JK Rowling on two Harry Potter characters in ‘most furious fan debate’

JK Rowling on two Harry Potter characters in ‘most furious fan debate’

JK Rowling breaks silence on Harry Potter reunion

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The Harry Potter author has given brand new interviews for The Witch Trials of JK Rowling podcast, which launched this morning. During the second episode Burn The Witch, which covered the backlash to her books from American Christians worrying they promoted witchcraft, she was asked about the morality of the Potterverse. Host Megan Phelps-Roper, who grew up in the infamous Westboro Baptist Church she’s since left, pointed out the writer’s awareness that humans can easily fall into simplistic black-and-white morality. Rowling has flawed heroes and those we initially think of as villains saving the day, yet simultaneously balances this with a clear presence of good and evil in her books. Asked how she discerns when behaviour falls on one side of that line or the other, the author pointed to Voldemort.

Rowling said: “I mean that’s such a deep question and it goes to the heart of Potter and it goes to the heart of much of my worldview. The irredeemably evil character in Potter has dehumanised himself. So Voldemort has consciously and deliberately made himself less than human and we see the natural conclusion of what he’s done to himself through very powerful magic. 

“What he’s left with is something less than human. And he’s done that deliberately. He sees humane behaviour as weakness. He has reduced himself to something that cannot feel the full range of human emotion.”

Rowling continued: “There’s a huge appeal – and I try to show this in the Potter books – to black-and-white thinking. It’s the easiest place to be and in many ways, it’s the safest place to be. If you take an all-or-nothing position on anything you will definitely find comrades, you will easily find a community: ‘I’ve sworn allegiance to this one simple idea’. 

“What I’ve tried to show in the Potter books and what I feel very strongly myself: we should mistrust ourselves most when we are certain and we should question ourselves most when we receive a rush of adrenaline by doing or saying something.”

This was when the Harry Potter creator spoke of conflict she’s had with fans over the morality of two characters in particular.

The author shared: “I was struck early on in the Potter phenomenon by how the two characters that caused the most furious debate – and I’m actually using the word ‘furious’ quite literally there at times – was Dumbledore and Snape. People wanted Dumbledore to be perfect. He’s deeply flawed. To me, he is an exemplar of goodness. He did wrong, he learnt, he grew wise. But he has to make the difficult decisions that people in the real world have to make. Very difficult decisions.”

Rowling added: “Meanwhile you have Snape. Incontrovertibly a bully. He can be mean. He can be sadistic. He’s bitter. But he is courageous. He is determined to make good what he did terribly wrong. And without him, disaster would have occurred. And I have had fans really angry at me for not categorising Snape in particular…just wanting clarity and simplicity [of] ‘Let’s just agree this is a really bad guy’. 

“And I’m thinking, ‘Well I can’t agree with you because I know him, but also I can’t agree with you full stop because people can be deeply flawed people but can make mistakes’. People can do bad things, in fact show me the human being who hasn’t, and they can also be capable of greatness. And I mean greatness in a moral sense, not in a fame or an achievement sense.”

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