07 June 2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Wowzer!

Kudos and props and ALL THE HUMMUS to Alice for hosting this read along!  It's been about three weeks since my last participation, between my skipping two weeks ago and getting a respite for BEA last week.

Oh, my goodness.  There is too much in this week's chunk.  Entirely too much. Partly because I want to draw out this readalong, partly because it's true that it's just too much (yeah, I'm repeating myself), but I think we should take the remaining reading and discuss no more than two chapters at a time.  Because otherwise it will feel like this:

Chapter 20-21: Xenophilius Lovegood. How terrible must it be to be in his position? I feel very sorry for Mr. Lovegood, and I really have no idea what I would do if my only child were being held by sadistic kidnappers. I hope I'm never in the position to make judgement calls re: the greater good when the stakes are that high. I am fairly certain that if I'd read Harry Potter as a much younger reader I would never have identified with Xeno's dilemma, but now, while I clearly want the trio to escape, my heart still aches for him a little. Which is all to say that the series is a little different each time one encounters it.  I nitpick along the way because I'm snarky I love, but I have to deeply admire the fact that somebody wrote a book that speaks as much to teenager as it does to me.

But seriously, how can he not know that that's an erumpent horn? The man can't see the forest for the trees.  And show of hands: how many people crumpled all over again when Harry saw the ceiling in Luna's room? I know I did.
found here
Two things: how did the trio not know something was up when Luna didn't immediately come to the house and welcome them? I shake my head at them. Also, how 'bout our girl Hermione's quick thinking there at the end of this chapter?  Brava!  I think in this book she really comes into her own in terms of her intelligence and wits.  Books 1-6, she relies almost exclusively on book learning and her prodigious memory, but here in book 7, she's showing a depth of creativity in the face of necessity that is both impressive and powerful. When the coming years give her the experience and maturity to match that intelligence and power, she's going to be one seriously amazing witch to reckon with.

And because no situation is so dire that we can't appreciate a little penis humor: "I've got an unbeatable wand, come and have a go if you think you're hard enough."

Chapter 22: How does the password work on Potterwatch? Do you randomly turn the dial on the wireless at random times and shout out random passwords in the hopes that Potterwatch is airing? Because that just doesn't seem plausible at all.  While we're at it, why do Kingsley and Remus think that Royal and Romulus are good code names?  River works for Jordan, as presumably most wizards aren't well-versed in biblical things.

Chapter 23: Hermione displays her quick brilliance once more by making Harry almost unrecognizable.

I'm not sure this occurred to me during previous readings, but it did this time: does anybody else find it odd that Grindelwald is still alive? Now that I think about it, I'm a little taken aback. And this little detail never stood out before, but Grindelwald lies to Voldemort about never having the Elder Wand. Dare we suggest that it's remorse that makes him say so?

I feel terrible for Draco in this chapter.  It's clear that he doesn't want to betray Harry to Bellatrix, but he's caught in an awful place, knowing what will happen to him and his parents if Voldemort learns that he was less than forthright.

And what the heck kind of dark magic makes Wormtail choke his own daylights out? Can I just say here that I was pretty disappointed how the life debt was repaid. Before this book was released, I was convinced that Wormtail would use his silver hand to protect Harry from Grayback, which I think is actually more interesting and poetic, tying it back in to the days of the Marauders.

Chapter 24: I just need to say that I have no great love for Dobby, but all the same I'm extremely moved by his death. I mourn his loss.  But unlike Dumbledore's death previously that left him adrift, Dobby's death seems to galvanize Harry and lend him insight in the infernal hallows vs horcruxes debate. I see Dobby's death as one more turning point and the real beginning of the end, as Harry's thinking becomes more intuitive, making leaps ahead of even Hermione, a pattern that will continue right to the very end of the book.

Penis subtext joke: I'm sure by this time that nobody is surprised that Draco's wand "felt friendlier in his hand."

Chapter 25: I'm not going to take a stance here, but in this chapter and the next we get most of the bases for all of those anti-Semitism essays floating around the interwebs. Griphook is an interesting character but not an entirely pleasant one.  I don't actually think JKR is actively anti-Semitic, but I do think that it's fairly careless of her to employ so many stereotypes. Oops, looks like I just took a stance.

I cannot tell how much in this chapter is JKR showing what assholes wizards can be to non-wizards and how much is JKR not realizing that her characters can be assholes.  Authorial intent, how I love thee!  To wit: why should Griphook be expected to eat the food of a different species? Presumably Fleur wouldn't feel huffy if a centaur or a mermaid were staying with them and wanting non-human food.

Why, Harry?  Why are you trying to double-cross Griphook? There's no need to be so underhanded.  Tell him that you need the sword long enough to destroy something, which will weaken Voldemort to the point that he can be killed.  Once the killing's done, the sword could be his. It's clear that Griphook respects Harry and finds him to be a wizard with extraordinary views, and I still say that would have been his best bet.

Chapter 26 & 27: This is one of those occasions when the movie is so much more fun: Helena Bonham Carter playing Hermione playing Bellatrix.

Also, that curse in Bellatrix's vault? That's crazy in wildly inventive and effective kind of way. Flagrante, indeed.  But why couldn't they just use impervio? And if anything that gets touched replicates itself, why doesn't the cup create another half dozen horcruxes?  Magical loopholes.

Chapter 28: Oh, Aberforth.  I can't tell if he's truly given up, or if he's just being a big ol' curmudgeon. How sad about Ariana. But JKR must have been playing a very long game, indeed, for all of those goat references to have worked out.  I wonder if she knew back in the first book whether Aberforth's patronus would be a goat, etc.

Also, it's about damn time that Neville is back on the scene. I am already all a-flutter about next week, in which I will have ALL THE THINGS to say about Severus Snape and Dumbledore and that infernal epilogue. But to end on, a little something funny because frankly, we need it:


  1. "I've got an unbeatable wand, come and have a go if you think you're hard enough."


    Also the Draco's wand thing. Good Lord, JK. What is this.

    1. YES. that is a real line. when they're sitting around xeno's house ron says that in jest. OR WAS IT ONLY IN JEST?

    2. HOW DID I MISS THAT LINE? My inner 14-year-old was must have been off-duty.

  2. I have wondered ALL THE SAME THINGS about Potterwatch because seriously, what? I guess maybe they went with very obvious names because how the hell can anyone actually find them anyway. Unless of course you stumble on it one day, learn the next password, and then NEVER MISS A DAY. Even though you don't know when the next program will be or what station to tune to.

    Thank you for pointing out all of the penis jokes. This is what the readalong is all about

    1. Right? And the clinker is that Potterwatch doesn't necessarily broadcast every day, and not always at the same time 'cause THEY are also on the run and looking for safehouses from which to broadcast. Yeah, I really don't see how that works at all.

  3. "River works for Jordan, as presumably most wizards aren't well-versed in biblical things."

    Do wizards have a religion? Like, does Christianity exist for them - or do they, as wizards, have insider knowledge about it all, like maybe Jesus was a wizard and that's where all the miracles came from? Or do they have their own wizarding god? And what about Japanese wizards, do they conform to Taoist or Shinto cultural ways or are they sitting outside Japanese culture and society the way the UK wizards do?

    1. we could spend hours talking about theories of wizards and world religious. maybe even days. actually, let's please do that.

      In my own mind, religions with a single deity don't mesh with the wizarding world as we've been introduced to it, so I suspect that while Jesus may have been a wizard according to wizard reckoning, they wouldn't have had much truck with his followers or with Islam, either. As for Judaism, I'm less sure, but as it's a monotheism, I'm thinking not much truck there, either.

      Also, when wizards swear, they swear by Merlin's name--there's not even the mild "Oh, my God" in wizarding britain. It's "Merlin's beard" and "Merlin's saggy left ----" etc.

      It seems reasonable, though, that wizards around the world would be drawn to eastern religions/philosophies, as they are more ways of living than any prescribed belief system. So Buddhsim, Shinto, the Tao, and maybe even the duality of Zoroastrianism might work well with the wizarding world as we know it.

      I'm not sure where I land on the spectrum when it comes to a polytheism like Hinduism and the wizarding world.

      However, I suspect that before the wizarding statute of secrecy, when wizards and muggles lived alongside each other in Britain, that wizards must have been at least broadly aware of major religious movements like the Judeo-Christian system of the middle ages. Or let's face it, likely less with the Judeo and more with the Christian. But I still doubt that they would immediately pick up on "River" as a code name for someone named Lee Jordan. I think there are lots of muggle folks living in the (largely Judeo-Christian, culturally speaking) US today who wouldn't necessarily think of the River Jordan.

      What's your gut feeling?

    2. Just popping in to say I love this and this readalong is the best and I'll just duck out now.

    3. Wow! You've really put some thought into it and I just want to say I LOVE IT!

      That all makes sense to me, I like the idea that they would conform to the religion/philosophies because they're not a specific deity/belief - and now I really want a story about Japanese wizards or something.

      Also, since wizards know that there are ghosts does that imply there is an afterlife or negate one? Can you have ghosts/spirits if when you die you just die? That sort of goes back to the monotheism I guess.

    4. Ooh, can we please just have a private International Harry Potter conference already? That we can all go to and participate in and somehow find funding to get us there?

      Yes, I want the Japanese wizard story, too. I have this vision of wizarding warriors in the Samurai mode, sworn to protect the wizarding and non-wizarding folk alike.

      re: ghosts and afterlife. I feel that Rowling gives us contradictory, or at least unclear, clues about this. we've got the ghosts, and we've got Dumbledore's "death is the next great adventure" to go on, which rather smacks of the afterlife.

    5. Oddly enough, this didn't occur to me, but what do you think wizards think the soul is for? Is it a spiritual/religious thing, or just the very essence of a person? Because if they do think that there's a religious aspect to the soul AND if they believe in an afterlife, then the Dementor's Kiss just took on a whole new dimension.

    6. There has to be Harry Potter and philosophy/religion books out there right? I mean they exist for just about every other pop culture phenomenon.

      I'm going to assume, based on what we've said so far, that the soul is the essence of a person. Sort of like how people can have accidents and technically be alive but with no brain function. I guess? Although what do they say about people who have been 'kissed'? Are they able to keep moving and functioning or are they breathing sacks of flesh?

  4. Ok, my mouth is basically hanging open at those code names because I didn't get that at ALL! That's awesome.

    Um. That Harry and Dobby gif is making me cry right now. I can't.

    I totally didn't click onto the anti-semiticness that you've mentioned, but... yeah, I do kind of see it. JK definitely doesn't have any love for Goblins, and if they're meant to represent Jews then... Yeah, that's awkward. :s

    1. I don't believe that Rowling is anti-Semitic, at least not intentionally* so, but there sure are a lot of stereotypes, particularly in the chapters we just read; that you can't blame people for drawing that conclusion.

      so many "-isms" are so deeply entrenched in the culture (and institutionally) that even the most open-hearted people can be (or say something) unintentionally racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic.

  5. I love the thoughts about this text that you shared with us here.

  6. Ahh, the penis jokes. You guys are hilarious.

    I totally agree that Harry really should've just been straight with Griphook. I don't see how Griphook is a stereotype or what the goblins have to do at all with anti-Semitism... that seems like a bit of a leap.

    That last GIF is too funny. I'm going to try that joke out on the honeyman and I'm sure I'll be cracking up and he won't get it at all...

  7. Yes -- I was surprised to find Grindlewald was still alive. Gosh, had he just been rotting away all those years?

    I feel like reading the Goblins as anti-Semitic is more anti-Semitic than the writing of the Goblins, you know what I mean? Like you have to take the unpleasant things about Goblins and say "Jewish people are totally like that!" But, it's tough with all these pre-established, problematic stereotypes. I definitely see what you're saying.

  8. Yes, Hermione is SO AMAZING in this book. Love it. What she did at Xeno's house was pure genius and at the drop of a hat!

    From what we see of Grindlwald, I DEFINITELY think that remorse motivates his behavior towards Voldy.

    "why should Griphook be expected to eat the food of a different species? " - Agreed. He is a different species, it is unreasonable to expect him to be the same. I wish somebody, you'd think Hermione, would recognize that. At least she realizes that Harry and Ron are also underhanded.

    " why doesn't the cup create another half dozen horcruxes?" Griphook said that the copies would have no value. The value of the cup is in being a Horcrux, so that feature would not be copied. Just the appearance.

    Ugh, the epilogue. I may just skip it this time around. I hate that thing so much.

    1. I must have passed right over that description from Griphook re: the cup not creating multiple horcruxes. thanks for clearing that up.

      Our girl Hermione really is all grown up in this book and fulfilling the tremendous potential she showed us as a schoolgirl.

  9. I completely agree with you about the shenanigans at Luna's place. I think as adults we can relate to Xeno having to make a really impossible decision. But I was really surprised that the kids didn't pick up that something was amiss earlier. There were certainly a lot of clues!

  10. I guess Grindelwald being alive is what proves that the elder wand can be taken without murder. And I like that Dumbledore didn't kill him in their epic duel; then he wouldn't be Dumbledore.

    Now that you mention it, Wormtail's life debt scene is super anticlimactic. Dumbledore really puts emphasis on how much Pettigrew owes Harry that it should have been a bigger deal.

    And I'd never heard about the Anti-Semitism theories, so I went and read the article you linked to. I think JKR just used the normal descriptors for goblins (which may have some basis in Anti-Semitism, but I don't think she was intentionally using them that way). The only part that strikes me as really bad is that side-by-side comparison of the goblin costume in the film and the propaganda poster. That's pretty awful. But that's the costume designer's fault, not JKR's.

    1. Ooh, you're right about that! And of course that becomes so much more important for the final reading we're discussing this week. We will have ALL THE THINGS to say, come Friday.


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