TIME Books

8 Ridiculous Theories That Will Change How You Read Harry Potter

Or at least make you laugh

Just like Hermione Granger, Potterheads never give up on a mystery. The very nature of the series has always invited fan theories (like the one suggesting PMS is the real reason Moaning Myrtle is always moaning), thanks to dense plots filled with red herrings and a cohesive mythology.

And as more and more time lapsed between book releasesthere were 1,078 days between the publication of Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenixfans had ample time to reread and analyze their favorite plot lines. Many of these theories were born in the early days of social media, when websites like The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet were the only places Potter brainiacs could go to spill their suspicions. It wasn’t until 2009, about two years after Deathly Hallows was released, that fans got a break. Author J.K. Rowling joined Twitter and actively started answering — and dismissing — fan theories and questions. And with Pottermore’s launch in 2012, fans are now continually rewarded with a slow trickle of new information.

 

 

 

  • “All Was Not Well” (aka Harry hallucinated everything)

    Harry Potter
    Warner Bros.

    Some conspiracy theorists have posited that Harry, who is deprived food by his aunt and uncle in the first book, hallucinated the entire story as he was starving in the cupboard under the stairs. This might seem like the Dementor of all theories — because it sucks all light and happiness out of the series — but J.K. Rowling addressed these ideas herself in a 2012 video that accompanied a box set of the movies. Steve Kloves, a screenwriter for the film series, said he invented a spider who Harry would talk to in the cupboard. “The point was that he seemed slightly mad…so when Hagrid appeared, you thought he was out of his imagination for a minute,” Kloves says on the video. “I think that’s a fabulous point and that speaks so perfectly to the books,” Rowling responds. “Because I’ve heard it suggested to me more than once, that Harry actually did go mad in the cupboard and that everything that happened subsequently was some sort of fantasy life he developed to save himself.”

    She says suggested, at least, not acknowledging that it is, in fact, true.

  • Ron Is a Time Traveler (aka Ron is Dumbledore)

    Harry Potter Stars JK Rowling Birthday
    Warner Bros. Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Jessie Cave as Lavender Brown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince released on July 16, 2005.

    In 2004, while many were still rereading Order of the Phoenix and eagerly awaiting the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, someone on a Harry Potter forum was blogging about the fact that Ron was really a time-traveling version of Dumbledore, or vice versa. This can get confusing, so get your quills ready.

    “If the chess game in [Sorcerer’s Stone] is a metaphor for the series as a whole, and the pieces the characters play a metaphor for their roles in the series, how do we reconcile the fact that Ron Weasley plays, not only the role of the Knight, but also that of the King — the same role played by Albus Dumbledore in the larger war? Pretty simple, really — Albus Dumbledore is Ron Weasley.” The theorist proceeds to explain that the characters also have an uncanny resemblance (Dumbledore’s long fingers, Ron’s large hands) and a love of sweets (“When we first meet Dumbledore he offers a lemon sherbet to Professor McGonagall. When we first meet Ron he introduces Harry to the wonderful world of wizarding candy”). The fan also thinks Latin meaning (a running theme in the book) of the word ‘bin’ is significant: “In OotP, Draco composes a lovely song — Weasley is Our King. If that isn’t foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. One line in particular is given significance by Draco. He is heard singing it loudly during the game by Harry, and Draco later quotes it in italics — born in a bin. While Draco likes to make fun of Ron’s poverty, the phrase has a double meaning. ‘Bin’ is also a prefix meaning ‘double’ or ‘two’ — think ‘binary.’ Was Ron ‘born’ twice? Leading a double life? Is Draco trying to tell us something important?”

  • Draco Malfoy Is a Werewolf (And not a Death Eater)

    HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2
    Warner Bros. Tom Felton, right, as Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2

    There is actually a website dedicated to this theory. Dracamalfoyisawerewolf.com. So there’s that.

    The evidence the theorists have stem from Malfoy’s character development in the later books. “Between the fifth and sixth books, directly after Lucius Malfoy has failed to retrieve the prophecy, Voldemort allows Fenrir Greyback to bite his son, Draco.” They also point out that he’s not a Death Eater, which we already knew. And “Voldemort says, “Maybe you can babysit the cubs,” to Draco when the Death Eaters find out that Remus and Tonks are having a baby. This is a throwaway if he is not a werewolf,” write Brittany and Nick, who signed the website with a disclaimer that they “feel pretty strongly about this theory.”

    Brittany and Nick do provide other evidence, like that Malfoy and Snape are close because Malfoy is getting Wolfsbane potion from Snape and that, maybe, Rowling will reveal this on Pottermore.

    Rowling has already touched on Malfoy on Pottermore, and it’d be surprising if this was true considering Lupin and Bill’s identities were never hidden, but with her imagination, anything’s possible.

  • J.K. Rowling Is Rita Skeeter (aka the author straightens her hair a lot)

    Author J.K. Rowling
    Cindy Ord—Getty Images Author J.K. Rowling ceremoniously lights the Empire State Building in Lumos√ï colors of purple, blue and white to mark the US launch of her non-profit organization at The Empire State Building on April 9, 2015 in New York City.

    Here’s a series of leading questions about everyone’s favorite unregistered Animagus:

    What if Rita Skeeter fled the wizarding world after the Battle of Hogwarts? What if she was exiled for being such a horrible journalist? And what if she just decided to write under a pseudonym (like someone else we know)? What if her topic of choice was the very wizarding world that rejected her? And what if she wrote a seven-part series about a boy wizard that concludes with the very battle she left after? Some people very much believe this could be possible.

  • Crookshanks is Lily Potter (aka Hermione’s cat is Harry’s mom)

    A lovely Tumblr post wrapped up a handful of speculation on this theory, which posits that Crookshanks is actually Lily Potter reincarnated. Evidenced by: “The red hair, the green eye’s i mean coincidence?” and that “Crookshanks was always trying to get Scabbers” (née Peter Pettigrew).

    There’s even Crookshanks as Lily fan fiction called “The Mother Who Lived.”

  • Harry and Hermione Are Siblings (aka that one Horcrux scene just got weirder)

    Hermione Granger Time Turner Harry Potter
    Warner Bros. Pictures

    In 2005, an intrepid reader hit up a Harry Potter forum to display a radical theory: Hermione is the hidden, secret daughter of James and Lily. Here’s the evidence:

    1. “Hermione’s overall behavior with Harry…sometimes, they also finish each other’s sentences (not unlike Fred and George.)”
    2. “When she read Rita Skeeter’s article “Harry Potter’s Secret Heartache,” she was rather amused.”
    3. “Hermione really knew a bit too much about the wizarding world – and particularly about Harry Potter — when she first arrived at Hogwarts.”
  • Dumbledore Is Actually Death (aka “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”)

    Harry Potter Dumbledore Deathly Hallows
    Warner Bros. Pictures

    This theory caused an uproar recently, when a 2014 Tumblr post about The Tale of the Three Brothers made the rounds. The wizard fairy tale follows the Peverell Brothers as they receive rewards for cheating Death: the unbeatable Elder Wand; the Resurrection Stone that brings people back from the dead; and the Invisibility Cloak, which conceals its user. These three items are often referred to as The Deathly Hallows, hence the name of the final book.

    The theory says that Voldemort is the oldest brother, murdered in his bed by someone who sought the Elder Wand. Snape is seen as the middle brother, who was driven to suicide after resurrecting the girl “he had once hoped to marry, before her untimely Death.” Harry would be the youngest brother, who escapes Death with the cloak until giving it to his son, greeting “Death as an old friend” and going with him gladly. The Tumblr user, though, posits that Dumbledore is Death. “He greeted Harry at King’s Cross and was the one behind Snape and Voldemort’s death….He’s the one who gave Harry the invisibility cloak too…And he had the stone and the wand too.”

  • The Dursleys Are Angry Because Harry Is a Horcrux (aka Regardless, Still Okay He Blew Up Aunt Marge)

    harry potter dursleys
    Warner Bros.

    So, this one could potentially make a lot of sense. A Tumblr post that made its way to Reddit had a very specific theory about Harry’s relatives:

    “The Dursleys were just minding their own business when a horcrux was dumped on their doorstep. For the next decade it proceeded to warp their minds, turning them from your garden variety insufferable human beings into horrible, heartless monsters. The fact that they survived such prolonged horcrux exposure without delving into insanity or abandoning a helpless child only solidifies their place among the pantheon of noble and virtuous heroes in the Harry Potter universe.”

    But let’s not go calling the Dursleys heroes, please. After all, Rowling did say that Harry wasn’t actually a Horcrux:

    “Voldemort never went through the grotesque process that I imagine creates a Horcrux with Harry. I suppose it’s very close to being a Horcrux, but Harry did not become an evil object. He didn’t have curses upon him that the other Horcruxes had. He himself was not contaminated by carrying this bit of parasitic soul.”

     

TIME Books

Read TIME’s Original Review of Lolita

LOLITA ANNIVERSARY
AP A Vintage/Anchor Books edition of "Lolita"

The book was published in the U.S. on Aug. 18, 1958

By the time Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was published in the United States on this day, Aug. 18, in 1958, the book wasn’t exactly new. As TIME reported in a long review of the work upon its American release, Nabokov had come to the U.S. during World War II with “intellectual luggage [that] included fragments of a book that later, published in Paris in 1955, became a must item of the contraband spice trade in which Henry Miller’s Tropics have bulked large.”

But the fact that it had been read, dissected and debated didn’t stop it from making a splash. That much was clear from the review:

Lolita is a major work of fiction; it is also a shocking book. Prefaced by a fictitious academic fathead who presents it as a message to “parents, social workers, [and] educators,” the book describes the transcontinental debauch of a twelve-year-old girl by a middle-aged monomaniac. As it turns out, the narrator is writing his apologia from a prison cell (he is to be tried for murder). As far as erotic detail is concerned, the book tells little that has not been dealt with in a lot of bestselling fiction; but where the sexy bestsellers talk about the sordid or tragic facts of life in staccato sociology, couch jargon or four-letter words, Lolita is the more shocking because it is both intensely lyrical and wildly funny. It is (in many of its pages) a Medusa’s head with trick paper snakes, and its punning comedy as well as its dark poetics will disappoint the smut hounds—a solemn breed.

Lolita, the critic concluded, wasn’t merely a book worthy of publication despite its subject matter—it was a work of literature with something to teach the world.

Nabokov himself, TIME added, had only a “writer’s interest in nymphets.” It was a different part of the Lolita plot that he had a real personal interest in: the journey from motel to motel. “I love motels,” he told the magazine. “I would like to have a chain of motels—made of marble. I would put one every ten minutes along the highway, and I would travel from one to another with my butterfly net.”

Read the full review here, in the TIME Vault: To the End of Night

TIME Environment

‘Drinkable Book’ Promises to Filter Dirty Water

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Richard du Toit—Gallo Images/Getty Images Vaal River, Aerial view, Gauteng Province, Free State Province, South Africa

The pages are used to eliminate bacteria

A new invention promises to make dirty drinking water potable by filtering it through the pages of a book.

The “drinkable book,” which was presented Monday at the American Chemical Society’s 250th national meeting in Boston, consists of pages that are treated with silver or copper and printed with instructions for how to use them: tear out a page, insert it in a filter holder and pour unclean water through it. Any bacteria present will absorb the silver or copper ions, effectively removing 99% of bacteria from the water, according to BBC News.

Dr. Teri Dankovich, who developed the drinkable book, says it is intended for use in developing countries where contaminated water poses major health risks. One page can filter 100 liters, and a whole book could filter one person’s drinking water for four years. The invention has already been tested using artificially contaminated water in the lab and at real sites in Bangladesh, Ghana and South Africa.

The book has yet to be tested in filtering other kinds of microorganisms, like viruses. While Dankovich has so far been making the product by hand with her colleagues, she would like to see commercial production take the invention to a larger scale.

[BBC News]

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling Had the Best Response When a Young Writer Asked for Advice

"Pretend you want to do something else and write on the sly" if your parents disapprove

J.K. Rowling, who famously sketched out the plot for the Harry Potter books on a napkin, offered some advice to aspiring writers on Twitter Saturday.

When posed the question, “My dream is to be a writer, but my parents always say that this is not a worthy profession, what I do to change this?” the author replied:

It worked for her! Rowling went from unemployed and living on state benefits to a multimillionaire in just five years.

TIME Books

What We Can Learn From the Summer of 1915

Lace Curtains
Ernst Haas—Getty Images A figure stands looking out of a window at Agee House, home of the writer James Agee in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1962.

James Agee’s prose-poem is perhaps the best thing ever written about summer

One hundred years ago this month, a 5-year-old boy spread a quilt and lay with his parents on the grass of the backyard of their house in Knoxville, Tenn. On this summer night, he listened to the music of the evening — the murmur of neighbors talking on porches, the clop-clop of horses on the street, the hissing of hoses watering lawns, the rasping of locusts and crickets, and the flopping of a few frogs in the dewy grass. He watched the last fireflies flicker out and wondered who he was.

How do we know this? Because James Agee wrote it in his rapturous prose-poem, “Knoxville: Summer, 1915,” in 1938 at the age of 28. Agee said later that he had written its five pages in a breathless 90 minutes, as a way to experiment with free-form writing. Originally published by the Partisan Review, and later placed as a prologue to his posthumous novel, A Death in the Family, it lives on as a contemporary classic, the most ecstatic piece of writing ever composed about an American summer. Samuel Barber set it to music for soprano and orchestra in his composition, Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

That summer was Agee’s last in an intact family. A year later, in 1916, his father was killed in an automobile accident. Agee himself would die of a heart attack in the back seat of a New York City yellow cab at the age of 45 in 1955. At the time, he was best known for his work as the film critic for TIME (and later The Nation) and for his screenplays (The African Queen, The Night of the Hunter). But Agee wasn’t the only one for whom that summer would be significant: thanks to his writing, 1915 has something to teach all of us.

What do we make of “Knoxville: Summer, 1915” now? It is nostalgic and sentimental yet also undeniably beautiful. In Agee’s imagination, a nozzle on a hose is a Stradivarius:

First an insane noise of violence in the nozzle, then the still irregular sound of adjustment, then the smoothing into steadiness and a pitch as accurately tuned to the size and style of stream as any violin. So many qualities of sound out of one hose … the almost dead silence of the release, and the short still arch of the separate big drops, silent as a held breath, and the only noise the flattering noise on leaves and the slapped grass at the fall of each big drop. That, and the intense hiss with the intense stream; that, and that same intensity not growing less but growing more quiet and delicate with the turn of the nozzle, up to the extreme tender whisper when the water was just a wide bell of film.

Agee was describing the lost world of porches and the closely knit communities that shared them. The shady, street-front verandas that were once an amenity on every American house were killed off by air-conditioning. By the 1950s, builders stopped putting porches on new houses, and families retreated indoors to their televisions. Today grandparents who once sat in the rocking chairs on the porches of Knoxville are just as likely to be in an assisted living facility. And the people walking down the street are making eye contact not with their neighbors but with the smartphones in their hands.

All of these changes would appear to make Agee’s writing very dated today — the verandas are gone. Yet what endures is perhaps more important: the nagging sense of lost community that they represented. Agee put into words and art a vision of small-town America that we often scoff at as a cliché…yet we continue to return to it. That it can still move us is proof that, while porches may go out of style, the deeper things that bind us endure. We still have something to learn from those summer evenings in Knoxville.

Pia de Jong is a Dutch novelist and newspaper columnist who moved to America three years ago. Her memoir, Charlotte, will be published by Prometheus in the Netherlands in January 2016. Landon Jones is the former editor of People and Money magazines and the author of Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (1980) which coined the phrase baby-boomer.

Read TIME’s original review of A Death in the Family, here in the TIME Vault: Tender Realist

TIME White House

Here’s What President Obama Is Reading This Summer

President Obama
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images President Barack Obama holds a joint news conference with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Washington in June 2015.

From Pulitzer-winning fiction to a biography of George Washington

Even the leader of the free world gets a break to do some summer reading.

According to ABC News, these are the books President Obama packed for his family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard:

All That IsJames Salter

This 2013 novel by one of the most critically acclaimed modern American authors follows the life of a young man, beginning with his work as a naval officer in World War II through his later work as a book editor in New York, detailing his friendships and romances along the way.

All The Light We Cannot SeeAnthony Doerr

This novel won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it intertwines the stories of a young blind girl in Paris and an orphan boy in Germany as they grow up around the time of World War II.

The Sixth ExtinctionElizabeth Kolbert

This 2014 nonfiction book explores previous mass extinctions on Earth and makes the case that humans and other organisms are in the midst of the sixth extinction.

The LowlandJhumpa Lahiri

This 2013 novel follows two brothers growing up in Calcutta in the 1950s and 1960s, tracing each of their lives as one moves to the U.S. and the other stays behind.

Between The World and MeTa-Nehisi Coates

This 2015 book is written as a letter to the author’s son, exploring race and what it means to be black in the U.S. Coates often draws comparisons to James Baldwin.

Washington: A Life Ron Chernow

This book from 2010 is a biography of George Washington and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011.

Read next: 35 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime

Download TIME’s mobile app for iOS to have your world explained wherever you go

TIME

David Oyelowo Is Officially the Next James Bond (Sort of)

David Oyelowo attends the Variety Purpose Summit in Los Angeles, Calif. on June 25, 2015.
Paras Griffin--FilmMagic David Oyelowo attends the Variety Purpose Summit in Los Angeles, Calif. on June 25, 2015.

The actor will play the superspy in an upcoming audiobook

David Oyelowo announced Wednesday that he will join the long line of actors—from Roger Moore to Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig—who have portrayed Ian Fleming’s legendary secret agent, James Bond. But the role won’t require Oyelowo to don Bond’s dapper formalwear, as he’s booked not for a movie but an audiobook.

Oyelowo was asked by Fleming’s estate to voice Bond and other characters in the audiobook version of Trigger Mortis, a forthcoming novel by Anthony Horowitz commissioned by Fleming’s estate. The book, to be published Sept. 8, picks up two weeks after Goldfinger left off, in 1957, and reunites Bond with Pussy Galore.

Oyelowo, who has worked as an actor for more than 15 years, rose to fame for his depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s Selma, released in 2014. Though he won’t appear onscreen, he will be the first black actor to portray Bond. And as he is scheduled only for the audiobook, fans still hoping that those Idris Elba rumors might pan out need not feel threatened by the news—the Bond family is ever expanding.

TIME Education

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Pulled from School Reading List

Doubleday

Parents complained about the number of swear words

The novel of the multiple-Tony winning Broadway play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been taken off a summer reading list after parents complained about swear words and the book “taking of God’s name in vain.”

After receiving emails and telephone calls from parents over “concerns over the delivery of the text”, Allen Burch, the principal of Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Florida, cancelled the assignment because he wanted to “give the the opportunity for the parents to parent” according to the Tallahasse Democrat.

“To have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended,” said Sue Gee, a parent who e-mailed the principal on July 20.

According to the Democrat, “the f-word is written 28 times, the s-word 18 times, and the c-word makes one appearance.”

Critics of the decision are calling it an act of censorship. “I feel like it is second-guessing teachers. I never thought that the school would participate in an act of censorship,” Valerie Mindlin, whose children attend the high school, told the newspaper.

The novel by Mark Haddon is about a 15-year-old boy, with Asperger’s Syndrome, who investigates the death of a neighbour’s dog and uncovers dark truths about his family.

TIME Books

George R.R. Martin Says He Doesn’t Know the Ending of A Song of Ice and Fire Yet

George R.R. Martin
Steve Jennings—WireImage/Getty Images George R.R. Martin Writer/Co-Executive Producer attends HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 5 San Francisco Premiere at San Francisco Opera House on March 23, 2015 in San Francisco.

But it will be bittersweet

Though the ending for the Game of Thrones show is likely set in stone, author George R.R. Martin says the final moments of A Song of Ice and Fire—the book series upon which the HBO phenomenon is based—are not. In a recent interview with the Observer, Martin said he intends to write a “bittersweet” ending, though he isn’t positive yet what that ending will be.

“I haven’t written the ending yet,” he said. “I’ve said before that the tone of the ending that I’m going for is bittersweet. I mean, it’s no secret that Tolkien has been a huge influence on me, and I love the way he ended Lord of the Rings. It ends with a victory, but it’s a bittersweet victory…All I can say is that’s the kind of tone I will be aiming for. Whether I achieve if or not, that will be up to people like you and my readers to judge.”

This may come as a surprise to some fans who assumed that A Song of Ice and Fire might come to a depressing Red Wedding-like finale. Perhaps there’s hope after all — at least in the books.

Martin’s comments likely don’t apply to the final moments of the show. Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have already surpassed many of the books’ plot lines, and in interviews, the duo has said they spoke to Martin about his plans for the franchise and already know how the series will wrap up. They will finish the show regardless of how long it takes Martin to publish the final two books in the series.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with George, and he makes a lot of stuff up as he’s writing it,” Benioff told Variety. “Even while we talk to him about the ending, it doesn’t mean that that ending that he has currently conceived is going to be the ending when he eventually writes it.”

[The Observer]

Read next: Here’s Games of Thrones Author George R.R. Martin With a Doll That Looks Just Like Him

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