Time-Turner

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Trouble with Time-Turners

Time-TurnerI finished [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link] this evening. This post covers the last seven chapters, as it didn’t seem like a good idea to stop at chapter 20 and just write a separate post for the last two.

Chapter 16, “Professor Trelawney’s Prediction,” has all the Hogwarts students preparing for their exams, including Fred and George, who will be sitting their O.W.L.’s, and Percy, who is taking the N.E.W.T.’s. Lupin gives a completely practical final exam—it’s easily the most authentic assessment Harry ever takes, and this exam is one of the reasons I approve of Lupin so highly as a teacher. He asks the students to perform in a real-world situation and apply what they have learned throughout the year in his class to that situation. It is interesting to see Hermione completely lose it with the Boggart, and as it turns out, Ron was pretty close when he joked earlier that Hermione’s Boggart would have been a piece of homework that only received a 9 out of 10. No, instead, it was Professor McGonagall telling her she had failed everything. It’s interesting how Hermione becomes upset by something so completely irrational. There is no way Hermione would fail even one class, let alone them all, and if she had been able to put her rational mind to good use during the exam, she might have remembered that and been able to use it against the Boggart.

Later, Harry takes his Divination exam, which consists of looking into the crystal ball. He tells Trelawney he sees Buckbeak flying away, escaping his execution. Professor Trelawney dismisses his “prediction,” but it turns out to be true. Then she is somehow possessed and delivers what Dumbledore calls her second real prediction. It’s only chance that Harry was still there to hear her. I wonder if seers can deliver predictions when they are alone, or if another witch or wizard must be there to hear it? That makes more sense to me because otherwise tons of prophecies might be lost.

During Chapter 17, “Cat, Rat, and Dog,” the truth about Sirius is revealed, but before Harry learns it, he makes a move to kill Black. A voice in his head says, “Do it now!” I wonder if that is the horcrux? Lupin arrives, and Hermione tells the others he’s a werewolf. By the end of the chapter, we learn also that Ron’s rat Scabbers is also an animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew. Now I have to ask the question we’re all wondering about: all those times that Fred, George, and even Harry looked at the Marauder’s Map, and they never wondered what on earth Peter Pettigrew was doing with Ron? Come on. This is one instance in which I think the film gets it right because Harry notices Pettigrew on the map and says something about it to Lupin.

I also wonder about animagi. Is it possible to choose which animal you become, or is the animal a reflection of your personality in some way? I mean, Pettigrew is pretty rat-like, but you wouldn’t think he would choose to become a rat. Not really all that noble an animal, after all. I lean toward the belief that you cannot choose your animagus form, as J.K. Rowling was once asked about it, and she said she would like to turn into an otter, but suspects that she’d turn into “a guinea pig or something, which would be quite embarrassing.” However, it would seem that wizards have a little more control over the form their Patronus takes, as Snape and Tonks both create Patronuses that mimic the form of the person whom they love most.

In Chapter 18, “Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs,” I noticed another strange possible oversight when Lupin discusses how he was bitten and became a werewolf as a small boy, but “in those days there was no cure.” Well, there still isn’t, right? I mean, the Wolfsbane Potion makes it easier, but Lupin still transforms. He’s just gentler and more docile. If there were a cure, then folks wouldn’t be as terrified of Fenrir Greyback, and there wouldn’t have been the fear that Bill would become a werewolf when he’s bitten later. After all, if there were a cure, it would simply be administered, right? I think Rowling probably meant to refer to the Wolfsbane Potion and perhaps meant “treatment,” rather than “cure,” but there it is in print, so it’s a question.

Another interesting comment later on when Lupin says, “I doubt whether any Hogwarts students ever found out more about the Hogwarts grounds and Hogsmeade than we did,” but the fact remains that the Chamber of Secrets and possibly the Room of Requirement were unknown to them. It stands to reason that as none of them were Parselmouths like Harry, they never discovered the Chamber of Secrets, which in any case was widely believed to be legendary. The Room of Requirement is probably Unplottable, and the Marauders were likely unable to include it on the map if they knew about it, which brings up another point. Hogwarts itself is Unplottable. So how was this map made? Is it possible because it was made at Hogwarts and depicts Hogwarts rather than directions to Hogwarts from, say, Little Whinging or Godric’s Hollow or somewhere else?

Another thing that has always bothered me about this chapter is the way that Sirius and Remus each admit suspecting each other of being Voldemort’s spy. In Lupin’s case, all the evidence seemed to point to Sirius, but why would Sirius suspect Remus? Was it a bit of latent werewolf prejudice? I imagine that would be hard to shake.

Lupin also ascribes Snape’s hatred of James to his jealousy “of James’s talent on the Quidditch pitch.” Obviously, Lupin doesn’t know Snape very well, and he never suspected that Snape’s hatred was based on Snape’s feelings for Lily. However, Lupin very carefully does not bring up all the bullying that went on. He is embarrassed about it now, clearly, and we see that later when he admits as much to Harry when Harry discovers the Marauders bullied Snape.

In Chapter 19, “The Servant of Lord Voldemort,” Snape has arrived and reminded us all that Lupin has not taken his Wolfsbane Potion tonight (cue ominous music). This scene is really well played in the movie, particularly by Alan Rickman (as always) and Gary Oldman. The trio gets a little overexcited and knocks Snape out, and we learn that Harry’s hunch about Crookshanks is right. He has been helping Sirius Black. He’s part-Kneazle, which is how he knew that Sirius was not really a dog. He is a sort of furry Sneakoscope and is able to ferret out untrustworthy folks, too.

So Pettigrew has been living as a rat for the last 12 years. Do you think ever transformed into himself, even once, during that time he lived with the Weasleys? We also learn that he has done it because he’s dead scared of Voldemort’s old supporters, and he chose a wizard family to live with so he could keep an ear out for any news. So how much human thought are animagi capable of? Sirius mentions that he thinks the Dementors perceived his thoughts were less complex as a dog, but that they probably thought he was losing his mind. So how does a wizard transform himself back into a human, then? He must retain much more of a human mind than Sirius seems to indicate, or he’d not be able to do it, right?

And finally, my last question before I move on to the next chapter. How on earth does Peter Pettigrew get sorted into Gryffindor? He sold out James and Lily rather than dying, as Sirius or James would have done for him. He never shows even a modicum of bravery, not one single time. He should have been place in Slytherin or Hufflepuff. So what’s up with that? Pettigrew is not like Neville, who truly is brave but needs to grow into his confidence. Pettigrew never becomes brave. He dies a coward.

In chapter 20, “The Dementor’s Kiss,” Harry accomplishes a first that no one much remarks upon. We learn in the next book that Harry is the only known survivor of the killing curse, but he is apparently also the only known person to see what’s under a Dementor’s hood who “survives.” Remember that he asked Lupin about it, and Lupin said that the only people who knew were in no shape to tell anyone else. But Harry sees it as the Dementor prepares to suck out his soul; however, his Patronus knocks the Dementor away and saves him. Interesting. No one ever mentions it in the long list of Harry’s exceptionalities.

In chapter 21, “Hermione’s Secret,” Ron is still knocked out by whatever spell Pettigrew used on him. What do you think it was, for the record? A particularly powerful stunning spell? The book only describes a bang and a burst of light, but it doesn’t say what color. Stunning spells expel jets of red light.

We finally learn how Hermione has been able to get to all her lessons, and I must say, I have big problems with the Time-Turner. I do not understand why the Ministry would allow a 13-year-old witch to have such a device and trust she was only going to use it for classes. Update, 8/4/13: Now that the last chapters of Azkaban have been revealed on Pottermore, Rowling has shared she, too, found she was in a bit of a bind with the Time-Turner. I’ll put in-line updates where Pottermore has answered a question I had.

I know that Hermione explains that she had to make all kinds of assurances, and all kinds of special permissions were needed before she could have it, but I mean, really. I think the school should have told Hermione to suck it up, you can’t take every single class, so make a choice. I don’t care how responsible she is. And then Dumbledore encourages her to use it to change time? I mean, I agree with him and all, but why, for instance, don’t wizards use these magical undo devices for everything then? I know it would be a bad idea, but you can’t tell me Dumbledore wouldn’t go back and save Ariana. There is a lot of pain in life, and if there was a device you could use to go back in time and alter it and prevent it from happening—well, those devices wouldn’t be safe. Everyone would want one, and there’s no way that the Ministry would give one to a 13-year-old girl. This, to me, strains credulity. Hermione explains that “We’re breaking one of the most important wizarding laws! Nobody’s supposed to change time, nobody!” So perhaps one might go to Azkaban for changing time. But here’s the problem: how does one prove time was changed? Even Harry has to be prevented from changing the timeline several times that evening (in addition to the way he is already changing it). The alternate timeline would now be the timeline, right? I like the results, but I think Time-Turners are one of those aspects of the books that is not particularly well thought out.

Update, 8/4/13: As it turns out, wizards have wreaked havoc on time. The longest period of time that may be relived using a Time-Turner without causing damage to the witch or wizard using it is five hours. Witches and wizards who have attempted to go back further have most often died. Pottermore shares the interesting tale of Eloise Mintumble, who traveled back in time from 1899 to 1402. She was stuck there for five days, and when she returned to 1899, her body aged five centuries, and she died. While she lived in the past, she changed the course of history so drastically that 25 people were simply not born because of the alteration that interacting with Eloise had wrought upon the lives of the ancestors of these 25 people.

Harry conjures his Patronus and saves Sirius, Hermione, and himself from the Dementors. As Hermione notes, this is really advanced magic, and well beyond the abilities of some fully-qualified wizards. Harry’s performance in his third year is a strong predictor of his abilities in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Many DA members believe Harry to be their best DADA teacher, and if Harry had wanted to go into education, I’m sure he would have had an excellent career as DADA professor. At any rate, Hermione and Harry rescue Sirius and send him on his way aboard Buckbeak.

In the final chapter, “Owl Post Again,” Dumbledore says to Snape, “Unless you are suggesting that Harry and Hermione are able to be in two places at once, I’m afraid I don’t see any point in troubling them further.” But wouldn’t Snape know about Hermione’s Time-Turner? I mean, even if it were kept secret, the professors are bound to notice Hermione never misses her classes, even when they are scheduled at the same time. It stands to reason that there is no conflict with Potions, so perhaps Snape was not in the know, but still. And even if Snape doesn’t know, Fudge probably does. He’s the Minister for Magic. Of course, knowing who has Time-Turners might be a matter for an underling to worry about, but with Sirius Black on the loose, one would think Fudge himself would be keeping a closer eye on Time-Turners. Except he’s incompetent, so there’s that. I don’t know. Like I said, the whole thing troubles me.

In this very chapter, Dumbledore even says, “The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.” Which is exactly why 13-year-olds should not be handed Time-Turners!

Even more astonishingly, giving Time-Turners to Hogwarts students may not even be all that rare, as Bill and Percy Weasley and Barty Crouch, Jr. are all known to have achieved 12 O.W.L.’s—a feat which may only be possible with a Time-Turner. (Unless some other options for scheduling existed for them.)

Update, 8/4/13: It would seem Hermione Granger is the only known Hogwarts student to use a Time-Turner. Rowling said, “I had Hermione give back the only Time-Turner ever to enter Hogwarts.” Bill, Percy, and Barty, Jr. must have found other means to achieve their 12 O.W.L.’s.

If you start wondering whether or not people age when they use the Time-Turner and start adding up all the additional hours Hermione has lived over the course of the year, then you will truly go nuts. Update, 8/4/13: Pottermore doesn’t say whether or not there were lasting ill-effects from Hermione’s use of the Time-Turner this year.

At any rate, Dumbledore says some wise stuff about how Pettigrew is now in Harry’s debt, and that is all very complicated. He also mentions that Harry looks “extraordinarily like James. Except for your eyes… you have your mother’s eyes.” Which is really important and is repeated a lot for good reasons. Then Dumbledore says, “You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?” And of course, this seems absolutely prophetic when Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to recall his parents, Lupin, and Sirius to help him face his own death. And it has been a while since I read [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link], but I saw the movie recently, and in the movie, Sirius says that Voldemort will not be able to see them because they are in Harry’s heart. I always cry at that part. Anyway, I will be interested to see if that shows up in the novel, too. My memory on that book is not as ironclad because I haven’t read it as many times.

Before I close, I just have to say I’m not sure how I feel about Charity Burbage as a teacher. We only really see her when Voldemort kills her, but she is probably Hermione’s Muggle Studies teacher, since she was the teacher four years later (unless some change of staffing took place, which is possible). At any rate, how does Hermione manage to score 320% on an exam? Only on a bogus exam, that’s how. That is way too much extra credit.

Harry heads home to Privet Drive with a signed Hogsmeade permission form and the threat of a mad murderer to use against the Dursleys. Life, at least for a little while (sadly) is good.

Now it’s on to [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link].

Movie still via the Harry Potter Wiki.

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Re-Reading Harry Potter: Quidditch Rules

Quidditch is one of those games that even I, who remain almost completely uninterested in sports (with possibly the inexplicable support of the Bruins—I cannot explain it as I do not fully comprehend it) could get into. Can you imagine watching Harry play that game against Slytherin that appears in [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link]? It’s one intense match. More on that in a moment, however, though Quidditch does seem to dominate Harry’s thoughts in chapters 11-15 of Azkaban, starting with chapter 11, “The Firebolt,” in which Harry receives for Christmas the awesomest gift ever.

In this chapter, the trio visits Hagrid because Harry wants to question him about Sirius Black following the incident when Harry overhears his teachers, Madam Rosmerta, and Cornelius Fudge discussing Black’s role in the deaths of Harry’s parents. However, once they arrive, they find a grief-stricken Hagrid who has just learned that Buckbeak must be brought before a hearing with the Committee for the Disposal of Dangers Creatures for his attack on Draco Malfoy. Hermione resolves to help Hagrid with his case. In fact, after leaving Hogwarts, Hermione would work for Ministry in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and later in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as a type of wizard lawyer, but her offer to help Hagrid with this case is the first time we see her take up a legal cause on behalf of magical creatures. She will, of course, do so again. Hermione even says, “I’m sure I’ve read about a case of Hippogriff baiting,” which I imagine no other witch of her age can truthfully say; however, it doesn’t strain my credulity. Hermione has always shown an interest in understanding the why of what she learns, and it makes sense to me that she has come across court cases in her reading.

At Christmas, Harry receives the Firebolt from an anonymous benefactor. Pottermore shares that one of the Firebolt’s secrets is goblin-made ironwork in the footrests, stand, and twig bands. The goblin-made ironwork’s properties are mysterious, but they do seem to give the Firebolt “additional stability and power.” In the scene when Hermione visits Ron and Harry’s dorm on Christmas morning, Harry’s Sneakoscope once more goes off in the presence of Scabbers.

Later at Christmas lunch, Harry and Ron find that all the students and teachers remaining at Hogwarts are sitting at one table. This is the only time in the series when you see this kind of fellowship. Here is the funny thing. Professor Trelawney makes rather a show of not wanting to sit down because there will then be 13 people at the table. However, no one knows that an unregistered Animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew is sitting at the table in the form of Scabbers the rat, so when the trio sits down at the table along with Scabbers, the number of people is 13. When Trelawney arrives, Dumbledore stands to greet her. He is, therefore, the first person to rise from the table, and as Trelawney says, is the first to die. See? Like I said before, if you really pay close attention to what she says and what happens later, she’s not as much of a fraud as you’d think, but her accurate predictions most often seem to occur when she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about or when she has incomplete information, and she is, thus, not aware of them.

McGonagall’s reaction to Trelawney in this scene is pretty funny. First she “offers” her tripe, and later she jokes about the mad axe-man in the hallway. When Trelawney says, “I frequently act as though I am not possessed of the Inner Eye, so as not to make others nervous,” McGonagall responds, “That explains a great deal.” However, Trelawney then accurately predicts Lupin will not be with them for very long. Anyone else read into this scene that Trelawney has a little crush on Lupin? I have always kind of thought the hope of seeing Lupin drew her to eat lunch with the others. She asks after him specifically when she arrives, and later, she lets slip that she offered to crystal gaze for him. Lupin may have wished to avoid any sort of embarrassing scenes she might claim to see in the crystal ball, so he “positively fled.” Hermione, sure Harry’s new Firebolt was sent by Sirius Black and poses a threat to Harry, tells Professor McGonagall, who immediately confiscates it to test it for jinxes. Of course, Hermione was right about the benefactor, but wrong about the jinxes.

In chapter 12, “The Patronus,” Hermione hints that she knows what is “wrong” with Lupin, but as the boys are not really on speaking terms with her right now because of the Firebolt, she doesn’t tell them. As the only student who actually completed Snape’s werewolf essay, she is the only third year who has put two-and-two together; however, one wonders about the older students. Surely some of them have figured out Lupin’s absences coincide with the full moon? Or has their Defense Against the Dark Arts education been so disjointed that they never learned it? That’s certainly possible, and I dare say it was Voldemort’s goal in cursing the position. An ignorant populace is much easier to subdue.

Also in this chapter, we first learn about the Patronus. Dark Wizards are not able to conjure Patronuses, and in fact, Snape is the only Death Eater who can. I imagine he must keep this ability close to the vest when he’s palling around his Death Eater friends and Voldemort. Conjuring a Patronus is advanced magic, and the fact that Harry is able to master it is much remarked upon later in the series.

During one of his Patronus lessons, Harry asks Lupin what is under a Dementor’s hood. Lupin says that no one is really sure because the “only people who really know are in no condition to tell us,” having been victims of the Dementor’s Kiss. Lupin says that the victims live, but their “soul is gone forever… lost.” If you give much thought to it, it’s a horrible prospect, particularly when one considers the implications for the afterlife as Rowling describes it. You exist until you die, and then, just… nothing. While some of the other characters in the series clearly go on to Heaven, or whatever you wish to call it. It’s very sad.

This conversation echoes one that Gandalf has with Frodo about Gollum. Frodo says that Gollum deserves death for all that he has done, and Gandalf replies, “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

Lupin says that the Dementor’s Kiss is the “fate that awaits Sirius Black.” Harry replies that “He deserves it.” Lupin’s response is, “You think so?… Do you really think anyone deserves that?” And Harry says, “Yes… For… for some things…” Interestingly enough, by the end of the series, Harry has changed his opinion. He offers Voldemort a chance to save his own soul by expressing remorse for his crimes.

At the end of the chapter, Harry receives his Firebolt back—jinx-free, but everyone’s happiness is cut short when Ron discovers evidence that seems to indicate that Crookshanks has finally eaten Scabbers.

Chapter 13, “Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw” pits Harry Potter against Cho Chang for the first time, and it also appears to be the genesis of his crush on her. Prior to the match, Harry delivers possibly his best burn in the series when Malfoy teases Harry: “Shame it doesn’t come with a parachute—in case you get too near a Dementor.” Harry says, “Pity you can’t attach an extra arm to yours, Malfoy… Then it could catch the Snitch for you.” Ouch!

During the game, Lee Jordan can’t help talking about the Firebolt during his commentary. He mentions that “the Firebolt’s going to be the broom of choice for the national teams at this year’s World Championship,” which of course it was. Both the Bulgarians and the Irish rode Firebolts during the Quidditch World Cup later that year.

After the party to celebrate Gryffindor’s defeat of Ravenclaw, Harry goes to sleep and dreams that “He was walking through a forest, his Firebolt over his shoulder, following something silvery white.” I never noticed this sentence in particular until this re-read, but it seems almost as though Harry is dreaming about following Snape’s Patronus in the forest when the Patronus leads him to the Sword of Gryffindor. Of course, the Firebolt was not present in that second scene, but it is an interesting parallel. He is awakened when Ron screams that Sirius Black is standing over him with a knife.

Chapter 14, “Snape’s Grudge,” might be one of the best chapters in the series. I laugh every time I read it. The most arresting image at the beginning of the chapter is that of Professor Flitwick teaching the front doors to recognize a picture of Sirius Black, which is a waste of time, of course, as Sirius isn’t coming in through the front doors, a fact which Harry considers, but then dismisses because it will prevent him from going to Hogsmeade.

Hagrid calls Ron and Harry to visit because he has a bone to pick with them about Hermione, but Ron, at least, isn’t ready to forgive and forget.

Harry decides to sneak into Hogsmeade, but before he goes, he is waylaid by Snape in yet another scene when he appears to be using Legilimency to figure out what Harry is hiding. Harry eventually sneaks out and meets up with Ron. In a memorable scene, Harry, hiding under his Invisibility Cloak, throws mud at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, but Harry will pay for that bit of fun when the Slytherins tell Snape about seeing Harry in Hogsmeade: “What would your head have been doing in Hogsmeade, Potter?… Your head is not allowed in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has permission to be in Hogsmeade.”

Because of his prejudices regarding Harry and his father, Snape leaps to the conclusion that Harry’s presence in Hogsmeade is a form of arrogance: “Everyone from he Minister for Magic downwards has been trying to keep famous Harry Potter safe from Sirius Black, But famous Harry Potter is a law unto himself. Let the ordinary people worry about his safety! Harry Potter goes where he wants to, with no thought for the consequences… How extraordinarily like your father you are, Potter… He, too, was exceedingly arrogant.”

If Snape had ever bothered to try to understand Harry (like Harry later would do for Snape, and as a result, come to admire Snape a great deal), Snape would have realized that Harry acted out of a sense of wanting to belong. His childhood had been every bit as bad as Snape’s. He was not privileged. All of his friends (except Neville) can go to Hogsmeade. He doesn’t want to feel left out. Feeling left out is something Snape could relate to. But, as the chapter title alludes, Snape is one for holding grudges.

Towards the end of their confrontation, Snape asks Harry to turn out his pockets and discovers the Marauder’s Map, but he is unable to work it because the makers have included a charm designed to keep Snape from ever discovering its secrets, and each of the map makers insults Snape in turn as Harry wants to disappear on the spot. He immediately calls Lupin to his office. I contend that Snape knew his enemies’ private nicknames in school, but that Lupin didn’t realize that Snape knew them. Why else would he call Lupin instead of, say, Dumbledore? Or McGonagall as Harry’s Head of House? He was trying to get Lupin to admit he knew what the object was as well as his connection to it. Lupin wasn’t doing it. Harry notices that “odd, closed expression appeared on Lupin’s face.” My guess is that Lupin is using Occlumency to hide his thoughts from Snape. Snape goes on to hint that Harry got the map “directly from the manufacturers.” See? He knows Lupin is Mr. Moony.

Lupin manages to get Harry out of trouble through a fairly superb bit of Occlumency and quick thinking, but he says pretty much the same thing to Harry that Snape said, albeit in kinder terms: “I cannot make you take Sirius Black seriously. But I would have thought that what you have heard when the Dementors draw near you would have had more of an effect on you. Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them—gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks.”

Ouch.

But the point is driven home this time because Harry respects Lupin’s opinion, and the way in which Lupin chastises Harry makes Harry understand why sneaking into Hogsmeade is wrong.

And the end of the chapter, Hermione tells the boys that Buckbeak lost his case and is set to be executed.

In chapter 15, “The Quidditch Final,” pretty much the most awesome Quidditch game of the series takes place between Gryffindor and Slytherin.

Harry and Ron make up with Hermione early in the chapter. Hermione smacks Malfoy in the face (that was awesome), forgets to go to Charms, and quits Divination in a fit of pique when Trelawney insinuates she doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in the subject—Hermione contends the subject is hokum. Lavender recalls after Hermione storms out that Trelawney predicted “one of our number will leave us forever.”

Then the game takes place, during which there is quite a deal of dirty play on the part of both teams, though it’s instigated by the Slytherins. Slytherin’s Keeper doesn’t appear to be very good, does he? He lets in just about every penalty shot, while Wood manages to block most of Slytherin’s penalty shots. But Harry manages to nab the Snitch in a narrow miss, as Malfoy saw it first and was already streaking after it.

I thought it might be fun to share this treasury of Quidditch swag you can buy on Etsy.

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Re-Reading Harry Potter: Trelawney’s Not a Fraud

Tea_leaf_readingWhat do you see in this cup? Harry would say, “A load of soggy brown stuff.” Sybill Trelawney gets a bad rap because of all of her supposed inaccurate predictions. Leaving aside the two predictions she made when she was “possessed” by her inner eye, she made a few pretty accurate predictions, some of them in chapter six, “Talons and Tea Leaves.” First, Neville did break that cup. While you could argue it was coincidence or that she had heard about Neville’s clumsiness or perhaps deduced it by observing him in class for a few moments, it is still kind of weird. She told Lavender the thing she’d been dreading would happen on October 16. Lavender found out that day that her rabbit had died. She told Parvati to beware a red-headed man, and Parvati instantly suspected Trelawney meant Ron. Ron was somewhat responsible for Parvati’s bad date with Harry at the Yule Ball (and he was completely responsible for Padma’s). He also drew Lavender Brown’s attention away from Parvati during sixth year when Ron and Lavender dated. She predicted that one of the class would leave them forever around Easter. Hermione dropped the class around Easter. Her record is not actually all that bad. She does make some inaccurate predictions, but on the whole, her record is better than you’d think, especially if you start looking closely and paying attention to what she says.

However, I do absolutely love Professor McGonagall’s reaction to the moroseness in Transfiguration: “‘Ah, of course,’ said Professor McGonagall, suddenly frowning. ‘There is no need to say any more, Miss Granger. Tell me, which of you will be dying this year.'” McGonagall is often at her funniest when she’s responding to Professor Trelawney in some way. “You look in excellent health to me, Potter, so you will excuse me if I don’t let you off homework today. I assure you that if you die, you need not hand it in.”

And here a note about some differences between the American and British versions of the series. I like the British versions better. I can’t remember if I mentioned it or not before, but, for example, in the scene at Nearly-Headless Nick’s Deathday Party, when Hermione sees Moaning Myrtle and moves to avoid her, she says, in the American edition, that it’s “awful trying to have a pee with her wailing at you.” In the British edition, the same line is rendered, “it’s awful trying to go to the loo with her wailing at you.” Obviously, the American editors didn’t think American children would be smart enough to deduce what “go to the loo” meant or, Heaven forfend, that they’d look it up. Sigh. I just think it’s out of character for Hermione to say the word “pee.” She would naturally use a more proper term. That line always bothered me for that reason, and after I read the British version, it bothered me more because Hermione didn’t say it. Another case in point happens in chapter six of Prisoner of Azkaban when Hermione says, “The Grim’s not an omen, it’s the cause of death! And Harry’s still with us because he’s not stupid enough to see one and think, right, well, I’d better kick the bucket then!” in the American edition. In the British edition, she says, “The Grim’s not an omen, it’s the cause of death! And Harry’s still with us because he’s not stupid enough to see one and think, right, well, I’d better pop my clogs then!” Way funnier, and I’m not sure why. A lot of the great British diction is removed from the story in the American editions, and as an English teacher who values the choices authors make in their writing, it makes me sad. It may seem like a small difference in that no meaning is changed, but the changes do alter Hermione’s character a bit. She is funnier in British English.

In chapter seven, “The Boggart in the Wardrobe,” we get our first real look at Professor Lupin’s skills as a teacher, and let me say, as a teacher, that I think he’s possibly the best teacher at Hogwarts. He is awesome. First, I love it that he begins with a hands-on, practical lesson. Instead of assigning the chapter for reading first, he engages the class in solving an authentic problem. Then they read the chapter for homework in order to understand the theory. Their reading comprehension and understanding is likely enhanced by their own experience with the boggart. He also ensures that every student in the class participates and ignores Hermione and calls on Harry after Hermione had already answered his first question. You watch. The only other teacher in the series who ignores Hermione and tries to call on another student is Snape. All the other teachers call on her because it is easier to call on the student bouncing out of her seat to answer your questions. It is much harder to identify the student who has something to share and doesn’t, for whatever reason. You learn a lot from those students, and Hermione’s other teachers don’t give other students the opportunity to participate. Lupin’s lessons are also very organized. The students always seem to know what the roadmap for the class will be to the point that they protest when Snape tries to make them skip ahead.

Rowling expertly juxtaposes Lupin’s first lesson next to a description of the Potions lesson in which Snape tries to poison Neville’s toad. If Snape were not so horrible, he would be a great teacher himself. In fact, as I will continue to argue as I finish the series, Harry learns more about how to defeat Voldemort from Snape than from anyone else. Even Dumbledore. The only quibble I really have with Lupin’s lesson is that he asks the students to summarize the chapter. It might be that he is just trying to help them improve their note-taking skills, but I think he could go a little deeper with that assignment. Since I haven’t read the chapter in question, I’m not sure what he might have done with it, but summary is just checking comprehension and is not a very high critical thinking skill.

I actually was interviewed for an Irish radio show about Professor Lupin many years ago. You can list to what I had to say if you like (just click the link, and you can play it in a new tab):

Moncrieff Interview

In chapter eight, “Flight of the Fat Lady,” Harry and Professor Lupin have an interesting conversation about the Boggart class. Lupin is direct with Harry when Harry asks why Lupin didn’t give him a crack at the Boggart. (He didn’t give Hermione one, either… that is curious, no?) Instead of denying he did any such thing, he admits he feared the Boggart would assume the shape of Lord Voldemort. When Harry confesses it would have been a Dementor instead, Lupin says, “Well, well… I’m impressed… That suggests that what you fear most of all is—fear. Very wise, Harry.” Naturally, one thinks of FDR’s speech, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Later when Snape comes in with the Wolfsbane Potion for Lupin to drink, Lupin is very complimentary of Snape’s skills—you never see Snape reciprocate. In fact, he denigrates Lupin in front of his students. Lupin says, “I am very lucky to be working alongside Professor Snape; there aren’t many wizards who are up to making it.” He is grateful in spite of Snape’s outright disrespect. However, it must be noted, Snape makes the potion carefully, and it does ease Lupin’s symptoms while he is at Hogwarts.

In chapter nine, “Grim Defeat,” Hermione notes that it’s lucky that Black picked Halloween to try to break into the Gryffindor Common Room. Ron suggests that Black must have lost track of time, being on the run. I would, of course, submit he chose that night precisely because he knew the students would all be out, and if he could catch Peter Pettigrew, he could do away with the rat with little fuss.

We also meet Cedric Diggory for the first time in this chapter. He is the new captain and Seeker for Hufflepuff, and he famously catches the Snitch before Harry. Possessed of a tremendous sense of fair play, however, he offers to call the game off when he learns that Harry has fallen off his broom, but Hufflepuff won, fair and square. He is a pretty decent person.

Of course, also in the chapter, we see another example of Snape’s meanness when he takes five points from Gryffindor because Hermione is “an insufferable know-it-all.” While on the surface, it’s a horrible thing to say, and it’s completely out of line, I think it might be a misguided attempt on Snape’s part to remind Hermione there are other students in the class. He goes about it in exactly the wrong way, but even Harry says the rest of the class had at one point called Hermione at know-it-all, too. But Ron is right: “You asked a question and she knows the answer! Why ask if you don’t want to be told?” Later on Ron wonders aloud, “Why couldn’t Black have hidden in Snape’s office, eh? He could have finished him off for us!” Once again, Ron is right when he’s only joking around—Black and Snape are enemies, and had they seen each other, a duel likely would have ensued. However, I don’t think Black would have been finishing Snape off. Snape repeatedly shows he is an extremely skilled wizard in this series, and I really don’t think Black would have had a chance, especially not after being in Azkaban for 12 years. He is subtle in his attempt to unmask Professor Lupin as a werewolf, but he’s effective. It’s still a jerk move.

In chapter ten “The Marauder’s Map,” Lupin tells us a great deal about Dementors:

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them.

Rowling has said that Dementors were meant to be her description of what depression is like. It’s an apt description.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it, but there is a mention in this chapter of the match between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, during which “Ravenclaw flattened Hufflepuff.” Cedric Diggory was the Hufflepuff Seeker, but did you remember who was Seeker for Ravenclaw? Cho Chang. That means that Cho was pitted against both of her Hogwarts boyfriends in Quidditch this year. She wouldn’t face off against both of them again as Quidditch would be canceled for the Triwizard Tournament the next year, and Cedric would die. Harry is a little taken with her charms and almost lets her get one over on him (more on that later when we get to it), but did you ever wonder if maybe Cedric did lose some focus because he was checking her out? I mean, Hufflepuff was flattened, the book says. Cho had to have caught the Snitch. We know that Cedric is a good Quidditch player. It adds up for me, anyway.

As everyone else is in Hogsmeade, Harry is brooding and trying to figure out how to spend his time when Fred and George Weasley gift him with the Marauder’s Map. First of all, why do they give Harry this map? He is really more Ron’s friend than theirs, and this artifact is really valuable to them. Second, how did Fred and George happen upon the right incantation to work this map? Do a number of variations on the phrase, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” work just as well? Or does it have to be that exact phrase? Pottermore does not answer this question, but does mention that the magic involved in its creation was complex and difficult: “it includes the Homonculous Charm, enabling the possessor of the map to track the movements of every person in the castle, and it was also enchanted to forever repel (as insultingly as possible) the curiosity of their nemesis, Severus Snape.” Rowling said in an interview that Harry’s son James later finds the map in his father’s study and sneaked it out. After Harry uses the map to sneak into Hogsmeade, we are treated to this fabulous description of Honeyduke’s:

There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable. Creamy chunks of nougat, shimmering pink squares of coconut ice, fat, honey-colored toffees; hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows; there was a large barrel of Every Flavor Beans, and another of Fizzing Whizzbees, the levitating sherbet balls that Ron had mentioned; along yet another wall were ‘Special Effects’ sweets: Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-colored bubbles that refused to pop for days), the strange, splintery Toothflossing Stringmints, tiny black Pepper Imps (‘breathe fire for your friends!’), Ice Mice (‘hear your teeth chatter and squeak!’), peppermint creams shaped like toads (‘hop realistically in the stomach!’), fragile sugar-spun quills and exploding bonbons.

I cannot read that passage without wanting to scarf some candy. One thing Rowling has a gift for is food descriptions.

Later in the chapter, of course, Harry overhears that Sirius Black betrayed his parents and was responsible for their deaths when he is listening to Cornelius Fudge, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, and Rosmerta talking. Cornelius Fudge makes a very accurate observation, though he has confusion about the particulars: “I must say, You-Know-You alone and friendless is one thing … but give him back his most devoted servant, and I shudder to think how quickly he’ll rise again…” And yet, as we know, his inability to acknowledge that what he says he fears in this passage has come to pass causes all sorts of problems and makes it possible for Voldemort to infiltrate the government in a matter of years.

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Re-Reading Harry Potter: Dementors are Scary

Dementor

[amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link] is such a great book. The movie based on it is my least favorite Harry Potter movie.

There are many reasons I love the book:

  • Professor Lupin is awesome.
  • Patronuses (Patroni?) are some seriously cool magic.
  • Sirius Black is seriously scary as a villain.
  • Divination is hilarious. Trelawney role is cut too much from the films compared to her role in the books.
  • The Marauder’s Map is a seriously cool magical object.
  • You get to learn a little bit more about Harry’s father and his friends for the first time in the series.

There are many reasons I don’t love the movie:

  • Professor Lupin is not nearly as awesome. Not even close.
  • Divination is given a short shrift. So is Care of Magical Creatures, but I didn’t care as much.
  • The cuts are so extreme. So much of the James Potter and Co. backstory is deleted.
  • Lupin as werewolf looks weird. Not like a scary werewolf.

There are more reasons.

In the first chapter, “Owl Post,” we find Harry in bed late at night writing an essay for History of Magic about witch burning. It’s an awesome little scene because it acknowledges real history and blends it with the wizarding world of the novels. He also gets his first ever birthday cards and presents. What a sad little scene, isn’t it? I mean, it makes you wonder why the Dursleys had to be that awful.

In the second chapter, “Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake,” perhaps one of the funniest events in the whole series takes place when Harry blows Aunt Marge up like a balloon. I do happen to think the movie handled that scene pretty well. What a horrible human being she is. You know, Pottermore says that part of Aunt Marge’s problem is that she harbors an unrequited love for her neighbor Col. Fubster (who is taking care of the dogs during her absence). Can you imagine how horrible it would be to have Marge Dursley in love with you? Gross. Anyway, according to Pottermore, a lot of her “nasty behavior” towards other people is down to the fact that Col. Fubster doesn’t return her feelings. However, interesting side note, the incident with Marge convinces the Dursleys that it’s not safe to invite Marge to visit when Harry is home, and so he never sees her again. That’s great news, isn’t it? For both of them, probably. J.K. Rowling has said that Lockhart was based on a real person, and I have a feeling that Marge is probably based on a particularly horrible person, too, though perhaps is a composite of a couple of horrible people. The description is too rich, if a little over the top. I love to hate her. I mean, for real—she gave Harry a box of dog biscuits? Who does that?

In chapter three, “The Knight Bus,” Harry is rescued in the form of yet another deus ex machina the Knight Bus. Lucky for him you have to stick out your wand arm and call it, right? How else would he get to London? Ah well, if Rowling relies on these kinds of devices, you can’t blame her too much. In a fantasy novel, they make more sense than in other types of fiction. Right before the bus shows up, Harry has run off and is wondering to himself why Ministry of Magic officials weren’t “swooping down on him where he sat.” Yeah. Why aren’t they? He has the Trace on him, according to Moody, until he’s 17. He should not be that hard to find. Apparition is instantaneous. How does he slip away before they can get there? At any rate, in case you are wondering why there might be a need for the Knight Bus, Pottermore says:

For witches and wizards who are Floo-sick, whose Apparition is unreliable, who hate heights or who feel frightened or queasy taking Portkeys, there is always the Knight Bus, which appears whenever a witch or wizard in urgent need of transportation sticks out their wand arm at the curb.

I do kind of love Stan Shunpike’s explanation when Harry asks “How come the Muggles don’t hear the bus?”

“Them!” said Stan contemptuously. “Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.”

Incidentally, Rowling named the two Knight Bus conductors after her grandfathers, Ernest and Stanley.

Harry arrives at the Leaky Cauldron, more or less in one piece (I would never want to ride that bus myself) and runs smack into Cornelius Fudge, who doesn’t yet hate Harry. I do think it’s kind of funny when Fudge tells Harry that members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad went to Privet Drive and “punctured” Marge, then modified her memory… “So that’s that, and no harm done.” Harry is rightly skeptical about not being in trouble, and Fudge says, “We don’t send people to Azkaban just for flowing up their aunts!”

Chapter four, “The Leaky Cauldron,” deals with Harry’s last two weeks before returning to Hogwarts. I do like to read about Harry spending two weeks staying in Diagon Alley. It seems like such a grand adventure to be on your own in a place like that at the age of 13 for two weeks. I love the part where Harry does his essay at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. There is a throwaway description of the sorts of people Harry sees at the Leaky Cauldron: “wild-looking warlocks, raucous dwarfs, and, once, what looked suspiciously like a hag, who ordered a plate of raw liver from behind a thick woolen balaclava.” So, though hags are mentioned several times in the series, we never really learn much about them. How are they demonstrably different from witches? Warlock seems to be either a special title given to some wizards or a particularly frightening looking wizard. Dwarfs are mentioned also as delivering singing Valentines in [amazon_link id=”0439064872″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets[/amazon_link].

Harry runs into Ron and Hermione, who are staying at the Leaky Cauldron the night before leaving for Hogwarts. The trio discuss why Harry didn’t land in more trouble over the Aunt Marge incident, and Ron ascribes it to the fact that Harry is Harry Potter, after all:

“I’d hate to see what the Ministry’d do to me if I blew up an aunt. Mind you, they’d have to dig me up first, because Mum would’ve killed me.”

Hermione has three shopping bags of books, and the boys wonder why she is taking Muggle Studies when she’s Muggle-born, but she says, “It’ll be fascinating to study them from the wizarding point of view.” What does it say about me that I totally get what Hermione is saying here, and that I agree, it would be fascinating. Ron also gets a new wand, willow with a unicorn tail-hair. It seems that wands are long or short in proportion to their owners’ heights. Ron, being fairly tall, has a long wand at 14 inches. About willow wands, Pottermore says:

Willow is an uncommon wand wood with healing power, and I have noted that the ideal owner for a willow wand often has some (usually unwarranted) insecurity, however well they may try and hide it. While many confident customers insist on trying a willow wand (attracted by their handsome appearance and well-founded reputation for enabling advanced, non-verbal magic) my willow wands have consistently selected those of greatest potential, rather than those who feel they have little to learn. It has always been a proverb in my family that he who has furthest to travel will go fastest with willow.

Sounds like Ron, doesn’t it? Here is what Pottermore says about unicorn tail-hairs:

Unicorn hair generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages. Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard.

Minor disadvantages of unicorn hair are that they do not make the most powerful wands (although the wand wood may compensate) and that they are prone to melancholy if seriously mishandled, meaning that the hair may ‘die’ and need replacing.

Of course, Ron’s first wand, Charlie’s old wand, also had a unicorn tail-hair. Interesting to note that Harry’s wand has a phoenix feather core, Ron’s has a unicorn tail-hair, and Hermione’s has dragon heartstring. The trio combined have wands made from the only three substances Ollivander uses as wand cores.

Then we meet Crookshanks. I can’t remember anymore where I read it, but Rowling has said that Crookshanks is part Kneazle, which is why he is particularly aggressive with Wormtail—Kneazles are great at ferreting out untrustworthy individuals. Incidentally, Mrs. Figg breeds Kneazles for a living, which is why she has so many cats.

Later on at dinner, there is a funny scene when Fred said that the Ministry cars would have little flags with HB on them—”for Humungous Bighead.” And right after that, “Everyone except Percy and Mrs. Weasley snorted into their pudding.” Which means that even Hermione, who normally disapproves of Percy-mocking, and Mr. Weasley (!) laughed at Fred’s joke. But Percy is a git, so I don’t blame them too much.

In chapter five, “The Dementor,” we meet not just Dementors, but also Professor Lupin. Lupin in the books is so cool. He is arguably the best teacher Harry has because Harry not only manages to learn a lot from him, but he also establishes a warm relationship with him, unlike the relationship he has with Snape. Lupin also gives excellent assessments (I’ll talk more about that later as we get to it). What is he doing on the Hogwarts Express, though? Is he there by Dumbledore’s request in order to look out for the students or Harry in particular? Surely he has no difficulty with apparition, and if he did, he could travel to Hogwarts by Floo Powder or some other means. There’s no reason for him to be on the train unless he’s meant to protect the students.

Several times in the book we learn the pocket Sneakoscope Ron gave Harry actually works pretty well. Ron mentions to Harry that it went off when Fred and George put beetles in Bill’s soup, though it also could have gone off because Wormtail was nearby. Then again, it went off in this chapter because of Wormtail. Ron says it also went off when he was tying it Errol’s leg. Errol is obviously not trustworthy, as he’s just about ready to keel over after every flight, but Hermione zeroes in on Ron’s behavior at the time instead, and Ron admits he was not supposed to be using Errol for long distances.

The Dementor boards the train and scares the crap out of everybody. I think they are possibly some of the creepiest things I’ve ever read about in any literature, and one of the things I like about them is that they can be felt by Muggles, who experience their presence as depression. Indeed, Rowling has said that depression inspired her creation of Dementors. She said she experienced depression as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad.” And I love the fact that chocolate does somewhat counteract the effects of Dementors. According to Pottermore:

The mood-enhancing properties of chocolate are well known in both the Muggle and wizard worlds. Chocolate is the perfect antidote for anyone who has been overcome in the presence of Dementors, which suck hope and happiness out of their surroundings. Chocolate can only be a short-term remedy, however. Finding ways to fight off Dementors—or depression—are essential if one is to become permanently happier. Excessive chocolate consumption cannot benefit either Muggle or wizard.

When announcing the new faculty at the feast, Dumbledore mentions that Professor Kettleburn, Care of Magical Creatures professor, is retiring to “enjoy more time with his remaining limbs.” Pottermore has more to share about Silvanus Kettleburn:

Kettleburn was an enthusiastic and occasionally reckless man whose great love of the often dangerous creatures he studied and looked after led to serious injuries to himself and, occasionally, others. This fact led to no fewer than sixty-two periods of probation during his time of employment at the school (a record that still stands). Like Hagrid after him, he was prone to underestimating the risks involved in caring for creatures such as Occamys, Grindylows and Fire Crabs, and once famously caused the Great Hall to catch fire after enchanting an Ashwinder to play the Worm in a play of “The Fountain of Fair Fortune.”

Kettleburn was a loveable if eccentric man and his continuing employment at the school was evidence of the great affection in which staff and students held him. He finished his career with only one arm and half a leg. Albus Dumbledore presented him with a full set of enchanted wooden limbs on his retirement, a gift that had to be replaced regularly since, because Kettleburn’s habit of visiting dragon sanctuaries in his spare time meant that his prosthetics were frequently set on fire.

Sounds a lot like Hagrid, doesn’t he? Kettleburn had been in Hufflepuff House as a student and had no wife and children.

Image via Harry Potter Wiki.

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Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

Top Ten Best/Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about book to movie adaptations. Oh, this is a hard one. I will start with the best ones. Links go to the movies’ IMDb profiles.

  1. Brokeback Mountain the movie is even better than Annie Proulx’s short story. Proulx doesn’t develop the characters as much, and Innis and Jack’s wives are just window dressing. The movie gives the story much more depth and heart. I hardly ever say this kind of thing. The book is usually better. Which brings me to #2.
  2. The Princess Bride is another case where I think the movie is better. The book gets a little lost, but the movie stays focused. Plus the acting is just great. Easily one of the most quotable movies of all time.
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great film. Not as good as the book, but really great. Everyone talks about how wonderful Gregory Peck was as Atticus Finch, and he was, but they always forget that Mary Badham was phenomenal as Scout. She was nominated for an Academy Award. She didn’t win. Probably because of her age. She was only ten years old.
  4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was famously reviled by Ken Kesey, who didn’t like it that you couldn’t tell the story through the eyes of the schizophrenic Chief Bromden, but the film turned in some stellar performances by some actors often known more for comedy. Great film.
  5. The Color Purple jiggled some things around, but they got the most important stuff right. I love this film all over again every time I see it.
  6. Sense and Sensibility is gorgeously shot and the acting is awesome. I like everyone in it.
  7. Pride and Prejudice, both the version with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and the one with Keira Knightley.
  8. The adaptation of Louis Sachar’s novel Holes was awesome. Pretty much just like the book.
  9. I don’t know if it’s cheating to include plays, but I’m gonna. Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is pretty much the gold standard of Shakespeare in film.
  10. Clueless is a pretty awesome update of Emma. I love that movie.

My choices for worst adaptations:

  1. As much as I love the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban hits all the wrong notes from the opening when Harry is practicing spells outside of school in a Muggle house, which everyone knows underage wizards can’t do, to the made up toad chorus and talking shrunken head, to the confusing deletion of the Marauders’ subplot that renders the movie incomprehensible unless you have read the book. And everyone looks scruffy the whole movie long. They don’t have to be as well scrubbed as when Chris Columbus directs, and I don’t mind them looking like normal teenagers, but having parts of your shirt untucked, your tie askew, and your hair mussed in every single scene? Nah. I’m blaming the director for this one because I like the others just fine (except for Michael Gambon’s performance, especially in Goblet of Fire—Dumbledore wouldn’t manhandle Harry like that). It’s a shame because it is easily one of the top books in the series.
  2. Just about every version of Wuthering Heights except this one, though to be fair, I haven’t seen the newest one with Kaya Scodelario. Why on earth people can’t get that book straightened out in film form, I do not get. Some versions cut the Hareton and Cathy part altogether. Others delete Lockwood.
  3. The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore. What were they thinking? We were discussing the scene when Reverend Dimmesdale reveals the scarlet letter carved into his own chest and dies in one of my classes one day, and I re-read it to the class. One of my students said, “Wow, this would make a great movie.” Yeah, you’d think, but no.
  4. This version of Macbeth is pretty heinous, but I do use two scenes from it when I teach the play. They do some neat camera tilt tricks and use mirrors in a clever way in the scene when Banquo’s ghost shows up, and the opening with the three witches dressed like schoolgirls busting up a graveyard is good.
  5. The Rankin/Bass versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King and Ralph Bakshi’s version of The Lord of the Rings. Ugh. I much prefer Peter Jackson’s adaptions despite the changes made. He takes the subject matter seriously.
  6. The Black Cauldron was ruined by Disney. I don’t blame you if you didn’t read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles if you thought they were like that movie. I remember dragging my mom to see it and being so disappointed.
  7. And by that same token, The Seeker adapted from Susan Cooper’s novel The Dark is Rising is heinous. I keep using that word. But it’s so true in this case. Take this one together with The Black Cauldron and there’s a fair chance kids won’t give these wonderful books steeped in Welsh myth and legend a shot at all.
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God was pretty bad. Oh, you mean you never even knew it it existed? There is a good reason for that. I love that book. I can’t believe the film is so bad.
  9. Beowulf. Oh. My. Gosh. What the heck was that?
  10. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil should have been good. Kevin Spacey is in it. Clint Eastwood directed it. The Lady Chablis played herself. Instead it’s terrible. Don’t watch it.

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