolutely sure that it was always Dumbledore’s purpose for Harry to unite the Hallows?
Michael: Yeah, I actually thought – and I could be wrong, so listeners, do not hold me to this because I have not reread “The Flaw in the Plan” recently yet – but I want to say that I thought Dumbledore’s plan was because Snape would be giving Dumbledore a merciful death that they would have planned it, that the idea there was that the wand’s power ended there. Snape didn’t defeat Dumbledore; he helped him to die so the wand died.
Alison: So why bring up the Hallows at all?
Kyla: Because he knew that Harry might need them, I think.
Alison: But if he thought the power of the Wand was going to be gone, that makes it a moot point.
Michael: Yeah, that’s the part that I’m confused on as I’m not sure what he… I guess what he figured was that Voldemort would be mortal and therefore easy to kill, so that he wouldn’t necessarily need the wand to do it. Because I guess in theory he could have.
Caleb: Right, because if the Horcrux [were] destroyed, then there would be other ways to take care of him.
Kyla: I’m going to go out on a limb here: I don’t think that Dumbledore meant for Harry to unite the Hallows.
Michael: Oh, I’m sure he didn’t.
Kyla: I think he meant for him to know what they were. And we know that he intended him to have the Resurrection Stone because Dumbledore knew that Harry would have to die and he wanted to aid him in his journey to that to help him accept death. But the Cloak, yes, that rightfully belonged to Harry, and he gave him the Stone. But I also think Dumbledore wanted Harry to know and to make the choice.
Alison: But he couldn’t make the choice if the Wand’s power was gone. There would be no choice because there would be no Hallows. So what…
Kyla: But Harry wouldn’t know that when he made the choice. The importance is what choice Harry makes, not the end result.
Alison: Okay. I can see that.
Michael: That’s hard because I think … part of the flaw in the plan is that Malfoy wasn’t supposed to disarm Dumbledore; that was not something Dumbledore foresaw. And then of course the really bizarre rule where it’s like, Harry and Malfoy had a slappy fight and then that means that Harry is the owner of the Wand now.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Kyla: Well, and maybe that’s back to your point, Alison, about his fear that Dumbledore said that he didn’t want Harry to fail as he had failed. He wanted him to know and he wanted him to succeed, but maybe there was always that bit of fear that Harry would fail in the ways that he failed, and thus the idea of letting the Wand’s power die so that no one could have it.
Michael: Which Dumbledore makes clear was a misplaced fear of his.
Kyla: It was, he admits that.
Kyla: He asks for Harry’s forgiveness for not recognizing that Harry is the superior man.
Alison: So yeah, you bring up that quote of Dumbledore asking for forgiveness for not trusting. Which moves us into our next point about the Hallows – I guess these all tie together – but Dumbledore says he wasn’t afraid of death or what Grindelwald could do to him magically, and his reasoning… I guess what I’m confused about here is [that] I see a lot of parallels between Dumbledore’s reasoning for acquiring at least the Wand and the Stone that line up to Harry’s, so why is he unworthy of them? He wins the Wand to protect the world from Grindelwald; Harry disarms Draco to protect his friends in Malfoy Manor. Dumbledore wants the Stone to apologize to his parents and Ariana for everything he’s done; Harry uses it to apologize to Lupin, to Sirius, his parents, to be able to see them and have closure with that. So at least [with] the Cloak, this leads to one question: Under what circumstances could Dumbledore have gotten that worthily? Could Dumbledore have ever really become the master of the Hallows?
Alison: Is there any possibility?
Kyla: No. I know the answer to this, I know the answer to this! I’m so excited!
Kyla: Okay, the difference is [between] selfishness and intent, so I’m going to take your three points one at a time. You say Dumbledore wins the Wand to protect the world from Grindelwald. That is true. He also knows when he’s going in that Grindelwald has the Elder Wand; he knows what it is that he’s taking away from Grindelwald. Harry disarms Draco to protect his friends. He never goes after the wand with the knowledge that that is what he’s going after per se. He doesn’t disarm Draco with the additional knowledge that, “Yes, I will stop him, and I will also have the Elder Wand.”
Alison: But that doesn’t mean that Dumbledore’s motivation was to win the Elder Wand.
Kyla: No, but that knowledge and that understanding of what he now has is there and he keeps it. He takes the Elder Wand from Grindelwald, he puts his stop to the threat, and then he keeps it and he benefits from it from thereon afterwards. And I don’t want to say that this is necessarily wrong, but there is an element of, “Yes, I’m helping others, but also me,” in a very small way. Now, the second one even more so: You say he wants to use the Stone to apologize to his parents and Ariana. That is a noble thing but it is also to assuage his own guilt, which again is more selfish of a use than Harry[‘s] to simply aid him in facing death. And then the Cloak; Dumbledore takes the Cloak – borrows the Cloak from James – because he realizes what it is and wants to look at it, which again speaks to his desire to have the Hallows. And even when Dumbledore finds the Stone as the ring and he seizes it without thinking, even that speaks to his inability to have the Hallows because he loses sight of the end goal. He forgets that it’s a Horcrux and that’s huge! Because the end goal is to stop Voldemort – that would be the selfless thing to do – but he loses that for just a second and he thinks of himself, and he takes it and he wants to see his sister and his family again to apologize, to assuage his guilt. That is why he could not unite the Hallows. There is that undercurrent just enough, but enough, whereas Harry’s use of them is selfless.
Michael: Once again, I see a potential parallel between Dumbledore and Snape. And Alison, I think this touches on something I know you wanted to discuss a lot about Snape: the word greed…
Michael: … in terms of how Snape looks at Lily. And to me, I feel that… and Kyla, you perfectly summarized it and I feel that the way that Dumbledore admits it is that he looks upon the Deathly Hallows… no matter what he knows about them and their dangers and the consequences, throughout all his years he looks at them greedily, no matter how he even uses them.
Kyla: Yeah, and to me that moment where he forgets that it’s a Horcrux is so huge because that parallels Harry’s own choice of “Hallows or Horcruxes? Hallows or Horcruxes?” And [when] Harry has to choose to focus on Horcruxes, he makes the right decision. When faced with that decision, Dumbledore fails. He chooses Hallows and it kills him.
Michael: Mhm. Yeah, I think that… because Alison, I really liked the comparisons you drew between how Harry and Dumbledore use the Hallows, and I think there’s some fair contention in there. But I kind of side with Kyla, especially… the one that really made me question it the most was how the Stone is used. But even though Harry has that opportunity to apologize to Lupin and Sirius, I don’t think he uses them in a… he’s not looking to apologize. That just happens to be a benefit of seeing them there.
Kyla: Yeah, absolutely.
Michael: It’s more just… as was pointed out by our comments earlier, that they’re welcoming him to death. Dumbledore is not looking for Ariana and his parents to welcome him to death.
Kyla: He wants something back from them.
Michael: Yeah. In life, yeah.
Alison: Okay, I can see that.
Kyla: That was fun.
Caleb: You had thought a lot about that, it seems like, Kyla. You were ready for that one.
Kyla: I have thought about it, but Dumbledore…
Michael: Bang, bang!
Kyla: … I get Dumbledore. I can’t say I sympathize with him, but he’s always been the character that I felt like I understood more than any other. So yeah, I love this topic and I love this chapter. I’m so glad I got it!
Alison: Well, to wrap up this chapter, our last point is this question: To go on or to go back? So Harry says, “I’ve got to go back, haven’t I?” and Dumbledore responds, “That is up to you,” and Harry questions, “I’ve got a choice?” Does Harry have a choice or is this a little bit more like the Prophecy? Like the choices he has [is] because of the Prophecy where we had that whole debacle of “Harry can choose not to fight, even though Voldemort followed the Prophecy, but he kind of still has to because Voldemort followed the Prophecy.” Is there really much of a choice here?
Kyla: Yeah, I think so.
Michael: I think there’s still a choice, and I think, Alison, that’s an excellent comparison of the Prophecy choice. The part of the Prophecy choice [comes] from Half-Blood, where Dumbledore basically says, “Oh, you can choose to not follow the Prophecy, but you won’t because you are who you are.”
Kyla: Yeah. This is a similar dilemma, isn’t it? To not go back would be a bit of a selfish choice. He’s safe, right? He’s safe and fine and intact, and he could go on and not have to worry about anything. Or he could go back, risk his life again, try to save others, [and] possibly die an even worse death; the selfless choice, in other words.
Michael: Yeah. So it’s a choice and it is a Prophecy choice, but in the way that, I think… by this point, wouldn’t we all have been surprised if Harry [were] just like, [as Harry] “All right, show me the way to the afterlife. I am so ready for this!” [back to normal voice] It wouldn’t fit at all.
Kyla: No, he would never put himself first over the fate of everyone else that he cared about that way.
Alison: Oh, sorry. I thought Caleb was going to say something. Just kidding!
Caleb: No, I really don’t have anything to add for that.
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Alison: Okay. So to convince him or push him [in] that direction, Dumbledore says, “By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart.” Is Dumbledore saying that people are going to have maimed souls from fighting this war?
Kyla: Well, if they kill somebody…
Alison: I feel like this is what he’s getting to, but how does that connect to, for example, when he tells Snape only he knows if his soul will be damaged by giving Dumbledore this merciful death? What are the implications of this idea that Dumbledore is basically saying, “There’s a war so everyone is going to have messed up souls for a while”?
Michael: [laughs] That’s war.
Kyla: Yeah, that is. And that is an interesting question because that implies that you may fight a war for the right reasons, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are committing murder. And your ideals may be noble and your reasons may be pure, but you are still killing people, whereas Dumbledore is embracing death himself. He is making the decision to end his life. He is just asking Snape to help him, so that’s very different.
Michael: There’s a simultaneously great and horrific example of that in the previous chapter in that little moment when Harry passes Ginny and she’s trying to comfort that student who wants to go home. And that idea that this poor student has probably seen a lot of horrible ish that night and she won’t be the same again, and she’s meant to be, I think, a picture for that as a whole.
Michael: I’m sure the listeners know that if you want a story that focuses more on that, read the Hunger Games trilogy.
Kyla: Yeah. Well, I feel like that goes back to Rowling’s larger point about war, as well, that the only true virtue is really in stopping this sort of thing [and] in stopping people from trying to harm each other and to fight against each other, and the damage that war does. I mean, Harry is an orphan because of war. All of this happens because of war. So Harry is committing, really, the ultimate virtue in putting a stop to it.
Michael: I also thought that there was perhaps an implication… I don’t know for sure, but as we see in the next chapter – because Harry does what he does – by having sacrificed himself, he effectively performed Lily’s sacrifice.
Michael: And as he points out to Voldemort, his sacrifice shields any more people from dying.
Kyla: Ransom sacrifice, anyone?
Michael: [laughs] So yeah, I was wondering if that’s also what Dumbledore was saying. But also, again, not necessarily telling Harry flat-out because there is still a necessary element of being unaware of what you’ve done that makes it noble.
Kyla: Yeah. Ooh, definitely.
Michael: Yeah, I think that’s why… I always assumed that’s what that line meant.
Kyla: That’s a really nice point.
Michael: Only because Harry brings it up straightforward to Voldemort at the end.
Kyla: He does. He throws it at him and that’s a beautiful thing.
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Kyla: And again, very religious, of course.
Alison: Yeah. So the second half of this statement: He says, “Fewer families will be torn apart,” which we could take as the obvious [that] people won’t be dying anymore and so families won’t be torn more apart. But that very much seems to be a theme that ran throughout: This idea that Grindelwald was an evil wizard who was followed by the cycle of Voldemort as the evil wizard. Do we think Dumbledore thinks that cycle is going to continue and maybe if Harry is back he can help keep that at bay a little bit?
Michael: Ah, the classical warning of history repeats itself, right?
Caleb: I don’t know if… I hadn’t even really thought about Dumbledore thinking beyond the urgent need of dealing with this right now. I don’t know if he can really think beyond that. Maybe he does just generally, but I hadn’t really ever thought of him thinking beyond really dealing with it more than this.
Michael: I never thought of it that way, either, but the reason I really like that idea, Alison, is because, as we know, the last line of Deathly Hallows is, “All was well.” And Rowling has discussed further that that line is meant to mean, “Yeah, there is peace in the wizarding world. There will always be unrest to some degree but Harry managed to achieve a really prosperous, perhaps long, state of peace.”
Kyla: He has restored balance to the Force.
Michael: Yes, that, too. [laughs] All of those good things. Again, that’s why I’m cautious about Cursed Child.
Kyla: Yeah, I have the same reservations. We’ll see.
Caleb: Yeah, I’m super nervous about this.
Alison: Yeah, I am, too. [laughs]
Michael: Well, just the idea that “All is well,” and obviously, all isn’t well if you’re going to do a whole two part play…
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Michael: … about the past colliding with the present, and the psychological issues of what everybody is going through afterward.
Kyla: Maybe she’s forcing us to confront our own limitations. We love our savior narratives.
Kyla: And we all love that he comes in and he saves the day, and there will be peace and prosperity for eternity. And maybe she’s saying, “People, history repeats itself. I’m going to take your happy ending and I will do that to it.” I don’t know. Who knows?
[Alison and Michael laugh]
Alison: “You get 30 years.” [laughs]
Kyla: Oh, evil.
Michael: That’s what’s so bizarre about the choice to me because that’s what sets Harry Potter apart, for me, from, say, Lord of the Rings.
Kyla: From everything, yeah.
Michael: Well, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, even to some degree His Dark Materials, [and] The Hunger Games, especially. These series that really don’t give their characters…
Michael: … the ideal, perfect, happy ending of a full family and peace, yeah. There’s this lingering unrest for all of the characters from those series. Spoiler alert for Narnia: They all die at the end. [laughs]
Michael: Everybody dies except for Susan. It’s a pretty warped ending. Yeah, nobody really achieves… Frodo doesn’t achieve full peace returning to the Shire, so much so that he has to go on because of how war has affected him. Again, that’s why I’m not sure about Cursed Child. But I think that’s possible that Dumbledore is thinking that far ahead, only because of the last line of Deathly Hallows.
Alison: So as we round this out, one of the last things Harry thinks is, “Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been, but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss.” Why is this easier than going in thinking you’re going to die? [laughs]
Caleb: Well, because he died, right?
Kyla: Yeah, and now he knows what awaits him on the other side even if he does die again.
Alison: Oh, that’s a good point I hadn’t thought of; that it’s more a fear of the unknown than…
Kyla: Yeah, that fear is gone. He has seen what’s on the other side and it’s okay.
Caleb: And I don’t think anything can really be as bad as… because he obviously didn’t know he was going to, in a way, survive when he walked to the forest. He had to come to terms with a lot of crap as we discussed last week. That’s just the ultimate walk.
Michael: Well, and finally, I think while Harry has grown in an immense way and learned a lot about himself that allowed him to walk into the forest, he can walk out of the forest now because even in the previous books, Harry mocks Dumbledore’s belief that love will save the day because he feels it’s a very cliché mantra that doesn’t really mean anything. And Harry can now walk away, walk back into life, knowing that, actually, love is truly the weapon he has. That’s one of my favorite lines from Dumbledore. The, “Do not pity the dead. Pity the living, and those who live without love.”
That’s the message. Harry can go back to life knowing that he has love and he is loved by both people living and dead, and that’s what will carry him through.
Alison: So speaking of Dumbledore lines, to round out this chapter we’re going to ask the question everyone has been asking. [laughs] Is it real, is it in his head, and does it even matter?
Michael: Nope, doesn’t matter.
Kyla: Agreed. Agreed.
Michael: [laughs] Doesn’t matter because that’s what Dumbledore’s line means.
Caleb: Yeah. I want to know how long… I’m sorry, Michael, I didn’t mean to cut you off there.
Michael: No, no, not at all.
Caleb: I had a thought that just popped into my head and it just spilled out. But I wonder how long it took Jo to craft this line, or if it was just an instantaneous moment of genius.
Kyla: Well, and this line’s about us, too, isn’t it? So much of this – a lot of this book – is her farewell, as well. If Jo considers herself on the par with Dumbledore, then she’s reassuring us, too. Of course it’s in your head, but why should that mean that it’s not real? We’re having to come to terms with the fact that our series is ending. This is almost over, and we’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that there are no more Harry Potter books, and it’s done. I felt like it’s not just about Harry. She’s telling us, too, it’s okay. Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Michael: Well, this is the other very strong, spiritual, and religious parallel: Dumbledore is summarizing what faith is. It doesn’t really… There’s an element where you may know that there [are] things out there that we can’t see or that we can’t fully understand, but that doesn’t make them invaluable to the human experience. So the whole chapter, Dumbledore has spent talking about love. Love is not a tangible thing. Love is not something you can necessarily summarize easily, but it doesn’t make it not real. So there’s a lot of more large philosophical concepts going on here that you have to suspend disbelief for anyway.
Alison: And with that, we will end this chapter, as Harry heads back to the forest to face his final battle.
Michael: There you go, listeners, you graduated Philosophy 101!
Michael: You don’t even have to take the class. [laughs] We covered it all for you just in one chapter of Harry Potter. But even with that, there are still questions left. I think there are actually lots and lots of questions left about this chapter. And I had quite a few that I wanted to use for Podcast Question, but this is the one that I ended up touching upon because I think it’s really important to carry over from last week because actually, we did have a few listeners who said, for this chapter, they said, “Make sure to get some people on this discussion who don’t like Dumbledore, so that this isn’t a Dumbledore love-fest,” like what happened on the other side with Snape.
Caleb: I think we’ve spent plenty of time criticizing Dumbledore through this entire show.
Alison: Yeah, I do, too! [laughs]
Michael: I think we took him apart really well but I think it’s…
Michael: What I want to ask here is actually putting Dumbledore next to Snape in that context. So my question is, “Following Snape’s memories speaking on his behalf, Dumbledore is also permitted an opportunity to explain his actions. In the end, these two characters reveal complicated, layered characterizations that place them both in morally gray spaces, often causing fans to have split opinions on the two. So why do some readers react more positively to Dumbledore than to Snape and vice versa? What is it about the two of them that, in Harry’s eyes, places them on even, admirable ground, as evidenced by the naming of his son, Albus Severus Potter?” So listeners, head over to alohomora.mugglenet.com and maybe you can weed out why the fandom has such huge debates between Snape and Dumbledore.
Caleb: It’s a great question. I’m really looking forward to this.
Michael: Oh, boy.
Caleb: Especially the “vice versa” part. Because I know there’s a…
Caleb: Readers in general I think may – not speaking specifically of our readers, but just general readers – easily fall into certain categories, but I think our readers are so introspective and profound that we’re going to get some good stuff.
Caleb: But we want to thank Kyla for joining us this week. Kyla, you contributed so many great thoughts, and it’s so great to have such well-spoken… unlike me in this moment for some reason…
Caleb: … people who have such great thoughts toward the end of the book as we finish the series. So thanks for joining us this week.
Kyla: Yay, thank you for having me! It was a blast.
Michael: You proved your Ravenclaw mettle very well.
Michael: [laughs] I don’t think you need to do that third Sorting on Pottermore. I think we know where we’re going to put you. [laughs]
Kyla: Oh, I’ll live with it. I have a phoenix feather core wand. I’m good.
Michael: Perfect! So go buy that blue and bronze merchandise.
Michael: Well, it’s blue and silver, so… oh, well. But listeners, if you would like to come on and prove your house mettle – be it Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff, or a combination of any of those – we would love for you to be on the show, but not for Hallows because that’s full. Too bad. So sorry. But there have been details released on our after-Hallows plans, just freshly released. We have a video of that up online over at alohomora.mugglenet.com, and we want you to start submitting topics on that page on the main site for us to be discussing in these future episodes, but we also still want to be inviting guests onto each show. So if you’ve got a set of headphones as well as a microphone, or maybe headphones with a built-in mic, or a mic on your computer, as well as recording equipment on your computer, some kind of recording software, you are all set. We do not require anything fancy for you to be on the show. And to find out more details on that, go to alohomora.mugglenet.com.
Alison: And if you want to stay in contact with us, you can find us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN, on Facebook at facebook.com/openthedumbledore, [and] Instagram at @alohomoramn. Our website, of course, is alohomora.mugglenet.com, where you can download our ringtone for free or send us an audioBoom for free as well.
Caleb: And as we’ve mentioned earlier in the show, make sure to check out our Patreon page where you can support our show for as little as $1 a month, and perks move upward after that. It’s a great way to get involved with the show and see some exclusive content, and we really appreciate so many of you who have already contributed. It’s really just amazing to see how many of you have supported us so far, and we deeply appreciate it. But that is going to do it for this week’s episode of Alohomora! I’m Caleb Graves.
Michael: I’m Michael Harle.
[Show music begins]
Alison: And I’m Alison Siggard. Thank you so much for listening to Episode 186 of Alohomora!
Michael [as Dumbledore] Open the Dumbledore. [back to normal voice] That’s the last time Dumbledore is going to get to say that.
[Show music continues]
Michael: Wands don’t like naughty things.
Michael: Apparently. [laughs]
Kyla: I’m not going to touch that. I’m not touching that at all.
Michael: [laughs] Dirty.
Alison: Oh my gosh. Okay.
Kyla: Move on! Move on!
Alison: We’re going to move on. We’re just going to move on!
Michael: Please, say something, Alison, for the love of God!
Alison: I can’t!
Kyla: Save us from ourselves.
Alison: Oh my goodness. Well…
Kyla: She’s reassuring us, too. Of course, it’s in your head, but why should that mean that it’s not real? We’re having to come to terms with the fact that our series is ending. This is almost over, and we’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that there are no more Harry Potter books, and it’s done. I felt like it’s not just about Harry. She’s telling us, too, it’s okay. Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real.
[“Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real” repeats as it fades into background]