I recently discovered that there is a widespread belief that there is a huge, gaping, plot hole in Harry Potter Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowlings. Or so people say. Greta Christina pointed it out on a Facebook post of Sarah Moglia’s, and when I googled it, I discovered widespread dismay about the pointlessness of the entire book.

The claim is made that there is no reason for any of the things that happen in this book to have happened. The ultimate result of most of the book’s plot is to get Harry Potter transported to the clutches of the Dark Lord in order to contribute, as an ingredient, in the ontogeny of Voldemort 2.0. The question is, why did all this stuff have to happen, with Barty Crouch Junior disguised as Mad Eye Moody manipulating the entire tournament, only to have Harry Potter touch a live and active portkey? Why not just hand him a portkey, or trick him into touching one?

Some people in responding to this question have noted two things that are worthy of mention, though they are not the answer to this mystery. One is the fact, which I’m sure is true, that Barty Crouch Jr. could not be discovered for what he really was, so an indirect means of doing anything is preferred. Handing Harry a portkey may have been too easily figured out. But really, en entire Triwizard just for that? Clearly, that is not the simple answer to the plot hole question, though it is part of it. No matter what Barty was doing, he’d want a certain amount of misdirection and secrecy.

The other thing people mention is the timing. The hot dish wasn’t ready, as it were, until a certain time and that time happened to be at the end of the Triwizard. That may be true, but it does not de-Macguffinize the entire book.

Perhaps this is because of my background in anthropology, but when I first read the book the point of the plot was utterly obvious to me once the penultimate scene developed (after Potter’s transport to where all the death eaters are). The simple, straight forward reason for having Potter transported at that time and in that way is the same for faking Potter’s entrance into the tournament and having him win. I shall explain.

Harry’s blood was to be used to reconstitute Voldemort. Quite possibly the blood of any wizard would do, but there is a handful of reasons that Harry Potter’s blood would be better. For one thing, there is the accidental horcrux-ish effect, with Voldemort’s power having bounced off Harry’s Head once. Whether or not that would really make Harry a more powerful ingredient is unclear, but these are Wizards. They believe this sort of thing. Second, Harry’s mother (and her love, bla bla bla) was obviously very powerful and was inserted into Harry on her death. More mojo. Generally, though, it is pretty clear by the big battle scene in Goblet, with the dueling wands, that Potter and Voldemort are roughly equally matched. Any wizard might do as this particular ingredient in the reconstitution of Voldemort 2.0, but Harry would be better …

… and even better, would be super-Harry.

The winner of the Triwizard is not just any wizard, but is special, esteemed, more powerful and more highly regarded in the Wizard world. When I discussed this with Julia she pointed out that Harry’s being in the tournament and his success along the way allowing him to win were all rigged. So, not meaningful.

Muggles.

First of all, in Wizard Land, technicalities are always important. LeviOHsa, not LeVIohsa. He won the tournament and gets whatever that gives you. Second, Harry Potter’s status as the youngest Tri-champ ever is reified only in the eyes of the non-Death Eater wizards, and they were unaware of the rigged nature of the deal. Third … think about it … what, ever, does a Dark Lord do that is not rigged in some way? It is the way of He Who Shall Not be Named.

Heroes become heroes by winning a series of challenges. Seven, classically. What were the challenges that Harry had won before the Triwizard started? Near the beginning of his life, he defeats Voldemort. In Philsopher’s Stone, Harry defeats Voldemort/Quirrell. In Chamber he defeats the Basilisk. In Prisoner he defeats the Dementors. So, at the beginning of Goblet of Fire, Harry has defeated four foes in four challenges. Since heroes normally defeat seven foes in seven challenges before becoming full blown heroes, three more challenges would make him in some ways the most powerful wizard he could possibly be, yet at the same time, those additional victories would not be against Voldemort, if Voldemort rigged them. The blood of a full blown hero would be significantly better than the blood of a mere prodigy, and this was a way for Voldemort to get that extra potent ingredient more or less safely.

Endoplasmic Voldemort engineered Harry Potter’s rise to hero status among his peers in order to have the most powerful possible ingredients in the Voldemort 2.0 hot dish. There is no plot hole. Only unmitigated evil.

So, fear not, you did not read Goblet of Fire needlessly. Perhaps you merely enjoyed the story and missed the point, but that’s no big deal. People have been doing that for thousands of years.

_____

Other posts of interest:

Also of interest: In Search of Sungudogo: A novel of adventure and mystery, which is also an alternative history of the Skeptics Movement.

Comments

  1. #1 Albatross
    August 17, 2013

    Ooh, are we talking Harry Potter now? *rubs hands together*

    Congratulations – I think that yours is a Rowling-worthy question. You may in fact be right. That is rather how she works throughout the series.

    Here’s another question, the answer to which I think I know – why, out of everyone who did or could have died, did Fred Weasley die?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    August 17, 2013

    I’ll give you my very first unvarnished thoughts on why Fred died.

    I am currently writing a novel. I knew I had to have a good guy likable character die (because of the nature of the novel). The first two characters I wrote were a main character and a secondary (almost main) that played off the first. Either one could die. The secondary one, though, was not important enough so it would have to be the main one. But by the time I got to near the end of her time line I just couldn’t kill her. So, realizing that if I did (what to me was) a good job in creating a character a reader could bond to that I would have a hard time killing that character, so I picked one of the characters I’d not developed yet and decided that would be the one to die. This is now controlling part of the plot, and I’ve actually already roughed out the death scene.

    Now, I’m writing that character and yes, it will be hard to kill her but she’s already dead.

    So, maybe JKR realized that, probably after creating the central trio, and at that point picked which characters would die. Black is an obvious one . His character shifted in position in the story dramatically and in a short time span (compared to the book series) and he may well have been dead before he became bondable.

    Perhaps she realized that leaving the Wizard World with too many Weasleys would be absurd, and knowing she needed to kill one off, created Fred. Perhaps originally there weren’t twins. She created twins so one could die!!! Yes, that’s it!!!

    Why do you think?

  3. #3 James
    MN
    August 17, 2013

    I also thought the book was contrived and pointless.
    Here’s what I thought when I read the book for the first time (back in ’08):
    http://zimmerscope.com/Verbisaurus/2008/05/goblet-is-just-a-fancy-word-for-mug/

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    August 17, 2013

    James, this isn’t really about how much one likes the books. You clearly don’t like the Harry Potter series very much. This is about the nature of the plot. One could understand that this is the Dark Lord fattening the calf,as I suggest, and still see it as pointless.

  5. [...] Harry Potter Goblet of Fire Plot Hole Filled (scienceblogs.com) [...]

  6. #6 CJ
    August 18, 2013

    It had to be Harry because of the protection in his blood from Lily’s sacrifice. It says it book that because Voldemort used Harry’s blood, that protection was now in both of them, enabling Voldemort to touch Harry without causing serious harm like he suffered in book 1. Also, Harry and Voldemort weren’t “evenly matched” and no other wizard could have done what Harry did that night, the only reason Harry survived was because Harry and Voldemort had twin wands, both contained a phoenix feather from Fawkes.

    I think the real reason was timing and misdirection. Nobody (except Crouch Jr.) could see into the maze, if all had gone as planned, Harry would have just disappeared from the maze, never to be seen again. Also, we don’t know how long it took to brew that potion used to bring Voldemort back to life, but in all likelihood it was incredibly complex and took a long time, especially with inept Pettigrew brewing it.

  7. [...] Harry Potter Goblet of Fire Plot Hole Filled. [...]

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    August 18, 2013

    CJ, actually your comments support my hypothesis. First, as I say, the timing issue could be worked out any way. The author of the book actually controls that, not the calendar. Second, yes, the secrecy and ability to make Harry disappear without anyone seeing how (if things worked out) is critical. But that does not obviate other issues. The question still remains “why not just come up with a simpler way”

    You point out that Harry’s Blood is superior because he was zapped by the Dark Lord. That is certainly part of it. But that simply underscores the importance of Harry’s potency as an “ingredient.”

    Yes, the common wand components are important to what happened in the wand battle, but IIRC it also became important that Harry’s ghostly familiars … his family … showed up for that battle as well. The commonly held components on their own may or may not been the leveling factor.

    It is important to note that only post hoc do these wizards ever really know the nature of the objects and the powers they manipulate. Being a wizard is an art, not a science.

  9. #9 J
    Canada
    August 19, 2013

    Completely off topic but…
    it’s LeviOsa not LevioSA, (with an “a” not an “o”)…
    Quoting Harry Potter book 1 can be tricky I guess.

  10. #10 MobiusKlein
    August 19, 2013

    Duh, it’s Levels.

    At the start of GoF, Harry Potter was only a level four Wizard. Totally unsuitable for the ritual. Needed to gain one or two levels. And while the challenges were rigged, HP still had to execute them. Only got hints for many things, and probably wasn’t the only one getting help.

  11. #11 Alan Hagan
    Florida
    August 19, 2013

    Mr. Laden,

    You touch on a good point, but not quite on the mark I think.

    It could not be the blood of any wizard for the potion, but specifically had to be the “blood of an enemy.” Voldemort really only had two enemies. Harry and Albus. No way for him to touch Dumbledore but he could get at Potter.

    But why the entire year long subterfuge with the Triwizard Tournament? Well, frankly, that particular plot point was a bit contrived if all that mattered to Voldemort was to get Harry within his clutches to complete the resurrection spell. I maintain though that Voldemort wanted more than that. Much more. It was not enough to merely have Harry’s blood (a disastrous decision as later events proved) he wanted Harry crushed and defeated. How better to do this than build him up for an entire year winning (or at least tying) in each of the three tasks and at the very moment of his supreme triumph being taken straight to his destruction at the hands of Lord Voldemort? I can imagine him savoring this as the months went by.

    And as so often happens with complex plans they went disastrously awry when unanticipated variables were introduced. Voldemort did not understand what he was setting himself up for when Lilly Potter sacrificed herself. He was not aware that his and Harry’s wands shared common cores and did not understand what this meant. He was not aware of the implications of using Harry’s blood in his resurrection. He did not understand the way the Elder Wand’s loyalty was passed. But he did know he wanted revenge specifically on Harry and that he wanted to savor it slowly. Thus the whole drawn out, complicated, Triwizard Tournament plot requiring one of his best servants to place himself at considerable risk of exposure for months to pull it off.

    Harry and Voldemort were not evenly matched. Voldemort was immensely more powerful than the “boy who lived” but he made three classic villain’s mistakes. These were that he made his plans much too complex where simpler plans would have served just as well, he personally had to be the one to kill Harry and not one of his henchmen who could have done the deed many times, and he relied on magic (technology) that he did not fully understand and in the end could not adequately control. Harry did his very credible best and he had a lot of help along the way. But bottom line is that through Harry’s luck and pluck Voldemort outsmarted himself by trying to be clever instead of simply getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    There is the explanation for the Goblet of Fire.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    August 19, 2013

    “Voldemort really only had two enemies”

    I don’t know about that.

    The idea that DL wanted harry built up and defeated is a good one. It does not conflict, though, with my hypotheses, but rather, fits nicely along side of it.

  13. #13 Collie
    August 19, 2013

    It’s a book about fucking wizards riding flying fucking broomsticks etc. How ‘real’ would you like it to be? Idiots.

  14. #14 Jen
    South Africa
    August 20, 2013

    It’s been awhile since I have re-read the books, but as far as I remember, the Triwizard tournament is an age old tradition, and not one that was concocted by Voldermort in order to create some ellaborate ruse to get his hand on Harry’s blood. It did however, give Voldemort an opportunity to get his hands on Harry, where he had previously failed within the general Hogwarts setting. The Triwizard tournament allowed Voldemort to plant his mole into Howarts and set his plans into motion etc etc.

    But why not do it in a simpler way like just hand Harry a portkey whenever? Well, I have two reasons:
    Firstly, if Voldemort were to simply hand Harry a portkey and have him disappear suddenly in front of everyone, or in any other way that would alert people to Harry’s disappearance, then everyone would know that the Dark Lord has returned. This is not what Voldemort wants. He needs his comeback to remain in secret which gives him the advantage in gaining his original power. This idea is clearly supported by the following book. Secondly, and most importantly, and even more obviously than Collie’s comment; is because IT’S A FICTIONAL NOVEL. The Triwizard tournament is part of the plot because that is what makes it interesting to the readers. The proof is in the pudding.

  15. #15 Richard
    United Kingdom
    August 20, 2013

    This is just like the Star Wars “what is the star destroyer had blown up the escape pod with the droids in it before they reached Luke”. They didn’t blow it up and Harry competed in a competition. He had to do something that year ;) The only thing that confused me was why Doctor Who was in the film!

  16. [...] Harry Potter Goblet of Fire Plot Hole Filled (scienceblogs.com) [...]

  17. [...] Harry Potter Goblet of Fire Plot Hole Filled (scienceblogs.com) [...]

  18. [...] Harry Potter Goblet of Fire Plot Hole Filled (scienceblogs.com) [...]

  19. [...] Harry Potter Goblet of Fire Plot Hole Filled (scienceblogs.com) [...]

  20. #20 Dwight
    Wilmington, NC
    January 8, 2014

    Yeah, sorry I can’t take anyone’s “expert opinion” on a Harry Potter book when you don’t even know that it’s Leviosa. You also seem to be missing quite a few of the points of the story and seem to be pulling things out of thin air that have nothing to do with the story and aren’t cliches. After reading this article I have to wonder if you even read the book at all or just looked it up on spark notes. Harry Potter books are pretty easy to follow, and you certainly don’t have to do all of this thinking to understand why the Goblet of Fire played out the way it did. The idea was to have Voldemort make his return and killing of Harry incognito. Harry can’t just go missing. The triwizard tournament wasn’t set up by Voldemort, it was happening on its own, Voldey just saw it as an opportunity to trap Harry. What’s the one way to trap him? Put him in the games. How do you do that? You have to have someone on the inside? Now, out of the three tasks which would be the best one where it is believable that Harry would just disappear? Probably the creepy maze that swallows up half the competitors anyways. So, Harry has to survive until then. It wasn’t about having him win the games, it was about having him survive until he could get to the port key. He won because he is just that damn awesome. Why did it have to be Harry’s blood? Because A) he is the one who relinquished Voldey’s powers in the first place and B) without the infusion of the protection of Lily’s love that ran through Harry’s veins, Voldey wouldn’t be able to touch him. i.e. the first book. Also the line “I can touch you now.” Makes that pretty clear. They had to do something about Moody because he was an Auror, and doing dark dealings with his eye ever lurking about would probably lead to pretty quick discovery. It’s all pretty clearly laid out in the book, I think you might just be digging a little to far, so far in fact that you have forgotten that the answers are laying right on the ground for the world to see. Stop trying to outsmart one of the greatest authors of our generation. It won’t work.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    January 8, 2014

    Dwight, you’ve totally missed the point that Voldemort could have simply captured Harry Potter at any one of a number of moments much more simply; that is the complaint people have made about the plot. Otherwise you seem to be mostly agreeing with me.

  22. #22 Dan Sharp
    Melbourne, Australia
    January 18, 2014

    Sorry Greg, but I think it is you and not Dwight who has totally missed the point. The major factor in the entire plan is that Voldemort returns without anyone knowing. Using the Triwizard is the perfect cover and the best time in the event is the final task since only Moody/Crouch can see what’s going on. Having someone a famous as Harry Potter just “disappear” would bring up too many questions and the person asking those questions would be the last person the Dark Lord wants to know he is back: Albus Dumbledore.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    January 18, 2014

    Dan, I totally agree that the tri-wizard is the perfect cover. But the “plotholers” insist that Voldemort could have figured his way around any of the problems with just snatching Harry … after all, he only needed him for a few minutes then he would become super powerful. I don’t think there was a problem to begin with.

    But the fact is that Harry did follow the Hero’s Journey, at several levels, both across the books and within the Tri Wizard tourney. That is a good reason the book is written the way it was.

  24. #24 Dan Sharp
    January 18, 2014

    But the “plotholers” don’t realise that just snatching Harry will miss up the plan. It has been said by many people, and the point you don’t seem to get, is that Voldemort doesn’t want anyone on their guard when he returns. He doesn’t need Harry for “a few minutes” but for weeks and possibly months before anyone realises that Harry didn’t die in the maze. What hasn’t been said that I would like to point out is that the reason the Dark Lord wants to use Harry and not another wizard is that he wants to kill Harry in front of his Death Eaters to prove to them that he is the most powerful and cannot be defeated by a mere child. The entire scene in the graveyard is for their benefit.
    i do conceed that having Harry complete another hero journey is good for the reader but it isn’t important to Voldemort, nor does it make Harry a more potent ingredient. The fact that he caused the Dark Lord’s downfall 15 years earlier is enough and that he won a tourney that was rigged for him doesn’t make him “Super Harry”

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    January 18, 2014

    Well, voldemort is the guy in the book, so that’s important to the readers!

    I don’t think we’re disagreeing here. We’re all on the same page in that the plotholers are wrong. The reasons they are wrong are myriad. A novel does many things all at once; reasonable plot, hero’s journey, hidden meanings, etc.

    For example, as an anthropologist I fully understood that voldemort’s use of Harry is a form of ritualized cannibalism, which does serve as you say as a demonstration to the death eaters, but I assume also provides an additional very helpful measure of additional magic mojo to make The Dark Lord stronger than his nemesis. Because that is Voldemort’s number one problem: Harry Potter is intrinsically stronger then him.

    The tournament doesn’t make him super harry. He was super harry. He just did not know that and most others (other than his mentors) did not know it either. That is the point of the hero’s journey. It does not necessarily make heroes, it reveals them.

  26. #26 Abby
    January 27, 2014

    I think we also forget that it was Barty Crouch Jr. who was pulling these strings all along. The same man who felt like Harry needed to understand and be equipped with the unforgivable curses before facing Voldemort needed him to compete in the tournament. For completely logical reasons? Probably not–he’s a raving lunatic, but he has a very solid (albeit not fully comprehensible) set of driving motivations and a very established rules of battleground engagement. He’s betting on Voldemort, but he wants it to be a good fight. Could he have sent Harry off at any point in time and covered for him as Mad Eye? Of course. He could have killed or cursed Harry with his own wand in the box at the Quidditch World Cup. But he didn’t.

    Besides, I think the thrill of killing Harry at the precise moment he was under the supervision and authority of Dumbledore and the entire Ministry, not to mention the international wizards present was a bonus Voldemort felt was worth waiting for.

    Voldemort likes to plan his (thwarted attempts of) regaining power for dramatic moments. Who better to emerge from that maze than the reincarnated Voldemort himself, shouting, “I killed the boy who lived; who’s next?”

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    January 27, 2014

    Good point. Also, he was Dr Who, which must have been a factor. In the movie, anyway.