Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There, that title should ensure a few more hits.......

286 pages down, 320 or so to go, have taken a break because it's an exhausting book to read. So much seems to be happening, and in contrast to the mix of fun and peril in the early HP books, its pretty much all peril now we're in the finale. All sorts of things are being seeded in - Dumbledore, Harrys mentor and hero, is gradually having mysterious and questionable bits of character revealed, a sense that we're being softened up for something darker later on. Still no resolution of 'is Snape good or bad' yet, I guess that's waiting for the last section of the book, given that it was one of the major unanswered questions at the end of book 6.

2 things which have stuck out so far. First is a couple of Bible verses inscribed on gravestones, one on Harry's parents grave ('the last enemy to be destroyed is death') and one on the Dumbledore family grave ('where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'). Not only is it interesting to find anything religious from the 'real' world turning up in Potterworld, which has, up to this book (see below) studiously avoided anything representing real-world spirituality, but that the source is never mentioned. The words are there, but there's nothing in the text to tell you they come from the Bible, and I wonder how many readers will know that that's where they come from. Waiting to see with interest whether they are clues or significant bits of plot which come back later.....

But the gasp out loud moment so far is this, from page 89. Key to the plot of Deathly Hallows is that Lord Voldemort (the baddy) has split his soul into 7 pieces, called Horcruxes, so as to make himself immune to death - each Horcrux is well hidden and well protected, so that the likelihood of all 7 being destroyed is virtually nil.

Hermione: "It warns in this book how unstable you make the rest of your soul by ripping it, and that's just by making one Horcrux!"

"Isn't there any way of putting yourself back together?" Ron asked

"Yes", said Hermione, with a hollow smile "but it would be excuciatingly painful."

"Why? How do you do it?" asked Harry

"Remorse", said Hermione. "You've got to really feel what you've done. There's a footnote. Apparently the pain of it can destroy you. I can't see Voldemort attempting it, somehow, can you?"

Well, it riveted me anyway. Voldemort creates these 'horcruxes' by killing, but we know in reality that any act of sin rips the soul, and that repentance is the path to healing. The further down the path of evil you've gone, the harder it is to turn, but the way to be an integrated, whole, healed person again is, in part, remorse, though it can't stop at the feeling. I don't know if the choice of 'excruciatingly' in this passage is deliberate - if not, then I'm smiling to myself at how close Rowling is to understanding how redemption really works, through the cross.

However, judging by the quotes just before the start of the book, and other comments within it, Rowlings spirit world is more akin to ancient Greek paganism, and Greek thinking generally, with an immortal soul sheltered within a mortal body, which is released on death.

The spirituality of Potter is effectively the same as that of Star Wars: the force/magic is an impersonal power which can be used for good or ill, and what matters is how we choose to use it, and the decisions we make. The key characters even mirror one another: Vader/Voldemort, Dumbledore/Obi-Wan, Harry/Skywalker. In this world within each of us is a mixture of good and evil, there are mentors to guide us, but ultimately we are responsible for what we do or what we become. This is spelt out in no uncertain terms in the latest Harry Potter movie (saw it last night, review in the next couple of day) by Harry's godfather, Sirius Black. The internal good/bad mixture is getting a good workout in book 7 - already we are seeing the smudging of pretty much everyone's reputation - Dumbledore's is not as good as we thought, and the nasty Malfoy's are starting to have doubts over their choices too.
Oh yes, and I really do hope Snape turns out to be a good guy.........

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