Thoughts and musings on the Wonderful World of Harry Potter

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Lately my mind has taken upon itself to wonder about the world of Harry Potter. Not for any reason you can really put your finger onto, but the Potterverse just drifts in and out of my thoughts from time to time.

In particular, I wondered to myself about the world that JK Rowling had created and tried, as so many do, to insert myself into various situations. I imagined what sort of outcome I might get if I were thrust into said world.

And here’s where things go a little pear-shaped: I am a fairly large fan of the books and movies, but the world could really do with a tidy-up.

Here’s why:

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1)      Wizards are trapped, enslaved to their wands

If I were in the potterverse, I’d definitely want to be a wizard. After all, who wouldn’t? Your life is overseen by the mildly Orwellian Ministry of Magic, you have effectively unlimited power to do the most mundane and boring tasks with ease, and complex tasks are achieved with a wave of your wand.

But there’s where it all goes wrong.

Wizards are attached to their wands in a never-fully-explained symbiotic relationship. The books do make some things clear:

  1. A young wizard can use his magical power to (inadvertently) create magical effects without using a wand.
  2. Wands and their use are forbidden to all but humans.
  3. Gnomes have fought wars with human mages over this at some time.
  4. House-elves seem to have extraordinarily powerful magic that is not augmented by wands, and the only thing that seems to keep them in check at all is their bond of servitude.

So I wonder what would become of a neophyte wizard should he or she not be contacted by the ministry of magic. Would that person channel their magical energies inwards to become an extraordinary person, such as a sports star or intellectual genius? Would the uncontrolled magic burn wildly around them until it destroyed them? Or would they master the magical arts in a way that would mean they could use magic without being beholden to a wand? Perhaps without as great control or power, but also without the hindrance of that tiny, enhancing piece of wood.

After all, what is a wand? In the potterverse it appears that wands act as both an enhancement to magical spells as well as a conduit. A spell may be cast more easily with a wand, which then improves the spell or helps its casting. A wand, to my way of thinking, is similar to an antenna on a radio. Your radio will work okay (ish) without one, but to get the very best out of it you have to have a good aerial and earth.

That’s just fine, but what if a wizard is disarmed? It is noted in wizard duelling that disarming of a wizard is the best way to win. I assume that “accio other guy’s wand” is therefore considered to be bad form.

To me it seems that the door swings both ways. While a wand massively enhances a wizard’s general spellcasting ability, it also robs him of his natural abilities and keeps him reliant on its use. A disarmed wizard is effectively a more-perceptive human. This is a plot device used often by Rowling.

Should I ever find myself in the potterverse and with the talent of wizardry at my disposal, I should make very certain that I could at least do simple magics without a wand. At the very least, enough telekinesis to take the wand out of another wizard’s hands, particularly if he’s pointing said wand at me.

2)      Date-rape drugs and mind control are not only approved, but encouraged as ‘fun jokes’.

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Before you go all-out on me, have a think about it: Fred and George Weasley create a joke shop empire out of selling roofies to teenagers. This is a world where a ‘love potion’ actually works. All you need to do is slip it into the girl of your dreams’ drink. Sort of like rohypnol, but they’re not all floppy and unconscious when you have sex with them.

Remember that these potions are:

  1. 100% legal
  2. Socially accepted as a ‘joke’
  3. Cheap enough that they can easily continue to flog them off in the degrading economy of the Potterverse.

Now just think of your own time at school. Was there a girl or guy you really REALLY liked? Were they totally out of your league? Well, good news! A quick trip to the Weasley’s shop and some sleight of hand and that girl could be giving you a lap dance wearing only a corset, a banana, and strategic dobs of whipped cream.

Heck, why stop at one? You could have a whole harem of besotted girls oiling up and pole-dancing for your pleasure. They wouldn’t even be jealous of one another because they all love you equally and you just tell them that’s what makes you happy. Oh, and if you want them to stay in love with you forever (and oh, they would), then just tell them to keep taking the potions once a day (or week, or whatever the time limit is on the things).

These ‘love potions’ of Fred and George’s are evil little things indeed. If I were an attractive girl or guy at Hogwarts (or, indeed, anywhere in the Potterverse), I’d make damn sure that I’d test EVERYTHING before I took a nibble or sip. The most insidious part of it is that after it takes hold of you, you don’t WANT to stop and so you’ll keep on taking more. Cripes, it’s not just a Spanish fly/rohypnol combo… it’s a Spanish fly/rohypnol/crack cocaine combo!

That’s some joke shop there lads.

Which leads me to wonder, why bother with the Imperius curse at all? Seriously, if Voldemort had a bit more common sense (a trait in which he sadly is lacking), he wouldn’t have ever bothered with cursing and mind-controlling people throughout the wizarding world. He could have just dumped a load of this stuff in the drinking water of Wizard and Muggle alike and had an army of willing slaves ready to do anything he wanted… Conquer the world? Dominate wizards forever? Hand over the philosopher’s stone? Remove muggles from existence? All this and more…. For love.

3)      What about the other parts of the world?

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Largely, the events of the Potter books occur in the UK and, to a far lesser extent, some of continental Europe. We know that Voldemort attempted to dominate the UK, but how far his power had spread was never really explored. We know that Beauxbaton’s school is likely in France, and Durmstrang is likely somewhere in East Germany, or possibly Poland. At least it’s not in Grindelwald which is a very picturesque village in Switzerland and not a Hitler-like wizard at all. Perhaps JK took her holidays there.

Let us wonder, though, at other schools of magic. Certainly Hogwarts cannot accommodate all English-speaking wizards, can it? There is room for a whole franchise universe if only JK would see the potential:

  1. The Westchester School for Gifted Youngsters in the USA, under its hairless wizard headmaster would undoubtedly produce some fine examples of the type. With no requirement for uniform robes of any sort until graduation, I’d expect there to be fierce inter-house rivalry of various greek and arcane-symbol-named fraternity/sororities.
  2.  The Rising Sun School of Magical Education in Japan, where all female students are required to wear sailor uniforms with miniskirts. You are not considered a graduate until you can create your own magical mechanical suit which then must join with a minimum of four others to defend Tokyo from its daily monster rampage.
  3. Coonabarabran College. Hats with corks are mandatory. “G’day. I’m Professor Bruce. I’m in charge of potions and sheep dip. You’ve all met Wozza. He’ll be showing you how to best deal with any drop bears we’ve got on campus.”

The possibilities are endless. After all, there’s a whole world to be fleshed out. Perhaps Voldemort was more a local problem than we really thought.

4)      Being ignorant of Muggles is likely to get you killed

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Quick! You’re being hunted! What do you need to know about your hunters to stay alive?

Answer: Everything, unless you’re a wizard in the Potterverse.

I have found it rather strange that the magical world in which Harry Potter exists is approximately one percent of the existing inhabited world. This would bring many clashes from time to time between magical and non-magical peoples. While the Ministry of Magic does indeed work hard to camouflage those mages who operate within our midst, they are, to be honest, hopeless idiots. The best of them is Mr Weasley, and he has no freaking clue about most technology.

To put this in perspective of our muggle age, it would be as if a downed British flyer were attempting to hide in the clutches of Nazi Germany equipped with yellow gloves, lederhosen, a pool pony, a brightly-coloured union jack waistcoat, and a gramophone continually playing ‘God Save The King’ and told ‘that’s exactly what the Germans wear, you’ll fit in fine’. More to the point, it is what decades of exhaustive research have PROVEN that’s what all the Germans wear, and, as a people in hiding, they would become very adept at knowing precisely what the Germans wear….. except they don’t. Their finest minds are colossally dull when it comes to mundane affairs, which nearly guarantees their unravelling to the world they fear and revile, except for JK’s continual deus ex machina keeping them well hidden. My favourite muggle/mage crossover moment (showing they can’t ALL be that stupid) is that the muggle media were co-opted into the search for Sirius Black by effectively putting him on ‘Britain’s most wanted’. It showed an excellent example of how the crossovers SHOULD occur, rather than how they normally appear to do.

For me, I’d have put the Quidditch world cup in the middle of the Glastonbury music festival. Nobody would have noticed a few more weirdos there, that’s for sure, and any strange events could be put down to a combination of no sleep, loud music, too much mud and bad acid trips.

5)      The division of houses at Hogwarts is brilliant, and then never used again

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Recently I read a pretty good article on why Hogwarts is a rotten school… I mean really REALLY dreadful. The kids learn diddly-squat and still get all the bastardry of a British Private School.

This particular point though, deals with the four arbitrary houses that people seem to be slotted into, apparently based on their greatest ambition.

Fair enough. You’ll at least hang out with like-minded people rather than just those whose surnames are a quarter of the alphabet’s breadth from your own.

Or so we’d like to think. Let’s examine this a little further, if we will. I’ll break down the houses into their four defining traits:

Griffindor: Bravery and Courage

– Now all of our heroes are Griffindors, which means they’re brave. Not smart, not tough, not strong, not good leaders, just brave. That’s the criteria. If you’ve a mind to make a living charging into machine gun fire, then Griffindor is for you. It is affirmed throughout the books that Griffindor is the place where the ‘good’ people go. In reality, this is not so. Many bad or evil people are quite quite brave. In real world terms, Winston Churchill was a very brave guy during the fighting in the Boer war. He escaped from POW camps, and went to battle armed with nothing more than pluck, a pith helmet, a reporter’s notepad, and a luger. On the other side, though, you have Adolf Hitler, a man whose very name stirs revile in people. Hitler was well decorated during WW1 for courage and tenacity in battle; dragging gas-blinded colleagues back to safety and repeatedly risking his own life in daring military actions. Both of these guys would be Griffindors, if the Hat had anything to say about it. There is no ‘good’ requirement to be in Griffindor, and indeed I would imagine some of the most terrifying Death Eaters would have come from this house.. Frightening warriors who knew no fear and literally spat in the face of death itself.

Slytherin: Desire for Power

– ‘Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’. So goes the mantra. I’ve no doubt that many of the bad eggs would still be here in this house. After all, most people who desire power do so for their own purposes. On the other hand, there have been many altruistic leaders in the past who have given all for their country; King Michael of Romania is an excellent example of this. Here is someone who without a doubt would be a Slitherin, and yet all that he did, was for his people. In any event, those who truly desire power will find a way to get there, and that way is not to be on the losing side. Remember, dumbass and genius are lumped together here, so you have those with the ambition of a king or queen mixing with those who merely wish to be head of a company, a business leader, an investor, or just about anyone in middle-upper management. Anyone who desires to succeed at something will very likely be Slitherin. It’s probably quite a big house, and very likely mostly anti-Voldemort as he represents a lack of stability and a crumbling of their well-laid power bases and businesses.

Ravenclaw: The Quest for Knowledge

– Home of the braniacs. Or so they’d like to think. Just because you WANT to be smart, doesn’t mean you are. Pity the poor slob who is a bit dumb, but desperately wants to be a rocket scientist. That slob is stuck in Ravenclaw, answering inane riddles just to get in the bloody front door. Ravenclaws are driven by a lust for knowledge. Librarians, scientists, tinkerers, intelligensia. They are all Ravenclaws. Tesla and Einstein would be here (Edison would be over in Slytherin). There are others, though, whose desire for knowledge outweighs any morals they might have. Dr Mengele ‘the angel of death’ of the Auchwitz prison camps, would be a Ravenclaw, as would Mr Sinister of Marvel Comics, and The Rani of Dr Who.

Hufflepuff: Loyalty

– The whipping boy of the other houses, Hufflepuff has an undeserved reputation of the ‘everyone else’ house, although from views of the main hall it seems just as big as everyone else. Hufflepuff’s main goal is loyalty. Those who remain loyal no matter what are in this place. James bond, hufflepuff. Most agents and spies, hufflepuff. Any lackey or lick-spittle, hufflepuff. Igor would be a hufflepuff. Hagrid should have been a hufflepuff. Crabbe and Goyle are DEFINITELY hufflepuff material (the only failure of the sorting hat I can think of, apart from its failure to put Hermione into Ravenclaw). Anyone, good or evil, can be found at hufflepuff. In the war against Voldemort, both sides would draw most of their troops (apart from the machine-gun-charging-maniac griffindors) from Hufflepuff.

So there you have it. I feel that Rowling made an excellent system which very particularly does NOT include ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in the requirements, allowing those to be sorted where they should go best, and then spent seven books totally ignoring this fact.

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