Harry Potter 101: Wizards Don’t Learn Math

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Abra Cadabra, Lord Voldemort.

What is Harry Potter?

Harry Potter’s a wizard.

No, I mean, like, the series.

Oh! Harry Potter is a book series, written by J.K. Rowling, about a secret world of wizards.

Harry Potter is an ordinary eleven-year-old who lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, the Dursleys, until he finds out he is a wizard, and goes to a wizard school called Hogwarts.

Why’s he live with his aunt and uncle?

His parents are dead. Lord Voldemort, the most powerful, evil wizard ever known, killed them, when Harry was just one year old.

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Which is not to say he doesn’t have fun with it.

Wow.

Yeah, that’s kinda Harry’s reaction to all that, too.

Why did he kill Harry’s parents?

He killed a lot of people, to be fair. Harry’s parents were just the last before he disappeared. And he killed them because he wanted to kill Harry.

Why’d he want to kill a baby?

Magic.

C’mon…

No, really. And I can’t say much more, without spoiling a few plot twists. But the basic answer is: magic.

Okay, smart guy, how does a baby beat the biggest, baddest wizard around?

That’s complicated, but the simple answer is: the spell Voldemort used rebounded from Harry and hit Voldemort instead. Harry walks… well, crawls away with just a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt.

That’s pretty metal.

Hellz yeh.

Does it give him any special powers? Aside from wizardry, I mean?

He can talk to snakes, which is weird, and never very useful. It does some other cool stuff that becomes important in later books.

How long is this series, anyway?

Seven books. They start out standard sized, about 300 pages, until the fourth book. From there, they grow until the last, which I think is an 800 page whopper. The first two are basically kid’s books – I’d have no problem letting a 7 or 8 year old read em. The third and fourth are more young adult. By the fifth and sixth, though, the books get pretty dark, so if your kid wants to read them, check them out yourself, first.

That’s a lot of reading. Can’t I just watch the movies?

You can, and some of the movies are actually good. As the kid actors grow up, they get even better. But Harry Potter is all about the weird, fun little details, and most of those get dropped from the movies.

What kind of details?

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House Elves like Dobby, simultaneously the best and worst doll you could give a child.

Like goblins and house elves and centaurs, and how wands work, and the Ministry of Magic working with Muggles and… a lot of nerd stuff that’s probably boring you. But trust me, it’s awesome

Wands? Really, like goofy sideshows, “Hocus Pocus!”? And what’s an effing muggle?

A muggle, sir or madam, is a non-wizard. There’s also Squibs (wizards who can’t use magic), muggle-borns (wizards born to muggles), and pure-bloods (wizards born from wizards).

Ugh…

And a wand’s important. It’s like the wizard’s lightsaber, except it uses Phoenix feathers and Dragon heartstrings instead of jewelry. It’s pretty metal, too. Unless you’re saying Dragonforce isn’t metal…

I would never say that.

Good.

And I think there was something about the government in there…

Yeah, the Ministry of Magic. The series takes place in England, and the Ministry governs the wizards and tries to keep them out of sight of the muggles.

How can that work? Wouldn’t somebody just take a picture of some kid levitating and post it to Instagram?

Probably, and I want to see that sequel, but not in the series. The series begins (in-universe) in 1991, and ends in 1998, the year the first book was published. So, give it like a decade, and muggles will probably be all up in the wizard’s business (if you’re reading, Ms. Rowling…)

All right, all right. Now I’m rereading this… I mean, reviewing our conversation, and you said Harry goes to wizard school? So this is what, Magic Times at Wizard High?

Harry goes to school with about a thousand other wizard kids from age eleven on, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A big part of the books are about classes and sports and friends, wrapped around the plot.

Isn’t a school full of adolescent wizards, uh, dangerous?

For Harry, it’s practically a deathtrap. For everyone else, it’s just mostly dangerous. But Harry would be dead a lot if not for his best friends Ron and Hermione.

How in the world do you pronounce that name?

Ron. RAH-AHN…

No! The other one!

Oh, yeah. Hmmm… HER-MY-OH-KNEE. I think. Or HER-MY-KNEE, for short.

There is no way that name is worth struggling over. 

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Don’t sass Hermione. Ron is Harry’s best friend, and he’s got some great snarky and bright moments, but Hermione holds them together. She’s the brains and badass wand-slinger of the series. There’s an article over here, all about her (NSFW and spoilers).

I still don’t know. I mean, I haven’t read them, and they’re really old now. Is there any point to going through them at this late date?

I think so. I still read through them occasionally, and I usually find something new to enjoy. But I’ll put it this way: If the idea of rebellious wizard-Jedi, led by Gandalf, in a war against Magic Hitler doesn’t sound appealing, I don’t know what to tell you. Except that Hermione’s in it, and she is totally awesome.

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At some point, they really should have renamed the series after her.

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Competing Fandoms: Or, why I am not a Whovian or Harry Potter fan, and never will be (but that’s ok).

"Allons-y"

“Allons-y”

by Jeremy DeFatta

Initial disclaimer: Everything here  is my own personal opinion and does not reflect on the other bloggers here, who will likely disagree with me and may not even like that I wrote this. I will never claim that the things I do not personally enjoy are worthless or stupid in any way; they simply aren’t for me, and I’d like to understand why. My time as a teacher has taught me that controversial topics often elicit the best responses, so here we go!

How often do we wonder why we enjoy the things we do? In Nerd Culture, we have many, many fandoms devoted to all sorts of things we enjoy in comics, science fiction, fantasy, horror, hybrids of these things, etc. But do we ever really stop to wonder what about a certain something tickles our fancy? Let’s dive into a couple that are sure to rankle.

I do not like Doctor Who or Harry Potter. I never have. They do not appeal to me and I doubt they ever will. I don’t think it’s just because they’re British; I mean, I enjoy Douglas Adams and many, many British comics writers like you would not believe. I say this because I want to understand why Doctor Who and Harry Potter are so popular among people who are just like me and often like a lot of the same things I do.

Doctor Who and a lot of the popular British sci-fi I’ve experienced just seem too silly. There’s a lot of interesting high concept ideas that I feel get buried in a haughty joke or poor execution somewhere. Here I am imagining the holographic deep space exploration ship from Red Dwarf that was more a prop for humor than the truly fascinating hard science fiction thought experiment it could have been. Before you point it out, yes, I realize that Red Dwarf is meant to be comedic foremost, and that might be the problem.

On a side note, I (still almost entirely an outsider) notice that Doctor Who uses many of the same tropes as popular comic books—gimmicky storylines and impermanent character deaths in particular. I find this personally baffling because popular comics are often criticized, even ridiculed, for these practices, but Doctor Who soldiers on untouched. Why do we give these events in this show a pass?

I also have mad respect for J. K. Rowling’s accomplishments, but I don’t think I could ever bear to read her work. First off, magic itself is far from the top of my list of things I find enjoyable in fantasy. That, and a series of updated British boarding school novels that all have pretty similar plot structures just don’t do it for me. Again, I’m far from the most desirable audience for these works of art, but why?

I genuinely wish to invite discussion on these points. Those of you who have seen fit to follow my thoughts so far and disagree with me, why do you feel you enjoy these things? If you agree with me, then why don’t you enjoy them? Once we get this going, I’d even like to discuss my own interests and try to puzzle out exactly what about them appeals to me.

On a final note, I am not trying to spread discontent among varying fandoms. On the contrary, I feel these sorts of discussions, when conducted in a civil manner, might actually make our community stronger and more open minded to each others’ particular peculiarities. If this is successful, I’d like to facilitate similar discussions from time to time in the future.

I hope you all have a good day, wherever you are.

image: “Allons-y” by Lufidelis/Deviant Art