29 July 2007

Deathly Hallows vs. Seventh Horcrux

JUST FINISHED reading through J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows over the weekend, allowing me to finally compare it with Melindaleo's The Seventh Horcrux.

It might be tempting to junk any comparison between the two: Cherry Gil's dismissive classic -- "You're nothing but a second rate trying hard copycat!" -- easily comes to mind. But the latter is an amazing work of fan fiction, and many readers who have finished both have found it to be better than the real thing. Just check out their comments here.

Similarities
There are actually many similarities between the two. The first, of course, is that Harry survived, contrary to earlier speculations -- fanned by Rowling herself -- that the teen wizard will die. (Although it must be said that Potter sort of "died," only to resurrect himself ala Aslan the Lion King in that Narnia movie.)

That the two other major protagonists survived as well, with Harry marrying Ginny and Ron Hermione, is also spot on; who ends up with whom is a controversial topic among fans, as many believe Harry should end up with Hermione, especially if Ron dies.

The third is young Potter himself being the seventh and final horcrux, arising from Lily Potter's sacrificial death to save his young son from Voldemort. And except for the snake Nagini being the sixth horcrux, the others are pretty much spot on. (What I am confused about -- maybe I did not read it close enough -- is Melindaleo's sixth, considering she junked the idea of having Nagini for a horcrux.)

Another is Lupin and Tonks getting married and dying towards the end, although I have to say their death is more dramatic in Melindaleo's version. That the prodigal Percy Weasley righted himself back in the end is another, although he survived in Rowling's version.

Differences
There are much more differences, but I want to highlight two:

The major one of course is the Deathly Hallows subplot. Melindaleo's version did not provide for it; her resolution of the Potter conundrum revolved exclusively on the search for the remaining horcruxes.

The other one concerns how Harry killed Voldemort. Of course, in Rowling's version, it was through the Deathly Hallows route which made him the master of death and enabled the resurrection bit that confounded Voldemort and, with Neville killing off Nagini, set him up for the kill. In the fanfic version, which is equally plausible, it was by creating Harry's own horcrux out of the Quidditch snitch as he slayed Voldy with a killing curse.

Where Seventh Horcrux is better
In some ways, Melindaleo's version actually upends Rowling's. These include:

Ginny Weasley. Unlike the Deathly Hallows where she continues to be largely a wallflower, Ginny becomes a key player in this series ender, even overshadowing Hermione in strength of character. Plus, the raging hormones between these teens found more expression in many snogging episodes, which is quite realistic in the given context.

Draco Malfoy. Draco also played a key role in the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, the culmination of his expanded role in the story starting from a surprise appearance in Grimmauld Place. In the Deathly Hallows, he was a marginal character, his importance diminishing after that failed hit on Dumbledore in the Half-Blood Prince.

Dudley Dursley. Here, Dudley is revealed to be a wizard like his cousin Harry, possessed with the very same magical powers that his parents detested. This is a dramatic twist that would be put to good use later, especially when the Ministry of Magic forges a modus vivendi with Voldemort and proclaims Dudley as the "chosen one." Rowling's revelation that the young Petunia Evans actually applied for Hogwarts pales in comparison.

Dolores Umbridge. The detestable Dolores comes back with a vengeance, this time as the new Minister of Magic, and like the pre-World War II British prime minister Neville Chamberlain naively cuts a deal with the Death Eaters. She also goes out violently when Voldemort ditches the deal and assumes power. This episode is better than the forced registration and inquisition of Mubloods, evoking the pre-Holocaust pogrom, that Umbridge coordinated in the Deathly Hallows.

Where Deathly Hallows is superior
The concept of opportunity cost can also be applied here, as Rowling's apparent inability to develop the abovementioned character is actually the outcome of a conscious decision to focus on the three friends and their relationship with Dumbledore and Snape. Deathly Hallow's superiority actually stems from revelations about and richer characterization of the latter.

Albus Dumbledore. Here we find that the pristine, infallible Hogwarts headmaster actually had a dark past, a character flaw that manifested itself as late as his and Harry's visit to the Gaunt house, where the young Tom Riddle traces his roots, just a year back. This humanizes the picture-perfect wise wizard, and rescues him from a one-dimensional do-gooder father figure to Harry.

Severus Snape. Equally compelling is how Snape turns out to be a good guy, Dumbledore's double agent who succeeded to deceive the Dark Lord himself down to the very end. Snape's enigmatic character, to my mind, is actually one of Rowling's best, if not the best in the entire series. This singular revelation actually proved that the community of Snape believers has actually got everything right all along!

The battle scenes. Especially the final battle of Hogwarts, Rowling's book is more action-packed and cinematic, inspired by the epic productions of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Narnia as most reviews pointed out. The exception would be the trio's journey through the British countryside which dragged too long; but on the whole, the overall vista would eat Melindaleo's version alive.

A richer, though more complicated, storyline. Is the Deathly Hallows route a necessity? Melindaleo's version shows it can be dispensed with. But by taking this route, Rowling successfully tied up many loose ends, especially in regard to Harry's forebears and his links with Dumbledore way before he was born.

My verdict
It's Rowling's, but not by a mile. Her work remains superior because of more polished writing skills and more importantly, her mastery of the ins and outs of Harry Potter's world which she singlehandedly created afterall.

4 comments:

Dominique said...

Hi, Willy: Didn't quite figure you for a Harry Potter fan, but then again, I'm not surprised, either. :-)

T'was a decent, dignified ending, I think. I thought the introduction of the Deathly Hallows was an important element if only to prevent it to become a clichéd descent into hunting for Horcruxes. And then there was that dark side to Dumbledore.

All in all, I'm quite happy with the way it wrapped up.

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Hi Dom! It's my son's fault. When he introduced me to Harry Potter, I got hooked myself.

By the way, sent you an email re another SOS.

Anonymous said...

I was also able to read the fanfic (last May pa!). It starts out nice and J.K Rowling-ish but it had too much love story in it.

I also like Deathly Hallows better than The Seventh Horcrux. Too many cliches and (pointless) deaths, though. And the epilogue is just... one big DUH. Hehe.

Go Snape! :)

-- Aika

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