Sunday, December 17, 2006

Severus Snape is a Good Man

For all you Harry Potter fans who have been misled by J. K. Rowling's plot-trap, the truth is that Snape is good!

You're wondering why? How? What?

So, I could give you my very lengthy explanation (in which case I would need to have the book of front of me, which I don't, because that, like so many other things, is currently residing in Chicago.)

Or I could just tell you that there is precedent!
In fact, eerily similar precedent.

(By the way, the next person who tells me that J.K. Rowling is so original will be subject to my withering look of disdain.)

Here's the precedent, folks, and now we can all agree that Severus Snape is a good man.

From A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (quite possibly the most fantastic epic fantasy writer ever, definitely the most original, least formulaic, again, fantastic):

    "We may escape them yet," the ranger said, "Or not."

    "I'm not afraid to die." It was only half a lie.

    "It may not be so easy as that, Jon."

    He did not understand. "What do you mean?"

    "If we are taken, you must yield."

    "Yield?" He blinked in disbelief. The wildlings did not make captives of the men they called the crows. They killed them, except for. . . "They only spare oathbreakers. Those who join them, like Mance Rayder."

    "And you."

    "No." He shook his head. "Never. I won't."

    "You will. I command it of you."

    "Command it? But..."

    "Our honor means no more than our lives, so long as the realm is safe. Are you a man of the Night's Watch?"

    "Yes, but-"

    "There is no but, Jon Snow. You are, or you are not."

    Jon sat up straight. "I am."

    "Then hear me. If we are taken, you will go over to them, as the wildling girl you captured once urged you. They may demand that you cut your cloak to ribbons, that you swear them an oath on your father's grave, that you curse your brothers and your Lord Commander. You must not balk, whatever is asked of you. Do as they bid you...but in your heart, remember who and what you are. Ride with them, eat with them, fight with them, for as long as it takes. And watch."

    "For what?" Jon asked.

    "Would that I knew," said Quhorin. "Your wolf saw their diggings int he valley of the Milkwater. What did they seek, in such a bleak and distant place? Did they find it? That is what you must learn, before you return to Lord Mormont and your brothers. That is the duty I lay on you, Jon Snow."

    "I'll do as you say," Jon said reluctantly, " will tell them, won't you? The Old Bear, at least? You'll tell him that I never broke my oath."

    Qhorin Halfhand gazed at him across the fire, his eyes lost in pools of shadow. "When I see him next, I swear it." He gestured at the fire. "More wood. I want it bright and hot."

and then:

    "No!" The word burst from Jon's lips before the bonemen could loose. He took two quick steps forward. "We yield!"

    "They warned me bastard blood was craven," he heard Qhorin Halfhand say coldly behind him. "I see it is so. Run to your new masters, coward."

    Face reddening, Jon descended the slope to where Rattleshirt sat his horse. The wildling stared at him through the eyeholes of his helm and said, "The free folk have no need of cravens."

    "He is no craven." One of the archers pulled off her sewn sheepskin helm and shook out a head of shaggy red hair. "This is the Bastard o' Winterfell, who spared me. Let him live."

    Jon met Ygritte's eyes, and had no words.

    "Let him die," insisted the Lord of Bones. "The black crow is a tricksy bird. I trust him not."


    The big spearwife narrowed her eyes and said, "If the crow would join the free folk, let him show us his prowess and prove the truth of him."

    "I'll do whatever you ask." The words came hard, but Jon said them.

    Rattleshirt's bone armor clattered loudly as he laughed. "Then kill the Halfhand, bastard."

    "As if he could," said Qhorin. "Turn, Snow, and die."

    And then Qhorin's sword was coming at him and somehow Longclaw leapt upward to block. The force of impact almost knocked the bastard blade from Jon's hand, and sent him staggering backward. You must not balk, whatever is asked of you. He shifted to a two-hand grip, quick enough to deliver a stroke of his own, but the big ranger brushed it aside with contemptous ease. Back and forth they went, black cloaks swirling, the youth's quickness against the savage strength of Qhorin's left-hand cuts. The Halfhand's longsword seemed to be everywhere at once, raining down from one side and then the other, driving him where he would, keeping him off balance. Already he could feel his arms growing numb.

    Even when Ghost's teeth closed savagely around the ranger's calf, somehow Qhorin kept his feet. But in that instant, as he twisted, the opening was there. Jon planted and pivoted. The ranger was leaning away, and for an instant it seemed that Jon's slash had not touched him. Then, a string of red tears appeared across the big man's throat, bright as a ruby necklace, and the blood gushed out of him, and Qhorin Halfhand fell.

    Ghost's muzzle was dripping red, but only the point of the bastard blade was stained, the last half inch. Jon pulled the direwolf away and knelt with one arm around him. The light was already fading in Qhorin's eyes. "" he said, lifting his maimed fingers. Then his hand fell, and he was gone.

    He knew, he thought numbly. He knew what they would ask of me. He thought of Samwell Tarly then, of Grenn and Dolorous Edd, of Pyp and Toad back at Castle Black. Had he lost them all, as he had lost Bran and Rickon and Rob? Who was he now? What was he?

And reiterated again in A Storm of Swords:

    "They're dogs and he's a wolf," said Jon. "They know he's not their kind." No more than I am yours. But he had his duty to be mindful of, the task Qhorin Halfhand had laid upon him as they shared that final fire- to play the part of turncloak, and find whatever it was that the wildlings had been seeking in the bleak cold wilderness of the Frostfangs.

So, when it comes to Snape, Snape is Jon Snow, of course. Dumbledore is Qhorin Halfhand. In the same way that Qhorin commands Jon to do whatever is asked of him, knowing full well that he is going to die, Dumbledore commands Snape (in the woods, when Hagrid overhears) to do whatever is asked of him, even killing him. When Dumbledore begs and says, "Please...please..." he is begging Snape to fulfill this final duty, to kill him. Dumbledore is aware of what this will mean for Snape, how everyone will perceive him, hate him, revile him. He knows why Snape hesitates. But he begs him to kill him...Recall that Dumbledore requests Harry to go find Snape as soon as they return to the castle. Dumbledore knew the time was right, that it was his time to die, to be killed. Notice that Snape has ample opportunity to kill Harry (throughout all the books, when he's teaching him Occlumency, but most especially when he is running with Draco Malfoy and hurling curses over his shoulder at Harry.) Why hurl those curses? Why not kill Harry with one well-placed curse?

Because, of course, Snape is good.

If it should happen that I am wrong, and that J.K. Rowling makes Snape into a bad person, it will definitely be the stupidest, most idiotic, formulaic, move of all of the books, because it would be awesomely predictable, make Dumbledore look like a fool, and suggest that Harry's paranoia was actually good sense. In other words, it would ruin her entire series.

So for the good of her own series, Severus Snape must be a good man.

Of course, knowing JK Rowling, it's entirely possible she opts for ruining her series.

But I hope not. Because God knows it would be far more interesting to see the look on Harry's face when he realizes he's trying to kill the one good man throughout all the books, the man who has to suffer so much and bear so much in order to help save them all, the misjudged, hated and reviled hero...Severus Snape.


    Ezzie said...

    Duh. ;)

    The question is more whether Dumbledore is actually dead and what that means. Snape is clearly his most trusted disciple. When's the last book coming?

    Anonymous said...

    Yeah, Snape is obviously good. He is the most literarily interesting character in the series and she knows better than to turn him into cardboard.

    However, I don't think JKR is very well-read in sci-fi. Snape is a good guy anyway.

    Anonymous said...

    I remember arguing this little fact with some of my comrades shortly after the book came out. Thankfully, it seems I'm not the only one with a little commin sense. :)

    Lela Harbinger said...

    you and your friggin happy endings! there is no good or bad - only power!

    Chana said...


    Dumbledore had better be truly, really dead. If he comes back to life, I'll throw down the book in disgust. I'll pick it back up to be sure, but the whole beauty of the episode where he is killed is that he is sacrificing his life for the greater good of the wizarding world.


    Completely agreed that Snape is the most literarily interesting character. I think he has evolved into my favorite character.

    I should have made it more clear- I don't think that JKR actually READS George R.R. Martin's books and then writes her own. I was simply drawing a parallel to explain why it is completely conceivable that Snape is alive.

    Rare Find,

    We're on the same page ;)

    Canadian Princess,

    Who said anything about a happy ending? I would like to see Harry dead, with Ginny weeping over his poor stiff body. He'll save the world, to be sure, but still, if he ends up alive after all this, I can't see it working.

    Secondly, quoting Nietzsche at me doesn't mean a) that his philosophy is correct b) that I agree with him (I don't) c) that JKR gives a fig. In fact, Nietzsche has something in the realm of no relevance to this discussion. :)

    Anonymous said...

    I don't agree with your correlation, simply along character lines. Snape and Jon Snow? 'Ner the twain shall meet, I should think. Clearly that wasn't how you intended the analogy, but I think the situations (based on character) are widely disparate.
    But in any event, you are saying nothing any careful reader of Harry Potter has not thought of and heard before. Anyone who figured out the identity of "RAB" after five minutes could deduce the likelyhood you state.

    Anonymous said...

    J.K. Rowling is so original.


    p.s. Dumbledore is dead, folks. Rowling said so herself in an interview (with Mugglenet, I think).

    Chana said...

    I bet RAB is not who you think it is, anonymous. In that, at least, I assume JKR will be slightly more creative than she usually is.

    I agree, Jon Snow hasn't been an evil, malevolent oversized bat anytime lately. ;) And Jon Snow is far more conscientious and complex than Snape can ever be (poor Snape.)

    The words "careful reader" are important here, by the way. Most Harry Potter fans gush about the books in a way that does not suggest the term "careful reader."

    Yair, why do you receive pleasure from deliberately provoking me? But ah well. *withering look of disdain*

    Anonymous said...

    Harry Potter mentioned in the same breath as A Song of Fire and Ice. Oy vey, what is this world coming to?

    I have fantastic secrets I could reveal about GRRM's series, but I won't :)

    Scraps said...

    I would agree with your analysis, Chana. And I, too, will be more than disgusted if 1) Dumbledore isn't really dead, and 2) if Snape isn't good in the end. It would be caving to every cliche in the writing world. [shudder]

    blueenclave said...

    GRRM on Chana's blog, and praised. Made my day. Thank you.

    Soccer Dad said...

    We have to conclude that Snape is good. Harry was frozen in place by Dumbledore because there needed to be a "witness" to Dumbledore's killing by Snape. (Probably for Voldemort's consumption.) But once you conclude that Snape is good, you realize that his taunts about silent spells etc. at the end, aren't taunts. They're advice and Harry - or perphaps someone like Hermoine -will realize that before half the last book is up.

    Jack Steiner said...

    George R.R. Martin- love his stuff.

    Erachet said...

    Well, it's months and months after this post was written but I'm going to comment anyway.

    1. Oddly, I don't feel that way about GRR Martin. I don't know. I thought I would but so far there isn't anything in those books that really draws me, or that seems incredibly original. I think maybe I just have to face the fact that I don't like epic fantasy. But on that note, while the situations are similar, I don't think you can use GRR Martin to prove Snape is good. But I do believe Snape is good :)

    2. "I bet RAB is not who you think it is, anonymous" - I would have agreed with that except for one small detail. If you remember in the fifth book, when the kids are cleaning out Grimmauld Place, they come across a locket no one could open. It's mentioned in passing, and I think Kreacher might have stolen it. But it was found in the Black house. That really points to RAB being Regulus Black. But, then again, perhaps JK will surprise us.

    3. While JKR isn't completely original, I think she takes ideas and concepts from other places and uses them in a fresh, new way. One of the reasons why I got hooked on Harry Potter in the first place was that it was refreshing to me, after trying to slug through Lord of the Rings and other epic fantasy books. It was before I was into DWJ or Neil Gaiman, granted, and they are even more original than JKR, but I think JKR did bring something to the fantasy world, and to our own, real world, and proof of that is because if she hadn't, she wouldn't have touched so many people across the globe and sucked them all in to the world she created. While I don't think JKR is an amazingly awesome writer or necessarily comes up with the most original, fantastic ideas, I do think she has a lot more to offer than some people give her credit for.

    Then again, I also noticed that I thought she was a better writer when I was younger. But still.

    inkstainedhands said...

    Another new comment on a very old post...

    In a world where a characters' popularity is based on his/her physical appearance (think Edward), it is SO refreshing to have a character who has no outward signs of a hero but who is nevertheless the greatest hero of them all.

    Severus Snape has been my favorite character throughout the series. I remember adoring him even when I was 11, although his 'goodness' had not yet been established.

    "And Jon Snow is far more conscientious and complex than Snape can ever be" -- While I have not read any of Martin's works and can only say what I think about Snape, I will offer my opinion anyway.

    I see Snape as the most complex character in the whole HP series, and I feel that there is so much left to learn and know about him, but the book is so very limiting in that direction. Although much remains unsaid and unwritten about Snape, he still seems like the most complex character in the books. He is also the most misunderstood, and perhaps his complexity is what causes that.

    Anonymous said...

    Здраствуйте Предлагаю обмен ссылками (постовыми) вашего блога с моим.
    Заранее благодарен за ответ.
    С уважением, Александр.