Monday, July 25, 2011

Mad-Eye's Magical Eye

Because I've got a new toy I want to play with today (CommentLuv!), and because I don't yet have my blog post ready, I'm re-posting one of my favorite posts (with updates!!) from the early days of this blog. However, I see from the poll over to the right, that not as many of you are as in love with the Egyptian mythological references in Harry Potter as I am!!  That's ok, you can suffer through today. :-)

Actually, you may want to comment anyway because my new toy is supposed to show/link to your last blog post on YOUR blog when you comment on mine.  I want to make sure this new widget works properly before I put a new post up. along. Please....Thanks!


Look at the three images I have on this post and see if you recognize any similarities.

Let's start with the first image, the ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus.

The Eye of Horus was an amulet of healing and resurrection. One of the most revered and powerful amulets in ancient Egypt, the Eye provided protection from evil. It was a symbol of royal strength and assisted in the rebirth of the deceased.

As the granddaddy of apotropaic amulets, meaning a talisman that turns back harm or evil, the Eye was so popular that it spread throughout the region and the centuries, morphing and adapting to various cultures, but always retaining the staring single eye. It is truly very old magic.

nazar boncugu

The Eye still exists in various incarnations even today. It is very popular throughout the Middle East, especially in Turkey where it is known as nazar boncugu. In Turkey you will still see this amulet nailed over doors to homes, decorating the hulls of ships, and pinned to the clothing of young children, placed there protectively by their loving mothers. (Actually, you see it EVERYWHERE! :-)

Now let's look at Mad-Eye's mad and magical eye.

From Goblet of Fire:
But it was the man's eyes that made him frightening.

One of them was small, dark, and beady.  The other was large, round as a coin, and a vivid, electric blue.  The blue eye was moving ceaselessly, without blinking, and was rolling up, down, and from side to side, quite independently of the normal eye -- and then it rolled right over, pointing into the back of the man's head, so that all they could see was whiteness.  (p. 184-185)

Hmm. An all-seeing round eye with the colors of black, blue, and white... Ya think there's a connection?

A few years ago, when E.L. Fossa of Wizarding World Press pointed out to me the similarities between JKR's creation and the Turkish nazar boncugu, I felt a bit dimwitted.  Here I was, married to a Turk, having lived in Turkey many years, with many boncuks hanging in my house, on my keychain, or pinned to my children's clothes when they were babies, and I'd not made that connection.  Yet, this was the early days of my induction into the murky subtext of Harry Potter and I was only then learning how to seek below the surface.

If I'd had any remaining doubts that JKR intended for the reader to make these connections to the nazar boncugu or the Eye of Horus, it was  was when she had Umbridge nail Mad-Eye's glass eye to her office door just like the Turks do with their good luck bead that cinched it for me.  On the surface, Umbridge's action was just a bit odd.  And you can bet, whenever JKR is doing something that seems odd or slightly out of place, that she's getting at a deeper meaning, most likely using a mythological reference.

But ... why would JKR pin a benevolent amulet onto a character who in his first appearance is a Death Eater and fraud?  I think there's an initial reason, and then a deeper one that leads to the underlying mystery of the series.

First the initial reason -- the Eye of Horus, as well as its descendant, the nazar boncugu, are amulets that represent the protection of an all-seeing divinity.  In Goblet of Fire, pseudo Mad-Eye (aka Barty Crouch, Jr.) fills this role.  He sees all, knows much more than any other character what is truly going on, and is bent on protecting Harry and getting him through as champion in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  Unfortunately, all this protection is aimed at sacrificing Harry to his lord and master, Voldemort.

However, in the end, despite himself, Crouch's protection works effectively.  It is Barty Crouch as Mad-Eye who taught Harry how to throw off the Imperius curse, an ability that helps Harry survive his encounter with the Dark Lord and return safely to Hogwarts.

 For a deeper analysis of these ancient references -- JK Rowling utilized ancient myths, I believe, to show the continuity of belief....Jung's universal collective subconscious, if you will.  What people have believed for two thousand years, still rings true long as you change the clothes and settings.  Good versus Evil, the eternal nature of Love, our need to fight our Shadow and triumph.  All this rang as true to Egyptian ears three thousand years ago as it does to ours today.

As writers, we have the option of working sub-textual meaning into our stories.  If we do so with skill and resonance, as JKR has done with Moody's eye, then we've provided a whole new layer for the reader to engage within our pages, time and time again.

Notice that JKR never says the words Horus or Egyptian mythology in the text.  Nor does she point out directly the resemblance of Mad-Eye's bulging blue eye to the Turkish good luck charm.  She simply describes her creation in a similar way, has it utilized in a related manner, points the reader in the direction of Turkey and Egypt in other places (Bill's work in Egypt, the Egyptian Quidditch referee, and the mention of Ludo Bagman's win over the Turkish Quidditch team).  Thus, with such subtle but deliberate hints, the game master leaves these little Easter Egg delights for the reader to discover.

That's the joy of subtext and why layers of it added to your writing bring your reader back to your story time and time again.  Readers delight in being able to read a Potter novel for the second, third, (cough, sixth, cough) time and still discover meaning that was not evident on an earlier read.

So, why would JKR draw so much attention to this particular ancient Eygptian amulet?  I have a theory and it points to the Horcruxes.  But that's a huge 'nother post. (Actually, it became two. You can read When is a Horcrux not a Horcrux here, and That Deathly Hallows Symbol here.

Have you layered in subtext in your writing? What technique have you found to be the most useful for referring to a theme, myth, or item below the surface?

Photo credits:
Eye of Horus
Nazar Boncugu
Mad-Eye Moody 
Door with Boncuk, Turkey