Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7?

[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD for those who have not read the 9th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 17th, and 18th best-selling books of all time].

Our friend Jana Riess has posted her predictions on her blog, but I thought I would reply here rather than stuffing her comment box. Not long ago, Jacob read the Mugglenet prediction book to which Jana refers, which sparked a whole flurry of impassioned speculation at our house. Ron commented on Jana’s post, but he hardly exhausted the substance (or fluff?) of Rienstra household discussions. So here come some of my predictions, linked directly to Jana’s. (I apologize up front for referring to J.K. Rowling as “Jo.” Overly familiar, I know. But hey, she can call me “Deb” anytime she wants.)

1. Jana says: Either Fred or George is wearing a red shirt. Oh, no, I can’t agree with that one. That would be too awful. Surely the flame of frivolity and silliness cannot be snuffed out -- or even so sadly diminished in the world; Jo is too firm a believer in the redemptive power of humor. Fred and George’s mischief is more than comic relief: I think they are twin elements of hope and resilience. Remember their genius revenge on Umbridge as they left Hogwarts? (This is one of my favorite scenes in all the books.) So please: keep the twins alive! I do agree that a Weasley family member will probably have to go. Ron (my Ron, that is) has long predicted it will be Arthur Weasley, on the grounds that Arthur is another father figure for Harry, and as archetypal patterns would have it, our young hero’s father figures have been slipping away one by one. Of course, it would be lovely if Percy would finally, as Jana says, come to his senses, do something heroic and restitutive, and then conveniently bite it. But that might be just too easy. In any case, I think it’s true that one way or another poor Molly is in for more agony.

2. Jana suspects/hopes: the Gryffindor horcrux is Fawkes. Nah. I predict that the Gryffindor horcrux is something we haven’t encountered yet, and Harry will find it at Godric’s Hollow. My reasoning is that in every book, Jo has introduced new characters, new objects, and new ideas, all of them clever and intriguing. The Gryffindor horcrux (if it exists) would be far too important an object to be some old thing we’ve seen already. Harry’s trip to Godric’s Hollow has to yield some big revelations, and I think this object will be one of them. After all, Voldy would have had plenty of time to create a horcrux after Lily’s death. Who’s going to stop him or notice? One-year-old Harry?

This prediction also eliminates Harry’s scar and the invisibility cloak as horcrux candidates. More on this later.

5. Jana wonders what caused Harry’s scar because it couldn’t have been caused by the AK curse. I say: Why not? It’s true that the AK curse doesn’t usually leave a mark, but then again it usually kills the victim, too. Something went weird that night, so it’s possible the curse did leave a mark.

6. Jana’s friend says: Crookshanks is really Regulus Black. Maybe. Ron covers this in his comment on Jana’s blog.

Now to respond to Jana’s wish list.

1. Neville beats the CRAP out of Bellatrix LeStrange. You go, Neville!

2. Harry saves Snape’s life. Sure, that’s possible. I think Snape will have to make some difficult decision in a crisis situation that will force him to stop sitting on the fence (see Ron’s comment) and show his ultimate loyalty.

3. The Malfoys are outed as vampires. Amusing, but I’m not convinced on this one, primarily because I had some vampire experts I know (for real) comment on the possibility and they don’t buy it.

4. The Ravenclaw horcrux is, as Ron has predicted, some loopy thing the Lovegood family owns. Yeah, I love this one. If Jo didn’t think of it already, she should have.

6. Jana wants to know more about Harry’s grandparents. Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear that we know virtually nothing about Harry’s ancestry because Jo has been waiting to reveal that he is a descendent of Gryffindor.

See Jana’s blog for a few more of her wishes.

Here are a couple things I personally would like to see in book 7.

A. I would like to see Harry live. I’m worried about confirming yet again that the path to heroism for 17-year-old males is to sacrifice their lives in the battle against evil. I know, I know. Genuine evil cannot be defeated by holding hands, making nice, and just getting along. But history—and current events—show how very easy it is to mask the will to power in a neat, black-and-white ideology and then send young men to die to save us all from “evil.” Granted, good and evil is pretty unambiguous in the Harry Potter world, but still: can we please honor forms of heroism other than young men dying? As the mother of two sons, I feel pretty strongly about this. People fight evil every day through the long, slow slog of constant resistance, diplomacy, incremental systemic change. And in the end, ultimate evil was (is/will be) defeated by absorbing evil without passing it on. So let’s see Harry 1) cope with the complex mixture of his own impulses both to defend goodness and to exact revenge, 2) defeat Voldy, and 3) realize that even after Voldy is gone, the battle continues. Moreover, just literarily speaking, it’s much more of a challenge for a writer to let her hero fight his great battle and then figure out how he will go on living afterwards. Come on, Jo. You’re up to the challenge.

B. Here’s my theory about the last line of the book. I don’t really mean it, but it always makes my kids laugh when I say it. I think that if Harry has any sense, he will reproduce with Ginny ASAP so that whatever happens, he will have an heir. I know they’re young, but hey, times are tough. They could have a double wedding with Bill and Fleur. (Ginny and Fleur could armwrestle over the tiara: fun!) Honeymoon details could be kept very discreet; Jo has been so respectful of Harry’s romantic privacy thus far. Once Ginny is pregnant she can go into deep hiding to protect her and the baby. (No twins, please. Too Star Wars-y.) So then, picture the end of the book: Harry has done away with Voldy. He’s reunited with Ginny. There they stand over the crib, looking down at their brand new little heir of Gryffindor. Ginny says, with gentle affection: “Look, Harry: he has your scar!” THE END

C. Seriously, I really hope Jo has been careful in Book 7 about how many tricks she pulls. Anything really wacky—Ron is Dumbledore from the future, Hagrid is Molly’s sister in drag , Buckbeak makes friends with a Norwegian Ridgeback and they swoop in to save the day at some point —will detract from the emotional heft that she surely wishes to build in this book. This is why I don’t like the idea of Harry’s scar or the invisibility cloak being a horcrux. I think this would create an irritating “fooled ya!” effect for the reader. After all these years, I’m still peeved about Madeye Moody being Barty Crouch all along in Book 4. Scabbers as Peter Pettigrew was cutting it close enough, but the Madeye business really bugged. I don’t want the series to end on that kind of sour note. Cleverness is great, but this book has to have a seriousness not dimished by authorly pirouettes.

It pains me in all of this to say that THE BOOK IS ALREADY DONE and copies are probably pouring off the presses by the thousands as we speak. It’s a shame Jo didn’t have access to our brilliant ideas before she finished. Well, she can always make corrections for the paperback…

What do you other Potter fans think is in store come July 21?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Children in Worship

Pastors of souls must therefore, realize that, when the liturgy is is their duty to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite and enriched by it. -- Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican II

In an ongoing parental attempt to fulfill our happy duties as "pastors of souls," we try to actively engage our children in corporate worship on Sunday each week as best we (and they) can. That can mean any number of different things: letting them hold the bulletin so they can see the words we are to say together, encouraging them to sing along and explaining if we come to a confusing word or phrase (e.g. here I raise my Ebenezer), and sometimes just pointing to things that are happening: "Pip! Look! Here comes the dancer with the water. Let's see if any splashes around when she pours it into the font."

The hardest part of the service in which to keep the kids engaged is the sermon. So not long ago, during an uncharacteristically tired exhortation, I asked Philip to listen, to read the scripture text, and to draw pictures. I said "if you were preaching on this passage with your pictures, what would you draw?"

Here is a sample of the artwork he produced:

(Bonus points if you can identify the text)

Active engagement is a bit easier when you're involved in some form of leadership. This past week it was a family affair: Debra and Jacob were playing viola and violin, respectively, and Mia and I were percussing. Before church, then, I invited Philip to try to learn a simple rhythm on the djembe so that when the drummers led the congregation in song at the presentation of the gifts, he could join us and offer his own musical gift. I sang the song, and he was starting to own the groove, but when I started cutting a counter rhythm he got confused and stopped. "I don't want to do this in church," he pouted. "I'll mess up."

"Well, you certainly don't want to mess up," Deb replied. "If any of the leaders make mistakes, no one in church gets their God-points that week." We all smiled at the family joke we use when we find ourselves caught up in behavior that implies that we worship in order to get something from God. Thus assured, he agreed to play.

Of course, he did a perfectly fine job, and his offering, along with any mistakes he made -- like the inattentive or insincere worship any of us make -- were still received by the Spirit, perfected by Christ, and offered to the Father.

But it also assured him to see that he wasn't the only one whose worship needed perfecting. For example, he seemed delighted to note that our pastor led us straight into the prayer of confession after our opening hymn, bypassing our usual liturgical Alleluias (perhaps he was especially eager to confess something?).

I hope that in all of this, our children are learning that the house of the Lord -- where they will dwell one day forever -- is a hospitable one, where they and their gifts are welcome and cherished. And until that day, here's a Pip-drawn picture of our prayer for them, one we hope each of them can own: