Podcast Question of the Week: Episode 185

While we wipe away our tears, we start to wonder: do the manifestations that appear from the Resurrection Stone match the mythology?

As Harry walks toward his fate, he briefly interacts with some form of his parents, Sirius, and Remus, and although we have some thoughts on what those forms actually are, our debate remains unresolved. Based on Harry’s experience spending time with these forms, and the ghosts and other beings we have seen in the past, what exactly do you think these figures are? Are these forms consistent with the Stone within The Tale of the Three Brothers?

Let us know what you think in the comments or by sending us an audioboom with the green button on the right!

  • Great question! I think this is super complex but I’ve actually had a post-it note bookmarking this chapter since Ep. 171 when Allison mentioned that Harry’s use of the ressurrection stone is “the right way to use the stone” because he is using it at the end of his life (apparently), to help the transition. I really agree and I think this means that Harry’s experience with the stone is unique, because of his motivations and his circumstances in using it. Cadmus used it out of desire and grief. Others that may have used the stone after him likely attempted to use it in a similar way. Dumbledore’s desire to find and possibly use the stone (had its curse not stopped him) was founded in his guilt and grief about Arianna. But Harry needs help. He needs guidance. And he needs comfort on his walk towards death. Thus, I think that the “apparitions” that appear to him are not consistent with the mythology as you ask in the question because this is a unique happening and something directly related to Harry as a fated hero. But it is consistent with the magic in this universe and how idiosyncratic things can occur (specifically as a consequence of the relationship of Voldemort and Harry).

    To Eric’s quandry specifically about the nature of these apparitions and their source, I understand where that alternative is coming from. It is quite existential and actually a fundamental consideration about all life experience but, in the context of this book, I think we can come to some conclusion. If you were to ask Dumbledore this question, I think he would give you an answer like this: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

    • It also struck me that the process to use the stone (turning it thrice in hand) reflects back on the process to find and enter the Room of Requirement. And I find it interesting that, at least in Harry’s case, this process is undertaken with a need. Perhaps this is JKR’s standard mark of “conjuring” or a basic magical process embedded in many different things. Or there could be something tying these two thing specifically. WOuld love to hear thoughts.

      • Slyvenpuffdor

        I think it may just be a case of “well 3 is a magic number.” But the more interesting option, perhaps, is that many magical artefacts function on a basis of need or intent!

    • spielerman

      “”Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – I plan to delve further into my thoughts on that comment in the future, but the short of it is: What a Catchy Cop-Out! If I didn’t admire JKR so much I would be actually angry. This Dumbledore ‘witticism’ really scapegoats what I feel is the most interesting mystery of them all. JKR’s decision not to firmly define Harry’s experience is done with good intentions, probably to be inclusive of everyone’s religious beliefs and/or at the very least to cast doubt upon anyone who would take issue, by being able to reason it as ‘chemical processes’ of the dying Harry’s mind… one last vision, etc. Sure, what happens inside one’s head can be considered ‘real,’ dreams are real to the dreamer and when we wake up, they really happened. We can act on them, respond to them, in reality. However, what we apparently can’t do is actually have a meaningful conversation with someone who has actually died. Apparently they’re beyond reach even in the Wizarding World, because this is some kind of Mindbledore (copyright pending) just as the Ressurrection Stone showed Harry those Heartpparitions in this past chapter. 😉 ~Eric Scull

      • Slyvenpuffdor

        Is it a copout? I’m not so sure. I think the fact that it’s happening in his head, while naturally being a cognitive phenomenon, is ALSO a magical phenomenon, right? So there’s still some question there about how the magic works. Unless I’m not understanding what you mean by copout.

      • Silverdoe25

        Before I even got as far as your reply, Eric, Hufflepuffskein’s response put me in mind of a real life phenomena that parallels both Harry’s experience in the forest and coming up at King’s Cross. My father passed away 15 years ago after a long illness. In his last week or so, he was at home with Hospice. One of the last days that he was conscious enough to talk lucidly, I recall him talking about how both of his parents came to visit him the night before. The Hospice nurse told me this was an extremely common experience for people near death and was one of several events she told me to look for and expect. It makes me have a whole new take on the Stone and King’s Cross. 🙂

    • Jaye Dozier

      Love this response – I tend to be of the opinion that just because we can’t rationalize or explain something, that doesn’t mean it can’t be real (I mean in our own world, there is still so much that exists that we can’t explain!). When asked about “truth” in relation to fantasy, Tolkien said in his lecture “On Fairy Stories”:

      “If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world. That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). But in the “eucatastrophe” (the joy-filled consolation of the happy ending), we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater—it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.”

      Tolkien connected the “eucatastrophe” with the Christian gospels, and I think Rowling is pulling from this idea some in her own story, as Tolkien did with “Lord of the Rings.” I think these resurrected figures are “true” within her own world, but reflect upon real-world religious beliefs in an afterlife, in the comfort of the eternal reality of love, and in ultimate, final peace. In this scene (and the next), I feel that she is using the mode of magic as an exploration of the spiritual, to explain things that cannot be explain in rational terms. Just because these figures are only visible to Harry, or that his conversation happens with Dumbledore inside his head, why CANT they still be real? The magical world (and, you could argue, the spiritual) doesn’t work within the confines of our reality. Although she explores this in her own way (as Tolkien did), I believe they are reflecting upon the same ideas. Whether or not you believe the same religious beliefs is completely up to you, but I think you have to take her personal ideas into account in order to understand what she is doing in this scene.

      • I’m with you here! Oftentimes, we take the relativism out of stories because we are taught to look for the “one answer” or the “right answer” etc. But there is subjectivity and ‘it’s all relative’ even in stories, especially in ones as nuanced as HP.

        Love your thoughts … This chapter is the turn that leads to Tolkien’s eucatastrophe — we dread and dread and we despair. Harry will die. But turn the page and “the eagles are coming” (metaphorically) – Harry gets a chance to chose to live or “move on.”

      • BadgermoleButterbeer

        Huge props for bringing in eucatastrophe. There’s so much of it in this book! And this is a small, but lovely example of it.

  • FatOldFart

    Question of the week thoughts.
    Harry could see Sirius, James, Lilly and Lupin because he was holding the stone and he wanted to see them. If he had not known that Lupin was dead he wouldn’t have seen him because he wouldn’t have thought of him to call him. Anybody who wanted to see any of them could have recalled them if they were holding the stone and wanted to see them. The stone only brings them back to the holder. Why would anyone else see them unless they were holding the stone?

    • spielerman

      Thanks for your comment, FOF! I must say, then, if “the stone only brings them back to the holder,” and in answer to your question “why would anyone else see them…?” It’s this premise that these beings are somehow “resurrected.” Not only in appearance to the person holding the stone, but… actually ressurrected, as in, what once was dead, now walks among us mortals once again. If the scope of the apparitions is limited to the view of the holder, then to my mind the apparitions are less real. Beings “from the afterlife” should be seen by all, regardless of who summoned them, just as the possessor of the Elder Wand sends many people to their graves in the first place as a result of that particular Hallow. The will of the holder affects reality, whereas the Ressurrection Stone is quite muted in its actual capabilities, it would seem…. eager to know your thoughts!

      • Slyvenpuffdor

        With you on this one Eric!

      • FatOldFart

        No magic can bring back the dead. Death didn’t really bring the second brothers girlfriend back to life but allowed him to talk to her summoned soul of the girlfriend who didn’t really want to come back. The stone only seems to allow the user to glimpse through a veil like the one in the department of mysteries at the recalled dead person.

      • FatOldFart

        I wonder if the second brother made the stone after extensive study of the veil in the department of mysteries? The girlfriend appeared to him but was separated as if behind a veil.

      • FatOldFart

        Another thought is that if the stone should make the recalled dead visible to all then would it follow that the invisibility cloak should make everyone in the room invisible?

  • skgai

    The ability of the Resurrection Stone is intentionally meant to be ambiguous. I think the most moving thing is that during Harry’s lifetime he is able to tell everyone whose deaths he feels he’s responsible for, sorry and that Harry himself accepts their deaths as simply a consequence of living. I find that far more moving if the stone simply projects the people as you see them in your heart rather than truly resurrecting them. It means he has left all regret behind him. All the useless, unhelpful regret in the distance and accepted that his heart holds the key to truth. He knows that if someone steals that key through force, life isn’t worth living. Voldemort is fighting a war that says a person isn’t a person. That person is either a mudblood or pure-blood. He’s fighting a war that says power is all-powerful. He’s fighting a war that says love isn’t real. But Harry knows the truth because his heart is impenetrable. Not ev

  • Casey L.

    Other posters have touched on this in the past when discussing the stone, and I think it’s very relevant to keep in mind when having this discussion – according to legend, the stone comes from Death, whose purpose is to collect lives. With that in mind, it seems to me the figures appearing as a result of the stone must vary in form, depending on what will best draw the holder of the stone to his/her death. So for Cadmus Peverell, his former lover takes the form of a sad, forlorn figure that destroys his will to live with her. In contrast, Harry’s guardians take the form of comforting figures who will coax him lovingly into death. The consistency doesn’t necessarily come from the figures themselves, but from the final outcome when they are summoned.
    What are they? If we go with Harry’s impression, that they’re like the impression of Tom Riddle that escaped the diary, maybe they’re souls, and to some extent, they behave similarly – they take form because of Harry’s emotional turmoil, but once he’s at peace and is ready to proceed, they disappear.

    • spielerman

      wooooooooooow. wow wow wow. I think this is a fascinating take on tying what happened in the chapter back to Death itself (Himself?) In spite of my username I’m actually finding myself somewhat speechless. ~Eric Scull

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      This is a stellar idea! It makes sense that Death designed the wand and the stone to draw people to it (and we see that they do), and I think that the brilliance of the cloak is that it does not draw one to Death. It could, of course, be argued that the cloak enables one to take more risks which may lead them closer to Death, but I would counter that that is not an inherent design factor of the cloak (I suppose the same argument could be used for the wand actually). Still, really cool to think about!

    • skgai

      I just wanted to point out the “The Tale of the Three Brothers” is a story. I, for one, don’t think it is true. I think the brothers just created three incredibly powerful magical objects. Death is just a story creation in my opinion.

    • Gina Aswell

      I agree and want to add that I think the stone has a way maybe not lifting the veil from Phoenix but has a spell that creates a transparency of the veil allowing for less of a barrier between those behind in the afterlife/other dimension to be called to and communicate with those living.

      In the next chapter, you see the visual representation of Harry, Voldy and Dumbledore’s souls. I don’t think it’s the visual of them in their “prime” as discussed in the last episode. I think it is the purest visual form of the soul without environmental influences. Voldemort looks more human (kind of) in person than his soul.

  • Slyvenpuffdor

    I love this question! I’ve mentioned this theory before, but I think the resurrection stone projects memories/feelings of loved ones from the user and does not actually pull their spirits from the afterlife (again I agree with Eric here). I don’t think Harry calls any of them by name, but calls “loved ones” and the four are the ones who show up. As for their mixed appearances and their messages, both can be attributed to the projection of Harry’s mind, he wants to see them in their prime to give them peace and him confidence. It isn’t that difficult at all for a person to imagine how a younger version of their mentors would look, or to imagine would they would say (of course it’s exactly what Harry wants to hear because their reflecting his desires). They even say “We are a part of you.” I think Cadmus’ experience as well, which seems rather different from Harry’s, also lends support to the idea that the user’s desires are reflected. I think ultimately it falls upon whether or not you think it is magically possible to relocate a soul from the afterlife and give it corporeal form in the real world, if even for a moment.

    Also, Harry says they are most like the being that came from Tom Riddle’s diary, which is a memory! (and technically a portion of soul). It can also be argued by this that a piece of each of these people’s souls lives within Harry, and that is how the projection works, but this is getting way too deep into religion, I think.

    As a side question, do we think Albus used the stone to contact Ariana? That would make a great flash-fiction scene.

    • buckbeak is my spirit animal

      I bet he was trying to contact her when the curse on the ring came into play and he had to give up.

  • Carapace

    This question is a particularly hard one to answer. It gets particularly difficult when one has to set aside their own opinions as to whether or not there is an afterlife in the real world. The presence of ghosts leads one to believe that there is an afterlife in the Harry Potter universe in one form or another, witches and wizards were given the choice to “move on” or not. Also we will hear in the next chapter one of the more famous Dumbledore quotes in the series, “Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” This statement does leaves ambiguity, but leans more towards the idea of there being some sort of afterlife and that Harry is getting an opportunity to see at least a small piece of it.

    It makes it difficult with the evidence given to argue against the presence of an afterlife within the confines of the series, and the precedent has been set for the dead coming back in one form or another. While I do agree, at first glance it seems suspicious that the figures tell Harry exactly what he needs to hear in that moment, wouldn’t those same figures say the exact same things if it is indeed what Harry thinks it is? After all, it is his parents and their two best friends.

    My answer is that there is no answer. Other than the individual answers we all have. Whichever interpretation best serves the reader at the time is the correct one. The book was set to print and sold to us and in a way now belongs to us. our own opinions can even outweigh the authors opinions if we would like for them to because it no longer belongs to just her, it belongs to the world.

  • Efthymia

    Let’s not forget that “The Tale Of The Three Brothers” is -as the title clearly indicates- a tale.
    We don’t know what exactly was the second brother’s experience with the stone, or even how he came to possess it in the first place.
    His experience may have been the same one as Harry’s -he may have been willing to die, and wanted the comforting company of his loved one to make the “transition” easier. For all we know, poor Cadmus could have been suffering from depression and decided to kill himself, but since back then awareness of mental illness was non-existent and people couldn’t fathom anything worse than death, they believed that it was the “ghost” (or whatever it was) of his dead lover that made him kill himself.
    And since it’s very likely that the brothers made the Hallows themselves and no humanised Death was involved (as it is also mentioned in the book), Cadmus could have actually made the stone for this purpose -to bring a form of his beloved back (or trick his mind into thinking so, the stone could very well be a strong hallucinogenic) to make his death easier, make him feel that he wouldn’t die alone and that there were good things waiting for him in the afterlife (if he believed in one).

  • Yo Rufus On Fire

    Ahhhh, great question!!!!

    I believe that when people die they can chose to “move on” or stay as a ghost, however even if they move on they are still able to look down upon the living. We see in the later chapter that that Dumbledore has moved on, but he still talks to Harry and explains things to him that Harry has always had questions about. While yes, the resurrection stone does not come into play here, Dumbledore has moved on so technically he wouldn’t be able to travel into limbo to talk to Harry. Which is why I think that even though you have moved on, you can still view the live. You just can not interact with them like a ghost can.

    I think they do stay with him until the very end. He drops the stone and he is not able to see them anymore, but they are still there for him. In his heart he knows that they are there so he is okay moving forward without seeing them.

  • buckbeak is my spirit animal

    I think that they would have been some sort of soul coming back and being with Harry. I have trouble believing in a traditional afterlife, so while I see that it’s possible, and probable, that it’s actually them, I can’t quite get behind that one.

    So! I think they’re something way, way, cooler. I feel like (since we know everyone has a soul) your soul leaves an impression and a magical memory on the world when you’re living on it. It lingers in the world once you physically die. It isn’t a conscious thing, it’s just the lingering impression. It contains your emotional resonances, memories, etc., but it eventually fades away. But, like in the pensieve, where you can retain a memory and find the most true impression of a moment, this memory soul thing does the same thing. The memories of all the dead linger on the planet, and the combination of everyone gives an accurate impression of a person. Then, since it has all of this knowledge about the subject, it can also create predictive speech (like an AI or something).

    So I think what Harry is seeing are these impressions of his loved ones. They can’t come back to life, because it just isn’t possible, but they’re so close to the original person, they can pass as that being.

    Maybe they’re some sort of physical embodiment of the magic that is harnessed to create the portraits.

  • SnapesManyButtons

    I think that as described in the story, the Deathly Hallows are meant to be a trick by Death that seems to give the asker what they want, but in fact does not. I don’t think Death himself created the Hallows, but that the story grew up around the actual items that the Peverell brothers created because of the fates met by those who came into possession of the Hallows. Fates much different than what they had expected. An unbeatable wand, but not so unbeatable that it can’t be taken from you as you sleep or won by a more skilled dueler. A stone that resurrects the dead, but not in a form that brings satisfaction to the living or those brought back because of the veil that still separates them. Only the Cloak seems to be resistant to the trickery, which is reflected in the story where the one who asks for the Cloak uses it wisely and lives a long life.

    Although the Resurrection Stone was made by a Wizard, I do think, that the person resurrected is a form of the actual person who died. Because it is not the perfect resurrection that the Stone seems to promise, perhaps only Death himself could actually do that, they are not a fully resurrected person, as in someone brought back from the dead to live again. In the story it is a veil that separates the resurrected from the living, in Harry’s case it seems to be that they are not fully corporeal, either way, they cannot participate fully as a living being and that is what causes pain to both. They are present enough that the grieving person doesn’t want to let go, but not enough for either of them to really be satisfied with the situation. I don’t think the resurrected person would be visible to others, which would be another level of disappointment to both the living and the resurrected. In the end the holder of the Stone has to let go of the person they wanted to bring back, as Harry did, or they will end up as in the story finally killing themselves to be with their loved one.

    I also believe that Harry didn’t consciously summon those who came, but that the Stone is capable of summoning those your heart desires, similar to the Mirror of Erised. They appear as their “best” selves, which is how I picture people appearing in the afterlife. And when Harry drops the Stone, he may not see them anymore, but I believe they are still with him, just as Sirius said, “We are a part of you. Invisible to anyone else.”

  • BadgermoleButterbeer

    I sometimes wonder if the Resurrection Stone is sort of like “The Hand of Glory” that we see in earlier books that allows only the person holding it to have light in darkness. Instead, the stone allows the person holding it to see beyond the veil to the dead. They’re not ghosts because ghosts (in the wizarding world) are still in this world. The dead however are “veiled” from us, but are real corporeal people. They have substance and mass.

    There is a New Testament Bible verse (Hebrews 12:1 for those interested) that talks about us being “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses”. It is traditionally thought that these are the dead that have already gone to heaven. They’re gone, but still with us. We just can’t communicate with them. (Oversimplification, but an interesting way of looking at it.)

  • badonkaTonks

    I think the figures that come from the Resurrection Stone are more then ghosts but less then someone actually being resurrected. They are more then ghosts because these are people who have actually passed on to whatever is out there after death, but are less then “human” because they do not have a physical body to be on this earth with. So I think that the forms that Harry’s parents, Sirus and Lupin take are consistent with was told to us in The Tale of Three Brothers. What makes them different is the intention with which you are calling your loved ones back from the afterlife. Cadmus called back the woman he intended to marry before she unfortunately died. His intentions were to keep her here back with him, but seeing as she had already experienced the afterlife or dare I say Heaven, perhaps coming back to the physical world would be almost like taking a step back for her, for since she was not a ghost she chose to move on to what is next. She was at peace and Cadmus interrupted that peace for selfish reasons, so there for she was not happy and became miserable, drove Cadmus mad and he eventually got to join her in the afterlife. Harry on the other hand, for lack of a better term used the stone correctly. He did not intend to keep his parents here, to take them away from their peace, but intended to join them in it. So instead of being unhappy about being called back the physical world, they greeted him as the loving parents and family he had always imagined, putting Harry at ease about the fact that he too was minutes aways from being with them forever. So it seems that no matter what your intentions are for using the Stone it seem that it is not the loved ones who are being called to the physical world, but by using it’s almost like calling yourself to afterlife, and it’s how you accept death that determines how you are greeted.

  • Gina Aswell

    If Voldemort in the diary is a piece of his soul and that is how they have been described, wouldn’t the visions from the stone be the visual representation of their souls? This means Harry’s heart/soul/love call to them and those souls are able to appear through the stone. More than an imprint because their souls are fully intact.

  • Christine Sarena

    What are the figures of Harrys parents, Sirius and Remus?
    In my opinion these are the “real” persons in their afterlife state, not in flesh and blood, but in their astral forms, to which Harry has access through the help of the resurrection stone.
    Sirius had told Harry befor,e that all those that we really love, are PRESENT always – in our heart. That’s why they feel Harry’s need at this critical moment and show him their support and PRESENCE. When he is sure of this, he no longer needs to see them outwardly them and drops the stone.

  • Dobby’s Many Hats

    I think this figures are a memory, but unlike a pensive memory, which come from a single person. This are the whole of the earth’s memory, and not a memory of their bodies but of their souls.
    They have weight and mass, which we know from the sound they make shuffling leaves, but they have soft edges, just like the Tom Riddle that came out of the diary, which was created from a part of Tom’s own soul.
    I have a different but related question: if Harry had done the most sensible thing with the stone, which is to give it to the Department of Misteries, instead of just leaving it in Aragog’s clearing, what do you think they would have found?
    I think that stone could clear up every single mystery of the past. Imagine finally knowing who wrote Shakespeare’s plays? Was his lost play any good? Was King Arthur real? What was Fermat’s proof for his final theorem?