Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by John Holbo on February 2, 2007

So now you only have to wait until July 21 to read it [amazon]. In the meantime, you can contribute to this truly epic predictions thread Russell Fox started back in October. My money is on: Harry is a horcrux.



Russell Arben Fox 02.02.07 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for the link, John. I still do not see how the Harry-Horcrux thing is supposed to work; my bet for the Gryffindor Horcrux is something in Hogwarts itself, thus explaining Voldemort’s desires to come teach there. But then, I have to admit that’s one part of Rowling’s whole set-up that still alludes me. I’m willing to make predictions about a lot of things, but the whole truth about why Harry and Voldemort are tied together? I really don’t know.

Incidentally, anyone who clicks over there, be aware that I was linked to at some fan site, and the last 20 or so comments were written, I suspect, by some rather, er, enthusiastic 14-year-olds.


Seth 02.02.07 at 12:49 pm

I’ve been saying this on my personal blog and my Harry Potter blog for some time now: Harry Potter is a Horcrux.


Kieran Healy 02.02.07 at 1:07 pm

Last I heard, Harry was interfering with horses.


Russell Arben Fox 02.02.07 at 1:34 pm

For anyone who cares, here is the relevant exchange between John and myself about the Harry-is-a-Horcrux theory from the comments thread on my blog:

JH: I’m putting a dollar down on: Harry IS a horcrux. But even Voldemort doesn’t know it yet. And therefore Harry has to die (or lose his powers – cease to be a wizard – or something.) There will be a titanic battle in which Harry is poised to lose, and he seizes victory from the jaws of defeat by embracing defeat. Sacrificing himself in some way.

RAF: I’ve never been able to understand how the whole Harry-is/contains-a-Horcrux thing is even supposed to work, much less how it would fit into the story. A Horcrux is created when a wizard performs some sort of magic so as to contain his split soul, right? So, how could Harry have become a Horcrux? First, Harry wasn’t killed, so no murder took place there, and second, Voldemort was blasted into ectoplasm after his killing curse backfired, so how could even have cast the Horcrux spell to contain his split soul from Lily’s murder, if that’s what he decided to do at the last minute?

I expect Harry to discover in Book 7 that Horcruxes are extremely hard and complicated to create; some of the Harry-Horcrux speculation seems to assume that they happen almost automatically whenever a murder takes place, and that can’t be the case. (We’ve been given to understand that Voldemort and his allies have killed a great many people; has Voldemort really only personally killed six?)

Finally, remember that a wizard with a split soul still has at least one part still within their body; otherwise they’d be dead. So if Harry is/has a Horcrux, and has to hurt or kill himself in order to destroy it, we’d still have Lord Voldemort left to deal with. Granted, he’d be killable now…but the way Rowling has set things up, Harry himself has to do the killing. For Harry to perform some great, perhaps deadly sacrifice before the final confrontation just doesn’t make sense to me.

JH: My biggest reason for thinking [that Harry is a Horcrux] is that, if Harry turned out to have a little Voldemort in him, the connections between them we’ve seen in several books would be explained. Also, it would allow certain tasty dramatic possibilities. I expect we’ll find that killing Harry’s parents wasn’t some run-of-the-mill killing-his-enemies affair for Voldemort, but part of some elaborate Horcrux creation exercise gone wrong. Only it will turn out it didn’t go wrong the way Voldemort now thinks. It made Harry into the Horcrux (whereas something else was supposed to be it). So I’m not assuming that murders create the things automatically. I’m assuming we’ll find that there was some elaborate backstory to the night of the murder of Harry’s parents that we don’t know yet.

Obviously the “Horcrux creation exercise gone wrong” hypothesis would, at the very least, be the start of an explanation of how the boy who lived, lived. Namely,Voldemort was doing something tricky with bits of himself and somehow baby Harry managed to be in the right position to mess it up.

RAF: Okay, I have to admit that I think where you’re going here is kind of interesting. The first thing that popped into my mind, as I thought why Voldemort would have wanted to murder Harry through an especially complex ritual (which then, according to your argument, backfired spectacularly), was that perhaps Harry and/or something around or about him and his home (which is in Godric’s Hollow, remember) is connected with Godric Gryffindor. It’s been pretty much guaranteed that two of the Horcruxes are on/in items connected to Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw; maybe Harry himself, or some part of him, or something near/connected to him, is the Gryffindor item which Voldemort sought? If so…then I could see your argument working. We could see Rowling as having created a situation in which Harry becomes a Horcrux accidentally because his death was going to be part of Voldemort’s creation of his last/greatest Horcrux. Hmmm…

“Obviously the ‘Horcrux creation exercise gone wrong’ hypothesis would, at the very least, be the start of an explanation of how the boy who lived, lived.”

No, here I think you’re complicating it a bit much. Harry lived because Lily’s love/sacrifice provided him with a level of magical protection that Voldemort did not anticipate, because he’s never been interested in exploring the power of love. Dumbledore made that point several times, and Riddle himself admitted to it when Harry told his ghost about it in CoS.


Maurice Meilleur 02.02.07 at 1:54 pm

Look, I just don’t buy the Harry-is-the-last-Horcrux hypothesis. Think about it: the number of pieces into which V-mort suggests to Slughorn that a wizard might split his soul is seven.

Now consider the horcruxes we know about . . .

1. Tom Riddle’s diary (destroyed by Harry by a basilisk fang)
2. Malvolo Gaunt’s ring (destroyed by Dumbledore)

. . . and the reasonable guesses we might make:

3. The “real” locket taken by “RAB”–Regulus Black, Sirius’s brother–that is waiting at Grimmauld Place.

4. The Hufflepuff cup stolen by Tom Riddle/V-mort.

5. The snake Nagini. Come on, it has to be; how else to explain Harry’s having been “inside” the snake in Order of the Phoenix?

6. Some artifact that belonged to Ravenclaw or Griffindor.

First of all, six horcruxes makes seven pieces, right?

And, I have an easier time believing that Harry, or something around the house in Godric’s Hollow, was supposed to be the sixth horcrux (one connected with Griffindor), but that instead, V-mort’s attempt to make it so having failed, Nagini was chosen instead, and that there is a Ravenclaw artifact around somewhere yet indiscovered or guessed-at.

Easier, that is, than believing that Harry is the horcrux, and thus that all the business about V-mort wanting something for a horcrux from each Hogwarts house to be nothing but a red herring.


Steve LaBonne 02.02.07 at 1:56 pm

Harry Potter and the Deadly Bore, is more like it. [ducks for cover]


Maurice Meilleur 02.02.07 at 1:57 pm

In fact–and someone will have to chime in, since I don’t have the book with me–don’t we know from our time with Harry and Dumbledore in the pensieve what the other artifact is? Don’t we see Riddle looking at two artifacts at Hepsibah Smith’s house, the Hufflepuff cup and something else? Not the Slytherin locket?


Richard 02.02.07 at 3:52 pm

5. The snake Nagini. Come on, it has to be; how else to explain Harry’s having been “inside” the snake in Order of the Phoenix?

Maurice: how would Harry being ‘inside’ the snake be explained, unless both he and the snake were horcruxes (horcruces?)? What else do they have fundamentally in common (except, perhaps, direct descent from Slytherin or similar?)

Me, I reckon Dumbledore will do a Gandalf and come back, possibly with the 4 founders in tow, Harry will be revealed to in fact be the little, innocent boy that was locked away deep in the heart of Voldemort from the beginning, while the original baby Harry is a kind of horcrux-stone child; he’ll have to stave off the temptation of bringing his parents back to life, sacrifice a friend or two (Hermione, for sure) and finally justify those interminable quidditch scenes by saving the vital McGuffin from a bottomless pit in an astonishing feat of broomsmanship.

At the very least Harry will lose whatever made him exceptional: the whole wizarding thing is an appeal to childish fantasies of being unusual or out-of-place, of having something that makes up for the child’s lack of social agency. The series is an extended rite of passage, ending with Harry becoming an adult. Ergo: no further need for the special pass: his reward is to become normal.

And now, I’m done: no further time wasted speculating about HP when I should be working.


a diddy 02.02.07 at 4:38 pm

Actually, JKR shot down the idea that Harry is a horcrux in an interview.


Maurice Meilleur 02.02.07 at 5:32 pm

Ahh, Richard, you’re off your rocker.

But I have work to do myself. So I’ll just say this: we already know there’s a connection between HP and Voldemort, up to and including Harry’s channeling Voldemort’s emotions and being “inside” Voldemort’s head to think his thoughts and witness his conversations and actions. But how to explain Harry’s being “inside” Nagini unless there’s a deeper connection between Voldemort and the snake than just an owner-pet, master-servant, or possessor-possessed connection?


a very public sociologist 02.02.07 at 5:40 pm

Harry Potter will win. Voldemort will die. End of.

PS Actually I’m looking forward to this HP release.

No, I’m not a fan. My wife works at a well known book shop in Stoke and has volunteered to work the midnight shift. I’ll also be there to see the potty Potter potters queue for their copies, and who knows perhaps a paper (or at least a blog entry) can be spun off the experience.


magistra 02.02.07 at 5:53 pm

One argument against Harry being a horcrux is the evil effect that they obviously have on people. Ginny Weasley just reads Tom Riddle’s diary horcrux and gets driven to murder etc. I don’t believe, whatever Harry’s strength, that he could have a horcrux embedded in him and it not drive him into evil.


Frowner 02.02.07 at 7:53 pm

Now, I like the Harry Potter books almost as much as the next person, and I will certainly be delighted if the books really do turn out to have a carefully-planned story arc with a lot of fits-neatly-together esoteric meaning, but I, er, doubt it.

The way the books have worked reminds me strongly of other recent, elaborate YA fantasy series–Paul Parks’s excellent White Tiger books and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials in particular–in which the author starts out with a strong, coherent first volume/first part of the plot and a general idea of where the story is supposed to go, but then subsequent books wander and try to explain tiny details from the previous ones, giving rise to complex, esoteric interpretive strategies.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think Rowling began the series with the idea of the horcruxes (And what genius editor didn’t maker her change that? Worst. Neologism. Ever.) Still less do I think that she was cleverly seeding the earlier books with horcruxes and intending to reveal them at the end. In fact, I don’t believe she had much idea of how the books were going to go beyond the first couple–witness the bloated, sagging plots that come in with book four.

And I also doubt very, very much that philosophical/narrative concerns will trump capitalism–Harry Potter is not going to die in the last book. He’s just not. That’s not how best-sellers work, not how they’re allowed to work. (And even when steady-seller Phillip Pullman did something like that, it was in the “not with a bang but a whimper” volume, and didn’t really have much force.)

And I doubt very much that Harry Potter will lose his magical powers, making children everywhere sad and disappointed. Rowling isn’t really making a Big Philosophical Statement about being an outsider, or growing up, or whatever. She’s recycling–cleverly, and in a form I enjoy–a lot of tropes from YA fiction. Some of those tropes have meaning attached to them, but she herself isn’t using the tropes because they have Meaning For Today’s Youth.

I would contend that she has to say she’s being all deep and stuff, because something that’s so successful must be said to have a message. But that’s not the same thing.

I just hope that she (and an editor, a functionary she badly needs) can pull together a reasonably tightly-plotted, not-too-risible last book.

(And I also hope that she’ll stop with the “Older Woman Who Does Femininity Wrong Is A Major Villain” routine, which is totally screwed up and kind of makes me hate her just a little.)


Russell Arben Fox 02.02.07 at 8:30 pm


As for your general point about the books fitting together (or not), I kind of agree with you–but from the opposite direction. I’m convinced–whatever Rowling has said to the contrary–that the first Harry Potter book was conceived and written as an open-ended but otherwise completely isolated story, and that Rowling didn’t begin to work out her broader storyline until after she’d begun work on the second book. There are just too many important themes and ideas that suddenly appear in second book, and too many details and characterizations from the first (and the first part of the second book) that require, as you say, “complex, esoteric interpretive strategies” to make sense with what came later.

As for some of your other points…well, tastes differ. I think the best books, just in terms of writing, of the series so far are numbers 3 and 6. Book 4 was long, true, but it still worked for me; I think only book 5 truly sagged. I do think Harry will die or somehow be permanently damaged at the end of the books; Rowling’s books may be YA fiction, but I don’t see any indication that she’s locked into the worst commercial aspects of that genre. And, honestly, I’m scratching my head over your “Older Woman Who Does Femininity Wrong Is A Major Villain” accusation. Who are you talking about? Umbridge? Narcissa? I don’t see Rowling as having particularly used any specific feminist or antifeminist tropes in those characters at all.


Frowner 02.02.07 at 9:05 pm

14: Yes, the first one is very much a stand-alone; I think particularly of the humor, which is imaginative and a little surreal in the first book and much more satirical (and a little meaner) in the others.

I really didn’t like the plotting in 6 at all. I did like how Fred and George are sort of unpleasant and grasping (and I wonder how long Zonko’s will stay in business!); the backstory on Tom Riddle was fairly good; and what liberal/leftist/progressive can help liking the depiction of the wickedness and folly of the Ministry? But all that very, very pat sitcommish felix whatever stuff! And the classically “plot coupon” collect-the-horcruxes thing! And I have mixed feelings about the death of Dumbledore, just because I so desperately don’t want Rowling to pull a Gandalf, and I’m afraid she will.

So why 6? What do you like about it? I’m curious.

And I hate the inexorable Ron-and-Hermione-romance thing, because it seems to negate Hermione’s intelligence and scholarly interests (which have been such plot points in the rest of the series). It seems to suggest that smart women’s intelligence isn’t really part of their characters–that it’s not something important in their relationships. Hermione’s intelligence is treated as though it’s a hobby, something that she will definitely put aside to enter into a plottily fated romance with someone who isn’t particularly interested in books, analytical thinking, or study. This also bugs me more than it might because it too is cheap and sitcommish, in an “everybody must pair up by the end of the novel”, “opposites attract” way.

As far as the incorrect femininity thing, mostly Umbridge and the reporter. There’s so much emphasis placed on how they try to be girlie, but they actually aren’t–the reporter wears makeup and feminine clothes, but they’re loud and gaudy; Umbridge is fat, ugly and a sort of spinsterish-cariacature in her dress. And their failings are so gendered, too–the reporter is brassy and gossipy, while Umbridge is sort of an evil, controlling mother-figure. In fact, there’s almost no adult woman whose femininity isn’t the locus of her failure in Rowling. Mrs. Weasley is pudgy, a little shrewish, and tips easily into hysteria; the seer is a cariacature of the “arty” New Age woman. For all of them, their dress and their physicallity are signifiers of their failure.

Professor McGonagle is sort of a “successful” adult woman, but she is single and childless, as well as peripheral to the plot. Madam Maxime is almost an exception, but then she (a clever and accomplished French-sterotype woman) is romantically paired with Hagrid for no other reason than her size. Tonks and that veela are “successful” in that they are pretty and lively and their clothes and bodies are not subject to ridicule by the text, but they aren’t adults.

I don’t think this is intentional, any more than I think the limping racial politics of the books are intentional. It’s just that Rowling is using a lot of ready-made plot pieces (which is sometimes fun) and she’s not examining them as carefully as she could. I think her personal politics–at least as far as I can tell–are better than the books’.


Frowner 02.02.07 at 9:06 pm

Wow, there’s some bad spelling in that there post of mine.


Russell Arben Fox 02.02.07 at 10:26 pm

“I have mixed feelings about the death of Dumbledore, just because I so desperately don’t want Rowling to pull a Gandalf, and I’m afraid she will.”

Well, if she does, then the media and lots of fans will nail her for being a liar (see here), but I suppose that wouldn’t necessarily stop her. Still, I very strongly suspect your fears will not come to pass.

“So why 6? What do you like about it? I’m curious.”

Here is my review of Book 6 from 2005. Basically, like Tim Burke, I just thought it was first-rate entertainment; a good story well told, both thrilling and tragic in appropriate amounts. I agree that the Hermione/Ron and Harry/Ginny pairings were formulaic, but I didn’t see those as large negatives. As for your thoughts about how Rowling constructs her female characters…well, I guess I can see your point, but frankly, I can’t think of any character of either gender from any of the books that she doesn’t sketch out by way of at least of few Dickensian (and thus rather gendered) stereotypes: Luna’s big, dreamy eyes, or Slughorn’s fat, sweaty hands, or just about everything about Snape. That’s not an excuse, just observation about how she writes.


Rakesh 02.02.07 at 10:55 pm

I am sure that Harry is not a horcrux, because it would mean Harry would have to be killed to completely destroy ‘The Dark Lord’. But in her website Rowling promises her readers to keep Harry alive. But Rowling has a way of making unexpected things happen!


rm 02.03.07 at 12:29 am

Dudes. I think the first book is different from the others because it’s the only one where Rowling was really obligated to listen to editors.

So, it’s more economical, less bitingly satirical (except for the vicious portrait of the Dursleys, who are a bit humanized by book 6), and more juvenile. She had to rewrite it to get published. She did not have to rewrite any of the others.

And that is to say that I think she has had the large story arc planned. I think the longest books do get bogged down in details that occurred to her as she wrote, but the connection between point A (the boy who lived) and point Z (the last chapter, which she says she has had written from the first) has been there. The talking to snakes thing, the mystery of his parents’ murder, the formula in which Harry gets refined through a crucible experience, faces evil, and gets saved by a christ-symbol — that’s all in the first book and continues, just fatter, in the others.

So, my predictions are that Harry will be refined through a crucible experience, will face Voldemort, and will get saved by some kind of christ-symbol (Fawkes again, maybe), unless he dies because _he_ is the christ-symbol. But I don’t think he’ll die. Maybe he’ll be willing to die. I think the Roomful O’ Love in the Ministry may be the deus ex machina at the end.


Michael Kremer 02.03.07 at 1:11 am

Here is my theory on horcruxes, for what’s it worth. It came to me as soon as I read the sixth book, though it’s simple enough that I’m sure many others have had the same or similar thoughts.

“Hor crux” is a deliberately Christian allusion. It is “horrible cross” and is the inversion of the crucifixion. Crucifixion: Christ willingly accepts his own death to save others and restore unity to their individual souls and the world. Horcrux: wizard (named Voldemort, flight from death) kills unwilling victims to save himself and in the process splits his soul into pieces (and brings a great deal of death, destruction, and discord).

If Harry is the horcrux, he has to reverse the process, imitating Christ by accepting death to save others and restoring harmony to his world.


rm 02.03.07 at 2:04 pm

Michael: Yes. Yes, you are correct, sir. I think that’s got to be it. That’s how Lily saved Harry, and that’s the example of love which will defeat Voldemort. I just don’t know if Harry will have to go through with it, or if he will be rescued after putting his life on the line, as in all the other books. (Especially COS, where he really thinks he’s about to die until Fawkes heals him — the book did a mediocre job of describing how one might feel in that situation, and the move did an awful job, but the situation is pretty intense regardless of the storyteller’s stylistic polish).

I think that each of Harry’s crucible experiences has refined him a little bit more, but one remaining mote in his eye is his hatred for Slytherin. Maybe by seeing Draco as a pitiful victim (a werewolf, I’m guessing), or maybe by coming to understand Snape (who I agree has contempt for both Dumbledore and Voldemort, neither of whom Snape thinks measures up to him), Harry will have to unite the four houses. Then, he can sacrifice himself.


rm 02.03.07 at 2:06 pm

Movie, not move.


Keith 02.04.07 at 1:36 pm

Rowling has said that Dumbledore is dead and not coming back. And he doesn’t need to. He’s in the painting in the headmaster’s office which means he can still play Obiwan’s ghost and offer advice but she don’t have to find something dramatic for him to do.

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