Friday, June 24, 2011

Queries and plotholes in the Harry Potter Universe.

I've just begun re-reading the set of Harry Potter books again (hey I enjoy them), but having done so multiple times certain 'gaps' become more apparent. To set the tone straight these are fictional so no I'm not going to get all worked up about anything; next they're for children, but that shouldn't be an excuse children can be very nitpicky about things; lastly they deal with magic so yes the old "A wizard did it" can sometimes apply. Nevertheless-

[I will be adding to this as I go]

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry is left on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle. How is his presence explained to Social Services; has his birth been registered if so how did either of his parents explain not paying tax?

Hagrid leaves to return the flying motorbike to Sirius; yet in Prisoner of Azkaban  he states that he should have known something was up as Sirius told him to keep the bike. [From context this occurred at the same time as Sirius asking to take Harry from Hagrid]

Upon trying to flee from the barrage of letters Uncle Vernon leaves the family in a car parked on the coast and returns with a "long, thin package" this turns out to be a rifle (a shotgun in the film) where did he get this? Other than needing a licence for firearms where did he obtain it. It was obviously not from the car as he "locked them all inside the car and disappeared" so who was willing to hand over such a weapon at such short notice?

Upon leaving the shack Hagrid reveals he flew, but that the two of them would be returning using the boat. How do the Dursley's now get off the island?

The "ordinary way" to Diagon Alley is through the Leaky Cauldron and by tapping the rear brick wall with a wand. How does Hermione or any other Muggle born witch/wizard gain entry to equip themselves for school? Assuming the letter Harry receives is identical to every other students how was Harry expected to enter?

The letter states that students may bring "an owl OR a cat OR a toad" Ron brings a rat and suffers no consequence.

How is Harry expected to RSVP to the letter by owl?

"Quirrell [...] could not touch [Harry]" yet shakes his hand in the Leaking Cauldron [fixed in film] [later in the book it states that after the failure at Gringotts "he [Voldemort] would have to keep a closer watch on me [Quirrell]" which cancels this.

"Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C." If it's that old why use the Christian calendar?

Who collected the Hogwarts Express train tickets?

The sorting hat differentiates by attitude and talent. If one house gains the majority of new students how is this dealt with?

From the film - The Gryffindor first-years number around 20 yet as they enter the hall for the first time each table holds around 60 students. Even given attrition (in that they have to pass the exams to continue) that seems unbalanced.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The entire plot is a little off relying on the person to whom Lucius slips the diary to using it and not turning it in.

Exactly how did everyone on the 9¾ platform get off once Dobby sealed the entrance. Wasn't it lucky that Harry and Ron were the last pupils to enter.

Dobby is freed  when Lucius inadvertently hands him a sock. In Goblet of Fire Hermione knits hats and hides them to try and free the Hogwarts staff. Given how easy it seems to give a house-elf their freedom how does any laundry get done?

The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets remained undiscovered over all these years yet must somehow link up to the drainage pipes throughout the castle.

Did no-one wonder why the sink with the serpent embossed on the tap never worked? Did no-one ever try to fix it?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Time-turners seem to get some grief on the lines of "If they exist why didn't they use one to...." Worth noting that the one time we see extended use of one nothing in the time-line was altered. No paradoxes occurred.

However. When it is used Hermione and Harry leave the hospital wing and end up in the entrance hall. If Hermione has been using one to attend multiple lessons how did she avoid meeting herself when she rewound time at the end the second lesson to attend her third?

Given Hermione's knowledge that she's using a time-turner theoretically there would be no problem with her approaching herself after being given it.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Given that 'Mad-eye Moody' was getting close to Harry what would have stopped him asking Harry to pick up a book from his study, or a package from Hogsmead that had been turned into a Portkey?

Why didn't the Ministry of Magic pick up on all the magic being done around Harry in the cemetery and send him a warning as they did in CoS and OotP? Hmm perhaps the trace is unmonitored during term-time.

If Voldermort's wand was reversed why did James appear before Lily?

Given Dumbledore's knowledge of Voldermort's origins why wasn't an Order member asked to check the old Riddle house for occupation just in case?

How fortuitous that Petigrew happens to bump into the one person who holds information that would be of interest to Voldermort.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Only the secret keeper can inform another of the location of the HQ, which makes Dumbledore's note given to Mad-Eye rather incautious.

What purpose did the Disillusionment Charm make when Harry was riding his own broomstick? Did it extend to hiding that as well? In which case why not add that as a defence during the flight in Deathly Hallows?

Thinking outside the box - if the portrait of Sirius' mother couldn't be removed due to a Permanent Sticking Charm why not remove that part of the wall it was stuck to instead?

If Tonks keeps tripping over the stand - chuck it out.

One that seems to be asked - why didn't Harry use the mirror to contact Sirius when he thought he'd been captured? Because he didn't open the package until after his death.

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince

Even ignoring the truly dumb ending of the film version in which Snape makes that declaration to Harry for no apparent reason even in the book Snape could only suspect that Harry had the potions book and that he'd even bothered to look at the previous owner's information.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Dealt with better in the film version - how handy that Fiendfire can destroy Horcruxes and that Hermione knows this given that all the information regarding such had been removed. Fine turn-out it would have been if that Horcrux was still intact at the end.

Voldemort hid the Horcrux in the Room of Requirements dumping ground thinking that only he had truly mastered all of the school's secrets. Either he's particularly stupid or the massive amounts of stuff it contains has been dumped there only in the few years since he 'discovered' it. Given that it's apparently been used for "centuries" I'll go with stupid.


Anonymous said...

I've noticed many of those and agree with a few others. But I feel I should point out the following;

Ollivander's sign could have been made well after the Christian calendar.

The sorting hat probably sorts the students out evenly, for example putting the smartest girl, (Hermione), in the school into neither the smart house of the sly house.

If Dumbledore owns the house elves, then it would only be him who could give them freedom and he probably doesn't give them laundry.

As for unlikely situations, those aren't plot-holes, they're just unlikely.

FlipC said...

Well I did say Queries and Plot holes :-)

Ollivander's - if the wizards have such a long and apparently unbroken history why don't they use their own calendar in the same way many religions do?

Sorting Hat - Debated on placing Hermione in Ravenclaw. Also the hat sorts immediately not after having 'judged' all the students. How then can it divide them equally and correctly?

House-elfs - Which makes Hermione's efforts regarding the hats pointless.

Anonymous said...

Sorting Hat - Magic!

FlipC said...

So it's all just ceremony and the Hat had already decided to place both Harry and Hermione in Gryffindor?

Well that puts the lie to the final chapter in which Harry tells his son that it takes his choices into account :-)

Sana said...

I would just like to point out that many of your questions follow the mindset of a muggle and psychologically thats interesting.

Who collects train tickets/ This is a magical land? There must be a magical way of their tickets just being accepted by the train somehow?

Same goes fot the Diagon Alley inquiry. Once you receive the letter you are part of the wizarding world and hence you are able to see the Leaky Cauldron and once you are in the leaky cauldron I doubt asking for help would be much trouble.

Again, the boat for could have simply used magic to swim back for the Dursley's

Dobby only sealed himself for harry and it is mentioned in the book that the train left a minute later so obviously they were the last ones. like come on!

Are u forgetting that house elves have magic? they can use magic to do the laundry? and they are working when ironing or even washing clothes hence it does not count as being freed. they have not been presented or given a clothing item, rather it is their job.

As for the drainage pipes. im sure Salazar slytherin wasn't stupid enough to leave a trail behind and im also sure that the pipes are maintained using magic. and that goes for fixing. obviously there was a charm on that caused people to not wonder too much about a broken sink .. a charm similar to the one put on the quidditch finals grounds in HP4 -- the charm causes muggles to retreat or they remember something etc. there could be a similar charm for wizards not caring too much about a broken sink and also that bathroom was not used much owing to moaning myrtle.

time turner question: how could she see herself when at that time in question she was sitting in class? if she is in divination at 4:55- 5mins before class and turn back time to lets say 4 55 she is sitting in divination but her actual self is in a hallway somewhere. so at a certain point she could be in three places at one time but wouldn't see herself if she in three opposites of the castle. - this is a good question, i have to admit and something that took me a while to figure out as well.

mad eye moody was on a time limit and schedule - he had to ensure that it occurred when Voldemort was ready.

Dumbledore did not necessarily share everything with everyone and hence the order members could not have known what was up.

i believe Voldemort sent pettigrew to look for information Dan bertha jerkins ( im assuming ure talking about her - sorry if i got the name wrong) was a tattle tale so he could have just overheard her and thought hey this is awesome. there is no timeline on how fast he found her so he could have taken a while.

removing a part of a wall is not as easy as it may seem. Perhaps removing the wall meant tearing down the house. even by magic.

people have many things in their house that need to be thrown out but never are. this was Rowling's way of adding character to the house. I dont know about you but i could feel that the house was a living thing - Rowling gave it a hell of a personality.

Just a side note: Does everything have to be mentioned? Can't we, as readers, use a little bit of our own imagination and figure out what could have happened? I just think its much more interesting when we are left to enter the world of the story teller and add our own thoughts to it, it makes it that much more real. and by leaving somethings unanswered Rowling truly makes the stories real.

FlipC said...

Okay firstly this was just a little bit of fun, and secondly it's a good thing to analyse such things particularly as children are often likely to ask such things.

Thirdly yes "magic", as I said in my opening remark, can be used to explain everything.

However taking things seriously ;-)

Train tickets - why bother with them at all in that case? Why can't the train determine who should and shouldn't be aboard in a manner similar to the age-line around the goblet of fire?

Diagon Alley - My point wasn't necessarily about finding The Leaky Cauldron, but getting through the rear which required a wand. Given that the majority who use this entrance are likely to be Muggle-born (and thus unable to use the Floo network) the antipathy some witches and wizards show to these non-purebloods may make asking for assistance difficult. Also poor Tom having to nursemaid a whole gaggle of students through his establishment every year.

Boat - yes it could have been sent back; one has to assume that's the case.

Dobby - but the entrance sealed itself against Ron too, so it wasn't specifically set to reject Harry. In this instance the argument could be was that the entrance was set to seal itself off when Harry tried to pass through it, but again good job they were the last ones there then.

House-elves and Clothing - Except Hermione seems to expect leaving clothes unattended will free them; presumably she got this wrong or as I said simply leaving clothes out to be put away or cleaned would free every House-elf.

Bathroom. Not withstanding they leave through a massive hole in the ground (which could have been caused by the cave-in) and there may have been a charm to prevent wizards paying attention to the sink. Except magic leaves traces as we learn in Half-Blood Prince. The entrance to the lake was hidden yet Dumbledore found it. Likewise Moaning Myrtle was a victim of Riddle she wasn't keeping people away between Slytherin's and his time.

Time-turners - my point was that she moved from the hospital to the closet; if that's the default 'spawning' point then it would be dangerous to attend three classes simultaneously. IOW attend a 4:55 Divination class; rewind time end up in closet at 4:50 attend Runes; rewind time and end up in closet at 4:50 to attend Defence against the Dark Arts. Two Hermione's in the closet.

Moody - seriously? Voldemort had all the ingredients he needed at the start of the book. I suppose the best one could say is that he was recovering his strength via Nagini. Still a highly contrived way to get at Potter particularly as it is specifically stated that Potter's return threw a spanner in his plans to remain undetected.

Dumbledore's knowledge - which doesn't reflect well on Dumbledore. If he wanted to keep it a secret he could have popped in to check personally. Oo perhaps Voldemort used the Fideleus Charm.

Bertha - IIRC he located Voldemort after bumping into Bertha after that he never left his side.

Yes it may have been a retaining wall, but hey magic - remove that part of the entire wall then repair it as was done to the Dursley's fireplace.

The stand - yes as a story element it was fine, but as a real element it was unnecessary.

Does everything have to be mentioned - no of course not and it's fun to try and work out how things are done for ourselves; they just need to be self-consistent within that world.

I've also added some additional points to the original blog entry.

Anonymous said...

House elves - are free, they enjoy working so the free ones work in hogwarts. They're not owned by anyone.Therefore why Dobby works there.

FlipC said...

Yet Dobby asks to be "left out" of the conversation when Hermione preaches about freedom to the kitchen elves implying that they're not free.

Checking around it seems Rowling herself said that the house-elves were bought by Hufflepuff for the school.

So while they may have the best working conditions and be free from abuse they're not free as such.

Anonymous said...

Just my views on a few:

1. Population:I'd never assumed all the houses/years were equal.. everyone states that harrys year seems to be 5 girls and 5 boys.. but why would every year produce the same amount of babies? I also think that houses such as ravenclaw and hufflepuff would get more students as the requirements are more common.

2. Time turners: as someone said, its all closed loops, nothing is actually changed by going back in time. I guess this is from dumbledore always planning to use one.

3. Moody: I think the plan has nothing wrong with it. The third task is a good way to make it look like harrys death was an accident and that he never left the maze, therefore leaving voldys return secret (as was his plan). I do however find the fact that he did a perfecct impression of him for most of a year hard to believe.

some smaller mistakes i noticed that dont bother me at all: the later books harry uses "a large portion" of polyjuice, whereas earlier you just need a small amount on the hour, every hour.

2. harry find out the location of the weasleys from Fred, even though Athur is the secret keeper (book7)

3. harry's horcrux should have died with being bitten by a horcrux.

.. I have never had an issue with 'mistakes' like harry forgetting the mirror, because everyone forgets stuff, we just expect harry to get everything right!

lastly i must say i do LOVE the books and this is no way a critisism, just enjoy talking about them!

FlipC said...

Population: Except that makes the entire inter-House competition rather unfair.

Time-turners: I did point out there were no paradoxes, but my main point was regarding Hermione appearing in the cupboard/Front Entrance. As she's attending multiple simultaneous classes she'd be returning to the same time and possibly the same point multiple times.

Moody: Conceded. Having Harry die in the maze would keep things concealed. Except Harry could easily have been killed in the previous two trials despite the assistance given to him which would have messed up the plan.

Also as I said send Harry to pick up something whisk him to the graveyard; take his blood; remove his memories and send him back; the only reason to kill Harry is because Lord V wanted to kill him. Hell the only reason to use Harry was because of Lord V's insistence

Well spotted with the minor mistakes; though as to number 3 Lord V was unaware of the Harry Horcrux and they are hard to destroy.

On your final point I wholeheartedly agree - the books are fun, it is just enjoyable to try and tie up the odd hole

Unknown said...

Like your article, content is very good, next time will come again very much
jennamarbles max