Archive for the ‘Dumbledore’ Category

On an upcoming  episode of SQPN’s “Secrets of Harry Potter” podcast, we will be discussing chapter four of The Lord of the Hallows, entitled “Harry Potter and The Bestiary of Christ.” This week, I am posting excerpts from that chapter. Here’s the first installment.

“There might be eagles. There might be stags…”

Badgers!” said Lucy.

—conversation between Peter and Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW 112, emphasis mine.)

            In addition to the themes of free will, life after death, the immortality of the soul, and the power of love and self-sacrifice, the Harry Potter novels are rich in symbolism derived from ancient and Medieval folklore and legends. A wealth of information on Christian symbolism relevant to Harry Potter can be found in The Bestiary of Christ by Louis Charbonneau-Lassay.

This book was published in French in 1940 and in English in the early 1990’s. Much of the information in this book is a compilation of various Medieval bestiaries, which were treatises on animals and what they symbolized. Bestiaries were highly imaginative popular literature in Medieval times and were used to teach moral lessons and Christian theology. Some of the animal symbols in this book which are used in the Harry Potter novels include the lion, the serpent, the unicorn, the stag, the phoenix, the basilisk, and the weasel, among others. Our examination of animals used as symbols in the novels will begin with a closer look at the mascots of the four Hogwarts houses: the Slytherin serpent, the Gryffindor lion, the Ravenclaw eagle, and the Hufflepuff badger.

The Symbolism of the Four Houses

            During Harry’s first year at Hogwarts he is introduced to the Sorting Hat ceremony, a yearly ritual at the school in which the new students are sorted into one of four different houses, each house named after the four founders of Hogwarts: Salazaar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Helga Hufflepuff. The hat sings a song to explain the qualities that the four founders of Hogwarts were seeking when selecting students for his or her house:


            You might belong in Gryffindor

            Where dwell the brave at heart,

            Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

            Set Gryffindors apart;

            You might belong in Hufflepuff;

            Where they are just and loyal,

            Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

            And unafraid of toil;

            Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

            If you’ve a ready mind,

            Where those of wit and learning,

            Will always find their kind;

            Or perhaps in Slytherin

            You’ll make your real friends,

            Those cunning folk use any means

            To achieve their ends. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, page 118)

            The conflict of good versus evil at Hogwarts focuses on the enmity between two houses that are always in direct opposition to each other: Gryffindor and Slytherin. Harry Potter, our heroic Gryffindor, is a model of what this house stands for: chivalry and courage. Draco Malfoy, Harry’s Slytherin arch-rival, is also a model of his house’s ideals: ambition and pure-blood supremacy. Even the two characters names reveal their allegiances.  Likewise, Professor Albus Dumbledore, a Gryffindor, and Lord Voldemort, the Heir of Slytherin, have names that were carefully chosen for their symbolic meaning.

Harry’s name could be thought of as the verb “to harry.” The term “to be harried” means to be harassed or distressed by repeated attacks,” as when Harry is harried by the many attempts Voldemort has made to kill him. The name Potter has symbolic meaning derived from the Bible, where God is referred to as a “potter,” as in Isaiah 64:8: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are all the work of thy hand.” (KJV) Other references to God as the “potter” can be found in Jeremiah 18:5-6 and Romans 9:20-21.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron are in Gryffindor House, the House of the Lion. Their friend Luna is in Ravenclaw House, but here Luna is showing her support for her friends on the Gryffindor Quidditch team by wearing her unique lion hat.

The name Albus Dumbledore means “white bumblebee.” An alb is the white garment worn by a Catholic priest, and dumbledor is an archaic word that means bumblebee. Tolkien made use of this word in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in “Errantry,” a poem which tells of a diminutive hero who vanquished the giant insects in battle. (Tolkien Reader 214) According to the Bestiary of Christ, the bumblebee was a symbol of the soul’s survival after death. The bee disappears in winter and reappears in the spring, thus becoming a signifier of the Resurrection.

"Dumbledore means 'bumblebee' in old English and JKR said that she liked to think of him walking down the corridors, humming to himself, so I thought I'd draw him humming away to the first spring bumblebee."--fan artist penguin2006

Draco Malfoy, on the other hand, has a name that has very negative connotations. Draco is the Latin word for “dragon” or “serpent,” both traditional Biblical symbols of Satan, most notably the serpent who tempted Eve in the book of Genesis and the serpent described in Revelation 20:2, “…the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan…” (KJV) The surname Malfoy can be thought of as the French mal foi, which translates as “bad faith,” so Draco Malfoy’s name literally means “Dragon of Bad Faith” or “Serpent of Bad Faith.”

Draco Malfoy's Dark Mark.

            The most extensive serpent imagery associated with any one character in the novels is that imagery which surrounds the supreme villain, Lord Voldemort. He is a descendant of Salazaar Slytherin, the founder of Slytherin House. He, like his ancestor, is a parselmouth who can speak to snakes. Voldemort has a hairless, snake-like appearance, having two slit-like nostrils instead of a human nose.


His loyal minions, the Death Eaters, are each identified by the Dark Mark, a distinctive snake and skull tattoo. This is a symbol from Christian art: the skull and serpent are often depicted at the foot of the Cross of Calvary. The skull represents death, the punishment for the sin of Adam, and it is symbolic of the fallen nature of mankind. According to Jewish legend, Adam’s burial place was at Golgotha, the “place of the skull.” The skull at the foot of the cross was there to represent Adam’s skull, and the serpent was present as an allusion to Satan, the great tempter in the Garden of Eden who brought about the fall of mankind.

In this depiction of the Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, the skull of Adam is present at the foot of the cross.

As the teenager Tom Riddle, Voldemort opened the Chamber of Secrets and unleashed the great serpent, the basilisk, upon the Hogwarts School. The basilisk, or cockatrice, is another symbol of Satan which is mentioned in Isaiah 14:29 (KJV): “Out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.”  In The Bestiary of Christ, the basilisk is described as a symbol of Satanic evil. This is mentioned in a description of a little country church that was decorated with “the image of a knight on foot striking a helmeted basilisk with his sword. It is the struggle between Good and Evil, so often and variously depicted, and could be seen as Christ fighting with Satan.” (Bestiary 423) This imagery is found in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the chapter that describes how Harry used the Sword of Godric Gryffindor to slay the basilisk.

The name Godric means “power of God,” reminding us that the Christian, like Harry, will not be abandoned in his or her fight with the Great Serpent. We have the “power of God” on our side in our conflict with the Dragon. Also note that the surname Gryffindor can be thought of as the French griffin d’or which means “griffin of gold.”  The griffin, according to the bestiaries, is a symbol of Christ because of its dual nature: it is both lion and eagle, just as Christ is both God and Man. The eagle is a creature of the heavens, symbolizing the divine nature of Christ, and the lion is a creature of the earth, representing Christ the Man. The griffin’s mastery of the earth and sky came to be associated with Christ’s Ascension. The griffin was, through its association with Jesus Christ, thought to be the enemy of serpents and basilisks who, as previously mentioned, are symbolic of the Devil.

Griffins from the recent film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The eagle, mascot of Ravenclaw House, was a symbol of Baptism because the ancients believed the eagle’s life was renewed by plunging itself three times into a body of water, hence its depiction on Christian baptismal fonts. The eagle was often depicted as a slayer of serpents in many cultures, and thus viewed as an enemy of Satan. Its ability to soar to great heights was associated with Christ’s Ascension, as well as with St. John, the evangelist who was considered to be the most “intellectual” of the four gospel authors. This association of the high-flying eagle with great intellectual acumen may be the reason J.K. Rowling made it the mascot for Ravenclaw, whose motto is “Wit beond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” The eagles in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have a brief but important role, used symbolically to represent Divine Providence or Divine Intervention.

"The Eagles are Coming" by fantasy artist Michael Whelan depicts the rescue of Frodo and Sam in The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

That the Gryffindor mascot is a lion is not surprising; the lion is a Biblical symbol of Christ and a symbol of the Resurrection.  In Revelation 5:5 Jesus is referred to as “the lion of the Tribe of Judah.” The lion was also a symbol of the Resurrection to the early and medieval Christians because it was believed that lion’s cubs were born dead. When the cubs were three days old, the father lion breathed on them and brought them to life, just as Christ lay in the tomb for three days before the Resurrection. This same symbolism of Christ the Lion is used by C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia. The character of Aslan is a magnificent lion and a literary “Christ figure” who sacrifices himself to save the life of a human traitor. He is gloriously resurrected due to the workings of “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.” We know that Jo Rowling read and loved this story as a child, and I believe that Lewis’s Narnian Chronicles had an influence on the plot and symbolism of the entire Harry Potter series.

Aslan's dramatic resurrection in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Perhaps that is why Aslan’s colors are associated with Gryffindor House: Peter Pevensie’s shield was decorated with a red lion rampant, and his sword had a golden hilt. (LWW 160) Aslan’s army had tents of crimson and yellow, with banners depicting the red lion. (LWW 168) The colors of Gryffindor House are, of course, red and gold.

High King Peter, a knight of Narnia clad in Aslan's colors.

J.K. Rowling’s description of the Hufflepuff dormitories will seem familiar to fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: There are “little underground tunnels leading to the dormitories, all of which have perfectly round doors, like barrel tops,” she said in the Bloomsbury live online chat on July 30, 2007. This description sounds remarkably like the description Tolkien gave of Bilbo Baggins’ home, a comfortable hobbit hole called Bag End. Bilbo’s home is a cozy, luxurious tunnel-like construction with perfectly round doors.

Gandalf visits Bag End in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Hufflepuff House is known for the virtues of loyalty and hard work, and is represented by a badger mascot. Perhaps a Narnian influence can be detected here as well: in Lewis’ Prince Caspian the badger Trufflehunter is one of the Old Narnians that aids Caspian in the war with the wicked usurper, King Miraz. Trufflehunter the Badger is loyal to Aslan even in the darkest of times. Trufflehunter’s faith in the Great Lion remains strong, even when many other Narnians have ceased to believe. Likewise, there are many Hufflepuff students who are loyal to Harry: some are members of Dumbledore’s Army, and many more are among the large number of Hufflepuff students who stand alongside the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws who fight to defend the castle in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Loyal as a badger: Trufflehunter was known for his loyalty to Aslan in Chronicles of Narnia. Loyalty is also a virtue that the members of Hufflepuff House are known to display.
 Please subscribe to this blog so that you don’t miss the next installment of “Harry Potter and the Bestiary of Christ,” which is entitled “The Slaying of the Unicorn.” If you would like to order a copy of The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter by Denise Roper, the book can be obtained from www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows.

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Christian Symbolism in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One: Missed Opportunities

I have seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One twice now–first on opening day and again yesterday–and there is something that has been bothering me about the film for a week now. I am profoundly disappointed by the absence of the two Biblical quotations Rowling included in the novel and which were left out of the theatrical version of the film. The first was from Matthew 6:21.

Harry stooped down and saw, upon the frozen, lichen-spotted granite,  the words KENDRA DUMBLEDORE and, a short way below her dates of birth and death, AND HER DAUGHTER ARIANA. There was also a quotation: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows page 325)

This inscription is from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, which should be examined in the context in which it appears in the Bible: This quotation is from Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount.”

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, NRSV)

We know that the tomb of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore was designed for the film; a photo of it was published in the book Harry Potter Film Wizardry.

The quotation from Matthew 6:21 is visible at the bottom of the tombstone.

In an earlier blog post I explained the significance of the quatrefoil and the IHS which appear at the top of this grave marker. Here’s a quote from this earlier post: https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/christian-imagery-in-deathly-hallows-film-photos-of-godrics-hollow-churchyard/


Quatrefoil: ubiquitous in Gothic architecture, the quatrefoil symbolizes the four evangelists, as do the Winged Man (Matthew), Lion (Mark), Ox (Luke), and Eagle (John) — the four beasts of Ezeckiel and the Apocalypse.

IHS: dating from the 8th c., this is an abbreviation for “IHESUS,” the way Christ’s Name was spelled in the Middle Ages (despite popular belief, the monogram stands neither for “Iesus Hominum Salvator” –”Jesus Saviour of Men” — nor for “In His Service.”) Popularized by St. Bernardine of Siena, the monogram was later used by St. Ignatius of Loyola as a symbol for the Jesuit Order.

I really missed seeing this Christian imagery in the theatrical version of the film. I also wanted the film makers to include more information about Dumbledore’s background and personal tragedies. Perhaps this need for more exposition in the film is the reason that the tomb of Kendra and Ariana was not shown in the theaters. Dumbledore felt a great deal of guilt about their deaths, a burden that he had to bear for the rest of his life. I think that Dumbledore learned a lesson that Voldemort had not been able to comprehend: his “treasures” were not possessions or objects of power, but the people that he loved. If they had included this Biblical quotation in the film, it could have been made to tie in nicely with Ron’s return. The light from Dumbledore’s deluminator went into Ron’s heart and then guided him back to the one he loves most: Hermione. Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.

The “heart” can also serve as a metaphor for the human soul. Where Voldemort’s “treasures” (the Horcruxes) are hidden is where Harry, Ron, and Hermione will find the Dark Lord’s “heart”– that is, the fragments of his torn and mutilated soul. They will be the thieves that break into Gringotts to steal the cup Horcrux in order to destroy it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two.

The tombstone with the quotation from Matthew 6:21 is discussed briefly in the video game based on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. (Harry remarks that he did not know that Dumbledore had a sister.) You can see a video of this part of the game in the blog post that I made yesterday: https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/deathly-hallows-part-one-video-game-walk-through/ The Biblical quotation from Matthew 6:21 is not visible in the game walk-through however.

In the video game, Harry reads aloud the words inscribed on his parents’ grave marker–the second Biblical quotation Rowling included in the novel.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

This is a quotation from 1 Corinthians 15:26. The quote can be seen on the Potters’ tomb in the theatrical version of the film but it is not discussed by Harry and Hermione as it was in the novel.

These photos of the Godric’s Hollow churchyard are from the Panini sticker book.


This is Rowling’s description of that scene which was omitted from the film:

Harry read the words slowly, as though he would have only one chance to take in their meaning, and he read the last of them aloud. “ ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death’…” A horrible thought came to him, and with it, a kind of panic. “Isn’t that a Death Eater idea? Why is that there?”

“It doesn’t meaning defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry,” said Hermione, her voice gentle. “It means…you know…living beyond death. Living after death.” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows page 328)

The theme of death and of life after death was one of the most important themes in the Harry Potter series. The omission of these lines from the film was a huge thematic flaw in my opinion.

Christian Symbolism in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One: What They Got Right

The theatrical cut of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One did have a certain amount of obvious Christian imagery, which was very well done. Early in the film, when Hermione has erased her parents’ memories of her and leaves home, she walks down the street in the direction of a building which may be a  church. (This is a scene that was not in the novel.)

When Harry and Hermione arrive in Godric’s Hollow, the sound of a church bell tolling can be heard as they walk down the street. When they arrive outside the graveyard we do hear the sound of singing inside of the little village church. The congregation is celebrating Christmas Eve. When Harry looks through the iron fence at the church graveyard and asks Hermione if she thinks his parents are in there, she assures him with confidence that they are. Once inside the churchyard there many are cross-shaped gravemarkers that are visible. There is no mistaking it: James and Lily Potter are buried in hallowed ground.

Then there’s the Sword of Godric Gryffindor:

The scene is as I described it in The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

It is on the day after Christmas that Harry and his friends begin to make real progress in accomplishing their mission to defeat Voldemort. Just as King Arthur’s knights followed the white stag through the forest to find the Grail Chapel, Harry followed the silver doe to a frozen forest pool where he saw a shape  like “a great silver cross” (DH 367).  It was the Sword of Gryffindor hidden beneath the ice. The sword is one of the most fundamental Christian symbols:

The Cross is God’s sword, held at the hilt by the hand of Heaven and plunged into the world not to take our blood, but to give us His. (Kreeft 224)              

Harry, while wearing the locket, tried to retrieve the sword, but the Horcrux around his neck began to choke him. It was when Harry began to drown that Ron returned to save his life. Proving himself to be a true Gryffindor, Ron pulled the sword from the water and severed the locket’s hold on Harry. Voldemort, like Satan the Father of Lies, made a desperate effort to claim Ron as his own, and Ron, like the weasel who strikes against the venomous serpent, was able to strike the first fatal blow against Voldemort by destroying the locket Horcrux with Gryffindor’s sword.

This quote was from page 81 of The Lord of the Hallows. The quote within the passage above which describes the Cross as God’s Sword is from Peter Kreeft’s wonderful book Catholic Christianity. J. K. Rowling herself described the Sword of Godric Gryffindor as being shaped like “a great silver cross” in the novel on page 367, (emphasis mine).

I gave chapter 8 of The Lord of the Hallows the title “Belief in God in the World of Harry Potter.” Here’s an excerpt:

“How in the name of heaven did Harry survive?” asked Professor McGonagall at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (SS 12) This is the first of many examples of how the language of Christianity is used throughout the series. In book one there is a reference to the concept of sin in the warning given to those who would steal from the Gringotts goblins: “Enter stranger, but take heed of what awaits the sin of greed.” (SS 72) Harry, Ron, and Hermione even manage to escape from a deadly plant called the Devil’s Snare. (SS 277-278) In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Weasley asks, “Good lord, is it Harry Potter?” (CS 39) Draco refers to Harry as “Saint Potter, the Mudbloods’ friend.” (CS 223) Dumbledore even leads the Hogwarts students and faculty in “a few of his favorite carols” at Christmastime. (CS 212) In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban the manager of Flourish and Blotts says “thank heavens” (PA 53), Draco Malfoy says “God” (PA 113), Hagrid utters “Gawd knows.” (PA 274), and Remus Lupin says “My God.” (PA 363) Lupin also helps Harry learn the difference between losing one’s life and losing one’s soul. (PA 247) In these numerous references and in many others, there is evidence of a belief in the Christian God in the world of Harry Potter. (The Lord of the Hallows pages 69-70)

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling’s use of Christian references and images becomes more obvious than in the previous novels. Good wizard characters say “thank God” (Harry on page 74, Molly on page 78, Ron on page 142), and there are jokes about a wizard being “saint-like” or “holy” (George on page 74). That George Weasley would call himself “holy” (“hole-y”) refers to his missing ear, which was cursed off during a battle with the Death Eaters. St. George was a Christian saint, who, according to pious legends, was a dragon slayer, taking up arms against Satan, who appeared to him in the form of a mighty serpent. (The Lord of the Hallows pages 72-73)

George’s “holy” joke is in the film, in a particularly well-acted scene between the Weasley Twins. I also noticed two exclamations of “Oh my God!” in the movie. The first was uttered by Ron Weasley when he is in disguise as Reg Cattermole at the Ministry of Magic. The second exclamation was made by Hermione Granger in the tent when she makes the realization that the Sword of Godric Gryffindor can destroy Horcruxes.  The Deathly Hallow known as the Resurrection Stone is also mentioned by Xenophilius Lovegood after Hermione reads aloud “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” I loved the animation which accompanied her narration, particularly the appearance of the Angel of Death who ascends to Heaven with the third brother at the tale’s conclusion. We have seen the Angel of Death in a Harry Potter film prior to this one, in the graveyard scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Yes, there are action figures. Is this the “Harry Potter and the Angel of Death” playset?

I am eagerly looking forward to the Christian themes and imagery that inevitably will be present in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two. If you are interested in the topic of Christian symbolism, imagery, and themes in the Harry Potter series, please consider reading my book, The Lord of the Hallows, which is available from www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows.

Comments are welcome!



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If you have not read Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel by David C. Downing, you may wish to read my review of it at https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/my-review-of-looking-for-the-king-an-inklings-novel/

I just read a short interview with author David C. Downing here:


While visiting the Ignatius Press website you may want to look at the books that they have published on Lewis and Tolkien. I’ve read nearly all of the Inklings-related titles that Ignatius Press has released, and just about every one of them was a great read. In the interview, David Downing made a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree: “I’m sure that part of my attraction to both Lewis and Tolkien is simply that both are master story-tellers. But there is also a power of Goodness in their work. As an English major in college, I spent much of my time reading contemporary novelists who are experts at portraying troubled people–selfish, neurotic. brutish, and downright evil. But very few twentieth century novelists besides Lewis and Tolkien (and Chesterton) have the power to show us what good people look like–characters with integrity, compassion, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice for others. I’m sure this ability to portray good characters convincingly is derived from their Christian world-view, a sense that ultimately, it is not evil or chaos, but Goodness that reigns in the universe.”

I believe that this ability to portray good characters with whom readers can easily love or identify with is one of secrets of the success of the literary works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling. Aren’t Harry Potter and his friends good examples of characters who have “integrity, compassion, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice for others,” as Dowling described it? Bonds of loyalty, love, and friendship strengthen Harry, Ron, and Hermione as much as Frodo and Sam on their seemingly impossible mission to defeat the Dark Lord. True romantic love can be found in Tolkien and Rowling’s stories. Yes I like Aragorn/Arwen and Harry/Ginny as couples…

"I do not believe this darkness will endure." This is one of my favorite scenes from The Return of the King Extended Edition.

…but I just adore Faramir and Eowyn,…

A Hobbit Wedding

…Rosie and Sam, and these two stubborn kids:

My most favorite couple.


Every sinner who has turned away from temptation to follow the difficult path of repentance can find hope in the stories of Boromir of Gondor and Severus Snape.

"I would have followed you, my brother, ...my captain, ...my king."--Boromir to Aragorn

This beautiful fanart, "Severus and Lily" by Wmash, can be found at deviantart.com.


“All the heroes in all the stories in the world are heroes only because they are in some ways like Jesus.”–Peter Kreeft in Because God Is Real, page 212.

The loving self-sacrifice of Lily Evans Potter, her brave son Harry, humble Frodo Baggins, wise Gandalf, and Aslan all resonate with the Greatest Story Ever Told, the story of Christ. Seek and ye shall find: if you look for the King of Kings in these stories, you will find him.

What are your thoughts on my ramblings? Comments are welcome. 🙂


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This was posted by masterofmystery at Snitch Seeker today:

Comcast has released a nearly-five-minute long behind-the-scenes look at the new and old characters in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Prominently in the feature are new scenes and interviews with Bill Weasley (Domhnall Gleeson), Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans), Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nigh), Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), and Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson). Many new scenes from the Burrow and wedding, Malfoy Manor, the Lovegoods’ home, and the Ministry of Magic are shown throughout, as well.

Hooray for Bill/Fleur! Julie Walters is right: Bill Weasley is just too cute. 🙂 Does anyone know where I can get a better quality version of this video?

Here’s Daniel Radcliffe’s new interview. The questions that he is answering are listed at the beginning of the video.

I loved that Dan identified Harry, Ron, and Hermione as selfless heroes: “What’s at stake is more important then their individual lives.” All three are willing to sacrifice themselves to stop Voldemort and make the world a better place.

Rupert’s interview is next.

Here’s Emma Watson.

Here is director David Yates’s interview. He mentions Harry’s “crisis of faith” in Dumbledore, which I have discussed on this blog before. He also talks about Ron and Hermione’s relationship and how we really want to see them get together. 🙂

Producer David Heyman’s interview is next. He alludes to Ron and Hermione’s crisis of faith in Harry.

Here is producer David Barron’s interview.

Ralph Fiennes, on Voldemort.

Helena Bonham Carter, on Bellatrix.

Rhys Ifans portrays Luna’s dad, Xenophilius Lovegood. “When he’s pleased, he says fabby. When he’s happy, he jumps up and down. And when he’s ecstatic, he skips.” lol! Luna apparently takes after her dad.

Next, Jason Isaacs talks about Lucius Malfoy.

Bill Nighy on Rufus Scrimgeour and the objects bequeathed to the Trio in Dumbledore’s will.

Hem, hem. Imelda Staunton on Dolores Umbridge.

Tom Felton on Draco Malfoy. I liked his analysis of the character.

Thanks to Snitch Seeker for posting all of these videos on YouTube. I saw this on Tumblr today and thought it was really cute:

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 Most of the information in the following blog post is can be found in my book, The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. There are many new tidbits to be found here as well, so even if you have read my book, there’s more new information to discover in this post. Enjoy!

     Have you ever wondered about the deeper meaning of the Deathly Hallows symbol? First we must answer the question, “What are hallows?” 

What is Albus Perceval Wulfric Brian Dumbledore looking at in this still from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?

     The noun hallow means “a holy person or saint.”  “Hallows” is a word that refers to “the shrines or relics of saints.” The verb “to hallow”  means “to make holy, to sanctify, to purify” or “to honor as holy, to regard and treat with reverence or awe” as in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…” The October 31st celebration of Halloween is also known as All Hallows Eve, or the Eve of All Saints. 

     Then of course there is the Christian mythology of the quest for the Hallows of the Holy Grail in the Arthurian legends. Typically, the Grail Hallows are identified as:

1. the Sword of King David or, (alternately) the Sword that beheaded John Baptist

 2. the Dish of the Last Supper

 3. the Holy Grail Cup

 4. the Spear of Longinus (also referred to as “the Spear of Destiny”)

The Four Grail Hallows of Arthurian Legend. When I first saw this representation of the Grail Hallows I thought of the triangular Deathly Hallows symbol.

The cup, dish, and the spear are part of a larger collection of objects known as the Arma Christi, or Articles of the Crucifxion of Christ.  When the title of the final Harry Potter novel was released, I immediately thought of the Grail Hallows and their correspondences with the four suits of the Tarot (swords, disks, cups, and wands), then looked for parallels in Harry’s world. I expected the Sword of Gryffindor to play an important role in the final book, and it did. The dish or disk has a parallel in the Locket of Slytherin, and the cup is present as the Cup of Hufflepuff. But what of the spear? I examined the parallel with the four suits of the Tarot, and realized that a wand would be a suitable quest object in this story about wizards. I expected the Spear of Destiny would have a parallel as the Wand of Destiny in the wizarding world, and when the seventh novel was released, I discovered that this was indeed the case.

The Spear of Destiny and the Holy Grail Cup of Arthurian Legend have their origins in the Crucifixion of Christ

The legend of the Spear of Destiny developed from a passage in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus is found dead on the cross: “Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.” (John 19:34, NRSV) Tradition derived from the non-canonical Gospel of Nicodemus gave this Roman soldier a name: Gaius Cassius Longinus. A sculpture of the legendary saint by the brilliant Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) can be seen in Saint Peter’s Basilca in Rome. Longinus is depicted holding the Holy Lance in his right hand. 

This sculpture of St. Longinus is located in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

 In 326 A.D. St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, discovered relics thought to be the Arma Christi while on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem. Among the relics were the True Cross of Christ’s crucifixion, the crown of thorns, the pillar at which Christ was scourged, and the Holy Lance. A legend later associated with this Holy Lance claimed that whoever possessed it would be able to conquer the world. A group of knights found a lance believed to be the Lance of Longinus beneath St. Peter’s Cathedral in Antioch during the First Crusade. Possession of the alleged Holy Lance spurred the crusaders on to victory.

     Harry Potter enthusiasts should notice that “Antioch Peverell” is the name of one of the three brothers who once possessed the Deathly Hallows. Antioch was the brother who wielded the Elder Wand, also known as the Wand of Destiny. Throughout history there have been many legends surrounding the relics that were thought to be the Lance of Longinus, the Holy Lance that came to be known as The Spear of Destiny. Likewise in the fictional wizarding world of Harry Potter there were many legends surrounding the Elder Wand. Like the would-be conquerors throughout history who thought that the army who possessed the Spear of Destiny would be invincible, in Harry’s world, the wizard who possessed the Elder Wand was thought to be unbeatable.

          One candidate for the title of Holy Lance, allegedly the spear that was found by St. Helena and once belonged to Constantine the Great, was possessed by the Holy Roman Emperors. It was believed to have contained one of the nails used in the crucifixion. This lance was called the Hofburg Spear, and it was kept in Austria’s Hofburg Museum until Adolf Hitler had it removed. 

The Hofburg Lance was believed to be the Spear of Destiny.

 On March 12, 1938 Hitler went to the Hofburg Museum to visit the supposed Holy Lance on the very same day that Nazi Germany took control of Austria.  Hitler believed this relic was truly the Spear of Destiny, and possession of it would make him invincible. On October 13, 1938 Nazi troops moved the Hofburg Spear from Vienna to Nuremberg where it was on display at St. Katherine’s Church for much of the Second World War. During the Allied Forces’ bombing of Germany the spear was moved to a secure underground bunker in Nuremberg.

          It is interesting to note that in Harry’s world, the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, who was obsessed with the Wand of Destiny, was kept in a prison called Nurmengard.  

          The Hofburg Spear came into the hands of U. S. troops under the command of General Patton on April 30, 1945 at 3:00 p.m. when Nuremburg Castle was captured.  Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 at 3:30 p.m., just a half hour after he lost his “Spear of Destiny.” The lance was returned to the Hofburg Museum in January 1946, where it has remained until this day.

          Note that Hitler’s defeat takes place in 1945, the same year that Dumbledore defeated the dark wizard Grindelwald and became the new owner of the Wand of Destiny. When asked if it was a coincidence that Grindelwald was defeated in 1945, Rowling said, “No. It amuses me to make allusions to things that were happening in the Muggle world…” (Anelli, 16 July 2005)

          Hitler’s obsession with the Spear of Destiny may have been the result of his passion for the operas of German composer Richard Wagner. Wagner’s opera Parsifal, composed in 1882 was one of Hitler’s favorites. The story of the opera is about Parsifal (known as Percival in the English versions of the tale), who is one of the knights who is questing for the Grail Hallows. The opera’s plot is partially derived from Parzival, a German Medieval romance written in 1202-1210 by the poet Wolfram von Eschenbach. In the opera, the Spear of Destiny is glorified.

          Wolfram’s Parzival differs from Wagner’s opera in many ways, most notably in the portrayal of the Grail itself. Wagner’s Holy Grail is the traditional cup that one would expect, but in Wolfram’s version of the tale, the Holy Grail is a stone. Why Wolfram chose to portray the Grail as a stone rather than as a cup was a mystery that perplexed scholars for many centuries. A recent piece of scholarship may have solved that mystery.

          In the book Gemstone of Paradise: The Holy Grail in Wolfram’s Parzival, author G. Ronald Murphy, a Jesuit priest, explains that the grail stone in Wolfram’s romance was probably an altar stone, symbolic of the stone that was rolled across the entrance of Jesus’s tomb before the resurrection. Father Murphy thought that Wolfram may have been inspired to imagine the Holy Grail as a stone because of his encounter with a portable altar of the type used on the crusades. This small altar was a container for holy relics (hallows), as well as holding the consecrated bread of the Eucharist inside it beneath the removable altar stone.

This is a type of portable altar used during the Crusades.

Father Murphy translated the Latin inscription on one such an altar as follows: “The altar of Christ’s cross is one with this table, and this is therefore the proper place for the sacrifice of the victim who secures life.” He later wrote, “This is the wood and the stone that guarantee the passage of Good Friday to Easter Sunday, death to life. The portable altar, and perhaps this very portable altar, is Wolfram’s special stone of Resurrection, the phoenix stone in Wolfram’s language…” (Murphy 185)

          Indeed, this is how Wolfram describes the stone. In A. T. Hatto’s English translation of Parzival, the passage describing the powers of the Grail Stone, or Stone of Resurrection, reads as follows: “By virtue of this Stone the Phoenix is burned to ashes, in which he is reborn—Thus does the Phoenix moult his feathers! Which done, it shines dazzling bright and lovely as before.” (Parzival 239) According to Wolfram, the phoenix’s power of Resurrection is from the power of the Grail Stone. In Harry Potter, Dumbledore hides the Deathly Hallow known as the Resurrection Stone within the Golden Snitch, a physical representation of the winged solar disk, a phoenix symbol. One symbol of resurrection is hidden inside of another.

"I Open at the Close" fanart by Gold Seven

          Wolfram von Eschenbach was known to have an interest in alchemy. In alchemical language the Holy Grail, or phoenix stone, was in fact the Philosopher’s Stone. The Medieval tales of the quest for the Holy Grail, like the alchemist’s path to the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, is symbolic of the pursuit of spiritual perfection. That J. K. Rowling is aware of the connection between Wolfram’s Grail Stone and the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone is suggested in a footnote on page 99 of Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Here, Rowling prompts her readers to make the connection between the Philosopher’s Stone and the Resurrection Stone from “The Tale of the Three Brothers:” “Many critics believe that Beedle was inspired by the Philosopher’s Stone, which makes the immortality-inducing Elixir of Life, when creating this stone that can raise the dead.” (TBB 99) I had developed my theory of Parzival’s Grail Stone as the inspiration for the Resurrection Stone Deathly Hallow in 2007, before The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published. When reading Rowling’s footnote from page 99 in December of 2008, I was delighted. I see this footnote as evidence that my theory of the hallows is a plausible one. Two of the three Deathly Hallows of Rowling’s fiction—the Wand of Destiny and the Resurrection Stone—seem to have been inspired by the Grail Hallows of Arthurian legend. The legendary knight Parzival, or Perceval, was the hero of many Medieval romances, one of which was La Folie Perceval. Perceval in this version of the tale was thought to have been influenced by the character of Payne Peveril in Fulke le Fitz Waryn (1260 A.D.). A Welsh poem called Peveril also featured a character similar to Perceval. Perhaps the name “Peverell” (the surname of the three brothers who possessed the Deathly Hallows) may have been derived from Peveril. Antioch Peverell was the master of the Elder Wand, and Cadmus Peverell held the Resurrection Stone. But what of the third Deathly Hallow, the Invisibility Cloak of Harry’s ancestor Ignotus Peverell? For the answer, perhaps we must turn to the ancient mythology of the British Isles.

Hermione discovers the tomb of Harry's ancestor Ignotus Peverell in Godric's Hollow.

          The legend of the “Thirteen Treasures of Britain” also known as the “Thirteen Hallows of Britain” describes an impressive collection of magical objects that would not seem out of place in Harry’s world. The twelfth treasure, for instance, is a magical chessboard with “living” chess pieces, not unlike the Wizard’s Chess game that Ron Weasley is so fond of playing.

"I'll be a knight," said Ron.

The thirteenth hallow in this collection is known as “The Mantle of Arthur” with the power to make the wearer invisible. This is very much like the Invisibility Cloak that was given to Harry by Dumbledore during his first Christmas at Hogwarts, the cloak that is the third of the Deathly Hallows.

Harry received the Invisibility Cloak for Christmas during his first year at Hogwarts.

          Rather than four Grail Hallows or thirteen Hallows of Britain, Rowling creates a trinity of Deathly Hallows, represented by a vertical line and circle contained within a triangle.

The Deathly Hallows symbol as it appears in the film.

This is the symbol that was mistaken for the “Peverell coat of arms” by Marvolo Gaunt. (HBP 207) The vertical line represents the Elder Wand, or Wand of Destiny, which is all-powerful. The circle represents the stone with the power of resurrection, and finally, the triangle represents the cloak with the power to make the wearer invisible. Thus, the three Deathly Hallows are that which is all-powerful, the power of resurrection, and the presence that is invisible.  In Christianity, this could symbolize the Holy Trinity: the all-powerful Father, the resurrected Son, and invisible presence of the Holy Spirit.

The equilateral triangle symbolizes the Holy Trinity of Christianity.

The circle in Christian symbolism represents eternity because it has no beginning and no end. (Luna Lovegood explains this on page 587 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.) A bright ring, the circular halo, is used to represent sanctity in Christian art.

The circular halo represents sanctity. The circle represents eternity in Christian art.

The Celtic symbol of the Holy Trinity combines the triangle and circle in one symbol to represent the Triune God.

This symbol which explains the Holy Trinity is quite similar to the Deathly Hallows symbol.

     In addition to the Trinitarian symbolism of the Deathly Hallows, in the Harry Potter series there are a trio of protagonists on a quest, not unlike the trio of knights who find the Grail in the Medieval Christian romance The Quest of the Holy Grail. Galahad, Perceval, and Bors are the three knights who find the Grail.

Galahad, Perceval, and Bors find the Chapel of the Holy Grail.

Galahad, the story's Christ figure, is surrounded by lilies, which symbolize his purity.

Notice that the third angel is holding the Spear of Destiny and the Dish.

Perceval and Bors complete the Trio of knights who achieve the quest for the Grail Hallows.

Galahad is identified as a symbol of Christ in the narrative of The Quest of the Holy Grail. He is compared to the “lily of purity” and the “true rose, the flower of strength and healing with the tint of fire.” The nature of his quest is a spiritual one which ends in his death after finding the Holy Grail. The angels carry him up to heaven along with the Holy Grail and the Spear of Destiny. Harry Potter is the character in Rowling’s saga that is most like Galahad. His quest is a spiritual one which involves self-sacrifice: he experiences a kind of death and resurrection that saves the wizarding world. Just as the Grail and Lance are taken up to Heaven, never to be seen again, Harry deliberately loses the Resurrection Stone in the forest and also renounces the power of the Elder Wand. The story ends with Harry declaring his intention to return the “Wand of Destiny” to Dumbledore’s tomb where it cannot be used again.

Galahad’s companion Perceval triumphs over temptations of the flesh in his many adventures, which include being tempted by the Great Serpent, Satan, in the form of a beautiful temptress.

Perceval is tempted by Satan in the form of a beautiful woman. He is saved from the temptation to sin when he beholds the "red cross that was inlaid in the hilt" of his sword.

 Perceval’s sword, like the Sword of Gryffindor, takes the shape of the Cross, the symbol of Satan’s ultimate defeat.

Ron drew the Sword of Gryffindor, which appeared as a "great silver cross" in the forest pool, to destroy the Locket of Slytherin Horcrux, thus destroying a fragment of the wicked soul of that Great Serpent, Voldemort.

Perceval also rescued a lion’s cub from certain death when he struck the head of the serpent that was trying to devour it. Perceval was then befriended by the King of Beasts. The lion, of course, is a symbol of Christ.

Perceval decapitates the serpent. This has an obvious parallel in Harry Potter: Neville vs. Nagini.

 Bors, unlike Perceval, faced intellectual temptations on the quest. He had to make difficult decisions concerning moral dilemas, as when he had to decide whether to rescue his beloved brother Sir Lionel or an innocent maiden who was being abducted by an evil knight. He made the correct decision to rescue the the defenseless girl rather than saving his warrior brother. Bors is most like Hermione, the thinker of the heroic Trio. Together the three knights Galahad, Perceval, and Bors, and the three young wizards Harry, Ron, and Hermione represent the spirit, body, and mind, the “soul triptych” that John Granger first identified in his excellent book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter.

In The Quest for the Holy Grail there is another important parallel with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Galahad, Percival, and Bors were wandering through a forest when they saw a “white hart with its four attendant lions.” The three knights followed the white stag, which led them to a chapel where the Mass was being sung by a holy hermit. Inside the little church the four lions transformed into the four living creatures that symbolize the four evangelists–the man (St. Matthew), the eagle (St. John), the lion (St. Mark), and the bull (St. Luke). The white stag transformed into a man enthroned as Christ the King. The hermit explained the symbolism of the miracle that the knights had witnessed:

For to you has Our Lord revealed His secrets and His hidden mysteries, in part indeed today; for in changing the Hart into a heavenly being, in no way mortal, He showed the transmutation that He underwent upon the Cross: cloaked there in the mortal garment of this human flesh, dying, he conquered death, and recovered for us eternal life. This is most aptly figured by the Hart. For just as the Hart rejuvinates itself by shedding part of its hide and coat, so did Our Lord return from death to life when he cast off his mortal hide, which was human flesh He took in the Blessed Virgin’s womb.—The Quest of the Holy Grail (244)

 It is only after they have had the vision of the transformation of the white stag that the three knights are able to find the Holy Grail. In The Grail: Quest for the Eternal, John Matthews explains the symbolism of the white stag with relationship to the Holy Grail quest:

To reach the temple of the Grail, the knights who set out from Camelot must undergo many tests and experience terrible ordeals. But often, when the way seems darkest, the enigmatic white stag or hermit figure appears, to lead them forward through the mazes of forest and hill. In medieval iconography the stag was identified with Christ and the soul’s thirst for God, which accounts for its appearance in this context. (Matthews 88)

 The appearance of the White Stag in the Quest for the Holy Grail has a direct parallel in the appearance of the mysterious Silver Doe in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have had no success in destroying the Horcruxes until the Silver Doe appears to lead Harry to the forest pool when the Sword of Gryffindor lay hidden beneath the ice.

Intrigued by this blog post? You can read more in The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter by Denise Roper. It is available at www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows.

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If you have read Melissa Anelli’s book, Harry, A History and you think you know all of the insider information that J. K. Rowling has revealed to the webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron, you’re in for a surprise. Melissa’s website has a section called “Vault 27” in which she has released previously unpublished interviews with J. K. Rowling. In one such interview Rowling revealed the working title of the seventh Harry Potter novel:

MA: One of them was the Hallows of Hogwarts.

JKR: Yeah, well, all those titles were mine.

MA: You just sent a list –

JKR: Yeah, I sent them a list of plausible titles, including the real one. Hallows of Hogwarts for years was going to be the title of the seventh, and it was wrong, just wrong.

MA: They aren’t all of Hogwarts.

JKR: Exactly. It changed completely, so Deathly Hallows was definitely the right way to go. I like the title of Deathly Hallows.

 In The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, I explained that the term hallows can refer to the shrines or relics of saints. Book seven is esentially a quest novel involving a search for relics.

 The numerous parallels between the Grail Hallows of Arthurian legend and Rowling’s Deathly Hallows are discussed in detail in my book. Of particular interest are the Grail Hallows described in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Medieval romance Parzival. This romance involves a quest for a Grail Stone or “phoenix stone” which is a certain type of  “stone of resurrection,” a term which alludes to the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone.  The Parsival legend also mentions another Grail Hallow– an object of great power–the Holy Lance that pierced Christ’s side, mentioned in John 19:34. In legend it would be renamed “The Spear of Destiny.” The Grail Stone and the Spear of Destiny, of course, have Wizarding World counterparts in the Resurrection Stone and the Wand of Destiny.

Melissa Anelli has given us an intriguing list of fake titles for the seventh Harry Potter book. Just insert “Harry Potter and the” in front of each one:

Heart of Ravenclaw
Deathly Hallows
Deadly Veil
Demon’s Sword
Quest of the Serpent
Grey Lady
Heir of Gryffindor
Lost Sceptre
Broken Wand
Gryffindor Quest
Peverell Quest
Wand of Gryffindor
Ring of Destiny
Elder Wand
Revenge of Dumbledore
March of the Death Eaters
Return of the Dark Lord
Curse of Nagini
Last Prophecy
Hallows of Hogwarts
Mudblood Revolt
Seventh Horcrux
Wand of Grindelwald
Final Curse

 Another fascinating excerpt revealed more of Rowling’s thoughts about the conflict between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, especially with regards to the symbolic Christian interpretation of the novels that I have proposed.  

JKR: Well, it’s the old fallen angel idea in some ways, isn’t it? It’s God and Lucifer.
MA: I wanted to ask you about that, because Grindelwald resembles – the golden curls, the first person I thought of was Lucifer.
When reading this, keep in mind that in 2002 John Granger proposed a symbolic interpretation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in which Dumbledore is “God the Father,” Fawkes the Phoenix is “Christ,” and Phoenix Song is the “Holy Spirit.” (The Hidden Key to Harry Potter page 198)
For more from Melissa Anelli and J. K. Rowling, please visit http://www.harryahistory.com/vault27.html.

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