Welcome to the first episode of Podtrificus Totalus, a Harry Potter read along podcast!
We begin the episode by introducing our hosts, Cassie and Joe, and discussing our intentions for the podcast — to read the Harry Potter series book by book, chapter by chapter, and share our love for the series with each other and our audience. We hope that our listeners will (at best) read along with us or at least share in the experience of this awesome series, regardless of whether you’re a new or old reader.
We then enter into our discussion of the first chapter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, “The Boy Who Lived.” Sources consulted outside of the chapter are listed below.
- Vernon & Petunia Dursley on Pottermore
- Number Four, Privet Drive on Pottermore
- Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter by Galadriel Waters (Ed. Astre Mithrandir; Published by Wizarding World Press in 2003)
- Conversations with J.K. Rowling by Lindsey Fraser
- “It’s dropped” comic by floccinaucinihilipilificationa on Tumblr
JOE: Don’t move a muscle. The podcast is starting.
CASSIE: Hello and welcome to Podtrificus Totalus, a new Harry Potter read along podcast. Your hosts for this podcast will be me, Cassie.
JOE: And me, Joe.
CASSIE: With this podcast we’re aiming to basically share our love of the Harry Potter series with each other and whoever deigns to listen to this podcast. So we’re going to be going through the series chapter by chapter, book by book, until we reach the end or we run out of steam. No, hopefully we’ll read the end.
JOE: Hopefully, but —
CASSIE: Yeah, I’m intending to. [laughs]
JOE: Might take a while.
CASSIE: It will, yeah, definitely. I mean we haven’t quite figured out our release schedule yet, but depending on what that is and if we’re going chapter by chapter, this could be a several years’ venture. So we’ll see how that turns out. Our policy on spoilers for this podcast — like I said, we’re going to be discussing it chapter by chapter. But we both have read the series before, and we’ll get into our experiences with the series in a little bit, so we’re bringing that knowledge of what happens later on into this discussion of course but we’re going to try to limit ourselves to the chapter at hand.
JOE: Yeah so if you’re just reading it along with us, you won’t — or you hopefully won’t have anything spoiled.
CASSIE: Or anything really like big spoiled for you. I mean, in my notes for this chapter I have suggestions for like “Oh later on we learn more about this but in this chapter…” We’re gonna try to limit it to the chapter at hand like we’ve said. So we hope that you’ll at best read along with us or at least share in the experience of the awesome series regardless of your experience level with the series. We’re assuming that, 20 years out from the release of the Philosopher’s Stone and with Harry Potter as part of kind of the cultural zeitgeist now that you at least know the basic structure of this, that you have some awareness of the movies or books as you’re entering this podcast. Otherwise why are you listening to a Harry Potter podcast? But you know if you are new the series we think that there will be something here for you without it being too terrible for you in terms of spoilers.
CASSIE: So we do think we should start by talking about our experience levels with the books. I have been reading the Harry Potter series since I was a child. Like most people in this generation I was introduced to them at a very young age. I think I read the first book when I was six or seven? Actually I never did read the first book — well I did read it later on, but I started with the second book because I watched the first movie, which came out in 2001?
JOE: That sounds right.
CASSIE: I want to say? Yeah so I watched the first movie and then I read the second book and then eventually I looped back around and read the first book. But yeah so I started reading them when I was six or seven in seventh — [laughs] in second grade. And it’s just been a love of mine ever since then. I read them obsessively as a child and just kept re-reading them because the entire series wasn’t out at that point and even when the entire series was out I kept re-reading them.
CASSIE: It’s just been one of those things that if someone mentions it, you know, you can launch into that huge discussion and that I just feel the need to share that obsession with other people. Which brings us to Joe!
JOE: I watched all the movies well before I read the books. I read them for the first time last year?
CASSIE: A year or two ago, I don’t —
JOE: Yeah, a year and a half-ish.
CASSIE: Time is complicated.
JOE: So this will only be my second time reading them through. But I love the movies and they make a lot more sense now with the books.
CASSIE: Yeah I think that the second read through of the Harry Potter books is a lot of fun. Granted you were coming in to it with already an awareness of the major plot points and everything. But I feel like the second read through you’re picking up on things that you maybe didn’t pick up on before. It’s a series that bears re-reading very, very well. Some books once you know what’s going to happen that initial excitement and shock value is gone and then it’s functionally meaningless to you. But the Harry Potter series is really rich and there’s no better way to discover that than by painstakingly and obsessively reading it chapter by chapter.
CASSIE: Which brings us to chapter one, The Boy Who Lived. Obviously we’re going to be hitting on the plot details of each chapter, we’ll provide a summary of each chapter before we go. I am also going to be pulling information from a book since before Order of the Phoenix the book came out. It’s called Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter. I bought it as a wee child — well I didn’t buy it because I didn’t have money and because I was a child — but I bought it as a child, I found it in Borders bookstore which already dates it. And it goes through each chapter and it just picks out little things and it adds little details that people like me would find interesting. It is, like it says in the title, an unofficial guide, it was published by a fan under the Wizarding World Press. I’m pretty sure it’s a pseudonym because it says that the author’s name is Galadriel Waters. So — probably not her real name. I have been unable to find anything about this person that isn’t related to this book. I would love to find Galadriel Waters one day though because I definitely credit this book with my love of literature and my love of slowly and painstakingly reading literature and focusing in on details and researching because I just find it fascinating. But yeah it’s an awesome book. I checked earlier and found some copies on eBay so I recommend picking it up even if it only goes through Goblet of Fire.
CASSIE: Yeah so we’re going to be pulling some details from there and I will of course credit Galadriel when we do that. Which I love because it makes me feel like I’m going to Lothlórien to consult Galadriel rather than just opening this old, tattered book.
CASSIE: Alright so like I said we’re going to be talking about chapter one, The Boy Who Lived. And we’re going to give Joe the floor to provide a summary of the chapter for us.
JOE: Okay, so it focuses on Mr. and Mrs. Dursley. Mostly Mr. Dursley, who goes to work at drill factory and hears some weird stuff from some weirdly dressed people about the Potters. He goes home, checks out the news, and there have been owls and shooting stars, so he talks to Petunia, Mrs. Dursley, about her sister and her sister’s son.
JOE: Then we get to see Dumbledore arrive and talk to the tabby cat that’s been hanging out around Number 4 Privet Drive who turns out to be McGonagall. Hagrid shows up and drops off little Harry and they leave him on a doorstep overnight.
CASSIE: Yeah! [laughs] Which is some questionable decision making. We’ll definitely get to that.
CASSIE: So the easiest place to start is the beginning. I really wanted to read the first few lines from the chapter for reasons. And they read…
CASSIE: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”
CASSIE: I think that that is such a fantastic opening. One thing that I think Rowling does so well is introduce characters — I especially love Hermione’s introduction in a later chapter. I think that she has a talent for just cutting right to the heart of who they are without saying “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley were very ignorant and prim and proper people.” She has such a way of working with language in this fun way. I just love that opening line.
JOE: Yeah I love those first two lines. They’re very memorable.
CASSIE: They are.
JOE: I remember always being told in school that your first two lines have to say something gripping so that your audience wants to keep reading.
CASSIE: Yeah. The attention grabber.
CASSIE: Especially because it presents that strange or mysterious thing. Which is a nice little thing that Rowling does, how she moves you from kinda the real and the grounded thing to the magical.
CASSIE: I also found the description of Petunia really funny. It says that she had “nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors.” Which I think is just a hilarious image!
CASSIE: It’s a great image too because it really just puts into your head like this weirdo family.
JOE: Yeah it gives you the typical. What is it, meet the Smiths?
CASSIE: Keeping up with the Joneses.
JOE: Yeah, keeping up with the Joneses.
CASSIE: Meet the Smiths! [both laugh]
JOE: Yeah, always spying on the neighbors, seeing what they’ve got. Their entertainment is other people.
CASSIE: To consult the Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter a little bit, they break down the characters’ names really well. So I have some points here about Petunia.
CASSIE: Petunias represent anger and resentment. And we see a pattern of J.K. Rowling naming her characters after flowers really often. So Petunia is anger and resentment; Lily, on the other hand, who is of course Harry’s mother and Petunia’s sister, represents purity or fragility traditionally. To what level J.K. Rowling intended those connections we don’t really know.
CASSIE: I did find a note from J.K. Rowling that she chose the name Petunia because as a child, when she played make believe with her sister, she would give the name Petunia to unpleasant, mean female characters for some reason. That was just her go to name for Petunia. So I guess when creating this character she’s like, “well, it’s gotta be” —
JOE: Yeah, let’s just keep the trend.
CASSIE: Yeah. So I thought that was a cute little detail. Like, why the name Petunia? Who knows what led her to that as a child. But I like that little story.
CASSIE: She said that the name Vernon didn’t have any particular story behind it, she just said that it sounds like an unpleasant name.
JOE: Yeah, yeah it leaves a weird taste in your mouth.
CASSIE: It does, yeah. Speaking of names and referring to things, Vernon at one point refers to Dudley as “little tyke.” That bothered me. Made me think that the Dursleys are the type to say ‘boys will be boys.’
JOE: Yeah, probably. But I mean, you kind of have to if you’ve got that son. I mean you don’t have to, but you —
CASSIE: That kind of implies that Dudley just dropped out of the sky like that. Effort went into making him that way.
JOE: Well at this point he’s maybe a year old. So he’s just a problem child right now. He’s definitely gonna get worse.
CASSIE: Okay, but it’s their fault he’s a problem child.
JOE: Not at that young.
CASSIE: Yes! Parenting is important.
JOE: Well yeah, but at that age these aren’t instilled values or actions. This is just some children behave worse.
CASSIE: Okay but McGonagall says later on that she watched Dudley like screaming and kicking Petunia up and down the street asking for candy. Like that’s not normal child behavior.
JOE: No, it’s definitely being encouraged.
CASSIE: But to stand there rustle be like “aw, little tyke! Boys will be boys!” That’s encouraging the behavior.
JOE: Yeah. I guess, yeah.
CASSIE: I hate boys will be boys.
JOE: No, I completely agree with that.
CASSIE: I don’t like that.
JOE: But I think he’s too young for that to really matter.
CASSIE: No. Mm… no. I think it matters. It matters the way your parents talk to you and like refer to you and stuff and how they react to your behavior. So if you’re being a little jerk and your father says “aw little tyke,” it’s implicitly accepting that behavior.
JOE: Yeah I guess. But again, he’s one.
CASSIE: [groans] Alright.
JOE: That’s all I’m saying. Like, older that’s completely reasonable, but as a one year old…
CASSIE: But you’re still — you’re conscious of what’s going on around you.
JOE: I couldn’t say, I don’t remember when I was one.
CASSIE: Alright. Okay. Alright, that’s enough. [laughs]
CASSIE: At one point Vernon walks by McGonagall sticking on that ledge — which I think is such a McGonagall move, to plant yourself on that ledge and stare at these people all day. He walks past a cat reading a map —
JOE: And just accepts it for two seconds before he realizes that something’s wrong —
CASSIE: Well no, he says “hey that’s kinda weird” but that McGonagall sat there as a cat and read a map is just simultaneously a pretty careless and a pretty ballsy move. Because on one level it’s, like, oh maybe she just didn’t think that anybody would notice but on another level it would be like, she thinks they’re too stupid to think that there’s anything wrong here.
JOE: And at that point she was at their house and her mindset must have been “this can’t be the place.”
CASSIE: Yeah. [laughs]
CASSIE: I love McGonagall. McGonagall is definitely one of my favorite characters.
JOE: Yeah, she’s great.
CASSIE: Yeah, so Vernon goes to work like you said. And he sells drills — you said he worked in a drill factory but he’s a salesman.
JOE: Oh, did I say drill factory? Yeah, he sells drills.
CASSIE: Yeah. Who sells drills?
JOE: I don’t — are they big, like, construction drills, or just like hand —
CASSIE: No I assumed like handheld drills like [makes whirring noise]
JOE: It’s never specified but that was my guess, the handheld drills.
CASSIE: Yeah so like maybe large orders or drills? Like for a company? What company needs large orders of — I don’t know.
JOE: Construction companies I guess.
CASSIE: This was the first time sat down and am like, wait a minute. I don’t know.
JOE: I questioned that from the beginning but there was no answer.
CASSIE: I mean, and there doesn’t need to be an answer because that’s such a minute little detail but I don’t know. I’ve never heard of a drill salesman.
JOE: Yeah, the only important part is that he’s a salesman.
CASSIE: Yeah. Which definitely has certain connotations to it. The next quote that I highlighted was another one about Mr. Dursley being at work. It says, “Mr. Dursley sat frozen in his armchair. Shooting stars all over Britain? Owls flying by daylight? Mysterious people in cloaks all over the place? And a whisper, a whisper about the Potters…”
CASSIE: I highlighted that because I think J.K. Rowling wrote that to put on the inside of a dust jacket. [both laugh] I’m positive that you open the book and there’s that quote and then there’s a blurb. That really read to me as her just writing her own little ad copy there.
CASSIE: This also led me to wonder about how Vernon had learned about the Potters. Because obviously Petunia grew up with Lily and knew she was magical from a young age, but Vernon kinda walked into this world. And I wanted to know the story behind that because it’s interesting. So I looked it up and ye olde Pottermore had a nice little story that J.K. Rowling wrote about it. She says that Vernon learned about Petunia’s magical connections after the two were engaged. They met through work — Petunia was, like, an office employee and for some reason fell in love with Vernon. After they were engaged Petunia came clean one night in Vernon’s “dark car” after a date. It — no, it gets weirder — Vernon, and this is a direct quote, Vernon “told Petunia solemnly that he would never hold it against her that she had a freak for a sister, and Petunia threw herself upon him in such violent gratitude that he dropped his battered sausage.”
JOE: Battered sausage. That sounds like maybe a corn dog.
CASSIE: Yeah, so maybe he was eating a corn dog but I have a lot of questions about this. That all — I don’t know, I read that and I’m like, that has to be some kind of euphemism here.
JOE: He dropped his battered sausage, that’s a euphemism?
CASSIE: I don’t — I don’t know, it just read as weird to me, they’re sitting on a hill overlooking an old fried food shack in their dark car after a date. I don’t know. That reads as —
JOE: Well, yeah.
CASSIE: I don’t know about that one. I give Vernon a little bit of credit there because he wasn’t as big of a jerk as he could have been. The reason I researched this was that picturing this in my brain was that, if Vernon had heard that from Petunia, I imagine he would just been like, nope, I’m out, no more.
JOE: Well I’m sure when she explained it she explained it as like, I am completely against this, this is not —
CASSIE: Yeah I mean the fact that he says “freak for a sister” and that’s direct Petunia’s words, she definitely did frame it in a particular way.
JOE: Yeah, I would love to hear that very slow, drawn out conversation of, like —
CASSIE: Sooooo listen, I don’t know if you know about my sister.
JOE: I’ve avoided you meeting her for a while but the wedding is coming up…
CASSIE: There were some other good little tidbits in there, in that Pottermore article, about the wedding. After Petunia told Vernon, they met with Lily and James before the wedding so that they could all meet each other. It went badly. It says, “the relationship nose-dived from there,” as in the relationship between these two couples.
JOE: What a surprise.
CASSIE: It says, “James was amused by Vernon, and made the mistake of showing it. Vernon tried to patronise James, asking what car he drove. James described his racing broom. Vernon supposed out loud that wizards had to live on unemployment benefit. James explained about Gringotts, and the fortune his parents had saved there, in solid gold. Vernon could not tell whether he was being made fun of or not, and grew angry. The evening ended with Vernon and Petunia storming out of the restaurant, while Lily burst into tears and James (a little ashamed of himself) promised to make things up with Vernon at the earliest opportunity.”
CASSIE: It says that they never really made up, the wedding happened and James and Lily were there but not in any official capacity, Lily wasn’t a bridesmaid, but it does say that, “Vernon refused to speak to James at the reception, but described him, within James’ earshot, as ‘some kind of amateur magician’.”
CASSIE: I found all of that hilarious. Like I mean, James’s comebacks were definitely a little more witty but Vernon’s was — that was real —
JOE: Yeah, yeah that’s really great.
CASSIE: Yeah I have to give him a little bit of credit for that one. On the note of — we gotta talk about Vernon a lot actually in this chapter.
JOE: The whole thing is pretty much Vernon’s perspective.
CASSIE: Yeah, it’s so much about vermin. Vernon.
CASSIE: Vernon. That is a bit of a Freudian slip. So another line that I pulled out from the chapter about Vernon was that Vernon was “hoping he was imagining things, which he had never hoped before, because he didn’t approve of imagination.”
JOE: I thought that was interesting when I heard it. Or when I read it.
CASSIE: You could have been listening to the audiobook.
JOE: No. I don’t know if they have one.
CASSIE: Okay. There is. I think Stephen Fry reads it.
JOE: I don’t know who that is.
CASSIE: Okay. You’d know if you heard his voice. Or at least you’d be like, yeah I’ve heard that voice before.
CASSIE: Okay. Yeah —
JOE: What was the line again?
JOE: Yeah, that would directly coincide with him hating magic and anything weird to an extreme extent.
CASSIE: Its definitely some solid characterization there. A+. I don’t know, it made me laugh. I liked it.
JOE: No, it was definitely an entertaining line.
CASSIE: You have anything else to say about Vernon, Petunia, and the Dursleys? Or can we move on to Dumbledore and McGonagall and friends?
JOE: Were they hoping their child would have a normal sized neck if we’ve got one without one and one with two?
CASSIE: [laughs] Yeah, like, let’s hope it balances out. Yeah, I mean with me and you, like I’m short and you’re way too tall so ideally it’ll balance out. I’m not sure if genetically that’s how it works, but —
JOE: We’ll see.
CASSIE: Yeah I mean we’ll see, anything can happen. So we’ll move on to McGongall and Dumbledore and all of that, ’cause that’s the more fun part of this chapter. Not to say that the Vernon isn’t fun because I think that there are some really good lines in there but the Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid stuff — unless you have more?
JOE: Well, one last thing would be the wizard hugging Vernon was —
CASSIE: That was good. Yeah I like that.
JOE: Just great. Like he hates everything weird, he hates strangers, and this weird stranger comes up to him and just hugs him.
CASSIE: Have you ever been hugged by a stranger?
JOE: Yeah. Mostly children.
CASSIE: Okay. Have you ever hugged a stranger?
JOE: I mean, by the time I’m hugging them I guess they’re not a stranger.
CASSIE: [laughs] I don’t know. I feel like I’ve never been a big hugger. Like we don’t really hug in my family, or have physical contact or affectionate —
JOE: I’m definitely a hugger.
CASSIE: Yeah, you’re a good hugger. You give good hugs.
JOE: [laughs] Okay.
CASSIE: I don’t know. I’m like, trying to think of all the people I’ve hugged in my life and it’s like, you, and… like, grandparents.
JOE: That’s a long list.
CASSIE: I know. [laughs]
JOE: Yeah I’ve definitely — I’ve definitely hugged strangers.
CASSIE: Okay. Well I hugged Moana at Disney World.
JOE: Yes, yeah you did.
CASSIE: That was weird.
JOE: Was it though? They’re kinda there for that.
CASSIE: I felt bad because I was sweaty. And like, they’re there for that and I’m sure they deal with people sweatier than me, but just like, I felt bad.
JOE: I mean, you should.
CASSIE: [laughs] So moving on to Dumbledore and crew, it says that Dumbledore appeared so “silently you’d have thought he’d just popped out of the ground.” I have a lot of questions here also, first did he apparate?
JOE: Well that usually has the loud bang.
CASSIE: Exactly, so can Dumbledore apparate without sound?
JOE: He’s impressive. I’d give him that.
CASSIE: Yeah, I wrote that we’ll have to consult Half-Blood Prince because he apparates a lot in that one with Harry.
JOE: And there is another possible explanation that I’ve seen but I almost don’t want to get into it because it’s not going to be introduced for a while.
CASSIE: Is it the invisibility cloak?
CASSIE: Okay. So I do mention the invisibility cloak because that is at least in this book. I feel like it’s fair to talk about the invisibility cloak.
JOE: Alright, it’s just, it’s not going to be introduced for a while.
CASSIE: Okay, so my question was just, did he use James’s invisibility cloak? Because we know Dumbledore had it, and it says that when Dumbledore leaves that he does so “with a swish of his cloak,” which backs that up a little bit more for me.
JOE: Mhm, yeah, you just flip it back on.
CASSIE: I guess we can kinda get into the implications of James not having the invisibility cloak at this time later on.
JOE: I don’t know that that would have changed too much.
CASSIE: I mean… it’s the invisibility cloak, which we can get into when we get to Deathly Hallows, but —
JOE: So the two of them and a crying baby would have been under it?
CASSIE: I mean they could have put Lily and Harry under it probably.
CASSIE: Yeah, I don’t know.
JOE: I’m sure Voldemort would have found them though.
CASSIE: Yeah, probably. I just thought it was interesting, how does Dumbledore get there. We have kind of established rules for how people travel in the magical world and Dumbledore seems to be able to do it silently. Just interesting.
JOE: Another thing to note would just be J.K. Rowling hadn’t made up those rules yet.
CASSIE: Yeah, and that gets into like, you know, how much of this did she have worked out? How much of this did she have planned? Which I think a lot but she might not have developed the exact rules for apparating and everything.
JOE: And also the Put Outer, which was later named the Deluminator, and I definitely like Deluminator over Put Outer or silver Put Outer.
CASSIE: I like Put Outer except that’s an adjustment for me because as a child my pronunciation of things was never quite right because I did a lot of reading but I didn’t do a lot of talking to other people so I would know these words and I would have ideas in my head of how they were pronounced but come to watch the Harry Potter movies I would be like [groans] that wasn’t right. And have to adjust accordingly. And I feel like there’s a really good example of that but I just can’t think of it.
JOE: Is it AHK-EE-OH or ASS-EE-OH?
CASSIE: Accio brain.
JOE: Yeah, I think I was saying ASS-EE-OH or something.
CASSIE: You’ve been saying ASS-EE-OH for a really long time.
JOE: Or no, it was AH-SEE-OH. I’ve been saying AH-SEE-OH.
CASSIE: Alright, well, still. It’s wrong. But I’m not gonna fault you for that because I’ve made these mistakes —
JOE: See but I was making those mistakes after watching the movies and then only reading the books did I start calling it that.
CASSIE: Yeah. On the note of the Deluminator, I used to pronounce that as the Putter Outer.
JOE: Well that’s just, you were reading it wrong.
CASSIE: Yeah. So I’m okay with Put Outer, I know you think that that’s a dumb name, but like, it’s not as dumb as the Putter Outer. But I think that the Put Outer is super cool. I think that that’s, like, a hype moment to start the movie on. Which, we’re not talking in-depth about the movie here, we’ll probably do something about the movie at some point when we figure out what we’re doing here exactly, but the movie starts — correct me if I’m wrong — with Dumbledore flicking the lights off.
JOE: I believe so.
CASSIE: Yeah, I think that that’s a great moment to start the movie on. And actually, fun story about the movie, we watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone the movie in my second grade classroom. It was raining one day for recess and the movie had very recently come out. We had one of those pirated copies of movies that had — that probably were still in theaters and some guy just took a video camera and filmed it and some idiot bought a VHS tape of that because it was 2002. And it was so dark and impossible to see on that TV screen. I had already seen the movie in theaters and been in love with it but I just remember being so frustrated because I couldn’t see what was going on, it was just lights and then they go out. I have a vivid memory of that. Also we watched some weird dinosaur movie with eggs and I think it was called Dinotopia.
JOE: There are a lot of dinosaur movies.
CASSIE: Alright, yeah.
JOE: Most of them will have eggs in them.
CASSIE: Yeah. So listeners hit me up if you remember Dinotopia.
CASSIE: Do you have anything more to say about the Put Outer other than you like that it’s called the Deluminator instead? It’s just a fancier name.
JOE: Yeah it is a much fancier name. It flows better.
CASSIE: I’m all about the common folk here. So I think Put Outer is solid.
JOE: Well, the way she puts it in that chapter, it almost seems like that was her vaguely explaining it.
CASSIE: Yeah, that’s true. That’s a good point.
JOE: It’s not necessarily the name of it.
CASSIE: Yeah, ’cause if she says Deluminator a six year old is gonna be like, well, I don’t know what that word is.
JOE: Because it’s not a word.
CASSIE: No. So Dumbledore appears, he turns off all the lights, Dumbledore’s nose is “very long and crooked as though it had been broken at least twice.” My question there is who do you think broke Dumbledore’s nose and why?
JOE: Well I mean I know, but —
CASSIE: Is there an official reason for that?
JOE: Yeah, Aberforth. Aberforth broke his nose in a fist fight.
CASSIE: Okay. Aberforth is Dumbledore’s brother. That’s not a spoiler I don’t think.
JOE: That is.
CASSIE: Well, that’s his name. It’s just okay, Dumbledore —
JOE: It’s just not mentioned at all that he has a brother for the next five books.
CASSIE: Okay. I don’t think that’s a spoiler. I think that’s okay. No, I didn’t know that, that it was Aberforth. Well, I’m sure I knew it in some level of my brain but it just wasn’t at the surface.
JOE: Well I mean it’s mentioned specifically that he broke it once, but if he broke it twice, who else? Maybe, I mean, they were brothers. They could have fought a couple times.
CASSIE: Okay. McGonagall says that she must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on her way here. And I want to stop here for a moment and do an imaginative exercise and picture Professor McGonagall at a party.
JOE: Maybe as the cat. [both laugh]
CASSIE: She’s the party cat.
JOE: Yeah. She’ll hang out by the punch bowl until she gets drunk enough to change back into a human and do some dancing.
CASSIE: [groans] I don’t know about that. [laughs]
JOE: Well, I mean, ten years ago, before —
CASSIE: Before she lost her figure.
JOE: Well, ten years before the rest of the book starts maybe she’d be a little looser.
CASSIE: Yeah, she was actually pretty young — a little looser? What?
JOE: Well, not as uptight.
CASSIE: And you yelled at me for the battered sausage! Alright maybe we should move on. [laughs]
CASSIE: In the interest of being child friendly, which has disintegrated rapidly.
JOE: Again, we can edit.
CASSIE: I stand by that interpretation. [both laugh] Uh, let’s see, I’ve got another quote. Dumbledore says to McGonagall, “‘You flatter me,’ said Dumbledore calmly. ‘Voldemort had powers I will never have.'” And McGonagall says, “Only because you’re too — well — noble to use them.” I think this is important for a lot of reasons. Important because of what we later learn about Dumbledore’s past, which we’re not gonna get into, I gotta try to watch myself there, but within the context of Philosopher’s Stone I think that the word and — or at the least the idea of being noble — shows up quite a bit. It and bravery are just reoccurring characteristics that show up in the series that Rowling definitely places a lot of stock in. I’m sure at some point Harry is described as noble, I’m sure at some point he is definitely described as brave, and I like that idea of nobility in this books, that like being good is a matter of nobility. That being good isn’t about just adhering to the good here, it’s about knowing the good and the bad and having that power and using it right. And using it well and using it nicely.
JOE: Yeah, it’s not just obeying the rules.
CASSIE: Yeah, which definitely begins to loom large within the series. So I think that this quote is really cool for introducing that theme very early on, whether it’s intentional or not.
CASSIE: Dumbledore says to McGonagall “the owls are nothing next to the rumors that are flying around.” Think that’s an awesome pun.
JOE: It flew by me. [both laugh]
CASSIE: That’s horrible. Don’t — don’t do that. [both laugh]
CASSIE: Yeah, that just made me laugh. And I think this is a good time to once again consult Galadriel about the etymology for Dumbledore’s name. His first name, Albus, is Latin for white, attributed to his silvery hair and beard. According to a JKR interview with Lindsey Fraser in Conversations with J.K. Rowling, his last name comes from an Old English word for bumblebee, which JKR said she chose because she “likes to think of him always on the move, humming to himself.” I like that picture.
JOE: Yeah, that’s kinda adorable.
CASSIE: Yeah, I think that’s cute. And because I don’t have another good point in my notes to bring this up, I’m going to toss McGonagall’s etymology in there as well, once again from Galadriel, our best friend.
For Minerva McGonagall’s name, JKR uses alliteration — you should know what that is — Minerva is the Roman name for Athena, the Greek goddess of learning, wisdom, war, and crafts.
JOE: That sums her up nicely.
CASSIE: It fits. Athena just happens to also have a famed reputation for morphing herself and others into clever disguises. Her symbols are the owl and the olive tree. We can assume that Minerva McGonagall is intelligent and a formidable opponent and she is likely to be proud of her clan. The clan thing comes in with McGonagall, which of course has Scottish roots, and if I’ve learned anything from Highlander it’s that Scottish people are all about Scotland and their clan.
CASSIE: Yeah. But no we definitely see that in her loyalty to Gryffindor, that she loves Gryffindor. McGonagall’s pretty no-nonsense, except when it comes to Quidditch, which she’s also pretty no-nonsense about in terms of “you better win.” I feel like she was so excited when she met Oliver Wood because she’s like, finally someone who gets it. That Quidditch is all that matters.
JOE: Yeah and that’s very important as the head of the House or whatever that title is.
CASSIE: I mean, yeah — yeah she’s the head of the House. But you see that in Snape too — but that’s also because Snape is not a good person and I think that he just wants Slytherin to win so that everyone else is sad and we’ll get into Snape. But then like Professor Sprout, you don’t see her like big into Quidditch, she’s the Hufflepuff head of House, and Flitwick is the Ravenclaw head of House and he’s never, I think, mentioned in the context of Quidditch.
JOE: I mean, Slytherin is the only one that matters in the first, like, three books.
CASSIE: And kind of in all the books.
JOE: But then also, you don’t really hear McGonagall talking about Quidditch in her classroom and that’s the only time Harry is interacting with the other two teachers.
CASSIE: Okay, I guess that’s true. Yeah that maybe Flitwick is like, riling up Cho Chang to catch the snitch.
JOE: Yeah. I think we’re getting a little too ahead of ourselves for chapter one.
CASSIE: Yeah, maybe, but it’s not — it’s not a spoiler though. Alright, okay, back to the chapter. Dumbledore talks a little bit about his reasons for dropping Harry at the Dursleys because McGonagall objects to it, understandably. It says, “‘It would be enough to turn any boy’s head. Famous before he can walk and talk! Famous for something he won’t even remember! Can’t you see how much better off he’ll be, growing up away from all that until he’s ready to take it?'”
CASSIE: So ostensibly he’s saying that he’s leaving Harry with the Dursleys because he wants to make sure Harry doesn’t grow up to be a braggart. Okay? But —
JOE: I mean it makes sense. It would definitely go to Harry’s head and knowing Harry’s character later on, adding that extra ego for his entire life —
CASSIE: Sure, but he must know how badly the Dursleys are going to treat this kid. And this has been a point of contention within the fandom, like how Dumbledore leave Harry there to be abused and to be aware of this abuse and just be like, well, it’s good for his upbringing, to make him a man.
JOE: Well on top of that there was the… that spell cast on kind of the house? And so as long as he was with —
CASSIE: Yeah so there’s like protection, there were other reasons here, but this is the reason we’re getting in the chapter. Stick to the chapter, Joe.
JOE: I am so sorry.
CASSIE: This is the reason we’re getting in the chapter, that like he — and that’s fine but… I don’t know. Let’s just — it makes me a little uncomfortable. I know the story couldn’t happen without it, that it’s necessary —
JOE: I mean it could, it would just be different.
CASSIE: Yeah. I don’t know. It’s an interesting point.
JOE: It gives him a humble beginning.
CASSIE: Yes. It fits in with the Hero’s Journey, which we’ll talk about because I love Joseph Campbell.
JOE: And also, he might have been hunted in the wizarding world.
CASSIE: Yes. Yes, there are a lot of reasons to do it, it’s just that this is the one that Dumbledore cites. Not like, “oh he might be in danger because there’s still Death Eaters who might be mad that Voldemort is no longer here.” Yeah I don’t know, it’s just kinda interesting.
CASSIE: McGonagall says of Hagrid that “you can’t pretend he’s not careless.” I think that that’s an important little bit of —
JOE: But he’s goodhearted!
CASSIE: He is goodhearted! I love Hagrid, but a lot of this book depends on Hagrid being careless. But it’s so sweet I think — I love the relationship between Dumbledore and Hagrid, ignoring that Dumbledore is like, hey, come work for me and live in this little shack, because that’s the perfect situation for Hagrid, but there is some weird classist stuff going on in there. Yeah but I love the relationship between Dumbledore and Hagrid, I think it’s adorable, and I love that line of McGonagall saying, like, you trusted Hagrid with this? And Dumbledore just says, “I would trust Hagrid with my life.” I love that, I think that’s adorable, and I think that Hagrid is adorable. I love Hagrid. I love Hagrid.
JOE: Oh yeah, he is.
CASSIE: But speaking of Hagrid, when Hagrid lands on Sirius Black’s motorbike, which I like that they mention Sirius Black there, we’ll get into Sirius —
JOE: In a while.
CASSIE: In a while, but I like that —
JOE: Give it a year or two.
CASSIE: [laughs] I like that little bit of continuity there. So Sirius lands on — Hagrid lands on Sirius’s motorbike with baby Harry in tow and Rowling describes Hagrid, as you’re supposed to do when you introduce a character, and says “his feet were in their leather boots like baby dolphins.”
JOE: How big is a baby dolphin? That seems like —
CASSIE: I — that’s not my question. I want to know why baby dolphins. What about Hagrid’s feet is like a baby dolphin?
JOE: In their leather boots, it’s some dolphin leather right there.
CASSIE: Oh I didn’t think — he wears dolphin leather? [both laugh] Hagrid dresses exclusively in dolphin leather. I don’t know, it’s just —
JOE: He just, like, zips up the fin instead of tying them.
CASSIE: It’s really uncomfortable to picture baby dolphins in boots and Hagrid on top of them.
JOE: Well obviously that’s not what she meant.
CASSIE: I don’t know, I don’t —
JOE: They were just, you know — they were big.
CASSIE: I don’t know, that was just one of the lines that I was just like, did I read that correctly? Are baby dolphins large? Are baby dolphins known for being large enough that this line makes sense?
JOE: Well that’s the weirdest part about it, it’s like — there’s — I couldn’t tell you exactly how big a baby dolphin is supposed to be. I’m guessing, like, two feet? But that’s a complete guess. That’s a mildly educated guess.
CASSIE: But you understand why this is —
CASSIE: Not like — I mean sure, use similes, go ahead. But baby dolphins?
JOE: I got nothing. I’m so sorry.
CASSIE: I mean no, I’m just — you don’t need to have an answer to that. There’s no possible answer to that, it’s just — yeah. So they drop baby Harry on the porch and Dumbledore says, “well, that’s that.” [laughs]
JOE: And then they just leave him on the porch until the next morning.
CASSIE: Yeah. And in their defense, they stand there for a full minute, but it really is pretty quick. You know, thinking about that comic where Dumbledore literally throws Harry on the doorstep and says “its dropped.” It resembles that more than I’m comfortable with.
JOE: Yeah, I mean, especially as a baby.
CASSIE: Yeah! Like let’s leave a baby out in the cold because it’s November 1st in England. [both laugh]
JOE: He’s got his blanket. He’ll survive.
CASSIE: Of course, but — [both laugh] There’s some questionable decisions going on here.
JOE: And he’s just hoping that Vernon’s not going out the door first without looking down.
CASSIE: Yeah, to like step on the baby. Yeah, what if the milkman comes and sees, like, hey guys, you got a baby here. The neighbors in this community spy on each other constantly and there’s a baby on the porch.
JOE: Good thing he was sleeping soundly.
CASSIE: Yeah. My sister used to tell me I was left on the porch as a child and they felt bad for me so they took me in.
JOE: I think your sister is just cruel.
CASSIE: It’s ’cause I don’t look like any of them and that was a point of mocking for us as children.
JOE: I guess. You look exactly like your grandma though.
CASSIE: I know but I don’t look like my sisters or my mother.
JOE: Yeah. You kinda do though.
CASSIE: But yeah that’s something that was said. It was — that was definitely some bullying influenced by Harry Potter. This is my last note for Galadriel, I wanted to talk a little bit about Privet Drive, which is a pretty important setting I think. And we talked about Petunia spying on the neighbors and how this is a weird place but talking about the etymology of Privet Drive, Galadriel writes — I love that, I love saying Galadriel —
JOE: I know you do.
CASSIE: Uh, let’s see. “Privet means an ornamental shrub, which perfectly describes the appearance of the neatly pruned, hedge-lined street,” which they do actually I think say the word neat hedges or something at some point in this chapter.
JOE: Yeah I think so.
CASSIE: And Rowling has backed up that connection. But also, “however, in French, which Rowling taught, Privet would be pronounced like prive” — don’t know French very well so that’s probably wrong — “prive in French means confidential or private life.” Which makes sense, the word private, privet, something went on there to make it that. But it’s fun facts.
CASSIE: This is something I missed writing down in my notes but I’m going to add in anyway, it’s about Dumbledore. He has a little scar over his left knee, McGonagall says “can we do anything about the scar on his forehead, is it really worth it for him to grow up marked?” And Dumbledore says hey, scars can be useful, I have one above my left knee that’s a perfect map of the London Underground, which is a great little detail and also what is Dumbledore doing on the London Underground?
JOE: Well we do see him there later. Much later.
CASSIE: Oh yeah.
JOE: But other than that — [laughs]. I don’t know, sometimes you just, you’re a wizard lost in the city. Gotta get around somehow.
CASSIE: But on the note of scars, Galadriel says “it should be noted that the famous Odysseus (Ulysses) of Greek mythology fame also had a scar just above his left knee and he used it to identify himself as the legitimate king upon his return home from the Trojan War.” So the left knee connection I think is probably connected with the Dumbledore thing in picking the place for that scar, especially considering that Rowling studied Classics (mythology) in college. So I definitely think that the left knee is really good but I also think that him using it identify himself upon returning to his home relates to Harry. That’s the moment, people see the scar and they’re like, oh my god, it’s Harry Potter. So I think that’s an interesting little connection there too that Galadriel draws for us. Thanks Galadriel.
CASSIE: So that’s all my notes for this chapter unless you have anything that I missed or anything you wanted to bring up.
JOE: Well there’s Hagrid’s relationship with Harry already.
CASSIE: Yeah. Yeah that’s a sweet little thing.
JOE: You see him sad to let him go.
CASSIE: Because Hagrid has such a big heart. He’s a big guy with a big heart.
JOE: Yes. Definitely. And big trash can sized hands.
CASSIE: Yeah that was like — I’m like alright, okay, that’s at least something that’s within the realm of experience for people, the size of trash can lids.
JOE: But not baby dolphins.
CASSIE: Not baby dolphins. But the Hagrid thing is really sweet, just the idea of him flying around with baby Harry and taking care of him after this horrific thing just happened to him and being exactly the kind of person someone would need after going through something horrible like that. And I think that’s definitely mirrored later in the book when Hagrid comes and picks up Harry from the Dursleys.
JOE: Yeah, to bring him to Hogwarts.
CASSIE: It’s so cute, I love it. I have such a soft spot in my heart for characters like Hagrid in the Harry Potter series, especially Molly Weasley, and we’ll definitely talk a lot about Molly Weasley, but I have a huge spot in my heart for characters like Hagrid and Molly Weasley who just accept Harry as family in an instant and just give him that love and affection that he never received as a child. But talking about the chapter as a whole, do you think that it’s a satisfying lead-in to the series?
JOE: I think that it definitely introduces the setting without giving anything away.
CASSIE: Yeah. It’s interesting too because Harry is — you know, in a book that’s called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry is barely in it.
JOE: Yeah, he’s definitely not speaking yet.
CASSIE: Yeah, and it’s interesting too because for the most part the Harry Potter books, everything in there is Harry Harry Harry, like Harry is directly involved in everything —
JOE: And more importantly, it’s from his perspective for the rest of the books.
CASSIE: Yes, which I’m sure we’ll pick up on things about that, but the first chapter of the books — I want to say every single book fits this — it’s not really about Harry. There are different settings and different characters and a different perspective for them.
JOE: Definitely for some of them, I don’t remember all of them.
CASSIE: I couldn’t sit here and list them and we’re not going to do that because, again, spoilers, we’re trying not to do that. But it’s definitely a recurring patterns with the books. So yeah I think that it is a really good lead-in, like you said it presents the setting, that there’s this line between the real, grounded world that we’re used to and then the magical world where people have feet like baby dolphins and people turn into cats and stuff like that.
CASSIE: And I think that it has a good level of mystery and intrigue with the way that the chapter ends. That they drop Harry and —
JOE: And they just all go their separate ways.
CASSIE: They go their separate ways and you’re left to wonder, okay, you know how do these characters come back into Harry’s life, what happens to Harry, I think there a lot of really good questions that keep you moving throughout the series. Because that’s something that we have to be aware of, that this is children’s literature and it can be hard to get children to read, so a book like Harry Potter that gives that kind of taste to come and really propels them along I think is really great and I think it’s a great job on Rowling’s part and a reason — one of the many reasons that these books are so beloved.
JOE: And also that whole chapter, they didn’t once say wizard or Hogwarts.
CASSIE: I mean I believe the Hogwarts bit but I didn’t know wizard. That’s interesting. I guess it makes sense ’cause you know, the Dursleys aren’t going to say the word wizard, they’re going to say like weirdos or freaks or stuff like that and it’s not like Dumbledore is going to be like, hello I am a wizard when among other wizards. Anything else that I missed that you want to talk about with this chapter?
JOE: No, nothing I can think of.
CASSIE: Alright so I guess that concludes our discussion of chapter one, The Boy Who Lived. Uh, we lived through it.
JOE: Nope. We’re cutting that out.
CASSIE: [laughs] Nope. I have the control.
JOE: It’s happening. You can’t leave that in there.
CASSIE: No, it’s staying. Uh yeah that wraps up our discussion of the Boy Who Lived, so there are a lot ways that we’re going to encourage everybody to communicate with us throughout this process, the first and probably the easiest is we’re soliciting emails from you all. You can send us corrections or expand on something that we brought up that we just don’t have the knowledge or the Google-fu to discover on our own, you can ask us questions —
CASSIE: Google-fu, like kung-fu except — you’ve never heard that before?
JOE: Not at all, no.
CASSIE: Okay, well, you can ask us questions either about our reactions to certain things or little details that you can’t figure out by just Googling it — there’s a lot out there on Google, we’re just not very smart.
JOE: Speak for yourself.
CASSIE: Yeah well you can ask us questions, correct us on things, or just share some of your experiences or reactions to things, maybe help us out with that baby dolphins thing because I really want to believe that there’s a reason for that. So please email us! Our email address is email@example.com. Maybe we’ll read some of them on future episodes? I don’t know, we haven’t figured that out yet ’cause we don’t have emails yet because we just started this —
JOE: Yeah it might take a couple episodes.
CASSIE: No I believe that, but if somebody sends us something particularly illuminating, I would want to share that on the podcast.
JOE: Yeah definitely.
CASSIE: If you’re not comfortable with that please just leave us a little note that says, like, I’d rather not have this on the podcast.
JOE: Or at least, rather not have your name mentioned.
CASSIE: Yeah, we can do it anonymously and I’m not expecting such a volume of emails that I’m not going to be able to be like, hey do you mind if I mention this on the podcast? But yeah we’ll at least read and hopefully reply to everything that you guys send, even if we don’t read it on the air. Please talk to us! I think that the Harry Potter series is awesome and that it’s meant to be shared and that’s why we’re doing this podcast.
CASSIE: And then of course we do have social media because it’s 2017. We are on Twitter at @podtrificus, if you search Podtrificus Totalus we’ll show up too, it’s just they have a character limit for Twitter handles. We’re on the Facebooks, you can search us, Podtrificus Totalus —
JOE: I don’t like that either. Don’t say “the Facebook.”
CASSIE: Well, I’m gonna say the Facebooks. Tumblr, we’re on there as well, and then the website! podtrificustotalus.com, where we’ll post the episodes, of course, we’ll leave some detailed shownotes about some of the things we talked about, links to the Pottermore readings that we’ve done, that kind of thing, and other fun little goodies.
JOE: And if we ever come up with a schedule of when these will be released, we’ll have that up there.
CASSIE: Yes, that’s important information to share. Because this is a podcast you can find it on pretty much any podcast distribution, iTunes, Pocket Casts, whatever podcast app that you’re on, we’ll make sure that we’re on there too so that you can subscribe to us and get the episodes as soon as possible. If there’s a particular podcast service that you use that we’re not on, email us about that too and I’ll take care of it, but I’m pretty good at this so we’ll be there.
CASSIE: So thank you everyone for listening and sharing this experience with us and you can join us next time for our discussion of chapter two…
JOE: The Vanishing Glass.
We encourage our listeners to send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org correcting us, expanding on something we mentioned, asking questions, and sharing some of your experiences with the Harry Potter series. You can also interact with us through @podtrificus on Twitter, our Facebook page, Tumblr, or by leaving a comment below!
Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you again for 1.02, “The Vanishing Glass!”