I know, I will probably get some hate mail in the near future.
This is about the third time or so that I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and, once more, it was like reading it (almost) for the first time. Harry Potter books are – for me – “forgettable”. I can’t imagine how there are adults out there who remember every little detail about every completely inconsequential character, every meaningless detail, every irrelevant incident. I can’t. Every time I read Harry Potter it’s a new experience.
That being said, a new experience is not necessarily a good one. This time I found the book rather dull, uninspiring, full of stereotypes and lifeless. Harry Potter seemed like a meddlesome, precocious little boy who doesn’t know his place. He is making wrong assumptions all through the book, is prejudiced and a general nuisance.
The message of the book – that continues in the rest of the series – is a dubious one in parts. Why, oh why, does Voldemort have to look like the caricature of Nosferatu in a snake mask (I admit I am somewhat influenced by the movies here, but his movie looks do come close to his description in the books)? He should be a charming and maybe average looking man with charisma instead. Most people who are evil don’t look the part, and vice versa. How he gained so many followers is a mystery to me, considering that he kills his supporters just as ready as he kills his enemies. Why follow him if you don’t gain anything from it?
The role of unreliable Hagrid is also puzzling. Why Dumbledore would trust that oaf (sorry, Hagrid lovers!) I can’t imagine. I mean, he gives away the secret of how to knock out Fluffy to a complete stranger in a pub! Not to mention the fact that he thinks he can raise an illegal dragon on Hogwarts’ grounds without it being noticed. The man is a liability.
The only fairly interesting character in the whole book is Snape. I love poor Snape (blame Alan Rickman!). Even though he seems to be the good guy at the end of the Philosopher’s Stone his dubious role is being played out until practically the last pages of the whole series. An easy method to keep up the tension without any further efforts.
I don’t know what I saw in those books when I read them for the first time (and I was not a kid back then). I suppose the nice setting in a wizard world ensnared me and I didn’t realize how unsubstantial the books really are. I am sure that lots of people are going to tell me now how well planned out everything is and how a little detail in book one already was the harbinger of an occurrence five books later and how greatly interwoven the whole storyline is. That may be so, just I can’t see it because by the time I read book five I have completely forgotten what I read four books (or one book) earlier.
I have been watching the movies at the same time that I was reading The Philosopher’s Stone and enjoyed watching them for the beautiful setting, the good actors and all the action. I’ve got to admit though that I am rooting for the bad guys – to no avail, I am afraid.