Hey Beautiful People! Between the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series in the U.S. and the upcoming theatrical release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald AND the fact that it’s fall, I’m in a very Wizarding World mood. To celebrate all these things, my next several posts will include a book from the Harry Potter series.
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fantasy; Children’s Lit; Best Books Ever
Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK); Scholastic (US)
Published: June 26, 1997 (UK); September 1, 1998 (US)
Number of Pages: 422
An orphan living with his indifferent relatives turns eleven and is informed (by a flying-motorbike-riding, pink-umbrella-wielding, bearded giant) that he is actually a magical wizard. He also happens to have saved the entire magical world when he was one year old. Go figure.
Harry is whisked away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he attends classes like herbology, transfiguration, and defense against the dark arts. He makes friends. He learns about a game named quidditch played on broomsticks. He pretends to eat Hagrid’s cooking. It’s all fun and games. Mostly. Except for the troll. And the potions master. And Norbert. And You-Know-Who. And the third floor corridor on the right-hand side.
Author: Emily Dickinson
Written: ca. 1862
This is one of Dickinson’s most well-known poems. It’s short enough that I’ll just include the whole thing here:
I dwell in Possibility – (466)
By Emily Dickinson
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
SOURCE: The Poetry Foundation
The Ties That Bind
I sometimes wonder if Rowling had Dickinson’s poem in mind when she was inventing Hogwarts castle. The staircases move, the portraits are always running off to visit one another, and sometimes doors aren’t really doors, but just solid walls pretending. Harry, Ron, and the other first years spend the first several weeks of term learning how to get from one part of the school to another without getting lost. Except probably Hermione—she’d already memorized Hogwarts: A History.
The more I think about it the more I’m convinced that Hogwarts is an embodiment of Dickinson’s poem. Hogwarts is, after all, a school of magic—you can learn to do almost* anything there and it’s therefore full of possibility. (And a much nicer place to live than 4 Privet Drive.) We’re talking thousands of windows and hundreds of doors.
Dumbledore himself confessed that he didn’t know all of Hogwarts’ secrets and I don’t think he was ever fully cognizant of The Room of Requirement. No one can see (or enter) the room unless he or she has need of it. And we won’t even get into the Chamber of Secrets (no parseltongues). As for “an everlasting roof”—the ceiling of the Great Hall is bewitched to look like the sky outside.
Only students with magical abilities can attend the school. (Sorry, Petunia!) The entire purpose of the school is to teach kids how to use a wand (and a potions kit) to charm objects, transfigure animals, defend themselves, bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death. How’s that for Paradise?
You can’t apparate or disapparate on Hogwarts grounds.
The Unforgivable Curses are, well, unforgivable.
Muggle technology goes haywire at Hogwarts—there’s too much magic in the air.
There is no such thing as a crumple-horned snorkack.
Food is the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration.
You won’t find a book about horcruxes at Hogwarts, probably not even in the restricted section.
(Feel free to add anything I missed in the comment section.)
The Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak