Theory: Harry is the Phoenix
I don’t know if anyone else has thought of this before, but oh boy. I was reading chapter 12 of book 2, and I had a revelation, but first here’s a quick recap.
Harry is in Dumbledore’s office and he talks to the sorting hat. Then Dumbledore’s bird explodes and Harry panics. Dumbledore shows Harry the bird is a phoenix named Fawkes, and that Fawkes will be reborn from the ashes. Then Hagrid bursts in to defend Harry, but Dumbledore says he doesn’t suspect Harry. Then Dumbledore asked Harry, if he has anything to tell him, and Harry says, no.
That’s really all we need to talk about here. There’s more that happens, but it’s not that relevant.
Alright. Here it comes. Harry is the Phoenix.
Oh my God, you guys, I’m just so excited I couldn’t keep it in.
Okay. Okay. Okay. Bear with me please. Because again, it’s another post where I’m talking mostly about stuff that isn’t even in the chapter. And this time a lot of it isn’t even in the book. But this is a deep dive, right? This isn’t for your first-time reader.
But also, hello, welcome if you’re a first-time reader, please don’t be scared.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking.
“Kevin, no, Harry is the stag, Dumbledore is the Phoenix.”
But just wait. I got started thinking down this trail because of the scene in Dumbledore’s office in this chapter. There’s a lot of focus put on Fawkes. And that makes sense because Fawkes is going to become very important later in the book. But when Fawkes bursts into flames on these pages and then comes back to life, it struck me differently than it had before, that dying and coming back to life is something that Harry literally does in this series.
So to make my case, let’s start off first with what we know about phoenixes and how they relate to this. The biggest thing, like I just said now, is that phoenixes, as they approach very old age, will burst into flames and then will be reborn from the ashes. I mean, that’s Harry, in a nutshell. He does it kind of twice in the series, once metaphorically and then once later, literally. The literal one, obviously, and major spoiler ahead here, is that Harry dies in the forest and then comes back to life at the end of the seventh book. Oh, what’s that? I can just stop right there. That’s enough evidence for you?
Oh, just you wait.
Harry also kind of rises from the ashes. The very first time he faces You Know Who as a baby, the legend, more so than the actual boy himself, is born out of the ashes of his childhood home and his parents’ lives. This actually lines up better with mythology, even. In Greek mythology, they would often refer to this reborn phoenix as being a brand new bird, born from the father’s ashes. Second, and this is really superficial, but like phoenixes are red and gold, and Gryffindor’s colors are red and gold, and Harry’s kind of the quintessential Gryffindor, so…
Best evidence ever.
Last thing about actual phoenixes—
“Kevin, you idiot. Phoenixes aren’t real.”
Last thing about phoenixes in real mythology is that they’re often depicted as being endowed with a nimbus.
“Wait, what? Like they’re riding a broom? Can’t they fly on their own?”
No, in this context, a nimbus is a luminous cloud or a halo surrounding a supernatural being. You know, art. But yes, it’s the name of his broom *wink wink*
Also, also, also in these depictions, the nimbus would often have seven rays emitting from them, you know, seven, like number of books in the series, seven years at Hogwarts, seven horcruxes, seven Weasley children. The number shows up a lot in Harry’s life.
And then, just like last thing relating to birds and brooms, is that Harry goes from riding a nimbus to riding a fire bolt. Get it? Fire bolt because the bird is on fire.
Okay, so by now you might be thinking like me:
“Kevin, Harry’s Shiny Animal Protector, is a stag, not a phoenix. Dumbledore’s Shiny Animal Protector is a phoenix.”
As for that, I answer with a resounding “ha!” Let’s look first at the incantation. Expecto Patronum. Those words in Latin translate to, “I await a guardian.” It’s a spell to call forth a protector. So along this line of thinking, your Shiny Animal Protector wouldn’t necessarily be whatever animal you metaphorically represent.
Harry’s Shiny Animal Protector is a stag. He craves protection from his father. When Harry casts a corporeal Shiny Animal Protector for the first time, Harry from three hours before even thinks that his dad came back to life somehow.
Wait, Harry even believes in resurrection? Do I even need to keep talking?
Pottermore does have some literature on what a Shiny Animal Protector represents, and it does say that a Shiny Animal Protector can reveal some deep, hidden inaccessible part of your personality, but this is not always the case.
Now Dumbledore’s Shiny Animal Protector gets interesting. His Shiny Animal Protector is a phoenix. The man is clearly a big fan of phoenixes … phoenises? Phoeni? Pheno? Phenoses? I don’t know.
Now Catullus Spangle, the great 18th century researcher of charms, set forth some foundational principles for understanding Shiny Animal Protectors, one of which was that it was extremely uncommon to see someone cast a Shiny Animal Protector that takes the form of their favorite animal, and that often this revealed some sort of obsession.
He said, “It is my firm belief that such a Shiny Animal Protector is an indicator of obsession or eccentricity. Here is a wizard who may not be able to hide their essential self in common life, who may indeed create tendencies that others might prefer to conceal. Whatever the form of their Shiny Animal Protector, you would be well advised to show respect and occasionally caution towards a witch or wizard who produces the Shiny Animal Protector of their choice.” It sounds like Dumbledore to me.
But let’s think about this obsession. Why is Dumbledore obsessed with phoenixes in the first place? And that to me is kind of, of course, his quest for the Deathly Hallows as a young man. The phoenix symbolizes immortality, resurrection, life after death and all the things about the Hallows that attracted him most when he was young. But how does this relate to our theory? Well, what’s the other thing that Dumbledore tends to be a little bit obsessed about? Harry Potter.
You know, if You Know Who could produce a Shiny Animal Protector (and JKR has confirmed that he can’t do it), his might be a phoenix too. I mean, he’s obsessed with immortality and Harry too, right?
Dumbledore becomes consumed and eventually overtaken by his obsession with Harry and how his life and his death has to happen in order to bring down You Know Who. That’s evidenced by his Shiny Animal Protector, Harry Pot– I mean, a phoenix.
And the last thing I’ll bring up is the name of the secret organization that Dumbledore forms in order to bring down You Know Who, the Order of the Phoenix. Now, if you’re like me, I always thought this was just another instance where Dumbledore was like, “this is my club. It’s all about me. I’m the Phoenix.”
Nope, not anymore. You can probably guess by now, what I’m going to say. Harry is the Phoenix. Yes, the Order of the Phoenix is named after Harry. Now I don’t mean this literally. I’m not saying that Dumbledore named it after Harry, obviously the order existed before Harry was alive. What I am saying is that JKR named it after Harry.
Because what is this organization really about in both the first and second wizarding war? Its ultimate goal is the protection of Harry, to protect the one who would arise from the ashes of the first wizarding war to be reborn into a world he never knew, to eventually die again and be reborn even stronger, to protect the Phoenix.