Transcript – Episode 17

[Show music begins]

Caleb Graves: This is Episode 17 of Alohomora! for December 2nd, 2012.

[Show music continues]

Caleb: I’m Caleb Graves.

Kat Miller: I’m Kat Miller.

Michael Harle: I’m Michael Harle.

Caleb: And we are super excited at Alohomora! to have an awesome special guest this week. His name is Lev Grossman and he is TIME’s book critic, he is a famous author, and just an awesome guy all around. So, thank you so much for joining us, Lev.

Lev Grossman: I’m super stoked to be here.

Caleb: So, tell us what you’re doing these days. I know you’re writing your last book, but what else is keeping you occupied?

Lev: Wow, let’s see. It’s mostly about the book right now. I’ve written The Magicians and The Magician King and then there’s a third book that’s going to be the third book of the trilogy, and probably last book of the trilogy since there are three books and that would be appropriate for a trilogy.

[Kat laughs]

Lev: So, I’m sort of two-thirds of the way through that and I’m writing a couple of other bits of fiction on the side, which is a lot of fun. But I’m in this sort of phase… I sort of go through cycles where I work for TIME and I work on fiction. Right now, I’m focused on fiction which is kind of my favorite thing to write, so that is what I’m working on. And we just had a baby, so I’m working on that as well.

Caleb: Well, that definitely sounds like it keeps you busy.

Lev: Yeah, that’s enough for now.

Kat: Want to give us any little spoiler-y tidbits?

Lev: Oh God. The spoilers… I shouldn’t give you too much…

Caleb: I think I tried to get a lot out of you when I interviewed you at LeakyCon…

Kat: [laughs] Yeah.

Caleb: …a couple of months ago. [laughs]

Lev: What I generally say is that the new book starts back at Brakebills, which is the school for magic in the books. It’s funny rereading Chamber of Secrets. It reminded me just how many stories you can find in a school for magic. What a great, just infinitely exciting and pleasurable setting it is for fiction to put things at a school for magic. You can never really be done with it, and I felt like even though my first round of characters had gone to Brakebills and graduated, I needed to go back just because there was still so much there.

Caleb: That makes me really excited.

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: So…

Kat: Great, thank you!

Caleb: And we usually ask new guests about their experiences with Pottermore and what house they got sorted into, but I think we’ve kind of already gone through that [laughs] and your disdain for a lot with Pottermore.

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: So, we won’t have to spend a lot of time on that.

Lev: It’s painful to go through my association with Hufflepuff. I have a ton of respect for Hufflepuff. It’s just not where I personally saw myself.

[Caleb laughs]

Lev: So, it’s been a slow process of acceptance, basically.

Caleb: That’s good. I’m sure the Hufflepuffs out there will welcome you with open arms.

Kat: Yes. [laughs]

Lev: And it’s been great.

Kat: Oh, good. [laughs] We’re going to jump right into our comments from our previous week’s chapters, which were Chapters 13 and 14. The first comment we have here comes from the forums, and it’s about the Basilisk communication, and it’s from Tower Raven. Comment says:

“I always thought that Ginny, under the diary possession, spoke Parselmouth to let the Basilisk into the school in the bathroom where the pipe entrance to the Chamber is. The Basilisk would travel up from the main pipe Harry, Ron, and Lockhart used to get into the bathroom, then wait for its victim to be in the vicinity of the bathroom, attack, and retreat back into the pipe, and down into the Chamber.”

So, what do you guys think about that?

Caleb: Hmm.

Michael: Where are Justin Finch-Fletchley and Nearly-Headless Nick found? Because I didn’t think they were found near… I might be wrong because I haven’t looked over that chapter for a while, but I didn’t think they were found near the bathroom. I figure if everybody was found in close vicinity of the bathroom, that might have been a clue. [laughs] So… and nobody thought to follow that lead in the first place, so…

Kat: Hmm.

Michael: It makes sense because… that theory makes sense as far as where else is the Basilisk going to show up because he can’t go slithering around the hallways because that’s…

Caleb: Right, but he gets Hermione and Penelope by the library.

Kat: By the library, right.

Michael: Mhm.

Caleb: So… because I was listening… I wasn’t on the last episode, but I was listening and I know you guys talked about that. So, I don’t know if… I don’t think it can just be that, or else we wouldn’t have people getting petrified by the library.

Kat: Right. Yeah, I can’t remember where Justin and Nick were petrified. I don’t think it was outside the bathroom.

Michael: No.

Caleb: No.

Michael: No, that would have been pretty significant if they had been. Harry probably would have figured it out.

Caleb: I don’t even know if it actually… does it mention it? I can’t even remember if it mentions it.

Kat: And I think it just says an upstairs corridor…

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: …or something of that nature.

Michael: So, it’s a good idea but… and the Basilisk is long, so he could probably kind of stay sitting in the pipe and still be stretched out. But again, it’s a giant snake in the hallways. Who’s not going to notice that?

Kat: Right. Well, our next comment comes from the main site, from VanReich. It’s about Serpensortia. We were talking about, last week, how… the parallels between Book 2 and Book 6 with the “sortia”s. And it’s a pretty long comment, but one of the topics, or one of the things that they mentioned, was they were going through the Wonderbook: Book of Spells, that new video game or whatever that’s out. And there’s a bit on Avis which is the bird-conjuring charm, and it says:

“…that the conjured birds were of course not real animals but mere phantoms created by magic.”

It goes on to say that:

“It also mentioned that conjuring animals is quite difficult magic, but birds and snakes are easier for some reason unknown to the Department of Mysteries.”

I thought that was really interesting that it’s easier to get snakes and birds. It also says that:

“The better [you are] at conjuring spells, the more lifelike the conjured animals would be and something about the theory behind animal conjuring having to do with the Principle of Artificianimate Quasi-Dominance.”

[laughs] Did I butcher that word?

Caleb: [laughs] It’s close enough.

Kat: But the final thing that this person said was that:

“Potentially we could say that [Draco] couldn’t control the snake to attack, and it was merely acting of its own accord, but maybe the ‘Serpensortia’ spell is not just a conjuring spell. It could possibly be a spell to conjure a snake with the intention of attacking a target or something.”

Caleb: Yeah, I definitely think it’s interesting, the idea that birds and snakes are somehow easier.

Kat: Yeah, why is that? Fewer number of bones?

Caleb: Yeah, maybe. Hmm.

Kat: No one else? Cool. Okay.

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: Good thoughts all around!

Michael: Well, if I was going to say anything, I guess I just… oh, go ahead, Lev.

Lev: Oh, I was trying to do a mental inventory of how many bones would be in a bird or a snake compared to other animals.

[Michael laughs]

Lev: But it’s just… yeah, not an area of strength for me personally.

[Caleb laughs]

Michael: Well, so this information comes from the Wonderbook: Book of Spells?

Kat: Apparently, yes.

Michael: Okay. Because I’ve been cool with Pottermore and the information it’s come out with so far. I guess… and they talked about this on MuggleNet Academia, but that’s kind of starting to feel like one of these things that it was an afterthought by Rowling. And as much as we love the series, that seems like… because she has admitted that some of this stuff she wrote after she wrote the books, or thought up after she wrote the books. And this kind of seems like one of those things, like, “Oh, well, I had them conjure birds and snakes, and those are the animals that they conjured, so those are the easy ones.” But that doesn’t feel like anything that… there’s really not a lot of other instances where those… like, any animal just comes out of a wand in the books.

Kat: That’s true.

Michael: I mean, there’s Transfiguration but that’s different. So yeah, that just feels like kind of another one of those Pottermore additions. Pottermore canon type things.

Lev: Right. There’s canon, and then there’s canon.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: Right, exactly. Cool. All right, so this comment is for Noah, so… he’s not here, unfortunately, but still. It’s about the Mandrakes, it’s from the main site.

Caleb: Oh my God.

Kat: I know. [laughs]

Caleb: You guys have cooked up something ridiculous, the one episode I’m not on, this Mandrake movement that is going on on the web. I don’t even know.

Kat: Yeah. He’s pretty excited about it. He even started a Twitter. It’s @MandrakeForever and it’s the Mandrake Liberation Front. Yeah.

Caleb: Oh my God.

Kat: He’s crazy. But the comment from Alex24601 says:

“Isn’t it odd that Mandrakes are considered plants? Don’t you think they [fit better into] the animal category? For example, it is told that they can move from place to place, which is a trait not mostly shown by plants unless absolutely necessary. I might be imagining this, but I feel like at one point the students are feeding the Mandrakes. Would this suggest heterotrophism in an…”

Oh my God, what are these words? [laughs]

Caleb: Okay, “heterotrophism in an autotrophic-by-definition being.”

Kat: Thank you. I’m not going to read that.

“Their hopping from [plant to plant] also suggests that they hadn’t taken root, yet thay had grown? I mean, from what I’ve [read] in seventh-grade science, these characteristics do not constitute a plant. If we could examine a Mandrake cell, do you believe it would show a cell wall? Do you think it has some of both characteristics, making it a humanoid-plant hybrid?”

Yeah. [laughs]

Caleb: So, I really like this comment, as the science person here. So, basically what they’re talking about, the heterotrophism versus autotrophic. Heterotrophism means you have to consume things to get your energy, as opposed to what plants are, they’re autotrophic, they can create their energy through photosynthesis. So, basically this person is asking, are these… whatever they are… dependent on other things for energy? But I think it still can be categorized as a plant because everything in the animal or plant kingdom has weird exceptions, right? Because there’s a plant called the Venus Flytrap which can capture insects and somehow digest and consume them, but it’s still a plant. That’s not really characteristic of a plant.

Kat: That’s true. But they don’t hop from pot to pot.

Caleb: That is true, but we are dealing with magic here, so… [laughs]

Kat: [laughs] That’s true. There is another great comment that I found on the forums, from Lady Spade, on the same topic. It says:

“I find it curious and significant of the timing of the Mandrake killing, just as they mature and start hopping into each other’s pots. If we are going the route of this maturity being a sign of sexual awakening, if we harvest the Mandrakes just at this time, this would be the point of heightened virility and extreme potency. Like virgin offerings.”

Caleb: Oh, my. [laughs] Virgin offerings?!

Kat: [laughs] Yeah.

Lev: There’s a real rabbit hole of Mandrake continuity here. I’d never really thought about that, but it kind of goes all the way down, doesn’t it?

Caleb: [laughs] It does. We could just… ugh, Noah is going to want to take this even farther. Damn it! [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, he’s kicking himself for not being on this episode right now, isn’t he?

[Kat and Lev laugh]

Caleb: But suddenly Mandrakes and spring awakening are clashing in my brain, and I just don’t even know how to deal with it.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: Maybe we shouldn’t. Let’s just leave it for Noah.

Caleb: [laughs] Okay.

Kat: Let him deal with it next time. And our last comment from last week is about our discussion on the houses and the humors. And this comes from the forums, from LumosNight3. It says:

“I personally agreed wholeheartedly with the analysis given about the four humors and the houses. I have always considered myself to be a melancholy person, but I think introverted and thoughtful fits Ravenclaw house perfectly. Introverted does not automatically mean you are shy. It just means that you’re energized or stimulated more by being reflective and inward thinking than you are by the things that get other houses going.”

I don’t know. As a Ravenclaw… I don’t know, I’m definitely not introverted. I’m just not. So, I guess I disagree.

Caleb: I see a lot of Ravenclaws as introverted. I think you’re one of the exceptions of Ravenclaws I know.

Kat: Hmm.

Caleb: I see most Ravenclaws as introverted because they are, I don’t know, studious and they’re also very alone in their intellectual thought.

Kat: Okay, I can see that. You weren’t on last episode…

Caleb: Right.

Kat: …so what do you think about this?

Caleb: Yeah, I listened back. I don’t really think the Four Humors match up with the houses that well. I think… I can’t remember if it was Rosie or Noah talking about these characteristics. Well, Noah brought up how he thought melancholy meant one thing and Rosie brought up these words have different meanings and especially through time. So, I don’t think those Humors match up with the houses too well, really.

Kat: Yeah, I agree. They’re too… too many characteristics could be for anything, for any house. Yeah.

Caleb: Lev, I’m curious. What do you think… why do you think you do fit in Hufflepuff? I know it was a hard acceptance for you, but why do you think you do fit there?

Lev: Well, it’s this classic thing where you have certain ideas about yourself and who you are and what your dominant traits are, and then obviously some other traits basically sort of show themselves in the sorting process. I guess I had always thought of myself as sort of introverted and focused on intellectual things. I was sort of a want-to-be Ravenclaw and I had sort of focused on that, “Let’s do this, let’s get Ravenclaw.” And yet, I don’t know. Maybe there are other aspects of myself which are actually more important and more sort of outward facing in terms of how I deal with other people that came out in the sorting process. I don’t know. Hufflepuff, a good thing to be.

[Caleb laughs]

Lev: Like I said, I’m coming around to it. But it’s kind of altered the way I look at myself and think about who I am.

Caleb: Yeah, that is interesting because, Kat, you went through something similar, right? You didn’t identify as a Ravenclaw before, right?

Kat: Right, that’s true. I thought I was a Hufflepuff, actually.

Caleb: So, you are all kind of backwards.

Kat: Mhm.

Lev: Oh man.

Kat: Yeah. That’s all right, I’m happy being an eagle now.

Caleb: It’s like you guys were switched at birth, and…

Lev: I know, it’s a mix of…

Kat: Oh my goodness.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: That would be incredible. [laughs]

Caleb: But yeah, more house discussion. I don’t think we’ll ever be… have enough to talk about with the houses…

Kat: No.

Caleb: …with how many books we go through. [laughs]

Kat: No, definitely not.

Caleb: All right, some great comments, but we’re going to move to you guys’ comments from our special feature last week, which was Pottermore, In Depth. So, our first comment comes from, again, Alex24601 from the main site, and this is on the topic of ghosts.

“I have a genius idea about ghosts having a physical body. In ‘PoA’, I believe, it is said that walking through a ghost feels like walking through a cold shower, suggesting a vapor-like substance. This reminds me of what I’ve learned about the water cycle, that water evaporates and condensates into a cloud. Could ghosts absorb water and other liquids (Mandrake Draught) and use them to create a vapor body through a magical twist of the water cycle? Going through clouds has been described to have this same feeling. Does this make ghosts essentially… clouds with spirit?”

Kat: Huh. That’s…

Caleb: So, it’s interesting, but the theory starts out with walking through a cold shower of vapor-like substance, but walking through a cold shower wouldn’t… oh, I guess they’re saying vapor because of walking through the ghost part. Because I was about to say, the shower is just liquid. But I guess if you add the ghost element…

Kat: Hmm. That’s interesting, but I mean, they’re dead.

Caleb: Right.

Kat: So no, I think essentially, is my answer.

Caleb: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve never… gosh, it would be cool to walk through a cloud. I mean, can we do that? Can we fix that? Make that happen?

Kat: Well, isn’t fog almost the same as a cloud?

Caleb: Well, yeah I guess that’s kind of true.

Kat: Just not dense enough, right?

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Science was not my best subject, obviously.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Kat: Hmm.

Caleb: All right. Well, something definitely interesting. The next comment comes on the topic of Hermione’s skill with the Polyjuice Potion, and this is from our forums from… do you say Saiyan?

Kat: I think so. Saiyan.

Caleb: SaiyanGirl.

“Maybe Hermione knew in advance that she didn’t have enough of the ingredients to make it balanced enough to last for more than an hour, considering how she had to steal from Snape’s cupboard and do so quickly? Potion-making is delicate business, after all. I think it shows her smarts that she was able to estimate how long the potion would last though!”

Kat: That’s true. I’m sure Hermione knows that she’s not the best at Potions and…

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: …probably knew that she wouldn’t make the perfect twelve-hour Polyjuice. That’s probably true.

Caleb: Yeah. That’s true because I guess when she talks about the ingredients, we never really know how much of those things are required. So, I guess however long you need it to be depends on how much you need. That would make sense.

Kat: Yeah, I guess the quantity would…

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: …denote the length, maybe? I don’t know. Hmm. Cool. Good comments this week.

Caleb: Definitely.

Michael: Okay, so it looks like Rosie’s question for the previous week was about the diary Horcrux and how it’s one of the most powerful Horcruxes seemingly because of the ability it has to possess people, the ability it has to open up the Chamber of Secrets through that possession, take control of the Basilisk, and so forth. And Rosie’s question was: Why is it that the diary Horcrux is so much more powerful than the other Horcruxes? Is it because this was Voldemort’s first Horcrux, and therefore, it had a greater share of his soul? Or is it because young Tom Riddle once poured his soul into the form of the diary entries and the Horcrux was made more powerful due to the deep personal significance it had? And so, we had some answers on the forums. The first one comes from Lovelle and it says:

“I think it’s a combination of both. We all know that being a teenager contains a lot of thoughts because this is the stage in life where we find ourselves as individuals. Since it is Voldemort’s diary, it contains his thoughts during his teenage years, thus letting anyone see his life when he was just a teenager. Since it is his first Horcrux, I also think that most of his soul is inside that diary. And looking at it, the diary is the only Horcrux that is personally his. The diary is not really the glamorous trophy that Tom wanted, but it is something that truly he owns from the very start, meaning the diary was not tainted with other magic from a previous owner, making Tom’s soul easily fit into the diary.”

Kat: Yeah, see I definitely agreed with Rosie last week that the first Horcrux, I feel, has the largest part of his soul in it. Because I’m pretty sure that it says you split your soul in half. Or does it say into pieces? I’m pretty sure it says in half, so the first Horcrux would have fifty percent of his soul. That’s what I believe, anyway.

Caleb: And then the next one is twenty-five and then twelve-point-five and then six-point-two-five and then all the way down until there’s nothing there?

Kat: I think so. And that’s why they kept getting… they were so imbalanced. And by the time they got down to Nagini and everything…

Caleb: And Harry.

Kat: Yeah. Yup.

Caleb: Hmm.

Michael: Well, that makes sense. Yeah, because I never thought of… I guess I always thought of it as an even seven split, but since he didn’t do them all at the same time, that makes sense.

Caleb: Yeah, that’s something that Jo should clear up for us because that’s… I don’t think it can be settled until she tells us how the magic actually works. If it is like Rosie said, you split every time with what’s left, or if it sort of reappropriates itself after it makes a second one. Because this is kind of… I mean, obviously, no one had really made seven Horcruxes before. Riddle was the first one to do something like this. So, it was never really a question that needed to be posed for anyone else.

Kat: Right.

Caleb: Horcruxes alone were pretty rare.

Lev: I see him as a planner, though. He probably knew he was going for seven, so maybe he would know to shave off a seventh of his soul. Maybe it’s not that precise of a process. I don’t know.

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: Hmm, that would be cool if he… well, all right, not cool. It is a Horcrux, after all.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: But I mean…

Lev: Cool, per se, but…

Kat: If he could determine how much soul to put into it… I know what you’re saying.

Caleb: Yeah, if he had control over it. Hmm.

Michael: Well, and he wasn’t intending to put his soul into Harry, so…

Caleb: That’s true.

Kat: Right.

Michael: …then if you look at it that way, there was less of an… there was more of an intention with the first ones, but that last one then. So, maybe that’s… well, and then of course there’s the difference of Harry being a physical person and then the other Horcruxes being objects. So, maybe that, obviously, also has some effect on how that affects the actual thing that the Horcrux is in.

Lev: Yeah.

Michael: The host.

Lev: It’s a totally awesome question. Reading it, it made me think of the powerful place that the written world and books themselves have in Rowling’s imagination. I mean, clearly to her, just on a meta level, novels and books and characters in them have an almost human-like reality to her, the way she writes them, anyway. And I almost feel like that was part of it for her. For her books and fictions, the characters in them. They’re so close to being alive and being real that they have this semi-autonomy all on their own.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Wait, I think you’re saying that they’re not real?

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Lev: I’m just going out on a limb here.

Kat: You just crushed all my hopes and dreams. I’m sorry.

Caleb: I agree, though, because I mean, she just… she’s so brilliant with her characterization and I think that does explain why it works so well, it’s because she does give that autonomy to them in a way, because… yeah.

Lev: Not to liken Rowling to Voldemort, but she does kind of put this part of her soul into her books when she writes them.

Caleb: Absolutely.

Michael: Very much so.

Kat: Hmm.

Michael: Yeah, no, that’s great.

Caleb: Split seven ways!

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Right, exactly. Exactly, split seven ways.

Michael: Well, and I was thinking too… Caleb, with you mentioning that the only way to definitively say what’s going on here is for her to explain it, and I almost think that it won’t… I’m kind of hoping, actually, that she won’t explain it, that this will be one thing she leaves alone on Pottermore, because…

Caleb: Hmm.

Michael: …it’s kind of a concept… this is a concept that I learned a lot about in film, but I know it’s very important in novels as well. The idea that you don’t have to explain everything. What you don’t show is actually sometimes more effective than what you do. And I think the idea of the Horcrux creation is supposed to be so horrific that it kind of can’t be explained with words, that it’s more effective to the imagination if you don’t know how it’s done. And she gives us the basics, that you have to kill somebody to do it. She doesn’t tell you what you have to do to yourself. She just tells you that it’s really horrific…

Caleb: Hmm.

Michael: …but she won’t say how. And I think, to the imagination, that’s a pretty… that makes it more frightening than knowing the full-on details about how it works.

Caleb: That’s a great point. Do you feel that’s true whenever you write, Lev?

Lev: Especially when you’re writing about magic or anything supernatural, that the constant danger is over-explaining it, because there’s always this… you want to leave this gap that people’s imaginations or their subconsciousness – whatever you want to call it – fill with this amazing power and meaning. And if you explain it to death, suddenly magic… well, you explain it to death and magic dies and it just becomes science, which… nothing against science. I love science. It’s very important.

[Everyone laughs]

Lev: It keeps me alive. But magic, you always want to leave this gap where people can just imagine it for themselves.

Michael: All right, shall we move onto the next…

Kat: Mhm.

Caleb: Yup. Go for it.

Michael: …response? We’ve got one from LumosNight3.

“I think the power of a Horcrux has a lot to do with the object chosen to become a Horcrux. Out of the seven Horcruxes, you could arguably say that the diary, Nagini, and Harry are the most powerful considering the extent of the damage Voldemort’s soul causes through them. The one thing these three Horcruxes all have in common with one another is communication. They are all capable of instant communication with people (slightly less so for Nagini as she is limited to fellow Parselmouths) and they have extreme capacities for working with memories and the mind. The other Horcruxes don’t seem to have these possibilities not because they are less powerful, but because a ring, a cup, a diadem, and a locket can’t talk.”

Kat: Right. And that’s what you were saying before, that yeah, they’re more powerful because of what they are.

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: That makes sense.

Caleb: Yeah, I buy that.

Kat: Mhm. Agreed!

Michael: [laughs] Yeah, that’s a pretty flat out, simple statement. Okay.

Kat: And that doesn’t happen often.

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Caleb: This happened on your last episode, where… and then Noah decided to bring in the ghost host to disagree.

Kat: Oh yes, that’s right. I remember that.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: So, maybe Noah is out there somewhere, disagreeing.

Kat: He might be. He might be.

Michael: I think that seems like a pretty good argument. I can’t really disagree with that one just because that’s pretty flat out as is. If you’ve got communication, if you can actually… if the Horcrux host can actually communicate, that’s just an easier way to get its evil across, I guess.

Kat: Right.

Michael: From BroadwayKat:

“Perhaps it has something to do not only with how split his soul has already been, and how corrupt he is at the time of making it (i.e. how much evil he has already done and how many he has killed). Obviously, to make a Horcrux, we are told you have to kill someone – do something so horrendous that it can cleave the soul. If the diary was his first Horcrux, then his first victim – Myrtle – would have arguably been his first human kill. Torturing and killing pets is something very different than killing a human being – it brings a whole new step into his becoming an emotionless monster.”

Caleb: Well, but technically, Myrtle isn’t really his first kill, right? Because he… I mean, he indirectly kills her. It’s not by his hand.

Kat: Right, and that… we talked about that a little bit last week because I didn’t believe…

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: …that it was his kill, technically, and that he couldn’t make a Horcrux from it because he didn’t physically kill her.

Caleb: And I’m pretty confident that she’s not one of the kills for the Horcruxes.

Michael: Actually, I think we have here that she was confirmed as the first kill.

Caleb: Is she?

Kat: Yeah…

Michael: Yeah, she’s… from… so Ali Wood said in the forums that JK confirmed in the Bloomsbury webchat back in ’07 that Myrtle was the first kill for the diary, the Hufflepuff cup was Hepzibah Smith, the locket was a Muggle tramp who we don’t know the identity of, Nagini was Bertha Jorkins, and the diadem was an Albanian peasant, and the ring was his father.

Caleb: Okay. Yeah, I remember that now from that interview. But now it makes me question… because it’s not his direct kill.

Lev: Yeah, but if you were in a jury ruling on the case, you wouldn’t say, “Well, I didn’t kill her. It was the gun that killed her.”

[Caleb laughs]

Kat: Oh, that’s true. [laughs]

Lev: “I just called the Basilisk, got her, and that was it.” I don’t know, it seems like a pretty gray area.

Caleb: I guess… so it’s the intent that he facilitated the kill, it’s enough to cleave the soul.

Lev: I think it would be enough to cleave my soul, definitely.

Caleb: [laughs] That’s fair.

Kat: The whole thing is convoluted, though, because if you think about… so what year was this? Because Hogwarts… I mean Hagrid got expelled in his third year, right?

Caleb and Michael: Uh-huh.

Kat: Okay, so when Harry goes back in the diary, it’s the third year. He doesn’t know about Horcuxes because he doesn’t ask Slughorn about them until, what, his sixth year? Fifth year, at least, because he’s a Prefect. So…

Caleb: Or maybe he knows about them and he doesn’t talk to Slughorn about them until he’s interested in doing more.

Kat: I don’t know.

Caleb: Because isn’t that really what the conversation talks about? He brings it up and then he says, “What if someone…” I’m thinking more about the movie scene but, you know, “What if someone were to do more?” And then Slughorn reacts to how ridiculous and how awful that would be.

Kat: Okay, so you think he’s asking Slughorn about how to do it multiple times, not just once?

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: What does the… hmm, I wonder what the text says. I’m very curious. It just seems very… like this is a mistake. Like JKR screwed it up, somehow.

Caleb: Hmm.

Kat: The timeline.

Lev: Only tangentially related, it makes me think about what epic potential there would be for other objects used as Horcruxes. I mean, in retrospect, it seems rather sentimental and impractical of Voldemort to have used a ring, a cup, a locket. Why didn’t you just make a bear your Horcrux? Or an atomic bomb would be your Horcrux? Why not just max it out and go for some seriously powerful… or, I don’t know, a movie camera. You could get really creepy and weird with your Horcruxes.

[Caleb and Kat laugh]

Lev: It looks like he actually was fairly conventional with his choices.

Caleb: Yeah, well I think he… I can’t remember if this was discussed in the books or just elsewhere that I’ve seen him, but he tried to get something that was really meaningful, at least for some of them. He tried to get something from every founder.

Lev: I guess it’s a good thing that he didn’t have a meaningful bear that he could use as his Horcrux.

Caleb: That’s true.

[Michael laughs]

Lev: The destructive power of such a bear would be really frightening.

[Caleb laughs]

Michael: Well, yeah, I think that goes along with the idea that he’s… Voldemort is very possessive and so if it’s something very close to him or something that he manages to get in his possession, then it becomes like he wants to make it his. And…

Caleb: Especially if it’s associated with that pure, old magic.

Michael: Mhm.

Caleb: Like with the founders.

Michael: Yeah, he’s a collector. He’d be a terrible… he’d be a really frightening hoarder, I’m sure.

Caleb: Oh my God, I thought about that just as you said that.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Hoarders special edition.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: All right, so I looked it up in Half-Blood Prince and it’s in the chapter, “Lord Voldemort’s Request,” and Harry is recalling the memory. And it says that Voldemort killed his father and grandparents and made it look like his uncle did it, and then went back to Hogwarts and asked Slughorn about the Horcruxes.

Caleb: Hmm.

Kat: So, I think it’s a mistake.

Caleb: Uh oh!

Michael: Hmm. Well, because… yeah, I’m on the Lexicon’s timeline and it looks like in 1942, that’s when he started his fifth year and was made a prefect, and he learned to open the Chamber and released the Basilisk the following year in ’43. So, he killed Myrtle in May of 1943, so he…

Kat: So, in his sixth year.

Michael: Yes, I think… no, his fifth year.

Kat: Fifth year.

Michael: Yeah.

Kat: So…

Michael: And he was a prefect.

Kat: And Hagrid wouldn’t have been there. So yeah, this is an oops. It has to be.

Caleb: Yeah, I want to dig on it a little bit. Think about it. Maybe our fans have some ideas also.

Kat: Yeah. Someone write something up.

Michael: It says Hagrid started his first year in 1940, according to the Lexicon, and I guess they did all the calculations. They made it out to be correct. I’m not sure though.

Kat: Oh right, because they probably weren’t in the same year.

Michael: No, no, no, they weren’t in the same year. No, no, no. Yeah, Hagrid was younger. So…

Caleb: Hmm.

Kat: Okay, so not an oops. It was just my own brain screwing it up? [laughs]

Caleb: Oh yeah, he is because he has a prefect badge when Harry sees him in the memory.

Michael: Mhm. Yeah, because he…

Caleb: So, he’s at least a fifth year.

Michael: Yeah.

Kat: Right. And Hagrid is third year. Okay.

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: The only… I guess…

Caleb: It probably is…

Caleb and Michael: Oh, go ahead.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: I mean, I’d say he’s at least a sixth year because doesn’t… Tom becomes Head Boy, right?

Kat and Michael: Yeah.

Caleb: So, he wouldn’t have a prefect badge. He would have a Head Boy badge. So, he’s probably in his sixth year. Fifth or sixth anyway.

Kat: Hmm.

Michael: I guess the only weird part about this then is that… and I guess if you think about Voldemort and how he operated, he thought of everything, but I guess it would be kind of weird that Voldemort just picked this random third year to pick on. But I guess since Hagrid was so tall, that was just an easy choice. [laughs] And Hagrid made himself an easy target, I guess.

Caleb: Yeah, I was going to say the opportunity kind of opened up for him.

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: Yeah.

Michael Just a little odd that…

Caleb: Meanwhile, as we talk about mistakes, Jo – because we know she listens to every episode…

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Oh yeah, totally.

Caleb: …is probably just like, “Guys, for the bloody hell, just move on already!”

[Michael laughs]

Kat: All right.

Caleb: “Forget the mistakes!” [laughs]

Kat: Sorry, Jo.

Michael: [laughs] We’re moving on, Jo.

Kat: We’re moving on.

Michael: Okay, and then it looks like we’ve got another comment from SilverDoe25:

“I am not entirely certain that the diary was the first Horcrux that Voldemort created. As Dumbledore points out, the diary concerned him because it was left about casually, which one wouldn’t do with a one-and-only Horcrux. I believe that Voldemort’s first Horcrux was the ring. During his conversation with Slughorn, Tom is wearing the ring, indicating that he had already killed his father and grandparents. He wore the ring for a time until he created the Horcrux. Then he hid it in the Gaunt shack.”

Well, because I don’t know when Rowling said in 2007, when she mentioned each thing, if that was the order of the Horcruxes or if she was just listing them as she thought of them. But I always thought she was listing them in order from when he made them.

Kat: She couldn’t have because she goes diary, cup, locket, Nagini…

Michael: Oh yeah, that’s true.

Kat: …diadem, and then the ring.

Michael: Yeah, Nagini wouldn’t have been made that early.

Kat: Right.

Caleb: Hmm.

Michael: That’s right. So, that is possible then.

Kat: All right, so we’re thinking that he goes, gets the ring, comes back to Hogwarts, asks about the Horcruxes, then goes back and creates the Horcrux, and then lets the Basilisk out to kill Myrtle? Is that what we’re saying?

Michael: Yeah, I think that’s what we’re saying here, is that, yeah, the ring… yeah. Because he was wearing it already.

Kat: Okay.

Caleb: Someone needs to make a Horcrux timeline because my head hurts.

Kat: Yeah, exactly. Please.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Someone help us out. Someone out there. [laughs]

Michael: [laughs] Oh, and we have another response from Snuffles on the forums:

“Tom Riddle’s first victims were Tom Riddle Sr. and his parents, remember? When he goes back for his last year at Hogwarts, he has already killed them and it is a very personal murder. I think it was the one that went into making the Diary Horcrux.”

Well, we know that’s not correct. But…

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: We know that’s not correct, yeah.

Caleb: But it could have been the first one.

Michael: Yeah, he could have… yeah, for sure.

Kat: Yeah. Hmm. Cool. Very confusing. Someone straighten it out, please.

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Caleb: Right.

Kat: I know, my head hurts.

Caleb: But some good thoughts, nonetheless.

Kat: Yes.

Michael: We’re jumping to the chapter discussion now, Chapters 15 and 16, “Aragog” and “The Chamber of Secrets.” Go ahead, Kat. Take it away.

Kat: Okay, I will.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: At the beginning of Chapter 15, Hermione is still in… wait, is she still in the hospital wing?

Michael: Yeah.

Kat: Yes, she is still in the hospital wing with her cat face, right? [laughs] Yes, okay.

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: No, she’s…

Kat: Petrified!

Michael: No, she’s petrified! [laughs] The cat face…

Caleb: Oh, wait. Yeah.

Kat: [laughs] Cat face was a long time ago. Wrong hospital wing.

Caleb: Man, times are hard for Hermione. [laughs]

Kat: [laughs] Yeah, this is a rough year for her. But visitors are barred from the hospital wing, including best friends, and I was just wondering, do they seriously not know at this point still who is attacking the students? I mean, is a wizard able to petrify someone? I mean, it has to be… somebody has to have figured it out, right?

Michael: Well, I mean, I don’t think a student really would be capable of it, but I guess maybe they are concerned about the idea of possession. Maybe they didn’t know what was possessing a student to do this, but maybe they had thought that was a possibility?

Kat: That a wizard would do it?

Michael: Yeah, that, I don’t know… well, not that… maybe they did even know that it was some kind of object or something. Or because they knew it was the Chamber of… they did know that the Chamber of Secrets was somehow involved, and Dumbledore seemed more keen on that than everybody else, but… and by that point, he felt… he had assured the teachers that he was sure it was something to do with that, and since he didn’t know what… it sounded like he didn’t know what kind of magic was involved, and nobody did, so maybe… as silly as it seemed to bar students from it, they just weren’t taking any chances because they just did not know what they were dealing with at all.

Caleb: I mean, what they should have done is just gone and asked Lockhart because he had all the answers all along. [laughs]

Kat: [laughs] I mean, obviously. And speaking of Lockhart, I love in this next part here, Harry is talking about how irksome it is to be walked to class by teachers, and I just thought it was great. It definitely showed off his adventurous Gryffindor side.

[Caleb laughs]

Kat: And then here we are on page 266, bottom of that page going into 267, there is a comment that Malfoy says. He says, “I always thought Father might be the one who got rid of Dumbledore. I told you he thinks Dumbledore’s the worst headmaster the school’s ever had.” And then it says, “Someone who won’t want the Chamber of Secrets closed. McGonagall won’t last long, she’s only filling in.” And I thought the comment kind of gave away the fact that he knew something about how the Chamber got opened.

Michael: I don’t know, Malfoy…

Caleb: Well, I mean…

Michael: Oh, go ahead.

Caleb: I was just thinking, if he had known something about his dad’s involvement, wouldn’t he have told Harry and Ron while they were Polyjuiced as Crabbe and Goyle? Because he kind of just says, “I wish I knew so I could help them.” But then wouldn’t he have said something different if he knew something about his dad’s involvement?

Kat: Hmm, that’s probably true.

Michael: Yeah, I don’t think Malfoy was in on that information. I think the fact that he’s ranting in class just as he is is a sign that he doesn’t know. [laughs] Because Malfoy is…

Caleb: And that’s probably why Lucius didn’t tell him…

Michael: Yeah.

Caleb: …because he knows that Draco is still at that age where he kind of tries to boast what he knows.

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: Little bit of a braggart, still?

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: I’m more surprised that Snape is letting Malfoy get away with… or is listening to Malfoy’s obscene flattery in this scene. [laughs]

Caleb: Yeah. Actually, when I was rereading that I thought the same thing. I was like, “Yeah, that’s great, and I’m sure Snape appreciates it, but that still seems like given what we know about Snape and Dumbledore’s relationship, it seemed a little out of place.” But I guess maybe she sort of wrote that in so that there couldn’t be anything guessed at this point.

Kat: Well, Snape does say, “Back off, Dumbledore’s only been suspended.”

Caleb: Yeah, that’s true.

Kat: But Snape also just doesn’t care. I mean, he lets people swear in class. Malfoy says “Mudblood,” so…

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: And then there’s… actually, right after that part, after Draco says “Mudblood,” I thought it was great that Ron kind of got all angry at him, defending Hermione’s honor. I thought it was cute.

Michael: I think it was sad that Harry didn’t. [laughs] Harry sure is indifferent to Hermione sometimes.

Kat: [laughs] He is, isn’t he? He just seems to kind of not care, occasionally.

Caleb: Over it. Exactly.

Kat: Yeah. So, then we go on. We’re in a lesson with Lockhart, and we’re at the top of page 270 here. He says, “You people don’t realize the danger has passed! The culprit has been taken away.” And everybody kind of comes back at him and says, “Why, why?” “Says who?” “On what authority?” and he says that, “The Minister of Magic wouldn’t have taken Hagrid away if he hadn’t been one hundred percent sure he was guilty.” Do you think Lockhart is really naive enough to think that Hagrid opened the Chamber, or does he just really not care? I mean, Hagrid is kind of a giant teddy bear, despite the fact that he opens doors with crossbows, you know?

Michael: Well, yeah, but he’s pretty much the opposite of everything that Lockhart is. He’s very rough-and-tumble, he’s not… it’s kind of implied that Hagrid doesn’t keep himself very clean. And he actually deals with the things that Lockhart claims he does, but of course we know later on that he does not. I think that’s kind of where Lockhart’s possibly general dislike for Hagrid comes from, is that he’s just everything he’s not and that… I do think, though, that it is a mixture, too, of Lockhart truly believing that Hagrid would be capable of it and him not caring because if he’s naive enough as well to put all of his blind faith in the Ministry and the decisions they make, that pretty much shows kind of how bright Lockhart is.

Lev: Yeah, and Lockhart is… he begins the book as a kind of comic figure. He’s a truly, truly awful person. He’s basically a sociopath and I think one of these people who… I don’t think he has serious psychological theories about would he have agreed to this or not. He’ll say anything that will keep his reputation safe and in tact. He’s really into manipulating other people. I find it very weird how Lockhart goes from quite a funny guy to a seriously evil individual who, by the end, is quite chilling.

Kat: That’s true. He does want to leave a bunch of teenagers to die.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Oh, not even teenagers. Twelve and thirteen-year-olds.

Caleb: Do you… so, Lev, writing characters like that who make such a huge change in such a short span, do you find that difficult to write?

Lev: Yeah, it is difficult. It’s all… I mean, it’s always especially chilling when a comic character turns bad. Somebody who you used to think was comic relief and lightens the tone and eases the tension, when they suddenly come back and you realize that they’re a bottomless pit of evil, they seem especially evil and chilling because you’re used to relying on them for an easy laugh.

Caleb: Mhm.

Lev: And Rowling is very good with that. She… I mean, obviously. But one of the things I especially admire about her is her willingness to write evil characters, to give voice to evil. I mean, even just Draco in that exchange where he talks about “Pity it wasn’t Granger.” It’s kind of tough to write lines like that because they are so unpleasant, but Rowling really has a lot of discipline in terms of making people as bad as actual bad people really are. And she certainly doesn’t hold back with Lockhart.

Michael: Well, and the scary thing about Lockhart, too, is that she’s said that – in the earliest books, at least – he’s the only one who is based on somebody she knew. [laughs]

Kat: Right.

Michael: I’d be terrified to meet that person in real life.

Kat: Let’s hope it’s just his vanity, that she talks…

Michael: Yeah, not what he’s capable of. [laughs]

Kat: Right, exactly. Exactly. Isn’t it said here that Lockhart is wearing pink? For some reason when Lev was talking, I got the idea of Lockhart in pink and Umbridge in pink.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: I don’t know.

Caleb: Oh, that’s a good point.

Michael: It doesn’t look like it states specifically what he’s wearing…

Caleb: No.

Michael: …but his attitude is just so…

Caleb: Somewhere in this chapter… somewhere in one of these chapters, he is in pink. I definitely remember reading that.

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: Yeah. I don’t know, pink seems to be kind of an evil color to her. It’s…

Caleb: Interesting, yeah.

Kat: The pink earmuffs aren’t wanted. The evil characters wear pink. I don’t know. Just something I thought of.

Caleb: Just as a quick aside – this is slightly off topic, but I want to get Lev’s opinion on this – Lev, I’m assuming you’ve read The Casual Vacancy, right? Wait, you have because I read your review on it. That’s right. Because when you were talking about how she’s so willing to write evil characters, that’s immediately what popped into my mind. It’s because I think it takes off on such another level in The Casual Vacancy, but that’s so true about her writing.

Lev: Yeah, that willingness to inhabit characters who are just profoundly unpleasant. And I was thinking about The Casual Vacancy too, and then I thought maybe I shouldn’t say anything about it because it’s not totally germane. But her… that’s where she really shows it off. Her ability to… just reading these characters, you want to take a shower afterwards and it’s hard to imagine…

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Lev: …giving voice to them. It’s so tempting when you’re writing to sort of say, “Okay, things weren’t that bad,” and then give somebody something slightly sympathetic to say. But of course, the real world isn’t like that, and Rowling obviously knows that very well and she’s willing to put that on the page. And it’s kind of harder than it looks, if you ever try.

Caleb: Hmm. Yeah. I definitely felt like I needed to take a shower after The Casual Vacancy. [laughs] There was a lot there.

Kat: I still haven’t finished. Is that bad?

Caleb: Yes.

Michael: No, I haven’t finished either.

Kat: Oh, okay. At least I’m not…

Michael: But I have an excuse because I’m reading it in a two-person book club. [laughs] So, I’m at a certain pace.

Kat: I actually really truly am listening to the audiobook. No joke.

Caleb: Hmm.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Kat: And I did get it from Audible, just saying.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Kat: Anyway, okay. So, we’re on page 271 now and we’ve been talking a lot about Ginny and the clues we’ve been getting about her distress throughout the book. And there’s another one on this page, where they’re talking about the quietness in the common room. And Fred and George, Harry, and Ron are all playing Exploding Snap and it says that, “Ginny sat watching them, very subdued in Hermione’s usual chair.” And I just got this feeling that Ginny must feel awful about Hermione because I think at this point, she knows it’s her.

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah.

Kat: And I just can’t imagine living with that feeling, knowing that it was her, but…

Michael: That actually raises a question from me for Lev. I’m actually… because, as I was reading these chapters and remembering when I first read Chamber of Secrets, maybe it was because I was just not an especially bright eleven-year-old, ten-year-old. But I did not catch the clues that it was Ginny. I didn’t… I threw all the clues away at that age. And I was just wondering what it’s like to write those kind of clues into your material and how you plan that out because I feel that Rowling does so carefully do that. Because almost every book, [laughs] I never guessed what was going to happen in the end.

Lev: Rowling, she’s an outlier in that respect. I mean, I study her… sometimes there’s a couple of her diagrams online, where they show how she spreadsheeted out a whole book in advance. And I don’t think anybody… I don’t know of any authors who plan like her. I often do this thing of I’ll write and I’ll put a lot of characters into play. I myself won’t know who it is, who’s done whatever the thing is, until much later in the book. Then I’ll go back and plant a bunch of clues. But I often have to let the outcome sneak up on me. So, even I don’t know who it is while I’m doing the initial pass, just to make sure that it’s actually that difficult to guess. So, I have to fool myself initially and then fool the reader. But I think Rowling knows what she’s doing the whole time. She strikes me as one of those writers who’s in total control for the entire draft. And rereading this book actually, it really… that stuff jumps out at you much more, of course, than it does in the first reading.

Kat: Right. Yeah, we’ve been noticing a lot of these clues and even some of them, I only picked up this time around, and how many times have I read this book? Twenty? Thirty?

Caleb: Yeah.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Same.

Kat: I mean, it’s true.

Lev: But yeah, poor Ginny. You just can’t imagine her state of mind, sitting in Hermione’s chair and thinking about… do you think it’s dawning on her what’s going on?

Kat: Yeah, I do.

Caleb: Yeah, I think it’s starting to, at least. Yeah.

Kat: Yeah. Because doesn’t she say something in the next chapter? I think she does, right?

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah.

Caleb: Yeah, she wants to bring it up with Harry. Yeah, I have that in the thing.

Kat: Right, I thought so. So, at this point is when Harry and Ron decide that they’re going to follow the spiders. And so, they grab the Invisibility Cloak and they walk down out through the front doors which, by the way, are not locked with magic. How crazy is that?

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Kat: And so, they walk for almost an hour, about fifty minutes into the forest. They’re following the spiders, going through the trees and everything. And all of a sudden, the Ford Anglia is there and it just finds them.

[Caleb laughs]

Kat: And again, this made me think of Noah because, is the car stalking them? Is it a stalker car? [laughs]

Caleb: The Anglia just misses the Weasley family.

Kat: Is that what it is?

Caleb: And so, he – it, whatever – wants to be reunited…

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: …and Ron is there. That’s what it is.

Kat: Okay. His heart is calling out to him?

Caleb: Yup.

Kat: Got it. Okay. So, the pair… Harry and Ron and Fang are caught by the spiders and they’re taken to the hallows ground where Aragog is. And Harry can understand the spiders because they’re clicking a little bit, and I was wondering: Do we think Ron can hear the spiders, for one? Or is it just Harry? And why? Is it because… if Ron can’t hear the spiders and Harry can, is it because of his Parselmouth abilities? That maybe he is more able to speak to animals? Kind of like the relationship he has with Hedwig. It’s such a close relationship. I know she’s an owl and they’re supposed to be smart in this world, but we know they’re not smart in real life. So, what do you think about that?

Caleb: I would say Ron probably can understand. He can, but we’re just seeing it only from Harry’s perspective.

Michael: I think, yeah, that I’d agree with that. I mean, I did think… the only other time that I think we… a major time that we encounter an Acromantula – the other major times would be Goblet of Fire in the maze and then Deathly Hallows during the final battle – and they don’t talk to anybody then. And that’s also from Harry’s point of view. He never tries to communicate with the spiders again even though he probably could. But yeah, I think Ron can hear them and that might in fact partially be why he’s in shock.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Michael: I mean, if it’s already enough of a shock that you’re being picked up by the thing you fear the most and it’s inflated to ten times its size, and then it starts talking to you. [laughs]

Caleb: I would probably just die on the spot.

Michael: Yeah. No, that would be pretty terrifying.

Caleb: I actually started a discussion like this in my forum on the Alohomora! boards about if you got to choose which animal you could be able to communicate instead of a snake, like Harry is a Parseltongue, what would it be? Some pretty interesting answers. A lot of people say dogs, which I guess makes sense.

Kat: Yeah, that’s true. I do… I always look at my cats and say, or think, I wish I knew what they were thinking. Hmm.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Okay. Anyway, so they’re talking to Aragog and they get all this information from her. It’s a girl, right? Aragog is a…

Michael: No, Aragog is a boy.

Kat: No, it’s a wife. It’s a guy. It’s a boy.

Caleb: Because he gets him a wife.

Kat: Right. [laughs] He got him a wife. That’s right. So, we learn from Aragog that Hagrid did not indeed open the chamber, that the body from the victim was found in the bathroom, and that Aragog knows what lives in the school. And it even says that Hagrid asked him many, many, many times but Aragog refused to tell him because spiders do not speak of it. And I was thinking that with Hagrid’s background and his fascination with beasts, could he really not have figured it out?

Lev: I feel at this point somebody would be making a little spreadsheet of things that can turn other people to stone and one of the cells…

Kat: Yeah!

Lev: …would say basilisk in it just so it would be on the table. You know, that box would be out there.

Kat: Yeah.

Michael: Well…

Kat: But I feel like nobody does. That’s the thing.

Michael: Well, and if you look at… and this is possibly stretching canon, but if you were to take Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – the edition that came out as canon because it’s applied that it is since Harry and Ron leave notes in it – the basilisk is in here. It’s on page three. So, [laughs] if you look at it that way, it’s not like it’s… the basilisk, even though it’s related to dark magic, isn’t something that students wouldn’t necessarily know about because it’s in books that are easy access. So…

Kat: Right. It’s not like it’s a Horcrux where every book in the entire world is hidden on them and they have no idea, right?

Michael: Yeah. It’s kind of like nobody is really trying to guess what this is. [laughs]

Kat: Right. I don’t know, it was just surprising that… especially Hagrid couldn’t figure out what it was. So, then they find… they escape all the spiders thanks to the Ford Anglia, again. And they’re up in bed and Harry is sitting there to himself and there’s a great line that says:

“The creature that was lurking somewhere in the castle, he thought, sounded like a sort of monster Voldemort – even other monsters didn’t want to name it.”

And I thought, well, it is a monster version of Voldemort, right? Because it’s controlled by his heir.

Caleb: Yeah. Mhm.

Kat: So, I just thought it was a great parallel.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: And then right here on the last page, Harry kind of has an “aha” lightbulb moment, and he sits up and he says, “Wait a minute, the girl that died in the bathroom? It’s Moaning Myrtle!” So, that’s it. I mean, as much as that happened in that chapter, there actually wasn’t that much that happened in that chapter. [laughs] So…

Caleb: Well, they do make a big discovery at the end.

Kat: They do, that is very true.

Caleb: And it sort of starts kicking everything into gear.

Kat: Yeah, a good cliffhanger.

Lev: And Rowling… there’s a lot of stuff paying off, just like almost paragraph by paragraph stuff that she’s carefully set up and it just comes back.

Kat: Yeah.

Lev: Like the Ford Anglia. You put so much into the Ford Anglia, she lets us forget about the Ford Anglia, and then there’s the Ford Anglia again. And it’s so great when it comes back and you can tell that she was planning it all along and you never see it coming. I personally love the Ford Anglia. It’s one of my favorite characters in the series.

Caleb: I agree.

Lev: And I was almost… I was sad when it went off into the forest. I had this hope that it would become a recurring character…

[Caleb laughs]

Lev: …and would follow Ron around, and they would have more adventures with it. I was sorry to see it go.

Michael: I had the same hope.

Kat: You did?

Michael: Yeah, no, because she actually confirmed somewhere in one of her early interviews that the car was supposed to come back in “6” or “7”, and she ended up writing it out I guess or just not putting it back in. But yeah, no, [laughs] I was thoroughly disappointed not to see the car come back.

Caleb: It should have come back in the battle at the end.

Michael: Yeah.

Kat: Yeah, totally. Totally. We…

Lev: It’s because it’s badass, obviously. I mean, it has serious…

Kat: [laughs] Obviously.

[Caleb laughs]

Kat: We’ve talked about this before, how… what happened to the car when it entered Hogwarts grounds and did it get a sentient life. So, what do you two think about that? Because we haven’t talked about that with you, Lev and Michael.

Lev: Yeah, it’s hard to say what level of sentience it had all along. And yes, whether it acquired something extra from either being in the forest or… I tend to think that it had something going on all along. I don’t think that just entering the grounds would necessarily have imbued it with a higher level of sentience than it already had. I think it was sort of a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-like entity and kept it on the down-low until it was out on its own and then I think it got a taste of freedom and realized it couldn’t go back.

Kat: That makes sense.

Michael: Yeah, that’s kind of my thoughts. I mean, I think in Rowling’s world, when you imbibe something with magic that’s not supposed to have it, it does take on a little bit of life. I mean, Ron, in the first chapters when they drive it to school, he does treat it like it’s alive – he talks to it. And I mean, that’s something that I know I’ve done with my car before [laughs] and I’ve heard my friends do that, where you just… if your car is giving out on you, you’ll just give it a little bit of a pat. But…

Caleb: I mean, I named my car, so it definitely has a personality.

Michael: Yeah, my car is named too. So, yeah. No, for sure.

Kat: Yeah, me too.

Michael: [laughs] But I think the forest might have amplified it just because the magic in there is so wild and untamed that the car reflects its atmosphere because it’s been so long in there. But I do think, like Lev said, it always had a personality once it had magic in it, so…

Lev: And just as a side note, the Ford Anglia always makes me think of Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and it reminds us all that English car names are just inherently funny.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Caleb: Oh my God. That’s so funny that you bring up Hitchhiker’s Guide because my car is named Marvin.

Kat: [laughs] Oh my gosh.

Caleb: So, that’s really funny.

Kat: Wow. Parallels all around.

Caleb: Yup.

Kat: Cool.

Caleb: Okay, well that takes us into the second chapter for this episode, the title chapter, Chapter 16: “The Chamber of Secrets.” So, it’s the next morning after Harry and Ron have discovered that it’s all about Moaning Myrtle, but it’s suddenly exams time and this announcement, for some reason, the book explains that it drives the Chamber of Secrets from their minds. And I think this is really interesting because Hermione is obviously petrified and not there, and it’s Harry and Ron that are getting the Chamber of Secrets driven from their mind because of exams. So, I thought that was a little ironic…

Kat: Yeah.

Caleb: …even though she’s not there.

Kat: Absolutely. Yeah, I agree.

Caleb: And sort of on the note of the exams, the students are pissed…

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: …because they don’t think that they should be having exams amidst all these attacks, but McGonagall is pretty much like, no, you’re going to get your education because we’re keeping the school open. So, I’m just curious what you guys side on this because I stopped after I read this and thought about it a little. Is this the right move, to still press forward with exams even though they’re kind of thinking about maybe we should be closing the school? Or what should they have done?

Kat: As a student, I can see being upset and worried about it unless I wasn’t affected directly. Then I would be like, oh okay, whatever. Quite honestly. If I didn’t know any of the people that were petrified, maybe I wouldn’t care. If I was a pureblood, maybe I wouldn’t care. I don’t know. Hard to say.

Lev: I may be the only person on the call who has children, but I have to say, if my child was going to a school where people were being petrified, whether or not they closed the school down I would immediately withdraw my child. There isn’t any question about what you do in that situation.

Caleb: Right.

Lev: So, I think it’s a little bit of a loss of perspective there.

Caleb: Hmm, that’s a good point.

Michael: I… yeah. I felt kind of the same way thinking about it. I was like, if I were a parent in the wizarding world, even though everybody goes on about Hogwarts being the safest place, there’s not really a lot of evidence for that. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, a lot of stuff goes down there, doesn’t it?

Michael: [laughs] Yes. Yes, it does. Yeah, I would agree with Lev there. I would… I mean, if I were a parent, yeah, I’d pull the kid out. If I were one of the students… well, and I think that also depends too on what background you come from. If you’re Muggle-born and you don’t know that much about what’s going on, you may just be somewhat indifferent or confused. But if you’re a half-blood or a pureblood and you know what’s going on here, then that would probably make you a little more terrified, or in the case of the Slytherins, you’d just be happy to be watching it all go down because you’d know you were immune. [laughs] So, there’s actually quite a wide variety of perspectives to take into account, and I guess McGonagall is taking orders from Dumbledore at this point.

Kat: Right.

Michael: So, she’s not fully making her own decision.

Caleb: That’s true.

Kat: What would you do as a teacher, Caleb?

Caleb: Yeah, I mean, I would think that if something like this happened, school is done. No kids at the school whatsoever. I have this teacher mentality that kids should not be put in danger if there’s even that risk of something like that happening.

Kat: Right.

Caleb: So…

Lev: You could sort of see it. It’s like, well, if we don’t have exams, that means the terrorists have won. There’s a point, I guess, to…

Michael: Mhm.

Caleb: Right, and I think that’s McGonagall’s mindset. I actually thought about that, being very Gryffindor, we’re not going to let them beat us. So…

Kat: And it’s been proven time and time again – and we’re only, what, three-quarters of the way of Book 2 – that wizards just don’t care.

Michael: [laughs] Very much so.

Kat: They just don’t care about their children being harmed.

Caleb: Right.

Michael: Well, and I think this is also along with it being McGonagall being all gung-ho and like, [as McGonagall] “Let’s go forth!” [back to normal voice] I think it’s also a mixture, too, of Dumbledore being like, [as Dumbledore] “Let’s watch this play out and see what Harry does. I’ll put the whole school at risk to see what Harry does.”

Kat: [laughs] Yeah.

Michael: [laughs] So, I do still think he… I know you guys have talked before about how much Dumbledore kind of puppeteers everything in the background, and I think there’s definitely something to that with all of this because I’m sure he knows about Harry’s struggle of Gryffindor versus Slytherin and…

Kat: Yeah.

Michael: …how this relates directly to him. I’m sure Dumbledore knows more than he lets on, so…

Kat: I’m sure.

Caleb: Well, Harry and Ron move on to the Transfiguration class, and McGonagall is having them turn rabbits into slippers, and I have decided we are not wearing those slippers.

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: We’re not having a deskpig, “Are we going to eat this desk that becomes a pig?” because that’s just weird.

Kat: Does Lev know about the deskpig?

Caleb: I don’t know.

Michael: Does he need to know about the deskpig?

Caleb: Oh my God.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Noah would say yes.

Michael: Yes.

Lev: I think I should be informed about the deskpig.

Caleb: Basically, it’s… there’s a Transfiguration lesson – it’s in Philosopher’s Stone, right?

Kat: Mhm.

Caleb: Yeah, and she’s getting… so she transfigures a desk into a pig. And so, we had… well, they had this really big discussion about…

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: …whether or not it would be okay or even nutritious to eat this pig after it has been changed from a desk into a pig.

Kat: Right. We talked about it on about seven episodes so far.

Michael: [laughs] The important things in life.

Lev: Yeah, right. And have you come to a conclusion, or is it still open?

Caleb: No. It’s going to be the ongoing debate for the entire podcast, I’m pretty confident.

Kat: Yup. No, some of us are on the yes, we would eat it side. Some of us are on the no. So…

Michael: So, basically, would you eat it, Lev? Would you eat the deskpig?

Lev: Is there a danger that the desk bacon would revert to…

[Kat laughs]

Michael: We don’t know. You’re going to have to take that risk, Lev.

[Kat laughs]

Lev: I do love bacon and I would take almost any risk for the sake of bacon.

[Michael laughs]

Lev: But that actually might be a little bit too much.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Yup.

Kat: Yeah.

Caleb: Because then you end up with wood in your stomach.

Kat: Yeah.

Lev: Yeah, which is… that’s not good for anyone.

Kat: No. [laughs]

Caleb: Take that cellulose.

Michael: It’s magic Russian roulette. Just take the risk.

Kat: That’s right.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Kat: Right, so no bunny slippers. You got it.

Caleb: Right, no bunny slippers, but she does announce that the Mandrakes are ready to be… well, Noah would say murdered, but…

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Caleb: …she tells us that they’re ready to be cut. So, it’s like, yay, we’re going to be able to save the petrified people. And I guess it’s at another meal a little later, Ginny comes down and everyone is like, oh yeah, we’re going to be able to catch the bad guy because now we know. We’re being able to actually restore the people who have been petrified. And Ginny comes and sits down looking all nervous, and just like Kat brought up in the previous chapter, this is another one of those clues. Hello, how could we have not figured this out? I was just slapping myself for being like, “You idiot.”

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: “How could you not have figured this out?” But there was one really interesting quotation, and this is describing Ginny. It says: “With a scared look that reminded Harry of someone,” and he goes on to liken this to Dobby, and I thought it was really interesting because now Ginny and Dobby are tied together because they’re both… well, first he likens them together and obviously they’re both holding back information. Dobby knows what the Malfoys are doing, or at least to some degree, and Ginny is obviously the one facilitating the attacks. So, I thought that was a really interesting thing that I didn’t catch before.

Kat: Yeah, I definitely never caught that before. That’s a good parallel. That’s very true.

Caleb: But just as Ginny is about to… it sounds like she’s going to confess to Harry, or at least talk to he and Ron about what’s going on, but freaking Percy comes in and ruins it. And I just want to kick him, I want to melt his Prefect badge, and I want to light him on fire.

Kat: [laughs] Wow.

Caleb: Because he thinks that Ginny is going to spill the beans about he and Penelope macking in the hall or something. And no one, no one, cares about your life, Percy, so you just completely ruined everything.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Wow, that is some Percy hate going on there.

Michael: Yeah, wow. [laughs]

Caleb: It is.

Lev: Why was that enough to stop Ginny from confessing? She just runs away. What’s she afraid of exactly?

Caleb: Well, I think maybe it’s because she knows how Percy is, and if he figured out what happened he would immediately go tell a teacher, whereas Ron and Harry would not.

Kat: That’s true.

Michael: Well, then she chose the wrong people to tell [laughs] because Harry and Ron are just going to get themselves in more danger. That’s going to go crazy. Like, if she told a teacher, maybe things would be handled… I always think Ginny’s such an odd character in the first probably about three or four books because – to me, at least – she experiences just a total spin of character in Book 5. And I know people who love Ginny are going to hate me for that. But I’ve always thought that Ginny’s actions and her behavior – it’s almost like she’s barely written so that you don’t understand why she does what she does, because we don’t know her at all. She’s a great piece for the plot because we don’t know anything about her, so we don’t know what she’s going to do.

Lev: It’s probably just me and this is sort of where my mind naturally goes, but of course, I immediately was flashing forward to years later, Harry making out with Ginny and then thinking to himself: “God, she still kind of reminds me of Dobby.”

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Lev: And that just completely [unintelligible].

Kat: Wow.

Lev: I know it’s just me. That’s my problem.

Kat: No, no, no, there’s probably a fan fiction out there.

Michael: Well, yeah.

[Kat laughs]

Michael: If you think it, there’s fan fiction.

Kat: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Caleb: Well, amidst all of this they’ve kind of let Ginny drop off because they don’t really think much of what she wanted to say, they’ve moved on. And Harry and Ron are still looking for this opening to get to Myrtle’s bathroom to talk to her, to try to figure something out, but the problem is these teachers are still trying to walk them to classes between the halls. But they finally get an opening because Lockhart… he doesn’t really want to be walking them around. He’s having a real rough day – sounds like he had to stay up real late to patrol the corridors because his hair is not perfect…

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: …and he didn’t get his beauty sleep. So, Harry and Ron are a little clever and talk him into not needing to walk them away, so Harry and Ron finally get their opening to talk to Myrtle. But before they even get there, they run into McGonagall. And I thought this was a really interesting scene because Harry and Ron fib that they are going to see Hermione and then McGonagall gets a little emotional. My homegirl is tearing up…

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Caleb: …because she thinks that, “Oh, of course. Your best friend is petrified. This is awful that this is happening.” And I don’t think we really get that many emotional parts where we actually see a tear from McGonagall.

Michael: No, I felt really… the first time I read this – and I still kind of feel this way – I feel really bad for McGonagall that Harry and Ron just totally played on her emotions in the moment. [laughs] I mean, I know they had to, but…

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: …I could just picture them just looking at her with wide quizzical eyes, just like, “Is she crying?” [laughs]

Caleb: “Why is this happening? Stop please.”

Michael: “Why is this happening right now?” [laughs]

Lev: It reminds me of, I feel, how little I know about Professor McGonagall. Obviously this is resonating with something in her personal experience, but it’s hard to say exactly what.

Caleb: Well, have you read her backstory that was released on Pottermore? Did you get to that?

Lev: Hmm, I don’t know if I did.

Caleb: So, on her backstory in Pottermore, it talks about how she… let’s see. What happens? She falls in love, she definitely falls in love with a…

Kat: With a Muggle, right?

Caleb: Well, the person she’s going to marry ends up dying, right?

Michael: Yeah.

Kat: Oh, yes. Yup.

Caleb: So, she loses the person she’s intending to be with, and so that’s where I think a lot of that pain comes from.

Lev: Right, it all fits together.

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: Well, and we get a lot of unexpected emotional outbursts from McGonagall after this point throughout the series. This is her first real major one.

Caleb: Hmm, yeah. That’s like the thing in the scene in the movie where… oh, when Harry comes back to Hogwarts in the last movie and she says, “It’s good to have you back,” and I’m just like, “Ahh! That’s so great.”

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Yeah.

Michael: Well, I kind of discount it usually, but going back and reading through the series now, she does start off pretty passionately. Pretty emotional in the first time we meet her. She’s the one who was defending Harry against the Dursleys and saying that Dumbledore’s out of his mind to leave Harry with them.

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: Dumbledore was very indifferent to her protests. So, there is early on a pretty strong indication that she is a little more emotional than she will let on. Yeah, I think this is the first unexpected outburst of it.

Caleb: Right.

Kat: Yeah, mhm.

Caleb: Well, I guess they felt bad enough from the emotion that she shows, and they do actually go and see Hermione. And it’s a good thing because Harry discovers a piece of paper in Hermione’s hand. So, he finds a book… a page… a sheet of… excuse me, a page out of a book ripped out and also a little piece that says “pipes”. So, it kind of makes me wonder about this scene where Hermione sort of figured everything out and she figured it out on her own – she figured out the Basilisk, she figured out about the pipes – and then she’s suddenly petrified. So, it’s a really interesting scene. It kind of makes me wonder if anyone has sort of written that scene in a fan submission or something like that. But…

Michael: I always thought it was kind of funny that Hermione immediately bumps into Penelope Clearwater and that Penelope Clearwater believes her because…

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: …people don’t usually listen to Hermione. [laughs]

Caleb: Right.

Michael: So the first thing she says, “There’s a giant snake in the pipes! Take out your mirrors!”

Caleb: Right.

Michael: And you believe that? [laughs]

Kat: If I was Penelope Clearwater… I mean, she’s not a Muggle-born.

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: So…

Caleb: Right.

Kat: Yeah, I mean, that makes sense. If I was her, I probably wouldn’t be all that worried. But Hermione does have a reputation of being pretty smart and knowing what she’s talking about.

Michael: Maybe she shoved a mirror in Penelope Clearwater’s hands. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, maybe.

Michael: Made her take it with her.

Caleb: So, this also made me think about the timing of her figuring it out and then being petrified. So, it makes me actually wonder – and I never thought about this before – is there any way the Basilisk knows that… or Riddle somehow knows through the diary that she’s figured it out and that’s why the Basilisk is in this very unexpected place near the library to go after Hermione.

Kat: Was Ginny around…

Michael: I was wondering that, too.

Kat: …when Hermione said, “Oh, I think I figured something out, I need to go to the library”? I don’t think she was because they were heading down to Quidditch, right?

Michael: Yeah. So, she wasn’t around for it. But maybe she was around at the library.

Caleb: Right, right, right.

Michael: So, we never…

Kat: She probably would have been in the Chamber with the Basilisk.

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah, that’s right. So…

Kat: Hmm.

Caleb: Just something I thought about.

Kat: I know, that’d be one smart basilisk.

Caleb: Right. So, in this piece of paper from the book, we figure out all the stuff about the Basilisk and we find out that this creature is born from a chicken’s egg hatched beneath a toad. Urgh, that is the most gross, but… and also, we have spiders are afraid of it. And then finally that, for some reason, this big, bad, scary thing can be killed by a rooster’s crow. Why? Why does that happen? That’s what I want to know.

Kat: I don’t know, they are pretty obnoxious if you’ve ever lived in the country.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Oh, yeah. I grew up… yeah.

Kat: When they crow at five in the morning, kill me. But I don’t know…

Caleb: That’s just so interesting. Maybe there’s something with the lore behind it, that’s like beyond the story. I just thought that was kind of… there’s a lot going on there – chicken eggs, toads, crowing. It sounds like a biblical story.

Kat: That has to be a large toad because chicken eggs are significantly larger. Imagine a toad sitting on an egg.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Also, who moves the egg? Or does the toad just come plop on it?

[Kat laughs]

Lev: It’s got to have to be a cane toad or something. A really significant toad.

Kat: Right.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: It’s definitely an intentional thing because a toad wouldn’t just come and sit on an egg.

Caleb: Yeah. Hey guys, I see an egg. Let’s go chill on it.

Kat: That’s right, exactly. [laughs]

Caleb: Ribbit. All right. Anyway, just… I want to know. If people out there know more about basilisks, let us know. Why does the rooster’s crow kill it? I want to know that.

Lev: My son, my baby son, who is three months old – his name is Baz – we actually call him basilisk just because you tend to give…

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Lev: …your children humiliating nicknames, because they can’t retaliate.

[Everyone laughs]

Lev: But this kind of reminds me of how sort of horrible basilisks are. Maybe it’s not the term of affection that I was sort of thinking of it as.

Kat: Does he have eyes that kill?

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Lev: He doesn’t. Which makes it all the more inappropriate.

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: That’s great. So, after Harry and Ron have processed what Hermione has figured out years ago, because she’s so much smarter, they go to tell McGonagall and they’re like, “Ah, we’re going to go find her in the staff room.” But as they’re getting there, McGonagall announces that students need to go to their dormitories immediately and all teachers to the staff room. So, we know something’s up. And Harry and Ron hide in the staff room to eavesdrop on what’s going on, and we find out that a student has been taken into the Chamber of Secrets and it’s Ginny. And for me, I don’t know, this was kind of really unexpected. Even though there’s those hints that something is clearly going on with Ginny, the first time reading, hearing that Ginny has suddenly been taken, was like a bullet to my chest. I could not believe that that had happened the first time I read it.

Kat: Yeah, I mean, because she is part of a pretty significant family in the series.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: So… but I mean…

Caleb: And…

Kat: Sorry.

Caleb: No, go for it.

Kat: I was going to say, the thing that I thought of is, I mean, naturally, of course, if you’re going to the staff room to tell a staff member something super duper important, and then all of a sudden, every staff member is going to the staff room, naturally you’re going to hide in the closet.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Right.

Kat: [laughs] I mean, that makes no sense. Why wouldn’t you just wait there and then tell her?

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: I don’t know.

Michael: Well, you know Harry’s mentality. [laughs]

Caleb: Most of the time Ron just [unintelligible], so…

Michael: Let’s find out as much as we can and then go act on it ourselves rather than tell anybody. [laughs]

Kat: Right.

Caleb: And I was thinking…

Lev: I don’t know if it struck anybody else that way, but that line, “Her skeleton will lie in the chamber forever,” is one of those moments of real serious creepiness. And sort of in the whole series. I remember when I read that, I just got a little bit freaked out by it.

Kat: Yeah, absolutely.

Michael: Yeah, no.

Kat: It’s chilling. It’s chilling.

Caleb: It is. And that’s why I was thinking about Ron. I can’t even imagine hearing something like that happening to your sibling. Like, I think about my siblings. If I were to have been sitting there and heard something like that, I don’t even know how I would react. It’s awful.

Lev: It depends on the sibling. I mean, some siblings I would feel a little upset about…

[Caleb, Kat, and Michael laugh]

Lev: …and others just mildly disconcerted.

Caleb: [laughs] All right. So, there’s this really great moment then in the staffroom where Snape decides to call Lockhart out. Because all along, Lockhart has been talking about he knew all along. If they would have just asked him, he would have figured it out that Hagrid did it, so on and so forth. And he wants to send Lockhart, and I am fully behind it. But Lockhart, of course, tries to make a run for it and he goes back to his… he tries to get out and he says, “Oh yeah, I’m going to need to go to my room and prepare everything.” But Harry and Ron go there and find him packing up. And we get Lockhart’s story finally, and we find out that he has done nothing that he says he did in his books, but actually he’s just really awesome at Memory Charms and has used them on all of these people who have done these amazing things and then taken their stories. And it’s interesting because he makes a point to describe how unattractive these people are that did things. My idea is that Lockhart thinks, “Well, they’re not very good looking, so probably better for someone good looking for people to think did this stuff. So, I’m just going to fix that for them.”

Michael: My thing in this section was that I was surprised that… I know they find all this stuff out about Lockhart now, but I was surprised that Harry decided that this would be the plan, to go talk to Lockhart. Because, first of all, they knew that the teachers had sent him off with the intention of him not doing anything – they were trying to get rid of him, they say that in the staff room – and then they’re like, “Oh yes, let’s go tell him what we know.” And I’m thinking Lockhart has done nothing to prove that he is capable of anything and these two are probably the biggest characters in the series who don’t believe him the whole time, from the start. And so they’re putting their faith in Lockhart of all people? That did surprise me. And I know – like you were saying, Caleb – they end up finding out all this information for sure after the fact, after they go to him.

Caleb: Right.

Michael: I just thought it was a bit surprising that they decided to put that valuable information to Lockhart.

Caleb: Right.

Kat: Yeah, I’d never thought of that. That’s a very odd choice going from McGonagall to Lockhart.

Michael: Yeah, I thought McGonagall would be more trustworthy. Because I don’t think McGonagall… I get the feeling that Harry and Ron just assume that they’re going to leave Ginny down there because they don’t have any game plan to go get her, because they don’t know where it is.

Caleb: Right. I agree, I don’t think the staff would be thinking, “Oh, let’s all get down there now.” They’re thinking, “As much as it sucks, we’ve got to do what’s needed for all these other students even though it is going to be bad news for this one student. But we have to think of -” for lack of a better phrase “- the greater good here.”

Michael: Yeah. I don’t know, I guess if I were Harry though, and I had to put my trust in one of the teachers, I’d rather have McGonagall come down to the Chamber of Secrets with me than Lockhart. [laughs]

Lev: Can someone remind me, how famous was Rowling at the point when she was writing this? Because she often writes about fame and the nature of fame, and the way the media creates fame, with the whole Rita Skeeter thread. Was she writing about fame from the outside, or was she already famous at this point?

Michael: Hasn’t she said before that her fame kind of peaked around the wait between Prisoner and Goblet, and that’s where it got really crazy?

Caleb: Yeah, that would make more sense. I don’t think she’s quite captured the fame that she’s going to by the time she’s writing Chamber of Secrets. Obviously, she’s got a book deal and she knows good things are coming, but I don’t think it had really reached that epic level yet.

Kat: Especially in the US, because doesn’t… I mean, Chamber comes out quite a bit later in the US than it did in the UK.

Caleb: Yeah, that’s true.

Kat: Same with the first book.

Michael: Well, and it’s kind of a running motif throughout all seven books about fame because Harry is dealing with it from the beginning. So, Lockhart is kind of a foil to how Harry tries to deal with his fame, in that respect. So, it’s… I don’t know if Lockhart was necessarily a reflection of what Rowling was going through at the time so much as he was just supposed to be a foil to Harry.

Caleb: So, after Harry and Ron figure out Lockhart’s story, he tries to use a Memory Charm on them because obviously he doesn’t want anyone to know what he did. But they disarm him and Harry makes a little jab, or – I can’t remember if it’s Harry or Ron now – but make a little jab about him teaching them how to disarm during the Dueling Club, so that kind of comes back to bite him. But they lead Lockhart to the bathroom and we finally get this conversation with Myrtle. And she actually seems very willing to talk about her story of her death. And I really thought it was interesting, the text on how one becomes a ghost. It’s something we’ve talked about on the show before, and this is a really descriptive part where Myrtle talks about her own experience. And it says:

“‘My whole body sort of seized up, and then I was floating away…’ She looked dreamily at Harry. ‘And then I came back again. I was determined to haunt Olive Hornby, you see. Oh, she was sorry she’d ever laughed at my glasses.'”

So, I thought that was interesting because when it comes to why she came back, she never really discusses this unwillingness to sort of move on to whatever is next after life. But instead, it’s sort of this seemingly bent on revenge for Olive Hornby that sort of attaches Myrtle to the world still as a ghost.

Kat: Yeah, which is the exact opposite of what JK has said about why somebody decides to become a ghost.

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: That’s… hmm. I never thought about that.

Caleb: And it’s definitely what Nick talks about, why people stay behind as ghosts.

Kat: Right.

Michael: Well…

Kat: So, this makes it seem like… I’m sorry, Michael.

Michael: Oh, go ahead.

Kat: This makes it seem like it’s more of a moment that happens exactly when you die instead of kind of a premeditated thing, you know?

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: Well, I thought she did say that unfinished business can tie you back to the world if as a ghost. Like, if you’re so consumed by it – because in her world you have to be a witch or wizard to become a ghost. I mean, I guess when you look at it, Myrtle was… what was she, like twelve? Eleven? Twelve? She wasn’t very old when she died.

Caleb: Right.

Michael: And what are the most horrible things in the world to put upon a twelve year old? What’s going to consume them? Is it going to be the really important things like their future and so forth, or is it going to be what’s in the moment? And so Myrtle dies and comes back as a ghost. She chooses to come back because Olive’s teasing of her is the only thing that she is focused on. I mean, that’s the only thing she talks about in death too, pretty much, other than being dead. So, I thought that kind of went along perfectly with how Rowling described why people become ghosts. She didn’t really seem to have an interest in moving on, almost. She’s, what, like I said, twelve? That’s not the kind of thing she probably was thinking about.

Lev: Is Myrtle more physically tied to the bathroom and to that particular spatial location than the other ghosts are tied to a particular room?

Michael: Yes.

Caleb: Yeah, it definitely seems like it. Yeah.

Michael: She… yeah, I think there’s a… I don’t know if it’s on Pottermore or somewhere else, but it does talk about how she used to wonder – it is on Pottermore – she used to wonder around the whole school bothering Olive. And she left Hogwarts to bother Olive, but then the Ministry put a sanction on her that she had to stay in Hogwarts, in the bathroom, I think. So…

Caleb: Oh yeah, that’s true. I forgot about that.

Kat: In the bathroom, or just at Hogwarts? I think she’s in the bathroom just because…

Michael: Yeah, because she died there.

Kat: Yeah. Right, yeah. I think it’s just because it’s a familiar place. She’s a pretty morose character, so…

Caleb: What a lonely, awful existence.

Kat: Yeah, mhm.

Michael: It’s fantastically dark, isn’t it? When you think of it.

Kat: It is.

Michael: It’s a dead girl in a bathroom [laughs] that they’re chatting with. I don’t know, if you think about it too long it’s kind of the thing with Lockhart. Like, it goes from being funny to being really, really disturbing.

Lev: Yeah.

Kat: Mhm.

Caleb: Well, after they get this story from Myrtle they figure out the entrance is here in the bathroom because of how Myrtle describes how she was killed and she saw those eyes. And so they’re trying to open the sink up because they think that’s the entrance, and Harry eventually gets it open by speaking in Parseltongue. And it was a really cool Gryffindor – speaking from a Gryffindor – moment that they had this second where there’s no question, when they look down, that they’re going down in there to save Ginny. And it’s, like, no hesitation whatsoever. And it’s just such a perfect Gryffindor moment. But when they get down there, [laughs] they come across a snake skin from a snake that is twenty feet long, and I am suddenly hyperventilating as I read it because I have this awful terror of snakes. Just imagining coming across a snake skin that is twenty feet long.

Kat: Especially vivid poisonous green.

Caleb: Ugh. Yeah.

Kat: Ugh. I’m with you on that one. Gross.

Lev: I am really more freaked out by Aragog then I am by the Basilisk. And I know that’s sort of wrong and out of whack, just spiders…

Caleb: I don’t think that is necessarily weird. I mean, I know a lot of people who have much bigger problems with spiders than snakes, so… and especially since Aragog is so big.

Kat: I do. I mean, Aragog would scare the crap out of me.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: I would be like Ron, sitting there in the silent scream.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: You can’t see it, but I’m doing it now.

[Caleb laughs]

Michael: No, I’m terrified by both. That’s why I’m in Hufflepuff. [laughs] I don’t have to deal with these things.

[Lev laughs]

Kat: Are you saying Hufflepuffs are scaredy cats?

Michael: No, I’m saying that we just don’t go looking for confrontation.

Kat: Oh.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Yeah, us Eagles don’t either, so it’s cool.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: I’m with you on that one.

Michael: See, there’s a plus for you, Lev.

Lev: Yeah, no, we like…

[Lev and Michael laugh]

Lev: We stay in the comfort zone and I like that.

Michael: Yeah. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah. [laughs]

Caleb: So, Lockhart gets this last hurrah moment where he is able to wrestle Ron’s wand away from him and he’s like, nope, this is the end, and he talks about how he is going to take them up and bring some of the snake skin to show what happened to build the story. And so he is going to Obliviate Ron and Harry, and when he tries to – because he is using Ron’s broken busted wand – it backfires and later we find out what happens to Lockhart, but right now all we know is things are falling and crumbling all over the place, and Harry is suddenly separated from Lockhart and Ron, and he is just alone. And this made me think immediately about Philosopher’s Stone because here Harry is all alone about to take on the final part of this localized battle of this book. And I think it’s kind of interesting because in Book 1, Ron is the first to exit in the chess game and then Hermione does with the potions, but it’s flipped in this book. Hermione sort of figures everything out and is kind of sidelined because of the petrification and now, second is Ron who exits. But in the end, it’s still Harry by himself to take it on.

Kat: Per Dumbledore’s hand.

Caleb: Exactly.

Michael: Mhm.

Lev: It’s one of my rare, rare, rare moments of frustration with the series, in that I felt like the rockslide that separates two characters neatly is a tiny bit of a cliché. It’s sort of convenient. Obviously, she needed Harry to be isolated on his own, so bang…

Caleb: Right.

Lev: …rockslide. Well, we’ll never get this out of the way. I’ll just have to go off by myself.

Caleb: Right.

Michael: Yeah, no…

Caleb: That is true.

Michael: …I feel the same way usually, and pretty much any point in the series when Harry gets separated from anybody, [laughs] because it does feel… I always think it’s just funny because throughout the series, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are always saying, “Oh, we’ll go with you. You don’t have to do this alone,” and then he always does it alone. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, that’s true.

Caleb: That’s interesting because as you said that, I was sort of running through your books in my head, Lev, and I guess there’s not really that many moments where Quentin is by himself. I don’t think you ever really do that cliché separation.

Lev: Right. Well, it happens once or twice but there’s no rockslides.

Caleb: Right.

[Caleb and Kat laugh]

Lev: I have a no rockslides rule. [laughs]

Caleb: So, at the end of the chapter, Harry and Ron have this really difficult parting where they’re separated by this rockslide and it’s like they want to avoid the emotions because they’re trying to be tough guys. And… but Harry keeps going on and he eventually comes to one more barrier and he speaks in Parseltongue to open it and that’s where the chapter ends.

Kat: It’s a good cliffhanger. I like that.

Caleb: Yup.

Michael: Mhm.

Caleb: You definitely don’t stop. You keep going when you read it.

Kat: Right. It says he’s shaking from head to toe as he walks inside. That’s… he’s terrified, that Gryffindor.

Caleb: Yup.

Lev: I love the way she works out how the Parseltongue comes out of him, that he needs to… first in front of the sink, he needs to pretend that there’s a real snake there. I love just the way she’s thought through, not just what magic might look like or what kinds of things magic could do, but what it would actually feel like to do magical things yourself.

Kat: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah. No, I like that too, that the magic is… it’s not just you wave your wand and say something. You have to feel it.

Lev: You have to feel it to come out of you.

Michael: Yeah.

Caleb: Hmm.

Michael: It’s partially created by your emotions. It’s dependent on emotion. So…

Kat: Yeah, I think that helps make it more relatable. As someone reading it, you could imagine how you would feel standing there trying to do those things.

Michael: All right, so our next segment is the special feature.

[“The Beast Inquisition” intro begins]

Michael: The Beast Inquisition.

Ron: Hagrid, is that a dragon’s egg?

Hagrid: Yup, what I got there is a Norwegian Ridgeback. They’re rare, them.

Hermione: Hagrid, you live in a wooden house!

[“The Beast Inquisition” intro ends]

Michael: Today, we’re talking about basilisks and spiders and just to preface this, Rosie came up with all of these concepts. I’m not going to pass these off as my own. [laughs] I’m going to try not to butcher these. But there are some really great ideas in here and I’m hoping I can lead the conversation the way she was thinking. So, she starts out pointing out that these two beasts that we encounter one chapter right after the next are giant versions of regular animals. We see a giant spider and a giant snake, which are both very common phobias, and so, is this is a suggestion of the increased size equals increased fear?

Kat: For me, absolutely.

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Kat: I have no problem killing a… ooh, that’s bad. I’m sorry. Removing a spider from my home that is…

[Michael laughs]

Kat: …a half an inch in size as opposed to… what is she? Or he? Eight feet, ten feet wide? Something like that?

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: Yeah. Yes, definitely increased size equals increased fear. Definitely, for me.

Michael: Well, and I guess the point to bring up too then, is why… and maybe Lev can answer this from a writer’s perspective, but why here? Why this point in the story? Why this point in the series even? Because, I mean, just off the top of my head, I’m not seeing too many other giant monsters that we encounter, other than the literal giants in the last book. We don’t encounter too many enlarged animals like this again and certainly not back to back like this. So, why did she place them here?

Caleb: It also seems like we get a lot of large things in general. You think back to the first book, we have Fluffy, who’s certainly an enlarged dog.

Michael: Mhm.

Caleb: And then, in the future, we will get when he’s in the maze in The Goblet of Fire, we get a sphinx and we get another Acromantula.

Michael: Yeah.

Caleb: And then, obviously there are dragons later on in that book and in the future that are, obviously, huge. So, I feel like there’s just a lot of big equals bad.

Lev: Yeah, although, maybe less and less as the series goes on? I don’t know. I don’t know if you guys have any personal experience of phobias. I actually have trouble with phobias myself. I’ve got a couple and there is that sense of where you just lose all sense of perspective. And even though a spider is, I must admit, a relatively small creature, it feels as though it’s larger than you and there’s, of course, rationally you know it’s more scared of you than you are of it. It feels just massive, as it can devour you.

Caleb: Hmm, yeah.

Kat: Do we think this speaks at all to the fact that this is still technically a kid’s book? And that she’s trying to make everything larger than life?

Lev: Well, that’s what I was thinking of. You have that sense not of being a child, not just literally being small, but also things like that seeming really, really major. And as the series goes along, it becomes much more about politics, about good and evil, more abstract things. But here, in the second book, it’s still… it’s children’s fears rather than the fears of teenagers or grown-ups.

Caleb: Yeah. It fully realizes what you were talking about, how that phobia is. You see it as something much larger than it is.

Michael: Mhm. Yeah, no, that’s actually an interesting idea because I even remember a dog that we used to have when I was little and when I asked my dad how big that dog was, he was like, “Oh, it’s just a tiny little thing.” But I remember the dog being really, really big. So, I can see that. I mean, when I read Chamber of Secrets, I was about ten or eleven. So, it was pretty terrifying to me, the thought of a giant snake or a giant spider. I’m just out the door with both. Like I said, Hufflepuff. Don’t have to deal with that stuff. [laughs] But… and then, Rosie also pointed out that the Basilisk, I guess, in certain mythologies – and I have heard about this before – is actually supposed to have a weakness to the weasel, which is not mentioned in the book, but could we infer that as being something related to Ron and Ginny and their connection with the Basilisk?

Caleb and Kat: Hmm.

Michael: I mean, they’re not…

Caleb: But if…

Michael: Go ahead, Caleb.

Caleb: Well, I was just thinking, if the Basilisk has a weakness with the weasel, then the Basilisk doesn’t really show a weakness to Ginny. If anything, it shows command over Ginny.

Michael: Hmm. Mhm.

Caleb: But then again, it’s… well, and it’s not… I guess Ron is part of the thing that takes the Basilisk down, but…

Michael: Yeah, because it’s really Harry, but I mean, I guess… hmm. It’s hard to say how much involvement Ginny has because she’s pretty much possessed by it and then she falls asleep at the end. So, she’s not too involved with the taking down of Tom Riddle.

Kat: Yeah, but I mean, she definitely is active in its downfall. I mean, if Harry… if Ginny had never trusted the diary and the diary never tried to come out into her, I don’t know…

Michael: That’s true. So, the fact that it shows a Weasley is almost its downfall from the start, you could say?

Caleb: Hmm.

Kat: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah, because it chose the wrong…

Caleb: That makes sense.

Michael: It chose the Weasley’s weasel and then Harry Potter just happened to be there too. [laughs] And she has listed here that spiders are an obviously extremely kind… okay. I think we’ve talked about spiders and fear enough that we don’t need to highlight that one again. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, absolutely.

Michael: Oh, and then she…

Lev: I do think it was weird that…

Michael: Oh, go ahead.

Lev: Sorry. I did think it was weird that Aragog was blind. I thought it was a fascinating touch…

Caleb: Hmm.

Lev: …and just a wonderful detail that made Aragog feel that much more real. But I also thought, was there a backstory to that that I was missing? Aragog’s blindness?

Caleb: I don’t remember anything.

Michael: Yeah, as far as the series goes, we haven’t been given any information, which…

Kat: I mean…

Michael: Oh, go ahead Kat.

Kat: I was going to say, is he really blind? Or does Harry just think he’s blind?

Michael: I think he’s blind. He’s got milky white eyes.

Caleb: Yeah, it blatantly says that he’s blind and I guess, maybe it just has to do with his old age because we know he dies in just a couple of books, but that’s the only thing I could think of.

Michael: Yeah, and she makes clear that he’s old because his hair is gray too.

Caleb: Right.

Michael: But actually, Rosie brought up the idea that, is there a significance to that as the idea of blind justice? Because I guess how… it’s almost like, I guess, he’s holding court with Harry.

Caleb: Hmm.

Michael: And also what information he gives Harry as far as Hagrid’s innocence.

Kat: Hmm. See, I think maybe he just has cataracts or something.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Because, I mean, why would his eyes be white if he was blind?

Caleb: I don’t know. I’m not really good with eyes.

Kat: I’m just saying.

Michael: I’m pretty… isn’t that a thing though with blindness, is that sometimes the eyes are… well, and even if he had cataracts, he wouldn’t be able to see very well.

Kat: Right. Well, that’s… I know.

Michael: So, he would basically be blind.

Kat: I was being devil’s advocate.

Michael: No, that was good.

Lev: Really, tangentially, I was always shocked that Aragog was willing to feed Harry and Ron to his progeny. I thought that was especially awful. I was actually a feeling a grudging amount of respect for Aragog and the loyalty that he showed to Hagrid, but that ended when he was willing to feed Hagrid’s friends to his kids. That’s horrible.

Caleb: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah, I love his goodbye line too, “Goodbye friend of Hagrid.”

Kat: Yeah.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: What stops them from going out into the grounds and just eating them whenever? If that’s the case. I mean, is it just Hagrid? Must be.

Michael: It must be because by Deathly Hallows, they do. So…

Caleb: Right.

Kat: That’s true.

Caleb: Mhm.

Michael: Yeah, they’re…

Kat: But that’s because Aragog is dead, I think.

Michael: Yeah, that’s true. They have no…

Caleb: So, yeah. That’s what I was about to say. I think it’s Aragog that keeps them at bay.

Michael: Mhm.

Caleb: He’s kind of like the leader of the whatever you want to call it.

Kat: Well, he is papa, right?

Caleb: Yeah. Ugh.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Michael: And then, Rosie also brought up… oh God and forgive me guys, because I’ve only read The Hobbit. Is the giant…

Caleb: Shelob.

Michael: Thank you. [laughs]

Caleb: Shelob, yeah.

Michael: I felt so bad. But Rosie brought up The Hobbit and Shelob and the giant spider. Is that a reference? She also pointed out the roots of Shelob’s name. Lob is an ancient English word for spider, and Aragog, arachnid, gog, possible reference to Gogmagog, a legend – [laughs] that’s a great name – a legendary giant. And is that also a reference to his connection to Hagrid?

Caleb: Wow.

Michael: Possibly. Yeah, she thought this through. This is very good.

Caleb: Pretty awesome connection.

Michael: Yeah.

Caleb: I mean, we obviously know that Rowling is definitely up with her mythology and…

Kat: Mhm.

Caleb: …she’s very purposeful in her root using. So, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: Yeah, she’s really good with names.

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: She’s very, very clever. Obligatory genius moment here.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Right.

Michael: Well, and not the first time that there’s been a pretty blunt reference to Lord of the Rings and not the last. Even as far as creatures go, I know a lot of people point to the Ringwraiths versus the Dementors and this definitely seems to be pulled from… I guess another question for Lev as far as adaptation, because I know a lot of people accuse her of straight out stealing, and other people are saying, well, it’s fair because is this a point at literature where nothing is strictly original? Or is it always some kind of adaptation, but it’s what you do with that adaptation? So on and so forth.

Lev: Yeah, well, it’s particularly a problem within the fantasy genre. I would say even, obviously, all of literature alludes to other literature and borrows from it. I think there’s a particular… fantasy novels tend to share more DNA with other fantasy novels than in other genres. You can’t invent magic wands or dragons or centaurs. You’re always pulling from the mythology. And you’re dealing with… fantasy tends to be about really deep, subconscious themes that get represented in kind of a limited number of ways. There are some permanent human symbols that tend to come back in fantasy. So, I personally tend to be extremely forgiving when it comes to the way that the same creatures and monsters tend to recur book to book. And especially Rowling, who comes at her material with a very fresh and original point of view. I mean, it’s pretty rare when you have a giant spider who actually speaks and it’s a rare writer who can convincingly give voice to a giant spider. I think Aragog is very much himself and not a lift from anywhere else.

Michael: Hmm. Mhm. Do you think there’s… even with… maybe not just creatures but other examples, but more egregious steals on Rowling’s part from other places? Or do you take that view with all of what she’s created? That she’s done it all so much her… she’s made it so much her own that it’s okay? Or are there specific examples that maybe aren’t so much that?

Lev: Well, it’s funny. Everyone has their pet peeves. I know Ursula Le Guin has complained a bit that Rowling didn’t give Le Guin more credit for pioneering the magic school setting in her A Wizard of Earthsea, which I feel sort of… fair enough. But fantasy is always kind of a fast and furious game. I mean, you look at CS Lewis, who I think of as being a major precursor for Rowling. Lewis stole from everyone. I mean, he wanted Santa Claus. He put Santa Claus in, centaurs, pan. The Wood between the Worlds was a borrow from his friend William Morris. He actually took a place name out of Tolkien and just stuck it into his books because he felt like it. That was his thing. He wasn’t really big into this whole thing of intellectual property. He just thought, well, if you could find a use for something in your story, you ought to put it in. And I think that goes for Rowling as well. She’s wonderfully inquisitive. She’s a magpie and she picks things from all sorts of traditions and puts them in her writing. And her writing has so much of its own flavor and personality that it just doesn’t feel like anybody else’s thing. I feel like in literature, if you could make something your own, then that gives you the right to steal it and I think that’s true of just about everything she does. I mean, look at her wands. Everybody has wands in their fantasy novels, wands and staves. But who tells you what is inside the wand? Who tells you how the wand is constructed?

Michael: Mhm.

Lev: That’s Rowling only and that’s how she makes things her own.

Caleb: Hmm, yeah.

Michael: That’s very true. Yeah, no, her world building, I guess, goes beyond just… it’s not so much stealing as she does actually transform it so much into her own thing. And she… I also feel too that she kind of does give a fair amount of respect to her roots. She doesn’t just take these things and not tell anybody that she got inspired by this or this or this. I know she’s especially… she’s been especially reluctant to admit stuff about The Hobbit. There’s a lot of talk about that, I know, in the Potter fandom about she says that she didn’t really take… she doesn’t talk about it a lot, but friends of hers claim she carried it around all the time.

Lev: Well, that’s funny. I didn’t even know that.

Michael: Yeah, it’s… you get varying accounts on how much she talks… because she talks more about… she talks a lot about her love for Jane Austen and mystery novels, actually, rather than fantasy.

Lev: I mean, to me, that’s more the tradition that she writes in. She certainly doesn’t write in the epic fantasy tradition. It’s very much about this secondary world thing with people going from the mundane world to the magic world. You don’t get this big thing of huge, massed armies fighting each other all the time. It’s not so much that Dungeons and Dragons vibe. She’s much more interested in psychology and interior dramas, which is much more Jane Austen. It’s much more in that vein. So, I kind of tend to not connect her to Tolkien, but of course, yeah, there are debts there.

Michael: Mhm.

Kat: Well, and I mean, quite honestly, who cares if she borrows a couple of things?

[Michael laughs]

Kat: I mean, the stories are great and she is paying homage to them with… like her naming here of Aragog, specifically. I don’t know. I think that’s great.

Michael: Yeah, I don’t think she ever ignores the roots of what she…

Kat: Right.

Michael: …borrows, for sure. So…

Kat: Exactly.

Michael: Sorry, we’ve gotten a little off track.

Caleb: That’s actually one of my favorite parts of your books, Lev, is because you come out and make the references to either Tolkien or Lewis or even Rowling as the characters are just going about their daily business and that’s… I love those parts so much. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, it’s great.

Michael: All right, yeah, I think that’s all the points… I mean, the other point she had here was that not only do we have giant spiders, but we have little spiders and medium sized spiders and that’s creepy. But I think we all agree on that at this point. [laughs]

Kat: Yes, it’s very creepy.

Michael: Spiders are creepy at all sizes and in large numbers.

Lev: I’m very worried about where those little spiders are going, because are they actually crawling on Ron and Harry?

Kat: Ah!

Michael: Ugh! [laughs]

Lev: I just… it’s something that she leaves again to the imagination and that’s where my imagination automatically goes. Spiders, little spiders, up your pant legs, just going everywhere.

Michael: Don’t!

Lev: Whoa!

Michael: [laughs] Oh, that’s awful. Oh my God.

Kat: You just made everybody listening to this cringe.

Lev: I just… that’s what I was going for and if I got there, yeah.

Michael: No, that’s great.

Kat: You did.

Michael: Because actually, in the Chamber of Secrets the PC video game, there are little spiders that just crawl all over you if you let Harry just stand still. They just start coming up your body until…

Kat: Ew.

Michael: …you move and then you step on them, but they keep coming in numerous… it’s terrifying. It’s a game and it’s terrifying.

Kat: That’s going to be my nightmares tonight.

Michael: See, I think, Kat, you and me and Lev are just going to be sitting in the Great Hall just comfortably chatting about all this crazy stuff going on at Hogwarts and Caleb’s going to be doing all that crazy stuff.

Kat: Exactly.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Always.

Kat: Totally true.

Caleb: Always. All right, so now it’s time for our Question of the Week and I’m going to take it over this week. So, we talked earlier about when Myrtle brings up about how she died and how she became a ghost. And we talked some about how she was bent on revenge on pestering Olive Hornby for making fun of her and whether this really fit with Rowling’s previous explanation about why certain wizards and witches become ghosts. So, we’re tossing it to you as to whether you think does Myrtle’s decision to come back to haunt Olive Hornby fit with that explanation that there’s unfinished business and not really ready to move on, as Michael explained in his idea? Or does it sort of go against what Rowling has said about why people choose to be ghosts? And this will be typed up in a much more concise manner for when we post it, but that’s where we’re going this week. We want to know what you guys think about the way Myrtle chose or became a ghost.

Kat: Sounds good. And speaking of Michael, we just want to say thank you very quick for filling in last minute. Rosie was out sick this week. So, thanks for picking that up.

Michael: You’re welcome.

Kat: Yeah. And Lev, of course, thank you so very much for being here. It was absolutely great hearing from an author, the point of view of somebody who also writes. It’s… because I do not have a creative word in my body. So, thank you.

Lev: Well, thank you guys so much for having me on. It was super fun just to sit here and geek out about… it just shows how much there is in these chapters. You could just go down and down into them forever.

Kat: Yeah, we’re constantly amazed with the things we come up with, quite honestly. [laughs]

Michael: Find me in the Hufflepuff common room, Lev, and we’ll just sit and talk about how ridiculous Hogwarts is while everybody else is fretting.

[Kat laughs]

Lev: Good, done. I would be up the wall.

Caleb: Yeah. All right, so if you are interested in either being featured on the show or being a guest host yourself, to be a guest host, you should email a clip to our Gmail account, alohomorapodcast at gmail dot com. Make sure that you’re doing so with appropriate audio and recording equipment because it’s really important to being on the show. But another way that you can be featured on the show is if you submit really excellent content either on the website or the forums, and we will read your awesome insight just like we did on today’s episode.

Kat: And in the meantime, if you just want to stay in contact with us, you can follow us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN and of course, don’t forget to follow the Mandrake Liberation Front at @MandrakeForever. [laughs] And we’re also on Facebook at, on Tumblr at, and of course, we have our phone number, which is 206-GO-ALBUS. So, 206-462-5287. And of course, our website is and our email one more time, alohomorapodcast at gmail dot com. And of course, don’t forget about iTunes. You can subscribe to us on there and the new episodes will automatically download.

Caleb: Yeah, and also on iTunes, leave us some feedback on there because we love to read the reviews…

Kat: Mhm.

Caleb: …that you guys give us on there. Those are really great. But also to remind you that we have a really awesome smartphone app that you can download, you can get the info on our website about, but it’s available in the US on the iPhone and Android, and then over in the UK only on the iPhone. It’s $1.99 in the US and 99p in the UK. And it has some really awesome stuff from transcripts to bloopers, alternate endings, host vlogs, and a lot more.

Michael: And we have also recently released a MuggleNet Fandom Calendar for 2013, and here’s Harry and the gang to tell you more about it.

[2013 MuggleNet Fandom Calendar promo begins]

Ron: Hey, Harry. Working on that Potions essay for Monday?

Harry: Uhh, it’s due Friday, Ron.

Ron: What? No, you’re pulling my leg.

Seamus: Hey, Harry. Doing that essay quite early, aren’t you?

Ron: See? It’s not due until next Monday. Right, Seamus?

Seamus: Erm, I thought it wasn’t due until the Monday after next.

Parvati: Well, I already did mine because it’s due Thursday.

Ron: What are you talking about, Parvati?

[Harry, Parvati, Ron, and Seamus argue]

Hermione: What is going on here? I’m trying to do my Charms homework.

Ron: Hermione, when’s that Potions essay due?

[Harry, Parvati, Ron, and Seamus argue]

Hermione: Hold on! Let me check my calendar from MuggleNet. It has all kinds of important dates, such as future conventions, birthdays, and important events in the wizarding world.

Ron: Yeah, but what about homework?

Hermione: Ahh, here we are. Yes, I thought so. That essay is due… tomorrow.

[Harry, Parvati, Ron, and Seamus groan]

Michael: Start 2013 off right with the new MuggleNet Fandom calendar. Each month features photos and drawings from various corners of the Harry Potter fan base, as well as historical dates from all seven Harry Potter novels and Harry Potter birthdays for characters, actors, and your favorite MuggleNet staff members. Visit to preview the calendar and get your own copy today.

[2013 MuggleNet Fandom Calendar promo ends]

Caleb: So, that will do it for us this week on Alohomora!.

[Show music begins]

Caleb: I’m Caleb Graves.

Michael: I’m Michael Harle.

Kat: And I’m Kat Miller. Thank you for listening to Episode 17 of Alohomora!.

Caleb: Open the Dumbledore!

[Show music continues]

Kat: I lost my place in the book. Hold on. [laughs]

[Caleb starts beatboxing]

Kat: Are you beatboxing?

Caleb: I was.

Kat: Oh.

[Lev laughs]

Kat: Lev, are you still there?

Lev: I am here. I’m not beatboxing, but I’m just here.

Kat: Oh, okay.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: I totally lost my spot. I suck at life right now. Sorry, guys.

Caleb: So, Harry and Ron get this idea that they’re going to go, I guess… what is it? They’re going to go tell McGonagall… man, now I forget. Why are they going to talk to McGonagall? Do they go…

Kat: Yeah, because they want to tell her about…

Michael: Because they have information…

Caleb: Oh, right. Yeah. Edit that out because I sounded like an idiot.

Lev: Lockhart, what house was Lockhart in? Do we know that?

Kat: Ravenclaw.

Lev: Ravenclaw.

Michael: Yeah, that’s right.

Lev: Crappies, I can’t believe I didn’t get into Ravenclaw and they let Lockhart in.

[Caleb and Michael laugh]

Kat: Aww.

Michael: Come on, Lev. We’re partying it up in the Hufflepuff common room.

Lev: I know we are. I know we are.

[Lev and Michael laugh]

Caleb: Please. No one knows how to party like a Gryffindor.