Following on from our last event celebrating Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary, the next BookTalk of the year will continue the focus on contemporary children’s literature with a discussion of Mark Haddon’s prizewinning novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
In celebration of the birthday of the Boy Who Lived, Caitlin Coxon reviews the final BookTalk event of the 2016/17 year, ‘Harry Potter – Twenty Years Later’.
Our event, Harry Potter – Twenty Years Later begins tonight at 7pm in the Cardiff University Optometry Building on Maindy Rd. The event is now all booked up, so we’re looking forward to seeing you all this evening!
The train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way towards the door and out on to a tiny, dark platform. Harry shivered in the cold night air. Then a lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students and Harry heard a familiar voice: “Firs’-years! Firs’-years! Firs’-years over here! All right there, Harry?”
Hagrid’s big hairy face beamed over the sea of heads.
“C’mon, follow me – any more firs’-years? Mind yer step, now! Firs’-years follow me!”
Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. It was so dark either side of them that Harry thought there must be thick trees there. Nobody spoke much. Neville, the boy who kept losing his toad, sniffed once or twice.
“Yeh’ll get yer firs’ sight o’ Hogwarts in a sec,” Hagrid called over his shoulder, “jus’ round this bend here.”
There was a loud “Oooooh!”.
The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.
“No more’n four to a boat!” Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. Harry and Ron were followed into their boat by Neville and Hermione.
“Everyone in?” shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself, “Right then – FORWARD!”
And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.
“Heads down!” yelled Hagrid as the first boats reached the cliff; they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy which hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them directly underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out on to rocks and pebbles.
Excerpt taken from Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013), pp. 83-4.
“Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Mr Potter. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no two unicorns, dragons or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another wizard’s wand.”
Harry suddenly realised that the tape measure, which was measuring between his nostrils, was doing this on its own. Mr Ollivander was flitting around the shelves, taken down boxes.
“That will do,” he said, and the tape measure crumpled into a heap on the floor. “Right then, Mr Potter. Try this one. Beechwood and dragon heartstring. Nine inches. Nice and flexible. Just take it and give it a wave.”
Harry took the wand and (feeling foolish) waved it around a bit, but Mr Ollivander snatched it out of his hand almost at once.
“Maple and phoenix feather. Seven inches. Quite whippy. Try -“
Harry tried – but he had hardly raised the wand when it, too, was snatched back by Mr Ollivander.
“No, no – here, ebony and unicorn hair, eight and a half inches, springy. Go on, go on, try it out.”
Harry tried. And tried. He had no idea what Mr Ollicander was waiting for. The pile of tried wands was mounting higher and higher on the spindly chair, but the more wands Mr Ollivander pulled from the shelves, the happier he seemed to become.
“Tricky customer, eh? Not to worry, we’ll find the perfect match here somewhere – I wonder now – yes, why not – unusual combination – holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple.”
Harry took the wand. He felt a sudden warmth in his fingers. He raised the wand above his head, brought it swishing down through the dusty air and a stream of red and gold sparks shot from the end like a firework, throwing dancing spots of light on to the walls. Hagrid whooped and clapped and Mr Ollivander cried, “Oh, bravo! Yes, indeed, oh, very good. Well, well, well… how curious… how very curious…”
He put Harry’s wand back into its box and wrapped it in brown paper, still muttering, “Curious… curious…”
“Sorry,” said Harry, “but what’s curious?”
Mr Ollivander fixed Harry with his pale stare.
“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather – just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother – why, its brother gave you that scar.”
Excerpt taken from Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013), pp. 64-5.
Harold Bloom’s review in 2000 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (then the first of only three books) was blisteringly harsh and condemned all the series’ readers. As we celebrate 20 years of Potter, here are edited highlights from Bloom’s piece.
Hagrid led them through the bar and out into a small, walled courtyard, where there was nothing but a dustbin and a few weeds.
Hagrid grinned at Harry.
“Told yeh, didn’t I? Told yeh you was famous. Even Professor Quirrell was tremblin’ ter meet yeh – mind you, he’s usually tremblin’.”
“Is he always that nervous?”
“Oh yeah. Poor bloke. Brilliant mind. He was fine while he was studyin’ outta books but then he took a year off ter get some first-hand experience… They say he met vampires in the Black Forest and there was a nasty bit o’ trouble with a hag – never been the same since. Scared of the students, scared of his own subject – now, where’s me umbrella?”
Vampires? Hags? Harry’s head was swimming. Hagrid, meanwhile, was counting bricks in the wall above the dustbin.
“Three up… two across…” he muttered. “Right, stand back, Harry.”
He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella. The brick he had touched quivered – it wriggled – in the middle, a small hole appeared – it grew wider and wider – a second later they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archy on to a cobbled street which twisted and turned out of sight.
“Welcome,” said Hagrid, “to Diagon Alley.”
Excerpt taken from Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013), pp. 55-6.