Reading, Writing, Rowling 15: Quidditch!

J. K. Rowling tweeted out an answer last week to her least favorite subject — reader complaints about the scoring system of Quidditch — in which she explained that “it makes total sense.” Her conclusion was that “Quidditch is the human condition.” Right on schedule to explain that cryptic comment, Katy McDaniel has released a ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast on just this subject with two Quidditch experts.

From the write-up of the podcast at MuggleNet:

Do you skip over the Quidditch scenes in the Harry Potter novels? Katy and guest expert Emily Strand talk with author and wizard activist Caitlin Elizabeth Harper about the meaning of Quidditch – the sport from Queerditch Marsh – for the Harry Potter series. We look at the social and cultural value of the game in the wizarding world: its role in helping Harry feel connected to this new realm, shaping identities, and revealing the character of wizard society. But as a sport, Quidditch often frustrates readers who find it nonsensical and a sideline distraction from the main story. Emily and Caitlin both explain how central this sport really is to understanding the battle between good and evil in the wizarding world.

Emily tells us about the alchemical symbolism in the game and the way it operates as a play-within-the-play of the full narrative arc. Building on Emily’s work about Quidditch signaling major themes, plot points, and characterizations, Caitlin explains that the Quidditch story in each of the seven Harry Potter books relates directly to the major action in each book’s central plot. Quidditch mirrors plot points, but the plot also mirrors certain developments in the sporting competition at Hogwarts such that they eventually flow together – and all of it fits into Rowling’s ring composition design. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are the most important Quidditch novels, even though there are no school matches: Emily and Caitlin tell us why.

Some have suggested that sports serve as a substitute for war in the modern world, and we analyze whether Quidditch does the same in the magical realm. We also discuss the attractions of Muggle quidditch – and its dangers! Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you will find insight and a new appreciation for the bizarre wizard sport in this month’s episode.

For the 2015 MuggleNet Academia podcast that Keith Hawk and I did on this subject, go here.


  1. Louise Freeman says

    Loved the podcast, as usual.
    I don’t remember you mentioning the romantic parallels with the Quidditch matches, with Ginny and Cho being serving as Seekers on rival teams, with Ginny consistently catching the Snitch, just as she will eventually win Harry’s affections. As well as Cormac’s dual rivalry with Ron, in trying to both take his place as Keeper and trying to date Hermione, with Hermione secretly arranging for Ron to win at tryouts while at the same time secretly wanting to date him.
    Also, Ron gets together with Lav-Lav in the aftermath of his Quidditch victory in HBP, but the win was artificial, fueled by the placebo effect of him thinking he has taken Felix Felicis. That relationship turns out to built on equally shaky sand, with Ron finding Miss Brown’s attentions a short term ego boost but not anything sustainable, compared to his long-term friendship with Hermione. Ginny and Harry, however, come together in the aftermath of her Quidditch victory, with her genuine talent proving her a competent player in her own right. She was able to stand in for Harry as needed, just as she was a “reserve player” in DH, helping lead the Carrows resistance when Harry is away from Hogwarts, and staying behind the scenes in the battle of Hogwarts, until she is needed.
    Finally, the podcast made me think about the Weasley twins’ ultimate role in the battle against Voldemort. I know Emily has described them in the past as the “Beaters” of the series, and their final exit from Hogwarts, with the chains on their brooms swinging and knocking people out of the way as a Beater-like move, but I was thinking back to the original fight that got them banned in the first place. It was Harry and Fred who actually fought Malfoy & Co.; Umbridge banned George as an innocent bystander, simply because he was Fred’s twin brother. Harry, of course, is restored from his “lifetime” ban the next year, and is even promoted to Captain. Fred and George, best we can tell, never play Quidditch again; their ban, however unjust, is permanent. In DH, George will be “collateral damage”, getting his ear blown off simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fred, of course, will die in the Battle of Hogwarts, and, unlike Harry, has no opportunity to return to life.
    Great work!

  2. Beatrice Groves says

    Love your romantic Quidditch links here Louise!
    I’d spotted the first two, but hadn’t noticed the Ron/Lavender link – it’s not only a relationship built on a potion (fake – like the Love Potion inspired ones) but, even worse, built on a *fake* potion: double signalling that things with Ron’s ‘brand new lover’ (Lavender Brown) are going nowhere..!.
    The real Felix will help break them up, of course, when Lavender sees only Ron and Hermione together when Harry takes the Felix (because he’s slipped under his invisibility cloak) just as he knocks into Ginny on the way out too, making her annoyed at Dean. It seems that, as with Divination, Rowling has her ‘Potions-create-fake-relationships’ cake and eats it too – potions are allowed to help in the break-down of bad relationships, even if they can’t create real relationships.

  3. Great podcast, I really enjoyed it! (I also went back and listened to the Mugglenet Academia one, also very interesting.)

    Also really interesting comments!

    I think tbe challenge of baseball is to get more then one defender on the field by getting on base. Quite a lot of strategy goes into getting a run.

  4. I played right field and was one of two required women on a co-ed church softball team, so I really know my stuff!

    I read the Quittich chapters but I’ve always found them to be a diversion from the rest of the books. It’ll be interesting to see how they actually fit into the books the next time a re-read them.

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