Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Chapters 17-21

Chapter 17 – Bathilda’s Secret

  • The supportive messages outside the Potters’ house are very uplifting, though I wonder how many of them have been written since Voldemort’s takeover.
  • There’s certainly a feeling that nothing good is going to happen when Harry and Hermione enter Bathilda’s house – though I certainly couldn’t have guessed that Nagini would be hiding inside Bathilda’s hollowed-out corpse. How did the mechanics of that work?
  • It’s good to finally get a detailed flashback of the fateful night when Harry’s parents died, particularly as we’re getting to see inside Voldemort’s head and witnessing his own unique thoughts.
  • So while it is interesting to go to Godric’s Hollow, these two chapters end up feeling like an aside; all that happens to affect the rest of the story is that Hermione gets her hands on The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, and Harry’s wand gets broken, leaving him and Hermione even more vulnerable. The wand may not be a living thing like Hedwig, but it still feels like Harry has lost another companion.

Chapter 18 – The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

  • A short but depressing chapter: Hermione’s defence that Dumbledore grew up and changed his mind about Grindelwald’s worldview is a reasonable one; but that doesn’t stop Harry from questioning and raging against the man who was his most important mentor, which again feels understandable.

Chapter 19 – The Silver Doe

  • With the sudden appearance of the sword of Gryffindor, it feels like the story is moving forward again. And then Ron reappears as well – onwards and upwards.
  • Presumably Ron was affected worst by the Horcrux because he was already more insecure in himself than Harry and Hermione, and it had more room to get a grip on him and amplify his negative thoughts. All the way back in Philosopher’s Stone, Ron didn’t feel he would ever be as impressive as his brothers – but now the Horcrux repeats misguided beliefs along the same lines that he’s never given voice to in front of Harry: that his mother prefers both Ginny and Harry to him, that Hermione too is more interested in Harry, and that his best friends consider him useless. It’s interesting how the Horcrux taunts Ron by making its vision of Hermione “more beautiful and yet more terrible than the real Hermione”.
  • If Tom Riddle’s original eyes are visible inside the locket, could that mean that his eyes transformed after he made this particular Horcrux?
  • “Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was. I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.” Had to include that line.
  • You can practically hear the hopeful music in the background as Hermione dazedly approaches Ron – then the record scratch as she starts pummelling him.
  • “Turning the lights on and off” and “transporting you to your friends if you get separated from them” don’t exactly seem like compatible functions for a single device. Maybe the Deluminator was only meant to be used on the lights, but Dumbledore added the second function specifically for Ron’s future use.

Chapter 20 – Xenophilius Lovegood

  • The Taboo on Voldemort’s name is certainly a different kind of magic from anything we’ve seen before – and the Death Eaters must have put it in place very quickly when they took over, given how it was in effect shortly after Harry and co left the wedding.
  • Not only has the return of Ron and the destruction of the locket brought some hope back into the story, but as Ron points out, it indicates that maybe Dumbledore did have more of a plan after all. Hermione may be “clutching at straws” when she says that the strange symbol is “something you need to find out for yourself”, but that’s how Dumbledore has often worked – the encouraged teaching method –  as far back as Philosopher’s Stone.
  • I do like the more vague references to previous books, like the Snargaluff stump in the Lovegoods’ garden.

Chapter 21 – The Tale of the Three Brothers

  • The Tale of the Three Brothers – partly inspired by one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – is unlike anything we’ve encountered in the Harry Potter universe so far. A reference to the figure of Death is unexpected; and its message about peacefully accepting the inevitability of death is deep stuff for an in-universe children’s story. One wonders how someone actually got the idea of becoming “master of death” by possessing all three Hallows from the story – as Dumbledore points out in his commentary in The Tales of Beedle the Bard, that’s basically the exact opposite message that the story was trying to convey.
  • For all the time we’ve spent with Harry’s Invisibility Cloak, and the fact that there have been references to other people having them, this is the first intriguing suggestion we’ve had that there’s anything special about Harry’s. And it’s Ron who brings it up: he does have useful moments of insightfulness.
  • Luna’s picture of all her friends is wonderful and sad despite being so simple.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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