Sunday, July 24, 2005

Following your destiny or choosing your path

Those of you who have yet to read/finish the latest Harry Potter book might want to avoid this post as it does contain some spoilers.

I watched Whale Rider again this afternoon. This is a fabulous movie about a young Maori girl, Paikea, who is the youngest descendant of the tribe chieftan. Her twin brother dies in childbirth, and she believes it is her destiny to fulfil the role of chief when her grandfather Koro, the current chief, is no longer able to take the role. However, Koro, like any Maori chief, does not accept that a girl can be the tribe's chief, and he begins teaching the first-born sons of the tribe's other families, hoping to find his successor from amongst them. In the end, though, Paikea proves herself to be the rightful successor to Koro.

This got me thinking about the whole issue of following one's destiny or choosing one's path, in particular in relation to the Potterverse. It's quite clear that J K Rowling doesn't really believe in destiny/fate, whereas Tolkien quite clearly did. No doubt this is in part due to their individual personal beliefs; Tolkien was a lifelong Roman Catholic, so the idea of fate or someone guiding events, so that Frodo is "meant to have the Ring", is a very natural one for him. Tolkien believes in the hand of God guiding individuals. Rowling, however, does not appear to accept this; near the beginning of the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore tells Harry "It's our choices [...] that show what we truly are..." (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 245 UK edition). And in the latest book, Dumbledore tells Harry that he has a choice about or not to accept the prophecy that was made: "you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your back on the prophecy" (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, p. 479 UK edition). Of course, Voldemort is equally free to choose not to kill Harry, but it is not in his nature to make that choice. In his desperate desire to be immortal, he feels he has to kill Harry in order to avoid being killed by him.

Harry, of course, is not the only one who makes choices. At the end of Half-Blood Prince, he tells Ron and Hermione that he won't be coming back to Hogwarts the following year, even if it does re-open, because he has to find the remaining Horcruxes. Ron tells Harry that he and Hermione will go with Harry to find them. Harry starts to object, but Hermione points out that Harry had given them the choice once before, to turn back and they had not taken it, so they would not be taking it now (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, p. 607 UK edition). It is my belief that they will not be the only two to make the choice to assist Harry in his final quest. I believe that Ginny will choose to go with them, and that if they sneak off without her, she will find a way to follow them. She tells Harry that she doesn't care whether Voldemort finds out about them and tries to use her to get through Harry, but Harry has already rescued Ginny from Riddle/Voldemort's clutches once before, and he doesn't want to risk it happening again. I don't think that Ginny will be dissuaded from going with or following Harry, Ron and Hermione. Nor do I think she'll be alone in that decision as I believe Neville and Luna will go too. I have this feeling that JKR has developed Neville's character for a reason, and not just for him to play a bit part in a couple of fights with Death-Eaters. I also believe that JKR has created the friendship between Luna and that little group of Gryffindors for a reason, and that it won't end because Harry isn't going to complete his education.

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