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Essay: The Alchemy of Games

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Near the beginning of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, before Harry goes to the Quidditch World Cup, he wakes on Privet Drive, having “seen” Voldemort kill an old man in what may or may not have been a dream. Dreams—like fairy tales, toys, and games—are disregarded and considered unimportant by many characters in the Harry Potter series, as well as in our world. (See Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 1: The Kids’ Table.) Harry recalls that before he fell asleep the night before, he had been reading Flying with the Cannons, a book about the Chudley Cannons Quidditch team. Even when the war scene comes first, JK Rowling tells us that Harry was reading about metaphorical war right before that. After witnessing Frank Bryce’s murder, he is again drawn to this book. Another early reference to games and violence in the fourth Harry Potter book is when Harry writes a letter to Sirius, telling his godfather that Dudley’s diet isn’t going well so his parents have threatened to cut off his …

Episode 21: Remember, Remember

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Why is the first meeting of Dumbledore’s Army in The Hogshead? What do Trelawney, Sirius Black and Dumbledore have in common? And why does Umbridge make Harry write lines?

Episode 21: Remember, Remember

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EPISODE GUIDE

Essay: Expecto Quidditch

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While games—mock battles—segueing into genuine battles is a theme throughout the seven-book Harry Potter series, Harry’s third year in school is set apart as the only one in which he plays a complete Quidditch season. Harry grows to see Quidditch—his chief metaphorical war—and learning to conjure a Patronus—something he needs to fight a genuine war—as essentially interchangeable. One contributes to success in the other in an infinite magical feedback loop. After Christmas, Oliver Wood talks to Harry about whether he will be fit to play Quidditch, since Harry fell to Dementors in the previous match. Harry assures him that Lupin is teaching him to ward off Dementors, reinforcing the idea that Harry is training for battle. He specifically frames the anti-Dementor lessons as something to succeed at Quidditch, metaphorical war. During these lessons, Harry must use a happy memory to conjure a Patronus, no mean feat for someone with his history. Lupin tells him that he fears fear itself, but i…

Episode 20: The Order of the Rebel

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How is Order of the Phoenix about a church/state conflict? What links Sirius’s death to Harry crossing the lake with Hagrid in the first book? And why don’t wizards observe Bonfire Night? 
Episode 20: The Order of the Rebel

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EPISODE GUIDE

Essay: Playing the Game

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They made their way back up the crowded street to the Magical Menagerie.As they reached it, Hermione came out, but she wasn’t carrying an owl.Her arms were clamped tightly around the enormous ginger cat. “You bought that monster?” said Ron, his mouth hanging open. “He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?” said Hermione, glowing.
~Chapter Four, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts is shaped by the three Quidditch matches he plays during that year, which is the first and last time that he plays a complete Quidditch season. Each match carries symbolic importance to future books in the series, which further reinforces that JK Rowling has not inserted Quidditch or any game into the books frivolously. When she describes a match or when Harry plays it’s for a good reason, and when she pulls back from Quidditch or other games it’s also for a good reason, such as it doesn’t advance the big plot or carry love or war symbolism, or she’s replacing literal games that are met…