Will Harry die?
The experts weigh in on whether Harry Potter has a chance in the final book
BRIAN BETHUNE | July 9, 2007 |
J.K. Rowling: The final chapter is hidden away, although it has now changed very slightly. One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die.
Aghast interviewer: Two much-loved ones?
Rowling: Well, you know. A price has to be paid. We are dealing with pure evil. They don't target the extras do they? They go for the main characters, or I do.
-- British TV interview, June 26, 2006
So she does, and never more than when she killed headmaster Albus Dumbledore in her last book. As H-Day approaches, the July 21 publication date for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final volume in the most popular literary series of all time, it's the memory of author J.K. Rowling's ruthlessness with Dumbledore, the beloved and kindly father figure of father figures, that most troubles the Potter Nation. Across the world millions of children, and just about as many adults, are obsessing over the ultimate question: what will happen to the Boy Who Lived(until now, anyway)? Will Harry die?
It's not the only question to be answered or loose end to be tied, of course, in a series that's been building to its conclusion for a decade. The boy wizard debuted at 11 in 1997's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. That book and the two volumes that followed, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets(1998)and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(1999), were classic children's lit, slender(by Rowling's recent standards, anyway), charming, exciting and just frightening enough. Readers were introduced to the difference between the Muggle(non-magical)and wizarding worlds, to enduring friends and enemies, eccentric professors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the exciting school sport of Quidditch.
From there the story grew ever more absorbing and ever darker: with 2000's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, featuring the death of a good character, the series began the move into the young adult genre that was cemented by books five and six, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The surface dazzle of the stories -- the magic, action and humour -- is immensely appealing, but underneath that Rowling plants real hooks for readers, elements from the entire spectrum of Western mythology and children's literature. Arthurian legends and Dickensian plots jostle with the lessons of growing up, the pain of being different, school and school relationships. Toss in Harry's personal tragedy(orphaned at 15 months when his arch-nemesis, the evil Lord Voldemort, murdered his parents and tried to kill him)and Rowling's narrative skill, and it's evident why Harry's fans are more than enthralled with his adventures. They care about him, and especially about the possibility of his death.
And that's a lot of people. More than 325 million copies of the first six Potter novels have been sold in 63 languages. The film versions of the first four books all rank in the top 20 highest-grossing films of all time; a fifth movie -- and sure megahit -- will be in theatres on July 11. Their creator is a billionaire, the first person to reach that level of wealth by writing stories. Harry's global reach fascinates academics like Daniel Nexon, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington. Nexon can cite Harry's appearance in Turkish editorials discussing that country's possible entrance into the EU, in Swedish parliamentary debates decrying Anglo-American socio-economic policies, and in a stream of American political adversaries comparing U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney to Voldemort. "It's not so much whether you think such comparisons are correct," Nexon adds. "It's the fact that people can make them and that their listeners understand."
Potter devotees also keep mass excitement ratcheted up through the Internet's numerous Harry sites and their frequent conventions. Fans, most of them women and many dressed as their favourite characters, meet to swap plot theories and fan fiction -- Harry-themed stories, straight or gay, written not by Rowling but by her readers. The conventions also feature an at-times surreal meeting of distinct cultures, as fans obsessed with whether Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood will become a couple also listen to papers like "Freud and the Fetishistic Phantasy" delivered by the growing army of academics interested in the Potter pop culture phenomenon.