This week, we make it to Hogwarts and talk about transitions and sorting in chapters six and seven of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
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Dear Mr. Potter: A Harry Potter Seminar is a Point North Media production by Alastair Stephens, and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike license.
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Alastair – although you are not doing all 7 books and are focusing just on the first one, being such a great book/writing analyst, would it be unfair to ask you to address JK Rowling’s use of ring composition and Chiasmus in the creation of the whole storyline during this seminar. having read the books it’s hard not to see this when viewing the books from an analytical/in depth point of view rather than casual reader.
I think there is a very practical reason Dumbledore left Harry with the Dursleys that may not been brought up. Dumbledore does not know if Harry will turn out to be a good wizard or an evil wizard – defeating Voldermort when he’s trying to kill you is not a good act, it is just self-defense. Dumbledore only knows that Harry is likely to be a very powerful wizard. By placing Harry with a family that is not only muggle, but is actively anti-magic – Dumbledore is guaranteeing that not only will Harry not learn any magic, but that any inherent magic he displays would be immediately squelched and punished. Thus when Harry is old enough be judged by the Sorting Hat, Dumbledore will be sure he can take Harry out if his character is found wanting. So I believe Harry spent 11 years in a cupboard under the stairs because an old man was afraid he might be beaten by a boy.
Guess by know you’ve realized I’m a total Potterhead lol.
In your discussion you asked how is it that the magical world knows about Harry and his scar – asking if Dumbledore, Hagrid or McGonagall spilled the beans. Well the answer would be, yes all of them. Even without knowing fully about the Ministery of Magic nor the events to come in books 3 & 4. Murder would require an investigation by law enforcement authorities and the placing of the surviving child either with the next of kin (the Dursleys) or child protective services – irregardless of whether one is speaking of the magical or the muggle world (as in JKR’s world the 2 universes run parallel). The fact that Harry’s parents were murdered by the most notrious killer of that time, and Harry was the only known person to ever survive, even by mundane (muggle) standards the case would have encited a massive amount of press coverage. As witnesses to what occurred in the aftermath of the murder, naturally Dumbledore, Hagrid and McGonagall would have had to have given reports or testimony. So even if the 3 of them didn’t personally speak to the press, the possibility of their testimony or reports being leaked out – just like in the muggle world, is problably very high.
The question regarding Ron’s wand. Wands are in JKR’s world an extention of the witch/wizard’s magical prowess; however, a witch/wizard could use any wand just not to their best ability, as we see in the book. Ron has difficulties performing tasks as his wand it’s second hand. What JKR is showcasing with Ron having a second hand wand is a commentary on social classes. The Weasleys while being an old wizarding family have limited economic means but are plentiful in love and family. This is then constrated by The Malfoys, who also are an old wizarding family steeped in “old money” yet we the readers have seeds of doubts as to their ethics dropped into the text. The purchasing of a new wand for Ron isn’t on the top 10 list of the Weasley’s priority list (but it eventually happens). Regarding Hagrid using the broken wand hidden in the umbrella, we are given the answer at the beginning – he isn’t really allowed to perform magic. He was expelled from Hogwarts. As a magical school drop out he would not be allowed to have a wand nor purchase one -therefore he hides it in the umbrella.
BTW, in my head cannon, I’ve always pictured this elaborate, military style parody ceremony where Hagrid upon expulsion is brought into the great hall, where his school pointy hat and robes are removed, his caldron is taken away and very ceremoniously his wand is broken in half right before he’s taken away by the ministry of magic. Maybe one day JKR will tell us about it in Pottermore 🙂
Leslie, agreed! First time commenter here (I love the Outlander podcast as well). As a child reading the books for the first time, I understood the nature of gossip — even if Hagrid or McGonagall had only told one trusted friend about Harry’s scar (and from what we come to know about Hagrid + drinking + secrets later, that could certainly have happened), and that one person had told one trusted person, etc., eventually the story would have spread, and the legend would have grown. That is simply too hard of a secret to keep, unless Dumbledore were the only person to know. Not to mention, Harry learns pretty quickly about the Ministry of Magic and the Daily Prophet, so we can assume that there would have been huge official inquiries and reporting done on such a high profile murder.
We know from the first chapter that people all over the country are celebrating and toasting Harry’s name, so is it really such a surprise that 10 years later, whatever few facts that were known about Harry would have become common knowledge? Particularly as he was kept in the muggle world, his fame and legendary status would have increased by his absence. He probably seems like a mythical figure, rather than a real person, to most of the wizarding world.