Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My Year With Harry: Rereading Sorceror's Stone

My 2018 Resolutions post might not have made it onto the blog just yet - you'll have to wait until next Tuesday for that! - but I'll give you a bit of a preview of one of them: partially inspired by a conversation I had with my sister towards the end of December, I've resolved to reread every Harry Potter book this year! 

That meant that on January 1st, before any other TBRs had managed to catch my eye, I had my gaze locked on its first installment. Not a bad way to kick off 2018, right? 

personal history 

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was originally published on June 26th 1997, when I was still a few months shy of turning three years old. It would be a few more years until the movie would be released, on November 14th, 2001, but by that point, I was making plenty of gains in the scholastic department, and with a boost from my Dad's nightly reading, had finished the book more than once.

I don't have many strong memories of reading it - besides being tucked into my bed, glancing over at my sister as my Dad settled into the nightly chapter, pronouncing the name "Hermione" so badly but with such consistency we were all shocked to find that it was supposed to be said much differently when the movie came out - but I do remember seeing Sorceror's Stone in theaters. 

If I remember correctly, we had been spending time with family, on my Dad's side, and my Grandma Mary went to see it with us. It was really cold - which would make sense, being that the movie was only released in November - and I was annoyed that I had to wrestle with my enormous winter coat in the movie theater. My favorite character was Hermione (obviously), I thought the Quidditch scenes were kind of boring (my gut reaction to sports in any arena, apparently), and I definitely wanted to punch Malfoy in the face (something I would be vindicated to witness later on in the franchise). At the climax of the action, when Harry faced off against You-Know-Who, I was genuinely frightened, and jumped at the right moments, only to whisper to myself in the car ride afterwards that I would give anything to be a wizard myself.

Out of all of the books, it was never my favorite, and as I grew older, definitely the one I reached for less and less. How would it stand up to time, now that I'm 24?

the reread

I wish I could say I was immediately sucked right back into the world of Harry Potter where I had left it as a teen - when my constant rereads made the lengthy later tomes yet another heavy book weighing down my AP-laden backpack - but honestly? The beginning was a little rough... specifically, because of the extent of its legacy. Which, of course, shouldn't be too much of a surprise, being that my memories of it are more shaped by the movie, than the book itself.

To make it perfectly clear, Chris Columbus did a really, really good job when directing the first movie. Large portions of the film play almost beat for beat like how they played out in the novel. That's why the parallel natures of the two became a little distracting... it's hard to sink into a world, in your head, when you keep playing the movie reel instead.

And I forgot how much of the book is strictly setup... not in terms of world-building, necessarily, though there is quite a lot of that, too. I mean strictly setup as in preparing Harry to go to Hogwarts in the first place. While so much of my memory of the earlier books are from following our heroes around the romantic structures of the Castle, and exploring the mysteries and secrets housed within its ancient history, almost half of the first novel strictly features his terrible life beforehand, between navigating the Dursley household and picking up school supplies in Diagon Alley.

However, eventually I began to get back into the patterns of Harry's world, and it felt like curling up in a favorite blanket. In some ways, it turns out, the books were still the same as I left them, and it was just me who had changed:

  • as a kid, I was the fierce supporter of the concept that the Golden Trio wouldn't have gotten half of the places it did without Hermione, and I still think that's true... but now I'm not nearly as likely to discount the actions of Harry and Ron. They both bring significant heart and heroics to the group, the dynamics of which are incredibly balanced. I still love Hermione, but also have come to understand that she would never have been able to complete these feats on her own, either. 
  • McGonagall is still my favorite teacher. In some ways, I thought that maybe she had only been my favorite because of Maggie Smith, but in actuality, I still just want to be like McGonagall when I grow up. Snape, of course, is still horrible. 
  • Somewhat surprisingly, Hagrid seemed a little more bumbling to me now, as an adult. Maybe it's that I was more able to excuse some of his actions by being virtue of an older authority figure when I was a kid, but it is difficult to justify putting eleven-year-olds in that much danger now, even if just by accident. And there were more than a few discussions between kids about him being drunk, which was a little sad. 
  • The final trials to pursue the sorcerer's stone were much more impressive to me, because I felt like I understood them more. Whereas, as a kid, I thought, "Of course they'd know all of this, they go to wizarding school and they've got Hermione on their side!" now I was forced to more evenly consider the likelihood of my own abilities to complete them, like 1. remember obscure traits of a dangerous plant, 2. navigate an athletic challenge that occupies three-dimensional space, 3. win a giant chess game, and 4. solve a logic puzzle that might easily end in death. These Hogwarts kids really were getting a well-rounded education. 

Favorite quotes (all from the same chapter!): 

"'You haven't got a letter on yours,' George observed. 'I suppose she thinks you don't forget your name. But we're not stupid - we know we're called Gred and Forge.'" 

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."

"'One can never have enough socks,' said Dumbledore. 'Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.'" 

the end

I could not have been more pleased with the outcomes of my first book of 2018! It was the perfect way to start the year, and I'm so excited about having the chance to read the next book in the series - Chamber of Secrets - hopefully sometime soon. For now, though, I'll be turning my attention to something a little different... I can't just read the first few all in a row, and get burnt out before the year has even really started! Better make the magic last, instead. 

What sort of literary resolutions are you undertaking this year? When was the last time you reread the Harry Potter books? Let me know, in the comments below!

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