Category Archives: Chamber of Secrets

The Scariest Harry Potter Book is… Chamber of Secrets

cos-uk-adult-jacket-artGreat. 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.
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You’re Invited to . . . a Deathday Party?

Halloween marks the occasion of the death of Nearly Headless Nick (a.k.a. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington), which was caused by having been “hit forty-five times in the neck with a blunt axe” (CoS p. 123).

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We find out in Chapter 12 of Chamber of Secrets that October 31, 1992 is Nick’s five hundredth deathday. Hoping that Harry will attest to Nick’s being impressively frightening so that he might be allowed to join the Headless Hunt, Nick invites Harry and his friends to his Deathday Party. Ron skeptically asks a good question: “Why would anyone want to celebrate the day they died?” And Hermione characteristically looks forward to what she can learn from the experience: “A deathday party? . . . I bet there aren’t many living people who can say they’ve been to one of those—it’ll be fascinating!” (CoS p. 130).

With Hermione’s inquisitive spirit, let’s have a go at wrestling with Ron’s question. Is there something more going on here than a chillingly gothic setting for the horrors to be unleashed by the re-opening of the Chamber of Secrets?

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Pottermore – First Chapters of Chamber of Secrets OPEN

Discover the first chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The first chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are now available for everyone to explore on Pottermore

From Aunt Petunia’s pudding to de-gnoming the garden at

The Burrow, there’s plenty for you to enjoy: pick up your second-year books in Diagon Alley; visit your vault at Gringotts where you will find more Galleons; and discover exclusive new content from J.K. Rowling, including information about the Malfoy family.

The next Pottermore House Cup is in full swing, so keep up with your potion-making and your wizard-duelling because every point you earn counts towards your house total.


Double Riddle

Villians and Folklore, pt.2

There’s more than one Harry at Hogwarts. In fact, I count at least three, with perhaps a fourth and a fifth if we include the staff. But which Harry is the real Harry is a decision that Harry himself has to make. It takes him the better part of the series to do it, but the process largely begins in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998). It’s Harry’s second year of school and Hogwarts isn’t new to him. What’s new is the array persona for him to put on, role models other than Dudley and the Dursleys. The choice arguably begins for Harry when he looks into the Mirror of Erised and sees himself as he could have been; more precisely, it begins when he arrives at Hogwarts and discovers more than one him: Hogwarts is filled with doubles.

After creepy old mansions, vampires, and fainting women, one of the most easily recognisable Gothic topoi is the double, or döppelganger. It features in such classics as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), and of course Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (1886). It is, then, no surprise that Rowling would have turned to such a potent image for her own writings. John Granger has discussed the links between the Harry Potter books and some of these earlier classics in Harry Potter’s Bookshelf; I will not try to replicate his work, but will examine how the topos has been re-appropriated within the context of the Harry Potter stories—where is it, and how is it used.

Doubles about in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry, Ron, and Hermione use Polyjuice potion for the first time. Gilderoy Lockhart surrounds himself with his own likeness. An heir with a unique set of magical skills is needed to release an ancient curse—a Gothic concept if ever there was one. And, of course, Harry and Hagrid are wrongly accused of being that heir.

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Hog’s Head PubCast #46: Othering

hogshead.jpgOthering and Bullying in Chamber of Secrets; News and Commentary; a strange E-Owl

You can subscribe to the Hog’s Head PubCast through iTunes, and VOTE for The Hog’s Head for the month of March at Podcast Alley.

Update: I’ve created the account for the voicemail (thanks to HP Progs for the tip!). If you’d like to give feedback or share ideas for the podcast via audio file to be included in the next show, call 206-222-2491.  You’ll leave a voicemail, and it will send it to me via email.

Pub Menu

Chamber of Secrets: Plotpoints and Plotholes (?)

I’ve just finished listening to Chamber of Secrets again. On the whole, I’ve found that I agree with the Eating Words blog – this book is much more enjoyable in light of Half-Blood Prince. In fact, I think Philosopher’s Stone is now my least favorite, and Chamber has moved up a notch. Here are a collection of plotpoints and possible plot holes [Update: I’m never doing a “plot holes” post again unless I actually think before writing. :) ] : Continue reading

Gilderoy’s Purpose

Gilderoy.jpgWe’re continuing our series where I post my answers to questions posed by my professor here at SoG.

Question: What purpose does Gilderoy Lockhart serve in relationship to Harry — especially when it comes to fame and celebrity?

Gilderoy Lockhart serves as sort of a check, keeping Harry from any possibility of letting his head get too big. It is highly likely that Harry is more popular in the wizarding world than Gilderoy. It’s exceedingly ironic when he explains to Harry that at the age of 12, “I was just as much of a nobody as you are now,” eventually admitting, “a few people have heard of you.” (91)

But Gilderoy’s irritating obsession with himself is J.K. Rowling’s caricature of celebrity (and the cult of celebrity) that is such a part of pop culture. Having such a blatantly egocentric celebrity, who also happens to be a liar about everything he claims to have done, keeps Harry from possibly going down the same path.

Certainly it is easy for an ego, especially a young, developing one like Harry’s, to be drawn very quickly to popularity and publicity. Harry unfortunately becomes quite unpopular as students begin to think he is Slytherin’s heir, but Harry does not lie his way out of it. He stays focused on the task of discovering Slytherin’s heir. He has learned from the appalling example of Gilderoy that popularity isn’t everything. Gilderoy is a pretty face with charm but no character or substance. He has no courage or self- sacrifice, which were so important to Harry’s triumph over Voldemort in Book 1. Without the extreme example of Gilderoy as a self-promoting, self-serving liar who cares only for popularity, the temptation for Harry to greatly struggle with his lack of popularity would have been stronger.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 1999.

Prejudice in Chamber of Secrets

SlytherinWeek 2 of the Harry Potter class I’m taking has begun, and the questions are in. The focus is on Chamber of Secrets. Keep in mind, in answering these questions, I am not allowed to refer to later books. Remember, this question answering series is taking us back to Harry Potter basics. Here is my answer to the first question for this week.

Question: What role does tolerence play in The Chamber of Secrets?

Tolerance is central to the plot as well as many of the subplots of Chamber of Secrets. The key issue of the book is the question of pure-bloods vs. half-bloods and muggle- borns, particularly the intolerance of many pure-bloods for the other groups. We see multiple examples of this issue:

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