I'm a Hufflepuff, so all I have to have to get into my common room is rhythm. But here's to all the good Slytherins, and all the things you suffer, including having to share dorm space with a bunch of skeleton decorations and Draco Malfoy.
Before we go searching out Malfoy on purpose for the first time in Harry and Ron's young lives, here's last week's recap:
Christie posted first with conversation about English schools, mandrakes, and the meaning of words:
It raises a question in Harry Potter, not for the first time, of the meaningfulness of words. Perhaps I should say meaning-ness. How much does a word mean itself? If the hearer of the word is ignorant of its meaning, is it still offensive? Is meaning inherent? Or does it depend on the intention of the speaker? Mudblood, since it is a made up racial slur, is ideal to study when asking these questions, as we have none of the cultural or chronological biases. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, now and going forward in our reading.We could also study witch, of course, since the original force of the Christian protest against Harry Potter is against the use of that word. My sister (who still read and enjoyed the books, and loved Snape) argues—if I understood her accurately—that the inherent meaning of witch is so inescapably tied to the powers of hell that Rowling's use of it opens her work to being used by said powers, even if the portrayal of her witches is carefully distinguished from real-world witchcraft. She comes closer to having a point than anyone else I've heard try to make an argument out of that word. For myself, I'm just not convinced that a) words are so strictly tied to particular definitions and connotations, or b) that the powers of hell work that way. Or that way more than any other, at least. Not to be flippant, but they seem to have such a penchant for good ideas and intentions.
Masha responded with talk about potions and Rowling's relationship to agendas and telling lies:
When Harry finds the Kwikspell Course (I hope it's advertised as The Kwikspell Kourse and sold for five payments of $19.99 - with a 'kwik' response getting you an additional 'spell-boosting wand extender' and three extra-potent toadstools) on Filch's desk, we see more of the habitual lying the students of Hogwarts are noteworthy for (in my reading anyway). Harry lies to Filch, Hermione to Myrtle at the dullest party imaginable, Harry lies to Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore's ghost at Nearly Headless Nick's request, and of course Nick himself is awash in socially-acceptable party lies.... all of this is very casual, expected behavior. It's a small thing, I know, but one that grates on me while reading. Perhaps because I'm learning just how much I do value honesty; or perhaps because most of the lies are so careless.This is one of those points where, in a secular boarding school, portrayal may be a matter of realism—or it may be a plot device. I couldn't quite say. Of all the characters, Dumbledore seems to make the greatest point of being truthful, and yet he, too, will be shown to sacrifice truth—or openness, at least—for the sake of protecting certain SPOILERY SECRETS.
Reading about moral breaches committed by fictional characters is an inescapable part of the experience of reading novels, so take this next part with that in mind: Reading with discernment entails noting where a sympathetic character does something that goes against your conscience or his, especially if it's done sympathetically. People are too prone to thinking that because story portrays truth, every sympathetic emotion experienced by a sympathetic character is not only valid, but morally acceptable. The careless lying in Harry Potter is probably one of the top five valid moral criticisms to be made of the story, and it would definitely be one of my biggest reasons for making a careful judgment call on what age and maturity level I'd give the books to my own hypothetical children to read.
I would give the books to my hypothetical children, incidentally, upon their reaching that appropriate age and maturity level. Without hesitation.
In other news, Masha's making Pepperup potion, Christie's talking treacle fudge, and I feel like cooking fun things again now that I occasionally have two minutes to rub together. I'm not sure what, though. We'll see if I can come up with something in the next week or two. Egg nog? Plum cake? Scottish porridge? Any preferences? I'll have to do pumpkin juice eventually, but that's got to wait for my pumpkins to finish ripening. :)
|Three of them from a few weeks back.
It's too rainy to take pictures today.
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This Week in Reading Harry
Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 10-12
Potential Discussion Points:
|Art by cippow25
2. Harry, the physical hero. Let the Bludger chase me, Fred and George, we have to win. Oliver Wood, of course, allows it. Harry saves the Quidditch match thereby, and he's so comfortable with a little bodily risk that I'm sure he would have considered the pain and fainting a worthwhile sacrifice. The humiliation he's immediately subjected to by Lockhart and Colin Creevey, maybe not.
3. More house-elf difficulties. Here Dobby points out that, bad as things are for house-elves now, they were worse under Voldemort's reign. Interesting that horror spreads so easily, that—presumably—private families would behave more cruelly to their slaves when their own lives are ruled by tyranny.
|Art by Lumosita
5. Fred and George's cheering-up tactics. Oh, sister's upset at the Petrifying of a classmate? Let's cover ourselves in fur and boils and jump out at her from behind statues. Oh, Harry's accused of trying to murder all the Muggle-borns? Let's follow him around, yelling "Make way for the Heir of Slytherin!" Whatever the sickness, those two will try and cure it with humor. This fails miserably on Ginny, not so much because they're mistaken in her temperament as because they're mistaken in [SPOILER REDACTED], but it works well for Harry.
6. Harry's a Parselmouth. In honor of our introduction of this term, here's a song by The Parselmouths. About being in Slytherin, of course.
Also, you can use this site to translate words into Parseltongue. You know, next time you want to free a boa constrictor from the zoo.
|Art by StressedJenny
Stephen Fry: "...is a Parselmouth a real thing or did you make that up?"In the case of its new meaning, we now know how the captive boa constrictor told Harry that it had never seen Brazil. And we know that Harry has therefore got an unwanted, unexpected connection to the bad guys. Parseltongue, in the HP universe, is something you either know or you don't—you can't learn it—and it's a rare gift, thought to be the province of dark wizards. Snakes, you know.
JK Rowling: "Parselmouth is an old word for someone who has a problem with the mouth, like a hare lip."
|Art by gryffindor-girl
7. Gryffindor or Slytherin and the question of identity. Like the rest of us, Harry has a deep internal need to know himself. He needs, particularly, to know that he's good. I identify more with that need than with anything else about his character. He is afraid of few things and I am afraid of many, but we are both desperately afraid of being evil.
8. Harry doesn't confide in Dumbledore. Considering how little Harry really knows Dumbledore yet, and the sort of secrets he has going on, this is perhaps understandable. I'm rather curious what Dumbledore is asking about, here. He knows Harry isn't doing the actual attacking, but I wonder if he thinks Harry may be opening the Chamber. Unfortunately, I can't talk about that without SPOILERS.
9. Fawkes. Dumbledore's office is fantastic—I have this bright, airy, azure vision of the circular room at the top of the spiral staircase, all the silvery devices whirring with magic—but the pinnacle of it is the red-and-gold bird that bursts into a fireball and resurrects from the ashes. Named for Guy Fawkes, the Catholic zealot who nearly blew up King James and Parliament several hundred years ago and has been burned in effigy on the fifth of November ever since, the phoenix is one of the coolest pets in all of Harry Potter. There are few more powerful resurrection symbols in the entire series; here, we're just meeting him, but I feel like Rowling used this little side event as a way of pointing directly to her story's core theme: the search for true power over death.
|Dumbledore and Fawkes. Art by Neal R. Haney
|Guy Fawkes by George Cruikshank
10. Polyjuice Potion. Ingredients list includes, but is not limited to (thanks to the Harry Potter Lexicon for the summary):
- lacewing flies stewed 21 days,
- powdered bicorn horn
- fluxweed picked at full moon,
- shredded boomslang skin,
- a bit of who one wants to turn into
|Green is for Slytherin.
Now how do you say that in Parseltongue?
Photo by William Warby.