Harry Potter and the invisible horses

by DaniGirl on June 29, 2007 · 20 comments

in Books, Life, the Universe and Everything

This has been bugging me. I’ve been re-reading the entire Harry Potter series since some time in February or March, and I’ve got three weeks to finish re-reading Half Blood Prince before the last one comes out.

If you are even remotely a fan, I highly recommend doing this, by the way. I read the first three books back in 2000 or so, and have read each subsequent one as it came out. (That and blogging may well have been the only two times in my life I was even incrementally ahead of the pop culture bandwagon instead of running behind it, begging to be let on.) Anyway, re-reading them has made me even more of a fan, and I’m going to be hugely disappointed when the last one is done and there’s nothing left to anticipate.

But something is bugging me – well, aside from the central question around the ending of Half Blood Prince, which at least will likely be answered by the last book. But in the Order of the Phoenix, they have those flying skeletal horses – Thestrals? – that you can only see if you’ve witnessed death. Harry can see them by the beginning of the fifth book because he’s witnessed Cedric’s death in the Triwizard Tournament. But the central mythology around Harry is that when Voldemort tried to kill Harry his mother’s love protected him, so Voldemort killed his parents instead. Wouldn’t Harry have therefore witnessed his parents’ death as well, especially since when he encounters the Dementors he talks about hearing his mother screaming? So hasn’t he technically witnessed his parents’ death as well?

This kind of things are keeping me up at night…


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathleen June 29, 2007 at 1:13 pm

You’re right, but there’s always wiggle room. As best as I recall, we have no information that Harry SAW his mothers death – he is only reported to have heard her screams. Maybe he was looking away, had his eyes closed or covered. So, technically, by one definition of witnessing (that is, having to actually see it), perhaps he didn’t.
There are numerous other matters that folks raise seem to indicate a little more attention might have gone into editing the series for continuity, but hey, it makes it fun to re-read for details.

2 Kathleen June 29, 2007 at 1:13 pm

You’re right, but there’s always wiggle room. As best as I recall, we have no information that Harry SAW his mothers death – he is only reported to have heard her screams. Maybe he was looking away, had his eyes closed or covered. So, technically, by one definition of witnessing (that is, having to actually see it), perhaps he didn’t.
There are numerous other matters that folks raise seem to indicate a little more attention might have gone into editing the series for continuity, but hey, it makes it fun to re-read for details.

3 JanB June 29, 2007 at 1:46 pm

I do that a lot too with the Harry Potter Books. It is time to start re-reading since the new one will be out soon.

4 JanB June 29, 2007 at 1:46 pm

I do that a lot too with the Harry Potter Books. It is time to start re-reading since the new one will be out soon.

5 Kerry June 29, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Okay, here’s my theory about them. She threw herself in front of him to protect him. He was in the cradle. The wall of the cradle would have prevented him from seeing her death. (Note that this wouldn’t work in a crib.)
You have to witness it, right? He wasn’t a witness, and even if he was he wouldn’t have recognized the event for what it was, would he?

6 Kerry June 29, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Okay, here’s my theory about them. She threw herself in front of him to protect him. He was in the cradle. The wall of the cradle would have prevented him from seeing her death. (Note that this wouldn’t work in a crib.)
You have to witness it, right? He wasn’t a witness, and even if he was he wouldn’t have recognized the event for what it was, would he?

7 Sharon June 29, 2007 at 1:49 pm

I usually reread them after Ihave read the latest so I can OH yeah NOW I remember. I’ve aways been a ass backwards type of girl. Plus I’m just not that organized.
I can’t wait to get it though.
SCM

8 Sharon June 29, 2007 at 1:49 pm

I usually reread them after Ihave read the latest so I can OH yeah NOW I remember. I’ve aways been a ass backwards type of girl. Plus I’m just not that organized.
I can’t wait to get it though.
SCM

9 cait June 29, 2007 at 1:51 pm

I have no theory, but yeah, that bugged me too.

10 cait June 29, 2007 at 1:51 pm

I have no theory, but yeah, that bugged me too.

11 BubandPie June 29, 2007 at 2:39 pm

I think Baby Harry shut his eyes. (Which is so horrifying, really, when you think about it.)
I always enjoy the books more on a second read-through. But I don’t want to re-read Order of the Phoenix because it will wreck the movie. I find the movies a bit boring because they reproduce the book so faithfully – but I think in this case it’ll be okay because it’s been awhile since the last time I read book 5.

12 BubandPie June 29, 2007 at 2:39 pm

I think Baby Harry shut his eyes. (Which is so horrifying, really, when you think about it.)
I always enjoy the books more on a second read-through. But I don’t want to re-read Order of the Phoenix because it will wreck the movie. I find the movies a bit boring because they reproduce the book so faithfully – but I think in this case it’ll be okay because it’s been awhile since the last time I read book 5.

13 Sara June 29, 2007 at 3:06 pm

I think JKR has addressed this – maybe on her website, maybe in an interview she gave? ANyway, her argument was that “witnessed” means “Old enough to be able to remember and understand the import of death.”
(that’s not a direct quote but I think its pretty close to what was said).

14 Sara June 29, 2007 at 3:06 pm

I think JKR has addressed this – maybe on her website, maybe in an interview she gave? ANyway, her argument was that “witnessed” means “Old enough to be able to remember and understand the import of death.”
(that’s not a direct quote but I think its pretty close to what was said).

15 Sayre June 30, 2007 at 3:05 am

I was just going to make the same observation that Sara brought up – and that Rowling addressed. If you see it and have no idea what it is you’re seeing, can you really be said to have witnessed it? Witness implies some understanding of the event, I believe.

16 Sayre June 30, 2007 at 3:05 am

I was just going to make the same observation that Sara brought up – and that Rowling addressed. If you see it and have no idea what it is you’re seeing, can you really be said to have witnessed it? Witness implies some understanding of the event, I believe.

17 Sue July 1, 2007 at 4:31 pm

I can’t help as I must be one of the minority that haven’t read any of them!

18 Sue July 1, 2007 at 4:31 pm

I can’t help as I must be one of the minority that haven’t read any of them!

19 liz July 6, 2007 at 2:01 am

Right there with you. Perhaps you have to have been aware in an adult sense that you are a witness?

20 liz July 6, 2007 at 2:01 am

Right there with you. Perhaps you have to have been aware in an adult sense that you are a witness?

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