10.29.2015

Jordan Goes to Hogwarts Parts II & III: Things Are Getting Real Really Fast


So this series is pretty good.

If you read my last post, you'll remember that the Hogwarts Express left me behind at a very young age. I never read the books growing up (Redwall was king), and I expressed only a passing interest in the movies. They were entertaining. The LEGO sets were cool. But Lord of the Rings LEGO sets were cooler, and I'd take Uruks over a scrawny boy wizard any day.

NOT ANYMORE.

Without reiterating any more bland anecdotes from my Harry Potter deprived childhood, I'd like to talk about the second and third books. I know, I promised I would make an individual post for each book. I'm a liar. However, I chose not to do so for two reasons. One, I finished the second book and started the third one so fast that I had very little time to digest what I had just read. Two - and more importantly - I've been told multiple times that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is where the series starts to get dark. Because of this, I decided to combine both Chamber and Prisoner into one post. Although I'll admit, there were many dark aspects of these two books. Hopefully, "dark" doesn't mean exceedingly angsty/edgy. We all know how that turns out:



I really enjoyed the second book. Having seen the film once years ago, the only thing I could remember was the giant snake thing. Right away, I was annoyed by Dobby. I know that's probably sacrilegious to most HP fans, but the dude was a downright nuisance. He causes nothing but trouble, and repeatedly almost kills Harry just to protect him. I get it, I really do, but that doesn't pardon his obnoxiousness (what a cool looking word). On top of that, he's a MASOCHIST. Getting his freedom and all was nice, hopefully that means he won't show up for the rest of the series.

Just kidding, I know what happens to him :(

There are a host of new characters, many of them equally annoying (Colin Creevey) and some of them downright hilarious (Gilderoy Lockhart). Harry can talk to snakes, and Lucius Malfoy is about as awful as you'd expect from someone who spawned Draco. But seriously, Lockhart. He was a narcissistic airhead, but he was a genius! You know how some people are terrible at everything, but really good at only one thing? Lockhart was really good with Memory Charms, which allowed him to live the life of a celebrity without ever having to put his life in harm's way to deal with dark creatures. That's what I'd do in the wizarding world. Fake it until you make it! That's what I do in real life, anyways.

The dueling scene was probably one of my favorites. My college classes would have been so much more entertaining if my professors had blasted each other with spells in front of their students. And then I would have been able to volunteer and in turn blast another student across the room! I would have paid much more attention. I wouldn't even mind all this soul-crushing debt I'm in! WORTH.

Despite what I was led to believe, there were certainly some dark parts in the second book. I mean, there's a giant snake roaming through the pipes, plainly hissing its intention to "rip" Harry apart. That's kind of frightening. And oh, don't mind the eternally wailing ghost in the abandoned toilet, who just so happened to get herself killed by said giant snake. This is a book for kids? Forget going to the bathroom ever again. The fact that little Ginny is running around finger painting things in blood isn't exactly a cheerful image, either.

I'm still not quite sure what Tom Riddle is all about. He was a student at Hogwarts 50 years ago, but he lived on in a diary and became Lord Voldemort? Only to show up in the Chamber and get killed by the Basilisk's fang? How many times does Voldemort die in this series? Is he going to possess someone every book until he's strong enough to assume a more human shape? Pardon me and my Muggle intellect, I'm an HP noob.

At this point, you may have noticed that I'm not spouting on and on about prose and syntax and other useless words you learned in your English 101 class. This isn't literary criticism. I took that class the second semester of my sophomore year and I still don't get it, even though I got an A. No, this is merely a garbled stream of consciousness from a person reading the series for the first time. No delving deep here.


I will say this beforehand: Prisoner of Azkaban, along with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, are the two films I've seen the most. I remember each of them with a reasonable amount of clarity. I could recall many details vividly before I even opened the third book, which was kind of nice. It allowed me to put pictures to faces and places without much effort, even though imagination isn't supposed to be lazy.

If I could sum up Prisoner in one cheap blurb, it would read the following: "This is the book where things get real!!" That's not to say that a teacher with the Dark Lord's face on the back of his head or a giant basilisk that kills through eye contact isn't real enough. I quickly understood why the third book in the series is the favorite of so many HP fans. It also shed a little light onto why my wife wants to name our child after Sirius Black. What father wouldn't want to name their kid after a man thought to be an insane murderer? Sign me up.

My supervisor is a huge HP fan. He's the one who loaned me the books. He summarized the similarities of the first two by stating that it's mostly about Harry and his friends running around the castle, playing Quidditch, going to class, getting detention, etc. They uncover a mystery that warrants several trips to the library, and eventually they have to conquer whatever danger the mystery presents. Ron gets destroyed playing Wizard's Chess. Hermione gets petrified. It may sound like I'm being harsh, but there wasn't really anything I didn't enjoy about the first two novels. Neither of them really made me feel anything for the characters, other than mild distaste, annoyance, and a smirk here and there. For me personally, most of the charm and appeal of the early books comes from being plunged into the world of Hogwarts. There's something magical (I know) about reading how the characters merely walk through the halls of the castle, or picturing them trying to capture gnomes in front of the Burrow. But there's nothing heavy there. It's a kid's book, after all.

The third book changed all of that. From the very second Harry storms away from Privet Drive into the dead of night, everything felt different. Shortly after his unceremonious exit, Harry sees a pair of gleaming yellow eyes and a monstrous black wolf in the shadows. I remember thinking "Well OK, that's how this book is going to be." Later, with the introduction of the Dementors, I got to take a much deeper look into who Harry really is, and just how much the death of his parents truly molds him as a young wizard. We've seen him sit in front of the Mirror of Erised long into the night just to see them, or longingly flip through his photo album of James and Lily at a younger age. But when the Dementors come near him, he's forced to relive the memory of his mother's death as her screams echo in his head. Upon learning that Sirius Black is responsible for his parent's fate, he resolves to kill Black, even after being repeatedly warned not to go anywhere near the madman. He's what, 13? And already contemplating murder? Hearing those screams in my head would land me right in a therapist's chair. Do they have that in the wizarding world?

My point is, Harry grew up a lot in this book. While things like Quidditch and Cho Chang are nice and fun to think about, hearing a teacher tell you that you're marked for death will change a man. The climax of this book sums up Harry's transformation in a dramatic fashion: Instead of letting Snape capture Lupin and Black, Harry disarms him rather violently despite being unsure whether or not Black is telling the truth. He levels his wand at Lupin and Black, urging them to get to the point. As the truth is slowly revealed - seriously, that whole scene in the Shrieking Shack was rather frustrating - Harry ultimately makes up his mind to believe Black's side of the story. Especially when, you know, Ron's rat turns out to be this disgusting mess of man and a former servant of the Dark Lord. And the Time Turner! Normally time traveling is exhausting and cheap, but I loved the use of it here.

After reading these two books, it always baffles me as to how Harry can go back home each summer to live with such awful people. I get that he doesn't really have a choice, but what's to keep his uncle from putting him in an orphanage? That seems like it would make life way easier for his relatives.

That's a minor thing, but there's something else that I've been wondering about. This whole time, I've been unable to understand just how the wizard world exists. It seems like a different dimension or something. I mean, they walk through a wall into another place entirely different from London, right? Somewhere on the course of the train ride, do they go through a warp and end up in another sphere of existence? Does this world exist parallel to our world? I've already started the fourth book, and they  sort of go into details about it, but it's still something I'm unsure about. I know, I can't even figure out a children's story.

My thoughts on books two and three end here. This series is getting better and better, and I can see how someone could be easily enchanted reading them at a younger age. However, youth has fled me. I suspect I'll be finishing the final book in a retirement home. That's where I'm at in life.

JDS

PS I called someone a Mudblood the other and they just stared at me like I was insane. Maybe I am. These books will get me killed. Expecto Patronum!

PSS Lupin is my favorite.