Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Deathly Hallows Be Thy Name

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the newly announced title for J.K Rowling's final book in the can't-put-em-down series. But the name doesn't exactly make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Rowling has said that the final Harry Potter book will be the darkest yet, with "more deaths coming." So what does the ominous title portend? Figuring out what might be inside Rowling’s head is harder than doing an Expecto Patronus spell without proper training.

If you're going to spend the weekend deciphering the etymology of the word "hallows," we've come up with some tips to help you out. Start by reading up on King Arthur. In the Holy Grail myth, the Hallows refer to the four objects found in the Holy Grail castle: the spear, the grail, a sword and a platter. Hmm, four objects in the castle -- and four houses in Hogwarts. And we've already seen one sword (Griffyndor's) and one stone (Flamel's) and even a grail-shaped chalice (the Hufflepuff horcrux). And doesn't Dumbledore just remind you a little bit of a guy called Merlin?

If you want to read up further on King Arthur, try T.S. White's The Once and Future King or Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mysts of Avalon. Or you can visit one of the Harry Potter fan sites we've detailed above.

Of course, these sites don't clear up whether Snape is a self-loathing former Death Eater or still a part of Voldemort's posse. Or whether Ron dies. Or if Harry and Ginny will live happily ever after. But they do provide at least some clues -- maybe(!) -- into what the future for Harry holds. And there are only 180-odd days until we find out.

Melody Joy Kramer, who is spending a year as a Kroc Fellow at NPR, shares her birthday with J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter -- July 31.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Melody Joy Kramer