HP reread! Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

Much Ado About Muggles.

When Harry asks Hagrid why wizards hide from Muggles, Hagrid replies, “Blimey, Harry, everyone’d be wantin’ magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we’re best left alone.” It’s interesting because there’s no sense of fear. Also reminds me of later when Harry will write an essay on that witch that was supposed to be burnt at the stake but just made a joke out of it. The wizards are extremely isolationist, but they are like that out of a sense of superiority. That’s why Arthur’s interest in Muggles is considers so quirky, too; it’s like when somebody studies turtles, weird, quirky but harmless. Anyway, it’s a perfect breeding ground for an anti-Muggleborn attitude. In this world where Muggles are a nuisance at the best of times, of course a lot of people would consider Muggleborns inferior as well. And while a part of the wizarding world is fighting anti-Muggleborn attitudes, nobody is giving a fuck about anti-Muggle attitudes. Hagrid, of all people, has them. Everybody has them.

Somewhat Less Ado About Quirrell

Professor Quirrell is introduced as a man with a severe anxiety problem caused by PTSD. Of course, later we learn that he has an anxiety problem because he’s carrying Voldemort around. But still. He didn’t use to be that messed up, Hagrid says. I mean supposedly, he once was the man who actively decided to help Voldemort return, if I remember correctly how this went down. It’s pretty surprising that Voldymoldy did him in like that, all that considered. Also, since he took a year off to travel, I wonder if he’d been a Dark Arts teacher previously, then left for a year, then returned. Would explain why he was hired. 


Let Me Just Say

I still remember the exact moment when I fell in love with HP, which was in this chapter when Harry and Hagrid notice the boys staring at the new Nimbus 2000, “It’s the fastest!” Probably you need to be from a football / soccer culture to understand how hilariously charming the Quidditch bits in the books are exactly. 

A Note On Joffrey Draco

Draco! Draco really quite accidentally pushes every button to make sure Harry will dislike him on first sight. He immediately talks of bullying his father into buying him an expensive racing broom, reminding Harry of Dudley. He makes Harry feel stupid with his questions. He calls Hagrid a servant (“He was liking the boy less and less every second”) and “a sort of savage.” Then he also sprouts some anti-Muggleborn propaganda, although at that point I think that mostly goes over Harry’s head. Also worthy of mentioning, eleven-year-old Draco still is sure that he’s his daddy’s all, wanting to “bully” him into buying him a broom. Or at least that’s what he’s projecting. It’s interesting because there’s a lack of respect implied when you do that. Harry’s reminded of Dudley for a good reason. 

Two Notes on Hagrid

Hagrid saying that there wasn’t a single Death Eater who wasn’t a Slytherin is such a curious glitch. I mean, he’s had confirmed interaction with “young Sirius Black” at that time, who was “the right-hand man of the Dark Lord” so it’s not just plain factually wrong. But it also doesn’t make sense if you just think of it as a prejudice of Hagrid’s. It’s gotta be a plain writing glitch. Or… I wonder if he would mentally have re-sorted Sirius into Slytherin. If his prejudice against Slytherin is that strong, and his love for Gryffindor is that complete, he might have concluded that Sirius never really was a Gryffindor to begin with, and might as well have been a Slytherin. Anyway, Hagrid hates Slytherin as much as he loves Dumbledore, and we shouldn’t take his opinions all that seriously on either account. Hagrid doesn’t say things because they’re factually right; he makes up facts as hyperbole to underline the point he wants to make emotionally. It’s a pretty common habit for people with little formal education. I’ve encountered this in editing; the less formal education a writer has, the more often they do that. 

Hagrid says, talking about Harry attending Hogwarts alone, “I know it’s hard. Yeh’ve been singled out, an’ that’s always hard. But yeh’ll have a great time at Hogwarts – I did – still do, ‘smatter of fact.” Hagrid must have had a really harsh time of it, on his own in Hogwarts as a half-giant, facing prejudice every day, and then he was living on the grounds as a pariah, everybody knowing that he’d been expelled, and that he’d caused a student’s death. That’s some seriously irreverent optimism. It’s also really sweet and giving that he would equate his struggle with prejudice with Harry’s discomfort about being considered special. I wouldn’t fault Hagrid one bit for not making that connection.

Three Notes on Ollivander

The Ollivander scene emulates the opening scene of The Never-Ending Story. Just sayin’. 

Fun fact! “Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance.” So there are wands out there in the world that do not. 

Ollivander has business two or so weeks before the start of school, and maybe also one or two days after the kids get home for the holidays, in cases where a wand got damaged. Beyond that, it’d just be the occasional wand that needs to be replaced. I say Ollivander closes his shop most of the year and works by individual appointment, or only opens one afternoon a week, and the rest of the time, travels the world to buy wand cores, and makes wands in his wand workshop. Possibly also attends wandmaker conferences!

2 thoughts on “HP reread! Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 5: Diagon Alley”

  1. “Hagrid doesn’t say things because they’re factually right; he makes up facts as hyperbole to underline the point he wants to make emotionally. It’s a pretty common habit for people with little formal education. I’ve encountered this in editing; the less formal education a writer has, the more often they do that. ”

    That’s really insightful, I hadn’t thought about that in connection to Hagrid before. I may have found one of the reasons that I could never warm up to Hagrid as a character. He means well, I just often found him vaguely annoying.

    1. Heh. People like him are hard to argue with!

      I’d never notices this myself before I started doing this close reading. It’s a really smart characterization technique. I might have to steal it.

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