Thursday 8 August 2013

Harry Potter and the need for a single volume Half Blood Prince/ Deathly Hallows (with back story and notes)


I am again re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - and as I began to break down in tears in a cafe (halfway through 'The Missing Mirror' chapter), and was forced to lay the book aside and stop reading or risk dissolving into a blubbering mass; I realized for the nth time that many adults are missing reading this wonderful book for the simple reason that they are either unable or unwilling to read children's books.


The problem is that, according to conventional wisdom, the Deathly Hallows can only be approached via the preceding six Harry Potter stories; two of which are designed for intelligent (approx) eight year olds, the next for ten year olds, two more for 12-14 year olds, and only the last two volumes of being fully adult novels.

But, despite that I enjoy reading 'children's literature' - this was in fact not how I personally approached the Harry Potter series.


I had seen all the early movies (which I found entertaining but not deep - because the deep stuff has been censored or edited-out); but after abortive attempts to tackle the early HP volumes, I finally read some chunks of the Half Blood Prince, due to my inability to understand the movie (becuase it incompetently missed-out key facts).

Then, my daughter got very keen on HP and began reading through the series - and in order to be able to discuss it with her, as she progressed through each volume, I read the corresponding plot summaries on Wikipedia/ Harry Potter Wiki - then I eventually read the whole of Deathly Hallows and was amazed, astonished, delighted - and extremely moved by it.

So I went back and read all the earlier stories, but not in chronological order (I have read the whole series, aloud, in chronological order since then).

Anyway, my point is that, so long as it is regarded as essential for adults to read through the Harry Potter stories from the Philosopher's Stone onwards before tackling the last books, for so long will many adults be prevented from appreciating the wonderful last book.


In fact, in terms of both structure and style, the Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows make up a unit: therefore, the solution is that they should be published together in a single mega-volume marketed to adults - and with all the necessary back story provided in the form or a Foreword or Preface, plus a few explanatory notes (probably as footnotes).

This would be ideal: but in the meantime I invite adults to plunge straight into the Half Blood Prince followed by Deathly Hallows, having read the back story on Wikipedia, the Harry Potter Wiki or somewhere similar; and looking-up any puzzling references as you go.

Because, you really don't want to miss these books - especially if you are a Christian.   



dearieme said...

My daughter pointed out that they taught a generation of children how to pronounce Hermione.

Samson J. said...

My daughter pointed out that they taught a generation of children how to pronounce Hermione.

Funny you should say that - my wife told me just the other how to pronounce this. I had never heard it before.

I regret to say that I still can't bring myself to get into a series that has been so commercially successful; the whole idea of enjoying Harry Potter leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I wish I could overcome this, but truth be told I'm afraid I've become a premature curmudgeon.

JP said...

I tried to read the first one when it first came out, but it was so clunky - three cliches to the page - that I never finished it or bothered with any of the sequels.

Arakawa said...

A good sign that my dislike of the series is personal (i.e. more a personal dislike than any generally valid objection), is that I would probably have appreciated the story a lot more if I were introduced to it in this way! (i.e. without having my impressions coloured by the somewhat sloppy worldbuilding and moral compass of the earlier books)

(Assuming the backstory was adequately documented, of course. I assume the amount of footnotes necessary for this feat would make the book feel somewhat more like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.)

Interestingly, Half-Blood Prince opens with The Second Minister, which (in terms of being told from a Muggle viewpoint) somewhat echoes the manner in which the first book of the series opens.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - Maybe you could try the plan I describe, and feed-back on whether it works...

david stanley said...

I read the first two years ago and enjoyed them. I didn't realise the reading age increased sequentially.
Will try to read last two. Different subject. I have still not read Till we have faces by Cs . Lewis. Do you rate it highly Bruce?

Bruce Charlton said...

"Till we have faces by Cs . Lewis. Do you rate it highly Bruce? "

No, I don't - I think it is over-written and over-edited. It was actually a collaboration between Lewis and Joy - and it reads as if not written by Lewis.

david stanley said...

Thanks for that Prof. Apologies for poor punctuation. "Hideous" has been my favourite for over 30 years. Just listened to the Mcgrath bio and enjoyed it.
I was a very late reader and I cannot remember any novel I read before LOTR but managed to get A level English largely due to my Inkling obsessed english teacher.

Wm Jas said...

I've read every HP novel except The Deathly Hallows. A friend lent me the series, but the final novel had not yet been published at that time. One of these days I'll get around to reading the last one.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas "I've read every HP novel except The Deathly Hallows."

I'm astonished. You must be the only example in the world. This means that you are officially A Strange Person.

But then we already knew that...

FHL said...


Till We Have Faces is breathtaking! Amazing! I re-read it at least once a year! Take it back! Take it back I tell you!

If you do not take it back, I will have to... and I mean to cause you no harm by this --but you leave me no choice-- so I must... yes, I must... I will have to tell you... that it is better than Lord of the Rings!

Yes. It is true. I am sorry. I feel terrible that I had to be the one to break the news to you, but I did what I had to.

...oh, and who is Joy?

Bruce Charlton said...

@FHL - Well, Lewis also thought that TWHF was his best book - superceding the previous one he thought was best, Perelandra - probably because he laboured over it more than usual.

Joy was his (ahem) wife...

Incidentally, so far as I can tell most Lewis scholars favourite book (not the book they think is the best, but the one they like the best) is That Hideous Strength. Qua novel it is overstuffed, but it has an awful lot in it!