Can I just take a minute to talk about how pretty fantastic the posts in the interceding time since I’ve been here have been? They’ve been like really good and I’m like really impressed. So everyone gets applause and stuff.
I guess I should mention that Goblet has always been a bit of a weird book for me. It’s one that I remember going over and over again. The Jim Dale audiobook is burned into my head in places, especially the first chapter (which Ashley so exquisitely covered). It’s weird because it’s the bridge book, bridging what I like to call the children’s trilogy with the mature trilogy, and I’m not sure it entirely works nearly as well as I want it to. But it is quite good, just… interesting in seeing Rowling teach herself how to write a longer novel without crutches like Quidditch matches to carry her through the tentpoles.
So it’s a complicated bit. But I admire it for all it tries to do, and I’ve definitely got LOADS to say (as I’ll alwayd do). But I have to cover three chapters, SO ENOUGH JABBER.
CHAPTER FIVE: WEASLEY’S WIZARD WHEEZES
In which Harry arrives at The Burrow, meets Bill and Charlie, sees Fred and George get chewed out by Mrs. Weasley, chats with Percy about cauldron bottoms, and has a positively lovely wizarding dinner with the positively delightful Weasley family.
Yes, I’m sorry. And maybe you disagree with me, and maybe I’m about to shatter all your illusions about the wizarding world, but I’m about to go on a tear about how much I think wizards are assholes. I still wanna be one (who wouldn’t?), but there’s much about them that make them imperfect. If you still think wizards are great and wanna continue thinking as such, perhaps you should stop reading. But otherwise, I welcome the opportunity to shatter your worldview (or see how closely your internal monologue matches up with mine).
At the end of the last chapter Dudley’s tongue grew feet and feet long because he snatched one of Fred and George’s Ton-Tongue Toffees and ate it. As far as scenes go (and apologies for talking about chapters that aren’t mine), it’s impossibly horrific. The thought of Aunt Petunia tugging out her son’s tongue by force because she doesn’t understand it makes my skin crawl. Thinking about how much the Twins have turned the Dursleys off to magic yet again is really disheartening.
But is it really their fault? How many spells have been revealed to be unnecessarily cruel? Think about all the spells that were Muggle traps. Ron at one point mentions a book that you could never stop reading or (in “Bagman & Crouch”) a hat that makes your ears shrivel up. Is there a reason for such a thing to exist? Why would anyone make a hat or a book like that? It comes from this place of wizards as tricksters. And it happens all throughout the series, doesn’t it? How many spells seem unnecessarily cruel or specifically designed to cause a harm of some sort? I feel like I see that happen in these books all the time.
Here’s an example of that the in real life. The Twins give a Muggle a trick candy because they hate this Muggle (which Wizards tend to do because they find themselves superior to the have-nots) and as a result, he undergoes this horrific charm and transfiguration that is wholly unnatural and absolutely terrifying.
And what do the Weasleys do? They all laugh about it. When Harry tells them that Dudley ate the candy, all the Weasleys laugh and laugh because lol stupid Muggle fell party to powers he didn’t have.
Needless to say, Mr. Weasley is horrified at this. He yells at his children that this damages Wizard-Muggle relations (he’s right about that) and Mrs. Weasley uses it as the rationale to try to take down her sons’ entrepreneurship. And, alright, Molly. That’s a little self-serving. But Mr. Weasley definitely has his head in the right place. And rightly so, because this is a character JK has a tremendous amount of love and respect for (he’s the only one we know of who earned a reprieve from getting the axe) and so we can assume he is in the right here.
What’s most sad about this is that Harry isn’t in Mr. Weasley’s corner anymore. Harry laughs along with everyone at the Ton-Tongue toffee once it happens. It’s a nice touch by JK in that it shows us how much Harry is assimilating into the wizarding world; three years in he seems to be doing well. Hell, just two summers ago he was bewildered at gnomes in the garden, and yet here he casually walks by them as Crookshanks chases them. This is not the same Harry who first came to The Burrow. He’s older, wiser, and more assimilated into the culture. And I respect him for that. it’s what we all want.
At the same time, though, I weep for his innocence being lost. Was a time I feel Harry woulda felt for Muggles getting bullied like this, but now that he’s not in the realm of being a victim, he’s more willing to not realize the implication of what it is he’s doing.
Some stray thoughts…
- We meet Charlie and Bill for the first time! And is it just me or is Rowling more interested in physical descriptions here? I feel like this is the first time we hear the twins described as “stocky” and Ron described as “lanky like Percy”. Same goes for Hermione’s buck teeth and bushy hair. Maybe I never paid attention in previous books, but Rowling’s more concerned with tactilism and physicality than she’s been in previous books. In no way do I consider this a bad thing.
- I also find it fascinating seeing the difference between the Twins and Percy here. Percy is following in his father’s footsteps to work for the Ministry, while the Twins are mostly interested in their own business. And you know what? Good for them. Support for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is support for local business.
- Did anyone else catch what Bill is? Yes, she describes him as “cool”, but did you catch what his job is? He was previously described as “a curse breaker for Gringotts” and in this he says he needs to “bring home lots of treasure.” So he’s testing curses? Sorta, but in my mind I see him as a bank robber. Seriously. That’s what he’s doing. Gringotts is throwing him curses to break and doors to open, and he’s breaking into Gringotts’ fake vaults to strengthen their security.
- This also makes Fleur the Bonnie to his Clyde when they start working together. WHICH IS SEXY.
- Sexy Wizard Bank Robbers spinoff. Yes, JK. I want “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, but I’d also LOVE a Wizard Bonnie & Clyde story.
CHAPTER SIX: THE PORTKEY
In which Mr. Weasley gets everyone gets up really early and walks for a while and then climbs up a hill and then they all touch a shoe and are transported to god knows where.
Fair warning: I’m about to spoil major deaths of the series. So if you haven’t read past this chapter, be warned.
I feel like my summary above is flowery in comparison to the rest of this chapter. This is one of the shortest chapters in the entire series (the only ones shorter are “The Dementor’s Kiss”, “Flesh, Blood, and Bone”, and “The Epilogue) and it’s really mostly about walking from The Burrow to the top of the hill. Which is fine, but, honestly, kinda boring, isn’t it?
Which, thankfully, gives me a ripe opportunity to talk about one of my favourite topics, and the only thing I asked Ashley to give me when assigning chapters of this re-read.
And that, of course, is Cedric Diggory.
Cedric Diggory is something of an obsession of mine. Cedric is the first major death of the series, and it always struck me as an afterthought in the grand scheme of things. Rowling wanted to kill someone, and the only character who fit the profile was Cedric (Cedric being in the wrong place at the wrong time; that is to say, the graveyard from which Voldemort is reborn on the night of his rebirth) and Cedric’s death is the herald of the next two major deaths at the end of each of the next two books (Sirius and then Dumbledore) and then the bloodbath floodgates of “Deathly Hallows”.
Yet, his death is nowhere near as impactful as it, perhaps, should be. Hell, I never found it particularly moving. It always felt a shrewd move like killing Adric (kill the person everyone will miss least; ergo you get to kill somebody AND not lose anything dramatic in the process). But having gone back and looked at this year he has and who Cedric IS, I find myself infatuated with him. Yes, this came after I wrote a 144k word Cedric Diggory fanfiction that explored him and who he was the tragedy of him being such an innocent, but the point stands.
Interestingly enough, Rowling paints a picture of Cedric by giving us Cedric’s father, Amos. Now Amos Diggory is impossibly charming. He’s one of those fathers who knows he sired a hell of a son and takes pride in it. He’s a bit of a blowhard and impossibly proud, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sure, he’s extremely insensitive when he rubs Harry’s face in the Gryffindor Quidditch loss at Cedric’s hand, but that’s not so bad I suppose.
What’s important in this conversation is what Cedric does with that information. Cedric is quick to come to Harry’s defense. He’s quick to subtly tell his dad to back off. He’s quick to make excuses and diminish his role in the proceedings. And god. That’s just Cedric. It’s 100% the guy who is tragically slain at the end of this book, and it’s why Cedric’s death is important. It’s no mistake that Mr. Diggory talks about Cedric having “grandchildren” (skipping over the children entirely). It’s the point that Cedric doesn’t belong in this world. In the next book Harry will create Dumbledore’s Army , but does Cedric seem the sort who would have joined the fight? I mean, not to me. And that doesn’t make him a bad person. It just means he runs in different circles. He shouldn’t have been brought face to face with Voldemort. But because he was sucked into Harry’s world, he was.
His death was needless, senseless, and this beautiful, shining beacon of a young man was snuffed out forever for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Some more stray thoughts…
- Mrs. Weasley using the summoning Charm is a delightful setup for the future payoff of the First Task. I love that Rowling seeds it here so she can pull it out later.
- It’s also here that we learn about splinching. Which, yeah, gross. But more importantly, I love that wizards impose a fine on you for breaking the law. It’s not enough that you left a leg, an ear, and your wrist behind, but here, pay this fine as a lesson. I’m pretty sure the lesson was learned, wizardkind.
- Note about the movie: hey Wizards: if you want something inconspicuous, maybe NOT a random boot standing erect on a rock at the top of a hill? Thanks.
CHAPTER SEVEN: BAGMAN & CROUCH
In which Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Ginny, and Mr. Weasley arrive at the campgrounds , meet a buncha weirdos (both Wizard and otherwise), get introduced to Bagman and Crouch, and then head to the stadium.
Disclaimer: I’m about to take a thought experiment walk down “The Wizarding World as imperfect” lane. I’d still love to be a wizard, but I also think it’s not nearly the paradise you might imagine it to be the first time you read the series, and on this re-read it’s interesting to see just how flawed it actually is now that I’m older and can pick up more on the hints Rowling drops that tells us how imperfect it really truly is. ENJOY.
So, now that we’ve taken a trip down my ego and Cedric Diggory, let’s jump back to my original point: wizards are dicks. Only let’s take it a step further: even Arthur Weasley is a dick.
Part of the problem is that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Wizards tend to take their magic for granted, with no concern for how that magic will affect the world. The mother who steps on the slug is much more concerned about her child having a wand than the life of a poor, tortured, and busted slug. And perhaps that’s a bad example. But let’s pick something relevant.
Let’s pick Mr. Roberts.
Now, in just a few chapters’ time, Mr. Weasley, Bill, Charlie, Percy, and a whole slew of Ministry officials will band together to fight the Death Eaters who are torturing the Robertses. It’s a valiant moment and terrifying in terms of Muggle torture. It is cruelty beyond imagining, and the sorta thing that Mr. Weasley spends his entire life fighting against.
But let’s talk about this chapter, in which Mr. Weasley has an actual opportunity to talk to an actual Muggle about actual Muggle things. And Mr. Weasley cowers at the thought. He keeps his distance, he doesn’t go for intimacy. Whenever Mr. Roberts attempts to engage him in a conversation (for indeed, Mr. Weasley has proven himself convincing enough that he can pass for a Muggle and Mr. Roberts recognizes him as one of his own) Mr. Weasley bobs and weaves. It’s an odd choice for Arthur Weasley. His theoretics of Muggles is spot on, but when you put him out in the field he fumbles. Sure, he talked to the Grangers and Harry okay. But those are much more controlled environments. Even the Dursleys have the advantage of actually knowing about magic. But put Arthur Weasley up against a real life Muggle and he tenses up. And this isn’t “too nerdy to do anything” Arthur Weasley, it’s “out of his depth” Arthur Weasley.
So Arthur Weasley has an affection for Muggles, but I’d argue that his love for Muggles is still marred by conventional cultural wisdom, which is to not engage. And why? Why do I say such hurtful and awful and disparaging things about Arthur Weasley?
Because when the Wizard with the wand shows up and essentially mind-rapes Mr. Roberts into forgetting the past, Mr. Weasley shrugs it off like it’s a necessary evil (despite the fact that one the return journey home it becomes exceedingly clear that the memory charms have started to do some pemanent damage). And what’s the line that this Ministry Wizard says? Oh right.
“Needs a memory charm ten times a day to keep him happy”
Yikes. Ten times a day? Maybe that’s exaggerating because he’s tired and aggravated, but the fact remains that wizards are coming in and tampering with his brain chemistry over and over again and have been doing it as such. I mean, isn’t that just like doing brain surgery over and over again? The brain can’t take that much strain and would start to break down. Yeah, the “Merry Christmas” line when they leave is funny, but it’s also DARK. Think about the life we see Lockhart living in St. Mungo’s in Order of the Phoenix. That’s what tampering with a memory can do, and these wizards are doing that over and over to his poor Muggle without a second thought for the consequences.
All this, of course, in the name of secrecy and paranoia. Paranoia that the Muggles will go all Sentinel program on them if they learned of their existence. Paranoia that percolates in the cultural gene of every Witch and Wizard in the world. Hell, even Hermione (herself Muggle born) strives to keep the secret secret by any means necessary.
What’s Arthur Weasley’s response? What’s the response from the man who loves Muggles more than anyone this side of Albus Dumbledore? “Bummer”? That’s upsetting to me. But that’s wizard culture. Muggles aren’t treated as people like wizards are. They are derided and mocked and don’t have the same rights and expectations of courtesy that wizards seem to have for other wizards. Something so ingrained in culture is not an easily fixable thing. Arthur Weasley is miles more progressive than his peers and yet he still shows ambivalence towards Muggles as actual people when it comes to real situations. It’d take a hell of an education to teach the future generations that. But that’s the thing, we’re generations away from things being better in terms of Wizard/Muggle relations.
Assuming they could ever get better.
Some final stray thoughts…
- Seeing Bagman and Crouch side-by-side is a sly bit of writing. Yes, they’re the titulars, but I love the dichotomy. It’s especially important that (in Chamber terms) Bagman is our Percy (red herring) while Crouch is our Ginny (guilty party). These novels are hallmarked by the new characters introduced in each book that give us our stories and subplots moving forward, and watching the narratives involving these two was a true delight on this re-read.
- The other great thing about Crouch & Bagman is just how well he’s sketched out here. It’s no secret that Rowling is great at characters, but Bagman being a gambler and a child is a great contrast to Crouch’s rule-abiding and clean cut neatness.
- The tents are yet again bigger on the inside. And if I might make a confession: the tents reminding Harry of Mrs. Figg always in some way implied that Mrs. Figg was somehow lending her house to this tent. I don’t know. I suppose it always struck me as an honest detail.
- Mr. Weasley living a Muggle life is hilarious. Nothing better than watching him play with fire or hearing how he’s been getting overexcited about the mallet.
- Watching Rowling unleash her imagination on the page is a thing of utter genius. I love seeing the world she creates here and how well she does with that imagination. It’s in seeing the tents and the families and the foreign witches and wizards from international schools. The decorations, the kiddie brooms. The Wizarding World is bigger, so much bigger with this book. What’s not to love?
- Archie and the breeze his privates. Unbelievable.
- Nothing is better than capitalism saving the day. Not even the International Statute of Secrecy will stop the vendors from selling their merch to the wizarding public and making loads and loads of galleons. And god knows none of that shit would ever be on the level with Muggles.