With the penultimate novel in the saga—Half-Blood Prince—we know that things must become much worse before they can become better and reach resolution in the seventh and last novel. We should thus expect that it will be chilling in unmatched fashion, and I shall argue that it’s the scariest of them all! Let’s take an eerie walk through the dark corners of Half-Blood Prince, to places seemingly devoid of light or hope . . . .
Though not quite my favorite book, The Order of the Phoenix is definitely the scariest in the Harry Potter series. The fact that two of us raised our hands to speak for it says much, but like its doppelgänger, Prisoner of Azkaban, Phoenix’s fear is primarily psychological and therefore far more upsetting than its more externally-focused counterparts. Continue reading
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire – Book 4 – has the absolutely scariest scene in the entire series… forget the vicious Hungarian Horntail… forget the grindylows and the merpeople with their grey skin, broken yellow teeth and wild green hair leering at Harry and shaking their spears… forget the eerie disappearance of nearly everyone Harry cares about: Ron, Hermione, Cho… the SCARIEST thing about what I think is the scariest volume in the series is that just when Harry and Cedric appear to have victory at their fingertips, they are jerked away from the maze, from Hogwarts, and portkeyed to the creepiest, most dangerous location yet: the Little Hangleton graveyard.
“They were standing instead in a dark and overgrown graveyard; the black outline of a small church was visible beyond a large yew to their right… It was silent and slightly eerie.” Dark shapes approach, walking steadily through the graves, and Harry’s scar explodes with pain. Cedric is struck and Harry is captured. “The short man in the cloak… was dragging Harry toward the marble headstone. Harry saw the name upon it flickering in the wandlight before he was forced around and slammed against it. TOM RIDDLE.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that the title of this post is true. Sure, the Harry Potter books get more angst-ridden as the kids get older, and sure, the stakes get higher when Voldemort is trying to take over the world and generally deploy his Evil Schemes. But you can keep your graveyard incantations and Departments of Mysteries, your snakes and corpses and lakes full of zombies. Harry Potter is never as scary before Prisoner of Azkaban, and it never gets quite that scary again.
Because the scare quotient (if I can use that phrase) of Prisoner of Azkaban doesn’t depend on gross images or Gothic idioms, it doesn’t depend on dark magic or evil ideologies. The story does more than just startle or alarm us. It unsettles. It gnaws away at us with a, creeping, oozing fear that pricks under your fingernails and round your eye sockets. And it’s the only book with scary not just as decoration or set design; the fear is embedded in the story itself.
Great. I have to be the first person to disagree with J.K. Rowling–and possibly with everyone who read Deathly Hallows’ Bathilda Bagshot chapter at four o’clock in the morning after a midnight release party… oh, wait, I did that, too. That was terrifying.
But I well remember being afraid to read Chamber of Secrets in anything but the broadest of daylight. Ah, Chamber of Secrets. How do I fear thee? Let me count the ways:
- It’s more or less a murder mystery with a psychopath at its center
- Said psychopath likes to leave creepy messages on stone walls in finger-painted rooster blood
- There’s cold, hungry, murderous, disembodied whispering that only our hero can hear
- People and cats are getting Petrified
- There are snakes. And Harry discovers he has a Dark wizard’s gift in being able to talk to said snakes.
- Continue reading
All Hallows’ Read is fast approaching. If you’re wondering what scary book you should be giving to family, friends, and random folks on the street, all of us at The Hog’s Head agree that Harry Potter would be a great choice. What better time than All Hallows’ Read to give someone a book about witches and wizards battling scary stuff?
Ah, but which one though? Which Harry Potter book is the scariest, creepiest, shiveriest, flesh-crawlingest, heebie-jeebiest one of them all? And here, all of us at The Hog’s Head can’t agree at all! Or hardly. We’ve each got a favourite shiver, a most prized behind-the-sofa moment, a top candidate for the jibblies from our own most feared book, and we’ve all got suitably chilling reasons why.
This continues a series begun last spring. If you’re new to this series, or wish a refresher, see Part 1–The Magical World, Part 2—Institutions and Groups, Part 3—The Trio, and Part 4—The Evanses and Dursleys for this series’ introduction and context.
The Grangers are Muggles, and Hermione is the only Muggle-born character we see who struggles between her love for and loyalty to both her blood family and wizarding family. Hermione is lucky—her parents are enthusiastic about their daughter’s magical abilities, embrace the magical world and her school, and are proud of her accomplishments.
Muggle parents are fascinating to contemplate. What do they think when they learn the source of their child’s strange, unfocused and troubling abilities? When their 11-year olds get a letter from complete strangers inviting them to a school the family has never heard of, to be taught to use their strange abilities? Who would believe it? We never hear of a Parent’s Day at Hogwarts, so do the parents ever even visit the school where their children spend seven years? Also, once the child enters the magical world, he or she is also leaving the Muggle world and its interests, most likely for good. Do the parents mourn? Worry? Feel conflicted over divided loyalties? Do they have the urge to pull their child out of the Wizarding World, and what happens to a magical Muggle child denied a wizarding education?
Unfortunately, we never get a glimpse into these quandaries beyond Hermione’s parents, and we get very little there.
You may have heard this news already but I thought it worth posting and thinking about. To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the start of the Harry Potter series, Scholastic, the U.S. publisher, will release all seven books with new cover art. Kazu Kibuishi, a graphic novelist, will be doing the new artwork. This will only be on the trade paperback editions. The artwork of Mary GrandPre, who did the original U.S. covers, will still appear on the hardback and digest paperback editions. Scholastic will also release the boxed set of the “school” books, namely Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
As to why Scholastic is releasing the books with new artwork, Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic Trade Publishing says, “In the last year, we’d been thinking of how to make Harry Potter accessible and relevant to a new audience of eight- and nine-year-olds…We started the Harry Potter Book Club as a way to bring kids, some of whom maybe only knew the movies, back to the books, and introduce this wonderful world to them. Mary’s covers are so iconic to all of us, and they will remain on the U.S. hardcover and digest paperback editions. But we were trying to figure out a new look, with new appeal, and with the 15th anniversary coming up, it seemed like a good idea to hook into that.”