Guest Post: JK Rowling’s Christmas Codes and New Content

Today’s post comes to us from Aimee Krenz, a Source Editor from Mugglenet, the world’s #1 Harry Potter site. We thought her expertise would come in handy given JK Rowling’s fantastic new codes and short stories.

MuggleNet header

Like many fans who follow all things Harry Potter, I was excited by the Pottermore announcement that Jo Rowling would be providing us new information on the site this December. Pottermore cleverly came up with a way for fans to “earn” the goods using riddles – and for those of you who have found the Art of Spying a thrilling new way to look at the Harry Potter series, you can appreciate this approach more than most. It’s time to deploy your inner spy and see what you can learn from Jo’s riddles!

In the first riddle, seen below, we’re taken to a Moment in The Half-Blood Prince:

If you recall, Spinner’s End is the home of Professor Severus Snape (a double agent), and also the place where Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange meet in secret with Snape regarding Draco and the secret mission assigned to him by Lord Voldemort. What is revealed after solving the riddle is where Spinner’s End is actually located and how it relates not only to Snape, but to Harry and Lily as well. Cokesworth, the town where Lily and Petunia Evans and Severus Snape grew up, also happens to be one of the places Harry’s uncle Vernon takes them to in The Sorcerer’s Stone to avoid the Owl Post that invites Harry to attend Hogwarts as a First Year student.

Pottermore’s second riddle puts the spotlight on the Weasleys’ joke shop – for those of you spies just starting out, this clue is fairly simple.

Day 2 Pottermore

Fans of the series love the idea of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes and should know exactly where the shop is located. What Jo gives us with the solving of this riddle is the backstory on the location itself: a history of Diagon Alley via The Leaky Cauldron.

The Leaky Cauldron is a place where Harry has gathered a lot of his information about where he comes from and his ongoing battle with Voldemort. This crossroads into the wizarding world is more than just a gateway – wizards and witches from all over Great Britain pass through its doors daily and bring with them important information that Harry and his friends use to help them on their quest to defeat Voldemort.

In the answer to this riddle, Jo provides us the reason why other wizarding villages and magical locations were unseen to the Muggle eye while The Leaky Cauldron was not – the pub was built long before the International Statute of Secrecy was put into effect and was allowed to remain in the same location, with a few concealment charms after the Statute was put into place.

Jo also revealed an almost-key player in Harry’s journey – Florean Fortescue. Florean, the owner of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, was intended to provide Harry with information that ultimately ended up being given by the portrait-dwelling Phineas Nigellus Black (another double agent that we never saw coming!) both inside Grimmauld Place and Hogwarts castle. Florean was unfortunately, a victim of Voldemort during the series, kidnapped and killed off by Death Eaters.

Our third clue, seen below, talks of another Potions master, although not Severus Snape. This time, the riddle hints to another professor closer to Voldemort’s past.

Once this riddle has been solved by answering Professor Slughorn, we are treated to a few more bits of history. First, Jo addresses potions – who can create them and who can’t. Turns out, no matter if a Muggle happened to come across a copy of Moste Potente Potions, they would not be able to create anything even if they had the ingredients. You must be a witch or wizard (and a patient one, at that!) to create a real magic potion. She also tells us that she was rubbish at chemistry in school and this became the subject that her adversary Snape would teach Harry and his friends.

Second, we learn a little about cauldrons. I’d always wondered about the weight of the cauldrons as they are listed as pewter, copper, brass, silver, iron, and gold. It’s like Jo has spies of her own and decided to answer this question for us! The cauldrons have been enchanted to make them lighter for the witch or wizard who has to carry them and include versions that collapse for easy storage.

Clues four and five seemed a bit of a let-down in regards to new information, but did provide us two more Moments in Half-Blood Prince – Katie Bell and the cursed necklace, handed to her in the girls bathroom by Voldemort’s secret agent Draco Malfoy, as well as Dumbledore’s visit to young Tom Riddle at the orphanage.

Pottermore Day 4 Pottermore Day 5

Our sixth clue focused on one of my favorite quirky characters, but once solved, led us again to our favorite and most successful double agent, Professor Snape:

Jo clears up yet another swirling bit of misinformation that has made the rounds in the fandom regarding who or what Snape is – a vampire. She tells us that vampires do exist in the Potter universe, but that other than a brief mention of one at Slughorn’s Christmas party, no one else of mention was in fact a vampire. Jo briefly had a professor at Hogwarts whose name could have led her in that direction, but says she felt she had nothing to add to vampire lore, so left it alone.

That’s it for this week’s blog! I had a tremendous amount of fun exploring Pottermore’s special Christmas riddles and learning more behind the scenes story information from Jo. Check back next week when we discuss the final 6 Pottermore clues!

Break the Code: Decipher the Prophecy!

Prophecy Label

Last time we figured what the number 6—2—4—4—2 means.  These are the numbers Mr. Weasley enters when they go to Harry’s trial in the Order of the Phoenix—and the number Harry later uses to get in to the Ministry of Magic with his friends to rescue Sirius.

In the Order of the Phoenix when Harry reaches the Department of Mysteries, Harry comes over and reviews the card (780) right beneath a prophecy, which states

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.

Dark Lord

and (?) Harry Potter

Remember the Mirror of Erised, where the letters carved into the mirror needed only to be read backwards to reveal its message? Here we have a code based on abbreviations, though Harry does not know it yet.

Does anybody remember what SPT stands for, or ABWBD?

Let’s think about it for a bit. We are dealing with a prophecy, a prophecy about Harry. First of all, who delivered (that is, spoke out loud) the prophecy?

And who heard the prophecy being given?

Perhaps a certain Divinations teacher and a certain Headmaster?

Quite correct you are!

SPTstands for Sibyl P. Trelawney!

And APWBD stands for Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore!

Thus, the abbreviations stand for “Sibyl P. Trelawney to Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore”!   OP 780, 840, 841

But there is more to figure out.

Why is there a question mark? Because the prophecy could apply to Harry Potter, but it could also apply to some other boy born at the end of July whose parents thrice defied Lord Voldemort. And we all know who that boy is, don’t we?

Yes!

Neville Longbottom!

Literary References in Chapter Titles of HARRY POTTER AND THE ART OF SPYING

HP Magnifying Glass

A good spy always looks for hidden meaning in his or her sources. Can you spot the literary references in the Harry Potter and the Art of Spying chapter titles? We’ll start with the first five chapters that include important references.

Chapter 1   Saving Private Dudley—The Spies Among Us

Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic war film set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. The film is notable for its graphic and realistic portrayal of war, and for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which depict the Omaha Beach assault of June 6, 1944. The film follows United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and a squad (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davies) as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen.

 

Chapter 2   How to Get in Trouble Using Magic without Really Trying, Or, I Raise You One Owl and See You Another

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, based on Shepherd Mead‘s 1952 book of the same name. The story concerns young, ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch, who, with the help of the book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, rises from window washer to chairman of the board of the World Wide Wicket Company.

 

Chapter 5   Let History Be Your Guide—The History of the Order of the Phoenix

“Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide” is the debuting single for singer Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) in May 1961. It was also the first release off Gaye’s debut album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, in which most of the material was the singer’s failed attempt at making an “adult” record compared to Motown’s younger R&B sound.

 

Chapter 7   Harry Enters the Lion’s Den, Where the Truth (and Professor Dumbledore) Eventually Sets Him Free

The Lion’s Den refers to the story of Daniel (Radcliff?) in the lions’ den is found in the sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible, and in the lesser known story of Bel and the Dragon in the Greek versions. Daniel is an official in the Persian empire under King Darius. Darius (at the instigation of his other officials) had made a decree that no one was to offer prayer to any god or man except him for a period of thirty days. Daniel continued to pray as was his habit, knowing that praying would have him killed. For this action, Darius had him arrested and thrown into a lions’ den. However, he was unharmed, and after he was released the following morning, the people who had cajoled the king into making the decree (for the sole purpose of getting at Daniel) were thrown into the lions’ den themselves.

The truth shall set you free (Veritas vos liberabitLatin) is a variant of Veritas liberabit vos (the truth shall set you free), verse 8:32 of the Gospel of John. Pilate has the philosopher’s response in verse 18:38: “Quid est veritas?” (“What is truth?”).

 

Chapter 8   The Ministry of Magic as the Queen of Hearts: Sentence First, Trial After—Then Off with Their Heads!

‘Sentence first—verdict afterwards’ and ‘Off with their heads both come from Alice in Wonderland by written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.  The Queen of Hearts is a character from the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by the writer and mathematician Lewis Carroll. She is a foul-tempered monarch.  . . . Alice observes three playing cards painting white roses red. They drop to the ground face down at the approach of the Queen of Hearts, whom Alice has never met. When the Queen arrives and asks Alice who is lying on the ground (since the backs of all playing cards look alike), Alice tells her that she does not know. The Queen then becomes frustrated and commands that her head be severed, stating:

‘Off with their heads!’

Later, the Knave of Hearts is tried for stealing the Queen’s tarts,

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first—verdict afterwards.’

. . .  ‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first—verdict afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

Alice in Wonderland Ch. 12.

Click here for more hidden meaning  in the chapter titles of Harry Potter and the Art of Spying!