Puzzles, Red Herrings, Clues, and Mysteries
by Steve Vander Ark
"The truth...is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore
be treated with great caution."
What follows on this page is a discussion of some of my favorite mysteries
of the Harry Potter universe. JKR is very good at sneaking little hints and
clues into her books, tidbits
that turn out to be important later. This really came home for me when the
true nature of Scabbers was revealed
in PA. What a delicious moment
that was! And not only because it was totally unexpected but because it made
me realize that everything in every book just might be a clue to
something bigger. I'm not alone in this...discussions of who might really be
whom and what's really going on fill the email lists and clubs. I'm not
trying to recreate all those discussions here, believe me. What this page
does do is offer some of the evidence from
the books that fuel these
discussions. You're free to draw your own conclusions. And if you want to
discuss your thoughts on any of these matters, I heartily recommend a very
active Harry Potter online group:
Potter for GrownUps.
Who are Harry's family?
I know, his parents are Lily and
James Potter. But we know very little
about these people. Sure, we know that Lily
was Petunia Dursley's sister,
but that's about it. Here are some details to consider:
Lily had dark red hair. There's a lot of
red hair in the books, actually.
The most obvious redheads are of course the
Weasley family, and that's what we
immediately think of. But they're not alone; in fact, I think they're
something of a (forgive me) red herring. Besides
Lily, there is one other major character
whose hair is described as "auburn" and that's
Dumbledore. Oh, not now, of course,
but when he was encountered inside
Tom Riddle's diary, when he was
fifty years younger, he was mentioned as having auburn hair. So okay, was he
maybe Lily's grandfather,
[OP37 rules this out definitely,
since Dumbledore stated plainly
that Petunia was
Lily's "only remaining
relative" (not counting Harry himself
And then what about Tom Riddle's
family? Might he be a relative of
Harry's? He was named
Tom after his father,
whose name was also
Tom Riddle, and
Marvolo after his
grandfather. Some folks have immediately jumped to the conclusion that
Marvolo must be the elder
Riddle who was also
killed on that fateful evening fifty years ago. But wait, he's got another
His mother was a witch, after all, and let's face it,
Marvolo certainly sounds
like a wizarding name. So it makes sense to me that he might named after his
grandfather on his mother's side. Who was...who?
[This question was answered in
Now remember all those people Harry saw
in the Mirror of Erised.
What happened to them all? Are they all dead? Did
Voldemort kill them all, and if so,
why? Was he trying to wipe out the family for some reason? I assume that
the people Harry saw were from both sides
of the family, although they are referred to as "the Potters." If
not, then where are his family on his mother's side?
[This question has been partially answered since SVA first asked it.
In TLC, JKR said that
James was an only child born rather late
to his parents, that his parents weren't very important to the story, and
that they had died of a disease that wizards sometimes suffer from. In
OP37 it was stated that
Harry's only living relative, and the
only living person having a blood relationship to his mother who could
act as his guardian.]
When did Arthur and Molly attend Hogwarts?
Okay, now we're getting into nitpicky stuff. I don't suppose this has any
bearing on things, but it bugs me since I'm trying to create a
complete timeline and
right now there are big holes in it. I have narrowed down the dates
Snape, and that whole crowd to the
1970's, which works okay, but it surprises me that there are no more
specific clues in any of the books. We know a lot more details about other
characters, even relatively minor ones.
Charlie Weasley, for example, left
school seven years before Harry got
so we can determine what years he was there, when he was born, and so on.
Lily and their contemporaries are
trickier to nail down, even though we are learning much about their exploits
and adventures. So what? Well, I just get suspicious, that's all. If it
seems like something's being left out or information is being withheld,
I get curious.
And here's why this question gets to me. There is one niggling little
comment in GF31 that suggests
to me that--brace yourself--there just might be two timelines
going on here. Molly Weasley fondly
recalls a man named Ogg being the
groundskeeper when she went to
Hogwarts. Now she's older than
Lupin, granted, but not so much older
that she would have gone to
Tom Riddle, which was fifty years ago.
After Hagrid was expelled, however, he
was given the groundskeeper position. How does this
fit into the picture then? Okay, this is very thin logic, since it assumes
that the gamekeeper and the groundskeeper have always been one and the same
person and it also assumes that Hagrid
wasn't an assistant or anything for a while (which we know he was, but we
don't know for how long). But perhaps, just perhaps, we're dealing more than
one timeline. Maybe Molly and
Arthur remember one timeline, a timeline
that Voldemort changed somehow
(changing time is a major no-no for wizards, we learned in
PA, but I don't think that
would have stopped him). Maybe Harry's
big task is going to be to fix the past
(Harry's present) so the future turns out
the way it should, not the way it did the first time around (when
Voldemort survived and somehow maybe
even won). I'm not sure what I just said, but you get the drift...
And probably the strongest evidence of some kind of time twisting going on
is the comment in CS18 that
Voldemort is the last remaining
Salazar Slytherin. Some
editions of the books have this
"error" corrected, but other later editions have the word
"ancestor" put back in. JKR herself suggested that the word
"ancestor" might be used intentionally in an online chat session.
We'll just have to see what happens next...
[JKR was making a joke in that interview. The correction is part
of the master corrections list.]
Who will end up in love with whom?
No idea. Sorry. We have some speculative
essays on that topic, however.
Why does just having that Triwizard Tournament mean nobody gets to play Quidditch
for the whole year?
Boy, I wish I knew the answer to this one.
No one got to play for the whole year. And
no, it's not just that they play and we just don't hear about it. According
to the book, Harry wishes at one point that he had Quidditch to take his
mind off his worries. So no Quidditch, all year. I do have one suggestion,
but it's pretty pathetic. Their Quidditch field is out of operation for
the fall because they are using it to store dragons on and it's knocked
out again in the spring for growing the maze (and that, according to the
book, takes months.) You don't play Quidditch much in the winter, the weather
is too bad.
But think about
it...no Quidditch for an entire school year. What about people like Harry
for whom Quidditch is an all-consuming passion? What about the folks who
look to start a career as a Quiddich player, like Oliver Wood did? Is it
fair to just drop the sports program, the sport which everyone in the wizarding
world is mad about, so that a couple of students can compete in a tournament?
Socks and wristwatches...
Have you noticed
how little odd things seems to crop up a little more often than you might
expect? That's the way it is with socks and wristwatches. I don't see any
particular pattern in the wristwatches, to be honest with you. It's just
that JKR keep mentioning them. Dudley gets a new one for his birthday.
Harry looks at his quite often, and then gets frustrated when it stops
working after swimming in the lake. The sun glints off the watch that George
(or is it Fred) is wearing during a Quidditch game and off a watch worn
by Pansy Parkinson as they are introduced to the nifflers. But except for
that crazy suspicion of mine about two time lines and all that, I can't
see where wristwatches could connect to anything. Just thought I'd mention
But socks...that's another story. There are just a couple of references here,
but they are intriguing. First of all, when Harry asks Dumbledore what he would
see if he looked into
the Mirror of Erised,
Dumbledore said that he would see himself with a nice new pair of thick socks
(PS12). So, unless he was joking,
which he certainly could be, socks are Dumbledore's deepest desire. Socks.
Then think about this: who else wanted a sock more than anything in the
world? Dobby. And we know that house-elves are just about the most powerful
magic-using entities in the world, able to do incredible magic without
even using a wand. So is Dumbledore wishing he could release the elves
from their centuries of enslavement so they can use their awesome powers
to fight Voldemort?
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Socks
by Morag Traynor
© by Steve Vander Ark