The Boy Who Lived

I have to confess that I really love Chapter 1. I think last time I wrote about it, I may have said it reminded me in tone a bit of Tolkien’s opening to The Hobbit.

Actually, yes, I did.

In looking back, it appears that I wrote four consecutive blog posts about just this one chapter. In addition to the Hobbit comparison, I discussed the overwhelming presence of owls, drew up a  Chapter map (complete with explanation), and wrote another whole long post about Albus Dumbledore and sundry other issues. I really went “into the weeds” with this chapter seven years ago!

But in fairness, this brief introductory chapter accomplishes a lot. It sets up the conflict between the Dursleys and Harry and the recent and future conflicts between Harry and Voldemort, shows the secret world of the Wizards and its fear of being found out, introduces part of our main cast of Wizards, and hints at the recent war with Voldemort.

It’s a writing tour de force, and in it J.K. Rowling announces her presence on the literary stage.

The Power Dynamic

In terms of our broader themes, this chapter sets up various versions of power. We don’t know yet how it’s all going to play out, but we can clearly identify four power centers in the chapter:

Vernon Dursley – Vernon is a non-magical person who abuses power and people and gets “enraged” at anything that deviates from his conception of social norms (such as older people wearing weird attire). Yelling “at five different people” at work in the morning puts him in “a very good mood.” Yet after hearing rumors about the Potters from the “weirdos,” he shrinks into worry and insecurity. With just these small character details, Rowling establishes Vernon as an abuser who will soon be placed in the position of having to foster his “weirdo” nephew (Hint: This will not go well),  but she also establishes him as something of a paper tiger. Just put some pressure on him and watch him crumple.

Voldemort (a.k.a. “You-Know-Who”) – We don’t really meet Voldemort here, just hear about him. But from the conversation between Professor McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore, we find he is a magical person whom Wizards have feared for the past eleven years – feared so much that only Dumbledore will say his name. In fact, Voldemort murdered Harry’s parents the night before… and even tried to kill the boy. On a first read, this is where it gets confusing, because apparently trying to kill the boy made him disappear. Before the night he disappeared, Voldemort clearly possessed astounding powers, but used them to evil purpose. As the story progresses and he finds a way to return, his ill intent will thwart him over and over again. It’s almost like Rowling is saying that “power is not enough.” (Hint: It’s not!).

Albus Dumbledore – Dumbledore is, in many ways, the antithesis of Vernon Dursley and even moreso of Voldemort. He’s an older man, dressed weirdly, yet Professor McGonagall (who can transform herself from a cat into a human being!) defers to him. He speaks gently, consolingly, and with a certain amount of wisdom. He’s also a bit naive. He thinks that if he just explains the situation to the Dursleys in a letter, they will accept Harry and eventually tell him who he is. In addition, Dumbledore has a bit of humility, as we can see from this snippet of dialogue:

“But you’re different” [said Professor McGonagall]. Everyone knows you’re the only one You-Know-Who – oh, all right, Voldemort, was frightened of.”

“You flatter me,” said Dumbledore calmly. “Voldemort had  powers I will never have.”

“Only because you’re too – well – noble to use them.”

McGonagall here effectively establishes Dumbledore as a man whose powers rival Voldemort’s but who restrains himself from using the more ignoble types of power. We will (much) later learn exactly why Dumbledore restrains himself, but for now, it’s simply worth noting that in the first chapter Rowling subtly establishes the possibility that life could have gone much differently for Albus Dumbledore had he just seized all the power he was capable of wielding. Instead, he has chosen a different path and consequently introduces us and the Dursleys to Harry.

Harry Potter – He’s just a baby, but he inexplicably broke Voldemort’s power just the night before. The implication here is that Harry has amazing powers of his own (we will later discover the extent to which this is true), and McGonagall argues that Dumbledore should not give him up to the Dursleys because…

“He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!”

Dumbledore wisely replies that anonymity with the Dursleys will be better for Harry until “he’s ready to take” the fame thrust on him by the Wizarding World.

Dumbledore is right on the face of it. He’s just missing one major detail: the Dursleys are not the people he hopes they will be. And then he leaves Harry on the doorstep to face his unwilling aunt and uncle.

Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley. . . . He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: “To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!”

It is a powerful conclusion to a magnificent opening chapter.

Harry – Yer a Wizard!

The new chapter starts with a BOOM. Any doubts on what that is all about?

In chapter 1, Hagrid was entrusted with retrieving baby Harry from the ruined house and bringing him to Privet Drive. After 7 days and hundreds of letters, Hogwarts has finally sent the same emissary to deliver a single admissions letter.

For the past 10 years, Harry has been abused, neglected, under-nourished. And now this seeming-stranger comes in to the hut and focuses almost exclusively on him. Hagrid brings Harry a birthday cake, heats him up some sausages, even takes care of the Dursleys for him! Hagrid treats Harry like a hidden Prince.

In the letter left with Harry on the Dursley’s doorstep, Dumbledore had entrusted the boy’s aunt and uncle with the job of telling Harry who he was and what he was. The Dursley’s opted, instead, to hide and even run from the truth. Now, for the first time, Harry meets somebody who knows his story… and isn’t lying about it. Harry is, he learns, a Wizard – a famous boy in the Wizarding World. And his parents didn’t die in a car crash. They were murdered:

“CAR CRASH!” roared Hagrid, jumping up so angrily that the Dursleys scuttled back to their corner. “How could a car crash kill Lily an’ James Potter? It’s an outrage! A scandal! Harry Potter not knowin’ his own story when every kid in our world knows his name!”

You’ve just got to love Hagrid. He’s just so infuriated with the Dursleys for telling Harry nothing of the truth and fabricating falsehoods and depriving Harry of his birthright.

And so it’s left to Hagrid to tell Harry the story that every Wizarding kid knows – or at least the snippets of it that are not confined only to Dumbledore’s personal knowledge. But much of it is speculation. Hagrid speculates that when he killed the Potters, maybe Voldemort was trying to recruit them and it all went wrong, or maybe he wanted them out of the way because they were too close to Dumbeldore. Hagrid doesn’t really know:

“All anyone [other than Dumbledore] knows is, he turned up in the village where you was all living, on Halloween ten years ago. You was just a year old. He came ter yer house an’ – an’ – “….

“You-Know-Who killed ’em. An’ then – an’ this is the real myst’ry of the thing – he tried to kill you, too. Wanted ter make a clean job of it, I suppose, or maybe he just liked killin’ by then. But he couldn’t do it. Never wonder how you got that mark on yer forehead? That was no ordinary cut. That’s what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh – took care of yer mum an’ dad an’ yer house even – but it didn’t work on you, an’ that’s why yer famous, Harry. No one ever lived after he decided ter kill ’em, no one except you…. an’ you was only a baby, an’ you lived.”

This is really the first explanation we have of why this little boy will be legend. But Hagrid’s got large parts of the story wrong:
(SPOILERS AHEAD!)

  • Harry wasn’t an afterthought. He was the primary target. Harry is the reason Voldemort turned up in the village where they were hiding and killed Harry’s parents before trying to kill him.
  • The scar is far beyond being what you get when a powerful evil curse touches you. It’s a piece of Voldemort’s soul, living in Harry. It will become a connection between Harry and the Dark Lord.

Elsewhere, Hagrid tells Harry taht Voldemort never tried taking Hogwarts  because he was afraid of Dumbledore. Of course, in the Second Wizarding War, he at least thinks he’s taken Hogwarts.

And now for the final crucial piece of information. After failing to kill the boy, Voldemort disappeared:

“Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on. ‘Cause somethin’ about you finished him, Harry. There was somethin’ goin’ on that night he hadn’t counted on – I dunno what it was, no one does – but somethin’ about you stumped him, all right.”

This is one bit that Hagrid gets very nearly right. Something did stump Voldemort. Hagrid just doesn’t know what. Despite Hagrid’s enlightenment, much of Harry’s story is still obscure. But for the first time, Harry finally connects the flash of green light to the “high, cold, cruel laugh” that he heard on the night his parents were murdered.

The Flight of the Dursleys, Part 3

We last left off with the Dursleys about to make a run for it, after the great letter-down-the-chimney assault. Let’s join them…

On the Lam

Sunday, Day 6: On Day 6 (the day “one less than perfection”), the Dursleys make a run for it, attempting to escape the letters…

Dudley was sniffling in the back seat; his father had hit him round the head for holding them up while he tried to pack his television, VCR, and computer in his sports bag.

They drove. And they drove. Even Petunia didn’t dare ask where they were going. Every now and then Uncle Vernon would take a sharp turn and drive in the opposite direction for a while.

“Shake ’em off… shake ’em off,” he would mutter whenever he did this.

Best moments: Dudley’s packing sense, Uncle Vernon’s muttering. And it just keeps getting better!

Monday, Day 7: Harry is a bit disoriented by the week’s events, so he doesn’t really realize it yet, but this 7th day of letters is also the day before the last day of the 7th month – the day of his 11th birthday. Keep in mind the dying days of the 7th month. It will become important later in the series.

And there are many other 7s in this series: 7 years, 7 Weasley children, 7 players in Quidditch, 7 Potters, 7 intended parts to Voldemort’s soul. And of course, 7 is said to be the most magically powerful number. But of course, all of that is yet to come. Right now, Harry has not even been introduced to the Wizarding World… though the Wizarding World is doing its best to introduce itself to him!

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. After hours of driving aimlessly, Petunia sensibly asks Vernon if it might not be a good idea to go home. Instead, Uncle Vernon…

… drove them into the middle of a forest, got out, looked around, shook his head, got back in his car, and off they went again. The same thing happened in the middle of a plowed field, halfway across a suspension bridge, and at the top of a multilevel parking garage.

“Daddy’s gone mad, hasn’t he?” Dudley asked Aunt Petunia dully late that afternoon.

Finally, he finds a wave-crashed island offshore with a damp and battered shack. Certainly, no post can arrive there. Yet in what Daggerstone has called “Decidedly THE funniest Deus ex machina,” with less than one second to go to Harry’s birthday, Harry hears a…

BOOM.

The whole shack shivered and Harry sat bolt upright, staring at the door. Someone was outside, knocking to come in.

The Wizarding World will not be dissuaded.

Best moment: Dudley inquiring after his father’s sanity.

Next time: “Harry – Yer a Wizard”

The Flight of the Dursleys, Part 2

Well, I did it! I didn’t finish The Flight of the Dursleys (had to go to sleep), but at least I got it started. All things considered, I call that a WIN!

So, let’s keep going, shall we? Before falling asleep last night, I had just started with the letters

We were last on Day 2 – after Ickle Dudley Wuddykins’ snit, but before the morning post.

The Letters: A Brief Chronology (cont’d)

Wednesday, Day 2: Another single letter arrives. But significantly, it is addressed to Harry’s new location: “The Smallest Bedroom.” Someone knows he has moved.

Best moment? The three-way battle for the letter in which “everyone got hit a lot by the Smelting Stick.”

Thursday, Day 3: Harry is so determined to read the post that he tries sneaking outside before anyone else awakes.  Uncle Vernon is so determined to keep him away from the post that he camps out by the mail slot in a sleeping bag. The unknown sender is so determined to get Harry his letter that three letters arrive!

Best moment? Uncle Vernon staying home from work to nail up the mail slot:

“Oh, these people’s minds work in strange ways, Petunia, they’re not like you and me,” said Uncle Vernon, trying to knock in a nail with the piece of fruitcake Aunt Petunia had just brought him.

Note to self: What a novel use for fruitcake!

Friday, Day 4: Twelve letters arrive, pushed through every crevice available. Uncle Vernon stays home to board up the cracks.

Best moment? Uncle Vernon humming “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” while nailing stuff up… and jumping at small noises.

Saturday, Day 5: Well, things just escalate and escalate and escalate:

On Saturday, things began to get out of hand. Twenty-four letters to Harry found their way into the house, rolled up and hidden inside each of the two dozen eggs that their very confused milkman had handed Aunt Petunia through the living room window. While Uncle Vernon made furious phone calls to the post office and the dairy trying to find someone to complain to, Aunt Petunia shredded the letters in her food processor.

“Who on earth wants to talk to you this badly?” Dudley asked Harry in amazement.

A few things here. The milkman seems to have been confunded. So this means that Wizards are taking a very direct and active role, interacting with Muggles, in order to get a single letter to Harry. Not to mention that the number of letters has doubled since the day before. We are now up to two dozen letters, along with the two dozen eggs.

Best moment? Aunt Petunia shredding letters in the food processor.
Who knew those things had so many uses?

Sunday, Day 6: No post today! Well not through Muggle Mail at least. But Muggle Mail has never stopped the owl post. 30-40 letters come zipping down the chimney like bullets, and Uncle Vernon decides to make a run for it.

Best moment? Uncle Vernon “trying to speak calmly but pulling great tufts out of his mustache at the same time” and looking “so dangerous with half his mustache missing that no one dared argue” when he ordered them to pack.

I’m going to leave off the Dursleys on the lam for our next entry. Hope to see you then!

(to be continued)

The Flight of the Dursleys, Part 1

Okay, I did it. After a couple of weeks of personal trauma (including the loss of a beloved pet and two rounds of blizzard), I finally forced myself to re-read “The Letters from Nowhere” – the chapter in which Harry’s acceptance letters arrive from Hogwarts. Please bear with me while I make my re-entry into writing up the re-read. :)

I’m going to approach this first post a bit differently. In order to get writing again, I’m just going to do scattershot impressions rather than create crafted writerly paragraphs. Are you good with that? Here we go…

I really love this chapter. For starters, it’s our second close-encounter with this place they call Hogwarts. We know that those wizardly types in the first chapter had to come from somewhere, and two of them were called “Professor,” but we didn’t know Professor of what, or Professor from where. And really, at the end of this chapter, we still don’t know… because Harry’s uncle won’t let him touch those letters!

The whole letters incident is really hilarious, and it shows the incredible tenacity of the Wizarding World, and the incredible tenacity of the Dursleys in trying to avoid it!

Poor Dudley

Before looking at the letters, it might be nice to take a moment to think about poor Dudley. This is a really miserable chapter for Harry’s cousin, maybe moreso even than it is for Harry, who is accustomed to irrational behavior and abuse. But Dudley is used to being the center of attention and having all his whims met.

At the beginning of the chapter, Dudley is strutting around the house in his new school uniform with his new “Smelting Stick.” But once the letters arrive, Dudley gets shuffled to the side. In the attempt to keep the letters away from Harry, Uncle Vernon tosses Dudley (along with Harry) out into the hall by the scruff of his neck, gives Dudley’s overflow toy room to Harry (out of blind terror that the first letter came addressed to Harry at “The Cupboard Under the Stairs”), even wrestles his son to the ground when a new letter arrives. Later, when Vernon decides to flee the house, he hits Dudley on the head for taking too long to pack, and Dudley misses all his favorite TV shows on an empty stomach and even has to sleep in a horrible wet shack on a rock offshore! You almost feel some sympathy for the poor brute of a boy.

The Letters: A Brief Chronology

So now, on to the letters…

Tuesday, Day 1: Blind panic sets in at the Dursleys from the moment Uncle Vernon grabs Harry’s letter out of his hand and reads it. From the Dursleys’ point of view, a letter from these still-mysterious senders is nothing short of a catastrophe. Petunia’s voice is “quivering.” Vernon talks about “dangerous nonsense.” Dudley is forced to listen in at the keyhole (Shades of Death Eater Snape listening in on Trelawney’s prophecy). And Harry gets moved upstairs, out of the cupboard and into a bedroom.

Wednesday, Day 2:

Next morning at breakfast, Dudley was in shock. He’d screamed, whacked his father with his Smelting Stick, been sick on purpose, kicked his mother, and thrown his tortoise through the greenhouse roof, and he still didn’t have his room back.

And that’s all before the next letter arrives!

(To be continued…)

‘I Won’t Blow Up the House!’

On Dudley Dursley’s birthday, the unthinkable happens. Arabella Figg – the crazy old cat lady Harry gets dumped on every time Dudley has a birthday – breaks her leg, and the Dursleys have to figure out what to do with Harry. When the boy suggests just letting him stay home, Uncle Vernon protests that he does not want to come back to find the house in “ruins.”

“I won’t blow up the house,” replies Harry.

The Ruined House

Sounds like the typical parent/guardian exchange with t(w)eens, doesn’t it? But this is actually that rare, almost non-existent, occasion when there appears to be some factual basis for Dursley fears. Dumbledore apparently told the Dursleys in his letter dated 10 years earlier about the condition of the Potters’ home after Voldemort came calling.

As Hagrid told Dumbledore at that time, the “house was almost destroyed,” and (as he later tells Harry) he took the boy from the “ruined house” himself. Aunt Petunia certainly knows that her sister “went and got herself blown up.” So it is with some bit of authentic, fact-based fear, perhaps, that Uncle Vernon mentions “ruins” when he thinks of Harry being left alone in the house while the family celebrates Dudley’s birthday at the zoo.

All Harry remembers of the You-Know-Who incident, though, is contained in a recurring dream about a flying motorcycle and the memory of a flash of green light from the “car crash”:

Sometimes, when he strained his memory during long hours in his cupboard, he came up with a strange vision: a blinding flash of green light and a burning pain on his forehead. This, he supposed, was the car crash, though he couldn’t imagine where all the green light came from.

(Well, Harry, that would actually be an Avada Kedavra curse, Voldemort’s signature spell. But you aren’t going to learn anything about the Unforgivables for four more years!)

Wandless Magic

Though the Dursleys may well have images of real ruins in mind when they talk about not wanting to leave Harry alone in the house, they seem more afraid of the random “strange things” that happen around the boy. Wizarding children have magical abilities, with or without a wand. The wand helps them learn to control and channel their magic, but being gifted with magic is not dependent on the wand.

Under various forms of stress, Harry has already caused his hair to grow back overnight from a bad haircut, caused a hated sweater to shrink while Aunt Petunia tried to force it on him, and even found himself on the roof of the school kitchens while attempting to escape from Dudley’s gang.

(Wandless magic plays a role throughout the series, but nowhere more strongly than in DH, where we learn of the wandless magic performed by young Lily Evans (Harry’s mother), her childhood friend Severus Snape, and Dumbledore’s own sister, Ariana. Ariana Dumbledore provides the tragic example of a Wizarding child who pays the price for being unable to control her magic.)

The Parselmouth

Then, there’s the event in the reptile house, from which this chapter takes its title. The Dursleys do end up taking Harry to the zoo (better than having him blow up the house, I suppose!), and after Dudley unsuccessfully tries to force his Muggle father to get a sleeping Boa Constrictor to “do something,” the snake initiates an interaction with Harry. First it winks, then it nods, then it gestures with its tail. In the course of this interaction, Harry starts talking to the snake. And the snake understands him.

On first reading, this seems like just another example of Harry’s wandless magic. And this possibility is underscored by the fact that when Dudley punches Harry, something more typically magical happens – the glass to the cage disappears, and the snake escapes. But as the snake leaves, it speaks to Harry in a “low, hissing voice” – and just as the snake understood Harry, Harry understands the snake.

Harry is a Parselmouth – a natural speaker of Parseltongue, the language of snakes. This is no ordinary magical power, and it is not typical of children’s wandless magic. In HBP, when Dumbledore teaches Voldemort’s history to Harry, he shows one memory in which an 11-year-old Tom Riddle (later Voldemort) reveals to the adult Dumbledore:

I can speak to snakes…. they find me, they whisper to me.

Dumbledore does not let on, but he is clearly taken aback by this revelation. Parseltongue is a language associated with Salazar Slytherin, founder of Slytherin House at Hogwarts, the House that values pure Wizard blood. Additionally, when Harry reveals his Parseltongue capabilities during the Duelling Club segment of CoS, his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger tell Harry that this is a bad thing – that Parseltongue is generally associated with Dark Magic, and that You-Know-Who himself is a Parselmouth.

And speaking of You-Know-Who… notice that just as the Boa in the reptile house initiates contact with Harry, so young Riddle tells Dumbledore that the snakes “find” him. Apparently, snakes can innately tell if a Wizard is a Parselmouth… and seek such Wizards out.

The Parselmouth motif becomes increasingly important throughout the series, as Dumbledore pieces together the connections between Harry and the wicked Wizard who tried to kill him. But at this point in the story, the snake incident looks like just a throw-away magic event, another neat magical thing Harry can do. Which makes “The Vanishing Glass” a wonderful early instance of Rowling’s talent for misdirection.

Reactions and Comments?
Let’s get this party started!

  • How justified do you think the Dursleys’ fears of Harry are?
  • What was your reaction the first time you read of Harry’s unconscious, wandless magical abilities? What is your reaction now?
  • On first reading, how did you feel about Harry’s ability to talk to snakes? Has your feeling changes since then?
  • Is there anything else you feel like commenting on?

Next time, from Chapter 3:

‘The Flight of the Dursleys’ … in which we discuss the strange letter(s) addressed to Harry… and the Dursleys’ even stranger behavior surrounding them.

The Boy Who Lived (in the cupboard under the stairs)

10 years on from Harry’s arrival, Privet Drive has “hardly changed at all,” and neither has the Dursleys’ living room. Besides cousin Dudley’s growing-up pictures, the place stays stuck in time, held in stasis – with no evidence, either, of Harry’s presence.

An 11th Birthday

Chapter 2, “The Vanishing Glass,” opens on Prince Dudley’s 11th birthday. In the British Wizarding World, 11 is one of the most special birthdays. It’s wand age – the age when a child can begin training at Hogwarts.

For the spoiled Muggle bully, though, 11 is just another birthday, a day when he can boss around his parents, receive an obscene stream of expensive gifts (a racing bike? a video camera? 16 video games? – for an 11-year-old?!?!!), and engage in his favorite sport: Punching-Bag Cousin.

A Grim Fairy Tale?

And how about the cousin? Harry lives in a cupboard under the stairs, amid spiders, wearing Dudley’s baggy hand-me-downs, even being awakened ahead of the rest of the house to slave away in the kitchen.

Is it just me, or does Harry’s plight sound like something out of the Brothers Grimm? …..

[Cinderella’s step sisters] took her pretty clothes away from her, put an old grey bedgown on her, and gave her wooden shoes. “Just look at the proud princess, how decked out she is!” they cried, and laughed, and led her into the kitchen. There she had to do hard work from morning till night, get up before daybreak, carry water, light fires, cook and wash. Besides this, the sisters did her every imaginable injury – they mocked her and emptied her peas and lentils into the ashes, so that she was forced to sit and pick them out again. In the evening when she had worked till she was weary she had no bed to go to, but had to sleep by the hearth in the cinders. And on that account she always looked dusty and dirty, they called her Cinderella.
– From Cinderella, The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Pantheon Books, p. 121 –

Unlike Cinderella, Harry’s abuse comes at the hands of relatives by blood. He’s not literally a step-child. But like Cinderella, he is deprived of decent clothes, mocked, compelled to do the dirty work, forced to live in a place not fit for humans, and talked about as if he’s not there. And this is a child who, in the Wizarding World, is considered something of a Prince – a child famous for surviving Voldemort’s Killing Curse!

In the Introduction to the Muggle edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Rowling writes:

In Muggle fairy tales, magic tends to lie at the root of the hero’s or heroine’s troubles…. In The Tales of Beedle the Bard, on the other hand, we meet heroes and heroines who can perform magic themselves, and yet find it just as hard to solve their problems as we do.

Cinderella is an exception among Muggle fairy tales. She is saved by magic… or perhaps by grace. The magic comes from praying everyday under the hazel tree planted on her mother’s grave.

Harry, too, will eventually be saved from the Dursleys by magic – only to be thrown into a mounting War among Wizards. He was left on the Dursleys’ doorstep with a letter and a “Good luck, Harry.” But at this point, it looks like his luck ran out the night his parents (according to the Dursleys’ lie) died in a car crash.

Parallels and Foreshadowings (Smaller Font for the Spoiler-Sensitive!)

  • Living in a cupboard under the stairs and all makes Harry sound a bit like a house elf for Muggles, doesn’t it?
  • Fearlessness around spiders will later come in handy when he confronts Aragog and his acromantula brood in the Forbidden Forest.
  • Memories of his own baggy hand-me-downs will help him find compassion for Severus Snape when he dips into the Pensieve in “The Prince’s Tale.”
  • And speaking of stairs, Jess (“The Last Muggle”) wrote a fairly amusing post on Harry being trapped under the stairs towards the end of HBP.

Reactions and Comments?
Let’s get this party started!

  • Are there other Fairy Tales that come to mind when you see how Harry is mistreated by his Muggle relatives?
  • How do you feel when you read about this mistreatment?
  • Given the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and the protective magic, could anything have been done by the Wizarding World to stop the abuse?
  • What is the Arabella Figg’s role, living a couple of blocks away?
  • Is there anything else you feel like commenting on?

Next time, from Chapter 2:

I Won’t Blow Up the House!‘ … in which we discuss Harry’s wandless magic, his Parseltongue capabilities, and his dreams.