A Map of the London Underground

Dumbledore: “He’ll have that scar forever.

“McGonnagall: “Couldn’t you do something about it, Dumbledore?”

Dumbledore: “Even if I could, I wouldn’t. Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground.”

I don’t quite have a map of the London Underground. But I did prepare a little “map” of Chapter 1. The key is that basically, everything centers around, you know, the boy who lived! (Click to enlarge, below)

Content Map for Chapter 1

Content Map for Chapter 1

At this point in the narrative, the lines mostly signify mentions rather than action. But in a single chapter, we’re introduced to the Hogwarts staff set opposite Harry’s Muggle relatives. We get our first news of Voldemort and James and Lily and Sirius Black. We learn a little bit about the scar. We see Apparation and Disapparation, enchanted Muggle artifacts, an Animagus, owls carrying news. And almost every line pointing, ultimately, to the boy who lived.

Rowling creates a whole world in a single chapter – and we haven’t even left Muggle streets. Severus Snape, of course, is offstage at Hogwarts… having the worst day of his life while the rest of the Wizarding World celebrates.

Let me know how you like the map and if there’s anything else I should add to it! I’ll be back in a couple of days to pick up the conversation. (I’m studying for an exam at the moment. Don’t really have much time to talk).

A Parliament of Owls

Jess, The Last Muggle to Read Harry Potter, has now passed through “The Seer Overheard” chapter in HBP and has decided that – damn the torpedoes – she’s still a die-hard member of Team Snape! Whatever you do, folks, don’t spoil it for her.

Now, back to our re-read…
(just setting the stage)

Even the Muggles have noticed something was going on. It was on their news….

Flocks of owls… shooting stars… Well, they’re not completely stupid. They were bound to notice something!

-Professor Minerva McGonnagall

We all know that J.K. Rowling likes C.S. Lewis. And I’m sure we all know (unlike McGonnagall ;)) that a group of owls is known as a “parliament,” not a “flock.” And if we’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia, we know that Lewis names the fourth chapter in The Silver Chair “A Parliament of Owls.”

Well, despite the logic implied in that circularity (not to mention the title of this post), I’m not sure there is an actual link between these chapters in Lewis and Rowling. But there is certainly a prodigious number of owls flying about!

It’s All-Saints Day, 1981 – the day after Halloween, the day after murder has been committed in Godric’s Hollow, the day after a small child has trumped the most dangerous Dark Wizard of all time. And owls are flying, delivering the news throughout the Wizarding World.

Crowds of Wizards, dressed outside Muggle norms, congregate on street corners. And even Vernon Dursley overhears the “weirdos” whisper:

“The Potters, that’s right, that’s what I heard -”

“- yes, their son Harry-“

The Potters? Harry? And some strange old man in a violet cloak and squeaky voice telling him that “Even Muggles like [himself] should be celebrating this happy, happy day!”? It’s enough to give a great big Muggle like Vernon a very bad day!

And then, there’s the news broadcast that McGonnagall overhears while standing guard in her tabby animagus outside the Dursley home:

“And finally, bird-watchers everywhere have reported that the nation’s owls have been behaving very unusually today. Although owls normally hunt at night and are hardly ever seen in daylight, there have been hundreds of sightings of these birds flying in every direction since sunrise. Experts are unable to explain why the owls have suddenly changed their sleeping pattern.”

Outside, as the Dursleys go to sleep, owls swoop above the house. The inscrutable tabby continues to watch the corner of Privet Drive. And an old man with long white hair and a purple cloak arrives, appearing “so suddenly and silently that you’d have thought he’d just popped out of the ground.”

The adventure is about to begin.