Revisiting Harry Potter: Origins

I know I know. I should have posted a post last Friday too. I didn’t do it because it was my first week back and there were a lot of things going on including buying a TV table and setting up my TV and DVD player and the Roku Box Captain Hammer gave me for Christmas. And buying a new purse (this one here). And organizing a work book club meeting for Five Quarters of an Orange (about which more later). And anyway I am lawless and I cannot be contained by rules. So.

(I am writing this in a coffee shop — I know, I’m such a cliche — and as I type, there is a fire truck stopped outside asking for directions to where he’s going. And it made me think of how when I was a kid, if there was an emergency vehicle of any kind in the neighborhood, we didn’t even have to ask. We just directed it to the house next door. Mumsy probably feels less nostalgic for these days but I thought it was kind of cool and funny.)

Anyway! To the point! Harry Potter and the let’s just agree to call it Philosopher’s Stone because contrary to popular belief, Americans are not morons.

Here are some things I have been thinking about:

1. Not to be a jerk, but you know when Dumbledore is all like, “They’ve had precious little to celebrate for the last eleven years?” Is this accurate? The last eleven years have been like the seventh Harry Potter book? Seriously, what was Dumbledore doing that whole time? Eleven years have gone by and Dumbledore still isn’t up off the mat? Shouldn’t he have gone to Voldemort’s house and challenged him to a magical duel? Like, he doesn’t even have the excuse with Voldemort that he SPOILERS had with Grindelwald of being secretly in love with him. Go fight that evil wizard, Dumbledore of ten years ago! Don’t let him just kill people willy-nilly!

1a. SPOILERS. Not to be a jerk again, because sorry, Dumbledore!, but doesn’t he know that Sirius Black was the Potters’ Secret-Keeper? When Hagrid talks about bringing Sirius his bike back, shouldn’t Dumbledore be like, “No, don’t bring the bike to Sirius, he’s terrible”? Whatever.

2. The wizard monetary system is bullshit. These kids don’t even go to regular school until they’re eleven, and the wizarding world expects them to able to count in multiples of seventeen sickles to a galleon? Is this some sick joke dreamed up by the goblins to screw with the wizards for oppressing them all these years? That…is sort of brilliant, actually. Way to go goblins. Guerrilla douchery.

3. Oh Neville. Show of hands everyone who clasped their hands to their heart and went “Neville!” I feel like that is as pervasive in our generation as singing along to “Part of Your World” if someone plays or sings two bars of it. (NB Start singing “Part of Your World” around a group of twenty-something girls. The results are shockingly consistent.)

4. SHUT UP SNAPE. Snape is the living worst. I cannot wait for…certain events that will occur later. JUST SHUT UP SNAPE. If you ever feel the desire to speak again JUST SHUT UP.

Y’all, I have to say, as origin stories go, this one is top-notch. There’s so much set-up of the awesome aspects of wizarding world, and then there is also this subsidiary mystery thing. I think it’s a good balance to strike. What’s good is that JK Rowling is also quietly setting up what’s going to happen in the later, horrifically dark books. But the main thing of the book is creating a world, and this world could not have been created better. With the sports? And the owls? And the floating candles? And the characters and how you now know they are going to grow into amazing heroes? It’s so great because you discovered it as the books went along, but JK Rowling knew all along. Well played, JK Rowling. Very, very well played. Ten trillion sparkly stars for you.

44 thoughts on “Revisiting Harry Potter: Origins

  1. Let’s agree to call it that? Nooooooope. Because I grew up with the other title and The Other Title it shall remain. THERE’S A REASON AS A COUNTRY WE HAVEN’T SWITCHED TO METRIC. SHOW SOME STUBBORN PRIDE.

    Do we know the history of the past eleven years? Wouldn’t Voldemort just have hidden himself from Dumbledore? Also ALSO — Horcruxes and Dumbledore couldn’t totally defeat him.

    I wanna seeeee/Wanna see ‘em danciiiiin’
    Walkin’ around on those — what do you call ‘em?
    Oh. Feet.

    • Flippin’ your fins/you don’t get too far
      LEGS are required for jumpin’, dancin’!
      Strollin’ along down a – what’s that word again?
      STREEEEET!

    • My upstairs neighbor? Is teaching me how to play that song on the guitar. ON THE GUITAR. Yeah. That’s a thing that’s happening.

      Okay, Dumbledore couldn’t all the way defeat him, sure, but we have no evidence that there was any epic Dumbledore-Voldemort battling going on. Nobody ever says anything like that! I mean, I guess, whatever, Voldemort was steering clear of Dumbledore, but if I were the only person the evilest wizard in all of evil-land were frightened of, I might consider taking the fight to him.

      And I say that with all the love in the world for Dumbledore. I’m sure he was doing all kinds of stuff. I just want to know what it was.

      There is no such thing as a Sorcerer’s Stone, Alice. A Philosopher’s Stone is a real thing of song and legend. YES I KNOW THAT WAS A CONTRADICTION.

  2. You’re making me want to reread the series myself. It’s been so long I bet I’ve forgotten so many details by now it will be a delight to rediscover them all. Although I’m afraid I’ll have such a discerning eye this time I’ll notice all kinds of little things like this that bug me!

  3. Ahahaha Guerrilla douchery. Nice. Way to go goblins.

    Awww NEVILLE! The poor guy gets shit on so often and he’s still so sweet and wonderful.

    I am torn between HATING Snape because really, wtf dude. And then feeling bad for the guy because AWWW look what we went through and everything he did (later, when that comes up).

    • Okay, yeah, he went through some stuff and he acted brave, but a bunch of people went through horrible stuff and acted brave without bullying kids. I mean, bullying kids! Lupin has a lot of real pain and misery before he comes to Hogwarts, and after, and he’s not an asshole to the Slytherins.

      • SO TRUE. And really, you’d think Snape would get over things that happened to him a decade+ ago. The awww stuff is more for what he did and less for the bully he put up with. He’s still a douchewaffle but a douchewaffle with layers.

  4. I agree that Snape should just shut up! And I need to reread these books. So much of the magic was left out of the movies, and the last time I actually read one of the Potter books was when the last one finally came out. I need to go back and see the magic for myself once again.

    And I was sort of singling along to Part of Your World while I was reading this, and wondering if I had the right song, but then I found out that I totally did!!

    • Agree. The movies are fine, and it was neat to see some parts of them being translated onto the screen, but they don’t get close to the level of magic that the books had.

      I know that you meant to type “singing”, but I am crazy in love with “singling” as a verb to refer to that thing where you’re, like, sort of singing, but not with all your heart, that thing that’s halfway between humming and proper singing. That thing. That should be calling “singling” (I would rhyme it with “ringaling”), and that’s what I’m calling it from now on.

  5. Yeah, a lot of the worldbuilding in Potter is a little wonky, like the money system, and we see it more and more as the series progresses (what about science? WHAT ABOUT THE SCIENCES?).

    Also: Snape. Hell. Go. I loathe that man.

  6. Guerrilla douchery. I have to find a way to use this in everyday conversation. :)

    I never understood the wizarding monetary system and why kids don’t go to school until they’re 11! Crazy, but as a kid, yeah, totally want that.

    Total agreement on Snape. When I re-read the books two years ago, I wanted to wing something heavy at his head. I still want to do that.

    • I wouldn’t have wanted that as a kid, and I know my parents wouldn’t have wanted it. I loved it when summer came, but by the time summer vacation was over, I was always getting antsy and tired of having nothing to do with myself.

      I want Snape to get bashed in the head by an animated Hogwarts suit of armor. That’s what I want.

  7. Roku is so addicting! The second you log in to netflix, your “productive life”? Over.

    Hmph, haters gonna hate. Snape is the BEST. (Actually, he is quite the jerk and an overgrown angsty emo kid but-) The things he does for LOVE!

    • Yep. There are many, many shows on the Netflix.

      Snape. Is not. The best. Snape is awful, and being in love with someone isn’t a good excuse. AND if he really loved Lily he wouldn’t bully and be awful to her only child WHOM SHE DIED TO SAVE. He can do all brave things with Voldemort but he can’t say a nice word to an eleven-year-old.

  8. Um, I don’t know what Roku is. But yay for getting it set up?

    As I may be the only non-20-something girl partaking of the series, I cannot sing along to Part of Your World, but my *favorite* fanfic trilogy features a Hermione who can sing all the words to that song, so I guess I’m with you there.

    Also, that might be the best thing I’ve read re: the insane monetary ratios. Goblin guerillas. I’d totally buy into that scenario.

    I think Snape is frequently an ass, but I still love him. This is easier to do when you realize that everything we know about him is given to us through the Harry filter. I love Harry, but perceptive and/or unbiased he is not.

    • It’s this thing you attach to your television and it lets you access your online streaming services, like Hulu Plus and Netflix and stuff. Pandora too! It is great.

      Okay, yes, Harry is not unbiased, sure. But facts are still facts! Snape is mean to him from moment one, and he’s insanely mean to people who aren’t Harry at all. Like Neville. He bullies kids whose mothers he wasn’t in love with. We see him! He calls Hermione an insufferable know-it-all when she answers a question HE ASKS. And he makes fun of her physically when she’s fourteen! Who makes fun of a teenage girl’s teeth? ONLY ASSHOLES. God I hate Snape.

  9. Why is this comment box going grey then black then grey? I’m wigging out!
    Anyway, I just started Prisoner of Azkaban with Z last night and already, with the first half of the first chapter, we’re both so glad to be back in that world. I’m loving all of these Pottery posts that are popping up.

    • Aaaaa, I don’t know! It’s not doing that from me! Is it doing that to you still? Hopefully not?

      Oh, Prisoner of Azkaban! I hope Z loves it. That’s my favorite.

  10. 1. Dumbledore thought that his enemy was dead, after killing some of the best witches and wizards of his generation. Voldemort doesn’t have a body, so he doesn’t have a house. Remember how he creeps out of oblivion and settles onto the back of Prof Quirrell’s head? That’s because he can’t die all the way until all the horcruxes are destroyed.
    I have to agree that it seems like he’s been doing nothing for eleven years, and that’s probably just story set-up, but I find a kind of psychological believability about it in terms of how despair makes a person unable to act, sometimes for years and years.

    • Not those ten years! I’m talking about the years when Voldemort was terrorizing the wizard world before he gets to baby Harry. Dumbledore should have been takin care of business in those years.

  11. 1. Good point. Did he wait that long for Gridlewald as well? But is it really reasonable to assume that he is the ONLY wizard qualified enough to deal with these sadistic assholes? I mean, all the evidence we get is Hagrid saying, “Dumbly, he’s the greatest.”
    1a. Another good point, but maybe it wasn’t the time or the place? Or maybe Dumby just hadn’t worked it all out yet?
    2. AGREED. This was pretty much my entire post last week. Good one, goblins.
    3. Aww, Neville’s great. It makes me sad that it’s going to be a while before he is allowed to do anything of consequence again. I want to know what he does in the mean time!
    4. OMG, right?! Everyone’s all, “Snape is so misunderstood” and “I KNEW he was good from the word go” and whatnot, and I’m all, can’t you see what a douche he is? I mean, maybe his intentions are somewhat honorable (but not really, he only gives a shit about one person besides himself) but does he have to be such an ass in the process?!

    • I don’t know how long he waited with Grindelwald, but at least with Grindelwald he had an emotional connection getting in the way of clear thinking. He knows Voldemort’s evil and he’s known it from minute one, basically.

      YES! He has one area of good intention and a whole bunch of areas of malice and spite. A lot of people get bullied in school and grow up to be reasonable people. Thousands of people that happens to! Thousands of people get thwarted in love and bullied, and they don’t make it their everyday goal to make kids cry. Snape is the WORST.

  12. I must be the only one to say this, but I loved that Snape was such a rat-bastard. LOVED. IT. I knew all along that there was more to him, and I was in complete support of his mad unpleasantness, not because I thought he would turn out to be sweet, but because it made him so much more interesting, being so vile to a little boy. I never wanted him to have a heart of gold – I wanted him to be complex and conflicted.

    Also, I’m assuming the kids go to normal schools for the first eleven years so they can function in the Muggle world? and also, learn to read and do math and geography and history and stuff? I guess I have zero evidence that any wizarding kids do this. But they should, obviously. Right?

    • What. Ev. Er. WHATEVER, MUMSY. I hate him and I don’t understand how you are on board with him, but not with Sirius. Snape is a DEATH EATER when he’s 16, MOTHER.

      • Yes, but Sirius is an irresponsible, living-vicariously-thru-an-adolescent, impulse-driven, ADD-having adult. I DO NOT ADMIRE HIM. I don’t admire Snape either; I wouldn’t like him in real life, but I love him in the books. Because he is a complete bastard, and yet. I have a soft spot for children with crap parents, and Sirius would have been fine if he had not been Harry’s guardian. People in loco parentis should behave better. He was already off my Christmas list before he broke Harry’s heart by being an idiot.

  13. Wait wait wait, for 1A – Sirius wasn’t the Secret Keeper though… Or are you saying Dumbledore didn’t know that, so he should have been all “No, Sirius is evil!” I assumed he knew damn well who the real Secret Keeper was the whole time, but maybe not, as there really shouldn’t be a lot of people knowing who the Secret Keeper is, that kind of defeats the purpose.

    LOL and for number 2, I guess I didn’t really think about where the wizard kids go until Hogwarts… but maybe that’s how they keep Hogwarts cheap (assuming the families pay any tuition at all)? Maybe they go to Muggle school first? Or, more likely, the parents teach their kids normal math and writing and reading themselves, and then they learn the fancy stuff at Hogwarts. I actually think that’s kind of smart…

    Agreed that Rowling is AMAZING for even creating this world. She wins at life.

    • Yeah, Dumbledore thought Sirius was the Secret Keeper. I think he says that explicitly in the third book, like maybe that he even testified at Sirius’s trial to say Sirius was the guy. So he should have said something about it at the crucial moment! For all he knew, Sirius could be lying in wait to kill Hagrid! Sometimes Dumbledore plays a bit fast and loose with Hagrid’s safety for my tastes.

  14. This post illustrates one of the reasons why I love Harry Potter: because the community is huge and awesome. I mean, you write about little snippets of the book and WE ALL KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. Like sickles and galleons and goblins. (And I think you’re right about the monetary system. Well played, goblins.) If I read one more delightful HP post I may cave in and read along with y’all.

  15. This is totally what I love about the first HP book too — the world building is SO DELIGHTFUL. There are just all these details that you get that set up the rules of wizarding that are shared in such a fun way, and then you get the mystery at the end and new friends and all that jazz. It’s just awesome. My sister and I are going to do the read-a-long, but we have to start late because she is super busy now. But I’ll get to be delighted soon!

  16. It’s ages since I last did a HP re-read (probably when the last book came out), and I was never really really fannish about it. I didn’t ever get the impression that JKR had fully fleshed out her world at the beginning – though evidently she had ideas about where she wanted to go with the whole thing – which is why, I think, certain things in the earlier books don’t match up with what happens in later ones. Still, I don’t think she was expecting the massive fandom, either!

    I always assumed Rowling was poking fun at the British pre-decimal currency with the wizard coinage system. Back before 1972, there were 12 pence in a shilling and twenty shillings in a pound,not to mention all the other coins (half a crown, or 2s6d, or a farthing, 1/4d, and so on). Arithmetic was really tricky, since all costs were relayed in pounds, shillings and pence. I’ve always been very glad that I was just young enough not to have to learn all that stuff!

    And I disliked Snape, but I thought he was an excellent character.

  17. I don’t hate Snape, even though the first book really sets you up to. Maybe I like bad guys? I haven’t read the books, although I know a lot of what happens from the movies, but I think Snape is the most genuinely mysterious character in the book.

    However, wizard money = total bullshit. I am in agreement.

  18. I always have felt that way about the wizard money system. And really, they can easily multiply by seventeens, but find a system based on ten confusing (in later books)? :) Oh, and Snape is one of my favorite characters; that being said, part of the reason is because he is so easy to hate. I do like that he has depth and complexity that shows up later books; that he’s not just evil for the sake of being evil.

  19. You make a good point. Dumbledore had to have been doing SOMETHING for eleven years. Oh well. But you make some good points. Except about Snape. I love that character. Though he is an ass.

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