Harry Potter and the Sea of Stories

I’ve finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s a quick read, although I had to do it in numerous short sessions — 10 minutes, 15, maybe 20 wedged between other, more necessary things.
Summer school is finishing up; the fall semester doesn’t start for a little over two weeks; the halls are pretty empty. So I’m going to reflect a little on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (HPDH). Thee’s a mild SPOILER, so you may want to stop here. PDH is the last of a series of seven novels. (A series of seven novels must be a septology.) Seven, as you know, is one of the main symbolic numbers. More devoted Potter scholars than I can figure out the significance of that.
Human stories make up a tree or a sea, depending on your preference in metaphors. I’ve modelled the title of this post on the title of Salman Rushdie‘s novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. J. K. Rowling has drawn heavily on the human heritage of story for these books. My response to the first book, like that of other readers, was that she hadn’t done much more than pull imagery and themes from a variety of stories, not all of them really compatible. Rowling’s skill with plot and appealing characters carried me past that response.
In book seven, Rowling goes deeper than the folk story motifs of giants and witches and enchanted objects, deeper than the "school story" genre into which HPDH fits. In some of the scenes, she reaches mythopoeic, archetypal depths — the depths at which our deepest fears, anxieties, and joys are rooted. The scene in which Harry and Ron retrieve the Sword of Gryffendor from a frozen pond, having been lead there by a phantasmal doe — that scene is worthy of stories as ancient as The Mahabharata, The Odyssey, or Gilgamesh. Spenser‘s Red Cross Knight could’ve made that recovery. (The link to the Knight opens a PDF file of Book III of The Faerie Queene.
HPDH doesn’t sustain that level of mythic intensity throughout, but there are enough instances to give the story strength and depth.