Friday, May 18, 2007

Harry Potter predictions

Just finished reading the immensely creepy and kinda boring book six to Lily. It's taken months. I had to read the cave scene with zero affect; I did not want to freak her out--or me. Even so, she was kinda weirded out by it. I think we're all glad it's over.

Here's what I think:

JKR says that two major characters die in book seven.
* I think they will be Voldemort and Snape.

Does Harry live or die?
*Harry lives but loses his powers.

I think Harry goes through book seven finding and destroying the various horcruxes, duh, and in the end kills the last bit of Voldemort's soul in a final battle. But the effort saps him of all his magic. He lives out the rest of his life with Ginny, of course, but as a muggle, never to play Quiddich again. There's precedent for this: We learn in a pensieve flashback that Tom Riddle's mother lost her magic at the end of her life. It happens sometimes, Dumbledore says in an off-hand way. If I were a betting girl I'd bet money that it happens to Harry.

It happens, and it solves all the other problems. First of all, how to head off the rest of the world who want to write their own unauthorized post-Voldemort stories about Harry Potter? JKR won't want to kill Harry, she loves him too much. Second, what can Harry possibly do for an encore after defeating the dark lord? Finally, there's lots of precedent in magical sci fi--I'm thinking of The Wizard of Earthsea series where in the third book Ged loses his powers when he uses them to defeat the bad guy in the afterworld.

*Snape will be redeemed.

In all the books the constant message of Dumbledore, the moral core of the series, is that love is stronger than evil; that Harry can and will win because he has love and Voldemort does not. So Dumbledore's unfailing trust of Snape must be upheld, just as Harry must win. There's lots of hints in this book that Snape and Dumbledore had it all pre-arranged, that if it came down to it, Snape was to sacrifice Dumbledore so that Draco wouldn't have to do the deed.

If you like rereading this stuff, try it with that in mind. All the interactions that Harry's paranoid mind reads as Snape is Evil can easily be interpreted as Snape is On Our Side. Furthmore, it's just the sort of thing JRK would do, unless it's too obvious, but I don't think it is. She loves writing in this ambiguous way. She loves her readers, especially her younger ones, and she loves to tease us and throw us off track because she knows we love it.

I think Snape and Draco disapparated but not back to Voldemort; they are off in a safe house some place, something Dumbledore promises Draco is possible as he tries to convince the boy to switch sides. Nothing is wasted in JRK's world; she wouldn't tell us that if it weren't meaningful in some way. Snape will end up dying in the end--he has to, to pay for killing Dumbledore, and because he really is a creep--but he will do something to prove he's on the side of good and Harry will forgive him, at least to some extent.

Besides, Dumbledore was going to die anyway. He drank that nasty stuff at the cave lake, the stuff that made him relive the experience of the two orphanage children Tom Riddle had tortured there. Just before Dumbledore drank it he predicted it would kill him -- again, nothing is wasted -- but not before Voldemort found him and debriefed him in order to find out how he had been discovered. That can't happen because Harry needs the element of surprise around horcruxes so that he can pick them off, one by one, without Voldemort trying to protect them or head him off or confront him.

JKR has said we will learn more about James' and Lily's professions, more about why some people become ghosts and not others, and the fact that Harry has Lily's eyes is important, and we haven't heard the last of the Dursleys, and a few other hints. Many years and many books ago she said that she had written the final chapter already, a wrap-up of what happens to the surviving characters, and that "scar" was the last word of the book. It's hard not to read into that, but what does it really tell us, assuming it's still true? Godric's Hollows shares its name with Godric Gryffindor -- not a coincidence, JKR says. Harry is headed there after Bill and Fleur's wedding, so surely the first horcrux will be there, and it will presumably have something to do with his parents' death and most likely, his scar.

All that is nice to know but I find it hard to really predict much more because while JKR has given us lots of clues she has no problem springing entirely new information on us, like the horcruxes. I don't think anyone could have predicted those in advance, and if you don't know those, you can't predict the details. There is lots you can try to figure out, though, and it's fun to reread them and search again for clues.

I still maintain these books are not literature, although she has a terrific ear for characters and dialogue. They are gripping adventure-fantasy tales and I thoroughly enjoy them, especially number three. It's great fun to imagine a world parallel to ours, and to blame all our woes on a parallel dark lord. But they do not tell me how to live; they are utterly predictable in a general way -- Harry always ends up making the right choice, even when it's the wrong one -- and once I am finished with one I certainly don't revisit it for its strong writing and description. I was talking with two or three women at work today, people who put out children's magazines, who either had no idea what these books (and movies) are about, or had tried reading them and put them down in utter boredom. I find that refreshing.

Having said that, god love her, JKR's got kids and adults reading, she's made a ton of money that she is quite generous about giving away, she's handle the entire phenomenon with more grace than almost anyone I can imagine, she seems like a good sort with a funny sense of humor, and best of all, she's got much of the world counting down the last 63 days for a BOOK. And especially in the first book or two I really laughed a lot. All her magic, this other world, is very clever and amusing and I am always entertained, if not enlightened.

I will miss seeing everyone on the subway engrossed in the latest release this July. I read something online by a TV critic, I think it was, saying that she wasn't sure what she will do with herself because for the last decade her life has revolved around Harry Potter and the Sopranos, both of which are winding down. Now that's a funny thought.... what are my cultural touchstones that I can't imagine life without? I don't think Harry Potter ranks up there, and certainly not the Sopranos, which we rented on Netflix a few years ago and turned off halfway through. Really well-written but we couldn't take the violence. At least the HP violence is cartoonish, mostly.

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