Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by JK Rowling
I think I may have written previously that I am collecting these special editions of the Harry Potter novels for my two granddaughters. Although they are still too young to read them, I am happy to announce that the collection of seven is now complete.
The seventh and final novel in the series is pretty good as an adult fantasy. Harry and his friends are on the run from the Voldermort-controlled Ministry while they search for the remaining horcruxes, depositories of parts of the Dark Lord’s soul.
This is a book which answers many of the question that loyal readers were asking over the history of the series:
- What exactly is Snape’s problem with Harry? Whose side is he on?
- Is Dumbledore a good guy, or a grey one?
- Will Hermione and Ron finally get together? Harry and Ginny?
- Who really killed Dumbledore and why?
And of course many others.
I first read The Deathly Hallows in 2016, and here is what I wrote about it back then:
Harry Potter and the Flexible Title
Whilst I read most of the Harry Potter novels shortly after they were published – my daughter had a collection – I didn’t get round to reading the final volume until a few weeks ago. I knew the story of course, having seen both the movies. However, so often, movies take away rather than add to a novel, and I knew I just had to read The Deathly Hallows for the bigger picture.
I’m not going to bore you with a detailed summary of the plot; it’s too well known for that. Briefly, Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron are searching for Horcruxes, pieces of Voldermort’s soul concealed in diaries, necklaces etc and in one very scary snake. The one possibility they have overlooked, and which leads to the nail-biting climax, is that part of He Who Must Not Be Named is hidden in Harry himself. So one of them has to die! The climac is an epic battle at Hogwarts where good faces evil for the grand prize – Immortality.
Needless to say, for the benefit of anyone who has been living alone in the jungle (and eating magic mushrooms) for the past twenty years, it is Harry who, by a clever literary twist, survives and goes on to have a happy wizard family.
Instead of all that, I’m turning to something else.
From the very first volume, what fascinated me about the series were the titles of the novels. Published in Great Britain as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the North America edition of this story substituted the word Sorcerer for Philosopher. I wondered why; after all, The Philosopher’s Stone is a well-known historical and scientific concept.
So I did some research and came up with this:(sourced from http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/harry-potter/articles/4309/title/difference-between-american-british-versions-harry-potter-series)
. . . [the] decision should not have been made [and] the reasons are –
1) J.K. Rowling said so, therefore it must be true. She says that if she was in a better position, she would have disagreed at the time.
2) It belittles Americans, making it seem as if they do not understand what the word “philosopher” means. Americans are smarter than that.
3) Sorcerer is unspecific. The stone could have belonged to anybody with magical powers in the book. But the British name defines who the stone belongs to and gives the name an entirely different meaning. Sorcerer is a very different word to philosopher.
4) The stone is referred to as the “Philosopher’s Stone” throughout J.K. Rowling’s original version, never the “Sorcerer’s Stone”, so why should the most central object of the book be labelled something completely different in the book title, even if its just being published in a different place?
5) How is the word “philosopher” in Britain different from the word “sorcerer” in America?
6) Philosopher’s Stone is actually a historical object that people used to search for, while the Sorcerer’s Stone has no factual background in real life.
The second book provides us with an equally interesting substitution. The German edition (translation) gives us Harry Potter und der Kammer des Schreckens. Now, to English speakers, Kammer des Schreckens is Chamber of Horror/Terror. Though conceding that Chamber of Secrets might not translate too well into German, and that a book with terror might sell more copies [QED?], here one ought to apply the same kind of argument as to Volume One, viz
‘J.K. Rowling said so, therefore it must be true.’
Anyway to the British, especially those living around London, the Chamber of Horrors – in the plural – has (like the Philosopher’s Stone) a very specific meaning.
With The Deathly Hallows, we encounter the same dilemma. I can’t imagine trying to translate deathly hallows into German; I’m not even sure what that combination of words means except in the context of Ms Rowling’s novel. But here, I think her German publisher, Carlsen Verlag, got it absolutely right. Harry Potter und die Heiligtümer des Todes conveys so much more of the darkness of the book.
The Relics of Death (as I would translate it) seems to cover not only the Elder Wand, the Cloak of Invisibility and the Stone of Recall but the Horcruxes themselves !
So, to return to the English version of The Deathly Hallows … It was fun, a kind of scary fun, to read it again. I especially enjoyed in the Malfoy home, and I love Professor MacGonigal.