“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 45: “Alchemical Weddings in Harry Potter and Beyond”

Literary alchemy provides clues to the romantic pairings in Harry Potter.



Why did Ron and Hermione, Remus and Tonks, and Bill and Fleur end up paired together? Literary alchemy holds the symbolic answers. Katy and John talk this month with Elizabeth Baird Hardy (Mayland Community College) and Beatrice Groves (Oxford University) about the alchemical pairings of elements that reveal themselves in the Harry Potter series and beyond.

John provides a short explanation of literary alchemy and why certain pairings – mercury and sulfur, for example, represented in Hermione and Ron – are seen as critically important. Humoral combinations (phlegm, black bile, yellow bile, and blood) also symbolically represent the resolution of contraries, central to the alchemical idea of transformation through being broken down (solve) and then joining together again anew (coagula). Elizabeth and Bea connect these alchemical weddings to Shakespeare’s comedies (and Romeo and Juliet) as well as Christian tradition. We discuss not only the Quarreling Couple, but also the Philosophical Orphan – the legacy of a broken romantic coupling, like Harry or Teddy Lupin. Following the orphan through the process of purification, we readers experience the solve et coagula of alchemical transformation ourselves. John explains the big alchemical wedding moment of the series, which may surprise you.

We also look at alchemical pairings in other Rowling works, including the Fantastic Beasts films and Cormoran Strike, and use our understanding of alchemical combinations to predict Newt and Tina’s relationship (the Niffler plays a central role!) as well as Robin’s and Cormoran’s romantic fumblings.

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Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.