July 21, 2007

Trying My Hand at Divination – UPDATED

Filed under: Pop Culture — PolitiCalypso @ 8:29 am

The final Harry Potter book comes out this weekend. I will get my copy at the midnight release at Prudential Center, in Boston, and plan to get back to my place immediately (or at least as soon as possible) so that I can read it.

I lost interest in this series with the release of the Lord of the Rings movies, which I still find to be a far superior series. But in the two years since the last Potter book was published, I got interested in it again. Ms. Rowling did indeed improve her style dramatically in books 5 and 6. These books, as has been pointed out, do not really read like children’s books.

Anyway, after getting interested in the series again, and digging into the books to theorize on how they might end, I’m going to post my best guesses on the major fan theories surrounding the final book. One week from now, after I presumably have finished the tome, I’ll go back and score myself.

Note: The rest of this entry contains CONFIRMED SPOILERS for the final book, Deathly Hallows. If you dislike spoilers, don’t click!
I have put “major theories” in red print. Others may disagree on what is a major theory, but this is my take on it. I think there will be two main storylines, Snape and the horcrux hunt, and major theories are those which relate directly to one or both storylines.

The school year: Hogwarts will NOT be closed. However, neither Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, nor Ginny will return. Enrollment at the school will be less than half of what it was before. The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher will be appointed by the Ministry of Magic and will be basically irrelevant to the plot. Most of the action will take place outside of school. TALLY: 1 flat-out correct, 1 semi-correct, 1 correct by technicality (the teacher), 1 incorrect, 1 disregarded because it cannot be determined where “most action” occurred.

The Dursleys: Petunia Dursley will reveal that she had a long correspondence with Dumbledore. Harry will “inherit” the letters from her and will leave the house before his 17th birthday. These letters will teach him a lot more about his mother. Harry will forgive his aunt for the years of abuse and neglect, but not his uncle or cousin. TALLY: 3 incorrect (forgiveness and source of the letters), 2 correct (leaving date and info about mother).

Snape’s past: Snape IS on the side of the Light. He has been on that side ever since the infamous werewolf incident in school, in which James Potter saved his life, and turned to that side originally as part of a deal with Dumbledore to ensure that the werewolf incident would remain a secret. Snape and Lily were on good terms at one time and likely still were at her death. TALLY: 1 MAJOR THEORY correct. 2 incorrect details (origin of the alliance and good terms at Lily’s death), 1 correct detail.

Dumbledore’s death: Snape killed Dumbledore at Dumbledore’s own request. The parallel for this is when Dumbledore insisted that Harry must force him to drink the debilitating green poison, despite the disgust that Harry felt while doing this. Snape’s name will ultimately be cleared. TALLY: 1 MAJOR THEORY correct. 1 detail indeterminate, 1 detail correct. Poor Snape. RIP)

Dumbledore’s aid: Harry will be able to communicate with “Dumbledore” by means of his portraits and the thoughts he left behind for the Pensieve. TALLY: Uh, I don’t remember any Pensieve thoughts. 1 correct and 1 incorrect.

R. A. B.: 1. R. A. B. = Regulus Alphard/Arcturus Black, Sirius’ younger brother. 2. The missing locket was in Sirius’ house in the fifth book. It was thrown out, recovered by Mundungus Fletcher, and sold on the black market. Regulus Black is most likely dead. IF he is alive, then Snape had a hand in hiding him. TALLY: 2 MAJOR THEORIES correct. I’m not counting the guess about his fate either way, since I hedged.

Scar: Harry’s scar IS the sixth horcrux. It was created accidentally. There is really no other explanation for how he recognized the name “Tom Riddle.” TALLY: CORRECT CORRECT CORRECT! I am extremely pleased to be right on this. OK, it was the seventh, but I’m still counting it. Correct on the detail as well.

Other horcruxes: 1. Hufflepuff’s cup, of course, is one. 2. Nagini is NOT one. 3. The “mystery” one will be an object that was never introduced before, the Ravenclaw heirloom. Luna Lovegood may have some information about this object, even if she doesn’t know why the “trio” are interested in it. TALLY: 2 MAJOR THEORIES correct. The Ravenclaw heirloom wasn’t properly “introduced” as such, so I’m still counting that. 1 MAJOR THEORY incorrect, the snake. 1 detail correct.

Room of Requirement: The kids will return to the Room of Requirement’s “Room of Hidden Things.” Harry will retrieve his potions book. They will look at some of the other items there, including the other banned books, and learn something important from them. TALLY: 2 correct, 2 incorrect. I’d scoffed at the idea of a horcrux being here. Ah, well.

Dark Magic: Harry will successfully use the Cruciatus Curse on someone and will be horrified at the result. I am guessing that the victim will be Snape. TALLY: 1 correct (successful use), 1 incorrect (victim). Wow, Harry turned DARK in this book. 2 Unforgivable Curses, and no remorse whatsoever.

Draco: Draco will not give up his pureblood supremacist ideology, but he will turn away from the Death Eaters. He will lose at least one parent to the Death Eaters. TALLY: 1 correct, 1 indeterminate, 1 incorrect.)

Pairings: I hate it, but Ron and Hermione will get together. Harry and Ginny will not, unless it’s at the very end of the book. TALLY: Correct on both counts, but I don’t really care.

Pettigrew: Pettigrew will pay off his life debt to Harry. TALLY: Uh… I guess he sort of did.

The book in general: The title is another term for the horcruxes. The book will have a structure similar to book 3, in which a fugitive (here, Snape) is on the run, and will be revealed at the end to have been innocent of the crime with which he was charged. TALLY: 2 flat-out wrong, 1 correct (innocence).

Death list:
Ron will survive. [Correct]
Hermione will survive. [Correct]
Ginny will survive. [Correct]
Neville will survive. [Correct]
Luna will survive. [Correct]
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley will survive. [Correct. 2/2]
Bill, Charlie, and the twins will survive. [RIP Fred. 3/4]
Percy will survive. [Correct]
Voldemort will die. [Correct]
Bellatrix will die at the hands of Harry, Neville, or both. [Death correct, culprit incorrect. 1/2]
Lucius Malfoy will die… at a Death Eater’s hands (or Voldemort’s). [Incorrect]
Narcissa Malfoy will probably die, also at the bad guys’ hands. [Incorrect]
Draco Malfoy will survive. [Correct]
Pettigrew will die. [Correct]
The Minister will die at Death Eater hands. [Correct]
Lupin will survive. [Incorrect… how awful.]
Tonks will survive. [Ditto.]
Moody will die in combat. [Correct]
McGonagall will survive. [Correct]
Hagrid will die. [Incorrect, thankfully]
Snape… will live. I’m going against the grain, but Snape can take very good care of himself. [Incorrect. Again, awful.]
Harry will both die and survive. He will pass through the Veil, a death, but return from it. I think that the U.S. cover art depicts the other side of the Veil. [OK, wrong about the cover art, but I’m actually surprised to be otherwise 100% right about this.]

OK.

For scoring purposes, each individual guess counts for one point. When I score myself, I’ll give myself two totals: one from the entirety of these guesses and one from the major (red) theories alone.

See you in a week.

—————

All in all, not too shabby:
7 of 8 major theories correct. 1 of 2 major deaths correct.
Correct guesses on the mystery Horcrux, Snape’s loyalty, and Harry being the last one.
18 other details correct and 13 incorrect. 4 indeterminate or discarded.
19 life/death guesses right, 7 incorrect, 1 incorrect detail about a death.

Overall it looks like I got the major issues right and was hit-or-miss with the niggling details.

I had thought about reviewing this book, but I think I’ll wait and re-read it first. There were some things I liked and some things that I honestly did not care for, and here’s a list of those things. Contrary to the appearance, I did like the book as a whole. The list of dislikes is longer than the list of likes because I am naming specific scenes or plot points that I didn’t care for.

Things I liked:

  • The use of “Dark Magic” for one’s own purposes! I’d hoped against hope for this but could hardly believe the level to which it was taken. Harry DOES do the Cruciatus and it doesn’t bother him. I figured he would do it, but I thought he’d feel regret. And even better, the Imperius Curse was an absolute necessity to destroy a horcrux and thus bring down Voldemort! McGonagall even casts Imperius at one point. I was cheering and doing the whole leap-for-joy routine during the Gringotts Imperius scene. She exceeded expectations on this one.
  • Lupin and Tonks’ saga. So sad, but yet, satisfying and fitting. Despite my formal prediction in this blog, I was afraid that Lupin was a goner, but I’m glad Tonks went with him. How sweet that the two of them were able to have that brief period of happiness, produce a child, and then die together. Two thumbs up for this storyline (through a haze of tears).
  • The takeover of the Ministry by Voldemort’s forces, but the media coverup of it. Nice, and creepy as all get out. A true magical dictatorship complete with all the trappings of a fascist police state. I never thought I’d feel sorry for Fudge and Scrimgeour.
  • Dumbledore as a shady, morally ambiguous figure. By the end of this book, I was actively disliking him as a character, but definitely liking the fact that he had been humanized, and given real, deep flaws. Are we sure he was a Gryffindor? His behavior as the master of a chessboard, viewing human beings as his pieces, is quintessentially Slytherin.
  • Harry is finally using his brain and putting things together himself, rather than having Hermione do it for him. He is the one who works out R. A. B., even though Hermione was the one who remembered the locket.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Ron “speaking Parseltongue.” Quite bluntly, this was crap — he was never a Parselmouth and should not be able to do this. Seems like an easy way out of a bad fix. You can’t make up rules on the fly and then randomly decide to break them, even as an author. A parrot can make sounds, but it does not speak a language (except for the intelligent gray parrot whose name I forget — Alex?). I guess this could work since he wasn’t actually communicating with a living snake, he just needed to make the sounds that a carved snake would recognize, but it still seems like a cop-out to me.
  • Seemed that there was an awful lot of exposition. I didn’t care for the LONG, BORING excerpts from “published materials” for the purpose of storytelling. A device for the lazy, as far as I’m concerned. In fact, “device for the lazy” sums up a number of the problems I had.
  • The “Deathly Hallows” storyline. It seemed superfluous and a bit tacky. Maybe it’ll grow on me with time.
  • Luna Lovegood’s father. I disliked everything to do with this guy. Literally. Why is he even there? Oh, the superfluous Deathly Hallows storyline. Ah well, at least there’s a new character to hate.
  • “Fiendfyre” and basilisk venom being the only named things that will get rid of the horcruxes. “Fiendfyre” especially seems to be a blatant rip of Tolkien and the One Ring. I’ve avoided saying this, because the concept of magical objects preserving the life of the creator is deeply rooted in folklore that far predates Tolkien, but this was an inexcusable cop-out. If it wasn’t a direct rip, it was pulling something completely out of thin air, which is also not cool. I am emphatically not a fan of the deus ex machina concept; I think that overuse of it is a mark of a lazy writer, and this book was pushing the envelope on overuse.
  • I wanted to get an actual curse to create a horcrux. It wouldn’t have been that hard and it would’ve been cool. Alas.
  • Snape being left out of the loop with respect to horcruxes. It didn’t seem believable that Regulus Black, an 18-year-old kid, would know about them, but Snape would never put 2+2 together. Then again, I wasn’t thrilled with the lack of page time devoted to Snape, anyway. This was a major lost opportunity with this character.
  • MAJOR plot inconsistency and I’m astonished that the editor didn’t catch this, since I was going “WAIT just a minute” after a single reading. If Voldemort’s soul was so brittle that it blew apart and half of it attached itself to Harry, then how on EARTH was he later able to turn the snake into a horcrux using the same, brittle, now even further divided soul? This is probably the single most irritating thing about this book because it is a direct contradiction to something stated at a different point in the story, not just omitted details or overused deus ex machina.
  • Minor missed opportunities. For instance, it would’ve been better if the Secrets of the Darkest Art book had come from the banned books section of the Room of Requirement than from Dumbledore’s private quarters, since that would have referenced a previous place rather than a brand-new one.
  • This is more of a complaint with the media marketing than with the book itself, but this wasn’t a children’s book and shouldn’t have been promoted as such. I’m not necessarily against the use of such terms in books, but Molly Weasley bellowing “B**CH” at Bellatrix (however deserved), as well as a few other similar incidents, takes it squarely out of the realm of children’s literature. I can’t imagine parents reading those specific parts aloud to kids under, say, age 11, despite any gooey pictures in news articles displaying that. This is a young adult novel.

3 Comments »

  1. My big theory is that Dumbledore is alive. There are two possible ways this could happen.

    1.) Dumbledore’s death was staged by Dumbledore and Snape. This is what I believe happened.

    2.) I read on another website that Dumbledore had created a horcruxe for himself and that was how he knew so much about them.

    I agree with you about the pairings and the list of who will live and who will die. Although I hope we are wrong about Hagrid. I really like the big guy.

    Comment by Alasandra — July 18, 2007 @ 5:14 am

  2. Well, by the end of this story I wouldn’t have been that surprised by your second theory! It really wasn’t that far off the mark, either.

    Comment by PolitiCalypso — July 21, 2007 @ 8:46 am

  3. I am so glad you have had a chance to read the book. I can’t wait to get my copy of it (It’ll probably be Tuesday before I have a chance to pick it up at Wal-mart and then I’ll have to FIGHT to keep two boys from taking it away from me). I did listen to JK read the first chapter online, nothing surprising in the first chapter as far as I could see although I was told I was suppose to be shocked.

    Comment by Alasandra — July 21, 2007 @ 9:33 am

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