We are Harry Potter-aholics. Big ones.
I know, I know. But Faulkner and Proust ain’t got nuthin’ on Rowling, who has taken children’s literature to new (and lucrative!) heights. She’s the Beatles of genre fiction, which is to say she proves a writer can deliver a story that neatly fits on big-box store shelves and still pushes the craft to new levels.
In a recent interview she revealed that she killed off two characters in the penultimate Book Seven, and had plans to kill off another but issued a reprieve. Therese and I got into a big IM discussion (because we don’t waste enough time blogging) about who she chose to kill, using our knowledge of storytelling to support our arguments. We’ve reprinted and amplified our discussion below.
All the cool anime-style fanart is by Ayne Greensleeves and can be found on her website . Used with her kind permission.
KB: So who do you think she offed? My sense at this point is that she hasn’t gotten to the part where Voldemort suffers his just desserts. I’m going to guess Molly and Arthur Weasley, and the one she reprieved, Ginny. From a storytelling point, their deaths will give the maximum impact to Harry (they were his surrogate parents), and shock the reader. What do you think?
TW: I thought you guessed Voldemort and Wormtail? You’re just covering yourself, aren’t you? LOL. Okay, I’m going to say Voldemort, which I think has to happen. I mean, c’mon, the bad guy must die. The second character gets tricky, and I have a few ideas, but they involve diving into some theories. I don’t think it’ll be Harry, though I know oddsmakers think he has a 30% chance of biting it (link). And I doubt it would be the Weasleys…what would that prove? I also don’t think it would be Ginny, Harry’s eventual happily ever after. Or Ron and Hermy, because it wouldn’t further the story.
KB: LOL-ing. I do think Voldemort and Wormtail will get their comeuppance eventually, but upon reflection I realized that she’d have to put that sequence at the end and she’s not there yet . . . so she says (unless she’s throwing out red herrings and Bloomsbury has their hot hands all over it). I’ll make the case for the Weasley deaths.
1. They are beloved characters who have taken the place of Harry’s parents. As a storyteller, you’d really want to go for the jugular. Their deaths would mean that Harry has to relieve that particular nightmare all over again.
2. She reprieved Ginny because she’s a softie at heart and wanted Harry to have some small shred of happiness after it’s all over. If she’d done what she’d planned and killed Ginny, then she’d have the pleasure of torturing Harry with even more guilt (his love for Ginny killed her), but she probably figured he was tortured enough.
3. Killing the Weasleys would make the villains even more scary and amp up the stakes. Arthur and Molly were supposed to be crack wizards in their own right, and together even they couldn’t defend themselves against the Death Eaters’ rapacious evil. If they can’t, who can?
4. Percy Weasley will have his ‘come to Jesus’ moment, healing the breach in the family and tying off that loose end.
5. The deaths inform the final Act, where Harry has to become as ruthless as his enemies in order to bring about their destruction.
Makes perfect sense, no?
TW: It’s an interesting theory, yes, and possible. Rowling’s comment referred to killing two characters in the last chapter of the book, I think. Here’s a quote from the interview:
“The final chapter is hidden away, although it’s now changed very slightly,” she said in an interview broadcast on Monday on Britain’s Channel 4. “One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn’t intend to die.” When asked to be more specific, she added: “No, I’m not going to commit myself, because I don’t want the hate mail or anything else.”
Knowing JK, the “hate mail” comment could’ve been a red herring, meant for us to think the character she killed is a beloved one; she’s known to be clever that way. It’s the “I didn’t intend” part that gets to me, because she has had a clear vision of the story from the beginning. You’re right: She’s probably not referring to Voldy here; his must-happen death wouldn’t have changed. I think Snape’s name needs to show up here somewhere: either one who dies or the one who gets the reprieve. Reason: the tension for that character has reached the breaking point. Something has to be resolved with him. Is he a triple agent, or is he truly evil? Do you think he might factor in here? I also have some thoughts about our dear Neville…
KB: I’m going to quibble about the quote (and thus reveal myself in full nerdom). It says that “at least two characters will die in the seventh and final book” not that two characters die in the last chapter. She tinkered with the last chapter to reflect those “unexpected” deaths, as well as the “reprieve.”
So I read that as meaning she killed or is killing off the ones she planned, but also that some die unexpectedly, because that’s where the story took her. Snape is such an interesting character, and I’m really curious to see how she resolves his character arc. He’s gone from enigma regarding his loyalties to committing a heinous act of murder and betrayal. I think there’s a better that even-money chance he dies. I’m in the camp that thinks he’s really on the side of good even though it tortures him to help James’ son, let alone have anything to do with Harry, which causes him to be cruel. With Snape we’ve got a text-book case of internal and external conflict. Thoughts? (I’m balking at even the idea of Neville’s death. I can’t go there. Sob).
TW: Just to prove you’re not in Nerd Valley by yourself, I just found another quote from that interview, found at a different site:
“A price has to be paid, we are dealing with pure evil here. They don’t target extras, do they? They go for the main characters — well, I do.”
Check back tomorrow to read part two of WU’s analysis of HP: Who Will Die Next.