Wednesday, October 28, 2009 11:41 PM
(Last updated on Thursday, October 29, 2009 06:31 AM)
Re-Potterizing: Progress Report 5
 by Fëanor

I've now finished rereading the entire series, and I've also read The Tales of Beedle the Bard for the first time.

I don't know whether it's because I'd only read 7 once before, and very fast, and the movie of it hasn't come out yet, so I haven't had that to watch and remind me, and so I just don't remember the book that well, but I found it nearly impossible to put down. It's absolutely riveting. It just seems to be one unbroken rush of tense adventure, from one terrifying battle to another. I had to keep stopping myself from skipping ahead, and forcing myself to go back and read everything. Once I got inside the last hundred pages or so, after the Battle of Hogwarts started, I just had to get up in the middle of the night and read the whole rest of the book in one go.

I had a problem understanding what the characters meant when they said the Elder Wand was "unbeatable." I mean, clearly it's not unbeatable. Dumbledore beat Grindelwald when he was armed with it. Malfoy was able to disarm Dumbledore when he had it. Dumbledore even says in his notes for "The Three Brothers" in Tales of Beedle the Bard that the wand's own history shows clearly that it is not unbeatable. But if that's so, then what exactly is its power? What makes it so much more valuable and desirable than any other wand? I think the truth is that it's simply the most powerful wand in existence. That explains how it's able to repair Harry's wand when no other wand can. Of course, many people would assume they'd be unbeatable if they were fighting with the most powerful wand in the world, but just because you have the biggest gun doesn't mean you're going to win the fight. Another lesson from Rowling.

The death of Dobby, and his burial, is probably one of the most emotionally powerful sequences in all the books, which is particularly impressive given that Dobby is such an annoying character when you first meet him.

It's fascinating how in this book Harry isn't just seeking Horcruxes - he's also making an investigation into the past, especially into Dumbledore's past. He realizes that the venerable headmaster, and one of the major father figures in Harry's life, was human, too, with his own flaws and terrible mistakes in his past. It's a scary, infuriating realization.

I love when Remus shows up to announce his wife is pregnant. He talks with such loud surprise, and such joy! It's great.

I like the different ways Harry and Hermione deal with Ron's return to the group after running out on them. Ron shows up just in time to save Harry's life, they exchange a few quick sentences, and then before you know it they're hugging and are best pals again. But when Ron shows up in the tent and Hermione sees him, her first reaction is to attack him viciously, and it's only very slowly, over many days, that her anger subsides.

I love the story Neville tells about the Death Eaters going after his grandmother, only to find they've bitten off more than they can chew. Instead of overcoming her, she puts them in the hospital. She's so awesome.

Another very powerful and wonderful reunion is when Percy finally comes back to his family. All Percy has to do is admit he's been a fool and Fred is immediately ready to shake his hand. And of course, Mrs. Weasley hugs him instantly.

One of my favorite scenes is when Ron suddenly realizes the house elves of Hogwarts are in danger. He says they can't possibly be ordered to fight, but must be evacuated. Hermione leaps on him and kisses him thoroughly, and we know why she's suddenly become overwhelmed with love for him: he's finally shown care for the house elves; he finally understands her cause.

[UPDATE: Neville breaking out of the Body-Bind Curse, grabbing Gryffindor's sword out of the sorting hat, and slicing the head off of Nagini, all in one motion, is just about the most bad-ass thing ever.

One of my favorite lines in all the books is Dumbledore telling Harry, "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

I like that at every turn, Voldemort is betrayed by love, and by his inability to understand love. It's love that saves Harry, and gives him the ability to defeat Voldemort. It's love that makes Snape a traitor to Voldemort. It's love that makes Narcissa Malfoy lie to Voldemort that Harry is dead - a truly great scene.]

The end of the book ties everything together and is extremely emotionally effective. Finally we know the truth about Snape, and about Harry and Voldemort. It's wonderful to see how everyone has grown up, and how their children have turned out. Ron is particularly funny: when one of the kids notices that everyone is staring at them, he says, "Don't worry. It's because I'm extremely famous." But what really got my tears flowing was when Harry said the middle name of his son, and it was Severus.

[UPDATE: But I have to admit, some of the magical rules that Rowling comes up with to explain the ending feel a bit wonky to me. In fact, the device at the very heart of the story doesn't make all that much sense. The idea seems to be that person A sacrificing herself to the killing curse of person B to save person C will make person C immune to the spells of person B. But if this is the case, why has it never happened before? Surely in the history of the wizarding world, in all the fighting that must have gone on, somebody must have sacrificed herself for somebody else before. Surely, therefore, someone besides Harry should have survived a killing curse. The only explanation I can think of is that this has happened before, but was simply not noticed or documented in the heat of battle. Another explanation could be that there's more to it than the simple sacrifice - that person A has to perform some kind of spell, which Harry's mother perhaps performed unconsciously. But then you have to assume that Harry also performs this same spell, also unconsciously, when he sacrifices himself to Voldemort in the end to save everyone at Hogwarts.

It's the special magical protection of a loving sacrifice that explains why Voldemort's spells fail against everyone at the end of the book. But why do they fail against Harry? Is it purely because Voldemort tries to curse and kill him with a wand that is actually "owned," in some powerful, magical sense, by Harry, and not by Voldemort? That seems to be the case, from the text. I'm willing to buy this, but it does feel a little odd that none of this information about wand ownership would have come up before in the whole rest of the series, and that your average wizard wouldn't be more well-versed in it.

Like I said, some of these plot mechanics feel a little shaky to me. But I'm willing to buy them because I love the story so much.]

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is light and short, but I found it entertaining. I like how the book is actually an artifact of the wizarding world, and that it was translated by Hermione Granger. The stories are fun, with the authentic air of fairy tales, and I enjoy how Dumbledore's notes set them in an interesting context, and also reveal more of his own backstory, and that of some other characters from the novels.

The Harry Potter series is definitely one of my favorite series of books. I look forward to introducing Griffin to it. And now, I'm moving on to rereading another of my favorite series: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Tagged (?): Books (Not), Harry Potter (Not)



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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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