The Darker Side of Harry Potter: 7 Things You Might Have Missed as a Kid

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On the face of it, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a charming, quintessentially British tale of magic and friendship meant for kids. However, the books have become highly popular amongst adult readers, and for very good reason. Underneath the owls and wands and talking letters, there lies a world which is not that different from our own… meaning it has its kinks and its darkness. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 7 of the darker elements of Harry Potter you may not have picked up on as a kid. Enjoy!

(Note: this post is obviously full of ***spoilers***)

 

 

1. Dolores Umbridge was sexually assaulted by centaurs

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In The Order of the Phoenix, after she goes into the Forbidden Forest with Harry and Hermione to find Dumbledore’s make-believe “weapon,” Umbridge manages to aggravate the smartest and most deadly creatures in the forest – the centaurs – and ends up being carried off by the herd. The next time we see her, she is in the hospital wing, described as being traumatised (though physically unhurt) with a number of “twigs in her hair.” So what happened to Umbridge?

One need only look to Greek mythology to find the answer. According to legend, centaurs had a nasty habit of abducting women, dragging them into the forest, and raping them repeatedly. Given J.K. Rowling’s familiarity with the Greeks, it’s extremely likely that she knew this and was alluding to it in her own work. Sort of puts Ron torturing her with clip-clopping noises into a new light, doesn’t it?

 

2. Albus Dumbledore had a thing for bad boys

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Well, one bad boy in particular, actually – the notorious Gellert Grindelwald. Although Dumbledore confesses later in The Deathly Hallows that he knew Grindelwald’s intentions were not as well-meaning as his own, he failed to acknowledge this fact to himself until it was much too late… and it cost him the life of his sister. Now, we all know that Dumbledore is utterly brilliant even as a teenager, and so his wilful blindness really can’t be justified… unless there was a good reason for the young Albus to see Gellert as far more than he really was. Teenage hormones, maybe? An out-of-control crush?

Suddenly all those secret conversations and plans for the future as a team and sending notes in the middle of the night make a lot more sense, as does Dumbledore’s reluctance to face him later in life – he was the first boy he ever loved, and now he was going to have to kill him, or be killed by him. Who wouldn’t delay in those circumstances?

If you’re not convinced, I hate to be the one to tell you, but J.K. Rowling has explicitly stated on Pottermore that it’s 100% true – the announcement came shortly after she confirmed Dumbledore’s homosexuality.

 

3. Severus Snape really wished Neville was dead

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…but not because he was rubbish at Potions. Snape is one of the very few people that knows Neville could have been the Chosen One – it was Severus, after all, who overheard the beginning of the prophecy (the bit where it still could have been Harry or Neville, as both were born at the end of July to parents that had thrice defied Voldemort, etc. etc. etc.).

Snape would much rather that it had been Neville and his parents that were brutally murdered, as then Lily would still be alive (happily married to another man, yes, but alive nonetheless). Harry’s existence might be a painful reminder that his childhood love chose someone else, but Neville? Each breath he takes is one that Lily should be taking instead (in his mind at least), which makes him a personal affront to Snape. Plus, there was that whole dressing-Boggart-Snape-in-drag thing. That probably didn’t help.

Poor Neville – he never knows how close he became to being Voldy chow, or that his good fortune is the primary reason Snape hates him so much!

4. Merope Gaunt was guilty of rape

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Sorry to burst the bubble but a love potion is not romantic, not in the slightest. You’re removing consent from the equation and that can only mean one thing: any sex you have is not “making love,” it’s flat-out rape.

Everyone always hates on Tom Riddle for leaving Merope despite the fact that she was pregnant with his kid (including Voldemort, who killed him for it), but who wouldn’t want to get the hell outta Dodge after what he’d been through? If Merope was a man, readers everywhere would think he belonged in Azkaban. Yes, she might have had a horrible life and suffered at the hands of her brother and father, but that’s no excuse for drugging and stealing a boy-toy to keep her company as she starts a new life without them, is it? No wonder he legged it and never looked back.

 

5. Moaning Myrtle’s voyeurism was out of control

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Although most of us raised an eyebrow when, in The Goblet of Fire, Myrtle admitted to spying on Hogwarts Prefects whilst they bathed, not many people pick up on the references throughout the books to her tendencies to hang around in toilets, even when they’re being used. Although Myrtle claims that she often caught by surprise, the fact remains that she has chosen to live in an S-bend rather than choosing another location in the castle. The only logical conclusion, then, is that she likes catching students with their knickers quite literally around their ankles, and has thus positioned herself in the perfect spot to witness the most private and intimate acts a person can perform.

 6. Norbert wasn’t the only stolen goods Hagrid handled

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In the very first instalment of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s adventures, The Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone if you’re in the US), we learn that Hagrid is the owner of a terrifying 3-headed dog named Fluffy. Anyone familiar with Greek mythology will know that 3-headed dog by another name: Cerberus, the hound of hell who guards the gates to the underworld.

Cerberus originally belonged to Hades until he was captured by Heracles (more commonly known in the West as Hercules) in the last of his twelve labours to repent for his sins. However, King Eursytheus was terrified when he was presented with the beast and demanded Heracles got rid of it. So, that “Greek chappie” in the pub who was keen to find Fluffy a new home might actually have been everyone’s favourite demi-god, looking to pass off his stolen goods! As it is said that Heracles could only control the beast due to his immense strength, it makes sense that he would choose a half-giant with a love of monsters to look after the creature.

7. The Sorting Hat knows all your dirty secrets

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Well, the 11-year-old you, anyway. As we all know, all new arrivals at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are designated their Houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin) by the Sorting Hat. The Hat figures out which traits define you and then place you into the House that suits you best.

Have you ever thought about how exactly the Sorting Hat decides whether you’re clever, or brave, or loyal? Why, it uses legilimency, of course; it quite literally reads your mind (or at least, your memories) to determine exactly what sort of person you will grow up to be. Now I know the Sorting Hat is a sentient object, not a person, and it’s hardly going to spill your secrets to anyone else, but the idea that any object possesses that much power is a little unnerving.

Sidenote: the Sorting Hat is also a bit of a b*stard – not only did it place Snape in Slytherin away from Lily despite knowing how much he loved her, he also kept his mouth shut about the darkness inside everyone’s favourite nightmare child, Tom Riddle. Yeah, nice one Hat. Way to go. *slow clap*

Is there anything I’ve missed? Please feel free to share in the comments below!

(Images: Warner Bros. Studios)

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HP Fan Theories: Is Dumbledore Really Death?

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Let me be clear from the outset: I have thoroughly and gleefully surrendered myself to the Harry Potter fandom. I can, for example, pronounce myself a proud Ravenclaw and brag about the rarity of my 10 ¾ inch Vine and Phoenix Feather wand to a room of fully-grown adults without shame, and I actually squealed and clapped my hands like a 5-year-old when stepping aboard the Hogwarts Express at Warner Bros. Studios in London for the first time. I have never been able to resist the urge to try and pick J.K. Rowling’s story apart and take a good look at the threads that hold her narratives together.

If you’re anything like me, you will no doubt be familiar with many of the fan theories that have emerged online since the first instalment’s publication in June 1997 – proclamations that Draco’s a werewolf, Sirius is gay, and Ginny only managed to bag herself the Boy Who Lived through trickery and love potions (to name but a few) have been coming thick and fast, particularly after the seventh book was published in 2007 and those of us who were completely addicted to the HP Universe had to try and fill the void created by the end of the series (although Rowling has helped significantly in this respect, creating new content for Pottermore and bringing out textual accompaniments to the main narrative such as Hogwarts: A Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard).

Some of these fan theories are more credible than others, but one of the most impressive IMO has to be the assertion that Beedle the Bard’s ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’ actually mirrors the narrative arc of Rowling’s story, and that the characters of Harry Potter, Severus Snape, and Lord Voldemort each share characteristics with three brothers of the story, who are in turn based on Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell – the creators of the Deathly Hallows… and Dumbledore? Oh, yeah, he’s Death.

J.K. Rowling has actually given this fan theory her personal seal of approval on Twitter, commenting that ‘it’s a beautiful theory and it fits.’ As if you need any more convincing!

So, how does this theory fit together, you ask? Read on to find out!

 The First Brother: Voldemort

The first and eldest brother – Antioch Peverell – is widely believed to have created the Elder Wand, an immensely powerful wand with a bloody history, although in Beedle’s story this is gifted to him by Death himself (more on that later). Antioch is described as “a combative man” who wishes to be “more powerful than any[one] in existence.” Remind you of anyone? Yup, that’s right, Lord Voldemort fits this description more closely than any other character is Rowling’s novels.

Lord Voldemort’s obsession with becoming powerful is the very reason that he creates Horcruxes, generally terrorises the wizarding world, and seeks to kill Harry before he can become a sufficient threat. Lord Voldemort prioritises personal gain and glory above all else – for instance, killing Hepzibah Smith to gain possession of her treasures despite this drawing unwanted attention to him, turning his resurrection into a bizarre ritual where he is glorified by his Death Eaters (robe-kissing much?), and creating a Horcrux with the specific purpose of proving he is the rightful successor to Salazaar Slytherin. More importantly, he is constantly expressing his determination to prove his worth in combat. I mean, why else would he re-arm Harry in the graveyard in Goblet of Fire, or forbid anyone else to kill him during the Battle of Hogwarts, if not to show that he could finish him off without help?

He receives his most deadly weapon, as the first brother does in Beedle’s tale, from Death (who is the wise, clever and ancient stranger who the brothers believe they have tricked, aka Dumbledore). Voldemort literally takes the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s dead hands after he breaks into his tomb, cementing the metaphor of Dumbledore as Death, and far from being able to use it to take out his deadly enemy and become invincible – the same aim expressed by the first brother in the story – he actually ends up being killed and passing the Elder Wand onto his rival. Bummer. Should have paid more attention to the children’s section in the Hogwarts library, Voldy. #sorrynotsorry

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The Second Brother: Snape

The second brother, thought to be based on Cadmus Peverell, is thought to be the original possessor of the Resurrection Stone, although as we know, it passes through the hands of many characters including Marvolo and Morfin Gaunt, Voldemort, Dumbledore and, of course, Harry. One character who does not actually lay hands on the precious little stone, but whose desires and misfortunes closely mirror those of the second brother, is poor old Severus Snape. Snape is a complex character who is the literary equivalent of Marmite – you either think he’s a sadistic loner whose infatuation with a dead teenager and dalliance as a spy doesn’t justify years of child abuse and general nastiness, or you sobbed uncontrollably at the end of Snape’s last chapter and can’t hear the word ‘always’ without becoming a gibbering wreck – and so many might quibble my choice of Snape as the second brother.

I mean, sure, he’s not the only one to desperately miss the dead, but unlike other characters such as Sirius and Harry, Snape is well and truly stuck in the past. Just like the second brother, he is consumed by his grief and longing for the ‘girl he had hoped to marry before her untimely death.’ His entire existence since Lily’s death has been dedicated to bringing about the downfall of the wizard who killed her. Although he has already failed to save her, he carries on with his dangerous task because he is reminded by Dumbledore that Lily ‘lives on in Harry.’ Ergo, by protecting Harry, he is desperately trying to bring Lily back to life. Dumbledore’s role as Death is significant here again as it is he who orders Snape to become a spy, using his love and grief for Lily as leverage, thus placing him at Voldemort’s mercy (or lack thereof). He is also the one who puts him directly in the line of fire – after all, Voldemort never would have killed him, if not for the fact Snape killed Dumbledore.

Of course, we all know that Snape despises Harry, which makes this life decision all the more interesting – unlike Hagrid, Sirius, Lupin and Slughorn, whose interactions with Harry help them move past the pain of losing James and Lily and become a source of positivity and hope, Harry’s hybrid appearance is a constant reminder to Snape that Lily loved his enemy and therefore cannot bring about any positive feelings. Much like the second brother gains no satisfaction from resurrecting the object of his affections, Snape is driven mad by hopeless longing (as we see in his replication of her Patronus, a symbol of his infatuation) and eventually dies as a result. True, Snape’s death is not a suicide per se, but I would argue that agreeing to go undercover as a Death Eater is a suicide mission and by undertaking it, Snape reveals his self-destructive (if rather noble) tendencies.

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The Third Brother: Harry 

The third brother corresponds, of course, to Harry. This is the simplest connection, given that Harry’s confirmed to be a descendant of Ignotus Peverell and subsequent inherits the Invisibility Cloak in The Philosopher’s Stone (passed onto him by Dumbledore, as Death does in Beedle’s story), but it goes deeper than that. Firstly, the third brother is described as ‘the most humble and wise’ of the three brothers – the admirable nature of Harry’s character is referred to repeatedly throughout the books, from his ability to look past immortality and riches in the Mirror of Erised in The Philosopher’s Stone to his gaining the trust of unlikely allies such as Griphook and the Grey Lady in The Deathly Hallows due to his humility and lack of personal agenda. In the final book, Dumbledore claims he is the only one in the book ‘worthy’ of uniting the Deathly Hallows, and this again reinforces the idea that Harry is wiser, humbler and generally better than everyone else.  

Perhaps most interesting, though, is that Harry does indeed remove his Invisibility Cloak in order to meet his death at a time of his choosing, and who is he presented with in the strange, King’s Cross limbo Rowling imagines? Why, it’s your friendly neighbourhood Death, Dumbledore himself. They meet ‘as old friends’ and as ‘equals’, just like in the story, and although Harry does return from his make-believe reunion, he has nevertheless shown that he does not fear Death and will meet him willingly when the time comes.

Another point to consider is that the Cloak’s greatest strength is that it can shield others, and by meeting his death, this is exactly what Harry manages to do – shield everyone from Voldemort, so that his magic cannot keep him silent, or bound, or really do anything evil to them for more than a few seconds.

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All in all, I think it is fair to say that this HP fan theory is pretty convincing… but what do you think? Let me know in the comments!

(Images: Warner Bros Studios)

And the Award Goes To… (Ceremonies We Need To See!)

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Sorry for the lack of posts – my health has been on the wrong side of average far more often than I would like lately…

I was just having a nose around online, and came across a jokey little post about why there should be a big, hyped-up awards ceremony for books, like there are for films and music (The Oscars, the Academy Awards, etc.). I mean, of course, there are prestigious awards such as the Booker, Orange shortlist, etc., but none which actually focus on the characters and storylines instead of the authors. Don’t get me wrong – there can never be enough credit for the authors! – but I found the idea of an awards ceremony for our favourite books, characters, etc. really quite charming.

So, I’ve posted each category they came up with, along with a couple of others I came up with myself. I’d be really interested to hear your own ideas – feel free to post on your own blog, or propose ideas in the comments section below. No restrictions – feel free to include graphic novels, foreign literature, whatever you like!


Best Male Character

Winston Smith, from 1984 – George Orwell

Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Albus Dumbledore, from the Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

Harry Paget Flashman, from Flashman – George Macdonald Fraser

Achmed the Mad, from the Discworld series – Terry Prachett

Sherlock Holmes, from various novels – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Phillip Marlowe, from various novels – Raymond Chandler

 

Best Female Character

Major Motoko Kusanagi, from the Ghost in the Shell – by Masamune Shirow

Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Arya Stark, from the Game of Thrones series – George R.R. Martin

Lyra Belacqua, from the His Dark Materials trilogy – Phillip Pullman

Lisbeth Salander, from the Millennium trilogy – Stieg Larsson

 

Best Antagonist and/or Villain

Patrick Bateman, from American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis

Randall Flagg, from various novels – Stephen King

The Cheshire Cat, from Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

Tom Ripley, from The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith

Hannibal Lecter, from various books – Thomas Harris

 

Most Impressive New/Future/Past World

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood

EON – Greg Bear

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

1984 – George Orwell

 

Wittiest Dialogue

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Vox – Nicholson Baker

‘They’re Made out of Meat’ – Terry Bisson

 


What other awards do you think should be included? What about:

Best Plot Twist?

Best Sequel?

Book Thrown Across the Room the Hardest?

Book Most Likely to be Locked in the Freezer for Being Too Scary?