When I first began reading the Harry Potter series, back in the summer of 2001, the only rule I’d set for myself was that I wanted to be sure to read each book prior to its corresponding movie release. I couldn’t easily be buying them all in hardcover, so I had waited ’til each one was released in paperback, that is UNTIL—I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! When I finished that book I knew that as soon as Book 6 was released my greedy, anxious little hands would be on that hardcover before it hit the shelves!
Many people have described Harry’s snappy, irritable behavior in “Phoenix” as “teenage angst.” Honestly, I’ve never seen it that way. I mean, really—after, at the end of his 5th year at Hogwarts, having witnessed Cedric Diggory die at the hands of Voldemort, then narrowly escaping death himself, to then be kept in the dark for most of the summer by everyone including his friends, he had good reason to feel more than resentful. Add to that an attack by two dementors, the threat of expulsion from Hogwarts and his wand being broken, the false reporting in The Daily Prophet turning nearly everyone against him, some “girl” trouble, being tortured by Dolores Umbridge, ignored by Dumbledore, having Quidditch ruined for him, the pressure of O.W.L. exams, and horrible nightmares which weren’t really nightmares, but a connection to Voldemort, anyone would be a bit “touchy,” don’t you think?
On the UP! side, he got to spend some time with his godfather, Sirius (and Kreacher, the Black Family elf), Hermione, Ron and the Weasleys, all of them staying at Sirius’s home at 12 Grimmauld Place that summer. Also being its headquarters, Harry learned about the Order of the Phoenix and met many of its members (as did we), like Tonks, and Kingsley Shacklebolt. Upon their return to Hogwarts, Harry also met for the first time (one of my favorite characters), the “Quibbler“-reading, radish-earring-wearing Luna “Loony” Lovegood. Then, seeing how the students, under the “tutelage” of Umbridge, were no longer learning anything in their Defense Against the Dark Arts class, due to Hermione’s brilliance and persistence, Harry ended up as “teacher” when they set up the D.A. In order to do so, they needed a secret place to practice and Dobby was the one to tell them about the AMAZING Room of Requirement. OH, how I want that room!
During this reread (sparked by Sheila at Book Journey), one thing that really struck me even more so was how symbolic the phoenix was throughout the series. It had me looking back through my notes to refresh myself on the many times Fawkes made an appearance and why. The first time Harry saw Fawkes was in Dumbledore’s office (pg. 206, CoS), he’d witnessed the bird burst into flames and turn to ashes. Dumbledore explained…
“Fawkes is a phoenix, Harry. Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes. Watch him…
“It’s a shame you had to see him on a Burning Day,” said Dumbledore, seating himself behind his desk. “He’s really very handsome most of the time, wonderful red and gold plumage. Fascinating creatures, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets.”
From “Sorcerer’s Stone,” the very first book of the series we were subtly introduced to the phoenix and its important place in the story, Harry having learned it was a phoenix (Fawkes) who’d contributed its tail feathers to serve as the core of only two wands: Harry’s and Voldemort’s. In “Goblet of Fire” we got to witness the effect these cores had when he and Voldemort dueled, producing the protective web of light (Priori Incantatem) with the soothing, strengthening song of the phoenix filling the air when it happened, having made Harry’s heart feel as though it swelled to twice its size. Fawkes had come to Harry’s aid in “Chamber of Secrets,” supplying him with a weapon (the sword of Gryffindor), then having been punctured by the poisonous fang of the Basilisk, saved Harry’s life with its healing tears.
It is no wonder that this legendary bird—a symbol of strength, faithfulness and rejuvenation through its rebirth—represents the Order. It is no wonder that Dumbledore, a man of great power, strength and integrity, was the only human who had ever earned Fawkes as a pet. (I say “earned” because a phoenix isn’t exactly a bird one could purchase from a Pet Store.) It was in my wondering how they’d met, that I found that information through a link to a J. K. Rowling interview on the Harry Potter Wiki site. It seems to me that Dumbledore’s very nature was kindred to the phoenix, his own patronus having taken the shape of one.
In “Order of the Phoenix” it was, in fact, Dumbledore having held to Fawkes’ tail feathers that enabled him to quickly flee Hogwarts as the Ministry closed in after the D.A. (Dumbledore’s Army) had been discovered. Despite the Ministry’s insistence that Voldemort had not returned, we witnessed more grave injuries and steadily increasing threats, fear and tension throughout the entire wizarding world due to the very fact that he had. He and his Death Eaters do whatever it takes to gain power, and through Voldemort’s shrewdness, Harry and his friends were lured into an extremely dangerous situation in which at least one more cherished life was lost. Our hearts again ache, deeply, and we ask how much more Harry can bear; we become more horrified—and compelled—than ever. Book 6 could not arrive soon enough!
Have you read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Where does it stand with you in the series? And do you have any thoughts on the phoenix itself, and its place in the books?
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: SO Glad I Didn’t Miss THIS Train!
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Still AWED While Reading Anew!
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: When a Book is a “THRILL RIDE!”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Burned by the GOBLET OF FIRE!
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The Half-Blood Prince: A ROYAL READ
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: An Unforgettable, “HALLOWED” Conclusion