Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cover art for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I'ts been a long time since I've posted--and a lot has been going on with Harry Potter since February. I've mainly been keeping up with discussions on other sites, but haven't had the opportunity to weigh in here.

The biggest thing is the release of the cover art for both the US (Scholastic) and UK (Bloomsbury) Deathly Hallows book. They, unlike the cover art for HBP, seem to be of very different scenes from the book. While the UK children's cover has a lot of detail, it doesn't appeal to me nearly as much as the US one. I like Mary GrandPre's artwork in general, and the more I look at the covers for books 5 and 6, and now for book 7, I like it even better. It doesn't give away too much, but once we've read the book, I'm sure it will be such a significant image from the story.

One thing that the two very different covers do have in common, is that no one has a wand on either cover. So wherever the trio and the house-elf (Dobby, more than likely, Kreacher, possibly) are, they aren't using their wands, but we do see something that is like the sword of Gryffindor. The US cover, with Harry is a Christ-like position, shows that both Harry and Voldemort are wandless.

When you look at the faces and posture of Harry and Voldemort, it shows that Harry is open, with his hand facing upwards, reaching towards something or someone. His expression seems to be expectant, as though whatever he sees is welcome. Voldemort also has his hand extended, but as though he is trying to repel something or someone, and the look on his face is one of fear. He also seems to be trying to back away from whatever it is that the two of them see. There is also a marked contrast between the humanity shown on Harry's face and the lack of human-ness on Voldemort's.

Where are they? Many of us think that it is somewhere in the Ministry of Magic, the Department of Mysteries. There are similarities to the Death Room that Harry was in when they were there in Order of the Phoenix. But there are differences as well. The ceiling is the biggest one. Either we are looking at the real sky, which is full of sunshine, perhaps at sunset or sunrise (the sky isn't normally so vivid in the middle of the day), or an enchanted ceiling like we see at Hogwarts. If it's the real sky, then the upper floors of the Ministry of Magic would have to have been destroyed. If it's enchanted, why would it appear this way in a place that seemed so gloomy, especially since Dumbledore had called it the Death Room?

The other possiblitity that I can see is that there is fire surrounding the chamber, wherever they are, though one would expect Harry to look a little more fearful if they were surrounded by fire.

With the arches behind them, and something that looks like spectators in the background, the picture calls to mind a place like the coliseum--and that reminds me of this passage from "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", after Dumbledore explained to Harry that the Prophecy was only important because he and Voldemort chose to act upon it:

But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him.
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged
into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena
with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there
was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew--
and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride,
and so did my parents--that there was all the difference
in the world. (HBP, US version, p. 512)

When I first read that passage, I focused more on Harry's attitude and understanding that what he was doing by choice, but the image of Harry walking into an arena to face Voldemort may have been the more important point.

There are so many other possiblities that have been discussed at John Granger's blog,, and on Travis Prinzi's Sword of Gryffindor. I won't list them all here, but as you read through the comments, there are links to other posts that are well worth exploring.

Mostly, we are all delighted to have new things to talk about, and to agree and disagree about, as we wait for the 7th and last Harry Potter book. It will be sad, and rather strange, to get Deathly Hallows in my hands on July 21, and read it (straight through, as much as my schedule will allow), but the cover art makes me very hopeful that what we are seeing is a book that shows that love is the way to conquer evil and that there is an underlying Christian theme throughout the books, as many of us have seen and discussed since at least the release of Goblet of Fire back in 2000.

And now I'm going back to my latest re-reading of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I'm trying very hard to keep up with the discussion in the Reading Group at the Leaky Lounge, but it is hard when there are so many exciting things to think about with that artwork staring at me everytime I walk by my computer. Yes, I have the US cover as my wallpaper, and I'll change the screensaver to the UK book art as soon as they update the current one.



merlin said...

Lucky break today, Granger's HogPro server seems to be down so I thought "hmmmm, I haven't stopped by Eyeore's in a long while" ... I am actually taking a break from writing a rather cumbersome paper on some passages in the book of Jeremiah, hence the sort of poking around the "usual haunts" on the net.

Anyway, just wanted to say I loved the link between the DH cover and the arena line in HBP, which I hadn't thought of before, but hearing it I think it is REALLY solid. And it brings in so much to the imagery. First is that, as a classics major, studying different modes of biography, legend and hagiography (the stylistic and type developments in the writings of the lives of the saints - I have two fellow first year friends who are right now finishing up a graduate course in our department in hagiography, sitting the class next to classics and Medieval studies MA students),Rowling is certain to have studied much of the Roman Coliseum martyrdom traditions (if you read the Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas you get a really interesting pre-Constantinian martydom story. With Constantine the trend in hagiographic writing shifts from martydom to celebacy as the mark of proven sanctity. Thus after the big C you get less earthy gender detail. But Perputa and Felicity actually has a lot in common with Rowling's focus on feminity, in that the upper class of the two women has recently given birth and they usualy make the condemned fight nude, but the crowd protests because some of her obvious signs of recent birth and mothering puts the inhumanity of the event too in their faces and so she is clothed in a tunic so that the crowd can "enjoy the show" unimpeded. Even more interesting with regards to HP is that in the same story, the same woman has a vision of her younger brother who died of some type of affliction in the head, her vision of him is as he is in heaven encouraging and consoling her in her upcoming trials and death, but the affliction that caused his death, while passed in the vision, has left a trace ... a scar on his forehead ... I think I put that up on MM last fall but it gives me even more chills now that you bring out the arena comment and the Coliseum imagery in the DH cover)

Secondly, the crowd watching is usually mirrored, as in Perpetua and Felicity's story, by other witnesses, the saints encouraging the marytr(I get chills everytime I watch the end of Mel Gibson's Braveheart, he did that so well with Muren walking behind and through the crowd as he dies, smiling not the smile of something wierd, but of being encouraging of him and proud of his courage). This brings in other imagery I think I have noted elsewhere of the end of book 4, of the shades that appear from Voldy's wand as a "cloud of witness" encouraging Harry in the fight and helping him by spooking Voldy.

Great stuff, great observation and connection.
Love it,

Behold a Phoenix said...

The quote from Half-Blood Prince you provided here perfectly exemplifies the U.S. cover. I mentioned your use of this quote in my own post on the covers. I think that Harry and Voldemort will face off in an arena although I do not think it's located in the Death Chamber at the Ministry. Harry is definately in a Christ-like position. I got chills when this cover came out. I mean why are the two enemies not facing each other. Who (or what) are they looking at? All this is fascinating and the speculation will continue until July 21st. I just can't wait. Merlin has some interesting thoughts in the previous comment. Thanks for this post Pat :)