Fantasy writers can take two approaches to their invented worlds once the final chapters are finished and the books are on the shelves. They can either tell their legions of fans to look for the answers to any further questions in the books themselves, or spend the rest of their lives developing extra narratives and unrevealed explanations, as a way of keeping that reality constantly fresh and exciting.
That latter option is certainly J.K. Rowling’s preferred choice, given that she periodically releases new perspectives on the Harry Potter universe from the Pottermore site. This week, she has taken the time to not only explain some of the deep seated hatred young Harry stirred up in his aunt and uncle, but has also revealed a previously unexplained link between two of Harry’s favorite people, Professors Dumbledore and Hagrid.
In an entry entitled “Alchemy,” she explained that both men take on a symbolic position in Harry’s life, and it’s all to do with ancient beliefs around colour.
“The colours red and white are mentioned many times in old texts on alchemy,” she writes, with the red representing the base metals that would be transformed by the Philosopher’s Stone into gold, which is represented by the color white. The colors philosophically represent “two different sides of human nature.”
And this is the good bit. It turns out she named both Dumbledore and Hagrid according to these principles too: “Rubeus (red) Hagrid and Albus (white) Dumbledore… both hugely important to Harry, seem to me to represent two sides of the ideal father figure he seeks; the former is warm, practical and wild, the latter impressive, intellectual, and somewhat detached.”
As for the Dursleys, once again it’s all to do with Harry’s father James and his ability to get people’s backs up. A dinner date between Harry’s future mother Lily Evans, her sister Petunia and their respective boyfriends James Potter and Vernon Dursley ended badly, as J.K. explains: “James was amused by Vernon, and made the mistake of showing it. Vernon tried to patronise James, asking what car he drove. James described his racing broom.
“Vernon supposed out loud that wizards had to live on unemployment benefit. James explained about Gringotts, and the fortune his parents had saved there, in solid gold.
“Vernon could not tell whether he was being made fun of or not, and grew angry. The evening ended with Vernon and Petunia storming out of the restaurant, while Lily burst into tears and James (a little ashamed of himself) promised to make things up with Vernon at the earliest opportunity.”
Sadly the opportunity never arose and when Harry arrives on the Dursleys’ doorstep some time later, looking a lot like his dad, they bore their new responsibility with extremely poor grace.
Get more at Pottermore.
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