Book Club 7: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince


Rachel: 00:06 I’m Rachel.

Sarah: 00:04 Hi. I’m Sarah.

Sarah: 00:07 And this is Unassigned Reading.

Rachel: 00:08 Where we discuss the books you’re never going to talk about in English class.

Sarah: 00:12 Right. Y.A., sci-fi, fantasy, and all the other genres you read for fun.

Rachel: 00:15 Obviously this is not a spoiler free podcast.

Sarah: 00:18 So many spoilers.

Rachel: 00:19 Soul splitting spoilers you might even say.

Sarah: 00:23 You might, since we’re discussing Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince today.

Rachel: 00:26 And there’s that whole thing with Voldemort killing a bunch of people and splitting his soul to create horcruxes and living forever.

Sarah: 00:34 Well we’re really not wasting any time with the spoilers this week are we.

Rachel: 00:38 Well I thought I’d go ahead and give you a head start on your summary. One less thing you have to talk about now.

Sarah: 00:42 Oh boy it’s a long book. There’s a lot of stuff.

Rachel: 00:46 Yeah there really is, but it’s your turn. And if I had to do the horror show of a summary that was Order of the Phoenix and was like 200 pages longer than this one then you can definitely survive this. So I’m going to put 60 seconds on the clock.

Sarah: 01:04 Oh No.

Rachel: 01:05 And here we go.

Sarah: 01:06 Okay so Dumbledore gets Harry from the Dursleys as they go and convince Slughorn to be a teacher at Hogwarts. They go the Dursley’s for a minute and a day all at Hogwarts because everyone’s freaking out and there’s like a lot of security because Voldemort’s back and Slughorn turns out to be the Potions professor. Now Snape’s teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. So that’s no good. Also Harry thinks Malfoy is being super suspicious and he’s convinced that he is up to no good and a Death Eater. Then they go to Hogsmead and Katie Bell touches an enchanted amulet and like almost dies and Harry’s sure it’s Malfoy but no one else believes him including Dumbledore who’s teaching him about

Voldemort’s past and then Ron drinks some poison that was meant for Dumbledore and Harry sure it’s Malfoy but still no one believes him and they figure out as they go through Voldemort’s past that he’s been creating horcruxes and Harry has to go get a memory from Slughorn that goes into more detail about like what Voldemort was trying to do with the horcruxes. And

Rachel: 02:06 Stop.

Sarah: 02:06 No.

Rachel: 02:08 I liked that long pause at the end there.

Sarah: 02:13 I was like should I just jump straight to them going to get the horcrux? And I was like yeah I should jump straight to the horcrux and then I was all out of time.

Rachel: 02:21 You should have jumped there like 20 seconds earlier.

Sarah: 02:22 I just I should’ve left everything out about Ron that wasn’t important so.

Rachel: 02:28 That wasn’t terrible minus missing the whole end of the book. A few key points before that we probably ought to mention first of all is that Snape. We know at the very beginning of the book makes an unbreakable vow to Narcissa Malfoy to protect Draco. That’s a pretty important detail that comes up again. Yeah I feel like you got most of the importance kind of intervening moments.

Sarah: 02:52 Until you get to the end where I missed everything.

Rachel: 02:55 You missed everything but I guess we should also probably mention like where the title comes from. I know that it’s like super important when you’re just picking and choosing what to talk about, but yeah Harry has this potion book because he doesn’t he is going to be able to take potions until he realizes that Slughorn is the new potion teacher and he got a high enough score on his O.W.L.s that he can take it now and any way he winds up getting this used book that has a lot of notes in the margins and on how to do potions better and suddenly he becomes this amazing potion master. And the book used to belong to somebody called the Half-Blood Prince and in the end we find out it was actually Snape. And then of course like you said yeah the whole end we didn’t get to. You said that Harry’s been learning about Voldemort’s past and horcruxes and so he and Dumbledore go on a mission at the end because Dumbledore thinks he’s found one of the horcruxes. They go to this little cave off of the ocean they go through all of these trials through like across this lake and the cave. There’s a locket in this island at the center of the lake. Then they get back  

to Hogwarts and there’s the death eaters have come to Hogwarts and Draco’s like about to murder Dumbledore on the, I think the Astronomy Tower isn’t it.

Sarah: 04:01 I believe so yes.

Rachel: 04:02 Yeah on the Astronomy Tower and Dumbledore like freezes Harry under the invisibility cloak, so he can’t do anything and Draco’s faltering he’s probably not going to do it but the other death eaters are coming. Then Snape shows up and Snape kills Dumbledore and then Harry finds out that Snape was the Half-Blood Prince and he chases after him. And things things are bad.

Sarah: 04:20 And in a very critical point at the very end Harry opens a locket and it’s not the right locket. The horcrux is missing.

Rachel: 04:30 It was taken by somebody called R.A.B. So I think that’s like a pretty good general summary.

Sarah: 04:36 Yeah I think everybody is up to speed now.

Rachel: 04:38 The highlights. Maybe a little more than necessary even so let’s jump into it.

Sarah: 04:44 OK.

Rachel: 04:44 The first thing I want to talk about and this is such a random little thing but it stuck out to me so much I really wanted to bring it up and see what your thoughts are. This book like several of the past books does not begin with Harry. We begin with other scenes kind of setting up some large plot points in the book and in this one we see Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy going to see Snape and doing the whole unbreakable vow thing as we discussed and the last time I read this book and I think this is true for you as well. I hadn’t read Cursed Child.

Sarah: 05:17 Right.

Rachel: 05:18 So this time there were a couple of things that caught my eye. That obviously wouldn’t have really meant very much to me before and they seemed kind of meaningful this time knowing what we know from Cursed Child which not to totally spoil Cursed Child but I’m about to spoil Cursed Child. Go ahead if you haven’t seen it or read the book and you don’t want spoilers just like skip ahead a couple of minutes because I don’t want to spoil it for anybody who doesn’t want to be spoiled even though I know we already warned everybody about spoilers. Basically for those of you who are familiar with Cursed Child, now that everyone else has skipped ahead I just want to draw everybody’s attention to a couple of moments and comments from Bellatrix to see what

you made of them knowing what we know from Cursed Child.

Sarah: 06:02 Okay I’m going to. Before you get into this I’m going to give you fair warning. I don’t remember anything from Cursed Child. I had no idea this is the direction you were going so.

Rachel: 06:11 You’ll remember this

Sarah: 06:11 So this will be a surprise to me.

Rachel: 06:13 No, you’ll remember this.

Sarah: 06:13 OK.

Rachel: 06:14 It’s not like a minuscule detail you will remember. The point I’m talking about.

Sarah: 06:18 OK

Rachel: 06:19 So first I’m just going to say the two comments from Bellatrix. So the first one that stood out to me is she just kept talking about how Bellatrix sees herself as the most kind of beloved servant of the Dark Lord, and she’s talking about how he shares everything with me. He calls me his most loyal his most faithful. And then she says the Dark Lord in the past has entrusted me with his most precious. She’s like talking about how he treats her the most and then when Narcissa is getting really upset about the fact that Draco’s probably being punished because of Lucius’s failures in the past and that he’s probably going to die in his mission and Bellatrix says you should be proud. If I had sons I would be glad to give them up in service to the Dark Lord. So maybe now you see where I’m going with this

Sarah: 06:59 A little.

Rachel: 07:00 Because obviously we know from Cursed Child that within, I did some math here so follow along, within about the next year she’s going to have a child with Voldemort and we don’t know exactly when this child is born. But what we do know is that it was sometime between when Bellatrix escaped from Azkaban in 1996 and when she and Voldemort were killed in March of 1998. So doing the math there we know she had to be pregnant at the latest by the summer of 1997 which I think would just about coincide with when the scene takes place. If I’m not messing up on the timeline here. So those lines, I didn’t I didn’t quite I didn’t figure out the math on that until later as I was going back through, but those lines really stood out because I felt like they could be referencing the fact, of this idea that Bellatrix is going to have a child with Voldemort.

Sarah: 07:46 Well

Rachel: 07:46 And that was really interesting to me because when I read Cursed Child and I think you probably took a little bit the same way. I kind of assumed that a lot of that was after the fact. You know.

Sarah: 07:57 Yeah.

Rachel: 07:58 That that wasn’t stuff that was planned from the beginning of the series like so much of Harry Potter is, and I don’t know it’s hard to say because none of those lines are like direct enough that you could really say oh for sure she’s referencing that she’s pregnant or thinks she might be going to have a child or even just the idea that J.K. Rowling knew that she was going to be having a child with Voldemort whether or not Bellatrix knew at this point. But I think it could be read that way like I definitely saw it as being a possibility this time when I was reading it just because we do know that J.K. Rowling as a writer tends to plan things out that intricately. And so seeing those little things this time I guess what I’m wondering since we both have mixed feelings about Cursed Dhild too especially, do you think that she did already have that maybe in the back of her mind as a possibility when she was writing this scene?

Sarah: 08:48 So to me it reads more like sort of backing into it. And this was just meant to be showing Bellatrix’s level of devotion. I mean for one I don’t really accept Cursed Child as canon which we’re going to talk about later.

Rachel: 09:02 I know this is and I’m I’m kind of in the same boat but this made me think about it a little differently at least that aspect of it there is still a lot of other aspects of Cursed Child that I disagree with.

Sarah: 09:12 To me it’s still

Rachel: 09:14 But that part I thought it made me wonder if this might have been a plan from the beginning whether or not Cursed Child as a story was a plan. It made me wonder if that plotline was something she had already thought about.

Sarah: 09:23 It could be. I think it’s not enough for me to be certain that it was but it is enough to say well maybe this wasn’t just back tracked in.

Rachel: 09:30 Oh me either, I mean it’s very it’s very vague.

Sarah: 09:33 Yeah.

Rachel: 09:33 Kind of allusions but also the fact that timeline wise if we take the idea that maybe she did already know like it’s very possible that Bellatrix was

pregnant in this scene.

Sarah: 09:44 Yeah that’s definitely interesting. It’s an interesting thing to think about was the idea of a child already sort of in J.K. Rowling’s mind and she’s sort of putting a vague reference and then maybe didn’t really go anywhere with it later, but left herself the opportunity to go somewhere with it later.

Rachel: 10:01 Yeah.

Sarah: 10:01 So it could be that or it could be not related but because it’s there. It’s beneficial for the people who wrote Cursed Child to sort of be like “Look “, you know sort of like in the way that a lot when you read like fanfiction or something you sort of find these lines and tie things back in from these lines especially with the stuff that happens before or after the series. It’s pretty easy to do that a lot of people do that.

Rachel: 10:25 Yeah

Sarah: 10:25 That’s sort of my favorite kind of fan fiction.

Rachel: 10:27 And like I said, they’re very vague lines. Nothing in there is directly saying that she has or is planning to have a child. I just thought it was interesting.

Sarah: 10:34 It is definitely interesting.

Rachel: 10:37 When I read Cursed Child I thought it was totally out of the blue that other than the fact that she and Voldemort were obviously kind of close. There were no possible allusions references to her. And then when I was reading this scene I was like wait a moment.

Sarah: 10:48 That is very interesting to read it sort of in light of Cursed Child. That is very interesting.

Rachel: 10:54 Yeah that was definitely not something I went into this book with the intention of doing let me tell you.

Sarah: 11:00 Yes, so this sort of also this scene opens up to Draco’s plotline here. It becomes Harry’s obsession for the year.

Rachel: 11:08 And that is such an important plotline in this book because Draco has probably the biggest storyline that he ever has in the series and in particular with the way that his story kind of ties in with Harry’s because like you said Harry becomes full on obsessed. Low key, definitely see the connection to Carry On there by Rainbow Rowell.

Sarah: 11:28 Yeah.

Rachel: 11:29 Like you see where the idea for Simon being totally obsessed with Baz comes from.

Sarah: 11:34 Because Harry’s very obsessed.

Rachel: 11:37 Yeah well then one of the things that I think is really really interesting about that is the way that J.K. Rowling uses our own doubts about Harry’s ability to see reason and think rationally when it comes to Draco and also as the story goes on to Snape as well and to use that to make us and the other characters doubt the evidence that he’s compiling because he has some really good evidence when you look at it.

Sarah: 12:03 Yeah and we even know things Harry doesn’t from the chapter with Snape.

Rachel: 12:06 Right from the scene at the beginning, so we’re like of course Harry’s right. But there’s still this aspect of you know she’s using Harry’s bias and what everybody knows about his tendency to loathe Malfoy and also to kind of be a little headstrong and get things wrong sometimes particularly in light of everything that happened in the last book I think and to kind of make that more reasonable doubt than might otherwise be there.

Sarah: 12:31 Well and I also saw this as the way, so we talked a lot about how Harry’s trauma expresses itself in the last book and it’s different in this book. He’s gone through bad stuff and he’s not lashing out quite as much as he did in book five. And I think what he’s really moved on to here is he is focusing all of his issues on Malfoy mostly and to some extent Snape, but mostly on Malfoy that’s his whole focus. Everything that’s wrong is Malfoy. Malfoy is up to no good. And so you don’t believe Harry because you know he’s not in a good place and even though there’s so much evidence and it’s really good evidence. You’re like I don’t think Harry’s right because you know he’s just looking for something, you know.

Rachel: 13:17 Right yeah. And just like you said the same really goes for Snape as well because he’s also pushing a lot of his own guilt and self blame for Sirius’s death onto Snape.

Rachel: 13:28 Because he wants it to be Snape’s fault. It’s Snape’s fault that Sirius went there and Sirius died it wasn’t Harry’s fault for, you know.

Rachel: 13:34 Right exactly because I think he even basically says at one point it’s easier to blame someone else than to blame himself.

Sarah: 13:41 Yeah.

Rachel: 13:41 And that one’s really interesting as well because talking about how there’s a bit of a

switcheroo there with Malfoy like making everyone think that Malfoy isn’t guilty when really Harry’s right. But then with Snape we get kind of that double switcheroo.

Sarah: 13:53 I was about to mention that.

Rachel: 13:55 We have Harry, and this one really is the reader doubting Harry’s suspicion more so than with Draco, because with Draco as you said we do have evidence along with Harry that not anyone else knows as readers that Harry is right, but with Snape you know we’ve still got the we’re trusting Dumbledor and Harry has always thought Snape was the bad guy and always hated him.

Sarah: 14:15 And Snape’s always been proven to be good.

Rachel: 14:15 And Snape has always been good. And Dumbledore’s always believed in him. And so we don’t really believe those suspicions and we trust Dumbledore. So then when we see oh wait no actually Harry was right about not only Draco but Snape as well. And we see Snape you know straight up murder Dumbledore. We have that moment of oh oh we’ve been wrong this whole time Snape really is the bad guy which of course again spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read book seven. But yeah then we find out that actually that’s not true either.

Sarah: 14:43 Which is not to say that Snape’s good guy. We’re going to talk a lot about Snape in the next one.

Rachel: 14:47 Snape is a complicated character.

Sarah: 14:48 We need to save most of our discussion on Snape for the next book because you only have half the story in this book, so.

Rachel: 14:53 Right. And we don’t want to dive too deeply into that just yet.

Sarah: 14:56 Yeah because I think we’re going to have a lot to say about Snape.

Rachel: 15:00 Yeah, he’s a complicated character as is Malfoy.

Sarah: 15:03 Malfoy is too but I do think there’s more development with Malfoy in the next book, but I think we get the majority of what we need about Malfoy here to discuss what he’s done because.

Rachel: 15:13 I agree and we definitely do get a more complex view of him in this book, continues to become more complicated over the next book as well because on the one hand we see him acting more cruelly and violently I think than we ever have before. I mean we see him straight up about to perform the Cruciatus curse on Harry toward the end.

Sarah: 15:31 Yeah.

Rachel: 15:31 On the other hand at the same time we see that he’s really really torn up about this like we know from when Harry and Ron stumble across Moaning Myrtle that there has been a boy who’s been crying in the bathroom and is really upset and we eventually find out that that is Draco and see him crying, Harry does when he eventually stumbles upon when they have that whole terrible fight. But yes I think it’s really interesting that we’re seeing this on the one hand we are seeing this really terrible side of Draco when he really has finally become not only the nemesis that he kind of has been but almost a minor villain in this book because he really does come pretty close to killing Dumbledor.

Sarah: 16:11 This is definitely where he makes the jump from bully to villain.

Rachel: 16:14 Yeah bully to bad guy, kind of. In the end though again kind of complicating this view is when he is trying to sort of amp himself up to killing Dumbledor, which Dumbledore is like Draco we both know you’re not going to do this. And he doesn’t. But he’s talking about how if he doesn’t do this Voldemort is going to kill him and his whole family. And in the end even Harry is kind of like you know I feel, I feel really bad for Draco. I, I can’t even imagine what Voldemort is doing to him now that he failed his mission and to his family, and I think even Harry realizes what a terrible position he was put in. And without really a lot of the resources Harry has had to fight back against it.

Sarah: 16:55 Yeah I do think. I think this is a good moment for Harry too. We see him showing empathy for his nemesis because he’s never like Draco he and Draco have always been at odds.

Rachel: 17:05 And I think, I think that’s a big moment for Harry to be able to say here’s a guy who’s done a really bad thing and we see him do it a little bit with Voldemort too even as he’s beginning to learn about Voldemort’s past that’s another pretty big aspect of this book is the lessons Harry’s having with Dumbledore where they are going into all of these memories to learn more about Tom Riddle as a boy and as a teenager before he became Lord Voldemort. And at one point Dumbledore it’s kind of like oh Harry are you feeling bad for Lord Voldemort because Harry is like his mother didn’t even try to live for him. And I think it’s interesting that we do see Harry starting to be able to see a more complicated view even of the bad guys in this world and not that it excuses their actions but that he can sort of see, this reminds me again of Snape which we’re going to talk about more in the next book, of how life experiences don’t necessarily excuse the terrible things  

people do but that they might help explain them and maybe you can still feel bad for people even when they’ve done terrible things.

Sarah: 18:03 And since you mentioned Voldemort’s past I want to talk more about that and specifically something sort of odd that I picked up on with this reading, so I’m going to sort of do a quick overview of Voldemort’s past so I can sort of lead this into my point. So Voldemort’s mother was kicked out of her home. He’s born into an orphanage where his mother immediately dies; he’s immediately orphaned. He’s learned from a young age that he’s special even though he’s bullied. He realizes that there’s something special about him. He does bad things but he’s got more control over his magic than someone his age should.

Rachel: 18:36 He’s a bit of a child prodigy.

Sarah: 18:38 He gets found he goes to Hogwarts he gets to go to magic school and he’s a good student. He’s driven and he’s a prefect and it’s interesting just not only the parallels between him and Harry, but it reads very much like a Y.A. hero. He could be the hero if he wasn’t so bad.

Rachel: 18:56 If he weren’t so very, very evil he could be the hero.

Sarah: 19:00 But it’s sort of the circumstances you see for a lot of heroes. He’s special. He realizes he’s special. He goes to Hogwarts and he’s the best.

Rachel: 19:04 Yeah he’s had a very difficult upbringing. He’s as you said there really are a lot of parallels to Harry there you know. He’s raised as an orphan..Hogwarts becomes his home and really his safe place. The place he doesn’t want to leave and always wants to come and in fact even Harry starts to make those parallels when he’s learning about Voldemort’s past he’s thinking wow we’re quite similar in our background and our upbringing and the way that we feel about Hogwarts.

Sarah: 19:27 And also I think there’s this incredible sort of comparison between their parents because Harry you know he’s raised for the first year of his life very loving parents who shower him with love and in his parents death you know protect him sort of protecting him with love. And Voldemort. It’s not mentioned in this book I think it comes up in book 7 but we do learn in this book that his father was under the influence of a love potion.

Rachel: 19:52 Yeah we learn that in this book.

Sarah: 19:53 And I believe in the next book we learn I’m not sure if it’s said explicitly or if it’s just implied but basically that someone who was conceived under. So if you’re conceived when one parent is under the influence of  

a love potion you don’t have the ability to love.

Rachel: 20:07 I don’t know that that’s ever explicitly stated but I think it’s something that can be extrapolated.

Sarah: 20:12 And we can talk more about if we think that’s right or not. But I’ve always taken that opinion that like Voldemort

Rachel: 20:16 I’ve definitely always thought that was a factor and definitely again sort of a foil to Harry who whose parents loved each other so much and loved him so much that his mother literally gave her life for him to live. Whereas Voldemort as you said was conceived under a love potion not from love although his mother did love his father and then his mother was just so devastated that she couldn’t even live for him. So I think there’s definitely a bit of a contrast.

Sarah: 20:44 And that’s like the difference between them because in most other ways their childhoods are very, very similar. But this is the thing that sort of defines them and leads them on their different paths is Harry, he knows what love is and he loves very strongly and Voldemort doesn’t have that.

Rachel: 20:59 Right. And I do think again these are topics we’ll probably talk about even more in the next book but I think as Dumbledore has said in the past in a very great quote it’s their choices that make them who they are. You know it’s not just where they came from or the things that happened to them but they both make very different choices in life. You know it’s kind of going back to book one when Harry is thinking not Slytherin, not Slytherin, and not that there’s anything wrong with Slytherin but that’s a choice that he makes because he and his very short time in the wizarding world has been made to see that or think that slogan is solely evil. And he’s very, he kind of already is worried about that and wants to be a good person and a good wizard. And so he’s already actively making the choice to do the right thing and be the good person. Whereas Voldemort already at that age is wanting to accumulate power. So we see very different choices happening even in their young lives.

Sarah: 21:49 I need to say something really quick.

Rachel: 21:51 OK.

Sarah: 21:52 You’re my best friend.

Rachel: 21:53 Thank you. I mean very random but you’re my friend too.

Sarah: 21:56 And if you’re a best friend or a fan of friendship in general you should check out Best


Rachel: 22:02 It’s a podcast all about friendship. But let’s hear a description straight from the source.

Alysa Lucas: 22:15 I’m Alysa Lucas from Best Forevers, a podcast for kindred spirits. I’d like to start a movement where we spend more time loving on our friends because although friends are important to us they are often in the shadow of other relationships. So if you want to love on your friendships a little bit more, embrace friendship a little bit more, or just appreciate your friendships a little bit more then this podcast is for you. We’ll explore all the different ways friendships take place. Share the amazing stories of friendship and discuss best practices for the difficulties that friends may experience. It’s time to embrace friendships because without our friends who would we be. So check out Best Forevers on iTunes, Stitcher and all the other podcasting listening venues. And be sure to follow Best Forevers Pod on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Rachel: 23:08 Now let’s get back to one of the most iconic friend groups of all time Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Rachel: 23:13 And speaking about Voldemort’s past that also brings us to another very important plot point that we learn about in this book which is the idea of horcruxes. And horcruxes are these objects where a person has concealed part of their soul. You know I definitely think looking back we can see some hints leading up to this. That it was an idea that was kind of already in play but nothing I think that would lead us to guess that this is where we were going exactly. But you know as Dumbledore points out in this book there was the diary which was the first horcrux that was destroyed really in a stroke of luck that they were able to do that which we’ll probably more in the next book as well. And Voldemort has made some references in the past to having gone farther than anyone else to achieve death and the fact that

Sarah: 24:02 Or to achieve immortality.

Rachel: 24:02 To achieve immortality. Yes, not trying to achieve death. And even just the fact that he did survive when he killed Harry because that’s never really been something that we have been made to understand. Like how was the killing curse rebounded and then yet he’s still continue to exist in some form or another that’s just up to this point. I think we’re kind of like it’s magic. You know it’s a magical world. Anything can happen. But now we know why it’s because Voldemort has done these terrible things to become essentially immortal. But one of the things that I thought was interesting is,  

so I studied a little bit of Russian fairy tales when I was in school, I took a class on it.

Sarah: 24:39 Once again we’re lying about this whole podcast. Rachel studied it.

Rachel: 24:44 Total lies. I’m sorry I took such weird classes in college. I think that probably a lot of the people at least in the US are maybe not as familiar with Russian fairytales. I know I certainly wasn’t before reading them I was much more familiar with you know Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and you know those kinds of fairytales.

Sarah: 25:05 I’m only earlier with like two.

Rachel: 25:08 Yeah. Yeah I think like pretty much everybody knows like Baba Yaga.

Sarah: 25:12 Yeah Baba Yaga.

Rachel: 25:15 The old witch lady living in a house with chicken feet.

Sarah: 25:17 And that’s the one I always say wrong. And then Firebird is Russian, yeah?

Rachel: 25:20 Right because ballet.

Sarah: 25:22 Yeah I know that because I did ballet, otherwise, I would just know Baba Yaga.

Rachel: 25:24 And that’s kind of funny because of what I’m about to say is vaguely related to The Firebird because this is a villain character used in The Firebird. Anyway as I was studying some of those Russian fairy tales, I came across a character that struck me as possibly being interestingly related to Harry Potter which is not something I ever would have anticipated going into reading Russian fairy tales. There’s a character, and in Russian fairy tales and in Slavic folklore in general one of the kind of differences is that characters tend to be more archetypal they’re used over and over again versus in a lot of European fairytales where we might see different versions of the same story or like a character might show up in a couple of different ways but usually Sleeping Beauty is in her fairytale. And the little mermaid as in her fairy tale and Hansel and Gretel are in their fairytale, you know like they’re not necessarily showing up in a ton of different fairytales as the exact same character with the exception of Snow White, but in Slavic fairytales these characters will show time and time again like Baba Yaga shows up all the time and Prince Ivan shows up all the time in these characters that keep reoccurring and one of them is called Koschei The Deathless. And you may already see where I’m going.

Sarah: 26:34 I’ve gotten a hint.

Rachel: 26:35 Yeah the deathless gives you a bit of a hint there. And basically the reason I saw connection here is because this is a villain character in Russian fairytales who hides his death. So his death is hidden in usually it’s the same thing but it’s hidden away in an object and usually people ask him where he’s hidden his death because you can’t kill him when his death is hidden somewhere else. You have to find his death in order to kill him. And he’ll say You know increasingly outlandish things like oh it’s in it’s in the broom, it’s in the goat,l and then finally it’s hidden in the sea in an island and on that island there stands an oak and under the oak a coffer is buried and in the coffer is the hair and then in the hair is a duck and in the duck is an egg and then the egg is my death or sometimes it’s in a needle in the egg and in the duck and you know. Anyway on and on kind of kind of ridiculous things. And it’s this idea that his soul isn’t split but it is hidden away outside of his body usually in an object and in this case kind of ridiculous object. But that struck me as very similar to the idea of horcruxes which was not something I had ever come across anything similar before. And this struck me as something that was a little bit surprisingly similar and it did make me wonder if J.K. Rowling may have had some exposure to some Slavic folklore just because that idea did seem kind of related to me. So I wondered if it was a possible inspiration for it. I wasn’t able to find anything to back that up on the internet other than just the old connections I drew. It does look like a few other people have seen the connection. People who’ve seen Koschei the deathless as a character and also are familiar with Harry Potter but I wasn’t able to find any information that was more concrete than that, but I do think it’s an interesting possible parallel.

Sarah: 28:09 It is super interesting, and we do know that J.K. Rowling pulled from a lot of different areas of knowledge that she has to the create world of Harry Potter.

Rachel: 28:17 Right we know she pulled on a lot of Greek and Roman mythology. I know she she studied classics in school and we definitely see a lot of that background I think used in the wizarding world mythology. So I think it’s definitely possible that she came across that in her studies or just in her own personal life.

Sarah: 28:33 Yeah. Very interesting.

Rachel: 28:34 Yeah. So I think another thing we have to talk about in relation to book six is the romance.

Sarah: 28:40 Yeah I left that out of my summary because I was like I don’t know what to say about all of this.

Rachel: 28:46 Because this is the first book we’ve really seen, romances come up briefly in some of the other books. You know we’ve seen Harry’s had his big old crush on Cho for several books that finally kind of faded. And of course there’s always been sort of a will they won’t they with Ron and Hermione that everyone’s always known about from book one or two. But this is the first book where we see things really starting to move forward in that department and it’s kind of like it’s a bit of a departure from the previous books.

Sarah: 29:10 Yes.

Rachel: 29:11 And so the two main couples that we’ve got in this one are Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny.

Sarah: 29:15 Although they, don’t neither of those couples get together until close to the end of things.

Rachel: 29:20 Well Ron and Hermione never exactly get together.

Sarah: 29:23 Right, they don’t actually get together. They just sort of, Ron breaks up with Lavender Brown and they’re friends again.

Rachel: 29:29 Right. Lavender that the whole thing. I didn’t even mention. Which is ridiculous.

Sarah: 29:35 This is also the book where all these characters because we had a big shift here from the past two books everyone hated Harry. Harry was the worst. And now

Rachel: 29:44 Everyone’s full on in love with him.

Sarah: 29:44 Everyone’s coming out the woodwork to try and sneak him love potions.

Rachel: 29:49 Right. Yeah because like Harry is the chosen one we all want to date him now obviously and Harry is like okay cool I’ll take it. So I think for both of us we were Ron slash Hermione and Harry slash Ginny shippers. We didn’t really, I don’t think either one of us particularly deviated on any of the major ships in Harry Potter as I know a lot of people did. I was not into Harry Hermione. It’s like no thank you. 

Sarah: 30:11 I wasn’t either. With very few exceptions, I tend to be into the canon ships. There are only a couple of exceptions to that.

Rachel: 30:18 I sometimes deviate more now but definitely as a child I was very much like let’s go with the canon ships. I don’t think it ever even really occurred to me not to.

Sarah: 30:25 I just felt strongly that Ron was right for Hermione and Harry was not. And I like Ginny and Harry.

Rachel: 30:30 I’ll be honest as I’ve grown older like I definitely was like when I was younger I don’t know that I as strongly feel that Ron and Hermione are perfect for each other but I do feel very strongly that Harry and Ginny are and that Harry in Hermione are not.

Sarah: 30:42 Yeah I’d agree. I feel very strongly still that Harry and Hermione are not right for each other. I can see maybe some maybe Ron and Hermione aren’t perfect for each other and maybe it’s sort of the circumstances of the book that sort of bring them together in the way they are. Harry and Hermione is never gonna happen for me. There’s just no not right for each other.

Rachel: 31:03 Yeah. It’s not happening. And I do think it’s interesting because I wonder you and I have talked about this a little leading up to this episode but I wonder if one of the things that makes this book feel tonally like a departure from some of the others and in particular book five is this emphasis on romance because it does give it a bit of a feeling of a lighter tone. You know it’s like it makes me think of that edit of the HP 6 trailer into a rom com movie trailer Do you remember that?

Sarah: 31:29 I do remember that. I’d forgotten about it til just now that was good.

Rachel: 31:32 Because there is so much romance and a lot of kind of ridiculous things going on.

Sarah: 31:37 Which is weird because you also have this whole very dark subplot at Harry’s obsession on Draco and learning about horcruses.

Rachel: 31:44 You have this very dark subplot. You have the Draco obsession and also the fact that Draco this 16 year old is a death eater trying to kill Dumbledore. You have the whole storyline with Snape you have learning about Voldemort’s past in the horcruxes that’s a pretty dark storyline and you know obviously continued learning about how Harry is going to have to either kill or die at Voldemort’s hand but at the same time you have a lot of funny moments where I almost feel like the characters are acting younger and more carefree than they have in a lot of the other books almost. Especially in comparison to book 5 which was so dark and then yeah you have like the whole Felix Felicis scene

Sarah: 32:18 So good.

Rachel: 32:18 And all of the kind of ridiculous Quidditch stuff that’s going on. And so it feels a lot lighter in a lot of ways. And then you kind of have this huge just explosive shift at the end from a fairly light tone to bam we’re going to get to a horcrux and things are going really badly and Harry is having to force feed Dumbledore this potion that’s torturing him and they’re both badly hurt. And now we’re going  

back and Draco’s a Death Eater and he’s about to kill Dumbledore and then Snape kills Dumbledore and Dumbledore’s dead.

Sarah: 32:50 Yeah I distinctly, I had this in book five too, but I remember the first time I read both this book and book 5 I didn’t believe Sirius died and I didn’t believe Dumbledore died. I was like Harry because Harry doesn’t believe at first and it takes like a whole chapter or not a whole chapter but it takes a bit for Harry to realize that they’re dead. Yeah. Yeah. The tone in this one is very different from book five and from book Seven as best I recall. Well book seven is going to be very tonally different for a lot of reasons.

Rachel: 33:19 This book almost does feel like it’s a bit of a break between 5 and 7 where it’s kind of like OK five things got really dark, but now we’re back at school and you know things are rough but let’s like take a moment to be kids again. And then in book seven you know we’re off on the camping trip of death.

Sarah: 33:36 Yeah. Yeah it’s definitely. I also think some of the tone is also probably intentional like J.K. Rowling wanting to enjoy it because she knows it’s their last year of school. So she wants all the awesome Quidditch and the romance and just all of the school stuff in because she knows that’s not happening in the next book even if we as readers don’t realize yet.

Rachel: 33:55 Because we didn’t we didn’t even mention this but there’s the whole heroic breakup eye roll thing go on with Harry and Ginny at the end of the book. Speaking of not having as much romance in book 7. It’s like such the stereotypical, I can’t put you in danger for myself.

Sarah: 34:10 Yeah. Oh yeah.

Rachel: 34:11 It’s a little bit rough. I get, I get where Harry’s coming from but I also just kind of want to like slap him across the cheeks and be like shut up Harry. Yeah Ginny’s got this. Calm down.

Sarah: 34:21 OK. So we’ve talked a little bit about tone and how Dumbledore and Dumbledore’s death sort of fit in with that. So I think now we need to talk about Dumbledore.

Rachel: 34:31 And I know we’re really really really going to talk about him in relation to book 7 because that’s you we get a lot more intricate exploration of Dumbledore’s past and some of the mistakes he’s made and how things go on without him so we probably don’t want to go too deeply into this. But there are few things like you said I think we have to talk about in relation to book six. So one of the things is I think we really see in this book is kind of tragically sad for it to happen here but we really see the depth of Harry and

Dumbledore’s relationship in this book in a couple of really sweet and touching moments. We have the whole you know I’ve Dumbledore’s man through and through thing that kind of even makes Dumbledore tear up a little and then we have the scene at the end as they’re leaving the cave where Harry tells him not to be worried and he says I’m not worried Harry I’m with you. So we have some really touching moments there. But then he also straight up lies to Harry repeatedly in this book. In all of their private lessons. Because you know he said at the end of book five we talked about this a little I’m going to tell you everything and Harry even called him on it in this one because when they start their lessons. Harry’s like Hold up hold up. You thought at the end of last term you were going to tell me everything. And he even says in the book it was hard to keep a note of accusation from his voice and Dumbledore is like “I told you everything I know from this point forth we shall be leaving the firm foundation of fact and journeying through the murky marshes of mystery into the thickets of wildness guesswork. From here on Harry I maybe is woefully wrong. As Humphrey Belcher who believed the time was ripe for a cheese cauldron”, which was a great line. And I get that in fairness. That’s not exactly a lie although I think Dumbledore is the master of lying without lying.

Sarah: 36:13 Yeah.

Rachel: 36:13 You know telling partial truths because he doesn’t, I believe especially re-reading this book, he doesn’t know for certain that Harry is a horcrux.

Sarah: 36:21 He, he doesn’t know for certain.

Rachel: 36:23 But he’s pretty dang sure.

Sarah: 36:25 He’s like 90 percent sure that Harry is a horcrux.

Rachel: 36:28 Yeah. Because again he even admits shortly thereafter that you know he does think he’s right but he could be mistaken. “And that being rather clever than most men my mistakes to be correspondingly huger.” Well yeah Dumbledore I think maybe so. Yeah because he really does, as we learn in book seven, he has a tendency to keep secrets because he thinks he’s sort of playing everything out like a chessboard and so he thinks he needs to keep the moves from the players but leaving out huge things like the fact that Harry is a horcrux and you know that Snape really is on their side and he’s Snape to kill him and all this other stuff. So it’s this really complicated thing but I also do think it poses an interesting question because we’re really quick. I’ve been really quick even already to argue that him hiding the truth from Harry. Especially  

in the way that he does. And in saying that he’s telling the truth this whole time that you know he’s doing something wrong. But what if Dumbledore had told him the whole truth like let’s just play that out for a second. What if after Harry had procured the memory from Slughorn telling Tom Riddle about horcruxes and they discussed the six possible horcruxes Dumbledore believes Voldemort to have made. What if he told Harry that he suspected a piece of Voldemort’s soul had attached itself to Harry’s? What if he had actually done that? What do you think Harry’s reaction would have been to that? Would he have still been able to go about his life and search out horcruxes in the next book and ultimately defeat Voldemort or would he have been so consumed by the idea that he wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything else.?

Sarah: 37:54 Yeah as much as I hate to admit it, I think he probably wouldn’t have been able to be as effective in books seven of hunting down horcruxes.

Rachel: 38:03 I agree.

Sarah: 38:04 The reason it all works is Harry is told he’s a horcrux Right before, right at the end. He doesn’t have to prepare. He doesn’t have anything time to do anything he just.

Rachel: 38:14 I think at that point he’s kind of prepared for it you know because he’s already sort of thinking he probably doesn’t have any choice but to go through with this.

Sarah: 38:21 Yeah.

Rachel: 38:22 We’re getting way ahead of ourselves. But yeah I agree.

Sarah: 38:24 So I still think Dumbledore makes mistakes, here a lot of mistakes surrounding. We know in seventh book, Dumbledore knows he’s going to die this year. And there are things he should have done that would have helped Harry more and The Order of the Phoenix more if he’d let them in on a few things like why he trusts Snape.

Rachel: 38:46 I think we learn, you know we talked about fatal flaws many an episode ago. And I think that might be Dumbledore’s fatal flaw is his tendency to keep everyone else out of the loop.

Sarah: 38:56 I definitely think you’re right. And I think what we can talk more about Dumbledore’s fatal flaw in the next book is it’s going to come up a lot. But I do think you’re right. And I do think we’re seeing sort of a lifetime of doing this and thinking it’s the right thing playing out here.

Rachel: 39:12 And of course as you said we also learn why in the next books and so we’ll save that discussion for then. But yeah I think that’s a big thing with

Dumbledore is not trusting as much as he should. I also think really quickly before we wrap up this episode the one last thing we need to revisit that we again started to touch on in the last book is the prophecy. I think we need to come back to that for a second because we discussed in the last book how we see this as being a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not as much so as some are portrayed to be but definitely has some components of that and I totally forgotten about this when we had that discussion because as I said I think it’s been quite a few years for both of us since we’ve read this book. But Dumbledore and Harry pretty much have that exact conversation.

Sarah: 39:54 They did. It was pretty funny.

Rachel: 39:56 When I came across it I was like oh oh my gosh I was like this is what Sarah and I said. Yeah because Harry keeps saying he’s like whatever Dumbledore it all comes down to the same thing you know. I’m going to die or kill somebody. Quit getting into semantics here. Calm down you know about whether it matters that Voldemort chose him and all that and Dumbledore is getting really worked up because he’s like, You’re setting too much store by the prophecy. And he he basically says to her you know if Voldemort had never heard the prophecy do you think it would have fallen out like those do you think it would have happened would it have meant anything or were the prophecy just have been another orb in the hall prophecies and yet so he basically poses the question to Harry if nothing had played out as it had if you had never heard the prophecy how would you feel. Would you still feel like you needed to do this. And Harry thinks about it for a minute. He’s like Yeah I’d still feel like I needed to be the one to kill Voldemort because he killed my mom and dad and he’s done all these terrible things and the world isn’t going to be safe and Dumbledore’s like plus he’s still going to be trying to kill you regardless. So I just thought it was interesting that Dumbledore get so worked up over making sure Harry understands that this is his choice.

Sarah: 41:01 And I do think it’s lot of what we talk about and that it’s happening because Voldemort tried to avert it. He tried to find a way out of it.

Rachel: 41:12 Exactly it was Dumbledore’s choice that made the prophecy become what it is.

Sarah: 41:16 Or Voldemort’s choice not Dumbledore.

Rachel: 41:18 What did I say?

Sarah: 41:19 Dumbledore’s choice.

Rachel: 41:20 Oh, I thought I said Voldemort. Yeah Voldemort, not Dumbledore’s choice.

Sarah: 41:23 Voldemort’s actions are what made the prophecy happen. Or what are going to make the prophecy happen because he tried to get out of it and that’s when the prophecy snares you is when you try to get out of it.

Rachel: 41:36 Yeah. Dumbledore said, “Don’t you see Voldemort himself created his worst enemy just as tyrants everywhere do. He heard the prophecy and leaped into action with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him he handed him uniquely deadly weapons.” Which again I think he’s also alluding to the whole horcrux thing there but yes you know.

Sarah: 41:54 Dumbledore definitely alludes to the horcrux thing a lot in this book.

Rachel: 41:57 He does. I wanted to just kind of wanted to shake him a little. In the scene in the cave when he kept being like oh no Harry your blood is so much more valuable. I was like I was like Dumbledore. I swear if you talk about how valuable Harry’s Blood is one more time I’m going to smack you.

Sarah: 42:12 Yeah. Well I think. On that note we should wrap up.

Rachel: 42:18 Yeah and I think that brings us to our favorite part of the show. The HP angst-and-sass-o-meter. So let’s quickly go through those. Okay so do you want to start with sass? How sassy is Harry in this book?

Sarah: 42:30 I’m going to give Harry a 7.

Rachel: 42:32 You are wrong.

Sarah: 42:35 Okay.

Rachel: 42:36 You are wrong. It is a ten.

Sarah: 42:40 Really?

Rachel: 42:40 It is clearly a ten, Sarah. Did you forget that this has one of the best lines in the whole entire series? “There is no need to call me sir professor.” I’m sorry. That is peak Harry sass.

Sarah: 42:54 You’re right.

Rachel: 42:54 He is 16 years old and he just peaked. That’s it. There is no need to call me sir Professor. Mike drop. Harry out.

Sarah: 43:01 That is, you are right. I would say quantity wise there’s less in this book than we saw in the last book, but quality wise. You’re right. Harry is at peak


Rachel: 43:11 Yeah it’s got you got to give it a ten there it’s just no other choice.

Sarah: 43:14 I’ll agree with you. Yeah. It’s a ten. Okay. And now for Harry’s angst.

Rachel: 43:18 Yeah. This one’s hard because like we talked about with tone. There’s like such a range in this one.

Sarah: 43:24 Yeah.

Rachel: 43:24 I would say a good part of the book is like a solid 5 but then there are also so many dark parts in the end so I’d give it more like a 7.

Sarah: 43:33 I was going to go 8 I think. Yeah. It’s not as dark as or as angsty.

Rachel: 43:37 It’s not like so much of it is not as dark. But then at the same time you’ve got all of these subplots about Harry learning more about the prophecy and how he’s going to have to die or kill. And then of course Dumbledore’s death at the end is like ooh. Gut punch.

Sarah: 43:52 When it’s dark it’s really dark, but it’s not all dark.

Rachel: 43:56 Yeah I had forgotten just how much the end of this book hurt. It’s rough.

Sarah: 44:02 It’s tough.

Rachel: 44:02 Okay and then of course Hermione savagery.

Sarah: 44:05 I’m going to give Hermione an 8.

Rachel: 44:08 I was going to say the exact same thing.

Sarah: 44:10 She uses the confundus charm.

Rachel: 44:13 Yes when she confunds McLaggen. That was amazing. And then she’s straight up asks him out because she knows it’s going to annoy Ron the most even though she hates him.

Sarah: 44:24 And she sicks a bunch of birds on Ron.

Rachel: 44:26 Oh my gosh yes when she attacks him with birds and he has like cuts. Yeah she is. She’s not kidnapping anybody in this book which will just always be the marker we have to judge everything else by. But she still does some crazy stuff and this one for Hermione.

Sarah: 44:41 Yeah.

Rachel: 44:42 All right. Well I think that brings us to an end so thanks to Sahara Sky for the use of our

theme song, Never Long Time Goes By from the album Escapism.

Sarah: 44:50 And thank you for listening. If you want to get in touch with us you can tweet @unassignedpod over on Twitter. Shoot us an email at unassignedreadingpod at gmail dot com or join the discussion on our Facebook group by searching for unassigned reading on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you.

Rachel: 45:05 And if you really want to make our day go ahead and take a second to subscribe to the show and then give us a quick rating and review. Just look at those five stars waiting to be clicked.

Sarah: 45:14 That’s right it only takes a second to do and makes a big difference in helping other people find the podcast.

Rachel: 45:19 Or if reviewing podcasts isn’t your thing. Maybe just consider telling one of your friends or for the more hipster among you you know you could try carrier pigeons, telegraphs, good old fashioned postal service. We’re really not picky. Just let your friends and fellow book lovers know about the show. You know the drill.

Sarah: 45:35 We’ll be back with a new episode of Book Talk on Friday November 9th.

Rachel: 45:39 Right where we’ll be discussing the Harry Potter movies and our many thoughts and feelings about them.

Sarah: 45:44 We have a lot of thoughts and feelings.

Rachel: 45:46 And then we’ll be back again on the last Friday of November, that’s the 30th for those of you out there wondering. For the final episode of our Harry Potter series where we will cover Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.

Sarah: 45:57 I can’t believe it’s almost over.

Rachel: 45:59 I know I kind of feel like we’ve been talking about Harry Potter forever.

Sarah: 46:02 I mean is that really a bad thing.

Rachel: 46:04 Not at all. But I am really excited to start discussing some other books and genres you know mix things up a little especially for our holiday episode on.  

Sarah: 46:14 Hey Hey no spoilers.

Rachel: 46:16 OK. All right. Well in that case I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out. We hope you’ll join us again next month and in the meantime we leave you with these words of wisdom.

Sarah: 46:26 “And now let’s step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress adventure.”

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