Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I just heard that J. K. Rowling has given an interview in which she confirms that two main characters die in the final Harry Potter book. I do hate to hear that she's planning on offing one of the three principals though. I had rather hoped she'd relent. She also implied that she might kill Harry so that no one else could ever use the character.

I have a pretty good track record guessing who dies. I figured out Sirius Black -- only main character with nothing to add to the story, and his death left Harry in possession of lots of useful things, not least of which is the house itself. Thus, he was the obvious one to buy it. Dumbledore's death was foretold a million times, and the Authority Figure -- think Merlin, Gandalf, Obi Wan -- pretty much has to die for the main character to take over. Basic Fantasy World Plot 101 stuff. Now that the obvious ones have gone, however, what happens next?

So, here's my guess for who dies in the next book:

1. Arthur Weasley, and at least one and possibly two of his chilren. Arthur has an ongoing personal feud with Lucius Malfoy. The feud wasn't emphasized enough in the movies, but is a big part of "Chamber of Secrets" and "Goblet of Fire." Arthur has long been an effective opponent of the Death Eaters, and is now highly influential in the ministry. Finally, and most important, he's the most important adult male in Harry's life now, and killing him will appear to Voldemort like killing Harry's father again. I don't think Molly is going to die, because, among other things, she's actually related to the Blacks and the Malfoys, and I think that relationship will be detailed in the next book. She has to be alive for that bit of the plot.

2. Hagrid. He's an object of contempt to the Death Eaters, but he is also physically powerful and immensely loyal to Dumbledore. Getting rid of him will appear to Voldemort as weakening Dumbledore's influence and threatening Harry. I think he's going to die to protect his brother, who won't deserve or appreciated it. Also, there is something of a pattern in her killing off characters with color names. "Albus," meaning "White," Dumbledore, Sirius Black, and Rubeous, i.e. Red, Hagrid. She likes patterns and word games, and I think she'll stick with this one.

3. Narcissa Malfoy. Dies at the hand of her sister protecting Draco, who then benefits from the protective effect of her love. I'm not sure if Draco dies before he gets redeemed, but I'm perfectly sure he does get redeemed. He'll either die or live out his life in poverty and insignificance to make up for the crimes of his family. Lucius dies too, but he's too repulsive to merit his own paragraph.

4. Severus Snape. I don't think Harry kills him, but I do think he's a double agent. The combination of him having taken the Unbreakable Oath to protect Draco and Dumbledore's last
words being "Please, Severus," clearly indicate that he killed Dumbledore at D.'s own direction to prevent Draco from becoming a killer. Snape is the one person other than Neville who has a chance to kill Voldemort.

5. Ron. I really, really want to be wrong about this, but if either Ron or Hermione buys it I'm going to bet on Ron. For one thing, there are such a large number of Weasleys they make rather good expendables. Always another one for vengence later. Also, Ron has a serious weakness in that he feels overshadowed by Harry, Hermione, and his brothers. Ron's sin is envy, and Voldemort works very well with envy. I see V. exploiting Ron's deeply submerged envy at Harry and Hermione's skill, in such a way as to allow either one of them, probably Hermione, to end up in danger. Ron sacrifices himself when he sees what he caused.

5. Neville. I really, really, really, really want to be wrong on this count because Neville is my favorite character. I also am less convinced of this one than the other four. Neville could easily have been the boy in the prophecy. Voldemort and the Death Eaters hold him in contempt, and she likes to make small and weak things be the means of ending big and powerful ones. I see Neville actually being the one who takes out Voldemort, and the LeStranges who tortured his parents, and Voldemort's utter astonishment that something he thought of as weak could destroy him. She uses lots of Christian images and tropes in the other books, and the idea of the weak and powerless vanquishing the big and strong is the most important Christian plotline there is. Voldemort respects Harry's skill and strength, which means he'll be on guard for Harry. He dismisses Neville, so Neville is going to be able to sneak up on him.

The question is whether Neville dies or not. Given the Christian themes, I think Neville almost has to. Self-sacrifice to defeat the ultimate evil. There is plenty of evidence that I'm wrong, however. The biggest bit is that Neville and Luna are now a couple. She doesn't like to kill off love interests, and if Neville survives, it's so he can marry Luna.

I don't think Harry dies. For one thing, Scholastic Press is a business, and whatever she might think as an artist, money talks. Parents are not going to shell out $25 for a book once they know the main character dies in the end. These are still children's books and children like happy endings. Also, it works against the overriding theme of the books -- Love Wins Out. If Harry -- The Boy Who Lived -- dies, then Lily's self - sacrifice was meaningless and the whole story arc was pointless. I think Harry lives, marries Ginny, and becomes the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts.

On some peripheral points, Dumbledore comes back through Draco's Hand of Glory. Remember that Dumbledore's hand suffered from some awful rotting disease. Somehow, D. changed his own live hand for Draco's corpse one. The corpse hand poisoned him. I also wonder whether Voldemort experiences redemption before he dies. In Dracula, Bram Stoker writes of the relief and happiness on the vampire's face when he finally dies. Ms. R is a well-read and thoughtful woman, and she might want to mimic that scene at the end. Also, it makes a nice, round plot if Ultimate Evil achieves some understanding of his sins at the end of his life. Finally, McGonigle becomes the new Hogwarts headmistress.


Blogger James Taylor said...

This sounds better than the book that we'll actually get to read next year. -- James Taylor

12:59 PM  

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