Harry Potter Book Club: Sorcerer's Stone, Chapters 5-6

Art by Alkanet.
There's nothing more magical than fairy tales, and Christie's last post recognized our Harry's early similarities to a popular one:
the recurring theme of chapters two and three is nothing short of a Cinderella tale, a boy-who-in-reality-is-a-prince adopted by relatives and treated as a servant in his own house.... as far as situations go, it couldn't have been much worse for him and he couldn't have come out better.
She also covered the timelessness of the tale—that is, its clean avoidance of obvious references to pop culture, which would date it very quickly. The story would feel dated even nowadays if Rowling had built her world into the brand names and celebrities and public ideals and debates of summer 1991, which is the actual time period in which these few chapters of the story occur. As she didn't, however, children and the childlike should be able to read Harry Potter in a hundred years as easily as we now read Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess.

With a tip of pointy hat, then, I recommend Christie's post; also, her picture of her own homemade Knickerbocker Glory. Masha had the week off since her piece was already up, so we'll move forward. Before we do, however: the first butterbeer attempt!

From Masha's kitchen:

1 pint chocolate stout (Jenna used cold stout, but room temperature would make for a warmer drink)
1 pint vanilla gelato

Melt gelato over medium heat, stirring frequently, until gelato simmers (but don't boil it!) Whip on high speed until frothy. Stir in stout, pour immediately into mugs, and serve.

They come in PINTS???

Stir three times clockwise to one time counterclockwise

Every wizarding family needs a KitchenAid mixer;
you'll never get such good results with frothing spells

Make swirling motion with wand, say "Tempero"

One for the wizard, one for the witch

Got butterbeer?
The result met nearly all of my criteria for a good butterbeer recipe: 1) it was alcoholic, 2) it would almost certainly be good either warm or cold (for cold, just chill the stout well and don't heat the gelato past melting), and 3) it was foamy, with a nice, smooth consistency that wasn't at all watery or soda-poppy.

Also, it tasted good. This is where most butterbeer recipes fail; they're usually cream soda based and sweet enough to make your teeth ache. The stout gives this one a strong, pleasantly sharp flavor underneath the cream. It's like a cappucino translated from coffee language to alcohol. It did not taste buttery or butterscotchy, but that was the closest thing to a fault I could find with it. This recipe's going to be hard to top.

And now, Accio this week's study!

* * *


Read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapters 5-6

(We'll probably take more chapters per week once we're into Quidditch games and chasing around Hogwarts, but there's so much in these early chapters that I don't want to blast through them at the expense of good discussion.)

I am feeling very tempted to try this pumpkin pasty recipe. It could happen. I'll take pictures if I do.

Potential Discussion Points:

1. The amount of foreshadowing in these two chapters is astounding. It's hard to talk about all that without spoilers, but seriously... Gringotts and Griphook and thieves, James' wand being "excellent for transfiguration", the wand cores, Dumbledore's accomplishments, Harry's being "singled out"...

Holly tree, by Colin Smith. Source.
2. The symbolism of the wand cores and woods fascinates me, although I don't know much. I don't quite trust the websites Google turned up at the top, but here's what first results and a little comparing with the story got me:
  • mahogany: "strength and endurance"
  • willow: varied symbolism from use in the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles to Celtic association with the moon, which would work alchemically within the books
  • holly: unconditional love, sacrifice, and reincarnation
  • yew: dark, complicated symbolism involving immortality and death
Again, however, that's a Google search for you. Masha, this is your area of expertise! You're welcome to debunk any of my research, above and below. But here's Rowling on Harry's and Voldemort's wand woods, anyway:
"It was not an arbitrary decision: holly has certain connotations that were perfect for Harry, particularly when contrasted with the traditional associations of yew, from which Voldemort’s wand is made. European tradition has it that the holly tree (the name comes from ‘holy’) repels evil, while yew, which can achieve astonishing longevity (there are British yew trees over two thousand years old), can symbolise both death and resurrection; the sap is also poisonous." —Quoted from the Harry Potter wiki entry on wand wood*, referencing a now-dead link to Rowling's site
Art by Giova94.
Feel free to peruse the wand woods and cores,
decide what combination would be most likely to choose you,
and post the results in the combox!
According to Pottermore, my own wand is vine, like Hermione's, with a phoenix feather core, 14 1/2 inches long, and pliant. I like the vine wood's reputation for sensitivity and attraction to "personalities with hidden depths". But if I think outside Pottermore, I'm tempted to lean toward the likelihood of ending up with a unicorn hair core; I have sort of a devotion to innocence. The fiery rebirth of the phoenix is a moving concept as well, however, and the reputed flexibility of it appeals to another part of me, so I suppose things could go either way.

3. Hedwig, Harry's quiet white owl, is probably named after St. Hedwig of Silesia. St. Hedwig—feast day, 16 October—is the patron saint over the death of children.

4. Young students' first entry into the magical world as initiates is beautiful, even mystagogical. It starts with an act of faith—running headlong into a concrete barrier to get onto Platform 9 3/4—and continues with the Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts leading them to the school on a boat ride, heading their procession up to the castle, and knocking three times on the door.

It reminds me a little of initiation into the sacred mysteries (sacraments) as a Catholic, actually. I don't recall our deacon marching my group of candidates up to the door of the church and knocking, but I believe that's sometimes done. Baptism itself is an initiation rite, though I suppose talking about Dennis Creevey getting dumped into the lake on his boat ride would be getting ahead of the game a little. And we won't even whisper about a certain event involving a silver doe yet.

5. "I think we must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter. After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things—terrible, yes, but great."

6. The Weasleys—oh, the Weasleys, all foreshadowing their future. Molly is immediately empathetic and motherly, Ginny curious, Ron stubborn and self-protective but friendly, Fred and George hilarious, Percy self-important. Bill and Charlie get mention, and though Arthur doesn't, I wind up thinking of him all the same. I love the Weasleys.

I also love Ministry of Magic. They're probably going to get a lot of their videos embedded in these posts.

7. Another of the best naming jobs in the story: Draco Malfoy. Draco is Latin for dragon, and Malfoy is basically the French mal foi: bad faith. I'd call that a spoiler, but Draco doesn't waste any time making his snobbery and meanness known to Harry and reader alike.

8. Hermione Granger. I love our first sight of her—bossy, know-it-all, sniffy, and yet she's trying to help poor Neville find his toad. That's our girl!

Lots of things to talk about this week, and as always, those are just the options that came to me! Take from these topics or pick your own, and have fun!

* I only discovered the HP Wiki entries after doing all that Google search, which is why I didn't just take everything from there... silly Jenna!


  1. The wands in Harry Potter are very interesting, aren't they? When I think of traditional faerie lore and trees, I think of Holly, Hazel and Hawthorne. I did a quick google search and found the following descriptions of Holly and yew,.They're from an article titled 'The Wisdom of Trees in the Celtic Landscape'

    "Holly (Old Irish “Tinne,” genus Ilex) is a densly foliated tree that can grow to 50 feet in height and 40 feet in width. Dark green leaves accented with red berries decorate this slow growing tree.
    Evergreen plants, such as the holly, hold favour in European folklore for their unwavering green attire during winter months – *a life in death aspect.*
    The holly represents the letter “T” in the ogham alphabet and the eighth month from July 8 to August 4." *July 31 is Harry's b-day, right? ;)*
    Here's the one for yew:
    The Yew (Old Irish “Ibar,” genus Taxus) can become an enormous tree, reaching 60 feet in height and sometimes living 100 years. The yew carries dark green evergreen needles. It has attractive red-brown, deeply furrowed, flaky bark and fleshy red seeds.

    **Symbolizing immortality**, the yew was commonly planted in churchyards. The yew is found throughout Celtic mythology and the Druids thought as highly of the yew as they did of the oak, preferring the yew for their wands. Considered a “guardian of mysteries,” an old grove of yews almost certainly signals the presence of a sacred location. The remains of an ancient Druidic yew grove are said to be located near the location of the Chalice Well garden in Glastonbury, England.
    The yew is also known as the “death tree” due to the highly poisonous alkaloids contained in its foliage and seeds. Interestingly, today, the cancer-fighting drug Taxol is made from the bark of the relatively scarce Pacific yew tree.
    The yew represents the vowel “I” in the ogham alphabet and it rules year’s end, the eve of the winter solstice.
    Who knows if Rowling was thinking of this stuff when she was writing, but I wouldn't put it past her.
    On a different note, I love that the students of Hogwarts have to, as you put it, take a leap of faith in order to begin their magical journey. It's almost a literal leap, isn't it! And faith is such an important thing in these novels.

  2. Actually, re-reading your post, it seems that Rowling was indeed thinking of those aspects of the wood/wands. Ha! of course.

    1. Yeah, Rowling planned things out pretty intricately! But I liked your research. Had no idea that yew was the source for Taxol.

      Supposedly Rowling gave the Trio all wand-woods from the Celtic calendar as kind of a hidden connection between the three of them. I didn't realize there was an alphabet involved... I don't know much about the Celts and Druids.

      Malfoy's was a hawthorn wand, and the Potter wiki entry on that is pretty interesting.

      Ha, the leap is sort of literally done! I hadn't thought of that before. :)

    2. Actually, Taxol is now synthetically made, which is a relief, as there simply wasn't enough yew to supply the need. I can testify to it's poisonous impact, though!


  3. What I noticed most about the student's journey to Hogwarts was the crossing of the lake, crossing water attracts good fortune (generally though, it's best to cross it three times - three being the wonderful number it is..) But all journeys that you want to end well should being with a water crossing of some sort. I was glad to see it there, it was sort of nice to see Rowling watching out for her young characters in that way, even the one's she so obviously dislikes.

    With the woods..Jenna, I usually imagine you with either a white birch or an apple wood wand..Holly is always associated in my mind with protection. It's less a symbol of unconditional love..and more of renewing strength. It defends against witches and demons, and, since it's a midwinter tree - it has all the solstice symbolism - the return of light to triumph over darkness..and it's Christologically significant, in that it is often linked to the Crown of Thorns that Christ worn (the red berries signifying his blood)..so there's lots of suffering linked in with Holly as well..In general, a very good tree..much safer than Yew..But Yew isn't evil in anyway -darker, more dangerous..Yew is almost-but-not-quite a sort of unbaptized Holly. Both relate very much to resurrection, to life-in-death, but Yew is Pagan in the old sense - there's more danger in Yew..It is a death tree..but not in a negative sense, more because it's often used to represent the Cross, and because it's long, long life gives us over to thoughts of eternity. It's a sinister looking tree, and a Yew forest is a frightening place. I can see Yew being a good choice for V. - especially if, as I hope, but doubt - Rowling wanted to give him a chance to not grow into Voldemort, but into a good, powerful, wizard.

    Mahogany is not super important symbolically. Willows are dream-givers, but can turn nasty..sort of changeable trees, like water - they're dangerous at night especially. There's lots of sorrow in willows, willow's bring premonitions. I think they're an ok tree, but I have no affinity for them.. :(

    There is a lot to discuss in this section isn't there..If I have time (and I should) I kind of want to do a couple posts..one on the Class mockery in these books (Durslys, Malfoys, Weasleys..) and one on ...

    "Great things"..I like that line. I want to talk about it..where to begin..thoughts???

    1. Fascinating! I have sort of a romantic love for boats and water crossings, even after scaring myself half to death raft guiding. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it's hard to get anywhere without crossing water. I'll definitely be keeping this concept in mind for future storytelling. :D

      I usually imagine you with either a white birch or an apple wood wand... Cool! What do those mean? According to the HP wiki, apple wood doesn't mix well with the Dark Arts, which I definitely like. But they didn't have anything at all on birch.

      I figured you'd have some better thoughts on the woods than I could come up with by way of the internet. I like the thought of holly as a protective tree, and of yew being sort of like an unbaptized version. Anyway, the relationship of both to "resurrection, to life-in-death" is just perfect for the story. And the information on willows is intriguing. I love them, am strongly drawn to them, would love to get one in my yard, not that I have THAT much space, but the gnarled trunk of the weeping willow--my favorite--has always made me think of dark fairy tale things.

      "Great things"... hmmm. I like that line, too, although it creeps me out. It seems like it would be interesting to study what makes a deed great, and whether greatness is really as morally ambiguous as Ollivander seems to suggest. In secular terms, I think it is, but it doesn't work that way in my Catholic head at all. :)

    2. It seems like it would be interesting to study what makes a deed great, and whether greatness is really as morally ambiguous as Ollivander seems to suggest.

      You could probably do a whole new Harry Potter and Philosophy book on this one, but it would be made entirely of [SPOILERS]. I DARE SAY NO MORE.

      To me, using "great" in a morally neutral (or even counter-intuitive sense) to mean "really big" or "super conquer-y" or "monstrous in his stabbination," as in, e.g. Alexander the Great reads as more an old-fashioned speech pattern than anything -- part of the wizarding culture's anachronism stew. Like you'd mostly expect people to get looked at funny now if they talked about Hitler doing things that were "terrible but great," but Napoleon got some hefty adulation from his former enemies back in the day.

      I don't know if that's quite it, though. And my further thoughts on wizarding world morality are [SPOILERS] in the extreme.

  4. Not to mention, crossing water is usually a sign of entering the 'otherworld'. Again, particularly in celtic mythology (at least, from what I know).

  5. Oh, dear; most of my thoughts are extremely spoileriffic.

    I love the first meeting of Ron and Hermione (yeah, Harry's there too, but who cares about him?). Basically, he fails at something, she criticizes, he decideds he doesn't want anything to do with her. It sort of encapsulates their differences; Ron's not as talented or clever as she is, Hermione's not as empathetic or likeable as he is. It also plays on their mutual insecurities, since the first thing Hermione does is criticize him and the first thing Ron does is reject her. The seeds of all the ups and downs in their relationship are laid in this one scene.

    1. You're so right!! And you put it very well. And I'm trying not to be spoilerific in response, but it's not working. **********SPOILER WARNING********** Rowling didn't hide her cards where those two were concerned, did she? Halfway through this book, I was convinced that a certain book 7 event involving a comment about house-elves and an armload of basilisk fangs was just a matter of time. ;)

    2. Hermione's not likeable? I would never have guessed this in a million years.

      This is how I feel about Hermione:

      <3 <3 <3 (((((Hermione))))) <3 <3 <3

      Good point otherwise though.

    3. Well, say she doesn't get along with people as easily as he does. She needs to loosen up some at this point.

    4. Yeah... the way I see it, she's not as likable as Ron is at first. Ron was my favorite character except for Harry and Dumbledore in book 1. By book 7, of course, I felt about her exactly like Laura just expressed. <3


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