Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Final Thoughts and Attempted Rewrite

06 Dec

So, we’ve finished the book, and we’ve watched the film. We concluded that the film does individual scenes better than the book did, but that it falls down on characterisation and suffers from being unable to show us a villain (whereas the book suffered from too many villains). And both fail hard at representing anyone who isn’t white and male, though the book is fractionally better in that regard. Fractionally. Both fail at showing anything of magic school, too.

In this post I’ll be rambling a bit about some of the flaws, then attempting a full rewrite, then talking about spells. It’s going to be another long one. Cut time!

Let’s talk a bit about the book on a technical level.

Too many chapters start with timeskips. Almost every single chapter, in fact. Timeskips are unavoidable if you’re covering an entire year in a short book, but don’t structure it like this.

The entire Harry Potter series lacks object permanence – adult characters and side characters don’t do anything offscreen and only exist when Harry can see them. There’s no sense of a big world that he’s a small part of – he is the world and only the things that happen directly around him matter.

[That is a fundamental flaw in the series that we’ve been talking about for a long time, but until Loten phrased it like that, I hadn’t realised how perfect the concept of object permanence is to describe it. That’s exactly their problem. The degree to which these books are protagonist-centred is one of their more serious flaws, though it’s easy to overlook until you try to figure out what other characters are doing or thinking while our ‘heroes’ are doing whatever.]

The narration isn’t typical third person limited. Rowling is following Harry around and describing what he does, not telling a story through his eyes. He’s an extremely passive character (like Bella Swan) – a pair of pants. A character so empty that anyone can step into them and move them through a scene.

Most of the appeal of the book is in the beginning. Horrible family, shit life, escaping to Magicland. The rest of the story is irrelevant and not very interesting, but by then the reader’s imagination is filling in the setting. Most worldbuilding etc. happens offscreen and the reader has to fill it in for themselves. It could be a new take on interactive fiction if it was done well, but it’s honestly just lazy, and yet you don’t notice it’s lazy because you’ve built yourself a world you want to read about.

The film is fine from a technical standpoint – please note, I have zero experience in any form of media and am speaking purely from the point of view of a movie watcher. It’s acceptable but not dazzling. The main issue is that they spend too much time on pretty filler and thus lose time they should have spent showing us more about the characters and the school, which leaves us with no villains and a not very clear plot.

[I’m honestly at a loss for what to say about this book, after we’ve finished going through it. Needless to say, it was a lot worse than I remembered, and more than that there was a lot less to it than I remembered; before we started the re-read my general opinion was that the series started off as decent, fun children’s books and got steadily worse as Rowling tried to make them more serious and paper over early worldbuilding decisions that were made to suit an atmosphere of childish whimsy. On reflection now, that view seems hopelessly naive. This book was deeply flawed and incoherent from the beginning, barely holds together on an uncritical reading and falls apart everywhere you actually apply thought, and I find it utterly incomprehensible that this was the launching pad for an international phenomenon on a scale yet to be duplicated.

It’s no surprise to me now that it took Rowling many, many attempts to find a publisher willing to take a chance on her; I’m more surprised that one eventually did, and that no attempt was made to clean up this mess in editing (though perhaps they couldn’t find an editor willing to undertake so Sisyphean a task). If anything surprises me now, it’s that Loten was actually able to wring the outline of a coherent rewrite out of it that’s still recognisable as the same story; I personally hadn’t a clue where to begin on something like that and didn’t think it was possible. (It’s also worth noting that the film adaptation did manage some improvements, so we can’t claim we’re the only ones to notice flaws. I do find it fascinating how often the conventional wisdom that “the book is always better than the film” turns out to be utterly wrong, and yes, that was a phrase I was actively taught in my youth.)

The question I have now is what undergirds this book’s wide appeal. Why was this literary landfill so compelling to so many people? I can only manage a partial answer and even that much is pure speculation…

First off, there are moments in the book that are genuinely well done. Rowling does occasionally have an ear for dialogue, for instance: she doesn’t always, and some scenes are incredibly clunky and awkward, but the bits that work work well and are memorable. Likewise, the worldbuilding is an utter mess but she does seem to have a talent for scene-setting and compelling visual imagery, so you get memorable set pieces like Platform 9 3/4 and Diagon Alley and of course Hogwarts itself. And the setting practically invites you to place yourself in the setting (especially if you are a child younger than 11), the hinting that the Potterverse “could be” hidden behind the real world does seem to engage the imagination, even if the Potterverse itself is composed of cobwebs fighting a stiff wind.

I really do think that’s what it comes down to in the end, really, that engaging the imagination. And in all truthfulness I think sometimes that’s a thing a bad book does better than a good one: when the writing is full of holes and you basically have to patch it up yourself as you go, I think there might be an extent to which that forced engagement makes the reader feel a partial ownership of the story, and that’s compelling emotionally (I’ve been thinking about this concept for a long time, and fully intend to write a full essay on it someday, once I’ve worked out all the kinks). There are so many gaps to fill in in Harry Potter, and so much to speculate about, and somehow, perhaps rather subtly, the books get most readers to do that without even realising they’re doing it. What I hadn’t quite realised until we did this reread is that that tendency was there from the very beginning.

But enough about that, let’s move on to Loten’s attempt at a rewrite.]

In the early chapters of the book spork we were talking about hypothetical rewrites, before I forgot gave up, so let’s continue with that.

I was going to see if it’s possible to make Rowling’s story work as it stands, but we’ve talked about that throughout the other posts – yes, just barely, but only if you begin with the assumption that almost everything is orchestrated by Dumbledore to manipulate Harry and that he is forcing everyone at Hogwarts to act in defiance of human behaviour. So instead let’s attempt a complete rewrite that keeps the same basic plot of ‘Boy going to Magic School defeats teacher trying to steal MacGuffin’.

Dumbledore and McGonagall rescue baby Harry from the wreckage in Godric’s Hollow and infodump to one another about the war in the course of their conversation as they try to figure out how Voldy found the house and what happened to him and why Harry’s okay. Hagrid is permitted to be present if he keeps his mouth shut and behaves himself, otherwise leave him out. The wizarding world being the clusterfuck that it is, they conclude Harry’s probably going to be safer as a Muggle until they can get him to Hogwarts because by then everyone will have forgotten about this, and one of them remembers that Lily has a Muggle sister.

Harry is a normal kid who’s sometimes unhappy because his aunt and uncle treat their biological son better than their nephew, and who daydreams about what his parents were like and who he really is because nobody will tell him anything about them. He sees weird things sometimes, people who seem to know him or who dress strangely, but they’re never there when he looks again and he assumes he imagines it just like the odd things like his hair growing too quickly or things he thought were lost appearing in front of him. (No, not levitating onto the roof. Nobody’s going to dismiss that as a hallucination.)

On his eleventh birthday he gets a Hogwarts letter. His aunt and uncle take it off him and refuse to tell him what it is, just as they do the (single) letters that arrive every day for the next week. At the end of the week someone from Hogwarts arrives to see what’s going on – an actual liason officer whose full time job is meeting new Muggleborn kids and explaining things to them and who knows how to treat confused or scared Muggle relatives.

The liason person gives Harry a full infodump about the school, covering the curriculum – which includes Muggle lessons in at the very least science, maths, English, history and geography – and the House/points system as well as mentioning Quidditch exists. There’s no need to mention the Ministry, or currency, or anything else just yet. Harry asks a lot more questions to break this up so it’s not just a block of exposition. Dudley asks questions too. Vernon wants nothing to do with any of it, and Petunia breaks down as she says angrily that being a witch just got Lily killed and are they really surprised she decided to try and stop Harry being made into a wizard? The Hogwarts rep deals with this offscreen while Harry tries to absorb everything and thinks of more questions.

They go to London to buy supplies, and while they investigate some of the shops we learn more information from their conversations. For a start we learn that Diagon Alley is a small shopping enclave purely for wizarding supplies – things like food, clothing and household stuff is bought in the Muggle world since most wizards live and work there anyway.

In Gringotts (which does not contain anti-Semitic goblins, nor implausible rollercoasters, nor plot device packages) we learn about currency, and we learn that Hogwarts is free to attend though Harry needs to pay for his school things himself – he’s inherited the contents of his parents’ vault so he’ll have to use that, and since he’s underage the bank will control how much he has to spend until he reaches 17. By then he’ll likely have used most of it, James should never have been filthy rich.

This triggers Harry asking more about his parents – his aunt said they were killed and she was so upset he didn’t want to ask her about it, but… The liason says they don’t know much, that Lily and James went to Hogwarts and were in Gryffindor and that when they left school they got involved in the ongoing conflict with a criminal wizard called Voldemort who wanted to take over as much of wizarding Britain as possible. Voldemort killed them but Harry survived and the officer doesn’t know any more than that – he should try to ask some of the other teachers when he gets to school.

In whatever the broom shop is called we learn a little bit about Quidditch, and the officer advises Harry not to bother buying his own broom because that’ll be all his spending money for the year gone and he won’t be allowed to fly whenever he feels like it anyway – the school brooms will be fine.

In the bookstore we learn a bit about the syllabus, which as I said before includes Muggle subjects.

Harry should also meet or at least see a few other Hogwarts kids while they’re wandering around here. Not all from his year, that’s statistically unlikely anyway, but just have some of them pointed out to him. And he doesn’t meet Quirrell. Nor does anyone recognise him. One of them can be Draco, but doesn’t have to be.

Ollivander does not infodump about Harry’s wand – which is made from components in front of him after the use of some sort of detection spell he refuses to explain – sharing a core with Voldy’s wand, because that’s really fucking stupid.

At some point Harry finds a newspaper and investigates some of the stories and adverts, and one of those stories involves a break-in at Gringotts of a vault belonging to a Mr N Flamel who is quoted saying he emptied the vault weeks ago and doesn’t really care.

This will all take at least two and probably three chapters. At the end of it Harry is told to get himself to Inverness train station by 5pm on September 1st, and he’ll be collected and taken on to the school from there – some families drive their children up, some take the train or coach, and some all-magical families use other methods. All the supplies they’ve bought will be shipped directly from the stores to Hogwarts. Harry is disappointed by this since he’d hoped to play with his new toys for the rest of the summer break, which the Hogwarts rep says is why they take them away.

Harry’s train journey is pretty uneventful, which is good because he’s really nervous and excited and keeps looking around trying to spot kids who might be going to Hogwarts. As he gets further north there are fewer passengers, and it’s easy to spot that there are quite a few children of various ages all apparently travelling unaccompanied, including a few who look to be his own age. He’s pretty shy but not everyone is, and a couple of them talk to him – most are older students who just wish him luck and tell him he’ll have a great time. Feeling braver after this he explores the train a little, looking for other students, and meets Hermione who’s clearly as nervous and excited as he is – they don’t get much time to talk since they’re almost there, but it’s enough for them to stick near each other when they get to the station.

They’re met by Hagrid, who looks terrifying but is cheerful and friendly and tells Harry they’ve met before when he was a baby, they should talk sometime if he’s not too busy with his studies. He shepherds them into a waiting room of other new kids and goes back into the station to pick up more.

Here’s where we meet Draco, Ron, Neville, and some of the girls. They swap stories, and Draco automatically sneers when he learns Hermione is Muggleborn and that Harry was Muggle-raised, which some of the other kids ignore, some laugh at and some tell him off for. Harry doesn’t really want to be friends with Draco, but he’s really hit it off with Ron and most of the others seem nice, particularly Neville and Hermione.

They carry on talking during a short train ride out into the wilderness and during the magic boat ride – Ron reveals that his brothers told him about that, it’s literally just to impress the newbies. Ron’s the only one with any prior knowledge, in fact, and becomes the centre of attention – Draco tries to insult the Weasley family, wanting some attention himself, but he’s secretly nervous too and quickly shuts up to listen as Ron tells them what the Sorting involves.

(What the kids won’t be told until some time later is that the sorting is pretty much random for most of them – their preferences get some weight, and some kids are put where they’re most likely to not get shit from their families, but mostly it’s irrelevant. There’s a faint trend towards the supposed virtues of each house, but it’s not the be all and end all.)

They’re Sorted alphabetically. Hermione goes to Ravenclaw, Neville to Hufflepuff. Draco goes to Slytherin because that’s what his father wants. Harry doesn’t know what to hope for but he knows his parents were both in Gryffindor, so he’s pleased when the Hat chooses that for him – he’s even more pleased when his new friend Ron gets Gryffindor too, while Ron’s just relieved because he’d never hear the end of it if he went anywhere else. Whichever girls and other boys we’ve also met are spread out along with all the new names we haven’t seen. We get an infodump from Percy Prefect about important teachers – Dumbledore, a deputy head figure, McGonagall/Snape/Flitwick/Sprout, and some sort of head of Muggle subjects; Quirrell gets namedropped at some point by virtue of talking to one of the others – and Harry asks about Hagrid.

The next few chapters deal with lessons, magical and mundane. We see them learning magic and get some mini infodumps about each subject. Transfiguration is not a separate subject, McGonagall can teach something else – history, maybe, to keep prodding us that Voldy existed. More about Quirrell to keep him in the readers’ minds – he’s not really teaching them much and they’re all quite disappointed that his subject isn’t very cool, and also he’s a bit weird. Harry is aware that Snape doesn’t seem to like him much but there’s no stupid attempt at victimisation or other ludicrous behaviour.

The kids socialise more. This introduces us to candy and other silly things, including the chocolate frogs, though we see enough cards for the one mentioning Flamel not to stand out. We learn a few more names, and Draco continues in his role of mildly annoying guy without crossing over into James Bond villain territory. We get more sense of personality – Hermione tries too hard at everything and is afraid of screwing up, Ron loves and resents his brothers more or less equally, Neville has rock-bottom self esteem, etc. They should also meet a friendly Slytherin, who really should be a girl to help our woeful representation, and not Caucasian – later on she’ll help kick Draco into line.

There’s a flying-lessons club. Hermione and Neville aren’t interested and don’t go. Ron’s frantic to learn and Harry likes the idea. He’s not a prodigy, but he does pick it up very quickly over several lessons, as does Draco – there’s a mini-rivalry developing. We get more of an infodump about Quidditch from whoever’s teaching it (the bludgers don’t cause serious injuries and the seeker is nerfed so the snitch is only worth an extra ten points and doesn’t end the game), and later McGonagall as Harry’s head of house says she’s heard he’s not bad and he should consider trying out for the team later.

Harry visits Hagrid and makes friends with him. He’s disappointed that Hagrid can’t tell him much more about his past than the liason officer did – Voldy came after Lily and James for a reason, though Hagrid doesn’t know what that reason is, nor does he know how Harry survived but that’s why he’s got that scar on his head. Since nobody’s noticed or mentioned this, Harry has almost forgotten he even has it. Hagrid adds that Harry should talk to the Headmaster sometime if he wants more details, but Harry’s far too shy and nervous to do that. Later he brings some of his new friends to see Hagrid, though.

The troll breaks in on Halloween and is announced by Quirrell. Someone in the group of kids, who are all sitting together since on feast days they aren’t split by house, knows enough about trolls to think this is weird and while they’re lagging behind talking about it before being separated they notice that several teachers are acting twitchy and clearly think something’s up – they all decide to investigate. And since it’s a large group some of them are caught and sent to their dormitories, though Harry’s in the group who are left roaming the corridors trying to figure out what’s happening.

There’s a lot of chaos and confusion. Some of the staff are hunting the troll. Some are hunting for nosy students who want to see the troll. Some clearly have their own agenda somewhere near the forbidden corridor, which the kids have all sneaked over to in previous weeks to see what’s up but it’s locked magically and they can’t figure it out.

The kids do encounter the troll, and there’s time for them to realise their first-year spells won’t do them any good – even the more advanced things Hermione’s been learning aren’t good enough – before some of the teachers show up to subdue it. The children are given a very long lecture for endangering themselves, once it’s been established that they’re safe, but no actual punishment since they’re all terrified.

Later they meet up with the rest of their friends and start trying to figure things out. The four heads of house definitely know something about that corridor and were all acting strangely, but nobody knows where the Headmaster was during all this, and someone points out it’s odd that Quirrell was in the dungeons to see the troll in the first place. They conclude they’re all going to have to keep their eyes open and talk to other kids in their various houses, and maybe the ones who are friendly with Hagrid should ask him what’s up as well.

They do, and Hagrid attempts to tell them it’s no big deal, but he’s not a very good actor and he does let slip that there’s some sort of object being kept on that corridor. More than that, he clearly tips off the teachers that the kids are suspicious, and they each get told to mind their own business.

It’s actually Draco who finds out what’s going on – he overhears a couple of teachers (let’s say Sprout and McGonagall) talking while he’s waiting to see Snape about something. They don’t say much but it’s enough for him to figure out that the four heads of house are conspiring to hide this object, which is some kind of ‘stone’, on the forbidden corridor and that they think someone in the faculty is after it and that maybe it was safer in the bank.

He’s gloating about being the one to figure it out and has no interest in telling them what he’s learned, but Harry’s little group has kids from all the houses in and his Slytherin friends persuade Draco to cooperate. Besides, by now he’s interested himself.

The kids discuss it between lessons and Quidditch tryouts (Harry is made reserve seeker and does not get his own bestest ever stick) but they can’t guess who the villain is. None of them want it to be their own head of house, none of them can believe it’s Dumbledore after all the praise they’ve heard about him non-stop, and Quirrell doesn’t seem very competent. Each of them has candidates among the other teachers, but they realise they’re just picking staff members they don’t like because they don’t want it to be any of the others. (Harry keeps trying to argue for Snape, who still clearly doesn’t like him, but the Slytherins in the group shut him down because that’s not a reason.) Clearly they need to do more sleuthing. And what kind of stone is so important anyway? Presumably some kind of gem, but there are lots of those around.

Harry asks if there’s anyone else they can tell outside school. Maybe the police, or something. We get some more infodump, about the Ministry and its various roles, while Harry and Hermione attempt to explain the Muggle equivalents to the few kids who don’t know how it works already. They can’t think of anyone else to approach about this, but Christmas is coming up and they all decide to try and ask their families about super-important stones while the ones who are staying at school try to research it in the library. If they can figure out what the teachers are guarding, maybe they can figure out who would want it.

At home over Christmas, Hermione remembers that a Philosopher’s Stone is a thing, and does research. At the same time one of the group still at Hogwarts finds out about it in the library, and Harry attempts to ask McGonagall what it is – her reaction confirms that yeah, that’s the thing hidden on that corridor.

(Harry does not get the magic bedsheet for Christmas. It’s fucking stupid.)

More lessons and some inevitable Quidditch happens while the kids try to figure out what to do about it. They’re still doing research and learn that there’s apparently only one Stone in existence, it belongs to Nicolas Flamel, who’s been in the news recently when his suspiciously-empty bank vault was the target of an attempted robbery. They also learn that Flamel is one of Dumbledore’s friends, which probably explains why the Stone is in Hogwarts. But they still don’t know which teacher is trying to get hold of it.

The Gryffindor seeker falls ill and Harry as reserve finally gets to play a match. Cue the shenanigans with the broom, though it gets shut down much more quickly by Dumbledore; there’s just time for a couple of the kids to notice Snape clearly doing something, but honestly all the staff were staring at Harry and they can’t be totally sure. It’s enough to put him top of the suspect list, but he’s not the only name there. (Gryffindor can win this match, it doesn’t really matter.)

The group conclude they have two options – try to tell Dumbledore directly, since they can’t trust any of the other staff, or try to investigate the corridor for themselves. They discuss and decide against other possibilities like contacting relatives or talking to older students. Harry suggests talking to Hagrid, but they conclude he’s not likely to know anything useful and last time he snitched on them to the other teachers. No bloody dragon storyline and no stupid Forest detentions.

It’s Harry who tries to meet with Dumbledore, under the guise of wanting to know more about his parents and Voldy and all that jazz. The Headmaster says he’s too busy but promises to talk to him about it eventually.

With no magic bedsheet, sneaking out at night is a lot more difficult, and they’re all coming from different common rooms, so only a couple of the kids make it to the third floor corridor – let’s say it’s the Trio because why not. Hermione unlocks the door because they’ve learned that much magic now, which triggers a silent alarm. There’s no Fluffy, just an open trapdoor, which is so obviously a trap that they’re still standing looking at it when McGonagall shows up asking what the hell they think they’re doing. They tell her they’ve figured out the Stone is here and that they’re sure someone is after it – someone who seems to know Harry and friends have guessed, given the Quidditch incident. While obviously shocked at how much they know, she shuts them down hard and forbids them to do anything – the Stone is perfectly safe and so completely none of their business.

The lack of reprisal over the next couple of weeks leads the group to assume it’s probably not McGonagall who’s the baddie, but she’s clearly not an ally either. They spend their time studying each of the teachers, trying to figure out who it could be.

Harry finally snaps. They’ve got exams, everyone’s very stressed, and he doesn’t want to sit doing nothing any more. He tries to go to Dumbledore again and is informed that the Headmaster is away and won’t be back for two days, and he immediately goes to his friends and says this is it, whoever it is will take this opportunity, if nobody’s going to listen to us then maybe we should try to do something.

He’s met with a rousing chorus of ‘like what?’ His friends point out that they couldn’t take out a troll, or even slightly harm it, so why is he suggesting they take on an adult witch or wizard? We need an actual plan, Harry, don’t be a doofus.

They decide to keep watch on the corridor in small groups. If they see anyone suspicious, one of them goes for help and the others attempt very very carefully to follow whoever it is, without getting too close.

Harry, Hermione, Neville, Ron and Draco arrive at the corridor for their shift and find the door slightly open and the trapdoor inside shut. They draw lots and Ron gets sent to find a teacher and persuade them to listen, while the other four go in.

Our inter-house foursome get through a couple of the obstacles, moving slowly to make sure they don’t get spotted by whoever it is they’re following, before Draco points out that this is really stupid. These aren’t defences, they’re not challenging for the kids so they’re clearly not going to stop an adult. Something’s going on here. They talk about it and decide that it’s a delay – these obstacles are flimsy and the only thing they’re doing is slowing down whoever’s trying to get through. Maybe some sort of alarm triggered when the trap door was bypassed – help could be on the way right now and the teachers wanted to make sure any thief doesn’t have time to escape with the Stone. When they check a room they’ve already cleared, they find the puzzle has been reset, so getting out is going to be as slow as getting in was.

(There are more obstacles than in the book. Some are puzzles, some just need application of simple spells to bypass like putting out fires or lifting things from in front of the door or using Lumos to get through an unlit room. The chess game is part way through and just needs finishing or that would take way too long; they just have to command the pieces, not take over from some of them.)

Harry can play solo hero in later books if he really must. Right now, he’s a kid and that’s stupid. All four of them make it past the Potions puzzle, which both Draco and Hermione enjoy solving. They’re moving through the next room when Quirrell confronts them, having realised that he’s being followed.

No Quirrellmort. Quirrell’s acting entirely for himself – it’s not like anyone needs much motivation to want immortality and infinite gold.

There’s no fight and no deus-ex powers. The kids realise they haven’t got a hope and run for it. It’s a decently sized room and the next room doesn’t have fire in front of the doors, so they have two rooms to dodge around and try to avoid being murdered. They know help is coming – even if they’re wrong about what all the obstacles mean, Ron’s got to have found someone by now. They just have to not die until the cavalry arrive.

Said cavalry is Snape, because this is my rewrite damnit. Also he can fly which gets him past most of the bullshit obstacles quicker than the others. Harry panics a bit because he’s still not convinced Snape’s not a bad guy and what if once he’s taken down Quirrell he goes for the stone himself? The other heads of house arrive just as Snape knocks Quirrell out.

None of the kids are hurt beyond cuts and bruises but they’re taken to the infirmary to sort things out anyway. Quirrell’s arrested and taken to the Ministry. Dumbledore comes to see them and gives them some house points along with a lecture about nearly getting themselves killed for no reason – yes, the obstacle course was a trap, he knew someone wasn’t trustworthy and his friend Flamel wanted to publicly ‘lose’ the stone. Which was fake, incidentally, he’s got the real one better hidden now. So they teamed up to design this and achieve two goals for the price of one, and then the kids nearly ruined everything and nearly got themselves killed. No harm done, in the end, but don’t do it again.

Harry gets his conversation about his parents, though again Dumbledore doesn’t tell him much – he says he has some theories about why Harry survived and what Voldy was doing, but he’s not completely sure, and they can discuss it when Harry’s older. Insert foreshadowing here about how Voldy may not be as dead as people think he is. Harry also mentions he half-thought Snape was the bad guy, which Dumbledore finds amusing as he explains Snape was blocking Quirrell’s curse at the Quidditch match and no, Snape doesn’t like Harry but that doesn’t actually change anything.

End of term feast. The points are all known in advance, no sudden bait and switch. It honestly doesn’t matter which house wins. Let it be Gryffindor this time as Harry’s our protagonist, but they’re not going to auto-win everything ever from this point onwards. The other kids are happy for their friends – or resigned, in Draco’s case – and nobody’s a dick. The end.

As mentioned in the film post, I didn’t originally plan to include the adults in my spell count, so the tally was off. Here’s the complete score (I decided Animagus transformations count, but things like the Put-Outer/magic bedsheet/door to Diagon Alley don’t, nor do unsuccessful or accidental attempts; it has to be a deliberate spell).

Spell count (book):
Hermione, 11.
Quirrell, 4.
Hagrid, 3.
McGonagall, 1.
Snape, 1.
Ron, 1.
Draco, 1.
Neville, 1.
Dumbledore, 1.
Harry, 0.

Spell count (film):
Hermione, 7.
Quirrell, 2.
Hagrid, 2.
McGonagall, 2.
Snape, 1.
Ron, 1.
Dumbledore, 1.
Harry, 0.

Welp. This is probably going to get rather embarrassing by the end of the series, isn’t it.

Not sure when we’ll be starting Chamber of Secrets. It’s almost Christmas and I work in retail, so I’m basically going to be a zombie for the month. We’ll see.

In other news, the Cursed Child is moving to Broadway. Excuse me, I need to go slam my head against the wall now. [Fucking hell. No, I’m still not going to see it, unless someone pays me lots of money to do it for research purposes.]


Posted by on December 6, 2016 in loten, mitchell


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7 responses to “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Final Thoughts and Attempted Rewrite

  1. All-I-need

    December 6, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    That rewrite is absolutely brilliant and sounds awesome. Love the idea that the entire stone thing was just a set-up for the thief!

    I wonder, if you changed the names and some of the details and sent this to a publisher, would they take it? You could turn it into a social experiment of a kind.

    Anyway, this is great and reads a lot more like a reasonable story for children than the actual book does. Bravo!

    The spell count is just embarrassing already. I suppose by Goblet of Fire Harry will get a lot more points, simply because of the Tournament, and I despair for Hermione in Chamber of Secrets, seeing as she spends most of that book as a statue. Perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised anyway?

    Looking forward to your coverage of the second book and my condolences to both of you for working retail at Christmas time (I’ve been there) and having that play in your country, respectively.

    Also, just in case: Merry Christmas (or, as a friend of mine was once told by a customer from Thailand: “Happy European Gift Festival!”)!

    • Loten

      December 8, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      There is literally no way to play it straight and have it make sense, it has to be a cover for something. Trying to get it published would be hilarious, but I can already smell the lawsuits…

      It’ll be interesting to see how the spell counts do change. You’re right Hermione won’t have a huge lead next book, but I’m not expecting anyone to get above maybe 3 spells unless there’s something I’m forgetting – most of the action was done by house elf, hat, phoenix and basilisk, and angry yelling, rather than actual spells.

      Haha, happy European Gift Festival to you too 😉

  2. SR

    December 11, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Many times I’ve heard that JKR had trouble finding a publisher, and the takeaway is that don’t give up, etc. But it really does point out that there are flaws in the premise of the first book as you’ve pointed out in all of these posts. Out of all 7 books, this isn’t very rereadable, but I appreciate the movie version for sticking to the book.

    The spell-count is just sad. It makes Harry seem like a passive character readers can insert themselves in and observe everyone around them.

    The rewrite was amazing! I can’t wait to see what you both have to say about the other books.

  3. drashizu

    December 13, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I like this rewrite. It feels way more balanced, and has fewer deus ex machina moments, especially that “Quirrelmort can’t touch me!” thing at the end. And I love the fact that you split up the students in different Houses but included a representative from each House at the end. Non-Gryffindors really should have played a larger role in this series from the very beginning.

    My only concern would be that I can see how, in the context of the whole series, it might be beneficial to introduce Harry to the long-term villain in person in the first installment, but I’m having a difficult time figuring out how to do it without resorting to something silly and ridiculous like Quirrelmort. Quirrel acting on his own, as you have here, really makes the story as it stands far more sensible.

    Really, without totally changing the premise of the book, Voldy being an off-screen character in Philosopher’s Stone makes the most sense. Given that McGonagall is teaching History of Magic in this version and we’d therefore get a lot of really interesting and in-depth backstory about Voldemort’s rise to power, with the opportunity for Harry to approach her later and ask questions about his parents, we’d probably still get more of a sense of personal immediacy to Voldemort’s return in this version.

    All it would take is a few good scenes of Minerva describing some of the horrors she saw during the war (vaguely, because 11-year-olds) and humanizing Harry’s parents by talking about how she knew them when they were their students, and when the hint finally drops in the later part of the book that rumors of Voldemort’s survival have started going around, we’ll know what that means to Harry personally and to the wizarding world in general far better than we did by the end of the real Philosopher’s Stone when nothing had been explained.

    So this both stands up better as a single novel and works as well or better as the opening story in a longer series. I like it.

    • drashizu

      December 13, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      when they were *her students (in the fourth paragraph)

  4. DawnM

    February 28, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    Commenting 2.5 months late! I like your proposed plot.

    Are you thinking of completely eliminating the deathly hallows objects from the entire storyline? That might work just fine, although there will be some tricky spots to get over.

    Instead of Quirrelmort, can Quirrel be a closet Voldemort supporter hoping to use the stone to revive him? That might satisfy drashizu’s desire to make Voldemort more of a presence in the first book.

    Removing the “Hagrid is stupid about a baby dragon” plotline is fine, but do we need to throw the baby dragon out with the bathwater? Baby dragons are cool! Maybe put some “Hagrid expertly fosters an abandoned baby dragon in a safe way because he’s good at his job” colour into the story.

    • Loten

      March 1, 2017 at 7:57 am

      Better late than never 😛

      Honestly eliminating the Hallows wouldn’t affect anything until the second half of the final book (and the title). They always felt like a complete asspull because they’re never so much as hinted at, except for ‘oh Harry’s magic bedsheet is a bit unusual’. I don’t know if we’ll get rid of them completely, but probably – I don’t think the effort of making them work sensibly would justify it, it’s not the most revolutionary plot in existence.

      I suppose we could have Quirrell as a Voldy supporter. I really only left Voldy out because he’s going to feature so heavily in later books and magic school is chaotic enough that he doesn’t need to be behind every bad thing that happens – even in Prisoner of Azkaban, the only Voldy-free canon volume, everyone assumes Sirius is working for him.

      Baby dragons are cool! They’re just so badly handled it makes me sad. I suppose we could let Hagrid have some competence, though I find him irritating as a character and probably wouldn’t spend that much time on him if I were writing it.


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