October 22, 2007
JK Rowling outs Dumbledore... and reveals tantilizing Harry Potter back stories
Oh man, I am LOVING this stuff! See, I always knew Dumbledore was gay. I am a total Harry Potter series nut, and I suppose at my age I should be embarrassed by that, but I never have been. I know why that series grabbed me and never let go (besides the phenomenal talents of Jim Dale, who brings the audio books alive even better than the films).
It was Dumbledore. I was always reading the Harry Potter series for Dumbledore. He was Harry's hero, but he was the reason I was reading the series, Dumbledore and hoggy woggy Hogwarts, which was my secret dream of utopia. There, I said it.
It's like, if you get to choose where you go when you die, the landscape of the afterlife, for me, it will be Hogwarts. Ooh, and I need Dumbledore to be there. The last few books were hard for me that way (no spoilers yet, don't worry), but in the end, JK gave me what I needed by the end of the last book.
And in her talk below, makes me realize why the Harry Potter series also makes me want to sit and watch Donnie Darko over and over. It's not the literary stuff I'm valuing (cuz high literature/film, it ain't), but the same thing is drawing me, just like, also maybe, Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness.
Anyway, let's pull out some juicy bits below! Watch out. SPOILER ALERT!
Link: The Leaky Cauldron: J. K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall Reveals Dumbledore is Gay; Neville Marries Hannah Abbott, and Much More.
J. K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall Reveals Dumbledore is Gay; Neville Marries Hannah Abbott, and Much More
Posted by: Edward
October 19, 2007, 09:17 PM
Note: A preliminary transcript is now at the end of this post; please note that there may be some small errors in phrasing, and all questions have been paraphrased to save time; this is not a final transcript, but the accuracy of the questions and answers have been maintained.
Tonight, the one thousand grand prize winners (and their guests) of the Scholastic's Open Book Tour Sweepstakes along with a companion got the chance to see Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling read from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," answer questions and sign books at New York City's Carnegie Hall. We have exclusive information this evening on the myriad of "Deathly Hallows" questions she answered as well as in-depth details on a number of subjects she spoke about.
A caution now. Parts of the following WILL contain book seven SPOILERS.
First, the biggest revelation of the night came when Jo revealed to her audience the fact that Albus Dumbledore is gay and had fallen in love with fellow wizard and friend, Gellert Grindelwald. This elicited a huge reaction and prolonged ovation. So much so, it promoted Jo to say:
"If I had known this would have made you this happy, I would have announced it years ago."
The question was: Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?
JKR: My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] ... Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that's how i always saw Dumbledore. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair... [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, "Dumbledore's gay!" [laughter] "If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!"
Jo also said after revelation: "You needed something to keep you going for the next 10 years! ...Oh, my god, the fan fiction now, eh?"
[heh. That would about be the understatement of the year. hoo-eee.]
Jo also revealed that Neville Longbottom married Hufflepuff Hannah Abbott and she was to become the landlady at the iconic Leaky Cauldron Pub. She thought that people would find the fact of Neville's living over a pub particularly cool.
[Actually, I was more interested in Neville becoming Herbology teacher at Hogwarts. 19 years later, the other faculty had retired, but Hagrid was still going strong. Maybe half-giants live longer too, but big dogs don't live longer than small dogs. I was at least wishing Hagrid could have hooked up with Madame Maxime. And I expected Hermione to be Headmistress at Hogwarts, not running the Wizengamont (sp?)]
Equally large revelations were made concerning Petunia Dursley when Jo answered the question of what Petunia could not bring herself to say when Harry and the Dursleys parted ways before his seventeenth birthday. She would have wished him luck, saying:
"I do know what you're up against and I hope it's okay."
[Yeah, but how does she know? More backstory there? Hmmm. Not from listening to Lily and Snape through the bushes, that's for sure. The milk of human kindness still curdles in Aunt Petunia's breast.]
Information on the original Order members was also revealed during tonight's event. Jo related the fact that Remus Lupin, prior to the third book, was unemployable because he was a werewolf and upon his graduation from Hogwarts along with James and Lily, was supported by James using their own money. In addition to this she shed more light on the early days of the Order, saying James, Sirius, Remus and Lily were full time Order members. "Full Time Fighters," as Jo put it.
Jo also went into further detail about the many portraits in the wizarding world and their occupants. An occupant can only move freely to other portraits in their dwelling or to another portrait in which they are depicted. She also revealed that Harry himself made sure that the portrait of Snape made it into the Headmasters Office, but doubts that he ever went to speak to it.
[I dunno. He named his kid after Snape. I always figured either Harry or Hermione would be in that office one day, and neither would mind if Snape's portrait was there, even if it were as unpleasant as the other Slytherin former headmaster, Phineas Nigelis (it's so hard when you're addicted more to the audio books, you hear words, but can't spell them!).
Then there's the rule, I think, for getting to be a portrait in the headmaster's office. You have to swear an oath of allegiance to support the current headmaster, whoever that is. I think that they said something about that one time when Phineas Nigelis was pretending to be sleeping and didn't want to do what Dumbledore had asked him to do. So even if Snape's portrait were in there and ornery, he'd have to support the headmaster. But wasn't there something else, about abdicating his post, which may have disqualified Snape from being in there?
On yet a third hand, Harry could never do well in a class with Snape in it. I mean, geez, the guy defeats the Dark Lord, but cowers when Snape sneers at his potions? I mean, come on, Harry, get over it.]
Finally, speaking about her personal feelings and experiences of the past seventeen years with the boy wizard, Jo said finishing the first book and the seventh book produced very similar feelings. She also admits that she was very difficult to live with for the weeks following her completing the last book in the "Harry Potter" series.
A full transcript of this evening's event will be available on TLC soon. TLC will update throughout the evening with the latest from this event.
Some highlights have been transcribed:
How did you decide that Molly Weasley would be the one to finish off Bellatrix?
I always knew Molly was going to finish her off. I think there was some speculation that Neville would do it, because Neville obviously has a particular reason to hate Bellatrix. ..So there were lots of optios for Bellatrix, but I never deviated. I wanted it to be Molly, and I wanted it to be Molly for two reasons.
The first reason was I always saw Molly as a very good witch but someone whose light is necessarily hidden under a bushel, because she isn't in the kitchen a lot and she has had to raise, among others, and [Arthur?] which is like, enough... I wanted Molly to have her moment and to show that because a woman had dedicated herself to her family does not mean that she doesn't have a lot of other talents.
Second reason: It was the meeting of two kinds of - if you call what Bellatrix feels for Voldemort love, I guess we'll call it love, she has a kind of obsession with him, it's a very sick obsession ... and I wanted to match that kind of obsession with maternal love... the power that you give someone by loving them. So Molly was really an amazing exemplar of maternal love. ... There was something very satisfying about putting those two women together.
[I was actually sure of the rightness of Molly facing off with Bellatrix from the moment I saw what Molly's buggart was. That's how I knew she had to have her moment to step up and stand up to her fears. I just wish she were more of a full member of the order, instead of its mommy-cliche mad she-bear. After all, Charlie and the twins take after her more than dad. Of course she is a formidable witch.
As for this next one... oh dear, I knew this was coming. What a wonderful question! From the mouths of babes...]
Q: In the Goblet of Fire Dumbledore said his brother was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms [JKR buries her head, to laughter] on a goat; what were the inappropriate charms he was practicing on that goat?
JKR: How old are you?
JKR: I think that he was trying to make a goat that was easy to keep clean [laughter], curly horns. That's a joke that works on a couple of levels. I really like Aberforth and his goats. But you know Aberforth having this strange fondness for goats if you've read book seven, came in really useful to Harry, later on, because a goat, a stag, you know. If you're a stupid Death Eater, what's the difference. So, that is my answer to YOU.
Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?
My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] ... Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that's how I always saw Dumbledore. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair... [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, "Dumbledore's gay!" [laughter] If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!
Q: What did Dumbledore write in the letter to make the Dursleys take Harry?
JKR: Very, very good question. As you know, as we find out in book seven, Petunia once really wanted to be part of that world. And you discover that Dumbledore has written to her prior to the Howler...Dumbledore wrote to her very kindly and explained why he couldn't let her come to Hogwarts to become a witch. So, Petunia, much as she denies it afterwards, much as she turns against that world when she met Uncle Vernon, who is the biggest anti-wizard you could ever met in your life, a tiny part of her, and that's the part that almost wished Harry luck when she said goodbye to him in this book, she just teetered on the verge of saying, I do know what you're up against and I hope it's OK. But she couldn't bring herself to say it. Years of pretending she doesn't care have hardened her. But Dumbledore appealed in the letter you're asking about, so that part of Petunia that did remember wanting desperately to be part of the world and he appealed to her sense of fair play to a sister that she had hated because Lily had what she couldn't have. So that's how she persuaded Petunia to keep Harry. Good question.
[This next question the core for me, and I guess that means I identify as an older reader, but more, this is is where I owe my biggest thank you to JK Rowling. I'm just a sucker for people who can point out the bankruptcy of fascist, authoritarian thinking with such flair. I mean, it is troubling, she gives us Muggles, and yet in the wizarding world, there's the equivalent of Muggles too, like Fudge or Umbridge (I still love the names).
But maybe the lesson of the wizard fascists is that power corrupts, no matter what the source of that power may be.]
Q: Many of us older readers have noticed over the years similarities between the Death Eaters tactics and the Nazis from the 30s and 40s. Did you use that historical era as a model for Voldemort's reign and what were the lessons that you hope to impart to the next generation?
It was conscious. I think that if you're, I think most of us if you were asked to name a very evil regime we would think Nazi Germany. There were parallels in the ideology. I wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world. So you have the intent to impose a hierarchy, you have bigotry, and this notion of purity, which is this great fallacy, but it crops up all over the world. People like to think themselves superior and that if they can pride themselves in nothing else they can pride themselves on perceived purity. So yeah that follows a parallel. It wasn't really exclusively that. I think you can see in the Ministry even before it's taken over, there are parallels to regimes we all know and love.
[Laughter and applause.]
So you ask what lessons, I suppose. The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry, and I think ti's one of the reasons that some people don't like the books, but I think that's it's a very healthy message to pass on to younger people that you should question authority and you should not assume that the establishment or the press tells you all of the truth.
Q: What did it feel like completing your first Harry Potter book versus completing the last.
JKR: What a great question. It felt strangely similar actually. Both feelings were more alike than with any of the other books. When I finished the first book, there was this incredible sense of achievement that i'd actually written a novel, i"d actually finished my book. And it was after seven years of writing and making notes and rewriting. And then when I finished the seventh book, that was 17 years. WIth the seventh book there was a huge feeling of loss as well. I couldn't believe I was done. And it took me weeks, as my poor, long-suffering husband will attest. He's here. [applause] Yes, you should clap him, he's very patient! [ovation] He's not the type to stand up and take about but trust me. Toward the end of a book i'm not that easy to live with. Yes Neil would bear witness to the fact that for weeks, really... it felt like a bereavement. I knew it was coming. I was prepared, I knew it would hurt, and it was huge. So, that's why I'm glad to be here and talk about it. Thank you.
Q: Harry often wondered about his parents lives before he died. What did Lily, James, Remus, Lupin and Sirius do after Hogwarts?
JKR: To take Remus first, Remus was unemployable. Poor Lupin, prior to Dumbledore taking him in, lead a really impoverished life because no one wanted to employ a werewolf. The other three were full-time members of the Order of the Phoenix. If you remember when Lily, James and co. were at school, the first war was raging. It never reached the heights that the second war reached, because the Ministry was never infiltrated to that extend but it was a very bad time, the same disappearances, the same deaths. So that's what they did, they left school. James has gold, enough to support Sirius and Lily. So I suppose they lived foff a private income. But they were full-time fighters, that's what they did, until Lily fell pregnant with Harry. So then they went into hiding.
[Hmmm, I'm going to say something sarcastic here. So Dumbledore and the original Order of the Phoenix took in James, Lily, Sirius, and (we presume the Order would not discriminate against Lupin, would they?). If so, those are some pretty young wizards to be putting to work right off like that, just out of school, even if Lily and James were head girl and head boy. If Mrs. Weasley were around, she would have pitched a fit!
I mean, weren't there any older wizards who could be daring fighters in the Order? I'm sure there were, the names of the folks Mad Eye listed off, from that picture. Maybe they were just killed off first, the McKinnons and all that. Like Madame Bones, like Neville's grandmother.
I was just thinking, maybe Dumbledore was recruiting his army right out of school, maybe he'd been doing it for decades, just another version of Slughorn, eh? Maybe there was a good reason Fudge was so scared that's what Dumbledore was up to. Dumbledore's track record wasn't that good.
Also kind of illuminates Voldemort's goal in wanting to run Hogwarts. An innocuous little wizarding school it was not. It was prime recruiting grounds. Andover? Skull and Bones of the wizarding world?
I jokes! Psych!]