Posts Tagged ‘re-read’

Harry Potter Re-read: Deathly Hallows

Well, my friends, we have come to the end of the series and the end of our re-read.  Voldemort has been vanquished, though the costs have been high, and we have lost loved ones along the way.

I was fourteen when the first Harry Potter book came out, 24 when Deathly Hallows was released.  While I’ve always been a few years older than Harry and company throughout their adventures, the series featured heavily in my own adolescence and will always have a special place in my heart, along with the Lord of the Rings, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Star Trek.

But onto Deathly Hallows specifically.  There’s a ton of loose ends that need to be tied up, and JK Rowling does her best to get all of them.  We get Dumbledore’s and Snape’s full backstories here.  Pretty much everyone who’s ever been mentioned in a book shows up here and, for the most part, you know whether or not they survived the war.  (Except Cornelius Fudge – I always wondered what happened to him, after Scrimgeour took over…) Even Hermione’s SPEW efforts, which have seen oddly tacked on for the last few books, reap benefits with Kreacher, turning a loathed character into a loved one, so much so that when the Trio is forced to flee Grimmauld Place for good, you worry about Kreacher’s well-being and how disappointed he will be when they don’t return.

I feel like she picked the deaths that would be hardest to read – poor Hedwig and Dobby, who’d been helping Harry forever.  Fred, separating him from his twin forever, and bringing a tone of despair to what should have been a happy event with Percy rejoining his family.  Tonks and Lupin, right after Lupin’s finally found happiness after all his years of being an outcast, right after the birth of their child.  None of the Marauders survive Voldemort’s second coming.

On the other hand, characters that have been picked on or looked down upon by other witches and wizards get their time in the spotlight.  Neville pulls the sword of Gryffindor out of the sorting hat and takes out the final horcrux.  Luna is essential in many places, keeping people’s spirits up, and Mrs. Weasley takes out Bellatrix Lestrange single-handedly, reminding everyone that she’s a Prewett as well.  Even Dudley thanks Harry for saving him and offers him good luck.

And while there have been scenes in the other books where I have teared up, this is the only one that makes me bawl.  When Harry’s in the forest, thinking he has to die, and accepting his fate, and he’s talking to his parents and Remus and Sirius…when I first read the book, and thought Harry was actually dying, for good (I had always thought he must), that scene moved me to the point where I had to stop reading because I couldn’t breathe anymore.  It still packs a punch, though, even knowing that everything’s going to be okay in the end, for a given value of “okay.”

At some points, it really seems like Dumbledore’s show, that he had all the answers and had laid everything out the way it must happen, but Harry could have left at any point.  He could have run, he could have left the country, but it never even crosses his mind.

It’s not perfect.  I’m still a bit annoyed how no one ever attempts to integrate Slytherin into the rest of Hogwarts, and how only a handful of Slytherins are shown with any sort of redeeming characteristics at all (Slughorn stays to protect the school for the final battle, Snape is well, Snape, and the Malfoys, despite being stuck-up gits, care more about the safety of their family than the pure-blood agenda).  I’ve always thought it would be in Dumbledore’s best interest to try to have everyone get along a little better.  Every other house is shown to be fairly balanced.  For every Ernie Macmillian there’s a Zacharius Smith, and even Percy, a Gryffindor, is consumed by his own ambition, so I just can’t understand how Slytherin House managed to avoid producing even one upstanding person.

In the end, though, Harry gets the job done and the Wizarding World can return to its own petty squabbles, safe until the next great Dark Wizard comes along.

(Though I wonder…was Dumbledore the Harry Potter of his generation, the only person who could stop Grindelwald?)

(Also, poor Albus Severus, that’s quite the mouthful to put on a tiny kid.  Scorpius doesn’t have it much better.  I hope they were best friends at Hogwarts, bonded over their silly names.)

Questions!

1. While a lot of things are answered by the end of the series, there are things from the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, such as the Veil, that are never explained.  What do these things represent, and would you have liked them to be featured in the story again?

2. The phrase “for the greater good” is used a lot in Deathly Hallows.  What does it mean here, and do you believe it is a legitimate excuse?

3. Dumbledore and Voldemort both wanted to be master of death, though they approached it in completely different ways.  If Voldemort had known about the Hallows, do you think he would have changed his plans?

4. Poor Petunia.  How must it feel to be shut out from a world that your sister belongs to, and how would this have affected her treatment of Harry?

5.  Any other thoughts, about this book or the series at large?  Any moments that really spoke to you personally?

Also, if you have other books or series you’d like us to re-read in the future, let me know.

Harry Potter Re-read: Prisoner of Azkaban

Just a quick note – we’ll do the Goblet of Fire discussion on Sept 19 instead of Sept 12.  I’d like to claim that this is because it’s the first of the more massive part of the series, but the reality is that I will be in Peru and will not be around to read the book or write about it.  We can talk, at that time, about whether we think the later books need three weeks in general, but since I read ~100 words an hour, I’m leaning towards keeping the two week schedule.

Anyway, onto Azkaban!  The book that introduced us to the Marauders – Remus, Sirius, and Peter are not mentioned at all in the earlier books – who prove to be extremely central to not only the upcoming war, but the war in the past.

Harry accidentally blows up his aunt, but unlike in CoS when Dobby did magic in Number 4 Privet Drive, instead of getting in trouble, Cornelius Fudge merely asks him to stay where everyone can keep an eye on him.  Why?  Well, it turns out notorious murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison of Azkaban, something no one has ever managed, and has come looking for Harry.

Now, we’ve been around the block a few times, so we know that Sirius is really a good guy, and it almost feels like Harry knows it too since he’s never really very concerned about the fact that this guy is apparently after him, even after Sirius manages to get into the Gryffindor common room a couple of times.

I’ve been marking places in the books as I go with post-it notes, but I think I’m going to have to stop because Azkaban has a worrying amount on it, and I imagine it’s only going to get worse as we go along.

Azkaban has the first signs that we’re reaching a turning point.  Peter Pettigrew gets away, Sirius is not redeemed (and never is, poor guy), and Harry has the first inkling that things are not going to go his way.  He realizes, after hearing Professor Trelawny’s prediction (her second ever) and stopping Remus and Sirius from killing Peter, that he may have orchestrated his own undoing.  (Also, Dumbledore notes that Peter will owe Harry because of this, but for the life of me, I can’t remember if this debt is ever repaid.  Can anyone help?)  Also, we start actually looking at Lily and James’s death – before, it’s mostly mentioned that they are dead and that Voldemort killed them, but here Harry hears their last words, their confrontation with Voldemort – and learns that one of their best friends betrayed them.  (Personally, if I were Harry, I would have occasional moments of doubt where I would wonder about Ron and Hermoine’s loyalty, but if I recall correctly, he never does.)

Things introduced here that are important later include: The Marauder’s Map (and the Marauders themselves), the Daily Prophet (mentioned obliquely in CoS but featured more here), the Knight Bus and Stan Shunpike, Crookshanks, Dementors, the first hints that the Defense Against the Dark Arts position may actually be cursed, a hint to the future existence of thestrals, animagi, the patronus charm, Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory, Hogsmeade, grindylows (featured in GoF), the secret passages, Madam Rosmerta, a hint that one of Dumbledore’s spies had heard about Voldemort’s plot against James and Lily (oh, poor Snape), the first hint that Dumbledore will not be able to fix everything, and, in the very first chapter, Harry is reading A History of Hogwarts by Bathilda Bagshot, whom Harry will go and visit in Godric’s Hollow in Deathly Hallows.

Also, randomly, when Harry runs away from home, he gives Neville’s name to the people on the Knight Bus.  Throwaway comment, or a very subtle hint that Neville had the same possibility of being the Chosen One as Harry did?  I am probably reading too much into things now.

When Lupin showed up on the train, I said, out loud, “Poor Remus, things are not going to go well for you.”   Interesting to see all these characters now in more innocent times.  (Also, I noted, on page 80, that we were still not to Hogwarts yet.  It will be interesting to see if the lead-in times get less as the plot thickens.  I know Goblet won’t because of the Quidditch Word Cup, but past that.)

(As a neat parallel – in CoS, Ron and Harry go it alone because Hermoine is petrified; here, Harry and Hermoine go it alone.)

Onto the questions:

1. It’s been noted that animagi seem to turn into animals that closely match the wizard’s personality.  Why do you think no one ever suspected Peter Pettigrew to be a rat other than because he was easily frightened?

2. It’s easy to see where Sirius’s (a star in the Great Dog constellation) and Remus’s (one of the twins raised by wolves in Roman Mythology) names come from.  What do you think the motivation for Peter’s name was?

3. Why does Dumbledore allow Harry and Hermoine to go back in time to save Buckbeak and Sirius when there’s so much room for something to go wrong?

4. Harry saving Pettigrew’s life ultimately goes poorly for him.  If you were in Harry’s shoes, what would you have done?  Can you fault Harry for his actions?

5. Harry shows little trust in the adults in his life.  In CoS, he has an opportunity to tell Dumbledore about the voices in the walls, but does not.  Here, he considers telling Lupin about the dog he saw when he ran away, but again keeps it to himself.  These are people Harry thinks very well of – why does he not tell them?  How would doing so change the plot?

Announcing: Harry Potter Re-read

So I have seen Deathly Hallows Part 2 and lo! it was awesome.

But, of course, with any great form of entertainment, everyone wants to talk about it, and it comes to pass that you realize that perhaps you don’t know what you’re talking about quite as well as you once did.

So, along those lines, we here at Where Landsquid Fear to Tread will be commencing on a re-read of all seven Harry Potter books.  We invite you to join us.

Every other Monday (start in two weeks, on August 1st) we will have a discussion post for whatever book we happen to be on.  We can compare notes, we can discuss theories, we can talk about whatsoever you want to talk about, as long as it has something remotely to do with whichever book we’re discussing.  We can even talk about the differences between the book and movie versions if you’d like.

Ms. Rowling is an expert at weaving in plot threads much earlier into the story than they’re actually needed.  If anything, it’s worth it to re-read the books just to see what we missed the first time around.

So tell your friends.  Tell your families.  We’ll meet back here on August 1st to discuss Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone.

The Landsquid and I hope to see you there.