We all know that JK Rowling had all seven books planned out in advance, so if she wanted to, she could have begun subtly foreshadowing events for Books Five, Six and Seven as early as the SS. I believe that she has. I began re-reading the SS a few days ago, and when I reached Chapter Fifteen – “The Forbidden Forest” – I was shocked to see all the pieces that I ignored before but that now seem so relevant to the final three installments. I am referring to the conversations between Harry, Ronan, Bane and Firenze. Now that we have been told The Lost Prophecy, we can decipher the Centaur’s mystic speeches and realize that the Centaur herd was speaking of the same Prophecy as Trelawney. This conversation speaks of war in the wizarding world, Voldemort’s return to power, Harry’s death at Voldemort’s hands and resisting evil.
Point 1: Centaurs are Presented as Trustworthy Fortunetellers
Now before we believe anything they say (because Divination is an imprecise magic), we need to know if JK wants us to trust their skills or not.
Our first meeting with any Centaur is when Harry, Hermione and Hagrid meet Ronan and Bane in the forest. Immediately we see that they are very mystical creatures and spend much of their time stargazing. When Hagrid asked them if they had seen anything strange in the forest the only answer either of them would provide was, “Mars is bright tonight.” In Roman mythology, Mars was the god of war, and its prominence in the sky most likely symbolizes some type of war or violence occurring in the forest. And as we later find out from Firenze, Lord Voldemort was drinking unicorn blood in the forest that same night in preparation for his return using the Sorcerer’s Stone. So the first prediction made by them is valid and thusly, we should trust their insights. Also it presents the Centaurs as knowing more about Voldemort than they are letting on.
And if we had any lingering doubts about the Centaurs dependability, Firenze’s speech during his first class in OotP should erase them. While the speech may be a bit arrogant, it is blatantly telling of their enormous skill. The Centaurs have been reading the stars for thousands of years and it is beyond human understanding. They understand the movement of the stars and major coming events.
JK is definitely telling us to listen up to what these creatures have to say!
Point 2: The Centaur’s “Lost Prophecy”
Beginning on page 257, Firenze and Bane begin speaking about what the heavens have foretold for Harry Potter. Now when I was reading this in the 90’s, I didn’t realize its significance because we didn’t have enough back-story. But now in 2005 – now that we have been told the “lost prophecy” – it makes perfect sense. And most importantly, now that we can decipher their supernatural conversation, we should realize that they are discussing a prophecy made by the Centaurs – one that is very similar to the one made by Trelawney to Dumbledore – and that this prediction expects Harry to die.
The first thing that really caught my interest was when F,irenze said, “This is the Potter boy. The quicker he leaves the forest the better.” Now for a race of creatures who pride themselves on not serving humans, Firenze seems to take a great interest in Harry and his well being, which is quite out of character. When he says, “This is the Potter boy,” it implies that the other Centaurs should also recognize the name and the urgency of keeping him safe. “The quicker he leaves the forest, the better.” Now I don’t see the Centaurs rushing themselves or anyone else out of the forest on this particular occasion, so it seems obvious to me that they realize that Voldemort’s presence in the forest spells danger especially for Harry. I would also like to remind you all that Centaurs pride themselves on dealing with the big picture, so I assume the second half of the quote refers to Harry being important on a larger scale (such as defeating Voldemort, duh).
The quote that is most significant to me is from Bane to Firenze. Bane is disgusted by Firenze’s “servitude” and rescuing of Harry and shouts at him, “Remember, Firenze, we are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens. Have you not read what is to come in the movement of the planets?”
“…not to set ourselves against the heavens…” ??
But what did Firenze do to go against their predictions? Well, he saved Harry from Quirrell-mort. The only conclusion to be made is that the Centaurs have read the stars and they say that Harry will die at the hands of Voldemort, and Firenze interrupted that. And from what had been said earlier and the obvious importance they know lies in Harry, I also assume that they predicted that the battle between the two of them will be epic and decide the course of the war. Even Harry realizes it and explains the conversation to Hermione and Ron in the common room. “Firenze saved me, but he shouldn’t have done so… Bane was furious. He was talking about interfering with what the planets say is going to happen… They must show that Voldemort’s coming back… Bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me… I suppose that’s written in the stars as well.”
Well, well, well. Now that I look back I see that in Book One JK wrote about a prediction made concerning Harry, Voldemort, returning to power, death, and war… now, doesn’t that seem similar to a prophecy made by Trelawney revealed in Ootp, and another one made by her to Harry in PoA. Surprisingly enough, not only have both the Centaurs and Trelawney made the same predictions, but also they both believe that Harry will die.
The idea of Harry and Voldemort battling has been ongoing from the very beginning but because we didn’t have a deep enough understanding of the relationship between Harry and Voldemort. We, like Harry, connected the Centaur’s conversation to the finding of the Sorcerer’s Stone and not to the big picture. But now that we have been explained the Lost Prophecy we understand its meaning and significance for the rise or fall of Voldemort in Books Six and Seven.
Point 3: Not a Complete Condemnation to Death
Even with the Centaur’s cryptic prophecy and the constant onslaught of foreseeing death through every medium by Trewlany I still see hope for Harry.
On page 259, Firenze says to Harry, “Good luck, Harry Potter. The planets have been read wrongly before now, even by centaurs. I hope this is one of those times.” (Another hint that their predictions for Harry are filled with doom.) I like this statement because he explains that Centaur wisdom is not infallible, and that he believes that this will be one of the occasions they will be surprised.
Firenze also says on page 257, “I set myself against what lurks in this forest, Bane, yes, with humans alongside me if I must.” This is the most inspiring quote from this section, and despite the prophecies it made me believe that Harry will live. First off, he explains that he is not giving up in the face of danger, rather he is unifying with other races and determining to fight the good fight no matter what the cost. The major themes of the whole Harry Potter series are determination, sacrifice, overcoming obstacles, and unification between all wizards and creatures (which has come to more prominence in Books Five, Six, and Seven). Firenze’s brave and hopeful actions lead me to believe that the major ideals and themes in the books will lead to Harry’s success.
Also because Firenze is a shining example of the ideals of determination, overcoming obstacles, sacrifice and unification as well as being a positive sign for Harry’s future I see his resurgence in OotP as being a good sign for Harry.
And the whole thing about Trelawney predicting his death every class might just be due to her being a little nutty – even Dumbledore admits that she has only ever had two real predictions.