The Underground Lake #22: Harry Potter: Attack of the Dueling Book Covers

by Brandon

It is very good to be my ego right now. It had been a few days since I checked my MuggleNet emails. So I check, and I am inundated with all these people asking: “How do you feel about the “underground lake” on the UK completed book cover?” I had no idea what these people were talking about. A quick click took me to MuggleNet where I saw that Bloomsbury had released the completed HBP cover art. My jaw hit the floor. Sitting neatly on the back cover behind what one once assumed was the Pensieve (we’ll get into that later) is a boat on a lake sitting in front of what appears to be a cavernous… umm… cavern. Could this be my precious underground lake? We shall see.

This immediately took precedence over the other editorial I had stewing in the back of my head. I opened a word document… but then I paused. “This is the wrong time to get ahead of myself,” I thought. After all, I know the format of the US book covers, but the UK covers were virgin territory. Possessing no UK copies, I instantly took to Yahoo! and found as many back covers of the US and UK editions (I discovered that the US hardback and paperback back covers are not the same) as I could. I compared and contrasted the US and UK editions and noticed several trends. I submit for your entertainment and consideration: ATTACK OF THE DUELING BOOK COVERS!


For the Harry Potter book, as with any book, the cover is the representative of the novel is a whole. A good cover must instantly tell ‘A’ story but not ‘THE’ story. Careful analysis of the cover prior to delving into the novel will allow one’s predicting capabilities to increase exponentially.

Before going into my comparison and contrasting, here are a few general comments about the two main versions of novel covers. For books One through Four, the American cover is relatively abstract, piecing together several images from different parts of the novel into a collage of sorts that act as bread crumbs. For UK books One through Four, the covers are very specific, showing in full detail a particular scene from the novel that in my opinion – though important – does not tell the story of the novel the way the American covers do. Let’s dive in, shall we?


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone
– In US Book 1, on the front we have Harry on his broom chasing a Snitch. Behind him on the left is a unicorn and on the right is Fluffy inside of Hogwarts. Way off in the distance are Quidditch players on the pitch playing a rousing game. – In UK Book 1, we have a very detailed depiction of Harry at platform 93/4 in front of the Hogwarts Express.
– On the back, we have an owl with a Hogwarts acceptance letter. We know that it can’t be Hedwig because it’s not white and Harry never gets regular post during his first year (aside from his broom). Next to it is an old man wearing a purple cloak, whom I only can assume is Dumbledore since it can’t really be anyone else. And below, I believe, is one of our flying keys. While the UK edition doesn’t give us the barrage of images that the US does, it does give us one crucial piece of information that the US leaves out: HOGWARTS! Nowhere on the front or back covers of the US edition is Hogwarts mentioned. Now in both cases we still don’t know what Hogwarts is, but as a literary device we know that trains symbolize journey and transition. The fact that the train is the “Hogwarts” Express let’s us know that Harry is going to some place called Hogwarts (kinda like the Orient Express takes you to the Orient). And though I have not read the inside jacket book description, if it mentions a school you can bet that it’s Hogwarts.
But who is this guy on the back? Some random wizard? Is it Dedalus Diggle perhaps? Surely that can’t be the Brit interpretation of Dumbledore? Quirrell? SNAPE? In either case he takes the spine power position.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
– Book 2 is even slyer. We have the title written in blood just like Ginny will do with all the heir of Slytherin messages. We have Harry hanging on to Fawkes’ tail (showing us that phoenixes can carry heavy loads). We have the basilisk slithering in the chamber. On the back we have Ron and Ginny being carried along with a petrified looking Mrs. Norris. – We’ve got Harry, Ron and Hedwig in the Ford Anglia. We then realize that this car is flying. We also realize that the red Hogwarts Express so prominent on the UK Book 1 cover is zooming along below them, the obvious implication: the boys missed the train. Wonder what that’s all about?
– On the back we have Hogwarts Castle, but from this we get no real indication of the story.
– Hedwig takes the spine power position.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

– I love the PoA cover art. We have Harry and Hermione (funny aside, when I bought the book before I read it, I thought that was Ginny!) on Buckbeak. Buckbeak is now another strange creature on the cover of a book. More importantly, Buckbeak has a chain around his neck, the implication being that he was freed. – On the UK edition is a very cool picture of Harry and Hermione on Buckbeak in front of A FULL MOON! Coincidence? I think not. After all, in my opinion, Lupin was a far more important character than Sirius in PoA. Yes, Sirius WAS the prisoner of Azkaban. But who taught Harry the Patronus? Who let Harry keep the Marauders Map? Who was the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Hogwarts had seen in recent memory? Who was really keeping the best secret?
– Below them in the window (the twelfth window perhaps), is an ominously silhouetted Sirius (our prisoner of Azkaban). – The back is kind of tricky. Is it a very menacing looking Sirius, or could it perhaps be a transformed Lupin? Even at his most intimidating, Sirius never looked that scary. But we know there is some sort of canine/lupine creature featured in the book. The same creature takes the spine power position.
– On the back, even cooler, are the Dementors. In the back left we have the Whomping Willow and below it is Padfoot. And who is that running toward him, but Crookshanks?
– The sleeves are very informative. On the left we have a little rat – obviously our trusty Scabbers – but what is really noticeable is the silhouette. It’s ratlike, yet…
– On the right, we have Harry’s patronus.
– This cover has very succinctly given us all the necessary bits needed to grasp the novel. After looking at the artwork, suddenly a vague chapter title called “Cat, Rat, and Dog” seems to leap out.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
– The GoF cover shows several nice little nuggets. All four champions are represented on the cover, as well as a cleverly hidden Sirius on the right and what looks like the legs of an acromantula on the left. Harry is holding his golden egg while surrounded by the Hungarian Horntail. In the distance is the onlooking crowd, but what is most interesting is the hooded figure in the upper left. Now it looks like the dementors from the Book 3 cover, yet aside from the boggart, there were no dementors in Book 4. Could it be a Death Eater? Or perhaps even You-Know-Who? – On the cover we have Harry trying to get his golden egg.
– On the rear, we have the Beauxbatons carriage, the Goblet of Fire, and the head of a strange creature that could be the head of the dragon though it looks more like Dragonite from Pokemon, than a Hungarian Horntail. – In the spine power position is an owl statue. What precisely this has to do with GoF, I have no clue. Nor do I understand the random Hogwarts hallway on the back cover. I guess they figured the front cover was so cool that the back was negligible.
– What you might miss is in the center. TWO RED EYES! Who do they belong to? I’ll give you two guesses, but you’ll only need one.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
– The OotP cover is very interesting due to the fact that it is the first American cover to show Harry and ONLY Harry in an isolated scene. There is no visual montage of objects dealing with different parts of the book. It is Harry in the Department of Mysteries… ALONE. Plus that cool blue is very dark and menacing. – This is another first for the Brits in that Harry doesn’t appear on the cover OF HIS OWN BOOK! Fawkes takes the stage because after all the title of the book is “Order of the Phoenix.”
– The back cover (not shown here) shows Lupin, Tonks, and Moody standing in a doorway looking very cool and intimidating. – The back cover shows the fountain at the Ministry of Magic in its impressive glory with a very cool rendering of the MoM hallway in the background.
– In the spine power position is one of Fawkes’ feathers, a sign of communication for the Order; while also being important to Harry and Voldemort’s wands as well.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
– This one follows in the tradition of Book 5 in that it is an isolated scene of Harry and “Dumbledore” (we’ll assume Albus for right now, but we can’t forget that there is another Dumbledore that I’m still waiting to meet). – I have to say this is the fist time for me that the Brit cover truly beats the US cover and it is for several reasons.
– They are over what appears to be a Pensieve, but now I’m not so sure. – The cover shows a more active Harry and “Dumbledore” (also this is the first time I recall Albus Dumbledore in such ratty clothes; he is usually in very ornate, very magestic attire; though he is wearing the half-moon spectacles) with the fire and the magic. This fire resurfaces on the jackets with the two arms wreathed in flame. One is most likely Harry, but who is the other?
– They are over what appears to be a Pensieve, but now I’m not so sure. – The back interests me the most. It is here that first got me thinking that it was perhaps NOT a Pensieve. As you can see, it is affixed to the stand it is on. All previous descriptions of the Pensieve, have it a rather large basin. This looks more like the Mirror of Galadriel than anything else.
– We have yet to see the back of the US cover. – Then we have a boat on a body of water (we’ll call it “a lake”) with a cavernous wall in the background. Where the heck are they?
– In the spine power position we have a ring with a black gem that is either cracked OR bears a symbol that to me looks remarkably similar to a certain someone’s lightning bolt shaped scar.


So what does all this tell us? What does it all imply for the new book? Well, honestly, not a whole lot. The cover trends changed as you can see above. Yet they all still have one thing in common: they get us in the mood. We instantly start asking questions and making predictions about what is to come. For example, the UK book with the exception of Five, always depict a particular scene. So who are “Dumbledore” and Harry using their little fire spin spell against and why? I don’t know. But my column has never really prided itself on absolute fact. Therefore I shall do what I do best: speculate.

1. The Ring

I feel that the ring belonged to the “Half-Blood Prince.” I believe that the “Half-Blood Prince” was a nickname for someone who may not actually be royalty. The founders of the school built Hogwarts CASTLE, according to Professor Binns. Why then call it a castle and not a school? I believe that the Half-Blood Prince is…(*mom calling from upstairs*)(*returns from putting his dishes away*)…Sorry I lost my train of thought. You didn’t actually think I would tell you who the HBP was, did you? Shame. How many times do I have to say that I don’t care who the HBP is? God, you guys are nosy. Tell you what. I will tell you who I think it is in one of my five editorials (but not this one). Suffice it to say, he’s relatively important. And I think the ring belongs to him.

2. The Lake

What I just realized is that if I tell you where I think the lake and basin are, I will have given away who I think the HBP is. Suffice it to say, we’ve been there before, and I can’t wait to go back though I think Harry might not want to.

3. The “Fake Pensieve”

I thought it was the Pensieve, but now I don’t think so. But I think it is a close relative of the Pensieve. It is my contention that it is a device that either holds magical history, untainted by personal prejudices (see my last editorial) so that Dumbledore can give Harry a valuable history before he dies so that Harry can know how to kill Voldemort. My other theory is that it can see into the future and it will somehow explain how the heck Dumbledore knows everything (again, Mirror of Galadriel anyone, though I think JKR is too clever to copy JRRT).

4. The Fire

I think Harry is gonna learn something new. I feel that this fire is not really fire but energy – powerful energy. I think that Harry will learn to wield “the power the Dark Lord knows not” and use it instead of letting it be a reactionary force. Either that or it’s some kind of body switching thing like on that episode of Buffy when Faith and Buffy switched bodies… GEEK ALERT!

Well, that’s all for today folks. One down, four to go. I am currently embarking on my PRE-BOOK BLITZ. I have started Book One and I’m going all the way through and will hopefully finish Five before Six comes out. Until next time, remember THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION!