What Do You Find Funniest in CoS Chapter 1?

Chapter 1 of CoS is full of slapstick (“the magic word”), farcicle similes (“like a winded rhinoceros”), a parody of business-meeting itineraries (“We should all be in position at eight o’clock”), and even multiple “magic” attacks on poor Dudley Dursley (“Jiggery pokery!”, “Hocus pocus”, “squiggly wiggly”).

This, I think, is one of the funniest opening chapters in the HP series. So I’m wondering what you think are some of its funniest moments.

Please let us know in the Comments thread.

Like a Winded Rhinoceros… and a bit of scar tissue

Dursley-centric chapters are often great fun, and the first chapter of CoS (filled as it is with absurdity and slapstic) is no exception.

When Harry uses a common cliche (“You’ve forgotten the magic word”),

Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.

For all this reaction, Harry may as well have arrived in black gloves wearing a mask and wielding a butcher’s knife!

But the absurdity doesn’t stop there!

“I meant ‘please’!” said Harry quickly. “I didn’t mean – ”

“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU, thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, “ABOUT SAYING THE ‘M’ WORD IN OUR HOUSE?”

The “M” word? Siriusly?

Do the Dursleys have no sense of proportion? (well, the answer to that question should be obvious, shouldn’t it?).

“HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!” roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his fist.”

OUCH! In the HP world, magic is not inherently threatening, but after the “pig’s tail” incident from Harry’s last birthday, any suggestion of magic may certainly seem like a threat.

Finally, Uncle Vernon screams:

“I WARNED YOU! I WILL NOT TOLERATE MENTION OF YOUR ABNORMALITY UNDER THIS ROOF!”

And this is the real issue, isn’t it? The Dursleys, as we saw in our previous re-read post, pride themselves on their normality – so much so that shortly after Petunia accepted Vernon’s proposal of marriage, she realized that she needed to confront the issue of her sister’s “abnormality”:

She confessed the truth during a tear-stained date, in Vernon’s dark car as they sat overlooking the chip shop where Vernon had just bought them a post-cinema snack. Vernon, as Petunia had expected, was deeply shocked; however, he told Petunia solemnly that he would never hold it against her that she had a freak for a sister, and Petunia threw herself upon him in such violent gratitude that he dropped his battered sausage.

Absurd as the Dursley reaction to the “M” word is, it is quintessentially Dursley-esque!

When Vernon sits down, he is “breathing like a winded rhinocerous” – one of several amusing similes found in this chapter. What’s a simile, you might ask? In a simile, the author compares one thing to another by using “as” or “like.”

JKR seems to prefer “like”:

Not only does Vernon breathe “like a winded rhinocerous,” but the Dursleys treat Harry “like a bomb that might go off at any moment” and “like a dog that had rolled in something smelly.”

And it’s all because, for Harry, “magic” is more than just a word. It is part of who he is.

In the first chapter of CoS, JKR repeats for the audience the requisite background information – reminding us of Harry’s experience during the previous year at Hogwarts and the fact that Uncle Vernon has padlocked his school books and supplies in the cupboard under the stairs. In fact, Vernon has even padlocked Hedwig’s cage – leading to the chapter’s initial confrontation (in which Uncle Vernon asks if he looks stupid – all while “a bit of fried egg dangl[es] from his bushy mustache!).

But probably the most significant point that JKR emphasizes is Harry’s scar. Harry, she reminds us,

…wore rounded glasses, and on his forehead was a thin, lightning-shaped scar.

It was this scar that made Harry so particularly unusual, even for a wizard.

At one year of age, as we all know, Harry survived an attack by Voldemort. He had

…escaped with his lightning scar, and somehow – nobody understood why – Voldemort’s powers had been destroyed the instant he had failed to kill Harry.

And then, when Harry goes to Hogwarts, he learns that

he and his scar were famous

… because he is the only person who ever survived a killing curse – and he survived the Avada Kedavra from its most proficient practitioner.

When I first read the the early chapters of PS/SS, Harry’s scar seemed somewhat cosmetic – a distinguishing mark that really looked cool – though it was clearly foreshadowing something of significance.

What I like here in the first chapter of CoS is that JKR reminds us of Harry’s scar several times, just to remind us that it distinguishes him from other Wizards. And later – as the books continue – she builds on what Harry experiences via the scar (first, pain in proximity to Voldermort, then later an ability to see into Voldemort’s mind). She puts all the clues she needs in even these early books so that when the big reveal about the scar comes in “The Prince’s Tale,” we should not be surprised.

But of course, I was – given that (unlike the pre-DH fandom), I had only about three days between discovering in HBP that Voldemort sought to split his soul and reading the endgame in Deathly Hallows. I had to do a double-take, a triple-take, a quadruple-take when I came across that passage in TPT.

No matter what I experienced though. Nobody can say that JKR did not give the reader fair warning! She told us – again and again and again – the significance of the scar, just as she does here.

So… what are some things that have jumped out at you in reading through the first part of the first chapter of CoS?

Expecto Patronum! Stands against the Pottermore Cheaters

Yesterday, ElmBlade43 posted about Pottermore and Cheating on her Blog of a Pottermore Beta. Expecto Patronum! stands in solidarity with Elm in the campaign against cheating on Pottermore.

In addition to the blatant example that Elm cites, I have seen numerous attempts to use the Great Hall as a place to coordinate efforts to help or hurt another House. During the run-up to the Inaugural House Cup, I witnessed some “Ravenclaws” and “Hufflepuffs” announce in the Great Hall that they were giving easy duels to Gryffindor to help in the battle against Slytherin. As a dueler, I have personally seen some “Ravenclaws” and “Gryffindors” whose accounts were obviously set up with the intent to help Slytherin. And I have heard from Gryffindor duelers that they have seen “Slytherins” obviously helping Gryffindor. All this in addition to the “Slytherin” accounts set up with intent to blow up cauldrons and lose the House points.

Because the cheating is so widespread, I personally think that it all evens out in the end – without giving any single House an advantage. However, I do believe it diminishes the experience. When the top Hufflepuff – HUFFLEPUFF!!! – is bragging in his own House Common Room (and on Twitter) that he is using scripts not only to duel all day but to toss 1000 gnomes out of the Weasley garden in a single De-Gnoming, something is broken in the Pottermore experience. But when the Slytherin Common Room becomes Ground Zero in the battle against cheating, then something kind of wonderful is happening.

Pottermore needs to tighten security, identify scripts, keep a closer watch on the Great Hall, and ban the cheaters. Ironic, I think, that it’s Slytherin leading the campaign. But let’s stand together in this, regardless of House.

And another milestone… Expecto Patronum! reaches 200,000 page views

As of this moment, Expecto Patronum! has reached 200,027 page views. Not bad for a blog that started out as a place for me just to dump my immediate thoughts after finishing DH!

Thank you to everyone who has read, commented, or even linked!

Oh, and yes… I did re-start the re-read today. Here you go if you’d like to see the post that sets the stage for CoS.

Privets and Whingings and Dursleys… oh my!

I actually did start something of a CoS re-read a couple of years ago. In fact, I wrote preliminary posts on the first couple of chapters of the book, but I never got in to the in-depth over-analysis that typically characterizes this blog. ;)

If you’d like to take a look at those original re-read posts, here you go:

Like the first CoS scene on Pottermore, my old post on chapter 1 put some emphasis on “the magic word.” So let’s take a look at Pottermore’s view of that scene.

Number 4, Privet Drive

At Zoom 1 (original zoom level), we see the exterior to Number 4, Privet Drive. According to JKR, she chose the name of the Dursley street after

that most suburban plant, the privet bush, which makes neat hedges around many English gardens.

She chose the name of their town because it

sounds appropriately parochial and sniffy, ‘whinging’ being a colloquial term for ‘complaining or whining’ in British English.

She chose the number 4 because she has

never been fond of the number four, which has always struck [her] as a rather hard and unforgiving number.

These little bits of information show the degree to which JKR thought about what she was doing. I may not share her take on the number 4 (I rather like the number myself) – and I’m not quite clear on why she created 4 Houses if she has such a dislike of the number – but I do think it’s obvious that even in the details of the Dursley address, JKR was attempting to create a composite of the Dursley family. And that’s just a little bit of wonderful!

When we look at the scene on Pottermore (Zoom 1), we see the pastel hues of the Dursley home, hints of the flowery wallpaper on the home’s interior, and the trim surburban plants set against the house. And through the window, there’s a picture on the wall that appears to portray somebody in a Smelting’s uniform. Young Vernon? Dudley? It’s certainly not Harry!

Oddly, though, on the Dursley’s front porch, there appear to be some wear-and-tear flaws in the plaster near the lamp. Is that nothing more than an artist’s rendering? Or is it part of JKR’s own conception? Is the exterior of their house not quite the exemplar of suburban perfection that Petunia would have it be?

At Zoom 2, we go through the door… to find a Smelting’s straw hat on the staircase (this must be Dudley’s!) and the door to the cupboard under the stairs padlocked. The padlock will be explained when we get to the argument in the kitchen.

And at Zoom 3, we reach the kitchen… just in time to see Dudley about to fall out of his chair when Harry tells him he forgot to say “the magic word.”

Just as we have three levels of zoom, the first part of the chapter is broken up into three parts (which do not actually correspond to Pottermore’s three levels of zoom):

  • An argument at breakfast
  • A summation of Harry’s background (and the fact that it’s his 12th birthday)
  • A rehearsal of everyone’s roles for that night’s dinner party

We’ll take a look at these in the next re-read post. But for now, I’d like to go back to some Pottermore material that sets the stage. I’m speaking, of course, of that lovely exclusive JKR content on the Dursleys.

Vernon and Petunia Dursley

We know from the first chapter of PS/SS that Vernon values normalcy and that Petunia thinks her sister is a freak. The Pottermore info fills in the gaps.

One of the most sought-after pieces of information, actually, is the name of the town that the Evans girls – and, by extension, Severus Snape – grew up in. Based on Snape’s speech patterns, fans have speculated that he grew up in the north of England, perhaps even in a large industrial city like Birmingham. Actually, though, he and Lily and Petunia grew up in the fictional town of Cokeworth. This is the town that Petunia left in order to make her way in London.

And actually, we’ve been in Cokeworth before! In fact, I described the Cokeworth incident in an ancient Expecto Patronum! post concerning the Flight of the Dursleys:

On this 7th day of letters from no one, the Dursleys find that none of their previous attempts to outrun the letters have succeeded. 100 or so letters await Harry at the hotel desk.

The next morning, at breakfast, they discover Hogwarts letters addressed to:

Mr. H. Potter
Room 17
Railview Hotel
Cokeworth

The text tells us that Cokeworth is a big city, and we know that it’s within a day’s drive of Little Whinging, Surrey – even if the driver is continuously changing course. I don’t know enough about driving in the UK to know how far a driver can get under these conditions. I’ll leave it to my UK friends to tell me whether or not it is plausible that Cokeworth is in the north.

But whatever the case, the “gloomy-looking hotel” where the Hogwarts letters hunt them down is on the outskirts of the same town in which Petunia, Lily, and Severus all grew up. Curiously, Petunia says nothing.

The Pottermore info also contains tidbits of information that have been alluded to before in the text:

  • That Petunia wanted to retreat as far into normalcy as possible in order not to be “tainted” by her sister
  • That she did not attend her sister’s wedding
  • That she did not congratulate her sister on either her wedding or the birth of her son. (In a particularly callous move, she threw the birth announcement in the bin – though she did register the name of her sister’s child, even if Vernon did not)
  • That she thought that she could “squash the magic out of Harry”

The truly new information focuses on Vernon and Petunia’s courtship and interactions with James and Lily. And this courtship info is often written in the same mocking tone that we find in the Dursley passages in the books. (Remember that wonderful Dursley intro in PS/SS: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much”?).

In the Dursley courtship, the “deliciously normal” junior executive “seemed a model of manliness to young Petunia.” {{{GAG! RETCH!!!}}}

He had a perfectly correct car, and wanted to do completely ordinary things, and by the time he had taken her on a series of dull dates, during which he talked mainly about himself and his predictable ideas on the world, Petunia was dreaming of the moment when he would place a ring on her finger.

When, in due course, Vernon Dursley proposed marriage, very correctly, on one knee in his mother’s sitting room, Petunia accepted at once.

It’s almost like something out of a romance made in hell! For those of you who have read A Game of Thrones, here’s an analogy: Rather than dream of true knights to rescue her from her peril, Sansa Stark instead dreams of a big beefy dullard to give her a “completely ordinary” and utterly predictable life. Petunia’s “true knight,” in other words, rescues her from anything faintly resembling romance.

And with that, I’d say we’ve had enough for our first post back on the re-read. Next time, we’ll focus more on the book itself and less on the Pottermore experience of it. :)

Harry Potter Re-Read: Let’s Open the Chamber of Secrets!

So… now that the first few chapters of CoS are available on Pottermore, it’s time for us to re-start the HP re-read by opening the Chamber of Secrets. When the next batch of chapters are published, I will take a bit of time off from the re-read to discuss the new Pottermore material but will quickly return to the re-read.

I plan to publish my first re-read post on Monday. I hope to see you then!

ETA: You can find the first re-read post here.

A Finder’s Guide to Chapters 1-4 in Pottermore’s Chamber of Secrets (spoilers!)

Thanks to Slytherin’s victory in the House Cup, I had the opportunity yesterday to explore the first four chapters of Chamber of Secrets on Pottermore. Today, everybody else has the same opportunity.

I compiled the list below based on my own exploration. If there’s anything that you find that is not on this list, or if there is anything else noteworthy that I have failed to mention, please let me know in the Comments below so that I can make the list complete. Thank you!

I will use the conventions I’ve seen used elsewhere when discussing Pottermore zoom levels:

  • Zoom 1 = the original zoom level.
  • Zoom 2 = zoom in one level from Zoom 1.
  • Zoom 3 = zoom in two levels from Zoom 1.
  • Zoom OUT 2 = zoom out one level from Zoom 1.
  • Zoom OUT 3 = zoom out two levels from Zoom 1.

WARNING: THIS IS A HIGHLY SPOILERIFIC POST! DO NOT READ BETWEEN THE SPOILER GIFs IF YOU INTEND TO EXPLORE THE NEW CHAPTERS WITHOUT ASSISTANCE!

Chapter 1, Scene 1 (“The Magic Word”)

  • Collect flower heads from the flower bed next to the door (Zoom 1). This goes into your Potions ingredients.
  • Get through the door at Number 4 Privet Drive by just zooming in one level to Zoom 2. The cupboard under the stairs will be locked until you find all the items in Chapter 4, Scene 4. But do return. There will be some items to collect from the cupboard later on.
  • Collect Jar of Honey from the kitchen counter (Zoom 3). This goes into your Potions ingredients.
  • Collect Cornelius Agrippa Chocolate Frog Card from the shelf in the cupboard under the stairs (Zoom 2 – AFTER you have found the hair pin in Chapter 4, Scene 4. The hair pin unlocks the door, but it will already be open when you come back here after finding the hair pin).
  • Collect Bertie Bott’s Sprout-flavoured Bean from the shelf in the cupboard under the stairs (Zoom 2 – AFTER you have found the hair pin in Chapter 4, Scene 4).
  • When you click on the forward arrow to get to the next scene, the house zooms back out to the Dursleys’ front doorstep. It’s a very nice effect.

Chapter 1, Scene 2 (“Two Enormous Green Eyes”)

  • There’s really not much happening at Zoom 1. You can listen to the bird and neighborhood noises and watch Harry sit on the bench. But not a lot more.
  • You can open the door to the shed at Zoom 2. You can get the lawnmower to start, the bicycle bell to sound… and you can even collect a pair of pruning sheers. These will go into your trunk, but I’m not really sure why you’ll want them when you go to Hogwarts. Perhaps they will be useful for Sprout’s Herbology class?
  • Collect Dried nettles from the wheelbarrow (Zoom 3). This goes into your Potions ingredients.
  • Collect Rose thorns on the left side of the flower bed (Zoom 3). This goes into your Potions ingredients.

Notice that at the end of Chapter 1, we have already found 4 ingredients that can be used in Potions. I’m already wondering what new Potions we’ll learn in CoS and where we might be able to use these ingredients!

Chapter 2, Scene 1 (“Dobby the House-Elf”)

  • There doesn’t seem to be much in this scene. However, you can find the Newt Scamander Chocolate Frog Card on Harry’s bed (Zoom 2).
  • You can also wiggle Dobby’s ear (Zoom 2) – which will probably get the kids to giggle.
  • I do not believe there is a Zoom 3 level in this scene.

Chapter 2, Scene 2 (“Aunt Petunia’s Pudding”)

  • It’s a Mini-Game! You have to keep the pudding afloat for 14 seconds by clicking it continuously. The first time you succeed, you will be awarded a Bertie Bott’s Sugared Violet-Flavoured Bean and 1 House point. (Of course, you also get 1 House point for all items you collect).
  • You might not want to look much while you’re clicking the pudding, but you CAN see Dobby on top of the kitchen cabinet to the right, getting ready to make that pudding go SPLAT! Kids will probably enjoy this game… and get an extra treat from seeing Dobby.

Chapter 3, Scene 1 (“Harry’s Escape”)

  • Now it gets fun! You can unlock new JKR content on the Wizarding World’s relationship to Technology by clicking anywhere in the vicinity of Harry or the Flying Ford Anglia. This is a must-read!
  • But the fun doesn’t stop there. You’ll find quickly that you cannot zoom IN. But you can zoom OUT! This is the first time Pottermore has used a zoom OUT feature. And in this scene, there’s a lot that you can find when you zoom out.
  • Collect the Bertie Bott Chocolate Frog Card on the floor by the overturned chair/light (Zoom OUT 2).
  • Collect 4 separate Bertie Bott’s Beans (all on Zoom OUT 2): one is to the left of where the Chocolate Frog Card is found, one is on the bed, one is on the bookshelf above the bed, and one is to the left of Harry’s left foot on the chest. (A special thanks to Kristen in the Comments for pointing out the bean by Harry’s foot.)
  • See Uncle Vernon and make him RAWR at Zoom OUT 3!!!

Chapter 3, Scene 2 (“The Weasleys'”)

  • Again, there’s not really a lot to see in this scene. However, take a look at the Anglia’s license plate. Yes. They really DID! ;)
  • You also get a good view of the Burrow at Zoom 3… and you can collect some Horklump juice from the Burrow’s Garden (Zoom 3). That will prove handy for Potions!

Chapter 3, Scene 3 (“De-gnoming the Garden”)

  • We’ve all read about how to de-gnome a garden. Well, Pottermore has turned it in to another Mini-Game! In this game, you have to toss 4 gnomes out of the garden in the time allotted. It’s a bit tricky because if you don’t let go of your gnome at the right moment, it can smack the hedge, land in the water, or hit a wall! You get a bonus if you send the gnome beyond the tree trunk. I’ve gotten past the tree trunk a few times. My best throw is 12-point-something. My best number of gnomes thrown is 7. :)
  • The first time you have successfully tossed 4 gnomes out of the Garden, you will be rewarded by receiving a copy of Gilderoy Lockhart’s Guide to Household Pests and 1 House point. After the first time, you are just playing for the fun of it.

Chapter 4, Scene 1 (“Letters from School”)

  • And yet another Mini-Game! In this one, you need to click on the envelopes in the correct order so that you will move the coffee cup far enough to reveal your school shopping list (which sits underneath the cup). Pottermore gives hints on the correct order for the envelopes, but I just drew a map and experimented. Your reward for successfully completing this game is that you will find your shopping list… and get a new deposit of Galleons in your Gringotts account!
  • In this scene, you can also read a letter from Hermione. It’s on the table to the left of the coffee cup, near the bacon.

Chapter 4, Scene 2 (“Floo Powder”)

  • There’s only Zoom 1 in this scene, but there’s plenty of stuff to find.
  • The Floo Powder is in the pot at the left side of the mantelpiece. Drag some Floo Powder into the fireplace! You collect the Floo powder for your trunk (pretty useful for sneaking in to the Floo network at Hogwarts, I think), but even better, you have a gorgeous green light filling the room. It’s really neat to collect items by the green light… and there are plenty of items to collect in this scene!
  • Collect a Scullery Key and Fire Tongs for your trunk.
  • Collect several books from the mantelpiece: Enchantment in Baking, One Minute Feasts – It’s Magic, and Charm Your Cheese.
  • Collect the Chocolate Frog Card for Ignatia Wildsmith (inventor of Floo Powder) by looking in the clothes hamper.
  • I wish that we would go through the fireplace to get to Borgin and Burkes just like Harry does, but we don’t. We just click the forward arrow key. :(
  • UNLOCK “Floo Powder” (JKR-Exclusive content) (“It’s two Sickles a scoop, people”)

Chapter 4, Scene 3 (“Borgin and Burkes”)

  • Well, here’s a spooky store! What about those torture devices hanging from the ceiling? {{{shudder}}}
  • At least we can “borrow” 5 Galleons from the cash drawer under bell on the B&B counter (Zoom 1).
  • Collect a mask from the wall of masks (Zoom 2). This goes into your trunk and will presumably be useful if you need to mask yourself for a “darker” sort of adventure.
  • Collect some Dragon Liver above the hand in the display (Zoom 3). This will go into your Potions ingredients.
  • Read the new JKR content about Draco Malfoy! This content was not available last night when I wrote this post, but it’s available now. Just look for the feather next to the content. I don’t think you actually have to do anything special in order to unlock it. (A special thanks to Ani in the comments for letting me know about the new Draco content!)

Chapter 4, Scene 4 (“Lucius Malfoy”)

  • There’s some awesome stuff in this scene! First, you probably want to unlock the new JKR content on the Malfoy family! Just click on Lucius (Zoom 2). I’ll talk more about this information in a later post, but there’s some astonishing historical information about the Malfoys here.
  • Collect Peppermint from the shopper’s shopping basket (Zoom 1). This will go into your Potions ingredients.
  • Collect a Hair pin from the braid of the woman next to the woman with the shopping basket (I believe this is also at Zoom 1). This Hair pin unlocks the cupboard under the stairs in Chapter 1, Scene 1. When you finish this scene, you can go back there and collect the items that were previously locked up.
  • Collect Encyclopedia of Toadstools, which is next to Lucius (Zoom 2).
  • Collect Magical Me from the display window (Zoom 2).
  • Collect the Miranda Goshawk Chocolate Frog Card from the bookshelf in back of what looks like Arthur Weasley (Zoom 2).

So… what have we learned from all this exploration?

Well, aside from getting some first-hand experience in how to de-gnome a garden, the main thing we’ve learned is that Harry’s possessions are as untidy as his black messy hair! He leaves Chocolate Frog Cards, Bertie Bott’s Beans, and just about anything else lying around! It’s enough to drive Aunt Petunia crazy! But I’m no neat freak, so it hardly bothers me. :)

We also get a lot of new Potions ingredients – including everyday items like Peppermint, Honey, Rose Thorns, and Flower Heads. I can hardly wait to see how they’re used and which Potions will use them!