The Mirror of Erised

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One down, five to go. About two-thirds of the way into "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" it seemed to take on a different tone. I became engrossed, and found myself wondering if the author was still consciously writing for children, or if she'd gotten into the story and was just writing for herself. She must have done a lot of rewriting as she went along--I just assume all authors do--but the contrast with chapter one is let stand.

About two-thirds of the way in is chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised. Winter has set in; fires blaze in the common rooms and the great hall while the corridors are icy cold and students huddle around their cauldrons in potions class, breathing clouds of mist. Up until about this point the movie tracks the book quite closely. The differences are primarily attributable to the difference between a visual presentation and a narrative voice, along with the cutting of scenes and dialog in the interest of time. I'd been thinking that the movie captured every significant element of the book, and added some nice visuals besides.

From about chapter 12 on, though, the book and the movie begin to diverge. While the movie contains all the primary plot elements, everything unfolds in a different way. A lot of action takes place in the last hundred pages of the book, and the movie would have had to have been four hours long to follow it closely.

In addition to the omitted scenes, significant information is left out of the movies. In particular, the question and answer session between Harry and Dumbledore that takes place when Harry wakes up in the hospital wing is inexplicably left out of the movie. I'd been asking myself if I really wanted to read the fifth book before seeing the movie. Enjoying the movies as much as I do, I didn't want to spoil it for myself by reading ahead. Now, though, I feel as though I need to read the book first or risk missing the significance of some scenes in the movie.

For example, we learn that Voldemort tried to kill the infant Harry for a reason that Dumbledore won't reveal until Harry "is ready" to hear it. Ooooo... We learn that Dumbledore gave Harry the cloak and returned it to him when he left it on one of the towers. The narrative voice allows us to read Harry's mind: Dumbledore intentionally let Harry find the mirror and learn its secret before using it to hide the stone.

One unfortunate thing, and this was something I was afraid of: I prefer the Snape in the movies. In the book we're explicitly told that Snape hates Harry because of some history between Snape and Harry's father. It's possible to watch all four movies and not know this. It's left to the viewer to decide whether Snape dislikes Harry more than any of the other students, or simply has the personality of battery acid. I mean, do we ever see him being nice to anyone? In the movies he's unfailingly protective of the students, loyal to the school and to Dumbledore, and is presumably a good professor, making sure the students learn information they need for their own protection, as when he realizes in the third movie that a werewolf has joined the faculty. Sure, he's a strict disciplinarian, but who better to head Slytherin? Don't those kids need the firmest guiding hand?

Oh, and regarding that question and answer session, I love the answer Dumbledore gives when Harry asks him what he sees when he looks into the Mirror of Erised. (No Mike I'm not going to tell you--read the book.) So Mike says I've now joined the ranks of those who over-analyze Harry Potter. What can I say? It's fun.


Ha, this is where your plot will fail: Joe would tell me if I ever got curious enough to ask.

I'll probably get interested in them when the next movie comes out, but I barely have time to read my school stuff, so it's unlikely that I'll ever read them for myself.

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