Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)I read it a couple of weeks ago, shortly after finishing The Dark Tower. It was an interesting contrast, if only because both Potter and The Dark Tower are seven-book series that are long in the making. As noted, King didn’t really have a plan on how his books were going to turn out, at least not until he was closer to the end, whereas Rowling has an outline of what will happen, with innocuous subjects in earlier books purposefully taking on greater weight later: she’s clearly using Chekhov’s gun. And Potter’s universe is far more clearly a children’s universe, after being on the road to the Tower for the month prior to starting The Half-Blood Prince: this was the darkest book by far but is a ray of sunshine compared to, say, the tragedy of Susan Delgado, and there is nothing of the texture of the fairy-tale redemptive joy of Susannah when she finds her clearing at the end of her path. This is my second-favorite Potter book (my first favorite is probably The Prisoner of Azkaban, when all this was newer and fresher), but I think, in a few years after Book 7 comes out, I will finish the series with appropriate excitement, and then tuck it away without much further thought. Rowling will have wrapped out the important questions, and there will no longer be any more mysteries.

But, anyway, speculations on this future book. Spoilers ahoy!

I’m fairly convinced that Snape is fighting the good fight, deep undercover and worming his way ever closer to Voldemort. I believe Dumbledore knew he was going to die, either from the unhealable wound to his hand from destroying the horcrux in the ring, or by drinking — by Harry force feeding him — the poison surrounding the pendant horcrux at the end. Snape’s murderous spell was euthanasia, was pre-arranged — would Dumbledore plea for his life or plea for Snape to finish the awful job assigned to him? — and served the purpose of ensuring Voldemort’s trust in Snape, Snape’s fulfillment of his Unbreakable Vow, as well as incidentally saving Draco’s soul.

This leaves several possibilities at the end. The most obvious such possibility is that Harry will defeat Voldemort, but will be required to trust Snape to do so. Perhaps the fate of the wizarding world will balance on the knife-edge because Dumbledore is a poor manager unable to entrust the key elements of his plan to the most important person! An alternative possibility has to do with Dumbledore’s discussion about the nature of prophesy, and how they only mean something if you act as if they meant something. Harry may not be the one who ultimately defeats Voldemort, but is instead the great distraction to He Who Must Not Be Named that allows Snape to deliver the finishing blow when Voldemort’s attention is focused on Harry. This, I think, is unlikely, as it likely deprives Rowling of a dramatic moment where Harry must trust Snape at the cataclysmic moment.

We now know that the way to defeat Voldemort lies in finding the horcruxes and destroying them. The one from the Cave was taking by “R.A.B.”, and textual clues suggest R.A.B. is a Deatheater. Folks on the Internet have already pointed out that this person is most likely Regulus Black, Sirius’s brother, and that the real horcrux is the unopenable locket found when cleaning out Black’s house in Order of the Phoenix. If getting this horcrux required two people, perhaps Snape is the second, and this deed is why Dumbledore trusted Snape implicitly: he had already helped someone to try and strike a deadly blow against Voldemort.

There’s also been interesting speculation from the Net that Harry is the final horcrux. Voldemort didn’t want to kill Lily Potter, but had very purposefully killed James. Why wasn’t he trying to wipe out the whole Potter family? This significant, spectacular murder was to split Voldemort’s soul for the last time to create the seventh horcrux, in the newborn Harry (we don’t know what spell was cast at Harry, and his survival may have in fact been intentional on Voldemort’s part). This would have been a devilish dilema for the good guys, as Dumbledore most likely would have had to kill Harry to destroy the last horcrux. Perhaps that’s the meaning of Dumbledore’s look of triumph after he found out that Voldemort used Harry’s blood in his resurrection: there is now a way to separate Harry from the fragment of Voldemort’s soul, avoiding a deadly fate.

And, yes, Dumbledore is dead, and probably won’t pull a Gandalf: his portrait is already up in the headmaster’s office. From a dramatic point of view, Harry needed his guide taken away from him before the end. It’s his story, after all, and his mentor has to fall away before he can, by himself or at least with Ron and Hermione beside him, stand and be true.

I suppose those are the big questions. There are other questions that have to do with Neville Longbottom’s fate, and more gossipy things like Ron and Hermione, and Harry doing a Peter Parker on Ginny. And there’s the fate of Percy Weasly, which I think will be more significant than we think.

Note that Wikipedia has a nice Potter section. This was helpful when I started Book 6, since I had forgotten much of Book 5. Presumably, Wikipedia or its successor will be similarly useful for Book 7, as it probably won’t come out before 2007, with 2008 as the most likely release year.

2 Responses to “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  1. Matt Says:

    I’d have to say you hit the nail on the head. You said exactly what I was thinking.

  2. Heather Says:

    I heard, If everything goes as planned, the 6th Harry Potter movie is set to be released in November 21st 2008-Thanksgiving weekend. Until then, part 5 will make its way to the cinemas in July 2007.
    Summer debut for “Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix” is without a doubt one of the most expected movies of the moment, even if the filming just started and will last another year.
    The 7th and final book is expected hit the jackpot even harder since J.K Rowling suggested that some of the main characters might die, including Harry Potter. I just can’t wait it!