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.

Power, Choice, and Love – Preamble to The Harry Potter Re-Read

The Harry Potter Re-Read starts today! I promised that we would be back, and we are. I just needed to get through the holiday season and the start-of-semester season first.

Regarding the re-read… I considered going through the series backwards, but I took a look at the “Dark Lord Ascending” chapter this morning and decided it might be too dark a place to start. So we’ll start at the beginning.

Main themes this time around: Power, Choice, Love.

Since I’m assuming that you’ve read the series, I won’t be including spoiler warnings, except for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which, as the official “eighth story in the Harry Potter series” will be treated here as canon).

I don’t want to get dragged this time into side-issues like “Is Snape good or bad?” so here are my assumptions, which I believe are backed by canon:

  • Snape was a Death Eater in his youth.
  • By the time we meet him, Snape’s loyalty is to Lily’s memory, to Albus Dumbledore, and later to the Order of the Phoenix.
  • Snape consistently behaves like a jerk to Harry.

SPOILER TIME!!!

  • One of the alt-Timelines in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (CC) has Snape protecting Ron and Hermione and dying an unabashedly heroic and selfless death – an outcome that was canonically possible for Snape, apparently, by the time of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, when the timelines diverged.
  • Harry says to his son Albus Severus at the end of CC that the men he was named after were “great men, with huge flaws, and you know what – those flaws almost made them greater.”

SPOILER’S END!!!

So, these are my assumptions about Snape: He was a deeply flawed man who possessed elements of greatness. You can hate him if you like because of his past and his treatment of Harry, but I am not going to debate his loyalties or his ultimate greatness. I intend to assume them.

Well, that’s enough preamble. I’ll be back a bit later with something to say about “The Boy Who Lived.” :)

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 22 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. Judging by the new completion bar, I do appear to missing items from both scenes. :(

Here’s what I’ve found so far (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 22: OWL POST AGAIN

Scene 1 (“Professor Lupin’s Office”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Hover cursor to make the door to Lupin’s cabinet open and shut. Once it’s open…
    • COLLECT an empty inkpot.
    • COLLECT a chocolate bar.
  • Zoom 2:
    • COLLECT a roller.
    • COLLECT an old quill.
    • UNLOCK “Remus Lupin” (JKR-exclusive content).
    • Use cursor to unroll a scroll and knock a candle from its sconce. (Thanks, Let’s Call Me Lily… I knew about the scroll but not the candle).

Scene 2 (“Back to London”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Riding on the Hogwarts Express.
  • Zoom 2:
    • Double-click makes you enter the compartment.
    • Use cursor to open and shut the window.
    • Hover cursor to make Pig hoot and Crookshanks purr and move his tail.
    • COLLECT a Pumpkin Pasty.
    • COLLECT Exploding Bonbons.
    • COLLECT a Gobstone. (Be quick! It’s hard to catch!).
    • COLLECT a Galleon from the rack above Crookshanks. (Thanks, Madam Pince!)
    • CLOSER LOOK at Sirius’ letter to Harry.
    • CLOSER LOOK at Sirius Black’s note giving Harry permission to visit Hogsmeade.

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using 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.

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 21 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. Apparently, I found everything, so…

Here’s what I’ve (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 21: HERMIONE’S SECRET

Scene 1 (“Time Turner”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Now that’s some awesome animation! I’ve never envisioned the Time Turner looking like that before!
  • Zoom 2:
    • Double-click and the doors open, and we see the jewels for the different Houses moving backwards.
    • UNLOCK “Time Turner” (JKR-exclusive content). We learn a lot more about the limitations of time travel in the Harry Potter universe, and JKR reveals why she destroyed the entire stock of Time Turners during the Battle in the Dept. of Mysteries. NOTE: Rowling’s problem arose because she used the “time paradox” trope of time travel. However, since Time Travel itself is a convention, time paradox is not the only way in which Time Travel can play out. But it’s the best trope to use if you need to change the past!
    • COLLECT 5 Galleons.
    • COLLECT Bertie Bott’s Cheese-Flavoured Bean.
    • COLLECT Montrose Magpies badge at base of Ravenclaw statue. (Thanks, Ramona!)

Scene 2 (“Buckbeak’s Rescue”)

Hmmm… this looks an awful lot like “The Committee.” ;)

  • Zoom 1:
    • But since this is the same scene through the Time Turner, there’s new stuff to collect!
    • COLLECT Unicorn Tail Hair.
  • Zoom 2:
    • Hover cursor to get Buckbeak to move his head.
    • COLLECT Dried Billywig Stings.
    • COLLECT a Galleon

Scene 3 (“Prongs”)

Thanks to Let’s Call Me Lily for helping me straighten out the Zooms…

  • Zoom 1:
    • COLLECT a Murlap Tentacle (known for their healing properties).
  • Zoom 2:
    • UNLOCK “Patronus” (JKR-exclusive content).
    • COLLECT Tubeworms.
  • Zoom 3:
    • COLLECT Slimy Seaweed.

Scene 4 (“Sirius and Buckbeak Escape”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Hover cursor to make Buckbeak flap his wings.
    • COLLECT a Galleon.
    • COLLECT an Owl Treat.
  • Zoom 2:
    • COLLECT Hesper Starkey Chocolate Frog Card. (She studied the phases of the moon in Potions making).
    • Move cursor over top of tower to make an owl fly and ring a bell.

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using 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.

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 20 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. There’s also probably some stuff I’m missing. :)

Here’s what I’ve found so far (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 20: THE DEMENTOR’S KISS

Scene 1 (“Full Moon”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • UNLOCK “Werewolves” (JKR-exclusive content). This is fascinating content and well-worth reading – particularly the bits about the Ministry’s various werewolf offices and what happens when werewolves mate in werewolf form.
    • Hover cursor to make manacles jump.
    • COLLECT Dittany.
  • Zoom 2:
    • Use cursor to make Were-Lupin and Animagus-Sirius bite at each other’s muzzles and snarl even louder.
    • COLLECT Wormwood.
    • COLLECT Monkshood. (I guess we’re making the Draught of Living Death!)

Scene 2 (“The Lake Shore”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Harry faces off with the Dementors. Nothing to do here.
  • Zoom 2:
    • COLLECT Tubeworms
    • COLLECT Spine of Lionfish
    • COLLECT a Pebble (No Potions use, but apparently useful as a paperweight)
    • In the Comments, Let’s Call Me Lily adds: “To fill the bar, click on Harry’s wand in moment 2 – it will kinda spark and tinkle :) Very like a Patronus, right?”

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using 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.

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 19 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. There’s definitely some stuff I’m missing. :)

Here’s what I’ve found so far (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 19: THE SERVANT OF LORD VOLDEMORT

Scene 1 (“Peter’s Transformation”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Hold Scabbers in the air and listen to him squeal.
  • Zoom 2:
    • When you double click, Scabbers turns into Wormtail (and man, he looks older than his 33/34 years!)
    • COLLECT scarab beetle bodies from the plaster heap in back of Wormtail, on the Sirius side.
    • COLLECT bat wings from the wall where the plaster is falling
    • COLLECT spider legs from the plaster heap on the Lupin side of Wormtail.

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using 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.

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 18 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. According to my magic completion bar, I have found everything in this chapter!

Here’s what I’ve found (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 18: MOONY, WORMTAIL, PADFOOT AND PRONGS

Scene 1 (“Lupin’s Tale”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Just a single zoom again. Nothing to collect. You can, however, listen to Lupin’s story about the Marauders transforming into Animagi. If you hover your cursor, you can also make Padfoot sniff in kind of a snarly way.
    • In the Comments, Let’s Call Me Lily adds: “You can also make them twitch their ears, wriggle Lupin’s snout and make Prongs shift on his feet.” To which I would reply: “Yeah, I know. And you can even make Wormtail appear! on Lupin’s far side. But what I DIDN’T know when I wrote up this chapter was that those mouse movements MATTERED for moving the completion bar!” Anyway, for those of you who wishing to complete the chapter, be sure to do the hover your cursor and interact with the Marauders in their Animagus and Werewolf forms. :)

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using 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.