…and the other mothers in the Harry Potter books. Recently I complained that for some reason, there is a distinctive lack of working mothers in the Harry Potter books. But in a way JKR makes up for this by making mother’s love the ultimate downfall of Voldemort.
Harry survives the first time he gets hit by a killing curse because Lily loved him too much to step aside. Her sacrifice is a central theme in the books. A theme which gets concluded in the seventh book when Narcissa decides to lie to Voldemort for the sake of her son. Lily and Narcissa are two very different women. Lily is portrayed as a talented witch, a very down-to-earth person who was fighting against Voldemort. Narcissa is portrayed as an arrogant socialite and is married to a Death Eater. And yet they both do whatever they can to protect their respective family, and their combined actions allow Harry to succeed in the end.
But I am jumping ahead a little bit. The last book of the series often gets criticised because supposedly the scenes in the woods are too long. I never felt that way. They aren’t particular long, they are just incredible depressing. But that’s exactly what I like about it. War isn’t fun and I think JK Rowling captured the feeling of not knowing what happened to your loved ones and having no option to help them perfectly. And overall, there is more going on in this one than in the other books. The wedding, the ministry, Godric’s Hollow, Malfoy Manor, Gringotts, the Battle of Hogwarts, I certainly don’t blame Warner Bros for splitting this story into two movies.
What doesn’t work (again) is the mystery. Though in this case, it was mostly the rise of the internet which worked against JKR. Be honest here: Did you guess who RAB was because you leaped to the right conclusion, or did someone on the internet listed the name? Did you notice that the amulet had been mentioned beforehand or did someone pointed it out to you? Ideally, the reader could have re-examined the books himself to find the clues, but with so many people paying attention, most of them got revealed within a week of the release of The Half-Blood-Prince. Because of this level of communication, a lot of the reveals in the Deathly Hallows which might have been surprising for a lot of the readers otherwise ended up in a “yeah, I expected that” moment. The exception is the location of the diadem, mostly because the reader doesn’t even know that he needs to find it before the very end of the book. But at this point, the upcoming battle seems to be more important than anything else.
I realize that this sounds incredible negative, but I really like the book. I like the themes in it and I especially like the conclusion, though it does feel like JKR was under too much pressure writing it. I always wondered if she might have ironed out one or two aspects in it if not for the whole world waiting for it. I like that the final battle more or less consists of Harry telling Voldemort off, listing all the mistakes he made. I think a lot of people miss the fact, but even before Voldemort dies, he has lost his power. He lost it, because Harry died for the whole wizard world, especially the people in Hogwarts. Voldemort couldn’t touch any of them anymore because Harry had given them the same protection his mother gave him. And I can’t express enough how much I hate how the movies took this moment and replaced it with mindless action.
I actually quite like the first half of the two-parter, well, mostly. I don’t like stuff like the random dancing scene for Harry and Hermione, but visually, the movie has a lot to offer. I especially love the sequence, in which the story of the three brothers is told. When I first watched it, I immediately thought “oh, someone has seen The Adventures of Prince Achmed” and I was right, the movie was the inspiration for it. The second half on the other hand goes off the rails pretty quickly. Especially the final battle replaces countless thoughtful moments with needless melodrama. I might be cynical, but Tonks and Remus reaching out to each other but not being able to touch does nothing to me. Just lean over! And when three people are stabbing after the stupid snake, it just looks funny to me, not suspenseful at all. In addition, the death of Fred doesn’t happen off-screen in the book, it is shocking and sudden, and it irks me that the creators of the movie turned it into a side event.
Also, don’t get me started on the idiocy of Ron and Hermione standing by when Harry walks to his death. Those are his friends. There is a reason why Harry doesn’t tell anyone what he has planned in the book, he knows that they wouldn’t let him go. Because that’s what friends do, they don’t stay by idle while you kill yourself.
Then there is Snape. See, the movie skips over a very important detail in the book: That it was Snape who told Voldemort of the prophecy, that he was largely responsible for her death and that he didn’t beg Dumbledore to protect her family, but her and her alone. He doesn’t protect Harry because he cares about him, but because he seeks redemption for causing Lily’s death. But apparently that is to complex for a movie audience to grasp.
I could rant on and on, so lets instead focus on two things those two movies do better. One is Hedwig’s death. I honestly never liked the concept of a “signature move” for Harry and felt it very undignified that Hedwig died in her cage. I like the idea that she died because she flew to him better (though I didn’t necessarily need her to deliberately sacrifice herself). The other change I like is the idea that Luna suggests to Harry to talk to the Grey Lady. In the book he suddenly gets the idea out of nowhere, it just makes more sense to me that Luna, unusual as she is, would go and chat with a ghost.
There is one other thing the movie gets right, and that is Molly’s big moment. But let’s talk about her first. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the Weasley matriarch:
Book 1: Sending Harry a Sweater
In the Book: Harry don’t expect to get any presents at Christmas, but Molly sends him sweets and a sweater
In the Movie: The scene is more or less the same
Why I like it: Charity is something which doesn’t require much, not even money. This simple gesture establishes Molly as a very giving person. She has seen Harry exactly once and yet as soon as she hears about this little boy who doesn’t expect anything for Christmas, she immediately does something about it. And not just by throwing money at the problem, she takes the time to sit down and knit Harry a sweater. In a way, it is not much, Ron even says as much and is kind of embarrassed about such a simple present. But for Harry this means the world. In the last book, when he sorts out what he will take with him when he leaves the Dursleys for good, it is mentioned that he kept every single sweater he got from her.
Book 2: Scolding her boys over the flying car
In the Book: When the twins and Ron rescue Harry, Molly awaits them when they arrive at the Burrow. She first scolds then and then greets Harry with open arms.
In the Movie: The scene is more or less the same
Why I like it: Respect is the key word here. One thing which all of the female characters in the Harry Potter books have in common is that whatever they do, they do it on their own terms. Even Merope, abused and downtrodden as she was, took her first opportunity to control her own destiny, even if the path she picked lead her right into abyss. Molly might be “just a housewife”, but in her own household, she is the queen. Her children might misbehave from time to time, but they also respect her. Even more important, the book invites the reader to respect her, too. This is a woman who raised seven children (eight if you count Harry), and they all grew up and stood up for what is right instead of what is easy. That is quite impressive.
Book 3: Her talk with Arthur
In the Book: Harry overhears Arthur and Molly talking about Sirius Black
In the Movie: The scene is missing
Why I like it: It establishes an ongoing theme in the books. Molly pretty much wants to protect her children – and Harry. She wants to keep the realities of war away from them as long as she can. Arthur on the other hand thinks that it is better for them to be informed. Arthur is naturally right, but this scene goes a long way to understand where Molly is coming from. Her first instinct is always to step in front of her children, and it is hard for her to deal with the knowledge that she won’t be able to protect them forever.
Book 4: Molly buys into Rita Skeeter’s lies
In the Book: Because of an article claiming that Hermione is leading Harry on, Molly acts cold towards her until Harry clears up the misunderstanding.
In the Movie: The subplot is missing
Why I like it: It might be an odd choice because this really doesn’t make Molly look good. After all she should know that Rita Skeeter can’t be trusted. But as much as I love Molly as the giving person, I love even more that she isn’t some sort of all-forgiving angle. She is human, and like every human she is influenced by the media one way or another. And in a way, she is the perfect character to demonstrate that fact, exactly because she is such a caring person. But even positive emotion can be manipulated, for example when you convince someone that he needs to protect loved ones from a non-existent threat.
Book 5: The Boggart
In the Book: When Molly is confronted with a Boggart, she is loosing it because he keeps turning into the death bodies of her loved ones.
In the Movie: The scene is missing
Why I like it: With each book Molly becomes more and more unbearable in her desire to keep Harry, Ron and Hermione sheltered. We already know what her motivations are because they have been set up way in advance. But this scene explains the psychology behind it. Just minutes before Moody mentioned that Molly lost both of her brothers in the last war. It is very understated, but it is not difficult to make the leap and realizing that her sometimes irrational behaviour is based on past grief and on fear. It’s those details which make Molly a character instead of a stereotypical house-wife.
Book 6: Molly carrying the Family clock around
In the Book: Molly has acquired the habit to carry around the family clock, even though all the hands are constantly pointing on “in danger”.
In the Movie: The scene is missing
Why I like it: For one, it is a very chilling detail. It is a very simply way to clarify how much the threat of Voldemort has grown at this point. And I how can one not feel for Molly? There is nothing she can do except to keep checking the clock, even though the only news it provides is that no one in her family has died yet.
Book 7: Killing Bellatrix
In the book: When Bellatrix nearly kills Ginny, Molly goes berserker and defeats her in duel.
In the movie: This is more or less the only moment of the final battle sequence I like
Why I like it: Was there ever any doubt? This is Molly’s big moment. The moment in which she finally gets the opportunity to step in front of one of her children for protection. But what makes it so badass is not what Molly does, but to whom she does it. This is not a random death eater, this is Bellatrix Lestrange, one of his most dangerous supporters. This is the woman who tortured two aurors into insanity and killed Sirius Black. And yet, she has no chance against the wrath of Molly Weasley in protective mood.
Usually housewives in the media are background characters, only there to be either the understanding support or the annoying nag. We rarely get to see how it impacts them when the world around them breaks apart. Molly is a background character too, since this isn’t her story, but she is more than just window dressing. The books flesh out her motivation, and she does much more than just sitting at home biting at her nails. She is part of the Order of the Phoenix, she does guard duty like anyone else, and when the big battle goes down, she is first in line. The books make an important point: Just because she is a housewife, one shouldn’t assume that she doesn’t have any skills. In fact, Molly has a number of them, because she needs them to keep her not so little household running. One should never make the mistake to underestimate her (or any other housewife and mother).
Quote: “Not my daughter, you bitch!”
Well, and that concludes this little article series. I admit, some of the thoughts came out less structured than I wanted them to be, but then, analysing the Harry Potter series as a whole would most likely result in a novella. I hope it was worth reading for you nevertheless. And I guess I should leave one last recommendation…but for now I am out of them. Instead I just leave this:
This is my fanfiction account, and yes, it includes some Harry Potter stories. I recommend to stick to the finished ones, though. None of the stories are abandoned for good, but I really don’t have much time left for them currently because, well, I have a couple of blogs which keep me busy. Speaking of blogs, those of you who follow “Music of Lyrics” already know that I have big plans for December, and those didn’t know yet, well, I will be delving into my other passion, animation, big time. That won’t deter me from my plans for this blog though. Just like last year, I will take a small break in November, and like every year December will be Fairy Tale month. For the upcoming month, well, I guess I’ll do two articles about heroines with no particular theme attached to it. Haven’t decided yet about which ones, though. In any case, stay tuned.