James Potter, Magical Man of Mystery

As a reader, we don’t learn much about James Potter, and what we do learn seems to be contradictory.  Most of Rowling’s characters have crazy detailed back stories (which is part of the reason I love the series so much), and it’s odd that James doesn’t get the same treatment.  While we see Lily as a young child, playing with Snape, and then trace her through Hogwarts and eventually dying for Harry, we only meet up with James at Hogwarts.  When we do met him, when Harry invades Snape’s Penseive, he’s described as well cared for and well loved looking, in direct contrast to Snape’s slovenly and neglected appearance (and, yes, I could look up the direct quotes, and no, I’m not going to right now.  Next time I read the books I’ll add them in).  But when James and Lily are killed, Harry is brought to the Dursely’s, because they are Harry’s only living relatives.  No mention is given to James’s family. It obviously isn’t impossible that James was an only child, and that his parents died between the scene in the Pensieve and James and Liliy’s deaths; either natural causes or the madness of Voldemort could be an explanation for their disappearance.  But it’s never explained fully, which is unusual for Rowling, and therefore I must jump on it with the intensity of a rabid dog for a small child.  The second (and second-and-half?) part of the mystery of James Potter is his invisibility cloak, and by extension, the small fortune he is able to leave to Harry.  When theinvisibility cloak is first introducted, both the reader and Harry are new to the world of magic and accept its existence as one more new development.  It isn’t until later, in th e7th books, that Ron feels the need to mention that this is the only cloak of its kind that he’s ever seen.  It isn’t a cloak that has a spell of invisibility on it that will eventually fade and die, it is a cloak that has invisibility woven into it as inextricably as the fabric itself.  The only such cloak the wizarding world knows of is simply a myth, the gift of Death to the youngest Perevell brother to help him escape Death’s notice for a time.  The cloak would naturally give the wearer plenty of opportunites to gain wealth, and pass it, along with the cloak, down through the generations.  Rowling conveniently forgets to tell us where James Potter is actually from—we know Lily is from Spinner’s End, with Snape, and that they lived in Godric’s Hollow once they were married, but little to nothing about James’ early life.  Only one conclusion can be drawn from the fragmented information we have been given.  James is from Godric’s Hollow, like Harry, Dumbledore, and Godric Griffydor himself.  He is the direct descendant of the youngest Perevell brother, the only one to successfully avoid Death long enough to marry and have children and grandchildren.  It explains where James got the Invisibility Cloak—which Dumbledore passes on to Harry with the knowledge that it belonged to James, but with no explanation of how James came about it—and it goes far in explaining how Harry was able to inherit a small fortune once he entered the wizarding world.  It also strongly suggests that Harry and Voldemort are actually related, albeit distantly, since the ring Morvolo brags about being in his family for generations upon untold generations actually seems to contain the Resurrection Stone given to the second Perevell brother.  Iiinnnttteeerrreeessstttiiinnnggg, no?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “James Potter, Magical Man of Mystery

  1. You’re spot on here, I’ve always wondered about James too. The problem that I have is, because he doesn’t have a rich background, in the way that, say, Lily, Sirius, or Snape has, it is difficult not to judge him the way that Snape does. I do wonder if some of the obscuring of his history was an effort on Rowling’s part to alleviate some of the early admiration that Harry feels for his father, on the basis of Sirius’s opinion and his Quidditch legacy. Perhaps we’re deliberately not given enough information to shield us from the misconception that he was a wonderful person. He certainly wasn’t as a student.

    Lily, on the other hand, does seem to be wonderful until the end. She was as blind as any other self-righteous Gryffindor in the end. I believe that if she and Snape were really such close friends until the Mudblood incident, she could have taken a step back later and realised that he lashed out, out of embarrassment. However, Snape’s declaration of love in DH came as a surprise to many readers (though perhaps not to the author of millions of fanfics in which this had already been written….) because she seems to be so colourfully fleshed out. Maybe it was all in preparation for that surprise – hiding the key in plain sight. In that vein of thought, James does not serve a major purpose, but his history is kept hidden to encourage the thought that he did serve a larger purpose other than the provision of the Invisibility Cloak.

    On the subject of Harry’s grandparents. It is possible that they are dead, but as they were magical, they should technically still be alive, right? If not, this could speak of an unnatural death. I have sometimes considered whether they -are- alive, but Dumbledore deliberately kept them away from Harry in his usual manipulative manner. Being with his grandparents would have fully exposed him to the magical world, which Dumbledore did not want. Especially as the series went on, perhaps he could have suggested to them that until Voldemort was finally defeated, it would be better to stay away.
    I always suspected he had family somewhere. The full vault- with no explanation as to his parents’ riches – is a bit suspect. Could there be doting grandparents behind the scenes? It’s hard to believe that Harry has no surviving family members at all, other than the Dursleys.
    Maybe it’s a bit far-fetched, but it’s nice to think that when the battle was finally over, Harry finally connected with real family members.

    I’m hoping that we hear more about the Potters as Pottermore expands into the later books. The extra tidbits we’ve been provided with from Philosopher’s Stone have been quite insightful.

    Gosh, I do ramble. Mostly rubbish, not to be taken seriously! 😉

    • Ah…are you a Slytherin fan? I must admit I am a Griffindor through and through, so I do have a bit of a crush on James. Helped along, of course, by the mystery surrounding him.

      • Hmmm, Snape is my favourite character, so I suppose so. Though Hermione is a close second. I have nothing against Gryffindors 🙂 And I don’t imagine Lily would have married him if he wasn’t a nice bloke 😉

  2. Ah, Neville is my favorite, followed by Ron and Hermione (in a tie), so I’m a bit biased towards Griffindor. As far as Lily and Snape are concerned, I seem to remember some discussion of how Snape was changing and their friendship was already strained, and the Mudblood incident was just the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak.

  3. Kait

    These are all really good points. It is odd that Rowling would fail to put the essential background information available to readers/fans, but I think I agree with cravingpages that providing too much information about James may alter the readers perception of his character, and then the reader is left knowing something that Harry doesn’t. Know what I mean? We follow the story through Harry’s eyes, essentially (even though it is not told in first person) and what would happen if we knew Harry’s dad was much more of a jerk then the actual character has time to process? Knowing too much about James may have derailed Harry’s confidence. In the end, Harry has to become his own person, not James’ person (as Sirius Black learns the hard way in the fifth book).
    Otherwise, I have no clue why Rowling places so much emphasis on the mother and not the father- daddy problems? Either way, it falls in line with lots of other great literature where the father is fairly absent.

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