Break the Code: Alphanumeric Codes!

Ministry of Magic

Let’s have another try at code breaking.  Last time we figured out the words above the Mirror of Erised (Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi).

Today we are going to discover what the number 6—2—4—4—2 means.  These are the numbers Mr. Weasley dials 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.

To get into the Ministry of Magic for Harry’s trial, Mr. Weasley takes Harry to the visitor’s entrance, which is “an old red telephone box, which was missing several panes of glass.”  (OP 125)   Mr. Weasley reaches over Harry and dials in “six . . . two . . . four . . . and another four . . . and another two . . .” (125).  It works and Harry and Mr. Weasley gain entrance to the Ministry of Magic!  (126)

And later on, when Harry flies to the Ministry of Magic with his friends on the thestrals, they land at the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic (767). All six rescuers squeeze into the telephone box and enter the code Harry remembers the number (62442) and Ron, at Harry’s direction, has him dial in the number.  A friendly sounding female voice asks them to state their names and purpose, and badges arrive stating their names and the purpose of their visit, and after doing so they are allowed to enter (768).

So, what do the numbers mean?

Time for code breaking!

ANALYSIS: Why 62442? Time to use logic! Let’s first try assigning letters of the alphabet to the numbers: 1 being A, 2 being B, and so on. Do we get anything?

A B C D E

1 2 3 4 5

6        F

2        B

4        D

4        D

2        B

 

Applying 62442, we get F B D D B. Not much there.

Let’s think some more. Any ideas?

Let’s apply situational analysis. Where are they?

At the visitor’s entrance. Yes, yes. But what are they physically in?

A phone booth! Very good!

So what do you think?

Any thoughts on how to break the code?

Phone numbers, you say? But phone numbers usually have seven numbers, like 555–5555.

What’s that? Oh! You want to apply the letters that are on each number key on the phone itself! Sure, that makes sense!

Any readers out there who have texted someone by using the numeric keys?

Let’s add to our list the letters assigned to each number:

6        M N O

2        A B C

4        G H I

4        G H I

2        A B C

See anything?

6        M N O

2        A B C

4        G H I

4        G H I

2        A B C

 

MAGIC!

Isn’t this great? J. K. Rowling never tells us how to break the code, but by using logic we can decode the password for the Ministry of Magic visitor’s entrance!

Code breaking, you see, is very much like magic!

Death, Dreams, and Prophecies: How J.K. Rowling paid Homage to the Bard

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

Yes, on April 23, 2014, Shakespeare turns 450 years old!

Celebrations are occurring all over the world, particularly in England, which makes it a great time to discuss some of the many Shakespeare references in the Harry Potter series.

First, let’s discuss Harry’s nightmares about Cedric’s death in Order of the Phoenix:

Harry Potter: Hey Big D. Beat up another 10 year old?

Dudley Dursley: This one deserved it.

Harry Potter: Five against one. That’s very brave.

Dudley Dursley: Well you’re one to talk, moaning in your sleep every night. At least I’m not afraid of my pillow. “Don’t kill Cedric!” Who’s Cedric, your boyfriend?

Dudley’s taunting is immediately followed by a dementor attack which makes Harry’s fears and nightmares come alive even as he seems to approach a kind of death at the hands of the dementors. This brings to mind that famous Hamlet quote that conflates death and dreams:

To sleep – perchance to dream.  Ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause.

Hamlet, Act III, Sc. 1, line 73-76.

And then there’s the passage in Macbeth where Banquo cannot sleep for fear of what he may dream:

A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,

And yet I would not sleep, Merciful powers,

Restrain in me the cursèd thoughts that nature

Gives way to in repose.

Macbeth, Act II, sc. I, ll. 6-9.

At this point in Macbeth, Banquo cannot sleep because he is afraid of the prophecy given to Macbeth in the form of a riddle by three witches known as the weird sisters.

Witches, prophesies, riddles?  Sound familiar? Keep in mind that the Order of the Phoenix is the book in which Harry finally learns about the prophecy that led to his parents’ deaths.

Lest you think we are reading too much into all of this, do you remember the name of the band that plays at the Yule Ball?

You guessed it! The Weird Sisters (GF 419, OP 286, 867, H-BP 316)

Need even more proof? Check out this excerpt from HARRY POTTER AND THE ART OF SPYING:


The Background of J. K. Rowling

As you may already know, Joanne Kathleen Rowling—who was born on July 31, 1966 (which would be Harry’s birthday, fourteen years later!)—attended Wyedean Comprehensive School, a middle school. She did quite well there; she was popular and outgoing and got good grades. In what we would call her eleventh year, at Stratford-upon-Avon, Rowling saw her very first play, Shakespeare’s King Lear, and was “absolutely electrified by it”—her words. She also saw The Winter’s Tale, featuring a character named Hermione!

Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Art of Spying by Lynn M. Boughey and Peter Earnest (forthcoming September 2014).

This information is derived from Marc Shapiro’s J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter 17, 34, 38–39, 48, 64 (2007), and Lindsey Fraser’s Conversations with J. K. Rowling, 31–32 (2000).


So tip your hat, cloak, or wand not only to the Bard, but to J. K. Rowling’s wonderful use of Shakespeare throughout the series!

Want to know more?

Shakespearegirl has a lot to say about the similarities between Rowling’s tale and Shakespeare’s plays.