Posted in Prose

A History of Magic Part One: The Journey

One of my close friends gifted me a copy of A History of Magic for my birthday. It is a big book published by Bloomsbury and has pieces from different people on Harry Potter and its lore (it’s a bit pricy unfortunately with a whopping tag of 30£). It does not really add to the story as one would imagine an additional Potter book would do-like Quidditch Through the Ages or Fantastic Beasts or Where to Find Them-but it gives insight to its creative process. It has nine chapters and I decided to write posts on each of them to give you an idea. Hence our first chapter: The Journey.

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Illustration by Jim Kay

The tittle immediately reminds me of the sixth chapter of the Philosopher’s Stone:  “The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. It is the first time both Harry and us are on the train to Hogwarts, and the first time we meet the future friends. So even after everything, that particular chapter stands out. Not only Harry sees his fame in person (through Weasleys’ treatment of him-especially Ginny who wants to go and see Harry herself) but also we get to see Harry’s character. He is afraid of all being a prank and so scared and alone, I don’t think it’ll be wrong to say we have all been there at some point in our lives. Even though every train ride is packed with action, this is the only one where we see the old Harry, who everyone hates in fear of Dudley and realise how broken and abused he is. In an interview Rowling said that she liked the idea of a nobody, which Harry clearly is, to be the hero. And this particular journey is the starting point of Harry’s realisation of his importance.  

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This is the Harry we meet, a sketch by Jim Kay before he added in the necessary colour-green for his eyes! Joanna Norledge thinks that this portrait “brings to life a young boy who seems both innocent and fragile. His large, expressive eyes, however, suggests a depth of character hidden beneath the surface. We get the feeling that there is a lot more about Harry Potter for us to discover…” and we witness his transformation from this wide-eyed child to the brave man who fights Lord Voldemort.

 

 

However, this chapter is not just about this. It is actually about the journey of Rowling herself: how she managed to write it and get it published. We all know that she got rejected multiple times, publishers thinking kids wouldn’t read books as long as the Philosopher’s Stone is and she had to use initials as, again, publishers thought that boys would not read a fantasy novel written by a woman James Tiptree Jr style. Yet, Harry Potter managed to be undoubtedly the most successful children’s book series. So how did that happen?

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Alice’s note to her father

It is a nice coincidence that Rowling had the idea of Harry Potter while delayed on a train in King’s Cross. The importance she attributes to the Hogwarts Express is a nice homage to her literal and metaphorical journey there. Once she was finished with the first book, she wrote a synopsis of it and sent it to various publishing houses. According to the book, the synopsis had “folded corners, tea stains and crumpled grip marks at the bottom” suggesting that it passed through many hands until Bloomsbury picked it up (eight publishers rejected it before them). The reason Bloomsbury picked up the story was that the founder and Chief Executive Nigel Newton took the script-which was written up to the chapter “Diagon Alley”-and made his daughter read it. Alice was eight years old at the time and loved what she had read so far. It is thus, thanks to that little girl Bloomsbury gave a chance to Harry.     

IMG_2183Rowling not only wrote a very, for lack of a term, descriptive descriptions for her characters and places, she also made sketches of them, highlighting things she thought were the most important. Here is a drawing by Rowling, showing Harry with the Dursleys. They almost look exactly the same as she describes them in the first chapter appearance-wise, but they also reflect their character. Petunia is a woman who does not really like anybody-especially poor Harry- and is very snobbish. This is reflected in her stance in the drawing. Vernon has that tough but has-no-clue kinda standing, enveloping his family. Dudley folds his arms, closing himself off to any advances Harry may make and again looks tough, as he has a habit of harassing Harry around the house. All of them are dressed smartly-except for Harry who is not considered as family and wears Dudley’s old clothes that are way too big for him. Even though Dursley have everything they want and more (*cough* Harry *cough*) they do not smile. Yet, the little abused Harry is the one that depicted as smiling despite his position in that house. I like that attention to detail Rowling has, as this is a quite an important thing for the upcoming books. It is so astonishing to see that she had thought of things that would not be important until a few book later, although it was hard for her to get the first one published. She plans ahead, and that is exactly why it is fun to re-read the series: you can find so many easter eggs or foreshadowings you might not have paid attention to the first time you read. 

IMG_2184She is also like that when it comes to the layout of Hogwarts itself. She sent this drawing to the publishers, saying that this is how she had always imagined Hogwarts. Again, we see some details that stick out. She added the giant squid to the lake even though it does not really have a role in the series, but has become like a mascot for the school. Hagrid’s hut stands out on the grounds, but we all know Hagrid has always been important for both Harry and Rowling, starting from chapter one. On the left we see the quidditch pitch, which is a new imaginary thing to be introduced. It is no wonder why she spent so much time to perfect it-there are teams all around the world now playing quidditch as good as they can. The Whomping Willow, however, looks out of place in this drawing. It would not have importance up until the third book, and would not be mentioned in a scenario until the second. Yet Rowling insists that the Whomping Willow must stand out. Again, that shows how farsighted she is.  

This is how and why Rowling became a successful writer. She has not given up when publishers rejected her (who is laughing now?) and tried hard. It is clear that she was passionate about the story; she drew sketches, thought of possible future events and details. Not to mention her tone and the pace of the book are very entertaining to the kids. This is why Rowling is the most successful woman writer in our era and is still relevant. She continues to add to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as she challenges herself at every opportunity-she wrote the screenplay for the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” which turned out to be much better than that pathetic excuse of a play The Cursed Child. So, her journey continues. Both as a writer and as the creator of the world of Harry Potter.

 

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Posted in Prose

The Catcher In the Rye: A Let Down

I had the pleasure of reading The Catcher In the Rye recently. I don’t have the habit of reading novels that are considered classics, but I will be taking this class that requires me to do so. Hence, begins my test of endurance against it. I hate being that hipster who does not like an acclaimed novel, yet Salinger’s work was on the overrated side.

The book is about the narrator’s few days around Christmas. He is a teenager in 1950s and kind of a rebel-or so he wants to be. This idea of a rebel is embedded in his actions. The smoking, the fights, the money and the alcohol are things Holden Caulfield thinks are cool. What we see is his “growing up” and his struggles with his emotions. The novel does not lack action, yet they do not change the outcome in any way. Everything that happens contribute to Holden’s self evaluation and solitude. It is one of those novels where the teen boy does not fit in, understand sex and be good at school. I had expected Holden to come to some sort of realisation about himself, or some change in him that would worth my time. The story builds up in a way that the reader expects something big; maybe an accident or an encounter with Jane/Jean. But what happens is him not even really realising that he is just a spoilt rich child, trying to live in his fantasies. So, the ending is pretty much very anticlimactic. I guess such is life, and Salinger played with that idea. That rich kids often think they have it bad, cannot fit in, try to rebel against their lives (as Holden thinks of living in solitude without the luxurious life he had had) but end up where they are and alone. That is pretty straightforward. What I found not entertaining was Holden’s attitude. I guess Salinger captured an angsty teen’s language and attitude quite well, but Holden’s repetitive narrative breaks the flow of the plot quite often. His teen-ness is quite exaggerated. 

The issue I had with the novel, hence, was with trustworthiness of Holden. Up until his escape from school, things seem quite normal. After that point Holden loses any credibility he had. The train ride, his dialogues with adults and his shenanigans in New York seems a bit problematic. For a 17 year old boy that has been beat up, Holden gets around pretty easy and is undetected by any authority figure: be it the principal, nor his parents nor a cop. Things get complicated more Holden talks about his family. His older brother, whom I assume he quite idolises, has no name but initials, his younger brother is dead and his younger sister is too adult for her age. And his parents are almost non-existent. We just hear his mother speak to his sister, but she is a weak character. She is hinted to have mental problems after her son’s death and she is not fazed by her daughter’s assumed smoking. So, I am gonna go out on a limb and say she is no ordinary mother. The father does not even have lines. Holden lives in a life where he does not respect any adult. As the story progresses Holden’s thoughts and behaviours become more and more erratic. He is not aware that he is yelling at Sally, he has the urge to just go, takes money from his sister, stays at his teacher’s apartment but then leaves and stays at the train station and has a panic attack. He is too unpredictable in the end. And what is peculiar is how Holden says that this happened “twenty times since” he was a kid, referring to the perverted actions of his former teacher. When he says that, it is okay to assume that he is mentally not very healthy and stable either. He could have been a victim to perverts during his adolescence or childhood, this could be why he has no real interest in sex-even afraid of it. Through the end, I even thought the “you” in the novel was Allie and he was talking to him rather than the reader after we learnt more about his relationship with him. He is clearly traumatised by that, and since he has no religious beliefs he has no way of ease his soul-although he tries different things to accomplish that. His brother D.B. is also a problematic character: he fought in WWII and the war changed how he perceived the world and his career as a writer. Phoebe has abandonment issues: although highly intelligent, she does not seem to receive care from her parents and she has a suicidal temper tantrum after Holden refuses her wish to join him on his exile. So we are actually looking at four kids, albeit through Holden’s perception of them, who all have their very big problems. Holden cannot find a way to deal with it throughout the novel, and he ends up defeated. No calls from Jane, no running away and a new school. Since he has not found it, he is going to go through the same things once he starts this new school. 

Throughout the book he looks for a saviour; someone or something. Nothing gives him that emotional safety. That is why all he wants to be a catcher in the rye, near a cliff stopping children from falling off. Because that is what he is doing. He is falling in his life, head first deep into depression probably and he has not catcher. I don’t think he does not know Robert Burns’ poem hat gave the book its title, but he wants to mishear the song-which is very sexual and crude in reality but he changes it to have more meaning and importance. 

Yes The Catcher In the Rye captures the angst of teenagers. But would I recommend it to an actual teen? I don’t think so. I know it is read in many high schools, but I don’t think it gives off a good enough message to be considered a must for teens. Although from 60 years ago, Holden still represents the corruption teens are drawn to, and his journey of self discovery ends up in a dead end. And not in a good way. When I finished reading, I was let down by Salinger- I had higher expectations of him for a coming of age book. The pace was off, the story at point boring, and the traumatising events left unsaid and alone. And I strongly believe that some books are so popular not because they are actually really good, but because they are done first. I would not read a book like this, had it been written by a contemporary novelist. But I guess being born a century ago, gives you that advantage. 

Posted in Prose

Uniqueness In the Comedies of Shakespeare

Hello, I’m back again! I got rid of my yolk-am not a savage bull anymore! This is your cue to understand that I am back with some more Shakespeare. 

I took a course this semester on English proverbs and idioms. We had two lectures dedicated specifically to two writers: Chaucer and Shakespeare. In some cases it is very true that Shakespeare was influenced by Chaucer (and we can almost be sure that Shakespeare read Chaucer by looking at their chosen subject matters-hint:Troilus and Cressida). He simply took some of his phrases and gave it a new twist to fit the genre and since Shakespeare is more popular than Chaucer his versions stuck. From that, it is safe to assume that these phrases were in use in Elizabethan times, but we have no definite proof. Shakespeare, however, did not just stop there. He put together so many idioms and proverbs we still use today. You want someone to be dead as a doornail? That’s Shakespeare. You are in a pickle? That is also Shakespeare. You think care killed the cat? Yup, that’s right. Still Shakespeare. Some of them underwent changes (in 19th century the doornail became the dodo, the care became the curiosity). Which is also very interesting. Not only there was a clear exchange back in the 16th century and Shakespeare added his renaissance flair, but also we as people continue to add to and change those expressions. But still, that is not my point here. Since it is a class, I have to write a paper for it; and I have been doing some research. I wanted to focus on Shakespeare and found this book from 1908 that collected all proverbs of Shakespeare that was in used in that era. Since I couldn’t go through them all, I wanted to constrain myself in some way. First I decided that I wanted to work only on the comedies. Then I chose the comedies that I have read so far: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (my absolute favourite!), Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night. I am more of a tragedy reader as you clearly can tell, and apart from Much Ado About Nothing, the two are more well-known of his comedies. What I found interesting was that there were a lot of things from these plays alone. Before my research, I thought tragedies would have more proverbs that stuck, but I was wrong. I have done some research, but not really, and I think that there is a correlation between the probability of the proverb being stuck and the popularity of the play. But that’s for another time.

Before this research, I never really considered Shakespeare’s comedies as a whole. I know the major tragedies and each has a unique, different story line, based usually on some myth or historical event. Comedies are not like that. In fact, comedies are more alike than I’d like. Let’s look at them shall we? 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most popular one, and according to a research it has been the most staged one since 2011. In the play, we have two sets of lovers (Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius) and while one couple acknowledges their love, the other does not. The play is set in a foreign, almost mystical land (Athens) and hence we have supernatural elements. These are the outsiders that meddle in the love relations. All hell breaks loose, but every one ends up with the ones they love. Separately, we have the common men who perform a play-under disguises. The misunderstandings are entertaining and the dialogues funny, but the story itself does not really say anything. Maybe don’t listen to your father? Consume questionable plants? Why I think this comedy is particularly popular is because it is about art. The last act is dedicated to how a play should be. Shakespeare educating other writers in his comedy nonetheless, is priceless in my book. 

Much Ado About Nothing is also set in a foreign place (Messina). We also have two sets of lovers; one of which acknowledge it and the other has to be tricked into it. The dialogues the lovers have remind me of the lovers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The bickering, the teasing and in the end nice sweet love talk.. Very much alike. In this play, however, rather than supernatural royalty, we have regular people trying to set these two (Beatrice and Benedick-who, fittingly, acts like a dick throughout the play). We have a masquerade ball this time rather than a play, as a way of people disguising themselves. And in the end, after all that bickering and fight and Romeo and Julietesque death faking, the couples end up together and everyone’s happy. I’d say the additional message here could be never say never? The B couple swore they’d never marry, and they do in the end. Unlike A Midsummer Night’s Dream there is no deeper educational level and it is just for the entertainment of the groundlings. 

Twelfth Night is also set in a foreign place (Illyria). So… again we have two couples, misunderstandings and complicated affairs. Here, the disguise is a main element unlike in the other two. We have Viola disguising as a boy, falling in love with Orsino who is in love with Olivia, who in turn falls in love with Viola in disguise. Pretty complicated, yet funny for the audience. When all is resolved, Orsino and Viola end up together-in a Hermia&Demetrius fashion-and Olivia and Viola’s lost twin Sebastian end up together (I’d recommend watching the 2000s adaptation of it: “She Is the Man.”). So everybody is happy and getting married and other than Feste apologising from the audience for their mistakes, nothing out of the ordinary happens. 

So in their plot line, characterisation and language, these three plays are pretty much identical I’d say. But the funny thing is I have never noticed. I love A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I enjoyed Twelfth Night-especially Feste and homoerotic undertones-and Much Ado About Nothing was as the title suggests: does not talk about much, but a short and fun read. But before my proverbial research, I never realised these common tropes. And that, I think, is why Shakespeare is the first name that comes to mind when we say literature. He had the same material for at least three plays, but each of them ended up being unique and fun. This, I think, depends on the supporting characters. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream we have Nick Bottom and Puck stealing the show, in Much Ado About Nothing Dogberry and in Twlfth Night Feste and Malvolio. Since Shakespeare can be very diverse with his characterisation and language, his plays stand out and give off a unique vibe. Hence, I am a firm believer of Shakespeare!    

Posted in Prose

The Umbrella Man/Şemsiyeli Adam

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Artwork by Manali Mokashi

Hello, I am back! I actually had a few different ideas for a new post but while I was reading, I had the sudden desire to post something different entirely. I will be posting a translation attempt of mine. So, this is gonna be my first post in a language other than English.

The story is by Roald Dahl-one of my favorite children’s literature writers and is called “The Umbrella Man.” I had actually translated this back in high school for a school project, but was very protective and shy of it. Last year I translated it again just for fun, and I believe I am ready to share it with people who do understand Turkish.

For those who don’t know it’s about a girl and her mother who are cajoled into buying an expensive umbrella from an old man in a rainy London afternoon. It is told by the little girl and you can witness the generational gap between the two and how their ideas differ from one another-although the mother seems to be quite strict and all-knowing. And as you may guess, in the end she gets deceived by a mere drunkard. It is such a fun and easy reading (maybe I will write a post on it too one day) and it was definitely fun to try to translate it. Without further ado, here is it:

ŞEMSİYELİ ADAM

Size, dün akşam annemle başımızdan geçen acayip bir olayı anlatacağım. Ben on iki yaşında bir kız çocuğuyum. Annem ise otuz dört yaşında ama ben şimdiden neredeyse onunla aynı boydayım.

Dün öğleden sonra, annem beni Londra’da bir dişçiye götürdü. Dişçi bir tane oyuk buldu. Azı dişimdeydi ve canımı çok yakmadan doldurdu. Sonrasında, bir kafeye gittik. Ben muzlu tatlı yedim, annemse kahve içti. Gitmek için kalktığımızda saat neredeyse altı olmuştu.

Kafeden çıktığımızda yağmur yağmaya başlamıştı. “Taksi bulmalıyız.” dedi annem. Üzerimizde ince şapka ve paltolar vardı ve yağmur oldukça şiddetli yağıyordu.

“Neden kafeye geri girip durmasını içeride beklemiyoruz?” dedim. O muzlu tatlılardan bir tane daha istiyordum. Çok lezzetlilerdi.

“Durmayacak.” dedi annem. “Eve gitmemiz lazım.”

Yağmurun altında kaldırımda durmuş, taksi bekliyorduk. Bir sürü geçiyordu ama hepsinin içerisinde yolcu vardı. “Keşke şoförü olan bir arabamız olsaydı.” dedi annem.

Tam o zaman yanımıza bir adam yaklaştı. Ufacık bir adamdı ve oldukça yaşlıydı, muhtemelen yetmiş ya da daha fazla. Şapkasını kibarca çıkardı ve anneme, “Afedersiniz, kusura bakmayınız…” dedi. Beyaz bıyıkları ve gür kaşları ve kırış kırış pembe bir yüzü vardı. Başının üzerinde tuttuğu bir şemsiyenin altına sığınmıştı.

“Efendim?” dedi annem, soğuk bir şekilde.

“Sizden küçük bir ricada bulunacaktım.” dedi. “Küçük bir ricada…”

Annemin adama şüpheyle baktığını gördüm. Kendisi şüpheci bir insandır, annem yani. Özellikle iki şeyden şüphe eder—tuhaf adamlardan ve haşlanmış yumurtalardan. Haşlanmış yumurtanın tepesini kestiğinde sanki içinde fare bulmayı beklermiş gibi yumurtanın içini kaşığıyla karıştırır. Tuhaf adamlara karşı ise “Adam ne kadar iyiyse, o kadar çok şüphelenmelisin.” diyen altın bir kuralı vardır. Bu minik yaşlı adam ise özellikle iyiydi. Kibardı. Konuşması düzgündü. Şık giyimliydi. Gerçek bir beyefendiydi. Beyefendi olduğunu ayakkabılarından anladım. “Her zaman bir beyefendiyi giydiği ayakkabılardan fark edebilirsin.” annemin sevdiği başka bir sözü. Bu adamınsa kahverengi güzel ayakkabıları vardı.

“İşin aslı şu ki,” diyordu minik adam, “kendimi bir çıkmazda buldum. Yardıma ihtiyacım var. Çok değil, emin olun. Hatta neredeyse hiç, aslında, ama ihtiyacım var. Bakın hanımefendi, çoğunlukla benim gibi yaşlı adamlar müthiş unutkan olur…

Annemin çenesi havadaydı ve ona burnunun üzerinden bakıyordu. Korkunç bir şeydir, annemin bu tüyler ürpertici bakışı. Çoğu insan, annem onlara böyle baktığında fenalık geçirir. Bir keresinde  annem gerçekten pis dondurucu-burun bakışı attığında, okul müdiremin aptal gibi kekelediğini ve sırıttığını gördüm. Ama kaldırımda başının üzerinde şemsiyesi olan minik adam gözünü bile kırpmadı. Nazikçe gülümsedi ve “Bana inanın, hanımefendi, sokakta gördüğüm hanımları durdurup onlara dertlerimi anlatmak gibi bir alışkanlığım yoktur.

“Öyle olmadığını umuyorum.” dedi annem.

Annemin sertliğinden oldukça utanmıştım. Ona “Anneciğim, allah aşkına, o çok çok yaşlı bir adam ve şeker ve kibar, ve başı belada gibi, o yüzden bu kadar kaba davranma.” demek istedim. Ama bir şey söylemedim.

Minik adam elindeki şemsiyeyi diğer eline geçirdi. “Daha önce hiç unutmamıştım.” dedi.

“Neyi daha önce hiç unutmamıştınız?” diye sertçe sordu annem.

“Cüzdanımı.” dedi. “Diğer ceketimde kalmış olmalı. Bu yaptığım çok ahmakça, değil mi?”

“Benden size para vermemi mi istiyorsunuz?” dedi annem.

“Olur mu öyle şey, asla!” diye haykırdı. “Allah düşürmesin!”

“O zaman ne istiyorsunuz?” dedi annem. “Acele edin. Sırılsıklam olduk burada.”

“Biliyorum.” dedi adam. “İşte bu yüzden sizi korusun diye şemsiyemi size teklif ediyorum, sizde kalsın diye ama… Sadece…” “Sadece ne?” dedi annem.

“Sadece karşılığında sizden beni eve götürecek taksi parasını vermenizi istiyorum.”

Annem hala şüpheliydi. “Madem ilk başta paranız yoktu, “ dedi, “o zaman buraya nasıl geldiniz?”

“Yürüdüm,” diye cevap verdi. “Her gün güzel uzun bir yürüyüşe çıkar, sonrasında eve gitmek için taksi çağırırım. Yılın her günü yaparım bunu.”

“Şimdi neden eve yürümüyorsunuz?” diye sordu annem.

“Ah keşke yapabilseydim,” dedi. “Yapabilmeyi isterdim. Ama bu sersem yaşlı bacaklarımla yapabileceğimi zannetmiyorum. Zaten oldukça uzaklaştım.”

Annem orada alt dudağını çiğneyerek durdu. Biraz erimeye başlamıştı, görebiliyordum. Ve altında durabileceğimiz bir şemsiye alma fikri, belli, onun aklını çelmişti.

“Çok güzel bir şemsiye,” dedi minik adam.

“Fark ettim,” dedi annem.

“İpektir,” dedi adam.

“Görebiliyorum.”

“O halde neden almıyorsunuz hanımefendi,” dedi. “Bana yirmi sterlinden fazlaya mal oldu, sizi temin ederim. Ama eve gidip bu yaşlı bacaklarımı dinlendirebileceksem, bunun ne önemi var?”

Annemin elinin çantasına gittiğini gördüm. Onu izlediğimi gördü. Bu sefer ben ona kendi dondurucu-burun bakışımı atıyordum ve annem ona tam olarak ne söylediğimi biliyordu. Şimdi dinle, anneciğim, diyordum ona, yaşlı yorgun bir adamdan böyle faydalanmamalısın. Çok berbat bir şey bu. Annem durdu ve bana baktı. Sonra minik adama “Sizden yirmi sterlin değerinde bir şemsiyeyi almanın iyi bir fikir olmadığını düşünüyorum. Size ben en iyisi taksi parasını vereyim, olsun bitsin.” dedi.

“Hayır, hayır, hayır!” diye haykırdı adam. “Söz konusu bile olamaz! Aklımdan bile geçirmem! Hayatta olmaz! Sizden o şekilde para kabul edemem! Şemsiyeyi alın, hanımefendi, ve yağmur altında kalmayın!”

Annem bana galibiyet dolu bir bakış attı. Al işte, diyordu bana. Sen haksızsın. Benim almamı istiyor.

Elini çantasına daldırdı ve içerisinden bir sterlin çıkardı. Onu minik adama uzattı. Adam aldı ve şemsiyeyi anneme uzattı. Parayı cebine koydu, şapkasını çıkardı, eğilip selam verdi ve “Teşekkür ederim, hanımefendi, teşekkürler.” dedi. Sonra da gitti.

“Altına gel de ıslanma tatlım,” dedi annem. “Şu şansımıza bak. Daha önce hiç ipek şemsiyem olmamıştı. Param yetmiyordu.”

“Ona ilk başta neden o kadar kötü davrandın?” diye sordum.

“Bir dolandırıcı olmadığından emin olmak istedim,” dedi. “Ve oldum. Tam bir beyefendiydi. Ona yardımcı olabildiğime sevindim.”

“Peki, anneciğim,” dedim.

“Gerçek bir beyefendi,” diye devam etti. “Zengin de, yoksa ipek bir şemsiyesi olamazdı. Unvanlı biri olsa hiç şaşırmam. Sör Harry Goldsworthy ya da onun gibi bir şey olabilir.”

“Peki, anneciğim.”

“Bu sana güzel bir ders olsun,” diye devam etti. “Hiçbir şeyi aceleye getirme. Birisini tartarken hiçbir zaman aceleye getirme. O zaman hiç hata yapmazsın.

“İşte gidiyor,” dedim. “Bak.”

“Nerede?”

“İşte orada. Caddeyi geçiyor. Baksana anneciğim, ne kadar da acelesi var.”

Minik adamın trafikte çabucak bir ordan bir oraya geçişini izledik. Caddenin karşısına geçtiğinde, çok hızlı yürüyerek sola döndü.

“Bana pek de yorgun gelmedi, anneciğim, sana nasıl geldi?”

Annem cevap vermedi.

“Pek de taksi ararmış gibi de görünmüyor.” dedim.

Annem kaskatı kesilmiş olduğu yerde caddenin karşısındaki minik adama bakıyordu. Onu açıkça görebiliyorduk. Olağanüstü bir acelesi vardı. Kaldırımda koşuşturuyor, diğer yayaları geçiyor ve yürüyüş yapan bir asker gibi kollarını sallıyordu.

“Bir şeyin peşinde,” dedi annem, ifadesiz bir suratla.

“Ama neyin?”

“Bilmiyorum,” diye çıkıştı annem. “Ama ne olduğunu bulacağım. Gel benimle.” Beni kolumdan yakaladı ve birlikte caddenin karşısına geçtik. Sonra da sola döndük.

“Onu görebiliyor musun?” diye sordu annem.

“Evet. İşte orada. Bir sonraki sokaktan sağa dönüyor.” Köşeye geldik ve sağa döndük. Minik adam yirmi metre kadar önümüzdeydi. Bir tazı gibi hızla ilerliyordu ve ona yetişmek için çok hızlı yürümek zorunda kaldık. Yağmur da hızını iyice arttırmıştı ve adamın şapkasının kenarından omuzlarına damladığını görebiliyordum. Oysa biz büyük güzel ipek şemsiyemizin altında kuru ve sıcaktık.

“Neyin peşinde bu adam?” dedi annem.

“Ya arkasını dönüp bizi görürse?” diye sordum.

“Umrumda değil görse de,” dedi annem. “Bize yalan söyledi. Hani daha fazla yürüyemeyecek kadar yorgundu? Şimdi bizi neredeyse koşturuyor! Utanmaz bir yalancı o! Bir sahtekar!”

“Unvanlı bir beyefendi değil mi yani?” diye sordum.

“Sessiz ol,” dedi.

Bir sonraki kavşakta minik adam yine sağa döndü.

Sonra sola döndü.

Sonra sağa.

“Şimdi pes etmeyeceğim,” dedi annem.

“Yok oldu!” diye haykırdım. “Nereye gitti?”

“O kapıdan içeriye girdi!” dedi annem. “Onu gördüm! O eve girdi! Aman allahım, bir bara girmiş!”

Bir bara girmişti. Barın önünde büyük harflerle KIRMIZI ASLAN yazıyordu.

“İçeri girmeyeceksin değil mi anneciğim?”

“Hayır,” dedi. “Dışarıdan izleyeceğiz.”

Barın ön yüzünde büyük dökme bir cam vardı ve içerisi biraz buğulu olsa da, yanaşırsak içeriyi rahatça görebilirdik.

Barın camının dışında yan yana duruyorduk. Ben annemin kolunu kavramıştım. Büyük yağmur damlaları şemsiyenin üzerinde gürültü yapıyordu. “İşte orada,” dedim. “Orada.”

İçerisine baktığımız oda insan ve sigara dumanıyla doluydu ve minik adamımız bunların tam ortasında duruyordu. Şimdiyse şapkasız ve paltosuzdu ve kalabalıktan uzaklaşarak bara doğru ilerliyordu. Ulaşınca, iki elini birden barın üzerine koydu ve barmenle konuşmaya başladı. Siparişini verirken dudaklarının oynadığını gördüm. Barmen birkaç saniyeliğine  ondan uzaklaştı ve geri geldiğinde elinde ağzına kadar açık kahverengi bir sıvıyla dolu küçükçe bir bardak vardı. Minik adam bara sterlini koydu.

“O benim param!” diye tısladı annem. “Vallahi yüzsüz bu adam!”

“Bardaktaki de ne?” diye sordum.

“Viski,” dedi annem. “Sek viski.”

Barmen ona para üstü vermedi.

“Üçlü viski olması lazım,” dedi anneciğim.

“Üçlü de ne?” diye sordum.

“Normalin üç katı ölçü.” diye cevap verdi.

Minik adam bardağı aldı ve ağzına götürdü. Bardağı hafifçe yatırdı. Sonra daha yükseğe kaldırdı… daha yükseğe…. daha yükseğe… ve kısa süre içerisinde bütün o viski tek dikişte boğazından aşağı gitti. “Fazlasıyla pahalı bir içecek,” dedim.

“Bu çok saçma!” dedi anneciğim. “Bir kerede dikebileceğin bir şeye o kadar para vermek!”

“Ona bir sterlinden fazlasına mal oldu,” dedim. “Yirmi sterlinlik şemsiyesine mal oldu.”

“Öyle oldu,” dedi annem. “Çıldırmış olmalı.”

Minik adam barın başında elinde boş bardakla duruyordu. Şimdi gülümsüyordu, ve altınımsı bir parıltı bütün pembe yuvarlak suratına yayılmıştı. O kıymetli viskiden son bir damla daha ararmışçasına beyaz bıyığını yalamak için dilini çıkardığını gördüm.

Yavaşça, bara arkasını döndü ve tekrar kalabalığa, şapkasının ve paltosunun asılı olduğu yere doğru yanaştı. Şapkasını başına geçirdi. Paltosunu giydi. Sonra, fark edemeyeceğiniz kadar muhteşem bir sakinlikle ve kayıtsızlıkla, orada asılı duran bir sürü ıslak şemsiyeden birini aldı ve oradan ayrıldı.

“Gördün mü!” diye çığlık attı annem. “Şu yaptığını gördün mü!”

“Şşş!” diye fısıldadım. “Dışarı geliyor!”

Şemsiyemizi yüzlerimizi kapatsın diye aşağı indirdik ve altından izlemeye koyulduk.

Dışarı geldi. Ama bizim olduğumuz yöne hiç bakmadı. Başının üzerine yeni şemsiyesini açtı ve geldiği yoldan hızla geri gitti.

“Demek oyunu buymuş!” dedi annem.

“Zekice,” dedim. “Süper.” Onunla tanıştığımız ana caddeye kadar onu takip ettik ve hiçbir sıkıntı yaşamadan elindeki yeni şemsiyesini bir sterlinle takas etmesini izledik. Bu seferki üzerinde ne şapkası ne paltosu olan uzun zayıf bir adamdı. Aralarındaki alışveriş bittiği gibi, minik adamımız yola koyuldu ve sokaktaki kalabalığa karıştı. Ama bu sefer zıt yöne doğru gitti.

“Ne kadar zeki olduğunu görüyor musun!” dedi annem. “Aynı bara iki kez gitmiyor!”

“Bütün gece bunu yapmaya devam edebilir,” dedim.

“Evet,” dedi annem. “Tabii ki. Ama eminim yağmurlu günler için deli gibi dua ediyordur.”

Posted in Movie, Music, Prose

I Am Going On An Adaptation Adventure

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I have been comparing and contrasting the book and movies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit a lot lately. I have watched the movies before I read the novel, believing that reading the book first would ruin the movies for me. And boy, I was right. Don’t get me wrong, the movies were really entertaining and I really enjoyed them. However, the mood of the movies is really different than the book. I believe that one song from “An Unexpected Journey” sums up the whole adaptation process of the book.

When I mentioned a song from the first movie, probably “The Misty Mountains Cold” came to your mind. It was pretty iconic as it is the main theme of the first film, having appeared in the trailer. In the books, it is one of the various songs dwarves sing-however it is the crown jewel. In the book, the song is 10 stanzas long and written in iambic tetrameter. So we can say that it is very conventional, both content and form-wise. This song invokes an image of the Misty Mountains; it describes the lives of dwarves back in the day and the general topography of the forest area. Although it is not that old, as in the last line of the last stanza goes “to win our harps and gold from him.” This him here is clearly Smaug. And for those who know nothing about what had taken place, like Bilbo himself, it is a very nice way to tell the reader. As up until that point in the novel, they have been really odd and secretive (arriving one by one, unannounced) and Bilbo feels confused and irritated. [Well to be fair, dwarves had eaten everything he has and has not offered, I’d be pretty furious too.]But when they start singing, “something Tookish woke up inside him” and that’s how Bilbo decides to join their journey. Normally hobbits are not very adventurous rather creatures of routine, but they invoke an image of the mountains in Bilbo and move his kind little heart, he cannot resist. The thing here is that the song is accompanied by instruments the dwarves carry: Fili and Kili on fiddles; Dori, Nori and Ori on flutes; Bombur on drum; Bifur and Bofur on clarinets; Dwalin and Balin on viols, and finally Thorin with his golden harp. So this creates a “sweet” sound, according to Bilbo at least. What I imagined here was a very uplifting, upbeat, heroic song. Just like how it is in “The Company Theme.” That adds to the hope and confidence the dwarves feel and foreshadows their heroism along the way and in the Battle of Five Armies.

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Look at these bad boys. It is from my copy, illustrated by Jemima Catlin.

The first movie is all about establishing the importance of the Misty Mountains and how dwarves were displaced. The main focus is obviously on the gold-dwarves are all about the money. So rather than showing how greedy the dwarves really are, the movies dramatise their past. Whereas in the book, they get to trust and like Bilbo throughout the journey, but still they are whiny, greedy and generally ill-mannered. So this shift from their greed to their suffering shows itself in the lyrics of the song. The song is two stanzas long, and apart from a small change is taken directly from the book, but given the title “Misty Mountains,” which the book version lacked.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away ere break of day

To find our long forgotten gold

 

The pines were roaring on the hight

The winds were moaning in the night

There the fire was red it flaming spread

The trees like torches blazed with light

The only different thing here is “to find our long forgotten gold.” In the book, that first stanza is repeated with a variation in the last line. The two variations are: “to seek the pale enchanted gold” and “to claim our long forgotten gold.” Enchanted and claim are keys words here. They point to the fascination of dwarves with gold and their greediness. The real reason behind why Thorin Oakenshield wants his home back is not because he is homesick, but because of all the gold on which Smaug sleeps. Also pale and enchanted remind me of the Arkenstone.

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The Arkenstone from the movie. 

“Claim”ing also refer to his greed as well; just before the Battle of Five Armies, Bard and Co try to negotiate with Thorin, claiming a part of the treasure for themselves. Yet again Thorin rejects, and rather than sharing it he’d remain stuck in the mountain. But in the movie version the verb find lightens this. Finding implies a search, yes, but it also means that they don’t know where it is or that they are not truly after it. The song is not accompanied by instruments, Richard Armitage sings it solo. The scene is pretty dark, the dark has fallen and they all sit around the fireplace. With a elegy like tone and baritone of Armitage added to the cozy darkness, the song metamorphoses into a song of longing and suffering.

 

Whilst the book has a lighter tone in general and things happen rapidly one after the other, I felt more peaceful reading it. Narrator’s language is witty and funny, and although it is action pack we don’t get to see the gruesome parts. So I’d say it can pass as a children’s book. However, the movies have more fighting and action scenes, additional characters and events. It was more of a trendy Avengers-esque movie. I think I will speak for all of us who I say that introducing a love between a dwarf and an elf was such a cheesy, Hollywood-like move. They didn’t have to have three movies for god’s sake. When I first read The Hobbit  I was surprised at the flow of events, very rapid with no unnecessary characters. Yes the movies were darker and turned the tone a tad more serious. They were nice to watch at the movie theatre with 3D, but if you haven’t read the book be sure to do so. It is much more enjoyable than the money grubbing, dwarfish excuse of a prequel. If you’d ask me, I would have to say that the movie adaptation is an unsuccessful one. I would like to quote Linda Hutcheon on this:

Perhaps one way to think about unsuccessful adaptations is not in terms of infidelity to a prior text, but in terms of a lack of the creativity and skill to make the text one’s own and thus autonomous.

Posted in Prose

Myth Busting: Harry Potter Edition

Since Harry Potter canon officially ended this past week, I have decided that it is time for me to delve into some fan theories. I’ve read a lot of crazy things and would like to share some of them with you. In this post we’re gonna bust some supposedly well thought theory, so get ready people!

Harry Hallucinated the Whole Thing

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From Jim Kay’s illustrated version of the Philosopher’s Stone

This must be the most popular one out there. The theory here is that a starving Harry, locked under the cupboard at Privet Drive, creates an alternate world to where he can escape. So all that seven books are actually 11 year old Harry’s imagination. This is a bit too Lost for the series, and a tad too advanced for the little Harry. In the movie adaptations they added a spider, Alastair. It was someone to talk to for Harry and his only friend at the Dursleys which added to the depressive and gloomy atmosphere of the house. Steve Kloves, the screenwriter who adopted the novels, stated that “There was a spider in there and all these broken soldiers that he had filched from the rubbish bin of Dudley’s [bedroom]. And he had this broken army and he would talk to Alastair. And so when Hagrid arrived in the motorcycle you wondered if maybe Harry was mad, and was imagining being rescued.” And I get it, for those who only watch the movies this makes the theory seem plausible. I had also entertained the idea from time to time before the last book came out. But having Harry waking up in his cupboard after seven books would be irritating for the readers and a lazy thing to do on Rowling’s part. Just because of that, I don’t think that the theory would work. Apart from that, it is one thing to imagine being rescued, but entirely other thing to create such a detailed, refined world and course of events. It would be too much for an abused child. Not only the events are pretty intertwined, but he needs to know at least Latin to create spells and charms; they are not made-up words. Rowling could have woken Harry up after the confrontation in the forest with Voldemort in the last book, and that would have worked. After all it would be happening inside Harry’s head but why on earth should that mean that it’s not real, amiright? But with the way the books ended in the epilogue and with all the details, I think it is safe to say that it is nearly impossible for Harry to hallucinate the whole thing. I think this theory is busted.

The Dursleys Are Horrible Because Harry Is A Horcrux

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From the Chamber of Secrets, right before they send Harry off to his bedroom to pretend not to exist

This is another popular fan theory that had surfaced after Deathly Hallows. This theory suggests that the Dursleys were horrible to Harry because the horcrux, that Harry is, was affecting them. In the last book, we witness the trio struggling with the emotions the horcrux awakens. The horcrux enhances the already existing emotions rather than creating new ones. Hence, Ron’s insecurity goes through the roof. Accordingly, the Dursleys already dislike the Potters (you can read their first meeting on Pottermore). So the horcrux could have increased it extremely and this should be the case for anyone who does not like Harry, like Malfoy or Snape-granted they do not spend that much time with him. However, we see the horcrux affecting the trio when they have a physical contact to it. If living around a horcrux would turn them into horrible beings, then the Blacks and Malfoys should have changed as well. Yes, they do bad things to people, and the Black matriarch is pretty horrible on her own, they are okay generally. Dursyleys can also act very “normal” around other people as well as Ginny who was pouring her soul into a horcrux, whereas Ron was horrible to both of them under the influence. Let’s not forget Harry-he was a living horcrux. If the he affected the Dursleys that much, then he would have been horrible to people as well, but we only see his demeanour worsen when he wears the locket around his neck. Although this theory looks plausible, it does not fit other people and circumstances. Let’s admit it, Dursleys are just like Umbridge when it comes to Harry. I think this theory is busted.

Dumbledore Is Death

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Artwork by polisherci

This is the nicest one of them all. This theory suggest that Harry, Snape and Voldemort represent the [Peverell] brothers in “The Tale of the Three Brothers” from The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Dumbledore the Death. In the tale three brothers come across a river which has killed so many people before them. They make a bridge and cross it, displeasing Death. But Death wants to slyly take their lives. The eldest brother asks for a unbeatable wand. He boasts about having such a powerful wand, he gets killed in his sleep by a jealous wizard. The middle brother wants a way to bring his loved one back from death. She half-returns in agony and he kills himself in order to be with her. The youngest wants an invisibility cloak to be able to get away from Death. Only he accepts and embraces death when his time comes and meets with Death like an old friend. According to this, Voldemort is the eldest brother who seeks power and does anything to attain it. He thinks he has caused Dumbledore’s death, but the joke’s on him as Dumbledore causes his death with his knowledge of his horcruxes. Plus, Voldemort actually seeks the Elder Wand, like the first brother and dies because of it. He misjudges the true owner of the wand, shortsighted by his ego and pays the price. The middle brother is Snape, who spends his life mourning Lily’s death and craving her love. j-k-rowling-takes-to-twitter-to-set-the-record-straight-about-a-few-fan-theories-11-photos-5He brings her back to life through her son, Harry but he abuses him caused by his hatred for James and guilt for Lily’s death. His role as a double agent causes his death in the end and he agreed to that role to avenge Lily. The youngest brother is Harry; who, again, owns the Invisibility Cloak and accepts his role in the downfall of  Voldemort and death after looking in the pensieve. He also wakes up in King’s Cross, meets Dumbledore like an old friend despite doubting his every decision throughout his horcrux hunt. Dumbledore in return, causes the death of the two brothers indirectly, just like Death but is on good terms with the youngest. The parallelism in the course of events and the characters of the four of them fits perfectly, not to mention their ages. Even Rowling herself stated that she liked this theory. So I’d say this theory passes.

Ron Is Dumbledore

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Say whaaaat?

Yeah you heard that right. There are people who think that Ron Weasley is the time-travelling version of Albus Dumbledore. It is based on the few similarities in their appearance (redhead, big hands and tall) and their love for sweets (being on Chocolate Frog Cards amuses them both very much). Another detail is that in the line “he was born in a bin” from the song “Weasley Is Our King,” the word bin in Latin is a prefix meaning two-hinting at Ron’s double life. Admittedly, it is a bit farfetched and too much over reading. As it was explained in The Prisoner of Azkaban, time travel is a tricky business. You cannot show yourself and you cannot alter the past. Dumbledore has to go back several years, create a faux life for himself and constantly be in touch with himself. These already do not fit time travelling in the Potter universe. Dumbledore and Ron cannot be in the same room without causing mental problems to Dumbledore as he would know that it is him standing before his eyes. Ron continues to live after Dumbledore’s death, I don’t think that it could be possible for one self to die and the other continue, at one point all of them have to merge together, if not one would be immortal and it is not Dumbledore’s style. Also, if he were to go back in time, he would have directly gone to Tom Riddle era of Voldemort-still can’t change things but maybe learn more about his horcruxes. So, I think this theory definitely is busted.

Crookshanks Is the Potters’ Cat

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Once again from the old, beautiful Pottermore

This is my favourite theory so far. From Lily’s letter to Sirius, we know that the Potters had an unnamed cat. What happened to the cat after their death is unknown. Some suggest that it died in the ruins, although Hagrid would have noticed a cat and not left it to die and the others say that somehow it survived. The cat Hermione has adopted had been there for a very long time, it had been 12 years since the Potters died at that point and kneazles are known to live longer than regular cats. As Crookshanks is half-kneazle, the time line fits him. The other thing is that Crookshanks does not like and trust Scabbers from the moment he meets him. It can be because he senses that something is wrong with it, acting like a feline Sneakoscope, or it can be because he remembers Pettigrew the only person who was allowed in the Potter household after the Fidelius charm. He can remember the fact that Pettigrew betrayed them. He ends up befriending Sirius in his animagus form, whom he has never met probably. And this suggests that Crookshanks does not oppose Scabbers because he senses that he is human, but because he is actually shady. This theory, my friends, passes with flying colours.

Harry Is Immortal

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dun dun dun…

This theory is about the prophecy Trelawney predicts. The full prophecy is this:

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….

The theory concerns itself with “neither can live while the other survives.” In the books, this is interpreted as either Harry killing Voldemort or Voldemort killing him. People suggest that now that Voldemort is dead, the “other” is eliminated in the equation and the living other can now live, but the one who is able to kill Harry is Voldemort and with him gone Harry cannot be killed. I mean if are going to scrutinise words, we can say that both should be dead by default as they cannot survive together, not even 17 years, do you feel me? I think that the detail is nicely seen (kudos to that) but I think it is just Trelawney’s wording-to make it seem more dramatic. Dumbledore himself says that just because a prophecy was made, it doesn’t mean that it will come true. It is up to the character of the people: Voldemort would not rest until all of his enemies are dead and Harry would not rest until his parents and friends’ murderer is dead. As I take it, while one is dead, the other can now live freely, without the need to hunt, hide and fight but live a normal life with three kids. For me this is also busted.

There are so so so many more out there, even more crazy. These are the ones that I frequently come across and find intriguing to comment on. I don’t like the fan theories generally, but I accept Crookshanks as the Potters’ cat as head cannon!

 

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.

the hobbit hole

“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.