The Underground Lake #7: The True Identity of the Half-Blood Prince
That’s right, folks. You thought Brandon Ford was done, didn’t you? Thought his expounding on the Lost Day would be all you would hear of him? So WRONG you were!! I am back and dressed to kill and ready to tackle the most ponderous of recent questions: who is that pesky half-blood prince?
I have received email upon email from people who have read my Lost Day theory wondering where I stood on this particular issue. I had been hesitant to speculate on this issue. However, in my readings of Prisoner of Azkaban I believe I have stumbled upon the answer to this question. Drum roll please…the identity…of the half-blood prince…is………… IRRELEVANT!!!!!!!
Scoff if you will, but after exhaustive research, I realized that it doesn’t matter WHO the half-blood prince is. Go back to J.K. Rowling and my creed at the beginning of The Lost Day: we are asking the wrong questions. The identity of the half-blood prince is insignificant. What is significant about the half-blood prince is precisely that: his significance.
When we look back at J.K. Rowling’s previous efforts, we see that the definition or identities of her previous titles were not important. What was important was what the titles of the books meant to Harry. Let’s look back shall we:
Book 1: The Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone – Anybody with Google or access to an encyclopedia in 1997 would have been able to discover what the Philosopher’s Stone was since it was thought to be a real object long ago. When we look at the book, we realize that the object was just a ‘McGuffin.’ A ‘McGuffin’ is a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock as the thing that the characters in the movie are after, but the audience doesn’t care. (Think of the $40,000 in Psycho, or even better, the One Ring in Lord of the Rings: everybody in the book and movie is after the ring, but, really as a function of the story, it just gets the characters from point A to point B.) We learn what the stone does after Christmas Break. The importance of the object lies in what happens if Voldemort gets his hands on it and NOT what the object itself is.
Book 2: The Chamber of Secrets – What was the Chamber of Secrets? It was a secret room connected a girls’ bathroom that housed a ferocious snake. In a million years, would any of us guessed that in 1999, prior to the release of the book? Who cares WHAT the room was? The importance was what it meant to Harry. It was his third confrontation with Voldemort, the fall of Gilderoy Lockhart, the rescue of Ginny Weasley, the clearing of Hagrid’s name, the truth about the connection between Harry and Voldemort, and the end of the attacks on the Muggleborns. The secrets of this room are important. More emphasis should have been on the “secrets” and NOT the “chamber.”
Book 3: The Prisoner of Azkaban – This is what gave me the idea in the first place. We find out about Sirius Black, the mad criminal, on page 16 of PoA. We find out that Sirius Black is the prisoner of Azkaban on page 37. The book is 435 pages long!!! If the identity of prisoner of Azkaban was so important, I would imagine it would rank up there with big secrets like Tom Riddle and Voldemort being the same person (page 314 out of 341 in CoS) or the fact that Barty Crouch, Jr. had been in disguise as “Mad Eye” Moody all year (page 683 out of 734 in GoF). This is the first of two instances (the second being the HBP himself) that we get a person as the title of the book. However, since we learn who the Prisoner of Azkaban is so quickly, why do we care? He’s just some mad convict after Harry, right? WRONG!! It is Harry’s godfather who was framed by Ron’s rat, who turned out to be an Animagus, as the person who delivered the Potters to Voldemort. In a million years, who would have guessed that before they read the book? Sirius played (I use past tense because he IS, in fact, DEAD) an integral part in books three and five, yet his IDENTITY was not important to us. He helped to guide Harry and be there for him. The effect he had on the novels and on Harry was far more important than the fact that he was the PoA.
Book 4: The Goblet of Fire – This was my former favorite book, yet it has the biggest of all McGuffins. What is the Goblet of Fire? It is an “unremarkable…wooden cup (255, GoF)” that has blue-white flames in it and will spit out the names of the selected school champions impartially. Again, how much speculation would it have taken to figure that out? We would think that is all, yet what ends up happening? It gets put back in its little box never to be seen or heard from again (as far as we know). The significance of the thing, however, is that it gets Harry into the Triwizard Tournament. Not only that, but thanks to him being in the tournament, Ron’s resentment of Harry is finally exposed leading to some of the most tense pages of the book (Oh, how I loved it when Harry chucked the book at Ron and gave the famous – “Maybe now you’ll get a scar. That’s what you want, isn’t it?” – line). But, as far as what the object is, unremarkable indeed.
Book 5: The Order of the Phoenix – We receive our first hint as to the definition of the Order of the Phoenix in GoF, when Sirius is asked to round up the “old crowd.” We discover early (relatively speaking since the book is 870 pages) that the Order of the Phoenix is an organization founded during ‘Vold War I’ with the goal of resisting Voldemort and the Death Eaters (sounds like a heavy metal band, doesn’t it?). The identity of many of the members of the Order (aside from the biggies like Sirius, Pettigrew, Lupin, the Potters, and Dumbledore) may show its significance in future books, but certainly doesn’t in OotP. When we look at the significance to Harry, however, we see that the Order represents several things to him. It represents protection and family. But even more, it represents the stigma of his and his friends’ youth. The HP kids are not allowed to join the Order, yet they single-handedly manage to discover important information about Order and Death Eater activity and hold their own, though temporarily, against some of the vilest Death Eaters around. The DA would then come to represent an organization for Order members in training. However, the Order itself was not really relevant to the story. Yes, they rescue the kids at the end, but the intricate mysteries of the villainous Dolores Umbridge and the uber-cryptic Prophecy do not rely upon the identity of Order members.
So, what am I saying? I’m saying that though it is fun to speculate on the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, it is ultimately fruitless to dwell upon it. If you would have asked me in 1999 who the Prisoner of Azkaban was, I would have guessed Hagrid since he was the only person I knew was in Azkaban. How wrong I would have been! In that instance, it didn’t matter who the Prisoner of Azkaban was.
We had heard of Sirius Black in passing in PS/SS. How were we to know then that he was who he was? When we do find out that he was the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is irrelevant. The question of PoA was not WHO is coming to Hogwarts? The question was WHY is he coming to Hogwarts? With HBP looming on the horizon, we must stop this pointless debate of who he is and start asking ourselves what this man has to do with Harry and what will it mean for the Second War and our heroes.
I could speculate on that. But why? Going back to PoA, all the speculation in the world wouldn’t have gotten me to the conclusion that Sirius was Harry’s godfather and the would-be betrayer of the Potters. The only thing we knew at that point about Sirius was his name and the fact that he had a flying motorcycle (which would foreshadow the fact that vehicles can fly *coughFordAngliacough*) and that he perhaps knew Hagrid. JKR’s intricate web did not spin nearly enough information to lead us to where we were eventually led.
So what little tidbits could we know about this HBP already (unbeknownst to us) that could lead us to his significance? Most, I assume, are in agreement with me that the JKR quote for the new book (the one about the old lion with glasses) probably has something to do with the HBP. There is also some curious information about Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, in OotP. Apparently, he was always on secret missions for the Order and the only time Moody remembers seeing him is in the taking of the first Order picture. I think the two are perhaps connected in some way, but again, if he is the HBP (which I highly doubt because as Dumbledore’s brother, that would make them both Half-Blood Princes), it does not help to speculate on the HBP’s identity. The question I would ask is where is Dumbledore’s brother and what was he doing for the Order and how will this impact Harry? Who is this mysterious new – or perhaps not so new – character that is an Animagi? Remember Dumbledore was Transfiguration teacher before he became headmaster, and we know that the current Transfiguration teacher, McGonagall, is an Animagus. So many questions.
So, I resign myself to wait impatiently for Book Six because I know that when JKR tells me who he is, it won’t matter. I’ll be too busy trying to figure out what his significance is to Harry because, I think, that is the whole point.