Spinners and Detours and Felix, Oh My!: Speculations Galore
by Brandon Ford
A wonderful individual emailed me a few days ago after reading my Lost Day articles and asked if I thought the door on JKR’s site would open on Halloween. I told this person that since she stays relatively consistent with the length of time between door openings as well as the significance of the day to the HP universe, that on or around Halloween we should expect something. Since frankly I care a lot more about the FAQs than the door that takes an act of Congress to open, I immediately sent off the email and didn’t give it a second thought. Yesterday (Halloween) I received an email from this person telling me “we called it.” Sure enough, I go to the site and there’s that door and the sign is gone. After ten minutes, I was in and got something that made me very happy: chapter titles!
I must admit I don’t really care for the isolated passages of prose because, for the most part, they bait and annoy and leave me wanting more which I know I can’t have. But the chapter titles are a whole new matter. With 132 clever chapter titles already, as well as a deep knowledge as to what each of those titles signifies, it becomes clear that this new nugget of info may help us to unravel the mystery of the new book. I submit for your consideration: Speculations galore!
Before we begin our analysis, it becomes clear that we must first establish a few rules as to the form that JKR usually does her chapter titles. Sometimes they are relatively simple yet reveal the entire story, as in the case of “Cat, Rat, and Dog” from PoA. Here are a few conclusions I came to about chapter titles:
1) Chapter Number – All of JKR’s books stay in chronological order. We always start at the Dursley’s. We then go to some other location in between leaving the Dursley’s and going to Platform 93/4. Then we have the trip to Hogwarts, followed by Dumbledore’s usual speech. We then get the first week of classes and introduction to the new ill-fated Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Then there’s Halloween – where the mystery usually starts. Then, it’s on to Quidditch and intrigue and homework and horrible lessons with Snape. Then Christmas. Lather, rinse and repeat until just before school is over, when the true enemy appears and makes his move to kill Harry, which leads us to the showdown in which Harry always triumphs. Then it’s back to the train and summertime. The numbers become important simply because they signify order. Obviously, you won’t have the Dursley’s showing up in chapter 12 as the Dursley’s only manage to hang out for the first three chapters.
2) Chapter Proper Names – JKR likes to use the alternate names for things and people like “The Heir of Slytherin (CoS)” or “The Servant of Lord Voldemort (PoA)” or “The Only One He Ever Feared (OotP)”. However, several times JKR uses a person’s exact name, and that person is always important. These people are Gilderoy Lockhart, Cornelius Fudge, Bagman and Crouch, Mad-Eye Moody, Luna Lovegood, Professor Umbridge, and Percy and Padfoot. (Grawp, Norbert, and Aragog were excluded because they are not human, despite what Hagrid would want you to believe. Nicholas Flamel does not actually appear in the novel.) These names lead us to two corollaries:
2A) The DADA Rule – Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers whose names appear as titles have the tendency of being evil. Before you send your emails about Quirrell, I have one point: Quirrell was not a bad guy. He simply had the misfortune of having Voldemort sticking out of the back of his head. VOLDEMORT was the villain in Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, NOT Quirrell. Quirrell was the vessel. When Voldemort’s use for Quirrell wore off, Voldemort simply left him for dead. And before you mention Mad-Eye Moody as the cancellation of this theory, I must remind you that while using the Polyjuice Potion, Barty Crouch Jr. WAS Mad-Eye Moody. Though we like to refer to him as Imposter Moody, the potion turns you into that person. You retain your own thoughts and, apparently, your own voice, but all other aspects of your body are those of the person you impersonate. As for Lockhart, was he evil? I would think attempting memory charms on two twelve year olds, leaving an innocent girl to die at the hands of Voldemort, stealing the works of others for profit, and being a pompous imbecile qualifies. As for Umbridge, I don’t even need to explain that one.
2B) The More-Than-Meets-The-Eye Rule – This also springboards off the DADA rule but encompasses all the rest mentioned previously. Everyone on that list has a hidden agenda. All of these people are important to Harry in some way. Fudge started out as the slightly off-kilter Minister of Magic and turned into a full-blown antagonist to our heroes. Bagman and Crouch were both harbingers of secrets and lies. I don’t like to even say Percy’s name after that horrid letter he wrote to Ron, but he definitely has a hidden agenda, an agenda that might have been ruined at the end of OotP. As for Luna, she played the crucial role of getting Harry’s story out to the public. There are layers here to every character that have yet to unfold.
With these little tidbits in mind, let us try to unravel the mysteries of these three new chapter titles.
Chapter Two: Spinners End
First off, we must look at the number: two. As the second chapter, we can assume this will take place immediately following or during Harry’s stay at the Dursley’s. Chapter two in the Harry Potter Universe is always a crucial chapter. The previous chapter twos include “The Vanishing Glass/The Letters From No One,” “Dobby’s Warning,” “Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake,” “The Scar/The Invitation,” and “A Peck of Owls.” If you notice, I put chapters two AND three of PS/SS and GoF together. This was done because the first chapters of PS/SS and GoF, respectively, “The Boy Who Lived” and “The Riddle House,” are the only chapters in the Harry Potter books, so far, to break from Harry’s point of view. We are allowed to see things Harry was not ACTUALLY present to see or COHERENT enough to remember. JKR covers it by having him dream the events in GoF and having him be a baby in PS/SS, but he was not actually there in the physical sense in GoF and the mental sense in PS/SS. This is a break from the usual style of the novels. If we want to be technical, chapters one and two happen at the same time in GoF. As for PS/SS, chapter one is really an introduction or a prelude, like the prologue inFellowship of the Ring. With those two books, chapter three is REALLY chapter two of the REAL story.
It is in these chapters we get the INCITING INCIDENT. This is the part of each book that sets the rest of the book in motion. “The Vanishing Glass” is where we first meet Harry as he is now and see his first bit of magic and puts the Dursley’s on alert that, despite their best efforts, they couldn’t suppress the magic in Harry. But it is in the TRUE chapter two (Chapter 3 – “The Letters From No One”) that the story starts. Harry starts getting his Hogwarts letters and his date with destiny is set.
In Book Two, “Dobby’s Warning” gets Harry in trouble for “using magic” as well as giving us a crucial nugget of info: that something really bad is going to happen this year at Hogwarts and Dobby knows who is behind it. In Book Three, Aunt Marge calls Harry’s mom a… female dog. Her punishment is being blown up. This sends Harry on the lam, on the Knight Bus, and on his way to unraveling the mystery of Sirius Black.
In Book Four, “The Invitation” is the TRUE chapter two. Harry is invited to the Quidditch World Cup. Once again we get our date with destiny. The Quidditch World Cup leads us to the resurgence of Death Eaters, teases us with cryptic information about an event that will eventually be the Triwizard Tournament, and introduces us to our friends Winky, Bagman and Crouch, and, unbeknownst to us, Barty Crouch Jr. in the invisibility cloak inches away from Harry. Then it is on to my personal favorite, Order of the Phoenix. There, “A Peck of Owls” inform Harry that he is expelled, then not expelled, and that he must stand trial for using the Patronus Charm. This trial sets in motion his meeting Umbridge, the new state of affairs at the Ministry, moves us to 12 Grimmauld Place, and introduces us to the Order.
So, what are the implications of this chapter two? We know from JKR that this will be Harry’s shortest stay at the Dursley’s. Will this be normal chapter two or will this be a FAKE chapter two? If it is a real chapter two, then I think that “Spinners End” is a place. There is no apostrophe in “spinners” to signify that it is possessive, so I don’t think anyone is dying here, though one cannot rule it out. Could it be a clever play on words dealing with spiders? Probably not. My guess is it is a place or a street or some location in Diagon or Knockturn Alley that will have significance to Harry and sets our story in motion in some way. If it be a false chapter two, then that means that chapter one will break from Harry’s point of view to give us some information that Harry is not privy to, like a backstory behind the Half-Blood Prince or, even better, where Wormtail was all of OotP. Also, this means that chapter three will be the TRUE chapter two and that chapter chapter three will give is our inciting incident and “Spinner’s End” will catch us up on what Harry has been doing during his stay with Vernon and Petunia.
Chapter Six: Draco’s Detour
This one excites me the most. According to JKR, this book will be shorter than OotP, but she doesn’t say it’ll be shorter than GoF. If that is the case, why are we seeing Draco so early? This is quite curious. Comparatively speaking, with the exception of PS/SS we don’t see Draco until Harry gets to school. The Quidditch World Cup is the other exception, but EVERYBODY was there and even that happens WAY after chapter 6. In the last two books, Draco doesn’t make his entrance until at least chapter 8. Many more things happen between leaving the Dursley’s and getting on the train in those books than in the first three. So we must ask ourselves: what happens this time between leaving the Dursley’s and getting on the train. One idea: apparating lessons. We know that the twins apparate like there is no tomorrow in their seventh year, but we never learn WHEN they learned how to apparate. In America, you can drive at 16, but you can take driver’s education at 14. From what we learn about apparation in GoF, it is very hard to do. You can splinch yourself, which would seem painful. I would like to see a situation where the Hogwarts kids must meet somewhere to begin apparation training in the same way that they had broom-flying lessons in Book One.
That is a possibility. But then where does the “detour” come in? Am I imagining a breakneck chase between Harry and Draco where Draco apparates somewhere? Nah. But something has to happen to get Draco into the story a lot earlier than he usually is. Now I understand that in Books One, Two, and Three, Draco was in the story way before chapter six, but that is because the books are short compared to the last two, which will no doubt be the form for the new one. Not to mention, with the exception of Books One and Four (because we have to meet him for the first time and he was at the Cup but that was chapter eight), we don’t see him until we get to the train. Draco could be doing some espionage for his father or perhaps plotting his revenge promised to Harry at the end of OotP.
Then again, it could be another play on words like “Dudley Demented” or “Grim Defeat.” A ‘detour’ is defined as “a roundabout or alternate way of doing something or going somewhere.” A ‘tour’ is “a journey or trip or a competition.” So a ‘de-tour’ would mean perhaps exiting from some competition or going out from or around a tour of something. Perhaps Draco is going somewhere. Where is he going? Perhaps he is competing with Harry in someway. What type of competition? Tricky, tricky.
The legacy of the chapter sixes is a great one. There has always been something in a chapter six that is a key to the ending. In Book One, chapter six gives us our first mention of Nicholas Flamel. It is done in passing, but the card that bears his name will bug Harry all throughout the story as he tries to figure out who Flamel is. In Book Two, chapter six gives us the backstory on the Mandrakes, which will eventually save all the petrified Muggleborns and Nearly-Headless Nick. In Book Three, we get Hagrid and Trelawney’s first lessons. In Hagrid’s lesson, we meet a wonderful creature named Buckbeak who is only slightly important, seeing as how his attacking Malfoy sets events in motion that allows Buckbeak to save Sirius. As for Trelawney, we meet her and discover what a Grim is and realize its connection to Sirius as well. In Book Four, we have the portkey. These pesky portkeys mean both extreme danger and rescue for Harry as the Triwizard Cup was a portkey that took Harry to Voldemort, led to the death of Cedric, and ultimately was able to save him from the Dark Lord’s clutches. Book Five however plays against type. Kreacher is introduced here and we know that Kreacher led to Sirius’ downfall by talking to Narcissa, who relayed the message to Voldemort.
What does this mean then? While chapter six will obviously have something to do with Draco, we should look for something or someone very important to show up in this chapter that will most likely help, but maybe hurt Harry.
Chapter 14: Felix Felicis
It’s lucky for me that I take Latin, otherwise JKR might have stumped me on this one. ‘Felix’ is a Latin adjective meaning “lucky, happy, or fortunate.” The Latin phrase ‘vir felix’ would then mean “the happy man” or “the lucky man.” ‘Felicis’ (pronounced “fe-lee-kiss”) is the genitive form of the adjective ‘felix.’ This means that instead of ‘vir felix’ (“the fortunate/happy man”), you would say ‘viri felicis’ which means “OF the fortunate/happy man.” In a sentence, that would be something like “The problems OF THE FORTUNATE MAN are few.” OF THE FORTUNATE MAN is the genitive case. Sorry about the brief Latin lesson, but hopefully you get it.
Based on this, one can assume that unless JKR is being ironic, if Felix is a person, Felix is a very lucky and fortunate man. IF Felix is a person, I doubt he is the half-blood prince. Let me reiterate: I DON’T THINK HE IS THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE! I am fairly certain that if he is a person, he is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher (see rule 2A). If he is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Harry better watch out because this man probably has a deadly secret that could spell certain doom for our hero.
However, he might not be a person. ‘Felix Felicis’ could also be a spell or enchantment or magical condition or potion like ‘Priori Incantatem,’ ‘The Patronus,’ ‘The Dementor’s Kiss,’ ‘The Unforgivable Curses,’ ‘Veritaserum,’ or ‘The Polyjuice Potion.’ If it is some type of magical spell or condition, it will have something to do with good luck or fortune.
When trying to research the legacy of the chapter fourteens, I ran into a dead end. The chapter twos all have the inciting incident, while the chapter sixes all have some object or person representing either danger or safety that will end up coming into play at the end of the story. However, the chapter fourteens all happen at different places in their stories. Book oOne is the introduction of Norbert. Book Two is the introduction of Cornelius Fudge and Hagrid going to Azkaban. Book Three is “Snape’s Grudge,” where Snape gets his hands on the Marauder’s Map and Lupin takes it. In Book Four, we learn about the Unforgivable Curses, and in Book Five, we find out that Sturgis Podmore was arrested and we read Percy’s letter.
What pattern do these hold? No decent one – I can tell you that. The implications of each are as follows:
Book 1: Norbert leads Harry, Hermione, Draco, and Neville into detention in the Forbidden Forest, which leads directly to the revelation that Voldemort is back and dressed to kill.
Book 2: This one introduces us to Fudge and the corruption in the Ministry as well as chucking Hagrid into Azkaban. This leads us right to Aragog who reveals Hagrid’s innocence and the realization that the girl who was killed fifty years ago was Moaning Myrtle.
Book 3: We discover that Lupin knows a lot more than he is letting on about the Marauder’s Map. Lupin takes it, thus he is able to see Peter Pettigrew on it when the time comes. And with him not in his office, Snape is able to seize it and see Lupin and Sirius in the Shrieking Shack.
Book 4: We learn that Harry is almost immune to the Imperius Curse and that he is the only person ever to survive Avada Kedavra. This is key to his showdown with Voldemort in the end.
Book 5: Podmore being thrown in Azkaban relates directly to him trying to steal the Prophecy. All of the mysterious happenings around that darn door lead us to the end and Harry’s realization that only he can get that Prophecy though he doesn’t know what it is.
The one thing all these incidents seem to have in common is that, again, something will happen in the chapter that leads to a revelation of things to come.
Will we know it when it comes? I don’t know. But with CONSTANT VIGILANCE, we may be able to figure it out.