29 August 2007

Reexamining More Harry Potter Predictions

Yesterday I started a post mortem of my Deathly Hallows predictions by noting that it wasn’t as much of a post mortem as some fans had feared: none of the Harry Potter series' three main characters died. Now for my more detailed predictions, stated on 14 July 2006. Once again, this posting contains ***SPOILERS***.

To start with, I didn’t hit what I'd called the "grand slam, run-the-board perfecta." That prediction would have had to be completely correct to pay off. Of course, if I'd been right, the reward would have been enormous: the castle in Scotland, a slice of the movie grosses, several hundred action figures, etc.

But I did fairly well on individual predictions, if I do say so myself.

1. One of Harry's dead father figures (his father, Sirius Black, Dumbledore) will be resurrected in a form that lets Harry have a meaningful conversation with him, if only to say goodbye.
The only flaw here was understatement. Four of Harry's dead father figures come back and have meaningful conversations with him (chap. 34-35). That's even more dead father figures than he had going into this book. Plus, there's a final conversation with Dumbledore's portrait.
2. Harry will have the chance to kill one of his worst enemies (Voldemort, Snape, a Malfoy, a Death-eater he learns was directly responsible for his parents' deaths), but will refrain from doing so because, he realizes, he's better than that.
In his fight to escape from Malfoy Manor (chap. 23) and even in his duel to the death with Voldemort (chap. 36), Harry uses stupefaction and disarming spells instead of fatal ones.

In the earlier chapter, Harry even tries to save the life of one of his enemies (see prediction #3). In Chapter 32, Ron rightly tells Draco, "that's the second time we've saved your life tonight, you two-faced bastard!"
3. Another of those worst enemies (not including Voldemort) will refuse to kill at a crucial time, also showing that he's better than that. His refusal will most likely cost him his own life (that's where Voldemort comes in), but by saving a good person's life he will redeem himself.
Peter Pettigrew in Chapter 23. (Narcissa Malfoy also redeems herself by sparing Harry's life in Chapter 36, but doesn't lose her own life because of it.)
4. A major enemy will die as a consequence of his own or another enemy's actions, giving Harry (and us) all the satisfaction of seeing him die but none of the guilt. Because we want to see the bad guys die, but have to believe that we're better than that.
Vincent Crabbe in Chapter 31. Even more so, Voldemort in Chapter 36.
5. Harry will believe that one of his closest friends has been killed, but either that will turn out to be a mistake or the friend will be magically resurrected in a process that proves crucial to the outcome of the overall conflict.
I made this prediction under the influence of Lloyd Alexander's The Arkadians and T. H. Barron's The Lost Years of Merlin. In both of them, the hero's comic companion appears to die near the end of the book, only to be happily resurrected in better form a chapter or two later. I guessed that might happen in Deathly Hallows as well, with Dobby, Hagrid, and Ron as the most likely near-death experiencers. Which, of course, left me waiting for 200 pages for Dobby to pop back up out of the grave.

That didn't happen.

Instead, J. K. Rowling faked me out by using this motif with Harry himself. Instead of Harry believing Hagrid has died, Hagrid believes Harry has. And instead of Harry being so angry at seeing a friend's corpse that he attacks his enemies with new vigor, that role goes to Neville Longbottom. Clever.


Unknown said...

Wow, very impressive! I will point out that for a while it appeared that Hagrid was dead when he was dragged away by the spiders, so you could really claim the last prediction as well. But you're right that Harry himself is a much stronger example of this motif.

J. L. Bell said...

Yeah, I thought I'd nailed it when the spiders ran off with Hagrid. In my notes I wrote, "647 - Hagrid seems dead". But my prediction required Harry to feel certain about a friend's death, and at that point he just felt numb. Then, two chapters later, Hagrid is bellowing and very much alive.

In her NBC interview last month, Rowling said that she'd always imagined Hagrid carrying Harry out of the forest. So in fact the big guy always had the strongest protection against death: an author's plan.

Monica Edinger said...

What about Ron's disappearance?

Gail Gauthier said...

Did Neville's way with his wand improve in one of the earlier books and I missed it? Because my recollection of him is that he was sweet and good but inept. Suddenly in the last book he's not only working the magic, he's in a leadership position. Certainly it was very satisfying to see a lesser, good character get his day in the sun, but I felt a bit of a gap because I couldn't recall how he got from Point A to Point C.

J. L. Bell said...

I think Rowling brought Neville along over the course of the series. Yes, in the first couple of books he's the clumsiest member of Harry's class. But then he finds an affinity for magical plants, and we learn more of his difficult backstory. In HP5 Rowling makes a point of Harry's pleased surprise at how determined Neville is to improve his magical self-defense skills. His major role in resisting Voldemort's forces in HP7 didn't come as a shock to me, therefore.

J. L. Bell said...

None of my predictions touched on Ron's disappearance in the middle of HP7, I think.

Rowling had Ron follow a similar path before in HP4, as I recall: Ron sulks, Harry wishes he wasn't sulking but doesn't know what to do about it, and in the end Ron comes back and turns out to have been wishing the best for Harry all along. Maybe in one or both of the next two books as well.

I wasn't caught up in the hiding-in-a-tent portion of HP7, and Ron's departure and return both seemed abrupt. The return was also too far from the climax of the book for it to be a "Right behind you, kid!" moment. The unexpected return of that sort seemed to belong to Percy Weasley.

Unknown said...

Yes, Neville has been growing in ability, but more importantly, in confidence, over the last couple of books. But there were always hints that there was more to Neville than we thought. In rereading (listening to the audio) book 1 recently, my son and I noticed that in the first flying lesson, when Neville had his accident, he went very high before crashing back down. It struck us that Neville had underlying power but lacked confidence, and it was self-doubt that caused his accidents and ineptitude. That self-doubt that held Neville back was apparently caused by a combination of the tragedy of his parents, an overbearing grandma, and trying to live up to all the expectations piled on him. I personally loved seeing Neville come into his own (and his grandmother's belated pride).