Posts Tagged ‘harry potter’

Foundational Books: Harry Potter Series

Happy Friday, squiders! This week we’re going to talk about the Harry Potter series. Like LOTR, this is perhaps a bit obvious, but hey, it’s still true.

(We’ve discussed Harry Potter here before–I think the first readalong we ever did was HP. Waaaaaay back in 2011. First post for that is here. We had discussion questions back then.)

I am not one of those people who grew up with Harry. I came into the series a few months before Goblet of Fire came out (so 2000) when I was 17. My mom (an middle school English teacher) passed the first three books along and the rest, as they say, is history.

But HP is perhaps more foundational not because of the books themselves (though I am a great fan of the books) but because of the fandom that sprung up around them.

I was not new to fandom–I grew up a Trekkie, went to my first Star Trek convention at the age of 12 (where, in the middle of a panel on the Dominion War, the panel was invaded by a bunch of Klingons wielding a Cardassian skull) and had fully integrated my friend group into the madness by 16 (when my high school boyfriend and I were finalists in the dance contest at the Federation Ball while dressed like Vulcans), and did a ton of online roleplaying online between the ages of 14 and 19.

But the HP fandom was different and new. For once I was surrounded by people my own age (Trekkies skewed older at the time, though I think that is no longer true with the advent of the newer movies), and it was huge. It was the first fandom I ever read fanfiction for, looked at fanart for, joined fan communities for.

(I even made a Gryffindor uniform in…2003? I don’t remember which book release it went along with. I still have my tie just in case I ever need it again. And my Slytherin tie. Both of which are somewhat amusing, because if I am honest with myself, I am neither a Gryffindor or a Slytherin.)

(I am Ravenclaw.)

Between books six and seven I even ran a LiveJournal community dedicated to exploring a new theory every week until Book 7 came out. I couldn’t tell you what it was called anymore, but even though I was some random person on the fringe of the community, people were more than willing to engage with me.

But the weird thing about being so involved in the community and so involved in the fandom is that, when Deathly Hallows came out–it read like fanfiction.

There were theories that I had brought up in my community that turned out to be true, and I’d read fics that had correctly predicted portions of the book. It was surreal.

And after Deathly Hallows came out–the whole thing kind of died. Oh, not that there isn’t a Harry Potter fandom, or that there still isn’t great fanfiction or fanart being put out for it, but there was a fever pitch in there for a while that I’ve never seen matched since.

Fandom is a bit cyclical anyway–they rise and fall, based on if/when new material comes out, and while I still do occasionally read new HP fanfic or favorite a fanart piece on tumblr, I’ve never really gone back to it. But man, for those seven years (2000-2007, when Deathly Hallows came out), it was really something.

And to actually talk about the books, I do admire the pure amount of characters JK Rowling manages to juggle and make feel alive, and the way she introduces plot points books before they’re actually relevant. It’s pretty damn amazing, from a plotting and worldbuilding standpoint. And while we can argue all day about the weak and strong points of the series (and, believe me, I have), you can’t deny that they, perhaps more than any pop culture phenomenon since, made an impact.

Thoughts on Harry Potter, squiders? Favorite character? What’s your house?

Character Change as a Catalyst for Conflict

A few weeks ago, my sister finally convinced me to join Pottermore and get sorted into a house. Now, I was 14 when I started reading the Harry Potter books, and over the years I have taken a lot of sorting quizzes. The good majority of those came up about 50/50 Gryffindor (due to a sometimes ill-advised tendency to jump to people’s rescue without thinking things through) and Ravenclaw (because I am a giant nerd and love puzzles). Once I got Slytherin, which was a bit thrilling, because I went through a phase where I was really into Slytherin (much like I went through a phase where I was really into the Empire a few years before), but even I had to admit that was probably a fluke.

I was expecting Ravenclaw from Pottermore. I got Hufflepuff.

“Hufflepuff?” I said to my sister, who had sat with me on the phone while I went through the quiz. “I have never been a Hufflepuff. Aren’t Hufflepuffs nice? And like other people?”

My sister is also a Hufflepuff, but she is, like, stereotypically Hufflepuff. If she’d taken those gazillion of quizzes back in the day, they all would have said Hufflepuff.

My sister said, “I think most parents are probably Hufflepuff.”

Which I’ve been thinking about, because that’s what I do. And I think she’s right. It’s not that I no longer have the qualities that marked me as a Gryffindor, it’s that I have to stop and think about what I do before I do something, to think about how it will affect my family. And it’s not that I’m not still a giant nerd or no longer love puzzles, but when presented with a choice between working on a devilishly hard Sudoku puzzle or having a tea party with the small, mobile ones, the latter tends to win out.

People change. It’s what they do. And characters also change, at least if you want them to remain realistic. There are always thread to who they were, sure, but people are affected by life. Good things, bad things. A character raised out of poverty to a life of luxury is not going to be the same person they were when they were living in a cardboard box. A character who has lost their spouse to cancer is going to be affected by that, one way or another. Characters make choices–choices that force them to reevaluate their priorities, to face the darker parts of themselves (or not to), to pick where they want to go and what they want out of life.

And that, dear Squiders, can be a wonderful catalyst for conflict within a story. It can drive internal conflict. Maybe a character knows they need to do something–for themselves, for their family, for their soul–but can’t bring themselves to separate from a part of their selves that they feel is essential. Maybe their goals are hurting them, but they’re not willing to let go. Or they know what they need to do, the change that needs to be made, but feel like it’s out of their reach.

It can drive interpersonal conflict as well. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “He’s not the man I married.” When people change, it can affect how they interact with the people closest to them. People react to pressure or success in different ways, ways that not be compatible with those of their loved ones. Someone can make a change for the better only to find their old friends trying to pull them back down, or someone can feel that someone else is leaving them behind.

Don’t forget change, Squiders. People response to outside stimulus, good or bad–and characters should too.

I think I’ll skip Thursday, but I should be back to post on Friday, unless I get swallowed by family things. (All state parks have free admission on Friday to try and combat the Black Friday phenomena, and that’s hard to say no to.) If I don’t see you then, have a happy Thanksgiving, American Squiders, and a great weekend, global Squiders.

Oh, and thank you to everyone who’s picked up To Rule the StarsWe’re sticking up pretty decently in our Amazon categories, hooray! The ebook version is still on sale for $.99, and the paperback is now available as well, so pick it up while you can if you haven’t yet!

Let’s Talk About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Afternoon/evening, Squiders. As you guys know, I was a major Potterphile back in the day. Still, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out in July, I didn’t pick it up. There seemed to be a lot of mixed thoughts on both the idea of revisiting Harry Potter years later as well as the plotline itself. There’s also the fact that Cursed Child is a screenplay and not a prose novel, and the fact that it wasn’t even really written by J.K. Rowling.

I could understand those fears and anxieties and so I just…didn’t touch the thing.

But my husband took the small, mobile ones to the library while I was at MileHiCon a few weeks back and picked the book up for me. Still, I resisted. I stared at it for a week before I touched it. And then I was very slow about it, reading maybe ten pages a day, afraid to get too caught up in it, just in case.

And then last night I read the last of it in one go, so here we are.

I liked it, in the end. It feels like it fits. Adult Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Draco read like believable adult versions of the kids from the books. The story mainly revolves around the younger generation, Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy (♥ Scorpius, poor kid), and deals with them trying to break out of their fathers’ shadows (and shenanigans along those lines). There were some really nice moments.

There was also one key scene where I will swear part of it was missing. I flipped back and re-read it a couple of times, and it still didn’t make sense. And I felt like some of the less major characters were occasionally out of character.

But still, it was nice to revisit that world, to see what had changed over the years. Also, technically, to see the future, because if you recall, the Battle for Hogwarts happened in 1998, and so the story starts 19 years later, in 2017. It was nice to see Harry (even if he is not the greatest parent), to see Ron and Hermione’s relationship, to see the kids as their own characters.

So, if you’ve been holding out–there’s no reason to. It’s not going to destroy the characters you love or the stories you grew up with.

I gotta say, the stage version must be something. Some of the stage directions…plus there’s a section with polyjuice potion, and another with transfiguration–I’d like to see those pulled off. It’s probably awesome. The Internet tells me that there’s talk of moving the show to Broadway, or starting a separate showing on Broadway, or something along those lines, and if we get a Broadway show, maybe we’ll get a traveling show, and then maybe I can go and see it.

Read Cursed Child, Squiders? Like or dislike? Favorite new character? (Mine’s Scorpius, as noted above.) Plus McGonagall, right? You can never go wrong with Professor McGonagall. ♥

Obligatory Hunger Games Post

I think this is required these days. You read the Hunger Games, either the first book or the entire trilogy (and/or read the synopses online or watch the movie) and make a thoughtful post about social commentary. Well, you’re not going to get that here. Best I’ve got for you is that I cannot name anyone Gale for the next five years.

(And a friend of mine said she’d name a son Peeta except it would be too obvious, so she said she’d name him Peter instead and pronounce it in a bad British accent.)

Anyway. I am not generally a trendy reader. I do eventually get to most runaway best sellers, sometimes even before their movies come out, but I generally let the hype go on for a bit before I bother unless it’s something that sounds extremely thrilling. I picked up Harry Potter right before Goblet of Fire. I read the Twilight series after the first movie was out. Da Vinci Code I was relatively early on, for me at least, though I read Angels and Demons first (and it is the better book, by far).

So, Hunger Games. YA dystopia. Dystopia can be very hit or miss for me. Sometimes you get ones where you feel like the author is smacking you over the head with their message. I dislike that. And, since it’s modern YA, it’s first-person present tense which I generally dislike a lot, but luckily Katniss is less annoying than most teenagers when you’re in her head.

Having read the whole trilogy now, I find myself trying to analyze why exactly it’s so popular. It has a lot of similar themes to other YA and YA dystopias I’ve read. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, because I did like (most) of it, but it’s not on, say, Harry Potter levels of epicness. (I’m sorry, the plotting, foreshadowing, and characterization in the Harry Potter series is on a level of its own. I would like to grow up to be JK Rowling.) And, to be honest, Mockingjay is…not fun.

I know a lot of people who really hate Mockingjay, in fact. I can see why. The plot flows logically, but the main character is powerless for most of it, which makes the reader (in Katniss’s head) feel powerless, and most people don’t like that.

I think the strength is Katniss, honestly. She’s strong, self-sufficient, and while she does have the requisite love triangle going, it doesn’t consume her thoughts and she doesn’t act like an idiot over either boy. I’m not saying she reacts well to everything the trilogy throws at her, but, for the most part, she’s a positive role model and someone whose head I don’t mind being in.

So, hm. Would I reread the books? I don’t think so, at this point. I enjoyed the first two a lot, but I didn’t like the last one. Would I recommend them to friends? Sure, why not, especially if said friend doesn’t typically read science fiction.

I admit I occasionally spend some time trying to figure out what districts would be where. I think District 4’s got to be the gulf coast, and maybe District 7 is the Pacific Northwest? (Actually, from the description, it seems like the Capitol has to be, oh, Salt Lake City, or the general area, which makes me wonder if there’s some sort of social commentary about Mormonism going on, but that’s probably just in my head.)

What did/do you think about the Hunger Games, Squiders? I’ll go ahead and say spoilers are allowed in the comments, so beware if you haven’t read the books and intend to at some point.

Harry Potter Re-read: Deathly Hallows

Well, my friends, we have come to the end of the series and the end of our re-read.  Voldemort has been vanquished, though the costs have been high, and we have lost loved ones along the way.

I was fourteen when the first Harry Potter book came out, 24 when Deathly Hallows was released.  While I’ve always been a few years older than Harry and company throughout their adventures, the series featured heavily in my own adolescence and will always have a special place in my heart, along with the Lord of the Rings, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Star Trek.

But onto Deathly Hallows specifically.  There’s a ton of loose ends that need to be tied up, and JK Rowling does her best to get all of them.  We get Dumbledore’s and Snape’s full backstories here.  Pretty much everyone who’s ever been mentioned in a book shows up here and, for the most part, you know whether or not they survived the war.  (Except Cornelius Fudge – I always wondered what happened to him, after Scrimgeour took over…) Even Hermione’s SPEW efforts, which have seen oddly tacked on for the last few books, reap benefits with Kreacher, turning a loathed character into a loved one, so much so that when the Trio is forced to flee Grimmauld Place for good, you worry about Kreacher’s well-being and how disappointed he will be when they don’t return.

I feel like she picked the deaths that would be hardest to read – poor Hedwig and Dobby, who’d been helping Harry forever.  Fred, separating him from his twin forever, and bringing a tone of despair to what should have been a happy event with Percy rejoining his family.  Tonks and Lupin, right after Lupin’s finally found happiness after all his years of being an outcast, right after the birth of their child.  None of the Marauders survive Voldemort’s second coming.

On the other hand, characters that have been picked on or looked down upon by other witches and wizards get their time in the spotlight.  Neville pulls the sword of Gryffindor out of the sorting hat and takes out the final horcrux.  Luna is essential in many places, keeping people’s spirits up, and Mrs. Weasley takes out Bellatrix Lestrange single-handedly, reminding everyone that she’s a Prewett as well.  Even Dudley thanks Harry for saving him and offers him good luck.

And while there have been scenes in the other books where I have teared up, this is the only one that makes me bawl.  When Harry’s in the forest, thinking he has to die, and accepting his fate, and he’s talking to his parents and Remus and Sirius…when I first read the book, and thought Harry was actually dying, for good (I had always thought he must), that scene moved me to the point where I had to stop reading because I couldn’t breathe anymore.  It still packs a punch, though, even knowing that everything’s going to be okay in the end, for a given value of “okay.”

At some points, it really seems like Dumbledore’s show, that he had all the answers and had laid everything out the way it must happen, but Harry could have left at any point.  He could have run, he could have left the country, but it never even crosses his mind.

It’s not perfect.  I’m still a bit annoyed how no one ever attempts to integrate Slytherin into the rest of Hogwarts, and how only a handful of Slytherins are shown with any sort of redeeming characteristics at all (Slughorn stays to protect the school for the final battle, Snape is well, Snape, and the Malfoys, despite being stuck-up gits, care more about the safety of their family than the pure-blood agenda).  I’ve always thought it would be in Dumbledore’s best interest to try to have everyone get along a little better.  Every other house is shown to be fairly balanced.  For every Ernie Macmillian there’s a Zacharius Smith, and even Percy, a Gryffindor, is consumed by his own ambition, so I just can’t understand how Slytherin House managed to avoid producing even one upstanding person.

In the end, though, Harry gets the job done and the Wizarding World can return to its own petty squabbles, safe until the next great Dark Wizard comes along.

(Though I wonder…was Dumbledore the Harry Potter of his generation, the only person who could stop Grindelwald?)

(Also, poor Albus Severus, that’s quite the mouthful to put on a tiny kid.  Scorpius doesn’t have it much better.  I hope they were best friends at Hogwarts, bonded over their silly names.)

Questions!

1. While a lot of things are answered by the end of the series, there are things from the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, such as the Veil, that are never explained.  What do these things represent, and would you have liked them to be featured in the story again?

2. The phrase “for the greater good” is used a lot in Deathly Hallows.  What does it mean here, and do you believe it is a legitimate excuse?

3. Dumbledore and Voldemort both wanted to be master of death, though they approached it in completely different ways.  If Voldemort had known about the Hallows, do you think he would have changed his plans?

4. Poor Petunia.  How must it feel to be shut out from a world that your sister belongs to, and how would this have affected her treatment of Harry?

5.  Any other thoughts, about this book or the series at large?  Any moments that really spoke to you personally?

Also, if you have other books or series you’d like us to re-read in the future, let me know.

Harry Potter Re-read: Half-Blood Prince

Happy Halloween, Squiders!

If we look at the entire Harry Potter series as a whole, where Order of the Phoenix is the Dark Moment and Deathly Hallows is the climax, then Half-Blood Prince is the lead-up.  Sure, it has some Dark Moment tints to it, as Harry loses the last adult he ever really looked up to, but for the most part, Half-Blood Prince tells us why.  Voldemort’s backstory is told through a series of pensieve visits, allowing us to see how the Dark Lord became the force of evil he is.  We find out about the horcruxes, how they’re made, how Voldemort thinks about them.  All this information is essential for Harry to go out on his own to accomplish his end goal: the destruction of Voldemort, finally and completely.

Also, eventually I will get through this book without crying at Dumbledore’s funeral, but today is apparently not that day.

Half-Blood Prince messes up convention.  I remember, my first readthrough, how shocking it was when Slughorn turned out to be the Potions teacher and that Snape was to be Defense Against the Dark Arts.  Up until HBP, there’d been a lot of discussion about his loyalties.  I’d been leaning towards good, since Dumbledore trusted and relied on him so much, and he’d always been there when it counted, but the end…brilliant, really.  HBP leaves you sure that Snape has been evil this whole time and yet…yet there’s this tiny doubt.  Just how much does Dumbledore know?  How far ahead is he really thinking?

Harry’s calmed a bit, though he still has his moments where you kind of want to punch him in the arm and tell him to shut up.  It’s almost like Sirius’s death has shown him the dangers of not thinking things through, of acting before having all the information.  Ron and Hermoine act like tools for half the book so we’re still reminded that they’re teenagers, to even things out a bit.

(Also, I like how Firefox tells me that Hermoine is not a word, but Voldemort’s okay. EDIT: Siri informs me that I am spelling Hermione wrong.  Whoops.  Carry on.)

We’ve also got two out of three Deathly Hallows in HBP, though, of course, we don’t know of their existence yet.  In the pensieve memories, Gaunt points out the crest on his ring: the Peverell coat of arms.  A random name at this point, means nothing; the scene distracts you from it with Slytherin’s locket.  Both would be turned into horcruxes, but only one contains the Resurrection Stone.  I wonder, since Voldemort was familiar with the Deathly Hallows enough to know of the Elder Wand, that he didn’t recognize the ring for what it really was, but maybe he just had no use for it.  After all, he had no loved ones to bring back.

Poor Harry has his hands on Ravenclaw’s diadem and doesn’t even realize it.

There’s also a vague hint of Dumbledore’s backstory, while he and Harry are in the cave.  Interesting that the guilt is so strong, even after all those years.

Half-Blood Prince is the last book in the series that attempts convention at all.  There are still classes, there is still Quidditch, there are still hormones and rivalries, but in the end, Dumbledore is gone, Harry will not return to Hogwarts, and the war looms ever closer.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Dumbledore thinks it’s important for Harry to know the truth of Voldemort’s past.  Harry himself has often noted the similarities between himself and Voldemort.  What do you think Dumbledore is trying to show Harry through this?

2. Scrimgeour is a much more active Minister of Magic, but is he a better one than Fudge?

3. Scrimgeour accuses Harry of being Dumbledore’s Man, through and through.  What exactly does this mean?

4. What does it say about Harry that he gives his Felix Felicitas to his friends to keep them safe, rather than keeping it for his own use?

5. Dumbledore knew that Draco had been trying to kill him all year.  Why didn’t he act on this knowledge?  Was there anything he could have done that would have kept both him and Draco safe?

Deathly Hallows will be on deck for November 21st.

Harry Potter Re-read: Order of the Phoenix

Oh, Order of the Phoenix, longest book of the series.  Perhaps annoyingly so, because it’s the first book to break the mold of school-year specific plots.  Harry spends about 75% of the book whining and yelling at everyone and at first glance it seems like there’s no point.  OotP I’ve only read a handful of times, mostly because I spend a lot of the book wanting to punch Harry in the face, but I didn’t feel that way this time.  I’m not sure why, except perhaps now that I’m looking at the books in a way that takes the entire series into account, so Harry’s feelings make more sense to me.

You see, in every character’s arc, there’s something that we writers refer to as the Dark Moment.  The Dark Moment is when a character is at their lowest, when they don’t know if they have the strength to go on, or if it would be worth it to just give up.  And OotP is Harry’s Dark Moment.  The entire book, but especially the end.

You see, up to now, while Harry has had his problems and people who don’t like him (Snape, Malfoy), in general things have been okay.  In some ways, even better than okay, because he’s the Boy Who Lived and that title pulls some weight around.  Here, everything changes.  Sure, there was that bit at the beginning of the Triwizard Tournament, but that was nothing compared to what’s happening here.  Suddenly, most of the wizarding world is against Harry.  He’s branded as a liar or, perhaps worse, off in the head. Voldemort’s back and he knows what that means, and yet, no one will listen, no one will prepare.

And then, at the end, Harry does something stupid and someone close to him dies, and he realizes that maybe he’d been buying into his own hype.  He’d been getting away with stupid, reckless things for years, but this time luck wasn’t on his side and things went horribly wrong.  And it had dire consequences.  While Harry never really settles down, he takes things much more seriously from here on out.

We see the prophecy for the first time here, we see Harry realize what must be done before this will all be over.  (There’s also a scene, just after Harry tells Dumbledore Arthur Weasley has been attacked, where Dumbledore fiddles around with snakes and shadows, which without knowing about horcruxes makes very little sense, but knowing that they’re coming, makes much more.  A nice hint, really, because I’ve always kind of thought that the horcruxes come out of left field in HBP.)

Taken by itself, Order of the Phoenix is kind of obnoxious, but it does contain a lot of important information for the remaining two books.  And it has its fun parts.  Personally, the scene where Fred and George make their exit is one of my favorites in the whole series.

(Ha, and yes, I managed to get through my entire write-up without mentioning Umbridge.  Extra cookies for me!)

Ye Olde Questions for Discussion:

1. So much epic fantasy revolves around the idea of Good and Evil.  How does JK Rowling subvert this in the character of Dolores Umbridge?

2. Harry and Cho are both a bit obtuse in their actions with each other.  What could each have done differently?  How would the books have changed if they had managed to make a go of it?

3. There’s a few hints of a future Ron/Hermoine in Goblet of Fire and that’s continued here.  How would it have changed things if they had acted on their feelings sooner?

4. To get off the topic of romance, Harry can sometimes see and feel what Voldemort is doing through their connection.  Voldemort uses this against him here and tries to possess him, but never does again afterwards.  Why not?

5. We learn here that Neville also fit the initial terms of the prophecy, though he no longer fits because Voldemort did not mark him.  How would the series be different if this were the Neville Longbottom series?  How do you think growing up under different circumstances would have changed Neville’s character?

We’re going to give Half-Blood Prince three weeks, so we’ll discuss it on Oct 31.  (That scene with the Inferi is certainly Halloween appropriate!)

Hooray, October!

It’s October, Squiders!  Best month of the year. Bold claim, I know, but how can you resist?  The leaves are turning on the trees, the heat of summer is burning off, and then there’s Halloween and my birthday and Nano-planning, oh my.

(Yes, I know y’all don’t care about my birthday, but nevertheless, the statement is true.)

We’re going to have a Nano-focused article here at Where Landsquid Fear to Tread every week until November hits.  And then, depending on how we’re feeling, we might keep going through November as well.

Also, just a reminder that we’ll be discussing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix next Monday, October 10.

For my fellow writers, what are your November plans? Doing Nano? What are you going to be working on? Not doing Nano? Why not?

Harry Potter Re-read: Goblet of Fire

When I first read Goblet of Fire, I had to stop and read the graveyard part twice.  You see, I’d read the first three books about a month before GoF was released, and they’d all followed a nice formula where things were wrapped up and people were never really in mortal peril.  The basilisk in Chamber of Secrets was exciting, sure, but I wasn’t ever terribly worried that Harry wasn’t going to walk away from it.  But Goblet…Goblet changed everything.

It’s very interesting, really.  The beginning reads like the first three, very much still a children’s book, but by the end, it’s started to transform into a much darker series.  While Harry wins the tournament, it is not really his achievement.  It brings no joy.  And the reader is left with a sense of despair and disbelief.

Goblet is the first place where a lot of the darker elements that are staples of the later books make their appearance.  We learn about the Dark Mark and the Death Eaters.  We learn some of the horrors that went down during Voldemort’s first reign of terror.  We see the Unforgivable Curses in action – both in the classroom and outside of it.  (Poor Harry will experience – and live through – all three before we’re done here.)  We learn that Snape was, definitively, on Voldemort’s side and we begin to wonder, truly, why it is that Dumbledore trusted him.

Goblet is the second time in the series where the first chapter is in someone other than Harry’s point of view.  (The first being the beginning of Sorcerer’s Stone on Privet Drive.  We won’t see it again until Half-Blood Prince.)  The books are written in limited third, meaning that, while we are not in Harry’s head as much as we would be in first person, the thoughts are his thoughts and the actions are all his actions.  We don’t know what anyone else is thinking.  We don’t know what Harry doesn’t know (in most cases).  Very effective, really.

And her use of Promises for foreshadowing is fantastic.  In the first Quidditch World Cup scene, Harry and the Weasleys (new wizard rock band?) use a portkey to arrive.  The portkey’s promise is fulfilled within the scene, yet it’s foreshadowing for later in the book.  They stay in a wizard tent; promise fulfilled by the time they leave, yet it sets the basis for the camping they will later do in Deathly Hallows.

And I would argue that when the Dark Mark is summoned, it is the first truly frightening scene in the entire series.  You see the fear that Voldemort inspired, you see the cruelty of the Death Eaters.  It’s not something as basic as someone trying to kill you, but it’s more primal, more subtly evil and wrong.

Goblet lays the foundation for the remainder of the series.  It introduces the pensieve and hints at why Harry must return to the Dursleys each summer.  It teaches us that we can’t wrap everything up in a single book, that there are things to fear, and that we are going to lose people – possibly people we care about.  Cedric was only the first.

(A couple of things that I found interesting – just more examples of JK Rowling’s excellent foreshadowing ability: Harry forgets to use a bezoar in his antidote in Potions class.  Dumbledore hints at the existence of the Room of Requirement in a conversation with Karkaroff.  And Fleur looks at Bill in an appraising manner.)

Questions:

1. Hermoine spends most of the book trying to convince everyone for the need for House-Elf rights.  Is it wrong to try and force freedom on the House Elves?

2. The main goal of the Triwizard Tournament is to build bridges between the different wizarding schools.  Do you think it succeeded in this goal?

3. Hagrid tries to resign after it is revealed that he’s half-giant.  How does this tie into the larger theme of prejudice and “blood” in the series?

4. Harry feels a lot of guilt for Cedric’s death.  Do you think he is justified in this?

5. The end of Goblet is really the start of something bigger.  Dumbledore warns that they will need to be united, yet there are divisions in his own school.  What could he have done differently?

Whoops (and a Fairy Tale Anthology You Might Like)

Sooo.  It’s Sept 19.  And I know, weeks ago, that I said that today we would discuss Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire today, but it turns out that I am not actually capable of reading a 700-page book in the three days between when I stumbled home from Peru (thankfully malaria free) and this morning.

I also freely admit that I spaced it completely, between stumbling home, my high school reunion, my nephew’s birthday, the inlaws visiting, and apparently hanging out with friends Friday night that I actually cannot remember at all, and I wasn’t even drunk.

Anyway, that’s a long-winded way to say “Sorry, Squiders, I am a cad and we will do Goblet next Monday instead in all its portkey-y goodness.  Here is something Potter-related to tide you over until then.”

While I have your attention, I want to point you in the direction of a fairy tale anthology myself and my dear writing partner Sarah have put together.  It’s an awesome mix of brand new tales and twists on old favorites and is definitely worth a look.  Once Upon a Spork can be found on pretty much all internet platforms for your reading pleasure.

So, to summarize: Goblet next Monday, excellent anthology for you to read available now (click the link!), and no landsquid were harmed in the creation of this post.