joi, 22 ianuarie 2015

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

In the fourth Harry Potter book, as Harry grows he attends the Quidditch World Cup and is a participant of the Triwizard Cup, which is held at Hogwarts. Both events are deemed to foster cooperation between wizards and witches from around the world. Even though in the magical world the returning of Voldermort is kept secret, signs of his return appear.

At the Quidditch World Cup, at which Hermione, Ron, Harry and the Weasley Family are all present, the Dark Mark of Voldermort appears after a group of Death Eaters start killing half-blood wizards and witches. The resulting wave of panic is blamed upon a house-elf belonging to Barty Crouch’s family (an official of the Ministry of Magic) and an unofficial investigation concerning the identity of the Death Eaters begins.

Harry is convinced of the importance of this dark activity, as he experiences pains in his scar and strange dreams about Voldermort’s activity. Dumbledore sets put extra precautions, and he even bans students under the age of 18 years to compete in Triwizard challenge. In order to compete at Triwizard Tournament, participats from two other prestigious schools: Durmstrang and Beauxbatons arrive at Hogwarts, alongside Ministry of Magic officials. The guests are received with curiosity and enthusiasm. As a mean of selecting suitable champions from the schools the Goblet of Fire (an ancient magical sorting device) is used. It comes as a surprise that after the election of Cedric Diggory, from Huffelpuff House – Hogwarts, Viktor Krum from Durmstrang and Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons, Harry´s name is also selected, without him entering in the competition. With suspicions over the person which entered Harry´s name is trying to kill him, his friends and close professors seem to help him figure out clues on how to overcome the three challenges. As he finds out the nature of the first task he also shares information with Cedric, managing thus to get the golden egg protected by a fierce dragon. In the second task, Cedric repays the help by giving Harry a clue on how to open the egg and understand what the second task will be. Between the first and the second task a great Yule Ball is given, and Hermione attends it with Viktor, leaving Ron to feel for the first time a surge of jealousy and to notice that he has certain feelings for Hermione. Harry and Ron attend the party with the Patil sisters (Padma and Parvati), but end up talking to each other the whole time, as neither really fancies the girls. In the second task they must recue the loved ones from the lake, where they are guarded by Meerpeople. Harry’s need to be assured that all the captives are rescued almost cost him the points, but in the end the judges decide he showed moral fibre and award him points nonetheless, sending him in the second place for the Cup. The last task is a Maze completion and as he and Cedric decide to reach the cup at the same moment they are transported to Voldermort´s whereabouts. The cup was a portkey, bewitched to bring Harry to the Dark Lord.

In the fight to save their lives, Cedric is killed and Harry manages to escape. Harry shows incredible strength when duelling with Voldermort and realizes that his wand and Voldermort’s are sister wands, having been made with magical feathers from the same phoenix bird (Fawks - Dumbledor´s phoenix). After Harry returns with Cedric’s dead body, nobody believes him that he had to duel Voldermort, and the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, goes to great lengths to publicly discredit this claim. Only Dumbledore makes the information known to students in the end of the year feast and sends cautionary messages to all witches and wizards who believe him. In this note, the school year finishes and Harry is left to return once again to his uncle and aunt at Privet Drive.

The book follows the same themes such as death, friendship and bravery as the previous ones. It is enchantingly well-written and makes you think twice about the important decisions and trials in one’s life. I am reading it from an adult perspective and I am always amazed at the meanings which appear in the book. For example, how to deal with challenges set ahead of you and also how we tend to regard everything that has come to pass as something that was bound to happen. It seems he have a certain need to think that once we overcome something we were always meant to live it, and how we tend to forget the anxiety and stress that accompanies our struggles. 

miercuri, 14 ianuarie 2015

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The third book in the series opens with the story of a dangerous criminal wizard (Sirius Black) escaping the maximum security prison called Azkaban and going after Harry Potter. The action thickens with the arrival of new security measures at Hogwarts, Dementors -creatures that thrive on any sad and traumatic memory. Dementors are the keepers of Azkaban, ferocious creatures that can kill by sucking the soul out of a person.

Harry enters his third year at Hogwarts and finds himself highly protected against the threat of the escaping criminal, rumoured to be after him. Unfortunately he is very sensitive to the presence of Dementors that keep making him re-experience the night in which his parents were killed by Voldermort. Due to an accident when playing Quidditch (the most popular sport played in wizard world, and one at which Harry is extremely good) theyr professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, Pr. Lupin, decides to help Harry conjure a Patronus, a charm that works against Dementors. Everyone in the school seems to have their watchful eyes on him, as he is considered Sirius target. Because the students are allowed to visit a nearby town of witches and wizards, Hogsmead,  Harry resorts to his Invisibility Cloak and a gift from the Weasley twin, a Marauders Map, to join his friends there. Using this Map unveils to him the story of how his father was a close friend of Sirius, and how betrayal leads to the death of Harrys parents. With a surge of revenge, he wants to avenge his parent’s death.

The theme of this book seems to be overcoming the sadness of losing your loved ones and also finding resources to go through the sorrow and become optimistic about the present and the future. The lesson for me was that one should never let him/herself be stuck in the past, because only remembering the suffering and negative experiences will send you to your own personal prison. It is a powerful analogy that is spot on with how depression evolves and is maintained. Whenever we find ourselves stuck on our failures we are doomed to relive them and in doing so we experience the same level of sorrow and negative effect. Only when we focus on a positive experience we escape the sorrow of the past and live the present in peace, without any shadow of regret lurking upon us.

With the obvious help and courage of his friends, Hermione and Ron, Harry discovers the truth about Sirius Black, how he was his father’s best friend, and in fact didn’t betray them. He found out that his father, Black, Lupin, and Wormtail have created the Marauders Map, because they wanted to be all the time with their friend. Lupin is a werewolf and when studying at Hogwarts he had to go every month in a safe place to transform, and be secluded for the safety of other students. The other three friends wanting to show support for their friend decided that they would transform into animals and continue they adventure into different forms. So they became illegal Animagus, and roamed the school grounds in peace. But as they grew older, it was obvious that while James Potter, Sirius and Lupin were much more gifted at witchcraft than Wormtail, and the latter joined forces with Voldermort in order to achieve power and influence. It was him who had betrayed Harry’s parents, and upon killing about 20 wizards and framing Sirius for the murders he continued to live as Ron’s pet rat. Discovering this and seeing Wormtail transform into human form allows Harry to see his godfather in a new light and hopes of visiting him and living with him, instead of the Dursleys bright up his future.  Unfortunately, even if they discover Sirius innocence they cannot prove it to the Ministry of Magic and Sirius is forced to flee into exile. Harry manages to conjure a beautiful powerful Patronus Charm that saves Sirius life and allows Harry to realize that he can be happy again and that he can indeed experience great happiness, not only sorrow.

As with the previous books, this one is superbly written and it is a pleasure to read it and reflect upon the fantastic adventures that the characters go through. I have presented a very short summary of the action, deciding to focus on only those aspects that I find important. One of which was the constant training on beeing aware of positive experiences when you are faced with recollections of bad events. This is an important ability to master, as it protects you from being enslaved in your own prison of sorrow and despair. 

miercuri, 7 ianuarie 2015

Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets

In the second book, the action grows as the characters grow older. I like the book and how it’s written. Prior to starting the Harry Potter series I haven’t read any books that follow the character as s/he grows older. This type of "Bildungsroman" is really enjoyable. Along the narrative lines of the novel you can almost feel some parts which are suitable for any stage in life. For example, I find myself now on the edge of learning German, building my life in Germany and all these seems to take me in a stage where I did attend school and did have some nice adventures with friends. Of course, for me right now it is much more similar since I do have to go every morning to school and learn German and afterwards do my homework and practice speaking. But, I should return to the novel and present a bit of my opinion on it.

The theme of the second book seems to be overcoming fear. Fear of not being good enough and finding courage through the unconditional acceptance given in a friendship relationship. Treating the problem of lineage, from which background the characters come, Rowling beautifully discusses the issue of friendship and how this can overcome any superficial and semantic barriers put by the society. Harry is a pure wizard, descending from both wizard parents; Ron comes also from a long line of wizards with only Hermione being of Muggle (non-wizard parentage). This mixture of background isn’t a problem for the trio, but in the face of Dark Magic it becomes problematic, as Voldermort and his followers try to exterminate all non-wizards. With Hogwarts being attacked from inside by a dark magical creature, the time is ticking for Harry, Ron and Hermione. They must find remedies to stop this creature from killing students. Following their attempts to discover who and what lurks inside the school, Hermione gets petrified and the two boys discover an important clue about the identity of the monster. It is a Basilisk and can kill only with a stare. This strange and powerful monster was summoned through a manipulation of Ron’s sister Ginny, which used an old diary of Voldermort, and in doing so transferred her energy to the Dark Lord. By this strange mixture of events, the identity of the Dark Lord is revealed as the young-bright Muggle born wizard Tom Riddle.

Of course Ron and Harry manage to find the entrance to the secret chamber, by using logic and the clues put together by their brilliant, but petrified, friend Hermione. Killing the Basilisk with its own venom and destroying the diary in the process, Harry rids the school of danger and can enjoy the rest of the school year with his friends.

It was an enjoyable second book, and I am glad that I could start right away to read the third book.