Friday, July 23, 2010

The Heir of Slytherin

Upon entering the Chamber of Secrets, Harry finds Ginny unconscious and unwakeable. (Hmm...spell check doesn't like that...un-wake-up-able? Better, now it just doesn't like "un".) Then Tom Riddle shows up and tells him not to bother trying to wake her up. Harry's a bit weirded out by the glowing 66-year-old who looks like a teenager and says he's a memory, but not quite enough. (I'm thinking there's some sort of spell at the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets that make you monumentally stupid if you're not the Heir of Slytherin.) Harry and Tom have a nice little chat about how Tom's evil and un-name-able and stuff and then Tom bad mouths Dumbledore. Well, he's not getting away with that! "He's not as gone as you might think!" Harry says. (that'll show him!) Well, with that kind of support, what could Dumbledore do but send a bird and a hat to help. Tom, understandably, finds this pretty hilarious and calls on the Basilisk to finish Harry off, but it turns out Dumbledore might just know what he's doing after all. Fawkes blinds the Basilisk and the hats exports a sword onto Harry's head, allowing him to kill the Basilisk. Unfortunately, the stupidity spell is still in effect and Harry manages to stab himself with a poisonous fang in the the process. Riddle taunts him as he dies, but Fawkes cries on the wound and heals him (pretty sure he heals the stupidity spell here too). Harry uses the Basilisk fang to stab the diary and Riddle fades or dies or whatever you want to call it. Ginny wakes up, the two of them join Ron and Lockhart and Fawkes flies them back to the bathroom and leads them to McGonagall's office...

This is obviously an important chapter in the canon of Harry Potter. We find out that Tom Marvolo Riddle is Lord Voldemort (and that he writes word jumbles!). We find out Phoenixes sing. We find out Moaning Myrtle has a crush on Harry. We learn Lockhart's completely lost his memory. And we learn that books can die.

In all seriousness, obviously this is a pivotal chapter in the series. Though we don't yet know it, we've just seen the first horcrux destroyed and plot-wise, that's about as important as you get. This is of course Rowling's true brilliance as a story-teller. She gives us a reasonably exciting climax, brings a large number of questions from earlier in the book to an answer and generally delivers a satisfying conclusion to the story (with the denouement to come of course) all while quietly laying the ground work for the last two books and the entire climax of the series. How many of us truly thought the diary would ever come up again except in passing? I know I didn't. It's these hidden set-ups and clues that keep us reading these books over and over.

I feel like I just petered out there, but I can't get the rest of the thoughts in my head to form coherent phrases. Perhaps someone else will have something to say about this chapter!


  1. My favorite plot summary so far. And it's nice to see the 2 of you blaming your virtues on your Dad.


  2. Well, I know I didn't predict that the diary would be important but I did think we'd see more Basilisk-esque monsters in future books. Besides the dementors in PoA and maybe the dragons *meh* in GoF, I feel like this is where Rowling turned the tide from having Harry and Co. fight mythological beings (trolls, three headed dogs, devil's snare, whomping willow, Aragog, etc) to really having him face human (or in Voldy's case *mostly* human) enemies.