New Interview with J.K. Rowling for Release of Dutch Edition of “Deathly Hallows”
Nov 19, 2007
As part of the release of the Dutch translation of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” author J.K. Rowling has given a new interview to the Dutch newspaper “The Volkskrant.” While this interview is in Dutch (link to an elaborate animated page showcasing this interview in the style of a Daily Prophet paper, here), TLC reader Fee sent along a translation of this new interview, where Jo reiterates again she is currently working on a children’s book, and one for adults, but is also enjoying time with her family. The very lengthy interview lightly touches on several topics such as the Weasley family, her family, as well as features some in depth and very frank conversation about religion and religious themes found in the last book. A big spoiler caution is given as events in the last book are detailed. Thanks much to Fee! To read this interview, please scroll down.
NOTE: Spoiler Caution for those who have not yet read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” :
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“A part of Harry’s anger is my own.Seven books, seven questions (and an interview)
Who would you rather have as a son, Harry or Ron?
“I’ll take them both! I adore Ron. Ron is the most immature of the three main characters, but in part seven he grows up. He was never strong footed , people see him mostly as Harry’s friend; his mother had actually wanted a girl and in the last book he finally has to acknowledge his weaknesses. But it’s exactly that which makes Ron a man. The others also have such a moment where they truly grow up. Harry when he reacts so fiercely against his former professor Lupin who decides to abandon his family. Hermione when she is forced to choose between Harry and Ron. Hermione never strays of the path; she always keeps her attention focused on the job that must be done.
The Weasleys have all got red hair, just like you in former pictures. Why did you make it blond?
I love red hair. But my hair isn’t naturally red. I’m actually not really sure what my real colour is. It’s something undecided, very boring and very uninteresting.
Do you also find the books a lot better then the movies?
I think that when you are working in such a visual medium certain nuances are lost. There is no other possibility. And the characters in the movie look better than I could have imagined, without any exception. The last film is my favourite. Because the filmmakers really succeeded in capturing the dark aspects of the book.
Who do you resemble?
When I was young I resembled Hermione, although she also has certain traits of my sister.
But I also recognise a lot of Harry in me. A part of Harry’s anger is my own, just like his frustration. He particularly has that in book five. The darkest book of the series where he has lost everything and there is no one who believes him. IÃ¢â‚¬ve, after my first marriage, also experienced such a period in my life where I had the feeling that everything was going wrong, where I was angry at everyone, felt powerless and I couldn’t stand that I wasn’t in control of the situation. But that also gave me the power to fight.
And is there a mother in there who might resemble you?You’re not the Molly Weasley-type.
ËœWell, a little bit, I hope. Years ago someone wrote: she characterizes Molly Weasley as a mother who is only at home looking after the children. I was deeply offended, because I till a year before that had also been such a mother who was at home all the time taking care of her child Ã¢â‚¬” for the outside world at least. What has lesser status and is more difficult then raising a child? And what is more important? Molly had seven! I think Molly is a terrific woman.
She does commit a murder.
Yes in book seven she kills Bellatrix- she is the only woman on the good side who kills. I saw Molly and Bellatrix standing opposite of each other for a long time; two completely different characters, who each show a very feminine side of love. The pure and protecting love of Molly, and the obsessive, perverse of Bellatrix. Those two feminine types of energy against each other. That was very satisfying to write.
Why is quidditch so much fun?
Because it’s a real woman’s sport. Four balls! They have to go in six different goals. It’s multitasking; it’s what women are good at. They know there is more then one goal in life.
She didn’t exactly get it in her education, but J.K. Rowling (42) is religious. It not only led her to acceptation of mortality, but also to seven mega-bestsellers.The Translation of the last. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, is in bookstores as of tonight. In the British bookstore Waterstone’s lie desperate leaflets with the text “ËœWhat to read after Harry Potter?” But Joanne Rowling herself looks very far from desperate. With her hair in a new white blond style and dressed in jeans with a black velvet jacket, she pours coffee in a hotel room in her hometown of Edinburgh.
Every day I’m relieved it’s done. What comes after this I’m not exactly sure. I’m working on a new children’s book and on a book for adults. One of them will lead to something; that’s how it started with Harry. But for the time being I’m enjoying the time off, and my family.
Here in the hotel a man just passed wearing a Scottish kilt. Does your husband also wear those things?
He has a couple of kilts, yes. And he wears them every so now often, at special occasions.
And does he wear nothing underneath?
ËœNothing at all.That’s why kilts are so much fun, ha,ha!
I’ve brought you two presents. One is from Ien van Laanen, who drew the covers of your books here in Holland; she sends you the originals.
How extremely nice! The Dutch editions I like the best, together with the Americans.
The second is from your Dutch publisher, Jaco Groot.
Jaco often sends me interesting things, he…ah, a rock! But a very special one.
Ten Years ago you gave the up till now only interview with a Dutch journalist. In England you also give only a few. Do you hate interviews?
“No not at all. The reason I rarely give them, is because I actually have not that much to say.
Did you ever consider becoming a journalist? You always enjoyed writing?
I have thought about it. But I think that I was sensible enough to realise that I didn’t have the right temperament. Temperament? Yes, I think so. You’re constantly working on a deadline, you have to produce. With a writer,it’s all about time and loneliness. Journalist are a lot more enjoyable species then writers. A couple of my best friends are journalists.
In your books the species doesn’t come off that easy. Rita Skeeter is particularly nasty.
My friends are normal. One of my ex-boyfriends is a music journalist. The others also write about serious subjects. Rita Skeeter is a typical British produce, We have swamps full of them over here. They wrote a lot of nonsense about me.
In the first book of the series Dumbledore destroys the Philosopher’s stone, the mythical stone who gives the owner eternal life. In the final book Harry does something similar with the resurrection stone, a stone that can bring back the dead. He drops it in the forest.
I used the symbolism of the stone to show that Dumbledore accepts his mortality. Once he realises that its mortality that gives life meaning, he is no longer interested in the philosopher’s stone. Harry goes even further. He not only rejects one, but two of his most powerful weapons. Of the three hallows he acquires in book seven; he only keeps the invisibility cloak. This says a lot about him because, like Dumbledore tells Harry: The true magic of the cloak is that it not only protects the owner, but also other people. Harry doesn’t want the Elder wand, he has never been after power. And he throws the resurrection stone away; just like Dumbledore Harry has made his peace with death.
I think I strife for the same wisdom as Dumbledore and eventually Harry, which means that we must accept our mortality. Even though there are many things in the catholic faith I do not agree with, the idea of a memento moria [sic] I find agreeable. Every day you are aware that you are going to die, you live better; better for you and better for other people.
Do you see death as the end of everything?
No. I lead an intensely spiritual life, and even though I don’t have a terribly clear and structured idea about it, I do believe that after you die some part of you stays alive some way or other. I belief in something as the indestructible soul. But for that subject we should reserve about six hours: It’s something I struggle with a lot.
At the end of book seven Harry has a long conversation with Dumbledore. Who actually is dead but looks better and happier he has ever looked, in a beautiful light space which Harry thinks resembles King’s Cross Station.
You can interpret that conversation in two ways. Either Harry is unconscious, everything Dumbledore tells him he already knew deep inside. In that state of unconsciousness his mind travels further. Dumbledore is in that case Harry’s personification of wisdom; he sees Dumbledore in his head so he can come to certain insights.Or Harry has traveled to a place between life and death. From which Dumbledore and he will leave in opposite directions. Harry also sees there what becomes of Voldemort. He doesn’t exactly know what’s that heap that lies there on the floor in anguish, but he doesn’t want to touch it; He feels it’s a fundamentally evil and perverse creature. It’s the only time that Harry the hero of the vulnerable, is in the presence of someone who’s hurt and doesn’t come to their aid.
During their search Ron, Hermione and Harry talk about Dumbledore as if hears God. They thought that behind his words and actions there was a grand scheme; they are disillusioned when this doesn’t turn out to be the case.
He’s a complex character. I don’t see him as God. I did want that the reader would question Dumbledore’s part in the whole story. We all believed that he was a kind-hearted father figure. And to a certain extent he is. But at the same time he is someone who treats people as puppets; who caries a dark secret from his past and who never told Harry the full truth. I hope that the reader will love him again in the end. But that they love him like he is, including his faults. Is Dumbledore divine? No. He has certain divine qualities though. He is merciful, and in the end he is just.
But Harry is a sort of Jesus. He must die to rid humanity of evil. You made him into a messiah.
Yes, he does have certain messiah traits. I chose that on purpose. He is that one man in a million.. and I say “a man”because with women it’s different who is able to stand up against the power, and who turns down powers control. That makes him the wisest of all.
How can he be like that?
He’s the hero. Harry is just good. Dumbledore says it to him ‘ËœYou are a better man then me.’ As he gets older he will also remain a great man. Because he has learned to be humble.
Were you raised religiously?
I was officially raised in the Church of England, but I was actually more of a freak in my family. We didn’t talk about religion in our home. My father didn’t believe in anything, neither did my sister. My mother would incidentally visit the church, but mostly during Christmas. And I was immensely curious. From when I was 13, 14 I went to church alone. I found it very interesting what was being said there, and I believed in it.When I went to university, I became more critical. I got more annoyed with the smugness of religious people and I went to church less and less. Now I’m at the point where I started: yes, I believe. And yes, I go to the church. A protestant church here in Edinburgh. My husband is also raised protestant, but he comes from a very strict Scottish group. One where they couldn’t sing and talk.
That you yourself go to church only makes the harsh criticism of your work by religious fanatics even more bizarre.
The past ten years there have always been fundamentalists who’ve had problems with my books. The fact that they feature magic and witchcraft is already enough, they despise them. I want nothing to do with fundamentalism, of any sort; it scares me. The Christian fundamentalists are especially active in the United States. One time I have been face to face with such a person. I was in a toy store with my children and I was recognized by a girl who got all excited. The next thing that happened was that a man came up to me and said ‘Aren’t you that Potter woman? After which he brought his face close to me and said very aggressively: ‘I pray for you every evening.’ I should have said that he’d better pray for himself, but I was stunned. It was very frightening.
Your books are about the battle between good and evil. Harry is good. But is Voldemort pure Evil? He is also a victim.
He is a victim, indeed. He is a victim, and he has made choices. He was conceived by force and under the influence of a silly infatuation, While Harry was conceived in love; I think the conditions under which you were born form an important fundament of your existence. But Voldemort chose evil. I’ve been trying to point that out in the books; I gave him choices.
That’s what it constantly about: Do things go the way they are destined, or do you make your own choices?
I believe in free will. Of those that, like us, are in a privileged situation at least. For you, for me; people who are living in western society, people who are not repressed, who are free. We can choose. The things go largely like you want them to go. You control your own life. Your own will is extremely powerful. The way I write about professor Trelawney the particularly inadequate divination teacher, say a lot about how I think about destiny. I did a lot of research into astrology for her character. I found it all highly amusing, but I don’t believe in it.
For a while you worked for Amnesty. Has that influenced your ideas about good and evil?
It’s actually more the other way around. I had assumptions about that and which was why I went to work for Amnesty. I was a research assistant and I worked mainly for Africa. Till I was so foolish to give up my job to go travel after a boyfriend. Voldemort is of course a sort of Hitler. If you read books about megalomania types like Hitler and Stalin, it’s interesting to find how superstitious these people are, with all their power. It’s part of their paranoia, the desire to make themselves bigger then who they really are; they love talking about destiny and fate. I wanted Voldemort to also have those paranoid traits. But the fact that the prophecy from book five becomes true in the end is because Voldemort and Harry chose to let it come true. Not because it is destined to. The Macbeth idea: the witches tell Macbeth what will happen and he then continues to make it happen.
When did you decide to draw a parallel with the Nazis? With Voldemort, who strives for the rule of the”pure blood”, and with Draco Malfoy as a young soldier who is just ?
Immediately I think. II’m not exactly sure. I think The Second World War in anchored in all our minds, right? Draco Malfoy does indeed stand for that type of boy. He wouldn’t have killed Dumbledore , he couldn’t. As long as things are imaginary, okay, but once it becomes reality, the thing becomes more difficult. No, that I gave him that light blonde hair is not because I wanted to make him into a scary Nazi. You give your characters the appearance that you find attractive; that is why I gave my hero dark hair, green eyes and glasses. I’m married to a man who looks like that.
Your film Harry, Daniel Radcliffe, has blue eyes.
They could have given him green contacts, which is very uncomfortable for a young boy, change his eyes digitally, or leave him the way he was. I’m glad they chose the latter.
In your books you paint a picture of the perfect family, namely the Weasley family. Does it resemble the family you were raised in?
No, no. That wasn’t like that at all. I think I longed for it my whole life, that I always wanted such a family. Now I finally have one, although with less children. I found the dynamics of a big family very special; I loved books about the Kennedy’s and that sort of dynasties. I know that in reality it is far less romantic than you think. One of my friends is the oldest of twelve children.
Your mother passed away at 45. Your father is still alive; do you see him often?
No, I don’t see him that much. I see my sister a lot more, even though she’s still angry with me for killing Dobby. She always said she would never forgive me if I killed Dobby or Hagrid. But Hagrid was never in any danger. I already knew before I started writing that he would survive. Because I always had that picture in my head of the huge gigantic Hagrid walking through the forest crying with Harry in his arms.Rons father was actually going to die in book five. I didn’t do it because I felt that Arthur Weasley was the greatest father figure in the books. I couldn’t let Arthur die, I just couldn’t do it. He is the father everyone would wish for. Yes, me too.
All Parents in the book are still together. Did you ever think of writing a nice single mother in? You where one when you started on Harry Potter.
I was planning to have Hermione’s parents separate. But it felt so weird, it didn’t belong to the story. It was a sub story that didn’t go anywhere. Dean Thomas comes from a broken home by the way. But I made a lot of cuts in his storyline. I created this enormous world, for every character I’ve created a background; but I couldn’t use it all. Even I had to make choices. And in the end it’s a children’s world.