Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Seven Questions for JKR

Soccer Dad posted some thought-provoking Harry Potter questions today, inspiring me to get some of mine down in writing as well. Countless more good questions and discussion points can be found on the hundreds upon hundreds of Potter-related web sites and blogs, including, of course, author J. K. Rowlings' own. The fact that so many tantalizing and difficult queries can be raised on the series is not a critique of the J. K. Rowlings masterwork, but rather its high praise. In any subcreation - to use Tolkien's term - as rich and detailed as Harry's world, there are bound to be loose ends and unsolved mysteries, surely as there are in our own world.

So in honor of 7th and final book (five months from tomorrow and counting!), here are the seven questions I'd like to ask Rowling. H/T to some of my Potter-fan family members for a couple of them.

1) There are many magical objects such as portraits, the Marauders Map, and the Weasley's car, which seem to have distinct personalities. Do these objects have sentience? If not, how do they carry on detailed conversations, display a range of emotions, and the like?

2) If a device such as the Time Turner is accessible enough to be granted to a thirteen-year-old student to enable her to take extra classes at Hogwarts, how is it that evil (or just plain unscrupulous) wizards don't use them all the time to change history to their advantage?

3) Do Hogwarts students pay tuition? If not, where does the money come from for staff salaries, food, etc?

4) Are all the Hogwarts teachers lifelong bachelors and spinsters? There has never been any hint of staff members' spouses or children.

5) England's Prime Minister and (presumably) other world leaders are depicted as being formally informed of the existence of the magical community in cases of dire emergency, but otherwise it is said to be unknown to the general public. Yet there must be a significant percentage of "muggles" in the world who have magical children, relatives, or other close friends. Are all these people sworn to secrecy? E.g., what do Hermione's friends from grade school think happened to her? How can the magical world be kept such a widespread secret?

On a related note, one of the scenes I always wanted to see in the series was a meeting between the Grangers and Dursleys. It would be interesting to see how Vernon and Petunia would react to meeting other non-magical, utterly "normal" parents who are happy and proud of their child becoming a witch.

6) It's been shown that the stairways in the girls dormitories are magicked to prevent boys from entering, even with utterly innocuous motives. Yet we saw Hermione enter the boys dorm on at least two occasions - Christmas in books 2 and 3 to deliver presents. Are girls considered more trustworthy? Or did the spell make an exception for the Holidays?

7) And speaking of Christmas, are all the Hogwarts students Christian, or are there a few token Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc? E.g., are the Parvati sisters Hindu, is the Anthony Goldstein mentioned in book five Jewish, etc.?

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At 2/20/07, 9:31 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Regarding 3, isn't one of the reasons that Hagrid takes Harry to Gringott's was to get money for tuition and school items? Harry's uncle (why am I blanking on the name?) also makes some reference about refusing to pay for his education at Hogwarts.
But why do they have to pay for food, doesn't Dumbledore just wave his wand and make the food appear?

At 2/20/07, 9:42 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Uncle Vernon.

I'll have to check HPATSS; I know he had to get money for books and equipment, but I don't remember any mention of tuition. If the tuition is significant, I wonder how the Weasleys manage?

I haven't re-read book 4 in a while, but I thought it was revealed there that the food is prepared by house-elves and then transported to the tables. It isn't created from nothingness. In any case the school would still have salaries and other expenses.

At 2/20/07, 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) This is part of the mystery. A main feature of book two, when Arthur Weasley reminds Ginny (+ the others) of his rule: Never trust something if you can't see where it keeps its brain. This repeats in other books, with Ginny reminding Harry.
2) Well, McGonagall does say that she and Dumbledore had to twist the Ministry's arm to get it. Considering what Dumbledore is implied to know about Hermione's role in supporting Harry's adventures, I think Dumbledore could swing it, even if other wizards could not. (Don't forget that, in classic sci-fi time paradox mode, the very fact that no has done it yet means that no one can in the future. See Harry's Patronus at the end of PoA.)
3) As the previous commenter noted, they do. Mentioned both with regard to Harry in SS and for Tom Riddle. (Although the latter, I'll admit, is not really a proof.) Is it a good point to note that Dobby does have wages. Book 4.
4) Really good question. I could see some of them being widow/ers. But a very good point.
5) Another good question, though it is quite possible that the PM-defense rule applies here: even if they said anything, who'd believe them?
6) Ron asks Hermione this explicitly, Hermione answers that girls are more trustworthy. (Possibly in those words.) Haven't you read Hogwarts, A History?
7) I always assumed that they were Hindi/Jewish/etc. It would probably add too much extra complexity to develop this, though.

At 2/21/07, 8:34 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Hmmm interesting stuff.

At 2/22/07, 11:18 AM, Blogger Elie said...


Thanks for the detailed comments! A few responses:

1) So maybe we can hope this will be addressed in Book 7, just as they finally clarified the concept of ghosts, and why Harry's parents weren't such, at the end of Book 5. I could see such an explanation being especially apt now that DD himself is a portrait.

2) I just finished rereading Book 3 so this is fresh in my mind. Agreed that McGonagall and DD needed to push the Ministry to get the device for Hermione. And as it happened, she and Harry were able to avoid paradoxes, and only do things that had "already" occurred. The fatalistic view of time travel - i.e., that your actions are somehow constrained to match what already happened the first time through - is convenient to avoid paradoxes, and has its place in classic science fiction (Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps" being the most famous example).

The problem is, that's definitely not the view of time travel taken by JKR. Hermione was sternly warned not to risk creating a paradox, is terrified of doing so, and has been told about past magicians who have destroyed themselves via careless time travel. So clearly, changing the past via a time turner is possible.

And therefore my question remains, why don't dark wizards like VM use time turners to change the past to their advantage? E.g., VM could go back and warn his past self not to curse infant Harry. Even if time turners are hard to create/obtain, I would think at least VM could manage it.

3) Again, I hadn't remembered tuition being mentioned specifically in HPATSS, but I'll take your word for it!

6) Hermione answers that girls are more trustworthy

Forgot that line as well. I'm working my way through rereading the series so I'll come to it eventually!

7) I wouldn't expect any major focus on religion but it would be neat to at least have some acknowledgement that, say, not everyone observes Christmas.

At 2/22/07, 12:06 PM, Blogger Jack Steiner said...

There certainly are a lot of loose ends.

At 2/25/07, 1:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. I'm not sure of this. My best guess would be that an imprint of the person is left on something via an invisible magic once a person dies or they could even leave that impression by another sort of spell. Just my two cents.

2. I think Voldemort would be hard-pressed to get his greedy paws on one. And granted, Voldy's not the smartest villain of the bunch. It might not have occurred to him really. I think, if he's smarter than he seems, he might hesitate to do something like trying to prevent Harry overtaking him because of how it backfired on him last time he tried it.

3. I've ALWAYS wondered this. My guess is that there is tuition but possibly also scholarships/help in place for families like the Weasleys. I've also seen some real schools say that if you can't pay then another arrangement can be worked out, like working as a volunteer or such. Not sure if this could be the case. Even if it was, I doubt the Weasleys would take charity.

4. Again, something I've always wondered. Some of them might be lifelong bachelors, sure. Maybe they chose that life because they are teachers. Of course, in Snape's case... I doubt he could get a date! Lol.

5. Perhaps Hermione's friends think she's just gone off to a muggle boarding school. I almost wonder if the Fidellius charm (sp?) is used to prevent a leakage of this information? (That's the secret keeping charm.) That makes the most sense to me. Of course, the sheer fact that if you told anyone, you'd sound like a loon might deter enough people from spilling the beans.

6. (Yeah, you addressed this... :p)

7. I would like to think that there is some diversity. And there likely is, although, since it's primarily told from the thoughts of Harry, a Christmas celebrator, it probably just doesn't seem to have much relevance to the plot, sad as that is.


I've always wondered two things, in addition to questions I've seen posed everywhere:

1. If Mad-Eye Moody can see through things and even identified that something was a boggart in the OotP book, how is it that no one knows what a boggart looks like, as stated in PoA? Couldn't he just look and tell someone?
2. How do wizards/witches, especially muggle borns, deal with religion? Do some opt to not go simply because of their faiths?

It was lovely to come across your questions. I'd love to see them addressed by J.K.R. somewhere!



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