Monday, November 25, 2013

The Chamber of Questions: Talking to the Basilisk...

A couple of questions that came to mind as I finished re-reading The Chamber of Secrets:

1. What would have happened if Harry had spoken to the Basilisk in Parseltongue, telling the giant snake not to attack him, to go to sleep, to take up knitting?

2. Since Hagrid has now been completely cleared of opening up the Chamber of Secrets and causing the death of Myrtle 50 years before, why does he not buy a new wand and take private training to become a fully qualified wizard?

I have often wondered about what the Basilisk would have done had Harry started to give it orders in Parseltongue. Clearly, Tom Riddle has control over it, thanks to his mastery of the serpent language, but wouldn't that mean that Harry, also a Parselmouth, could give it commands as well? It's not like Tom Riddle has spent a lot of time developing a relationship with the Basilisk. Could Harry not have at least confused it by countermanding Riddle's orders and substituting some of his own?

It raises the question of whether the ability to speak Parseltongue gives a person control over snakes or simply the power to speak to them. In Harry's first encounter with a snake, at the beginning of Book One, Harry has a conversation in Parseltongue with the Boa Constrictor in the zoo. Harry doesn't give it orders; he simply chats with it.

In his second encounter with a snake, however, Harry orders the snake Draco Malfo conjures not to attack Justin and it immediately obeys him. All Harry has to say is 'Leave him!' and, to quote JK, "miraculously -- inexplicably -- the snake slumped to the floor, docile as a thick black garden hose, its eyes now on Harry."

So what would have happened if Harry had said to the Basilisk, "Lie down", or "Leave me alone", or perhaps "Kill Tom Riddle"? Would the Basilisk have responded? Would it have become confused by being given orders by two different people, such that Harry could have escaped?

It's a wonder Harry didn't try to speak to the Basilisk at all.

With regard to Hagrid, it is one of the main pillars of Hagrid's backstory that he was expelled from Hogwarts while he was still young and, further, that his expulsion led to his wand being broken in half such that he could no longer perform magic properly.

We learn in The Chamber of Secrets, of course, that Hagrid was expelled because he was suspected of having opened the Chamber and letting loose the monster within.

Thanks to Dumbledore, he is allowed to remain at the school as the keeper of keys and grounds. But he is not a wizard, nor is he permitted to carry or use a wand.

So, now that Harry has proven that Hagrid is an innocent victim of Tom Riddle's treachery, why would Hagrid not immediately return to training to be a wizard? Why at least would he not buy a new wand and get back to doing magic properly?

I know it would change a great deal in the last five books but it's always bothered me. The man was cleared of the crime: why does he still have to be subject to one aspect of the punishment for that crime?

Did I miss something along the way? Is there any explanation at all for this in the final five Harry Potter novels?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What did Lucius know about Tom Riddle's diary?

I have open before me two paperback books: the first, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; the second, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.


Because I'm comparing passages dealing with Tom Riddle's purpose in re-opening the Chamber from each novel. I had thought I would find discrepancies and inconsistencies between the second book, in which Riddle (through Ginny Weasely and his diary) actually re-opens the Chamber, and the sixth book, in which Dumbledore explains to Harry Horcruxes and what information the Head Master was able to glean from the events from Harry's second year at Hogwarts.

What did I find?

Remarkable consistency.

In the second book, the memory of Tom Riddle tells Harry:

"I decided to leave behind a diary, preserving my sixteen-year-old self in its pages, so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin's noble work."

In the sixth book, Dumbledore explains:

"[The diary] worked as a Horcrux is supposed to work -- in other words, the fragment of soul concealed inside it was kept safe and had undoubtedly played its part in preventing the death of its owner. But there could be no doubt that Riddle really wanted the diary read, wanted the piece of his soul to inhabit or possess somebody else, so that Slytherin's monster would be unleashed again."

Consistent and helpful.

Even more interesting to me is that these passages seem to hint at why Lucius Malfoy would choose the particular moment he did to pass the diary along to a Hogwarts student after holding on to it for 50 years: he recognized the threat Harry Potter himself posed to Voldemort's return and hoped, by slipping the diary into Ginny Weasley's text book, to give whatever evil force the diary contained the chance to deal with Harry before Harry grew up and grew strong.

It had always been a puzzle to me why Lucius chose that moment to re-introduce the diary and, of course, there is at least one moment in the stories where he is questioned for that decision, for disposing of a precious piece of Voldemort's soul so carelessly. We are led to believe, by Dumbledore's own comment at the end of Book Two, that Lucius chose to give the diary to Ginny so that the Weasley family's reputation would be tarnished and Mr. Weasley's Muggle Protection Act would be thwarted.

But I think it was deeper. I think Lucius Malfoy knew, at least to an extent, what the diary contained and was acting under instructions from Voldemort to place it at Hogwarts when things seemed most opportune or when an intervention of this nature was most needed.

Malfoy saw the danger Harry posed on an on-going basis to the Dark Lord's return -- Harry had, after all, defeated Voldemort once again at the end of The Philosopher's Stone -- and decided it was time to bring his Master back to deal with that threat.

I agree. There is no way Voldemort told Lucius Malfoy about his intention to create Horcruxes, nor that the diary he was entrusting to Malfoy was a Horcrux, but he must have explained to Malfoy that the diary contained a power that could open the Chamber of Secrets and wreak havoc at the school.

That's my theory, at least, but I have to admit that I'm not one-hundred per cent convinced of it even now. What do you think?