[Show music begins]
Eric Scull: This is Episode 131 of Alohomora! for April 4, 2015.
[Show music continues]
Eric: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Alohomora! I am Eric Scull.
Kat Miller: I am Kat Miller.
Rosie Morris: I am Rosie Morris. And it is my absolute pleasure to introduce today’s special guest: Melinda Salisbury. Melinda, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Melinda Salisbury: Yes, I would. I’m Melinda, I live in the UK, and I am the author of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, which came out in the UK on February 5 and in the US and Australia on February 24.
Kat: Yay. [claps]
Eric: Nice. So new author. That’s got to be scary.
Melinda: It’s terrifying. I’ve never had such anxiety.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Kat: I have a friend who read the book, and she loved it, so I just figured I’d pass it on.
Melinda: From what I can gather, it’s quite a polarizing book because I played the game a bit differently. Not on purpose – I wasn’t trying to be a special snowflake – but what I’ve done is I’ve done things a bit differently from how the other children do it, so yeah.
Kat: Different is good.
Melinda: But people either love it or hate it. It’s like Marmite. So I love the people [who] love it, and I’m ignoring all the people [who] hate it.
Eric: That’s what you’ve got to do.
Melinda: They don’t exist for me.
Kat: And so you’re a Slytherin?
Melinda: I am, yes.
Kat: [laughs] I knew that.
Melinda: Which probably explains the polarizing effect of my work.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Eric: Aww, it’s a book written by a Slytherin? Aww, heck no.
Melinda: I think that’s it. It’s House prejudice. They haven’t even read the book.
[Kat and Rosie laugh]
Eric: I’m just kidding. I’m interested in reading it. Heck. I spend… As somebody who has feet in both Houses, although not Slytherin, admittedly. Just the good Houses: Hufflepuff and Gryffindor.
Kat: Whoa, Eric! Whoa.
Eric: But no, I get it. I don’t have any House prejudice. No.
Eric: So that’s super exciting. We’ll ask you more about your book, I think, at the close of the episode. Yes. And it’s not my turn.
Rosie: [laughs] In the meantime, we need to encourage you all to go […] read Half Blood Prince Chapter 13, which is “The Secret Riddle.” That is the chapter we will be discussing this week so make sure you have read it before this episode progresses.
Eric: I love the book at this point. Each chapter that exists in this part of the book is just amazing and contains a lot of hardy and rich detail. Speaking of [which], the previous chapter, which we discussed on last week’s Alohomora! episode, Chapter 12, got some feedback through our website and our forums and all of those channels, which we relate to you at the end of each show. And some of those comments, now, have been sourced. Basically, there were a number of discussion threads that came out of last week’s talk, and I have picked some of the threads up, and I want to hear our thoughts on them. So the first comment from last week’s discussion comes from Casey L., who says,
“Can I ask why Harry thinks at this point that McGonagall ‘did not invite confidences’? She does seem strict but far from closed off from her students.”
And then here'[re] some examples:
“In Sorcerer’s Stone, she drops that hint to Harry about his father being a good [Q]uidditch player. In this book, she encourages Neville by bringing up his grandmother and Charms. In Chamber of Secrets, when Harry and Ron lie to her about going to the [h]ospital [w]ing to see Hermione, she’s immediately sympathetic, and those are just a couple [of] examples that we’ve seen. Just in the last book, Order of the Phoenix, after Dumbledore has left, and Harry sees that planted vision of Sirius and Voldemort, the first person he thinks of going to is McGonagall, and he’s stunned that she isn’t there. [So] what has changed from then [- Order of the Phoenix -] to now?”
When Harry does not confide in her about Draco immediately. What do you guys think?
Rosie: I don’t know if anything’s necessarily changed. I think he’s always been a bit hesitant to actually talk to her about his theories. He always assumes that she will not necessarily be listening to the bad stuff that he talks about, but he would go to her if he thought he had enough proof, perhaps.
Eric: So you’re saying [that] it’s more the content of what he has to divulge that is making him a little hesitant?
Rosie: Yeah. I think so. She’s not the kind of person [who] has blind faith. She likes reason, and she does have some emotional qualities with that list there, all very emotional things. But without that emotional backstory for this particular event, I think he would need to have more proof to his theory to get her to believe in him, and he knows that, so that’s why he doesn’t go to her.
Eric: Right. So his hesitation is basically like, “She’s another Hermione who’s going to say, ‘There'[re] holes in your thought process.'” He’s not going based on evidence about this whole Draco thing. He’s obsessed with it, and it’s detrimental.
Rosie: It’s a gut feeling.
Eric: Yeah, it’s a gut feeling the whole way, so that may be why.
Kat: Well, and neither of those characters – Hermione [n]or McGonagall – [is] really [a] gut-[follower], so…
Eric: That’s a good point. That’s very interesting. And when he does bring it up to McGonagall, she does… First of all, she reminds him that that’s a heck of an accusation to levy against another student, which it is. Even though he’s right, it is. It’s just happenstance that he’s right. But anyway, I thought that was an interesting discussion there to have briefly. Now we heard a follow-up comment from the terrible, terrible thing that happened in last week’s chapter from SlytherinKnight, who says,
“How is Katie Bell alive?!?! I mean, I know that she didn’t really touch the necklace, only through a tiny hole in her glove that made it so the curse on the necklace didn’t kill her. But what would have happened if Katie had died? I’ve been wondering this for a couple of days since I reread the chapter before the episode came out. How would […] Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows have been different if Katie had died from the necklace? Would Dumbledore have stepped up and had an investigation into the incident, or would Katie’s death [have] just been another sacrifice for Dumbledore’s grand plan, [i.e.,] ‘the [g]reater [g]ood’? Dumbledore knows that Draco is trying to kill him, thanks to Snape, and he knows that Draco is most likely behind what happened to Katie.”
Melinda: That is so irresponsible of Dumbledore, though, knowing all of this and letting Draco loose. I got really cross with Dumbledore in Book 6, actually, because he just becomes incredibly cavalier with other people’s lives.
Eric: He does, doesn’t he?
Melinda: And of course he would have had to have held an investigation over it, and the fact that there wasn’t one anyway is a testament to how mad the wizarding world is at times.
Kat: Yeah, he’s pretty terrible in this book just for the fact that he does let Draco go on for so long.
Eric: Yeah, the trail of destruction that Draco leaves [laughs] in his attempts to kill him… It’s weird because it’s all hidden behind the fact that Snape will die if he moves forward, acts in a way that’s against Draco. I think the Unbreakable Vow is quite restrictive on both Snape and Dumbledore’s actions in this book, so there is that flaw where people like Katie Bell are turning up nearly dead, heavily cursed, but I’m not quite sure what can be done because the second that Dumbledore even would move to stop Draco, that’s when Snape’s Unbreakable Vow… the terms that say “If he’s going to fail, you have to step in,” become important, and Snape would almost immediately have to kill Dumbledore if Dumbledore tried to apprehend Draco about his crimes.
Kat: I do think that no matter what happened, we were going to end up at the same place. Because of what you just said, because of the Unbreakable Vow. Unfortunately, Snape was going to end up killing Dumbledore no matter what happened.
Eric: But in this case, Harry just wouldn’t have learned as much before his death.
Kat: I don’t know if it necessarily would have been a whole lot sooner. I think that probably if Katie had passed away, there would have been an investigation, [but] what would they have found out? Dumbledore would have covered it up.
Eric: Yeah, I think that’s probably exactly right. People like McGonagall are not being told of this whole thing. I mean, Dumbledore very clearly knows what Draco is going to be doing this whole school year. And he doesn’t seem to alert his staff to it. We see him in this coming chapter just bury the information. But anyway, back to the comments, there was a great discussion about how, in Chamber of Secrets, the school actually closed for a year after who we had later learned to be Myrtle died, and some very interesting differences were pointed out by people like HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis. They say,
“The difference between the two examples is that in CoS they didn’t know what attacked the students. So closing the school because the place is unsafe would be common sense. If Katie had died, Dumbledore knew who was responsible. Closing the school would have worked to make sure that no other students were harmed, but then Draco would have been sent home, too[, m]aking his mission more difficult.
“I think instead of closing the school Dumbledore would have grabbed Draco and brought him and Snape to a safe place. To make sure that both of them are safe from Voldemort’s revenge and from the Unbreakable Vow and make sure that his info on the Horcruxes […] is not lost, Dumbledore would have crammed all the relevant facts into a thought-thread and the thought-thread into a flask and the flask in Snape’s hand to bring […] to Harry. Draco would get to kill Dumbledore, and if he doesn’t do it, Snape can.”
So I think that’s a little bit of an implausible trail end of just trying not to die, but at the same time, it was a good point about Moaning Myrtle, where closing the school was a drastic measure to protect anyone when you didn’t know what was causing the attacks.
Kat: That comment was so a “leaf on the branch and the branch on the tree and the tree in a hole and the hole in the ground” moment.
Eric: Right. You’ve got to take the memory here. Because Harry needs the learning, is the other thing. I mean, we were just talking about this, but Harry needs to know about the Horcruxes, and Dumbledore claims to not know for sure until they all reach that conclusion after witnessing Slughorn’s proper memory, but…
Rosie: But does Dumbledore need to be alive for him to do that learning?
Eric: Yeah, basically.
Rosie: Could Dumbledore’s portrait have given all of that learning to Harry as well?
Kat: Not all of it. Because I’m not sure… I’ve always wondered… No, that can’t be true. I don’t know if they’d be able to go into all the memories if…
Rosie: Yeah. Dumbledore himself wouldn’t have been able to travel into the memories. But could Dumbledore’s portrait have said, “Harry, take that flask over there and pour it into the Pensieve. Go […] have a look around. Then come out and talk to me”?
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Rosie: It could happen.
Eric: It’s possible. I mean, you just don’t know what kind of backup plan Dumbledore… I mean, Dumbledore found out pretty much at the beginning of this year that he was targeted by Voldemort and [that] Voldemort is pretty much going to succeed. He resigned his own self to die by the end of the year, and it’s shocking to think that the learning wouldn’t be available if Draco had, by some mishap, actually succeeded sooner than he does.
Rosie: See, Dumbledore and I have issues, and just… This is only going to get worse as this book progresses. But this whole idea that he’s being so cavalier with Katie’s attack and being so cavalier with not preparing enough and being arrogant, that he thinks that Draco couldn’t kill him earlier than he has planned. And if he had been killed earlier, there would be a lot of issues going on in the wizarding world because he hasn’t given enough information away. He’s still doing the same thing.
Eric: Ain’t nobody getting to that cave without Dumbledore. [laughs] Nobody is able to get in there without him.
Rosie: I don’t think he knows about the cave yet. I think he hasn’t quite worked that out yet, and that’s why it takes him so long to go […] find that locket. But there is a lot of information that he could still be giving, that he’s still not quite saying enough. And as we’ll see in this chapter, he’s still being that “Oh, I’ll tell you about that later, Harry” when he should just tell him now! [laughs]
Eric: Tell him now!
Melinda: I agree, I agree! He’s so controlling and so almost Machiavellian in the way that he will reveal information. As you said, it’s so arrogant. I have a lot of bees in my bonnet about a lot of Dumbledore’s behavior over the years that… How many children would have been hurt before Dumbledore decided, actually, to be honest and upfront? How many children would it have taken before he perhaps realized that his plan wasn’t working to the best of its ability?
Kat: A lot.
Melinda: He got lucky that Katie didn’t die; that was dumb luck that she didn’t pick it up with her hand.
Rosie: Definitely. And then with Ron as well later on. It’s just…
Eric: Gosh, Harry would have never forgiven Dumbledore. [laughs]
Rosie: Yeah, exactly. What would have happened if Ron had actually died?
Eric: But we’ll get to that later.
Kat: Oh, boy.
Eric: Let’s talk about a lighter subject. Hufflepug brought up a discussion that was on the last episode of Alohomora! about spell writing, which was a fun bit of last week’s episode. I listened, and I really liked it. Hufflepug says,
“I just want to carry on the spell writing conversation because it’s so interesting and mysterious. Why is Latin such a magical language? Do you think in other cultures their respective classical languages are what they use for magic? Would a wizard/witch in China use Latin for spells? Were the [a]ncient Romans so powerful because they were a big society of wizards and witches, and that’s why they use Latin? If you try really hard, could you write a spell in English or any other language? Do you truly create spells, or do you experiment to discover ones that do exist but have just never been used? Obviously these questions are unanswerable in the canon, but I just want to see what your best fanfiction [sic] minds have to say about it.”
Eric: So Kat, you were not on this episode last week. Melinda, you were not. I was not. What do we think? And Rosie as well, but I think you already said your bit, too, last week. But what do we think about where spells come from? The spells that are clearly… wizards are being credited as inventing them. Snape in the last chapter was [the] Levicorpus [jinx] and Muffliato [Charm].
Kat: I am going to equate this to novels and movies and pretty much everything else in the world. Inspiration comes from everywhere, and I feel like there are very few things in the world that are actually new, so I’m not sure that anybody ever really invents something that’s totally brand new and different and amazing. I think that everything comes from everywhere else.
Melinda: I would agree with that.
Kat: That is a very roundabout answer to the question, but that’s what I’m sticking to.
Melinda: Yeah, no, I think, as far as the language thing goes, it makes absolute sense that Latin would be the language because it’s an old language; it’s the original language. Magic must surely predate language, certainly the terms that we would know as, so I would fully expect that in Chinese culture, it would be in the ancient version of Chinese and so on. And as far as magic not being something people could create, spells not being creatable, that also makes sense in terms of the raw ingredients of that, that you have to find a way to put them together. So like chemistry. Obviously, all the elements have always existed, but you have to combine them in a certain way to create the chemical reaction. This is fact. In my fan fiction canon, that’s how spells are created. It’s just recombining old elements to create a new thing.
Eric: Hufflepuffskein said it best in a comment that I’m going to read here. [They] really took the two chains of thought and merged them. They said,
“I love this topic too and was really intrigued with Jessica[‘s] and Rosie’s thoughts about putting combos of words out into the ‘magical universe’ and seeing what you get back until you get back what you want.”
“I would call Jessica’s theory of spell creation the ‘potentiality’ theory, whereby […] one experiments and ‘discovers’ the potential that is already out there in the ‘magical universe’ and creates or determines the words that harness that potentiality. I suggest that Rosie’s option is the ‘agency’ theory. Perhaps instead of an all-encompassing and already full[y] intact potentiality of magic, new magic or new spells are produced through the agency of the magical individuals who attempt creation. So Snape, for example, finds words that make sense to him to create a desired effect ([such as] levitating a body), and through the magical power as part of his genetic […] ability can add potential to the ‘magical universe’ that, once created, other wizards can tap into if they know the right words […]. SO his scratching out words in his textbook [- as seen in the chapter -] may reflect his search for the right words that the universe needs to ‘hear’ to unlock the magic potential he is trying to use, or his search may be a more agentive personal search for the exact physical, emotional, and sensory thing he wants to do and how he wants it to unfold magically.”
Rosie: Can we give Hufflepuffskein a PhD in Magical Theor[y]?
Melinda: Yes, yes, I want to go to that magic school.
Eric: PhD achieved.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Melinda: I want to [unintelligible].
Eric: It’s a bit like… This theory reminds me of what J.K. Rowling herself said about potions, where, in addition to the magical ingredients that Muggles just can’t procure, there is some form of wand-waving that is required in all potion-making. So Muggles… The question I think we doted on for a while is whether or not Muggles could make potions if they had the ingredients set before them. But Jo just said, “No, it takes a person with magical blood to wave a wand [to] make it actually a magical potion.” So for me, it’s like spells in that way, where a magical person has to mutter these words, has to give energy and power into these words and pull them out of the aether in order to make them into a thing.
Kat: So potions without magic [are] soup. And poisonous.
Eric: And “dangerous soup,” too. I don’t remember what the exact quote was, but she said it can kill people.
Kat: Right. And so that would make spells without magic…
Rosie: Just words.
Eric: Gibberish. Going back to Latin, though… and this was one of my favorite parts about last week’s discussion, but SnapeCracklePop expands this line of thinking.
Rosie: [laughs] That’s a brilliant name.
Eric: I love our users’ usernames.
“Because Latin is so ancient, it makes sense to me that it would somehow have inherent magical properties. Latin wasn’t one of the first languages, though…”
I wonder if that’s true.
“… so I wonder if the wizarding world had a hand in the development of Latin (as it started becoming a standard language). My theory is that it was a way of bridging the gap between even older [M]uggle and wizard languages so that wizards didn’t have to learn multiple languages. Latin was the best of both worlds [-] it incorporated the magical properties of more ancient magical language(s) while being a universal language across a growing empire of [M]uggles and wizards.”
So get this: When [a] bunch of Greeks or Romans or ancient people are sitting down, making the Latin language, half of them or more than half are wizards, and they’re able to create root words and root phrases and prefixes and suffixes that already have something to do with evoking magic. What do you guys think? [laughs]
Melinda: I really love this idea, but only because – and sorry to get a bit theological – later we see the church had quite the monopoly on Latin, and I quite like the idea that they’ve tried to steal this language from wizards to use their magical power. And they insert it into the church.
Kat: I think Jo would really like that theory.
Melinda: I love that theory. That theory made me go a bit tingly. Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.
Rosie: [unintelligible] If I can go on that train again.
Kat: Of course. Always.
Rosie: So if we put down Harry Potter for a second… sorry, everyone, but trust me.
Eric: I would, Rosie, but it’s glued to my hand. I did this a long time ago. It’s not pleasant.
Rosie: Well, at least close the book. It’s fine.
Eric: All right.
Rosie: What is the magical word that you would use if were going to cast a spell. Just from general knowledge.
Eric: What do you mean? English words or…?
Rosie: Just any word that you think is a very magical word that you’re going to use as your spellcasting word.
Rosie: Exactly, perfect. Good. Okay. So abracadabra is a Latin word. It is from late Latin, and it is used as a healing charm or a magical spell, and it’s from… the definition of it comes from about the sixteenth century. But the origins of it come from before Latin, from Aramaic and Hebrew terms for after kedaverar, which is getting closer to Avada Kedavra.
Kat: Right, “dead body.” I heard “cadaver.” I heard that in there.
Rosie: Yes. But the original Aramaic or Hebrew are things that are like “what has said has come to pass.” Something like that. So there’s definitely older-than-Latin words in there that form Latin, which could form this magical language and suggest – especially with Avada Kedavra as our main Killing Curse [incantation] – that magic definitely predates Latin and has possibly been used to form it. So I really like that theory.
Eric: Gosh. What if I had said “Open Sesame”? Now do what you just said but with “Open sesame.”
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Rosie: I can’t.
Eric: No, okay. All right. Yeah, that’s really cool.
Kat: And why aren’t you in Ravenclaw, young lady? I’m just kidding. I know why.
Rosie: Because Hufflepuffs have more fun.
Eric: Because she’s with me. Hufflepuffs have more fun. But that… there were, again, a lot of comments. And we’re always thrilled to receive such great comments on our discussion. Those were just the ones that I Summoned for this week’s discussion, but you can check them all out, as always, infinitely, until the Internet dies, over on our forums and our website, alohomora.mugglenet.com.
Kat: But before we get into the chapter, we’re going to go into our Podcast Question of the Week responses from last week. So I was listening to the episode, and I was like, “Okay, what’s the question going to be? What’s it going to be?” Because sometimes, we pick one out of left field or it’s something that we’ve talked about but didn’t really touch on a lot. This one, I was like, “Whoa, love it.” It’s a really big question. It is a very big one. So to remind everybody of the question, “With her usual air of mystery, Rowling has previously spoken of plot points that were moved from Chamber of Secrets to Half-Blood Prince, evading a definitive explanation of exactly what those plot points were. What do you think Rowling removed from Book 2 and placed in Book 6? Was it Horcruxes? Was it something else? Was the ring composition of the books a result of these readjustments, or did the changes in story better serve an intentional attempt at ring composition by Rowling?” That’s a big question. We had a lot of amazing responses. I could spend four hours talking about this, but I picked, I think, some very good ones here. So our first one is from Casey L. I think the picture was a girl, so I’m going to say “she says.” If not – and you’re a man – I apologize. It says,
“I wonder if it’s not necessarily the [H]orcruxes themselves but more information about some of the objects that were used as [H]orcruxes the locket, the cup and the diadem. We learn much of what we know about the history of Hogwarts in Chamber of Secrets [-] we learn that the sorting hat and the sword both belonged to Godric Gryffindor, and we learn that the Chamber of Secrets, built by Salazar Slytherin, is indeed real. It seems possible to me that J.K. Rowling could have considered putting even more about the founders in Chamber as well and then decided those details were […] superfluous to the story at that point, unless she planned on dropping the information on the [H]orcruxes, too. Given these books seem (ideally) geared [toward] a younger audience than the later ones, that might have made for too heavy of a story so early on.”
Rosie: I agree. There’s a lot of detail that could have been given about the founders in that book that would have just been boring history to a 12-year-old, so…
Eric: No, I remember loving the stuff about the founders in Book 2, but I’m sure, if there were any more of it – like a page more of it – I would have found it boring.
Kat: See, the problem with this comment is that they assume that only 12-year-olds are reading the book.
Eric: Yeah, that’s flawed, but I think you can just point out…
Rosie: But at the time, 12-year-olds were the ones [who] meant to be reading the books. They didn’t actually expect adults to be reading them. It was before the hype. The Chamber of Secrets, at least.
Melinda: Yeah, that’s true. I don’t know how it works with the US copies, but in the UK copies, there are little testam[o]n[ial]s – like 9-, 10-, 11-, even 12-year-olds – based on Book 1. So it’s very much geared, certainly in the UK, toward that pre-way audience.
Kat: Really? They have testimonials from young children?
Melinda: Yeah, tiny…
Rosie: The early ones.
Melinda: Yeah, little paragraphs of people going, “I thought this was the best book ever!” And we were all thinking, “Yeah, you’re right. It is.”
[Kat and Rosie laughs]
Eric: Except they don’t have chapter images or table of contents or anything that we love.
Kat: That’s because you’re stupid Eric!
Melinda: We’re all about the words. We don’t need anything else.
Rosie: But things like chapter art, I would have thought, would be more geared toward a young audience. So it’s interesting that they have those in the American books.
Kat: Americans are stupid.
Kat: It’s okay. We’ve figured it out.
Eric: Well, I’m going to be talking about that later on too.
Kat: Oh, excellent. Okay, so our next comment here comes from SpinnersEnd. It says,
“I think one of the major points that was moved from book 2 to book 6 was Ginny. Yes, she is Ron’s sister, but really, that’s hardly motivation for Harry to put not only his life [but also] the lives of his friends at risk. I think CoS would have been a great point at which to introduce Ginny as a much more prominent character. She and Harry could have built a friendship […] that would have given her more reason to show up in books 3, 4 and 5 (instead of dumping her into book 6).”
And a follow-up from Luna LoveDuck…
Kat: Interesting. It’s cute. Quack.
[Eric and Kat laugh]
“Another thing I love that I think proves that circle theory was intentional: These really are [the] books that are all about Ginny.”
She’s talking about Chamber and Half-Blood, obviously.
“Not just Ginny but Harry’s connection to her and the similar situations they go through together [as well]. Book 2: Ginny misplaces her trust in a book that betrays her. Book 6: Harry misplaces his trust in a book that betrays him. Ginny in Chamber is dealing with her feelings for Harry, and Harry in Half[-]Blood is dealing with his feelings for Ginny. I love the development of their relationship over the course of the series. I think that this arc and the years in between really give their partnership a solid foundation, and it mirrors the way that feelings for friends can emerge over time based on shared experiences. Although I agree with Michael about all the Ginny/Harry moments (I smash my Thor cup and want “Another”!), I think that that this analysis of the ring structure makes it clear that JKR intended to have Ginny most prevalent in books 2 and 6. Yay, nerdy analysis!”
Eric: I like that.
Rosie: [laughs] Yes, very good.
Eric: Yeah, there was an interesting point. I think it was brought up by our guest Jessica last week, but she said, “Yeah, the natural thought for a writer who’s not planning a seven-book series out is, if something doesn’t make it to Book 2, you put it in Book 3.” But there'[re] so many things that went from [Book] 2 to [Book] 6. Perhaps too many to be a coincidence.
Kat: All right, so our last comment here comes from Phoenix. It says,
“Here’s a provocative question on ring composition.”
Now, this is a big one, so put your hats on, kids.
“I am a big fan of the ring composition theory (especially since I had been searching for [these] kind[s] of connections even before I knew it had a fancy name). But I sometimes wonder whether it is actually possible to determine that it is a real pattern and not a product of confirmation bias – i.e. a bunch of connections we notice because we already believe in them while ignoring any connections that don’t fit the theory. Of course, I can see all those connections between [B]ooks 1 and 7, 2 and 6 and so on (and I love them!). But aren’t there connections between any two books? It is easy to single out pairs and find connections between them, but what about all those connections between other pairs that we just never focus on? Just to pick a few random examples: the [C]hamber of [S]ecrets is visited in [B]ooks 2 and 7, not 2 and 6 or 1 and 7. We see Little Hangleton in [B]ooks 4 and 6. Gilderoy Lockhart has an appearance in [B]ooks 2 and 5. Nobody thinks of these connections as particularly interesting, and they aren’t, but that’s mainly because they don’t fit the ring composition theory. If we want to show that ring composition is a real thing, wouldn’t we have to show that these connections don’t only exist (which they clearly do) but also that they significantly outnumber the connections between other pairs of books?”
Eric: Yeah, this is great.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, you can’t just state your point. You have to eliminate all other possible examples. But I think, to answer the first part of the question about can we prove this, no, not unless J.K. Rowling endorses ring theory and says, “This is what I was using.”
Kat: Oh, Jo, do that.
Eric: But she hasn’t. And I think she’s smart not to…
Kat: Yeah, of course she is.
Eric: … but I think that that’s the one way you’re going to get the real naysayers to go away and the subscribers to… I mean, my mind was blown. I’ve always tried to keep an open mind, and I don’t know enough about ring theory to really be like, “Oh, absolutely,” and start informing my opinions about characters based on their predetermined arcs as a result of ring theory. I don’t get that into it. But I will say, “Every time I’ve heard of ring theory and every time we talk about it, it blows my mind, some of these parallels that can be drawn.” But as Phoenix points out, there are those occasional other coincidences or other recurrences that happen outside of the normal theory, and so I don’t know. I just think at some point for me, it’s just good storytelling.
Rosie: Yeah, I think for ring theory to be effective, it needs to be complemented with details that do occur in just general world building. So visiting Little Hangleton is not a very important thing. Gilderoy Lockhart – sorry – is not a very important thing. But they are details that flesh out the world and make it a real place. Lockhart’s reappearance in [Book] 5 is quite a nice, funny interlude as well, and it’s kind of a “Well, we’re in a hospital. We need a bit of cheering up. Who[m] do we know [who] is probably already here? Oh, it’s Gilderoy Lockhart.”
Eric: Lockhart is the key to the whole series, Rosie. You do remember that from your readthroughs of [Book] 7, right?
Rosie: Sure, yeah.
Eric: It’s very significant that he’s in [Book] 5.
Rosie: Yeah. [laughs] But I think that’s the thing, is that you need to have details to link all books together. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a series. But that doesn’t discount the idea that there are some major plot points that are clearly paralleling each other in [Books] 1 and 7, [Books] 2 and 6, and so on, so on. Maybe it’s more like Olympic rings than just rings beside each other. They’re interlaced a bit more, but they are still rings.
Eric: I like that.
Kat: I like that. I like the Olympic rings theory.
Eric: I like that a lot.
Kat: I totally dig…
Eric: Oh, gosh, as if you could make ring theory even grander. Like, “Oh yeah, it’s the Olympic ring theory.”
Kat: No, it’s brilliant because I mean, the American edition books all – the later ones – have a color theme. So I mean, I’m already picturing it. It’s perfect.
Rosie: Okay, so we’re making that T-shirt, then. [laughs]
Kat: Yep, it’s perfect. I love it.
Eric: I subscribe to Olympic ring theory.
Kat: That’s right. It’s brilliant.
Rosie: We need a more magical name for it.
Eric: Just have them all.
Kat: Right, we do.
Eric: Maybe make the Olympic rings but then give them all stands like they’re Quidditch hoops. That would be a cool shirt.
Rosie: That would be good.
Kat: So there it is. Th[ose] [were] our Podcast Question of the Week responses from last week. There are tons more. Like, a hundred more. So go check them out at alohomora.mugglenet.com and join in the conversation because there’s, like, 400 comments every week now.
Rosie: It’s amazing.
Kat: And we love to read them, so keep it coming, keep it coming, please, really.
Rosie: And also thank you, Michael, for rewriting that question and making it sound very cohesive.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Kat: Oh, it sounded like you. It was very eloquent.
Rosie: Yeah? Oh, okay, good. Well, that’s Michael. He gets credit. [laughs]
Eric: Michael was doing his best British impression.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]0>
Kat: Doesn’t take much for Michael to do a British impression.
Rosie: And speaking of Michael’s impressions, it’s time for this week’s chapter.
[Half-Blood Prince Chapter 13 intro begins]
Dumbledore: How do you do, Tom? Chapter 13.
Tom: I can make things move without touching them. Prove it. I can make bad things happen to people who are annoying. Tell the truth. I can make them hurt if I want to.
Dumbledore: “The Secret Riddle.”
Tom: I knew I was different. I can speak to snakes. I knew I was special. They find me. Always They whisper to me. I knew there was something.
[Half-Blood Prince Chapter 13 intro ends]
Rosie: So to start this week’s chapter discussion, let’s give you a quick summary of what happens in this particular chapter. Following on from the traumatic incident on the unpatrolled path between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, Katie Bell has been sent off to St. Mungo’s, thankfully still alive. The whole school now knows of the attack, obviously, but very few know that Katie was not actually the intended target. Among those that do know are Harry, Hermione, and Ron, of course, and Harry is still convinced that Malfoy was involved but nobody else believes him. His one hope is that Dumbledore will actually listen, but he just sweeps it under the rug and focuses instead on our venture off into another interlude in the past. So we’re going to skip over the Malfoy stuff at the beginning of this chapter because it’s very brief and it’s just repeating the same old thing. The same old, same old over again. But we do have a very quick recap of what we’ve learned in our previous Pensieve incidents with Dumbledore. And it’s almost like saying that, “This backstory is important. Don’t forget it! We’ve only just learned it, but here it is again, just in case.” And I thought it was quite interesting that Jo is particularly picking out these points and making us know that we are learning something here. And it’s not just Harry that’s learning, it’s us that’s learning as well. And she just gives us even this little bit of backstory about Merope in London and how she has been scammed out of the money that would have helped her to survive when Caractacus Burke only gives twelve pounds… was it twelve pounds? No, it’s ten pounds.
Kat: Ten Galleons.
Rosie: Ten Galleons! That’s why I got it wrong. Ten Gallons even! Sorry, Muggle head on there rather than wizarding one.
Kat: No, I thought your book was different than mine. I was going to be like, “Oh, oh, oh!”
Rosie: No, it’s definitely Galleons. [laughs]
Kat: Yeah, it’s just you. Got it.
Melinda: Ten Gallons is like fifty pounds or less?
Rosie: Yeah. But that still wouldn’t last long if it’s the only item you’ve got. [laughs]
Melinda: No, that’s not a lot of money at all. Not even back then.
Melinda: Oh, hang on. No, wait. What year would this have been? The 1920s?
Kat: The ’20s.
Rosie: Yeah, it would have been quite a lot.
Melinda: Yeah, fifty pounds in the 1920s would have been…
Kat: Although, considering that he says that it was near priceless, it’s not very much.
Melinda: Well, comparatively, no, but it wouldn’t have been an insufficient amount.
Rosie: No. But I don’t think she’s… when he bought the necklace from her, I’m thinking that she’s already not necessarily almost approaching full term. So she’s already in London, she’s already…
Eric: Well, he says she’s far along, pretty far along.
Rosie: Yeah? Okay.
Eric: And we know how far that money gets her. It gets her to the door of an orphanage and not much further.
Eric and Rosie: Yeah.
Rosie: And especially considering she’s had no experience of almost looking after herself in the real world; she’s only ever been inside that hovel with her family. She’s got really no chance at all. And it’s a really nice thing that we actually see Harry being furious and really standing up for the weak here, even if it is the mother of Tom Riddle and it’s just a horrific situation.
Eric: What does Dumbledore mean behind that? He’s like, “Harry, don’t tell me you are defending… are you feeling sorry for Voldemort’s mother?”
Eric: He doesn’t even call her Merope Gaunt. He says, “Are you feeling sorry for Voldemort’s mom?” [laughs]
Kat: No, he says, “Could you possibly be feeling sorry for Lord Voldemort?” He doesn’t mention the mother.
Eric: Oh, okay. Well, still, “Could you, Harry? Could you be feeling sorry for Voldemort right now?”
Kat: Are we? I as a reader am feeling bad for him.
Kat: The smallest possible amount.
Eric: Before we meet him, yeah. A little bit before we meet him, yeah.
Rosie: This is the very first time really that Tom Riddle has been… well, that Voldemort has been humanized for us. We had Tom Riddle being humanized and then villainized in Chamber, but this one is going in the opposite direction. This is where we’re realizing that – hang on a second – Voldemort didn’t start off in a privileged lord of the manor kind of way. He really was abandoned at birth, albeit probably not by choice. But that’s actually quite an interesting thing as well, the idea of: Was it by choice? We’ve got this little bit of discussion that Merope was turning her back on magic, and if not then she was so love sick that she actually lost her power, and that’s a bit of a shout-out to Tonks there as well…
Eric: And possibly Ariana. Possibly Dumbledore’s sister as well.
Rosie: Oh, okay.
Kat: Dumbledore’s…? Oh, right, yeah! No, I just wanted to point out – just like you said – that this is, I think, a hint of what Tonks is going through.
Rosie: Yeah, so she’s losing her metamorphosis powers, with her brunette hair and all of that kind of thing going on. And I think it’s interesting that we’re seeing these mirroring characters in this book and eventually, obviously, this will then lead to Teddy being left at a very young age as well…
Rosie: … so let’s hope that history is slightly kinder on him than on…
Eric: Well, we’d like to believe that far more caring family members are with him.
Rosie: Yes, and of course we do see him snogging our Victoria or whoever she is.
Eric: Yeah, Victoire.
Rosie: So we know that things go better for him. [laughs]
Eric: Hang on. Time out. Teddy is raised by one of the other cousins, right? Like…
Kat: Well, Harry is his godfather.
Rosie: We’re not really clear… yeah.
Melinda: I thought Andromeda raised him?
Kat: That’s possible. I mean, I always assumed…
Melinda: I always assumed it would have been Andromeda but with a heavy Weasley influence, and a heavy Harry influence as well.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Melinda: Like Andromeda doing the moral guiding and the Weasleys and Harry doing the social guidance.
Kat: Yeah, I could see it being a village thing with Teddy.
Rosie: Yeah, because Harry is far too young to look after him on his own.
Kat: Yeah, at this point.
Melinda: Oh yeah, there’s no way Harry would. And obviously Harry surely would have gone with Hermione when she went to Australia to find her poor parents. He couldn’t have been around parenting at that particular time.
Kat: I hope so, if not then…
Melinda: I would go with Andromeda, I think. It makes sense for the grandmother to have raised him.
Eric: But getting back to Lord Voldemort real quickly, I hate to… we can’t overstate the obvious but in this chapter we find out that Voldemort is born. We find out his birthdate. We find out that he was in fact born, right? This evil wizard who is this great super villain of this whole entire series was born. He was but an infant. And we know when: It was New Year’s Eve of that year and it was in a very meager, somber place.
Kat: You just threw out my entire theory that he is just a figment of imagination. Thanks, man.
Eric: No, I meant to say he has supposedly obtained immortality, and I’m not sure if that’s conditional as to that you’ve always existed, but we know that he did not always exist, that he was born. This was a thing that just happened, too, in this orphanage. We now have the time and place and it does work to humanize Voldemort more that we know exactly where he started and we know what he was doing before he knew he was a wizard.
Eric: This whole chapter is great because you get to see him find out! It’s Harry’s “You’re a wizard, Harry” moment.
Rosie: To zoom in on the idea of it being New Year’s Eve as well and New Year’s Day, that idea of the year being reborn and Voldemort being born on that day and the potential of life, and also thinking about his adult life and the idea that he still constantly wants to be reborn and have that immortal life that will never need to end and then begin again. It’s very interesting, the parallels between Voldemort and the idea of the phoenix maybe on New Year’s Eve…
Rosie: Yeah, New Year’s is a really interesting day for him to be born.
Kat: That’s brilliant. I had never thought about the whole rebirth and the end of the year and all that. That’s brilliant.
Rosie: Birthdays are important in these books, we know…
Kat: Yes, they are.
Rosie: … Harry’s may be Jo’s birthday, [laughs] but there are some key events that happen on Halloween…
Eric: All the other ones are super significant.
Rosie: We should pay attention to dates that we know about. But to draw in that discussion that we were having about Andromeda, the idea of family care versus social care. We’ve got a lot of orphans in this book and in this book series. We’ve got Harry, obviously, who was raised by the Dursleys, we’ve got Teddy who will eventually hopefully be raised by Andromeda or whoever does actually…
Eric: I hope somebody raises him. I hope somebody is there for him.
Rosie: Well, we know he does. It’s all right.
Rosie: I guess we’ve got Sirius, who is an orphan by choice rather than by necessity.
Eric: Right at sixteen, I think.
Rosie: Yeah. Definitely not apart of his own real family.
Melinda: Are we going to take a moment of silence for Sirius?
Eric: Thank you. Thank you so much, Slytherin. Thank you for suggesting…
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Melinda: He’s my favorite.
Eric: Aww. He’s my favorite, Melinda. He’s my favorite.
Rosie: We still haven’t gotten over that chapter in that book.
Melinda: I’m so grateful I wasn’t a guest that week. It would have been awful.
Rosie: It was horrible. [laughs] But here we have an orphan who is what we perhaps consider a traditional orphan, however horrible that may be. Eric and I were discussing just before the show started the idea of a Dickensian orphan…
Rosie: … to bring it back to the Artful Dodger conversation that I was having last week and the idea of Oliver. Tom, here, is very much an Oliver. He is left in an orphanage that is perhaps underfunded; we don’t really know what its situation is, but it’s definitely not a happy place to be. And there is an issue between the differences of family care and social care and the outcomes that Jo presents us in this book. And I wanted to ask if this is perhaps the reason why Tom gets a very different experience of the introduction to the magical world than Harry does. Harry, as we know, gets hundreds and hundreds of letters and eventually manages to get Hagrid coming to visit. But Tom here seems to be getting a professor visiting straight away. Do you guys think that that’s the main reason? That you wouldn’t be able to simply take Tom out of an orphanage without anyone noticing and bringing him to Hogwarts, so they would need a professor there to explain what’s going on in whatever ways possible?
Melinda: No. As I understood it, all Muggle-borns or people without magical connections did have a professor go to see them. Harry would be an exception, in that case, because Petunia was well aware of the magical world, so Hagrid expresses great shock that Harry doesn’t know his heritage or his family or that he might even potentially be magical of any kind of way. Obviously, it’s expected for Harry to know, given that he’s Harry Potter…
Melinda: … but I’m sure I read somewhere else that Muggle-borns or… McGonagall particularly would go out and speak to the parents of Muggle-born children, so I think it was probably standardized and Harry is the exception in this instance because, obviously, Petunia has knowledge of the magical world and it would’ve been expected for her to have raised Harry with that knowledge, which obviously they didn’t.
Kat: Yeah, that sounds accurate to me. I vaguely remember that.
Eric: I do appreciate, though, all the means that Dumbledore takes to basically clear it and get Tom released to his custody, to Hogwarts custody, the red tape, the paper work which, what? It’s a blank piece of parchment? It’s kind of like psychic paper that he shows to Mrs. Cole…
Eric: … and she’s like, “Oh, that seems to be in order.” And he gets her drunk.
Rosie: So many Doctor Who references today, Eric. It’s good.
Kat: So many.
Eric: They’re so… I know, right?
Rosie: You’re really preparing for Britain. [laughs]
Eric: I’m really getting ready for it! I’m ready to come back! I hadn’t seen any before the last time I was there. So anyway… psychic paper. It’s totally that, by the way.
Eric: Dumbledore goes through great lengths to make sure that it’s above… what’s the phrase? I don’t want to say above board, but it’s on the table. It’s on paper, or people are…
Kat: On the up and up?
Eric: On the up and up. Thank you. Yeah.
Rosie: Just official. [laughs]
Eric: That works… for Tom Riddle to be released to him, and he doesn’t change the name of the school. I mean, no Muggle would ever… you can’t… maybe there’s some mention of it somewhere to satisfy any investigators that Hogwarts is…
Rosie: I’m sure they’ll have created a whole backstory for it.
Eric: Like a fake… it’s like Xavier’s Institute where it’s still a well-known charter school but fewer people know that it’s actually for mutants.
Eric: Maybe something like that. But he uses the school’s real name and he actually goes and approaches Mrs. Cole about this info. And there’s this delicacy, which I just love. I know we’re all hating on Dumbledore because of what he just did to Katie Bell, or allowed to happen, but the delicacy… he’s clearly prying information out of this woman…
Eric: … and she’s giving it willingly, but because he’s manipulating her into providing all of that feedback, all of that insight, and it’s really interesting to see the master, as it were, at work. And the master is not a Doctor Who reference. But yeah.
Rosie: [laughs] I have always wondered if there was Veritaserum or something in that gin.
Rosie: She seems to be very free and giving with all of this detail about this boy and…
Melinda: I’m not sure you need Veritaserum if you’ve got gin.
[Eric and Kat laugh]
Rosie: The Muggles’ own version of it.
Melinda: It really is.
Eric: Well, how did he know gin was her drink of choice? Let’s play that game. [laughs]
Melinda: Gin is quite a potent…
Rosie: Have we seen Dumbledore drinking his own gin at some point? Or Firewhiskey, I guess, rather than gin. I don’t think that…
Eric: Gin has a very distinct… I don’t like gin. [laughs] I do whiskey, but I don’t do gin.
Rosie: [laughs] But I think… didn’t we see him give gin to the Dursleys when he comes to pick up Harry?
Eric: Did we?
Kat: No, it was mulled mead.
Rosie: Mulled mead? Okay.
Eric: It’s a little bit more…
Melinda: Dumbledore is basically a pusher. He just comes into people’s lives and gets them drunk.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Kat: He’s a pusher – a sad, drug pusher.
Eric: Well, it’s the rules of polite society, right? Isn’t there bread also, or am I making that up now?
Kat: You’re making that up. Sorry.
Eric: Okay. All right. I’m also reading that part in Game of Thrones where the laws of hospitality apply. So there’s bread and…
Eric: But no… so going back to Dumbledore, he makes a lot of effort to make sure that this is on the up-and-up. And I think that’s really important. Alternately, he could just Memory Charm them or Confund them into thinking that Tom has really been there the whole time. Although, that may not have worked because Tom is such a notorious character there, they already know of the bad deeds and mysterious, strange happenings…
Kat: Well… and he’d have to do that to everybody in the orphanage. This is easier.
Rosie: Yeah. [laughs]
Melinda: Not just in the orphanage either, but possibly even in legal government and stuff. They would have been regulated.
Melinda: It would have gone all the way into various government departments.
Eric: Right, we’re not in Dickens orphanages. We’re in proper British orphanages where they keep records of each student.
Kat: Well, we think so.
Rosie: This is an orphanage, not a workhouse.
Melinda: Yeah, it’s post-World War I, so it would have been…
Eric: And the idea is that these boys would be up for adoption, right?
Eric: Like sort of fostered into families. So it needs to be on paper that he’s going somewhere. I will say it’s lucky that Dumbledore is the one who comes and finds this boy who turns out to be Lord Voldemort.
Eric: Like if McGonagall had come or any one of Hogwarts’ ambassadors… why was it Dumbledore?
Rosie: Yes. But we have to remember also that Dumbledore is just a professor at the moment. He’s not the head[master].
Rosie: As we know from Chamber of Secrets, he gets promoted… actually we know from this book that he gets promoted, after the events of Chamber and all that stuff.
Melinda: I wonder if that trip may have been some kind of trying to make up for his own behavior in the past. So he recognizes from descriptions of this child a tendency towards megalomania perhaps. So, I wonder how much…
Rosie: He does seem to know, yeah.
Melinda: … he was trying to save Tom from himself. Yeah.
Eric: And how much of that would he have known before he came there, though? Like to make sure he was the one who got to come. I mean, what I’m assuming is…
Melinda: Possibly enough. He knew about the things in the wardrobe. He knew enough to trick…
Eric: Well, did he know about the things in the wardrobe prior to coming, or was he playing a hunch based on the magic that he invokes to get those things to shake? If I were Harry at the end of this Pensieve scene, I would have been like, “So, what magic did you use to make those things shake?”
Eric: That he shouldn’t have had. Because that’s the kind of question I would have wanted to ask…
Rosie: See, this is a problematic chapter in some ways because Dumbledore seems to have a lot of information that he’s not telling us. For instance, does he actually know about Marvolo at this point? Because he gets all of this history about Tom from the people that work in the orphanage, and he actually goes and talks to Tom as well about his parentage and about the name Tom – all of that stuff we’ll get to in a minute. How much of his backstory does he already know? It’s very unclear… but he does seem to have this information, even though he’s still asking for it.
Melinda: Well, why wouldn’t he? Because he’s already been to Little Hangleton and seen Merope in a home situation.
Rosie: I don’t know if that’s actually happened.
Kat: No, no. Present moment Dumbledore in the 1920s hadn’t been to see Merope.
Eric: At that time.
Melinda: He would surely have been dead.
Rosie: He would have to have done… because Merope’s already dead.
Melinda: Yeah, because Merope’s dead.
Eric: No, no. Remember, he procured that memory from Bob Ogden.
Kat: No, that memory’s not his – that’s Bob Ogden’s.
Melinda: Oh, I see, it’s a borrowed memory. Of course.
Eric: That memory is Ogden’s memory, yeah. After Voldemort became who he became, Dumbledore took a personal interest in people who may have met his parents.
Rosie: But he already seems to have that personal interest in Tom by this point.
Eric: All he says is that Tom’s name was down, which we know as the quill that just happens to write the name of whoever there. So, there must have been some tracking because…
Rosie: Yeah, maybe it’s the intrigue then, that this magical boy has appeared out of nowhere that no one seemed to know any connection to.
Kat: Yes. I think this is the moment where that all starts for Dumbledore because Tom asks about his parents.
Kat: And Dumbledore says, “I’m sorry. I really don’t know.” But I think after this meeting Dumbledore finds out.
Kat: I’m betting that he digs into Tom a little bit.
Melinda: Oh God, that would make sense. Especially because he must recognize qualities in Tom that he’s seen in Gellert [Grindelwald] when he was getting to know him.
Eric: That should be very…
Melinda: That coldness.
Melinda: That desire for power.
Eric: Little Tom has all the makings of a sociopath.
Melinda: Oh, absolutely.
Kat: No, he does. You are not wrong.
Eric: It’s very textbook – very, very, very textbook.
Rosie: Speaking of, what has this eleven-year-old boy been told that he’s so afraid to be taken to the sanatorium? He’s terrified that Dumbledore is in fact a doctor and not just a professor. So what has he done? What has he faced that makes him think that he is going to be taken away and told that he’s crazy?
Kat: I think he’s probably been slapped around a bit, and… it’s so hard to say because he makes all these weird things happen and doesn’t know how to do it. So back in the ’20s, what else would they do besides think that you’re crazy?
Eric: Burn the witch!
Kat: Yeah, exactly.
Eric: Can we have a moment of silence for the bunny…
Rosie: Aww, bunny.
Eric: … that got hanged from the rafters? I mean…
Rosie: That’s just creepy. That’s horror movie stuff.
Kat: That is horror movie stuff.
Eric: Well, if you look at young serial killers – children who grow up to be serial killers – there’s a history of behavioral sciences of torturing animals, and in certain cases serial killers have collected trophies from their victims. And there’s just a number of other I don’t know key giveaways, I think, that have been planted here that Dumbledore seems a little bit ignorant of. He really, truly does, I think. I want him to investigate Riddle after – little Tom certainly after…
Rosie: He needs to read more Stephen King.
Eric: More than he does, but I think it’s very clear you have to believe. There’s a suspension of disbelief, I think, throughout the Harry Potter books. You have to believe that Dumbledore wasn’t as interested as he should have been, because he still allows Voldemort to grow into the most evil wizard ever. And Harry asks him and presses him this in this chapter, and he’s like, “No, I didn’t know,” but he should have. Those signs were there, and if Dumbledore really cared enough, I think he still would have shadowed Tom in Diagon Alley – shadowed him everywhere else that he possibly could have – because this boy is clearly… there’s enough to be said about giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but he has all the makings to be someone who is very evil.
Kat: Okay, I’m going to defend Dumbledore here, something that I don’t generally find the need to do…
Kat: … and say that why is it his responsibility?
Eric: Because he’s The Only One He Ever Feared. [laughs]
Kat: No. Uhuh. That’s not okay.
Eric: It’s using the future to inform the present. I know it’s flawed, but…
Kat: No, to inform the past.
Kat: I mean, that’s… personally I do think that… like I said, this was the moment where Dumbledore became interested in Tom and he found out more about him. How much could he actually find out at this point? I don’t know. The orphanage knows very little about him.
Kat: Tom is technically a nobody at this point.
Kat: He’s an eleven-year-old boy who has exceptional powers. What does that mean?
Eric: Well, there’s…
Kat: That’s nothing.
Eric: There’s something here – which since we’re talking about young Riddle – Tom himself found out about his true… about his parents. He used the…
Kat: No, he didn’t.
Eric: Yes, because he goes and kills his dad. He absolutely at some point…
Kat: Eric, that’s like four years from now.
Eric: But within the…. I’m saying…
Rosie: Yeah, it’s in the future. Yeah.
Eric: I’m trying to speak within the next four or five years. Voldemort is going to find out everything, more than Dumbledore ever does, and he’s going to go even further and find out things that you’re not ever supposed to know, like how to develop Horcruxes. Tom is a genius at finding hidden mysteries of the magical world of his own past, and I think Dumbledore, if he were really up to it, could have found out all that stuff.
Rosie: And there are clues in this chapter as well. Tom seems to have more control than regular magical children. Harry we see protecting himself and getting transported to the top of the roof after hiding behind bins and all that kind of thing. But Tom here has actual control over things he can do, so is he actually incredibly magically gifted as well as just searching for power in the future? Is there a good core talent here that will eventually turn him into the best however bad that will be the best evil wizard there has ever been?
Kat: I mean, obviously the Slytherin blood in him strengthens his magical powers…
Kat: … for sure, but obviously he’s talented. As Ollivander says, “He did great things – terrible, but great.”
Kat: I’m still not ready to let go of the fact that it’s not Dumbledore’s responsibility.
Rosie: No, but Dumbledore does have some issues still within this chapter. There are moments where he could have done things that he definitely does not.
Melinda: I think this is all to do with Grindelwald, I really do. I think he sees Grindelwald in young Tom, and it makes him less able to be the responsible adult he ought to be in this situation. I think he recognizes great genius and power in someone too young to know how to wield it properly, and I think he wants in a way to try and correct the mistakes of the past. But I think the sentimentality again…
Rosie: So you think he’s almost encouraging…
Melinda: Yeah. I think he would have quite happily let Tom have the run of stuff…
Kat: I don’t think so.
Melinda: … thinking he would be the guiding hand to maybe rectify the mistakes of the past.
Kat: No, because Ariana’s dead already at this point. Yes?
Kat: So I think he’s already turned a leaf. I think if anything, I’m not sure he would let Tom just move forward with it. I just think that this eleven-year-old kid would know history… if Dumbledore were to take the position that he needs to watch everybody closely who has extraordinary powers, you know how many kids that might be? Tom Riddle – sure, he’s an exceptional wizard. That doesn’t mean he’s the only one at Hogwarts that entire year that has some sort of control over his magical powers.
Eric: Well look, you’ve said…
Rosie: And we know of other exceptional magic.
Eric: That’s true.
Rosie: So we’ve seen Lily’s exceptional at Charms and Potions…
Eric: You’ve said that Dumbledore is not headmaster, which is true at that point…
Eric: And any teacher – like the educational institution he’s going to – teachers talk to each other, right?
Eric: And so there’s going to be a series of eyes on Tom…
Kat: Well… this is Dumbledore.
Rosie: And don’t forget that Slughorn does take an interest in Tom as well, and he doesn’t prevent anything bad from happening.
Kat: Exactly. Right. And he even knew about the Horcruxes…
Rosie: Yeah! He really could have done something.
Kat: So really, if this is…
Eric: If this is on anybody, it should be on…
Kat: If this is on anybody, it’s not…
Eric: I remember thinking when I first read this, I really loved Dumbledore because he gives Tom the individuality and the freedom that he wants. And this is something that – again, I feel like we mentioned this before – but adults in these books and all of these books talk to kids like other adults.
Eric: And one of the best things you can do to a child is treat them like… give them the time of discussion, give them the time of day…
Rosie: The respect.
Eric: Respect, there is that. And so when Tom Riddle says, “I want to go on my own to Diagon Alley,” he lets him do that. And while in retrospect, you can say Dumbledore’s totally careless [because] he should have seen this – I know I just said something very similar to that – he is in a way also giving Tom that freedom, and he’s still a great teacher in that he’s laying down the rules, right? He’s rubbing Tom’s face in these trophies and saying, “That’s not tolerated at Hogwarts.” And that’s all you need to do almost.
Rosie: But that’s not all he does. He does say, “[Thievery] isn’t tolerated at Hogwarts,” and all that kind of thing. But he also burns the wardrobe and he also kind of…
Rosie: … teases him about the name Tom. I think he says he has a glint in his eye when he sees Tom kind of seething at the name Tom. I can’t remember if that’s actually true or if that’s just me…
Eric: Yeah, I remember that. It’s like young Tom gets uncomfortable.
Kat: I don’t remember the gleam in the eye.
Rosie: It’s probably… yeah, it’s not the gleam in the eye, but there’s definitely a pointed comment about, “You don’t like your name?” And that’s not something that you would necessarily say to a kid that you’ve just met. It’s a very telling moment which may just be us as readers knowing what then happens with his name and Jo as an author really putting a pin in that moment that this will be a key point.
Eric: Even in this chapter Dumbledore diffuses it and says [that] he doesn’t like connection with anyone else in this world because he thinks he’s got that sense of entitlement.
Eric: But he later alludes to his…
Rosie: And Dumbledore just does all these things you would think a teacher wouldn’t normally do. Like you wouldn’t let Tom go off and explore a magical world for the first time on his own.
Eric: Well, right. Harry expects Dumbledore to refuse to use magic, but then he sets the wardrobe on fire. Why did he do that, though? Is it because he admires this boy like he admired Gellert? Or why does Dumbledore set the wardrobe on fire? It’s clearly to impress this boy, right?
Rosie: Seems to be. I think it’s almost like a show of strength. So Tom has already done his whole tale of the truth, the power and domination stuff. So by Dumbledore burning the wardrobe is like, “You think you’re scary, but you don’t know anything yet.”
Kat: Yeah. That’s what I was going to say. I think it’s Dumbledore being like, “Woah, slow your roll, kid.”
Rosie: Yeah. [laughs]
Kat: “You’re awesome and you’re powerful and you’re cool, but you’re 11; you’re not me. Chill. We’ll get there. We’ll get there.” But I actually – just talking about the whole where Dumbledore says, “You dislike the name Tom” – don’t find that odd.
Kat: No, because… this is super random, but I met a friend’s daughter for the first time not long ago, and just in discussion or whatever, she was… I forget exactly how it came up, but I basically had this conversation with her, and she was like, “I hate my name, meh, meh, meh,” and I’d known her – I don’t know – 20 minutes? So I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel it out of place.
Rosie: We’re both people [who] have shortened our names, so we can’t really talk. [laughs]
Kat: That’s true. That’s true. We have… that’s true. Although mine was given to me, though. I didn’t shorten it myself.
Rosie: Yeah, same.
Kat: Oh, all right.
Eric: What is Rosie the short form of?
Rosie: Rosalind. Very Shakespearean.
Eric: Oh, I love Rosalind. Oh, man.
Eric: That’s a great name.
Rosie: But I’ve been Rosie or Rose my entire life, so yeah, it’s… there are a lot of us around. So I can see why Tom would go there. A lot of people…
Eric: Well, that’s exactly what Tom says, right? “There'[re] so many Toms; it’s so common. There'[re] so many Toms.”
Rosie: But then why not just be Marvolo? There'[re] very few Marvolos.
[Melinda and Rosie laugh]
Kat: Oh, boy. Because that’s [a] horrid name.
Eric: Are you from the circus?
Kat: Yeah, I thought that was odd. A circus reference? Last thing you’d expect in Harry Potter.
Eric: Well, that’s a magical name.
Kat: One of my favorite moments in this whole sequence of Dumbledore and Tom when around that whole is when after Dumbledore tells him that he’s a wizard, and Tom has this moment. The quote says, “His legs were trembling. He stumbled forward and sat down on the bed again, staring at his hands, his head bowed as though in a prayer.” And I just can picture that so vividly. Like somebody getting the news that a family member is alive or that something that they’ve been waiting for their entire life, and it’s just… that is a really powerful moment to me and ooh, it gives me chills every time I read it.
Eric: It’s life affirming. It says that all of his suspicions of himself were true, that he’s not in fact crazy and imagining things, that there’s a purpose.
Rosie: And it’s the same as the, “You’re a wizard, Harry.” “You’re a what?” “You’re a wizard, Harry.” “You’re a what?” “You’re a wizard, Harry.” “You’re a what?” That moment.
Eric: Except Tom is more like, “I knew it. I knew I was special.” [laughs]
Kat: Yeah, his is more of a life affirming, as you were saying, and Harry’s is more of a “what?”
Eric and Kat: Say what?
Kat: Yeah, exactly. So it just gives me chills every time I read it.
Kat: It’s just so powerful.
Rosie: It’s very powerful.
Kat: And it speaks to, I think, the amount of power in the room, too, and the how you could cut it with a knife, how it’s very palpable in there right now.
Rosie: Yeah. The tension and then the relief. And it’s not a relief that the readers necessarily feel, but it’s definitely a relief for the character, which is interesting. We always get more tension because of it, which is – I think – a very hard thing to create, so…
Kat: This is probably one of the first moments that Tom actually felt like himself.
Rosie: Eh. One of the first moments that Tom felt that someone else confirmed who he was, yeah.
Kat: Sure. Yeah. No, that makes sense.
Rosie: But his love of power and the things that he has collected show that he has already tip-toed into that persona and it is starting to understand who he is, for good or for bad.
Eric: Is it ever revealed – I mean, I guess you can guess, but… – what happened in the cave?
Eric: Those two kids were never the same.
Rosie: Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask. So…
Eric: Never the same? Wow.
Rosie: We know that he collects items of very little value, very little importance, but of very big personal significance. And these are a yo-yo, a thimble, and a mouth organ, which I thought was quite interesting as a game, a craft item, and an art item. Whether that’s my little arts and schools project…
Eric: Let me talk briefly about American ignorance. The translators – I’ve complained before – starting in Book 5 gave up. They stopped. They assumed anybody who wasn’t intelligent enough to know the British terms just didn’t deserve to be reading the books. I need a definition of “mouth organ.” It’s “harmonica,” right?
Rosie: Yeah, “harmonica.”
Eric: We call it a harmonica, and for the love of… mouth…
Rosie: We call it a harmonica as well, but yeah, “mouth organ” is another word for it.
Eric: Yeah, I didn’t know that, and reading this, this was the most jarring thing in this chapter, to not know what it meant. It should be… you should inform… “mouth organ” makes sense, but it’s not… I mean, an organ is also a part of the body, so I didn’t know what it was that…
Rosie: It’s “organ” as in “piano organ.”
Eric: Yeah, right, but except it’s not… it’s also not… I mean, it plays through winds, so I guess it’s more like an organ than it is like…
Rosie: So there’s an organ in… yeah.
Eric: Yeah, okay… it makes sense. I hate it, though. I absolutely… ugh.
Kat: Okay, so these three things for me always symbolized a family. So a yo-yo would be…
Rosie: The kid.
Kat: … a childish plaything, an extracurricular thing.
Rosie: A mother and a father.
Kat: A thimble, mom. Mouth organ, maybe dad’s a musician.
Eric: Oh, gosh.
Kat: Or a grandfather or something of that nature.
Eric: So he’s taking other kids’ family away from them?
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Kat: Yeah. He is.
Rosie: Classic Voldemort.
Kat: It’s one thing that he’s never had.
Rosie: I would’ve thought [they’re] things that bring joy. A yo-yo is something you play with; a thimble, you’re using it to create something, which is pastime; a mouth organ, you’re creating music, which is, again, something to bring joy, so it’s taking away these kids’ hobbies. It’s taking away the things that would bring some joy into this existence, which has not so far been painted as a very pleasant one.
Eric: Tom, the human Dementor.
Rosie: Yeah. Exactly.
Eric: Sucking the joy from the world.
Rosie: He’s taking away the nice things. “I can make them hurt if I want to” is a horrible thing to say.
Kat: Pretty bad.
Eric: That’s [the Cruciatus Curse], right? I mean… [laughs]
Rosie: Pretty much.
Eric: He’s found a way to do it without knowing that word.
Kat: Yeah, he rocks at nonverbal. High five, Tom Riddle.
Eric: If you’re brooding enough, you sit by yourself in a room with your head against the wall long enough…
Kat: Oh, that’s all it takes is brooding?
Eric: Well, it’s certainly not schooling. They don’t teach that. I mean… well, I guess they do. They’re supposedly teaching nonverbal spells. Harry is just not learning any of it.
Kat: I guess that’s why Snape is so good at them. Ba-da-bum.
Eric: Yeah, Snape and Voldemort definitely have that same “I’m alone and miserable,” and they are more in tune with the wizarding world just in general about how magic works. It’s a bit of an odd coincidence there, I think.
Rosie: But I was wondering whether these items were connected to the cave incident or whether they are related to other things. We’ve obviously got the bunny incident as well that we were talking about just a second ago, which would not necessarily, again, be connected to these items, and thankfully, he didn’t keep a lucky rabbit’s foot or something from it. That would be horrible.
Eric: Yeah, he wanted one of the ears off the…
Kat: Oh, that would have been if Dumbledore hadn’t poked about that, then I would have been on your side, Eric.
Eric: Then you’re willing to jump in and be like, “Okay, Dumbledore.”
Kat: Yes, because then that means he would’ve cut the foot off the rabbit, so yes, I’d be on your side.
Eric: He might have encouraged it to fall off. He can encourage animals to do things.
Kat: I’m not sure if that’s possible.
Rosie: But this is the end of the discussion, really, about those items. But just to bring it back to that cave, and we know that something bad went down in that cave, and we know that those kids were never the same, and we obviously know that this cave later on is the cave that we visit where the Horcrux is hidden…
Eric: Something amazing had to happen in that cave, right? Voldemort is so fond of that cave that he puts the thing… I mean, yes, it’s a secluded space…
Rosie: It’s a cave full of Inferi as well.
Eric: Yeah, which he put there, presumably.
Rosie: Yeah, so what was already in this cave that is just…?
Kat: I’m not sure there’s already something in there. I feel as though…
Rosie: What did he do?
Kat: … the cave is probably the first place where Tom did something he was proud of, is what I think.
Melinda: I think that’s right. And also, it’s supposed to be quite inaccessible, isn’t it?
Melinda: So getting there would’ve been quite the impressive act of magic, and then opening the cave out into that place… for all we know, he could’ve pushed them in there and left them there for a couple of hours and stood on the other side of the wall listening to them scream.
Kat: Yeah, that’s true. Exactly.
Melinda: It would be very classic Voldemort to do that kind of thing.
Melinda: I mean, being locked inside a cave where no one else knows you are in the dark, of course they wouldn’t have been the same. And of course he would have realized after that that no one could stand against him, really.
Kat: No, I mean, it’s what it is.
Melinda: I don’t think he would have done anything extraordinary. I think the easiest and best way to ruin people is always to play on their fears, and as a human, you’re afraid of being trapped, and you’re afraid of the dark. He would have known that. And I think it would have been incredibly easy for him to lock them inside it for a while.
Rosie: Which is interesting because that would be a very magical thing to do. That door is a very magical door that he must have created himself.
Melinda: But who would ever believe them? This silly boy locked them inside a cave. No one would ever believe that in a million years, apart from, obviously, people in the magical world.
Rosie: And yet, odd things keep happening around Tom Riddle.
Eric [laughs] Remember that one time he disappeared from the ground when he was being chased, and then he reappeared on top of the kitchen? Remember that time?
Rosie: So we’ve had this whole trip down memory lane, and we’ve seen Tom wander off, almost, into Diagon Alley in search of his magical fortune, and he’s a very independent boy, and he doesn’t want any help, and he will do it his own way. And Dumbledore lets him. But Dumbledore does not let Harry venture off on his own, and he takes him back after the Pensieve and gives him a quick recap of everything that we’ve just learned, just in case we’ve missed any important details. And Harry actually does think on his own that these objects are important. As he’s leaving, he notices that the ring is gone from the table. We never really find out where Dumbledore put it, do we? We obviously see it again when it becomes part of the Hallows.
Kat: I know where it is.
Rosie: Where is it, Kat?
Kat: In the Snitch. I think it’s waiting for Harry.
Eric Not yet.
Kat: Yeah, why not?
Rosie: Well, he had to have put it in there before he dies.
Eric That’s true.
Kat: He had to hide it somewhere.
Melinda: Yeah, I think you’re right. It would make sense.
Rosie: So that part is already in play, the whole “I open at the close.”
Kat: Oh, absolutely it is. You kidding me? Yeah. Because if he already knows that he’s… he knows he’s going to die soon. It’s coming, he’s preparing, he’s prepping. Oh, yeah. It’s already in the Snitch. It’s hidden somewhere in the Snitch. Oh, yeah.
Eric But we also don’t see that Snitch flying around Dumbledore’s office. It’s never mentioned there. I forget when it’s mentioned that Dumbledore actually got that Snitch. It’s just in the end after the will that Dumbledore had it all along. But it’d be funny just to see a Snitch floating around in the background in one of these chapters in his office.
Kat: I mean, maybe there is one, and we’ve missed it, completely overlooked it.
Eric Yeah. There are a lot of flittering things in Dumbledore’s office.
Kat: There are.
Rosie: Yeah, it’s probably in a box somewhere on one of his shelves.
Melinda: Oh, it’s a shame. It would have been a nice thought to James to have it floating around and maybe have Dumbledore pluck it out of the air.
Kat: Oh, that’s cute. That’s true. That’s cute.
Melinda: It would’ve been adorable!
Rosie: But then Harry would be like, “Why do you have a Snitch floating around your office?”
Melinda: It’s Dumbledore. “Why” a lot of things.
Rosie: True, yeah.
Eric [as Dumbledore] “This was a gift from the Holyhead Harpies.”
Kat: That’s a Slughorn line, yeah.
Rosie: That’s Slughorn. I was just going to say that.
Melinda: I feel that he probably wouldn’t have questioned a lot of what Dumbledore did because the atmosphere was just so intense, he’d be like, “No, I’m all right.”
Rosie: That’s true.
Eric Yeah, there are far less earmuffs.
Rosie: Harry would get so distracted, though. He would just be sitting there in the office, trying to listen to Dumbledore, just watching the Snitch fly around the room.
Rosie: So the ring is gone, but Harry says, “I expected the mouth organ or something to be on the table,” but as we know, the mouth organ was only ever a mouth organ. Sorry, Eric. It should be “harmonica.” [laughs]
Eric Thank you. I’m vindicated.
Rosie: And that’s the end of the chapter.
Kat: Okay, so I guess it’s time for the Podcast Question of the Week. We touched on this topic – the Question of the Week – very briefly, at the beginning of the episode, but of course, it is an ever-going theme in these books, and I think this is a good one. I think you guys will enjoy it. It’s about Merope. So the Question of the Week is this: We learn in this chapter about Merope and the circumstances surrounding her demise and death. Dumbledore corrects Harry in his assumption that this is so different from Lily’s death, stating that Lily did, too, have a choice to live yet chose to die. Of course, they died for different reasons, but did either of these women truly have a choice, and if not, does that affect the outcome of their sacrifice, does it affect the shadow of the lives that Harry and Lord Voldemort grew up under, and does it affect their opinions of their respective mothers? There [are] a lot of similarities between the two deaths, and there [are] a lot of differences, and I’m really excited to hear what you guys think about this one, so…
Kat: If you have the app, there is a 25-minute conversation you can hear while we formulate this question.
[Eric and Rosie laugh]
Eric: It wasn’t 25 minutes, but we were working on the question, and we got into some very interesting thoughts, so…
Kat: We did. So I’m really excited to hear what you have to say. Leave your comments at alohomora.mugglenet.com or send us an audioBoom! We love getting those.
Rosie: All that remains is that we thank our wonderful guest. So thank you very much, Melinda, for being on the show. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Melinda: Thank you so much for having me! I’ve had the best time.
Kat: It was brilliant, truly.
Eric: Oh – I mentioned earlier – do you want to talk any more about your book?
Melinda: Sure. Why not? It’s a story about ladies with choices.
Melinda: To segue into that particular thing, one lady in particular, she is much more of a Merope than a Lily in that she’s very sad and very scared and very alone. But what she learns throughout the course of her journey can change an entire kingdom.
Rosie: It’s a very, very good book, and I encourage you all to go read it.
Melinda: Thank you.
Eric: And well, if you would like to be on the show just like Melinda was for us on this episode, please visit the “Be on the Show!” page at alohomora.mugglenet.com. You don’t need any super fancy equipment; if you have some Apple headphones that’ll do or just a microphone and some way to hear the call while we’re doing it. Check it all out. The list is on the website.
Rosie: And can we just put in there that we’re not being sponsored by Apple, we promise.
[Kat and Melinda laugh]
Melinda: The headphones are amazing, though..
Kat: Yeah, someone commented on the main site recently: “Is that an ad for Apple?” No, it’s not.
Rosie: They’re just useful. [laughs] If you have any other headphones with a microphone, they work, too!
Kat: Yeah. Everybody knows what Apple headphones are, so that’s why we use it. If you just want to keep in contact with us, you can find us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN [or] facebook.com/openthedumbledore. Our Tumblr is mnalohomorapodcast. Of course, our phone number is 206-GO-ALBUS – that’s 206-462-5287. audioBoom is free; all you need is an Internet connection and a microphone. You can record right at alohomora.mugglenet.com. There’s a little green button in the right-hand menu. Click it. Keep your message under 60 seconds. It can be a thought, a question, a comment, sing us a song, tell us a poem, anything you want. We love to hear them, so send them in. Keep them coming, please and thank you.
Rosie: We also have our store where we we have our fabulous House shirts. We’ve got the Desk!Pig, Mandrake Liberation Front, Minerva Is My Homegirl, and many, many more. Hopefully, we’ll have the Olympic ring T-shirt at some point. We’re going to have Lupin Love. There [are] so many things in the works if we can ever actually get them onto a good design.
Kat: Yeah, if any of you out there are designers and […] want to help, please.
Rosie: Yeah, please send them in.
Kat: Email us, please. We need help!
Rosie: We can discuss things until the cows come home, but we cannot draw a cow to save our lives.
[Eric, Kat, and Rosie laugh]
Kat: That is very true.
Eric: And of course, the smartphone app. We mentioned just a moment ago that there is a really good reason to get it this week for some of our other thoughts on Merope. But anyway, the smartphone app is available all over the Muggle world! And if you can’t get it, you’re magic, and that’s because magic doesn’t… electronics don’t… Rosie did it better last week. Just go listen to her.
Eric: “On this side of the pond and the other” is what I used to say. Prices do vary for the smartphone app.
Kat: Seemingly worldwide.
Eric: On it you can get – yes, like we used to say the first hundred and something episodes – transcripts, bloopers, alternate endings, host vlogs, and more on the smartphone app, which is Podcast Box. But find out more on our website, alohomora.mugglenet.com.
[Show music begins]
Rosie: It is definitely time to sign off. I am Rosie Morris.
Eric: I am Eric Scull.
Kat: And I’m Kat Miller. Thank you for listening to Episode 131 of Alohomora!
Rosie: Tell the truth and open the Dumbledore!
[Show music continues]
“It seems possible to me that J.K. Rowling could have considered putting even more about the founders in Chamber as well and then decided those details were…”
Someone say that word.
Eric and Rosie: “Superfluous.”
[Kat attempts to pronounce “superfluous”]
Eric and Rosie: “Superfluous.”
[Kat tries again to pronounce “superfluous”]
Eric: “Fluous.” Like “fluid.” Oh, Rosie is spelling it out.
Kat: Rosie, you’re the best. There are just certain words that I can’t ever say.
[Kat tries once again to pronounce “superfluous”]
Rosie: “Floo.” Like “Floo powder.”
Rosie: Yes. Faster.
Kat: [laughs] I feel like a grade school child.
Kat: “Superfluous.” “Superfluous.”
Rosie: Yeah, close enough. [laughs]
Kat: [laughs] Thank you. Okay.