The Soul Theory is Dying

by Esther Kleinig

I happen to pride myself on being a person who always searches for the truth, and accepts it, even if it’s not what I want to hear. This is an explanation of why I am no longer a believer in the theory that Bob Sindeldecker and I spawned, Soul of the Phoenix: that Harry’s soul resides in Fawkes. Well, it really is my duty to tell you, and to explain, as I’m the one who planted the idea in your heads, even if you didn’t accept it.

Before I continue I should say that I have not been “converted” because of the editorial by Meredith E, The Problem With Soul Theories. If you take our advice and read the articles that preceded this theory –You’re Dead, Potter!, the North Tower take on the Changeling Hypothesis, the original Changeling Hypothesis on Red Hen – you will find very suitable answers to the questions she asked, such as why Harry isn’t acting like Voldemort, and what was sliding around Albania for ten years. But this is irrelevant; if you want to know about that, read all the other articles!

Onto my discovery that led to my conversion: Bob and I received several emails asking various questions, and someone named Johnny (thanks Johnny!) asked me if I knew anything more about the book, “Bless Me, Ultima”. When he asked me about this I realized I didn’t know enough to be able to base a whole theory around it (Bob would probably argue that it doesn’t need this because of the evidence the original Changeling Hypothesis gives, but I think to keep a soul in a bird, you’d need a precedent somewhere), so I, like Johnny, searched on the internet for the book. I found the book – Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolpho Anaya, about a Mexican boy named Antonio. This appears to be the book that is referred to in the rumors section of www.theorderofthephoenix.net. I searched Amazon.com to see what references to owls and souls the book contained, and looked up its basic plot, and I found that this is indeed the book where, I quote, “The owl was her soul!” – that is, Ultima, a good witch, had an owl who was her familiar, and being her familiar for so long, also somehow became her life force, the death of which would lead quickly to Ultima’s death.

Unfortunately, in my quest to seek the truth, I incidentally found that there is no truth here, for three main reasons:

1) INTERPRETATION OF THE NOVEL

Ultima’s soul is not kept in the owl; it IS the owl. Harry’s soul could not have suddenly leapt into Fawkes; rather, Fawkes would become his life force only after years as companions. Ultima’s bird is killed, the bird is her life force, and so Ultima’s death naturally follows shortly afterwards. Ultima didn’t plant her soul in the bird as a precaution; her relationship with the bird meant that one could not survive without the other, they lived and breathed each other – they were one.

This also implies that a wizard with a familiar (ie. Voldemort with Nagini), could die from the death of a familiar. Voldemort’s bond to Nagini could also explain his continued existence: Nagini, being his life force, stayed alive and so Voldemort’s “soul”/”persona”/”essence” could remain – and remember, he has Nagini milked to regain strength.

Dumbledore cannot be killed by Fawkes’ death, however, as Fawkes is immortal. However, if Fawkes is immortal, he might easily be the life force of some long-dead wizard – I would think Godric Gryffindor, but it could be the Half-Blood Prince; Harry’s CoS discovery would be that Fawkes is immortal and his HBP discovery would be Fawkes’ background, having lived so long (presumably). I’m getting a bit tangled here in trying to decide if the wizard/witch can be killed if the familiar is still alive, so I’ll leave you to think about these things, and move on.

2) OTHER CLUES IN THE NOVEL

I investigated the contents of the book (not having access to it, I used the internet plotline and discussion), and found that many things other than “the life force = the owl” could be what JKR referred to. For example, the themes and messages:

  1. “[Ultima] tells [Antonio] that each person must make his or her own moral choices, must choose a set of values to use to understand the world.” – This reminds me of Dumbledore.
  2. “Antonio realizes that there is no way to explain Ultima’s powers within the worldview of the Catholic church.” – This suggests that the Dursleys (well, at least the men) will never understand, or that the pureblood maniacs will never see otherwise – some people just won’t change.
  3. “An emphasis on thinking independently about moral decisions pervades Bless Me, Ultima. Antonio’s progress toward moral independence is the main marker of his maturity and development throughout the novel. Antonio’s struggle to reconcile the complexities of his experience with his religion leads him to conclude that he must make his own decisions.” – This could be a realization for Harry, too.
  4. “Many characters in the book are limited by their cultural prejudices and never learn to look beyond their own assumptions. For example, the townspeople condemn Narciso for being a drunk and refuse to acknowledge that his traumatic experience in the war might play a part in his psychological state.” – This could suggest that our lovely Order members are targeting Narcissa Malfoy for her position, without knowing her whole story.
  5. “Ultima represents the importance of tolerance and understanding.” – This appears to be the key message of the novel, which is a very religious book, although it could be called anti-religious by conservative Christians who would criticize its message. JKR is a Christian, but not a close-minded one, as so many are. She sees the dangers of bigotry (such as with the blood purity business, or the issue of house elves) – she has often referred to this – and could be showing, particularly through Dumbledore, who has many parallels to Ultima, that people should not presume to have the truth, the only definitive meaning of life, at the risk of excluding others. While there may be an objective reality, that does not make beliefs any less valid, as all have benefits. You’d have to read Maline Freden’s North Tower articles on “The House Elves’ Enslavement” for more of this. It’s a very important message, although I admit it’s a bit of a strain to directly apply this to the HP series.

3) RUMOUR OR FACT?

And now we come to the clincher. Having all this new information on the book, I wondered why no one had taken the time to read the book and then write an editorial, making some predictions on the possible outcome of the HP series. I decided I should find out exactly what JKR said in reference to the book, so that when I bought and read the book (it does look good, even with HP aside), I would know how the book relates to the series.

But in my search to find a transcript of JKR mentioning this book at the Royal Albert Hall, as written on theorderofthephoenix.net, I found that the comment is almost completely unsubstantiated. In a forum on HPANA, several people have made attempts both to assemble all of the transcripts of JKR’s interviews etc, and to identify the rumors that have no basis in fact.

Here are several quotes from the forum:

“I do think that the person who thought ‘Bless Me Ultima’ is important for future books has badly misconstrued what JKR said. At Royal Albert Hall JKR was talking about the reading she was doing that day providing a small hint of what was to come… which was the Career chapter from OotP. Not what book she was reading at the time. I have seen this theory bandied about quite a bit as having come from JKR and it’s kind of annoying…””That ‘Bless Me Ultima’ thing just keeps popping up – it is one of those things that people just don’t seem to be able to pin down. As far as I understand, it came from her Royal Albert Hall appearance, but I think it is also one of those things that people have bent to mean what they want it to say. I’m not totally sure of this though, so don’t take my word as absolute truth!”

“More about ‘Bless me Ultima’. The woman from MuggleNet has written me back and pointed me to the source for her comment. Unfortunately, it is a jumble of unattributed reports about the Royal Albert Hall event on the Juventuz Forum.

From this, we can glean that:

  • someone who was at the book reading has claimed JKR mentioned the book as important
  •  what JKR actually said has been misconstrued
  • JKR may have been referring to a different book
  • JKR may have only been mentioning its importance to the Career chapter in OotP

Which is very unfortunate for our theory!

So, there’s why I don’t believe our theory any more. I’ve had to be honest with myself; I don’t want to believe in something that unsubstantiated – and I don’t want to be like Fudge! Sometimes you have to accept the truth, and sometimes you’re wrong. (Wow, don’t I sound like a romantic hero? Sorry!) At the end of the day it seems that our theory was very valid (sorry if I sound arrogant) because we did explore all possible avenues, but it was simply without substantial evidence. However, even though JKR may not have directly said what we wished she had said, the fact that she read the book, then read it at a book reading, and made some comment about it in relation to the HP series, could indicate that there is still reason to believe that Fawkes may hold Harry’s soul. JKR confesses to taking liberties in using information she finds elsewhere. It is still possible. Just not very likely.

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