Harry Potter and the Epilogue of Controversy

The Epilogue. The much discussed, much dissected, semi-loathed Epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Are you pro or con? I haven’t seen any official polls, but from the little I’ve read and the people I’ve talked to, people seem split about 50-50 on it, and they either love it or hate it. Nobody has said “meh”.

My gut reaction at 3:35 a.m. last Sunday was, “What?! That’s it? That can’t be it!” I had just left Harry and Ron and Hermione in Hogwarts, the school still shaking and grieving and covered in death and victory. The bodies weren’t even cold yet. I had just barely started to breath normally again, my heart still pounding, and then I turned the page and saw there was nothing there. They were gone. Poof. Like magic.

I’m telling you, I felt a cold dread spread over me as my old abandonment issues came back for a visit. How could they just leave me like that? Didn’t they know what I’d been through?

But when I saw more words peeking through the next page my mood swung all the way back to where I thought, “Ah ha! I knew Jo couldn’t just leave it like that. All the last answers must be right here!” But then, those dreaded words… “Nineteen Years Later.” And again, “What the hell? What do you mean 19 years later? Go back, go back! I need to know how George is and if Harry is going to swoop Ginny up in his arms right there in front of everyone and who is going to tell Mrs. Tonks what happened?”

But it wasn’t there.

The Epilogue did give us some nice bits. The fact that Harry considered Dumbledore and Snape equals was touching. We learned that Neville is still at Hogwarts. The rest, well, I think we all kind of guessed there would be a Happy Ever After in there as far as Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny went. But there were just so many other things we wanted to ask, and no answers.

But the more I grumbled, the guiltier I felt. Jo Rowling created an entire world for us – people, places, languages, lore, laws, government, animals, relationships, history. She spent 17 years putting it all together, and I have the nerve to whine that I want more? It’s like those obnoxious snots that go to Jason Mraz concerts and rather than appreciating the stellar set he always puts together, they use every quiet moment to scream, “Rand McNally!” Shut up already and let the boy play!

Besides, after all the little details Rowling managed to weave together, can we honestly believe that she missed the mark because she wasn’t smart enough to know what we wanted? What we expected? Do we really think it had no purpose, or that she threw it together carelessly? I’ve seen a few good theories on the Epilogue, and they go something like this:

1. All Harry ever wanted was a normal life and a family. We had to go into the future to give him that, his final reward. It’s true. He deserves it. And while I don’t really like to think of our gang all grown up, seeing them this way gives us the definintive answer that it all worked out. Voldemort really did die. The world became safe and happy again.

2. Rowling wanted to make sure nobody would expect her to write any more Harry Potter books. By saying that nothing happened for 19 years, we see that there’s no more story for her to tell. Fair enough.

3. Showing us all those kids could be a way of introducing us to the next generation of the Order of the Phoenix. And who knows what they might get into, should Rowling ever decide to go back to that world. The Epilogue works as an ending, but it could also be a new beginning. It’s not a bad thought. Rowling is a clever cookie. I can see where even if she promised herself she would never go back to the wizarding world, that she might still leave herself a little loophole, just in case she feels differently in another ten years or so. I would like to know more about Teddy Lupin. Half warewolf, half metamorph sounds like an awesome combination.

Do any of those explanations make me feel better? Not really. It’s still over, innit? Having someone hand me 100 more pages stolen from some kind of secret stash of Rowling’s with a bunch of post-battle details might help, but at the end of that I’d still feel the same way. Now that it’s all out there Rowling does seem very happy to spill the beans and fill in the holes, but even that’s unsatisfying. I don’t want to just hear, “Oh yeah, Harry and Ron are aurors. The Ministry is completely transformed.” I want to read it. I want to see all the little details. I want to go back to the Burrow and see what Hogwarts looks like and find out if Ollivander opened up shop again in Diagon Alley and knock on the door of Privet Drive one more time.

And I think therein lies our dilemma. Many people have compared finishing the last book to a death, but it’s really more like a break-up, one that you really didn’t want to happen, even though you knew it had to. Because with a death, you tend to look back at a person’s life. With a break-up, you can’t help but look ahead and wonder what might have been, or what the other person is doing now, without you.

We all spent years together, and going into it we knew it wouldn’t last forever, but we couldn’t not fall in love with these characters along the way. We shared things, we fought side-by-side, we were in on all the jokes, we knew who was in love with who long before they realized it themselves. And now we still carry around all those feelings, but there’s nowhere to put them.

One of the things I most clearly remember learning in college was said during a workshop I had to attend to be an RA. The school’s head counselor was giving a seminar on dealing with relationships and break-ups, and the way he defined heartbreak has stayed with me to this day. He said that when a relationship ends, you don’t miss the other person so much as you miss the part of yourself that you gave them. And that feels exactly right.

Sure, we miss Harry and Ron and Hermione and Neville and the others, but we miss our own characters too. We were in those books, right with them through all of their adventures. And when the last page of the last book was turned, that part of us got left there on Platform 9 3/4 next to them.

The experiences we had and the emotions we felt have to stay there; they can’t be carried on to another book, or film, or even a blog, no matter how many words I… er, we, write. We can go back to the beginning and start again, but it won’t be quite the same. So what do we do with those bits of us that got left in the books? Where do they go? What happens to us next? That’s the hole that’s the most difficult to fill.

Thank goodness there’s always the Simpsons, dark chocolate, and J.D. Salinger – a triple threat of warm, comfortable, soul-nurturing goodness.

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5 responses to “Harry Potter and the Epilogue of Controversy

  • pooks

    You know, my problem with the epilogue is that it is simply not well-written. It’s really really bad fanfic. It’s the worst writing in the entire series — and it’s what we’re left with.

    As a writer, I’ve seen a lot of beginning writers do exactly that kind of thing. I did it myself in my first two (unpublished) novels — write an epilogue that I think is wonderful but nobody else will. I got it beaten out of me by more experienced writers.

    I think that’s the most puzzling thing about it to me — that it is a very amateurish epilogue, but she’s no amateur any more, unless we consider that after thousands of pages and seven novels she’s still only finishing her first “world” and maybe still has “new writer” instincts and longings … maybe.

    The idea of an epilogue here was wonderful. It could have accomplished everything you suggest above.

    It just needed to be up to the standard of what came before.

    And I haven’t found a single person I know (writer or not) who liked the epilogue.

  • curbsideprophecies

    Hi,

    You make many valid points, and I can’t dispute them, mostly because I can’t bring myself to read the Epilogue again. I wanted to, I knew I should before writing about it, but I just couldn’t stomach it. It did seem too light, too simple, too silly, but until I read it all from beginning to end again, I won’t be able to really pinpoint where it rubbed me the wrong way, only that it rang hollow.

    Thanks for reading!
    Lisa

  • Crystal Katleen

    I think J.K could do a lot more. She maked us get used to details of every single thing that in the end it all comes together and in the end the epilogue was… nothing (its not easy to say it but i must)she own us a better explanation about Harry, Ron and Hermione´s life after the war. And what about Luna? Draco? the rest of the weasleys? And, my merlin, my dream that will never come true, Hogwarts? She cant not start something so strong, pure, a perfect world that i, and a lot of us fans of Harry Potter, got ourselves living into for years and finish with an “nineteen years later”. I´ve cryed, smiled, felt scary, sad, mad, happy, loved and gog how i´ve loved and end like that. When i get to the last page of the best thing that ever happened in my life named Harry Potter, i got myself not feeling totally happy or complete as i thought i would be. I was full of questions and at the same time empty, because it was over…Forever? I dont know… harry potter is a part of my life, and i thank J.K for that, as i said before is the best thing that ever happened in my life, but i think WE deserve a better end. I love Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Sirius Black Albus Percival Wulfric Bryan Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Minerva Mcgonnal, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Fred and George Weasley, Lily and James Potter, Molly and Arthur Weasley and every single thing that is a part of the world of wizards that JK presented us to. I´m writing to much, but thats what i feel, and what i think that every fan must be feelin… empty
    Crystal Katleen Potter

  • Gemzn

    Am I the only person in the world who enjoyed the epilogue? I mean, I would have loved more details about what happend in those 19 years, but thats how JK intendedit to be. She said in a interview she wanted the readers to feel as they were looking through smoke, i think it was, that we could see things, just not the whole picture, and even though im heartbroken its over, im satisfied with the ending, though it was upbrupt.

    People have likend it to ‘fanfiction’ and i see their point, but i just find that a little insulting personally. I totally support JK in how she finished the novels and it allows me to imagine what happend during those years as the possibilities are now endless, and for me thats part of the fun. If the ending had been too detailed it just wouldnt have felt like the end. I think its more to do with teh fact that it ended as opposed to the epilogue, simply because if JK had ended on the day after the war ended,everyone would have wonderd…well what happend after that? who got toether? etc etc, so most fans would have been unhappy either way simply because it ended.

  • djavocrni

    Even years after reading it, just remembering the ending of that book series gets me down. Everybody different is killed off, remaining people are magically transformed into a single stereotype. Nothing but a perpetual suburban fantasy exists. So much potential wasted.
    What did Dumbledore and others die for? What was the point? A world with no place in it for anybody but a homogeneous blurb of clones you will find in the republican paradise, a Privet Drive That Never Stops.

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