Archive | June 25, 2007

The Philosopher’s Stone

Hogwarts Express I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books. Not a maniacal fan, mind you – I grew up reading books of the same general genre by C. S. Lewis, E. Nesbit, Susan Cooper, Edward Eager, Ursula K. LeGuin, Madeleine L’Engle, Diane Duane, Mary Norton, George MacDonald, etc., and it’s not obvious to me why J. K. Rowling’s books have skyrocketed to such greater heights of popularity than theirs.  But they are good.

There is one feature of the series that I especially identify with, however. The idea of a world of wizards existing right alongside the world of ordinary people, reachable from but invisible to the mundane world, feels very familiar to me, because it’s actually rather like being an academic, and particularly an academic philosopher. We hold our conferences in places where ordinary people also meet, but they have no idea who we are or what we’re talking about as we move about in our magical world of Chinese rooms and people seeds ….

But anyway: tonight on Countdown Keith Olbermann offered his theory of how the last Harry Potter novel, out next month, will end: Harry discovers that the scar on his forehead is one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, and that to destroy Voldemort he must destroy his own scar. He assumes that he can do this only by destroying himself, and is about to commit suicide when Snape shows up to reveal that the scar can be destroyed without killing Harry, but doing so will cause Harry to lose all his wizardly powers. And so that’s how the book ends – with Voldemort dead, Snape redeemed, and Harry alive but forever a Muggle.

Harry Potter All of which sounds possible enough. What I don’t buy is Olbermann’s reasoning as to why Rowling won’t kill off Harry. His argument is that doing so would hurt the film franchise, since fewer people will want to watch the final three movies if they already know Harry’s dead.

Sure, killing off Harry probably would cut into the profits of the later movies. But does anyone really think Rowling would make her decision on that basis? I would point out that a) Rowling has shown no sign of lacking artistic integrity, and b) in any case she’s already one of the wealthiest authors on the planet.

Maybe Harry will die and maybe he won’t, but I think Rowling’s eye is on the plot, not on the pocketbook.

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