No literary fandom possesses a blessing or a curse (shall we say “hex”?) quite like J.K. Rowling.
Harry Potter has concluded, and the author is still out there making noise. She’s charming on Twitter; she’s not afraid to weigh in on rugby or Scottish politics or whether Ron and Hermione will need hefty doses of Amortentia to make their marriage work.
While her writing career has since veered toward more adult fare, and the “Harry Potter” movie series has receded into the rearview mirror, her enduring affection for Harry Potter is palpable, and not just through the rambling online clubhouse, Pottermore, which she built to ply fans with brand new Easter eggs and tidbits about the magical world.
She’ll Apparate into your Twitter feed to let you know what tuition at Hogwarts cost, that she’s secretly been pronouncing Voldemort with a silent ‘t’ this whole time, and, most recently, why she had Harry name his son after Severus Snape. (Apparently this last puzzle had been stumping readers for years, as Snape and Harry weren’t exactly bosom buddies.)
Each authorial revelation throws fans into a tizzy of joy (see, Rowling agreed all along!) or dismay (wait, how could she just change the terms like this??). Even her disquisition on Harry’s naming choice met significant pushback, though Occam’s Razor would have suggested that the answer was “because he loved Harry’s mother enough to die for Harry and the good of the wizarding world,” as Rowling herself argued.
Many were suspicious of this argument — Snape had been too cruel to Harry and his friends over the years for him to give that tainted name to his own child, they rejoined. It just DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.
Twitter fracas achieved. Mischief managed.
Rowling has become the puckish Peeves of the Potter fandom, popping in to disrupt ships or upset theories or spark controversies. Were there gay people at Hogwarts? Jewish ones? How many students went there, anyway? Why couldn’t everyone see Peter Pettigrew on the Marauder’s Map?? She rarely passes up an opportunity to fill in a gap, satisfy a reader’s curiosity or a journalist’s probe. And each time, we lose our collective minds.
Now, like any author, Rowling has every right to comment on her books and the characters she created. We all have that right, actually — that’s what happens when a book is published. Somewhere between the words on the page and the rich world in our minds, private magic works within each of us, bringing new insights and leaps of imagination to bear on the people and places dreamed up by the author.
Then we come together to squabble over whether Hermione might ultimately regret choosing Ron instead of Harry (never!), or why Harry would ever name a child after a teacher who bullied him remorselessly, or possible plugs for plot holes, and these discussions are where we stretch our powers as readers. We learn to feel ownership over our thoughts and how to resolve gaps or ambiguities left by black-and-white text. Sometimes we even learn we just disagree with certain authors. That’s fine, even though it can be frustrating, especially when that author is as big-time as Rowling.
Her comments aren’t Imperius curses, however; they don’t control anything. Her constant “new revelations” are only a problem if we upset the applecart ourselves every time she pops out and says “Boo!”
Pronounce Voldemort however you want. Spin a theory that Harry named his son after Snape because the Potions master secretly loved him and protected him the whole time. The wizardry of literature is that you don’t have to listen to anything or anyone — even the author — just lose yourself between the pages of a book you love.
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