J. K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall Reveals Dumbledore is Gay; Neville Marries Hannah Abbott, and Much More
Oct 20, 2007
Note: A preliminary transcript is now at the end of this post; please note that there may be some small errors in phrasing, and all questions have been paraphrased to save time; this is not a final transcript, but the accuracy of the questions and answers have been maintained.
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Tonight, the one thousand grand prize winners (and their guests) of the Scholastic’s Open Book Tour Sweepstakes along with a companion got the chance to see Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling read from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” answer questions and sign books at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. We have exclusive information this evening on the myriad of “Deathly Hallows” questions she answered as well as in-depth details on a number of subjects she spoke about.
A caution now. Parts of the following WILL contain book seven SPOILERS.
First, the biggest revelation of the night came when Jo revealed to her audience the fact that Albus Dumbledore is gay and had fallen in love with fellow wizard and friend, Gellert Grindelwald. This elicited a huge reaction and prolonged ovation. So much so, it promoted Jo to say:
“If I had known this would have made you this happy, I would have announced it years ago.”
The question was: Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?
JKR: My truthful answer to you… I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] … Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that’s how i always saw Dumbledore. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair… [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, “Dumbledore’s gay!” [laughter] “If I’d known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!”
Jo also said after revelation: “You needed something to keep you going for the next 10 years! …Oh, my god, the fan fiction now, eh?”
Jo also revealed that Neville Longbottom married Hufflepuff Hannah Abbott and she was to become the landlady at the iconic Leaky Cauldron Pub. She thought that people would find the fact of Neville’s living over a pub particularly cool.
Equally large revelations were made concerning Petunia Dursley when Jo answered the question of what Petunia could not bring herself to say when Harry and the Dursleys parted ways before his seventeenth birthday. She would have wished him luck, saying:
“I do know what you’re up against and I hope it’s okay.”
Information on the original Order members was also revealed during tonight’s event. Jo related the fact that Remus Lupin, prior to the third book, was unemployable because he was a werewolf and upon his graduation from Hogwarts along with James and Lily, was supported by James using their own money. In addition to this she shed more light on the early days of the Order, saying James, Sirius, Remus and Lily were full time Order members. “Full Time Fighters,” as Jo put it.
Jo also went into further detail about the many portraits in the wizarding world and their occupants. An occupant can only move freely to other portraits in their dwelling or to another portrait in which they are depicted. She also revealed that Harry himself made sure that the portrait of Snape made it into the Headmasters Office, but doubts that he ever went to speak to it.
Life debts were another subject discussed during tonight’s question and answer session. It was revealed that Draco Malfoy does not owe Harry a life debt. While speaking briefly on the Elder wand, Jo did not detail the the core of this extraordinary wand. Hagrid never married and James and Lily went into hiding shortly after she first became pregnant with Harry.
Finally, speaking about her personal feelings and experiences of the past seventeen years with the boy wizard, Jo said finishing the first book and the seventh book produced very similar feelings. She also admits that she was very difficult to live with for the weeks following her completing the last book in the “Harry Potter” series.
A full transcript of this evening’s event will be available on TLC soon. TLC will update throughout the evening with the latest from this event.
Some highlights have been transcribed:
Q: Did Neville ever find love?
Of course. … To make him extra cool he marries the woman who becomes, eventually, the new landlady at The Leaky Cauldron, which I think would make him very cool among the students, that he lives above the pub. He marries Hannah Abbott.
How did you decide that Molly Weasley would be the one to finish off Bellatrix?
I always knew Molly was going to finish her off. I think there was some speculation that Neville would do it, because Neville obviously has a particular reason to hate Bellatrix. ..So there were lots of optios for Blelatrix, but I never deviated. I wanted it to be Molly, and I wanted it to be Molly for two reasons.
The first reason was I always saw Molly as a very good witch but someone whose light is necessarily hidden under a bushel, because she isn’t in the kitchen a lot and she has had to raise, among others, and george which is like, enough… I wanted Molly to have her moment and to show that because a woman had dedicated herself to her family does not mean that she doesn’t have a lot of other talents.
Second reason: It was the meeting of two kinds of – if you call what Bellatrix feels for Voldemort love, I guess we’ll call it love, she has a kind of obsession with him, it’s a very sick obsession … and I wanted to match that kind of obsession with maternal love… the power that you give someone by loving them. So Molly was really an amazing exemplar of maternal love. … There was something very satisfying about putting those two women together.
How different would the last two books be if Arthur had been killed in the middle of book five?
I think they would have been very different and it’s part of the reason why I chose my mind. … By turning Ron into half of Harry, in other words by turning Ron into someone who had suffered the loss of a parent, I was going to remove the Weasleys as a refuge for Harry and I was going to necessarily remove a lot of Ron’s humor. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t kill Arthru. I wanted to keep Ron in tact … a lot of Ron’s humor comes from his insensitivity and his immaturity, to be honest about Ron. And Ron finally, I think, you see, grows up in this book. He’s the last of the three to reach what I consider adulthood, and he does it then [ when he destroys the horcrux] and faces those things. So that’s part of the reason. The only other reason I didn’t kill Arthur was that I wanted to come full circle. We started with an orphan, someone who lost their parents because of the war. ANd so I wanted to show it again. … Even though you don’t see Teddy, I wanted to express in the epilogue, that he gets an even better godfather than Harry had, because Sirius had ihs faults, I think we must admit. He was a risky guy to have a s a godfather. Because Teddy gets someone who really has been there, and Harry becomes a really great father figure for Teddy as well as his own children. I hasten to add that I didn’t kill Lupin or Tonks lightly. I loved them as characters…so that hurt, killing them.
Q: In the Goblet of Fire Dumbledore said his brother was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms [JKR buries her head, to laughter] on a goat; what were the inappropriate charms he was practicing on that goat?
JKR: How old are you?
JKR: I think that he was trying to make a goat that was easy to keep clean [laughter], curly horns. That’s a joke that works on a couple of levels. I really like Aberforth and his goats. But you know Aberforth having this strange fondness for goats if you’ve read book seven, came in really useful to Harry, later on, because a goat, a stag, you know. If you’re a stupid Death Eater, what’s the difference. So, that is my answer to YOU.
Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?
My truthful answer to you… I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] … Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that’s how i always saw Dumbledore. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair… [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, “Dumbledore’s gay!” [laughter] If I’d known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!
Q: Since Ron is able to speak Parseltongue in the last book, does that mean that parseltongue is a language that most witches and wizards can learn or must a person be born with some ability to speak Parseltongue.
JKR: I don’t see it really as a language you can learn. So few people speak it that who would teach you? This is a weird ability passed down through the Slytherin blood line. However ROn was with Harry when he said one word in Parseltongue, which I do not know so I cannot duplicate for you, but he heard him say “Open,” and he was able to reproduce the sound. So it was one word. Whether he could learn to speak to snakes properly is a separate issue. I don’t think he could. But he knew enough, he was smart enough, to duplicate one necessary sound.
Q: [Speaker thanks Jo for the Dumbledore answer.]
JKR: You needed something to keep you going for the next 10 years! Oh, my god, the fan fiction now, eh? [Applause.]
Q: What did Dumbledore write in the letter to make the Dursleys take Harry?
JKR: Very, very good question. As you know, as we find out in book seven, Petunia once really wanted to be part of that world. And you discover that Dumbledore has written to her prior to the Howler…Dumbledore wrote to her very kindly and explained why he couldn’t let her come to Hogwarts to become a witch. So, Petunia, much as she denis it afterwards, much as she turns against that world when she met Uncle Vernon, who is the biggest anti-wizard you could ever met in your life, a tiny part of her, and that’s the part that almost wished Harry luck when she said goodbye to him in this book, she just teetered on the verge of saying, I do know what you’re up against and I hope it’s OK. But she couldn’t bring herself to say it. Years of pretending she doesn’t care have hardened her. But Dumbledore appealed in the letter you’re asking about, so that part of Petunia that did remember wanting desperately to be part of the world and he appealed to her sense of fair play to a sister that she had hated because Lily had what she couldn’t have. So that’s how she persuaded Petunia to keep Harry. Good question.
Q: When Harry was stabbed by a basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, since he was a Horcrux shouldn’t it have been destroyed then?
JKR: I have been asked that a lot. Harry was exceptionally fortunate in that he had Fawkes. So before he could be destroyed without repair, which is what is necessary to destroy a horcrux, he was mended. However, I made sure that Fawkes wasn’t around the second time a Horcrux got stabbed by a basilisk fang, so the poison did its work and it was irreparable within a short period of time…. I established early in the book, Hermione says that you destroy a Horcrux by using something so powerful that there’s no remedy. But she does say there is a remedy for basilisk poison but of course it has to be administered immediately and when they stab the cup later – boy I’m really blowing this for anyone who hasn’t finished the book – there’s Fawkes, is my answer. And thank you for giving me a chance to say that because people have argued that quite a lot.
Q: Why couldn’t Harry speak to a portrait of Dumbledore throughout the last book>
Well there are two reasons, three reasons actually… Teh last bit, why did he have to decode? As Dumbledore says to Harry…to tell Harry about the Hallows was to tempt him. And Harry, throughout all seven books has been incredibly impetuous and reckless. That’s one of Harry’s biggest flaws. He does tend to act without thinking, and Dumbledore knows this about Harry. He wants him to work it out slowly enough to gain wisdom along the way. That’s why he passed the information through Hermione, who is the most cautious person in the books, as you know. And Dumbledore says explicitly, so your good heat isn’t overcome by your hot heads. Or I may have paraphrased myself slight there so forgive me. “She doesn’t even know her own book!” [laughter] Yes so that’s one reason. Harry needs to decode. He said, he does say in this book, he’s frightened by his decision not to race for the wand, because he had never chosen not to act. So that’s Harry’s real big coming of age moment, that he’s decided to hold back for the first time very in his life. So the other two reasons that i have for him not t speak to Dumbledore’s portrait, first of all, I crated a lot of rules for this world and then later had to navigate my away around them. But this rule was always good, and the rule was that portraits could only move between portraits in the same building. so if I’m in a picture and you’re in a picture and we’re both in Carnegie Hall, then we can move into each other’s pictures. Otherwise we can only move only to other places where we have a portrait. You can’t just move willy nilly through all the – the Louvre, the Met – you can’t do a world tour, as a picture person. You are limited by geography. So there was that reason. And then lastly of course, the third reason, is it really would be too easy and I wouldn’t have had a plot.
Q: Many of us older readers have noticed over the years similarities between the Death Eaters tactics and the Nazis from the 30s and 40s. Did you use that historical era as a model for Voldemort’s reign and what were the lessons that you hope to impart to the next generation?
It was conscious. I think that if you’re, I think most of us if you were asked to name a very evil regime we would think Nazi Germany. There were parallels in the ideology. I wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world. So you have the intent to impose a hierarchy, you have bigotry, and this notion of purity, which is this great fallacy, but it crops up all over the world. People like to think themselves superior and that if they can pride themselves in nothing else they can pride themselves on perceived purity. So yeah that follows a parallel. It wasn’t really exclusively that. I think you can see in the Ministry even before it’s taken over, there are parallels to regimes we all know and love. [Laughter and applause.] So you ask what lessons, I suppose. The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry, and I think ti’s one of the reasons that some people don’t like the books, but I think that’s it’s a very healthy message to pass on to younger people that you should question authority and you should not assume that the establishment or the press tells you all of the truth.
Q: What did it feel like completing your first Harry Potter book versus completing the last.
JKR: What a great question. It felt strangely similar actually. Both feelings were more alike than with any of the other books. When I finished the first book, there was this incredible sense of achievement that i’d actually written a novel, i”d actually finished my book. And it was after seven years of writing and making notes and rewriting. And then when I finished the seventh book, that was 17 years. WIth the seventh book there was a huge feeling of loss as well. I couldn’t believe I was done. And it took me weeks, as my poor, long-suffering husband will attest. He’s here. [applause] Yes, you should clap him, he’s very patient! [ovation] He’s not the type to stand up and take about but trust me. Toward the end of a book i’m not that easy to live with. Yes Neil would bear witness to the fact that for weeks, really… it felt like a bereavement. I knew it was coming. I was prepared, I knew it would hurt, and it was huge. So, that’s why I’m glad to be here and talk about it. Thank you.
Voice: Excuse me, Ms. Rowling?
Voice: I have a question.
JKR: God? [laughter] And they say I don’t believe in you! [Ovation.]
Voice: May I approach teh stage?
JKR: Sorry, I missed that, what was that? You may approach the stage, I always wondered what oyu looked like.
Announcer: Actually I don’t have a question but I do have a little surprise. [Explains that they’ve picked some more questions from competition winners, randomly chosen to surprise sweepstakes winners.]
Q: Does Malfoy owe Harry a debt?
JKR: That’s a great question and a lot of people wanted to know that. When Dumbledore said to Harry, Voldemort won’t want a close associate who is in your debt, I wasn’t implying by that there was any kind of magical bond there. It was more that Dumbldore’s extensive wisdom and knowledge of human nature, he knew as Harry later thinks in book seven, he knew that Pettigrew would react a certain way to having saved his life. … He’s weak, fundamentally weak. Pettigrew is a very weak character. He’s not someone I like at all. He’s a weak person and he likes to gravitate to people who are stronger. Dumbledore is right. Pettigrew had an impulsive mercy… would Malfoy e in Harry’s debt? I think the very worst burden Harry could have put Malfoy under was this one, that Malfoy has to feel any kind of gratitude. So I tried to show that slightly in the epilogue when they look slightly at each other and there’s a, “Hi. It’s so embarrassing, you saved my life. No one will ever let me forget it.” I think, does he owe him a debt, probably not. I think Malfoy would go back to being an improved version of what he was but we shouldn’t expect him to be a really great guy any time soon.
Q: Harry often wondered about his parents lives before he died. What did Lily, James, Remus, Lupin and Sirius do after Hogwarts?
JKR: To take Remus first, Remus was unemployable. Poor Lupin, prior to Dumbledore taking him in, lead a really impoverished life because no one wanted to employ a werewolf. The other three were full-time members of the Order of the Phoenix. If you remember when Lily, James and co. were at school, the first war was raging. It never reached the heights that the second war reached, because the Ministry was never infiltrated to that extend but it was a very bad time, the same disappearances, the same deaths. So that’s what they did, they left school. James has gold, enough to support Sirius and Lily. So I suppose they lived foff a private income. But they were full-time fighters, that’s what they did, until Lily fell pregnant with Harry. So then they went into hiding.
Q: Did Hagrid ever get married and have children?
[Aww from crowd] JKR: Oh, did Hagrid ever get married and have children? No. [awwws again] I may change that immediately due to the look on your face. Yes! He had 22! – No, no, Hagrid never did marry and have children. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. Oh I feel terrible now. I’ll write another book! [Ovation] Realistically, Hagrid’s pool of potential girlfriends is extremely limited. Because with the giants killing each other off, the number of giantesses around is infinitesimal and he met one of the only, and I’m afraid, she thought he was kind of cute, but she was a little more, how should I put it, sophisticated than Hagrid. So no, bless him. [Awws] I kept him alive, come on! [Applause.]
Q: Is Severus Snape’s portrait in the headmaster’s office?
JKR: Some have been asking why hasn’t the portrait appeared immediately. It doesn’t. The reason is that the perception in the castle itself and everyone who was in the castle, because Snape kept his secret so well was that he abandoned his post. So all the portraits you see in the headmaster’s study are all headmasters and mistresses who died, it’s like British royals. You only get good press if you die in office. Abdication is not acceptable, particularly if you marry and American. I’m kidding! [laughter] I digress. I know, because I thought this one through, because it was very important to me, I know Harry would have insisted that Snape’s portrait was on that wall, right beside Dumbledore’s. [Applause.] As for whether Harry would go back to talk to him, I think, I’m not sure he would have done. Snape, I was really [?] the week after I finished the book. And I went to a chat room – not a chat room, what am I talking about? [laughter] I never go in chat rooms. I went onto a fan site because I was looking for questions to put up on my Web site, which is sometimes difficult. And I was so heartened to see that people on the message boards that people were still arguing about Snape. The book was out, and they were still arguing whether Snape was a good guy But that was really wonderful to me, because there’s a question there, was Snape a good guy or not? In many ways he really wasn’t. SoI haven’t been deliberately misleading everyone all this time, when I say that he’s a good guy. Because even though he did love and he loved very deeply and he was very brave, both qualities that I admire above anything else. He was bitter and he was vindictive… but right at the very very end, he did, as your question acknowledges, acheive a kind of peace together and I tried to show that in the epilogue.