Monday, December 22, 2008

37. Back and Forth

Part One: Old Business
Sorry, but the Hog's Head story line is back on standby status. I really need some ideas from you guys! Such as: what is the potion that Harvey wants to steal, and why is it so important that he get it? And, what is the plan for using the unique gifts of all the wizards and witches in Harvey's circle? And, what other weird magical happenings could our characters tell about in between planning sessions?

Meanwhile, this week's column returns to our Riddles....

Hoo, boy. The other day, for the first time, I went and looked at CoS Forums and saw the kind of discussion some of my columns have started. Wow! Some of you guys have better ideas than the "right answers" to my riddles. Never before did I realize how closely my work (I mean, the Quill's and mine) would be subjected to. I'm really going to have to try hard to deliver the quality you guys want and deserve!

On riddle #5, the list of incorrect guesses continues to grow, and no one has read my mind yet! Come on, legilimensi! It isn't a kneazle, a skrewt, or a phoenix, though they would have been interesting alternatives. Nor is it a diricawl, a chizpurfle, an erumpent, or a bundimun. And it STILL isn't a niffler or a minotaur. Perhaps it would help to consider what the creature is useful for. Getting INTO the vault isn't the only possibility.

Lots of readers have attacked riddle #10 with a passion. Now the going theory is that Harry was the "one more murder," but I don't see how that can work if the result is that Voldemort can get Harry. Also, readers of the British and Latin American edition have pointed out that their text says "one more curse," which is a hippogriff of a different color. But even so, which one did Y.K.W. mean by "one more"? Was it the imperius curse on Mr. Crouch, or the one on Moody? The portus spell on the Quidditch World Cup, or the confundus charm on the Goblet of Fire? I think there's a reason the American Edition says "murder." At least, I hope so. Which murder was planned & necessary for the maturing of Voldemort's plans to get Harry Potter in his clutches? Is it perhaps someone whose death hasn't been noticed yet?

Also, I must recognize reader Madeline's thorough job of figuring out how each Professor can teach all of his/her classes (riddle #11), given a schedule in which each class meets roughly every other day. I don't have time to tell you everything she came up with, but Madeline's excellent work actually raised a new riddle: How did Umbridge find the time to teach all her classes and still inspect the other teachers? Even supposing that Snape could fill in for Prof. Lupin while some other teacher, with a lighter class load, was covering some of his Potions lessons, I can't see anyone volunteering to sub for Dolores.

Part Two: New Business

A film-related observation: I noticed, when re-watching the DVD of Prisoner of Azkaban, that there is a lot of depth to the picture. A lot is going on on the edges, in the background, and offscreen that adds a sense of reality, and enriches the magic of the film. For instance, when you slow down the time-turner scene, you see a lot of really bizarre stuff going on in the hospital wing. And did you ever notice that the shot of the stairwell outside Trelawney's tower room looks like a gigantic eye? But what I'd really like to know is, what is going on in the bed across the aisle from Harry's, when the Quidditch team comes to visit him in hospital? If you listen closely, you can hear the nurse telling the Hufflepuff player to "keep still," and the latter complaining, "It hurts!"

And now, let me tease you with a few more riddles...

Riddle #21: What's So Funny?

According to Stan Shunpike, when he was cornered by Magical Law Enforcement after supposedly murdering 13 people with one curse, all Sirius did was stand there and laugh. I don't recall ever learning what was so funny. Did he find his situation tragically absurd? Was he simply in shock? Or had Wormtail hit him with a curse that had him paralyzed with laughter until the authorities arrived?

Riddle #22: Eight Is More Than Enough

I've asked this one before--I think it was just an off-the-topic remark in one of my "original editorials"--but no one cared to answer it, so I'll try again. And this time, I have an idea of the answer, so let's see if you think what I'm thinking. All of the following Slytherin Quidditch players were mentioned in the first 3 books: (1) Marcus Flint, captain & chaser; (2) Miles Bletchley, keeper; (3) Derrick and (4) Bole, beaters; (5) Adrian Pucey, chaser; (6) Warrington, chaser; (7) Montague, chaser & later team captain; and (8) a seeker, who in Harry's first year was Terence Higgs, and since then has been Draco Malfoy. I only assigned them one number because obviously they didn't play at the same time. But where do the Slytherins get the right to have 8 players on the field? How do they get away with having 4 chasers at one time? True enough: Montague, Flint, Pucey, and Warrington are never mentioned all in one game. Yet all four did play against Harry at various times during his first 3 years; Flint played all 3 years; and the other three all returned to the field in Harry's fifth year. Pucey is named in play in book 1, Warrington and Montague in book 3, and all 3 of them in book 5. Were they all on the field with Flint? How could they have sneaked by with this unfair advantage? Or what other evidence can you find--in the text of the books, mind you--that can shed some light on this mystery?

Riddle #23: A Lockhart-Lupin Connection

It might be another "Mark Evans"-like slip of the pen, but I've noticed an interesting connection between Prof. Lockhart and Prof. Lupin, besides the fact that they both taught DADA. It has to do with two people who may or may not be related, though we have no way of knowing for sure. One of them is a person connected with Lockhart, the other is someone Lupin knew. It's possible that these two people have more in common than a name--poor judgment, perhaps? Or perhaps it's a matter of not seeing things as other people do...

Riddle #24: Percy Undercover?

I may have gone down in Burrow history as the writer who argued that Percy was bewitched after JKR publicly declared that he was acting of his own accord. But in my own defense, I was asked to write the article from that angle, and I didn't really buy into the Percy-bewitched theory at all. Right now I'm leaning toward the theory that Percy is really an undercover operative for the Order of the Phoenix, and his break with the other Weasleys was only a sham. Something in his siblings' account of how the break happened put me onto this theory. Can you spot it?

Riddle #25: Better Warning Systems Needed

The sneakoscope has never helped Harry in the slightest. When Harry's sneakoscope was constantly going off in the presence of Scabbers/Wormtail, there always seemed to be another explanation that prevented the trio from really thinking about what it might mean: such as, the thing is broken or it was never very good; the twins are around and up to no good; Crookshanks is sneaking up on Scabbers, etc. Years later, when Harry visits the impostor-Moody in his office, he sees loads of sneakoscopes that have been disabled; this was prevented from being a screaming alarm bell by impostor-Moody's plausible explanation that a lot of sneaking goes on in a school, even if not all of it is kid stuff. But can you spot the most glaring failure of a sneakoscope to provide fair warning to Harry and his friends?

Best of luck to all of you riddle-masters. And please, don't forget, I need your ideas to keep the Hog's Head storyline going. Riddles are delightful, but stories are better. And perhaps these riddles from your favorite books prove that some of the best riddles grow out of stories!

[Originally posted 1/17/05]

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