Harry begins to understand his destiny

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Chapters 14-16

Near the end of Book 1, Harry is starting to learn what his destiny is. When he goes into the Forbidden Forest, he realizes that Voldemort is trying to come back. And that Harry is the one that is going to have to fight him. He doesn’t quite yet realize the extent of his responsibility, only that he can’t ignore it. He can’t just hope that someone else will fight this fight.

Magical Beings

The magical world consists of more than just wizards. Wizards are just one type of magical being, but they have the most power and autonomy. One of Hagrid’s defining traits is his love for all magical creatures, especially those that others find scary or gross. He has always wanted a dragon and he gets one from a stranger in a pub. Owning dragons is illegal in the magical world because they are too obvious to muggles. What exactly makes a magical creature magical? And not just a wild animal? Some make sense like the centaurs or house elves that have their own magic. But creatures like dragons seem just like large wild animals. It is not like the wizarding world is through some portal that muggles can’t access. They live amongst the muggles, they just hide their power. So what makes dragons belong to them?

When Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Malfoy go into the Forbidden Forest for detention (a truly absurd detention), they meet the centaurs that live there for the first time. The centaurs are our first introduction to the hierarchy of magical beings. We will later learn that wizards are the only magical beings that can own wands and are in general considered superior to all other magical beings. The centaurs deeply resent this and thus stay away from humans for the most part. One of the centaurs, Firenze, does not feel as strongly about this division and wants to help Harry defeat the common enemy more than anything. Which is why he lets Harry ride him to safety after running into Voldemort in the woods. The other centaurs are outraged that Firenze would lower himself to the rank of a mule by letting Harry ride him. This division and the power dynamics of wizards and other magical creatures will continue to be a theme throughout the series.

Voldemort’s Desperation for Immortality

While in the not-so-Forbidden Forest, Hagrid has the children looking for dead unicorns and hoping to find what is killing them. Unicorns are pure, beautiful creatures and slaying one is considered a dark act. The only reason to slay one is to drink their blood which can save you from death. However, you pay a terrible price for it because your life will be cursed. It is never really expanded on exactly what the curse is, but basically you will be alive, but your life won’t be a good one. So who would choose such a life? Voldemort. This is when we learn that Voldemort is around, lurking in the forest but he is too weak to really do anything. He is searching for a way to come back to power and using whatever means necessary to stay alive.

The Power of the Trio

After the scene in the forest, Harry comes to the conclusion that Snape wants the stone to help bring Voldemort back to life. Stopping Voldemort becomes the only thing that matters to Harry. Ron and Hermione don’t feel quite as strongly, they are still concerned with school and getting kicked out, but Harry doesn’t have the luxury of caring about that. He sees Voldemort in his dreams, his scar burns when Voldemort is near. Voldemort will come for Harry, so Harry has no choice but to go after him.

After Hagrid lets even more information slip, the trio have all they need to go after the stone, hoping to get there before Snape. They go through a series of spells and enchantments, which gives each of them a chance to shine. None of them could have gotten through on their own. Ron uses his wizard’s chess skills to get past McGonagall’s barrier. Hermione uses her logic to get through Snape’s potions test. Harry uses his flying skills to get past Flitwick’s charmed keys. Though thye all get their moments, in the end it has to be Harry. Harry is the one who is going to go through and meet the final challenge.

I liked this chapter for how it demonstrates that each of the trio are important and that they stick together no matter what. Ron and Hermione go with Harry because they can’t let him go alone. Their mission isn’t necessarily Voldemort, their mission is to help their friend. It shows why Ron and Hermione were placed in Gryffindor, rather than maybe the more surface level choices. Based on their most basic characteristics one might think that Ron should be in Hufflepuff and Hermione in Ravenclaw. But Hermione recognizes that friendship and bravery are more important than knowledge. Knowledge is great and powerful and useful, but knowledge alone it isn’t what makes life worth living. Friends and family do. But we also see Hermione’s weakness, she is not always good at practical skills, especially under pressure. When they are stuck in the Devil’s Snare, Ron has to remind her that she is a witch who can make fire with her wand. Rowling had to give Hermione this weakness otherwise she wouldn’t need Harry or Ron.

Ron is often the character that gets the least glory. He isn’t particularly skilled at much but he does fight for his friends and for what is right. He is willing to sacrifice himself in the wizard’s chess game to allow Harry and Hermione to keep fighting.

Evaluation

I really enjoyed Chapters 15 and 16. “The Forbidden Forest” really gets into some of the more interesting parts of the series, introducing us to where Voldemort is right now and that he is obviously going to be trying to come back. Voldemort’s priority is power and immortality, at any cost. We also learn more about how the wizarding world works. These things make up for the fact that it is absurd that this is their detention. I said in my previous post that a lot of the plotting of this first book feels forced, and the circumstances to getting them to the forest definitely felt that way. The entire Norbert bit in Chapter 14 was just to get them here. And that chapter was so brushed over. Which happens a lot in this book, Rowling brushes over whatever is needed to get to the part she actually wants to dive into. She gets better at this as the books go on and mature more. I understand that this is a children’s book and I need to view it through that lens, but the later book feel so much not like children’s novels that it is so noticeable here.

“Through the Trapdoor” is the big penultimate action chapter leading to the climax and it is a good one. I liked that it utilized the entire trio and demonstrated the power of the three of them together.

Miscellaneous

  • Not only does Hagrid bring the kids to the Forbidden Forest for detention late at night, he lets them wander off without him.
  • Harry, Hermione, and Neville are all ostracized for losing a bunch of house points. The Hogwarts students are very fickle.
  • Also poor Neville. He tries to help and just gets in trouble. When he sees them going out again, he tries to stand up to them but they just stun him.

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