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Tue, Aug. 2nd, 2005, 07:07 pm
Snape's motivations in HBP

There's a very interesting discussion here about Snape's motivations here.

Wed, Jul. 20th, 2005, 10:12 am
More on the twins

ajhalluk’s post on the Weasley twins in HBP very much completes what I was saying before the book came out. I’ll post later, though, on how they (and probably Lee Jordan and his father) seemed to know the likely World Cup result in advance – and on what I am guessing may have been going on behind the scenes at the Quidditch World Cup. Though in the last case my penchant for conspiracy theories may rather get the better of me!

Fri, Jul. 15th, 2005, 07:15 am
Screwtape and the Weasley Twins - non-spoilery reassesment

Some months ago, I spotted a passage in the Screwtape Letters which, to my mind, explains the Weasley twins - and Harry's (and the readers') reaction to them too.

The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction, and it is specially promising among the English who take their "sense of humour" so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame. Humour is for them the all-consoling and (mark this) the all-excusing, grace of life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man simply lets others pay for him, he is "mean"; if he boasts of it in a jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he is no longer "mean" but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice boasted of with humorous exaggerations and grotesque gestures can be passed off as funny. Cruelty is shameful-unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke. A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man's damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if only it can get itself treated as a Joke. And this temptation can be almost entirely hidden from your patient by that English seriousness about Humour. Any suggestion that there might be too much of it can be represented to him as "Puritanical" or as betraying a "lack of humour."

It does describe them, doesn't it?

Actually, there's a passage from Pride and Prejudice that (if one takes a more cynical view) also reminds me of the Weasley twins - and indeed, explains the name of George. You see, the twins are different. Most of the more callous statements and acts invariably come from Fred - but it's actually "George" that scares me most. You see, Fred genuinely doesn't realise the consequences of what they do. George does. George must do. George is the one who keeps them popular. He's the one that can see "exactly" where they must stop. He knows the point at which things will no longer be seen as a joke by the people they've got to keep on their side, and he restrains Fred accordingly.

Anyway, here's the passage:

"As to his real character, had information been in her power, she had never felt a wish of enquiring. His countenance, voice, and manner had established him at once in the possession of every virtue. She tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for those casual errors, under which she would endeavour to class what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice of many years continuance. But no such recollection befriended her. She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she could remember no more substantial good than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess."

In other words, the twins are good chaps. Why? Umm, well, everyone knows it!

Think about it. That actually does describe the twins, and may even explain why one of them is called George - and we know that JKR is a fan of Jane Austen. I think that Harry's self-awakening about the twins is going to be exactly like Elizabeth's about George Wickham in the paragraphs that follow this. In fact, the first clue came in OOTP, when he compared them to MWPP, and then pushed away the idea.

"He felt as though the memory of it was eating him from inside. He had been so sure his parents were wonderful people that he had never had the slightest difficulty in disbelieving the aspersions Snape cast on his father's character. Hadn't people like Hagrid and Sirius told Harry how wonderful his father had been? (Yeah, well, look what Sirius was like himself, said a nagging voice inside Harry's head... he was as bad, wasn't he?) Yes, he had once overheard Professor McGonagall saying that his father and Sirius had been troublemakers at school, but she had described them as forerunners of the Weasley twins, and Harry could not imagine Fred and George dangling someone upside-down for the fun of it... not unless they really loathed them... perhaps Malfoy, or somebody who really deserved it."

The more I look at the Weasley twins, the less evidence I can see that they have any moral sense whatsoever. They are capable of being very callous, but this is masked by their "genuine" loyalty to Harry, and the fact that they sided with him when no one else would. And they "did" give up the map to him - although it occurs to me that that was "immediately" after the holidays where they learned (from Ginny's experience) how dangerous these sort of objects could be! But still, it probably "was" a bit of a wrench to let it go. (Actually, I wonder if the map doesn't have some means of trying to get back to its true ownership? The way it somehow got from Filch's office (through the twins) to Harry, James' son - and ultimately to Remus Lupin, one of the four - who then made Harry the rightful owner by giving it back to him? And does it somehow have a way of detecting - and helping along - kindred spirits? Which is why the twins noticed it, and found how to use it?)

Even so, when they seem to do Harry a favour, in many ways they often don't. Their spectacular display on leaving Hogwarts left Harry alone and without allies, in enemy country, while they not only won the approval of the school and a big new market, but got away themselves, after helping to push Umbridge so far over the edge that she was soon willing to perform Unforgivable curses in front of students. The things they have always done to amuse themselves (like turn the child Ron's toy into a giant spider) only have one parallel in the book. When Harry asked why the reason behind the Death Eaters Muggle-baiting games at the World Cup, he was told by Bill, "Harry, that's their idea of fun!" I'm afraid that the twins' idea of fun is all too like the Death Eaters'. It's just that it "seems" different, because their on the right side, and they're all good chaps, and anyway, whoever gets hurt probably deserved it.

Besides, they attached themselves to a rising star like Harry early on, and didn't desert him. Their loyalty has "already" been rewarded, in getting the capital for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes!

But it's not just Hermione that's disturbed by the Wizard Wheezes. "Only, most of the stuff - well, all of it, really - was a bit dangerous," said Ron. And "we've been looking for someone to test them on all summer."

The creepy thing is that whenever they indulge in casual cruelty (like the continued tormenting of Percy over several books, which effectively drove him out of the family, or nearly killing Dudley Dursley) it's in such a way that Harry and the reader invariably approve. When Snape taunts Sirius with always staying at home, Harry remembers it, and blames Snape for pushing Sirius towards risking his life, although in reality that's the sort of thing that Sirius would have expected from Snape, with whom he had a long history of mutual hatred. On the other hand, I think this got through to him.

'And how are you going to explain how you knew Arthur was attacked before the hospital even let his wife know?'

'What does that matter?' said George hotly.

'It matters because we don't want to draw attention to the fact that Harry is having visions of things that are happening hundreds of miles away!' said Sirius angrily. 'Have you any idea what the Ministry would make of that information?'

Fred and George looked as though they could not care less what the Ministry made of anything. Ron was still ashen-faced and silent.

Ginny said, 'Somebody else could have told us... we could have heard it somewhere other than Harry.'

'Like who?' said Sirius impatiently. 'Listen, your dad's been hurt while on duty for the Order and the circumstances are fishy enough without his children knowing about it seconds after it happened, you could seriously damage the Order's-'

'We don't care about the dumb Order!' shouted Fred.

'It's our dad dying we're talking about!' yelled George.

'Your father knew what he was getting into and he won't thank you for messing things up for the Order!' said Sirius, equally angry. 'This is how it is - this is why you're not in the Order - you don't understand - there are things worth dying for!'

'Easy for you to say, stuck here!' bellowed Fred. 'I don't see you risking your neck!'

The little colour remaining in Sirius's face drained from it. He looked for a moment as though he would quite like to hit Fred, but when he spoke, it was in a voice of determined calm.

---

And then, of course, while Harry and others suffer from the genuine spitefulness of Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad, the twins casually leave one Slytherin as a permanent mental vegetable for the crime of docking some points from Gryffindor - and to remove an inconvenient witness to these lost points - in spite of the fact that the House Cup doesn't really matter now, with a civil war brewing, even in the school, and since everyone knows House Points have been rigged. The boy showed no signs of recovering at the end of the year - and this is something Draco and co have "not" yet done, for all their vicious and spiteful words).

----

And Hermione was right. Ron's Quidditch "did" improve no end the moment the twins disappeared from the team! They were undermining him "far" more than Draco's gang did. Once the twins were gone, he could ignore the Slytherin jeerers.

Thu, Jul. 14th, 2005, 11:43 am
Even more speculations

And I've added a few "more" (non-spoilery) speculations, to my HBP post of yesterday!

Wed, Jul. 13th, 2005, 08:26 pm
Hermione and House-Elves - another non-spoilery reflection

Another thing that intrigues me is... is Hermione ever going to be reminded that all of the actual reasons that pushed her into the cause of House-Elf liberation were actually misconceptions of one kind or another? For instance, when Winky talked about obeying orders and being afraid of heights (up in the top box at the Quidditch World Cup) she was actually lying through her teeth, but Hermione took what she said at face value. And Crouch's interchange with her later was pure theatre (we really don't know how it would have really ended, because the very next day Crouch was placed under Imperius) - and Harry's idea that Winky's strange movements back and forth as if wrestling with an unseen force must be a conflict of loyalties too (something which completely outraged Hermione) was "also" a misconception: Winky really "was" wrestling with an unseen foe! And far from her blithely taking orders, Crouch had been giving way to "her" wishes in indulging his son, to the point of near-disaster.

That's not to say that house-elves are not disgracefully treated sometimes (Diggory's bullying of Winky, given his area of responsiblity in the Ministry, is itself disturbing, among other things) - it's just that all the particular events which actually influenced Hermione were in fact misconceptions.

Not that I altogether blame Hermione for these sort of mistakes. She's trying to fit the magical world's behaviour in terms of the Muggle parallels she's been brought up with, and she simply cannot grasp that House-Elves, for all their apparent servility, actually have a lot of pride, and it's their very "pride" that she manages to unintentionally insult. Moreover, Harry observes (as Hermione does not) that House-Elves are in fact oddly successful in getting their own way, if they really, really want to. Dobby half-succeeded in betraying Malfoy (though his hints didn't help as much as he'd hoped). Winky had talked Crouch into an indulgence of his son (against his better judgement) that was to end in disaster, and Kreacher not only frustrated his nominal master Sirius at every turn, but he even managed to contrive his death, and the betrayal of all he held dear. For all their apparent servility, the irony is that many, perhaps most House Elves are not nearly as subjected as most wizards would like to think - and certainly, nowhere near as stupid.

Wed, Jul. 13th, 2005, 07:37 pm
My wilder HBP suspicions (non-spoilery, of course) - just revised!

Well, I thought that my last hope of posting HBP predictions and arguments disappeared when my computer gave up on me yesterday, although I knew, of course, that it was already too late, since all sorts of spoilers are (now) already out.

Still, these are only guesses on my part, and NOT spoilers - I've been careful not to even "look" at any spoilers so far - and they're mostly my wilder guesses: i.e. the ones most likely to be proved wrong! So please don't reply with any spoilers, if you "have" come across any!

Oddly enough, most of my curiosity is not about things like the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, but lies more in the direction of whether some of my wilder notions are right. Is Lucius Malfoy's wife Narcissa actually much more dangerous than she seems, for all her penchant for staying in the background until the present? The plot in Chamber of Secrets, with its clever use of intermediaries, so that nothing could be proved if it went wrong, seems more like "her" style to me than her husband's. She, after all, is the one whom Cornelius Fudge had never even met until the night of the Quidditch World Cup - whereas Lucius sounds rather more hands-on. He makes no secret at all of his beliefs, and is only too happy to try and face down Dumbledore in his own den.

Here's another thing I'm really curious about. Could the Quidditch World Cup in book four have been rigged? There are lots of clues, in retrospect, though they may be all coincidence. Because it's "odd" that Krum should choose to end the match, when there was "still" a chance of winning. In fact, he chose to end the match the very "moment" when it would no longer mean a victory for his own side. Well, we know that Krum is unusually susceptible to the Imperius Curse, and as for the Irish Seeker, Lynch, on both occasions when Harry sees him, his appearance (especially his eyes) matches exactly Crouch/Moody's description of the Imperius Curse only a few chapters later. And the Irish team as a whole work seamlessly together, as if they have a single mind or will. Is this a genuine case of the use of the Imperius curse in Quidditch? Is that the secret of the Irish team's success that season?

Not that Krum need have been under control. Now that I come to think of it, only "two" things would have been needed to make sure of the result. One is to keep "Lynch" under control, so that he didn't by some fluke catch the snitch first. The other is to have a "rogue snitch" - one that wouldn't even appear until 160 points had been scored: enough to ensure Ireland of victory.

And Narcissa Malfoy is there, all the time, in the top box, in perfect "line of sight" of them all - which seems to be how mental magic works. And judging by the way the former Death Eaters were celebrating a few pages later, they'd done rather well on their bets. Of course, she could also have been focusing on Cornelius Fudge, and possibly one or two of the Weasleys. Was she (or someone with similar gifts) in the crowd in the bookshop in Chamber of Secrets, making sure that when provoked by Lucius, Arthur would resort to violence?

And it's interesting that the twins were willing to bet their life savings on their results - right after seeing Lee Jordan too. It's almost as if they had heard something in advance. Lee Jordan is the Quidditch commentator at school - is his Dad a big wheel in national (or international) Quidditch, and in a position to know something? If there really had been some attempt at cheating on their own side, is that why the twins were willing to settle for their original money back from Bagman? And why George felt that it was very unwise for them to blackmail him?

Or am I just being too suspicious?

And I really do wonder whether, as Risti once suggested to me, the Griselda Marchbanks who turned up isn't entirely what she seems either. For someone who speaks loud (and oddly stupid) pro-Dumbledore things the moment she sees that she's in Harry's hearing, it seems very strange that Umbridge, who is apparently a bit in awe of her, should take out all Dumbledore's known allies among the staff while "Marchbanks" is still in the school. Umbridge had waited all this time. Couldn't she have waited one more day? Or is Marchbanks really what she seems, and was Umbridge doing it under her "supervision?"

Moreover, we know that legilimency and mental penetration does work by line-of-sight. Did the image planted in Harry's mind of Sirius Black being tortured really come directly from Voldemort? How would Voldemort have known exactly when Harry's potential allies at school would be removed, so that he'd have to go and rescue Sirius himself, unaided? Or was the image planted in his mind by someone a good deal nearer at hand? Given the way the desks were facing, the "only" person in Harry's line of sight at the time, was Griselda Marchbanks, again. And it would have made sense to have someone at the school, to make sure that Harry would have nowhere else to turn, before giving him the vision.

On the other hand, all this is rather odd behaviour for someone who had resigned from the Wizengamot in support of Dumbledore. Unless, of course, it "isn't" Griselda, but someone else, who has stolen her identity. In support of this, there's some indication that she hasn't been seeing her old friends and collegaues much lately, or not socially, at least. Professor Tofty only heard of Harry's Patronus charm from a "different" ex-member of the Wizengamot, Tiberius Ogden - not from his colleague at work, Griselda Marchbanks. And then there's Draco's odd assertion that Griselda had been seen at his home, when we know from Neville that she certainly "used" not to have any connection with the Malfoys. Also, it's just possible that Harry's reading of her hand in the exam was actually right, and the real Griselda really "did" meet her death last Tuesday.

If she "is" someone else in disguise, I think it's unlikely to be an example of the use of polyjuice, because she's not always drinking from a flask, like young Barty Crouch did. I would guess that the enemy has a Metamorphmagus on his side, and if such things run in families (as they're born, not made) my money would be on Narcissa.

And if the enemy really does have his own Metamorphmagus, whoever it is, then there really could be havoc. Anyone could be anyone. And if one of them takes the place of one of the twins for a bit, and twists their scarily irresponsible products just a little, there could be a catastrophe among the children who buy them. The twins will probably blame each other, and wizarding Britain as a whole will probably be out for Weasley blood!

And if the real Griselda is her friend, Mrs Longbottom might relax her guard when she shouldn't. Could Neville Longbottom be going home to a "little red riding hood" scenario, in which his "grandmother" is someone else? After all, the only way the enemy can "still" get the prophecy is by getting hold of one of the two people who were present when the glass broke, going into his memory (perhaps by draining it into a pensieve) and then reading the movement of Sybil's lips. The two who saw it were Neville and Harry, and it's pretty obvious that anyone would see Neville as by far the easier to catch! There was a sort of foreshadowing of this in the Prisoner of Azkaban film, actually, when the "grandmother" came out of the cupboard.

Was Sybil Trelawney's comment "is your grandmother well? ... I wouldn't be so sure..." a real prophecy, perhaps?

Another notion: do the seven potions in the sixth task in the Philosopher's Stone really represent the sixth book, and do they represent the seven Weasleys? Two of them are described as "twins."

Or am I reading too much into everything? Well, I'll find out in a couple of days.

Anyway, one last idea. I haven't read any spoilers yet, but with regard to the identity of the Half Blood Prince, I do note that only twice has there been any reference to a prince in the Harry Potter canon. A Chocolate Frog Card refers to Merlin as the "prince of enchanters", and Quirrel's turban is supposed to have come from an African wizard-prince. Of course, my hope is that there really is a remnant of the magical nobility, that various canon sources do suggest at least "used" to exist!

-------

Oh, here's yet "another" idea! It's not just Mrs Longbottom that would trust Professor Marchbanks - the goblins almost certainly do as well, given her longevity. Judging by the Chocolate Frog cards, one can get a fairly clear idea of usual wizarding lifespans in both the middle ages and the present day - and the only people with significantly longer lives either are friends of the Flamels (like Dumbledore - and he's a very powerful wizard in any case, that knows many secrets) or else they have something to do with goblins, whether they're a long time ally of goblin pressure groups (like the real Professor Marchbanks is), or at the opposite extreme, they're a serial killer of goblins, like the notorious Yardley Platt, who lived nearly twice as long as most fifteenth century wizards on Chocolate Frog Cards.

If someone else "was" impersonating her, and used their trust to steal their gold, or something like that, purportedly for the Order and Dumbledore's friends, before she disappeared... Can you "imagine" how furious the goblins would be? And would they believe any denials on the part of Voldemort's enemies. Could they somehow be manipulated into joining the enemy side, by some such manoever?

This would be potentially fatal, quite apart from the fact that they have their hands on everyone's gold, because there does seem to be a sort of "underworld" beneath wizarding Britain, in which goodness knows what monstrous creatures live (the sort of creatures the Basilisk lived on, and had possibly kept away from Hogwarts). Unlike the crust of the earth as we know it, these caverns get "colder" as you go down, like in Dante's inferno. The Vaults of Gringotts are in a corner of it well below London (and that network of caves has its own valleys and ravines and underground streams, its entrances guarded by dragons); but so, probably, are the caverns of the Chamber of Secrets, and the underground chambers too where Dumbledore had hidden the Philosopher's Stone.

And of course, if the Goblins do turn, I wouldn't like to be in "Bill's" shoes!

Well, I don't know how much of these speculations are near the mark (or if the whole lot are way out) but I am fairly sure that we'll see a lot more of this "underworld."

Oh, and I wonder if Yardley Platt "did" bake the goblins he killed in pies, as the secret of his longevity! Is there a grain of truth, deeply buried somewhere, in "all" the Quibbler's eccentric stories?

And one further thing I suspect. When Karkaroff mentioned to Victor Krum that he'd be telling Hermione where to find Durmstrang if he didn't look out, he wasn't "just" being paranoid. Victor had actually told Hermione quite a lot, reading between the lines. The combination of northerly altitude, mountains, forests and lakes does not actually exist in many places. Russia, for instance, is too flat. As far as I can make out, it narrows itself down to northern Sweden - the very place where (by some strange chance) the Lovegoods are taking their summer holiday, in seacrch of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack! And I think I recall that there "is" a Muggle legend of a "loch-ness-monster-type" creature in those parts, with horns as well, if I remember right.

----

And I wonder if there's going to be any development of all the hints about space travel. And more on Ali Bashir and the flying carpets?

*Goes back to waiting for the book.*

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