Harry Potter and the Spoilers you Never Noticed

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

Photograph by  Willian West

Photograph by Willian West

Spoilers are the epitome of first world problems. They ruin our ability to be completely immersed in a film, book, or game because we are constantly waiting for that amazing plot twist or mind-bending awesome thing we heard about to happen. 

J.K Rowling was, at least, kind to her audience when she started dropping spoilers into her work, turning those beautiful books into metaphorical minefields of awe-destroying capabilities. You see, most spoilers in the Harry Potter series (anthology? How long does it have to be to gain anthology status?) are both subtle and require a fairly decent knowledge of subjects such as Latin, History and Astrology. Chances are, most of these went straight over your head at least on your first read through, and if you haven't read the Harry Potter books more than once, I don't even know how you function as a person.

So, without further ado, let's look at some of the hints and clues littered throughout one of the most epic tales ever written. 

Spoilers ahead... Obviously. 

1. The Name Game 

Let's start with one of J.K 's less subtle moments and something that even at the age of 12 ruined some plot twists for me personally. The names of Rowling's wizards and witches are delightfully weird and wonderful. However they are not chosen lightly. Many of the character names carry much greater meanings; meanings that are massive spoilers. 

Take Sirius Black. In his introduction to us in The Prisoner of Azkaban - yes, Potterheads, I know he is originally mentioned in The Philosophers Stone but I'm not counting that as a real introduction - Harry is having a rather bad time of things because he is seemingly being stalked by a death omen. A giant black dog is showing up at the most inopportune moments and causing all manner of near death shenanigans. And what or who could this mysterious dog be? Hmmmm could it be the guy whose name literally means “black dog”? In astrology, Sirius is the brightest star in the Canis Major constellation and is commonly referred to as the Dog Star and, obviously, the “black” element speaks for itself. It honestly drove me to distraction that not even Hermione worked this one out.

Speaking of The Prisoner of Azkaban, when did you first realise that Professor Lupin was a werewolf? Was it when he was mysteriously sick once a month? When the boggart turned into the moon when it faced him? Or, was it the very first moment he was introduced. He might as well have said, ‘hello my name is Werewolf McWolfyson and I am a big hairy werewolf.’ For me, it was pretty much right from the off. Remus, being one of the founders of Rome and raised by a wolf, and Lupin derived from the Latin, Lupinus to mean “of the wolf”. It's like his parents wanted him to get bitten! 

Now I don't mean any disrespect to J.K. I love the thought that goes into her work. I love that Lucius and Arthur are rivals in The Old Tales of King Arthur and how this is paralleled by the work feud the two characters have in Harry Potter. I love that Hagrid comes from the term, “hagridden” which means to be worried and anxious, which he so often is. And, even though it's a bit of a stretch, I like the idea that the name Tom was picked for Voldemort because it originates from Thomas which is Hebrew for twin, and a twin is almost what he creates in Harry when he tries to kill him. Yes, I love all the quirky interesting names, I just wish one or two had been a tad more subtle. 

2. Divination

Now, given divination is basically predicting the future I don't suppose spoilers here should come as any surprise. The great thing about these spoilers is Rowling tends to write off divination, Professor Trelawny, and all the goings on in her class, as a load of mumbo jumbo so we never take the predictions seriously. It's not until we look back later that we realise J.K told us what would happen all along (my god, I love that woman and her fantastic brain).

Let’s start with a prediction right back in the very first book. During The philosophers Stone Harry encounters the centaurs in the forbidden forest. Firenze saves Harry and is given a heck of a Telling off from Bane who says that Firenze must not interfere with what the planets predict. Cue this line from Harry Potter himself:

Bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me...I suppose that's written in the stars as well. 

Can you believe that? Right from the very first book!

Basically, no prediction in Harry Potter can ever be treated as a throw away remark. So, what about Trelawny's batty assessment that when 13 people dine together the first to rise from the table will be the first to die? What a load of silly, superstitious nonsense, right? Well...

When Trelawny first makes this statement in The Prisoner of Azkaban, she refuses an offer from Dumbledore to join them for Christmas dinner because then the table will have 13 people around it. Dumbledore had already stood to pull her out a chair and everything. But wait, what about Scabbers? Ron's rat aka animagus Peter Pettigrew who was at the table with Ron. That means the table already had 13 people and then Dumbledore stood to pull up a chair for Trelawny, and who was the first of that group to die? That's right. Albus flipping Dumbledore.

And this isn't the only time the 13 people at a table rule applies. In chapter five of The Order of the Pheonix, at Grimauld Place, 13 characters sit down to eat and the first to rise is none other than Sirius Black who meets his end later in that same book in the Department of Mysteries.
Then again in The Deathly Hallows once Harry has been rescued from Privet Drive and arrived at The Burrow, 13 characters sit at the table and the first to leave is Remus Lupin, who then later dies at the Battle of Hogwarts. Seems to me like everyone could have done with taking Professor Trelawny just a bit more seriously. 

And don't even get me started on how Harry and Ron predict the events of the Triwizard Cup in their divination homework or how Trelawny sees the element of Voldemort that is within Harry by predicting his birthday to be in midwinter (Voldemort's birthday is 31st December).

3. Wands

The wand lore in Harry Potter is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of the books. I am not ashamed to admit that when I visited the Ollivander's shop at Universal Studios, my inner geek nearly burst with excitement. By the end of the seventh book we are all well aware of the importance of wands but with a little bit of knowledge of mythology, religion and horticulture, you can see how the wands could give away some key moments for their owners.

For example, Harry's wand is made of Holly. Holly is of course prolific in Christian imagery, particularly at Christmas, because it represents the crown of thorns placed on Jesus's head. There are parallels that can be drawn between Harry and Jesus. Jesus was sacrificed by his father for the greater good which is akin to Harry being sacrificed by his father-figure, Albus Dumbledore.

The Pheonix feather core of Harry's wand is symbolic of the ability to conquer death and rise from the ashes. As such, maybe we all should have seen Harry's finest moment coming from the get go. Voldemort's wand also contains a Pheonix feather which might hint at his ability to continually come back from the brink but it is also made of yew, a wood known for its poisonous qualities and often associated with death, not a spoiler but a great bit of detail all the same.

There's all sorts of throw away remarks about wands that actually carry a deeper meaning. Ollivander states that James Potter's wand, 11 inches long, mahogany and pliable, (Lucky Lilly, am I right ladies?) was particularly good for transfiguration, suddenly the fact James managed to become an animagus at such a young age isn't so surprising. 

4. Harry's Status as a Horcrux

Okay, this goes back to the idea that literally nothing Rowling writes is just filler. It's all important, it's all pertinent and if you paid close enough attention you may have worked out that Harry was a Horcrux far earlier than you were meant to.

So let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with the Dursley's. Now at no point in her description of Mr Dursley at the beginning of the Philosopher's Stone does J.K state that he was an abusive arsehole that Delighted in bullying and belittling orphan children. She mentions his dislike of things that aren't "normal" but this hardly seems enough to account for the treatment Harry suffers at the hands of Dursley's. Presumably once upon a time they must have treated him fairly well. He was a baby when he was left with them and signs of neglect on small children tend to flag up issues with Social Services not to mention the fact that Harry is a nice, polite, well-mannered child and presumably the only people that could have produced this well-adjusted young man are the Dursleys. So, what's with the abusive situation we encounter in the books? Well, we see in the seventh book, and a little in the second as well, what the impact of being in close quarters with a Horcrux has on people. They become irritable and paranoid and aggressive. Could this be what happened to the Dursleys? Did they gradually turn on Harry, responding to his innate Horcruxyness? Was this our first clue to Harry's true identity?

Then there's the moment at the end of The Philosopher's Stone where Dumbledore is explaining to Harry why Voldemort couldn't touch him. At one point Harry literally says "so Voldemort left a piece of himself in me?" He hits the nail on the head way back then in the very first book. Why were we a so surprised by this revelation again? 

But Rowling didn't leave it there, she kept dropping hint after hint and some of us still didn't see it coming. In The Chamber of Secrets Harry finds Riddle's diary and feels like he knows the name: 

And while Harry was sure he'd never heard the name T.M Riddle before, it still seemed to mean something to him, almost as though Riddle was a friend he'd had when he was very small, and had half forgotten.

And that's before you even consider Harry and Voldemort's shared abilities and mental link.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that J.K Rowling is a master story teller and her attention to detail is second to none. After all, she even tried to tell us about Snape's feelings for Lilly right in the very first potions lesson. Snape, in an apparent attempt to humiliate Harry, asks him, "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?" Now asphodel is a type of Lilly, usually reserved for gravesides and wormwood symbolises absence and bitter sorrow. There you have it, right from the beginning she was telling us of Snape's grief over losing Lilly. God damnit J.k, you wonderful genius, I salute you!