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The Fate of Harry Potter.--

As Ilya Somin mentions below, J.K. Rowling is hinting that Harry Potter (and another main character) may die in the final book in the series. I thought of blogging on this earlier, but decided to wait to see if Dave Kopel was going to do so, since in a long essay last July Kopel predicted both Harry's death and Professor Snape's:

In the end, I predict, Snape will sacrifice himself in order to destroy the snakelike Voldemort, whose personal symbol (the Dark Mark) is a snake tongue projecting from a death's head skull. . . .

The first half of the prophecy [by Sybil Trelawny] is:

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies . and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not"

The second half of the prophecy explains, I suggest, why Harry must die in book 7, so that Voldemort can be destroyed:

and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives . the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.

"[N]either can live while the other survives." On the face of it, the statement is absurd. Voldemort and Harry are both alive, and both survive, simultaneously. We tend to think of "live" and "survive" as synonyms. Yet if the two words are synonyms, the prophecy is incorrect.

It could be argued, if a person is not mortal, he is in a sense not truly living. The immortal creatures (that is, creatures which survive endlessly) which we have seen are ghosts and inferni. Each of them survives, yet neither of them lives.

Thus, as long as Harry survives, Voldemort is not mortal. Accordingly, Voldemort is, in a sense, not living. And perhaps, in some as-yet unknown way, Harry is immortal as long as Voldemort survives. . . .

The reason that Harry must die in order that Voldemort may "live" (as a mortal) rather than "survive" (as a deathless immortal) is that the final Horcrux is contained within Harry himself. . . .

"I am sure he was intending to make his final Horcrux with your death," Dumbledore explained to Harry. (506).

But Voldemort's death/Horcrux spell on baby Harry went terribly wrong, and blasted Voldemort's body out of existence. Yet maybe Voldemort did, unbeknownst to himself, create that final Horcrux: in Harry Potter himself. The lightning bolt scar on Harry's forehead is clearly more than a wound from the attack, since we know it magically links Harry and Voldemort. Could it also be the final Horcrux? And so for Voldemort to be destroyed with finality, Harry himself must die too.

Perhaps there's some way to destroy only the Horcrux, without killing Harry. But from what we've seen so far, in order to destroy a Horcrux, such as the one contained in Tom Riddle's diary, one must destroy the Horcrux-carrier too. (The Letters of Marque blog by Michigan Law student Heidi Bond contains an extensive discussion of the "Harry has a Horcrux" theory.)

For fans of the series, Kopel's detailed analysis of clues in the prior books is quite interesting.

Shangui (mail):
I'll venture no guess about who will and won't die in the final book. I'm frankly so excited to read it that she can blow up Hogwarts so long as she finishes and publishes it by next year!

That being said, if Harry were to die at age 17 at the end of 7 the series would really be "the short and almost completely miserable life of Harry James Potter." There have been some fun times, but 95% of Harry's short life has been pain, rejection, watching those he loves die because of him, etc. It does seem almost too cruel and nihilistic to have him die, almost as if he has lived ONLY so that he could quickly die to save the world, etc. That would be a shame.

But I can't wait to find out!
6.28.2006 11:09am
john dickinson (mail) (www):
That's an amazingly strained reading of "neither can live while the other survives." This clearly just means that there isn't room in the world for both of them.
6.28.2006 11:20am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that Snape has to go, at a minimum, after proving that he was mostly on the good side all along. At least to me, I think that there is evidence so far (which may be rebutted in the last book) that he did what he did because he was caught in a vice. Leaving him alive would be too ambiguous, esp. since no one on the "good side" is going to trust him, regardless of what he does in the last book. He can't ever go back to school, after what he did in the last book. So, you would be left with him being a major player, without him really being able to react that much.

Malfoy may have to die just because there is nothing for him to do except for that. He is too much the dufus to ever be a really good villian in any subsequent books, but is bad enough that he, too, can't go back to school. Also, without completing Hogworts, he would be at a competitive disadvantage against Potter, Hermione, et al. in any future books.

I don't see Voldemort dying either, just being significantly damaged. That leaves the question of what good guys need to die. I don't see Harry dying if Voldemort doesn't, esp. if she wants to leave open a possibility of a sequel of Harry as a young adult, which she has made some noises about. That leaves Hermione and Ron. My vote is for Ron to die.
6.28.2006 11:23am
James Lindgren (mail):
Bruce:

Kopel argues that Snape was only following Dumbledore's orders.
6.28.2006 11:48am
Dylanfa (mail) (www):
Since no one else has said it yet: Snape will end book 7 as the new headmaster of Hogwarts.
6.28.2006 2:47pm
plunge (mail):
He clearly was.

Do the math:
-If Snape is evil, then Book 6 says pretty much everything we need to know about Snape. He tells his entire "I'm evil" story to Mrs. Malfoy, and reveals all at the end. Thematically, there shouldn't be more to him if he's evil. But we KNOW that there is a lot more to the Snape story than the books have shown. There are two more memories that Snape hid from Harry during Occlumancy lessons (three in total). And Dumbleore, when asked by Harry the final time why he trusts Snape, pauses "as if considering something" and then just says the same line he always says. And do we really think that Snape is complaining to Dumbledore about having to protect and watch over Malfoy, as Hagrid supposes?

As for the Horcrux issue, this too is obvious. Harry and Voldemort have shared a link throughout the entire series: matched powers, connected feelings, etc. What else could possibly explain that other than that they partly share a portion of their souls? No other explannation has been given or even set up to explain this. We know that living things can be Horcruxes (Dumbledore says so: he suspects Nagini, but he is hesitant and unsure of this guess: a clear thematic tipoff that it is NOT Nagini) Furthermore, in Book 5, we have Dumbledore's cryptic scene where he clearly is examining something to do with the Harry/Voldemort connection ("but in essence divided), and then this plays out when Voldemort possesses Harry: they are like a single snaky beast. Harry's ability to love coupled with his access to Voldemort's soul will be Voldy's undoing.

As for Harry needing to die... well maybe. But of the two Horcruxes we've seen so far, only one has been "destroyed" and it wasn't really obliterated, just stabbed with magic. The ring, on the other hand, appears to have been de-horcruxed without destruction.
6.28.2006 2:54pm
jvarisco (www):
Am I the only one who thinks you're reading too much into a book made for little kids?
6.28.2006 3:45pm
Leland (mail):
Bruce,

There are no future books. Book 7 is definitely the last by Rowling on the series (from her website), and unlike George Lucas or Robert Ludlum, I think she will not allow the saga to continue with other writers.
6.28.2006 4:56pm
Howard A. Landman (mail) (www):
Harry doesn't "have" a horcrux. Harry IS the last horcrux. Consider: even if Voldemort was horribly weakened by whatever happened, he had several assistants with him. Are we to believe that several fully grown men could not kill an infant? A horcrux takes a murder, and there were two that night. Maybe Harry is a double-strength horcrux.

Also consider the eerie parallels between Harry and LV.
- Harry inexplicably can speak to snakes.
- The wand that chooses Harry is the sister to LVs.
- It is Harry's blood that is used to revive LV, not just that of any enemy.
There are more that any assiduous fan can find.

I don't know if Harry has to die, but I think Harry has to be willing to die, in the same way that the owner of the Philosopher's Stone was. Winning this game may take a queen sacrifice.

The big question is Draco. He clearly needs to be offered a chance at redemption. Perhaps he was already, the night Dumbledore died, but muffed it. Perhaps he will get another. But ultimately, he has to choose whether to follow his father or not. And I don't believe that has happened with finality yet. His fate cannot yet be sealed.

If I (in Rowland's place) was going to sacrifice someone, other candidates might be Ginny, or Myrtle, or Nick, or Sirius ... well-liked secondary characters. I don't think Hermione dies. I think she probably gets flaming mad and spellcasts a horrific swath through the ranks of the Dark Lord's minions. Her power only grows. After the dust settles, she becomes a professor at Hogwarts.

One other character who deserves a chance in the limelight is Mr. Weasley. Ron's dad has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous bureaucracy and the ridicule of people like Lucius for far too long, while raising a great family. He will have his moment of payback; let's hope it doesn't kill him.

Unclear fates: Hagrid, McGonagal. Potential heroic returns: Buckbeak, Centaurs, Unicorns, Spiders, Fleur and friends, Dobbie. Definite comic subplot material: Ron's brothers. Wouldn't it be great if Valdemort was ultimately done in, not by heroic battling, but by a stupid joke piece of magic?

Rowland has set a large number of loose threads into motion; I'm betting that she will tie them all up neatly with plot twists that will shock even us. The books have grown up, along with the characters and the readers. The ending will be quite adult.
6.28.2006 5:10pm
Shangui (mail):
other candidates might be Ginny, or Myrtle, or Nick, or Sirius ...

Um, Sirius, Myrtle, and Nick (as in "Nearly-headless") are already dead (I hope to God that didn't count as a spoiler). And of these I would only call Ginny a "well-liked secondary character." Rowling will definitely kill off people who actually matter. As she's said, it's real evil they're dealing with and that means real loss.
6.28.2006 5:29pm
John Marshall Robinson:
Makes sense that it would be Snape. Other people have brought attention to the fact that Snape has Occulemency powers beyond that which the "Dark Lord" knows. Snape himself mentions that Voldemort knows what people are thinking unless they have those certain powers.
6.28.2006 6:11pm
plunge (mail):
"Consider: even if Voldemort was horribly weakened by whatever happened, he had several assistants with him."

No, he didn't. He went alone as far as anyone can tell from the books. Wormtail might have been nearby or something, since he's the one who sent Voldemort there, but Voldy went there himself to deal with the Potters, and got blown into smithereens.

"Are we to believe that several fully grown men could not kill an infant?"

Sure they could have. They just weren't there.

I also don't think Voldemort knows that Harry is a Horcrux.
6.28.2006 9:07pm
Gordo:
I agree with David Kopel. Harry and Snape and Voldemort will all die.

And the final scene will be in a nursery, where Hermoine Granger is giving birth to a red-headed baby and Ginny Weasley is giving birth to Harry Potter Jr.
6.28.2006 10:20pm
John Marshall Robinson:
Yeah, I dunno how you call Ginny a secondary character when she is clearly Harry's woman.
6.28.2006 10:28pm
Gordo:
Actually, babies aren't birthed in a "nursery." Madame Pomfrey will be birthing them in the Hogwarts hospital room.
6.28.2006 10:33pm
Dylanfa (mail) (www):
Killing Harry would be a really bad marketing move. Not quite everyone buys it the first day of release. I imagine follow on business would be seriously depressed once spoilers got out from the first group.
6.29.2006 12:21am
Lev:
Harry has a whore crush?
6.29.2006 1:05am
Lev:
Are these books actually worth reading for adults?
6.29.2006 1:07am
The Cranky Insomniac (www):
Lev: Absolutely. You can probably skip the movies. They're not awful, but they don't begin to touch the depth of the books.

If you're gonna read 'em, I would advise that you stop reading comment threads like this one because spoilers really do suck for this series.

Probably you should read this post before you stop, though.
6.29.2006 4:39am
NYU 2L:
Somehow, I don't think Rowling is going to have her unmarried teenage characters have kids. You know, just a hunch. Though I could see a "10 years later" final chapter with Ron and Hermione's wedding, or some such.

I agree with the other commentators that Harry dying in book 7 would be a little too nihilistic for Rowling.
6.29.2006 11:09am
Tulkinghorn:
A critical element/possible red herring to the prophecy that most have missed is that Harry and Nigel were not the only ones born in July...Draco Malfoy was too (we don't know the day, just that he stuck with Harry when others who were old enough could do that transportation thingy... God, it has been a while since I read that stuff...)

It seems too pat to redeem Draco by having him manage to kill Voldemort, but it makes sense as a matter of plotting that LV would not expect an attack from Draco.
6.29.2006 7:43pm