Author Archives: libbyh92

The Eyes Have It

“I expect you’ll tire of hearing it, but you do look extraordinarily like James. Except for the eyes…you have your mother’s eyes.”(427) It is often said that the eyes are the window to the soul. This is significant where Harry is concerned because it leads us to conclude that Rowling was trying to show that, while Harry looks a lot like his father on the outside, on the inside he has his mother’s personality. This personality shows itself particularly strongly in the company that both Harry and James keep.

            James is not a bully, but he does enjoy being the center of attention and he can’t help showing off sometimes. This is first seen during the conversation between the teachers in the Three Broomsticks, when Professor McGonagall describes both him and Black as “leaders of their little gang” and “exceptionally bright” (204). Their “little gang” consisted of James, Black, Lupin, and Pettigrew. Further on in the conversation McGonagall states that Pettigrew was “never quite in their league, talent-wise,” and that he “hero-worshipped Black and Potter” (207). From this conversation is seems as if James allowed Pettigrew into their group because he was in awe of everything they did. James probably loved having Pettigrew “tagging around after them at Hogwarts” (207). This eventually comes back to haunt James. He, Lupin, and Black felt real loyalty towards each other because they had formed genuine bonds of friendship based on whether they enjoyed being with each other instead of what they could provide for each other. With Pettigrew, however, they allowed him to be their friend because he loved everything they did, never recognizing that he felt no true loyalty towards them and was only their friend because they were popular and could protect him if he needed it.

            The relationship between Harry and his friends is markedly different than his father’s because he has more of his mother’s personality. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are friends not because they feel they can benefit from each other, but because they enjoy each other’s company. Their friendship is truer than the friendship between James and Pettigrew because none of them are looking to gain anything from the friendship except a friend. In addition to Ron and Hermione, Harry is also friends with Neville Longbottom, a boy who is very similar to Peter Pettigrew. Neville is seemly not very talented and is usually impressed by what the trio do. Unlike, Pettigrew however, Neville does not feel the need to tag along incessantly after the trio nor is he friends with them simply because Harry is famous. Likewise, Harry is not friends with Neville just because Neville thinks Harry is someone to be admired. Harry’s friendship with Neville is like his mother’s would be. Harry is kind and accepting of Neville because it is the right thing to do; whereas James only accepted Pettigrew for the adoration he would give himself and the others.

When it comes to loyalty however, Harry is very similar to his father. James would have rather died than betray his friends, even Pettigrew, and Harry would do the same for Ron, Hermione, and Neville. Unfortunately, Harry and James also make the mistake of acquiring childhood enemies. In the first book, we learn that James and Snape were enemies at school. This relationship is shown in more depth as the books progress, especially anytime Harry mentions his father in front of Snape. This childish relationship of hatred is mirrored in Harry and Draco’s relationship.  Harry and Draco hate each other almost the minute they enter the school. This relationship is similar to that of James and Snape because in both relationships it is a case of Gryffindor vs. Slytherin and hatred of Dark Arts vs. fascination with Dark Arts. These relationships do differ however, in the way they are executed. At one point Snape reveals to Harry “Your saintly father and his friends played a highly amusing joke on me that would have resulted in my death…had their joke succeeded, he would have been expelled” (285). This quote shows that James and his friends often goaded Snape into doing things, which resulted in him taking every opportunity to get them back. In the Harry and Draco relationship however, it is usually Draco that picks the fights and goads Harry and his friends. The trio, for the most part, only responds to Draco out of defense of themselves or others. When he insults Hagrid for crying over Buckbeak, “Harry and Ron both made furious moves… Hermione got there first…she had slapped Malfoy across the face” (293). They never try to jinx Draco in the hallway or trick him into doing something stupid or dangerous. James and Snape had a more balanced relationship of hatred with both sides attacking the other, whereas Harry and Draco’s relationship is slightly unbalanced with Draco instigating more of the issues then Harry.

Harry has avoided some of the pitfalls his father fell into in terms of his friends because of having more of his mother’s personality. Unlike his father, Harry chooses not to become friends with people who only like him because he is famous; instead befriending people he enjoys being with and whom he can be himself around. Harry and his friends feel a deep loyalty to each other and therefore he will not run into the same problem of betrayal that his father did. However, the pitfall that Harry was unable to avoid was the acquisition of a childhood enemy. Both he and his father gained enemies at school, although James’s proved to be fatal, while Harry’s did not.

“It is not what someone is born, but what they grow to be”

Ged, from A Wizard of Earthsea, and Tom Riddle (Voldemort), from the Harry Potter series, are very similar characters, both in their initial personalities and their upbringings. They are prideful, powerful, and arrogant. They have similar family lives and school experiences. Yet Ged grows up to be a hero, while Riddle becomes one of the worst literary villains. These two characters show us that through choices and life experiences two very similar characters can have very different endings.

Both Ged and Riddle came from very poor upbringings. Born in a small village and an orphanage respectively, each boy’s mother lived just long enough to give them names that would not follow them very far in life. Although both of their fathers remained living neither was very loving: Ged’s father used him to herd the goats and work the bellows in his silversmith shop and Riddle’s father abandoned him before he was born, never bothering to look for him later in life. Despite their home lives both boys would become powerful wizards and they discovered their powers at a very early age. At the age of seven Ged heard his aunt use a rhyme to control a goat. The next day “he yelled the rhyme aloud, and the goats came to him.”(3) He was almost trampled by all of the goats and so at an early age, he had at least experienced some fear with magic. Riddle never experienced this fear with magic. He too discovered his powers very young, but he also discovered that he could put them to evil uses, “He scares the other children…there have been incidents…nasty things.”(Rowling 267) Even before he was trained Riddle used his powers to cause fear, but he never felt fear from them. This initial fear of magic that Ged feels is key to what he grows up to become.

As these boys become preteens or young teenagers, their magical skills are each recognized by a great wizard and they are taken away from their dismal homes to further their magically learning. Ged is taken away by Ogion, a wise and powerful mage, to be his prentice, but Ged is too power hungry and impatient to learn from Ogion’s slow teaching exclaiming “how am I to know…when you teach me nothing…I have done nothing, seen nothing.” (23-24) He soon leaves Ogion to attend the wizard school on Roke Island. Riddle is visited by the powerful headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, and then enrolled in Hogwarts. Once the boys arrive at their respective schools, they flourish showing themselves to be the most skilled and brightest boys that have ever passed through their schools. Both boys are ambitious, power hungry, and eager to leave their heritage behind taking on new names for themselves: Ged becomes Sparrowhawk and Tom Riddle becomes Lord Voldemort. This naming is significant of what each boy will become. Ged’s name is a childhood name given to him by the people of his home village. Riddle’s name is one he fashions for himself, one that shows just how power hungry he is by calling himself “Lord.”

Though both boys are skillful, their thirst for power leads them to commit evil acts that will define them as adults. Ged, in an effort to prove himself to a fellow student, attempts magic that he is unsuited for and releases an evil “shadow” in the world. This shadow hunts Ged and tries to kill him on several occasions. Riddle experiments with many evils at school, but the worst by far is the path to immortality. Both young men are also afraid of death. The “shadow” that Ged releases into the world represents death that is always following, like a shadow. Ged fears death and at first tries to hide from and then fight it. Neither of these actions work and they lead to him running from death. Riddle also fears death which is evidenced by his obsession with immortality and the creation of horcruxes. Riddle creates horcruxes by murdering many people in order to rip his soul into several pieces so that he will be immortal. This is where significant differences  in the boys emerge. Although both are afraid of death Ged chooses to hide from it, whereas Riddle uses the deaths of others to make himself immortal.

This spilt in the ways that these characters handle death bring about Ged’s salvation and Riddle’s downfall.  Ged’s fear of death causes him to avoid and run from his “shadow” the symbol of death. This running does not intentionally hurt anyone and it gives Ged time to think and get advice. His old master Ogion tell him, “turn around…You must choose. You must seek what seeks you. You must hunt the hunter.” (127-128)Upon hearing this Ged comes to the realization that he can’t keep running, that he must actively seek and face death if he wants to be free. Once he arrives at that revelation Ged begins to look for death by hunting down his shadow. Eventually, he meets death, makes peace with it, and becomes whole once more. His acceptance of death allows him to live through the encounter and return whole and unscathed. Conversely, Riddle’s reaction to death brings about his destruction. Riddle never ran from death, instead preferring to take unspeakably evil measure to make himself immortal. Even when he  tries to kill Harry and his magic yields frightening results, he does not fear his magic nor does he accept death, but continues to search for a way to make himself invincible. In his eagerness to evade death, Riddle forgets about some very important aspects of living, such as love and friendship. When Riddle finally meets death, he is given the opportunity to repent his actions and accept death, instead of fearing it. Even in the face of death, Riddle cannot accept it and he clings to this frightened stubbornness until he is dealt the fatal blow.

Although Ged and Tom Riddle begin life similarly arrogant and power hungry their experiences with magic and death change who they are and shape the adults they become. Ged’s initial experiences with magic and death were frightening, causing him to seek to master magic and hide from death. Eventually Ged’s kind heart and his respect and love for his master and friends lead him to accept death and be saved. Riddle’s initial experiences with magic were ones in which he was in control; he was the one causing the fear and pain. This leads Riddle to grow up to be afraid to have anything out of his control, even death. He uses his magic only for evil purposes, such as to cause pain and become the master of death. The evil and fear in his heart makes him refuse to accept death and so cause his death.  These two characters started life almost the same yet one ended a hero, the other a villain because of their choices and life experiences.

Mother Dearest

Neverland is supposed to be the land of eternal childhood, a place where children can go if they want to stay children forever. This is true for all children except one: Wendy. In his tale, Barrie creates Wendy to be a loving girl who is always eager to help with her brothers. Her eagerness to help, however, can be a bad quality as well as a good one. Wendy has a very maternal personality and she can’t wait to grow-up, have children, and be like her mother. Ironically, Wendy chooses to go to Neverland because it offers her a chance to grow-up instead of staying a child.

Wendy’s desire to grow-up first becomes evident in the way Peter convinces her to come to Neverland. For John and Michael, talk of pirates, redskins, and adventure is enough to lure them away, but Wendy needs something more. Although she is intrigued and excited by the idea of meeting a mermaid, Peter really convinces her to come when he says slyly, “You could tuck us in at night…and darn our clothes and make pockets for us.”(28) Wendy loves the idea of becoming a mother to the boys and getting to take care of them. She loves the responsibility and importance it gives her. However, she does briefly rethink her decision once she gets to Neverland. Upon her arrival, the boys build her a house and ask Wendy to be their mother. She answers, “Of course it’s frightfully fascinating, but you see I am only a little girl. I have no real experience.” (62) This quote shows that Wendy reconsiders becoming mother to the lost boys because she is only a young girl herself. Again, it is Peter, who convinces her by saying that they really only need a mothering type and they knew she would be a good one.

By becoming a mother to the boys Wendy forfeits her own innocence and childhood. Peter and the boys have many marvelous adventures, but Wendy can’t participate because, “Those rambunctious boys of hers gave her so much to do.” (67) Instead of enjoying being a child, Wendy is stuck inside doing housework and trying to keep everything just so while taking care of all of the boys. At first Wendy enjoys these tasks and the grown-up feelings of importance and responsibility that accompany them. Sometimes, smiling “she would fling up her arms and exclaim, ‘Oh dear, I am sure I sometimes think spinsters are to be envied.’” (67), because it made her feel like a real mother.

After a while though, pretending to be a mother and a housewife ceases to be a game. Wendy loses the childlike pretention because she is trying too hard to be the perfect housewife and begins to half believe that their Neverland family is real. She refers to Peter as “Father” and refuses to let Michael sleep with the big boys saying “I must have somebody in a cradle…a cradle is such a nice homely thing to have about a house.”(93) This shows her insistence on making their house as real as possible. She also begins to wish that the kids really belonged to her and Peter and confuses Peter’s feelings for her. She asks “Peter…what are your exact feelings to me?”(94) and is let down when Peter replies, “Those of a devoted son, Wendy.”(94) In her excitement to grow-up, Wendy has taken their game far too seriously for a young girl and becomes upset when Peter doesn’t feel the same way she does about their “family.”

Wendy does not fully realize that she has lost her childhood until she gains it back once she returns home. Before leaving, Peter tries to convince her to come back with him and be his mother again. “But he does so need a mother,” (151) Wendy argues with her mother, “So do you, my love,”(151) her mother responds. This reminds Wendy she is still a child herself and that she will grow up soon enough without having to run off to Neverland.

Dear God, please…never mind, we’ll do it ourselves

In many fairy tales, the main character(s) are rewarded because of their faith in God, or a higher power, during their trials and suffering. After a quick read through, it would seem that the story of “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm, falls along these same lines. Before and during their abandonment from their parents and their imprisonment by the witch, Hansel and Gretel appeal to God and are rewarded with a safe return home at the end of the story. To the casual reader it would appear that God is rewarding the children for believing in him, but when we take a closer look we realize that Hansel and Gretel do not have a strong belief in God and are actually rewarded through their own courage and ingenuity.

 Although Hansel and Gretel do appeal to God several times in the story, they are not rewarded because of this. In fact, their faith in God does not seem to be particularly strong. While Hansel does reassure Gretel that “God will take care of us” (Tatar 185) we must note that he makes this assurance after he has gone outside to retrieve the white pebbles from the garden. Prior to retrieving the pebbles, Hansel tells Gretel “…stop worrying. I’ll figure something out.” (Tatar 184) Hansel has already formed a plan as to how he and his sister will return home after being abandoned in the woods. No divine intervention came and told Hansel what to do; he figured it out himself. The mention of God after forming this plan shows us that either Hansel’s faith is shaky in God’s ability to protect them or he simply wants to reassure Gretel that everything will be alright, without having to tell her the plan and risk their parents overhearing. The children return home from the woods safely, by following the path of white stones that Hansel had laid out.

Later, the children overhear their parents planning to abandon them in the woods again; Hansel attempts to use his previous plan, but is thwarted by the stepmother, who has locked the door so he can’t get the stones. Hansel quickly comes up with a new plan, and then reassures Gretel that “The Lord will protect us.” (Tatar 186) Again, Hansel does not say God will watch over them until after he has come up with a plan, which still indicates a disbelief that God will take care of them, or is simply said to reassure Gretel.

The last time God is appealed to, occurs when the witch demands that Gretel get water in order to boil Hansel. Gretel cries out “Dear God, help us!” (Tatar 188), but then proceeds to formulate a plan of her own. Whether Gretel forms her plan because of mistrust in God or because she can’t wait for God’s help is unclear. It is clear, however, that Gretel formed and carried out her plan with her own courage and ingenuity, without help from God or anyone else.  When the witch tries to trick Gretel into getting into the oven, she outsmarts the witch and ends up shoving her into the oven. The children escape and return home safely thanks to Gretel’s courageous plan.

Although God was called upon several times throughout the story, there was no divine intervention in the planning to get home or the escape from the witch. The children become free and return safely through their own courage and ingenuity.