Tearing Apart the HBP Covers

by Sam Barrett, Andrya Evans, Alex Rendon, and Corrie B.

First, let me say that the new cover is both exciting and intriguing. My analysis will address all three book covers released today — the American version, the UK children’s, and the UK adult’s.

So, starting with the American, what we see on the cover is Harry and, presumably, Dumbledore, looking down at a slightly cracked, stone bowl resting on a pedestal. Dumbledore holds his right hand suspended above the bowl, and Harry holds up his wand in his left hand. Green light is issuing from the bowl, which illuminates Harry and Dumbledore’s faces, and green mist swirls around them, making the background unclear.

Alex Rendon adds: I did a Google search to look at what green can mean. It means life, abundance, and renewal. Does this mean that someone could be renewed, or that a new family member comes into the story? Does it mean that someone we thought was dead lives on? *coughcough* It can also mean envy, jealousy…Can our favorite redhead be more jealous of Harry than usual? Did Harry get some kind of promotion to cause it? The last meaning of green is inexperience. Maybe someone inexperienced could play an important role? (Neville, anyone?) The other color on this book jacket that I am concerned about is purple. Purple can mean spirituality and royalty. Since the book is titled The Half-Blood Prince, we can be pretty sure that there is a theme of royalty in the book. As for the spirituality part, could the afterlife of wizards finally be revealed? Keep in mind that many things can be hidden in colors.

Corrie B. adds: We know that the first three books are happy books. Harry doesn’’t really have any big things to think about, such as Cedric Diggory’’s death. Thus, the first three books are all brightly colored and use many different colors. At the end of GoF, Harry has some serious thinking to do. He becomes angsty and troubled throughout the whole of OotP, becomes moody and not quite as carefree as he used to be. His friends aren’t around as much, Dumbledore isn’t giving him any answers, Cedric’s dead and no one believes his story. In the DoM, where the cover scene takes place, all is shrouded in mystery and half truths. The book is more oppressive; Umbridge is oppressive. Therefore, the colors of OotP are shades of blue and black. Blue is the color of calmness, yes, but it’s also mystery, haziness, smog.

The cover of the HBP is very similar to OotP in that the colors used aren’t varied…we see instead predominantly shades of green, yellow and of course, black/purple for hair and shadows. Green and yellow together can either add nature to a picture (green leaves and spring) or sickness, magic or Slytherin. I’’m betting the sixth book, after Sirius’’ death, is not going to be about sunshine and daisies. Again we get a sense of mystery, because of the swirling clouds and the unidentified basin where the light is coming from.

Concerning the “stone bowl resting on a pedestal,” Andrya Evans adds: The plot of the last three books has turned on the properties of a special magical object or spell (Animagi in Book 3, Polyjuice Potion in Book 4, and prophecies in Book 5). That must have posed a problem for JKR — if she suddenly introduces a new magical thing at the climax of the plot, it could seem fake or unconvincing.

JKR solved this problem in a really brilliant way. Each of the key magical concepts for the last three books was introduced casually, not seeming to be important, exactly two books before the book where it really matters. Animagi were introduced with Professor McGonagall’’s cat transformation in Book 1. The trio made Polyjuice Potion in Book 2. Professor Trelawney makes her second prophecy in Book 3, and Dumbledore even refers to the fact that she had made one before. (The plots of the first two books do not turn on a specific magical device, so no preparation was needed.)

So now we have cover art suggesting that a Pensieve is critically important to the plot of HBP. Pensieves were introduced, seemingly a minor diversion, in Book 4, exactly two books previous to HBP. It fits the pattern perfectly.

One more question begs to be asked. If this pattern is going to continue, is there a magical device or concept, introduced in Book 5, which may be the key to the final resolution of Book 7? Unfortunately there is, and the implications are most worrisome. The obvious possibility is the Veil.

Sam Barrett continues: In the first, second and third American covers, Harry’’s hair is blown out of his face. On the fourth, fifth, and now sixth American covers, Harry’’s hair lays flat (well, as flat as Harry’s hair gets) across his forehead. This may be symbolic, as the blown-back hair represents a somewhat carefree, unworried attitude, and the flat hair suggests a more serious approach. Now, I know Harry has done serious and dangerous things in the first three books, but what makes books 1, 2, and 3 differ from books 4, 5, and 6? The appearance of Voldemort, back to full strength. As we all know, Voldemort came back in full in the fourth book, and he still isn’’t gone. The hair is an indicator of Harry taking the threat of Voldemort seriously, as before he always thought of him as far away and in hiding. Not anymore. My guess is that Book 7 will also depict Harry’’s hair flat on his forehead.

Here’’s where the UK children’’s cover and the American cover collide. On the UK children’s cover, Harry and Dumbledore are surrounded by swirling flames, both holding their wands (Harry’s in his right hand, Dumbledore’s in his left). Both wands are raised, and both faces look urgent. If you look closely, between Harry and Dumbledore is a green background.

Lots of green, right?

I think this ties in to Harry’’s eye color, because JKR (bless her) mentioned that we would find out the significance of Harry’’s eyes being green, as were Lily’’s. As I am not sure what the significance of this is, I will leave all of you clever people to ponder that, as you are so good at doing.

Again, Corrie B. adds: Unlike previous covers, Harry is NOT alone on this HBP cover, which is striking because it seems like he should be. But no, Dumbledore is right by his side. Not the trio, not some unknown people, not the Half-Blood Prince (unless Dumbledore is the half-blood prince, but I’’m not going to answer that question here), not Ginny, no odd creatures…just Harry and Dumbledore. Assumptions? Dumbledore is teaching Harry? They’’re forming a closer relationship? Dumbledore is guiding him more? Maybe something big is going to come up concerning Dumbledore, the past, past mistakes or choices. Dumbledore has been a guiding hand in the other books, an unseen force, but in this book it looks like we will see much more of Harry and Dumbledore working together.

Sam Barrett: Dumbledore. He appears on both covers, next to Harry, and he is always taller than him (only slightly on the US version, but still taller nonetheless). Now, this is undoubtedly because Dumbledore, a man well into his years, is almost certainly taller in real life than a 16-year-old boy, especially since Dumbledore is often described as tall and thin. But I think it’’s more than that. In Art History, while we were studying Ancient Egyptian art, we learned about a concept called “Hierarchy of Scale,” which means that the people or objects of greater importance are depicted as taller than those of lesser importance. So, Dumbledore’’s more important than Harry. So what? He always is, right?

Well, I have an unpleasant theory. As much as I hate to say it, as much as I hope that I’m dead wrong, and as much as I would curse JKR forever (after she finished Book 7, of course), I believe that this is the book where we see the end of Dumbledore. He is depicted as more important than Harry because he will play a larger roll in fighting face-to-face with Voldemort, and while everyone thinks that he himself is more important in the fight against Voldemort, Dumbledore knows that, without Harry, there is no hope for the wizarding world. Therefore, I predict that Dumbledore will not live to see the end of Book 6.

Another point, if I may, about the two major deaths that occurred in the last two books: Sirius and Cedric. Again, using the American covers, both of them were ON the covers. Cedric was behind Harry on the fourth book, as well as Fleur and Krum, while Harry was holding the egg and his wand. On the back cover of OotP, Sirius is standing behind Tonks and Moody. Even though there is no one else on the cover with Harry and Dumbledore for HBP, I think that, if the trend continues, it also will apply to Dumbledore.

Now, the adult UK version: very simple, in that it only depicts a tattered, old book on a wooden table. But, upon closer inspection, one can make out that the title is Advanced Potion Making. Highly unusual though it is, I think the potions book may have one, or both, of two implications.

The first is that Harry receives an O.W.L. in Potions, and subsequently takes Snape’’s N.E.W.T. class. Not fun (Editor’s note: Could be). The other aspect is that Snape plays an even bigger role in HBP than he has in the other five books. Well, he’s played a pretty big one so far, but I’’ve heard some pretty interesting theories, one of which stuck out. It is that Snape is, in fact, the half-blood prince. We don’t know much about Snape’s parents, except the slight glimpse we had of them in the Pensieve, but I’m not entirely sure that a Slytherin would be a half-blood. I know Voldemort is, but he also was Slytherin’’s heir, for crying out loud. No, unless Snape had a ferverent pure-blood mania, which is highly unlikely, given to his helping Dumbledore, I think it’s safe that we can rule him out as the half-blood prince.

So, in a nutshell, that is my (and others’) analysis of all three HBP cover versions. Any suggestions or opinions are welcome, so long as they are nice, because we all like nice things. Even if you disagree, I would still be interested in hearing your views. But, right now, all we can do is eagerly await the opening of our local bookstores on an eventful day in mid-July.