Friday, June 4, 2010

Gilderoy Lockhart

I want to start off this post with a big thank you to Lisa at Her Book Self for giving me the Great Blog Neighbor Award. I highly recommend checking out Lisa's blog, a fun mix of book reviews, interesting quotes, and personal entries. Recognition by one's peers always feels good and I appreciate it immensely. I fully intend to pass it on, but I want to take a bit more time to think about to whom I will give it.

Now on to today's chapter: The day after their grand entrance, Ron receives a howler from his mother, admonishing him for his thoughtlessness. After breakfast, Ron, Harry and Hermione head to Herbology, where they run into Lockhart who proceeds to act like a giant ass and make assumptions about Harry. In class muggle-born Justin Finch-Fletchley joins their group in repotting Mandrakes. After lunch first-year Colin Creevey introduces himself to Harry, whom he has come to idolize in the short time he's had to learn about the wizarding world. Lockhart shows up again and more ass-ery ensues. Then comes Lockhart's class, which is pretty much what you'd expect: a quiz about him and then a disastrous practical lesson involving Cornish Pixies.

I have two things I want to talk about, howlers (awesome!) and Mandrakes (horrifying).

I think Howlers are one of Rowling's best ideas. First of all, they make sense, by which I mean I can understand how they could work, unlike so many of her magical apparatuses. I do wonder if you buy a special Howler envelope or if you cast the spell on any random envelope and the spell turns it red. If you do have to buy a Howler, who sells them? For some reason, based on the three people we know to use them in the series, I'm more inclined to think that the spell changes the envelope rather than the envelope being necessary to the spell. Also, it'd be a bit weird to keep something like that around and if you didn't keep it around you'd have to go out and buy one and by the time you finished doing that you probably would have lost some of your steam.

On the other hand, I'm conflicted about Mandrakes. On the one hand, they obviously work. On the other hand, I'm a vegetarian, so the idea of chopping up living, sentient creatures is abhorrent to me. Think about how they're described, first as babies and later as adolescents and teens who try to sneak into each others pots. It's pretty gross. Then again, maybe there's no other way to de-petrify someone. Would it be fair to leave a person in a petrified state when you had a way to heal them? What about a cat? Or a ghost? It's interesting to me that no one seems to have any sort of moral dilemma about this. I'd actually love to hear how Hermione feels about it as someone who is socially active and was saved by the Mandrakes. I tend to think that I might have to start my own activism group: WWETMR perhaps (Witches and Wizards for the Ethical Treatment of Mandrake Root).

Oh, and while I'm on the subject, why isn't that something you can buy at the apothecary's? I'd imagine not everyone can afford to cultivate their own, what if they need to counter a curse? But if it is sold at the apothecary's, isn't it negligent of Dumbledore to wait 8 months to cure anyone?

Lot's of question marks in this post, the question marks aren't rhetorical. Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Hi! I found this site thanks to Lisa over at Her Book Self, and I thought the set-up sounded really interesting, being a huge Harry Potter fan! It's been ages since I've read the second book though, so please forgive me if I'm forgetting something. Are we sure that the mandrakes are sentient? Yes, they scream and cry and are described in humanoid terms, but no one's ever actually carried on a conversation with a mandrake, have they? They don't fight back when you try to chop them up? (Unless you count screaming, but I don't think that's all that different than, say, a Venus Fly Trap chomping on flies or a rose's thorns - it's merely built-in defense.)

  2. Hi and welcome!

    I think for me it's the "wild parties" and attempts to move into each other's pots that make me feel like they're a bit more than regular plants. Plus, it's just disturbing to me to chop up anything that resembles a human. Of course, it's perfectly reasonable for others to have a different opinion. I'm a vegetarian because I don't feel right about eating animals, but I don't expect everyone to have that viewpoint. Mostly it's surprising to me that NO one seems to have a problem with the use of mandrakes.

    Here's an interesting follow up question: The mandrake potion is used on students, a cat, and a ghost. Filch is promised the potion for his cat, before anyone else has been harmed, is this a reasonable use of the mandrakes? What if only Sir Nicholas had been petrified?

  3. I admit that in my most recent reread of the book I stopped and thought about it for a bit. But I think to comfort myself I decided that It must just be something similar to the Pictures and Paintings that move they can move around and hop into other paintings and have wild parties if they want but they are not live people they are just pictures, So i think of mandrakes as more that's just what they do, not any necessary thought behind their actions but just a plants instinct. And to help me further I picture their insides and skin like potatoes helps me see them as more plant and less human, but I do still fight with the image of chopping up a human shaped anything.