Friday, June 7, 2013

The Castle

Hogwarts was a good idea. It’s place as a living, breathing entity. Place as changeable, magical, wild. It’s captivating. There’s a sense of humor in the castle, as though thousands of laughing wizards have left their joy hidden in nooks and crannies; there’s power - as the misdirected spells of generations linger on the stairs and under tables.. Hogwarts feels to me like a school ought to - never truly left by the students who were - never truly understood by those who are, at the moment, nestled in it’s halls. I like it because - apart from the ghosts who are more like the modern, unbelieving concept of spirit - the castle is haunted in a deeper way, by memories and dreams -that-don’t-fade, by rich imaginings come to life.

Like Stonehenge, the castle is unknowable..and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to share that even Dumbledore hasn’t discovered all the secrets of Hogwarts. Like some immortal, ever-young being, the castle seems to watch and laugh anew as each new batch of children trip on the step that isn’t, run up stairways that end, and lose themselves in a world of possibility. It’s this rediscovery of the castle that makes me think Rowling might have a sacramental imagination - the sense of potential here, the power of unseen things, and most especially, the life of this place. I wonder, and I think I’ll be wondering again and again as we read - Is this the result of a sacramental imagination wedded to a relativistic worldview?

If you haven’t already - head over to Jenna’s for a taste of pumpkin pasties and some discussion of rule-breaking by both teachers and students, or to Christie’s for a helpful reminder that Harry’s vice is normal and will - hopefully - be grown out of before he’s through with school! As for me, this week has been full of unfinished intentions. I had a longer post planned but was distracted by the castle, my car (which is legal again!), and some overwhelming thoughts on social expectation and the trouble it creates for me.. I’m putting aside some hours for writing this weekend though, and should be all caught up next week (hahaha..I do live in a dreamworld, don’t I?)..maybe, partially caught up??



11 comments:

  1. One of my favorite elements of the stories is the character present in the magical effects.
    This isn't just whimsy and humor either; this is Rowling's method (and I think she pulls it off very well) of distinguishing magic from just "sufficiently advanced science," as Asimov put it. The fact that magic has a personality, a sense of humor or dignity, and is dependent upon things like emotion, will, intention, and so forth is something that clearly sets it apart from mere science or technology.

    This, incidentally, is one of my biggest problems with the movie adaptations is that, with very few exceptions, they lose that element and the magic just functions like technology.

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    1. I love what you say here..and yes the movies fail in this was so very completely..at least, the first two did..I never bothered with the others..

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    2. I want to be conciliatory and say the movies got A LOT better after #2, but they're still better illustrations / raw material for HP song videos than they are movies.

      They're great illustrations, though.

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  2. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" is Arthur C. Clarke, -- did Asimov invert it at some point? (I've only read the Foundation books, which are like delicious crispy crackmuffins in book form, so sorry if this is obvious Asimovia that I've overlooked).

    Do you (pl. you guys, y'all) think magic in HP is more like its own entity, with its own personality, independent of its users, or more like an emergent property reflecting (with varying degrees of distortion etc.) the personalities (and foibles, and preoccupations, and limitations and hidden gifts) of its users?

    That's shaped like a leading question because right now I feel like the latter is more like what's going on in HP. But I'd love to hear arguments for the former. And maybe. ..it could actually be both?? idk; talk among yourselves.

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    1. I want to say both because . . . I want it to be both! Masha makes a brilliant case for magicness as an independent entity separate from its practitioners, and I really like that. But there is the inherited trait of being able to perform magic. Weird. Maybe I need to read further to get a more informed point-of-view. But the backfiring spells, like Neville's welts, suggest that magic almost has a will of its own.

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  3. Love your description of the castle!

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  4. Masha, I LOVE what you said about Hogwarts!!! It's such a character in its own right, all depths of quiet, quirky personality. I want to go there so badly, even though I think Peeves would scare the daylights out of me. ;)

    BTanaka, beautiful point about magic having a sense of humor or dignity. And I think you're right about the movies, too.

    Laura, fascinating question. Am tempted to bring it up in my next post, if I can remember to. The short answer is that I lean toward the latter, although there's a spoilery incident in DH involving Harry's wand acting upon Voldemort that makes me wonder...

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    1. Yes, let's talk about it! I'm fascinated!

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    2. dooooo iiiiiiit. . .

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  5. I always think of magic as being at once a semi-independent entity and a mere force..mainly because it always seems so finicky..and so happy to slide into the path of least resistance. It's one of the things I do really love about Rowling's magic: it has personality of it's own and sort of a mockery of those who try to control it without bothering to KNOW it..which, I think, might be part of the reason for Dumbledore's highly praised ability, he 'gets' his magic on a personal level, not merely a power and knowledge level..and it's certainly an argument For the crazy wild edge to wizard society - because you can't really have a personality at large and only mostly controlled without having at least a semi-decent sense of humor and a less 'ordered' worldview...Great Thoughts ALL!!

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