July 23, 2003

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, by J.K. Rowling

I've been reading this to David at bedtime over the last month or so, and we finally finished. David's familiar with the story, having seen the movie any number of times, though there were still a few surprises.

There's no point in my reviewing this book in the usual way, as pretty much everyone has already formed an opinion about it. I do have a couple of comments.

The first is, the book reads aloud tolerably well. It's not outstanding as a read-aloud--the prose doesn't flow trippingly and effortlessly from the tongue--but it flows pretty well, nevertheless, with only the occasional clunky bit. I've read books that are much, much harder to read aloud. (Some of them, ironically, are intended for kids who are learning to read. There's something wrong with that.)

But there's something I noticed this time around. (This is a spoiler, for anyone who doesn't know how it ends. Uh huh.)

Dumbledore has hidden the Sorceror's Stone using the Mirror of Erised in such a way that only someone who wants the Stone but does not want to use can get it. Thus, Quirrel/Voldemort sees himself using the stone, but cannot get it. Harry, on the other hand, has no problem.

So...that means that the Stone would have been perfectly safe if Harry had simply left well enough alone and gone to bed instead of braving Fluffy and the other horrors in an attempt to save it from Voldemort's hands. Dumbledore was already on his way back to Hogwarts at the time Harry faced down Quirrel; if Harry hadn't been there, Dumbledore likely would have caught Quirrel in the act and would have dealt with Voldemort, perhaps permanently.

In fact, Harry's presence made it more likely, rather than less, that Voldemort would succeed.

I'll grant you that getting past all of the obstacles took great courage and skill. Not everyone at Hogwarts could have done it. But just how was it anything but colossally stupid?

Posted by Will Duquette at July 23, 2003 04:47 PM

Ian said:

Well, first, Harry didn't know about that spell, so accusing him of stupidity is just wrong. Naivete, sure, but he's, what, 11?

Not knowing what the final protection was (or what any of them were, as I recall), it was incredibly brave of Harry to go in to try to stop Voldemort.

Also, I thought it was implied that Voldemort was a strong and clever enough wizard that he might have been able to break or bypass the spell. (Quirrel obviously was neither.)

Regardless, going on the knowledge Harry had, he made a brave decision.

Ian said:

Will,

Sorry about the tone of that comment — I was in a grouchy mood, nothing to do with you. I stand by the content, though: Harry did the best he could based on what he knew.

Will Duquette said:

Ian,

Brave, yes, absolutely. Smart, no. The smart folks (other than Hermione) are all in Ravensclaw.

The outcome was not too bad, I admit. But from everything Dumbledore says, Voldemort had a better chance at the Stone with Harry there than without.

It would have destroyed the climax completely, I'll admit, but what Harry was really bucking for was a stern lecture that the grownups really do know best sometimes.

I'll climb off my high horse, now. :-)