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?

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 and the Invisible Man

Something fluid and silvery gray went slithering to the floor where it lay in gleaming folds. Ron gasped.

“I’ve heard of those,” he said in a hushed voice, dropping the box of Every Flavor Beans he’d gotten from Hermione. “If that’s what I think it is – They’re really rare, and really valuable.”

“What is it?”

Harry picked the shining, silvery cloth off the floor. It was strange to the touch, like water woven into material.

“It’s an invisibility cloak,” said Ron, a look of awe on his face. “I’m sure it is – try it on.”

The great thing with the Harry Potter series is that the title formula makes it very easy to write bizarro-scenario titles like the one I just wrote. (And if anybody wants to use “Harry Potter and the Invisible Man” for a fanfic, be my guest!)

Even though the Dursleys often treat Harry as if he’s invisible (and even though Severus Snape pretends he’s invisible after Harry witnesses a memory of his father humiliating Snape), Harry Potter never actually does not meet up with a literal Invisible Man in the course of JKR’s series. However, he does acquire an object that gives him invisibility at will. And there are “invisible” men willing to stay in the background as Harry moves to the foreground in the war against Voldemort.

Remember way back in January? We talked in one of the first re-read posts about the comparison between Harry and Cinderella. As a Cinderella figure, Harry has never really experienced a proper Christmas since his parents were killed. And his first Christmas at Hogwarts begins to set things right.

But a little backtracking is in order. When the Trio concludes that Snape tried to kill Harry during the Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match, Hagrid accidentally lets it slip that what Fluffy is guarding is a matter “between Professor Dumbledore an’ Nicolas Flamel.” Naturally, the Trio becomes obsessed with finding out more about Flamel – setting up Harry’s first adventure with the Invisibility Cloak.

In fact, it should be noted that before that adventure, the Trio spends considerable time in the Hogwarts Library looking for Flamel… in all the wrong places. Harry even goes into the Restricted Section, and gets shooed out of the Library entirely by Madam Pince, the Hogwarts Librarian. Whatever possesses them to assume that Flamel is famous, I don’t know. But he is, and they do.

Before we get to Harry’s first Cloak adventure, however, let’s talk more about his first real experience of Christmas and his acquisition of the Cloak.

On Christmas Eve (six years to the day before his nearly fatal visit to his birthplace of Godric’s Hollow), Harry goes “to bed looking forward to the next day for the food and the fun, but not expecting any presents at all.” Instead, when he wakes up in the morning, he is stunned to find that he has a small stack of presents at the foot of his bed.

“Will you look at this?” [Harry exclaims] “I’ve got some presents!”

“What did you expect, turnips?” said Ron.

As it turns out, Harry gets a hand-carved flute from Hagrid, a 50-pence piece from the Dursleys (from which we learn that Muggle money fascinates Ron), a Weasley sweater from Molly Weasley (signaling the beginning of his unofficial adoption into the Weasley family), a box of Chocolate Frogs from Hermione, and the Invisibility Cloak. The Cloak comes with a mysterious note, written in a “narrow, loopy” hand:

Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well.

A Very Merry Christmas to you.

Since this is a re-read, I am going to assume that we all know that the note is from Albus Dumbledore and that it is his first direct outreach to Harry since Harry arrived at Hogwarts.

The Cloak not only belonged to Harry’s father, but his father inherited it from one of his parents… going all the way back to his ancestor Ignotus Peverell, with whom the Cloak originates, and who is buried not far from Harry’s parents in the graveyard at Godric’s Hollow.

Through Ignotus Peverell, Harry is distantly related to Voldemort (a direct descendent of Ignotus’ older brother Cadmus Peverell, who possessed the Resurrection Stone). The oldest brother, Antioch Peverell, possessed the Elder Wand – which is currently in the possession of Albus Dumbledore.

The reason I have mentioned the Cloak’s background is that I’d like to draw attention to something rather remarkable – the fact that Albus Dumbledore actually returns the Cloak to Harry, even though legend claims that the person who unites the three Hallows will become the Master of Death.

For 10 years, Dumbledore has held two of the Hallows in his possession. But rather than seek out the final Hallow, he instead relinquishes the Hallow that rightfully belongs to another. He could have kept it, and Harry would have been none the wiser. But Dumbledore allows himself to be merely the custodian of the Cloak until he can safely pass it on to Harry, its rightful owner.

Such an action would be remarkable for any Wizard who made a study of the Hallows. It is even more remarkable for Dumbledore, whose youthful fantasies specifically involved uniting the Hallows to create a world ruled by Wizards… or more specifically, by himself and Gellert Grindelwald. Returning the Cloak to Harry shows the  extent to which Dumbledore has turned his back on his past failings.

Though Dumbledore is later fatally tempted by the Resurrection Stone, it’s not through an attempt to unite the Hallows. It’s just a moment of weakness in which he succumbs to the temptation to bring back his dead sister (a point that is indirectly related to the second part of this chapter).

Regardless of Dumledore’s failings, returning the Cloak to Harry shows significant character growth since his sister’s death. In a very real sense, Dumbledore is one “invisible man” in this post’s title – a man willing to remain anonymous, willing to guide Harry from the background, willing to let the boy ultimately move into the spotlight.

Studies in Scarlet

According to Wikipedia

Scarlet (from the Persian säqirlāt) is a bright red color with a hue that is somewhat toward the orange. It is redder than vermilion. It is a pure chroma on the color wheel one-fourth of the way between red and orange. [2] Traditionally, scarlet is the color of flame. It may also refer to the color of the blood of a living person.

Assuming that Wikipedia has got its Hex color coordinates right (#FF2000), I am now writing in Scarlet. And Harry may not know it yet, but scarlet is about to become, probably, the most important color in his life.

A Family in Scarlet

After Uncle Vernon drops Harry off at Kings Cross (and the Dursley family laughs derisively at Harry’s claim that the train will depart from the apparently non-existent Platform Nine and Three-Quarters), Harry meets another family: a mother, four boys, and a girl. All with flaming red hair. Hair the color of scarlet.

You don’t really need me to tell you what happens next. Harry asks directions to the platform. Molly Weasley tells him how to get through the anti-Muggle barrier. And Harry makes it to the train (which, by the way, happens to be driven by a scarlet steam engine!) What’s more important is the significance of this encounter. The Weasleys will become the first functional family Harry knows.

When I first read this chapter, I knew the Weasleys were important. After all, I’d seen five movies! But I didn’t really guess just how important until I was about half-way through with HBP.

On reading the chapter again, it’s fun to note that JKR tells us (nearly) everything we need to know about the Weasley clan right here, in their first appearance on the platform! Percy is pretentious, with his silver Prefect badge. The twins are uproarious. Ron is gloomy, worried that he won’t live up to the family tradition. Little Ginny, Harry’s future wife, is already obsessed with Harry Potter, at least in the abstract. And then there’s Molly.

Let’s face it, for most of us, travel days are completely frazzled days… even if we don’t have five kids in tow! Yet Molly Weasley is not only collected enough to ensure that her sons make the train – despite some good-natured mocking from her twin boys – she even has the time (and presence of mind!) to help out a confused and embarrassed black-haired boy and make him feel welcome:

“Excuse me,” Harry said to the plump woman.

“Hello, dear,” she said. “First time at Hogwarts? Ron’s new, too.”
[description snipped]

“Yes,” said Harry. “The thing is – the thing is, I don’t know how to – ”

“How to get onto the platform?” she said kindly, and Harry nodded.

“Not to worry,” she said.
[and she gave him the instructions]

No matter how large, the Weasleys are a close-knit family, with enough love to overflow family boundaries, and Molly is a caring guide.

But Molly’s best moment in this scene comes, I think, after twins Fred and George have helped Harry get his trunk onto the train, have seen the scar, recognized that he’s Harry Potter, and brought the news back to their mother:

“You know that black-haired boy who was near us in the station? Know who he is?”

“Who?”

Harry Potter!”

Harry heard the little girl’s voice.

“Oh, Mom, can I go on the train and see him, Mom, oh please…”

“You’ve already seen him, Ginny, and the poor boy isn’t something you goggle at in a zoo. Is he really, Fred? How do you know?”

“Asked him. Saw his scar. It’s really there – like lightning.”

“Poor dear – no wonder he was alone, I wondered. He was ever so polite when he asked how to get onto the platform.”

“Never mind that, do you think he remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?”

Their mother suddenly became very stern.

“I forbid you to ask him, Fred. No, don’t you dare. As though he needs reminding of that on his first day at school.”

Did I mention that I love Molly Weasley? Given the kids’ awareness of Harry Potter, it’s almost certain that she has told her children the story of the Boy Who Lived. But when she actually meets the famous boy, Molly regards him as a human being, not a symbol and not a celebrity (unlike the hero worshippers at the Leaky Cauldron), and she instructs her children to do so too.

On learning who he is, the first words out of Molly’s mouth (“poor dear” and “he was ever so polite”) tell us a lot about her – her values and compassion. Despite the value of his story and symbolism for the anti-Voldemort side, Molly regards real-life Harry more as an orphan, a boy alone, than as the child who came face-to-face with You-Know-Who and inexplicably survived. And we don’t know it yet, but Molly will personally see to it that this boy will never have to feel like an orphan again. Years before marrying the little girl who wants to “goggle” him, Harry will become an important part of the extended Weasley family. The marriage just makes it official.

I Heart Weasleys

Did I say that I love Molly Weasley? Actually, I heart Molly – just like Wizard Rock band Ministry of Magic, which best captures the Weasley spirit in the “I Heart Weasleys” tribute (player with song is on the right). This one’s for you, Molly and family:

There are some things in
This world that go beyond fame,
Worth more than money
Or just about anything.

Wizard or Muggle,
Some things will never change.
Like love and family,
They will last forever.

Weasleys, sing with the Weasleys.
If you, if you agree with us.
Weasleys, dance with the Weasleys.
Sing out, sing, sing along with us.

Maybe we’re not rich, but we are happy. Happy.
Maybe we can’t afford a big, dark house like the Malfoys.
We’re the Weasley clan and we love everybody. Everyone.
If you came over you’d be a Weasley too. Yes, it’s true.

Oh, and by the way, the Weasleys (like the Potters) are all in Gryffindor – with its colors of scarlet and gold.

Hagrid-isms

Okay, I’ve got a new game…

I’m going to post three of my favorite Hagrid moments from PS/SS Chapter 4. You’re welcome to use the Comments thread to post yours.

1. Hagrid:
Context: Hagrid has broken down the door to the hut, and Uncle Vernon has greeted him with a rifle. Then…

The giant squeezed his way into the hut, stooping so that his head just brushed the ceiling. He bent down, picked up the door, and fitted it easily back into its frame. The noise of the storm outside dropped a little. He turned to look at them all.

“Couldn’t make us a cup o’ tea, could yeh? It’s not been an easy journey…”

2. Hagrid and Uncle Vernon
Context: Hagrid has just become the first person ever to tell Harry that he looks like his father but has his mother’s eyes.

Uncle Vernon made a funny rasping noise.

“I demand that you leave at once, sir!” he said. “You are breaking and entering!”

“Ah, shut up, Dursley, yeh great prune,” said the giant; he reached over the back of the sofa, jerked the gun out of Uncle Vernon’s hands, bent it into a knot as easily as if it had been made of rubber, and threw it into a corner of the room.

Uncle Vernon made another funny noise, like a mouse being trodden on.

3. Hagrid and Uncle Vernon
Context: Hagrid has discovered that Harry has never heard of Hogwarts or of the Wizarding World

“You never told him? Never told him what was in the letter Dumbledore left for him? I was there! I saw Dumbledore leave it, Dursley! An’ you’ve kept it from him all these years?”

“Kept what from me?” said Harry eagerly.

“STOP! I FORBID YOU!” yelled Uncle Vernon in panic.

Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror.

“Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh,” said Hagrid. “Harry – yer a wizard.”

And don’t forget the bit where Hagrid’s rage has Uncle Vernon mumbling something that sounds like “Mimblewimble”!

Okay… your turn!

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.