Monday, December 22, 2008

35. More Riddle Me This

Dear reader,

After this second week of Stalliday Specials, I promise you, the Magic Quill will return with more "put in your idea and a story comes out" fun. Until then, the Quill is enjoying its seasonal overhaul at Scrivenshaft's, and I am wearing out my broomstick traveling for the holidays. Meanwhile, I hope you will ponder and enjoy these puzzlers about the continuity of the Harry Potter series. My theory is that Ms. Rowling has purposely left some details vague in order to limit the exposure of the magical world. But your guess is as good as mine...

Sincerely yours,
Robbie Fischer

RIDDLE #11: Another Loose Thread?

Other columnists elsewhere (and the HP Lexicon in general) have remarked on the apparent contradiction in Ms. Rowling's account of how many students attend Hogwarts. You know the issue: only seven Gryffindors in Harry's year, no remarkable difference in the sizes of the four houses, yet there should be hundreds of students in Harry's year. This isn't the loose thread I'm interested in. I just want to know how one teacher, for example Professor Flitwick, can find the time to teach 7 years worth of Charms to all 4 houses in separate class sections. No teacher can fit 28 sections of instruction into his weekly schedule, even if he doubles some of them up somehow. The same thing goes for Prof. McGonagall in Transfiguration, all the DADA teachers, Professor Binns in history of magic, and so forth. Do they really teach each year and each house separately? Or is there a solution to this quandary, hinted at in the scene in which Harry and his friends plan to break into Umbridge's office for the second time?

RIDDLE #12: On A Related Note

I don't know what the British terms are, but in American schools there are "core" or "required" classes, and then there are "electives". Among the electives in Harry's schedule are Care of Magical Creatures and Divination. Even though these classes seem to be open to any student in Harry's year who chooses to take them, it seems that Harry only has divination with the Gryffindors of his own year (all of them except Hermione), and "double" CMC with the Slytherins (seemingly all of both houses in that year). What gives with this? Are even the electives taught in separate sections to different houses? How can the teachers manage this? Or is it that only the Gryffindors in Harry's year are interested in Divination?

RIDDLE #13: Reserve Players

Maybe Angelina just isn't the manager that Oliver Wood was. Maybe we've just missed something because JKR didn't see fit to include all the details. But isn't it funny that, when Harry and the twins are banned from the team, the Gryffindors have to run try-outs for their replacements? Wouldn't reserve players be a good idea? What other advantages might there be to having second-string Quidditch players? And can you find the one clue that the Gryffindors, at least for a time, made use of this idea?

RIDDLE #14: Who Does the Laundry?

At first, I thought this was a loose thread. In Chamber of Secrets, Hermione sneaked Crabbe- and Goyle-sized robes out of the school laundry...yet it wasn't until Goblet of Fire that she realized that there were a hundred house-elves enslaved at Hogwarts. How could she have missed that fact, I wondered. But now it comes to me that there is a very good reason that Hermione wouldn't have met a house-elf in the laundry room. If it's obvious to you, you're smarter than I was!

RIDDLE #15: Unsound Advice?

In Order of the Phoenix, Ginny gives Harry some seemingly sound and much-needed advice, which comforts him and clarifies his anguished mind after the attack on Mr. Weasley. Yet later on, something happens that ought to call into question whether Ginny was right. Can you spot it?

RIDDLE #16: More Irony Filings

In his last appearance in Order of the Phoenix, the Gryffindor house ghost makes an admission that is really ironic, when you consider something he said earlier in the same book. Can you spot the irony?

RIDDLE #17: Foreshadowings

The weird duel between Harry and Voldemort, near the end of Goblet of Fire, combines two rare effects of using wands against each other. Neither of these effects should come as a complete surprise. One, the "reverse spell effect," was previewed in the scene when the Dark Mark appeared in the sky at the Quidditch World Cup. The other, which has to do with the fact that spells seem to be as much matter as energy, also occurred earlier in the book. When did that happen?

RIDDLE #18: A Philosophical Puzzle

It's interesting that some dangerous beasts and beings are treated as part of the curriculum on "dark arts". Vampires, hinkypunks, werewolves, kappas, and so forth. Gee, isn't that interesting! Does this suggest that magical creatures exist as a result of magic, rather than as a natural part of the world that wizards would prefer to keep Muggles from knowing about? Was every magical creature created by some kind of mixture of cross-breading and enchantments? For what purpose were they created? And if they are naturally occuring creatures, for what purpose are the Muggles kept from knowing about them?

RIDDLE #19: A Related Puzzle

Thinking back on Riddle 18, I started to consider the Crumple-Horned Snorkack and other "blibbering" beasts. In a way, it seems as though the creatures of the magical world are simply those that exist in the fancy of Muggles, but are not widely believed to be real. Could a certain amount of belief in the existence of a creature--one that is not universally acknowledged to exist--explain the origin of the magical creatures in Harry Potter's world? Is the problem with the Crumple-Horned Snorkack merely that too few people believe that it exists? Or does Muggle folklore play a role in the creature's existence--and is the CHS undone by the fact that there are no Muggle legends to give it substance?

RIDDLE #20: Twelve Uses of Dragon's Blood

I'm really out of riddles. I just want to say, I'd like to know whether we're ever going to find out what the 12 uses of dragon's blood are. I have a few guesses: (1) It's an ingredient in Gubraithian fire; (2) It's a key ingredient in firewhisky; (3) Excellent for polishing the silver and gold tableware in the Hogwarts kitchens; (4) Active ingredient in an over-the-counter, off-brand Elixir of Life; (5) Used in broomstick & flying carpet manufacture; (6) Part of a slightly hallucinogenic potion that sharpens your vision, hearing, and sense of smell; (7) A green dye or dye fixative used in the wizarding textile industry; (8) Part of that orange salve that Madam Pomfrey put on Cedric Diggory's burns after the first Triwizard task--very likely, considering the anti-inflammatory use of dragon steak demonstrated by Hagrid in Order of the Phoenix; (9) Rendered down to make those creepy candles that burn blue in the Department of Mysteries; (10) Mixed with sand and put down to melt ice and snow on wintery days; (11) An intoxicating beverage for vampires; (12) Giving Albus Dumbledore an impressive-sounding accomplishment in the field of alchemy, so that we don't notice the bit about Nicolas Flamel. Oh, well, it's possible that (if #12 is correct) we'll never learn about the other 11.

[Originally posted 1/1/05]

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