Oliver Wood, Our Knight of Swords
Oliver Wood – driven, competitive, ambitious, and a bit manic – is notorious for putting Quidditch before, well, everything else. These traits are reminiscent of those of the Knight of Swords tarot card, who meticulously plans his pursuits before acting with determined tenacity. Almost every time we encounter Oliver in the books, he’s in a frenzy trying to make sure that Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup. Whether he’s waking his players at the crack of dawn for practice, practicing in poor conditions, stalking Harry between classes to talk strategy, or putting the team’s victory before the team’s safety, Oliver always has a clear goal that he means to see through no matter the cost.
In tarot, the suit of Swords is the suit of the mind. It represents intellectual pursuits: studying, planning, conceptualizing, and strategizing. While we don’t know much about Oliver’s academic strengths, we do know that he is one heck of a speechwriter, even if he uses the same speech annually to pump up his players. And we certainly know a bit about his strategic efforts as captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
A common attribute of the Knight of Swords is that he can get so wrapped up in his own plans and strategies that he can be quite oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of those around him. The first time we meet Oliver in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, he seems thoroughly uninterested in Harry until McGonagall tells him that Harry caught Neville’s Remembrall after a 50-foot dive. Then, Wood begins talking about Harry and his perfect Seeker’s build as though Harry weren’t standing right there. This is an example of how Oliver exhibits the Knight of Swords’s tactless nature when focused on his own goals.
Another instance of this behavior is in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. One Saturday morning, Wood unexpectedly wakes the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team at dawn for their first practice and spends most of their time discussing the new tactics he devised over the summer holidays. His team is groggy and barely attentive, but Wood takes no notice, just as the Knight of Swords would take no notice if his comrades dozed off during a discussion of his battle strategies.
The Knight is the most driven of the entire suit of Swords, letting nothing stand in the way of his goal. When in a negative or manic place, this Knight is often short, irate, unsympathetic, and thoughtless. A scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban exhibits one of Wood’s more thoughtless moments. He recounts to Harry his conversation with Professor McGonagall about Harry’s Firebolt:
‘Bad news, Harry. I’ve just been to see Professor McGonagall about the Firebolt. She – er – got a bit shirty with me. Told me I’d got my priorities wrong. Seemed to think I cared more about winning the Cup than I do about you staying alive. Just because I told her I didn’t care if it threw you off, as long as you caught the Snitch on it first.’ Wood shook his head in disbelief. ‘Honestly, the way she was yelling at me … you’d think I’d said something terrible….’ (244-45)
Oliver’s disregard for Harry’s safety at this moment is an example of the Knight of Swords’s sincere need to win. It isn’t that Wood doesn’t care for Harry – quite the opposite, actually – it’s just that his ultimate concern is winning the Quidditch Cup for Gryffindor. All that he strives for and all that he does is in the interest of this ultimate goal.
The Knight of Swords is also known for facing his opponents valiantly. The image of this card, like the painting of Sir Cadogan, shows a knight astride his steed charging into some unseen battle, his eyes fierce and determined. His eyes, in particular, make me think of Oliver. Several times throughout the series, Wood is described as looking manic or having bulging eyes when speaking to his team, and every time he shakes the hand of another Quidditch captain, he meets their eyes boldly before kicking off into the air.
Oliver’s valiance resides not only in his eyes but also in his conduct. When defending the Gryffindor goal posts, Oliver never plays dirty despite the fact that other teams sometimes cheat (cough cough, Slytherin, cough cough). No, if Oliver is going to win a Quidditch match, it is going to be through his own careful, legitimate planning and his stellar skills as captain and Keeper.
Though Oliver has proven on multiple occasions to be both tactless and reckless, he’s still lovable, relatable, and honorable. After all, he did return to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts alongside his former teammates, displaying once again his fierce dedication and loyalty. His loyalty, along with his manic-panic strategist tactics, is why we love our first Gryffindor Quidditch captain, our Knight of Swords, Oliver Wood.