Transcript – Episode 221

[Show music begins]

Michael Harle: This is Episode 221 of Alohomora! for May 27, 2017.

[Show music continues]

Michael: Welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Alohomora!,’s every-so-once-in-a-while global reread of the Harry Potter series. At least, we are on this episode. I’m Michael Harle.

Alison Siggard: I’m Alison Siggard.

Lauri Thompson: I’m Lauri Thompson. With us today, we have Olivia.

Olivia: Hi!

Michael: Olivia, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Olivia: Cool. I’m a Ravenclaw; at Ilvermorny I’m a Horned Serpent.

Michael: Those are good Houses.

Olivia: I live in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Michael: Awesome. How did you get into Harry Potter?

Olivia: I read Book 1 when I was 11. And I remember checking it out of the school library the week before school let out, and I was so proud of myself that I read the entire book in one week. And then the rest is history: I read them all as they came out and have been hooked ever since.

Michael: Very nice. Wow, you were the perfect age when you started reading it, huh?

Olivia: [laughs] Yeah, I like how that worked out. I got to grow up with it.

Michael: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And listeners, you may notice, too, that we have another new voice on this week. Lauri, can you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself?

Lauri: Hi, I’m a Hufflepuff. I’ve been with MuggleNet since about November. I got into Harry Potter when I was probably 9; it was right around the time that [Prisoner of] Azkaban came out on paperback for Scholastic, so I’ve been with it for a while. [laughs]

Michael: Cool. Lauri and I live in the same neck of the woods.

Lauri: This is true.

Michael: Yeah, we are both in the Austin area where it’s nice and cloudy and rainy today.

[Lauri and Michael laugh]

Michael: It’s funny, Olivia mentioning reading Book 1. But Alison, I think you’re going to tell the listeners a little bit about the book we’re actually exploring today.

Alison: Today we are doing another chapter revisit, as Michael said. We’re jumping back into Chamber of Secrets and we are discussing “The Heir of Slytherin,” Chapter 17 of Chamber of Secrets. So make sure you read that, listeners, before you listen to the rest of the episode.

Lauri: And this week, our episode is sponsored by Crystal Fidler on Patreon. You can become a sponsor for as little as $1 a month, and we release exclusive tidbits there for our sponsors.

Michael: So thank you, Crystal!

Alison: Yay! [claps]

Michael: We appreciate your assistance. We appreciate your help. It’s because of people like Crystal and other sponsors – all of our Patreon sponsors – that we can continue to do episodes like these on Alohomora!, like chapter revisits, which you guys were thrilled about, and we’ve seen some pretty good reception for that from the first one we did with “Diagon Alley.” So we’re going to give it another shot here and see how this goes. And speaking of Diagon Alley, [I’ve] just got to mention once again, listeners… [I’ve] got to ask you where you’re going to be on September 1. Because MuggleNet is throwing a huge party to celebrate the epilogue because the epilogue is actually happening on September 1.

Alison: Woo! I’m so excited.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: That was a nice “Woo!” and it also almost sounded like the Hogwarts Express.

[Alison and Lauri laugh]

Alison: Yes.

Michael: That was good. [laughs] That was a legit impression of the Hogwarts Express right there.

[Alison imitates a train whistle]

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Which is the sound you could be making, listeners, on September 1 as you ride the Hogwarts Express, for that will be open at Universal Studios Orlando where you can ride the Hogwarts Express, shop in Diagon Alley, walk down Diagon Alley… It’s going to be a pretty neat experience. You [can] get your own wand at Ollivanders. All kinds of neat things [will be] happening, and it is exclusively for ticket holders for this MuggleNetLIVE event. There will also be Harry Potter celebrities in attendance, including… Alison, can you list some of the celebrities? Because there have been so many lately that I haven’t kept track.

Alison: Yes. So I know we have Ellie Darcey-Alden, who played young Lily Evans. We have… Oh shoot, how am I forgetting everyone’s names?

[Michael laughs]

Alison: We have Chris Rankin, who was Percy Weasley. He’s coming down.

Michael: Yay!

Alison: Luke Youngblood, who played Lee Jordan, is coming. I’m excited about that. We also have Ryan Turner, who was Hugo Weasley; Rohan Gotobed, who was young Sirius Black; and Arthur Bowen, who was Albus Severus Potter in the epilogue.

Michael: You could get a chance to ask those guys about their opinions of Cursed Child.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: That’s an opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss. So many neat things going on at this event. And again, it’s exclusive to ticket holders for this event, so you won’t be seeing anybody in their Hawaiian shirts and shorts walking around Diagon Alley, these people who are walking around on a daily basis there who are just like, “I just thought I’d check this out.” No, this is going to be full of hardcore Harry Potter fans. It’ll be very refreshing.

Alison: Which is always the best time to be there.

Michael: Yes, exactly.

Olivia: I’m so excited, guys.

[Michael and Olivia laugh]

Michael: Are you joining us, Olivia?

Olivia: Yeah, my friend and I are booking our hotel room this weekend.

[Michael gasps]

Alison: Yay!

Olivia: Yeah, I’m so excited.

Michael: Yes, yes. So where will you be, listeners, on September 1? You don’t want to be sitting at home, regretting that you didn’t do anything on this historic Harry Potter date. So we’ll hope to see you there at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. But for now, let’s head into a completely different area of the Wizarding World. Let’s go very, very, very deep into the Chamber of Secrets.

[Chapter revisit intro begins]

Dumbledore: Three turns should do it.

Michael: Chapter revisit.

[Sound of Time-Turner]

Michael: [in Parseltongue] Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17.

Tom Riddle: Speak to me, Slytherin!

Michael: [in Parseltongue] “The Heir of Slytherin.”

Tom Riddle: [in Parseltongue] Kill him.

[Sound of Basilisk roar]

[Chapter revisit intro ends]

Michael: Harry enters the fabled Chamber of Secrets to find Ginny nearly dead and Tom Riddle present, having somehow escaped the confines of his diary. Riddle soon reveals his true identity with the earliest of Rowling’s trademark anagrams: Voldemort. Boasting of his Slytherin ancestry and his determination to destroy Harry, Riddle sets Salazar’s own Basilisk on Harry. With the aid of Fawkes, the Sorting Hat, Gryffindor’s sword, and the Basilisk’s own fangs, Harry defeats the monster and destroys Riddle’s diary. As Ginny recovers, she, Harry, Ron, and a severely addled Gilderoy Lockhart hitch a ride on Fawkes’s tail feathers back to the girl’s bathroom. When you summarize it that way, this is a pretty weird chapter.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: I forgot how much happens in this. It is the chapter [where] everything happens in this book. I feel like rereading it.

Michael: I know, this is the core chapter, right? Which is funny, because I think after our reread – and even during our reread – I heard a lot of people say that Chamber of Secrets is low on their list of the books, if not their least favorite. How does everybody, knowing that this is so important, feel about Chamber of Secrets in general here?

Lauri: For me as a kid, I know it was definitely my least favorite. And I was kind of bummed because [I was] coming off [of] reading the first one, which I just read super fast. But then I did a reread recently, and as an adult I like it a lot more. I don’t know if that’s because I have the hindsight of knowing how much is dropped in this one, or if it’s just… The kids being annoying makes sense for why they annoyed me the first time through, where as a kid I was like, “No, you guys aren’t being smart!” It bothered me a lot more.

[Michael laughs]

Michael: Yeah, the Hogwarts students aren’t at their best in this particular book, are they? [laughs] Olivia, go ahead.

Olivia: They’re so cute. They’re so young. This one was my favorite for years because it felt like there was a really good mystery that I needed to solve. And it ended in something weird and scary, and that was right up my alley as a kid.

Michael: Yeah, I think more so than… Sorcerer’s Stone has a mystery, of course: the mystery of who is Nicholas Flamel and who is actually going after the Sorcerer’s Stone, and you get a little bait-and-switch at the end. But I would say people highlight Chamber of Secrets as being the bigger mystery of the series, and I feel like that’s because there are a lot more intricate pieces that we’re dealing with in this one. This one actually ends up being a “whodunit.”

Alison and Olivia: Yeah.

Michael: Of course, the solution is pretty shocking. And we get the classic villain reveal: a really long monologue of what happened.

[Alison, Lauri, and Olivia laugh]

Michael: And there are a lot of details about how it went down, so I think that maybe is what makes this more of an involved mystery than Sorcerer’s Stone.

Alison: Yeah, I think this one’s interesting because there’s a lot of [mystery]. It’s never really been my favorite, I think just because I love Prisoner so much. I’m always like, “Get through. Get to Prisoner.” Also, I don’t like spiders or snakes, and those are big things in this book.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: And so there’s a lot, though, that becomes so important to the foundation of this as a bigger epic story. I just finished rereading, finally, my illustrated editions – I just finished Sorcerer’s Stone today – and it’s funny to me that [in] that one, a lot of the deeper layers we start getting… we don’t get a lot of them in Sorcerer’s Stone at all. A lot of them start coming in Chamber, this idea of Tom Riddle/Voldemort having a background. We start getting Horcruxes; we get a lot more about Dumbledore; Ginny shows up for the first time, really. There’s a lot more layering that starts happening in this book that I think is what makes the series so epic.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. I think especially when you get to Deathly Hallows, there aren’t that many references to Sorcerer’s Stone in Hallows. A lot of the references are pointing more to Chamber of Secrets, and Half-Blood Prince has an intense connection with Chamber of Secrets. So yeah, I think maybe that’s where that initial love for Chamber of Secrets came from for the fandom. But then like you said, Alison, Prisoner of Azkaban happened…

Alison: Yeah. [laughs]

Michael: … and suddenly everybody had a new favorite. I mean, personally for me, Chamber of Secrets I thought was really great, but I started reading Harry Potter at the time that the first three books were out. So while I really enjoyed Chamber of Secrets, it was not at the top of my list for a long period of time because I went straight to Prisoner after that. But I did enjoy it for what it was, and I will say – to throw it a bone – it’s the best of the computer games.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: So there’s something.

Lauri: I just started playing through the PS2 game and I’ve been trying to get my husband to play. He’s not a Harry Potter fan but he’s been enjoying it regardless, just because it’s a good game on its own.

Michael: Yeah. I feel like Chamber of Secrets is structured well as a game because it has such a good mystery that loans itself to turning into a game. And it opened up more exploration of Hogwarts since there [are] so many areas you can poke around in, especially with accessing a place like the Chamber of Secrets. And speaking of the Chamber of Secrets itself, this chamber posed a lot of questions to people because [of] this giant snake chamber downstairs with a 1,000-year-old snake that’s just been ostensibly sleeping there this whole time since the time of Salazar Slytherin.

Olivia: I like to imagine little snake sleepover parties.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Little tiny snakes that just wander into the Chamber of Secrets, and boy, what a surprise to find that in there.

Olivia: They have to go somewhere when the greenhouses get too cold.

[Alison and Olivia laugh]

Michael: That’s it. Nice and warm down there. And also, how did this Chamber of Secrets become connected to indoor plumbing when that was not a thing in Salazar Slytherin’s time? And the movie really amped up the look of the Chamber of Secrets being integrated into the sewer system, and you’re just like, “Well, that’s not right. These didn’t exist back then.” So Rowling attempted to answer that with a few pieces about… She did a piece, actually, on the Chamber of Secrets on Pottermore, and I pulled out two particular quotes. And one of the ones that tries to explain what happened as far as the plumbing goes is,

“There is clear evidence that the Chamber was opened more than once between the death of Slytherin and the entrance of Tom Riddle in the twentieth century. When first created, the Chamber was accessed through a concealed trap door and a series of magical tunnels; however, when Hogwarts’s plumbing became more elaborate in the eighteenth century,” – and here’s a fun fact for you – “this was a rare instance of wizards copying Muggles, because hitherto they simply relieved themselves wherever they stood and vanished the evidence.”

Alison: Ew!

Olivia: Oh! [laughs]

Michael: Yep. Makes you think a lot about walking around the Hogwarts halls now, doesn’t it?

Alison: Oh, gross!

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Not my words, J.K. Rowling’s. This is all her fault.

“The entrance to the Chamber was threatened, being located on the site of a proposed bathroom” – which I’m sure the Slytherins were not happy about once they found that out – “The presence in school, at the time, of a student called Corvinus Gaunt – direct descendent of Slytherin and antecedent of Tom Riddle – explains how the simple trap door was secretly protected so that those who knew how could still access the entrance to the Chamber even after newfangled plumbing had been placed on top of it.”

Are we satisfied with this explanation?

Alison: Yeah.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: Sure. I don’t know. [laughs] What other explanation are we going to get? It’s one of those things where it’s like, I don’t have another theory. Sure.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Yeah, because the big thing is, of course, the reveal that the actual snake charm that you use to access the Chamber is on a sink. So it would seem somehow that magic was added or transferred somehow from the trapdoor to the sink. This must have been very complicated for these Slytherin students to figure out [how] to get around all this.

Lauri: Secretly at that.

Michael: Right.

Alison: Well, it wasn’t necessarily all of the Slytherins, right? Basically it sounds like it was just the Gaunt family [who] were the ones dealing with this.

Michael: Corvinus would be the main one, it looks like, who was head of this. Maybe he was an expert in Muggle plumbing. He took Muggle Studies and everybody was like, “Why are you taking that?” And he’s like, “Oh, no reason; I just like to understand my enemy better,” or something.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: His first day, “So plumbing… Let’s talk about it.”

Michael: [laughs] [in an English accent] “Can we talk about plumbing for a minute? I’m asking for a friend.”

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: [in an English accent] “He’s really long, and he’s green, and he sheds his skin. And don’t look at his eyes. Just don’t do it.”

Lauri: “Just don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Maybe since they were just installing the plumbing that year, they did a special unit on it in Muggle Studies.

Lauri: I’m sure the transition to actually using the bathroom rather than vanishing your excrement…

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: They did special lessons for that: “Here’s how it works.”

Michael: Something you could get used to. Yes. So there you go.

Lauri: There’s one guy who ruins it for everybody and keeps going to the bathroom in the hallway. You know he’s there.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: That’s still a thing. Somebody’s doing it.

Alison: It’s a ghost. Some ghost is still there and everyone’s like, “What are you doing?”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: That’s funny because that is a thing in the Chamber of Secrets video game, because ghosts leave ectoplasm everywhere and there’s a specific spell to get rid of it. So maybe that is actually a thing. But Rowling also noted a little bit in that piece about what the Chamber really might have meant, as [to] what Slytherin was doing with it. Not just as a Muggle-killing chamber to house his Muggle-killing monster, but he might have actually had another use for it. She posits,

“Perhaps, when he first constructed the Chamber, Slytherin wanted no more than a place in which to instruct his students in spells of which the other three founders may have disapproved. Disagreement sprung up early around the teaching of the Dark Arts. However, it is clear by the very decoration of the Chamber that by the time Slytherin finished it, he had developed grandiose ideas of his own importance to the school. No other founder left behind them a gigantic statue of themselves or draped the school in emblems of their own personal powers.”

Alison: I do have to say, my favorite thing about that statue is that she describes it as “He looks like a monkey.”

[Lauri, Michael, and Olivia laugh]

Alison: And that just cracks me up for some reason. I don’t know. It just is really funny. [laughs]

Michael: [He] wasn’t the most glamorous fellow.

Olivia: No.

Alison: But that he thought he was so important… He probably thought he was amazingly good looking.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Lauri: I imagine that he wouldn’t accept anything other than a pure-blood sculptor, so I’m sure the pool he had to choose from was very limited for their artistic talent.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: Do you think he did it himself?

[Lauri laughs]

Alison: It would not surprise me, actually.

Lauri: I hope it was a self-portrait.

Alison: That would be really funny.

[Michael laughs]

Lauri: Slytherin disappears for hours on end; he’s just chiseling away.

[Lauri and Michael laugh]

Michael: His own giant statue in the basement… That’s not weird.

Alison: The other founders come up. [in an English accent] “What are you doing?”

Michael: [laughs] “Nothing!”

Olivia: “Nothing!”

Michael: Yep. It’s a little weird, this Chamber.

Alison: Wait, do you think these statues came alive in the Battle of Hogwarts too?

[Lauri and Michael laugh]

Michael: That might have been useful.

Alison: Were they bursting up from that bathroom, all these snakes?

Michael: Well, wouldn’t that be interesting, though? Because even if that was the case, I would imagine Slytherin would have not had much interest in enchanting his statues to defend Hogwarts, right?

Alison: Yeah. I can’t decide whether he would’ve connected it to that or not.

Lauri: Well, after the Chamber, we can presume that Dumbledore and staff were down there, so maybe they did after the fact?

Michael: Well, maybe. I feel like if Salazar’s statue was in the Battle of Hogwarts, we would have probably noticed.

[Lauri and Michael laugh]

Michael: I don’t think that statue could’ve gotten out of the basement without causing something…

Lauri: Well, it was trying. By the time the battle was over, it was just barely up into the main parts of the school.

[Alison and Olivia laugh]

Michael: Yes, Hermione and Ron forgot to tell Harry about the giant statue that walked past them.

[Alison, Lauri, and Michael laugh]

Michael: But I like the explanation, too, that the Chamber might have actually been used for Slytherin to teach students the Dark Arts, because I didn’t even think of that as an alternative use.

Olivia: Yeah.

Michael: Because the Chamber is so hyped up as this place where he kept his monster, but there really is… In the books, nobody ever posits a reason for what other uses for it, and it does seem to have been a pretty nice, large, fancy chamber to just put your evil snake in. And interestingly, listeners, the first time this chapter was talked about on Alohomora! was all the way back on Episode 18 – before Alison and I were on – but this is actually when they were doing chapter discussions where they were meshing two chapters into one show. So this chapter was very lightly discussed alongside the following chapter, “Dobby’s Reward.” In that [episode], as far as the Chamber goes, there was a discussion about what the secrets of the other founders might [have] been if they had any that they loaned to the school. Because of course, we know especially from this chapter that Gryffindor had a little secret up his hat. But do you think maybe Rowena or Helga left something that we’re unaware of in the school?

Alison: Well, there’s the suggestion that the Room of Requirement was somebody’s. That’s been a theory that’s been pandered around for a while.

Olivia: Yeah, and in Episode 18 you guys had talked about it being Gryffindor’s.

Michael: Which is funny because I feel like there was a big discussion in Episode 18 of “Is there too much Gryffindor in the school?”

Alison: I think I’ve heard it suggested it was Hufflepuff’s too, though.

Michael: What’s the argument for that?

Alison: I think just that she would be the one most likely trying to help students as individuals, and kind of that catch-all nature.

Lauri: And also, if it seems like there’s too much Gryffindor stuff, we see most of Hogwarts through Harry’s perspective. So we just wouldn’t necessarily be as aware of the other Houses’ influences, maybe.

Olivia: That’s fair. But the way that she describes the Chamber and the way Slytherin built it says that Rowling does not like Slytherin at all because he has a very grandiose sense of his own importance.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Olivia: Who else would leave behind a gigantic statue of themselves? She does not like him at all. [laughs]

Michael: Which is funny because, of course, recently we’ve had this whole… We’ve talked about this a bit on the show before, that occurrence back when we were all… [In] the early days – [around] 1998 – of reading Harry Potter, everybody wanted to basically be in Gryffindor and maybe a few outliers wanted to be in Slytherin. And now it’s kind of flip-flopped and a lot of people are like, “Yeah, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw!” And there’s a lot of repairs being done on Rowling’s part for Slytherin, with one of the major ones being – as far as Salazar himself is concerned – his wand is what sprouted a tree with healing properties on the grounds of Ilvermorny, and his wand also ended up in the possession of Isolt Sayre, the founder of Ilvermorny. So it was used for good in the end, despite all of his [flaws].

Alison: And I think it’s important to make the distinction between Salazar and the House because I think we’re getting a lot more of… not apologists… that’s not the word I’m looking for.

[Michael laughs]

Alison: We’re getting a nicer perspective on Slytherin House, but I still think for the most part…

Michael: A well-rounded perspective.

Alison: Yeah. But I still think for the most part, Salazar the person… I agree; I don’t think she likes him very much. I don’t think we’re supposed to like him either. He’s a jerk, from everything we’ve heard about him.

Michael: Yeah, he doesn’t come off too well.

Olivia: I feel like it inherently taints the way we’re going to feel about Slytherin House, though.

Alison: Yeah, that’s true.

Michael: Well, that’s a shadow that’s part of their journey through the series. That’s a shadow that they have to actively work to step out of. And I know, of course, we’ve talked in Deathly Hallows about how they finally do it, and it’s a moment that nobody remembers.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Especially because it’s not in the movie. But yeah, that moment when the Slytherins come back and join the fight… Yeah, the Chamber isn’t really making them look good, and one of the reasons it’s not is because it has a giant death snake in it.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: Wow, you’re making this Chamber sound so much more metal than it comes across in the books.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: It’s funny; reading this chapter again… I haven’t read Chamber of Secrets in a while, and my roommates and I are just starting a reread of it. And it was funny – Alison, like you said about how you loved to rush through it to get to Prisoner – because when I started reading [Book 2], the first chapter is just summary, summary, summary…

Alison: Yeah. [laughs]

Michael: And at one point Leandra was just like, “Skip [to] Prisoner of Azkaban.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: And I was like, “No, we have to do this. This is a really important one. We have to read it.” But rereading just this chapter, I have to say, is very strange. Reading “Diagon Alley” out of context was not weird to me. That flowed really well and it was easy to jump back in. Reading “The Heir of Slytherin” and this sequence in the Chamber of Secrets was really surreal to me. I thought this chapter was kind of weird, and I’m not really sure why. Lauri?

Lauri: It was funny at the end because it’s such a dark and twisty chapter, and reading it out of context, I completely forgot that Lockhart was just hanging out at the entrance this whole time.

Alison: Yeah!

[Michael laughs]

Lauri: So I had to skim back and remember that he was there and just completely Obliviate‘d.

Alison: For some reason, Ginny stood out a lot more to me in this chapter than I think she did before when you read it with all the other chapters. I mean, she’s important and that’s why they’re going down there, but for some reason she herself just popped out more at me. It wasn’t like, “Harry is trying to get down there and all of this is happening to Harry.” It was like, “Oh yeah, there’s this poor little 11-year-old girl down there, too, who’s almost dead.”

[Michael laughs]

Lauri: The phrasing they used on her…

Alison: It’s funny, though, too, because I read this one in my illustrated edition, and almost the entire chapter is on black paper. Like the blackground is…

Olivia: Ooh!

Alison: The “blackground.”

Michael: The blackground!

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: The background is black and it’s got white text on top of it, so it’s very interesting. There’s also a very large double spread page of Harry fighting the Basilisk, which I was like, “Ew!”

Michael: [laughs] What were you about to say, Lauri?

Lauri: Oh, just the phrasing of it… Whenever they referred to Ginny, they used the words “little” and “small” and stuff, and I think it was one of the rare times… As I read the books, I sometimes forget that they’re children, and the way they phrased Ginny made it sound very, very childlike, which was important because she was 11 at this point and it’s easy to forget that.

Michael: Well, yeah, and I think she’s even smaller in the depiction because she’s at the feet of the statue, which has just been described as being [enormous]. That was the other thing, too, that hit me, especially because the Chamber of Secrets set in the film is very iconic; I think the fans really see that a lot. But the set is not at all what’s described in the book. And that happened because the set designers – mainly Stuart Craig – were very limited with how tall they could make the Chamber. And of course, in the movie they couldn’t make it so tall that they could do a full-bodied statue of Salazar, so they just did the head. And it works in the movie; you get this really closed, tight, claustrophobic, intimate setting for the Chamber, which works for the chase with the snake. But in the book, this place is supposed to be so incredibly grandiose that you can’t even really see the ceiling. And I think that really hit me this time, more than any time I’ve read it before, just how big the Chamber is supposed to be. And that coupled with all of the just bizarre imagery that is going on in this chapter… there’s a ghosty Tom Riddle coming out of the diary, there’s a giant snake, Fawkes is singing and Harry is really thrown off by it, the Sorting Hat pukes out a sword… like, what is going on?

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: There is some weird stuff going on here, right? When you line it up like that, you’re like, “Yeah, this is weird.”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: And it all happens so fast too. I think because the movie elongates this scene a lot, you forget how quickly this all goes. The Basilisk really isn’t in it that long before he gets killed. And speaking of the Basilisk, a little background on this horrible monster: Obviously, the Ministry of Magic classification is five Xs. You don’t want to be dealing with this thing.

Alison: [sarcastically] What? No way!

Michael: [laughs] The basilisks’ first records appear in ancient Greece. The basilisk was created by an unpleasant fellow named Herpo the Foul, who was an ancient Greek, and he created it by hatching a chicken’s egg beneath a toad, and that’s how you get a basilisk. So who wants to test that?

Alison: Who thought of that?

[Michael and Olivia laugh]

Olivia: I just don’t understand who thought of that. That just doesn’t make sense.

Lauri: I just imagine him trying [to hatch] an egg under a rabbit and under a cat and just keeping on until he gets to the toad that finally works.

Alison: [laughs] He just keeps hatching weird things. Oh my goodness.

Michael: The funny thing is that this is actually very Jurassic Park-esque, and not in the way that it’s created, but in the things that [are] used to create it, because chickens are actually the last living descendants of the T-rex, and of course, there is this association with reptilian imagery for dinosaurs, when really, they were actually more closely related to birds. So it’s funny; you’ve got the two things combined to make… And in the movie, I always thought the Basilisk looked more like a legless, armless dinosaur than it looked like a snake. So they kind of went more with that. But basically, he made a dinosaur snake.

[Olivia laughs]

Alison: Ooh, ooh, sorry, I just found something… because I knew basilisks aren’t necessarily unique to Harry Potter

Michael: No, no, no.

Alison: They’re a big thing in mythology. So I went to go look it up because I couldn’t remember particulars outside of Harry Potter, and it says its weakness is in the odor of the weasel, which according to Pliny was thrown into the basilisk’s hole, recognizable because some of the surrounding shrubs and grass had been scorched by its presence. And Ginny is there!

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Olivia: Oh!

Alison: I did not know that. That was so cool.

Michael: Yep, that’s what really happened. Ginny killed the Basilisk. We missed that part entirely.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Yeah, no, that’s a clever reference. Might be the connection there. Rowling did go ahead and throw in – and I don’t know if this is part of mythology or just her way to save it – [that] Herpo the Foul’s basilisk is believed to have lived for close on 900 years. Oh, how convenient! You can just store these things in the basement for a thousand years and it’s fine. There’s also a very amusing… And if, listeners, you’re reading the latest version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you will not see this note because Harry and Ron and Hermione’s notes have been excluded from that edition. But in the older editions, as Newt writes, “However, since basilisks are uncontrollable except by Parselmouths, they are as dangerous to most Dark wizards as to anybody else, and there have been no recorded sightings of basilisks in Britain for at least 400 years,” to which Harry snarkily writes, “That’s what you think.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: So basilisks aren’t a frequent thing to see around, for obvious reasons. There’s another important magical creature wandering around in this chapter, and that’s Fawkes the phoenix. We’ve talked a lot about phoenixes; I feel we don’t necessarily need to elaborate on them here. But I think what’s more interesting about phoenixes… There are some interesting points that come up about Fawkes’s character, and probably one of the ones that I can’t get over – and I was hoping maybe you ladies can share your feelings on this – [is that] for all of Riddle’s smarts, how did he not remember that phoenixes cry healing tears? Because I think what makes it more egregious for me is not only does he [try] to brush it off and play cool, where he’s just like, “Dah, I forgot, damn it…”

[Alison laughs]

Michael: … but he lets it go on for a long time, to the point where he’s just like, “Oh, look, it’s crying because you’re dying!”

Olivia: And then he just goes, “Shoo, shoo, shoo. Go away, bird.”

[Michael laughs]

Alison: I think it’s an interesting look at Voldemort’s weakness, which we get a lot more [of] in Half-Blood and in Deathly Hallows. He forgets about healing things. He forgets about good magic, to sum it up. I mean, he forgets about love magic and blood magic and he forgets about phoenix tears, and it’s like he doesn’t care enough about these things to remember them and to look at them as being worthy of understanding, which is stupid on his part because it’s all the things that [undo] everything he tries to do. You’d think he’d be smart enough to be like, “Mm, what’s going to undo this? It’s something like this, but anyway, whatever.” [laughs] So that’s where I think it comes from, and I think that’s an interesting early look at the complexity of Voldemort. He’s not just this cartoon villain he was in Sorcerer’s Stone anymore. He has weaknesses. He has this flaw, and it’s going to end up being the kind of flaw that Harry has to exploit to win.

Michael: To be fair, in the writing, it’s somewhat set up. On page 317 of the American edition, when Harry reveals to Riddle… because Riddle questions him about how he survived Voldemort killing him, and Harry tells him, “Well, my mother died to protect me,” and Riddle says, “So your mother died to save you. Yes, that’s a powerful counter-charm. I can see now. There is nothing special about you after all.” And he does very quickly wave off that aspect of Harry surviving because of love. So I suppose that does foreshadow his ignorance, but at the same time, considering that Fantastic Beasts is standard text, I just feel like if you asked a student, “What’s so special about phoenixes?” at Hogwarts, they’d be like, “Well, their tears have healing properties. I know that! Tom Riddle didn’t, and that was his downfall!”

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: I wonder, too… I think the movie tries to make up for that a little bit because Fawkes only cries, like, two tears in the movie.

Michael: Yes. He cries a single manly tear.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: A single man tear drips down his face. So I wonder if… Because I don’t think the book says how much he cries, so I guess there’s some room for that if it’s two tears, and then he’s like, “Ah crap, that’s right.” And then he remembers.

Michael: [laughs] I don’t know. Well, that’s what I was saying, because Riddle gives Fawkes a pretty long amount of time to cry on Harry in the book. What were you going to say, Olivia?

Olivia: Well, I think one of the interesting things is that this is a scene that Jo chose to give us a little more time with, as opposed to when Harry kills the Basilisk and it’s just “pop” with a sword and we’re done.

[Alison laughs]

Olivia: And I think it’s an interesting play on the things that she values and that she wants her readers to value.

Michael: That’s an interesting way to look at it. The combat is so quick in the book, and yeah, absolutely this is much more… This probably gets almost a full page or so of the crying.

Alison and Olivia: Yeah.

Alison: A lot of it, too, is Harry’s internal thoughts, though. He’s like, “This isn’t so bad. I’m dying.”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Well, the other funny thing is…

Alison: He does talk for a long time about that.

Michael: It’s like a full page, though, of Riddle monologuing.

Alison: That’s true.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Olivia: Epic villain monologues.

Michael: Yeah, it’s the Incredibles rule: You shouldn’t have monologued.

Olivia: “No capes!”

Michael: From the beginning, once Fawkes lays his head on Harry… I’ll just read Riddle’s dialogue from that point:

[as Tom Riddle] “You’re dead, Harry Potter. Dead. Even Dumbledore’s bird knows it. Do you see what he’s doing, Potter? He’s crying…. I’m going to sit here and watch you die, Harry Potter. Take your time. I’m in no hurry…. So ends the famous Harry Potter, alone in the Chamber of Secrets…”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: [continues as Riddle] “… forsaken by his friends, defeated at last by the Dark Lord he so unwisely challenged. You’ll be back with your dear Mudblood mother soon, Harry… She bought you 12 years of borrowed time… but Lord Voldemort got you in the end, as you knew he must…”

And it’s all through that before he goes, “Get away, bird!”

[Michael and Olivia laugh]

Lauri: I love how…

Alison: If I [were] Harry, I’d be like, “Can I just die?”

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: “Just leave me alone already!”

Alison: Done.

Michael: Lauri, what were you going to say?

Lauri: I love how in most movies and stuff there’s the Big Bad, who by the end of the series or by the end of the movie you just get to see once. But in Harry Potter, it’s almost every book. At the end we get to see Harry just accidentally thwarting Voldemort’s plans and Voldemort just being so angry, in a very Scooby-Doo sort of villain manner.

Michael: It is funny because it does basically take Voldemort until Deathly Hallows to finally… Once Harry walks into the forest, he’s like, “Okay, no more speeches. Time to die.”

[Lauri and Michael laugh]

Michael: And he does it; he just kills him. How that backfires! There will be some discussion on that, actually, as we get into Riddle, which we will in just a moment. But before we move on from Fawkes, there is one more thing I think that’s worth noting, and this was discussed again in Episode 18 and it was posited: Is Fawkes actually Dumbledore? And I know this was a theory that was tossed around for quite a bit around that time, which is funny because literally in this book, Dumbledore and Fawkes are in the same location as two separate beings as Fawkes is introduced. But that said, what I thought was interesting myself when I was thinking about this theory… I just happened to have the book down on the counter at work as I was taking notes, and I just glanced over at the book. And when Ron asks where Fawkes came from, Harry replies on page 324: “He’s Dumbledore’s.” And it was funny because when I just glanced at the line idly, I saw [it as] “He’s Dumbledore.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: And I even thought about how interesting it is that Rowling phrased it that way. She didn’t have Harry say, “He belongs to Dumbledore,” or “He’s Dumbledore’s bird,” or anything else. She chose him to specifically say, “He’s Dumbledore’s.” And I was wondering if maybe there wasn’t something intentional there. What do you ladies think?

Alison: I feel like it’s almost an indication of what kind of relationship they have. In Fantastic Beasts, it talks about how phoenixes are still very wild, even if they’ve been bonded to a wizard. So it’s almost like Fawkes can’t really be owned by Dumbledore, but he’s Dumbledore’s companion. He’s kind of on the same level in a lot of ways.

Olivia: Yeah, he’s something more than a pet for Dumbledore.

Michael: It’s interesting because Rowling has confirmed through Pottermore on a piece about familiars that that concept doesn’t necessarily apply in her world. But Dumbledore and Fawkes seem to be, in many ways, very akin to the daemons of The Golden Compass [in Philip Pullman’s] His Dark Materials trilogy. And some people have even expressed or suggested that Fawkes is somehow an extension of Dumbledore, or is tied to Dumbledore’s being or soul in some way. And I think, actually, some people have even… There has been a theory put forth that Fawkes is a Horcrux, which… No. That’s… No.

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: I do like the idea that Dumbledore can kind of warg into Fawkes, à la Game of Thrones. I think that might be an interesting way to spin that.

Michael: Well, that would be interesting because we know that Voldemort also has a familiar, so to speak, with Nagini that he can also become a part of from time to time when he so desires…

Lauri: But also… Go on.

Michael: Oh, no. You go ahead, Lauri.

Lauri: Okay. Dumbledore isn’t really personally close with anybody. He has a business or whatever type of relationship with everybody, and Fawkes would be the one who’s living in his section of the castle and with him constantly to where I think maybe he could lean on Fawkes quite a bit since he doesn’t have any people that he necessarily does that with and trusts completely.

Michael: Well, yeah. And we know, too, that Fawkes is so intrinsically connected to Dumbledore that when Dumbledore dies, Fawkes leaves. So there does seem to be… and we’ve talked about this before, too, when Harry notices… He doesn’t know if he’s imagining it or if he’s really seeing it, but when he’s at Dumbledore’s funeral, he believes he sees a phoenix rising from the smoke from Dumbledore’s tomb.

Alison: And we know that Dumbledore’s Patronus is the phoenix.

Michael: Yeah. There [are] so many deeper connections. It’s so funny to me that Rowling used Pottermore as a way to actually reject the idea and concept…

[Sound of thunder]

Michael: Ooh! There’s thunder.

Alison and Lauri: Whoa!

Olivia: Ooh, spooky.

Alison: Wow!

Michael: Ooh, Chamber of Secrets!

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: Dun-dun-dun!

Michael: That’s what happens when you’re on the third floor. The thunder and lightning will literally shake the apartment. It’s so fun.

Alison: Oh my gosh!

Michael: But it’s funny to me that Rowling used Pottermore to actually flat out reject the concept of familiars in Harry Potter when there seems to be some evidence that that is actually a part of her world, and Dumbledore is an excellent example of it. But yeah, I don’t know if I would subscribe to the idea that Dumbledore is Fawkes, but the best way I can say it is that Fawkes is some kind of extension of Dumbledore, or even some kind of embodiment of Dumbledore, if that makes sense… without actually being him, I guess. That’s the best I can do.

Olivia: Okay. I like it.

Michael: Yeah, we’ll go with that. What was the word from Game of Thrones, though, that’s used?

Olivia: They’re warging.

Michael: They’re warging.

Olivia: I don’t know. Yep.

Michael: That sounds like an interesting dance move to do.

Lauri: I don’t know what that looks like.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Gee, listeners, can you tell I don’t know much about Game of Thrones? Just stop me…

Lauri: You should really fix that. Just saying.

Michael: Yes, I really should. I’m still in that stage where I’m like, “Do I read them first and then watch the TV show, or do I watch the TV show?” I’m going to have that debate probably until I die. [laughs] That’s what’s going to happen.

Lauri: Tough choice. Tough choice.

Michael: But now that we’ve explored Fawkes and the Basilisk and some of these creatures that are down here in the Chamber of Secrets…

Lauri: Wait, wait, wait! I have one more thing.

Michael: Oh yes, please!

Lauri: One thing that I noticed on this read-through of this chapter is that Fawkes feels a lot like Chekhov’s Gun. We’re introduced to Fawkes early on in the book, and then [he] comes back in act three. And the rule is that you introduce the gun in act one and you have to fire it by the end of act three. That’s what this feels like, and I felt like that stuck out to me very, very much this time. And I don’t know if it’s because I was just paying so much closer attention than I typically do when I read these, but I felt like it was very heavy-handed on Jo’s part and she doesn’t usually do that.

Michael: It’s funny you say that because I pretty distinctly recall in our discussions of Cursed Child – and the discussion that certain elements felt a little hackneyed – that Alison specifically said, “Do y’all remember Fawkes in Chamber of Secrets just solving all the problems?”

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: He’s a little deus ex machina.

Lauri: Yeah, it does feel very, very deus ex machina.

Michael: He literally swoops in to save the day. And really – more than I realized before – he pretty much does most of the combat with the Basilisk. Harry just stabs it, but Fawkes is the one…

Alison: Harry doesn’t even have his eyes open half the time.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Yeah! Fawkes actually takes the eyes out and annoys the Basilisk to the point that it’s distracted enough not to go after Harry. I don’t know how I feel about that because… That one’s hard for me, and I feel like I need to reread Chamber of Secrets as a whole to decide how I feel about that because there is such an intricate mystery being set up here. Now, this is something we’ll probably be talking about more with Riddle, too, but I remember when Fawkes showed up and did the work he did in this chapter – the first time I read it – I was like, “Oh my God, yes! I totally forgot that Dumbledore listed out all of the features of a phoenix one right after the other, and they’re all becoming useful here.” That still worked for me as a kid, and maybe that’s part of the reason why these early books tend to not work for people as much as they grow older.

Lauri: That is definitely a reflection of it still being a kid’s story.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. When we look back on Sorcerer’s Stone, the Nicolas Flamel thing really isn’t that big of a mystery. Harry just forgot that he read it on the card. And really, the mystery isn’t solved completely by reading the card. It’s solved by Hermione being like, [as Hermione] “I have a book that answers all of these questions!”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: And she forgot that she had read that detail in the book, because she read the book. So it’s a similar thing where the solution was here the whole time, in this convenient little gift box. And I feel maybe that’s why Prisoner of Azkaban ends up being the book that people gravitate so much toward, because I feel like Azkaban doesn’t do that as strongly. It’s the first one in the series to not do that as bluntly, perhaps, as the first two. But I think Fawkes more than anything has been… I think the thing that puts him over the top is that “he can carry heavy loads.” Like, why?

Lauri: Oh my God. That is the one that did it for me.

Michael: [laughs] And to be fair, historically, phoenixes are somewhat closely tied to… In Russian mythology, phoenixes have a different name – the Firebird – and the Firebird can actually carry people on its back. So I’m wondering if that’s where she pulled that from. And listeners, if you know more about phoenixes in mythology, and perhaps if they have always carried heavy loads, I would be interested to know. But I’m wondering if she might have pulled it from the Firebird mythology as well to use that. But yes, there’s definitely an element of convenience here. But it’s all made up for with Tom Riddle, right? It’s fine. Because we have a much larger mystery going on here with Mr. Tom Marvolo Riddle. And there [are] a lot of interesting things to talk about with him. I’m going to start with one of the ones that was actually talked about in Episode 18, which actually didn’t get elaborated on. They didn’t really have time to go into it, I think, as much as they wanted to. But as we know, Harry is a dumb-dumb and drops his wand.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: Seriously. Every time I read that, I’m like, “Stupid! Why would you do that?” It’s not just a stick. Come on, dude!

Michael: It is pretty weird. It’s one of the rare instances in the books where he does that, where the wand’s not forced from his hand; he just puts it down. He doesn’t shove it in his robes. He doesn’t put it in a pocket.

Alison: Put it in your pocket, at least!

Olivia: In Harry’s defense, he’s 12 and has only been in the wizarding world for two years.

Michael: And he doesn’t know Mad-Eye Moody yet.

Olivia: [laughs] No! I don’t think magic is his first instinct yet.

Michael: Yeah, that’s true.

Alison: I know, but still! [laughs]

Michael: He does defeat the giant snake with a sword instead of a wand. That is true. Of course, by putting down the wand he allows Riddle to pick it up, and this brings up a very interesting discussion that, as first-time readers of Chamber of Secrets, you don’t really get to reflect on. What would have happened if Riddle had just killed Harry? If past Riddle had Avada Kedavra‘d Harry, which he was clearly about to do at some point…

Alison: I think it would have ended up like the Priori Incantatem more than anything.

Michael: How? How would it work with Harry not having a wand?

Lauri: Yeah, there’s not another wand.

Alison: Well, Dumbledore says something when he’s talking about Priori Incantatem… I don’t remember when he says this, [but] he says it at some point when he’s talking about the wands. He says something about how the wand recognizes both someone it cannot hurt but [when] it’s being told to hurt them. And so it backfires in a way and creates the Priori Incantatem effect. So I don’t know if that would necessarily happen since Harry doesn’t have a wand, but I feel like there’s almost this idea of – especially if Fawkes is there/coming and Fawkes’s tail feather is in the wand – the wand might know enough. Because at this point the only person who’s ever used it is Harry, and so maybe it would recognize enough and not hurt him. I don’t know. [laughs]

Michael: It’s already interesting enough that Riddle came out of the diary without his wand. And I’m assuming that has to happen because their wands can’t encounter each other yet or a lot of information would be revealed at that point.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: She pretty much couldn’t have them do anything to each other if he had brought his wand. And that said, I don’t even know… There’s so much hard stuff here because we’re talking about a Riddle from the past who’s in a diary. He’s kind of an embodiment of a Horcrux, but he’s a unique case in that way, too, because he’s the only Horcrux we’ve seen that basically creates a full-bodied second Voldemort, which causes a lot of its own problems. That raises the question that I also had: If he had succeeded in draining Ginny of her life-force – as he called it – completely, what would have happened? Would he have become a fully corporeal Voldemort/Tom Riddle, and would there be the potential to have two Voldemorts?

Lauri: [laughs] Augh!

[Michael laughs]

Alison: See, I wonder about that because at the same time, I can also see the memory one being reincorporated somehow. You know how Dumbledore can put memories back in his head from the Pensieve? I wonder if it would be something along those lines because he’s specifically a memory. Maybe if he ended up meeting up with the lost bit of soul that’s out there, then maybe they would fuse back together. I don’t know. [laughs]

Lauri: Well, if he had actually killed Harry, too, I wonder how much that would make a problem of Voldemort coming back or getting re-bodied in the fourth book, since Harry wouldn’t have been there. He would have had to find his grave, I presume. So that could make more… Maybe Harry dying could have stopped Voldemort from coming back in some way, as dark as that is.

Michael: Well, the other thing we’re missing from this piece that, of course, is more of a factor, is that this Riddle – this past Riddle – doesn’t have Harry’s blood in him, which Voldemort does at the end. That’s the last thing that ties them to each other and keeps that connection with the Horcrux and the blood and… blah, blah, blah. The other thing is that this Riddle Horcrux is almost about to become a full, potentially independent Riddle, [but] doesn’t have… I don’t know how that would affect [it] by him eliminating the Horcrux… Ahh! How does this work?

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: Can you imagine the havoc a Tom Riddle/Voldemort that looked like that could wreak?

Michael: [laughs] Yes!

Olivia: He’s a very handsome human being. I feel like that would have just been a disaster.

Alison: [gasps] You’re right! Oh, man.

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: I feel like he’s very charismatic and a goodlooking kid. Support for him would have snowballed out of control, and he would have ended up in…

Alison and Olivia: Oh, man.

Michael: Yeah, some bad stuff could have happened. It’s funny because I don’t…

Alison: This is where Bellatrix is coming from.

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: And you know what? If that’s the case, I’m not sure I blame her. He’s really cute. What can I say?

Michael: Yeah, if we’re talking Christian Coulson [as] Tom Riddle, I’m all for that, sure.

[Michael and Olivia laugh]

Michael: I vote yes. But it’s hard to say because there are so many factors going in, and I know it’s hard to remember, too, what is relevant by the time that Voldemort and Harry have their final showdown and their final disconnect from each other. How much does the blood factor in, and how much is the wand factoring in? All of these different elements. So I know it’s hard to keep it all straight and then try and figure out what the heck is going on here. But yeah, they’re definitely… I feel like the consequences could have been pretty catastrophic. Of course, this raises the other discussion around this chapter… this infamous discussion that Rowling doesn’t want us to talk about anymore – we’ll just share it here so that y’all don’t have to talk about it anymore – which is everybody saying, “Well, why wasn’t anything affected? Why wasn’t the Horcrux destroyed by the basilisk venom?” Because basilisk venom can destroy Horcruxes. And as Rowling said, as Deathly Hallows and Half-Blood Prince made very clear – because she put a line in to make us not talk about it…

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: … “The shell (the container of the Horcrux) has to be completely destroyed, and Harry was not completely destroyed. He was damaged, [but] he was not damaged beyond repair. He was still repairable, as evidenced by Fawkes bringing him back to life.” Nice save, Rowling, on that one. Thank goodness for deus ex machina Fawkes.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Olivia: Bird’s got it all.

Michael: Yep, that solves that problem. But with all these mechanics that we’re talking about… I think with Horcruxes we’ve already talked a little bit about the problem with Harry and Tom Riddle. There’s some fascinating stuff, too, going on with… I think this stuff is a little more explained by Half-Blood, but there’s a fascinating aspect going on with Ginny and her relationship with Riddle in this book. As Riddle puts it on page 310, [as Tom Riddle] “Her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted. I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets.” I found that fascinating in itself because while we know that Horcruxes seem to take advantage of people’s… I think the biggest one we see that with is the locket, that Horcruxes feed off of negative emotions and they amplify negative emotions. It’s interesting that this one is actually sucking out her soul to gain its power and actually draining her of her life force to do it, to create a second life. See, that’s the other thing that’s so weird. From what we know about the other Horcruxes, I wouldn’t posit that the other Horcruxes would create another full functioning Voldemort or Riddle. I don’t know if you ladies would agree with that.

Alison: Yeah, I think this one specifically is weird because it’s a hybrid. It’s not a full Horcrux like the locket or the cup. He did actually put the memory of himself into this diary, as well as a Horcrux.

Michael: So it’s like a Pensieve Horcrux.

Alison: Yeah, and so that’s what makes it a little bit more alive, I think, and able to think for itself, whereas the others don’t as much. That’s the weird thing here. But it also needs that emotional intimacy to thrive, in a way, [and] I think we see the other Horcruxes using physical closeness as a weapon. But this one has something weird with it where it needs emotional closeness, not just physical closeness. And that could be the memory part of it. It needs that life force.

Olivia: So could someone have made a diary like this that wasn’t a Horcrux?

Alison: I think so.

Lauri: I’d imagine.

Olivia: Okay.

Michael: Yeah. I think – like what Alison was saying and I think what I assumed as a first time reader of the series – that this is magic that you could replicate without the Horcrux. Because not knowing that it’s a Horcrux, if you take that aspect out of it, Harry is just talking to a talking diary. That’s a pretty typical magic thing, right? It’s fine.

Olivia: No big deal. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah, it’s fine.

Lauri: Well, and if this is one of the first Horcruxes, too, it would probably be the one that took the most out of him and took the most from him directly to create, because by the time he makes all of them, he’s been doing it a few times so it’s less of a deal. And with this one he’d been studying the Horcruxes and all of that for quite a while, so it was the moment of glory that he could finally do the thing.

Michael: That’s an excellent boost for the pie theory with Horcruxes, that it’s like you get a certain percentage and it gets smaller and smaller as you go. And that would definitely make sense because… it’s funny; when we all talk about the cup, everybody’s like, “What does the cup do?” Nothing. [laughs] The evil cup doesn’t talk to you or anything.

Lauri: It just sits there.

Alison: The cup is more of a trophy than anything, it felt like.

Michael: We never see in the book that the cup actually takes any action; unlike in the movie, of course, where it has its whole…

Alison: It’s the Spidey Sense.

Michael: Yes, its little watery Chamber of Secrets. Bleh! That’s something else entirely, but there was another… Who put down this fascinating question about Dementors?

Olivia: Oh, that was me.

Michael: Please put this forward to the group.

Olivia: So if Riddle’s diary is sucking Ginny’s soul out of her, that seems to be similar to what the Dementors do. So what would have happened if he had sucked her soul out entirely? Would she have become whatever happens after you’ve had the Dementor’s Kiss?

Alison: I think it’s a little bit different because I feel like [with] the Dementors, it’s involuntary. We know that if you get the Dementor’s Kiss, you’re still alive but you have no sense of self, whereas I feel like [with] the diary, you pour in your sense of self and everything that makes you you, which is why she’s going to die… I think. How do I put this? It’s making sense in my head.

Michael: No, what you’re saying makes sense.

Alison: Yeah, there’s that concept of… is it Greek or Latin or something? That the soul, the animus… I don’t remember. There’s that sense of your “life force,” and I feel like that’s almost more of what we’re talking about here.

Michael: Well, yeah. Riddle interchangeably uses “soul” and “life force” when he’s talking about Ginny and what’s happening to her.

Olivia: I feel like she loses her sense of self because she has these moments where she doesn’t know what she’s been doing, and Riddle is actually taking her over.

Alison: Yeah, but it’s almost more than what a Dementor does. A Dementor will leave you alive, but it’ll take everything that makes you you, whereas this is going to take what makes you you, and it’ll kill you.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: Just a little bit more. Just a little bit extra, right there.

Olivia: This is really bad. Really bad.

Michael: I wonder if Riddle was inspired by Dementors when he was coming up with this… if there’s anything with that. We’ve talked, too, about Dementors’ relationships with Horcruxes, of course. [We’ve talked about] that idea that a Dementor could destroy a Horcrux. What if…?

Alison: Well, I’m sure if he was learning about all these deep things, it had to come up at some point. And he does seem to get along with Dementors quite well.

Olivia: He does.

Michael: Yes, it’s true. He does strike a few deals with them. That’s a thing. [laughs]

Alison: What a creep.

Michael: Well, and we’ve talked a little bit already about how this works with the mechanics of Horcruxes. And specifically in relation to Harry, Rowling is – this is, again, why it’s so funny that Chamber of Secrets is left behind in the fandom – working really hard in this book to drop hints for future books. And especially, one of the great moments that gets a little lost, but I think it’s compounded upon by the whole theme of Chamber of Secrets, is with Harry questioning his self-identity. But it comes to a head here when Riddle says, on page 317, [as Tom Riddle] “There are strange likenesses between us, after all. Even you must have noticed. Both half-bloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike…” [back to normal voice] I thought that was a really interesting line because that’s not a line that people really latch on to, their physical similarities. Of course, the movie was like, “Nope, no physical similarities.” [laughs] None at all. And it’s funny…

Alison: They both have dark hair. Whatever.

Michael: Funny reference… Sometimes I find myself impressed by how much research LEGO does whenever they depict Harry Potter. [In] the Chamber of Secrets set, the first one that had Tom Riddle in it as just Tom Riddle, not as Voldemort, he has the same hairpiece as Harry.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: I feel like that was their way of referencing this line, but it’s funny because Riddle goes on to later ridicule Harry’s physical appearance and actually try to distance himself from Harry by saying, [as Tom Riddle] “How could you? You’re a scrawny, skinny, little 12-year-old. How could you defeat Voldemort?” [back to normal voice] And it’s funny, though, because…

Alison: Well, we get so much, too, in Half-Blood about how handsome Tom Riddle is, and I feel like she never describes Harry like that. We never get the sense that Harry is particularly handsome, but she goes on and on about how everybody’s in love with how hot Tom Riddle is.

[Olivia laughs]

Michael: Well, I think the thing that we see compared between them in Book 6 is more of their charm, and that Riddle finds a way to act that charm. Harry genuinely is charming without meaning to be, much to his chagrin. But Riddle doesn’t have that authentically.

Alison: And when he tries to be, it ends up really badly.

Michael: Yes, yes, and when he tries too hard he can’t do it. Riddle tries hard, and he can do it, but he can’t do it naturally. They’re compared more in that way. But it’s funny that Tom brings up their similarity in physical appearance because that’s not really touched on a whole lot. I mean, that whole little thing from Riddle is basically just, “You’re a Horcrux.”

[Michael and Olivia laugh]

Olivia: “You’re the plot of the next five books. Go.”

Alison: I think it’s an interesting thing because I noticed this line, and I noticed a line a little bit later where Harry specifically looks at Tom Riddle. And he’s this orphan boy who would go on to kill Harry’s parents and so many other people, and it’s this interesting humanizing experience for Harry, I think, of this enemy. Riddle gives this line about “Look how alike we are,” and Harry goes, “Oh, crap.” And then he’s like, “Wait, he’s like me. We’re similar.” It helps humanize him a lot, which comes back in Half-Blood and in Deathly Hallows, [and in] that final battle he specifically calls him “Tom” and it almost calls back to this moment of “He’s human.” He’s not just this scary apparition that he was in Sorcerer’s Stone.

Michael: Yeah, he was a kid who had been Harry’s age before. He had experiences like Harry. Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot of the groundwork for Half-Blood Prince being built here. It’s funny because Rowling has said, too – I’d be fascinated to know more about this [because] she hasn’t elaborated on this more – that there were a lot of things in Half-Blood that were originally meant to be in Chamber, and then she was just like, “Whoops, I gave way too much away,” and she just took it out and saved it for Half-Blood. I’d be curious to know what those details were.

Alison: I want to read that version. I want that version.

Olivia: I know. That would be so good.

Michael: Yeah, it’s tantalizing. It’s terribly tantalizing.

Alison: And then how does that change all the ones after that? Man, so many options.

Michael: Well, and since we’re on the business of humanizing Tom Riddle, what better way to humanize him than to make fun of all his different names that he had around the world?

[Alison, Lauri, and Olivia laugh]

Michael: Because of course, the big twist of this book is that Riddle’s name is an anagram for “I am Lord Voldemort,” which, by the way, as a 10-year-old, I was just like, “My mind is blown!”

[Everyone laughs]

Lauri: I remember specifically getting out a notebook to write it out, just to be like, “How did she do this?”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: She had to have come up with the name “Tom Marvolo Riddle” after she came up with “Voldemort.” So I wonder how long it took her sitting there being like, “What names are going to work to make this spell out?”

Olivia: Especially to come up with something like Marvolo. That’s not a word that I would have found out of an anagram.

Lauri: Especially with his first name being just Tom; it’s so normal. And to have that as a middle name…

Alison: It’s so normal.

Michael: Yeah, it’s very cleverly done, and I think the amazing thing about it is that there is still meaning in his real name that still ties into his made-up name. With Marvolo, you get tied to malevolent. It’s perfect. It’s amazing that she managed to do that, and I wonder if that was something she planned even in the development of Book 1. But of course, apparently while she was thinking hard in English, she may not have been thinking too hard about other languages because Tom suffered severely in other languages.

[Alison, Lauri, and Olivia laugh]

Michael: Probably his most famous one, which was talked about on Episode 18, [is] in French, his name is “Tom Elvis Jedusor.”

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: I love it so much.

Alison: I love it.

Michael: Yes, his name is Elvis. Just always remember that if you ever want a way to make him a little less frightening.

Alison: That’s what Harry should have called him in that last battle. “Hey, Elvis! Elvis! Let’s finish this how we started it”.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Because you can’t say “I am Voldemort” in [French], you say, “Je suis Voldemort.” That sounds quite threatening and yet romantic.

[Alison, Laurie, and Olivia laugh]

Alison: What a perfect name for him, then.

Michael: In Norwegian, his name was changed to “Tom Dredolo Venster,” which is an anagram of “Voldemort den Store,” which means “Voldemort the Great.” Yeah. In [Swedish], he has two middle names. “Mervolo” is one of them. It’s “Mer” instead of “Mar.” His last name is “Dolder” and his second middle name is “Gus.”

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: That’s such a letdown.

Michael: And interestingly, the anagram is not meant to be Swedish. It’s meant to be Latin for “Ego Sum Lord Voldemort,” which I believe the Latin version – because there is a Latin translation – did not…

Alison: I like this one, actually.

Michael: Yeah. Where is the Latin translation? Where did it go?

Alison: The Latin version was “Tom Musvox Ruddle,” like, R-U, which is an anagram of “Sum Dux Voldemort” or “I am Voldemort the Leader,” which sounds quite threatening.

Olivia: Yeah.

Michael: That’s good. So he made out well in Latin but not in fake Swedish Latin. [laughs]

Alison: I like his Danish one.

Lauri: His Danish one is “Romeo G. Detlev, Jr.,” so there’s the second name again.

Alison: [laughs] So in Danish, it really makes sense to have Cursed Child happen.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: He’s a Romeo.

Michael: “Romeo?” [laughs] There was a big issue in Hungarian, unfortunately, because his name became “Tom Rowle Denem.” And unfortunately, the “Rowle” tied him in to Thorfinn Rowle’s family. Oopsie-daisy.

Alison: Oh man.

Olivia: Whoops.

Michael: So they had to fix that. And the other issue, as the Harry Potter Wiki notes,

“In many cases, these changes to the name created a problem in later books. In the English edition, a line of dialogue mentions that Tom Riddle shares his given name with the bartender of the Leaky Cauldron, and this becomes a plot point. Translators who could not have foreseen this development had, in fact, given different names to Tom the Bartender and to Tom Riddle, resulting in this reference being completely erased.”

Alison: Whoops. I also like the Arabic version; they were just like, “We’re not even going to deal with this.” It just didn’t even have him do the anagram.

Michael: [laughs] Easy enough. Don’t even bother.

Alison: Just write out “I am Lord Voldemort.” Okay.

Michael: So listeners, if you want to explore that more, a great jumping off point is the Harry Potter Wiki. They have a whole section on their page in “Harry Potter in Translation” where they discuss the issue of anagrams, and Riddle’s name is probably one of the biggest issues that ever came up for the translations. So yeah, if you want some help taking Voldemort down a peg, just go look at his foreign names. [laughs] I thought it was also important to recheck our timeline because this is something that we’ve gotten confused about a lot on Alohomora!, especially when we just bring up the Horcruxes and we’re like, “Crap, we forgot to look at the timeline.” [laughs] It’s important to remember, and Riddle basically helps give away the timeline. On page 312, he says, [as Tom Riddle] “It had taken me five whole years to find out everything I could about the Chamber of Secrets and discover the secret entrance.” [back to normal voice] That helps us a little bit because we know that Riddle began at Hogwarts in 1938. That question was confirmed by Rowling confirming that Hermione was nearly 12 when she started. You’re not nearly 11; you have to be 11 or older to start at Hogwarts, and he turned 11 on December 31, 1937. So he was too late to go in 1937, so he started in 1938. That would put him in his fifth year, which is in September ’42 to June ’43. Sometime in that year, he found the Chamber of Secrets. He’d been researching it up to that time, but he found it that year. And he became fully knowledgeable in the same year and capable of creating a Horcrux in that time because, of course, poor Moaning Myrtle is his first victim to create the diary. He frames Hagrid for Myrtle’s death on June 13, 1943. There had been other incidents up to that point, but Myrtle is the big one because she actually dies. The funny thing about that, I thought, is that Dumbledore is around all of this time, and of course, the distinctive disadvantage Dumbledore has in all of this – as far as finding the Chamber and any information on it – is that he does not speak Parseltongue. Dumbledore does a lot of things. Parseltongue is not one of his abilities. That said, do you think he ever actually maybe just thought to go to the girl’s bathroom and ask Myrtle what happened to her?

Olivia: No.

Michael: [laughs] Really? Why?

Olivia: Dumbledore is brilliant, but common sense never seems to be the route that anybody in the wizarding world goes.

Michael: It’s probably one of the most common sense things to do because it’s not every day you get a Hogwarts student who dies and can give a moderate, at least half account of what happened to her. Of course, she can’t…

Lauri: I mean, maybe…

Michael: Go ahead, Lauri.

Lauri: She was pretty fond of Harry and stuff, so maybe Dumbledore had, and she just was Myrtle-y and just moaned and whined about having been dead rather than actually answering him.

Alison: Well, she did run off for a while, didn’t she? She was haunting Olive Hornby.

Olivia: Poor Olive Hornby.

Alison: So maybe they were like, “Uh, you’re crazy. We’re leaving you alone.”

Michael: That is true. She does haunt Olive Hornby till she dies, and then she comes back to Hogwarts, but Dumbledore was around during that time too. But I suppose by that time, he’s like, [as Dumbledore] “Eh, case closed.” [laughs]

Alison: Nothing’s happened for years. Move on.

Michael: This goes into the Hogwarts cold case files, which I’m sure there are many of, actually.

Lauri: All in Filch’s office, right?

Michael: Yes, all in Filch’s office. The other interesting thing, of course, about this timeline is not only Riddle’s interaction with Myrtle. This opens up the door to the realization that Riddle seemed to be very hyper aware of pretty much every student in Hogwarts, which must not have been easy to do as a Slytherin. But he also elaborates on something we’ve talked a lot about on Alohomora!, and that is his knowledge of Hagrid and his relationship with Hagrid. He says on page 311,

“It was my word against Hagrid’s, Harry. Well, you can imagine how it looked to old Armando Dippet. On one hand, Tom Riddle, poor but brilliant, parentless but so brave, school prefect, model student. On the other hand, big, blundering Hagrid, in trouble every other week, trying to raise werewolf cubs under his bed, sneaking off to the Forbidden Forest to wrestle trolls…”

This is funny because Hagrid is not in Riddle’s House and Hagrid never talks about Riddle, as far as actually knowing him. Fascinating, right?

Alison: Well, yes. That he puts special attention on him, that’s weird. But I feel like Hagrid’s not someone that’s easy to look over.

Michael: Fair enough.

Lauri: Literally.

Alison: And Riddle [was] a prefect and on his way to being Head Boy, and we find out in Half-Blood Prince [that] he has a knack of just finding out stuff about people that he shouldn’t know. He’s just nosey.

Michael: That’s true.

Alison: I got the sense he just finds out stuff. He’s a gossip in some ways.

Michael: Another trait he shares with Harry.

Alison: Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me that he knew about Hagrid, [or] at least he knew about the trouble Hagrid got in. And so when he was looking for someone to blame this on, why not someone who had a history of trouble?

Michael: What were you going to say, Olivia?

Olivia: I feel like Tom Riddle might have had a way of reaching out feelers and having ears and eyes where maybe he otherwise wouldn’t, and utilizing friends – for lack of a better word – and having eyes and ears in the Gryffindor common room or the dormitory.

Michael: Hmm. Well, we do know Riddle at least had something of a small network within Slytherin, so that might’ve definitely helped to basically create a grapevine. It’s not impossible that other Slytherins had interacted with people from other Houses, even the mean ones. That’s possible. That’s a thing. But yeah, I guess going with the idea that Hagrid obviously is hard to miss, I think we could probably assume that Riddle was looking for somebody to take the fall, and we also know that with his prejudice, he preys upon the underdogs and the socially ostracized, [and] Hagrid would seem to have stood out for his ancestry alone, which makes it all the more awful, of course, that he targeted Hagrid. And as somebody noted… Olivia, was this you, with the…?

Olivia: Also me, yes.

[Michael and Olivia laugh]

Michael: Do elaborate.

Olivia: Werewolf cubs?

Michael: [laughs] Sure, why not?

Olivia: Sure, okay. But if werewolves have to be bitten, I don’t understand how that worked. I don’t understand how those can exist.

[Michael laughs]

Alison: That shows that Riddle didn’t really know Hagrid because he probably just heard rumors. I mean, werewolves are so misunderstood that it was probably a rumor that someone was like, “You hear about that Hagrid kid? He’s raising werewolf cubs under his bed.” And everyone’s like, “Oh my gosh, you’re joking.” And it just blows up.

Michael: “I heard he wrestles trolls in the Forbidden Forest!”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Well, we also do have that story from Pottermore, that there is one known case of a set of werewolf cubs that were bred in an unusual way that resulted in them being tame and intelligent. So maybe he was taking care of those werewolves, the ones that reside in the Forbidden Forest. Maybe he was put in charge of them.

Olivia: I want that fan fic. I want to see that.

Michael: [laughs] I do feel like we’re missing out on something with that section. Well, and we also do get a little more of a confirmation of something we were trying to figure out earlier: Riddle says that Hagrid is put into training to be gamekeeper. He doesn’t just become gamekeeper once he’s kicked out. So he was probably working under Ogg for that period of time, potentially without a wand for some part of it, maybe just doing more Filch-like things until… the theory, of course, that we’ve bandied about, that the wand was fixed by the Elder Wand, but that’s a whole other episode entirely.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Olivia, was this your question up here about Riddle in the diary?

Olivia: Oh, yeah. He seems to be very well-informed about what’s going on in current time. And I don’t know how much of that is what Ginny would have told him through her complaining to a diary, but he does seem to be very aware of what’s happening. And if he put his 16-year-old self in the diary, I don’t know how much of that he would have been able to glean. It just seems like he would have stopped at 16.

Alison: I think that’s how Dumbledore figures out it’s a Horcrux, because a memory shouldn’t be able to process that information. But a Horcrux, that’s one of its defense mechanisms, looking for weaknesses. So especially if Ginny had filled him in… I mean, he made the connection between Harry and Voldemort, and he started asking for that history. I’m sure Ginny – because Ginny is a Harry fangirl, especially at this point – just filled him in with everything. So that’s where I think Dumbledore gets the idea of “Oh, this is not just a memory. This is something more.”

Michael: Hmm. Yeah, Riddle gives the explanation that Ginny gave all the information to him, and we know that Riddle is persuasive enough that he could’ve ostensibly gotten all that. I mean, really, too, when you think about it, Ginny was probably wanting to talk to somebody about her feelings about Harry, and then here’s the one person who asked. So not only is she going to tell him her feelings, she’s probably going to just gush about Harry. If he asks details, she’ll give them to him.

Lauri: Poor Tom Riddle.

[Lauri and Michael laugh]

Alison: I wonder if she practiced her Valentine on him.

Olivia: Oh.

Alison: [as Ginny] “What do you think about this? ‘His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad…'”

Olivia: I forgot about that. Oh my God.

Michael: He probably had to be like, “Ahh, true poetry.”

Lauri: I would’ve read this when I was about 9 or 10. He was talking about how she spilled all of her secrets to an imaginary stranger. It sounded like a lot of the very early Internet warnings that parents would give you about not telling people facts about yourself, so I thought that was a…

[Alison laughs]

Michael: Yeah, that was a conversation on Episode 18. It’s funny here because it was something I didn’t even think of in relation to this. But yeah, it seems like an obvious parallel now.

Lauri: Yeah, I remember as a kid I was actually maybe even more scared of the Internet as I already was at the time.

[Michael laughs]

Lauri: I was like, “It’s right. Look what can happen!”

Michael: You could get your soul sucked out. Oh my God.

[Alison and Lauri laugh]

Michael: Yeah. Well, and I think that that goes hand in hand with the warning that Arthur will give Ginny in the next chapter of not being aware of something if you can’t see where it keeps its brain. He’s definitely…

Alison: Disclaimer: We are not advocating our younger listeners reveal personal information about themselves.

[Lauri laughs]

Michael: No, no.

Alison: This is a still a good warning. [laughs]

Michael: But also, don’t be so afraid of the Internet that you just don’t use it. It’s okay. Just be smart when you go on the Internet, listeners, especially now. It’s funny because that did come about in a world where it was just, “Oh no! AIM will bring about the end of civilization!” Oh, how little we understood.

Olivia: So pure.

[Michael laughs]

Alison: We were so innocent.

Michael: Yeah. We all carry Riddle’s diary in our pocket now.

Alison: Ooh.

Olivia: I think they actually specify that she had kept it in her pocket, and I just stared at my phone for a second like, “Ooh.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: What are you doing? Don’t you dare have a piece of somebody’s soul in you!

[Alison, Lauri, and Olivia laugh]

Michael: I mean, that’s in a way why Harry Potter is still so relevant [and] why it carries on, because that theme will probably continue to carry on. It’s funny. She found a way to work in an analogy about phones into the magical world where nobody uses phones. And speaking of Ginny’s relationship with this diary, I see we have some points here about Ginny, which is great because…

Alison: Yeah, we don’t talk about her, and she’s awesome.

Michael: Yeah. Here’s my Ginny Thor cup. I haven’t gotten to do this in a while. I smash it on the floor, and I scream, “Another! Another!” Because honestly, when I was reading through this, I was just like, “Dang. Ginny is so boring in this chapter.” She wakes up, and she’s like, [as Ginny] “No! Where am I? Oh my God! Oh my God!” [back to normal voice] And then that’s all she does.

Olivia: “I might get expelled!”

Michael: [as Ginny] “I’m going to get expelled!” [back to normal voice] And it is interesting because this is her big moment.

Alison: I think it tells us a lot about her, at least as a kid.

Michael: Yes, please. Please extrapolate.

Alison: And then if we compare that to her in later books, when Harry starts paying attention to her again, it’s interesting to see her character development. And a lot of people, too, especially in the later books, are like, “Oh, Ginny is such a Mary Sue. She’s perfect at everything.” I think if we compare that later Ginny to this Ginny, you have to fill in a few things. She’s terrified. She’s terrified of what she’s done. She thinks she’s going to get kicked out of school, which is all she ever wanted to go to. She’s wanted to go to Hogwarts since Bill went, and so it’s very interesting to see this development. She’s almost Hermione-esque. That was Hermione’s greatest fear in Sorcerer’s Stone, that she would get expelled, that she would get kicked out of school. Then later, [Ginny] has gained this almost more quiet confidence by the time Harry starts paying attention to her again. It’s like she feels settled in who she is and where she is, and she’s more comfortable with that. Whereas here, she was so worried that everything she wanted to be was going to get taken away from her because she let out too much. It’s very interesting.

Michael: I feel like you’ve opened up a whole door – a whole Dumbledoor – where we could totally use Ginny’s moment here to actually explore male privilege. The funny thing is [that] Harry and Ron have no concerns about being expelled. They are just like, “That’s fine; we just saved the school.”

[Alison and Olivia laugh]

Michael: “Dumbledore will forgive us. Dumbledore’ll pardon it.” And Ginny is just like, [as Ginny] “Oh my God, I’m going to be expelled. I almost killed people. Oh my God.” [back to normal voice] Has she noticed how forgiving Dumbledore has been all the time?

[Alison and Olivia laugh]

Michael: Hermione is the same way. To be fair, there are scenes in the books where Harry and Ron wonder if they will be expelled. That tends to be more when they are encountering discipline from either McGonagall or Snape, not Dumbledore. But yeah, it is interesting that the main girls in this series seem to really value their time at Hogwarts and their education, and they’re fearful that it could be taken away at any moment. While Harry has those moments, overall he seems to take for granted that he is not going anywhere because he’s just like, “Yeah, I saved the school. They can’t expell me. I’m an asset.”

[Alison laughs]

Olivia: “I’m Harry Potter.” [laughs]

Michael: “I’m the only reason the school stayed open.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: I think that’s why I feel let down by what happens to Ginny’s character constantly through the book, and I feel like it is just as prominent here as it is in any of the books, if not more so. Her character is really fleshed out not by herself but by everyone else. The funny thing about Ginny being the solution to the whodunnit is [that] you realize that we don’t know Ginny, and the person who fully reveals her is Riddle. Up to that point, it really is her family that shapes her to Harry. Ron is the one who tends to relay the most information about her to Harry. Then here we go, we get this huge information about her from Riddle. That seems to continue on. Eventually, we get some more info dumps from Hermione about Ginny. It takes [Ginny] a long time to be just like, “Hi, hey, here I am. Let me talk about myself for a little bit,” which I think… Like you said, Alison, you cited her change in Book 5 where she actually is just like, [as Ginny] “I’m going to talk about me for a while, and nobody else will.”

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: I think that speaks to her insecurities. We even get that dark moment in Order of the Phoenix where they’re talking about Harry being afraid he’s being possessed, and she’s like, “Did you ask the one person who has been through that?” And he’s like, “I forgot.” And she’s like, “Yeah, figured. Lucky you.”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: How nice it must be.

Alison: I think you see that trauma that shapes her in a lot of ways, that comes from this moment in this book.

Michael: I think that’s my one relief about how she’s used in the story. It does come back to help shape Harry’s journey in Order of the Phoenix, and she finds a way to use her personal experience to be a part of the story. [It] does take a few books, but it’s nice. I am glad that this moment is extrapolated on and not just, “Yep, Ginny had this super traumatic experience, and then she went back to school and she was fine. The end.” [laughs] This is an extreme thing she went through, and nobody really even asks if she’s okay. Harry doesn’t even do anything to comfort her when he…

[Olivia laughs]

Alison: Well, Harry is not very good at comforting…

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: No. We’ve extrapolated at length about where the heck is Gryffindor’s sword hanging out when it just falls out of the Hat. Unless anybody has any more theories about where it could be, other than the nether. [laughs]

Alison: It’s just floating in silence.

Michael: We know that, ostensibly, wherever it is, it will just be pulled through the Hat when somebody wearing it needs it who is a true Gryffindor, i.e. Neville. Because of course, in Deathly Hallows, we don’t get the confirmation that Griphook is dead and the sword just dematerializes from his hand, like the movie.

Alison: [laughs] Movies.

Michael: [laughs] For all we know, the sword was just pulled out of Griphook’s hand when Neville needed it or taken from his possession.

[Alison laughs]

Lauri: Ouch.

Michael: Yeah, whoops. I don’t really have more to say about the sword, and the other thing I don’t really have much more to say on is Gilderoy Lockhart. That guy gets what he deserves.

Alison: Yep, I think we’re all agreed on that.

Lauri: Can we just talk about how cool Ron seems with that?

[Michael laughs]

Lauri: Ron is just like, “La-di-da, this guy over here, twiddling away with no memory and is hanging out.”

Michael: To be fair, he did try to wipe their memories just a few hours ago.

Lauri: Fair enough.

Alison: And Ron is the type to hold a bit of a grudge.

[Alison, Lauri, and Olivia laugh]

Michael: Not only all of that, but on top of that, Gilderoy tried to use Ron’s wand to do it.

[Olivia laughs]

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: Jerk. No, that’s what he gets. Gilderoy may be the biggest receiver of poetic justice in the entire series.

Olivia: Ron is the one, too, who had to live forever with his mother who just seemed to worship Gilderoy, so to have him get his revenge on him…

[Michael laughs]

Alison: “Look, Mom.”

Michael: It’s probably a nice little “told you so” for Hermione, too, later.

Olivia: Oh, yeah.

Lauri: I wonder what happened to his book sales after that.

Michael: [laughs] If we go by the movies and that he wrote a book called Who Am I?

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: I’ve been rereading Order of the Phoenix when they’re cleaning out Grimmauld Place, and I always wish that there were a part where they would reference Mrs. Weasley still using one of his books. It’s still true as a guide to how to get rid of all the pests.

Alison: She does, doesn’t she?

Olivia: Maybe I missed it.

Alison: Yeah, I think she does.

Michael: I don’t know if she’s using one of Lockhart’s books or if she’s using a different book.

Olivia: I know she names the title of a book.

Alison: I feel like it’s a Lockhart book. I’d have to go look it up. It has been a while since I read Order.

Michael: Listeners, we throw that to you to check on that, and I’m sure that Lockhart will come up in future discussion because he has plenty of chapters all to himself. We’re hardly about to let him hijack this one.

[Alison and Olivia laugh]

Michael: I think probably the thing to leave with is just again after discussing it, our overall impressions of this chapter of Chamber of Secrets in general and how this chapter is a key chapter [and] affects the series. How do we feel now? How does everybody feel?

Olivia: I feel like you can start to see some of the darker pieces that are going to come into play in the later books. This is Harry’s first real encounter with someone that he knows and is relatively close with that might die, and then he has an active part in preventing or catalyzing that. I mean, we get the groundwork for a lot of the stuff that comes back in Half-Blood Prince, so I think we start to see a little bit of a shift towards some darker, slightly more complex things while still being a real solid kids’ book.

Michael: That’s an excellent way to put it. I didn’t even think of that. Yeah, outside of that idea of his parents who he couldn’t save, obviously, this is a first time a friend of his is in so much mortal peril. Hermione and Ron, of course, were in danger during the third floor corridor sequence but not directly from Voldemort.

Olivia: Yeah, and they were all there and in it together.

Michael: Yes. Ginny was a bit unwitting.

Olivia: There was never any doubt for Harry that they would all make it out of that.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. This is the first time that, like you said, somebody that Harry actually knows pretty well – well, [laughs] moderately well – is actually…

Olivia: Who is related to someone he knows well.

Michael: Yes, somebody he cares about.

Alison: The innocent, too; not someone who’s chosen to go into danger, like they did in Sorcerer’s Stone.

Michael: Yeah, Ginny didn’t ask for this. It’s funny just because I’ve never read this chapter out of context of the rest of the book. This is the first time I’ve done that. This’ll be part of that new weird experience with Alohomora! revisits. I guess it struck me just how – there’s something about the tone of this chapter, I feel, that carries through the first two or three books – far the books grew. I guess I forget how far they grew sometimes because this chapter, again, seems so surreal and silly when you line up all of the pieces. And you’re just like, “Wow, this is weird. This is almost a drug trip. What is going on here?” It’s just so funny and weird and odd. The funny thing about Harry Potter to say is that it’s grounded in reality, but in many ways, it is. I think a lot of the reasons that the series is praised is because it sets limitations upon its magic. While I think there’s definitely a lot of rule-building here going on that is going to be important later, we’re fighting a giant snake that’s been in the Chamber for a thousand years. The Hat vomits up a sword, and there’s a singing phoenix, and you’re just like, “Well, oh, okay,” and it’s over. [laughs] I think part of that is that the movie shaped a lot of that for me because this sequence is so long in the movie.

Alison: It’s super long.

Michael: It just keeps going, and it’s so quick in the book. It’s just funny, I guess, to look at it again this way, just out of context. While this chapter is so integral and important for Half-Blood, I guess I can see the reasons why the fandom is just like, “Remember that crazy book where Harry fought a giant snake for two seconds?” [laughs]

Alison: I was going to say, it’s funny because reading it out of context, I think, I realized how much more of a building block for the bigger things it was that are coming in later books. But when you read it in context, it’s just like, “Oh, yeah. This happens.”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: “Here we go, end of the book, blah, blah, blah.” But reading it closer just by itself, it’s like, “Oh, this connects to all this stuff that’s going to happen in Goblet and Half-Blood and Order and Deathly Hallows.” It’s all just layering and becoming complicated together and like, “Oh, yeah. We get a lot of that here.” Whereas in the context of the book, I think at this point rereading the whole thing, it’s like, “Oh yeah, this is the climax in the fight in this book. There we go, yeah.”

Michael: [laughs] Yeah, it was a little jarring, I think, to read it this way, actually. It took me a little by surprise, but that’s our little jaunt into the Chamber of Secrets. We’ll leave that closed behind us. None of us speak Parseltongue anyway, as far as I’m aware, unless one of you ladies has a secret you’re keeping from us.

Olivia: Ahem, hmm…

Alison: Well…

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: [as Ron] “Harry talks in his sleep. Haven’t you noticed?”

[Michael laughs]

Alison: So we are jumping into our Podcast Question of the Week because it’s back. Yes, here we go. So this week, we’re going to look at some questions we’ve talked about throughout our discussion. So what would have happened if Riddle had simply used Harry’s wand to kill Harry instead of monologuing? What if Fawkes hadn’t shown up? And how would this have affected the rest of the series? How would the rest of the series be different? So head on over to, and let us know.

Michael: Yeah, in Episode 18, there was a discussion – I believe it was brought up by Caleb and Noah – of, was Fawkes just floating outside of the door waiting for his cue? And if Harry didn’t say all the right stuff about Dumbledore being still part of the school, Fawkes would have been like, “All right, well, he didn’t say it, so I guess I’ll go back up to the office.” [laughs]

Lauri: “I missed my cue.”

Michael: “He didn’t say his line.” So there you go, listeners. Now’s your chance to posit some answers to that very strange question. [laughs]

Lauri: Cool, and I’d like to thank our guest, Olivia, for joining us this week.

Olivia: Yeah, thanks for having me, guys. I had a good time.

Michael: Yes, you were a fantastic guest, Olivia. Were you hoping to talk about Riddle a little bit?

Olivia: Yeah. I don’t even have words.

[Michael and Olivia laugh]

Olivia: So clearly, I’m ready to talk about this. But he fascinates me. He’s so creepy and sociopathic. Ooh, yeah.

Michael: Well, don’t worry; he’ll come up again. And I mean, if all we want to do is just talk about how pretty he is on an episode someday, just have a Christian Coulson appreciation episode. But yes, Riddle will definitely come up. In fact, Alison?

Alison: He’s our next topic episode.

Michael: Ha ha!

Alison: So our next episode will be all about the one, the only, the Tom Riddle. Tom Elvis.

[Everyone laughs]

Olivia: Every time someone says that, all I can picture is him in white fringe with the Elvis leg.

Alison: Yeah!

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Yes, this is a very different physical description of him in the French version, I’m sure.

Alison: That’s a great image.

Michael: So if you listeners would like to be on the show just like Olivia and talk about Tom Riddle or any other topics or even chapter discussions, we have a page for that on You can go to the “Be on the Show” page, and that will give you all the instructions about submitting an audition. You can also go to our “Topic Submit” page as well on the main site. We need you to suggest topics for us. This show is built by you, the listeners. We don’t want to be the ones deciding everything. We want you guys to structure this show and this discussion as we move forward, and as you know, with this new format we’re doing, every other episode will be topic discussion, and every other episode will be chapter discussion. With that said, we’re also looking for you guys to suggest chapters that you want us to talk about, and on those submission pages, you also have the opportunity if you want to be on that discussion [to] let us know [which] discussion you submit for because then we’ll probably give you preference. It will be easier for us to know if you want to be on the show. You really don’t need anything fancy. We just require that you have a microphone, be it built into your laptop or your computer, and some headphones, and you’re all set. We’ll give you all of the instructions to get all of your programs downloaded so you can record with us.

Lauri: If you would like to contact us, we’re at @AlohomoraMN on Twitter. We’re at Our website is, or you can email us at

Alison: And we just want to give you one more reminder to go check out our Patreon, and one more shout-out of thanks to Crystal for supporting this episode.

Michael: Yay.

Alison: You just need to go to, and you can sponsor for as little as $1 a month.

Michael: And we also, of course, have to thank Lauri for stepping in this week and being our third host. We appreciate it very much, Lauri.

Lauri: Of course. Yeah.

Alison: So I guess we’re going to grab on to Fawkes’s tail feathers and get ourselves out of here.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: I’m Alison Siggard.

Michael: I’m Michael Harle.

[Show music begins]

Lauri: I’m Lauri Thompson. Thank you for listening to Episode 221 of Alohomora!

Michael: Open the Dumbledore. “It’s just like magic!”

[Show music continues]

[Alison laughs]

Michael: Yep, he got away with it. He took the episode.

[Everyone laughs]