The Runespoor and the Half-Blood Prince
by Sam Avila
Snakes have, and always will be, flourishing in mythological lore as the villainous beast. They are a symbol of treachery and deception in many religious, as well as imaginative, texts.*1 In Harry Potter, the sign of the snake is similarly associated with the emblem of the Slytherin House, the design upon the Dark Mark, Lord Voldemort, who is a Parselmouth, one who can converse with snakes, as well as a Basilisk…but there is now new evidence brought to light that the serpent is now a clue in discovering information about Harry’s past, present, and future.
First of all, we must look at Lord Voldemort and his connection with snakes. The Basilisk was controlled by Tom Riddle but many have pointed out that Harry did not have the ability to obtain this feat. The reason is either that he simply didn’t have the bond with snakes that he did in OOTP, or rather that the snake was not his “familiar”. In magical terms in context with our society today, a “familiar” is that animal upon which a Druid, Witch, Wizard, Priestess, etc. has correlated.*2 Voldemort states that it is a simple task to obtain the bodies of snakes, and he even has his own “familiar” with him, “Nagini.” I understand that Rowling has expressed her views on religion in this matter, so the inclusion of Pagan religion in this denotation is not important.2 What is important is the reference to a “Magi” or “Magician” with his familiar. Folklore indicated that the familiar of this Magi begins to acquire the physical and mental ability of the animal. Although nearly impossible in our world, lore states that those with serpent familiars acquire slit eyes, lose their hair, and have an increasingly developed sense of smell (i.e. when Lord Voldemort ‘sniffed out’ his own Death Eaters in GoF). All of these apply to Lord Voldemort, obviously, but the other interesting fact is the statement about shedding its skin, that the body of the serpent is stronger with its new, tough skin. Did not Lord Voldemort lose his body a number of times, but seemed to regain his strength which would now be considered “greater and more terrible than he ever was” (PoA, 324)?
Now, this idea is easily applied to one who reads the descriptions straight from the book and knows a little bit about reptilian behavior, but the very subtle relevance that many have overlooked is the position of the “Runespoor”. Those who have not read Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them should go pick up a copy and begin to read between the lines. For now, the description of a Runespoor is that it has three heads: the left is known as the ‘planner’, the middle is known as the ‘dreamer’, and the right is the ‘critic’, which chides the other two heads. The fangs of the right head are “extremely venomous,” but it is “common to see a Runespoor with the right head missing, the other two heads having banded together to bite it off.” I have read numerous discussions that fans have had indulging in the theory that the snake which attacked Mr. Weasley was a Runespoor, but that is impossible because the creature would have 1. Spent too much time deciding what to do and 2. Had three heads, which the snake in the Ministry did not (conceivably).
So what might the Runespoor have to do with Harry Potter? Everything. The Fantastic Beasts book is more than a reference; it is up to the neck with clues. This book came out before book five, but if you look over FB again, you will see creatures such as the Thestrals, Bowtruckles, and Puffskeins, only formally introduced in OOTP, which means the Runespoor might make a crucial appearance in the next two books. Secondly, JKR has put a lot of thought into the Runespoor, and most of these creatures with which she has done so (such as the Unicorn and Dragon) have played significant roles in the plot. And now onto the relevance of this whole theory. . . The Runespoor has been in existence for hundreds of years, and the only way Wizards know about this is from Parselmouths, so it may be possible that Salazar Slytherin had one as a pet, since FB states it “was once a favorite pet of Dark wizards.”
Here’s where the glue begins to stick: when Harry reaches the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets “he saw a solid wall ahead on which two entwined serpents were carved, their eyes set with great, glinting emeralds,” (CoS, pg 304) and then in Dumbledore’s office when the Headmaster consulted that odd silver instrument, “A serpent’s head grew out of the end of it, opening its mouth wide. . . .[then] split itself instantly into two snakes, both coiling and undulating in the dark air,” (OOTP, pg. 470). As I read this for the second time, I realized the connection immediately, but it made no sense at the time. Ever since I had wondered whether this Runespoor was the link between the three heads of 1. Dumbledore 2. Harry and 3. Voldemort. Then, as I picked up rumors JKR said about there being a correlation between CoS and OOTP, I felt this had to be the key. And then, as if a lightbulb went on, JKR released the title of the next book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Two definite clues for the sixth book so far: The HBP is not Harry and it is not Voldemort. This leaves an obvious blank that I replaced while re-reading OOTP: Mark Evans, the 10-year-old boy Dudley was beating up the night the Dementors came to Little Whinging. There are a number of reasons why Mark would be this Prince:
1. In the SS, there was a small reference to Sirius Black, which turned out to be big later on. In OOTP, there is a small reference to Mark Evans, who might possibly be the half-blood prince.
2. It can’t be Neville, he’s pureblood. Probably won’t be something as drastic as James or Lily either — remember, JKR likes to pick the obvious from the minute details.
3. Mark Evans is “supposedly” ten years old in OOTP, when in HBP he would be 11, which means he would be attending Hogwarts next year, right? JKR said there would be no introduction of new characters after the sixth book, so it would make sense that Mark’s introduction be in HBP.
4. The Evans’ Grandparents had Lily and Petunia for sure, but what about more siblings? There’s no evidence leading to a brother, but IF there was an Evans brother to Lily, that man would have to marry a witch, and viola, you have a half-blooded Mark Evans. Would the Dursleys have even mentioned this to Harry? Of course not, they wanted to sever ties with the Wizarding world as much as possible.
5. There is a predicted “Godmother”, which might be Lily’s sister-in-law.
6. If Mark attends Hogwarts next year, it would be the main attention of Harry, and might be a filler in the emotional turmoil after losing Sirius.
7. Harry was extremely rich from the money that was lent to him. Yeah, it could’ve been from James, but if the Evans family were in some sort of Royalty power, that means Mark would be the Half-Blood PRINCE and because Harry is older, that would make Harry the reigning royal figure.
8. Voldemort would rather go after Harry than Neville, but why? It might make more sense that THAT is the reason Voldemort wanted more information because he had some, but not all of the information on a royal family or throne that could bring him even more power.
9. I’ve read numerous accounts on the hypothesis that Colin Creevey is the Prince. In accordance with the facts on Mugglenet, if Half-Blood Prince was originally in for Chamber of Secrets, the connections between CoS and OOTP would be on the Chamber door with those two snakes, (or we can say something as much as the sorting hat having precedence over choice, not fate), not Colin and Harry. But Colin and Mark are very much alike – both first years, small, going into a world very alien to them. . .JKR probably decided to switch these characters because it would give more clues to the conclusion reached about the Basilisk in CoS, and leave this great emotional plot open for book six after Sirius’ death.
In light of all this information, now the Runespoor becomes a relevant model for the relationship between Mark, Harry, and Lord Voldemort. The last description of the Runespoor is significant, as it does not live long without its right head that has dangerous fangs (Voldemort), because the Left and Right (Harry and Mark) have bitten it (or defeated it). I personally suppose Harry is the left head because he has proven himself and we know him better whereas Mark might be more of a dreamer.*3 This theory supports both the idea that Harry will not “survive” as a living being and the clues, throughout the series. Dumbledore, while seeing the smoke snake in his office says, “Naturally. . .But in essence divided?,” (OOTP, pg. 470), which might refer to Voldemort and Harry, but wouldn’t it make more sense that Harry and Mark are from the same family, but “in essence” different people?
To be honest, there is a good chance I may be completely wrong, and the other form of this Prince would be Severus Snape since his blood relation is unknown. This may be the reason his father, Mr. Snape, was angry at his mother, Mrs. Snape, because one was, as Petunia said, “a freak.” Snape seems to hate those who are not full-blooded Wizard, which is why many say he does not have any Muggle parentage, but didn’t Lord Voldemort have a Muggle father as well? It is possible that is why Dumbledore stepped in to speak for Severus because he knows all too well what Severus is, and that he joined the Death Eaters because he felt in the same position as Tom Riddle did, but this is a theory I can back nothing on except for spotting the blank on Snape’s background. There is more evidence that the up-and-coming Prince is Mark Evans. If this is true, it adds a seemingly warming depth to the emotional development of Harry as a responsible family figure, not only for Mark but himself, after book five’s exposure of Harry’s rage and turmoil. As Dumbledore said, Harry would now have to choose between what is easy and what is right.
The Runespoor might be used only as a symbol, but its relevance to the story so far is undeniable, as the lifespan of this particular serpent cannot live without one of its heads, just as the prophecy states one cannot live without the other. The one and only piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit is that since the chamber was built by Salazar Slytherin a thousand years ago; he must have known something about the relationship between those two snakes. What did they mean to him? The only answer I can come up with is that Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor were related, which is why they argued the most, but this would only support the Snape-Prince theory, but that is only a speculation. I feel the relationships uncovered here are hard facts to plausible theories that have been bounced back and forth continually since the release of OOTP, and now all we can do is let time bring about some answers. . .
*1. This is a shame, and I’m not condoning the hatred of these animals. Think of the Boa in SS that Harry set free or the snake that backed off in CoS. Snakes are not all that bad. . .
*2. I had actually read a reference to a symbolic white stag that was changed to a serpent because of its influence, but I did not find that to be an integral clue to the series, but rather a coincidence.
*3. For a while, I believed Luna to be the middle head because of her dreamy demeanor, but as soon as I heard “Prince” in the next book title, I knew it couldn’t be her.