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Harry Potter and
the Magic of the Internet

Interview by Stephen Fry (the voice of the audiobooks)
with JK Rowling at the Royal Albert Hall, London
(click here for a complete version)

 

Transcript of parts concerning Snape

My comments

Stephen Fry: Yes, “Alb” - What about Malfoy? What does that mean?

JK Rowling: Malfoy is a made-up name but you could say it was old French for
bad faith. It really suits him.

You all know I'm somewhat interested in the Malfoy family because they are so intimately related to Snape. I never took the time to speak about it, but Malfoy meaning bad faith (In French: mal: noun meaning that something is bad or evil; foy: (old spelling, now spelled foi) is faith) should indicate a little bit more about what is to be expected from them towards Snape or anybody else. Therefore, whatever their relationship is as of now, it's surely all (and not surprisingly) based on bad faith and untrue feelings.  Lucius will always save his skin! That's for sure.  Draco... well you have to think about his admiration for Snape. But as Rowling said earlier in her interview, she's worried that more and more people start disguising as Draco.  I reckon she won't "save" him or make him purge his wrong doings like Snape as so many fans would like to, which is bad I think because it would really render her characters more simplistic, almost Disney-like! Everybody does that: if you're evil once, you are evil for the rest of your life!  Well, it's true for lots of people, but there are exceptions. An exception that I at least expect in Snape.  However, if you read further down this page, you'll notice Rowling may have "evil" plans for Snape.  I would be sooooo sad to see a chance at redemption wasted away because "Snape is suppose to be a bad guy so  it means he also "has to stay that way".  That would be so cliché and simplistic.  I know those are children-indented books, but still.  Why waste a good literary opportunity as this for the sake of having children understand the story the first time around?  They'll grow up one day and understand what she meant, that's all. Oh well!  That's just my opinion of course!

Stephen Fry: They are. Everything is more complicated now as Harry gets older. When he entered the wizarding world after a horrible time at the Dursleys he expected Wonderland. He almost immediately he wandered into Draco Malfoy and found out that some wizards are racists. Slowly but surely he found out many people in power in the wizarding world are just as nasty and corrupt as in our world.

JK Rowling: That’s because
it’s about human nature and people with less pure motives have wands too. A lot of time is trying to legislate for them.

Stephen Fry: Exactly, politicians and journalists. It’s also true in the real world. People say we haven’t got a magic wand to cure all ills of the world but what you show is that even if you have got a magic wand it doesn’t cure all the ills.

Here we are: Rowling wants to talk about corruption.  Alright, but the question is, will she take it all out on Snape?  (read the next extract and you'll see what I mean) Is Snape really going to turn up bad again?  Like I just mentioned, it would be soooo simplistic; a white and black world.  I totally agree with the principle that humans are bad, unlike animals.  We all have a bad side, be it hidden or not, and some people exploit it more than others.  Humans are all about excesses: if we do something, we tend to do it excessively, be it bad or good. I really like Rowling for trying to teach the children that everyone of us is subject to evilness. HOWEVER, I hope she will not take it all out on Snape.  Not because I'm biased, but because it would be too simple. In real life, rarely do we see absolutely bad people.  People have flaws, but they are not all vicious and bad like Lucius Malfoy.  Take Draco for example: his whole education has only been focused on prejudices.  It would be very hard to break free of such a situation in real life, but it is manageable.  I would hence feel very bad if all the pseudo-villains or raised up as villains of Harry Potter would all turn up evil in the end.  What hope would you leave children who have bad parents?  Nothing! Just that you will end up like your parents, no matter what you do. That's what Snape stands for in Harry Potter: true redemption, true awareness and conscience!  I vehemently wish for Rowling to keep Snape that way!  He's not your charming hero, but he is a hero nonetheless!  

Another question now from Daniel Joseph, Croydon (UK)

Video “How do you decide what the baddies would be like?”

JK Rowling:
This is going to sound awful but I’ve met enough people I didn’t like in my life to have a fairly shrewd idea of what I want baddies to be like. I think from letters I get from people your age that nearly all of you here knows a Draco Malfoy and girls will almost certainly know a Pansy Parkinson. We all grow up with those sort of people and certainly as adults we’ve all have met people like Lucius Malfoy and some of the other characters.

Stephen Fry: Malfoy, Goyle and Crabbe are almost irredeemably bad – certainly there’s almost nothing attractive about about Goyle and Crabbe, repulsive – Malfoy is reasonably stylish…

JK Rowling: Malfoy is certainly stylish in the film –

Stephen Fry: Yes, and even in the books there is a certain flair.
Most characters like Snape are hard to love but there is a sort of ambiguity – you can’t quite decide - something sad about him – lonely and it’s fascinating when you think he’s going to be the evil one-a-party from Voldemort obviously in the first book, then slowly you get this idea he’s not so bad after all.



JK Rowling: Yes but you shouldn’t think him too nice. It is worth keeping an eye on old Severus definitely!


 

 

If some people remember, Snape's teaching style and persona were inspired to Rowling by one of her old school teachers.  Hence, that's comment surely applies to Snape even though she doesn't mention him directly.

 

 

 

 

Rowling is certainly appalled by the attraction a lot of people are feeling towards Draco, isn't she?  She mentions that he is stylish in the film, but does not say about her books.  Is she against the idea? Sure looks so to me, unless once again she's trying to mix us up!

 

This is what we've been waiting for!!  What's interesting in Fry's comment is how he explains why he doesn't hate Snape. He finds him hard to love, but he leaves place to the ambiguity that surrounds him, something a lot of Snape fans are attracted to!
I like what he says about him because that means even non-Snape fans must have noticed: he seems sad and lonely. It seems Fry has got the same view of Snape as we do without going into the details of course.  The fact that he stands for the pseudo-evil or alibi in the books is something that makes him believe Snape is not so bad after all. And yet... look what Rowling says...

She says yes (which proves Fry's points!) BUT: As long as I have seen interviews with Rowling, she has always gave us real clues to future books.  Hence, if she says we should not think he is so nice and should therefore definitely keep an eye on him, we surely ought to do. Which means he is not so clear as we would like to think.  And thus that the trust Dumbledore has in him may be wasted. That's not good news is it?  But, being the critic I am, we could also interpret this statement as a device.  Rowling has always used Snape as a decoy, as the pseudo-evil, it's like she wants to keep him that way until the very end. Snape is very useful to her. Even in the last book, she still implies (through the voice of her characters) that Snape must not be trusted readily, that he may turn on them at any moment. That's an important part of her plot, so why would she openly say that Snape is not so bad!  All the thrill would be over for a lot of readers!  Hence, this declaration is a two-sided mirror.  Bad or not? We are still lost! And yet, I'm also thinking up of another meaning: Snape is not going to turn nice towards the students. Frankly, that's no news!  Still, there is a definite mention of what is to be expected from Snape towards the plot, not only about his attitude towards the students!
Noticed how she refers to him as "old Severus"? Is she referring to him just like Ron who always calls him "old git" or "old bat" in the books? We usually use "old" with someone we don't like, but it doesn't mean evil, at least.  However, if she uses it as an insult as in "Old Severus is up to no good again", it somewhat makes me feel sad.   It makes me think of the Phantom of the Opera: in popular culture, he is referred to as a genius maniac, a crazy man, a monster while in fact it's not all so black and evil.  He is of course because he killed people, but if you analyze the reasons why he did so, you get a whole new perspective. His experience of the human world and nature turned him into that, and even when he had enough reasons to kill a whole bunch of dunderheads, he didn't. Yet, he is often seen in parodies or tv shows as an evil maniac!  I get the same feeling for Snape now that I know a tiny part of what Rowling intends for him.  I feel apprehensive that yet another character may be sacked. The difference is that the author of the Phantom was very sympathetic towards him even though the other characters were not so much. Here, with Snape, the same thing may be happening, except that the author may not be so comprehensive towards him as Gaston Leroux was.  However, I leave the possibility open that maybe once again that's a two-sided clue, but it looks like Snape is going to do something bad again or be a bastard.  I don't care if he is not nice to Harry, actually, I do hope that's what she meant after all, because she likes Harry so much.  But chances are Snape will do something worst than just hate Harry!  That would be very deceitful to me!  But in the same vein, it proves my theory: Snape-like people are never really liked and accepted. They are rarely given a chance in books! I guess some would argue that Rowling knew all this time and doesn't care, but still, from all the things she's put him through in the 5 books up to now, he does retain all the qualities we find in him.  Even if he makes a wrong move.    

Stephen Fry: Why does Dumbledore …(simplifies) one of the most awful things in the world when we are young, is injustice – when something’s unfair it makes us so angry. One of the things is I get upset on Harry’s behalf about how people tell lies about him. We know he’s brave and actually saved the magical world on numerous occasions, yet he has to start all over again in each book and do all over again and prove himself again. Dumbledore knows how good he is and how bad the fathers of Deatheaters, Crabbe and Goyle are.

JK Rowling: I don’t want to say too much but Dumbledore is a very wise man who knows that Harry is going to have to learn a few hard lessons to prepare him for what may be coming in his life. He allows Harry to get into what he wouldn’t allow another pupil to do and he also unwillingly permits Harry to confront things he’d rather protect him from. As people who’ve read the Order of The Phoenix will know; Dumbledore has had to step back from Harry to teach him some of life’s harder lessons.

Stephen Fry: You have to push you’re beloved chickens out of the nest so they can fly

I would say not only when we are young!  Snape  is pretty sensitive to injustice and I think this applies to him very much, on both ends: the injustice receiver and giver. (for more on this, please read my analysis)

 

 

 

What Rowling says here is wonderful: Harry has to learn a few more lessons. And she also admits that Dumbledore has been willingly allowing Harry some permissions others wouldn't have. Is that why he's always been meddling between Snape's wish to punish the boy more severely? I think so. Also, Rowling says that now, Dumbledore has to step back and allow Harry to feel the full crush of these hardships. I wonder if one of them is Snape. I believe so in a way.

Natasha: “How did you think of Quidditch because it’s so unlike any other sport I’ve heard of?”

JK Rowling: Right well, if you want to create a game like Quidditch – what you have to do is have an enormous argument with your then boyfriend, you walk out of house, you sit down in pub and you invent Quidditch. I don’t really know what the connection is between the row and Quidditch except that Quidditch is quite a violent game and maybe in my deepest, darkest soul I’d like to have seen him hit by a ‘bludger’.

 There it is: Rowling admits it.  She has deadly or violent wishes, too. Like everybody that is which is one of my argument that sustain the fact that Snape may not turn so bad in the end after all!  Rowling seems aware, though she would maybe like to deny it, that we all have a potential for evilness inside, and that this doesn't mean we all are evil itself!

Question from Jackson Long in audience competition winner

Jackson: “Professor Snape has always wanted to be Defence Against Dark Arts teacher. In book 5 he still hasn’t got the job. Why does Prof Dumbedore not allow him to be Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher?”

JK Rowling: That is an excellent question and the reason is that I have to be careful what I say here. To answer it fully would give a lot away about the remaining two books.

When Prof Dumbledore took Prof Snape onto the staff and Prof Snape said “I’d like to be Prof of Defence Against the Dark Arts please” and Prof Dumbledore felt it might bring out the worst in Snape so said “I think we’ll get you to teach Potions and see how you get along there”.


I thought so!!  Yeah! : )   However, Rowling doesn't say it all does she!?  On the other hand, it's quite wonderful to know that this answer could reveal so much about the other books that she feels it's a secret!  It must have a big importance in the plot, the fact that Snape can't get the job.  At least now we know she'll explain it eventually!  Patience my friends!

What is very interesting here is how Rowling says Snape might bring the "worst in him" by doing this job.  Is Albus trying to avoid another temptation? Is it like refusing a chronic sober drinker just one more beer?  Did Snape already bring the "worst in him" or did he not? Is there something darker there that Albus doesn't want to encourage? Very interesting indeed!

Also, the "please" in Rowling's answer kinds of preludes the fact that Snape was actually offered a choice or that he begged for the position. We don't know which one he did yet.

Finally, "first you teach Potions and we'll see how it goes" is quite revealing too. How come then Snape is still a Potions teacher?!  He is not "getting along" there it seems. Are we talking about the teaching part or the "worst of him" part? Very important difference!  I would guess the "worst part" because unless Snape would have been sacked a long time ago from his teaching positions. Does it mean he never gave up his Dark Arts studies?  Yet, we know that Moody searched his office for such signs, to get Snape out of his back but found nothing. Snape said he had nothing to hide as well. Hum? I want to know!!  x_x  Can't wait to see the real answers!  For now, I will say that teaching Potions, according to Dumbledore, has not allowed Severus enough peace of mind to be trusted the Dark Arts teaching position. Not for the students' sake, but for Snape's own sake and safety!  Unless, he wouldn't be teaching Potions! Snape is also a very military-like character, we have to bare this into account.

Stephen Fry: Now, Snape, we talked about him a little before, there is something about letter “s”, isn’t there especially with that ”n” with it, you can’t help saying it without sneering or snarling… Snarl, sneer…

JK Rowling: Snake! I could have very easily called him, Snicket instead but it’s a funnier, kinder word so I didn’t.

Stephen Fry: Or sneeze is pleasant and of course and the Founder of the House (at Hogwarts) was Salazar Slytherin - another snaky thing. Snakes feature a lot – is a Parselmouth a real thing or did you make that up?

JK Rowling: Parselmouth is an old word for someone who has a problem with the mouth, like a hare lip.


 

 

snicket ['snikit]
noun 
(Northern English)  (dialect)
a passageway or alleyway between walls or fences
[ETYMOLOGY: of obscure origin]

The goal then? Give Severus Snape a family name reminding us of a snake. Therefore, "snicket" would have fitted too... had Snape been Lupin or Albus that is!  Haha!!  Severus Snicket?!  Please!  It does look cute, funny and silly. Not only in its meaning but also its sound!  Notice how Rowling says she didn't use it because it sounded not only funnier but also kinder, which is something she didn't want Snape to inspire too much, right!
 

Stephen Fry: Now to go back to one of the most infuriating characters you’ve ever written, Umbridge.

JK Rowling: She’s horrible isn’t she? I’m glad you hate her because I really loathe Umbridge.

Stephen Fry: She is the worst.

 At least Snape is not!  Actually, I am grateful Umbridge got into the HP series!  She is helping Snape's cause. One can now easily make the difference between her and Snape!  What's more, she's on the good guys' side, at the Ministry supposedly!  How can you fathom that if not that everyone can be bad, not only Slytherins!!  Everywhere danger lurks!  Snape is not a sadist to the point Umbridge was and that is good!

Email: “Harry saw his parents die so why hasn’t he been able to see the Thestrals before?”

JK Rowling: I knew I was going to get that one…that is an excellent question. And here is the truth. At the end of Goblet of Fire we sent Harry home more depressed than he had ever been leaving Howarts. I knew that Thestrals were coming, and I can prove that because they’re in the book I’d produced for Comic Relief (UK) “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”.

These are lucky Black Winged Horses. However, if Harry had seen them and it had not been explained then it would cheat the reader. So, to explain that to myself, I decided you had to have seen the death and allowed it to sink in a bit… slowly…these creatures became solid in front of you. So that’s how I’m going to sneak past that one.

 I don't care about Harry at all here. I care about Draco Malfoy. Did you notice that he couldn't see them?!  Yes indeed!  He couldn't. That's a seemingly stupid but important clue as to Draco's upbringing!   Surely his father killed a lot of people. Yet, Draco never saw one!  So even Lucius doesn't trust his own son with this or less Rowling doesn't want to mention that fact to children!  Lucius is a sadist too, he must not have stopped killing people out of the blue one day. He must have found other ways, right?!  On muggles I would say. However, be it or not, Draco never saw any of this.

 

June 26th 2003 - The webcast was produced by MSN with Bloomsbury, Clear Channel and
Initial an Endemol Company with BT Broadband in the UK and Scholastic in the US.