As the Wizarding World Book Club has opened there’s no way but reread the Harry Potter series once again!
“It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that’s saying something.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a amazingly well written debut novel. Albeit J. K. Rowling has herself criticized her use of adverbs etc. it is still an admirable exercise in plot building, character creation and foreshadowing. Not least because these elements often set the foundation for the entire seven book series. Rowling must have had her story very well planned indeed.
The first part of the series presents us with the HP universe and its main characters and main sub characters. There’s a plenty! It is an entire world on its own, with its hierarchies, policies and intrigues – whether or not Harry Potter is included in them or not. Despite the vast cast, Rowling keeps the strings in her hands.
She has also created a very concrete universe in a sense that it is inhabited by various magical creatures, there are unique devices and customs and surroundings that literally ooze magic atmosphere. All these details bring the story to life. They have also inspired numerous people in arts and crafts to recreate the HP world in real life .
“We could all have been killed – or worse, expelled.”
Philosopher’s Stone is before anything else a middle grade adventure story flavoured with magic. Its eleven-year-old MCs are true to their age, which is not nearly as self-evident as one might think. It is not easy to create a genuine child character of a certain age. Rowling has managed this very well. It is interesting to compare Harry, Ron and Hermione of the first book to some other well-known child characters of the same age group: Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley, Max Lightwood by Cassandra Clare, the Famous Five by Enid Blyton.
Quite in unison with the old tradition of MG books, Rowling’s characters live in a world where adults are little less than a nuisance at best and downright dangerous at worst. There are a few semi-trusted mentors among adults, but mostly the children fight their battles on their own and submerge as stronger and more confident than before their ordeals. This is of course the recipe for success in MG and YA books, because an introduction of wise and helpful adults would instantly turn them into the icky instructional books with a lesson to learn for their readers…
Magic in the series is very far from what real world magic among wicca e.g. would be. Yet, J. K. Rowling has clearly done her homework in this area too. She uses many plants traditionally considered to have magical properties, like mandrake, or well-known concepts from folklore, like bezoar. Even the core of the story – the philosopher’s stone and its inventor Nicholas Flamel – are based on a real historical person. Many of her magical creatures are based on old legends and myths and her spells in twisted Latin are often word plays. Avada kedavra originates, according to Rowling, from abracadabra in Aramaic, an ancient spell meaning “let the thing be destroyed”. It is somewhat ironic that the Wikipedia tells it to mean “I create as I speak” or “I create like the word”.
Quotes from the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone:
My house edition:
The entire series: