It’s been over a month since I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I received as an advance birthday gift from Philip on the day it was released, together with a hardbound copy of its predecessor, “Half-Blood Prince”. The six books that preceded the finale had set the stage for a wildly popular book that took a decade to provide an answer to the question, “Will Harry Potter die?” Answer: Yes and No.
I’m a Potter fan, so my take on the book is a little biased. However, the popularity of this piece of fantasy is not without merit. JK Rowling delivered a dark, exciting, and ultimately, a heartwarming conclusion to the saga of The Boy Who Lived.
Deathly Hallows ties all the loose ends of the previous books, with the young hero beginning to understand the source of his power which gives him the strength to engage in a climactic duel with the Dark Lord. This page-turner leaves the reader asking for more with every exciting encounter of Harry Potter with friends, the Order, the dead, the Death Eaters and Voldemort, and its nearly too bad that Rowling has no plans to extend the story of Harry Potter. A lexicon is coming up soon to provide background information about the Harry Potter universe, and, perhaps, how each of the characters that we have come to love or hate end up.
Never has a series so captured the fascination not only of a generation that grew up with the book’s central characters, but also that of an older one’s that has managed to keep the magic within and see the world as Harry does–all the sacrifices, the challenges, the hopes and ultimately, love–which push the young fictional hero towards greatness and his place in literary and publishing history.
JK Rowling created a magical world that was clearly inspired by the realities of everyday muggle living. Never has love been more emphasized in a book of fiction than in Harry Potter, and “Deathly Hallows” affirms that one does not need a wand to show how it is the best kind of magic that muggles and wizards, pure-bloods and mix-bloods, can conjure.
Rowling unabashedly used references to certain aspects of characterization and situations in other popular fantasy sagas, such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, David Copperfield, and at some point, even The Secret Garden (at least, its Broadway musical). Dumbledore proves that every young hero needs an experienced and wise wizard to guide him through treacherous times. On the other hand, the Weasley couple become parent figures to the twice-orphaned Harry. The inclusion of father/family figures, the central character being an orphan, well-meaning characters of humble backgrounds, sidekicks or a posse of fans and best friends, and love triangles set in a background of adventurous travels, and communities that have their own sets of customs and biases are common among popular novels. In other words, what made Harry Potter successful have already been used in other popular works of fiction: the battle between good and evil, the alliance among species, and, something that I feel strongly about, the racial issues that focus on whether one’s being pure-blood is better than being of mixed origins.
There are also a number of similarities between objects that are being fought over by good and evil in both Potter and LOTR books. For one, a horcrux, which can affect the behavior of its keeper/wearer, appears nothing short of being inspired by The One Ring. Remember how it ensnares its keeper? Moreover, these horcruxes are also where Voldemort saved his soul should anything in his plan to dominate the wizarding world (e.g., failing to kill a toddler) fail. And so in both books, the only way to ensure the death of the villain is to destroy these artifacts.
Every dark lord has a band of thugs to do his bidding, mostly not out of ardor but of fear. Their powers are so entwined that a failure by one means a rehashing of the plan or ultimately, the death of the big evil guy. If LOTR has the nazguls and orcs, then HP has Death Eaters and Dementors.
And just when I thought that Harry, Ron and Hermione would be spared the journey, they had to join Harry’s seemingly never-ending quest and camp in a number of forests scattered all over Britain. Surely, Harry would have died halfway through the story if not for his loyal friends. But the best help he got, one that he neither expected nor appreciate at first, was the one from Severus Snape. The character proved to be the series’ dark horse in spite of the proclamations by other characters that if Dumbledore trusted him, then it was enough. This further means that except for a chapter in each of the books, the story unravels nearly entirely from the point of view of Harry. No one knows for sure that role that Snape has played, nor whether Harry dies, until towards the end.
He does, but then again, he doesn’t.