Archive for the 'harry potter series' Category

Literary Mixtapes, 8tracks and Fan Fiction

December 14, 2011

I’ve long been a devotee of Flavorwire’s Literary Mixtapes.  Every so often the clever folks over there “sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters”  and provide their readership with a list and links.  The character write-ups are pithy and thought provoking and the music is always interesting and often enjoyable.  Some of my favorite mixes are:

Lyra Belacqua – “Here’s what we think Lyra would battle Mrs. Coulter, deceive Iofur Raknison, and read the alethiometer to.”

Harry Potter– “Here’s what we think Harry would be moping about, Wronski Feinting, and saving the world to.”

Ender Wiggin – “Here are the songs we think he’d calculate, strategize and defy gravity to.”

Earlier this year I was inspired to a couple of my own.  The seed of that inspiration actually came not from “literature” per se but from a piece of Harry Potter fan fiction, albeit a very literary example of the type.  Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation is the epic tale (as yet incomplete at 300,000 words – some of which I needed to look up) of what happened to Hermione after the war.  Its complicated and dark,  turning over all the rocks in the Potterverse and looking underneath them.

Perspective is nearly everything in fiction.  Harry simply doesn’t pay attention to the complexities of the wizarding world the way Hermione does.  So although wizarding world has authoritarian governments combated by underground resistant movements, rebel forces on the run, pirate radio stations and break ins at highly secure official installations, the seven Harry Potter books feel more like the story of one boy’s heroic brush with fate.    Amends, told from Hermione’s perspective, is more complex and darkly nuanced and much more political.  I spent most of September steeping myself in her combative, question-everything point of view and thoroughly enjoyed it.  One of the results is this trio of playlists based on three of the main characters in the Amends plot line.

Wandless Incencio: Here are the songs I think Hermione would be time turning, writing code and plotting to overthrow the Ministry of Magic to.

Worth Twelve: Here’s what Neville would be pining, planting and pacing the Lancashire moors to.

House Arrest: And these are the tracks Draco would be stunt flying, sulking and re-evaluating his place in the world to.

8tracks doesn’t allow its users to list the songs in each mix (something to do with the legality of making music available for free on the internet – like Pandora there has to be an element of randomness).  But each of the songs on the mix was chosen for a specific reason and, if you care to, you can read the liner notes for Hermione’s playlist, “Wandless Incendio” after the jump.  Warning: it contains some spoiler alerts for the Amends plot line so beware. Read the rest of this entry »


“I’ll join you when hell freezes over:” Neville Longbottom

September 9, 2011

I said earlier that I wanted to come back to Neville after having re-read further into the books.  I never made it to the end of the series with my posts last time so I didn’t get to his shining moment at the end of the series.  Now I want to come back and explore how he grows from the toad-less boy in book one to Voldemort-defying BAMF in book seven.

Note: I’ll stick to Neville as characterized in the books for this post although I should note that I’m as pleased as anyone that the movie characterization finally allowed Neville to grow from walking punch line to the Sword-of-Gryffindor-wielding hero we knew him to be.  It hasn’t hurt at all that the actor who plays him, Matthew Lewis, is a great candidate for Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award these days either.

Neville is so great!

Unfailingly kind.  Determined.  Adorably self effacing.  Morally upstanding.  Loyal.  Nerdily enthusiastic.  I could wax poetic on the subject – is my crush showing?  Neville doesn’t always see the value in himself but he is quite capable of making friends who see it for him.  I love the moment at the opening of Order of the Phoenix when he meets Luna:

‘And I don’t know who you are.’
‘I’m nobody,’ said Neville hurriedly.
‘No, you’re not,’ said Ginny sharply.  ‘Neville Longbottom – Luna Lovegood…’

The DA (part the first)

“Nor had he said anything on the subject of Bellatrix and her fellow torturers’ escape; in fact, he barely spoke during D.A. meetings anymore, but worked relentlessly on every new jinx and counter curse Harry taught them, his plump face screwed up in concentration, apparently indifferent to injuries or accidents, working harder than anyone else in the room. He was improving so fast it was unnerving and when Harry taught them the Shield Charm, a means of deflecting minor jinxes so that they rebounded upon the attacker, only Hermione mastered the charm faster than Neville.”

Neville is determined.  He insists that he, Luna and Ginny go with Harry to the Ministry at the end of Order of the Phoenix reminding Harry that its not all about him – they all have lives and loved ones at stake in this war.  He’s also the last man standing with Harry at the end in the department of mysteries and defiant to the last despite a broken nose and wand.

And then … a new wand.

Ok, Wizarding World, WTF!  Its explained ad nauseum in the books that “the wand chooses the wizard” and Harry can’t be the only person who has ever had to work with another person’s wand and found it doesn’t do the trick for him.  Why are these wizarding parents setting their kids up for failure by sending them off to Hogwarts with poorly matched wands?

Its always been clear to me that part of Ron’s difficulty with school comes from spending two years with the wrong wand.  No wonder Neville thinks he’s a squib when he did his first five years of magical education with someone else’s wand.  Poor kid.  I think getting his own wand finally would be instrumental to his re-birth as a confident Gryffindor and leader of men (and women).   Its fine that he keeps his dad’s fugly sweater collection though – that’s quite sweet.

The DA (part the second)

“It helps to stand up to people.  I noticed that when you used to do it.”

There’s relatively little of Neville in the seventh book compared to what we are told he’s been up to but even what little there is shows how much he’s changed.  Its not clear when that happens.  Suddenly he’s (still self effacingly) leading an army of child soldiers and acting as guardian angel of the whole school.  Since no one (or at least not Harry) was paying much attention to him during all that time, it’s unclear when he made the transformation from Round-faced Toad Loser to Understated Underground Resistance Leader.

It was there all along.

But has he really changed?  Sure he’s grown up, stutters less, knows more spells, has a new wand.  But I think he’s largely the same person all along.  Still slightly self-effacing but ultimately ready to get the job done.  JK Rowling in an 2007 interview:

“And he really was The Boy It Could’ve Been, because as you know, as I made clear, he was born hours before Harry, he was born on the 30th of July, Voldemort singled him out as the other possibility. But the great thing about Neville’s story for me, the over-arching story about Neville, is that he proves himself to be a boy who could’ve done it too.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Three cheers for Neville Longbottom. Hip hip, hooray!!!!


July 21, 2011

Aren’t these great?  I found them here but think they originated here.

There wasn’t one for Ginny, which I thought was such a startling oversight that I made one myself.  Thanks for the inspiration pink-martini!  I hope you don’t mind.

Click here for more Harry Potter.

Fan Fun Weekend

July 19, 2011

The last Harry Potter Weekend has come and gone.  I enjoyed it to the max; I went to a midnight release with friends and dressed up as a Ravenclaw in uniform skirt, blue and grey striped tie, wand and robes adapted from my graduation gown.  My sister came over from Madison to see it with me again on Friday after work.  I quite enjoyed … but didn’t entirely love the movie.  I haven’t really processed it yet.

Uncertainty about the movie not withstanding, we celebrated Harry Potterdom to the max by discussing it ad nauseum while watching movies 5 thru 7a, preparing British foods  for dinner (Bubble and Squeak is great) and experimenting with Pumpkin Pasties for desert.  The recipe, as we executed it, was basically pumpkin pie filling cooked in a casserole dish until firm and then scooped into 4″ circles of pie dough, folded and crimped, then baked till brown.  They were delicious, if not very seasonally appropriate.

We also celebrated our favorite character with a mixed drink we’ve christened the “Strong Neville” adapted from the Backyard Bartender’s HP themed coctails.  We slightly upped both the lemon juice and simple syrup in an effort to make it slightly less alcoholic but no less delicious.  The result was, as promised: “a little fussy, quintessentially British, and unexpectedly strong.”  Her recipe:

Neville Longbottom
1.5 oz tea-infused gin
1 oz Pimm’s
.75 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.75 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into an ice-filled glass.

Tea-Infused Gin
In an airtight jar, combine 1.5 cups of gin and 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of loose English Breakfast tea leaves. Seal the jar, shake once, and allow to sit at room temperature for two hours. After two hours, open the jar and strain out the gin.

It was, all in all, a lovely weekend of fan fun.

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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

November 20, 2010

Its All Here … Waiting For Next Time.

Pretty obviously I intended to finish writing about this (and the last book) before yesterday but … that didn’t happen.  So now I don’t feel like focusing too much on the details of Half Blood Prince when Deathly Hallows is so present in my mind.  In that light here’s what I got out of it:

There’s a lot that happens in this book and, like all the others, it has a clear independent plot line but in light of the next book a lot of it starts to feel like setup.  Here’s just a few … of the top of my head but mostly in order:

  • Snape’s ambiguous behavior sets up his big reveal
  • Inheriting Kreature sets up living at Grimauld Place … and the locket Horcrux story
  • The Burrow visit sets up the wedding (and Shell Cottage)
  • Harry’s obsession with Draco (and Ron and Hermione’s constant dismissal of it) sets up the conflict of the three of them being on their own and on the road
  • All of Dumbledore’s collected Voldemort related memories set up the mystery of the next book
  • Hiding the Potions book sets up Ravenclaw’s diadem
  • Draco’s expelliarmus on Dumbledore sets up the Elder Wand Hallow

So that’s a lot of setup.  Not that there isn’t a goldmine of clues and foreshadowing in all the other five books too – its one of the things J.K. Rowling is most famous for.  But for me at least, with book seven staring me down from the shelf … and the next movie five days away … I’m seeing those nuggets everywhere.  The only thing to do, then, is to press on!

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Hey there, Harry Potter Searchers

November 18, 2010

There are a lot of you passing through the site lately (I can’t imagine why) and you might want to check out some of my other Harry Potter related stuff.  Feel free to check out all my Potter related posts including:


That Hard, Blazing Look: Ginny Weasley

November 16, 2010

I love this girl.  The little sister to six big brothers who all think they know best, Ginny Weasley takes no crap from anyone.  She’ll catch the snitch under pressure, stand up for her friends, break the rules with impunity and hex you if you get in her way … or even ask too many annoying questions.  She’s great from day one but stands out even more in Book Six, where I’m tempted to draw little hearts around her name every time it comes up.

A Match for Harry

Maybe its just the power of propinquity but Harry and Ginny really “get” each other.  He thinks she’s really funny, laughs at her Phlegm imitations, appreciates her back up on the Quiddich pitch and generally understands how great she is.  She is one of the few people who’s actually able to see him as a person rather than a celebrity.  She doesn’t put up with his self pity for a moment (I love the scene in Order of the Phoenix when she chews him out for worrying that Voldemort was possessing him and not coming to her for help … as she’s the only person he knows who has some experience with that particular problem).  When Harry’s upset, Ginny sometimes knows before Ron and Hermione do and she’s usually ready to help out as when Read the rest of this entry »

“I think I’m feeling a bit rebellious:” Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

November 11, 2010

I love this book.  As Harry, Ron and Hermione progress into their teen years they start having a better and better understanding of the world around them.  I can’t really say they get more involved in defending themselves and fighting the dark arts (because they have already taken on Voldemort three times, saved the school, and two the lives of two innocents at this point) but they get their hands dirty with a little more self awareness now.  At this point it feels like they are less stumbling from one misadventure to another and more using what they’ve learned to accomplish their own goals.  Which is fun.

A window into the world of adults

In this book more than any other Harry and his friends start seeing the adults around them as human beings with strengths and weaknesses and hopes and fears.  This realization isn’t a lightning bolt – its been coming on for a while.  In the first book they assume every adult (except Snape) is powerful, worthy and good.  In book two they are still shocked to learn that Gilderoy Lockhart is planning to run out on his responsibility to help Ginny.  In the fourth they can see that Barty Crouch Sr is addled, that Karkarov is spineless and Hagrid has identity issues. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trademark Three Part Harry Potter Ending

November 7, 2010

I’ve just finished reading Order of the Phoenix and I’ll be posting about it soon (when I’ve gathered my thoughts a bit but I had to kick off by celebrating that J.K. Rowling classic, the three-part ending which comes standard in each book.

Part 1: The Action Set Piece

The dramatic climax in which Harry, Ron and Hermione (and occasionally someone else) rush headlong into danger with the best of intentions.  Through some twist of fate everybody else falls behind and Harry ends up taking on Voldemort (or a troupe of dementors) on his own.  Deep sighs of relief all around.  But its not over yet …

Part 2: The Hospital Wing Tell All

Rowling must be a fan of Agatha Christie (I’m not) because she just loves to use this ending style in which the smartest person in the room sits everybody down and re-explains the entire plot, adding in key pieces of information which re-frame everything in a way the reader could never have predicted.  The Hospital Wing Tell All usually involves Dumbledore sitting by Harry’s bedside (although sometimes the scene is moved to his office or someone else’s) and telling Harry (and us) all sorts of things that would have been useful to know a while ago.

Part 3: The Hogwarts Express Pick-me-up

Since the Tell all phase often contains some pretty bleak news (Harry is destined to battle Voldemort to the death, e.g.) we need a little pepping up before that chime-y cheerful music kicks in at the end of the audio book … and to keep us waiting eagerly for the next installment in several years time.  So we always get a little bit of humor and often a little bit of revenge on the school train.  This often involves hexing Draco Malfoy (which is effective but a bit unfair) or intimidating the Dursleys (who totally deserve it).

Here’s how the formula plays out in the first five books.  Spoiler Alert: if you don’t already know the endings to each HP book, you should stop reading.  But in that case why are you reading this in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »

“Reducto,” “Impedimenta,” and “Priori Incancatatum:” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

October 26, 2010

NB: I have to admit … I’m not giving this post my all here.  I have a couple of reasons (excuses) including that I’ve been really busy, that I don’t really like Goblet of Fire all that much, and that I’ve now gone past it and am well into Order of the Phoenix so it isn’t even all that fresh in my mind.  Never the less, I am way too OCD to skip it and move on so …

Dark Defence Training Camp, Courtesy of Lord Voldemort

As much as I don’t really enjoy this book, it is very necessary to the plot.  To buy the series as a whole, we all have to believe that Harry Potter does indeed have a chance when it comes to beating Lord Voldemort.  This seems irrational in the first book even when the Dark Lord is just a creepy face in the back of Quirrel’s head.  As we watch Voldemort cut a swath Read the rest of this entry »

Hogwarts Math: How many wizards are there?

September 8, 2010

Its always around Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that I start tilting my head sideways and wondering about how many witches and wizards there are in the wizarding world anyway.  Up until this point I, at least, didn’t think too hard about the world as a whole – Harry had enough going on just with his own circle at Hogwarts.  At this point though, the book starts opening up a lot of new possibilities – other schools of magic, foreign wizards speaking other languages (and casting spell in them?).

Rowling also starts throwing numbers around all over the place … numbers which don’t always add up.  Here are a couple of key numbers that can be used to come up with different overall populations from different places in the cannon:

Five beds in Harry’s dorm

We know that when Harry comes to Hogwarts, there are five Gryffindor first year boys.  We actually only ever learn the names of three girls in his class: Hermione, Lavender and Parvati but this may be because he’s not paying attention to them. I assumed, based on this, that there were roughly ten students per house per year.  This is born out by Harry’s first flying lesson; for Gryffindor and Slytherin first years there are Read the rest of this entry »

“I’m not going to be murdered:” Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

September 3, 2010

This is the first book in which Harry feels (and is assumed to be by the rest of the wizarding community) specifically persecuted.  In the first book the trio basically stumble on the mystery of the sorcerer’s stone and in the second book, although Tom Riddle is particularly interested in Harry, the danger from the Monster of Slytherin is pretty general.  Ironically Voldemort is barely present in Prisoner of Azkaban but both Harry and the school and ministry authorities believe that Sirius Black is hunting him on the dark lord’s behalf.  Its interesting how coolly Harry takes it, despite dark and unsubtle hints from Professor Trelawney and his own multiple encounters with an apparent “grim.”

Hermione Granger and the Voice of Reason (ignored)

Does anyone else think that Hermione gets the very short end of the stick through this book.  Sure she gets to mastermind the final action sequence but that’s one day; she spends most of the year working her tail off in school and being shunned by her two best friends for trying to point out the truth.

  • First she’s in trouble because her cat, to quote Hagrid, “acted like a cat.”  She says that there’s no evidence that Crookshanks ate Scabbers, and, in fact, he did not.
  • Then she’s dissed and dismissed for pointing out Read the rest of this entry »

The Oh-So-Unstable Triumvirate

August 30, 2010

Three is an awkward number for a friendship in any situation and Harry Ron and Hermione demonstrate that in nearly every chapter of the Harry Potter books.  Its two against one for large swathes of each of the seven.

Oh No!  Not the hospital wing again!

In the earliest books its often due to extenuating circumstances:

  • as when Ron can’t come send Norbert on his way because he’s recovering from a dragon bite and then likewise missed out on the resultant detention in the Forbidden forest;
  • or when Hermione is petrified during Chamber of Secrets (having just solved the mystery) and Ron and Harry have to figure out what she knew and go into the chamber after Ginny without her;
  • or when Ron’s leg is broken in Prisoner of Azkaban and so Hermione leaves him in the hospital wing and takes Harry back with her time turner to save Buckbeak and Sirius.

The three of them (as well as a lot of other students) seem spend an alarming amount of time Read the rest of this entry »

“As celebrity does:” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

August 25, 2010

I love this book.  Its very funny and packed with ridiculous situations and characters – midnight escapes in flying cars (both from Dursley muggle-dom and from hoards of spiders), singing valentines, Lockhart in general, dueling clubs, Myrtle.  Its delightful … but its also quite serious.

I think this is the book where Harry really establishes himself as the true Gryffindor hero type.  In Sorcerer’s Stone, he and the trio in general are mostly just nosing around into things not their business.  They’re curious about the mysterious Gringotts break in, they hate their Potions teacher and imagine all sorts of things about him, they wander the castle at night and find magical mirrors and then Harry basically trips over the Dark Lord while wandering the Forbidden Forest at night.  Although the book ends with Harry bravely striding off alone to a confrontation with Voldemort it is largely through happenstance (or fate) and not much by his own intention.  His actions in Chamber of Secrets seem somewhat different.

Celebrity is as Celebrity Does

This time around the stakes are much, much higher.  Instead of beginning with an apparently insignificant Read the rest of this entry »

Where to draw the line with obsessive fan behavior?

August 24, 2010

My sister has been mocking me pretty constantly for my Harry Potter kick of late.  I could point out that she has her own intense little fads (watching Sunshine four times in a week) but that would be petty.  Still I have been obsessing and there’s no point denying it.  I don’t want to.  I enjoy my obsessive behavior and I see no reason to stop.  Its so much fun.

For example, I was indulging my excitement last week by tweaking out over Empire Online’s delightful breakdown of the trailer and getting myself all hyped for the upcoming movie.   They show 22 stills with scene by scene commentary and guesses as to which part (I or II) it will fall into. That’s pretty much established now that the break has been released by Entertainment Weekly (which I noted on Mugglenet last week).  I actually was much more excited after reading these than I was at the end of the rather fast paced, mysteriously quick cut trailer… in fact, I found it totally thrilling … and the text by Helen O’Hara is very funny.  Go check it out. Here’s a taste below:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Very Secret (and rather evil) Diary

August 20, 2010

Watch out for that thing, Harry.

I was struck while re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by how much the Diary Horcrux reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ring.  [The similarity is, of course, much stronger with both of the later horcruxes Harry comes in contact with – the Gaunt ring and the locket – but I’ll get to them later.] The Chamber of Secrets passage that describes how Harry keeps the diary with him even after they’ve tried and failed to get any information out of it is particularly eerie:

“… even though he knew the diary was blank, he kept absentmindedly picking it up and turning the pages, as though it were a story he wanted to finish.”

I’m strongly reminded of Bilbo describing his feelings about the ring to Gandalf in “A Long-Expected Party” as “growing on” his mind:

“I am always wanting to put it on and disappear, don’t you know; or wondering if it is safe and pulling it out to make sure.”

Its nice foreshadowing.  Even though Harry thinks of the diary as a “half-forgotten” friendly figure the third person description is enough to make us, the audience, feel creepy about it.

She was really holding out on us.

I stumbled across an old interview which Read the rest of this entry »

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

August 18, 2010

I like this movie a lot.  The last half hour is (necessarily) super depressing and it ends on a bad note but that will be fixed when they finish the series (assuming that they don’t mess it up a la Return of the King).  For the moment I though I can say without reservation that it was breathtakingly beautiful … and very funny.  The teen romances that start to build up in the story make for a lot of humor.  One of the things that makes it work the most for me is how comfortable all the actors seem with each other – they have actually all been friends for as long as their characters have and it makes for nice screen chemistry (see above).  The movie does a lot of things oddly but on the whole I can forgive it anything … for the following reasons:

The Score is Fantastic: I can’t possibly rave enough about how much I love the musical score by Nicholas Hooper which is odd because I don’t love his score for Order of the Phoenix nearly as well.   The subtle waltz rhythm to Harry and Ginny’s love theme knocks me sideways.  The drama over some of the action sequences is note perfect and the menace of, for example, Snape and the Unbreakable Vow is truly unsettling.  Slughorn’s Confession, which is really Read the rest of this entry »

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

August 17, 2010

This is an up and down movie in my opinion.  Some aspects are delightful and done so well … others are unpleasant and creepy (but supposed to be) … and some are tragic mistakes.  They had a lot of ground to cover, plot wise, so some things did have to be cut.  But still I mourn the loss of Kreature, of all the emotional development and insight into the adult characters that takes place at Grimauld Place and,  for that matter, all of the personality in Tonks full stop, etc etc etc. There’s a lot packed into it but still it somehow manages to retail a good sense of pacing.  There are the usual high adrenaline action sequences but there are moments of down time and character development which I really appreciate.

The good and bad of the book: I love Sirius (with all his flaws) and I’m glad we get at least a little time between him and Harry at the train station and again at Christmas.  Its not much but I love every bit of it.  Gary Oldman just nails the role.  In a few short scenes he gives all of Sirius’ pathos and bravery and yet Read the rest of this entry »

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

August 16, 2010

This is far from my favorite book and I guess its no surprise that I consequently don’t really enjoy the movie which feels like a race more than a story with the characters even walking quickly as they move from place to place.  I’m not sure if Mike Newell, the director, is really to blame here.  Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, wrote each of the scripts with he exception of Order of the Phoenix so its hard to say.  There’s just too much to cover and, unlike some of the other book plots, very little can be left out of this one – imagine cutting one of the three tasks.  Nevertheless I don’t enjoy being hurried from one scene to the next.  The elements they do cut entirely (like Ludo Bagman) destabilize the plot and contribute even more to it feeling like a slide show but in a way I wish they’d cut a little more dramatically and left time for a few emotional breaths.  If I hadn’t read the books the film would have made no sense at all.

Here’s what makes me crazy:

The things they change: Why did they make Beaubatons and Durmstrang single gender schools?  Read the rest of this entry »

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

August 13, 2010

I love this book.  I love this movie.  I’m not too proud too admit that I when I saw a pink hoodie like the one Hermione wears through the climax sequence of the movie I bought it on the spot.  And when I wear it I still feel extra bad ass.  I think Alfonso Cuaron took the franchise to a whole new level with this film and we all owe him SO much.  Its dark.  Its dramatic.  Its complicated.  Its not afraid to condense here and there to tell the story it needs to.  And the whole movie is just beautiful.

The way they changed the set: In the book Rowling implies that you walk down the main steps from the front door (which is the one Harry always seems to use even when sneaking out of the castle in the middle of the night … seriously, the castle doesn’t have a single side door?) and out to the lake.  Hagrid’s hut seems to be somewhere off around to the side (past the greenhouses).  In the first two films, the kids bop down the steps and walk across a wide open green and straight up the steps to Hagrid’s.  It is, when you think about it, a little abrupt, and Read the rest of this entry »