Saturday, August 18, 2007

Finally, I Know Harry's Secrets

You may have heard that the conclusion to a certain series of books regarding a certain boy wizard was published earlier this summer. I finished reading it a few nights ago.

No, I'm not about to spoil it for you. If you're interested and you haven't finished it, please enjoy. Goodness knows there are plenty of spoilers out there. I will say that the end of the series is...well deserved. It feels like a good ending, one that the characters earned. The twists and turns that Ms. Rowling came up with were entertaining and in character.

Oddly enough, it seems that, due to some strange confluence of universal irony, Stephen King and I agree on this one (mostly). No, I'm not much of a fan of his work, though I do respect his accomplishments (something I can't say of our current President). Regardless of my political views, I do think King's review touches on some points of interest to all writers.

My interest in the whole Harry Potter phenom has been, well, academic (no pun intended). The idea of an orphan seeking his identity without the presence of a real (as in supportive and loving) family appeals to me. And that shouldn't be a surprise given some of my earlier posts.

I did notice something curious, from a story-telling standpoint. Part of what made the first books interesting to me was learning about the wizarding world and the various plays on words, puns, and related devices used to describe it. The use of Latin, Greek, and Arabic, for example, for the spells themselves. (The word "lumos," for example, conjures a small ball of light appears on the end of your wand.) The first four or five books each revealed aspects of the wizarding world that were wonderous and, well, fun.

Yet, at some point, the backstory gave way to the main story and, by the time book seven rolls around, the wonders of wizarding world have given way to the gritty conflict(s) between Harry and He Who Must Not Be Named. There is, for example, no Quidditch in Book Seven, yet Harry's previous role as a Seeker is important. Interestingly, the points and lessons of earlier books are both expanded and minimized in the final volume.

The story of Harry Potter is not just about the love of his mother and how it protected him, nor is it just about integrity (though it does show Harry's struggles with growing into integrity). It's also a story about Dumbledore and the consequences of very human ideas, choices, and mistakes. It's also a story of Snape and complicated promises and loyalties. It's a story how the people of a given community interact, protect, rally around, and support each other to accomplish a common goal.

To me, I find the series ends up being driven not by events, but rather by characters. This appeals not only to the actor in me, it appeals to the writer in me. Regardless of the universe your characters live in, you should never allow the universe to supercede the humanity of the characters.

And that's why I feel that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a fitting coda to the series.

Your mileage may, of course, vary. If it does, let me know why.

On the highly-implausible chance that anyone from Warner Brothers actually reads this, I do have one request for the filmed version of the final book. If at all possible, please bring John Williams back as the composer of the score. (By the way, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is, to my mind, the best film adaptation to date.)

Photo credit: Warner Brothers


Blogger Surazeus said...

I found an interesting parallel in the Harry Potter story with the Lord of the Rings story. In both cases you have a young male - Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter - guided by an wise elder - Gandalf and Dumbledore (Old English word meaning Bumblebee) - in a fight to the death against an invisible tyrannical politically-aggressive male - Sauron and Voldemort.

There must be something integral in this basic social pattern to the core of western Anglo culture, since it has also appeared in many older legends of the European mythological corps of text. And these two stories are the most popular in the Anglo imagination the past 100 years.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I agree with you thoughts.
So I pose this question to you

I read very little as amatter of fact hardly ever as far as book are concerned.

So how come every HP book I started to read I could not put down.

Maybe there is magic out there after all.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Surazeus said...

That happened to me tool. I remember seeing the book in stores. No time to read it. One day my wife and daughter were at Koran reading with her Indonesian friends and I picked up the first HP book in the store and 4 hours later had read half it already. Read every one twice since then. That only happened to me with one other book, the Hobbit, when I found it in a college library in a small town in Texas as a boy of 12. Hours later I looked up and realized I was not on a quest with a hobbit and dwarves but actually sitting in a library.

11:06 AM  
Blogger ren.kat said...

Steve, Surazeus. You might want to read some Jung. Or, I'm sure, is you google Jung and Potter you'll find thousands of pages.

Footpad, I distinguish between storytelling and (literary) writing. All writers do both, but are usually much better at one. Stephen King wrote a novelette called The Body- best writing and storytelling combination I've ever read. Not such a fan of King's writing as literary work otherwise.

Am not ashamed to say I'm amazed by Rowlings. My son and I had to read the final book together (aloud) so that one of us wouldn't have to wait for the other to finish. - Eh. I was a wee bit disappointed with the ending. But I agree that the book series did go from plot to character driven as easily as it went from 8 year readers to 17+.

Thanks for the link to the review!

9:08 AM  

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