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.


  1. I loved how you framed one of Neville’s early shows of bravery.

    And I also find fascinating how Dumbledore literally extended a hand to a “dragon”.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  2. P Wayne Stauffer says

    I haven’t listened to the audio books, but I have read the series several times to prep for my Harry Potter Literature & Film class.
    I am struck that Rowling does not allow any of her protagonists to have revenge actions against antagonists.
    Yes, one can argue that Harry gets revenge in killing Voldemort in the end, but notice which spell Harry uses: expelliarmus (the disarming spell) instead of avadakedavra (the killing curse).
    Neville uses the sword on Nagini (maybe a form of revenge on the Voldemort soul fragment within?), but Molly Weasley dispatches Bellatrix Lestrange in protecting Ginny.
    Neither Lupin nor Bill Weasley does away with Greyback, who turned them into werewolves.
    Draco kicks Harry in the face while Harry is petrified and says, “That’s for my father!” but that action is obviously not acceptable and shows Draco’s immaturity.
    Harry does not leave Draco in the inferno of the Room of Requirement, even though they have been rivals since first year.
    Harry also does not kill Professor Snape, even though Snape killed his beloved mentor Dumbledore, nor does he kill Bellatrix to avenge Dobby’s death.
    I’m sure there are other instances in the series I haven’t listed here. These are mainly from Deathly Hallows.
    This lack of revenge actions is further consistent with Rowling’s overarching them of Love conquers all.

  3. I think you’ll want to re-visit the end of ‘Goblet of Fire,’ with special attention to the Hogwarts Express journey home.

  4. Wayne Stauffer says

    Ok. The incident with Draco, Crabbe & Goyle … I don’t see this as revenge. I see it more as self-defense. Draco provokes the fight and the Trio + react to this.

  5. Louise Freeman says

    I think Joh might be referring to Hermione’s actions against Rita Skeeter?

  6. Wayne Stauffer says

    I can kind of see that as revenge for the things Rita said about Hermione, but Hermione seems less bothered in the book than she was in the movie.
    Maybe I also see Hermione’s action as a kind of comeuppance for Rita because she has gotten away with her shape shifting for so long already. Besides, in OP Hermione gives Rita a chance to redeem herself by writing the article about Harry in the Quibbler. And then by DH she has regained her status with her tome “Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.”
    If that’s revenge, it doesn’t seem too harsh.

  7. Brian Johnson says

    I had a friend recommend the Jim Dale audiobooks, and I could not get very far into the second book because of the zany ways he pronounces certain things – the worst is Hermoine’s “Harr-eeeeeee!”. I ended up switching the Stephen Fry, and starting over from the beginning of TPS. His readings are much preferred.

    I listened through them in the past year (and so did my mom!), and here are some of the things that struck me particularly when listening and not reading:
    – Some of the names were more “punny” than I had realized. Grimmauld Place, Umbridge, Rita Skeeter (never read that as a rhyming name)
    – I NEVER understood Hermione’s “Wingardium Leviosa” correction to Ron in TPS, but hearing it aloud by Stephen Fry helped a ton. British voices saying “er” is the equivalent of Americans saying “uh”.
    – Voldermort’s name was pronounced the French way (silent T) until TGOF. Rumor has it that the movies possibly caused the decision for Fry (and Dale) to beginning pronouncing the T in Voldemort.
    – The sheer amount of added time it takes to get through the audiobooks allowed me to read several parallel texts as I listened through HP. Beatrice Groves’ “Literary Allusions in Harry Potter”, and Lorrie Kim’s “Snape: A Definitive Reading” were particular favorites (though Kim’s book leaned into Critical Theory a bit more than necessary, in my opinion).
    -Lastly, my mom – who never read HP until listening to these audiobooks – did not have the benefit of going back and re-reading confusing parts, or seeing the spelling of names. So even after finishing the entire series, she thought Animagi and Patronus Charms were the same thing (which confounded the significance of Snape’s Doe patronus in TDH), didn’t get a good grasp of most spells, and hilariously mispronounced names like Dumbledore, Voldemort, Scrimgeour, etc. (a personal favorite was Dungle-Dork).

    I’ve been reading this site for years, but this is my first comment! 😀

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