The Underground Lake #41: Attack of the Dueling Book Covers Again: The Redux

by Brandon

I am pre-empting the afore-promised “Underground Theory” because of some breaking news. We’ve waited and waited and it arrived. The cover. The precious cover. I’m officially ready. I’m so in the mood now. It’s as if all the HP lights in my brain that had been dormant for five months suddenly clicked on at the same time sending me into a tale spin of creative invention, priming me to muse once more on the wonderful Harry Potter. I decided to dust off my original Attack of the Dueling Book Covers entry, correct my predictions on HBP and add the new section for Deathly Hallows. I, therefore, submit for your entertainment and consideration: THE REDUX: ATTACK OF THE DUELING BOOK COVERS AGAIN!


For a Harry Potter book, as with any book, the cover is the representative of the novel as 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 comparing 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

On US book one, 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.

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 the flying keys.

On UK book one, you have a very detailed depiction of Harry at platform 9¾ in front of the Hogwarts Express.

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 cover 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). Even 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? Quirell? SNAPE? In either case he takes the spine power position.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

CoS 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.

In the UK edition, 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 one 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.

Below them in the window (the twelfth window perhaps), is an ominously silhouetted Sirius (our prisoner of Azkaban).

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 of are very informative. On the left – we have a little rat, obviously our trusty Scabbers. However, 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.

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 that 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?

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.

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 three cover, yet aside from the boggart there were no dementors in book four. Could it be a death eater? Or perhaps even You-Know-Who?

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.

What you might miss is in the center. TWO RED EYES! Who do they belong to? Give you two guesses but you’ll only need one.

On the UK cover, we have Harry trying to get his golden egg.

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.

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.

The back cover (not shown here) shows Lupin, Tonks, and Moody standing in a doorway looking very cool and intimidating.

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 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 & Voldy’s wands as well.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blook Prince

Now that we have read the book, we can say what each of these elements actually are. Or can we?

Harry and Dumbledore are either in front of the Pensieve or they are attempting to retrieve the false Merope’’s locket from the cave. My money would be on second option, but a great deal of the book has Harry and Dumbledore in front of a Pensieve but as they usually enter the Pensieve via Dumbledore’s desk, I’d say that the best guess is that this is indeed the hiding place of the fake locket.

On the back cover, not shown here, we have Ron, Hermione, and Ginny staring up at the dark Mark above the “lightning-struck tower”. The fact that this is the back reinforces the inference that the front is indeed in Voldemort’s cave and NOT the Pensieve.

On the British cover, there is no mistake. A freshly revived Dumbledore having ingested Voldemort’s potion (that might have been cooked up by a certain Potions-Master we all know and despise – a theory I’ve been working on) has conjured fire to protect he and Harry from the unseen Inferi that are headed toward them.

On the back we see the boat leading of course to the vessel containing the locket and the potion.

The sleeve shows the arms of TFP and Narcissa Malfoy making the Unbreakable Vow.

In the spine power position – we have Marvolo’s ring: a Horcrux, but more importantly a DESTROYED horcrux, outlining the importance of the concept.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This cover has a lot more going on than meets the eye. The front cover has Harry alone reaching out for something. Expanding the whole picture reveals Voldy looking up and gesturing to the same thing. Whatever it is, they BOTH appear to be doing it together.

What interests me is that neither are using their WANDS. Of course, they are both aware that their wands are useless against each other (yet Ollivander is still missing…) but why, if they are fighting are they not facing each other?

And who are the figures behind them? We cannot make out any faces so it is unclear whether Ron, Hermione, Ginny, or any of the Order or DA are with Harry, to back him up, and likewise, we can make out none of the Death Eaters as well. I think I know where they are (for the answer see Underground Theory). But for me – the primary concern is what they are both looking at and reaching out for. Is it a horcrux? Is it some other magical object? Might it be a wand? – Everyone notice: Harry is still wearing the fake locket around his neck as a talisman. *Tear for Dumbledore.*

The UK cover is strange on many levels. We have Harry, Ron, and Hermione, together in some sort of treasure vault (might my prediction about a showdown in Gringotts come true?). Careful viewers will see what appears to be a House-Elf behind Harry, brandishing a sword. Is it Dobby or is it Kreacher? Kreacher is bound by magical law to serve Harry, but I wouldn’t trust Kreacher to go into battle with me. His hand is on Harry’s shoulder so I would hope it’s helpful Dobby, but my gut tells me its Kreacher. I believe at this point it is common knowledge that my belief is: Kreacher was present with R.A.B. as the theft of the locket.

Harry’s left arm is cut and bleeding. What has his right arm been up to?

Next – what’s up with the crazy robes being worn by Hermione and Ron, they look almost like royalty. Might this have to do with Harry’s crazy dream in OotP about Hermione and Ron being royalty? What is with the silvery almost diamond colored suit of armor? Why are they there and what are they looking for?

On the right spine (in real life left spine), we see Harry’’s faithful Patronus looking quite proud. This signifies to me a good omen.

The back is intriguing. There is a full moon. This means Lupin and Fenrir are no doubt wolved out. Is the building Hogwarts? The architecture is not consistent with the Hogwarts featured on the Chamber of Secrets back cover. There is a gnarly looking tree that could be the Whomping Willow. But the building looks white and almost icy and Hogwarts on the Brittish covers are always a sandy color (though it could just be due to the moonlight. The clouds are a harbinger of doom. Actually, the clouds look a lot more like smoke than anything else. Could this building be Azkaban (we still haven’t been there)? I think it’s a castle which goes along with the treasure and the royal robes sported by Ron and Hermione.

We seem to have a snake in an orb on the other flap. Could this be a prophecy ball? Or a basilisk egg under x-ray vision? Perhaps it’s Voldemort’s Patronus – though I don’t think dementors would want Voldy’s soul because he only has a fraction of one. Either way it’s creepy.

On the spine power position…I’m stumped. It’s a triangle with a circle inside and a line through it. I have no bloody clue what it is. It could be an Ancient Rune. Minus the line, it resembles the Christian symbol for eternity with the symbol for the Trinity. Whatever it is, it’s a symbol of some importance, I’d wager.


I was looking back at the analysis section of the previous Attack of the Deuling Book Covers and realized one thing: I WAS WAAAAAAAAAY OFF! I didn’’t come anywhere close. The only thing that made the slightest bit of sense was this statement: “…magical history, untainted by personal prejudices so that Dumbledore can give Harry a valuable history before he dies so that Harry can know how to kill Voldemort.” In the see of wrong that was my last analysis, the one thing I got right was perhaps the most important part of book six because that is what Dumbledore’s whole goal was the entire book.

I did however realize why I was wrong. I didn’t take into account the creation of a whole new concept so late in the game. We though there was nothing else new we would need to know about the HP universe after book five. Then she drops the Horcrux on us and suddenly everything changes. So now based on what I see, I shall jump into the wildest speculation thus far.

  1. The ColosseumOn the US cover, Voldy and Harry and the faceless masses are in some arena-looking building. There is rubble and curtains. It’s cracked and run down. The fire in the sky is unnatural for any normal time of day. Even taking artistic license, most of the covers though they have a rich color scheme still keep their colors in some basis of reality (the green in GoF signifies the maze; the dark blue of OotP is because of the blue-candled circular room in the Dept. of Mysteries). I think this arena is… the subject of my next editorial. Suffice it to say, I don’ think it’s a place on Earth – OUR Earth anyway.
  2. The Shadowy FiguresAgain, to reveal this is to reveal where I think we are – so again reference Underground Theory. I will say that not all of those “shadowy figures” are alive in the textbook sense of the word.
  3. The Treasure ChestI said it ages ago – but I think something will go down at Gringotts. It is logical to assume that when Voldy was still masquerading as Tom Riddle, back in the day, he could have set up an account at Gringotts and gotten one of those dragon-guarded vaults for his Horcrux. Or perhaps it is a room in the castle on the back of the book.
  4. The Castle on the HillWhat always throws me off about the Brittish covers is the fact that things, as they draw them, don’t look as you imagine them to. I still don’t know who that guy on the back of the Brittish book one is. So it is possible that this castle is just a really funky looking Hogwarts. I’m hoping not. I REALLY want it to be Azkaban, in order to corroborate my theory that we will finally see Azkaban. I admit it is way too bright looking to be Azkaban but I really hope I’m right.
  5. The Triangle with the Circle and the LineIt’s someone’s symbol. Who’s? I haven’t the foggiest. The only Spine power positions that don’t really make sense are the two owls: book 2 and book 4. The odds are in my favor that this symbol has something to do with the story. Perhaps its an ancient rune seen on the dias of the veil? I don’t know if the magical world believes in Jesus (I don’t think JKR is gonna have Harry pull a Christ allegory on us but it is a valid literary device), but it is partially the Christian symbol representing the Trinity and eternity. With that, I think maybe it has something to do with the veil.

Well – those are my musings on the cover. In the works, in light of this summer being the “Summer of Sequels,” I shall do a sequel of my own in the form of another Official Readers Guide. Until next time, the wheels are in motion!