Fawkes and Gryffindor
by Phyllis D. Morris
Professor Dumbledore's phoenix, has played a prominent role in the first
four Harry Potter books. With the fifth book reportedly titled
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,
it is worthwhile to speculate about Fawkes' past.
There is strong support in J. K. Rowling's canon for the theory that Fawkes was
Gryffindor's phoenix when Gryffindor was alive:
Fawkes is scarlet and gold, the colors of
Harry's wand contains one of Fawkes' feathers as its magical
core, and red and gold sparks fly from the end of his wand the first time
he waves it.
Fawkes lives in
Dumbledore's office along
with the Sorting Hat and sword
that we are told once belonged to
Gryffindor. The large
number of items in this office that were previously owned by
Gryffindor also suggests
that Dumbledore's office
was once Gryffindor's
office. This is further supported by the griffin-shaped knocker on
Dumbledore's office door.
In FB, Newt Scamander
(J. K. Rowling's pseudonym) indicates that the
"phoenix gains a XXXX rating not because it is aggressive,
but because very few wizards have ever succeeded in domesticating it"
(p. 32). Both Gryffindor and Dumbledore are described as uniquely powerful
wizards, so it would stand to reason that if Dumbledore is one of the few
wizards able to domesticate a phoenix, Gryffindor was likely to be another.
Scamander tells us that the "phoenix lives to an immense age as it
can regenerate, bursting into flames when its body begins to fail and rising
again from the ashes as a chick" (p. 32). Since phoenixes can resurrect
themselves from the ashes of their elderly bodies, Fawkes could have been
alive since Gryffindor's time. Moreover, the basilisk survived since Slytherin's
time (until the end of Chamber of Secrets, of course!).
In legend, the griffin was believed to be the "adversary of serpent and basilisks,
both of which were seen as embodiments of satanic demons" (from the What's
in a Name website - paraphrased from the Dictionary of Symbolism).
This could be a parallel to Gryffindor's Fawkes and Slytherin's basilisk,
and perhaps a clue to a possible good-against-evil fight between Gryffindor
and Slytherin 1,000 years ago. Moreover, Fawkes helps Harry defeat the
basilisk in the Chamber and phoenix song strengthens Harry both in the
Chamber and in the graveyard in Goblet of Fire. Fawkes' strengthening of
Harry's courage is consistent with what Scamander tells us in
song is magical; it is reputed to increase the courage of the pure of heart
and to strike fear into the hearts of the impure" (p. 32).
So if we accept the premise that Fawkes was once Gryffindor's phoenix,
it raises the interesting question of who might have owned Fawkes
between the time of Gryffindor's death and when Dumbledore assumed
responsibility for him. In David Colbert's book,
The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, he describes the Druidess
Cliodna (one of the famous witches on the trading cards that come with
the Chocolate Frogs) as owning "three enchanted birds that heal
the sick" (p. 185). Since "phoenix tears have powerful
healing properties" (FB),
perhaps the Druidess Cliodna was Fawkes' interim owner!
© 2002 Phyllis D. Morris, used by permission