Fire, and the Goblet thereof

My kids, like millions of other kids worldwide, love the whole Harry Potter world. Well, they both love the movies (though they haven’t seen Order of the Phoenix yet), and Ryan loves the books as well. We started reading the first book to them sometime last year, and Nicholas (who turned six last Saturday — happy birthday munchkin!) tried to listen for a while but quickly got bored, and by the time we were halfway through the book, he’d given up listening altogether. Ryan, however, listened intently right up until we finished the seventh book a few weeks ago.

We watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the other day. I think it’s my least favourite of all the movies thus far (Chamber of Secrets is probably my favourite), but I still enjoyed it. One puzzling thing about that book/movie is the wonderfully-named Fleur Delacour — I don’t remember the book so much, but in the movie, very little is said about her magical ability, just her beauty. Presumably she’s very magically talented, or she wouldn’t have been chosen for the Triwizard tournament. However once in the tournament, she withdraws from the second task, and in the third task, after wandering around the maze looking terrified, she is “eaten” by the maze itself, forcing Harry to save her. Rowling made the main female character, Hermione, the smartest student in her year, and also made all of the chasers on the Gryffindor Quidditch team female, so it seems odd that she decided to make the only female champion the weakest of the four — including Harry, who is three years younger.

Another thing that puzzled me about the Triwizard tournament is the maze itself. Other than trying not to “lose yourself” (as Dumbledore says) and trying to avoid those who have, it’s just a maze. The first task was to get past a dragon (though it would have been more fair if all four of them had had to face the same type of dragon), and the second required them to breathe underwater for an hour and get past mer-people and grindylows, and the third one is just a maze? Sure, it’s a big maze, but that doesn’t require strong magical skill, just a good memory and a lot of luck.

The most puzzling thing, however, is the entire premise of the story. Barty Crouch Jr. kidnaps Moody, one of the most powerful aurors around, and then takes his place using polyjuice potion for the entire school year (fooling Dumbledore, who’s known Moody for many years), and bewitches the Goblet of Fire to spit out Harry’s name, and essentially arranges all three tasks so that Harry will win, and turns the Triwizard Cup into a portkey, all so that Harry will touch the Cup and be transported to the graveyard where the spell to bring Voldemort back will be performed. Why not make something else a portkey and just get Harry to touch it? Why not impersonate Moody for ten minutes and say “Harry, come to my office”, and then kidnap Harry and take him to the graveyard? And why does Cedric come out of Voldemort’s wand during the battle? Voldemort didn’t kill Cedric, Wormtail did.

Fleur’s name is just one of a number of very clever names in the Potter world: her school Beauxbatons, her headmistress Mme. Maxime, the “northern European” school Durmstrang, Herbology professor Sprout, the medium Sybill Trelawney, the werewolf Remus Lupin, and Lucius and Draco Malfoy, to name but a few. The wizard prison Azkaban sounds kind of like Alcatraz — both prisons are on islands, and both had the reputation of being escape-proof. In the seventh book, there was reference to another wizard prison called Nurmengard, and I was actually a little uncomfortable with how close that name was to that of Nuremburg. Anyway, I think my favourite name in the whole series is that of one of the members of the Order of the Phoenix. It’s not particularly meaningful (or maybe it is and I just haven’t noticed), but I just love saying the name: Kingsley Shacklebolt.


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