Sophy does Harry Potter. Rin points and laughs (with Heather Hogan).
Heather says: BRB, going to buy myself some yellow trousers. I had no idea how AWESOME they look on me. (Probably better pick up a dressing gown while I’m out. For whenever Soph invites me over for a slumber party.)
Rin says: They’re khakis actually! They have quite a standing in fandom, khakis that is. I was trying to get some more fans for you, considering the current state of your following is pretty pitiful.
Sophy says: Why are the khakis…………… yellow. And also SILENCE! (Rin says: Don’t you mean…SILENCIO??? Sophy says: I don’t get it.)
I never truly believed this day would come.
I resisted it, as surely as I have in the past resisted wearing trousers, creating a twitter account, adding sugar to my coffee… as surely and as futilely.
Perhaps I should have known – there were signs, after all.
When you merge names and start a blog with someone who loves this Potter business the way Rin does, someone who makes it their mission, the way Rin does, to get you to love what she loves… you should know you’re in trouble.
The ad campaign Emma Watson did for Burberry was also a problem – pretty girls in trench-coats, a weakness, now I’ve told you.
And I guess when I let those sneaky audiobooks that were just there trick me into reading the inimitably juvenile Twilight series, I should have known that I would not, in good conscience, be able to keep my nose turned up much longer.
And so it is.
Harry Potter. After 13 years or so of artfully dodging every book and every movie, Sophy’s finally doing it. (Rin and Heather Hogan are going to sit back and watch, congratulate each other on making me cave, and, no doubt, offer up the odd smart remark.)
So here we go. Chapter One of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Except by unlucky hap, I have the US version, so I’m not reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I’m reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
And really, what the hell is that about? I’m not down with the general idea of translating English into American, because I think it underestimates children’s intelligence, encourages them to narrow-mindedness and takes away what could be a very enjoyable exotic element – little Jimmy isn’t just reading about a magical world, he’s reading about a magical world in England, where they eat sweets instead of candy, and wear sweaters that may or may not bounce around the place of their own free will…
But regardless of the wider issue, swapping ‘Philosopher’ for ‘Sorcerer’ is just absurd. Sure, American kids may not know what a philosopher is, but ask the average ten year old in Britain and I very much doubt he or she will have an answer for you either. So maybe Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is how English kids find that out, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is how American kids don’t. Not fair!
And really, I may not know all that much about sorcerers, but I’m pretty sure the American equivalent of philosopher would be closer to, well, philosopher. This isn’t just a translation, it’s an out-right alteration – an alteration which seeks to talk down to American kids.
But enough of my crotchety mom-rant.
Heather says: If it helps, Arthur Levine, the American publisher — and one of JKR’s besties — said he wouldn’t have changed the title if he knew then what he knows now. It was the first book he ever published under his own imprint. He was scared. Hmm? Still unimpressed? OK. Me too, then. Stupid Americans!
Rin says: “He was scared.” That argument didn’t work for Naomi and it’s certainly not going to work for Arthur Levine. The lack of Emily Fitch’s in this world…honestly.
Sophy says: It didn’t work for Naomi? There’s a couple of pantsless girls frolicking on a secluded beach in Goa who beg to differ. One of them is not Mandeh.
Now SHUT UP!
So. We open with the Dursleys, a perfectly normal couple, who would never, ever, ever be involved in anything mysterious or exciting, and just as I’m thinking perhaps the narrator protests too much, I’m informed that they have a son named “Dudley”.
Dudley Dursley. That sounds pretty exciting.
‘Could it be that the title is a red herring?’ I ask myself. ‘Is this strapping young Dudley Dursley our hero???’
Rin says: The only thing that is going to be strapping is the bootlace around my eyes to prevent myself from reading your stupidity.
Sophy says: Whoa, rude. And racist.
So Rin informs me that Dudley Dursley isn’t going to be a big lad when he grows up. But size isn’t everything, and I’ve just found out that the Dursleys are mysterious after all! They have a secret, a terrible dark secret that they couldn’t bear to be made known and it’s…
The Potters. Oh.
Yeah, Dudley’s chances of being the star are getting slimmer by the moment.
Mrs Potter is Mrs Dursley’s sister, but apparently she’s so very dreadful that Mrs D likes to pretend she doesn’t exist. The Potters have a small boy too, who I’m assuming is Harry, but really, these Potters sound all kinds of unpleasant, so I’m thinking maybe he’s the anti-hero? Dudley’s still in with a shot?
Rin says: I DON’T LIKE THIS GIRL. SHE MAKES MY HEART HURT.
Sophy says: lol, wrong fandom Rin…
Aaaaanyway, the Durlseys wake up one ordinary tuesday morning and go about their business – that’s drills for Mr D, gossiping for Mrs D, and screaming for Dudley. Oh dear, DudDurs, I’m pretty sure hero-babies don’t have tantrums. I had such high hopes.
Heather says: *makes note to revisit ‘hero-babies don’t have tantrums’ after book 5*
Rin says: Book 5? How dare you keep taunting Sophy with books that are thousands of pages away!
Sophy says: This is just like that time I put off doing everything I’ve ever had to do in my life and wound up a dinosaur learning how to drive. There I was, scaley, clawed feet grappling uselessly with those tiny pedals…
Mr D pops off to work and does his best to ignore all sorts of weird stuff along the way, such as a cat who appears to be not only looking at a map, but actually reading it, and a whole bunch of people in cloaks – apparently, for Mr D, these two are on a par in terms of odd.
It’s around this point that the word ‘muggle’ is used, and I bolt upright in my seat and tell Rin excitedly: “MUGGLE! I KNOW THAT WORD! OMG! SO WHAT ARE THEY???”
Rin politely ignores me.
MR D DOES A WHOLE LOT OF SHOUTING AT WORK AND IDK I’VE NEVER BEEN THAT INTO DRILLS BUT I LIKE THE SOUND OF HIS JOB.
He’s in a pretty good mood, as I think I might be if my job involved DOING THIS A WHOLE LOT and eating donuts. But then. The dreaded Potters and their son Harry are the word on the street full of cloaked people, and Mr D starts freaking the fuck out.
‘Jesus, how bad must these assholes be???’ I ask myself, whistling like a farmer whistles at a fine litter of prize piglets.
Mr D tries to convince himself that Potter is a common name and there’s no need to call Mrs D and freak her the fuck out too.
Right about now I’m freaking the fuck out, because some dude in a violet cloak has shown up and his face has “split into a wide smile.” I say no to that image. No.
Wow! You’ve outdone yourself Rin. Truly beyond my wildest nightmares.
Heather says: Well, well, Rinina. Now I know you can be easily coaxed into using your powers for Evil. I feel like you should have been honest about being a Slytherin when we met. Can a Hufflepuff even exist with a Slytherin? Can a lion lie down with a lamb?
Rin says: First. ‘RININA’ ?? I don’t even want to ask what my name is being merged with because all I can think of is a word that ends with ‘ina’ and it isn’t just Naomi’s mum. Ew. And second, I’m so upset that you would call me a Slytherin since this was probably the first drawing that Sophy specifically asked for. (SHE ASKED FOR ALL OF THEM!!!!!) And thirdly, as much as I’d hope to be in Gryffindor so I could see Hermione often, and become her bff, I think I’d probably be put in Ravenclaw. Or .. well I don’t know really. I guess it’s up to the Sorting Hat to decide and NOT one Heather Hogan. *hmmmph*
Heather says: With great power comes great responsibility, Rinininina. That’s a lesson from Spider-Man, and you’d do well to remem — oh, hang on. Phone.
Sorry, that was Naomi. She heard you were cheating on her with a know-it-all, bushy-haired Not-Naomi. Didn’t you realize everything is so fragile? Anyway, gotta go. She’s gonna cook me some eggs.
Sophy says: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH RIN/VAGINA FOREVER! ♥
I ignored everything else because it seemed spoilery, and also because Rin/Vagina is a tough act to follow.
Rin says: I am not okay with this.
Sophy says breezily: Anyway! The guy with the messed up face is pretty cheerful, because someone is gone and everything is great or whatever. He hugs Mr D and calls him a muggle, and I’m still not sure what that means, but it sounds demeaning, and hello! Ever heard of personal space, Mr Splits???
Mr D is understandably upset and toddles off home thinking about how much he hates imagination.
When he gets home the map-cat is loitering arrogantly in his front yard, so he hurries inside to hear his wife prattle on about her day. She tells him Dudley has learnt a new word: ‘Won’t’, and I say Mrs D don’t sell Dudders short, that’s totally two words in one!
Rin says: If you ever start a fanclub, so help me god, we’re through.
Sophy says: *kicks scrapbook under the bed*
Okay where are we… Oh yeah, there were these owls everywhere that I forgot to mention earlier, but it’s okay, because there’s a news report all about them on TV. Basically the story is this: there are these owls everywhere.
Oh and there’s also been a downpour of shooting stars, which is pretty cool. And a bit scary, maybe. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of massive, luminous balls of plasma pelting down on me relentlessly…
Heather says: Oh, that’s pretty. Now you’re back to using your powers for good. WHAT KIND OF SNAPE ARE YOU?
Rin says: D: You’re supposed to be on my side ganging up on Sophy. What is this?!
Sophy says: SNAPE??? HEATHER, ARE YOU TYPING WITH YOUR NOSE AGAIN???
Back to our story.
Mr D is as unnerved as I am, and he thinks it’s finally time to talk to his wife.
(Her name is Petunia, by the way, and I think that’s pretty awesome. One of the Larkins’ kids was called Petunia, I’m sure. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of weird that all their girls were named after flowers except Mariette. I suppose she was just meant to be a special snowflake, and, well, she sort of was. Especially when played by Catherine Zeta Jones. Seriously, when I was a kid I thought Catherine Zeta Jones was the loveliest thing ever made. I’m less enamoured of her now, since, you know, her eternal summer kind of faded a bit, but come on…
Mr D brings up the dreaded sister and Mrs D is shocked and angry at the mention of you know who, so he drops it pretty quickly and goes up to bed.
Outside, the map-cat lurks…
While map-cat is busy being otherworldly, a man appears, a man who is very old and very thin and sporting a long wizardy beard to go with his long wizardy clothes.
Rin told me to leave her messages whilst reading and at this point what I wrote was this:
‘there’s some gay wizard
in a pair of heels
with a long beard’
Turns out that this is Albus Dumbledore. And I think to myself that I know Dumbledore! Willow Rosenberg introduced me to him in Lessons! I immediately decide that I will picture him as Giles, and it’s so easy…
The narrator proceeds to tell me that everything about Dumble-Giles is unwelcome here, taking care to mention his effeminate footwear again, and I’m thinking ‘Whoa, homophobic neighbourhood.’
Dumble-Giles pulls out something that looks like a silver cigarette lighter, but is in fact a ‘put-outer’. He uses it to turn all the streetlights off. Ooooh.
Meanwhile map-cat turns into a woman, who turns out to be one Professor McGonagall. I don’t know her. I’m thinking she can’t be too special if Willow Rosenberg didn’t see fit to introduce me to her.
They chat somewhat cryptically about the celebrations that are going on and how even the muggles know something’s up and I guess I’m catching onto the obvious: ‘muggles’ are what those in the wizard world call ordinary human beings.
Whatever. The important thing is that along the way Dumbledore pulls out a bag of lemon drops and offers one to the Prof. She declines. She is a fool.
And I am starting to like Dumbledore and his lemon drops a whole lot.
The name ‘Voldemort’ comes up, as his absence is the cause for all the celebration, and Prof isn’t very happy about it – his name, that is. Apparently Voldemort is generally referred to as ‘You know who’ because he is so fearsome and vile that nobody likes to say or hear his name.
I am reminded of the Dursleys’ horror of the Potter name… could the Potters and this Voldemort be in evil cahoots????
Anyway Dumbledore, because he is all kinds of brave and sensible, thinks they should just call a spade a spade, or a Voldemort a Voldermort, as the case may be.
They start talking about these Potters who give the Dursleys so much trouble. They, like Dumbledore and the Prof, are fabulous wizards – sorry, were fabulous wizards. It turns out that Mr and Mrs Potter are both dead… slain by Voldy, who is super-powerful and super-evil – more powerful even than Dumbledore and way more evil. Seriously, Dumbledore doesn’t even bother trying on the evil front.
So we have death, right there in the first chapter – a double murder no less!
I find myself wondering whether there will be a little infanticide thrown in the mix, whether the book is called Harry Potter because Dudley Dursley is going to grow up to be not strapping, perhaps, but still consumed with a crusader’s need to avenge his poor little cousin’s death!
But no, Harry survived the attack, somehow, inexplicably. He is special or something. So special that according to Dumbledore there will be books written about him and every child in the world will know his name. And that’s cute, JK Rowling. Someone had faith in themselves.
Turns out Voldy tried to kill the infant Harry, but for whatever reason he was unable, and scurried off in shame to who knows where, leaving the wizard world free of his tyranny, and Harry minus a pair of parents, plus a scar shaped like a lightening bolt on his forehead.
But hark! It’s a new character – a huge fellow called Hagrid who shows up on a flying motorcycle. He has “feet like baby dolphins” and “simply looks too big to be allowed.” He seems very sweet thought, and I’m pretty sure he’s been cast in the role of gentle giant. My mate the BFG was there first Hagrid, don’t get cocky.
Heather says: Sophy, you remind me of BFG’s Sophie SO MUCH: “The maid screamed. The Queen gasped. Sophie waved.”
Rin says: She sounds a bit special. Which yes. Accurate comparison.
Sophy says: SNOZZCUMBERS!!!!!!!
Hagrid has baby Harry in his arms. This is why Dumbledore and the Prof have been chilling outside the Dursleys’ place – for some reason they think it will be a good idea for Harry to be in their care now that his parents are dead. They don’t seem to be aware that the Dursleys loathe him on principle and aren’t likely to be the softest of places to fall.
Could have done a background check first, guys…
Hagrid mentions that he borrowed the bike from one Sirius Black, and that name seems familiar to me too. Who plays him in the movie? No wait, don’t tell me! SPOILERRRRR.
There some chit chat, and at one point Hagrid asks if Dumbledore can remove Harry’s scar.
Dumbledore says that he wouldn’t remove it even if he could – scars can come in handy, he tells us – he has a perfect map of the London underground above his left knee.
I gotta say, I’m really identifying with this Dumbledore character. I have a scar on my wrist where a camel bit me. It helps me tell left from right!
Hagrid says some sweet gentle giantish stuff I can’t remember, and whizzes off. Dumbledore says he’ll see Prof McGonagall soon, and she blows her nose “in reply.”
Dumbledore switches the streetlights back on with his ‘put-outer’, which I guess turns into a ‘turn-oner’ at will, and watches McGonagall slink off in cat form.
He looks at tiny Harry on the doorstep and bids him good luck before leaving.
If we didn’t know already, and I’m not being cheeky here, as I’m sure the target audience benefit from the repetition, we’re reminded at the close of the chapter that Harry is very special. It is also confirmed, rather dismally, that he’s going to have a really shitty time with the Dursleys since they hate him so much.
But the world is full of joy right now. Little Harry rolls over in his sleep and clutches the letter Dumbledore has left with him, as non-muggles everywhere are raising their glasses and saying “To Harry Potter, the boy who lived!”
Rin says: To say I’m proud of Sophy is an understatement. An old dinosaur really CAN learn new tricks. *single tear*
HEED MY WARNING. NO SPOILERS OR I WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND AND WE’RE GOING STRAIGHT HOME.
Sophy miraculously was able to stay away from ALL things Harry Potter for the last…decade plus, (hibernating perhaps) and she literally knows nothing about the series and what happens. YES even the BIG events that practically everybody knows about. So do not write ANY spoilers in the comments, and please stick to what is discussed chapter by chapter. Harry Potter is special, and I don’t want anything ruining the experience for her. This is a big deal for me too! (I’ve been trying to get her to love it for as long as I can remember.) We’re also hoping to get other non-HP-readers to join in and I don’t want them getting spoiled either.
Now love, love away!!!