I’m looking for stuff I’ve missed on prior readings of these books, and so far there’s not much.  I didn’t think there would be, not in any of the early books.  I re-read the whole series each time a new one came out, so the first book is the one I have read the most.   A few things though.

My friend mentioned that she thought it was a bit like Rowling had read to much Dahl, and I don’t think that’s possible but I do see the influence.  Especially the first few chapters, there’s a definite ‘James and the Giant Peach’ feel to the whole thing.  That tones down as the book continues and Rowling finds her own voice, but it’s very clear in the beginning that we’re looking at a writer who’s just getting her chops.

I hadn’t realized this before, and it doesn’t seem that way because there’s a lot of story in the 309 pages, but we don’t actually go into Hogwarts until page 112, which is a full third of the book.  Of course, by this point we have met several witches and wizards, Harry has been to Diagon Alley and back, we have a pretty long scene on the train, and a good portion of our ‘student’ characters are set up before the sorting.

Reading Dumbledore’s card in the beginning makes you feel like an idiot, doesn’t it?  She doesn’t hide anything, you hear Nicholas Flamel’s name right off the bat.  Clever, very clever.  Leaves you thinking the whole book that YOU have heard that name somewhere before too.  Sneaky sneaky.

Is it weird that I spend a bit of time trying to figure out which exact shade of pink Hagrid’s umbrella is?  I’ve no clue why but I sorted through about 8 options in my head.

Oh I like this bit: when you read the spell Ron’s brothers gave him to turn Scabbers yellow, it does two things.  One, establishes a bit about the reliability of their information (fighting trolls in front of the whole school for sorting and all that) and two: we learn that spells don’t work That Way.  You see people do magic spells like that in all kinds of fantasy before and after HP, and so by immediately setting up this ‘traditional’ spell method and then dismissing it, we learn something about the magic to come.

Oh oh just thought of something.  When Harry is trying out the wands he’s coming across, and he finds his, red and gold sparks shoot out of it.  He’s a Gryffindor right from the start.

Someone pointed out (this is not some brilliant insight by me, alas) that what the wands are made of is very symbolic stuff.  Harry’s wand is made out of Phoenix feather and holly- holly is traditionally used as protection against evil.  Voldemort’s wand has the same core but is made out of yew is traditionally planted in cemeteries.  Also apparently it’s poisonous to most animals except deer (Harry’s patronus is a Stag, like his father’s animagus).

Speaking of stags, they tend to symbolize defense.  “It may also indicate a person who foresees opportunities well. In the latter case it is a symbol used for one who is unwilling to assail enemies rashly, who would rather stand his own ground than harm another wrongfully, and one who will not fight unless provoked.”

I do find myself wondering how much of the main theme she had worked out before hand.  Things that she sets in motion in this book don’t come to fruition for a long time, and there’s a lot of heavy symbolism already starting out.

(I’m finishing these first few books really quickly, and I’m just pacing the posting of my blogs about them.)