Posted in Prose

How to Train Your Ron

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I saw this post a few days earlier and it made me realise that, yes I indeed assume that everyone has read Harry Potter. I have grown up reading Harry Potter, started reading when I was 6 actually, and I simply cannot picture not having read it. It is mind boggling. I am known for forcing it to my close friends and a couple months ago I gave one of my copies of the Philosopher’s Stone to my dear Ron, so that he can stay a Ron and not become a Cormac. He is a muggleborn (has only watched the movies and not read the books) and I constantly casually include Harry Potter in our daily conversation, so he is not totally clueless when it comes to the franchise. Still, it was pretty entertaining to witness his reactions.

The first thing I want to emphasise is that he has liked the book more than the movie-which is honestly not very surprising. Although the first movie is a loyal adaptation, almost to a fault, the audience cannot immerse in the story. For him, it was mainly because of the acting of the child stars. They are not terrible, but also not very convincing so the designated emotions do not reach us.

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You probably remember the “I’m a what” part quite clearly.

So reading the book enabled him to feel more. That is also natural, Rowling gives intricate details when it comes to her characters-and we find these details in other books as well. Hence the books feel more well put and consistent that way; like how we learn about the instance where James saves Snape’s life. At the end of the book when Dumbledore answers Harry’s questions, he casually gives a reason for Snape’s hatred for Harry’s father. My Ron thought that Dumbledore might be lying to Harry to give him a nice, Gryffindor-worth answer regarding his father to soothe him. And he is not wrong in his guess, Dumbledore is known for being a master manipulator. He also thought that Dumbledore might have let Harry face Quirrell and yet again he is not wrong. Dumbledore always let Harry test his strengths and weaknesses, to prepare him for his final task that he needs to face alone. He kind of confirms this to Harry as well in later books. Although Harry thinks that he does stuff due to his luck and external forces/help, he is good when it comes to practice simply because his instincts are good and he is able to develop them (and yes trouble always finds him). Thanks to his adventures he is quite adaptable and hence good at improvisation.

Harry’s adaptability is another thing my Ron focused on. He found it sort of weird of Harry to just accept the wizarding world without any problems. The thing here is that Harry had an awful childhood where he simply didn’t belong; nobody wanted to talk to him not to anger Dudley and he had ill fitting clothes and ill fitting rumours about him. So just like Hermione does, yet another outsider in his “normal” world, he accepts the wizarding world as his true reality; as belonging to it and refer time and time again to Hogwarts as his only home. Not only he is a wizard, pretty cool thing to learn when you are eleven, but he is also rich, famous and good at sports. And for once in his life he has a true friend. What is saddening about Harry is that in the Chamber of Secrets he visits the Burrow and surprised to find that the Weasleys like him. He is so not used to affection and love that he finds himself not worthy of genuine attention and affection.

Although Harry takes to the wizarding world quite easily, he does not let his muggle life go that easily. My Ron paid attention to the way Harry always seems to compare anything at Hogwarts with what he had at Dursleys. When he is at his first feats at Hogwarts, he thinks about the food back at Privet Drive and constantly think what would the Dursleys’ reaction be had they seen Harry’s money/friends/school. He lets go of this habit once he is comfortable in the wizarding world, but maintains it throughout the first book.

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Because he didn’t get to indulge in anything sweet at Privet Drice, he goes and buys everything. Oh, Harry…

He commented on the whole Snape-seemed-to-be-the-bad-guy-but-turned-out-okay. Rowling carefully chose the instances where Harry sees Quirrell outside the classroom and Snape is always there, somehow threatening him. It is quite a success (in his words) of Rowling to raise no doubts in the reader about Snape’s bad intents, hence it makes quite a good surprising element when we find out that it is Quirrel all along. He thought Snape a well developed character, but not a good person (honey he is just starting!) and thought that Rowling was a little bit easy on Snape, tried to make him seem like a hero. I wholeheartedly agree with him on that one. Rowling herself said that she saw Snape neither as a hero, nor as a villain. And by giving him a sad backstory (I am talking about the abusive muggle father bit, not Hogwarts) she sort of made up for his shortcomings, I.e. his power-abusive attitude towards his students: he picks on Harry the moment he sees him (“You see what you expect to see Severus”—Dumbledore), constantly ignores Hermione (don’t want to say because she is a Muggleborn, but yeah) and he is Neville’s biggest fear. She sort of gives Snape lovers (many of whom are movie watchers only, at least from what I have observed) something to work with to justify him. I have even met someone who said that Snape was faking it in front of others (and he didn’t mean to call Lily the m-word) so that the Death Eaters’d believe him. So, I am glad that we agree on Snape: an interesting character but a horrible person. And he asked the very question that I have been asking myself: why did Harry name his kid after him? Had Snape known, he would have turned in his grave.

In general, he seemed to have genuinely liked the book and will continue reading. He has carried the book with him, so that he could read once he got the chance. He found the plot detailed and well developed despite it being considered a children’s book. I am so glad he thinks that way, because as you know, after the Prisoner of Azkaban the plot line gets more complicated and the language more complex. He is speculating on things, although how can you speculate without any influence after seeing the movies at least? I am proud and glad though; he seems to agree with my opinions on almost everything (Snape being the first) and now he knows why I call him my Ron. I am pleased that he accepted I was right, I trained him well. 🙂 (No offence to Rons out there, but his life is easier when he listens to Hermione.)

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Posted in Prose

Beorn Is the Old Black

 

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Today, I’m gonna be taking you on an adventure through The Hobbit. This is my copy of the book and every image that I will be including in the post, is taken from this lovely illustrated version-which I highly recommend. Although I have a lot to say, I shall be focusing on one specific character, of whom I have not really thought about.

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“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” And whose story I have recently had the chance to read. I have to admit, I like it better than the trilogy. The Hobbit is full of fun adventures and some serious stuff in the end, but it is more sunny and enjoyable than the other three. Don’t get me wrong, the trilogy is amazing, but I sometimes find it a bit too dark for my taste. The narrator’s humorous tone here and stance to the whole thing as if he/she is a traditional story teller, a bard figure if you will, made it a light reading. When compared to the movie trilogy of the book, interestingly the book felt rushed. And the Battle of Five Armies was disappointingly short and quick. Also kudos to Peter Jackson for including the scene between Gandalf and the Necromancer the book casually mentions through Gandalf’s own account of things he has done after leaving Thorin & Co. That part of the movie was marvellous, but I will not even start ranting about the whole elf-dwarf love thingy.

As the book tells the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and puts him in the focus, some things are left to the reader’s imagination-like the escape of the dwarves from the goblins and the battle itself to name a few-and the other characters, including the dwarves even, did not really interest me when I first watched the movies. But when I started reading the book, one character stuck with me, who does not even get nearly enough book time, and that person is Beorn.

Why I focused on Beorn was because I had this class in my last semester in university called “Animal and Human at the Crossing of Literature and Philosophy ” and in that class we have read four novels and discussed the role and treatment of the animal. It was by far the most interesting elective that I had taken. And as per usual, we had to write a paper on a novel and discuss the animal in it. Naturally, I had chosen Harry Potter. I focused on the animagi (I like pluralising it in the proper Latin form) and the usage of animal body, more specifically Nagini. The concept of animagus has always fascinated me; having a connection to an animal so strongly that your soul and character reflects that. (Don’t forget that the patronus, the protector spell, also reflects the character of the person casting it—remember only McGonagall can save McGonagall!) So I started asking the basic questions: how does the transition work? Does the animagus have the human mind and consciousness whilst in animal form? How and where can we draw the line between the two?

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Peter Pettigrew as shorn in Pottermore.

What we know from the Potter universe is that the outer appearance of the animagus matches the animal he is. For example Peter Pettigrew’s “skin looked grubby, almost like Scabbers’s fur, and something of the rat lingered around his eyes” and Minerva McGonagall’s animagus form has markings around its eye in shape of her glasses and her patronus has the same markings as well. So appearance wise, the animagi resemble the animal. Manner and character wise this also apply. Sirius Black, with his black hair and “bark-like laugh” resemble the huge black dog that he turns into. His fieriness, loyalty and loving and trusting nature reflect the stereotypical dog characteristics as well. What is curious about Sirius is his manners.

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The cave scene in The Goblet of Fire from Pottermore

When he tags with Harry and the order when they escort the kids to King’s Cross, Sirius “snaps at pigeons and chases his own tail,” “scares a couple of cats” and acts like an over enthusiastic dog on a walk. Yet, he knows that he is Sirius and his godson is leaving him for the semester, so he “rears onto his hind legs and places his front paws on Harry’s shoulders” and Mrs Weasley admonishes him to “act more like a dog.” Even though his body is totally in animal form and he acts like an animal would, he still is Sirius inside. That was how he managed to escape Azkaban. Had he not have consciousness, he would not have survived the waters and wander purposelessly. That is not all; when he comes to Hogsmeade to be near Harry after his name was selected by the Goblet of Fire, he transforms into his animal form to hunt rats to survive in the cave. We can see that Sirius Black has mastered using his animal form and human consciousness in a complementary way (as did Peter Pettigrew, who stuck with the Weasleys in his rat form but watched out for any activity on Voldemort’s part), making him much stronger and superior to ordinary wizards. This superiority is also emphasised by his ability to communicate with “real” animals. He forms such a close relationship with Crookshanks, who trusts no one, he ends up helping Sirius.

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Beorn in his bear form, from “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

This is why Beorn was the most interesting character for me. As it turns out he is the first animagus that we encounter in popular canonical fantasy literature. He is said to descend either from the bears who had lived in the Misty Mountains before the arrival of the giants, or from the men who had lived in the region before the arrival of the dragons or Orcs from the north—Gandalf believes the second to be true. Either way, Beorn lives alone in a wooden house between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood. He can also change his form at will, and I believe because of this he refuses to eat meat and use anything in his house that is animal related; he uses wooden utensils and everything. Just like Sirius Black, he has a special connection with the animals around him and also the nature. He has ponies, dogs and sheep as his companions who aid him in the house which is designed for them: the stools are made low so that they can use them. And just like the animagi from Harry Potter, his appearance has some resemblances to his animal form: he is a big hairy man and has a temper and one needs to be cautious when approaching him. He also likes to feed on honey. He is like a grizzly bear in that sense.

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Bilbo, Gandalf and Thorin & Co at Beorn’s house, dining after finishing their story

Beorn prefers the company of animals to the other races, but he does not like goblins who disturbs the forest. So when he hears the peculiar story of Gandalf, welcomes them to his house. But he does not trust them. He leaves them in his house almost like prisoners, to go and find about whether they had truly slain the Great Goblin. Though he is fair and helpful, he does not trust people. That is why he follow the dwarves to the entrance of Mirkwood, to see if they’d let his ponies go. He uses his bear form to do this; to blend better with his surroundings and use a bear’s speed to his advantage.

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Beorn fighting a goblin in the battle

 

Again, like Sirius he has mastered the shape shifting and uses it to his advantage. He travels fast in his animal form and that is how he can make it in time to the Battle of Five Armies and in his animal form he is more fierce and magnificent. I don’t really know how he has heard about the battle and neither does Bilbo, but I believe that it was through his connection to the animals. He makes it to the battle to fight against the goblins specifically who are the common enemy, against which all the races unite.

 

Based just on these, Sirius Black reminded me of Beorn; his possible ancestor from a bigger and more complex book series, from a master author. I do not know whether J.K. Rowling had the idea of the animagus based on The Hobbit, as it is not really uncommon to see shapeshifters in literature, Beorn belongs to the most famous fantasy series ever. And the way this duality between the animal body and human consciousness is portrayed in the Harry Potter franchise seems like an improved version of Tolkien’s skin changer.

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Beorn with Bilbo, Gandalf and the Elvenking after the Battle of Five Armies, on their way back to their individual homes

 

Posted in Prose

The Tragical History of Draco, Prince of Slytherin

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Chapter: “The Lightning-Struck Tower” on old Pottermore.

To kill, or not to kill.. That is sort of the summary of Hamlet.. or The Half Blood Prince. Oh yeah, this is another post on Harry Potter and its resemblance to a more canonical work. This time, I take on William Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedy Hamlet.

As you may expect, I will not be writing about how Harry is like Hamlet; trying to avenge his murdered parents. No sir! This is about Draco Malfoy and the situation he was put in in the sixth book of the series. However, mind you, I will not be glorifying him nor justify his actions but merely comment on his terrible year.

Draco Malfoy was forced to join the Death Eaters simply because his father, who was in charge of retrieving the prophecy from the Department of Mysteries failed against bunch of teenagers. He was given this task of killing the greatest wizard of all times as a punishment to his whole family, to rectify his father’s mistakes-he was not supposed to succeed though, but that’s another story. You can guess now where I am going with this. Both Hamlet and Draco were forced into situations where they swore to avenge their fathers. Hamlet was quick to give his word to the ghost of his late father, but not so quick to act when he needed to, while Draco had no choice to take on the task set for him, quick to act but not really knowing what he was doing. When “my father will hear about this” card was taken away from Draco by Azkaban, he ended up being a scared, confused child who tried to do things way bigger than him. In his haste to complete the task, he put various people’s life in danger; as a consequence Katie Bell, Madam Rosmerta and Ron suffered. This also applies to Hamlet. Poor Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were sent to their deaths and Polonius was killed by Hamlet, albeit unintentionally. Both of these characters lack a stable father figure in their lives and without any guidance they struggle to keep going and continue making mistakes.

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I found this fan art on deviantart, done by suwi.

While we were discussing Hamlet in class, my professor told us that Hamlet was a true intellectual, though he was ambitious and wanted the throne as well, and because of that the scheduled murder of his uncle bothered him. Had he been a chivalrous prince, he would have slain the king, taken the throne and ruled over his subjects and probably not ended up dying. Hence, the whole play is the gap between the moment Hamlet agrees to kill his uncle and he actually does. He struggles to close this gap; he is stuck between acting and not acting. And when he acts eventually, it was initiated by forces out of his control. This applies to Draco as well. When he choses to use the cursed necklace and the mead, he cannot control the outcome, although he does not intend to Ron gets poisoned and Katie gets cursed instead of Dumbledore. It is clear that his heart is not in it, yet he is under immense pressure, causing him to break down in front of Moaning Myrtle. He wants to do well, so that Voldemort does not kill him and his parents and he blames Dumbledore and Harry for the downfall of his father. Such a teenage angst he’s got going in this book. What I like about Draco here is that, up until this book he has been such a privileged pain in Harry’s ass, throwing racial slurs at people and bullying Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs left and right, but now he has shouldered responsibility for the first time and he has changed because of that. No more taunting Ron and being mean to Hermione, rather he focuses on saving his family. That is the only redeeming quality about the Malfoys: they love one another so much so that a teenager accepts to kill a man, and a mother lies to the darkest wizard of all times. And still, Draco cannot kill Dumbledore after he disarms him. The love for his family and the desire to prove himself to the Dark Lord so that his father’s misdeeds would be forgiven are not enough to turn him into a killer. Like Hamlet. No matter how the throne does not belong to the king and how his uncle betrayed his father, both through regicide and fratricide which are regarded almost as holy, Hamlet cannot find in himself to kill his uncle but to defer the ultimate encounter.

When the dreaded encounter comes for Draco, Dumbledore is calm and welcoming, like the third brother from Beetle the Bard’s tales. He has accepted his death long ago, but he tries to save Draco’s soul from ripping apart and fragmenting just because Voldemort wanted him and specifically his father to suffer. He tries to reason with Draco, to make him see that there is a way out. When he says “Draco, Draco, you are not a killer” Draco does not object to that. He answers with “How do you know?” He also knows that he is not a killer, be it from his cowardice or good heart. Dumbledore continues to emphasise this. “I am more defenceless than you can have dreamed of finding me, and still you have not acted…” That single sentence reminded me of Hamlet on its own and made me think of the situation Draco’s in. Yes, Draco cannot act until he must act. Had he been a more vicious person who really wants to join Voldemort he would have tortured or even killed Dumbledore. But Draco does not want that. After seeing Voldemort’s way of punishing his most loyal servants, aka his father, and living with him in the same house gave him a new perspective on things. Hence he does not really identify the trio when they are brought to the Manor by the snatches. He wants nothing to do with the man who forced him into his breakdown and punished his father with the worst thing he can do: by taking away his wand, both emasculating and muggling Lucius. With Half Blood Prince, Draco realises that what he thought he wanted to be did not really correspond to the image in his head.

Although what he has done cannot be excused, it is good to know that Draco realises that there is something rotten in the state of Voldemort’s reign. He could have acted against him, but he is a Slytherin and a Slytherin always thinks of his advantage first. He was in a limbo in term of acting, like late Hamlet, but he was also in limbo in terms of ideology. He thought purebloods to be above everyone, yet he found out that it was not the case. So he almost stayed neuter in the war; he only meddled when he thought that he could save his family.

Hamlet and Draco were both forced into fates that they did not really want by their fathers. Hamlet could not prevail, nor did Draco. While Hamlet paid the price with his life for audience’s sake, Draco’s image of his father and what he had been teaching him as the ultimate truth had been shaken and challenged, and that changed and broke Draco. In that way, he is the tragic hero of the sixth book, our very own Hamlet; the prince of Slytherin.

Posted in Prose

It’s S.P.E.W. NOT Spew!

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Hermione and Crookshanks at the entrance to the kitchens. Tickle the pear.!

‘What’s in the box?’ he asked, pointing at it.

‘Funny you should ask,’ said Hermione, with a nasty look at Ron. She took off the lid, and showed them the contents.

Inside were about fifty badges, all of different colours, but all bearing the same letters: S.P.E.W.

‘“Spew”?’ said Harry, picking up a badge and looking at it. ‘What’s this about?’

‘Not spew,’ said Hermione impatiently. ‘It’s S – P – E – W. Stands for the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.’

‘Never heard of it,’ said Ron.

‘Well, of course you haven’t,’ said Hermione briskly, ‘I’ve only just started it.’

This little quote is from Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire. From the book of the series where beasts and beings and their treatment, or rather mistreatment, get a little attention. One of the reasons why Hermione Granger is my favourite character is that she takes time to think of others. She was the one who helped Neville look for Trevor the moment she met him, she was the one who adopted the unloved and unwanted cat Crookshanks and the only reason Harry survived to finish off Voldemort was, again, her. So, it is no wonder it was Hermione who took the time to find more about the conditions of house elves. For those who don’t know, there are at least a hundred house elves working in Hogwarts, preparing the feast and cleaning the school-you didn’t think it was Filch who did the all cleaning, did you? They were brought by Helga Hufflepuff and although there is no information, it is suggested that they all sleep in the kitchen or somewhere nearby-close to the Hufflepuff common room. It feels weird to have Helga Hufflepuff, who is the nicest of the founders to allow such a huge amount of slaves in school. The problem with it is that people who grow up in the wizarding world tend to think that house elves like what they are doing and they are, in a way, meant to do chores. I am not talking about Malfoys or Blacks here who do not consider house elves as individuals and constantly abuse them, but regular good guys like Helga Hufflepuff and Ron Weasley. Ron does not question the situation the house elves are in and claims that they like working; until the Battle of Hogwarts, after they are put in almost the same conditions as house elves while they were on the run-plus Hermione’s consistent trials at educating him, Ron realises the problematic position elves are in. This kind of thinking is reinforced in their household, unfortunately. Mrs. Weasley is a traditional old-school house wife and she would like to have a house elf if they could afford to it, they are extremely expensive much like exotic pets and only the upper class can afford to have any. They accept magical beings as they have always been, the common social discourse is what they go with. This acceptance can only be challenged by an outsider, who encounters both the beings and traditions for the first time and that is where Hermione Granger comes in. Being a muggleborn, Hermione faces discrimination early in the series and develops a coping system. This “unwantedness” of Hermione is reflected in the house elves and thus she is more observant and interested. She has a basic understanding of muggle history and that is why she can see elves as enslaved creatures rather than masochistic work-loving “animals.”

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The kitchens as depicted in the old Pottermore

The reason why Ron never heard of S.P.E.W was not because Hermione just founded it, but because it is actually a muggle reference. “The Society for the Promotion of Employment of Women” which also can be abbreviated as S.P.E.W. was a a movement founded in 1859. Back in the Victorian era, women had one major duty: to be a housewife. Some women even fought against the right to vote for women in  “An Appeal Against Female Suffrage” in 1889 and stated that a woman is too delicate to be involved in politics and real world matters. They were seen as pretty objects, in upper class, to possess and to show off. The poor were not that lucky. The more fortunate worked as governesses, the more unfortunate as prostitutes and later on worked in newly rising factories and mines. The working conditions were so harsh and the money they got were so low that a few families had to rent the same room to be able to afford a place to sleep. They worked up to 18 hours and pregnant women had to work until they gave birth and come back when they physically could. Although some acts passed to regulate the working hours and “humanise” the working conditions but they were not nearly enough. So this society was founded to address the urgent need to open up new areas of employment for women and the lack of education available. Another main focus of the society was to make women economically more independent, hence the society offered loans to help cover the costs of their education. You can see the parallelism now, right? The women in Victorian times were oppressed, forced into the house and into two categories; either angel of the house or the loose, sexual women. They were treated badly, didn’t have fundamental rights and suffered under a more dominant power: the men. In Harry Potter, the house elves not only symbolise slavery but also the situation women were in in the past. It is a woman that tries to something for the creatures, the men tagging along unwillingly. And it is a woman, J.K. Rowling who, with a simple abbreviation, reminds the reader of the effort women made to gain, maybe not equal but some footing. It is a nice detail having Hermione, an outsider, a woman, a muggleborn to start a movement to educate the purebloods and help house elves even though they have no conception of fundamental rights and any kind of freedom themselves. This maybe one of the easily missed details hidden in the series, but makes the reader think whether he/she knows the historical context or not.

-For those who are interested, you can check out this website to know more about the Victorian era.

 

Posted in Prose

“It Was A Children’s Book. And That Is How the Trouble Began.”

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything-over two months. At first, I was actually really busy with papers and finals, after that I lost my will to do anything that required any sort of work besides lying in bed and binge watching “The Man In the High Castle” (would recommend by the way). What pushed me into writing was this book I have bought as a gift for one of my close friends. Reading it again after all those years, 14 to be exact, exited me and I just could not contain myself.

Everybody, meet WProcessed with Rookie Caminnie the Witch and her lovely companion Wilbur the Cat. This is the first English “book” that I have ever read like, probably, most of you. In fourth grade, I started learning English and “Winnie the Witch” was the first book I was given besides my usual course pack. I don’t ever remember the process of learning the language and now in retrospect it feels heartwarming to picture my nine year old self reading and trying to understand it-although I still maintain the habit of not understanding things as I read them. Though this was not the only book we read that year, for some reason Winnie stuck with me. Not just as a book series from my childhood but I clearly remember the songs we learnt, especially Winnie and Wilbur Song. I have recently found it on youtube, and every time I listen to it, I immediately return to my childhood. So what made Winnie so special?

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I have always remembered this picture vividly but not the title and hence I went ahead and looked through every Winnie the Witch book I could find until I stumbled upon this. Look how cute the page is-I love the fact that everything Winnie has is black apart from her clothes which are channeling some Dumbledore colouring. And the fact that her nose is red, resembling an alcoholic made me question whether this was all her imagination and that she was not in fact a witch. Well, Dumbledore has a splendid answer for my 14 year later issued questioning: “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real.” With that, it is not hard to see that I am going to end up mentioning Harry Potter yet again. Apart from the fact that Winnie is a witch and Harry is a wizard, there is something both Harry and she share. They, without a doubt, symbolise my childhood.

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Aww look at sad Wilbur 😦

The plot of this story is that everything Winnie has is black, so is her cat Wilbur and Winnie keeps sitting on Wilbur and ends up either hurting herself or him. Hence she recolours Wilbur a few times: first she turns him green but it becomes a problem when he goes outside. Then she makes him colourful but Wilbur gets bullied by the birds and a hurt Wilbur is not something Winnie can handle and she ends up changing the colour of everything she owns and turns Wilbur black again. The pages are really colourful, they are fun to look at even if the child is not old enough to read. But under all that colour and childishness lies the serious messages. The usuals. Like accepting people as they are and not trying to change them, that bullying hurts people and that we need more colour in our boring lives. Simple enough. I am not going to go ahead and outright say that this books make the person that I am today, but certainly it made me like colours, cats and magic.

Similarly, I first read Harry Potter when I was eight. It made an impression on me, however I never got into it until I was in my senior year in high school. All of my friends kinda made, and some still do, fun of me for reading and loving “children’s books.” (I am not even going to give an answer to that.) But when I read the series now I find these easter eggs in them. There are mentionings of very obscure literary characters from canonical works, myths and legends, creatives puns, historical events and figures and their appropriation… And many more! It is a goldmine really. And under all this “childishness” of the narration and fantastic quotes, lie the same warnings; about slavery, racism to corrupt media and government (that seems familiar somehow, hmm.). It is not cool to not read children’s literature guys, really. They are actually more complex than you think, it is really hard for a writer to talk about serious matters in an obscure and fun way as not to scare of nor bore the children who do not seem to like reading anyway (and yeah, those who prefer watching the tv/movie adaptations to reading the books I judge you severely). “Powerful messages can be found, even in the childest of the books, if one remembers to turn on perception.” (yes, this is yet again another Dumbledore quote) I have to say I agree with Mark Gatiss (co-writer of the hit tv series “Sherlock” who also portrayed Mycroft Holmes) on something. After the fans’ negative reaction to Sherlock’s ending, he suggested they read more children’s books. That is exactly our problem. We are so keen on suppressing the child in us, we don’t even enjoy Winnie the Witch anymore. So this post is a shoutout to those who are still children at heart. You are the real mvp!

Posted in Prose

The Witches of Hogwarts

Today, I realized something and although it is not of high importance and relevance, finding it on my own without googling for once was quite awesome if I may say so myself. I have already established how much I love Harry Potter in my first post, but there is something, or rather someone else, I love to the same extent and that is William Shakespeare (may sound a bit shocking but there you go). A few days ago, I was going through “Macbeth” and the song of the Witches sounded peculiarly familiar for some reason. Last night I was watching “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which happens to be my favourite, and the song (to which I will put a link below the post) that the choir sang sounded, again, peculiarly familiar. Then, it clicked. “Double Trouble” from Harry Potter is actually the slightly altered song of the Witches form Act 4 of  Macbeth.

The intertextual usage of the song is a nice touch considering the nature of the series,we have Alfonso Cuaron and his team to thank for the inclusion, and it is not the only instance where the Three Witches make an appearance. They are also called “The Weird Sisters” and the famous band in the books is also called as such, but what is peculiar is the way the song is altered in the movie.

“Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing.

 

In the cauldron boil and bake

Fillet of a fenny snake

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf”

When compared, the song of the Witches is much longer and it is not surprising that they decided to leave out most of the lyrics (are they still called lyrics when the song occurs in a play?), but their decision to change the sequence of some of them made me think, as there is no apparent reason to do so. Originally, the song goes like this:

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf….(Act4.Sc1.10-23)

 

I would say that the animal imagery is emphasized here to create the atmosphere the book depicts; animals are used in potions, communication and as companions. “Frog” and “owl” can be allusions to the pets of  Harry and Neville and that makes the “dog” Sirius obviously, who gets introduced to us in this very book. Apart from those, the first stanza looks like the instructions to a potion (though I highly doubt that Snape would sing it). The second however, has some details from the previous, current and the next books. The “wolf” seems to be Lupin as the werewolf, who also gets introduced in the third book. The “snake” and “dragon” are part of the first book (the snake Harry sets on Dudley and Norberta who is shipped off to Romania with Charlie) and also the fourth (the fourth book came out in 2000 whereas the third movie did in 2004, so the timeline fits), but in “Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire” these two figures are more integral to the plot. There, we see Harry battling a Hungarian Horntail, which is the first task of the tournament and the reason why Harry and Ron reunite as friends after Ron’s jealousy (in “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows” it reoccurs: they break out of Azkaban on the back of a dragon after Ron returns to them following a jealousy fit, again) and that makes dragons important in the series, and also they are pretty cool. The snake mentioned in the song is an allusion to Nagini that we see in the fourth book and as she is a  horcrux she is essential to the plot, though at this point we only know that she is essential to Voldemort as she is the only reason that he’s alive. And this whole cauldron boiling, the “scale” and “tooth” reminds me of the rebirth of Voldemort; how he used bones and flesh and blood to beget himself. Here, tooth and scale are bone and flesh substitutes and following those with “witches’ mummy” makes the song a mirror image of what is to come, turns it into almost a foreshadowing.

What is also peculiar here is the end of the song: “Something wicked this way comes.” In the play, after the second witch utters this, Macbeth walks in, making himself the something wicked by himself because of the witches (another post idea right here). At first I took it as a foreshadowing of the arrival of Sirius Black, whom we all thought as guilty criminal, or even Peter Pettigrew and Voldemort, but after the song ends in the movie the camera shows Dumbledore. I don’t want to say that this was certainly intentional, but it probably was. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” had  also been published by the time the third movie was produced and we see the glimpse of how much of a wicked man he was and can be when he wants. He is probably the grayest character of the book-I still cannot decide whether he is good or not, but if this was the movie’s way of showing its take on Dumbledore’s character, then it is darn impressive.

The Song from the Movie

Posted in Prose

Harry Potter and the Green Voldemort

Okay hold my coffee while I write this, and that is your cue to understand that I am going to write about something I find quite minute and maybe a little bit irrelevant if not outright stupid (and you’ll find out that that is something I usually end up doing). As a huge Harry Potter fan, wanted to elaborate for those who didn’t get the quote “you are just as sane as I am,” I made it my mission to start off with an entry on the series. Hence, this is going to be about Harry Potter and hopefully I can suppress my enthusiasm so that this will not turn into a 100 page piece on how awesome the books are.
What I am about to say will sound so absurd, but hear me out. Isn’t Harry Potter like a modern Arthurian romance? Well, it isn’t actually but I have been finding these elements in the books that made me think about medieval times. Obviously Hogwarts being in Scotland like a Camelot figure (those who think it was in England, shame on you), the names of the Weasleys, the possible brief reference to the Wife of Bath, constant usage of Merlin’s name and various sirs,-Cadogan, for example, was a sworn knight of the Round Table-throughout the plot makes the reader think of the Arthurian times and Arthur directly reminds me of Arthurian romance and hence the code of chivalry. There are some basic rules to be a chivalric knight (and we need one for the sake of the romance): no murder, no treason, no fights over mundane things and always help those in need. Pretty straightforward, right? Let’s see how Harry deals with these.

First of all, his signature spell is “Expelliarmus” rather than a more sinister one, like the killing curse, and it pretty much says it all about the ultimate rule though it is okay for knights to kill monsters. Hence our little knight in shining armor kills Slytherin’s “monster.” Other than that he is pretty harmless except for that one “Sectumsempra,” Harry doesn’t even kill Voldemort, Voldemort kills himself on his own. He may have caused some people’s deaths, but they were never intentional.

Secondly, you cannot betray your king. In the medieval sense, a king is the one who acts as a shepherd to his people and in our case it is Dumbledore. He acts as this wise, old, almighty figure and guides and aids his students throughout his career. Teens even form an army under his name. For the sake of chivalric code, Harry has to be totally loyal to him and he actually is. Remember that one time he managed to call Fawkes to him? Yeah only those that show him real loyalty could summon Fawkes. Even though their relationship is strained in his fifth year, Harry names his extracurricular activity group after him and does not betray him against Rufus Scrimgeour (“Dumbledore’s man through and through, aren’t you, Potter?”).

His main fight in the series is against the darkest wizard of all times-blah blah blah, but he is not the only one. Harry fights various monster like figures (dementors, rogue bludgers, blast-ended skrewts…) but most of all he fights bullying (against himself and others) and peer pressure, corruption of media and government, injustice and eventually death. His literal fight against Voldemort is a representation of the fight put against tyrants and proving that as an insignificant nobody, anybody can stand up to those who oppress them. Also throughout his journey, he seems to be helping those in need; Ginny, Fred and George, Sirius, the entire world.

As you can see, Harry is the idealized modern medieval knight. His very own quest is to conquer death (a very noble and medieval theme) and defeat a dark lord. He is our very own version Sir Gawain. He is also on his way to defeat another powerful knight-also death eventually. The way he accepts death with open arms (like the youngest brother from “The Tale of the Three Brothers”) albeit with some hesitation mirrors the way Harry also accepts death in the forest. Gawain’s causes Green Knight to spare his life whereas Harry’s causes him to reclaim his own. Also the usage of green in both of them (the knight being green and Voldemort’s house color and favourite way of killing being green) ties Voldemort and the Green Knight on another level-though I find the latter more likable and redeemable. Hence, whenever I reread Harry Potter, I can’t stop myself from remembering that particular romance and to some extent picture Harry in a knight’s armor with a wand instead of a sword.