Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Order of the Phoenix and Guy Fawkes

Today at the blog of a British friend, I was reminded that 5th November in Britain is Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night.

This in turn stirred up some memories from Harry Potter discussions at the Leaky Lounge between the 6th and 7th book. I had a theory based on some things in the 5th book, The Order of the Phoenix… As it turned out, however, my idea did not quite hit the target. I was not convinced (until the last book) that either Dumbledore or Sirius were actually dead; and that led me a bit astray, hoping that maybe the Order of the Phoenix (these two included) had just sort of gone even more into hiding and would make a reappearance at the last minute. As it turned out in The Deathly Hallows, though... the final fight against Voldemort was mainly to be carried on by the younger generation instead. Although... depending on how one looks at it... Both the Order and the slain heroes did make their sort of reappearance, too... Just not quite the way I had (for a while) imagined it in my head...!

However: Some of the things I picked up while pondering over The Order of the Phoenix are still worth thinking about, in the context of that book alone.

First of all there is the name of Dumbledore's Phoenix, Fawkes, and possible name connection to the Guy Fawkes of British history, who was behind the famous Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

Quote from Wikipedia:
"The Gunpowder Plot" was a plan to assassinate the Protestant King James I (James VI of Scotland) and the members of both houses of the Parliament of England, by blowing up Westminster Palace --- His activities were detected before the plan's completion, and --- he and his co-conspirators were executed for treason and attempted murder. Fawkes's failure (or the attempt) is remembered by Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night) on 5 November.

Not being British, I must say I have never been able to quite grasp if Fawkes is regarded as hero or villain...! From the Wikipedia quote above, it seems that perhaps I'm not the only one wondering…

A bit more from Wikipedia:
The plotters realized that no outside help would be forthcoming unless they took action. Fawkes and the other conspirators were able to rent a cellar beneath the House of Lords. They were much relieved to find a cellar for rent, as they had first tried to dig a mine under the building. This would have been difficult, because they had to store the dirt and debris and carry it away in barrels. March 1605, they had hidden 1800 pounds of gunpowder in the cellar.

There is a scene in OotP, at Grimmauld Place (Sirius' house), where members of the Order of the Phoenix are clearing the kitchen table after a meeting. Trying to sort out "the important stuff" from a lot of other details, this is what Harry sees:

"Harry saw Bill --- hastily rolling up the lengths of parchment left on the table. --- Tonks, striding over to help Bill and immediately toppling a candle on to the last piece of parchment. 'Oh no - sorry -'
'Here, dear,' said Mrs Weasley, sounding exasperated, and she repaired the parchment with a wave of her wand. In the flash of light caused by Mrs Weasley's charm Harry caught a glimpse of what looked like the plan of a building.
Mrs Weasley had seen him looking. She snatched the plan off the table and stuffed it into Bill's already overladen arms.
'This sort of thing ought to be cleared away promptly at the end of meetings,' she snapped --- Bill took out his wand, muttered, 'Evanesco!' and the scrolls vanished.
OotP 5, pp 76-77

The plan that Harry caught a glimpse of was of the Ministry of Magic (the Wizarding World's equivalent to the Parliament). A lot of the action in this book takes place at the Ministry of Magic; which is situated underground in London...

The Ministry itself in this book is an image of what happens when the world is run by corrupted power-hungry people unable to distinguish between good and evil. They may not even believe that there is a real evil power (in OotP they do not believe that the evil Lord Voldemort has returned), but they are still serving his purposes, even without being aware that this is what they are doing.

The people who do see what is going on – Dumbledore and his followers - are forming an 'underground' resistance movement, called The Order of the Phoenix. Some of the students of Hogwarts are also forming a junior version of the same resistance movement, calling themselves Dumbledore's Army (with Harry as leader).

An important OotP scene at Hogwarts is when the Weasley twins leave the school, setting off a huge display of magic fireworks causing mayhem for the headmistress (Umbridge) who has taken Dumbledore's place.

At the end of the book, there is an impressive scene of magic duelling between Dumbledore (with the aid of his Phoenix) against the evil Lord Voldemort, in the entrace hall of the Ministry of Magic. This too is a "fireworks" scene, of more serious kind. (Magic curses in the HP world involve flashes of fire.)

'Look out!' Harry yelled.
But even as he shouted, another jet of green light flew at Dumbledore from Voldemort's wand and the snake struck –
Fawkes swooped down in front of Dumbledore, opened his beak wide and swallowed the jet of green light whole: he burst into flame and fell to the floor, small, wrinkled and flightless. At the same moment, Dumbledore brandished his wand in one long, fluid movement – the snake, which had been an instant from sinking its fangs into him, and the water in the pool rose up and covered Voldemort like a cocoon of molten glass.
At the end of this book, the Ministry of Magic can no longer claim ignorance about the fact that Lord Voldemort is really back on stage. They have seen him with their own eyes. He may seem to have been defeated once again by Dumbledore - but... The last chapter of the 5th book is entitled The Second War Begins...


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