Thursday, April 19, 2007

Deathly Hallows = cemetery amphitheater?

I recently visited Arlington, Virginia, where I attended the Computers in Libraries conference for librarian-geeks. Great conference, but there wasn't much time to visit museums and such. Two of us had military connections (my husband was an Army officer), so we took the time to visit the National Cemetery nearby. It was somber and sad and beautiful, as the hillsides were dotted with cherry blossom trees in full bloom. We made a pilgrimage to John F. Kennedy's grave and to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I got goosebumps when I entered the Memorial Amphitheater that lies behind the Tomb and I couldn't tell my friends why because they would have thought I was being disrespectful: I was looking at what must have been the model for Mary GrandPré's artwork on the cover of Deathly Hallows.

Here's a photo of the inside: an open air colonnade with a central area where people can watch a ceremony (no curtains). It all fits perfectly with Mary GrandPré's cover art and what fans have discovered about the funerary purpose of a Hallows.

It is pretty difficult for anyone in Europe to not be aware of war memorials, but Jo has told us herself that she has visited them:
"I’ve always ‘collected’ – that’s to say, remembered - unusual names and finally found a use for them! I love names; sad to say, I really enjoy reading lists of them, for me it’s like casting an eye over a pile of unwrapped presents, each of the names representing a whole person. War memorials, telephone directories, shop fronts, saints, villains, baby-naming books – you name it, I’ve got names from it!" ( FAQs)
Here's another quote:
I collect unusual names. I have notebooks full of them. Some of the names I made up, like Quidditch, Malfoy. Other names mean something -- Dumbledore, which means "bumblebee" in Old English ... seemed to suit the headmaster, because one of his passions is music and I imagined him walking around humming to himself. And so far I have got names from saints, place-names, war memorials, gravestones. I just collect them -- I am so interested in names. (Barnes and Noble interview, 1999)
So now I am wondering: did Mary GrandPré search for examples of "hallowed ground" as she was designing the cover for Book 7 and hit upon Arlington?


Anonymous said...

Whoa. It gave me goosebumps too, looking at the picture. The resemblance is... eerie. Wow.

Anonymous said...

I can really see the resemblance and maybe Mary Grand Pre did use it or something like it. But the link to anything JK Rowling would be thinking is VERY tenuous because war memorials in Britain are nothing like that, usually they are like a range of steps leading up to a pillar with the names of the fallen soldiers engraved on all sides.

thanks for your interesting blog!

Unknown said...

Good point. It would be interesting to see if that sort of open-air building exists in the UK.

Something to think about, though, is that GrandPré *has* read the book. She is one of the very, very few who have that privilege. I don't think she would contradict Rowling's description of something, especially for an oh-so-important cover.

Anonymous said...

My heart skipped a beat when I saw your picture. There is a connection, for the memorial commemorates those brave men who fought the evil Nazi threat in the 40's, at the time that Dumbledore overcame Grindewald. They were brothers in arms.

I have a different understanding of 'Hallows'. I don't regard it as a place, but as a reference to the people/souls who died fighting evil. In the sense of 'Hallows' in 'All Hallows eve' (i.e. Halloween).
In the early Christian Church the martyrs(Hallows) who died for their faith became instant saints and were taken straight to heaven. Their day, Nov 1, is celebrated as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day.
Traditionally, the previous night is when the souls of the dead walk on earth again.

On the cover (Oct 31), I see Harry returning from a visit to Sirius beyond the veil. He is summoning the souls of those killed by Voldemort from the land of the dead to confront a cringing Voldemort.

Unknown said...

eve05, I think something like that is a real possibility.

A few years ago I read an interesting theory that Harry would take a journey into death like in the Aeneid. The idea back then (pre-book6) was that Harry would find the secret of Voldemort's immortality there (we know now that he learned about Horcruxes a different way).

I believe that one of the major themes of the series isn't just death, but how the living deal with death: their own and that of loved ones. I think a journey like that would fit very well with the arc of the stories and many, many things, from Harry's wand symbolism to Rowling's certainty that people like Sirius had to die.

I guess we'll see very soon, eh?