Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Harry Potter Tag

The Harry Potter section of my bookshelf

I love the Harry Potter series of books and films. That's probably not a surprise to you since after all, you're reading the beginning of a post on them, and why would I write about something I'm not passionately interested in? I've been a fan of classic fantasy and sci-fi series like Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Dune saga (ONLY the six real books by Frank Herbert...none of the dross his son has churned out since his death!) but I readily admit I came to the party a bit late when it comes to Potter. I was certainly aware of the series as they were being published...I was 17 when the first book came out and 27 when the final one did. My parents, cousins, and several of my friends were huge fans, reading them as they were released. For two of the books, the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), I was in London on vacation with my parents and my mum bought both of them within a week or two of their initial publication. However, despite entreaties from everyone that I needed to read them, I resisted. "Oh, it's just a Tolkein rip-off," I thought, or "those are kid's books." Looking back, I'm stunned that I didn't jump all over the books especially since I've been a lifelong Anglophile with regards to just about everything, especially music and books. My parents raved about the movies as well as the books, and one time while my wife and I were staying at my parents' house for a visit, there was a marathon of all of the movies and I ended up staying up late to watch the first and second movies on TV with my dad. I really enjoyed the films so, eventually in 2012 I decided to have a crack at the series. The thing I'd been told by everyone I knew who had read them was that the first book was a bit more whimsical and could almost pass as a children's book, but the series got a lot darker and more serious as it went on. I read the first book in a couple of days and really enjoyed it, and by halfway through the second book I was absolutely hooked. I made my way through the entire series in less than a month and by the end I was kicking myself for not having read it sooner. To say I thoroughly enjoyed it would be an understatement! The same goes for the movies, as I watched them all, one after another, shortly after finishing the books. While I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to come around, I now have the books proudly on my shelf next to the Lord of the Rings and the vacant space where my Dune books belong (my brother borrowed them and is hopefully reading through them!).

Last week I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw a retweet of a link from a blog called The Savvy Student. It was for a post called the Harry Potter Tag. Intrigued, I clicked on it and had a lot of fun reading it. Basically, it's a post that gets passed from blog to blog by Potter fans to answer a set of questions, with everyone's answers being as unique as the person writing them. Because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to have a go myself, the results of which are below.


What is your favorite book?



Book #6, the Half Blood Prince. I've always been a sucker for transitional things, whether they're albums, books, movies, tours...I find them so fascinating and interesting beyond just their content. I like to see where ideas and execution have been and where they're going, and I've always been fascinated with the uncertainty of those at the middle of the transitory period. For me the Half Blood Prince is my favorite book for that reason as it bridges the events of the previous five books while it sets up the epic battles and conclusion of the final book. That being said, it's got plenty of excitement, twists, and turns in its own right. It's also when so many of the mysteries that have been weaving their way throughout the entire series begin to be revealed, which had me almost unable to wait before I could finally tear into the final book.

What is your favorite movie?




Again, the Half Blood Prince, although it was a close call between this and a few others. Mainly for the same reasons above, plus the final half hour which is even more pulse-pounding and exciting on film than it is in print. The character of Horace Slughorn comes to life even better on the screen than he already does in print.


 
What is your least favorite book?




Book #5, the Order of the Phoenix. It's certainly not a bad book...there's no such thing as a bad book in the Potter series. However, Order of the Phoenix is my pick mainly because even though it's important and advances the story, not a whole heck of a lot actually happens in it and it's rather bereft of action until the climactic battle at the Ministry of Magic near the end. Great book, great characters, important story points advanced, and it's one the longest book in the series, but it also feels a bit unresolved when it's all over.

What is your least favorite movie?



Ditto my choice for least favorite book, the Order of the Phoenix. Again, great film but it's just a bit slower of pace and not as exciting as the others. Plus, Sirius Black's death, which I felt was a bit weak in the book, is even weaker in the film. It still makes me sad and upset at how and why he died. It's hard to knock the epic battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort at the end, though...wow!

What parts of the book/movie make you cry?


The two that always get to me are when two of my absolute characters die: Dumbledore and Snape.  In the case of Dumbledore, he's such a wise, caring, powerful, and interesting person who also happens to be a real badass when it comes to magic, with some dark secrets hidden in the corners of his past that make him more intriguing than your run of the mill good guy. His death at the hands of Snape is always shocking, even when you eventually learn the reasons behind it. As for Snape, where do I start? When my daughter started reading the series and I told her Snape was my absolute favorite character, she couldn't believe it. Mean and grumpy Snape? It wasn't until she finished the series that she finally understood why. His death is so poignant, especially because it's shortly after this moment that Harry finally understands what Snape has always been about. Combined with the mystery of Snape's past unravelling over the course of the entire series and realizing the incredible guilt and emotional burden he's carried for all of Harry's life, and how could I not tear up every time?


If you could hook up with any character, who would it be?




Hey, I'm a happily married husband and father...what kind of question is this? All kidding aside, as this is as make believe as the world of Harry Potter itself, Hermione Granger is my choice. She's got the perfect blend of beauty and brains and can be an ass-kicker when she needs to be. She's also fiercely loyal to her friends and never once considers leaving Harry's side on his quest to find and destroy the horcruxes. Luna Lovegood comes a close second because she's beautiful and a very free, flighty spirit who knows what other people think of her but doesn't care. I have many flighty moments myself, but I admire that ability to not care what others think as I'm incredibly self-conscious and insecure and could learn a thing or two from Luna. She's also quite clever in her own right and not afraid to speak up and demand to be listened to when she knows something. That and I've always been a sucker for an English/Scottish/Irish accent on a woman.



Who is your favorite character?


There are so many to choose from and so many I adore (of course Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but also Dumbledore, McGonagall, Sirius, Lupin, Moody, the Weasleys, Dobby, Hagrid, etc) but my absolute favorite has always been and always will be Severus Snape. I just find the character incredibly interesting, with so much depth and complexity. The way his persona and characterization unravels throughout the course of the entire series from a seemingly one-dimensional cranky teacher to this richly complicated person who is hiding so many secrets and bearing such an emotional and psychological burden in silence is absolutely masterful, and is a testament to J.K. Rowling's writing and character development.  Dumbledore's absolutely steadfast and unwavering trust and confidence in Snape seems to be directly at odds with Harry's mutual antagonism with him, yet if only Harry knew the real reasons for it, which he finally learns at the moment of Snape's murder. By the time we, the readers, discover his true story concurrently with Harry, the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place and Snape is finally and wholly understood. Combined with Alan Rickman's superb portrayal of Snape in the films, it all adds up to one of the great characters in both print and on screen. In fact, as with all of the characters, I cannot help but visualize and hear Rickman as Snape every time I now read the books.

Who is your least favorite character?


Probably these choices are too easy, but it's a tie between Dolores Umbridge and the Malfoys. Umbridge is just a supremely evil psychopathic and sadistic bitch whose seemingly sweet old lady exterior makes her that much more chilling, while the Malfoys' arrogance and entitled airs would make them eminently hateable whether they were a magical family or Muggles themselves. The fact that the Malfoys (especially Lucius and Draco) are classic bullies, backing down at the first sign of their victims standing up to them, only makes them more loathsome. The actors and actresses who portrayed them on film did a wonderful job...while they seem to be nice people in real life, they are absolutely hateable on screen. My only regret in both the books and movies is that they didn't all die horrible, painful deaths, which is what they all so richly deserved!


What is your favorite quote?

Again, so many to choose from, but Dumbledore telling Harry that "help will always be given to those who ask for it" is one that's always stuck with me.


What is your least favorite quote?

There aren't too many I don't like, although Sirius' entire exchange with Harry in his old room in Grimauld Place in the Order of the Phoenix (especially the film version) comes off just a bit cheesy.

What would your patronus be?

Probably a horse as they're one of my favorite animals and would convey beauty and majesty as well as strength.

What would your boggart be?

This one is easy...I've been terrified of stinging insects since I had a couple of bad experiences as a kid, so my boggart would be a giant wasp. Just writing this and thinking about it is giving me shivers!

What of the Deathly Hallows would you rather have: the Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak, or the Resurrection Stone?

I've no need for ultimate power, and besides, how can the Elder Wand be "unbeatable," as was so often claimed, when it kept passing from wizard to wizard? I'm tempted to say the Resurrection Stone as it would be nice to bring deceased family members and friends back, although recalling what happens in the Tale of the Three Brothers, this doesn't seem like such a good idea. I've always wanted the power of invisibility, so my choice would be the Invisibility Cloak.

What house would you be in?

Easy choice...Gryffindor, of course!

If you were on the Quidditch team, what position would you play?

Because of my size (6'5", 275 lbs) and the fairly good speed and quickness I have, in every sport I played (basketball, baseball, soccer, football) I always played a position that was a hybrid of defense and offense, so I would most likely either be a Beater or a Keeper. I'd leave the Chasing and Seeking to those smaller and quicker than I am!

If you could bring one character back to life, who would it be?

So many great characters met their end in the series, and there's a bunch I'd love to bring back: Dumbledore, Sirius, Moody, Fred Weasley, Tonks. However, the one at the top of my list would be Remus Lupin, one of my favorite characters whose gentle yet strong personality, wisdom, humbleness, and kindness would be sorely missed by anyone fortunate enough to have known him.

If you could meet any member of the cast, who would it be?

Either Alan Rickman or Ralph Fiennes, both for their masterful performances in bringing two of the greatest fictional characters of all time to life and absolutely owning them.

Were you happy with the ending?

Overall, yes. I always like stories where you see a glimpse into what the characters are like and what they're doing after the denouement. I will say that some of the fan theories and alternate fan fictions where Harry wakes up in the cupboard under the stairs after the final events of the Deathly Hallows, showing that it had all been a dream, bother me to no end. I would have HATED for the series to have ended like that!

I swear to God I would have cried if this were the actual ending...

How much does Harry Potter mean to you?       

It means a great deal to me for a few reasons. I've long been a fan of the Lord of the Rings, Dune, and Narnia series, but Harry Potter was the first one that was entirely released during my lifetime. It was also one of the rare new series that lived up to and eventually surpassed the hype...I've no doubt it will stand the test of time. Even more than that, the opportunity to share in the joy and magic of the books and movies with my second oldest daughter has been really special. She picked up the first book a few months ago, knowing how much I and my parents love the series, and was absolutely hooked. She read them all in a matter of a couple of months and we've since watched the entire series on film as well. Being able to share the experience with her and discuss every minute aspect of the story and characters has been a blast. I was too old to have grown up alongside Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and the rest the way so many younger readers did, but I'm able to see my daughter have a similar experience and as a father, that's really rewarding.

So there you have it, my entry in the Harry Potter tag! I hope you've enjoyed it and if you're a fellow Potter fan, please chime in on whether you agree/disagree with my choices. If you happen to be a fellow blogger as well, please take a stab at it yourself and share your post when you're done. And remember: Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus!         

2 comments:

  1. I have often felt that my love and "obsession" for the Potter series was, perhaps, unhealthy... but reading these from folks like you assure me that perhaps I'm perfectly sane in my fanaticism. I thank my lucky stars that I scoffed the series as they were released until finally in 2007/8 we cancelled our cable and I found myself in need of a read. So, I decided, "What the hell, lets see what the hype was about." I gave myself headaches from the long hours of reading. I literally could not put the book down, and unlike most of my books, I couldn't fall asleep while reading them. The whole series was completed in a matter of a couple weeks. I could NOT imagine having to wait a YEAR between books! I've since read the entire series 8 times and it won't end there. I also got tickets to see the "Philosopher's Stone" in the theater on the 16th (so excited!).
    I have had one question about the books... Why do they cage the owls to transport them to Hogwarts when they could have done better (and been more discreet at King's Cross) if they'd simply flown ahead?? This would have spared poor Hedwig her fate on the night they left Privet Drive forever.
    Great blog Drew. I really enjoyed it.

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    1. Thanks for the comments and I'm glad you enjoyed it! I know exactly what you mean about not being able to put the books down...they're so compelling and really, after the first book, the go very quickly from being a "children's" book to one that is definitely darker, more mature, and serious in its subject matter and many of the parallels it draws between reality and what goes on in the books (how many kids would get the Nazi parallels with "blood purity" for example?).

      Great point about the owls, too...they're so smart that they can deliver mail anywhere, but they need to be caged to transport to Hogwarts? I never thought about that, but you're exactly right!

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