July 16, 2005


History According to Harry: Appeasement fails with warlocks too. (JONATHAN V. LAST, July 15, 2005, Opinion Journal)

"Order of the Phoenix" tells how, after nearly 14 years of peace, Lord Voldemort re-emerges to pursue his plans for dominion. As a Hogwarts divination professor explains: "The indications have been that Wizard-kind is living through nothing more than a brief calm between two wars."

Harry is the only witness to Voldemort's reappearance; but he tells Albus Dumbledore, the school's headmaster, who tries to raise the alarm. Dumbledore is an old and respected figure, the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards. But when he attempts to set England's wizards against the coming storm, the government--under the administration of Cornelius Fudge, the minister of magic--denies that Voldemort is alive and launches a campaign to discredit Dumbledore.

Let's start with Voldemort, who makes for a fair Hitler: He is an aspiring dictator who wants to cleanse the world of "mud-bloods"--wizards who have normal, or "muggle," parentage. Dumbledore is clearly Ms. Rowling's Churchill. Like the British lion, Dumbledore is a part of the establishment, but when he tries to awaken people to the threat that Voldemort poses, he becomes unpopular. Ms. Rowling's wizards, like the British of the 1930s, are exhausted from their last war and unwilling to believe that it's time to take up arms again.

Like Neville Chamberlain, Minister Fudge is eager to help his constituents look the other way. Throughout the '30s, Chamberlain, fearing that Churchill was out for his job, conducted a campaign against his fellow Tory. Chamberlain denied the existence of the German menace and ridiculed Churchill as a "warmonger." He used the London Times--the government's house organ--to attack Churchill and suppress dispatches from abroad about the Nazis that would have vindicated him.

As war approached and it became obvious that Churchill's skills were needed, Chamberlain denied his appointment to the cabinet again and again, while Chamberlain's underlings, such as the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, licked his boots, kowtowed to Hitler and savaged Churchill.

Fudge is nearly as craven. Spurred by Harry's encounter with the resurgent Voldemort, Dumbledore makes a stirring speech urging resistance. For his trouble, Minister Fudge goes the full-Chamberlain, traducing his opponent and his motives. "Dumbledore's name's mud with the Ministry these days," explains one of Harry's friends. "They all think he's just making trouble" because Fudge "thinks Dumbledore wants to become Minister of Magic....[Fudge] loves being Minister of Magic, and he's managed to convince himself that he's the clever one and Dumbledore's simply stirring up trouble for the sake of it."

Ms. Rowling must have studied Chamberlain's private letters.

But then, thanks to Mr. Choudhury, we knew this already:



Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at January 19, 2004 01:32 PM

Posted by Matt Murphy at July 16, 2005 9:36 AM

If it were history according to Harry, then:

Voldemoort = Jesus

Dumbledore = Darwin

Fudge = the principal of a Catholic parochial school, circa 1955 and

Harry = Harry

Posted by: David Cohen at July 16, 2005 10:48 AM

David Cohen:

Yes, and in his mind the frequently-despised Mudbloods equal all the poor Rationalists persecuted by Christianity since it first blighted our earth with its presence.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 16, 2005 2:00 PM

Sometimes a wand is only a wand.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at July 16, 2005 4:04 PM

I'll be reading the latest one once I've prised it out of my brother's hands.

In the meantime George Martin's A Song Of Ice and Fire has been a nice substitiute.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at July 17, 2005 11:35 AM