Fawkes the Phoenix and Cyclical History – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12

Hey there, Muggles!

Chapter 12 is full of information, and I hope you’ll check out our video for today, where I do my very best to cover it all. We talk about all the details of what goes down in Dumbledore’s office in this chapter, CHRISTMAS (a certain sweater may or may not be making an appearance), and the Polyjuice Potion adventure. For only twenty pages, A LOT happens.

As always, *SPOILER ALERT* for both the video and article.

Today, we’re going to focus on an element that guides this entire book and can be summed up through one of the characters we meet in this chapter: Fawkes the phoenix.

Quick review: Fawkes is Dumbledore’s pet phoenix, and Harry gets the opportunity to meet him in this chapter. A phoenix is a beautiful, scarlet and gold, mythological bird that continually lives, burns up, and is reborn from the ashes. Over and over again. We actually know Fawkes was born by at least the 1930s (which I discuss in even more detail in today’s video above), so he’s pretty old.

When Harry enters Dumbledore’s office, he catches Fawkes on what Dumbledore refers to as his “Burning Day.” Fawkes bursts into flames and is then born again out of the ashes. It’s a beautiful, beautiful idea.

While we could talk and talk about how cool this is on its own as well as the mythology behind it, I want to discuss why this concept is so important for this book, and more specifically, this very scene.

As we’ve read through this book again, I’ve further noticed the importance of history repeating itself, or cyclical events reoccurring during Harry’s second year at Hogwarts. As Harry witnesses Fawkes’s rebirth, history is repeating itself at this very moment at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Of course, I’m referring to the Chamber of Secrets—it’s been opened once again, throwing the school into chaos.

However, there are a couple of other little situations and themes reoccurring here as well… in the very office where Harry stands. Today, using the idea of Fawkes’s cyclical lifespan, we’re going to analyze this scene and identify all the moments when “history repeats itself.”


First, we see Harry “repeat” his sorting ceremony.

When he enters Dumbledore’s office, Harry sees the Sorting Hat and decides to put it on, desperate to confirm that he truly does belong in Gryffindor. The hat slips over his eyes, and he hears that familiar voice once more. The first time Harry put this hat on his head, the hat whispered truths about how Harry would do well in Slytherin. Unfortunately for Harry, the same situation happens again.

Though we know Harry truly is a Gryffindor, the hat doesn’t hesitate to remind him he would have done well in Slytherin. While Harry was hoping for a different outcome, he leaves this second encounter with the hat more confused than ever.


Next is the moment that has become my favorite part of the chapter.

Just as Dumbledore and Harry begin talking, Hagrid bursts into the room and begins defending Harry, assuring Dumbledore there’s no way Harry could have petrified the Heir of Slytherin’s latest victims. Eyes wild, bushy beard flying, he desperately talks over Dumbledore, wanting to ensure he knows Harry is innocent.

The situation repeating here is an innocent boy falsely accused of something horrible. However, last time, that boy—Hagrid—had no one to defend him. When Hagrid was accused of this same crime, he didn’t have anyone to provide an alibi for him or prove he was innocent. Now on the other side and with the chance to save Harry, Hagrid seizes his opportunity to give Harry what he never had—a rescuer, an advocate.

Hagrid’s desperation stems from the horror that someone else—someone he loves—could experience the same nightmare he did fifty years ago. He knows the consequences that come with being accused of a crime like this, and he’s here to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

History is repeating itself here, but this time, Hagrid’s determined to change the outcome.


In this scene, Dumbledore thankfully knows Harry couldn’t have committed this crime. However, he does realize something’s wrong. Let’s face it—Harry’s a twelve-year-old kid, and he’s never been the best at concealing his emotions. However, Harry decides not to confide in Dumbledore here, instead telling him nothing is wrong.

As Harry will soon find out, a boy named Tom Riddle was asked a similar question fifty years ago by the then-headmaster Armando Dippet. And he responded in the same way.

This is a moment where I actually prefer the movie’s version to the book’s. In the movie, Dumbledore is the one to ask Tom if anything is bothering him, and he asks the question much in the same way he asks Harry. It’s neat to see this repetition in action, further drawing us to connections between Harry and Voldemort.

This is perhaps the most important moment of this scene in Dumbledore’s office. As we will soon see, Harry will empathize with this Tom Riddle before he realizes who he is—before he finds out this person, Voldemort, actually did open the Chamber of Secrets.

But for now, we have Harry, more than a little scared, holding on to his secrets for a little while longer. Fifty years ago, another boy did the same thing… except his reasons were much more malevolent.

The entire point of this scene to me (and perhaps the whole book) is summed up in Fawkes’s Burning Day, when we watch his cycle continue. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is full of repeated themes, situations, and ideas, and this chapter is one where we can see that most clearly. Don’t worry, we’ll definitely talk about Fawkes again!

Honestly, I’ve been underestimating this book. It’s SO important to the narrative as a whole and is the beginning of the deeper themes that will be present from this moment on.  

Thanks for tuning in today, Muggles! I had a great time breaking down this chapter, and I hope you did, too. Don’t forget to check out the video above.

Before we go, I do have an exciting surprise: WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A HALLOWEEN VIDEO!

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

That’s right, Muggles and Mocha is about to drop some extra content with a new video on Halloween. It’s going to be spooky for sure, and I’ll even have on my costume. I feel a little nerdy saying that, but it is what it is… You guys know what’s up at this point. Watch my social media accounts to see what’s in store!

If you haven’t followed my social media yet, all the links are located below. For now, read Chapter 13 (which I’m ESPECIALLY excited about) for next week.

I’ll see you on Halloween!

Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.


4 Replies to “Fawkes the Phoenix and Cyclical History – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12”

  1. Great job on this week’s article! They’ve all been pretty stellar, but for whatever reason this one stands out to me. I found myself thinking the exact same things about this chapter, and I love that you pointed out that Rowling is using Fawkes to illustrate history repeating itself (perhaps confirmation bias is what makes this one of my favorite articles lol). This entire series has a laser focus on the effects that history has on the present, and the sometimes great sometimes terrible habit it has of repeating itself. The great thing for us of course, is that at the end we see that through hope, grit, and righteous actions we can break the bad cycles and begin beautiful new ones in their place.

    I had to stop and think for a minute about whether or not Harry has any “true” Slytherin qualities. While I think that we can all agree that he shows instances of cunning, and is definitely ambitious and determined, I don’t think that the sorting hat would have thought he had any place in Slytherin had he not been a horcrux. I think that the hat was picking up on the other being that was currently taking residence inside Harry. If he were to have put the hat back on after his death in the forest I think we might hear the hat confirm that (as we already know) Gryffindor is where Harry truly belonged.

    You already know this, but I just have to give Hagrid some more love for a second. His motivations are very clear as to why he bursts into Dumbledore’s office and I love him all the more for that reason. This is actually a great example of someone attempting to break one of those nasty cycles of history. Hagrid is such a net-good for the universe.

    And speaking of being “net-good”, so is Hermione! Her steely determination seems to stand out to me much more in this reread than ever before. Which makes it a little devastating that she ends up using a cat hair instead of Millicent’s. She must have been not only embarrassed to have made such a mistake, but also disappointed that she didn’t get to participate in the interrogation of Malfoy. Like I’ve said before, this is a very personal matter for her and being forced to the sideline for this mission had to have been upsetting.

    I’m excited for next week, and also for the special content today! Happy Halloween!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww, I’m so glad you liked it! That makes me so happy. Your first paragraph is just beautiful, by the way! You’re right, it’s so wonderful to see them break this cycle and see that we don’t have to let these situations continuously control us by changing the way we react to them.

      Your thoughts on Harry’s Horcrux-status affecting his sorting experience are INTERESTING! I think Harry’s main Slytherin quality would be ambition… but next to his Gryffindor qualities, the probability of him actually being in Slytherin seems very small. I’m going to have to do some thinking about the Horcrux thing… I wonder if the hat picked up on that.

      Yes, Hagrid and Hermione love! I totally, totally agree, and I hate that Hermione missed out. She does all the work, and then THAT happens?? Man. Goodness, this was such a great chapter!

      Thanks for your thoughts, as always!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really hadn’t thought that much about Hagrid’s emotional state with Harry’s situation. Also, do we know why, so many years later, that Hagrid can only do magic secretly? Wasn’t the truth proven to everyone?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve wondered that as well! After this book, he’s cleared of all charges. Maybe it’s because he never completed his wizard training? Either way, I think he should be allowed to use magic after this book. And maybe he is allowed, and I’ve just forgotten? Great question!

      Liked by 1 person

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