Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone: Chapter Four
And we’re back! Not just back, but back to indulge in a chapter all about the introduction of my biggest damn crush in this whole series, Rubeus Hagrid. I’m a size queen, by which I mean I only date men with enormous beards.
Interestingly, this scene (the one we left off on last week) was my very first introduction to Harry Potter – I vividly remember seeing the trailer for the Philosopher’s Stone (I doubt my spelling of that every single time I write it), which had a shot of Hagrid looming in the doorway of the lighthouse and looking like he’d crawled out of hell itself. I remember turning to my brother, who was already reading the books, and asking if he was the villain – he told me he was actually a good guy, and I was so intrigued I grabbed the books not long afterwards because I just had to know how the hell a man presented like that could be anything other than the worst news you’d ever heard.
Hagrid rips the door off the cabin and makes his entrance, terrifying the Dursleys in the process – he takes a rifle from Vernon and ties it in a knot, which is objectively hilarious. And then Hagrid finally greets Harry:
“Anyway – Harry,” said the giant, turning his back on the Durlseys, “a very happy birthday to yeh. Got summat fer yeh here – I mighta sat on it at some point, but it’ll still taste alright.”
Of course, Hagrid has brought a slightly squashed birthday cake to Harry, which is honestly a moment so sweet I teared up a little bit. After all the abuse we’ve seen Harry go through thus far, for someone to offer him this tiny act of kindness is genuinely meaningful, and a smart way to introduce the kindness of the wizarding world as a contrast to the cruelty of the Muggle one (someone once used the word “muggle” in an attempt to insult me, and I honestly almost punched them in the mouth, not because I was insulted, but I was so profoundly fucking annoyed by the fact that they had clearly only ever read these books and couldn’t come up with anything more original than that).
Hagrid introduces himself as the keeper of the keys at Hogwarts, which he assumes Harry knows all about. Of course, Harry doesn’t, which provokes Hagrid:
“Did yeh never wonder where yer parents learned it all?”
“All what?” asked Harry.
“ALL WHAT?” Hagrid thundered. “Now wait jus’ one second!”
This at least, to me, indicates that Hagrid didn’t know the conditions in which Harry was being kept, so he gets a pass on the whole “the wizarding world allowed Harry to endure a decade of abuse for no good reason” issue. What follows, despite the protests of the Dursleys, is perhaps one of the most iconic scenes of the whole series:
“STOP! I FORBID YOU!” Uncle Vernon yelled in a panic.
Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror.
“Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh,” said Hagrid. “Harry – yer a wizard.”
I think it’s interesting that Rowling chose Hagrid to be the one to deliver this news. There’s for sure some parallels between Hagrid and Harry – both of them having been raised across two worlds, with Hagrid half-giant and treated as an outsider for most of his life – but it also introduces Hagrid as arguably the most important and consistent father figure in Harry’s life. All the rest of them – Lupin, Sirius, Dumbledore – end up dead, but Hagrid makes it to the end, and I think it’s a nice bit of symmetry that he’s the one who introduces Harry to this world and one of the last ones left by the end of the final book.
Hagrid gives Harry his letter inviting him to Hogwarts, and expecting a response by owl in due course: Hagrid immediatley pulls his own owl from his pocket and sends a note back to the Hogwarts crew, letting them know that Harry knows the truth. I just love Hagrid as a character so much, because he’s such a flailing wreck in so many ways – most of the wizarding world we meet, at least the adults, are carefully gathered-together and competent, but Hagrid always seems to be pulling things off by the skin off his teeth and I relate to that in a profound way, as someone who white-knuckles every single thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m writing these recaps clinging to the outside of an aircraft in flight, for example. Every week. Different aircraft.
Harry is obviously shocked, and Vernon announces that he’s not leaving to Hogwarts, revealing in the process that both he and Petunia knew about the wizarding world through her sister, Harry’s mother. Hagrid then discovers that Harry doesn’t even know how his parents died, and we get our second encounter in the series so far with Voldemort:
“You-Know-Who killed ’em. And then – an’ this is the real myst’ry of the thing – he tried to kill you, too. Wanted ter make a clean job out of it, I suppose, or maybe he just liked killin’ by then…”
I love this shit, right here. Just the thought that Voldemort simply might just have enjoyed murdering people is fucking unsettling. Voldemort is one of literature’s great villains, and really solidifies that after he comes back in the fourth book (that “kill the spare” moment, where he murders Cedric Diggory without a second thought, is one of the most effective character moments in the whole series and still gives me the heebie-jeebies), but I love the hints of him we get through hearsay. As a character who’s depicted as so physically formidable, for Hagrid to be too scared to even say his name, it’s a great underlining of the enormous emotional impact that living through Voldemort’s reign had on the people who survived it.
Harry has a brief memory of the night of his parent’s death, and asks about what happened to Voldemort after the murder of his parents:
“Dissapeared. Vanished. Same night he tried ter kill you. Makes yeh even more famous…Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die.”
More great stuff. I’m going to be talking a lot about how much I love Voldemort as a villain and as a cultural impact on the wizarding world a lot over the course of these recaps, and I love how Rowling introduces him through this terrified, traumatized hearsay. When I was first reading these books, I was far more interested in the stories of the kids, of course, but this time around I’m loving how she’s depicting the adult wizarding community as a group of people torn between the trauma of a decade-long reign of terror that saw hundreds of their own killed, and the relief and tentative belief in a future that might be different.
Vernon once again protests Harry’s removal to Hogwarts:
“I AM NO PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS!” yelled Uncle Vernon.
But he had finally gone too far. Hagrid seized his umbrella and whirled it over his head.
“NEVER-” He thundered “INSULT – ALBUS – DUMBLEDORE – IN – FRONT – OF – ME!”
Again, another neat little character moment here. Though we’ve already met Dumbledore in this story, it’s a powerful thing to have a character as kind and good as Hagrid become so enraged over someone insulting him. I mean, to be fair to Vernon, in a lot of ways Dumbledore is a crackpot old fool, but, you know, Hagrid is a loyal bitch and I can get behind that. Or underneath it. Unph.
Hagrid gives Dudley a pig’s tail, which he asks Harry to keep quiet as he’s not exactly supposed to be pulling magic out of the bag in front of muggles, and Harry agrees to leave with him at once. And finally, we’re off out into the real wizarding world once and for all – well, we will be soon, with the next recap!
And that’s us for this week! If you enjoyed this recap and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon! You can also find more of my writing on my film site, No But Listen.
(header image courtesy of Giphy.com)