Harry Potter: How it couldn't have ended

Journalist Greg Palast claims J.K. Rowling had a surprising idea for her series' conclusion. We don't buy it

Published July 21, 2011 12:22PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk)
(AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk)

According to Greg Palast -- an American journalist who says he and J.K. Rowling became "buds" when they "shared the bestseller list" in England "years ago" -- J.K. Rowling considered ending the Harry Potter series in what one could reasonably term a highly unlikely fashion. New York magazine was quick to pick up on Palast's relevant blog post yesterday.

At gregpalast.com, Rowling's "bud" writes:

Jo knows that I found the conclusion of her series a sorry let-down, a second-rate “Show Down at the OK Corral” for Wizards. In my opinion (and she does not at all agree), Jo was too distracted by a concern for how the ending would play on film. I bugged her about it until she told me the "other" endings. ... No, Jo wouldn’t show me typed copies, but she told me a couple of "I could have done this" endings. One of them knocked me over, and I have to share it.

Share it he does (with, unsurprisingly, a couple of caveats, e.g.: "If you want to say that I didn’t get her voice and story details exactly, keep in mind that I’m working from mental notes").

Excuses aside, there are more than a couple of problems with the narrative Palast presents. In this version, Voldemort doesn't die; instead, he reverts to childhood, and is joined by ghost-versions of his mother and father who "put their reassuring arms around their son to protect him" from a curse that could obliterate his soul. Instead of being destroyed, all three are then "forever entombed" in a statue that Harry -- when, later, he becomes Hogwarts headmaster -- keeps on the Hogwarts grounds.

Here's one fundamental discordance: It's unlikely that Voldemort's parents would try to protect him the way they do here (or at least, I don't think both of them would). First of all, Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle -- the ill-fated couple whose offspring would eventually terrorize the wizarding world -- didn't even have a good relationship themselves; they came together, or so Dumbledore hypothesizes to Harry in Book 6, because of magic performed by Voldemort's mother (who was, incidentally, far from a "beautiful maid"), and separated when the enchantment wore off.

Second, Voldemort killed his father. To suggest that these two tortured souls would return together to save their son seems slightly ridiculous; to paint a picture of Voldemort as "a little child again with his mother and father at his side" is even more ridiculous, given that Tom Riddle (Jr.) grew up in an orphanage.

Another major problem: In Palast's version of the "epilogue," it emerges that "every wizard excepting Harry and the shade of Albus [Dumbledore] were cleansed of all memory of the Dark Lord." Surely that's the last thing that would have happened in an alternative ending penned by Rowling herself. Wouldn't Harry want his contemporaries and their children to remember the past, so as not to become complacent in the tranquility of the present?

These aren't the only curiosities in Palast's narratives, as Potter fans can see for themselves here. I don't know whether Greg Palast ever really spoke with J.K. Rowling on this subject, but I have to imagine -- or at least hope -- that if he did, she didn't tell him this.

By Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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