Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Harry Potter Quandaries: A Non-Review of Harry Potter 1 & 2

As mentioned previously, I am going to be teaching Popular Young Adult Fiction this fall, so I'm rereading the Harry Potter books in preparation for teaching book seven.  Here's my issue.  My students who have read and loved Harry Potter, KNOW IT in and out, and will try to stump me with questions I can't answer.  Trust me.  That will be easy to do in my case.  I just don't remember the itty bitty details like they do! 

I have really loved rereading the books so far, and have been sucked back in by the magic that is Harry Potter all over again.  It has been "magical," for no better way of putting it. I'm also, finally getting to the first two in the Harry Potter Challenge that ends next month!  Rather than do actual reviews, I wanted to pose questions that I've had about the stories, and see if anyone can help me out.   Before I do that, let me just give a really quick run down of what is in the first two books:   

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry is introduced to the magical world, his own past, and his rivalry with Voldermort.  He faces off with the weakened, yet still powerful Dark Lord as they battle for the Sorcerer's Stone that had been guarded there at Hogwarts. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he returns to Hogwarts to continue his studies, only to be surrounded by the mysterious turning to stone of fellow classmates and residents of the school.  Harry and his friends learn about the opening of a curious chamber, that a giant basilisk serving the Dark Lord resides, and where Harry would eventually go to save a dear friend.

I don't need to go on and on about how amazing and utterly engaging these novels are.  Really, I don't.  This is one case where hype doesn't seem to ruin the reading (at least it didn't for me).  However, I do want to talk about the things that confuse me, and have me asking questions.  I thought I'd post my questions here, and see if anyone has answers or theories for me!
  • In Book 1, Harry and his friends seem to know more about the Sorcerer's Stone and its location than many of the other faculty.  Is that just what we're seeing from our side of the story, or do you think more people know about it?  In other words, are the faculty privy to information about the stone?
  • How can anyone "rig" the Quidditch games by putting the spell on Harry's broom, and the crazy bludger?  If they're so smart, couldn't they just put a charm over everything in the game to prevent that sort of interference and cheating?
  • In Book 2, I don't understand how no one ever seems to know that Harry and his friends are sneaking off to learn more about the secrets at Hogwarts.  With all that magic, wouldn't someone catch them up and about the castle?  This sounds like a silly question, but I always wonder how they get away with exploring the school so much.
  • Correct me, or at least set me straight.  Dobby is part of a powerful, old magical community of elves.  Their magic is powerful, but can be kept by people as servants.  Are wizards just the natural, top of the food chain, so to say, when it comes to magic?
  • How in the world does Tom Riddle/The Dark Lord not know about the phoenix and his magical properties?  For being the most powerful wizard, I'm always curious how he forgets so much?  Was it because he was in the body of Tom Riddle for this particular scene, and as such, doesn't have all of his knowledge?
These might seem like silly questions, or like I'm finding fault with the stories, but I want to assure you, I'm not.  I have kind of wondered these things about the story and the magical wizards, but haven't ever had a place or time for bringing them up.  Well, now that I'm looking at the stories again, I wanted to ask these questions and see if anyone has a theory or answers that I've missed? 


  1. There you go, picking apart Harry Potter. ;) Why don't you have the kids teach HP if they know it so well? You could assign a few to read one book in the class so the whole class reads the entire series, then have each group teach their book to the class.

    As for your questions, I don't think wizards are at the top of the food chain. I always thought that the house elves were house elves because it was in their nature to take care of people and that's what they liked doing. But some wizards take advantage of their nature by abusing them. And I'm sure all the faculty knew about the Sorcerer's Stone; Dumbledore, Snape, and Quarrel certainly did, at least. What brought that question up?

  2. I cannot give you answers to your questions, but I can share my own thoughts. I always assumed that most of the faculty knew about the Philosopher's Stone. At the very least they knew Hogwarts was hiding something important. I simply assumed that no one wanted or dared to go after it.

    As for the exploring at night time, I find it hard to imagine that Dumbledore didin't know about this. In this case I think Dumbledore wouldn't interfere with Harry because he wanted him to be prepared or simply because he didn't think it was very dangerous. I think this suspicion is founded on my assumption that Dumbledore always had a soft spot for Harry, looking at him more or less like an adopted son. I think book 6, when Dumbledore and Harry are in the cave together, confirms this.

  3. I agree with heidenkind about the house elves.

    I think Tom Riddle doesn't know/remember about the Phoenix tears because he is a small portion of Voldemort's soul and his memory is fragmented. He only remembers after Harry is healed.

    My question about Sorcerer's Stone is why the professors choose to use spells and potions to guard the stone that any 1st year could get past. They seem capable of so much more later on.

  4. Okay--believe it or not, I have thought these things through many times, and have established my own theories so I can be satisfied. Here are my (lengthy) answers:

    1. The faculty is very aware of the stone--they created all the guards, and Hagrid let a lot slip. If Hagrid knows about it, then you can be sure the other teachers know. Although I have never been able to figure why they set a little obstacle course instead of just making it untouchable or something.
    2. I don't know why they can't charm the quidditch pitch. But it was Dobby who cursed the bludger, and I think that house elves are a little more magical than wizards.
    3. Dumbledore knows everything that goes on in the castle, but chooses to let certain things go, like roaming the castle at night. It's kind of like when I know my students are working, but I don't care because it's not a battle I want to fight. And the other teachers are sleeping--they're TEACHERS and quite exhausted at night.
    4. The wizards believe they are the top of the food chain, and so they create laws that make it so. But I agree with the comment before that the house elves believe that they're calling in life is to serve they're wizarding families. There is more on this in books 4, 5, and 6.
    5. The teenage Tom Riddle is working with the knowledge he had at the time the diary was created. Also, Voldemort doesn't put a lot of stock into "good" magic, or love, so he tends to overlook it and disregard it. A phoenix works with loyalty, healing, and compassion--something Voldemort doesn't understand.

    p.s. I think you will surprised about how many students WON'T have ready HP. There were an awful lot last year who had no idea what I was talking about when I would allude to it. Besides, these kids were in first and second grades when it came out. It was too old for them, and many of them simply never went back. You might have to do more summary than you might imagine. Sorry so long!

  5. Please pay no attention to the misspellings-- I can't believe I used the wrong their!

  6. One of these days, I'm going to give myself a wonderful present and re-read these from beginning to end.

  7. You guys are so awesome! Thank you for taking a stab at my questions. You are brilliant and have helped me a lot. I suppose I just always wondered these things "as" I read, but just didn't ever put voice to them. This has helped me think more about how Rowling constructed the story, and how that world came together.

    Heidenkind--Yes, stirring things up again. LOL.

    Iris--I supposed the faculty did know and we just weren't privy to it, right?

    Andrea--That makes sense about Tom Riddle. I hadn't thought about the fact that he's splintered at this point. Good for Harry, so he can catch up in his learning!

    Sarah--I know. We're going to have to do lots of review/catch-up stuff to get kids up to speed. I'm anticipating you know who, as he started quizzing me about HP long before school got out! :) Love your thoughts here!

    StephanieD--Yes, you should reread these! They are so great.