The Two-Way Mirror #7: Reading the 7×7 Matrix
(Tentative predictions for the 6th and 7th books)
I was prompted by a couple of nice readers to read my chart and figure out what in the world it means. The “chart” is the topic of my last editorial The Riddle of the Seven Tasks: a 7 x 7 Matrix (thank you kindly to those who called me brilliant genius!), in which I came up with something I called a matrix, thinking back to my math days, but that in simpler terms is a chess board: each square of the chessboard stands for one of the seven tasks. Black and white squares alternate, and so do tasks, in a way. They are simply not in the same order. My idea was that the seven tasks of the first book were reproduced in every single book that followed, only not in the same order. So when you align the seven tasks in each of the seven books, you come up with a square. I managed to almost completely fill out the “missing” squares that went with Books 6 and 7 by adding chess pieces to the board (and thinking vertically about the tasks as chess pieces). So, if the chessboard was built by thinking about the 7 tasks, the chess pieces were chosen by thinking about (where else have we had teams of players?) Quidditch. Instead of 8 pawns, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 castles, a king and queen, we have 3 chasers, 2 beaters and a seeker and keeper in every column. (The rest of the explanations are in the other editorial.)
The reading of my own chart, to tell you the truth, doesn’t fully satisfy me: mainly because I wonder if I am not in fact faced with another riddle whose key I have not found. But I will give it a first try here.
First, I would like to answer a question that several readers asked me, though not phrased the same way: Is it really likely Rowling would do this? This is the first time I’ve come up with such a “mathematicological” formula for a book. It is rather out of character for me to study literature this way. So since it is not me, it has got to be Rowling. Here are some better arguments, because I know that one doesn’t convince me either:
1) She shows a great deal of interest in riddles, placing them everywhere in her books, not just where I identified them as “tasks.” The first official Riddle is Snape’s poem of the seven phials, and the logic used to solve it is no different than the one used to fill this matrix. David A. wrote me an email showing me how he partially solved Snape’s riddle by making different choices until they led him to contradictions (that riddle, too, left us with a choice in the end).
2) Rowling pays attention to numbers (you may want to see Oddities and Coincidences: The Number 12, for example) and she makes frequent allusions to chess and Quidditch, all of which helped me come up with the idea of the matrix/chess board.
3) She talks of Hermione studying Arithmancy and drawing charts and diagrams.
4) All the doors in the Department of Mysteries become rearranged when one steps into a new room. This seems to me a metaphor: all the tasks (= doors) become rearranged when one reads a new book (= room). The idea is consistent with Rowling’s imagination, if it is not a downright hint for us readers.
5) The following reason is external to the books, however, it may be appropriate in the case of Rowling, since she also majored in French. A contemporary French writer, George Perec, wrote “Life: a User’s Guide” (“La Vie: Mode d’Emploi”) in which the whole design of the various story lines is based upon a chessboard and the movement of a knight across it. Perec kept careful records of his work and admitted to the plan. Chess is so omnipresent in Rowling’s novel that you have to wonder… although I like what she does with chess better.
6) How about this question that Rowling was asked at the World Book Day Online Chat on March 4, 2004:
Question: “How long does it take you to plan a book before you even start writing? Or do you just plan as you go along?”
Rowling: “It’s hard to say; book six has been planned for years, but before I started writing seriously I spent two months re-visiting the plan and making absolutely sure I knew what I was doing (learning from my mistakes – I didn’t check the plan for ‘Goblet of Fire’ and had to re-write a third of the book.)” (italics are my emphasis)
What is with this word “plan” that comes up three times in one sentence with reference to her books? The plan is there before she writes and she keeps checking against it. If she were just writing on inspiration, why would the plan matter so much that she would have to rewrite a third of GoF to make sure to stick to the plan? Of course, she does say, “It’s hard to say…” But I think a great book is part planning and part inspiration.
7) I think that the 7 x 7 Matrix would justify why Rowling is adamant about not writing an eighth book. If this Matrix really is a backbone for her books, it would make sense, wouldn’t it? The only thing that I wonder about is that she won’t absolutely swear to stick to 7, only something like 99.9 %. I need 100%…? But her wonderful mind could figure out some interesting way around it, maybe…
8) Really, I think this is a strong argument, although it doesn’t seem obvious to everyone: the symmetry in the chart! Sure, I could dream up a chart… but a symmetrical one? Have you noticed all the symmetries?
-1) (The minus sign represents an argument against me.) Would Rowling protest to the concept of having Troll mean “death” and “absence” (this is one of the “tasks” that I interpreted symbolically: in fact, Quirrell also dies in the first book, and he was responsible for the Troll that was out cold when Ron and Hermione got to it): would she be outraged by the association I made between the Troll “task” and Cedric and Sirius, when they are absent/dead? I think that is a good argument, especially when I remember Rowling’s “How dare you,” answer to some questions about Lily Evans being a Death Eater. Of course, I am saying nothing of the kind, but you know…
But back to reading the chart, assuming I am right until proven wrong.
This was the chart:
I realized while writing this editorial that there is really no reason why the orders of tasks I gave in the 6th book and 7th book could not be reversed. It would not alter the symmetry or lead to any contradiction. I don’t know how I missed it (well, I do, I was stuck on one idea about keeping chasers together). But for the last two books, the inverse is also possible:
I’ll just assume for the present that HBP is the book that begins with the Key/Mirror tasks and Book 7 the one that begins with Troll. When I try to understand the tasks, this makes the best sense to me. But of course, when the 6th book comes out, I’ll have to verify (one reader asked me to write an editorial when that happens!)
Before you read on, please remember that this is a kind of Arithmancy, which is divination, and divination is a very imprecise thing. So, just as centaurs can be very frustrating when all they say is “Mars is very bright tonight…” some of my discoveries will be that vague.
For the Half-Blood Prince:
The first thing that will have major importance in the book or lead towards its climax will be a Key or a Mirror.
The mirror has always appeared at very climactic points in the books: never at the beginning. Interestingly, though, each time the mirror situation involved either Harry facing himself, Voldemort facing himself, or else Harry facing Voldemort. Usually there was also an additional gadget involved:
PS/SS: Harry sees Harry (+ stone in the Mirror of Erised)
CoS: past/present Tom Marvolo Riddle sees his future/present self as Voldemort: he draws the anagram “I am Lord Voldemort” (the diary allows this)
PoA: present Harry sees future Harry (+ Patronus) / present Harry (+ Patronus) sees past Harry
GoF: Harry is remotely united with Voldemort: Phoenix wand meets twin brother Phoenix wand
OotP: Harry is closely united with Voldemort: Voldemort possesses him in the MoM
I tend to think that for either the 6th or 7th book, it would be too early to see Voldemort.
Therefore it will probably be a Harry sees Harry + ? formula again.
In PoA, Voldemort was not present in the mirror episode, therefore there is a precedent for a mirror “task” happening without him.
So, I think this means, very early on in our book, issues about Harry’s identity will be very important, and there will be some kind of powerful image of Harry facing himself again.
Like the mirror, the key has yet to appear in the opening of a book, and it has been associated with some climactic points in the novel (the portkey in GoF, the time turner in PoA).
The key seems to me to be something that can be used the wrong way, but that is not in itself bad.
The crumpled feather on the first key suggests it has been mistreated, somewhat like Harry’s Hedwig in OotP. Parseltongue can be used by evil wizards to set Basilisks on students (but Harry used it to good ends). The Time Turner can be improperly used: Hermione has to swear to use it only for classes. There are dangers associated with it. A portkey is not in itself bad, nor was the Triwizard Cup, but the devious way in which it was used made it dangerous (come to think of it, that Sorcerer’s stone was in many ways like a “key,” wasn’t it? It could be used to open the wrong door… or the right one. For Harry it mysteriously “opens” the mirror that remains like a closed wall for Quirrell…). Thestrals are useful but classified as dangerous: they are at least associated with fear because of their connection with the vision of death, so they could be wrongly thought of.
A key can also be something that can take us in two directions, into danger and out of it:
PS/SS offers us a silver “forward” key: danger
CoS offers us a Parseltongue “forward” key: danger
PoA offers us the Time Turner, a “backward” key: danger (Dumbledore insists the kids have to make it back before he locks the door, and the image of the locking is repeated enough times that the time turner associated with it seems a kind of key: in general, a time turner can be turned both towards the past and the future, although here it is the past).
GoF offers the Portkey, gold Triwizard Cup both “forward” and “backward” key: danger and safety
OotP offers Thestrals, used only as “forward” key: danger (they could also move “backward,” but Harry takes a portkey instead.)
Harry will find a “key” early in the novel: something that could be both good and dangerous, depending on what use he puts it to. The key could be a “thing,” “being,” or another personal “gift/talent.”
Will there be any connection between the key and the mirror?
Will Harry’s “gift” have something to do with his “identity”? Maybe those green eyes could be the mirror… and the key…
Tasks 3 and 4: Chess and Troll:
Our chess games and our battles gave been getting bigger and bigger.
Every time we have had Chess, there has been an “organized” battle with multiple “pieces” on the board:
PS/SS: the actual chess game
CoS: Tom Riddle and Basilisk vs. Harry and Phoenix
PoA: Sirius, Lupin, and the trio vs. Snape and Dementors
GoF: Voldemort and Death Eaters vs. Harry and priori incantatem shadows (for a while, Voldemort the chess player wouldn’t let his pieces move but they were present, if in the background)
OotP: DA members vs. Death Eaters, and then DE vs. Order of the Phoenix, and Voldemort vs. Dumbledore
Around the late beginning and middle of the book there will be a battle. This seems to be an early point for a battle. However, if the war has now begun, who knows?
The battle may in fact be drawn out throughout HBP, since it starts relatively early.
In the Matrix, the chess game has often, though not always, been directly followed or preceded by the “Troll” task, which symbolizes or is death/absence/monster. Can my chart predict “who” will die? Ah, the imprecise art… I can’t tell you who! I can maybe tell you when… Maybe I don’t yet know how to read my own chart to figure out who. So I’ll cheat for the present, and give you a couple of Muggle guesses that have nothing to do with Arithmancy, since it has been a recent interest in the editorials. How about characters who are not capable of change, and whose presence at the end of the novel would not add anything… Luna? (We would feel her absence, and her death would haunt Harry and Hermione, and not only them: she has some unfinished business, I think: a crush on Ron. That way Ron doesn’t get “stuck with Loony,” but he could still experience love for her, maybe, in retrospect…) Fred and/or George? (That is my idea of a tragedy: Fred and George doing something truly heroic, downright dangerous and immensely helpful, as they are capable of, and paying for it… everyone would cry. The students at Hogwarts – imagine when they hear… if you want to feel it, how about watching a thousand people mourn? Don’t forget about that monument Prof. Flitwick left for them… although it feels almost impossible to keep that monument in mind and think of their death at the same time.) I’ll stop there. I’m trying to cut where it hurts, because I like these characters. I won’t touch the immortals – Harry, Ron, Hermione.
Tasks 5 and 6: Fluffy and Devil(‘s Snare)
I have not yet determined which comes first, because like with the Mirror/Key confusion, there isn’t enough information. I already partially discussed in the other editorial what I think the Fluffy/Devil’s Snare tasks may be. I’ll just add a few afterthoughts here. Assuming the “Key/Mirror Book” is the HBP, since Felix Felicis appears in Chapter 14, and HBP is supposed to be shorter than OotP, I would not be surprised if he stood in for Fluffy, because I can’t help thinking that his name sounds fluffy. Besides, “Fluffy” is a name, after all. Last time, I didn’t provide solid proof for my association of the “Umbridge” task with fluffy, other than that she gives herself a “fluffy” outer appearance, but she’s got fangs and claws, so here it is: – Umbridge is described as wearing a “fluffy pink cardigan.” (203, OotP)
– When Harry is in the tea shop with Cho for Valentine’s day, the cherubs and their annoying confetti will remind him of Umbridge’s office (and her “horrible” kittens).
– Fluffy pink is mentioned as repulsive: “There was a scramble as everyone tried to seize a pair [of earmuffs] that wasn’t pink and fluffy.” (116, CoS)
– Lockhart wears one day “lurid pink robes” (300, CoS). He has “wavy hair” (which can be described as fluffy, as hair is what the adjective is normally applied to). Lockhart also starts the whole Valentine tradition: his harp-twanging, Valentine-bearing, rather brutish, shin-kicking dwarfs (302, CoS) seem to combine certain elements associated with Fluffy the dog who sleeps to the harp and bites at Snape’s shin, and they are reminiscent of the cherubs in OotP that make Harry think of Umbridge. You see all the parallels.
– In GoF, Hagrid seems to feel about the Horntail dragon Harry has to face at the Triwizard tournament as he felt about his pet dragon Norbert: “you’d think it was a fluffy little bunny rabbit.” (294, PS/SS) Anyway, chances are Fluffy will be a new character (unless it is another one of Hagrid’s pets… or brother: might he be Grawp?). But Felix Felicis is my best candidate. Will he be dangerous? We had only one good Fluffy so far, Padfoot, the nice dog… Are there only one or two exceptions to the rule? We’ve also had only one good exception with Devil’s Snare: the Gillyweed.
There are some obvious similarities between the Fluffy/Devil tasks:
PS/SS: 3-headed dog: skill was needed (music)
CoS: Lockhart and/or Aragog (they both fit and would not alter the order): lack of trust was needed and luck! (lucky Ron’s wand backfired; lucky the Ford Anglia was there)
PoA: Padfoot: trust was needed
GoF: Dragon: skill was needed (flight)
OotP: Umbridge: skill was needed (control emotions… which leads to Occlumency)
PS/SS: plant: lack of trust and skill needed (knowledge and fire): the word “lucky” was pronounced a lot
CoS: diary: lack of trust needed
PoA: Scabbers: lack of trust and skill needed (keen observation: a 13 year old rat?) and…?
GoF: Gillyweed: trust needed and skill (knowledge)
OotP: Dream/Snake vision: lack of trust and skill needed (Occlumency)
I tend to think the Fluffy and Devil’s Snare tasks stand for people that Harry will have to either trust or distrust.
Because of their similarities, the tasks of Fluffy and Devil’s Snare might even mix in our next book, and I would be interested in seeing Harry faced with a choice between them, the representative of Devil’s Snare and the representative of Fluffy. And why not have that choice be Snape vs. Felix Felicis (whoever he/it is.)
Personally, I think that if my Fluffy/Devil assumptions are correct, the Riddle in HBP will be a revelation of whom should Harry have trusted or not: something in the style of the end of GoF.
The “Troll” / 7th book will be quicker, as I have already compiled the background information above.
Here is the mini chart again:
This means death/absence. It seems awfully early in the book, but we have had it be so in PoA, where really what sets the plot in motion is the supposed absence/death of Peter Pettigrew: we see the rat in a photograph from Egypt very early, though we don’t know how important that photograph will be.
Perhaps what will set Book 7 in motion will be someone’s death, absence, or disappearance.
Fluffy and Devil’s Snare…
More Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing? Or more Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?
Chess The war, of course, at its biggest yet?
At this point in the novel it could well be the final confrontation with Voldemort. It’s coming, don’t you know…
So something interesting will happen right after Harry encounters Voldemort for the last time. Let’s look at past riddles:
SS/PS: Snape, potions: finding the truth meant safety or progression (Hermione solved it)
CoS: pipes: solving the riddle of where the voice was coming from, the pipes (a belated argument – the piece of paper found in Hermione’s hands, so like the piece of paper on which Snape’s riddle was written, the word “pipes” scribbled on it, as a solution to the mystery: like Hermione said, “Everything we need is here on this paper.” [355, PS/SS]) – it leads Harry and Ron to the right room (Hermione solved it). Solving the riddle meant realizing the danger at hand (Basilisk) and taking safety steps such as carrying a mirror.
PoA: riddle: why is Peter on the Map – interpreting the written signs correctly – reading correctly meant deducing the truth, Sirius’ innocence and Peter’s betrayal (Lupin and Sirius solved it: Sirius solved ‘why is Peter in the photograph?’ Lupin solved ‘why is Peter on the map?’)
GoF: riddle: who is Mad-Eye Moody – solving the riddle, getting to the truth was a realization of the danger and would have led to safety (Dumbledore solved it)
OotP: the Prophecy – knowing the truth means understanding the danger and the role Harry has to play; it means preparing for it – knowing where the strength lies (Dumbledore solved it)
The riddle is very important in learning what steps to take for walking safely in the danger’s path.
The riddle has sometimes happened before a climax (SS/PS, CoS) or after it and too late (GoF, OotP). PoA was solved before the climax, but also too late, as Peter got away. In better circumstances, Lupin might have looked at the map earlier. When the riddle is solved seems important. Is it possible for a riddle to be solved right smack in the middle of a climax?
Perhaps in the middle of a fight with Voldemort, Harry will solve a riddle, which will help him act and/or see a truth and/or safe path, and vanquish Voldemort.
The Key, finally…
What is this key that will close the novel? Could it be the same key that opened it? That scar on Harry’s forehead?
In her Write the End to Book 7 Competition Entry, Kristin imagined that Harry’s scar will be gone from his forehead at the end of the series. Maybe she’s right. Now, if it is Book 6 that ends with a key, and Book 7 that ends with a riddle… Why would we need another riddle, anyway? Most riddles (except for the Crouch, Jr. riddle… always an exception) have been doors into new dangers, including the Prophecy of OotP. A riddle is a question. Whereas the key… the key can open a room and close it. It has a dual nature. It seems like a nice symbolic way to end a story.
Lock the story, and throw away the key.
The End… for now
I think I have had enough of the Matrix… for now, because frankly, as much as I thought I was thinking outside the box when I came up with it, when you really look at it, I am right back in the box. And although I seem to have expanded some horizons, still… I think I need a bigger box! (sounding like a Chihuahua, with Godzilla in the passenger’s seat)