Happy Harry Potter read-athon! Today marks the official beginning of my holiday read-through of the Harry Potter series! I kicked it off unofficially by watching Freeform’s Harry Potter weekend (I watched the last three movies twice last weekend, and it didn’t get old!) and by crafting some fun HP inspired goodies, which I will share soon, but today is the official start as I began Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this morning.
I’m so excited to get back into these novels. It’s really like climbing in bed after a long day — no matter how far you stray, or what you’ve been through, or how many times you’ve done it before, the stories really just have a way of making themselves new all over again. J. K. Rowling really knows how to turn a phrase and keep me laughing and flipping pages without intermission. I just read this novel a year ago, but nothing in it felt common — it was perfectly familiar.
I set up shop on my bed with a pot of tea and the Harry Potter soundtrack blaring. My cat, who spends days away from home, showed up and joined me which was a special treat, and though it didn’t rain and become moody like the weather forecast promised, I still felt perfectly cozy all day and allowed myself to really fall into the book again. I laughed, I cried a little, but mostly I genuinely enjoyed myself. There is nothing like this story to keep the nargles and dementors at bay, am I right?
I won’t blog the post down with analysis and rambling, because everything there is to say about this story has been said somewhere else (and probably far more cleverly), so I’ll just talk a little about the masterfulness of J. K. Rowling.
As I said before, I haven’t visited with these books in awhile, but as I flipped through, I was truly struck with the absolute power and command that J. K. Rowling has over her stories, her characters, and this immense world she’s built. The foreshadowing alone is enough to boggle my mind and establish her as a true master of her craft, so I’ll stick to discussing that! Here’s a little list of a few things I noticed:
- Sirius Black is mentioned as being at the site of the Potter’s murders. I knew this to be true later in the story, but I had no idea that J. K. had set this up as early as page 14 of the first book. For someone returning to the story, this little name drop is especially painful because we know all the trouble and pain that follows his encounter with Hagrid in Godric’s Hollow, and when it is so casually stuck into the early stages of the novel, it stings even more. We think about poor Harry, living a miserable life with the Dursleys and see how badly he wished for someone to come get him — and it hurts to think about how different Harry’s life could have been if Sirius hadn’t been wrongfully convicted, and if he had, in fact, been able to rescue Harry from the Dursleys. The Sirius/Harry situation is something that has haunted me since I read the novels the first time, and continues to taunt me when I watch the movies, and now, will hurt all the more! Oh, the agony!
- This is entirely minuscule compared to the last point, but the Gringott’s experience is another example of J. K. Rowling’s command of her story. Gringott’s comes to play a major part in the story, with it’s most dramatic moment coming in the seventh part, which inspires the Orlando Universal rendering of the bank on Diagon Alley. The dragon was a really interesting piece of the plot to me, (maybe I just have a thing for dragons?) so it was fun to see the little Easter egg with the dragon fire in the first book. It’s a glimpse of a moment, but with it, mature readers can anticipate a later storyline and new readers can catch a glimpse into the Wizarding World in the same way that Harry does.
- J. K. loves to name drop. I began keeping a list of all the names we encounter in the first novel and before I reached the halfway point of the novel, I was out of room on my page. Some of the names I knew were going to be there, both major and minor characters that have physical roles to play in the story, but there were other names that stood the test of time — ones that seemed minor and passing at the time but later came to be major players, like Bathilda Bagshot and Newt Scamander, both of which were mentioned as authors of required books for first year students.
It’s a lot of fun to return to the stories and see where J. K. planted her threads and to tug on them and see what else comes up. That’s why these novels stand the test of time – children can get caught up in their magic, adults can enjoy their humor and craft, and no matter how many times you read them, and no matter what stage of life you’re in, you can find something new that was buried the first few times. The magic in them is entirely immersive and you just can’t get enough of them. That’s why they have had the cultural impact they’ve enjoyed.
I’m excited to carry on and see what other threads J. K. left for me in the novels and rediscover the magic of Harry Potter.
What’s your favorite part of the first novel? What did you discover that you missed before?