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Blogging The Deathly Hallows: Chapter 4

Greetings from my family reunion!  Most of my kinfolk on my father's side of the family are out playing golf.  I am lounging at the pool with the younger set, trying to stay shaded so that I don't end up frying to a crisp even through my SPF75 sunscreen (yes, I am a redhead and we should come with warning labels).  :-P

Today's Chapter is about Harry's dramatic escape from Little Whinging, so off we go!


The chapter opens with Harry watching from the window as the Dursleys pull away, waiting for the Order to come and collect him.  Being alone in the house was a rare enough event that he begins reminiscing about those few times, talking to Hedwig as he recalls.  She is angry with him for some reason, and is not responding to him, remaining silent in her cage.  As he gives in to memory, he cannot resist going back to look at the cupboard under the stairs where he lived for nine years. 

We, too, are lead then to think about where it all began when we first met Harry Potter  The story arc has gone in a very different way from how I thought it would all those years ago.  The Sorcerer's Stone (as it was called here in the U.S.) was a very diverting read:  lightweight, fast paced, imaginative and humorous, it reminded me of the Eva Ibbotson stories I'd read as a girl.  It was an easy world to get immersed in, and I looked forward to the sequels, expecting more of the same.  The next few books made it clear, however, that the story was aspiring to be so much more that and I began to be invested in this world in a way few stories had ever captured me before.  And, while I have to say that I find the tales to be frustratingly flawed, the fascination still holds.  As much as I criticize her worldview at times, or certain characters' story arcs in particular ::g::, I am still very grateful to Joanna Rowling for having invented this world.  After all, if she hadn't, I would never have met any of you, and my life would be immensely poorer for it.  ♥   But, enough of that.  Back to The Seven Potters.

The present intrudes rather abruptly as what seems like half of the remaining Order materializes in his garden.  It seems there has been a change in plan - Mad-Eye has decided to use a different method to remove Harry from the home which has kept him protected from Voldemort all of these years.  This plan avoids the potential problems caused by Pius Thicknesse's corruption by bypassing any magic which can be detected by the Ministry.  It also involves Polyjuicing six of Harry's friends into Harry to act as decoys, so if there just happens to be a Death Eater or two hanging about, they won't know which of the lot to go after.  Harry, of course, resists this mightily.  He does not want to put any of his friends in danger for his sake.  But, as ridiculously paranoid as Mad-Eye can be at times, he has reasoned through this pretty thoroughly and there doesn't seem to be any other way.   So Harry must agree to it, but he doesn't like it.

The change scene from Harry's POV is equal parts funny and mortifying.  I especially like the twins' banter and Fleur's assessment of her altered appearance.  ::g::  Moody divides them up, deciding to take a less-than-enthusiastic Mundungus with him.  Harry will be with Hagrid in the sidecar of Sirius's motorbike.  Hagrid points out that Arthur has done some 'tinkerin' to improve the bike, which doesn't improve Harry's mood as he gets in, shoving Hedwig in her cage, his rucksack and his broom in with him.  On Mad-Eye's count of three, they all take off together, and once out of the range of the house, are immediately ambushed.

And now we come to one of the few places where I feel the movies did it better than the books - not because of the thrill of the action, but because of what happens to the faithful (if somewhat peevish) Hedwig.  The intensity of the attack causes Hagrid to lose control of the bike, and spills the side car.  Harry clings on but Hedwig's cage is nearly lost.  And as it hangs unprotected, Hedwig is hit with a Killing Curse and dies.  Yes, I understand why she must.  Hedwig is far too recognizable as Harry's owl.  He will be going where he cannot take her and the risk of leaving her with someone else (say at the Burrow) is far too great: Hedwig would always be able to find find him, which would put everyone at risk.  Plus, he doesn't need the distraction.  But it was a rather ignominious end for Harry's animal companion of seven years.  At least in the film, she was flying free and defending Harry when she was killed, which may not be comforting but is much more satisfying.  This was the first place in the book where the story angered me.  It wasn't the last.

In the aftermath of Hedwig's death, Harry begins to fight off the Death Eaters coming after Hagrid and him, as Hagrid tries using some of the defensive charms Arthur's put on the bike.  Doing so unbalances Hagrid and damages the sidecar.  Hagrid tries to do the repair himself with disastrous consequences:  the sidecar falls, and Harry is barely able to hang on.  Hagrid grabs him before he falls, and Harry blows up the sidecar containing Hedwig's remains as it plummets to the ground.  Now on the bike, he begins battling the Death Eaters again, but makes a critical, very Harry mistake.  He recognizes Stan Shunpike, obviously under the Imperious, as one of his pursuers.  Rather than stun him, he disarms him, and the other Death Eaters know immediately that he is the true Harry.  They suddenly disappear, leaving Harry confused and worried.  Then his scar burns and he knows that Voldemort is coming.  The Dark Lord appears flying under his own power, 'like smoke on the wind' (a visual the film captured very well, I think).  Hagrid in his panic and fury launches himself off of the bike at one of the broom-borne Death Eaters, leaving Harry on it alone.  With no recourse other than death, he hits the dragon-fire button again, frantically trying to retrieve Hagrid (does Accio work on a person?) and losing Voldemort as he crash lands in a shallow pond inside the protected space surrounding the Tonks' place, beside where Hagrid has fallen.  Whew.

That whole sequence was, I think, written very much with the eventual movie in mind - lots of action, no let up in the fear and suspense, but even so, well done but for the bit with Hedwig.  Unlike a lot of places in the book where I got that feeling, that cinematic feel served the story well here.  What do you think?

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
lash_larue
Jul. 16th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
Hedwigs death was just wasted in the book, put in because "in war the innocent die". It wasn't war, it was a story, and it kind of made me angry. Why bring "realism" into a tale involving magic? And I think any post owl could have found Harry, that seems to be what they do.

Mad-eye dying was kind of fitting, and it was enough for that chapter, I think. I do think it was an effective chapter.

L

albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)
It seems unlikely that any of the animal companions could have come along for the ride. Crookshanks is never heard of again (I think he's at the Burrow, but if so, it's never mentioned by Ron when he comes back), Pigwidgeon the owl probably goes with Ginny back to Hogwarts. So Hedwig would have had to be left behind anyway. It probably seemed more convenient to kill her off, and there would be the book's first high-impact 'good side' death. Cruel, but pragmatic, I suppose.

It wasn't war, it was a story, and it kind of made me angry. Why bring "realism" into a tale involving magic? JKR was trying, I think, to 'grow up' the books and make this more an epic good vs. evil tale a la Lord of the Rings, more than a series of 'kid lit', so that means bringing death into the picture. I could get that. There were a few times, though, when particular deaths seemed gratuitous or unnecessarily cruel, and those made me mad. Hedwig's was one of those.
squibstress
Jul. 17th, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
The Hedwig thing bothered me less than it obviously did you and lash, although I admit the film version was more emotionally satisfying. The "innocent die" line also didn't bother me especially because the book is, in part about good and evil, and there isn't much more "evil" than collateral damage in a war.

When I read it, I did wonder if there was some thematic reason behind Hagrid carrying grown Harry on Sirius' motorbike just as he did baby Harry 16 years prior. I'm still puzzling. Part of me thinks it may be that JKR wanted to show just how much Harry has grown from a passive pawn into an actor in his own drama--part of the journey Dumbledore insisted he had to take before he was ready to fulfill his destiny--he begins to actively fight after Hedwig dies, and ends up alone on the motorbike, as he will ultimately be alone to face Voldemort and death.

Ah, and Mad-Eye's death was bitter, but almost inevitable, I think. He had to have known that Mundungus would be a liability, and wanted both to keep him close and to avoid saddling any other (and less skilled) Order member with him.

*Raises a glass to Mad-Eye.
albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
When I read it, I did wonder if there was some thematic reason behind Hagrid carrying grown Harry on Sirius' motorbike just as he did baby Harry 16 years prior. I'm still puzzling. Part of me thinks it may be that JKR wanted to show just how much Harry has grown from a passive pawn into an actor in his own drama--part of the journey Dumbledore insisted he had to take before he was ready to fulfill his destiny--he begins to actively fight after Hedwig dies, and ends up alone on the motorbike, as he will ultimately be alone to face Voldemort and death. Wow. That's very nicely reasoned, and I bet, at least the part about Hagrid bringing Harry to the Dursley's for safekeeping and then taking him away for the same reason, not too far from what was on JKR's mind at the time.
busaikko
Jul. 17th, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
I wasn't that saddened by Hedwig's death because I felt sure that Harry was going to, ah, 'go on' at the end of the book, and that Hedwig would be his guide. I was *positive* we'd see her again....
albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
I felt sure that Harry was going to, ah, 'go on' at the end of the book, and that Hedwig would be his guide. I was *positive* we'd see her again.... Yeah, I was pretty sure JKR was going to 'off' Harry, too. It's funny, in retrospect, that when she assured us that Dumbledore was gone for good (I believe her exact words were 'He won't be doing a "Gandalf".'), it never occurred to us to wonder whether the protagonist himself might undergo a resurrection.

I never thought of the idea of Hedwig meeting him on the 'other side' - it would have been a sweet thing to see her sitting on his shoulder, nipping his ear affectionately while Dumbledore explained what a prat he'd been. ;-)
kellychambliss
Jul. 17th, 2011 05:08 am (UTC)
Argh -- no time to comment, I'm afraid, but I so-o-o-o-o want to.

So here's a quickie --

That whole sequence was, I think, written very much with the eventual movie in mind

Definitely. I had the same feeling about the final Voldy/Harry duel scene -- the wand spinning into the air, passing through sunlight -- I could just see it in a super slo-mo close-up.

A lot of HD read as very "visual" to me; JKR seemed to be framing shots in her mind. Yet in the one DH2 trailer I let myself watch, the final duel looked very different from the way it reads in the book.
albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
JKR seemed to be framing shots in her mind. Yet in the one DH2 trailer I let myself watch, the final duel looked very different from the way it reads in the book. I agree. Maybe it was her way of hoping to hang on to some control of how things would look in the film? I know that she was a 'consultant', but I suppose that it's ultimately up to the screenwriter and the director to decide how to stage things.
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