Some Thoughts on my First Listen Through the Harry Potter audiobooks.

After all my years of Harry Potter fandom and academic work, I had never listened to the English language audiobook productions, though I had listened to Philosopher’s Stone a few times in Spanish.  I decided to rectify that this year, listening to them all on my daily commute.

Some random thoughts, and things I noticed this time through.  An incomplete list, to be sure, since I am not in the place to take down notes in the car.

Sorcerer’s Stone:  In the Forbidden Forest detention, Neville “panics” and sends up red sparks when Malfoy grabs him from behind.  Panics?  It looks to me like Neville actually kept his head and did exactly what Hagrid had told him to do at the first sign of trouble. For him to have the presence of mind to use the right spell under those circumstances is quite an accomplishment for the kid who has trouble with magic. Malfoy, on the other hand, when confronted with the horror of Voldemort feasting on the unicorn blood, screams, turns tail and runs, followed by Fang, the dog Hagrid describes as a coward. A nice early example of Neville showing Gryffindor-style courage, and a fair bit of magical talent (when he needs it), in contrast to Malfoy’s cowardice.

It also reminded me a bit of Robin Ellacott successfully defending herself when Morris grabs her from behind.

Chamber of Secrets:  I had forgotten that the name Mundungus Fletcher came up this early in the series.

Prisoner of Azkaban: During the Dementor patrol on the Hogwarts Express, Ginny had almost as severe a reaction to the dementor as Harry. Of course, she is the only one besides Harry who has also had a close encounter with Voldemort.

Order of the Phoenix: As he is walking Cho down to Hogsmeade for their disastrous Valentine’s date, Harry looks up at the Quidditch pitch, and feels a “horrible pang that he was not up there with them.”  The two people he specifically mentions seeing are Ron and Ginny. Could this be a preview of his attraction to her?

Half-Blood Prince: Snape told us back in Philosopher’s Stone that the Draught of Living Death was made with powdered root of asphodel and an infusion of wormwood.  Here, the potion students seem to be doing something quite different, chopping up valerian root and sopophourous beans.

Slughorn drops the Dirk Cresswell name as another example of a Muggleborn who made the Slug Club. The poor guy meets a tragic end in Deathly Hallows.

Deathly Hallows: Voldy thinks he is the only one who ever discovered the Hall of Lost Things?  Then who does he think put all that stuff in there?

The closing line of Elphias Doge’s tribute to Dumbledore describes him as: “to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy with dragon pox as he was on the day that I met him.” Elphias has no way of knowing that, in his literal last hour, Dumbledore did try to extend a helping hand to a boy named “Dragon” who certainly had a figurative “pox” on his house, with his family in disgrace and his desperate efforts to redeem it through murder.

Some nice Easter Eggs in this brief view of the Battle of Hogwarts:

Harry saw Yaxley slammed to the floor by George and Lee Jordan, saw Dolohov fall with a scream at Flitwick’s hands, saw Walden Macnair thrown across the room by Hagrid, hit the stone wall opposite, and slide unconscious to the ground. He saw Ron and Neville bringing down Fenrir Greyback, Aberforth stunning Rookwood, Arthur and Percy flooring Thicknesse…

  • The twin’s friend Lee is at George’s side now, after the loss of Fred. “River Jordan” has become the friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  • I love seeing “tiny” Professor Flitwick take down one of the most powerful Death Eaters, the guy who, among his many crimes, killed Molly Weasley’s brothers in the first Wizarding War.
  • Hagrid gets to defeat Buckbeak’s would-be executioner!
  • Neville is fighting by Ron’s side, taking Harry’s place in the Trio, just as Harry had wanted. And, together, they are taking down the one who earlier had grievously injured (or killed?) Ron’s ex, Lavender Brown, on top of his having bitten Remus Lupin. thereby avenging both a fellow Gryffindor and a teacher, who was especially kind to Neville.
  • After two year’s estrangement over Percy siding with the ministry over his family, father and son team up to defeat Pius Thicknesse, the current Minister of Magic.

Please join in and add any details that jump out at you upon re-reading or re-listening.

First Flip of the Tarot Cards: Louise’s Predictions for Strike 6.

I went into my first predictions for Troubled Blood a bit overconfident, after my bulls-eyes in Lethal White, where I successfully predicted a connection to the London Olympics, a Yule Ball analog where Robin would get to wear her fabulous Green Dress, and that the title referred to the horse disease, not heroin, and that a killer would be an equestrian. For Troubled Blood, I can really only give myself one of six points, as I nailed the rather easy targets of Matthew and Robin fighting over the proceeds from their flat sale, and Charlotte attempting to get Bluey to rescue her (albeit from the misery of her marriage and a suicide attempt, not, as far as we know, from Jago’s physical violence). Maybe I will give myself a bit of partial credit for the “cooling” of the Strike-Robin potential for romance and Robin dating someone new. Granted, the detective partners are clearly more attracted to each other than ever, with thoughts of beds and clean sheets in the aftermath of whiskey and black eyes, but their relationship, for now, has landed squarely in the realm of “best mates.”

The closest thing to a “new short-term relationship for Robin” was her very brief pairing with Saul Morris, which existed largely in Morris’s dreams, Pat’s hopes, and Linda’s speculations. Robin spent Boxing Day texting DeMorris Dickhead* for the express purpose of making her family think she was dating someone new. It was interesting to see a little of that fakery unintentionally seep over to Strike, and and arouse his jealousy as he pondered making new rules against partners and contractors dating. But my other speculations: an education-themed mystery, Whittaker v. Strike, the return of Switch LeVay Bloom Whittaker or Brittany Brockbank, came to naught. As much as I’ll miss Aunt Joan, I am most grateful that neither Shanker or Vanessa filled in for Sirius Black and crossed the veil.

Still, I want to take a stab at putting some ideas down as we start to ponder, and the process of scanning Rowling’s Twitter Headers for clues begins anew. More after the jump. [Read more…]

Second (updated: and Third!) Hogwarts Tournament of Houses Teasers released!

 

 

Time to start scanning for familiar Potter Pundits!

 

 

Hogwarts Tournament of Houses to Premiere November 28th!

This website helped spread the word about this game show in the developmental stages. I made it through several stages of the contestant selection process, only to be turned down at the end. But, I was picked to be in the studio audience as a consolation prize. I’ll be posting more about the experience when the show premieres.

In the meantime, the first trailer was released today.  Blink and you’ll miss Ravenclaw, but we were there.

Paint and Memory, or Should That Be Pixels? Chatting with the Dead Via Magic and Technology.

One of the more fascinating, and mysterious, constructs in the Harry Potter series is the moving, talking painting, and what that means for the possibility of communicating with loved ones after death.

On the one hand, Cursed Child reminds us that the portraits are “paint and memory” …  something far different and far less than actually speaking with the portrait subject. This view seems consistent with one that Rowling herself opined in 2004. 

Q: All the paintings we have seen at Hogwarts are of dead people. They seem to be living through their portraits. How is this so? If there was a painting of Harry’s parents, would he be able to obtain advice from them?

JKR: That is a very good question. They are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius’ mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. If Harry had a portrait of his parents it would not help him a great deal. If he could meet them as ghosts, that would be a much more meaningful interaction, but as Nick explained at the end of Phoenix—I am straying into dangerous territory, but I think you probably know what he explained—there are some people who would not come back as ghosts because they are unafraid, or less afraid, of death.

source from Accio quote, Edinburgh Book Festival, 2004

On the other hand, there are certainly times when the portraits seem to do far more than repeat catchphrases. Dumbledore’s painting, for instance, was able to generate original ideas for Order members in the fight against Voldemort. For instance, he seems to have come up with the idea of the Seven Potters, which, according to Mad-Eye, was a response to the Ministry outlawing apparition from Privet Drive. He suggested to Snape that he implant the idea of the plan by confounding Mundungus Fletcher. Later, he advises Snape to give Harry the Sword of Gryffindor, reminding him that the sword must be recovered under conditions of bravery.  This seems to be more original thinking than a “faint imprint” could impart.

I was reminded of this curiosity after reading this story about a grief-stricken man who created an AI version of his deceased girlfriend, with whom he could converse by text chat. It is a fascinating read, and delves into both the potential for healing, and the dangers, of clinging to a created “imprint” as a way of coping with loss.  Reading the article made me think of Dumbledore’s advice to Harry regarding the Mirror of Erised:

“However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible…It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. “

I hope our Hogpro readers will look into the AI story, and comment here on the similarities to magical paintings.