HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE
Harry Potter is my absolutely favourite series of books. It is where I developed my love for reading and hence they hold a dear place in my heart. Of course having a worldwide fan-base Harry Potter novels don’t need any introduction and I am sure many of the fans would similarly feel at a loss of words when trying to describe their adulation for these books as I do now. Harry Potter made me believe in the existence of magic through my childhood and even today as I re-read the first book Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone for probably the seven-hundredth time, it gave me the same tingling sensation in my stomach, the same excitement when Harry found out that he was a wizard and embarked on his magical journey, and put that same smile on my face as a devoured every word of one of the best books ever written as when I had read it for the first time.
Before, I delve further into my blog about Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, I would like to thank and heap as much praise onto J. K. Rowling as there is gold in the Gringotts, for giving us Harry Potter and making our lives that much better. The books are a work of pure genius and as we discuss them further, we will realise the brilliance of this piece of Art and the artist- J K Rowling.
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone the shortest of the Harry Potter novels, yet everything is described perfectly. Rowling has given justice to every character, every scene and object introduced in the book. Everything is described so perfectly that you can literally imagine yourself going through the entire journey with the exact emotions that Harry felt through it.
My favourite parts of the story-
The Boy Who Lived:
To stress on how perfectly everything has been justified I would like to draw your attention to the very first chapter. Though, each and every page of each and every chapter keeps you gripped, let’s see why from Chapter One- The Boy Who Lived. The beginning with the Dursleys at Number 4, Privet Drive- the Muggles of the Muggles (Muggles who are as far away from magic as can be). Rowling has described all three of them to the T, not leaving anything for the reader’s imagination. Mr. Dursley- a fat man with almost no neck, Mrs. Petunia Dursley, a thin woman with more neck that normal, amply used to crane over and spy on the neighbours. Dudley, their fat son taking after his dad and again having almost no neck. Rowling, manages to give the three of them a good enough character sketch and wastes no time as she introduces us to the magical world and The Boy Who Lived within the 1st Chapter of the book itself diving straight into the heart of the plot and telling us how He Who Must Not Be Named lost his powers and gave Harry that lightning bolt shaped scar.
Three other important characters are introduced in the first chapter itself- Albus Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Hagrid. Dumbledore is introduced as the old, wise, brilliant yet strange wizard that he is, finding joys in even the simplest things as Sherbet lemons. McGonagall is shown as the strict and stern witch that she is and Hagrid, being clumsy yet the most loyal and good hearted folk of the storyline. We are also introduced to bits of magic in the very first chapter- Dumbledore appearing out of thin air at the corner of Privet Drive and using his Deluminator or Put-Outer as it is called in this book to put out all the lights of the street. Professor McGonagall is shown as an animagus as she turns into a cat and back into her human form. Hagrid making his entry on a flying motor bike! These were just some amazing appetizers of magic that Rowling serves us immediately in the very first chapter. Hence being packed with so much matter, the first chapter wastes no time to get you hooked on to the book immediately.
As the story goes on, we are made to empathize with Harry, the orphan who has no memory of his parents who were murdered, sent to live with his only relatives who despise him for reasons unknown to him. Our heart immediately falls for skinny boy with sellotaped glasses and knobby knees wearing oversized clothes of his mean and pampered cousin – Dudley. Dudley is the exact opposite of Harry- fat, pampered, mean and a bully. He is shown to be popular in school and having friends in a stark contrast to Harry.
I love how young wizards and witches are shown to have magical prowess before they start school in way of small inexplicable incidents that occur around them when they are sad or upset. Being unable to control magic at early stage of their lives, they show unintentional magical wonders when feeling extreme emotions. Eg. Harry growing his hair back once Aunt Petunia takes the scissors on them herself and gives him a rather embarrassing haircut. Or Harry suddenly appearing on the terrace of one of his school buildings while running away from Dudley’s gang. The last incident which is described at length in the book being on Dudley’s eleventh birthday at the zoo. Harry unknowingly and unintentionally sets free a Boa Constrictor. Here, apart from the magic something really cool happens which is not referenced until the next book. Harry is a ‘parselmouth’i.e. he can speak to snakes. This however is construed as just ordinary magic by the readers and Harry himself until Rowling further clarifies in the next book. Rowling in this way has put small details throughout this book and the rest which often become significant in the future timeline of the story.
The Letters From No One:
The excitement in the story begins when Harry receives a letter from Hogwarts. Though Uncle Vernon Dursely tries his best to keep Harry from reading these letters, it finally reaches him with my favourite half-giant Rubeus Hagrid. What I love the most about these letters is how they specifically mention Harry’s address- from The Cupboard under the stairs; to The Smallest Bedroom; to The Floor, Hut-On-The-Rock, The Sea.
After meeting Hagrid on the stormy night of his birthday, Harry finally gets his hands on his enrolment letter from Hogwarts: A school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Here Harry is told about his parent’s history, about You Know Who and of course himself in bit and pieces over the course of their journey from The Hut on the Rock to Diagon Alley!
One of my favourite locations in the Magical universe. Filled with Magical things and shops and of course the Wizard’s Bank- Gringotts, Madam Malkin’s, Eeylops Owl Emporium, and the most curious- Ollivander’s!
Gringotts, the wizard’s bank described as one of the safest paces in the world, and not just the muggle world, but even the magical world. With dragons guarding the secure vaults and vaults going miles under the ground through a maze of tunnels where one could only get lost. And moreover strong spells guarded the more secure vaults. As we see, the vault 713 that Harry and Hagrid visit had to be opened not by a key, but by being stroked by Griphook, the Gringotts goblin at exactly the right spot. And the door melted away. If anyone other than a Gringott’s goblin tried that, he would be sucked into the vault and left there for months, locked in the vault with no way out.
Harry’s first visit to Diagon Alley was filled with shopping and discovering loads of magical things. Apart from the school books bought from Flourish and Blotts and robes from Madam Malkin’s, they bought a cauldron, scales, a telescope and other potions’ ingredients. Afterwhich they went to Ollivanders to buy a wand! Mr. Ollivander too is a curious character himself. Portrayed as slightly crack but shrewd. He seemed like a man who knew everything there is to know about wands, which clearly not everyone knew much about. Holly and Phoenix feather, being the wand that chose Harry, whose brother had infact given him the scar. Chills ran down my spine too as I heard Ollivander say these words to Harry.
Here in Diagon Alley we not only get the first glimpse of Draco Malfoy, but also a glimpse of the then fastest broomstick- The Nimbus 2000.
Platform 934 and The Hogwarts Express:
As Harry and Hagrid return from Diagon Alley, Hagrid hands him his ticket for his train to Hogwarts. Rowling has not left anything plain and simple, and so even to get on the train Harry must find his way to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. On the 1st of September as Harry pushes his trolley looking for the platform that doesn’t exist, he finds the Weasley’s. Running through the barrier between Platforms 9 and 10 they reach the Platform 934 . Getting on the Hogwarts Express and journeying to Hogwarts a lot of important characters are introduced to us.- The nervous and ever forgetful- Neville Longbottom, the overly intelligent and sharp Muggle born- Hermione Granger, the Weasley twins and of course Malfoy wit his gang- Crabbe and Goyle.
One of my favourite parts about the journey is the start of friendship between Ron and Harry. As they start to get to know eachother over Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans and Mrs. Weasley’s sandwiches.
Hagrid once again meets Harry along with the other first year’s at the Hogsmeade station and takes them to the school on self-rowing boats.
The Sorting Ceremony:
The first years are first sorted into their houses. Hogwarts has 4 houses- Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Gryffindor each with a rich history of its own. The houses are like the family of the student while at Hogwarts. Each student lives in the house Dormitory, attends classes with their housemates, share a Common room, and even are responsible to earn points for their house. I really like how the Houses are an important part of their lives at Hogwarts, giving it such a competitive angle. Cutting back to the Sorting Ceremony. The sorting is not random, no! It’s done by an odd peculiar hat that’s probably as old as the castle itself and it peaks into the student’s mind to see their innate qualities before sorting them into one of the four houses according to their virtues.
During the sorting ceremony, as the hat is peering into Harry’s mind we get a hint that Harry has some link to Lord Voldemort as the hat considers putting him in Slytherin saying that Slythering would be good for him and he would excel in Slytherin. However seeing Harry’s reluctance to go that way, the Hat finally puts him in Gryffindor!
Hogwarts is a school so naturally there were many classes to attend throughout the days and loads and loads to study. Rowling has carefully thought of a great mix of subjects and given us a brief look into some of the classes and their syllabi. The first years had- Potions, taught by Snape; Transfiguration taught by McGonagall; Charms taught by Flitwick; Herbology taught by Sprouts; Defence Against The Dark Arts taught by Quirrell; History of Magic taught by Professor Binns (who is a ghost. Can you believe it? A ghost professor? Wow!!)
I love the way all the classes are described along with all the teachers who taught them.
Professor Quirrell’s Defence Against The Dark Arts is admittedly not the greatest Defence Against The Dark Arts class that Harry witnesses with some really cool and some not so cool but yet powerfully mean teachers teaching the subject in the future.
Professor Snape, though highly unpopular for most parts of the storyline, adds a much required flavour of a sour teacher who just hates Harry’s guts. An ex-DeathEater, Head of the Slytherin House, Severus Snape is one of my favourite characters in the series. Rowling has done a great job describing his loathe for Harry. However, Snape is a great wizard with unparalleled knowledge in Potions. Potions, though hated by Harry as it was taught by Snape, is still a very powerful aspect of magic in my opinion. Or as the potions master said- Potion-making is a subtle science, that can teach you to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death. Potions classes took place in the dungeons which again adds variety to they type of classrooms that were used at Hogwarts.
Transfiguration I am sure sounds insanely cool to each and everyone! Turning omething into something else at the flick of your wand! Wow! However, as exciting as it may sound, it is equally difficult if not more. The first years started with turning matches into needles. Taught by Professor McGonagall, who is a very stern and strict witch. Extremely talented, but you would dare not cross her. She is the Head of Gryffindor House. But was never partial to them, unlike Snape.
Charms was taught by Professor Flitwick who was a dwarf. Though Charms seems like not as complex as Potions or Transfiguration, it is really cool. One of the highlight lessons is where they are taught the hovering charm- Wingardium Leviosa. Here Ron and Hermione are partnered to practice the spell together and end up having a small fight about it, but here is where we can say their friendship really began. As Hermione is upset and misses the Halloween feast and ends up being trapped in the girl’s toilet with a mountain Troll. Harry and Ron come and save her life. And when it comes to forging friendships, there’s not much that beats facing a mountain troll together. Incidentally here too, Ron uses the Hovering Charm to beat the troll with it’s own club.
I am a diehard football fan, but even I have to admit- Quidditch is by far the coolest sport ever. 7 players flying on broomsticks, 4 balls, 3 goal hoops- It doesn’t get much better than that! The day the first years’ learn flying was one of my favourite parts of the book. Seeing how Harry is a natural at flying and the sense of confidence he feels the very first time he mounts his broom and accelerates towards Malfoy is simply exhilarating. When Professor McGonagall spots Harry dive for Neville’s Remebrall (another really cool object in the wizard’s world) and takes him from his class, everyone including Harry and Malfoy (to his joy) think he is about to be expelled. However McGonagall takes Harry to a class being taught by Quirrell and asks for wood. Harry is wondering why she might need wood? Is it some kind of a cane she is going to beat him with when a student comes out of the class. McGonagall tells Wood that she’s found him a seeker with excitement in her voice that is seldom seen in her stern demeanour. Harry is still not understanding what is happening until he is later explained that he has made it to the Gryffindor House Quidditch Team and being a first year, he is the youngest player in a house team in over a century!
Two Quidditch matches are described in the book, in both of which Harry catches the snitch and Gryffindor win.
Meetings with Hagrid:
Over the course of the entire series, Hagrid and Harry build a special friendship, a special bond. Hagrid was the one who picked up baby Harry from the ruins of his former home at Godric’s Hollow and brought him to the Dursley’s. Even that day as Hagrid dropped Harry into Dumbldore’s arms he couldn’t get himself to part ways and did so tearfully. We could say from that moment on that this relationship would be a special one.
Through Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, Harry visits Hagrid multiple times in his hut out on the grounds. Hagrid makes him feel at home in that first difficult week at school, makes superr tea everytime they visit and gives them loads of rock-cakes to eat and carry back to their dormitories with them, and keeps accidentally dropping hints about The Philosopher’s Stone. Apart from this, in one of their meetings in Hagrid’s hut, Harry, Ron and Hermione even witness a dragon hatching out of it’s egg. They go on to see baby Norbert (or Norberta) grow over a few weeks before they have to say goodbye to her and sent her off to Romania.
Harry and Hermione also get a detention to serve with Hagrid, Malfoy and Neville in the Forbidden Forest. Which is also as eventful a detention as any.
Through The Trapdoor:
As the book reaches its climax, Harry, Ron and Hermione go through the trapdoor. The challenges they face to get to the Philosopher’s Stone are ingenious! I thoroughly enjoyed reading how each of the obstacles tested for different skill sets in the different branches of magic and how Harry and his friends overcame them all. First came Fluffy, the three headed giant dog. Monstrous as he was, Hagrid had given them the clue how to get past him- just play him some music, and so they did. They played the flute which Hagrid had gifted Harry and made their way through the trapdoor!
As soon as they fell they landed on Devil’s Snare. A plant that slowly circled their limbs and held them tighter and tighter as they struggled more and more to get free. If it hadn’t been for Hermione paying attention in Herbology they would’ve been strangled to death. But Hermione cast her little spell that sent our bright blue flames from her wand which made the plant set them free and wriggle away.
Next they were faced with Flitwick’s charm. The next room was filled with hundreds of keys flying away. There was a lock on the door which lead them on. Here, Harry’s flying skills were put to test as they climbed onto brooms, identified the old key with a slightly bent wing (from being used before) and chased it. Harry caught it and they were able to unlock the next door and go on.
The chamber that awaited them was a real life-size chess board. Ron who was the best chess player amongst them took charge and they played a game of Wizard’s chess at the end of which Ron sacrificed himself and was hurt as his piece was taken, which helped them win the game. As they won, they went through to face Snape’s puzzle.
Here they were faced with 7 vials of potions. And they had to solve a riddle to guess which bottle would help them go on. Though the riddle went completely over my head, Hermione definitely understood it and was able to solve it, allowing Harry to go on while she returned to help Ron.
In the next chamber Harry, to his surprise is faced with Quirrell and of course Dumbledore’s layer of protection- The Mirror of Erised. Though I quite liked Fluffy, the Devil’s Snare, the Wizard’s Chess and Snape’s Potions’ puzzle used aptly to protect the Stone, nothing in my opinion beat the Mirror of Erised. It formed the ultimate protection or as Dumbledore said- “One of his more brilliant ideas”. The trick was that the only person who would get the stone from the mirror was the one who wanted it but, not use it. This was pure genius.
The House Cup:
The end of the book was with the awarding of the House Cup. As seen from the start of their journey in Hogwarts, the Houses are a big deal and have a healthy and sometimes not so healthy competition going on amongst them. Here, we see that Slytherin have been winning the House Cup for the past 6 years and if they win it this time in Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, it would be the 7th straight win for them. “7” is a strong magical number referenced on many occasions in the entire series, and this is one of the places where 7-wins is made out to be a really big deal.
Though Slytherin are very much in the lead and are the undeclared winners of the House Cup in the End of Year feast, Dumbledore adds a nice twist in the tail by awarding Harry and his friends some last minute points for their adventure through the trapdoor which makes Gryffindor win the House Cup by 10 points and adds to the celebration of all the 3 houses other than Slytherin.
My favourite characters-
The boy who lived is the hero of our story and clearly my favourite character. J K Rowling has built Harry’s character beautifully. Starting with a little orphan who’s parents are murdered by a dar wizard and who grows up with the only family he has and is mistreated by them and bullied by his cousin. The face that he is a wizard and how his parents died is hidden from him until he finds out the truth about himself and his parents’ death from Hagrid. The author, draws our empathy towards the Bow Who Lived with how he spends his childhood.
Even after he finds out that he is not only a wizard but a rather famous one, and in possession of heap of gold his parents have left him, Harry remains the modest and humble person he is and is drawn to the likes of Ron rather than Malfoy as he starts his school.
I love how Harry is portrayed as a normal (almost average) student as far as learning magic at Hogwarts is concerned. And he struggles his way through his classes and exams. However there are a few things he has a natural knack for. Flying is one of them! Harry Potter is a naturally great flyer and is instantly inducted into the Gryffindor Quidditch Team helping them to win some games in his very first year.
Apart from flying, Harry has an affinity to breaking rules and getting in trouble through his school life and the starting of that can be seen in his first year. On multiple occasions we see Harry venturing out after hours- to duel Malfoy, to help Hagrid get rid of Norbert the dragon, to look into the Mirror of Erised, to look through the restricted section of the library in order to find Nicolas Falmel and even to go through the trapdoor to stop Snape from getting to the Philosopher’s Stone. He is caught out of bed and even almost caught sometimes in spite of his Invisibility Cloak, and loses points for Gryffindor and receives detention.
Even in the end, when Harry faces Voldemort, he doesn’t whip up some insane magical prowess and beat Voldemort on his merit but by chance and by pure luck as is to be expected when a 11 year old amateur wizard faces one of the strongest dark wizard’s of all time. However what we can admire is Harry shows immense courage at all such times when faced with difficulties.
There is no end to what can be said about Harry and his character and why he is my favourite number 1 character in this book!
Albus Dumbledore is portrayed as a brilliant yet slightly eccentric wizard. He is believed to be the greatest wizard of all time and the only wizard that Voldemort ever feared. I love how he has that slight oddities which make him seem more genius than our average minds can understand. He is also shown to be a combination of a modest human along with certain occasions when he does boast of his great prowess. In the first book he seems to keep a keen eye on Harry, passes on his father’s Invisibility Cloak to him, kind of encouraging his nightly excursions.
Dumbledore also has some of the greatest dialogues throughout the books and passes on some great words of wisdom! For example, he tells Harry when he finds him again in front of the Mirror of Erised- “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Speaking of the Mirror of Erised, using the mirror to guard the Philosopher’s Stone itself was a brilliant idea as I mentioned earlier. Only he who wanted to find the stone, find it but not use it, could get it from the Mirror.
Ron’s character has been a great one. Not only is he Harry’s best friend, he is also shown as a stark contrast to Draco who is rich, arrogant and an only child, thus pampered. Ron on the other hand comes from a wizard’s family of meagre means (which itself seems really fascinating cause up until then you are thinking- if you are a witch or a wizard, you gotta be rich. Cause you know magic, right? But no.), has five brothers and a sister, which only adds to the problem of being poor. Having always lived in the shadow of his siblings and only inheriting all his possessions from someone or the other in the family, he is extremely modest. Ron is also very cool, having a great sense of humour and the perfect friend who is always there with you whether you are lagging behind in homework or duelling a three headed dog!
Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape
Malfoy and Snape are probably the most unpopular characters of the book. Yet they are as important as any. Without them the story wouldn’t have been close to as gripping as it is. Rowling has painted perfect characters for the arrogant school bully- Malfoy, and the unfairly biased teacher who all but makes sure you hate him- Snape. Hence they get a special mention at the end of this blog for being the perfect bad boys!