6.03.2013

Harry Potter Book Club: Sorcerer's Stone, Chapters 8-10

Hold onto your pointy black hats! We're getting into Quidditch.



Which has been adapted into a full-contact, non-flying, fo'-realz sport, by the way... it looks like fun, but also potentially very painful. Here's the Complete Muggle's Guide, if you want further information.

First, however: This past week's discussion contained a variety of wonders, from Laura sorting Lady Gaga songs into various Houses, to Masha and Seth questioning why the Hufflepuff mascot isn't a goat, to Christie pointing out another aspect of House symbolism:
This brings to the forefront of my mind the idea that the houses of Hogwarts are actually four different aspects of one person.  Though more developed in some than in others, most characters—and all real people—have to some extend the daring of Gryffindor, the loyalty of Hufflepuff, the cleverness of Ravenclaw, and the potential for power that is in Slytherin.  It would do very well to explain the stereotyping of the houses because each house is not a complete personality, but an aspect of one boiled down to its essence (oooh, alchemy terminology—totally unintentional!)
Alchemy discussions coming very soon, by the way.

Masha also took on John Granger's distinction between invocational versus incantational magic:
Granger then goes on to liken Rowling’s magic to that of Lewis and Tolkien. There are similarities, for certain, but he chooses a strange example in Caspian’s invocation of aid (it’s a musical invocation, which is Granger’s link to his approved incantational magic - but it’s hard to avoid the obvious call to help from beyond)... Magic is not something easily divided - incantations often invoke, invocations often implore, and God-magic can include both - as the Liturgy does, as Tirian’s call or Frodo’s “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” do; as forbidden magic does (and all magic apart from God is forbidden, be it chanting spells or calling up ghosts).
While pointing out that there's no demonism in Harry Potter is helpful on occasion in arguing in favor of Christians reading the books, I agree with Masha entirely in that post. Rowling's magic is about as non-pagan as it can be without changing the words witchcraft and wizardry, but the words are there and are not so easily worked around. I don't, however, think the Potter books lead a lot of people into witchcraft. I think they lead a lot of people to be either a) more fervent Christians or b) more fervent social liberals... or, if nothing else, c) more fervent internet junkies... and potential readers can interpret the dangers there at will.

Also, for your vicarious cooking pleasure, I made pumpkin pasties, using this fresh pumpkin filling recipe (which made WAY too much pumpkin filling for the amount of pie crust I made; next time, I'll cut it in half):


I used frozen pumpkin puree, actually, which I ought to have strained, and substituted heavy cream for the evaporated milk. The flavoring turned out pretty superb; I just ended up with three times what I needed.


For crust, I made a recipe for an eight-inch double crust pie.


Pie pastry gets tougher the more it's worked, so I don't recommend rolling the scraps more than twice. Also, the coffee mug as template meant making tiny little pasties with no more than two teaspoons of filling apiece. They were good, but a higher ratio of filling to pastry would have made them more flavorful. No pun intended.


I melted butter for the tops and baked them on wax paper. The latter proved important; I doubt they'd ever have come off even a greased baking sheet in one piece.


They turned out really cute, however—and rather tasty:


And now, for next week's discussion!

* * *

Read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapters 8-10

Here's another recipe I'm inclined to try: steak and kidney pie. That's Jamie Oliver's dad's recipe, by the way, so I presume it's awesome, regardless of what kidney tastes like. (I have no idea, never having tried it.) The difficulty is that I'm at a loss where to get kidney in America, or in Bellingham, anyway, and although my husband is unbelievably patient with my attempts at making British food, I do not think he'll appreciate it if I substitute liver.

Potential Discussion Points:


Quidditch Rivals by Linnpuzzle
1. Safety isn't taken all that seriously at Hogwarts; nor, apparently, among wizards in general. Not by modern urban standards, at least. Madam Hooch's first flying class is disaster waiting to happen, and sheesh, what could go wrong with aggressive leather balls flying around trying to knock people off brooms fifty feet in the air?

Some perspective: According to Washington state motor vehicle laws, children are required to be in car seats or some other form of child restraint system until they're eight years old or 4'9" tall (an impressive hardship for enthusiastic young Catholic families, who may easily have four or five children under eight). Children are required to ride in back seats "when practical" until age 13. So, an eleven-year-old kid just three years out of booster seats in Washington state cars could be riding a flying broom skyward with twenty of his fellows at Hogwarts. A twelve-year-old, still forced to ride in the back seat of a minivan out here, could there be legally chased around in the air by Bludgers.

Believe me, I understand the desire and the reasons for child safety laws. But what kid wouldn't rather be at Hogwarts?

Warner Bros. Source: "Severus Snape: One Teacher's Hero"
by Mary Beth Ellis
2. Rulebreaking and unethical behavior are standard practice at Hogwarts, not just among the students, but among the teachers as well. Snape's bullying of Harry and Neville is mind-boggling in these early chapters (as well as throughout much of the series). Even strict McGonagall, however, rewards a broken rule and gets the school regulations bent further for the sake of having a good Quidditch team. Faculty rulebreaking makes for handy plot points all the way through the series, but the thought of a professor like Snape being allowed to go on teaching year after year is just plain shocking.

I suspect both these sorts of things are more common among public and private school systems than a demure little homeschooler like myself could ever imagine. But just because something's common doesn't mean it's good, and the whole of Dumbledore's spoilerific history is more comprehensible to me than the lone fact of his keeping Snape on staff—even though I know exactly why he did it.

3. Harry's big childhood weakness is his flat-out hatred toward Malfoy and the Dursleys, an actual pleasure in watching them suffer harm. Considering how much harm he suffers at their hands, and how little moral direction he's ever had, this is not surprising. It's also—from the Catholic point of view, at least—not a good thing; it's serious sin, in fact. No part of Harry's story is more uncomfortable for me to read than his moments of glee over his enemies' pain.

I'd like to talk about future resolutions of this problem, but that would mean spoilers all over the place.

4. "There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other..." I always thought this statement was rather profound. Perhaps anything's possible, but risking life and limb together and working for each other's safety is one of the surest ways of creating camaraderie. I used to work in outdoor adventure education, and this concept was very familiar among that crowd—and I still have warm feelings toward long-out-of-touch friends who pulled me out of a river or talked me down a nervewracking rappel.

5. Quidditch: way cooler than football of either the American or The-Rest-Of-The-World varieties. I'm not sure if there's anything in particular anyone wants to discuss about it, and I'm afraid enough of heights and uncoordinated enough with balls that I doubt I'd be good at it, but still. It sounds like so much fun.

Tutshill Tornadoes Quidditch Player by KlaasVDV

Happy reading and writing!


18 comments:

  1. Jenna said, "I don't, however, think the Potter books lead a lot of people into witchcraft. I think they lead a lot of people to be either a) more fervent Christians or b) more fervent social liberals... or, if nothing else, c) more fervent internet junkies... and potential readers can interpret the dangers there at will."

    I don't disagree with this, but the caveat I would make is that the Potter books probably didn't lead a lot of people anywhere because they read merely at a surface or shallow level.

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  2. I'd say reading the books at a surface or shallow level could lead plenty of kids to the nearest Spell Supply Store..only to be turned away at the door by hoards of annoyed pagans (NOBODY wants to deal with the 'I want to do magic like Harry kid'...or his mother).

    Your pumpkin pasties look great!! And I love the whole safety is a minor point bit about Hogwarts..actually, I worked with a Russian girl at a summer camp once and she was horrified at how paranoid everyone here was, in the camps she went to as a girl - there were no lifeguards, open swimming day or night in the lake, no 'buddy system' anywhere, and it sounded kind of dangerous (she does remember a kid drowning once) but..I like to imagine there's a balance out there somewhere..I HATE carseats, by the way..I wish they were not required..but then I'd be more of a nervous driver than I am, I guess..But I LIKE the casual attitude toward danger at Hogwarts, the awareness that life isn't clean and neat and safe..I think she sort of captures an older era in this concept, a time when food was touched by lots of unwashed hands and stored in less than pristine cellars, and enjoyed by people whose lives were more deeply linked to life and death than our own..This world might only live in my imagination, but I like that she taps into it.

    I want to talk about further resolutions to this problem too..It's one of the things I dislike most about Harry as a character, but yeah, I think we need to wait. There's a similar, though not the same, learning curve for Taran in the Prydain books, he's less vindictive than Harry, but more glory-hungry, and I DO think there's a big value in exploring the youthful faults of the hero in early stories, provided he's given room to grow by the end..Does Harry grow by the end?? The [spoiler] attitude towards[spoilers #1, 2, and 3] spoils my sense that he's truly grown out of it..But we'll see, I mean, he's so dang cute and well-meaning in this book!

    "There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other" So very true..I love that part. It's adorable.

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  3. Masha said, "I'd say reading the books at a surface or shallow level could lead plenty of kids to the nearest Spell Supply Store..only to be turned away at the door by hoards of annoyed pagans (NOBODY wants to deal with the 'I want to do magic like Harry kid'...or his mother)."

    Well, that's not the kind of surface or shallow level I had in mind. I was thinking more of people simply reading the books as entertainment per se or reading through them without recognizing or even caring perhaps about any deeper meaning or symbolism.

    I also wouldn't be too sure about pagans being too upset about Harry Potter fans showing up at the local spell store. I suppose it depends on how we define kids. But at Azkatraz in 2008 in San Francisco one of the vendors was Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. Look him up; he's got a wikipedia entry. He was peddling his "Grey school of magic" stuff. Now, there were no "kids" there, but teenagers, young adults, & adults.

    However, I spent a lot of time in the vendor room. John Granger's booth was right beside Zell-Ravenheart's. Go figure. And from what I saw Granger's booth had way more interest & activity than Zell-Ravenheart's ever did. Funny story. Zell-Ravenheart was ranting against the Roman Catholic Church & how could they tell him what sort of people he could have sex with & in what ways. And at that moment I walked by in my clerical collar. I could tell he was giving me the evil eye but I just thought it was funny. Although I did also feel pity for him.

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    1. Zell-Ravenheart was ranting against the Roman Catholic Church & how could they tell him what sort of people he could have sex with & in what ways. And at that moment I walked by in my clerical collar.

      LOL. Thanks for taking one for the team! ;)

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  4. Hahahaha! That's fantastic!! I can totally imagine him glaring and hating..I remember reading some of his stuff back in my pagan days..mainly because he started 'the church of All Worlds'..and I kind of wanted to know what sort of insanity makes someone model a 'church' after a sci-fi book (Stranger in a Strange Land - which is a fascinating book, but not exactly inspiring :p)..When I was frequenting spell stores - early in the Harry Potter craze..kids (12ish and up) would come in all starry-eyed and disgust the patrons. They SEEM to my uber-judgmental mind, to be the sort of kids who will always think "Dude..I totally want to be ___! Let's get all the gear!" ..and in this case it sent them wand-hunting. They were not appreciated because they wanted to be "harry potter" and weren't at all interested in the goddess..So, kind of the shallow type of reader, you know, the kind that will always be the shallow type of reader..they could read the Bible and come away with "Dude, I think I'm totally gonna get some camels like that Abraham guy.." Eh. That might just be me hating. ;)

    I'm sure there are pagans like Oberon though, who jump at the chance to peddle some 'grey magick (don't forget the 'k') to impressionable teens. Poor guy though..I'm glad you felt some pity for him, it's got to be tough watching the Christian booth get more visitors than the pagan one at a conference about magic!

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    1. I don't doubt there were plenty of kids who went into pagan stores looking for "all the gear." I would hazard a guess, though, that most of them were still thinking along the lines of make-believe & immersion in the story rather than any particular desire to actually learn witchcraft & pagan rituals.

      Of course in any group of kids, there are going to be those who read fantasy books or watch super-hero movies & go on to play act those things while realizing fantasy & super-heroes aren't real. Then there will be those few who think, Hey, maybe I can do real magic or maybe if I jump off the roof I can fly like Superman. After all, you never know till you try.

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    2. Exactly..They all want to cry a bit when they learn there aren't invisibility cloaks for sale and they have to listen to someone like Oberon lecture on goddesses and what not..but they were hopeful - Imagination failure in the extreme ;p

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    3. This discussion reminds me of when I read No Flying in the House in fourth grade. I know I tried Belinda's deep-breath technique for getting yourself off the floor several times... I don't think I ever thought it would work... but I definitely thought it would be awesome if it did. :)

      Come to think of it, that might have been when and how I outgrew any obvious blurring between reality and fiction. Discounting how desperately real and beloved fictional characters sometimes become to me, of course. ;P

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    4. "I kind of wanted to know what sort of insanity makes someone model a 'church' after a sci-fi book...."

      CoughLronhubbardCough

      Also, Jenna, you should try the technique of flying described in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "There is an art, it says, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss." I've found it can be surprisingly almost effective.

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    5. Haha! I thought of L. Ron Hubbard too. But I had forgotten about the Hitchhiker technique for flying. That sounds like fun.

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  5. The total lack of safety protocols at Hogwarts (and in Wizarding culture generally) makes sense, given that the Hogwarts infirmary -- and probably any competent adult wizard in a pinch -- seems to be able to mend broken bones, burns, and so on within hours and to counteract any spell with a little tinkering, except when the plot calls for it to be particularly thorny. So children raised in the Wizarding community would tend to grow up considerably less risk-averse than Muggle children because their threshold of serious risk is much higher. Which I imagine is seriously scary and weird for some of the Muggle-raised first years.

    The degree of favoritism show by teachers at Hogwarts -- it does happen in RL, I'm sorry to say. But it's bad news over here and I don't think it's too great at Hogwarts, either -- however much it benefits Harry and friends in the short run.

    Hogwarts' ongoing tolerance for abusive and/ or incompetent teachers will be partly explained by [SPOILERS], but not necessarily all that well. It could plausibly be related to the above -- higher threshold of physical risk could lead Wizards (maybe especially in multi-generational Wizarding families like the Weasleys and the Malfoys) to tend to be less concerned about other kinds of risk and harm as well -- and this could be reinforced by some other features of Wizarding culture. But "culturally accepted" doesn't equal "ok," even in fiction. This is a serious problem at Hogwarts, and it's only going to get worse from here.

    Of course a lot of this is just kid's book convention -- for the young heroes to save the day, some of the adults around them have to be a little less on the ball than would be ideal in real life. I think HP does a pretty good job of creating a context for that convention in which is (mostly) (sort of) makes sense.

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    1. Excellently put. And yeah, I considered the point about the Hogwarts infirmary, though they have their own serious risks in things like the ailments treated at St. Mungo's and the power of certain cursed objects and the Great Big Spoiler kept in the Hogwarts basement and all. But you're right, anyway. Their threshold for serious physical risk is much higher.

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  6. Jenna said, "While pointing out that there's no demonism in Harry Potter is helpful on occasion in arguing in favor of Christians reading the books, I agree with Masha entirely in that post. Rowling's magic is about as non-pagan as it can be without changing the words witchcraft and wizardry, but the words are there and are not so easily worked around."

    Well, how do I say this while still sounding nice? I was disappointed with Masha's post on this topic. Not because I didn't think she hit on some good points, but because I think she wasn't quite fair to Granger & also because some things seemed a bit muddled. Maybe I just wasn't grasping her point clearly.

    Anyway, I think John's argument on invocational vs incantational as a defense for Christians reading the books falls down, not because it's not a useful distinction, but because 1) it pushed the analogy too far & 2) because I don't think it dealt with the real objections. And 3) no defense was going to be acceptable to those who were already set in their minds that witchcraft is sinful & forbidden in the Bible & Harry Potter uses the words witch & wizard so by golly it must be the exact same thing forbidden in the Bible.

    A basic defense of the Potter books would be 1) They are fantasy. They do not purport to encourage witchcraft or even imply that it is a real thing. 2) They are stories. Just because something is used as a plot device in a story does again not mean that a particular morality or action is being advocated. 3) Nobody is forcing anybody to read the Harry Potter books.

    People who have such a visceral reaction to the books because of the use of the words "witch & wizard" seem to be suffering from an extreme form of scrupulosity & also a complete lack of understanding of what Christian freedom entails. I doubt that even if Rowling had refrained from using those words that such people would be satisfied.

    So, John's distinctions, while not totally solving the issue, could at least be helpful to those sitting on the fence. I think, though, his better argument was that magic in the Harry Potter is more akin to technology. Also it is innate to a person. Nobody is able to become magical if they aren't already that way. No amount of spell casting, chanting, invocations will make a Muggle into a witch or wizard.

    And I'm rambling, so I'll close it up there.

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    1. You can say it harsher than that, George, it's ok..Really. I do tend to be harsh toward Granger - mainly because I think he's a bit careless in his enthusiasm..but I SHOULDN'T be (just like I shouldn't be to Michael O'Brien - they're, neither of them entirely without brains and merit in their thinking on the books; and my thinking is Always muddled, so if my point was obscured it's almost certainly my fault, because in general I feel things out rather than think them and my relationship to magic is primarily a tangible, living thing, rather than an area of study. So please let me know where you think I'm lacking in charity or clarity..especially as I want to continue to occasionally examine and discuss the good and bad in Rowling's magic - what I find deeply problematic, and what I do honestly adore, in a slow way as we go through the books. So don't worry about 'nice', really. I know whatever you say isn't out of malice, and I can always hide away in Rilke for a while if I feel misunderstood ;)

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    2. Well, I sat down several times the other day to try & reply to your post. But it all sounded harsh in my head & I didn't want it to sound that way. And also I didn't think I was really capturing what I wanted to say in my reply. So I just decided not to say anything. I perhaps should've gone with that today too.

      As for John's enthusiasm on certain things, yes, I can see that. More so, though, with Twilight. But also in Potter too. I've always thought he wasn't as careful as he could be in applying the four fold level of meaning to texts as he could be.

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    3. No! I liked your comments! And I am often needing redirecting towards a more fair reading of most people, so it's good in a growing sense to read that my post was not Ideal-in-every-way..Really!

      But I understand, too, because I know I too often sound WAY harsher than I intend to, and it can be sort of crippling - as I don't want to come off as Hermione-prior-to-the-Troll..or worse.

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  7. I remember talking to you on the phone as you were making those delicious looking pasties, yummy!

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