Alohomora: Ring Composition, Part One

I have been podcasting at since 2011, first with Keith Hawk on a show called ‘MuggleNet Academia’ and now with Katy McDaniel on ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling.’ I do it because it is a lot of fun — the conversations with guests and the show host are almost always challenging and a delight — and because a lot more people listen to those podcasts than will ever read what I write here at HogwartsProfessor. MuggleNet is truly a global platform and it is a privilege to get to speak from it about Harry Potter, Cormoran Strike, and literature in general in this age which has largely been shaped imaginatively by the work of J. K. Rowling.

There are, of course, other podcasts on MuggleNet and much more popular and less ‘heady’ ones than those in which I participate. One of the most successful is ‘Alohomora.’ The team of podcasters there have recorded more than 250 episodes devoted to a chapter-by-chapter re-reading of the Hogwarts Saga; their following is sufficiently broad that they have advertisers, a paid producer, and a real presence at the website and Fandom.

Though I know all the principals on the show and have for some time, I had never been invited to join the crew for a talk about a specific chapter or topic. Until this month! Kat Miller and Company wanted to do a show on Ring Composition and I was the default subject matter expert. You can read about and listen to the show here: Ring Composition, Part One: It’s a WOW Thing

To anticipate your question, no, I don’t know if there will be a ‘Part Two’ to follow-up on this ‘Part One.’ That they do not mention anywhere in their write-up of the podcast that I was a guest speaker suggests that, if they do, I won’t be invited to participate!

Part One was a fun and firehose conversation, though, as none of the others knew the first thing about chiasmus or ring writing and its importance to Potter studies. Your boy Gilderoy obliged them with an hour long review and introduction to the subject.

Which maybe put them off? Maybe! The good news is that, if you haven’t got the time to read Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle, and want to learn a little more about story structure and Harry’s magic, this podcast will serve as an appetizer for the subject. Let me know what you think, even if you’ve read the book, of the podcast in the comment boxes below.

Is it possible I’ll ever be invited to ‘Speak Beasties,’ the MuggleNet Fantastic Beasts podcast franchise? 



  1. Jan Voetberg , Amsterdam says

    Dear John, In the show about the Ringcomposition as a wow thing, you say around 1.03 hours that when Grindelwald is disarmed, Newt or Tina is the new master of the elderwand. It seems to me that there can be no doubt that it is Newt who is the new master. The movie doesn’t show it very clear, but the text of the script does: “With a sense that he (= Newt, JV) ‘s been holding this one back, he slashes it through the air: out flies a crackling rope of supernatural light that wraps itself around GRAVES like a whip. GRAVES tries to hold it off as it tightens but staggers, struggles and falls to his knees, DROPPING HIS WAND.” (Capitals on the last words by me). It is Newt who disarms him, and Tina immediately afterwards summons the wand. If we think of what happened at the tower of Hogwarts: Draco disarms Dumbledore and the wand flies over the ramparts. If someone below on the ground would then have summoned the wand, he or she would not have become master of the elder wand. It is the one who disarms. That was a great show, by the way. I need to listen to it a couple of more times.

  2. David Ewald says

    Dear John,

    I listened to your Ring Composition presentation on Alohomora on September 15, 2018 with great interest. I found it to be intellectually stimulating up to a point, and understood why the host’s initial excitement was so keen, but began to wane as the discourse continued without any proof of magic connected to the purpose of writing ‘in circles’. It appears to have left your hosts expressing a sense of intrigue followed by a hapless so-what. Your excellent presentation needs to include a moment when you pull a rabbit out of your hat, thereby proving that the circle was created by the author for a purpose larger than literary structure: hidden treasure. Shakespeare appears to have provided just such a gem in his Sonnet sequence beginning with Sonnet 99 to the end at Sonnet 154. You have to view the original 1609 imprint to seek his treasure, but right at the exact midpoint of the ring, lines 13 and 14 of Sonnet 126, you may find the magic that could put the required spell on your audience. There are many indicators to help prove the intention of the ring by the author, but again, the original version is required because the subsequent printings do not carry on with the magic he provided in his own lifetime.

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