Harry Potter musings

I’m rereading the Harry Potter books–I just finished Prisoner of Azkaban last night. This is the first time I’ve read all the books straight through, from 1 to 7. I’m really enjoying noticing all the details that continue from book to book, and the foreshadowing I never saw before.

I also recently started playing Pottermore, an online Harry Potter game that allows you to unlock new information about the wizarding world. There are also achievements and Houses and points and whatnot, but I don’t really care about those, especially since I was sorted into Slytherin.

As I’ve discussed my dismay over my sorting with friends, it’s grown abundantly clear that I am the only one who finds this bothersome. I’m hoping as I reread the books that I will come to a new understanding of Slytherin, at least enough so that I can understand why Pottermore would sort people into it rather than leaving it as the antagonist group it was in the books.

Friends tell me not to look at it in black and white, that of course the books are prejudiced against Slytherin because they’re written from Harry’s perspective. I can understand this argument, but I’m not sure the text backs it up. Ideally, if Slytherin had good people in it, we would see them. All the Slytherins I can recall seeing in the books turned out to be jerks, if not entirely evil. While you can argue that we simply didn’t see the good Slytherins, I would counter that this omission is a flaw. If there are good Slytherins, we should see them. At least a few examples. Something to demonstrate that the world isn’t black and white. But all I remember from my first and second readings of the later books is that all the Slytherins turned out to have Death Eater parents. Everyone who was remotely antagonistic in the books–even the executioner from the Department of Magical Creatures, who really should have been anonymous and unbiased–seemed to be a Death Eater. So sure, you can argue that being a Slytherin doesn’t automatically make you a Death Eater, but it dramatically increases the chances. And meanwhile we never see, that I recall, a Death Eater who is from a house other than Slytherin.

I am paying close attention to the Houses this time around, hoping to find some evidence to counter my prevailing impression. For example, I never saw any mention of which House Peter Pettigrew belonged to. It seems logical for him to have been in Gryffindor (thus making “all evil comes from Slytherin” false and also making “all Gryffindors are brave” false [Edit: I’ve just started Goblet of Fire, and you could argue that briefly standing up to Voldemort on Harry’s behalf is brave…maybe]), but as far as I’ve seen, there is no evidence of which House he was in. Pottermore may have this information; this essay seems to indicate so. It also states that Quirrell was a Ravenclaw, which I don’t remember from the book, but that’s also counter evidence if true.

But if all the information that would redeem Slytherin comes from sources other than the actual books, I will be disappointed. I would hope, that as the years pass and Harry grows up, he would start to recognize gray areas. Surely our hero isn’t so myopic that he would never see a good Slytherin or a bad member of another House, if those allegiances actually exist.

So yes, I’m keeping my eyes open as I reread. If I come across any good information from the original source material–the books themselves–I’ll update this post.

In the meantime, I’ve pretty much decided not to play Pottermore anymore.

Edit 03/03: I am now into Order of the Phoenix. This book, along with Dumbledore’s speech at the end of Goblet of Fire, contains the first broad-spectrum view of the wizarding world, exhortations for the four Houses to unite. Harry is of course still anti-Slytherin and can’t imagine working with them. In Half-Blood Prince will come the examples of “good” Slytherins Snape and Slughorn (or at least, Slytherins with whom people from other Houses can work). I’ve already mentioned my problems with Snape and Slughorn; I’ll keep my eyes open for other Slytherin examples. It would be nice if my memory is wrong or incomplete and there is more to this than simply “work with whoever you can get, even the lesser of two evils, even if you have to spend copious amounts of time keeping them on track.”

Area 34-year-old whines about being sorted into Slytherin

I’ve been slowly working my way through Pottermore, the Harry Potter companion site that features previously-unreleased thoughts and information from JK Rowling and allows members to proceed through the books performing various tasks. In the first book you get your wand and are sorted into a House.

Today I got my wand–PEAR WITH UNICORN CORE, TEN AND THREE QUARTER INCHES, SURPRISINGLY SWISHY–by taking what seemed to be a very short personality test. The length, being more on the shorter side, implies a less boisterous personality. A unicorn hair core is the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts and produces the most consistent magic. Wands made of pear wood work best for “the warm-hearted, the generous and the wise” and are very resilient. Their possessors are usually well respected. So all of that seems fine to me (and yes, I realize that none of this is actually real).

A little later I took a somewhat longer personality test. I thought very carefully about my answers, not in terms of what House I wanted (because I wasn’t really sure), but because I wanted it to be “accurate” (whatever that means). And lo and behold, I was Sorted into Slytherin.

I immediately took to Twitter to ponder how and why this might have happened, and then to wonder why I was upset about it. It’s actually bothering me a lot more than I would have expected.

In the books, I can’t remember hearing of a Slytherin character I liked. The ones who did work for Good were usually blackmailed into it–c.f. Snape and Slughorn. (I liked Snape until I discovered he was only good out of guilt–or perhaps selfish, obsessive sadness–over Lily’s death. And even then he still had to be constantly guilt-tripped by Dumbledore. Slughorn, meanwhile, is nothing but a self-serving parasite.) As the books proceeded and the greater wizarding world came into focus, it would have been nice to see more subtlety among the Houses–witches and wizards from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff who went Dark or from Slytherin who kept to the Light. Of the latter, I can think only of Draco Malfoy’s redemption, but he was always a nasty character and his “redemption” came because he was terrified of the position Voldemort put him in. You could definitely argue that he was a victim of circumstance, beginning with his upbringing. But even so, he’s a singular example. In general, Slytherin might as well equal Death Eater.

The Slytherin welcome page tried to console me by letting me know that Merlin was a Slytherin, that Slytherins are loyal to one another (which may well be true, as I can’t think of an instance of a Slytherin betraying another Slytherin off the top of my head), that there are Muggle-born Slytherins (really?). But I am not finding any of that particularly comforting.

Perhaps someday if there was a series of books written from the perspective of a Slytherin character, I might change my mind, but for now just I feel like the Sorting Hat (which, again, I realize is not real) thinks I’m self-serving.

A Harry Potter TV series

…would be awesome, right? And here’s how I would do it.

Ever since the third movie, I’ve felt that movies can’t adequately tell the Harry Potter story. The world is too rich. There are too many characters, too many magical creatures, too much backstory. Subplots upon subplots must be left out for time, but this causes confusion and sometimes story changes.

The first two books translated well enough, as they were short and simple stories, but as soon as complexity came in, the overall tale started to suffer. It probably would have been best to make two films each from Azkaban onward.

Still, movies can’t beat television when it comes to telling complex stories, because television has the time to do more. It’s why I’ve all but stopped going to the movies, but still watch TV (though not much, to be honest). It’s why when I’m scanning through Netflix to find something to watch, I usually avoid the movies and look for a series to sink my teeth into. Maybe this says something about a decline in the quality of movies in general; I don’t know. I just know that I like to be engaged with many characters and a deep plot and an interesting setting, and I don’t get enough mental stimulation from most movies.

In any case, I’ve long thought Harry Potter should be done as an animated series with 30-minute episodes. I’d prefer some really pretty anime art, but the brilliant Iron Man: Armored Adventures has me reconsidering the potential of CGI 3D cel-shading. Regardless of how it’s animated, it needs to look beautiful and magical. (This was one thing that kind of felt off to me about the Harry Potter films; many things that should have been beautiful were not, including the centaurs. The mermaids were supposed to be fearsome, of course, but that doesn’t mean everything had to be frightening.)

The series would have a team of regular writers, and, assuming she wanted a hand in it, J.K. Rowling would be the producer, and she’d sign off on all the story concepts. In general the main plots would follow the books pretty much to the letter. We’d get to see all the scenes we’ve imagined, maybe not the way we imagined them, but in a new and interesting way.

There would also be some original one-off episodes thrown into the mix. I’d let the writing team write some of these, but I’d also woo guest writers, people who’ve written good stuff for other shows, and just see what they might do for Harry Potter. Rowling would have to have veto power, but I imagine she’d be open to some different interpretations and situations for her characters, and would only speak up if she felt like a writer had misunderstood a character. These one-offs would be stand-alone; they could not affect overall continuity in any major way (although minor effects would be fine, and background characters could get more spotlight. Wouldn’t you love “A Day in the Life of Luna Lovegood”?).

Story arcs would flow from the canon material pretty naturally. I’m not sure how the episodes would break up into seasons, since the books are all different lengths, but this is something the writers could discuss and figure out. The original episodes could help with padding a season out when needed. Also, just because the series would be following the books wouldn’t necessarily mean there couldn’t be expanded flashback episodes. I’d love to see a story arc about Dumbledore, a story arc about Snape, a story arc about James and Lily, a story arc about Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Even the diary flashback about Tom Riddle from The Chamber of Secrets could be expanded into an episode, or perhaps worked into a longer series about Tom Riddle and Voldemort that would go with the Half-Blood Prince episodes. Following Harry’s story doesn’t mean the series would have to only follow him. Maybe some of the original episodes could spend more time with Hermione. The possibilities are endless.

The point would be a robust series, with a known beginning and end, and a lot of known stuff in the middle, but then plenty of possibilities for new stories and new visuals and new music and new actors and a fresh, full way of experiencing the universe J.K. Rowling envisioned.

Would that not rule?!

The Adventures of Albus Dumbledore

I watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets today, and for some reason it got me thinking about Dumbledore. I would love to see a series of books, graphic novels, TV episodes, or something similar that would show us what Dumbledore was doing in his early years. We know many things–he lived with a lot of tragedy, with his family and with the one he loved–but we don’t know all. What was he like as a child? How was his day-to-day life at home and at Hogwarts? How did he grow to be such a great wizard? What was his relationship with his brother, and how did it grow and change? Did he love anyone else before Grindelwald? I’d love to see these and other themes explored not just in summaries or interviews, but in fully fleshed out stories.


Originally posted on the AMRN GenDis, here is my reaction to the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie, written right when I got home from the midnight premiere:

Live it.

Love it.

There are, of course, the usual deviations from the original that people across the internet are no doubt already complaining about. But the story was brilliantly told, the scenes that were removed or changed made sense, the casting was superb, and the new music guy is outstanding.

If I have any quibbles, they’re with the very beginning, which didn’t have enough Harry-in-a-bad-mood (I was honestly looking forward to watching him mope around in the flower garden); the Sirius scene (you know what I’m talking about) which was more…final than the book made it out to be; and the lack of a conversation about what Harry saw in Snape’s past.

Loved Dumbledore. And Tonks. And Luna. And Snape, of course.

It’s all over next week ;_;

Those Hallows sure are Deathly, I tell you what

So, here’s the US cover for HPatDH.

There are two other covers, the ones used in Britain (e.g., Land o’ Brookie). All three are interesting. I have to admit that Mary GrandPre’s art has grown on me, though.

Something funny: the articles describe Voldemort as reaching towards Harry in the US version, but to me it looks like he’s trying to ward off or magick something in front of Harry that we can’t see.

Perhaps the effect is different when the artwork is wrapped around a book.

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Media bias; plus, what I’m up to

I love it when Den Beste points these things out. What you see or read on the news really is just a matter of how the news organization wants to frame the information they’ve received.

I finished off Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with time to spare before seeing the movie last night. I must say, it’s my favorite book so far. That may have tempered my opinion of the movie, too, because I came away from it feeling like it was the best of the three, while Kelly was far less impressed.

Regardless of whether or not the movie is actually good, I stand by my opinion that the soundtrack is the best of the Harry Potter music, and is indeed the best from John Williams that I’ve heard in awhile. The man is my idol, musically, but of late he has taken to essentially plagiarizing himself. (For example, of all the music in The Phantom Menace, the only truly unique theme was “Duel of the Fates”. For a more relevant example, the main theme we hear when a Harry Potter movie opens or is advertised is almost exactly the same as a spooky, magical little melody from Hook.)

Having blown through three Harry Potter novels, I’m starting to feel like a real reader again. In fact, tonight I finally started reading The Time Traveler’s Wife…and it is really, really good. I’ve missed being a reader; I haven’t been voracious about it since sometime in high school. The only thing I don’t really like about reading is having to handle the books. There is no comfortable way to read. I have three typical positions, which I switch off as I get uncomfortable: on my back, holding the book over my face; on my stomach, with the book resting on my pillow; and sitting cross-legged, leaning down towards the book. Depending on the size and weight of the book, lying on my back, which is otherwise the most comfortable position, can be a true hassle.

I don’t particularly like reading things of novel length on my computer, because I have no real way of stopping. It’s not like I can put a bookmark in exactly where I want to (although I don’t know about ebook software, and whether or not this is possible with that). I have read in the La-Z-Boy we got from Sean’s parents, and it works out okay: I can prop my elbows on the armrests, which is something of a relief to my arms. Maybe with a pillow in my lap it would work out…

It might be fun to take a book over to the workout room at the apartment clubhouse and read while walking on a treadmill. I may try that at some point; more exercise would definitely be a good thing.

Work has been much better than it was on Monday and last week. I’m not sure what my problem was, but at least part of it can be attributed to hormones and lack of sleep. Yesterday I had something of a bad experience on a call, but I refused to let it bother me. I was pretty impressed with myself afterwards. If it had happened on Monday, I’m not sure what would have happened.

Mari and Brooke and I were supposed to bellydance today, but things didn’t work out. Hopefully we will be bike-riding tomorrow, and maybe we can squeeze in some bellydance too. I would like to get myself on a regimen of going through all the basic bellydance motions, several times each, every day. I got the idea from Mari; it would be a fantastic aerobic/muscular workout. Now I just need to figure out what time of day I want to do it. I would have time in the morning if I got up at 5 (like I usually try to), but I would also have time right after work, in the “dead” time between then and when I have to start making dinner. I suppose I could just dedicate myself to doing it during one of those two times.

I need to go grocery shopping and pick up some meat for the week, and vegetables. Perishable food is the bane of my existence…I have trouble actually using it up before it goes bad. At the same time, though, I really want to start eating fresh foods, and stop using packaged/processed products.

As a final note…I found a couple new blogs to read recently. One belongs to a 17 year old and the other belongs to a 73 year old. I found them through Blogger’s new profile feature…I have “emotion” listed as one of my interests, and out of curiosity I clicked it to see if anyone else had used that word too. Interestingly, only a handful of people came up. Of those, I found myself drawn to these two: goei and rare.

rare has a sort of rambling, stream-of-consciousness, yet somehow practiced and beautiful flow to his writing, and yesterday he wrote something that really touched me, so I would like to share it.