Beatrice had fixed her eyes
upon the eternal wheels and I now fixed
my sight on her, withdrawing it from above.
as I gazed on her, I was changed within,
as Glaucus was on tasting of the grass
that made him consort of the gods in the sea.
To soar beyond the human cannot be described
in words. Let the example be enough to one
for whom grace holds this experience in store.
Dante Alighieri: Divine Comedy (Paradiso 1.64 – 72)
Dante and his guide Beatrice start their journey through Paradise in the terrestrial Paradise atop the mountain of Purgatory. They fly upwards as Dante stares into Beatrice’s eyes, which in turn gaze at the sun.
The word Paradise derives from the Old Persian phrase pairi-daezaand means a place that is “around-walled”. J. Gallagher states in his commentary A Modern Readers Guide to the Divine Comedy: “In Dante’s usage, it is a divine or heavenly place that is fortified on all sides against the invasion of evil or unhappiness.”
What better image for such a “walled-around” place could be found than a medieval castle with its thick walls, high watchtowers and that is also known as a ‘stronghold of ancient magic’? What better picture can be made up than a building that can only be seen by those few with the ability to do magic and that would never have come into existence without the same talent? What better place is where than JK Rowling’s Hogwarts? Hogwarts and Dante’s Paradiso have many similarities.
And so it is not astonishing, that eyes are prominent in both works. While Dante travels to paradise while looking into the eyes of his first and deepest love, a love he was never to live, Harry is recognised by his eyes that are so similar to that of his mother, who died because she loved him dearly.
Harry’s/ Lily’s eyes accompany us on our trip to Hogwarts/ Paradise. And still, the eye shines in the picture rather like a black sun. It reminds us that Paradise is fragile and nobody living there is a one-dimensional, all-good, all-saint creature – the world isn’t split in good people and Death Eaters. We all have our Shadow that escorts us like an uninvited guest who came to stay. He escorts us even to Paradise.