This week marks the seven-year anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. To celebrate, we pick out the seven best fan theories that never came true.
After countless years of theorizing and speculating on the fate of Harry and his friends, J.K. Rowling somehow still managed to surprise us when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on July 21, 2007.
The betting game was so mainstream that actual bookmakers had released official odds on the likelihood of Harry’s survival (it wasn’t great), and even had stats on who would be the one to kill him (Voldemort was the clear favourite, with Snape coming in at 5-2).
A lot of people’s general theories came true – Harry was a Horcrux, Ron and Hermione got together, Snape was in love with Lily – but some twists took fans completely by surprise. Bookmaker careers were ruined when Rowling had the nerve to simultaneously kill Harry off and having him survive till the end, and we don’t think anyone saw Dumbledore’s extensive and complicated backstory coming.
And of course, a lot of supposed clues ended up being meaningless. Leading up to the release of the final novels, dedicated fans had combed through the previous six books looking for tiny hints to big developments, and developed outlandish theories (which were also generally quite awesome).
In the end, we got a pretty straightforward story – a new and final adventure for Harry, Ron and Hermione, and a clear-cut end to the epic saga.
But what about those complicated, mind-bending theories that were left in the dust? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest could-have-beens:
5. Harry Potter was the Heir of Gryffindor
Pretty self-explanatory; it would be revealed in book seven that the Potters were direct descendants of Godric Gryffindor – and therefore, the Harry-Voldemort conflict would hark back to the days of the Hogwarts Founders, making it the ultimate showdown between House Gryffindor and House Slytherin (Game of Thrones-style).
It was also assumed that like Slytherin, the other three Founders would have secret Chambers that might house weapons their descendants could use. This theory required the final book to be very Hogwarts-centric, which was a pretty safe bet considering that the previous six books had taken place there.
Some theorists even took the theory so far as to suggest that both Harry and Godric were also linked to the legendary King Arthur, and that Harry might even be Arthur born again to save Britain – proven by the fact that he was the first Gryffindor in a long time to be able to pull the sword out of the stone hat.
Of course Harry did end up being the heir of someone – the youngest and wisest of the Peverell brothers – but this was something which fans had no possible way of figuring out, since the Deathly Hallows lore was only introduced in the final book.
Why it didn’t happen:
Obviously, Rowling chose to take the final book in a direction no one could have predicted. While the individual Deathly Hallows had all been introduced in earlier books, there was no logical reason for assuming that they’d be tied together, and linked to some deeper mythology.
The Founders really didn’t matter, in the large scale of things; the only thing revealed about them in the final book was that Rowena had a daughter, and that both she and her murderer (the Bloody Baron) had been haunting the castle for centuries. A nice piece of backstory, but ultimately insignificant.
Why we’d want to see it anyway:
For a lot of people, the Harry Potter series was about a lot more than Harry and his friends’ adventures. While Harry’s years at Hogwarts served as the framework for the series, what fueled most of the in-depth theories and fanfic epics was the backstory; the origin stories of the world and its major historical figures.
And Hogwarts, being one of the central “characters” in the story, had a big backstory which deserved to be told. Fans wanted to know more about the four people who founded the school and lent their names to the Houses, whose personalities clashed so epically and whose sorting system destined the British Wizarding World to be forever divided.
If Harry and Voldemort’s bloodlines had been tied to the Founders (who we knew) as opposed to the Peverells (who we as readers had no attachment to), it might have been more of an emotional oomph. The final book could have been devoted to learning the history of Hogwarts, and we could have spent more time at the school as opposed to randomly hopping around the English countryside… which, let’s face it, some people might have preferred.
2. Neville Longbottom was the real chosen one
The prophecy as spoken by Sybill Trelawney in Order of the Phoenix goes like this:
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …
As all Potter fans know, this prophecy can apply to two people: Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. However, Dumbledore quickly clears up any doubt: Voldemort marked Harry as his equal when he chose to attack the Potters rather than the Longbottoms, therefore Voldemort himself chose his opponent.
But, the skepticists thought, isn’t that just… too easy? Is it really as simple as that to unequivocally rule out the possibility that perhaps the biggest plot twist of all is still to come? That perhaps the entire book series has been following the “wrong” person?
Somehow, in the end, Harry would try to kill Voldemort and fail – and just when all hope seemed lost, Neville would rise from the dust and perform the heroic act which vanquished the Dark Lord. We would realise that he’d been the chosen one all along, and that all eyes had been turned the wrong way.
The real kicker? Dumbledore had known the truth all along, and allowed the world to believe that Harry was the real threat to Voldemort, all in order to protect Neville. And considering what we learn about the old Headmaster in both books six and seven, this is actually pretty plausible.
This, of course, is another example of a theory that is simply reaching too far, and trying to make the Harry Potter series into something much bigger and more complicated than it is. But is that a good or a bad thing?
Why it didn’t happen:
Let’s get this straight: Harry Potter is an amazing book series. The world J.K. Rowling has crafted is fantastic; the level of detail and consistency in her universe is almost unparalleled, and the characters she has created are always going to be role models and sources of inspiration for people who read the books.
It didn’t need to be bigger. It didn’t need that huge, ground-shaking plot twist that those of us who’d read the books (literally) hundreds of times had come to expect. There’s such a thing as too much, and sometimes a thing is as simple as it appears – Neville could have been the chosen one, but Voldemort chose Harry, so it was Harry. Neville was still awesome. End of story.
Why we’d want to see it anyway:
All of the above is true. And yet. Can we really deny that a small part of us hoped – and is now a tiny bit disappointed – that the story would be bigger than it was? That there was some giant, completely unexpected shake-up in the 11th hour that’d invalidate everything we thought we knew?
For all his human faults and weaknesses, there is no doubt that Harry Potter is the hero of Harry Potter. He is the chosen one, the boy who lives, the one who saves the world. And for readers who’ve read his thoughts for the last seven years of his life, that fact is hugely satisfying. He fulfills the prophecy, he survives, he gets the girl, and with the words “All was well,” we’re left breathing a big sigh of relief and ready to move on with our lives.
But the real challenge, the way the Harry Potter series could have somehow transcended what it had already transcended, would have been if it turned out that our character, the eyes through which we saw the story, was actually a side-figure. If both the wizarding world and the readers had been misled into thinking that Harry was the hero, but in fact it turned out to be the awkward, clutzy boy next door.
Harry would still play a big role in the final battle of course, but ultimately it was the other one, the less important one, who saved the day. Wow. We loved the real ending, but we’re not going to lie: this would’ve been a kickass way to finish off the series.
1. Ron Weasley and Albus Dumbledore were the same person
This was a wild, completely insane, wonderful theory which circulated on the message boards for a long time back in the good old Potter fandom days. And although we really can’t imagine Rowling actually writing it into her canon, we have to admit that the clues were all there.
It takes root in the much-debated chess game sequence in Philosopher’s Stone, in which Ron gets his moment to shine. The problem, the theory points out, is that Ron is not only the knight (and the sacrifice – another supposed clue which fans used to “prove” that he would die in the final book), but also the director of the game. Weasley was (our) King, just like Dumbledore proved to be through most of the series.
Ron and Dumbledore, it was discovered, also looked a lot alike. They were both tall, with red hair and long noses, and if Albus Dumbledore’s name used to be Ron Weasley, the impressive scar on his left knee might have been acquired when that same leg was broken and mauled in Prisoner of Azkaban.
They both like sweets, they both like Harry… and then there’s the fact that Dumbledore seems pretty much omniscient where Harry’s life is concerned. Perhaps because he was there, dun dun dunnn!
So basically for this to happen, Ron would have to at some point be sent back in time, get stuck in the past, and live out the rest of his life under a fake name. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore – it’s only missing a Y and an S before it can spell out “Crap, I Murder Ronald Bilius Weasley” (and those two letters probably stand for “You Suck” because that is a terrible acronym and we’ve still got some letters left over).
Why it didn’t happen:
Er, well… because it’s crazy? Ron is Ron, and Dumbledore is Dumbledore, and obviously we learned in Deathly Hallows that the latter had his own very traumatic backstory.
Ron’s overall significance wasn’t anything greater than Harry’s best friend and Hermione’s love interest (and a flawed hero in his own right, of course), and it didn’t need to be. Like most other resolutions, what we actually got was enough.
Why we’d want to see it anyway:
Because although most people who read this theory before book seven came out realised how unlikely it was, it still became hugely popular in the fandom. The evidence was so extensive and clearly laid out, and despite sounding outlandish at first, the fact that the whole thing was actually plausible was a little bit exhilarating.
And come on, let’s face it. If handled right (which J.K. Rowling was certainly capable of doing), it would have been SO cool to find out that two of the main characters in this giant, sweeping saga turned out to be the same person. That never happens (Ocarina of Time game aside, spoiler alert), and is just one of the ways in which JKR could have completely turned the tables on us in the final book.
Everything Dumbledore ever did or said would have to be re-evaluated and analysed, every interaction he ever had with Harry (and more importantly, Ron) would be picked apart piece by piece… and we would have been given the best possible gift following the end of the series: a reason to keep speculating.
And when all has been said and done, isn’t that what we miss the most? The neat bow-wrapped ending we got left us relieved and able to sleep at night, but it also tied everything up much too neatly, in this writer’s opinion. The individual books were full of moments that changed everything we thought we knew, but that didn’t really happen at the end of the series.
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