Sunday, January 21, 2018

What connects Harry Potter with Lizzie Borden?

Abby Borden and Fiona Shaw
 Why, Fiona Shaw, of course!

This talented actress played Aunt Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter series, and in the new movie Lizzie (that premiered last night at Sundance) she plays Abby Borden, an elderly woman killed by multiple hatchet blows to the head.

Along with her husband, Andrew Borden.

But they were murdered hours apart (she earlier) and in different rooms of their family home.

Despite a lot of conjecture that a business associate of Andrew's had killed them, suspicion soon arose for Andrew's daughter (Abby's stepdaughter), Lizzie.

Lizzie hated Abby. She and her sister Emma always dined separately from Andrew and Abby, making the poor maid serve and clear every meal twice.

There may be another connection with Harry Potter if you find empathy for Lizzie. Harry was mistreated by his aunt and uncle, slept in a cupboard under the stairs and was always shunted to the background in favor of his cousin Dudley. But Harry had an opportunity to escape all that once he turned 11 and was sent his letter of acceptance from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Lizzie Borden had no such escape route. She begged for a trip to Europe with friends and was granted that. For five months she toured the continent and England and tasted a life of freedom. But soon she was back where she started, in a repressive home in a culture/era that didn't permit women many freedoms. She was able to drive the horse and buggy—but her father sold the horse. Someone broke into the Borden home and, oddly enough, stole trolley tickets. It is said Andrew prevented the police from investigating because he knew the thief was his own daughter.

Lizzie had passed the age of marriage and had her elder sister, still trapped in the house with her, as a cautionary tale of what she might expect in life.

Does it help to know that August 1892, when the murders took place, was a desperately hot month, with multiple deaths from heat being reported to the health department? And that Lizzie and her sister had in the past fought bitterly with their father about property he had deeded to their stepmother's family, and that very recently their beloved seaside home in Swansea was undergoing questions about its dispensation?

Greed. Despair. Lingering pain from childhood when Lizzie and Emma''s biological mother had died. Which is another thing Harry Potter and Lizzie Borden had in common: early loss of one's mother, and how that bereavement can haunt one forever.

Magic saved Harry, but Lizzie had no such savior.

If you find this historical true-crime case interesting, my novel The Murderer's Maid tells the story from the point of view of that maid mentioned above, Bridget Sullivan. And yes, that is the real Lizzie Borden on the cover.

And post in the comments below: what Hogwarts house should Lizzie be sorted into?
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