The Pensieve

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Pensieve

The PensieveOne of my favorite magical devices in the series makes its first appearance in this reading selection, chapters 26-30 of [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link].

Chapter 26 sees Harry preparing in earnest for the second task after he’s worked out the egg clue. The trio are talking about what Moody said about Snape being on a second chance, and Harry remarks, “I just want to know what Snape did with his first chance, if he’s on his second one.” The arc of Snape’s development is interesting to watch. He is a complex character precisely because he’s not a nice guy, but he is ultimately on the side of good, and the reason he is good is that he has loved someone deeply. I think perhaps one of the strongest motifs of this series is that there is true goodness in love. Voldemort’s evil stems in part from the fact that he has never known love and therefore cannot understand it as a motivation for behavior. It is this blind spot that is his downfall over and over again, from trying to kill Harry to trusting Snape to believing he can be stronger and even defeat Harry if he steals Harry’s blood to his final defeat at the Battle of Hogwarts when he cannot fathom the characters’ strong bonds of love for one another that give them, as Harry puts it in the fifth movie, “something worth fighting for.” And part of loving others is giving them second chances and forgiving them, which is yet another thing—forgiveness—that Voldemort cannot comprehend. Dumbledore trusts Snape not just because of what he knows about Lily, but because he understands the power of his forgiveness over Snape. Snape will get no such treatment from Voldemort, no matter how useful he might be.

Dobby finds Harry in the library and gives him gillyweed, which enables him to grow gills and swim easily underwater. The route by which Harry gets the gillyweed is a little circuitous. I actually liked that the movie had Harry find out about it from Neville. That had been Moody/Crouch’s plan all along, but in the book, Harry never asks Neville for help and so Moody/Crouch lets slip that gillyweed would work where Dobby could overhear. A bit contrived. I imagine the movie used Neville instead because of the extra expense of CGI Dobby. That whole film cuts the storyline waaaay down, anyway, but I do like Harry getting gillyweed from Neville better. Sigh.

A moment’s pause to reflect on what a ridiculously dangerous task the champions are set. I mean anyone could have drowned, hostages or champions. I suppose the fact that so many trained wizards are on hand would probably have prevented such a tragedy, but still. I have to wonder again about why anyone sends their child to Hogwarts.

In chapter 27, I noticed a nice little bit of foreshadowing I don’t think I have picked up on before. When Hermione is speculating about how Rita Skeeter could have known that Viktor asked Hermione to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer, she is “holding her pestle suspended over a bowl of scarab beetles.” Of course, Rita turns out to be an animagus who turns into a beetle. If you re-read the book after knowing about Rita, you notice that Rowling carefully connects those dots and plants clues about Rita’s secret.

It does crack me up every time when Snape sidles over to their table and says, “Fascinating though your social life undoubtedly is, Miss Granger, I must ask you not to discuss it in my class. Ten points from Gryffindor.” But then he reads that horrible article out loud. That’s just nasty. I have known teachers who will do that sort of thing—read notes out loud. Of course, students today rarely pass notes in class. They text.

Much has been made of Sirius’s statement in this chapter that “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” On the one hand, Sirius seems to be advocating kindness towards creatures like house elves, but on the other, his statement makes it very clear he considers them lesser beings, and he himself is not kind to Kreacher. He has his reasons. Kreacher is pretty horrible to him. It’s interesting that Harry later determines that kindness is the key to reaching Kreacher and actually befriends the elf, but Sirius, despite this platitude, never figures that out.

We also learn that Sirius never had a trial before he was sent to Azkaban. Had he been given a trial, there is a chance he might have gone free, though the evidence against him did look overwhelming. Crouch’s tactics as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement are reprehensible. He allowed Aurors to use Unforgivable Curses and sent others besides Sirius to Azkaban without a trial. He did it for what he might have viewed as the greater good, but as we learn in the rest of the series, many atrocities are committed by people who think they are acting “for the greater good.” My hunch is that we’ll find out more about Crouch’s background on Pottermore when this book is released, and one thing I expect to find out is that he was in Slytherin House in school. And then, his son is caught alongside the Lestranges, torturing the Longbottoms. I am interested to learn more about Barty, Jr. He swears he is innocent, but all of his actions in this book point to his being a full-fledged Death Eater. I’d be interested to know how he wound up in the company of Death Eaters.

Sirius also wonders why Dumbledore would hire Snape to teach given Snape’s fascination with the Dark Arts. As we later learn, he invented quite a few hexes, including the very nasty Sectumsempra. Sirius says, “Snape knew more curses when he arrived at school than half the kids in seventh year and he was part of a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters.” He has a keen mind, and that he would choose to dwell so much in such activity is interesting. I have to say as much as we learn about Snape and his history, I still would like to learn more. But Sirius cannot get past one fact: Dumbledore trusts Snape. And though Dumbledore “trusts where a lot of other people wouldn’t,” it doesn’t make sense to Sirius that Dumbledore would let Snape teach at Hogwarts if he had ever been a Death Eater, which just illustrates further Dumbledore’s capacity to forgive and ability to understand others, and, indeed, to understand regret and what it means to have a second chance—something, as we find out, Dumbledore himself was never given. As the trio leaves Sirius in the cave near Hogsmeade, they talk about Percy and Crouch. Ron has the measure of Percy: “But maybe he doesn’t care … it’d probably just make him admire Crouch even more. Yeah, Percy loves rules. He’d just say Crouch was refusing to break them for his own son,” to which Hermione replies, “Percy would never throw any of his family to the Dementors.” Ron says, “I don’t know … If he thought we were standing in the way of his career … Percy’s really ambitious, you know.” Foreshadowing. You know, I just don’t ever forgive Percy for being such an ass later. I just don’t. I guess every family has to have a jerk like Percy in it somewhere.

In chapter 28, Harry says something to Hermione about Rita Skeeter using “bugging,” and Hermione gets an idea. She dashes off to the library to check, and sure enough, Rita Skeeter is not a registered animagus. Later in the chapter, he and Krum go have a chat in the forest after learning about the final task, and Crouch shows up, raving mad. He is clearly fightly off the Imperius Curse with some difficulty.

In chapter 29, Harry speculates that Moody was using the Marauder’s Map to reach them in the forest so quickly, which is precisely what he was doing. The trio later runs into Fred and George in the Owlery, discussing blackmail, when Ron warns them they could get in trouble for that, George says, “Carry on like this and you’ll be made a Prefect.” Ron replies hotly, “No I won’t!” Interesting because, of course, he is made a Prefect, and he is not disappointed about it when it happens.

Harry later has a dream in Divination that appears to be real—he is seeing what Voldemort is doing at that moment. He goes straight to Dumbledore, who is with the minister and leaves Harry in his office, alone with the Pensieve, which he did not put away properly. Naturally, Harry peeks. The first scene Harry sees is Karkaroff’s trial, in which he names the names of other Death Eaters in order to walk free. Harry learns that Snape himself was, indeed, a Death Eater. The scene changes, and Harry is seeing a new trial. This time, Ludo Bagman is testifying on his own behalf, addressing charges that he passed information to Voldemort through Augustus Rookwood. The wizards and witches in the courtroom are so blinded by Bagman’s celebrity that they can’t focus on the trial, and Bagman walks. The scene changes again, and this time, four people are brought in—the Lestranges and Barty Crouch, Jr. Harry learns that Neville’s parents were tortured into insanity.

I have always found it interesting that Barty, Jr. pleads his innocence. I don’t know how guilty he actually is. Did he become true to Voldemort only after his father cast him away, or is his desperation in the court a ruse to appeal to his father’s paternal instincts in order to avoid prison? It’s hard to say. I think he was probably young and stupid. He was with the Lestranges when they were caught, but knowing them, I have a hunch they did the torturing while Crouch more or less watched and did nothing about it. However, his behavior later suggests that he has strong loyalty to Voldemort, even after all these years have passed. He seems to view Voldemort as a father figure—a substitute for the father who cast him aside and then imprisoned him for years. It’s a complicated situation, and I’d like to learn more about him, for sure.

At that point, Dumbledore returns to his office, and far from chiding Harry for nosing into the Pensieve, he is patient and understanding of Harry’s curiosity. He shows Harry how the Pensieve works and even answers his questions about what he saw in it. It would be a great device to have if you want to make connections and see how everything fits together.

Harry and Dumbledore discuss Harry’s scar hurting, and Dumbledore says that Voldemort and Harry “are connected by the curse that failed.” Whether he has completely figured out that Harry is a Horcrux or not at this stage is not clear, but I believe he has. I think he realizes that the diary is a Horcrux in Harry’s second year, and he deduces that Harry must be one as well before the events in this book.

Harry probes Dumbledore about why he trusts Snape, but Dumbledore says, “That, Harry, is a matter between Professor Snape and myself.” The relationship between Snape and Dumbledore is one of the closest and most touching in the books. When we finally explore it from Snape’s memories in the final book, Snape and Dumbledore are both illuminated. I know my perspective of them both changed as I saw their relationship through that lens.

Re-Reading Harry Potter: Hermione and House Elves

houseelvesLook at this very cool House Elf Abolitionist Badge you can buy on Etsy!

I love Etsy.

That said, Hermione’s heart is in the right place, but she has it wrong about house elves, which is just one of the thoughts I have about chapters 21-25 of [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link].

Harry has successfully managed to beat the dragon in the first task, and he is trying to work out the egg clue for the second task, but it just sounds like wailing. Seamus Finnigan says it sounds like a banshee, which is what his boggart is. Neville says it sounds like someone being tortured and wonders if Harry will have to fight the Cruciatus Curse. He has been much preoccupied with this curse, for obvious reasons, and it begs the question: Did he remember, somewhere in the back of his mind, his parents’ torture? He would have been quite young, but it is possible that such an event left an impression on him.

I mentioned Hermione and house elves. As I said, she has good intentions, but house elves do not seem to want to be free, at least not for the most part. Winky is devastated when Crouch frees her, and she never really gets over it. She is so determined to view Dobby as the example instead of an exception to the rule. She can be quite stubborn when she thinks she’s right. On the other hand, Hermione is right. House elves are treated like slaves, and the fact that they seem to like it is ignorance. Even Dobby, the most “forward thinking” elf in terms of his conception of freedom, talks Dumbledore down from a larger paycheck and more benefits. So what do you do? How do you free a people who doesn’t want to be free? How do you educate them about their choices? The issue of house elves is not really resolved in the books, but I would be interested to learn more about them on Pottermore. I hope the issue of house elves is addressed when they release this book on Pottermore.

Harry faces his first major dating challenge and has to confront the dilemma of how to ask a girl out. He sets his sights on Cho Chang, with whom he has a few things in common: she’s a Seeker for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, so at least there is Quidditch to talk about. I have always liked the actress who played her in the movies. Her wonderful Scottish accent! At any rate, of course, she already has a date, and Ron and Harry grow more desperate until Ron is even willing to go with Hermione. I love her response. And I love how gorgeous she looks at the ball. They wind up, of course, with the Patil twins, and Dean Thomas even remarks that he can’t figure out how they managed to get dates with the prettiest girls in their year. Interesting that Neville thinks to ask Hermione out before her two best friends. He seems to be able to appreciate her as a girl and as a friend before they can. As Ron relates, “He told me after Potions! Said she’s always been really nice, helping him out with work and stuff.” Ron thinks Hermione has made up a date to avoid going with Neville.

I have to admit I’ve always found it kind of odd that Viktor Krum asked Hermione out. I mean, she is quite a bit younger than he is, and it’s hard to see what might attract him. I suspect he is a much more serious student than his pro-Quidditch-player background would suggest. I was glad Rowling brought Krum back later in the books. I liked him.

Fred winds up asking Angelina Johnson to the ball. Their relationship is never really elucidated in the books, but Rowling has hinted that they dated for some time because she refers to Angelina as Fred’s ex. That’s not the kind of terminology you use to describe someone with whom you went to one dance. Later on, George winds up marrying Angelina. She has intimated that it is not the healthiest thing to marry your brother’s ex under the circumstances, but also perhaps that George and Angelina came together in their grief over Fred, and they did name their son Fred (they also had a daughter Roxanne).

One last note about the whole date-procuring fiasco. Parvati Patil’s best friend is Lavender Brown, and when Harry asks Parvati to the ball, he initially asks if Lavender will go with Ron, but Lavender already has a date with Seamus. So funny that later on, Lavender will be Won-Won’s first girlfriend.

Later, Hermione has a great time at the ball until Ron ruins the end of her evening by being a jealous jackass. Viktor describes Durmstrang. It sounds sort of stark and cold. Karkaroff is prompted to quiet Viktor so as not to reveal Durmstrang’s secrets, after which Dumbledore and Karkaroff have a short discussion about their school’s secrets, and Dumbledore’s reaction always makes me laugh: “Oh, I would never dream of assuming I know all Hogwarts’ secrets, Igor.” He describes finding the Room of Requirement when he had to use the bathroom. It had been full of chamber pots. In pondering the room’s appearance, he speculates finally that it might only appear when “the seeker has an exceptionally full bladder,” which is the closest explanation to the truth.

Then the Weird Sisters take the stage, and this one aspect of the books that I felt was really well represented in the films. Of course, the filmmakers were able to convince Jarvis Cocker to be the Weird Sisters’ lead singer and write songs for the film.

A side note: Rowling included the passage when Viktor is trying to learn to say Hermione’s name in order to address frequent questions from readers about how to pronounce it. Pretty sneaky, sis.

Ron and Harry overhear Hagrid admitting he is half-giant, and he notices the Rita Skeeter beetle for the first time. She’s a great character, isn’t she? I hope we learn more about her background on Pottermore. My bet is that she was a Slytherin because she doesn’t seem to mind bending the rules—at all—when she’s after a story. She doesn’t strike me as particularly brave, so Gryffindor is out. She is not kind and loyal, so Hufflepuff is out, too. She might possibly be a Ravenclaw because she does have some brains, but I think her ambition and hungry story-seeking is much more dominant in her personality, so my vote is Slytherin. Do you ever try to figure out what House characters whose Houses are not revealed in the series are in?

Naturally, Skeeter prints the news about Hagrid’s mother. Hagrid retreats to his cabin, and he doesn’t come back to work until the trio visit him. They find Dumbledore already there, trying to convince Hagrid to come back to work. Dumbledore says, “Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.” Isn’t that the truth? I love Dumbledore. I have always wondered exactly what inappropriate charms Aberforth was practicing on that goat.

In the next chapter, “The Egg and the Eye,” we learn more about the limitations of the Maruader’s Map. It does show everyone, even if they are magically concealed under an invisibility cloak or Polyjuice Potion, but it does not distinguish among people with the same name. Bartemius Crouch, Sr. or Bartemius Crouch, Jr. would both just read Bartemius Crouch, which is why Harry naturally assumes Barty Sr. is poking around Snape’s office. Why on earth would he assume it was Barty Jr.? Who would? But Barty Jr. realizes that the map could reveal his big secret and asks Harry if he can borrow it.

I always found it interesting that when Moody/Crouch arrives when Snape and Filch have found Harry’s egg, and Filch is about to reveal that someone has broken into Snape’s office to Moody, Snape hisses at Filch to “Shut up!” Snape doesn’t trust Moody. Now you could go the obvious route and note that as a former Death Eater, Snape likely tangled with Moody in some capacity, but I have a hunch that he knows something is up with Moody, but is not sure what. Possibly he is more attuned to the effects of Polyjuice Potion than others might be, being the Potions Master. I think it likely he hasn’t figured out that Moody is really Barty Crouch, Jr., though, but that he thinks there is something not quite right with the guy. Snape has pretty good instincts, when he doesn’t let his prejudices blind him, and he does seem to pick up on things that others miss. He did, after all, figure out Lupin was a werewolf back in school.

Interesting that Moody/Crouch suggests Harry consider a career as an Auror. I think it’s the first time Harry ever thinks about it, and even though the suggestion comes from a madman, he winds up doing exactly that with his life later. I still contend that no matter how insane Moody/Crouch was, he was still one of the best DADA teachers Harry had. Even Dean Thomas later says they learned a lot from Barty Jr. despite his being a maniac.

Hungarian Horntail

Re-Reading Harry Potter: “Never Laugh at Live Dragons”

Hungarian Horntail

My oldest daughter used to love dragons, and she drew some excellent ones over the years. One thing she couldn’t stand was a dragon who answered to a person, which was why she never got into the Christopher Paolini books and some other great dragon series by authors like Jane Yolen. Harry Potter dragons? Now those were more her speed because they will fry you crispy and bite you in half if they don’t stomp you first. In some ways, the subjugation of dragons in literature is much like the defanging of vampires. Dragons have traditionally been bad news. A dragon killed the great warrior Beowulf in the end. Dragons are fascinating mythical creatures in that they seem to have cropped up in the mythologies of many more ancient cultures than seems coincidental. But they are almost universally depicted in ancient myths as frightening creatures.

So on to my thoughts about chapters 16-20 of [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link].

In chapter 16, “The Goblet of Fire,” Harry is selected as a fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament, alongside Viktor Krum of Durmstrang, Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons, and Cedric Diggory of Hufflepuff. Moody himself suggests that someone cast a powerful Confundus Charm on the Goblet, hoodwinking the object into thinking a fourth school would be competing, and entered Harry’s name under that school. As he was the one who did it, he’s probably just telling the bald truth.

I have a big problem with how Michael Gambon portrays Dumbledore in chapter 17, “The Four Champions.” Aside from this one scene, I think Gambon does OK, though he never quite inhabits Dumbledore like Richard Harris did (or, I contend, like Ian McKellen would have—I have a feeling he was offered the gig and turned it down, don’t you?). But he manhandles Harry when questioning him about how his name was entered into the Goblet of Fire. He does not do this in the book, and he would never do it. He is a skilled Legilimens. All he needs to do is look into Harry’s eyes when asking him about entering his name, and he’ll have the truth of the matter. As a matter of fact, the book’s description reads, “‘Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?’ Dumbledore asked calmly.” CALMLY. Not freaking-out-and-pushing-Harry-around.

It is really sad that Ron doesn’t believe Harry and that they stop talking to each other.   Hermione knows exactly how Harry feels. She’s been on the receiving end of Ron’s stubbornness many times, but experiencing it from Harry’s point of view for the first time is interesting. It makes me feel more empathetic towards Hermione.

In chapter 18, “The Weighing of the Wands,” Ollivander returns to check that the Triwizard participants’ wands are in working order. Before that, Hermione tries to get Harry to see Ron’s point of view—he’s always overshadowed and shunted to the side. These feelings will resurface again, most strongly, when Ron believes Hermione prefers Harry to Ron himself and leaves his friends while they are hunting for horcruxes in [amazon_link id=”0545583004″ target=”_blank” ]Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link]. In this conversation, Hermione mentions Harry is “already in half the books about You-Know-Who, you know.” I realize Hermione is estimating here, but wouldn’t it be more logical for Harry to be in a lot more of the books than half? Especially those written after his downfall?

Malfoy and Harry duel before Potions class, and their spells hit Goyle and Hermione by mistake. Hermione’s teeth grow past her chin, and Snape says, “I see no difference” in reply to Ron’s protestations that Malfoy’s curse also caused damage. I think it’s easily the nastiest, meanest thing he says in the entire series, and there’s no excuse for it. It’s just cruel. It’s the one single thing he says that I can’t get past. He bullies Neville, all right, which is wrong, but if you consider he knew that Neville might have been the Chosen One instead of Harry, and the fact that he wasn’t chosen led to Lily Potter’s death, you can sort of see it. Not that it’s right. At all. But it makes some kind of twisted sense. It’s not Neville’s fault he wasn’t chosen any more than it’s Harry’s fault that James Potter was his father, and Snape is wrong to hold such ridiculous grudges. But his treatment of Hermione here is really beyond the pale, and he never redeems himself of it.

And now some commentary on the wands and their cores from Pottermore.

Ollivander first checks out Fleur Delacour’s wand, which is “nine and a half inches… inflexible … rosewood … and containing … dear me …” a veela hair. Ollivander only uses unicorn tail hair, dragon heartstrings, and phoenix feathers in his wand, as much study has led him to conclude these three substances produce the best wands. He is considered a master wandmaker in a long line of master wandmakers.

Wand flexibility is interesting. If you notice, many of the characters in Harry Potter books have wands described in various gradations of flexibility or rigidity. It is a sign of willingness to change. I, for instance, consider myself to be fairly flexible, but my wand is described as “hard,” so what do I know? Perhaps my husband would nod knowingly and just keep his mouth shut. Fleur’s wand is “inflexible,” meaning she herself has a certain inflexibility, and you do see that with her character.

No mention is made of rosewood among the wand woods that Ollivander uses, either. I will be interested to see if the article on wand woods is expanded when this chapter of Goblet of Fire is added to Pottermore.

Next, Ollivander examines Cedric’s wand, twelve and a quarter inches, ash, pleasantly springy, with a core of unicorn tail hair. This happens to be the same kind of wand wood and core my oldest daughter, the previously mentioned dragon lover, has. You will find if you join Pottermore that wands really do tend to match the personalities of their owners in some amazing respects. I think that every time I check on a friend or family member’s wand and look it up in the wand wood and wand core articles. Anyway, Cedric’s wand of ash:

The ash wand cleaves to its one true master and ought not to be passed on or gifted from the original owner, because it will lose power and skill. This tendency is extreme if the core is of unicorn. Old superstitions regarding wands rarely bear close examination, but I find that the old rhyme regarding rowan, chestnut, ash, and hazel wands (rowan gossips, chestnut drones, ash is stubborn, hazel moans) contains a small nugget of truth. Those witches and wizards best suited to ash wands are not, in my experience, lightly swayed from their beliefs or purposes. However, the brash or over-confident witch or wizard, who often insists on trying wands of this prestigious wood, will be disappointed by its effects. The ideal owner may be stubborn, and will certainly be courageous, but never crass or arrogant.

About unicorn tail hairs, we learn

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 or not 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 the hair may “die” and need replacing.

I think an ash wand with unicorn tail hair is a good fit for Cedric Diggory.

Next, we have Viktor Krum’s wand, a Gregorovitch creation “hornbeam and dragon heartstring … quite rigid … ten and a quarter inches.” Again, like Fleur, Krum is on the inflexible side. Ollivander also uses this wand wood and core.

Hornbeam, of which Ollivander’s own wand is also constructed, is an interesting wand wood:

My own wand is made of hornbeam, and so it is with all due modesty that I state that hornbeam selects for its life mate the talented witch or wizard with a single, pure passion, which some might call obsession (though I prefer the term “vision”), which will almost always be realized. Hornbeam wands adapt more quickly than almost any other to their owner’s style of magic, and will become so personalized, so quickly, that other people will find them extremely difficult to use even for the most simple of spells. Hornbeam wands likewise absorb their owner’s code of honor, whatever that might be, and will refuse to perform acts—whether for good or ill—that do not tally with their master’s principles. A particularly fine-tuned and sentient wand.

About the core, which, incidentally, he has in common with love interest Hermione Granger, we learn

As a rule, dragon heartstrings produce wands with the most power, and which are capable of the most flamboyant spells. Dragon wands tend to learn more quickly than other types. While they can change allegiance if won from their original master, they always bond strongly with the current owner.

The dragon wand tends to be easiest to turn to the Dark Arts, though it will not incline that way of its own accord. It is also the most prone of the three cores to accidents, being somewhat temperamental.

If Ollivander’s obsession is wandlore, perhaps Krum’s is Quidditch. It explains why Moody had to use a powerful Imperius Curse to get Krum to act against his nature and also why Krum has established himself as such a singular individual at such a young age. He’s clearly a gifted wizard, aside from being a gifted Quidditch player. The fact that Harry can hold his own with the likes of Krum speaks to Harry’s own astounding gifts.

Of Harry’s wand, I have previously written, but you can read it here.

In chapter 19, “The Hungarian Horntail,” Harry learns the champions will have to face dragons in their first challenge. I realize this competition is known for being dangerous, but really. It’s amazing anyone sends their kids to wizarding school. He actually defeats the dragon in chapter 20, “The First Task.” Despite being a Quidditch pro, Krum doesn’t think to use his broom, showing that Harry has a certain resourcefulness Krum lacks, although truth be told, Harry wouldn’t have thought of doing it either if Moody hadn’t planted the suggestion in his head. Krum, as it turns out, used the very curse Sirius was going to suggest Harry use when Ron interrupted them talking at the Gryffindor Common Room fireplace—the Conjunctivitis Curse.

Harry makes the unprecedented move of telling Cedric Diggory about the dragons. Cedric is dumbfounded.

“Why are you telling me?” he asked.

Harry looked at him in disbelief. He was sure Cedric wouldn’t have asked that if he had seen the dragons himself. Harry wouldn’t have let his worst enemy face those monsters unprepared—well, perhaps Malfoy or Snape …

“It’s just … fair, isn’t it?” he said to Cedric.

Harry has a strong moral character and sense of fair play, and this kindness toward Cedric cements their friendship. Hufflepuff is known for its friendship and loyalty as well as its goodness and amiability. Cedric embodies all Hufflepuff’s best characteristics. He will not forget Harry’s kindness in sharing this information.

Even Moody remarks it was “a very decent thing you just did, Potter.” Later, he mocks Harry for doing it after he has been unmasked as Barty, Jr., the Death Eater, but I have a feeling that old Barty, Jr. genuinely feels what Harry did for Cedric was very decent. Contrary to his own plans, yes, but decent nonetheless.

I like Ludo Bagman’s reaction to Harry being the fastest champion: “That’s going to shorten the odds on Mr. Potter!” Always thinking of gambling.

McGonagall offers rare, effusive praise: “That was excellent, Potter!” Of course, she was quite a Quidditch player herself in her Hogwarts days, and she has always appreciated Harry’s talents on the Quidditch pitch.

Seeing Harry nearly killed by a dragon gives Ron a good excuse to quit being a git and believe Harry would never have signed up for such a dangerous tournament (finally), and they make up by the end of the chapter.

Quote in the title courtesy J.R.R. Tolkien, who should know about such things.

Image by Mary Grandpré

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Triwizard Tournament

Harry-Potter-and-the-Goblet-of-Fire-the-guys-of-harry-potter-24264278-714-474Pottermore has recently released the last chapters of [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link], but who knows when [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link] will be ready to go. I am going to try to remember to think of questions I hope will be answered on Pottermore as I go forward. This reflection will cover chapters 11-15 of Goblet of Fire.

Of note: at the beginning of Chapter 11, “Aboard the Hogwarts Express,” Harry expresses feeling “a definite end-of-the-holidays gloom” as he, Hermione, and the Weasleys will be setting off for King’s Cross to board the Hogwarts Express that morning. This is the first time in the series when Harry wishes summer would last longer, and I contend it’s because it’s the first time he’s spent the end of his summer with the Weasleys.

On the train, the trio overhears Malfoy talking about how his father wanted to send him to Durmstrang. I suppose it stands to reason that witches and wizards can attend school outside their home region or country, but this the first time we’ve encountered it in the series. Of course, even if it were unusual, Malfoy would not likely have had any trouble, given the connection between his father and Igor Karkaroff. Have you ever noticed how often the bad guys have Russian or Eastern European names in this series? It really started to bother me a bit the more I noticed it because it almost feels like Cold War era distrust of Soviets and communism.

In the course of the conversation the trio overhears, we learn two interesting things about Durmstrang: 1) According to Malfoy, they don’t admit Muggle-born students, and 2) Students at Durmstrang learn the Dark Arts. Likely Igor Karkaroff alone is not responsible for both policies. We will later learn that Gellert Grindelwald attended Durmstrang, and he was notorious for his desire to subjugate Muggles “for the greater good.” In typical Rowling fashion, she said during an interview that she “thinks that Durmstrang is in northern Scandinavia—the very north of Sweden or Norway and that Beauxbatons is somewhere near Cannes in the south of France.” Durmstrang has been around since at least 1294 because it competed in the Triwizard Tournament that year. The films made an interesting choice in depicting it as a boys’ school (and Beauxbatons as a girls’ school). I am not a fan of that choice, but it didn’t significantly alter the storyline, so it’s not a huge deal.

In chapter 12, “The Triwizard Tournament,” we learn another interesting tidbit about sorting. It stands to reason that families frequently share certain values, such as courage, intelligence, hard work and loyalty, or resourcefulness and ambition. Thus, it is not unusual for families to wind up in the same house. Notable exceptions have occurred. We know, for instance, that Sirius Black is the only Black who wasn’t as Slytherin. The Patil twins are an interesting case, as Parvati is in Gryffindor, and Padma is in Ravenclaw. However, all the Weasleys are in the same house (and the same house as their parents), and Harry was in the same house as his parents. But according to Hermione, it is not necessarily true that family members wind up in the same house, which is interesting for later on when we learn about Sirius’s family. I like it when Rowling plants an interesting fact in her books, but we don’t see it flower until much later.

The Sorting Hat sings a different song this time, and one line goes, “I’ve never yet been wrong.” I wonder about that. I don’t understand, for instance, how Peter Pettigrew wound up in Gryffindor. Pottermore explains beautifully how Neville did, and of course, Neville shows his bravery and courage as the series unfolds. Pettigrew just doesn’t. The Sorting Hat does occasionally have a very hard time deciding where to place students. Students who take longer than five minutes to sort are known as Hatstalls. On Pottermore, we learn that Neville and Hermione came closest to being Hatstalls in Harry’s year. BUT! According to Pottermore, “the Sorting Hat is notorious for refusing to admit it has made a mistake in sorting a student.” So, you can’t believe the hat. I really think that passage was written just to explain Peter Pettigrew.

Another very cool side note on this chapter. A girl named Natalie McDonald is sorted into Gryffindor. Natalie McDonald was a real fan of the books—a young Canadian girl who passed away from leukemia. A family friend had written to Rowling asking her to write to Natalie and tell her how the series would end. Rowling did, but Natalie didn’t receive the letter before she passed. Natalie’s mother responded, and the two women developed a friendship. If you did not tear up a little when you heard that story, then I just don’t know about you, my friend. Here is a link to an article about it.

Towards the end of the chapter, there is yet another mention of Neville’s poor memory. Some fans have speculated he suffered from a poorly-cast memory charm and that he may have seen his parents being tortured. I am not sure if I buy it, but it’s an interesting theory. As evidence, I have seen these fans mention Neville’s upset over seeing the spider undergo the Cruciatus Curse. He also describes the mermish screeching from the Golden Egg as sounding like people being tortured. Later on, when Neville doesn’t sign up for Charms, McGonagall reveals that Augusta Longbottom wasn’t very good at Charms herself, which is why she denigrated it to Neville. If she were the one who cast the memory charm, so the line of thinking goes, perhaps it explains why he seems to suffer in the same way as other characters who have experienced problems with memory charms. At any rate, Rowling mentions it several times, and I wonder if we’ll find out at some point on Pottermore why Neville has such a bad memory. Or maybe there’s no reason. But I am curious.

In chapter 13, “Mad-Eye Moody,” we see Moody turn Malfoy into a bouncing ferret. Satisfying as that may have been, it’s pretty appalling behavior for a professor. I wonder if the real Moody would have done it. I have a lot of questions about Barty Crouch, Jr.

Note also that Professor McGonagall once again has an armful of books that she drops. Someone ought to count how many times she does that in the series. It’s dangerously close to a motif.

In chapter 14, “The Unforgivable Curses,” we learn for the first time exactly how Voldemort killed Harry’s parents. I actually really love this chapter. I am not sure Dumbledore actually does know what Moody is doing in his classes and actually approves, but the end result is that the class learns a lot from him. Even if he is a Death Eater. Also, unusually for a DADA teacher, Moody has communicated with their previous teacher to find out what they have learned. I guess since Quirrell died and Lockhart lost his memory, it would have been impossible for anyone to find out from them what the students had learned, but it is interesting that Moody mentions it.

The class on curses is really interesting. When Moody asks what the three Unforgivable Curses are, Ron volunteers the Imperius Curse, which he would, of course, have heard about from his dad. Neville knows about the Cruciatus Curse. He can’t know he’s possibly looking at one of the Death Eaters who tortured his parents with that curse. Hermione volunteers the Avada Kedavra. Now, I have always thought this part was genius. Avada Kedavra sounds most like the magical phrase abra cadabra that you hear in all sorts of magic shows, cartoons, stories, and even Steve Miller Band songs. It stands to reason the one curse Muggles would know about would be the Killing Curse, as any accidental witnesses wouldn’t likely forget it. But Moody tells us you have to be a powerful wizard to cast it and actually kill anyone with it: “you could all get your wands out and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nose-bleed.”

I really hope Pottermore reveals more about the Crouches. I would love to know what house Barty, Jr. was in. I suspect Ravenclaw, but I know others think Slytherin. Not all the bad guys come from that house. Quirrell was a Ravenclaw, and in many ways, Barty, Jr.’s career as a Death Eater seems to follow the same trajectory as Quirrell’s ill-fated entanglement with Voldemort. I also want to know if he really was guilty of torturing the Longbottoms or not. The books leave this open to question.

About the Avada Kedavra, Moody says, “there’s no counter-curse. There’s no blocking it.” Of course, it can be dodged, but that’s not the same thing as Moody’s talking about. “Only one known person has ever survived it, and he’s sitting right in front of me.” That sentence still gives me chills when I read it. Harry thinks, “So that was how his parents had died… exactly like that spider. Had they been unblemished and unmarked, too? Had they simply seen the flash of green light and heard the rush of speeding death, before life was wiped from their bodies?”

Later, Moody takes Neville aside and gives him a book about Mediterranean water plants, telling him Professor Sprout mentioned his aptitude for Herbology. Harry thinks, “Telling Neville what Professor Sprout had said… had been a very tactful way of cheering Neville up, for Neville very rarely heard that he was good at anything. It was the sort of thing Professor Lupin would have done.”

It is rather amazing that despite the fact that DADA is taught by a mentally unstable Death Eater that year, Harry and Co. still learn a lot. Perhaps more than they learned from any other DADA teacher. Even Lupin.

In chapter 15, “Beauxbatons and Durmstrang,” the class’s lessons continue as each of the students is put under the Imperius Curse, and Harry alone fights it. As with casting the Patronus, this ability to fight the Imperius Curse sets Harry apart from his peers in DADA. I still maintain he would have been the best DADA teacher ever had he gone that route with his career. And, in fact, some of his peers comment that he was their best DADA teacher when he teaches the DA how to fight.

Another question I have, and I hope Pottermore addresses it, is why Professor Binns was so preoccupied with goblins. True, the history of Gryffindor’s sword is really important in the last book, but I wouldn’t mind knowing more about why goblins are so important to wizarding history. Or at least to Binns. He has them writing essay after essay about Goblin rebellions in this chapter.

Of course, by the end of the chapter, the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang delegations have arrived. More about all of that anon.

Dark Mark

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Dark Mark

Dark MarkI’m not a fan of the movie version of [amazon_link id=”B00271DNP4″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link], as I have mentioned before, but it isn’t until the movie version of [amazon_link id=”B000HKY9W8″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire[/amazon_link] that you start to see really major cutting and condensing because the books are so long. Quite possibly, the last four books each could have been made into two films. As a result of the choice to make only one film per book up until the last book, certain major details and even some entertaining ones do not appear in the films. The first conspicuous absence in the film of Goblet of Fire is the absence of the Dursleys, which I seem to recall Richard Griffiths, who played Uncle Vernon, protested vociferously. Instead, we have a condensed version of Frank Bryce’s murder followed by Harry, already staying with the Weasleys and being awoken from a bad dream about Frank Bryce’s murder by Hermione.

The Ton-Tongue Toffee scene is great, and I missed it in the film, but the cut I miss even more is the actual Quidditch World Cup. It is an incredible game, as described by Rowling, and given all the lead up, followed by its denouement when the Death Eaters torment the Coles and the Dark Mark is cast over the grounds, it seems strange not to give Quidditch fans the payoff of seeing this incredible game. Movie Krum is more of a show-off than book Krum. Ludo Bagman is cut entirely from the film.

This World Cup is the 422nd Quidditch World Cup, which means the first was held in 1473. According to [amazon_link id=”B005CRQ2JO” target=”_blank” ]Quidditch Through the Ages[/amazon_link], the first two teams to compete in that World Cup were Transylvania and Flanders. All 700 known Quidditch fouls were committed at this game, including the “Transfiguration of a Chaser into a polecat, the attempted decapitation of a Keeper with a broadsword, and the release, from under the robes of the Transylvanian Captain, of a hundred blood-sucking vampire bats.”

In chapter 6, “The Portkey,” we learn about two new means of magical transport: Apparition and Portkeys. Apparition apparently takes some skill, and some wizards never master it. In order to take the Apparition test, a wizard must be 17. George mocks Percy for “Apparating downstairs every morning since [he passed the test], just to prove he can.” The next year, when he and Fred pass the test, they will do the exact same thing.

Because Rowling has chosen to focus on Harry’s point of view, we as readers often learn things only as Harry learns them, with some notable exceptions at the beginning of several of the books. This kind of narration is known as third-person limited. Harry doesn’t tell his own story, but most of the story is told through his limited viewpoint, which offers several advantages for Rowling (adapted from [amazon_link id=”0061340405″ target=”_blank” ]How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form[/amazon_link] by Thomas C. Foster, p. 51 on first-person narration).

  • We often don’t know what other characters think (though sometimes we do).
  • For the most part, we can’t go anywhere Harry doesn’t go (again, with a few notable exceptions).
  • Harry is sometimes wrong, and we get to be surprised when he finds out the truth (cf. Snape).
  • Harry is not objective. He sees things through his own subjective point-of-view, like all of us.

Because Harry has been raised by Muggles and hasn’t had an opportunity to need to learn about Apparition or Portkeys yet, he doesn’t know what they are. We also see the Summoning charm for the first time as Mrs. Weasley confiscates all the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Fred and George have concealed.

Apparition, Portkeys, and the Summoning charm will all be important to the plot later on, but Rowling introduces them earlier so it doesn’t feel like a cheat for wizards to do something we hadn’t heard about before for the first time during a crisis or climactic situation.

We also learn the Lovegoods and Fawcetts are two other wizarding families that live near Ottery St. Catchpole, in addition to the Weasleys and Diggorys. The Fawcetts don’t enter into the story much (Snape takes points from one of them at the Yule Ball), but we get to know Luna Lovegood better next year.

Once everyone arrives at the Quidditch World Cup in chapter  7, “Bagman and Crouch,” we are treated to wizards inexpertly dressed as Muggles (one in a tweed suit with galoshes and another in a kilt and a poncho), once again reminding us why it’s necessary to use Memory Charms on Muggles all the time. It’s no wonder it’s the full-time job of many wizards to hide the Wizarding World from Muggles. They aren’t exactly good at concealing themselves. Who could forget poor Archie, who refuses to wear Muggle trousers because he likes “a healthy breeze round [his] privates, thanks.” He shows up in Pottermore:

Some members of the magical community go out of their way to break the clothing clause in the Statute of Secrecy. A fringe movement calling itself Fresh Air Refreshes Totally (F.A.R.T.)* insists that Muggle trousers “stem the magical flow at source” and insist on wearing robes in public, in spite of repeated warnings and fines.** More unusually, wizards deliberately adopt laughable Muggle confections, such as a crinoline worn with a sombrero and football boots.***

* President Archie Aymslowe
** To date, they appear to have been taken as cult members by Muggles.
*** These are generally taken by Muggles to be students on a dare.

As the crew heads into the campground to find their tent, they see one that looks “like a miniature palace, with several live peacocks tethered at the entrance.” The only other time we see peacocks as decor is at Malfoy Manor, so I’ve always wondered if this is the Malfoys’ tent. Perhaps when Pottermore releases the chapters for Goblet of Fire, we’ll find out.

When Harry goes into their tent, he finds it has been magically enlarged inside, probably with the same Undetectable Enlargement Charm Hermione uses on her purse in [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link]. Anyone else reminded of the TARDIS? It’s bigger on the inside!

In this section of the novel, we, like Harry, are surprised to learn about other wizarding schools, and then, like Harry, we also think, “Of course there are other wizarding schools. How silly. The world is big.” Some we learn about include Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, probably in France; Durmstrang Institute, “somewhere in the far north,” probably Scandinavia; Salem Witches’ Institute in Salem, MA; an unnamed Brazilian wizarding school; Mahoutokoro, a wizarding school in Japan (which is mentioned only on Pottermore). There seems to be some debate about whether or not Salem Witches’ Institute is a school or a women’s organization, but my vote is a school. If the wizarding world has a school in America, trust me, it is located in Salem. If you’ve ever been there, you can attest to that fact, and I’ll bet it’s not even concealed. Obviously, there have to be others. Europe alone has three, and it’s not even the largest continent (though it’s third most populated). Asia and Africa both have larger populations than Europe, and if Europe has only three magical schools, then I would think that the others have at least three themselves. I really, really want to read Hogwarts, A History at some point. I hope they release it as a book like they did Quidditch Through the Ages, [amazon_link id=”B005CRQ3IE” target=”_blank” ]Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”0545128285″ target=”_blank” ]The Tales of Beedle the Bard[/amazon_link]. I hope when Pottermore gets to this part of Goblet of Fire, we might learn a bit more about other wizarding schools.

Another interesting thing to contemplate reading this section is how Cornelius Fudge greets Harry “like an old friend” and shakes “Harry’s hand in fatherly fashion.” By this time next year, he would actively be trying to discredit Harry, having just been unsuccessful at silencing him through expulsion from Hogwarts.

We meet Narcissa Malfoy, who “would have been nice looking if she hadn’t been wearing a look that suggested there was a nasty smell under her nose,” for the first time in this section. In the next book, we learn she is Sirius’s first cousin and that her maiden name had been Black. Narcissa is not a Death Eater, but she is their ally; however, she is instrumental later on in Deathly Hallows, which I’ll discuss when we get to it. A fun fact: Helen McCrory, who plays Narcissa Malfoy in the films, was originally cast to play Bellatrix Lestrange. She does a fine job as Narcissa, but I’m glad we didn’t miss out on Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix. McCrory had to turn the part down after she became pregnant and could no longer play Bellatrix.

Following the match, for some reason, the Death Eaters decide to torment Mr. Cole and his family, likely just because they are plain evil and because they can. They scatter in fear when the Dark Mark appears in the sky. It’s interesting to re-read this scene when you know that Barty Crouch, Jr. is hidden under the cloak because suddenly, a lot of it makes much more sense.

  1. The trio hears a rustling noise and sees Winky “fighting her way out of a clump of bushes nearby.” She was moving “as though someone invisible was trying to hold her back.” Winky is trying to push a reluctant Barty Jr. to safety. At the time, Harry chalks it up to a notion that Winky didn’t ask permission to hide. It is probably right before this that Harry dropped his wand, which Barty Jr. found.
  2. The trio hears a strange voice utter the incantation “Morsmordre” to conjure the Dark Mark.
  3. The Stunning spells unleashed by all the Ministry wizards who Apparate to the scene probably knock Barty Jr. unconscious, right along with Winky. He is still under his cloak, so it is only Winky who has been found, but she managed to take the wand away from Barty Jr. after he conjured the Dark Mark.
  4. Crouch quickly dashes over to the bushes where Amos Diggory found Winky to search for Barty Jr. When he finds him and ensures he remains concealed, he returns to the group. Amos tries to stop Crouch from investigating further: “No point, Mr. Crouch… There’s no one else there.” But Crouch doesn’t listen because he knows someone else is there.
  5. Winky covers up for Barty Jr. during the interrogation because of her loyalty, which is why she does not tell the others what she had seen. Otherwise, she might have corroborated the trio’s story about hearing a man’s voice conjure the Dark Mark.

Near the end of this section of the book, we are introduced to Molly Weasley’s family clock, which shows the locations of each of her family members. Harry notes that “It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but otherwise very informative.” Some German students built a version of this clock and share instructions for how to build your own on their website.

Creepy House

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Creepy Riddle House

Creepy HouseJ.K. Rowling begins [amazon_link id=”059035342X” target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0439785960″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link] with an outside point of view. In the case of the first book, some exposition is necessary to properly set the stage for the rest of the book. In the case of the other books, Harry is not present for some essential information. I have noticed some folks make rather a big deal of this deviation from Harry’s point of of view, but really, by the end of the series, Rowling employed this alternate POV beginning more often than she didn’t.

The events of Goblet of Fire take place a matter of nine weeks after the end of Prisoner of Azkaban. According to the Harry Potter Lexicon, whom you can usually trust to be quite thorough about these sorts of things, Harry and Co. return to London on the Hogwarts Express on June 18. Pettigrew escapes about June 9. The action of Goblet of Fire picks up again on August 23, when Voldemort murders Frank Bryce, which wakes Harry up with a prickling scar. It sure didn’t take Peter Pettigrew very long to find Voldemort in Albania, did it? He has already been with Voldemort for a few weeks when the events of the novel begin, so let’s say that he has been with Voldemort only three weeks. That would possibly give them enough time to accomplish killing Bertha Jorkins and to return to Britain. That would mean that Pettigrew found Voldemort some time around the beginning of August at the latest. Just kind of interesting to think about in terms of timing.

The Hanged Man Tarot CardI always kind of liked that opening chapter. It’s so creepy. I love the description of the Riddle House and the gossipy pub, known as the Hanged Man. The Hanged Man is in the Tarot deck. In his Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A.E. Waite said of this card

The gallows from which he is suspended forms a Tau cross, while the figure—from the position of the legs—forms a fylfot cross. There is a nimbus about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death. […] It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card a of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty […] I will say very simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.

He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible, and will know that after the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious Mystery of Resurrection.

So that’s kind of interesting to think about. Another thing to think about is Frank Bryce. He is described as a war veteran, and at first glance, one assumes World War II. However, if you think about it, it’s not so clear. Frank has been working for the Riddles ever since he returned from the war, whichever war it was, which implies some time, right? Using the descriptor “ever since” the war implies it has been some time, at any rate. However, we know that the events of Goblet of Fire take place in 1994. The murder of the Riddle family happened 50 years earlier, according to the description in the book, so around 1944 or 1945. If Frank had been a World War II veteran, then he hadn’t been working very long at the Riddles’ house when they were murdered. The only way this works is if Frank was wounded earlier in the war, which in Britain, took place from 1939-1945. I think Frank is probably intended to be a World War II veteran because he is too young to be a World War I veteran, but it’s confusingly written. Rowling has repeatedly said that math is not her strong suit, and when people try to pin down events like this, it is clear.

When the Riddles are found, their cook Dot tells everyone that “Nobody forced the door last night! No broken windows!” Everyone assumes that the person who killed the Riddles must have had a key and access to the house. Around 50 years later when Frank goes over to the house to check out the light he sees, he notices that the “front door of the Riddle House bore no sign of being forced, and nor did any of the windows.” It is interesting that Frank doesn’t immediately suspect something is wrong and hightail it home because last time that happened, he was accused of murder.

I really think Rowling is great with exposition. We need to know Voldemort’s plans, and Frank Bryce overhearing Voldemort and Wormtail plot is a brilliant device for sharing them. Dumbledore appears to have been right about Pettigrew, as one of the first things he tries to do is convince Voldemort not to use Harry Potter to return to his body. When Frank is discovered and killed, surely his body is just left in the house, and one has to wonder what the gossip in Little Hangleton was like when Frank Bryce was found in the exact same condition as the Riddles. Of course, he wasn’t sitting at the dinner table, so the authorities may have been more likely to attribute his death to a heart attack or something else. Still, an autopsy should prove otherwise, right?

Chapter 2, “The Scar,” represents the last time in the series when Rowling backtracks and fills in information for readers who might not have read the earlier books. Harry is thinking about how hard it was to return to the Dursleys knowing he very nearly had been able to move in with Sirius. I wonder if Dumbledore would have allowed it, though. Remember that Harry is protected through his familial bond with Petunia.

There is yet another fine example of exposition when Harry writes to Sirius and mentions Dudley’s diet is going poorly.

In Chapter 3, “The Invitation,” Harry is invited to the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, and there is a funny scene when Uncle Vernon retrieves a letter covered in stamps from the postman. Mrs. Weasley’s postscript says, “I do hope we’ve put enough stamps on.” When Harry sees the envelope, completely covered in stamps, he snarkily replies to Vernon, “She did put enough stamps on, then.” Harry in the books is much funnier than movie Harry.

In Chapter 4, “Back to the Burrow,” the Weasleys bust up the Dursleys’ fireplace. I have to admit I can see things from the Dursleys’ point of view in this chapter. I mean, first they demolish my house, then they leave stray bit of candy behind that engorges my son’s tongue. I would think they were mad and dangerous, too. I kind of wonder how Ton Tongue Toffees work. Arthur Weasley says he thinks it is an Engorgement Charm, but it could be a Swelling Solution, too. I wonder how they did in Potions class. I can’t picture Snape liking them very much, but you can’t deny they have learned a few things.

In Chapter 5, “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes,” Harry finds out that Fred and George want to start a joke shop and have been creating products and order forms. We also get to meet Charlie and Bill for the first time. I like both of the elder Weasley brothers. I kind of wish Charlie hadn’t been deleted from the films. I realize his part’s minor, but still.

Ludo Bagman is first mentioned in this chapter, too. Arthur Weasley says that he is responsible for the Weasleys’ World Cup tickets. His name is interesting. Ludo means “I play” in Latin. A bagman is “an agent who collects or distributes the proceeds of illicit activities.” So his name basically means, “I gamble illegally”! Old Ludo has been derelict in searching for Bertha Jorkins. Wonder why he shows so little interest? Barty Crouch is sure interested. Of course, that’s likely because of the memory charm he’s placed on her. He would want to keep tabs on her.

Image via Christine

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from

Top Ten Best/Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from 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.
Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays—August 29, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s Musing Mondays asks…

What was the last book you…
• borrowed from the library?
• bought?
• cried over?
• disliked and couldn’t finish?
• read & loved?
• got for review? (or: got in the mail?)
• gave to someone else?
• stayed up too late reading?

Ah, now these are excellent questions. I honestly can’t remember the last book I myself checked out of the library. I haven’t been in over a year. I helped Maggie check out some books on the Salem Witch Trials, I think, but I can’t recall getting anything for myself that time.

The last book I bought was probably [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire[/amazon_link] because we could not find our copy. We are always reading those to death anyway. I think some of the books in that series are on their third copy.

The last book I cried over was [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] (review). I just loved that book, and parts of it were so sad.

The last book I disliked and couldn’t finish…hmmm….I want to say that was [amazon_link id=”0758254083″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Bites[/amazon_link], which made me sad because 1) it was a gift, and 2) I love [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link] and would like to believe I have a sense of humor about parodies of works I love, but this one just did not grab me. I don’t think I made it into chapter 2.

The last book I read and loved was [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] (review) by Sharyn McCrumb. I really, really liked [amazon_link id=”0451197399″ target=”_blank” ]The Ballad of Frankie Silver[/amazon_link] (review), perhaps even loved it, but if we’re talking it-went-on-my-list-of-favorites love, then that was The Songcatcher.

The last book I got for review that I actually have reviewed was [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link] (review). I have some other review copies in my TBR pile (or on NetGalley, which amounts to the same thing).

Does PaperBackSwap count as giving a book to someone else? I’m going to say it does, in which case I mailed copies of [amazon_link id=”0061579289″ target=”_blank” ]Adam & Eve[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”039592720X” target=”_blank” ]Interpreter of Maladies[/amazon_link] on the same day, which was August 24. Giving a book as a gift, it was probably Christmas. I gave books to the kids and a [amazon_link id=”B002FQJT3Q” target=”_blank” ]Kindle[/amazon_link] to Steve.

The last time I stayed up too late reading was probably…oh, shoot…I do this so much during the summer that it’s hard to keep track. I am going to say it was with Jennifer Donnelly’s “Rose” trilogy: [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link], and the aforementioned The Wild Rose. I ate those books up with a spoon.