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Archive for the ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ Category

This is the final blog post of “Harry Potter and the Bestiary of Christ.” If you have not done so already, please read parts 1-4 of this series.  (Note: This final installment is an updated version of a blog post that I originally made in the summer of 2010.)

Weasley is Our King!

The Unicorn Is Found.

          In The Hunt of the Unicorn as an Allegory of the Passion, the tapestry entitled “The Unicorn is Found,” depicts the unicorn dipping its horn into a stream to purify it. The unicorn, a Christ figure, is surrounded by other animals, some of which are Christ symbols as well, such as the lion and the stag. But standing near the stream closest to the unicorn’s horn is a small, slender creature which may represent a genet, an ermine, or a weasel. The much-maligned weasel is a favorite animal of author J. K. Rowling.

The Weasel, Enemy of Serpents

“Ron was the only one of three major characters whose surname never changed; he has been ‘Weasley’ from start to finish. In Britain and Ireland the weasel has a bad reputation as an unfortunate, even malevolent, animal. However, since childhood I have had a great fondness for the family mustelidae; not so much malignant as maligned, in my opinion.”–J. K. Rowling in “Some Random Facts About the Weasley Family” at http://www.jkrowling.com/

Generally speaking, calling someone a “weasel” is usually an insult. Indeed, there are numerous examples of Draco Malfoy calling Harry’s best friend Ron Weasley such insulting names as “the weasel” or “the weasel king.” In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Slytherins mock Ron Weasley with badges that proclaim “Weasley is Our King!” sarcastically and sing a song by the same title which has lyrics that insult Ron’s Quidditch-playing skills and make fun of his family’s poverty.

     The Bestiary of Christ reveals a totally different perception of weasels. “Although the weasel is the smallest of carnivores, it can win combats with much bigger animals than itself,” thus “the weasel is the perfect symbol of a Christian who, no matter how weak in himself, can still triumph over Satan, the most terrifying monster of hell.” (Bestiary 147) This passage calls to memory the scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in which Ron must confront his deepest fears and insecurities when he is tempted by the locket of Slytherin Horcrux, which contained a fragment of the Dark Lord’s soul. Voldemort spoke to Ron in this scene as a deceiver and a tempter, just as the Father of Lies, Satan, deceives and tempts the Christain to sin. But like the Christian who is weak in himself and yet with God’s help can triumph over Satan, Ron, with Harry’s encouragement, rejected Voldemort’s lies and used the Sword of Godric Gryffindor to destroy the locket Horcrux.

Ron Destroys the Locket Horcrux.

          The Bestiary of Christ also describes the weasel as the “symbol of the perfect disciple;” Ron is Harry’s devoted follower, sidekick, and best friend. The weasel is also described as a “symbol of paternal affection,” reminding the reader of Molly and Arthur’s great love for their children.

Weasels are said to be the enemies of rats (Peter Pettigrew) and snakes (Slytherin bullies, Death Eaters, and Lord Voldemort himself). The Bestiary also describes the weasel as “the most implacable vanquisher of that terrifying reptile, the basilisk…” (Bestiary 148-149).

      According to this legend, the weasel must sacrifice its own life to slay the basilisk. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny Weasley almost loses her life in the basilisk’s lair. She is saved only when Harry slays the basilisk with the Sword of Gryffindor and uses one of the creature’s fangs to destroy the diary Horcrux, thus freeing Ginny from Tom Riddle’s enchantment.
 
          Another bit of weasel lore known to J. K. Rowling is that “Weasels are careful to feed on rue before fighting with snakes…” (Bestiary 150)  In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the poison that Draco Malfoy intended for Dumbledore was mistakenly consumed by Ron Weasley (an example of a weasel being poisoned by a serpent). During Ron’s recovery in the hospital wing, Madame Pomfrey gave Ron essence of rue as an antidote to the poison.
 

Weasels who have been poisoned by serpents must ingest rue in order to recover.

          The Bestiary also mentions a type of weasel called the ermine, whose brown coat turns white in the winter. The ermine, due to its white color, symbolizes purity, especially feminine virtue. The ermine’s white coat disappears into the snow in the winter months and re-appears in the spring when its fur turns brown again. For this reason the ermine was a symbol of death and resurrection.  Please make note the presence of the letters e-r-m-i-n-e in Hermione’s name. What do you think of when Ron mumbles her name in his sleep as “Er-my-nee”?  Er-mi-ne?

          Otters are also part of the weasel family, so it’s no surprise that the Weasleys live near the village of Ottery-St.Catchpole, and that Hermione, the eventual wife of Ronald Weasley, has an otter patronus. In Christian art, the otter is sometimes used as a symbol of Christ’s righteousness. (Apostolos-Cappadonna 263).
 

Hermione's Otter Patronus by milkydreamsxxx on Tumblr.

          In The Unicorn Tapestries the weasel appears alongside its peers: it is as courageous as the lion, as pure as the unicorn, as nurturing as the deer, and like its fellows, it is the sworn enemy of the serpent. Ron and his family have been well named indeed.  
 

If you would like to read more, you can obtain a copy of The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter from my publisher’s website at www.outskritspress.com/thelordofthehallows.

Comments on this post are welcome!

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You can read part one of this series here: https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/harry-potter-and-the-bestiary-of-christ-part-one/  Now on to Part Two, in which the Christian symbolism of the unicorn is explained…

The Slaying of the Unicorn

            In addition to the lion and the griffin, another symbol of Christ is the unicorn. Ancient and Medieval lore indicates that a unicorn’s horn possessed miraculous powers of healing. Anyone who drank from the horn would be protected from disease or poison. The Dictionary of Symbolism by Hans Biedermann gives an account of the unicorn’s power to cleanse water that has been fouled by a serpent. The early Christian Physiologus describes as follows the power of the horn to counter the effects of poison: before the other animals come to drink, “the snake comes forward and spits its venom into the water. The animals, however, knowing that the water is poisoned, do not dare to drink. They await the unicorn. The unicorn comes, goes right to the lake and makes a cross with its horn. This removes the effect of the poison. Only after the unicorn has drunk do the other animals approach and do likewise.” (Biedermann 361)

Unicorns, which were once thought to be real animals, appeared in older translations of the Bible, such as the King James Version:

“…his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth…” (Deuteronomy 33:17, KJV)

“Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee?” (Job 39:9-10, KJV)

These references to unicorns in the King James Bible occurred due to an error in translation. About three centuries before Christ, a group of scholars known as The Seventy translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. This translation is known as the Septuagint. The word for a type of wild ox, re’em, was translated monokeros, which means “single horned creature.” The translators were unfamiliar with the word re’em because by that time the animal had become extinct. St. Jerome, in the late 4th century, used the Septuagint as the basis for his Latin translation of the Bible that was in use for many centuries. He translated the Greek monokeros as the Latin word unicornis. Many people understood this word to refer to the mythological unicorn, and therefore believed the animal must be real because it appeared in the Bible. Indeed, Rowling may know this story of why unicorns appeared in the King James Bible because it is apparent that she is familiar with the term re’em. She made use of this Hebrew word to refer to a rare golden ox whose blood gives the drinker immense strength. This reference can be found on page 36 of Rowling’s own Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Perhaps she discovered the term when researching the lore of unicorns.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: J. K. Rowling's own bestiary of the creatures in Harry's world.

In addition to the creature’s appearance in the Bible, the early Church fathers wrote about the unicorn as a symbol of Christ. According to St. Basil the Great (329-375 A.D.), “Christ is the power of God, therefore he is called the unicorn because the one horn symbolizes one common power with the Father.” St. Ambrose (339-397A.D.) also saw the unicorn as a symbol of Christ: “Who is the unicorn but the only begotten Son of God?”

            Because of these associations with Christ, both the lion and the unicorn appeared as Christ symbols in Medieval and Renaissance artwork. Reproductions of The Lady and the Unicorn, a set of famous tapestries from the Museum of Cluny in Paris, appear as wall hangings in the Gryffindor Common Room in all of the Warner Brothers Harry Potter films.

 A lion and a unicorn are depicted in each tapestry along with a female figure.  

Another set of famous unicorn tapestries, currently housed in the Cloisters, the Medieval exhibit of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a set entitled The Hunt of the Unicorn as an Allegory of the Passion. These tapestries, woven in 1495-1505 in the Netherlands, depict the betrayal and passion of Jesus Christ as a unicorn hunt.

The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle. When the unicorn is slain, notice the holly tree depicted behind the unicorn. Harry's wand is made of holly with a phoenix feather core. In the Deathly Hallows, Harry (like the unicorn) is "killed" and brought to the castle.

 

 Although the unicorn is killed in the sixth of the seven tapestries, he appears alive and well in the seventh tapestry. Here, the unicorn is a collared beast in a small enclosure, surrounded by a field of colorful flowers. “The Unicorn in Captivity” is symbolic of the resurrected Christ.

 

A unicorn tapestry copied from this famous work of art appears in the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), and can be seen clearly behind Ginny Weasley when she takes Harry by the hand in front of the Room of Requirement. 

 

Here's a copy of The Unicorn in Captivity again. This is photo I took inside the Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in the summer of 2010.

 In the second tapestry of this series, entitled “The Unicorn is Found,” the unicorn dips his horn into a stream, and is surrounded by other animals who are also Christian symbols, among them are the lion, the weasel, and the stag. All of these animal symbols are pertinent to this discussion of Harry Potter.

            In the book, The Unicorn Tapestries, by Adolfo Salvatore Cavallo, the author explains the symbolism of the unicorn: “Early bestiaries indicate that the unicorn dips its horn into water that wild creatures need for drinking in order to purify it of the poisons that serpents have spewed into it. The allegory is clear: Christ takes on the sins of Man and so purifies him in order to bring about his redemption. The serpent is the devil; the poison he introduces into the world (the water) is sin. ” (Cavallo 57)

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry hears running water as he walks through the Forbidden Forest. He concludes that there must be a stream somewhere close by, and notices spots of unicorn blood along the path. (SS 251) He is aware that there is a creature in the forest that has been killing the unicorns. The stream and the slain unicorn both suggest the imagery of the medieval bestiaries as well as the iconography of The Hunt of the Unicorn as an Allegory of the Passion. Rowling’s description of what Harry sees that night in the forest could be a scene from the crucifixion story that the tapestries portray:

Something bright white was gleaming on the ground. They inched closer.

It was the unicorn all right, and it was dead. Harry had never seen anything so beautiful and sad. Its long slender legs were stuck out at odd angles where it had fallen and its mane was spread pearly-white on the dark leaves.

Harry had taken one step toward it when a slithering sound made him freeze where he stood. (SS 255-256)

This is the hour of the Crucifixion, the hour of the Serpent’s triumph. It was Voldemort who made the slithering sound over the dead leaves; he was the Great Serpent who murdered the unicorn. Harry’s pain at encountering Voldemort in the forest is so great that he falls to his knees. (SS 256) The Dark Lord has done the unthinkable: he has been drinking the blood of the slain unicorn to sustain himself. His fear of death is such that he would slay the most worthy of creatures to sustain his unnatural life.

“…it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,” said Firenze. “Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” (SS 258)

This passage echoes St. Paul’s teaching on receiving Holy Communion, and those who receive it unworthily:

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.   (1 Corinthians 11:27-29, KJV)

According to St. Paul, to drink the blood of Christ unworthily at Communion is to drink damnation upon oneself. This parallels Fierenze’s claim that Voldemort has done the very same thing by drinking the blood of a unicorn, thus drinking a terrible curse upon himself.

            Harry had a very strange dream in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which may provide a link between the unicorn and the next Christ symbol that we will examine.

He was walking through a forest, his Firebolt over his shoulder, following something silvery-white. It was winding its way through the trees ahead, and he could only catch glimpses of it between the leaves. Anxious to catch up with it, he sped up, but as he moved faster, so did his quarry. Harry broke into a run, and ahead he heard hooves gathering speed. Now he was running flat out, and ahead he could hear galloping. (PA 265)

Was it a unicorn that Harry followed in his mysterious dream? Or was it something else? When Harry saw his corporeal patronus for the first time, he thought that, “It was as bright as a unicorn.” (PA 385) But later, Harry will discover that the silvery-white creature that saved him from the dementors wasn’t a unicorn at all…               

Illustration of the Stag and the Unicorn. Both are Christ symbols in Christian alchemical texts.

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 Hunting of the White Stag.” If you would like to order a copy of  my book, The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, it can be obtained from www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows.

You can read more about the symbolism in “The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle” here: http://tinyurl.com/3e9agbv.

 “Two episodes of the hunt narrative are brought together in this hanging. At left, two hunters drive their lances into the neck and chest of the unicorn, as a third delivers the coup de grâce from the back. It has been suggested that the doomed unicorn is an allegory for Christ dying on the Cross; the large holly tree (often a symbol of the Passion) rising from behind his head seems to reinforce this association. In the other episode, at right, a lord and a lady receive the body of the unicorn in front of their castle. They are surrounded by their attendants, with more curious onlookers peering through windows of the turret behind them. The dead animal is slung on the back of a horse, his horn already cut off but still entangled in thorny oak branches—probably symbolizing the Crown of Thorns. The rosary in the hand of the lady and the three other women standing behind the lord encourage a deeper reading of the scene, perhaps as a symbolic Deposition by the grieving Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and the Holy Women.”

 When I think of the name given to that tapestry, I am reminded of how Harry was “killed” and brought to the castle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I recently found this quotation regarding the Eucharistic symbolism of both the unicorn and the stag, as well as their alchemical significance:

“The tinctures in alchemy relate also to the substances of the Mass, the red wine, the blood, and the white wafer, the body of Christ. Administration of the Sacraments was seen as spiritualising the souls of the partakers. In alchemical terms these white and red stones or tinctures served much the same purpose, though the alchemists achieved this, not through the intermediacy of a priest but by their own inner work of transmutation. Here alchemy links directly with the Grail stories which use similar parallels between the Grail and the Sacraments. The red tincture was occasionally symbolised by a stag bearing antlers. The stag being seen as a noble masculine animal. This links in with the Unicorn as a symbol of the white or feminine tincture. In some alchemical illustrations, such as that of the late 16th century Book of Lambspring, the Stag and Unicorn meet in the forest of the soul as part of the process of inner transformation.” –from “Animal Symbolism in the Alchemical Tradition” by Adam McLean at http://www.levity.com/alchemy/animal.html.

The link between the Grail Stone of Parzival, the Philospher’s Stone of alchemy, and the Resurrection Stone in Harry Potter was explored in The Lord of the Hallows if that topic is of interest to you. But that’s a blog post for another day. 🙂

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The new Ultimate Edition DVDs of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were released yesterday. Both DVD sets include a special feature retrospective of the making of all eight films called “Creating the World of Harry Potter.” The Order of the Phoenix DVD set contains Part 5 of this special feature, “Evolution.” These screenshots of the cast and crew of Deathly Hallows Part 2 are from this special feature. (Minor spoiler warning below!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the last two it appears that Arthur and Hermione are trying to keep Ginny, Neville, and Ron from rushing forward, and perhaps doing something courageous but foolish. In the video it appears that they are being pushed back from something dreadful during the chaos of battle. It could be the scene when they think Harry has been killed.

Minor spoiler warning! These photos are from part 6 of feature, “Magical Effects.” Apparently Ron extracts the basilisk’s fang! And we get to see a bit more of Ron and Hermione holding hands, which is always a good thing. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To celebrate the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, I am giving away a signed copy of my book, The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter at the Goodreads website on July 15, 2011. You can enter to win a copy of the book here: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/7330-the-lord-of-the-hallows-christian-symbolism-and-themes-in-j-k-rowling. It would be greatly appreciated if you would help me spread the word about this. 🙂 It is difficult for a first-time author to promote a book, as I am relatively unknown outside of the Harry Potter convention fandom community.

If you would rather buy a copy today, you can purchase one at http://www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows/ or from http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Hallows-Christian-Symbolism-Rowlings/dp/1432741128/ref=sr_1_cc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307225900&sr=1-1-catcorr. Thanks so much! Positive reviews are always welcome.

 

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The Harry Potter Wall Art Blog lists June 14, 2011 as the release date for the Ultimate Edition DVD versions of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

 

From the Harry Potter Wall Art Blog:

Each of these Ultimate Edition DVDs will include a new hour of the documentary series “Creating the World of Harry Potter”. Also there will be special features with time length of more than four hours, and the digital copy of the film. In addition, Ultimate Editions will come with some Harry Potter collectibles, such as 44-page photo book, limited edition character cards and a lenticular card.

The two-disk Blu-Ray will be available at the price of $49.99, while the three-DVD will cost $39.92. You will be able to pre-order the Harry Potter Ultimate Edition DVDs starting from 10 of May.

You can read the rest of the blog post here: http://blog.harrypotterwallart.com/2011/02/order-of-phoenix-and-half-blood-prince.html

I really want these DVDs for my collection. 😉

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The rupertgrint.net fansite has some great pictures of Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Bonnie Wright from Entertainment Weekly’s 2009 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince photoshoot, which were just recently released to the public. You can find them here: http://rupertgrintgallery.com/thumbnails.php?album=557 Here are some of my favorite out-takes from this photoshoot:

Aren’t these great photos? Visit the rupertgrint.net site for many more out-takes from Entertainment Weekly’s photoshoot. There are over 50 photos from EW archived there. 🙂

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This is something that I reblogged on Tumblr at http://phoenixweasley.tumblr.com/ . It’s so good that I just had to share it with all of the Ron/Hermione fans who follow this blog also. 🙂

Top Five Ron/Hermione Moments That Are Not in the Films. (Photo credit to Sundaystorms on Tumblr.)

5. “You were going to ask me?”

 4. The White Tomb

3. “Come and dance.”

2. “Good luck, Ron.”

1. HERMIONE! HERMIONE!

I would have put the “I love you, Hermione” scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on this list as well. 🙂

It bothers me that #3 was filmed in a manner that directly contradicts the book. (I’m glad that scene of Hermione dancing with Viktor was cut.) We will probably never see scenes 5, 4, and 2, which is disappointing. 😦  There’s still a slight chance that scene #1 will be on the DVD, but it probably won’t be. I think the torture scene at Malfoy Manor was edited a great deal because it was too intense. I still didn’t like Ron’s less emotional response to Hermione’s torture in the film. His reactions should have shown a lot more fear for her, anger at his helplessness to save her, frustration, etc. I was hoping to see Ron cry and pound the walls with his fists as he did in the book. What are your thoughts? Comments are welcome.

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Rupert Grint revealed his thoughts on the relationship between Ron and Hermione in this recent interview: http://snitchseeker.com/harry-potter-news/video-rupert-grint-promotes-deathly-hallows-i-new-rupert-and-tom-felton-interviews-77047/ There are quotes from Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Felton there as well.

Ron and Hermione’s relationship also develops, doesn’t it?
Rupert:
Until now, we have only had hints at the potential of their relationship, but in this film we finally get to see their relationship blossom. Voldemort’s return, Ron leaving home, and all the stressful situations that they share ends up bringing them closer and then become a couple. They have always almost been a couple in the films, but in this one it feels so sudden and I felt awkward about it. Their story is different from the books, but their relationship’s development in the film is just as good.


I also liked what Tom Felton had to say about Draco’s best scene in Part One:

In Part 1, what scene would you say is Draco’s best?
Tom: There is a brilliant scene where there is a gathering of the evilest 20 characters at the Malfoy Manor that Voldemort is using for his headquarters. Draco, the only child in the room, is the only one with an innocent heart. As an actor, just being a part of the environment during filming was amazing and I felt overwhelmed. All the other actors in the room were playing characters with dark hearts whereas I was playing the only character without one. So I really enjoyed playing that scene.

 

Draco's Character Poster for HP7

 

Will Draco be redeemed in the movies? I am really anxious to see this. I would love it if Tom were allowed to portray the “good” or “sympathetic” side of Draco’s character in the Deathly Hallows films, showing movie audiences that Draco is more than just a two-dimensional schoolyard bully. He certainly did a great job with this in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

 

 

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