HPIATC • First Impressions

Harry Potter in a Teacup • The Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter in a Teacup is a new weekly feature at Words in a Teacup where Isa will re-read her most cherished books and share her thoughts and favourite bits with you. For a detailed schedule, please follow the spiders, and if you want to suggest specific post topics, please consider sending us a Howler.


Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Thoughts


‘A letter?’ repeated Professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall. ‘Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter?’
— Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived —

In the first chapter of the saga we get to know the Dursleys (I shall henceforth call them the Gruesome Twosome): they’re in their early to mid-twenties — nobody knows how that happened, really, because I swear they just spawned from hell in a horrifying I-never-ever-want-to-look-like-that mid-30s sort of appearance — they have a horribly misbehaving child and they have a terrible, terrible secret. Namely the fact that Mrs Dursley’s parents did the do at least twice in their lives. Ghastly thing, that. They’re also incredibly talented at pretending that nothing is wrong and probably have certificates that confirm their denial skills.

Sadly, the certificate means nothing because fate, who is an old dude with a beard not unlike Santa’s and twinkly eyes in the colour of fancy toilet water, decides to drop their own personal slave — sorry, I mean orphaned nephew — off on their doorstep. As you do. The old dude with a beard turns out to be Albus Dumbledore, meddler extraordinaire, who gave matters a long, hard think before reaching the conclusion that little Harry Potter, Vanquisher of All That Is Evil, Future Ruler over the Spider Kingdom in His Cupboard, must live with his aunt and uncle (who do not like babies with a special connection to spiders, dust and incidentally lightning). As you do, of course. I mean, that’s a totally sound decision and I don’t see an issue with that at all.

Dudley looked a lot like Uncle Vernon. He had a large, pink face, not much neck, small, watery blue eyes and thick, blond hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head. Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel – Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig.
— Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass —

Ten years later we learn that the Dursleys exchanged their terrible demon child for a brightly coloured beach ball wearing kiddie clothes. For a while at least according to the photos on the mantelpiece, before said demon child returned to take its place again. As the photos attest, there is no other boy (or beach ball) living in the house, though of course I would be a fool to call Harry Potter a boy. He is the Vanquisher of All That Is Evil, Current Ruler over the Spider Kingdom in His Cupboard after all. Mustn’t forget that.

As his title says, his kingdom is his cupboard and King Harry is a merciful monarch who does not violently murder the spiders who dare to step on his socks. He’s also an excellent bacon-minder, another one of his very likable traits. After being woken up by his aunt our young King Harry engages in the activity of bacon-minding once more because it is his dear cousin’s birthday. Demon Child, ever so well raised and not at all greedy and spoiled, behaves as one would expect. In a demonic fashion after providing the reader with a splendid show of his frankly appalling mathematical abilities when trying to figure out the amount of birthday presents he got. (Hint: they’re not that difficult to count but still way too many for a single child, demonic or otherwise.)

Because it sucks to be the Gruesome Twosome, luck (nor wishful thinking that King Harry does not exist) is not on their side and they must take the benevolent spider king to the zoo with them, where for once he actually gets to eat. Miracles upon miracles! And because good things and bad things and meh things and other indescribable things always come in threes (or sevens… or twelves… magic numbers are pretty strange in this universe because if you believe it hard enough anything can be a magic number…) another miracle happens: King Harry, expert bacon-flipper and mindful monarch over his spidery commonwealth, turns out to be a snake-charmer! Or well, snake-talker. But that doesn’t sound as fancy. (He can talk to snakes. That’s what I’m sayin’.) Of course, being the kind and caring young ruler that he is, he incidentally (and accidentally, too, but tragically not occidentally) sets a snake free. By vanishing a windowpane. As you do.

‘They stuff people’s heads down the toilet first day at Stonewall,’ he told Harry. ‘Want to come upstairs and practise?’
‘No thanks,’ said Harry. ‘The poor toilet’s never had anything as horrible as your head down it – it might be sick.’
— Chapter 3: The Letters From No One —

Our hero Harry, previously confined to his royal sleeping chamber for doing funny business at the zoo, is eventually allowed out of his cupboard again when the summer hols are already in full swing. Too bad that that means he is now prey of Demon Child and his merry band of dumb disciples. On the upside, Harry has legs. Go Harry. Harry also has a sassy mouth as it turns out when he first sees his new school uniform. Which is wet. I mean, it happens, Harry, you just gotta roll with it. Maybe your new school is underwater? You never know! You also never know just how much mail you might be getting, a tragedy that will soon befall the inhabitants of 4 Privet Drive, because His Highness seems to be very popular with the birds. Cheeky little charmer, that boy. ;)

The Gruesome Twosome is less than pleased when they find out about their nephew’s new popularity and go in a right frenzy when they realise just what all those correspondences mean. For one thing, they know the exact address of Harry’s little kingdom and in a fit of extraordinary generosity Harry gets promoted to being the Emperor of the Second Bedroom. For another thing, Uncle Vernon also boards up the doors to prevent any more letters reaching the inside of their house, which is easier said than done. Turns out that mail can deliver itself through the chimney. Or the inside of two dozen eggs. Which is hella unhygienic. Ew. It also makes me wonder just what kind of trouble Harry’s got himself into because dang, if those are bills or legal notices, maybe somebody should do something about it instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. That never works.

Harry’s slightly mad uncle subsequently snaps and packs them all in the car to drive out into who-knows-where-land to stay in a hotel in order to escape the mail. Which doesn’t work. I don’t know about you, Vernon, but you should pay those debts before the mafia finds you. Which seems very likely, considering that they’re still being haunted by letters even at the hotel. Once more thrown into a frantic state of terror Vernon has enough and finally relocates his family to a deserted island. No wait. A deserted rock in the middle of the sea. With a rickety shed situated upon it. As you do.

The giant sat back down on the sofa, which sagged under his weight, and began taking all sorts of things out of the pockets of his coat: a copper kettle, a squashy package of sausages, a poker, a teapot, several chipped mugs and a bottle of some amber liquid which he took a swig from before starting to make tea.
— Chapter 4: The Keeper of the Keys —

Boom, baby. It’s Harry’s birthday and it turns out that a rickety shack doesn’t stand a chance against any of the members of Hells Angels, much less the fellow who goes by the name of Hagrid. Hagrid is a simply gargantuan guy with a beard the size of the Dursley’s secrets (and Dumbledore’s… and everyone else’s, for that matter) who once upon a time rode a flying motorcycle (talk about a true member of the Hells Angels!) to deliver young Harry to his family. I guess we all make mistakes sometimes. >.>

Because the Gruesome Twosome are more useless than a motorcycle that can’t even fly it now falls to Hagrid to a) wish Harry a happy birthday, b) deliver a previously-sat-upon cake, c) deliver one of the previously-ignored letters and d) subsequently explain that just like his parents Harry’s a magician. Sorry, wizard. You can’t be a magician until you turn forty-seven. Which Harry’s parents never achieved because unlike what the Dursleys told Harry (they died in a car crash) they were actually murdered (by a dude whose name is Voldemort, which is not at all pretentious).

Harry is understandably confused and fairly certain that Hagrid must’ve got the magic part wrong, but after an angry outburst from his elephantine uncle Hagrid shows him just how real magic is by giving their Demon Spawn a pig’s tail. As you do when you’ve got (slightly forbidden) magic.

Harry didn’t know where to run first now that he had a bag full of money.
— Chapter 5: Diagon Alley —

After a restful night under the coat of his new Hells Angels buddy, Harry and said gang member trundle off to see the wizard! Well, to see the goblins, really. Money, you see. Hagrid was all “get in me boat, loser, we’re goin’ shopping” but Harry’s got his priorities right and explains that he is but a poor spider king without any financial means. Turns out he’s wrong cause the kid is loaded. So they take the onerous trip through the Muggle world to enter the magic shopping district by way of a shady pub. As you do. Hagrid is the least discreet person to ever do anything and so our benevolent and wealthy avenger of the light, destroyer of darkness, herald of cheeky wit is mobbed by a bunch of even shadier people. So shady. Who thought that it was a wise idea to let children enter the magic would through a pub?

Having survived the mob they go to Gringotts where Harry finally sees for himself out that he’s loaded and Hagrid shows me just how much I should trust him with my secrets (hint: not at all). Or my children. Cause he leaves Harry alone right after that to knock back some booze instead of, you know, keeping watch over his charge. I guess the wizarding world simply hasn’t heard of proper childminding before. Because of that, Harry meets an unpleasant child while being fitted for his school clothes. The unpleasant child turns out to be Demon Child 2.0.

Afterwards they shop for books and owls (Harry’s birthday present from Hagrid) and a wand. Which is possibly the most peculiar thing our young hero must go through. The wandmaker, Mr Ollivander, pointedly compares Harry to his long-dead parents, proceeds to talk about his long-dead parents’ wands cause that’s not going to be like a punch in the gut at all, and then makes Harry try a bajillion wands before finally a wand chooses Harry. And then the old man proceeds to tell Harry about the similarities to Voldemort’s wand. Cause that’s not unsettling and worrisome at all for an eleven-year-old. And since worrisome behaviour appears to be the #1 on a wizard’s to-do list, Hagrid promptly escorts the kid out of Diagon Alley, puts him on a train and pretty much leaves him. Without making sure that the child will arrive safe and sound in Little Whinging where his ~loving~ relatives are sure to be waiting for him. As you do.

After all that I’m left wondering about the way Hogwarts contacts their muggleborn students.

Sure, Harry is not a muggleborn, and I believe that Pottermore mentioned that those get a second letter to explain things and stuff, but it’s still way shady. Ren and I pretty much agreed that if we got letters like that, we’d think it was a scam and throw it in the bin.

It doesn’t seem very feasible to just send a letter to families who have never thought that magic might be real, strange children or not. There’s a lot to be desired with how Harry is introduced to the magical world (don’t get me started) but I wish we knew more about muggleborns.

Would they too get hounded by letters? Who of the faculty would visit the muggleborns who do not reply? Would the school even care? Do they only make an effort with Hagrid because Dumbledore is meddling? How do muggleborns pay for their education?

There are just so many open questions and really, Harry may be a special case but it freaks me out that muggleborns might be stalked by letters. I know I would probably want to move far far away if we ever got a letter that didn’t just have my address on it but also the room I live in. That’s just scary!

So, do you have any input in regards to magic introductions? Tell me in the comments!



3 thoughts on “HPIATC • First Impressions

  1. I think some of the issues like how it’s explained to muggleborns, is only something we think of as adult readers. When you’re a kid, reading a kid’s book, you believe in the magic of it all and don’t question it. I know I did, and when I read these as an adult I still try to come from that place as I don’t want to ruin the enjoyment of it.

    • Lol, even as a kid I was pretty freaked out by getting letters from strangers who know where I sleep. That’s absolutely terrifying. I still enjoy these books loads but I do wish JKR had given us more to work with outside of the books. I mean, they’re trying with Pottermore but it doesn’t satisfy my curiosity at all. (Or it just sounds like complete bs in some cases. >.> You know nothing, Joanne Snow.)

  2. Pingback: What’s Up Buttercup • August Edition | Words in a Teacup

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