Monday, August 6, 2007

Deathly Hallows, Knights, and Gardeners

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last night. While it didn’t have as many unusual or magical creatures as in the first book or two in the series (or perhaps I’ve just gotten used to the Rowling’s imaginary world), it was still a good read. More than the actions in the book— the searching for Horcruxes, the fighting between the death eaters and Dumbledore’s Army/Order of the Phoenix, and the final showdown between Voldemort and Harry—what I enjoyed was the background biographies that were filled in, especially for Dumbledore and Snape.

The ending interested me, not for the events themselves, but because I wonder if Rowling was trying to respond to some of the criticism she’s gotten from the religious right. Or perhaps she was playing with some of the classical mythic hero themes, as Rick Diamond suggests in one of his blog entries. ( In an email to me, Rick suggests that this last book takes much more of a challenge/response view than the others, which are clearly “knight” novels. For Ron and Harry, and perhaps even for Hermione, I think that may be true, especially in the middle of the book. But for Dumbledore, the faculty at Hogwarts, and the larger wizarding world, the story still seems very much like a knight’s tale. Had Rowling wanted to make it otherwise, perhaps Dumbledore and Harry might have paid a little bit of attention to the crying baby toward the end of the story.

Or maybe another way to see this volume is generational. The older wizarding generation, represented by Dumbledore, are clearly knights. The youngest wizarding generation, with Harry, Ron, and Hermione as its main representatives in the series, are gardeners. And the generation in between—Snape, Lily Potter, Syrius Black, Lupin, etc.--- are exactly that, an in between generation who are largely knights but have gardener moments that help change who they are.

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