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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The shortchanging of House Hufflepuff

In which one of the non-quidditch related shortcomings of JK Rowling's Harry Potter series is explained:
    For instance, Slytherin
    Took only pure-blood wizards
    Of great cunning, just like him,
    And those of sharpest mind
    Were taught by Ravenclaw
    While the bravest and the boldest
    Went to daring Gryffindor.
    Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest,
    And taught them all she knew,
    Thus the Houses and their founders
    Retained friendships firm and true.



“She took the rest”

“She took the rest”


Okay. So maybe Hufflepuff doesn’t pick students with dependable, useful, non-flashy but underrated qualities. Apparently, Hufflepuff just takes the rejects.

Yeah.

We’ve hit, by the way, on the biggest flaw of Rowling’s House system. She pays lip service to people overcoming the expectations set by the house they’re sorted in, but in reality characters who are part of Slytherin are evil, characters who are in Gryffindor are good, and the middle two houses don’t matter. Rowling at least has the decency to add in Luna Lovegood, a Ravenclaw and one of the series’ most interesting and beloved characters, but in Hufflepuff…well, there’s Tonks. Except that we’re never actually told Tonks is a Hufflepuff until after the series is over. And let’s not even get into all of the problems with Rowling’s portrayal of Slytherin House.
I could never figure out what Hermione was doing in Gryffindor when she was an obvious Ravensclaw. I mean, being intelligent and studious to the point of being annoying about it was the primary aspect of her personality.

But as I pointed out many years ago, Rowling isn't any good with coherent plots or worldbuilding; nearly everything about Harry Potter is entirely nonsensical. What she's good at is creating vivid characters and appealing to the lowest common denominator in children. And that, quite frankly, is a considerably more valuable skill than mere logic or literary talent.

Labels:

120 Comments:

Anonymous WinstonWebb February 09, 2016 2:05 PM  

The films are better than the books. Harry Potter is the only example I can think of where that statement applies.

Blogger Dexter February 09, 2016 2:08 PM  

Hated the sorting hat.

Hated "evil is cowardly".

That is all.

Blogger Blume February 09, 2016 2:20 PM  

My thought has always been that Gryffindor was the house of heroes. What's Neville Longbottom doing in that house? He is clearly a hufflepuff but he was going to be a hero at some point so into the house he went.

Blogger Worlds Edge February 09, 2016 2:23 PM  

Cedric Diggory (before he became Edward) was in Hufflepuff. I'm not even much of a fan of the HP series and I knew that. The fact that he seemed dangerously close to Bobby Stu territory might make him a curious choice for ol' Hufflepuff, but that's where Rowling stuck him.

Anonymous Michael Maier February 09, 2016 2:25 PM  

The HP books could have been so much better. (I only read the 1st, was underwhelmed and watched the rest.) Cedric Diggory's death was about the only emotionally-compelling thing that happened in any of the films.

Now imagine Cedric Diggory introduced as a minor character in book 1. Older but friendly and kind, a solid and brave mentor to Harry. His competition with Harry for the Wizard Cup could have been much more complicated and interesting. And most of all, his death would have meant much more to the reader. It could have been heart-wrenching and meaningful, instead of having a scene where the father's wailing was the only part that touched me as a watcher.

Rowling missed so many opportunities to make those books great. But like The Hunger Games, the trappings are more important than the characters or story.

Contrast that with the first book of Lamplighter's wizard school series. Fun and compelling with much more interesting characters.

I really must read that second book and see if others have been released.

Blogger Gaiseric February 09, 2016 2:29 PM  

World-building as plot device is singularly unsatisfying after a while, however.

Blogger Krul February 09, 2016 2:31 PM  

Well, when Harry put on the Sorting Hat, it was all "You wanna be in Slytherin?" and Harry was like "No thanks", so then SH be all "Fine, Gryffindor then."

Looks to me like the students get their preference, if they have one. If not, Hufflepuff. The sorting hat has the easiest job ever.

Blogger Alexander February 09, 2016 2:32 PM  

And this is the reason that my cousins, age six and four, can have the following conversation:

S: You're a Slytherin!

T: Well you're a Hufflepuff!

S: I am NOT.

Better a raciss than a reject.

Blogger Cataline Sergius February 09, 2016 2:33 PM  

What she's good at is creating vivid characters and appealing to the lowest common denominator in children. And that, quite frankly, is a considerably more valuable skill than mere logic or literary talent.

No joke. I wish I had a talent that approached anything that useful.

Funny thing about Rowling is that her career almost didn't happen. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone got fished out the reject pile by an agent's secretary who just liked the art work Rowling had done. The agent himself didn't like it but he handed it to his age appropriate daughter, who devoured it in hours and came back panting for more.

Even then Rowling just piddled around in the UK YA mid-list. It was just Toff-School Fiction with wizards. Nobody cared about that crap in Britain. She didn't go nuclear until one editor in America at Scholastic Books decided (rightfully) that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone needed a new title if it was going to sell in the States.

Yep, Rowling owes her house made of gold bricks to little old Scholastic Books. And a decision that she would never have allowed today.

Blogger Timmy3 February 09, 2016 2:37 PM  

I don't get the over analysis of Harry Potter. The longer the story extends beyond the first one and its quite a short book 1, you're bound to have inconsistencies with the sequels if you're keeping track of such things. You really don't find out much about the minor characters. They serve the story of Harry Potter.

You do know the Sorting Hat takes into account the desires of the student to go where they wish. There's no fixed rule.

Anonymous Leonidas February 09, 2016 2:37 PM  

What Rowling really, really nailed is what magic would look like to a child. The nonsensical plots and world building largely result from this, and I think a lot of it was intentional. It was, after all, a series aimed at children. The hardcore love of the series from adults is a sign of a generation (or more than one, since it's huge with both Boomers and Millennials) that hasn't fully grown up.

To be clear, I say that as a fan of the series - but not a hardcore fan.

But think on it. Every magical representation is specifically chosen to appeal to a child, and much of it is just plain silly. We have modern technology that easily works better - and is simpler - than much of the Rube Goldberg incantations the wizards use. Adults - especially the technologically inclined - roll their eyes. But kids and the scientifically ignorant (especially the IFL-Science crowd) eat it up. Because they don't understand how much simpler the real-world equivalents actually are, or how impractical her magical solutions would be if they actually existed.

Why would any wizard use fires or owls to communicate in a world of cell phones and e-mail? Really? They wouldn't, or at least if they did it would be the same way your grandmother still sends you notes on your birthday in the mail.

But again, a kid eats that stuff up. Kids don't care if it's practical - it's neat. And she absolutely nailed that. The downside for those of us who didn't read the books as kids is that the world building and the plots pay too much tribute to the childishness of the magical silliness and the characters (here I use the word childishness in a loving way; perhaps "childlikeness" would be a better word).

The other huge issue I had with the series right from the beginning is that any and all "surprise" in the series comes only from the fact that the reader simply isn't given enough info to figure it out. There are very few cases in the plot where the info is all there to really know what happen before the very end of the story. Given how many of the stories are essentially mystery tales, that really bugged me.

Despite that, though, she also managed to include some very strong themes in the story. Although given how SJW she's gone, it's amazing how superversive the underlying themes actually are.

Blogger S1AL February 09, 2016 2:42 PM  

Leonidas - Unfortunately, almost every urban/modern-day fantasy series has the issue of "well crap, technology." And I'm not actually aware of one that doesn't solve it through (a) humans don't get to play with it, (b) Wizards + technology = bad stuff.

Anonymous BGKB February 09, 2016 2:42 PM  

Didn't Tonks get by on being a natural shape shifter? Shifter privilege.

I could never figure out what Hermione was doing in Gryffindor when she was an obvious Ravensclaw

She was brave enough to let her Mary Sue flag fly. /jk Its possible that other ravenclaws are even more scold rule abiding that they wouldn't do anything adventurous. Draco was supposed to be bad but he was the de facto leader of the cunning cutthroat wizards group, and he had the skills to rebuild a device that could bypass the teleport ban.

The scene where Draco provides his team all new top speed brooms(more likely just the ones that couldn't afford it themselves) with Harry realizing it wouldn't be worth draining his trust fund for a marginal improvement, is probably a better education in economics than what kids get from k-12 public school.

Blogger Cataline Sergius February 09, 2016 2:44 PM  

According to my wife Hermione Sue was nearly put in Raven-claw by the Sorting Hat. She asked it to put her in Gryffindor.

One of the biggest weakness of the whole series is that there wasn't a single good guy from Slytherin. I mean they are all supposed to be ambitious as hell, right? So why are they all in such a rush to kneel to the half-blood Prince?

You'd think at least one of them would be taking the view of, "I will bend the knee to no one on this Earth. I don't' care if it costs me my life."

Blogger Timmy3 February 09, 2016 2:45 PM  

"Why would any wizard use fires or owls to communicate in a world of cell phones and e-mail?"

The first book was published in 1997, way before the first iPhones. Who does email today?

Anonymous Leonidas February 09, 2016 2:46 PM  

@12:

Yes, but Rowling's genius here was actually just running with it - and cranking it to eleven. She didn't even worry about the practicality of it, she just chose to make it all appealing to children. That's why she's mega-rich and us tech-nerds who obsess over the practicality aren't.

Blogger Krul February 09, 2016 2:46 PM  

Related, I was always really curious about the four founders of Hogwarts. I'd love to read a prequel story focusing on them. The premise of four powerful and accomplished sorcerers with very different personalities working together to found a magic school in the Middle Ages has a lot of potential. Why would they even want to do that? I bet there are a lot of interesting stories that could be told with that scenario.

Anonymous WaterBoy February 09, 2016 2:47 PM  

Vox: "What she's good at is creating vivid characters and appealing to the lowest common denominator in children. And that, quite frankly, is a considerably more valuable skill than mere logic or literary talent."

Seems to me I recall seeing a relevant adage somewhere around this place... lemme see... Oh, yes, here it is:

"Success comes most swiftly and completely not to the greatest or perhaps even to the ablest men[or women -ed.], but to those whose gifts are most completely in harmony with the taste of their times."

OT: From the 'Life Imitates Art' Department, The train is fine, except it's been delayed. I hope the motherf*cker suffered.

Anonymous Zippy February 09, 2016 2:50 PM  

My fanwank for why Hermione is in Gryffindor is that Dumbledore put her there. He knew that Harry would face a series of increasingly difficult tests, and that he needed somebody to be the brains of the operation. So he put Hermione in Harry's house.

My other theory -- which drove my former girlfriend batty -- is that it's all a psychotic delusion. Harry is a horribly abused child. He is imagining the whole "Wizarding World" to escape the abuse.

This explains a lot, actually. Ever notice that he never gets turned into a warthog, but instead suffers injuries consistent with abuse, like concussions and broken arms? Or that the game of Quiditch is obviously idiotic, with rules designed to make him, The Seeker, the hero all the time? Why would anybody else even bother to play? And -- why are the Weasleys poor? Why can't they just Magic a bigger house? For that matter, why do we need House Elves when people can clean up quickly and easily by magic? None of the world makes any sense, except as a child's psychotic delusion.

Blogger Cataline Sergius February 09, 2016 2:51 PM  

And honestly if Slytherin was invariably the House of Evil. Then when the Sorting Hat did select any child Slytherin. The intelligent choice would be to quietly escort those children to the cold dark, Pre-Crime Room where they would never be heard from again.

Harsh I know. But it's big picture time here. Seriously, the Sorting Hat should have done it's level best to strangle Tom Riddle the moment it was placed on his head.

Blogger S1AL February 09, 2016 2:54 PM  

"Yes, but Rowling's genius here was actually just running with it - and cranking it to eleven"

Of course. That does seem to be a theme of most successful children's and YA fiction. Heroes of Olympus, Hunger Games... Heck, even Narnia wasn't big on rules.

I guess KISS applies.

Blogger Josh February 09, 2016 2:55 PM  

Team Slytherin

Blogger Ingot9455 February 09, 2016 2:56 PM  

I always got the idea that magic, and wizards, were specifically not supposed to be 'logical'. Magic isn't 'logical' which is why it's magic. Which is why nine year old incipient-wizards can fall out the third floor window and bounce down the street.

What makes perfect sense to a 'wizard' makes no sense to a normal and vice versa. Hermione's (and to a lesser degree Voldemort and Harry's) primary powers are that they are the most logic-capable of the wizards.

Blogger Krul February 09, 2016 2:58 PM  

@20 Cataline - "Seriously, the Sorting Hat should have done it's level best to strangle Tom Riddle the moment it was placed on his head."

It's a shame time travel doesn't exist in the Harry Potter universe. Oh wait...

Blogger Nate February 09, 2016 3:02 PM  

does anyone remember the name of the works Rowling ripped off?

Blogger Positive Dennis February 09, 2016 3:03 PM  

Thanks. If I ever start my great American fantasy novel about a gluten intolerant dyslexic dwarf named drawf these kind of posts are helpful.

Blogger Drew February 09, 2016 3:07 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Krul February 09, 2016 3:09 PM  

@25 The Diane Duane books? I couldn't tell you.

Blogger Gaiseric February 09, 2016 3:09 PM  

What Rowling really, really nailed is what magic would look like to a child. The nonsensical plots and world building largely result from this, and I think a lot of it was intentional. It was, after all, a series aimed at children. The hardcore love of the series from adults is a sign of a generation (or more than one, since it's huge with both Boomers and Millennials) that hasn't fully grown up.

To be clear, I say that as a fan of the series - but not a hardcore fan.


To my kids' generation, sure—absolutely. Star Wars played the same role (and has the exact same weaknesses) to mine.

Despite that, though, she also managed to include some very strong themes in the story. Although given how SJW she's gone, it's amazing how superversive the underlying themes actually are.

That actually is quite astounding, especially in light of her various pronouncements about stuff since the series conclusion.

Blogger Drew February 09, 2016 3:11 PM  

@11. The other huge issue I had with the series right from the beginning is that any and all "surprise" in the series comes only from the fact that the reader simply isn't given enough info to figure it out.

That's because they are all deus ex machina endings. All of them. It's a sign of lazy writing.

Blogger slarrow February 09, 2016 3:12 PM  

Hufflepuff is for Deltas, then?

I disagree that the Harry Potter series is stupid, though. I've long been a fan of John Granger's work on the underlying alchemical structure of the books and have been persuaded by his argument that they are essentially Christian works in disguise that had to be "smuggled past dragons", to use Lewis's phrase. There are also a lot of classical techniques being used--Granger makes the argument that Plato's soul division of belly/head/heart is reflected in Ron/Hermione/Harry. The four houses align with the four classical elements of fire (Gryffindor), water (Slytherin), air (Ravenclaw), and earth (Hufflepuff.) The allusions to the Arthur tales are myriad. The skewering of the press and self-interested bureaucracy are useful satire.

There's a lot of good stuff in there, some of it even great. But it's built to resonate emotionally, not logically, so it gets a bunch of relationship stuff there later in the books (a bit odd for a kid constantly fighting for his life to worry too much about who to ask to a party) that bloats it too much. Of course, a bit of logic would ruin a good many beloved tales. (Just let it lie, Oedipus. I'm not really dead, Romeo. Have the Eagles drop the ring in the volcano, Gandalf.)

Blogger Patrikbc February 09, 2016 3:15 PM  

According to an online search, the books of Magic by Neil Gaiman s commonly cited as a source she ripped off, but Gaiman and Rowling both say they were influenced by TH Whites sword in the stone

Anonymous Alsos February 09, 2016 3:18 PM  

"I got sorted into Hufflepuff"
https://twitter.com/MaryRobinette/status/693105549555081216

Anonymous Amadan February 09, 2016 3:24 PM  

Rowling obviously drew on a lot of influences. British boarding school stories have been around forever, and she wasn't the first to add wizards (e.g. Diane Duane). But it's Jane Yolen who claimed that Rowling copied her. (Well, her and that crazy lady who wrote some self-published children's book with creatures called "Muggles" in it.)

OpenID dreadilkzee February 09, 2016 3:25 PM  

Ask the kids what each house stood for and see how many of them actually paid attention.
Slytherin Bad, Griffendor Good was all that my son and his friends could really iterate. The other houses were just background.

Divergent did better on showing a class system.

Anonymous Bz February 09, 2016 3:30 PM  

The intelligent choice would be to quietly escort those children to the cold dark, Pre-Crime Room where they would never be heard from again.

Headmaster Dumbledore, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Defense Against Dark Arts Teacher? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Death Eaters. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a wizard who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a wand, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Blogger Gollios February 09, 2016 3:32 PM  

It's be interesting to see another author write something like "The Flashman Papers" (Draco Papers?) to compliment the HP series...although I'm not sure JKR (or her estate) would allow it.

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer February 09, 2016 3:32 PM  

One of the biggest weakness of the whole series is that there wasn't a single good guy from Slytherin. I mean they are all supposed to be ambitious as hell, right? So why are they all in such a rush to kneel to the half-blood Prince?

There supposed to be cunning, but cunning people don't indenture themselves to madmen.

Look at the last couple of books. The Malfoys are terrified by Voldermort. He threatens their child and forces them into actions that are not in their best interests. And what does he offer in return? Something that's of no real value to them at all. Persecution of non-full blooded witches.

The Malfoys are already rich and have a superior social position. (Why they are rich and are socially prominent, as opposed to the Weasleys' status is never explained, even though the Weasleys are also pure bloods and actually produce something far more valuable to pure blood society than a snotty attitude, actual children, is never explained.) How does the persecution of half-bloods benefit them?

The only reason they have to follow Voldermort is fear. Cunning, amoral people would have seen his rise to power as the danger to them it was and worked to stop him early in his career.

And failing that they would have aligned themselves with his opposition. Sure it would be dangerous, but so is hanging out with someone who likes to feed people to giant snakes and is as likely to kill you as look at you.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet February 09, 2016 3:35 PM  

Nate,

Possibly thinking of Willy the Wizard by Adrian Jacobs but there are others.

JK Rowling on a scale of 1 to 10. What's your take?

Blogger BunE22 February 09, 2016 3:36 PM  

@1 "The films are better than the books. Harry Potter is the only example I can think of where that statement applies."

Meh. I lost interest in the Harry Potter books and never saw the movies, but as to what you stated, I have said the same about The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Blogger JaimeInTexas February 09, 2016 3:38 PM  

@11. Leonidas
"Why would any wizard use fires or owls to communicate in a world of cell phones and e-mail?"

Who is your cell phone carrier that make you not wish a little magic in some buildings and geographical areas?

Blogger John Wright February 09, 2016 3:43 PM  

"ablest men[or women -ed.]"

Dear Ed., whoever you are,

Please shut your gawping mouth ignorant, illiterate fool.

In English, as in life, the man embraces the woman.

Unless one is also in the habit of saying "There is a fox or vixen in the chickenhouse or henhouse! Release the dog or bitch!" then one sees that in English, the same word sometimes serves to describe the race as the sex.

That anyone would dare correct an correct sentence to make it incorrect is unforgivable, not to mention annoying.

Would that all anti-grammarians, activists, and feminists who ever made this error were gathered together and shared one cheek, so that they could all be slapped with one blow!

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer February 09, 2016 3:46 PM  

So in a more adult version of this series (wipe that smirk off your face) there would have been plenty of upper class Slytherins working to stop Voldermort and a lot of the conflict would be due to the fact that the Syltherins would be more ethically flexible than their allies.

Blogger Nate February 09, 2016 3:49 PM  

"JK Rowling on a scale of 1 to 10. What's your take? "

One scale of 1 to 10?

minus 37.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 February 09, 2016 3:50 PM  

Sounds like Hufflepuff was the trashcan house in the Potterverse.

"Oh, you're a bland, ambition-less nobody who probably won't bring any harm to anyone? Hufflepuff!!"

Anonymous NorthernHamlet February 09, 2016 3:52 PM  

Nate,

minus 37.

bastard!

Anonymous patrick kelly February 09, 2016 3:56 PM  

Having neither read any of the book or seen any of the movies, I will authoritatively state HP suks.

Anonymous Ominous Cowherd February 09, 2016 4:14 PM  

@31 ``...they are essentially Christian works in disguise that had to be "smuggled past dragons", to use Lewis's phrase.''

Really? That's the last thing I would have thought. One thing that really struck me was the banality of evil in those stories. Evil is just the other team. You can imagine someone switching teams and never missing a beat. I didn't really see Satanic pride, or a Sauron or Sauroman. Just people doing things that inconvenience our hero, because they're on the other side, not because they are fundamentally, philosophically opposed to Good and Right.

Perhaps the books presented it all differently - I only saw one movie, and it was dubbed in Chinese, so I was reading subtitles.

Blogger SciVo February 09, 2016 4:16 PM  

Waterboy @18: OT: From the 'Life Imitates Art' Department, The train is fine, except it's been delayed. I hope the motherf*cker suffered.

In Japan they would fine his family, with the amount varying proportional to how much value you cost the passengers. If you're going to commit suicide by train there, make sure it's a down-scale train with few cars and cheap tickets.

But aside from empathy for the passengers, it's just as likely that he was pissed at being made responsible for a stranger's death. He's going to have to live with that for the rest of his life! It's really selfish of suicides to ignore the conducters' feelings like that, and the (apparently) emotionally shallow author of the article didn't mention that at all.

OpenID sigsawyer February 09, 2016 4:16 PM  

Grindelwald did nothing wrong.

Blogger tz February 09, 2016 4:19 PM  

That is why you need a deus ex machina apparently sentient of not omniscient sorting hat that knows all.
Hermione is definitely Ravensclaw, and many in Gryffindor are pure blood, and the Weasleys are too nice - HuffPuff. Slythern pushes it too far - or not far enough, it is like Bush and Kerry with Skull and Bones.

Blogger Josh February 09, 2016 4:20 PM  

JK Rowling on a scale of 1 to 10. What's your take?

I give it a gay

Blogger Timmy3 February 09, 2016 4:22 PM  

"Why would any wizard use fires or owls to communicate in a world of cell phones and e-mail?"

Some wizards are off the grid. Something to do with wanting to avoid persecution and avoid enemies like Voldemont. I'm sure Harry Potter didn't have a cell phone (even if you can time jump the storyline to beyond 2007) since his Aunt and Uncle gave him bare necessities while locking him up under the stairs.

How magical beings communicate via spells and incantations haven't been abandoned just because of the modern age. You still see that in recent television series like "Supernatural" and "The Originals".

Blogger Gaiseric February 09, 2016 4:24 PM  

@48: Christian; maybe not. Pseudo-libertarian, however—that's a case you could easily make. The distrust of the incompetent and useless government bureaucracy; the revelation that Dumbledore in his youth flirted with totalitarian utopianism, only to repent of it later, etc. There's a lot of decent lessons buried in there for impressionable kids... lessons that hopefully come out of their subconscious sometime soon; before the next Bernie Sanders actually becomes a threat that has to be taken seriously.

Blogger Nate February 09, 2016 4:26 PM  

"bastard! "

Sorry mate. I tried to read it... I got about 7 pages in and decided it was all crap. The movies solidified it as even more crap... so much so that I couldn't even pretend to be intersted for the sake of my wife and kids. I watched the first three and have never watched the others because they got so insufferably stupid and obviously pointless.

I had the same problem with ASOIAF... I barely finished the first few chapters of the first book before I decided that GRRM was lost and had no idea what he was doing. It took longer for it to all fall apart than I expected but the outcome is the same.

Blogger g wood February 09, 2016 4:27 PM  

The films are better than the books. Harry Potter is the only example I can think of where that statement applies.
Godfather 1 and 2.
The Commitments.

Blogger tublecane February 09, 2016 4:27 PM  

How come everyone says "world-building" nowadays? Is it a self-esteem booster for sci-fi and fantasy like the term "speculative fiction?" We already have a word for worldbuilding; it's called "setting." I realize worldbuilding is supposed to be some special, super-duper form of setting, but does anyone really think Homer, Dickens, or Balzac, for instance, didn't have to build worlds?

I can tell you from personal experience that it's not easier to recreate reality than it is to make up a new reality. They never make it up from scratch, anyway. Every world I've seen built is pretty much like the world I live in, with a few differences. Or it's not at all like the world I live in, in which case it's as bad a book as realistic ones that aren't like reality.

I see the advantage in having a word that means a special kind of setting, in this case one that's relatively closer to made from scratch than other settings. But don't let it be a clumsy, compound word like "wordbuilding," and don't forget it's just a kind of setting.

Blogger Doom February 09, 2016 4:28 PM  

Typical. Though I can't be sure why you fuss. That IS the world. And, either you accept it (or at least understand and enjoy or not as is), or reject it (or, again, enjoy it for what it is). If I eat at McDonalds, I don't expect much. I do expect that the one in that town is pretty much like the one in this town. I expect it to be relatively cheap, hot, and either tasty or at least familiar. I do not expect beef tartar with out of this world culinary sides and drinks.

So few writers et. al. are really good. Fewer by far are actually great. Only a handful are sublime, when you break them down and look at them. And elites don't like peasants to have access to the truly greats, for this and that reason.

Blogger Happy Housewife February 09, 2016 4:30 PM  

"One of the biggest weakness of the whole series is that there wasn't a single good guy from Slytherin."

Snape.

Blogger Remo - Vile Faceless Minion #99 February 09, 2016 4:31 PM  

Gave the series a miss after book 1... wizards, okay I can see that. Wizards that are very very powerful and mask their presence from the world at large... um okay. Wizards that sometimes take muggles as brides and ... ALERT ALERT ALERT stop right there. They have ordinary human wants. The wizards would if that were true take, land and super harems unto themselves and would have conquered everyone and everything long ago.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet February 09, 2016 4:33 PM  

Nate,

I wasn't clear. JK Rowling's writing is shit. I meant in terms of hotness.

Blogger The Rev February 09, 2016 4:34 PM  

@42 A sincere, subdued golf clap for you, good sir.

Blogger CM February 09, 2016 4:37 PM  

These books came out before I started HS. I read the last one around age 23-ish.

They were wonderful children's books that had the phenomenon of getting kids to read at a time when all the adults thought kids hated books.

Notice it wasn't Judy Blume with her girl power coming of age stories that inspired a reading surge in kids but straight up good v evil, sacrificial, fantasy story telling. With a male hero.

Their popularity among millenial adults is currently attributed to nostalgia now. The Boomers, I don't know. I knew a prof who held a full course on analyzing HP as an epic hero.

I'm currently reading Narnia to my 6 yo and loving it. Same nostalgia there. I still want to go to Narnia.

Blogger Sheila4g February 09, 2016 4:41 PM  

I read book 1 around the time book 2 or 3 was published - I wanted to see if it was okay to read to my son. In hindsight - definitely massively conflicting memes, banality of evil, heavy-handed SJW propaganda, etc. However, my initial impression (for the first book, at least) was a childlike delight at the fantastical whimsy versus pseudo-Dickensian "reality." Everyone's criticisms of the sorting hat and house system are a given - but for me, the image of a kid living in the closet under the stairs and then the blizzard of letters coming in the locked-up house was just plain entertaining. Of course my son could see, even then, how ridiculous Harry's everyday life was purported to be, but once you suspend your disbelief and acknowledge it's utterly irrational, parts of it are quite fun.

Reading it later with my second son, the flaws were far more noticeable and the good bits more rare, but there are some there. The series got dramatically worse as it got dramatically "darker," because the amusing and whimsical bits got drowned out by various portents, dour characters, and all the blatant unfairness going utterly unchecked. Even given suspension of disbelief, a child has to see a kid getting a break now and then and a bad guy getting his comeuppance. I found Delores Umbridge utterly infuriating in that manner - the unending snarkiness and Rowling's portrayal of any attempt at resistance as stupid and futile.

Anyhow - not a series I'd go back and read again, but I remember really enjoying a lot of volume 1, and less and less of each successive book.

Blogger slarrow February 09, 2016 4:42 PM  

@48, it has largely to do with the questions of death and resurrection. This Granger guy points out that the end of each book follows a pattern in which Harry goes underground (or to a place of death), experiences a kind of death (being attacked, being poisoned, being possessed, being dragged into the water, being "killed" with a curse), and is brought back to life in the presence of a symbol of Christ (philospher's stone and phoenix are the two I remember most). It's a deus, but not ex machina.

The last book, in particular, has this "sacrificial love conquers death" message. It quotes 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection chapter, and has Harry walk to his sacrificial death in a Garden of Gethsamene scene with a Peter-figure, a literal James and John, and a Mary-figure (his mother, Lily.) Voldemort murders others to preserve his physical life, ripping apart his soul in the process. Harry sacrifices his life for others, and the continuing power of that sacrifice even after he comes back is enough to protect them from the warped Voldemort.

Granger does kind of what Scott Adams has done with Dilbert. Having the same training (Adams as hypnotist/persuader, Granger as classically trained academic), he recognized the references and the structure early enough to make some pretty good predictions. That's what made me think he might have something as further readings kept confirming his predictions.

Blogger CM February 09, 2016 4:44 PM  

So for children's fantasy... clearly the dystopia trend is not looked on favorably here.

What children's/ya fantasy is seen favorably?

OpenID malcolmthecynic February 09, 2016 4:44 PM  

I want to make it clear that I make my critique with much fondness (I did, after all, take the time to sign up for Pottermore and take their test).

I actually think the series is very well executed, but I'm not blind to its flaws either. The books are entertaining and in certain aspects very strong indeed, but there are legitimate problems worth pointing out.

Anonymous Ranger Mosby February 09, 2016 4:45 PM  

Hermione is *not* an obvious Ravenclaw at all. She is an excellent and dedicated student, but she studies very hard indeed to achieve what she does. Ravenclaw is the house of the carelessly brilliant, the ones who run a B- average because they're bored; the ones who've never learned to study because they've never had to.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar February 09, 2016 4:46 PM  

Has anyone ever thought that maybe Harry Potter is simply delusional and that the whole magical realm he has adventures in doesn't really exist? Think about it. No one from the magical realm ever comes face to face with anyone in the Real World. Harry has no friends at all is a strange boy who lives in a small room under the stairs. Why does he ever come back to the Real World? He doesn't have a single friend in the Real World at all.

Blogger David-093 February 09, 2016 4:47 PM  

""One of the biggest weakness of the whole series is that there wasn't a single good guy from Slytherin.""

Snape, Slughorn, Regulus Black.

"I could never figure out what Hermione was doing in Gryffindor when she was an obvious Ravensclaw."

That point comes up several times throughout the series. She wanted to be in Gryffindor. The Hat seems to take their choices into consideration, and by the end of the series it's plain why all three are in Gryffindor.

But lets be honest here: the only reason people don't like Hufflepuff is because of the gay ass name. "Hufflepuff?" Why not call them Twinkletoes, just to add an extra sprig of gay to it.

Anonymous World Turned Upside Down! February 09, 2016 4:48 PM  

Sorry mate. I tried to read it... I got about 7 pages in and decided it was all crap. The movies solidified it as even more crap... so much so that I couldn't even pretend to be interested for the sake of my wife and kids.

Uh oh... I had the same reaction as Nate... this feels so unnatural that I might have to try reading them again...

Blogger Dexter February 09, 2016 4:49 PM  

@69,

Kid who lives in a secret room and has no real-life friends?

Bad Ronald!

OpenID malcolmthecynic February 09, 2016 4:50 PM  

@4

Yes. I mention that explicitly early in the article. Read it before you criticize it.

Blogger Sam Lively February 09, 2016 4:50 PM  

Harry (Sue) Potter represents everything that's wrong with Millennials.

Blogger Sevron February 09, 2016 5:04 PM  

The films are better than the books. Harry Potter is the only example I can think of where that statement applies.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (movie) is infinitely better than Who Censored Roger Rabbit (book).

Blogger tz February 09, 2016 5:08 PM  

The films are better than the books.
That is how you know it is a bubble.

All three in gryffindor because of a hat trick. Old hat. Did it do a shell or bubble sort?

@69 Magic as a literary device for madness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wCZPTSo1_U
more discussion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TA8E7YldcE

Blogger Matt Robison February 09, 2016 5:09 PM  

@66

"What children's/ya fantasy is seen favorably?"

Check out anything by ND Wilson. Classic coming of age stories, some with magic. Leepike Ridge is like a retelling of the Odyssey, and 100 Cupboards plays with Western myths.

They would be more middlegrade, but I found them refreshing and enjoyable.

Blogger Paul Widdecombe February 09, 2016 5:12 PM  

VD - just read your criticism of quidditch at the link. Isn't it supposed to represent some kind of ancient Mayan game? (Oh, sorry - how raciss of me to assume you would know...) Similar court & bagel shaped high level single goal.

Rumour has it was played with a human head. The "sudden death" ending presumably references this fact. Brings to mind a story I once read about some missionaries who taught the game of football (soccer) to a tribe of cannibals. In spite of the enthusiastic participation, the games always ended in a draw. Zero sum games resonated differently with them somehow...

Anonymous VFM #6306 February 09, 2016 5:21 PM  

Willy Wheaton and the Gobblin of Scroat was the best one of the series. Despite being behind 97 goals to none with no time on the clock, the heroic SiJWs win an epic game of Quisling by flying their broomsticks into the anal canal of market analysis and living off someone else's fortune.

Blogger Ingot9455 February 09, 2016 5:25 PM  

The 'it's just a crazy person spinning a fantasy to themselves/to someone else in the asylum' is a lazy idea. Any story can have 'and he woke up and it was all just a dream' tacked onto the end of it but it's pointless for a reader to do so. If the author intended it he would have added it his own self.

That same line is used against the Amber series of novels, positing that Corwin is still in the asylum getting drugged, and the whole story is his head-injury ramblings to his son Merle, coming to visit him as he's trying to recuperate from his car accident.

The only useful time that you can make such an analysis and have it mean anything is if you rigorously add NOTHING to the text, or to the video.

For example, people often claim that the movie PAN'S LABYRINTH can all be in Ofelia's head. After all, it's very common for people suffering illness to get apparently better with a little rest, then under stress (when the rotting mandrake is found) get dramatically worse - that can be explained medically. And everything else can then be explained as Ofelia having visions and making it up.... right?

But no. Ofelia, a 10-12 year old girl, escapes from an armed military guard after she is handed a piece of magic chalk, though how exactly isn't shown. To claim she did it just by being plucky and clever instead of using the magic chalk is to specifically add something to the movie that isn't there above and beyond denying the implications of her being handed a piece of magic chalk.

She also is able to bypass the main villain of the piece, armed with a pistol, through a single-passage labyrinth because the Faun opens up another pathway for her to walk through. The main villian is partially drugged and staggering slightly, but not nearly so much for him to miss a little girl walking by him in a well lit ten by ten curving corridor.

Anonymous Trimegistus February 09, 2016 5:28 PM  

Oh, come on. It's obvious. Griffindor are jocks, Ravenclaw are nerds, Slytherin are socials -- who does that leave?

Stoners. Hufflepuff are the stoner house. It's right in the NAME!

Anonymous Dedicating Ruckus February 09, 2016 5:38 PM  

@64:

"I found Delores Umbridge utterly infuriating in that manner - the unending snarkiness and Rowling's portrayal of any attempt at resistance as stupid and futile."

Questions of literary quality aside, that sounds to me like a complete misreading of what's actually in the book. The biggest way Harry resists Umbridge is by running the DA, and that's not only crucial to the climax of that book, but shown repeatedly later to have had long-cascading good effects. He and others repeatedly make her look stupid and frustrate her agenda by active and passive resistance; this is more or less the dominant plot of the book. Even the cases which are most problematic for him personally, when he speaks back to her face and is punished for it, are portrayed (it seems to me) as being noble and praiseworthy acts for him to take, even regardless of consequences.

Blogger JaimeInTexas February 09, 2016 5:40 PM  

Nate: Round it to -40 and it works in both English and Metric.

Blogger Nate February 09, 2016 5:46 PM  

"I wasn't clear. JK Rowling's writing is shit. I meant in terms of hotness. "

I had honestly never seen her before. Looking at her google images search results... Imma say a solid "meh".

She was probably pretty when she was 19.

Blogger doug whiddon February 09, 2016 6:03 PM  

Id like to recommend Jim Butchers "Dresden Files" series and Ben Aaronovitch's PC Peter Grant series for adult wizards in the modern world and better world building.

Blogger cavalier973 February 09, 2016 6:03 PM  

The movies "Mary Poppins", "The Wizard of Oz", and "The Princess Bride" are all superior to the books on which they were based.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit February 09, 2016 6:05 PM  

Ah, the constant reverse engineering of, "What makes HP so great?" and, "What makes JKR such a fantastic author?"

It's simple: she had a popular children's book published at the time when people gave up on growing up and decided they were going to spend all their money on toys and merchandising related to whatever flavor of the month shit was being shilled by the media. HP was that shit! (cf; Star Trek/ Wars etc...)

I nearly lost friends over this. People whose taste I normally trusted kept telling me to read it. I kept saying, "No! It's a kid's book." (I was all for it at the time, for kids). Eventually, some kind of recommendation threshold was breached and I decided to give it a read. It was a kids' book. It is a kids' book.

And don't get me started on JKR's bs backstory. MSM kept telling us how she was a poor, single mother who wrote in the local cafe b/c she couldn't pay for heating her little flat. Turns out she was a middle-class divorcee with plenty of alimony spending afternoons in her brother-in-law's wine bar.

The school systems is just UK public school and the "magic" is pig latin. Great for kids but the fact it became such a huge sensation because so many adults bought into it is a sorry indictment of the modern world.

Blogger Paul Widdecombe February 09, 2016 6:19 PM  

VD - just read your criticism of quidditch at the link. Isn't it supposed to represent some kind of ancient Mayan game? (Oh, sorry - how raciss of me to assume you would know...) Similar court & bagel shaped high level single goal.

Rumour has it was played with a human head. The "sudden death" ending presumably references this fact. Brings to mind a story I once read about some missionaries who taught the game of football (soccer) to a tribe of cannibals. In spite of the enthusiastic participation, the games always ended in a draw. Zero sum games resonated differently with them somehow...

Blogger Paul Widdecombe February 09, 2016 6:26 PM  

@69 - Absolutely. Wasn't that explored at some point? I.e
He forgot about being a wizard & reverted to living as a muggle?

It's the aspect that shows the most promise, yet fails entirely to deliver. For the book to make sense as being magical in any meaningful way, the "real" world needs to be connected with the fanciful seamlessly, in turn creating a bridge to the readers own world. (Not sure how that might count as lazy..
)

The "real" world in HP is irredeemably dreadful & by extension, the utopian one entirely fanciful.

...as one might expect from an author who donates $millions to socialist political parties. I don't doubt her Churchianity contributed to the characters being less dreadful than they could have been though.

I recently discovered an interesting article that claims to have found a correlation between HP fandom and lefty brain disorder:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/d-id-harry-potter-influence-the-political-views-of-the-1623876038

Anonymous WillBest February 09, 2016 6:28 PM  

That actually is quite astounding, especially in light of her various pronouncements about stuff since the series conclusion.

Keep in mind that she was over half way through writing the series before she was popular enough to be invited to the cocktail set. In addition, those were the wild wild west days of the internet, you had to try hard if you wanted to find a rabbit warren. Once she got her FU money, and stop spending time around regular people, her natural liberal tendencies would make her very susceptible.

Blogger JCclimber February 09, 2016 6:29 PM  

and is brought back to life in the presence of a symbol of Christ (philospher's stone and phoenix are the two I remember most).

Philosopher's stone and the Phoenix are both disguises of Satan, so not sure where you're getting the Christ imagery.

Anyway, for those TRYING so very, very hard to fit christianity into a story about witchcraft, please explain the following elements:

Does the "good guy" display purity of heart?
Do the good guys resort to lying, sneaking, and killing to achieve their ends?
Do the good guys actively pursue knowledge and power rather than wisdom to achieve their ends?
Lastly, not sure how practicing witchcraft, which is explicitly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments, can be done by a disguised "christian".

I'm not attacking the series, I seriously would like to hear how these obstacles are mentally overcome to make this a hidden christian series.

Blogger bookstopper February 09, 2016 6:41 PM  

The HP books are for entertainment purposes. Their primary purpose is to be fun for the reader, not to make an internally consistent, repeatable world. Having a magical world means there will always be some undefinable mystery working behind the scenes.

In sorting people into distinct bunches, you will get behavioral overlap between the groups, no matter what metric you use. The metrics used by the sorting hat aren't spelled out fully. Aptitude, ambition, and free choice are mentioned, but the sorting hat is a magical item. Hermione being primarily nerdy, bossy, and frumpy doesn't bother me in this case because her bravery does shine through. In the books, sometimes her ditzy moments shine through, which is the case for real life people, no matter how smart.

Blogger slarrow February 09, 2016 6:58 PM  

@91, I have no idea where you get this "disguises of Satan" business. My source is John Granger, a guy who made a nice little living on this for a while. I think it was his book Hidden Key to Harry Potter where he demonstrated how the physical transformation in alchemy was to reflect the spiritual refinement of the soul in various mystical and religious traditions. In Christianity, the philosopher's stone symbolizes, among other things, the life-giving power of Christ. As for the Phoenix, it's the "resurrection bird." Granger explains how symbols like these were used in medieval literature, a field both he and Rowling studied.

As for your questions, Harry does show purity of heart (the key to gaining the stone in the first book). Harry does lie and sneak to achieve his ends (but then so did Jacob) but does not kill. Your wisdom/knowledge question is vague and smacks of agenda. As for witchcraft, Granger discusses that in the context of invocational v. Incantational magic where one is calling in spirits (as in the Bible) v. using magic words, a literary device. Harry Potter clearly falls into the latter. That's off the top of my head. Might recall more once I get back to my bookshelf.

Blogger Pseudotsuga February 09, 2016 7:07 PM  

@66: "What children's/ya fantasy is seen favorably?"

1) Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz / Rithmatist books
Unlike Rowlings' wild flights of fantasy, Sanderson carefully builds worlds around magic systems with limitations and constraints.

2) Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci books
Jones (may she rest in peace) wrote so much better than Rowling. Jones knew fantasy; Rowling...doesn't. She only knows modern world with a thin pastiche of fantasy on it.
(This is, I suspect, why the Potter books became the go-to books for kids who don't have the background or depth to understand most fantastic settings, yet also want something out of the real world.)

3) Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books from the Discworld (although the last two suffer from Pratchett's advancing disability). Strong characters in a very solid setting, with deeper underlying themes.

And on the negative side, for comparison:

You can completely ignore Cressida Crowell's "How to Train Your Dragon" books --they barely have anything good in common with the movies you are probably familiar with. Too formulaic, cardboard characterization, whimsy for the cheap laugh... We tried reading them to our daughter when she was younger and a huge Toothless fan, but the books just don't really grow. They are episodic, like a TV series, without any real growth or progress or change. The characters are just not compelling or interesting --- they are non-interesting caricatures of the classic British school-boy/bullying trope.

Blogger Paul Widdecombe February 09, 2016 7:27 PM  

Did Jacob die for our sins?

I don't know where this biblical distinction between invocation and incantation comes from though - please help me out with a reference. I assumed devilry and idolatrous babbling both would constitute grave sins, of their own accord

Blogger slarrow February 09, 2016 8:18 PM  

@95, no, Jacob did not. But Harry isn't Christ, just a Christ figure. The point is not to claim that Harry is perfect but rather to observe that it's no obstacle that imperfect people can nonetheless bear a message better than themselves.

As for the invocational/incantational distinction, I found a site excerpting Granger's discussion of it here:

http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2011/07/is-the-magic-of-harry-potter-evil/

Blogger Cataline Sergius February 09, 2016 8:25 PM  

@25 Nate

does anyone remember the name of the works Rowling ripped off?

We-e-l-l-l...Neil Gaiman's the Book of Magic could qualify. At least for the first book.

Timothy Hunter was prepubsecent English boy with dark hair, glasses and a pet owl. He was very much a special "Child of Destiny," with vast untapped powers. Which Harry Potter appeared to be in the first book.

Warner Brothers buried the property under fifteen tons of concrete as soon as they secured the rights to Harry Potter. Neil Gaiman himself wouldn't comment at all. So I assume they noticed a resemblance.

However, it was a COMIC BOOK published prior to 1995 so it appears to have moved as a property from development to active development. You can now also post pictures from the that comic book without Warner Brother's lawyers jumping so far up your ass, they pop out of your mouth.

If you mean the Toff School books. I suppose Malory Towers is the closest I can think of. The protagonists were a poor kid, an orphan and SWOT. But that is pretty much true for any Toff School book.

Blogger Zimri February 09, 2016 8:43 PM  

"Deltas"

Rowling missed a huge opportunity for Animal House references...

Anonymous BGKB February 09, 2016 9:50 PM  

"I found Delores Umbridge utterly infuriating in that manner - the unending snarkiness and Rowling's portrayal of any attempt at resistance as stupid and futile."

I saw her as the 1/4 competent government worker.

"Hufflepuff?" Why not call them Twinkletoes, just to add an extra sprig of gay to it.

Puff is British for fag, which is British for

OpenID malcolmthecynic February 09, 2016 10:38 PM  

Just imagine me sitting and chewing popcorn as I read through these comments.

Blogger lowercaseb February 09, 2016 10:48 PM  

although I shudder to admit it, I red a fanfic (just take my lunch money now and be done with it) that put John Constantine in the Harry Potter universe. It was surprisingly interesting as a redemption story where John was in a universe without the infernal...a place where he was not cursed and could actually try to make a fresh start of it.

He was an angry punk rocker in the 70s and 80s...guess which house he was sorted into...

Hufflepuff.

Blogger lowercaseb February 09, 2016 10:49 PM  

>I _red_ a fanfic

Me don't english well.

Blogger lowercaseb February 09, 2016 10:55 PM  

>I _red_ a fanfic

Me don't english well.

Blogger Alia D. February 10, 2016 12:09 AM  

Some of the fan fix is better than the jkR books. I found 'Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality' to be really fun and it made a lot more sense than the original.

Blogger Mint February 10, 2016 1:01 AM  

But as I pointed out many years ago, Rowling isn't any good with coherent plots or worldbuilding; nearly everything about Harry Potter is entirely nonsensical. What she's good at is creating vivid characters and appealing to the lowest common denominator in children. And that, quite frankly, is a considerably more valuable skill than mere logic or literary talent.

This reminds me of something from G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. I play the audio book for sometimes this morning to get to the part where Chesterton talk about rationalism, laws, reason, ethic and fairy tales.

This elementary wonder, however, is not a mere fancy derived from the fairy tales; on the contrary, all the fire of the fairy tales is derived from this. Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales--because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him. This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water. I have said that this is wholly reasonable and even agnostic. And, indeed, on this point I am all for the higher agnosticism; its better name is Ignorance. We have all read in scientific books, and, indeed, in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.

Anonymous Dr. Brooklyn February 10, 2016 1:37 AM  

No one from the magical realm ever comes face to face with anyone in the Real World.

Except in book 2, with the flying car. And book 4, with the exploding fireplace. And book 7, when Harry's muggle family are escorted into hiding.

And, you know, the first chapter of book 1, while Harry's still a baby.

Blogger rho February 10, 2016 1:54 AM  

J.K. Rowling's gift was in crafting words that were fun to say in your head. Dumbledore probably tops the list. Muggle is pretty good too. Hermione is at the bottom because, until the movies came out, I'd give 5/3 odds that it was pronounced "Her-mee-oh-nee".

JKR sold generations of 3rd-to-5th graders on a few things: one, reading is fun: two, governments are not to be trusted.

Nate would really like the Dolores Umbridge parts, if he managed to string together the few hours to make it through the difficult YA fiction.

Blogger Paul Widdecombe February 10, 2016 3:25 AM  

Good point & thanks for the link

Blogger great_o'rety February 10, 2016 6:32 AM  

Last time there was a MBTI flavored post ("The Cons Never Stop") I put a little Keirsey/MBTI theory of HP 4 Houses, but as I arrived late at the discussion and I imagine hardly anybody read it, I thought I'll put it again. I think it puts an interesting spin on the subject:

"As to Harry Potter, there's striking affinity in the 4 Houses with the Keirsey's temperament theory. After reading "The Deathly Hallows" I got the impression that Rowling did a similar thing with dividing the 16 MBTI personality types into four groups. But she took the J-P instead the S-N dychotomy to make the first division, thus having the Revolutionaries (P's) and the Conservatives (J's) facing each other in the underlying struggle of the books (Hogwarts vs. the Ministry). The revolutionary houses (lashing it out at each other in the main fight) would be: Gryffindor and Slytherin, the conservative: Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Now to divide further she uses the F-T dychotomy on the Revolutionaries and the N-S one on the Conservatives. That way she arrives at the Altruist Revolutionaries (gryffindors, FP's) and the Pragmatic Revolutionaries (slytherins, TP's) in the first group and the Abstract Conservatives (ravenclaws, NJ's) and the Concrete Conservatives (hufflepuffs, SJ's) in the other.

Coming back to the 16 MBTI types it goes like this:
- Gryffindor: ISFP, ESFP, INFP, ENFP
- Slytherin: ISTP, ESTP, INTP, ENTP
- Ravenclaw: INFJ, ENFJ, INTJ, ENTJ
- Hufflepuff: ISFJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ESTJ

Having all that and knowing the nature of the Sorting Hat (quite often it places pupils in a house they wish to be in rather than the one that suites them best) it's quite easy to type the characters. Harry is an obvious ISFP, his buddy Ron an ESFP. Hagrid's an ESFP too and Sirius an ISFP like Harry. Hermione is an
INFJ, a ravenclaw who wanted to be in Gryffindor. Luna is the loony INFP and despite being chosen into Ravenclaw she hangs out with gryffindors where she belongs. Dumbledore is an ENFP and his nemesis Voldemort an INTP (being the Supreme Dark Lord you can't really end up elsewhere). Snape would be one of the tougher nutts to crack, but I'd say he doesn't quite belong to Slytherin either and looks rather INFJ-ish hence should've been better off in Ravenclaw.

This theory explains nicely why one half of the houses feels rather dull and plays its tireless role in the background. That is the way of the J's. It also easy to see why both Gryffindor and Slytherin have no great trouble finding allies in Ravenclaw as well as in Hufflepuff. The F's of the former root for the Gryffindor's cause and the T's of the latter sympathise with the slytherins."


As to the today's post it looks to me a lot like a rational adult getting angry at the irrationality and childishness of books for children. But as I doubt VD read all 7 books, he misses the point of them evolving and getting ever more mature (just as their intended audience does the same). And what about being superversive? Didn't John C. Wright coin the term in an essay on HP? And I don't think you can square an authentic genius with "she went SWJ" so easily. Even if true it makes the whole thing even more superversive. Everybody knew Tolkien was a devout catholic, but on the other side hardly anyone gets even a whiff of suspicion these books are christian through and through. And it's done consciously, it can't be otherwise. Just google "John Granger Harry Potter" (funny thing the guy shares a surname with Hermione)

There's a lot more than meets the eye going on here.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar February 10, 2016 8:08 AM  

I always thought that the premise for Harry Potter was ripped off from "The Worst Witch" with Fairuza Balk, the young girl who did the disastrous sequel to Wizard of Oz for Disney that was WAY TOO DARK, and had the madness thing in it. "The Worst Witch" was about a school of witches that taught Witchcraft to young girls and even had a flamboyant character played by Tim Curry of Rocky Horror Fame. It also had Diana Rigg from the Avengers.

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright February 10, 2016 11:13 AM  

I must disagree with the distinguished commenter who dissed How To Train Your Dragon.

Those books are excellent!...particularly for boys. They are quite different from the movie. They are quirky, funny, inspiring.

And they do build! They are telling a long term story that seems episodic at first, but turns out to be part of an ongoing whole.

I have boys. My youngest has not liked much of what I've tried to read him. He loved these books. We all did. (We have not yet read the two most recent ones.)

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright February 10, 2016 11:26 AM  

John and I met John Granger at a recent con, but we missed his presentation, which we heard was really good.

Regarding Superversive, John and I got it from the essayist Tom Simon, who says he got it from Tolkien or Lewis or someone like that...but we still give the credit to Tom.

Blogger JCclimber February 10, 2016 8:39 PM  

slarrow, thanks for your reply.
I hadn't realized the Philosopher's stone was invented in the 400's as an alchemical concept, and thought it was a pagan Greek idea to use "science" to shortcut turning lead into gold.

But the phoenix is definitely not a Christian concept, although I know that certain branches within christianity are comfortable with adotpting pagan symbols.

An interesting website is here that shows a lot of pagan symbology that has crept into christianity.

http://www.crossroad.to/Books/symbols1.html

another one of Freemason symbology openly acknowledges that the phoenix represents Lucifer amongst occultists.

http://www.theforbiddenknowledge.com/symbology/2o5.htm

Blogger slarrow February 11, 2016 1:56 AM  

@113, thanks for the reference. I think I see where the disconnect is now. That site (which, frankly, seemed overbroad and sketchy to me) nonetheless is concerned with the modern representation and appropriation of certain symbols. It even acknowledges in its preface that certain symbols have double or multiple meanings.

The references that Granger uses, however, are studies of medieval times (specifically in chapter 9 of Hidden Key to Harry Potter.) So however other traditions may have incorporated symbols like the phoenix and philosopher's stone (and the unicorn and the hippogriff and a few others), Granger's claim is that they did have a specific Christian meaning and context in medieval times and that Rowling would have been familiar with these associations, given her course of study. It's a bit like being mistaken for a tree hugger for starting your story in a forest when you were really just trying to make an allusion to Dante.

But the point about symbols is that they can do their work without your having to understand them first. A person can thrill to a sentence like "what chance did a phoenix have against the king of serpents?" and then later find a deep resonance in Christ's defeat of Satan while never consciously making the connection.

Blogger Banshee February 11, 2016 3:58 PM  

Re: the phoenix, any reading of a medieval bestiary will give you a bunch of sermons about how various fantastic beasts are symbols of Christ (phoenix, unicorn, lion), symbols of the devil, or both (like the lion).

Here's a link to a page on the allegorical meaning of the phoenix, which is the resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection and eternal life of Christians.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit February 11, 2016 6:28 PM  

Cataline Sergius wrote:We-e-l-l-l...Neil Gaiman's the Book of Magic could qualify.

Ah, monsieur Gaiman, SF/F's very own Bono. He's probably rubbing himself smugly that he was partly responsible for a woooman being so successful (and if she hadn't been, he'd have invited her into an open marriage so she could have his money while banging other men).

He's one of those people whose talent is eclipsed by their self-righteousness (and he's a bloody good writer so that's a shit-ton of self-righteousness)

Blogger JCclimber February 11, 2016 7:32 PM  

slarrow wrote:@113, thanks for the reference. I think I see where the disconnect is now. That site (which, frankly, seemed overbroad and sketchy to me) nonetheless is concerned with the modern representation and appropriation of certain symbols. It even acknowledges in its preface that certain symbols have double or multiple meanings.

The references that Granger uses, however, are studies of medieval times (specifically in chapter 9 of Hidden Key to Harry Potter.)


Yeah, I see your point as well. Not trolling here. I first heard that most fantasy beasts directly or indirectly lead back to Babylonian or sometimes pre-flood times (such as much of astrology) and their worship of a sun god (Lucifer). By first heard, I mean in the 1970's, well before Harry Pothead was conceived or the internet invented.

As per medieval Christianity, I reject pretty much ALL of it, since I am of the sola scriptura tradition.

On a more practical note, I won't read Harry Potter nor see the movies because they suck, nor because they financially support a SJW, nor because they perfectly align with Hollywood. But pretty much because they involve witchcraft.

But the original post above was interesting and amusing, no?

Blogger great_o'rety February 12, 2016 7:19 AM  

On a more practical note, I won't read Harry Potter nor see the movies because they suck, nor because they financially support a SJW, nor because they perfectly align with Hollywood. But pretty much because they involve witchcraft.

That's the most boneheaded, close-minded sentence I read in years.

Blogger MrNiceguy February 12, 2016 1:06 PM  

I'll add Forest Gump, and The Godfather to the list. The book and movie versions of Fight Club have completely different endings - the author has publicly stated he likes the movie ending better.

Anonymous joke10 February 23, 2016 3:01 PM  

I read harry potter simply for entertainment, and though I found novels like a throne of bones more intellectually stimulating, I found fun books like harry potter more entertaining.

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