Ruminations on Filch, Charles Dickens and Book 7
Many observers have commented on the similarities between J.K. Rowling and Charles Dickens. Certainly, the resemblance between the eager worldwide anticipation for each edition of Harry Potter and the similar expectation that awaited Dickens’ work 150 years ago (huge crowds used to gather on the New York docks when the ship from London carrying the next monthly edition was due to arrive) is most noticeable. While watching the recent BBC dramatization of Dickens’ Bleak House, I was struck first of all by the remarkable parallels between a character in that novel, Krook, and the caretaker of Hogwarts, Argus Filch. On further reflection, it occurred to me that this linkage could possibly have great significance for Harry in Book 7.
The major points of comparison between the two characters are as follows:
Their surnames. Krook is obviously a play on “crook,” and it is most unlikely that JKR, who is known to take special care with her characters’ names (as did Dickens), would use as a surname the word “filch,” which means to steal, by happenstance. While neither character could be called a thief, both have a cavalier attitude to the property of others.
Both Krook and Filch are loners with a single trusted companion — a cat. Krook’s cat is called Lady Jane, and Filch’s, of course, is Mrs. Norris.
Krook is an eccentric collector and hoarder, an unpleasant individual who is very suspicious of others; this is also a description of Filch. Krook is illiterate and Filch is a Squib. For both men, their deficiency is a significant disadvantage in their dealings with those around them.
These connections appear to me to be so striking that, at the very least, Jo must be paying homage to Dickens through the character of Filch. However, it is what it might mean for the future that piqued my interest. What if Jo has taken the parallels a little further?
Bleak House revolves around an interminable court case, concerning a disputed inheritance where there are multiple versions of the will. Krook is obsessed by it, and has taught himself to recognize the letters spelling out the name of the case. The irony is that Krook has unknowingly had amongst his myriad possessions the final version of the will all along, but dies a gruesome death before he has a chance to unearth it. It only comes to light after the entire value of the estate is consumed by legal costs.
Entering the realm of pure speculation, there are a number of ways, not necessarily mutually exclusive, whereby Krook’s experiences could foreshadow what happens to Filch:
Filch could be one of the casualties of Book 7, possibly before something significant he has in his voluminous files (but which he is unaware of) is uncovered. Perhaps that item could be something given to a future Death Eater by Tom Riddle at Hogwarts, confiscated by Filch or his predecessor, and the Death Eater has been too frightened (or wise) to confess?
JKR is on record as saying there is a character who does manage, in desperate circumstances, to do magic late in life. As Krook achieved a limited ability to read, could Filch be a Squib who achieves his one piece of magic? Could the desperate circumstances be linked to guarding or retrieving his significant possession?
Finally, and most intriguingly, as Krook had in his possession the key document affecting Bleak House’s major characters, could whatever it is Filch has filed away actually be of great importance to Harry – something to help him in his search for the Horcruxes?