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Harry Potter Mysteries that Aren’t

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c16--professor-trelawneys-predictionFor many years, fans spent most of their time online trying to figure out the mysteries in the Harry Potter books. In fact, the Lexicon was born out of those discussions back in 1998, when the group Harry Potter for Grown Ups was a hotbed of theorizing and hypothesizing. Back then, there was no central reference for all the details and facts in the books, so I created one. That resource became the Harry Potter Lexicon, dedicated to cataloging and making accessible the “facts” of the books in the swirling sea of Potter theories and fan fiction. Before the Lexicon, there were often discussions where “proof” of one idea or another turned out to actually be fan theories from another discussion or from a fanfiction story.

Over the years, most of those mysteries that kept our fingers flying over our keyboards have been resolved, either in the books or in Rowling’s comments and interviews. There are actually very few real mysteries left. Trouble is, Rowling’s explanations came so long ago that many current fans have no idea that they are speculating on something which isn’t actually a mystery at all. Now that Rowling’s original website is gone, along with its FAQ section, those explanations aren’t even easily accessible to the average fan.

I think it’s time to start addressing some of these Non-Mysteries, giving links to the original comments by Rowling, many of which can still be found in the Internet Archives. Who knows, that might be a great topic for the next podcast. But I’ll start with this one:

Why didn’t Fred and George notice Peter Pettigrew on the Marauder’s Map?

Here’s Rowling’s response, from the FAQ section of the original website:

“It would not have mattered if they had. Unless somebody was very familiar with the story of Sirius Black (and after all, Sirius was not Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s best friend – indeed, they never knew him until after he escaped from Azkaban), Fred and George would be unlikely to know or remember that Peter Pettigrew was the person Sirius had (supposedly) murdered. Even if Fred and George HAD heard the story at some point, why would they assume that the ‘Peter Pettigrew’ they occasionally saw moving around the map was, in fact, the man murdered years before?

“Fred and George used the map for their own mischief-making, so they concentrated, naturally enough, on those portions of the map where they were planning their next misdeeds. And finally, you must not forget that hundreds of little dots are moving around this map at any given time… Fred and George did not know everyone in school by name, so a single unfamiliar name was unlikely to stand out.”

Commentary

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  • Am I the only one who found it a bit disappointing that Rowling chose to answer questions like this which were frankly just common sense answers. The internet was abuzz earlier this week because Rowling took to twitter to answer some fan questions. She answered only 3 questions, and 2 of them were simply either common sense or pointless.

    Someone asked Why Harry getting bit by the Basalisk didn’t kill the horcrux in book 2. Her answer of course was that Harry wasn’t destroyed “Beyond Repair.” Indeed he didn’t even die, so the horcrux wasn’t destroyed.
    https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/563633021837131777

    Someone else asked why Number 12 Grimmauld Place was in a muggle stretch of townhomes, and her answer is that some previous Black ancestor wanted the house and “pursuaded” the muggle owner to leave.
    https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/563635069102080000

    Both of these really don’t matter do they. Why not the juicy questions, why is it questions like this that get answered.

    Same with this old question from her FAQ. I mean seriously, did we really need JKR to explain that there are hundreds of little dots moving around and that Fred and George didn’t know everyone in the school, plus they probably didn’t care much about the Black/Pettigrew story enough to remember the name of the victim (after all, unless you knew the victim, whoever remembers the victim anyway?)

    Think about gruesome murder news stories. People remember the murderer (sometimes) but other than family members and friends, few people remember the victim years later. It never struck me as a mystery why Fred and George would simply never have noticed, but Harry, having just found out the story about Pettigrew would have his eye drawn to that name quickly.

    The only thing that would make it a mystery worth thinking about, is they might possibly have noticed that this Peter Pettigrew seems to often share a bed with their brother, that might have given them reason to wonder what’s going on.

    • All that said, I do like the idea of talking about these old “Mysteries” that thanks to the aging internet are forgotten. Well worth remembering.

  • Vaudree

    Even if they knew the story, there is a history in the HP universe of people being named for other people. According to the story Fudge and McG told, Peter was a hero who tried to stop the murderer Black so it would be a name that a Pettigrew relative may conceivably choose.

    Also, when the twins were up to no good, they would be waiting for the path they were planning to take to be dotless – so that no one could tattle on them. They were a bit flamboyant (especially Fred), played on one of the four Quidditch teams, and had a reputation for being trouble makers so they would expect the whole school to know who they were. The only time they would pay attention to the specific dots was if staying put was not an option and there were two ways to go – which would be the least risky. The priority would be to avoid Percy and the teachers, since Percy would tell Molly and Arthur – next would be Slytherin names they recognized.

    Any way, what I want to know is if Alice Longbottom and Peter Pettigrew were siblings. Though, if they were, it was probably in some ghost plot taken out because it overly complicated the story and created moral ambiguity. It would make sense, though, that Peter was chosen because he had links to both potential prophesy boys. Then there are the appearance and ability clues. And the difference in JKR’s reaction to the one theory involving Alice and Peter, which was more intense and her more muted, you watch too much Star Wars response concerning a similar theory involving Voldemort and Lily. If Peter and Alice were not siblings, then one would think that Lily and Voldemort would be the worse ship.

    Voldemort did not know the full prophesy so he did not know the consequences of choosing Harry over Neville – but what did Voldemort think that he was choosing at the time – which one to kill or which one to kill first? As soon as he killed one, the other one would be more heavily protected, under normal circumstances, so he would kill the one he considered to be the bigger threat first. As it happened, Voldemort tried to kill Harry and lost his body and that told him that it was definitely Harry to which the prophesy referred to so he would lose all interest in going after Neville. That he left Slughorn alive is more of a puzzle – especially concerning his paranoia surrounding Bertha – one would think that Slughorn would have been long dead before Harry was born.

Tags: JKR.com

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