The Harry Potter Lexicon
Questions and More Questions
The questions on the Open Letter were written by me, Steve Vander Ark, with the exception of a few which Emerson of MuggleNet asked to add. I spent over a month writing these questions, trying to find ways to word them which would clarify what exactly I wanted to know and, quite honestly, trying to make sure that Jo's response wouldn't just create a host of new questions. I figured I'd only have one chance to do this--I don't expect to write a new Open Letter whenever Jo happens to answer all the questions on this one.
I knew that at least one or two of the questions would not be able to be answered in a way that satisfied all the references from the books. For example, I knew that there was really no way that Jo could rectify all the references to Charlie's age from the first three books, no matter how she answered. Please don't interpret that to mean that I was hoping to trick Jo into saying something that I could "prove" was wrong by the books. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since I write the Lexicon, and since I'm trying very hard to list the facts in its pages, I wanted to have a definitive answer to some of those questions, even though I knew that some book references may have to be ignored for now. Since Jo is actively editing her previous books, I am hoping that my mentioning some of these inconsistencies will be helpful not only for fans but for Jo as she works on that.
What you'll find below are the same questions that are on the Open Letter, along with notes on the questions, Jo's responses, and comments on her reponses. I hope that this will be helpful.
Steve Vander Ark
There was another motive to this question. Someone had challenged my placing Snape in Slytherin in the Lexicon. They asked me to indicate where I found that. I had used a reference that Snape hung around with a "gang of Slytherins" while at Hogwarts, but my correspondent pointed out that it never actually says that Snape was a Slytherin himself. I was sure he was, but to be honest, it never actually says so. I specifically mentioned Snape in the question, hoping that even if Jo said no, that ghosts and heads aren't necessarily from the houses they currently serve, she might mention Snape's house.
This question will hopefully help us to understand a little more about Hogwarts. Fans have debated long and hard about the problem of so few teachers teaching so many students. Even using TimeTurners, is would seem impossible for the small number of staff to handle the classes they would be teaching. For example, since McGonagall is the only one we see teaching Transfiguration, and since her classes consist of only the students from one year of one house, it is logical to assume that she teaches 20 separate OWL-level classes every week. Since these meet more than once a week, poor Minerva is teaching at least 40 class periods per week! That's a lot of teaching, far more than teachers would typically be teaching. And that's just through OWL level. We know that there are NEWT-level Transfiguration classes, so those would only add to the workload. There is really no way that one person can do all this, no matter how talented she is.
I'm hoping that Jo will tell us that there a a large number of teachers which we haven't encountered in the books simply because they haven't been teaching Harry's classes. While it is a bit strange, if that's the case, that we haven't heard them mentioned at all, at least this would be logical. We'll have to see what she says.
UPDATE: We know that Prof. Bathsheba Babbling teaches Ancient Runes from Jo's site (9-March-2006) but the Muggle Studies teacher is still not named. According to the list on the site, there aren't any more teachers than that, which supports the idea of a smaller student population.
Pretty straightforward question, I think.
This was one of the questions Emerson really wanted on the list. I had already decided from the evidence in the books that Godric's Hollow was a village, but Emerson didn't feel like it was certain. I know that there has been an ongoing discussion about this on the Chamber of Secrets forums, which are affiliated with MuggleNet, so this answer will settle that for them.
This is one of those questions which have been debated for five years. The biggest reason for the debate is that Jo said one thing in an interview and has strongly implied something else in both the books and her comments about the film.
First the interview. In an
online chat with Scholastic on October 16, 2000, this exchange took place:
There are about a thousand students at Hogwarts.
This is one of the instances where no answer will actually satisfy every reference in the books, however. Hopefully her answer will include mention of this and perhaps a note that she will be editing the books to fit whatever number she chooses.
As with a number of these questions, this one connects to another question. The number of students directly affects the number of teaching staff. If Jo does stick with "about a thousand" as the correct answer, she really will need to say that there are a lot more teachers as well.
UPDATE: Jo talked about this
when she was interviewed
by Melissa and Emerson. She seemed to settle on there being 600 students
at Hogwarts, although she couched her comments in more warnings about how
bad she is at numbers.
Okay, we have the answer now, and we're going to have to live with it. This was another question for which no answer would work out. The answer Jo gave doesn't actually fit with the facts from the books very well, but perhaps she will do some editing.
Unfortunately, the parts
which will need to be edited are quite extensive and are fairly important
to the story. Perhaps the most improbable reference in the books is when
Fred and George say that they "haven't won...since Charlie left." When
they say this, in September of Harry's first year, Charlie would have been
gone from Hogwarts only since June, a total of three months. During that
time there was no Quidditch, so it really makes absolutely no sense. A
few fans have gamely tried to suggest that Fred and George were being sarcastic
when they said it, but this isn't really supported by the text. It seems
far more likley that Jo simply hadn't worked out details of the ages of
the various Weasley children when she was writing that part of book one.
This whole timeline thing really irritates some people. They point out that Rowling has intentionally avoided noted actual dates within her books, with the exception of the date on the Death Day cake, and therefore we shouldn't be trying to pin it down.
First of all, I agree that Jo is writing stories which readers will read as if they are happening "now," and that "now" isn't any particular year. However, there is a definite chronology to the stories which we discover in phrases like "fifty years ago" and so on. Specific dates are given in a number of places, such as the years that Dilys Derwent was headmistress of Hogwarts, so there is a chronology built into the overall saga. If we take the Famous Wizard cards into account, we have a vast history of names and dates, detailing the developing culture and civilization of the Wizarding World. Jo has created a world which has a definite timeline to it, and she has attached dates to almost all of it.
So what is wrong with trying to work all those details out? So what if I assign particular years to the events and facts, if those years are derived from the date given in the book itself? I have gone out of my way to indicate which dates we know for sure and which we derive from other sources. Surely you can use a timeline like that to help you understand the overall flow of the story without feeling annoyed with me for making it for you.
I know that this topic generates a lot of controversy. People bring up a variety of "facts" which support one timeline or another. Here's an important point to consider: Jo's world is not ours. In Jo's world, the PlayStation could have been available whenever she wanted it to be. July 31 can be a Tuesday in 1991 in her world. Anything can be if she so chooses, even two days in a row both being Monday, which happens in GF. So we can't really argue using those kinds of details when the books "have" to have happened. It's entirely up to Jo.
So now to the question I asked here. Jo did date the second book quite precisely. In her world, the Deathday Party took place in 1992. I'm only asking her to verify that fact for me, so I can remove all the "approximate" symbology from the Lexicon. If she says that she didn't actually work it out that way, I'll leave that symbology in, but I'll leave the dates as they are, since that's what the book actually says.
A nice, clear answer from Jo would certainly put an end to a long-standing debate, though, wouldn't it? You bet it would.
Well, no, it wouldn't, becauseno answer will actually match all the references in the books, any more than her answer about Charlie could. Oh well. We'll see what she says.
UPDATE: The family tree of
the Black Family which Jo recently created for a Book Aid International
chariuty auction shows Draco's birthyear as 1980. This confirms what is
already a canon fact from book two, that Harry was born in 1980 and that
the books cover his school years from September 1991 through, presumably,
This is an important question, and not just for me personally. The official word from Warner Home Video is that they took a timeline and gave it to Jo to verify. They don't say where they got that timeline from. I suppose it's possible that they did all the research themselves. The dates they found for things exactly match the Lexicon calendars and timelines, but if they did the research just like I did, they certainly would match, right?
If that's all there was to go on, I wouldn't be able to question where the timeline came from. But upon careful examination, I discovered that the timeline on the DVD reproduced a small factual error from my day-to-day calendar for book one. I suppose it's possible that they made that exact same silly error when they were creating their timeline, but it isn't likely. It's much more likely that they simply printed out the Lexicon's calendar, ran it by Jo, and then published it in their own format.
But like I said, this is
not just an important question for me. It's an important question for everyone.
Think about it. If they did get the timeline from the Lexicon and if Rowling
never really gave it a careful look-over, then we can't treat it as canon.
If, however, they used Rowling's notes as the source, then we CAN treat
it as canon. I mean, honestly, how can I call something canon if I'M THE
SOURCE?! I need to know if I am.
Here we go again. I should have been more precise when I wrote this question. Jo's answer leaves us with quite a few unanswered questions. First of all, Jo doesn't say that she wrote the information on ALL the famous wizard cards. So which ones did she write? Second, she doesn't say that she wrote the information on the trading cards. I should have asked that too. I mentioned above how much time I spent writing these questions. I can't believe I messed up on this one so badly. Oh well.
Also a fairly straightforward question.
Some of you know that there is a theory in the Lexicon that the forms the Boggart takes during the Defense Against the Dark Arts class in PA indicate that there are two additional Gryffindor girls present. Someone actually asked Jo about this during a chat and her answer certainly made it sound like there were more. However, it's also possible that she just didn't have her list with her--probably the list we all saw in Harry Potter and Me--and wanted to make sure before she answered...and then never got around to answering.
UPDATE: During the Emerson/Melissa interview, Jo discussed this. Here's what she said:
Now this is interesting! What is Jo saying here? Notice that she didn't say that James and his friends called themselves "The Marauders." No, she says that they referred to themselves as marauders. It doesn't say that the group was called that as a title. They are using the term the way we might refer to ourselves as writers or artists. While this should be taken into account in fan fiction -- there is no such thing as The Marauders, but there are certainly four boys who would each use the phrase "I'm a marauder." What is also tells us is that her use of the apostrophe in the title of the map is correct...it's a map to be used by a marauder--and James and his friends all fit that description--and not a map to be used by The Marauders.
UPDATE: In book six, Ron
actually refers to the four as the Marauders, so that term is now canon.
We don't know if the Marauders used that term for themselves or whether
Harry, Ron, and Hermione started using it from the title of the map, but
the name is now canon.
This is another example of an answer that tells us nothing at all. She didn't actually say if Stan attended, for example. She didn't give us any hint of how many kids who have magical ability choose not to attend. So we're left with no answer to the basic question. Is Hogwarts an elite school, attended only by those who aspire to something more than working in a trade?
There's a bit of an inconsistency
in Jo's answer, too. She says they're no level to magic, that either you
have it or you don't. But some characters are clearly noted as having more
magical ability than others. Barty Crouch Sr. for example is described
as "powerfully magical." I think she intends that statement to mean that
there's no minimum level of magic which allows you to go to Hogwarts, below
which you have to be a dishwasher in the Leaky Cauldron or something like
This question may have been answered in book six. Harry is made Quidditch Captain and Hermione and Ron express their delight that he is now of the same status as Prefects. Perhaps the Head Boy and Girl are chosen from Prefects AND Quidditch Captains. We'll see what Jo says in response.
Yes, I know that we can work out the math to determine when Tonks probably attended Hogwarts. We've done so and the results are in the Lexicon. But that's not definitive. She may have taken a few years off between Hogwarts and starting her Auror training, or may have spent an extra year or two in training. We're the Lexicon, we get picky about these kinds of details. (No, really?)