Saturday, June 11, 2005

Which Harry Potter character is going to bite it in Book #6?

Warning: Minor spoilers for previous Harry Potter books and major speculations about the next book ahead.

I'm a latecomer to the whole Harry Potter phenomenon. In fact, I didn't even read the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone until sometime around Christmas last year. I found it quite entertaining, although a bit too much a children's book for my taste. (Yes, I know that The Hobbit was a children's book; but somehow it didn't seem as much like one.) Before that, I had no idea what the books were about and any mention of Harry Potter characters or any Harry Potter analogies would go right over my head. Then, I continued the series, and I was impressed with how each book built on the last and was better and more complex than the last. (Well, maybe with the exception of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which dragged a bit in places but was still on par with its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.) The most recent book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , was without a doubt the best in the series so far, much richer and more emotionally resonant than the previous books. (The chapter near the end in which Aldus Dumbledore confesses what he knows about Harry's destiny was worth the price of the book alone.) I blew through it on my recent trip to the West Coast, finishing it between the two plane rides, one of which was horribly prolonged by various SNAFUs, and finally watched the movies too.

So, in a manner of around four months, I became a Harry Potter addict, just like almost everyone else in the English-speaking world. Better late than never, I guess. My wife has even become a fan and is working on the most recent book, hopefully to finish it before the new one comes out. I don't plan on camping out at a bookstore the night it's released to get my copy at the stroke of midnight the night of July 16 (my secretary does, though). However, I'll certainly get a copy within a few days after the book's release and start reading. You might even notice a slowdown or even cessation of blogging here for a few days until I can finish it.

There has been much speculation about which character is going to take the dirt nap in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, given that J.K. Rowling has stated that a major character would die in this offering. Indeed, there has been a lot of betting on which character will die, with the odds-on favorite at present being Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts. I had been planning on writing about this for a while, but somehow other topics got in the way and I never did. Then, I came across Coturnix's speculations about who would be the most likely to die, and it reminded me to get off my butt and start prognosticating! And just because his analysis is spot-on and I agree with him isn't going to stop me from speculating myself, either.

It's going to be Dumbledore.

With everyone else these days predicting it'll be Dumbledore, you'll just have to take my word for it that I made that prediction a couple of months ago, but I did. He's the most likely character to bite it for one simple reason: The Harry Potter novels are, in essence, a coming-of-age story. In all coming of age stories, the hero must reach a point where he has to stand on his own against his foe, without mentors, without help, without anyone to fall back on, especially his wise mentor/father figure. This will be the sixth of seven planned novels, which means that Harry's final battle, in which he must face and defeat the evil Lord Valdemort, will occur in the next book. To clear the decks for this final confrontation, Dumbledore has to go. As Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda both had to die before Luke could face Darth Vader and finally defeat him, so will it be with Dumbledore before Harry can face Valdemort for the final time and defeat him once and for all. I really like Dumbledore and will really hate to see him die (in fact, he's probably my favorite character in the novels), but for Harry to finally stand on his own as a young man, Dumbledore can't be around in Book #7 to save him. Coturnix agrees:
He [Dumbledore] has to die in #6 so nobody expects him to help Harry in #7. Even if JKR lets him travel far away, readers will expect him to come back in the nick of time. Even if JKR makes Dumbledore old, sick and out of his mind, the readers would expect him to get sane, strong and healthy enough to help Harry. Old Albus has to go. I'll be mad and sad when it happens, but I cannot see how else can JKR go on to finish the series otherwise (except perhaps kill Dumbledore at the BEGINNING of #7 which is the same thing in a sense).
Indeed. The only way Dumbledore isn't going to die at the end of #6 is if Rowling kills him off in the beginning of #7. There's even some evidence from the betting that is suggestive that somebody has some inside information that it's going to be Dumbledore who dies, although there has also been speculation that Severus Snape is the one who will die. (Like Coturnix, I tend to discount that, because Snape is such a disliked character that many fans would probably be happy if it were him. I suppose there's an outside chance that Rowling could have him go down nobly, demonstrating to Harry why Dumbledore continued to trust him despite his past, but I doubt that will happen.)

To finish up, though, here's a special bonus prediction from me (you heard it here first): I predict that Severus Snape will be appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts after the death of Dumbledore--at Dumbledore's personal recommendation in his will. Remember that, despite Snape's shady history as a Death Eater (a servant of Valdemort), Dumbledore has reemphasized several times that he trusts Snape (even though he won't explain why, leaving his reasons mysterious), and this would be the ultimate way to show his trust. It would also make sense in that Valdemort is rising and one could speculate that Dumbledore would consider Snape, who has always had an interest in the Dark Arts, the perfect one to defend Hogwarts. Face it, if the other senior-most professor at Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall, who is the head of Harry's House (Gryffindor) and is probably as friendly to Harry as Dumbledore, were made Headmaster, Hogwarts would remain a cozy, supportive place for Harry. If Harry is truly to stand on his own, his remaining major support other than Dumbledore (Hogwarts) has to be made much less hospitable. I know, I know, something like that happened already when Dumbledore was temporarily displaced by the Ministry of Magic as Headmaster, but he came back and Hogwarts was restored to its status quo. This time Dumbledore won't be able to return. Putting Harry Potter's least favorite professor in charge would add another element forcing Harry to stand on his own--particularly if Snape turns out at the end to be still a Death Eater. (I suppose whether you think Snape is still a Death Eater or not depends on how good a judge of character you think Dumbledore is.)

Hmmm. Maybe I should try my hand at writing fiction.

And if my predictions are incorrect? Hey, it's only a novel. You think you have better predictions? Lay 'em on me now (with explanation/justification) in the comments section!

25 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 6/11/2005 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL. Never thought I'd see a Potter post here.

Couple of points. I think Snape will come to increasing prominence in the last two novels: not because he's actually evil or anything, but for precisely the opposite reason. Snape is the classic Mysterious-good-guy-that -everyone-mistakenly-thinks-is-evil.

At all points in the story where it really mattered, Snape always tried to save Harry. He often worked behind the scenes to on the side of the good.

Just as the Star Wars story is actually the life-story of Darth Vader - the only person in the whole saga who's always present, from Ep I-VI, and whose life is what binds the whole tale together - the background story in HP is actually the story of Potter Sr, Snape and the rest of that bunch that grew up a generation prior at Hogwarts - a generation that included the person who became the greatest (as in most consequential) of them all - old Voldy. This background story is going to find both revelation and resolution in the final two novels, along with the resolution of Harry's own life. The Snape story, I suspect, will be very interesting.

I don't know who's going to die because it is hard to know who Rowling is now writing for. HP is huge money, and writing to please the masses will produce a very different novel than writing to tell a good story. FWIW, your Dumbledore theory is very plausible.

Finally, I disagree with your assessment on the relative strengths of the novels. They did become better, but the peak was 4, not 5. 4 told a well-knit, more complex tale. 5 was Rowling's attempt to keep pace with her fan base, themselves entering their teens; her rendition of teen angst in Potter however was pitiful. It was irritating, the way she tried too hard, and the tale itself was never as smoothly, if predictably, executed as 4. There was a very mixed reaction to 5, although I don't know if you remember (I read it when it came out).

In the end, Shakespearean Harold Bloom's verdict is on target: the whole thing is a sod of a tale.

But, as ashamed as I am to say this, it's delightful sod.



At 6/11/2005 12:06 PM, Blogger coturnix said...

Right on! We sooo agree. I'm glad to see the blogosphere picking up on this. Less politics, more magic!


At 6/12/2005 5:18 AM, Blogger Ahistoricality said...

Dumbledore could be tied up with the rest of the battle against evil, fighting a holding action while Harry and Voldemort have their confrontation somewhere off to the side.

Snape will ultimately die sacrificing himself to save Harry and/or Dumbledore. Not because he is fundamentally good, or redeemed evil, but because it is his duty and responsibility. Snape is a man of honor and justice, not of joy or niceness. He has no sense of people as personalities, only of their roles and how they fill them properly or improperly. Ultimately, I've come to like Snape (assuming that Rowling is playing fair, of course, which she hasn't in the past) in some ways more than Dumbledore. Dumbledore is easy to like: great power, charm and he's nice to the right people.

Perhaps that's what's so ultimately unsatisfying about these books: the ambiguities are never presented fairly, but are reserved for "twists" which ultimately serve little purpose but to make the reader realize that the story is in the hands of the author, not any kind of logic.


At 6/12/2005 9:12 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Yes, I tend to agree that Snape is probably not still a Death Eater and that he will eventually probably die nobly. I just don't think it will happen in #6. I'd hate to think that Dumbledore was incorrect to trust him so much.

As for which book is better, I still prefer #5. Part of the reason people didn't like it, I think, is because Harry turned into a bit of an asshole at various points. Yes, it was somewhat clunkily handled at times, but moodiness is not at all uncommon in boys of that age. I myself was frequently moody and easily angered at that age. I also rather liked the way Rowling left it open as to whether Harry's personality change was just normal teen angst or due to the malevolent influence of Valdemort. Finally, it is part of Harry's maturation process for him to learn that his parents were human, not the idealized perfect people he always viewed them as.


At 6/12/2005 9:55 PM, Blogger Joan said...

Snape is still a Death-Eater, he still bears the Dark Mark, after all -- but he's also a member of the Order of the Phoenix, so he is in that diciest of positions, a spy. For the good guys, of course -- he has had ample opportunities to kill Potter himself, but hasn't. There can be no doubt of Snape's loyalty. There is ample doubt as to whether he'll ever be fit for human company, and that will probably always remain with us.

What I find interesting is that Harry's youth among the Muggles mirrors Snape's at Hogwarts very closely: abused, neglected, spat upon. Unfortunately for Harry, Snape can't get over the abuse he suffered at James's hands, and it's not really surprising. I tend to think that Snape had at least a crush on Lily, if he wasn't full-out in love with her, and the fact that James married Lily will turn out to be yet another reason that Snape hates Harry.

I don't see Snape becoming head master, but I wouldn't be surprised by it, either. I tend towards the obvious conclusion that it will be Dumbledore who gets killed, but I'm not as sure of the timing, it could just as easily happen in book seven.

FWIW, I loved the fifth book, and found Harry's whining and generally obnoxious behavior to be completely consistent with the 15-year-olds I am well aquainted with. I don't think Rowling tried too hard at all, in fact I wondered if she had one or more teenage boys handy that she used as models, because that's just how they are!

I don't think Rowling is writing to please her audience at all, because the HP audience is enormous and spans many age brackets. She has a story to tell and she's telling it. If she were kowtowing to pressure from the fanbase, Harry would never have been so unpleasant in book five.


At 6/13/2005 12:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snape is still a Death-Eater, he still bears the Dark Mark, after all

Does he? I can hardly remember details in the books anymore. I read them from 1-4 when # 4 came out, and then 5 when that came out, but have never gone back to them. I've probably forgotten 60% of the details. Just recall the broad storylines and my impressions when I first read them.

So what's the specificity of the Dark Mark for a diagnosis of evil intentions? LOL.



At 6/13/2005 4:42 AM, Blogger OutEast said...

Snape is a death eater, and is evil - yet is loyal, above all, to Dumbledore. This apparent dichotomy is easily resolved: Albus Brian Wulfric (or whatever his name is) is going to turn out to be evil and will supplant Voldemort. Thus he - the most powerful person in the books - is the one that Harry will have to face...

Well, probably not. But I like that idea...


At 6/13/2005 7:56 AM, Blogger Orac said...

You're trying to outdo my "Snape taking over as Headmaster of Hogwarts" idea, aren't you? ;-)


At 6/13/2005 7:58 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Actually, Joan has a point. I remember a lot of complaints about how unpleasant Harry had become in Book #5, and that was before I had even read any of the Harry Potter books. It also makes perfect sense in light of the revelation that his father went through a phase in his life when he was arrogant and mean towards those whom he viewed as his inferiors.


At 6/13/2005 10:32 AM, Blogger Lord Runolfr said...

I'm not a Harry Potter afficianado. I read Philosopher's Stone, and I've seen all the movies so far, but that's it. Harry was such an idiot in the first novel that I can't muster up much sympathy for him.

However, I like the idea of Dumbledore passing on and Snapes taking his place. I like Snapes. Sure, he's a mean man with an irrational dislike for Harry Potter, and he openly discriminates in favor of his own House, but he's competent, courageous, and apparently loyal to the school.

And I think putting Snapes in charge of the school would force Harry to face his most glaring personal problem, his inability to trust authority figures. He almost handed the philosopher's stone over to Voldemort because he didn't trust the measures that Dumbledore and the other professors had put in place to protect it. He consistently refuses to go to the professors when he finds evidence of some kind of trouble; he won't even go to Dumbledore or McGonagle on his own.

So I'd like to see Snapes take over. I'd then like to see Harry get in trouble over his head. I'd like to see him forced to swallow his pride, put aside his distrust, and go to Snapes for help. Snapes might give him a scalding lecture, but Snapes would also come through and do what needed to be done, and seeing Harry actually show some humility for a change just might be sufficient to mend some of Snapes' own issues with the boy.


At 6/13/2005 12:44 PM, Blogger DrTony said...

I don't know if Dumbledore will be the one to die, but I can offer the definitive proof that Snape will not be the one to die in book 6. This should satisfy even the Respectful Insolent one.

Here it is (spoiler warning!):

Snape cannot die in Book 6 because he is already dead...

Bruce Willis killed him in Diehard!


At 6/13/2005 1:42 PM, Blogger John said...

Although I agree Dumbledore is the most likely character to bite it in book six, I put together a short devil’s advocate case for not-Dumbledore. We shouldn’t underestimate Rowling.

I also agree that Snapes will be one of the most important characters in the final resolution of the series. He needs to be redeemed, but it won’t be in a simple take-the-bullet sort of way. He and Harry need to respect each other and work together (they do not need to like each other). Somewhere in the last two volumes, they need to spend a lot of time together for Snapes to tutor Harry in defense against the dark arts. Headmaster Snapes makes perfect sense to me.


At 6/14/2005 8:35 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

For those of you who may not have time to devote to reading the booking, but may have a commute -- try the Books on Tape or CD.

They are very well done... and since it is summer travel time, consider playing them in the car for kids to listen too. We survived a very long road trip by listening to three of the books.


At 6/23/2005 8:37 PM, Blogger Jim WWW said...

I agree that Dumbledore will die near the end of book 6 (or at the beginning of book 7), but I have some reasons to add.

I think that JKR has been hinting at this for some time. Remember back in book 1 when Ddore said that his friends (with the sorcerer's stone) thought it better to die than to live forever? And that Voldemort's main problem is that he wants to live forever?

And then there's the bird in Ddore's office: A phoenix. THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING A PHOENIX is to die and thereby to be reborn. If Ddore needs to offer himself as a sacrifice so that Harry can live, then I think it's obvious that Ddore would make that sacrifice. He very nearly DID die at the end of book 5.

And of course we all know that Harry's mother died protecting Harry, and thereby gave him magical powers that Voldemort couldn't beat. Vmort had forgotten even the existence of that kind of magic. JKR has hinted that Voldemort continues to overlook that power.

Finally, there's the question of the wands. We know that Harry's wand has, within it, a feather from the phoenix, as does Voldemort's. But....

... what about Ddore's wand? As best I recall, we have no information about it. I'll bet that his wand has a phoenix feather inside it, too, and that that's the main reason why the wand salesman called Ddore as soon as he saw which wand worked in Harry's hands.

So my prediction is that all 3 wands will resonate with each other at a climactic moment, Dumbledore will sacrifice himself and die in order to confer extra magical power upon Harry, and that that extra power will eventually let Harry triumph over Voldemort (that last part, of course, in book 7).

Perhaps Ddore will die at the end of 6, and in 7 we learn of the extra powers that were thereby conferred upon Harry.

And after the dust settles, Harry will become Headmaster of Hogwarts: another reincarnation.


At 6/27/2005 10:11 PM, Blogger Untouchable said...

I don't find Harry's unpredictable behavior irritating at all, in fact it was what i wanted him to say more than ever. He needed to speak up for himself and not express how he felt, to release the anger his silence had stored for years. For me his outbursts were rather satisfying and i wouldn't have had it any other way.


At 6/28/2005 7:23 AM, Blogger Orac said...

They were also very typical of a 15 year old boy, and the way Rowling made the reader wonder whether Harry's erratic behavior was just teen angst or Valdemort trying to control his mind was a nice touch.


At 7/12/2005 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Ron is going to die in the sixth book!!


At 7/12/2005 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also hink Ron will die in the 6th book because Potter and Granger are better friends and stuff like that!!!
Love ya
Mandy Cramer


At 7/12/2005 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

by the way, both harry and voldemort will die in book #7 due to the prophecy. here is an answer from the f.a.q. from the official jkr homepage:

"Section: F.A.Q.
The prophecy Harry hears in Dumbledore's office suggests to me that both he and Voldemort will have to die, is that true?
Both Madam Trelawney and I worded the prophecy extremely carefully and that is all I have to say on the subject!"


At 7/12/2005 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are probably referring to the "neither can live while the other survives" sentence.
Yeah, but on the other hand Neo survived in Matrix eventhough the Oracle thought differently (or better, he was reborn) :P


At 7/12/2005 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actualy, "neither can live while the other survives" means that at some point, they will have to face each other. When that happens, either Vmort OR Harry will die. not both. I Vmort lives, Harry will have to die, but if Harry lives, then Vmort will have to die.


At 7/13/2005 3:53 PM, Anonymous Woody said...

Albus does die, but returns from behind the curtain with Sirius to hold off the rest of the Death Eaters with Hermione, Ron etc whilst Harry takes out Voldemort.


At 7/16/2005 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Neither can live while the other survives" in book 1 Dumbledore says that Voldemort didn't die but survives living off others (ie quirrel) but it could suggest a twist where both harry and voldemort are reduced to spirit form and have to fight over control of a single body, - or another option could be that harry has to absorb voldemort - or the other way round.

I know the book is out but I cant get a copy until the end of the month so I have another guess as to the death, Snape - but dieing to save Voldemort, thus endowing Voldemort with the same protection Harry has.....


At 7/18/2005 5:13 PM, Blogger GrrlScientist said...

HAHA! It took me only 14 hours (or maybe it was longer? I lost track of time) to read book 6, and I am already reading it again. It is the best book of the entire series .. I wonder what Rowling will do in book 7 to make that one even better?? I still want Harry to go to wizarding graduate school, but somehow, methinks that won't be happening anytime soon. Bummer!



At 7/19/2005 5:38 PM, Blogger coturnix said...

I've picked it up on Saturday night and read it on Sunday - it took me about 12 hours. I agree it is the best so far.

And it is interesting what Orac, Archy, outeast and others, including myself, have got right and what we got wrong in our predictions....


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