Perhaps because it is the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone seems, to me, to be the most poorly put together of the Harry Potter books. Let us set aside the fact that Harry would have been better off leaving Quirrell to sit in front of the mirror and starve and examine the cracks and holes that mar the story.
The Keeper of Keys
This is really just a little point of interest I’d like to draw your attention to. When Hagrid and Harry depart from the island on Harry’s birthday they have this little exchange “How did you get here?’ Harry asked, looking around for another boat. ‘Flew,’ said Hagrid.’ But how did he fly? It’s not like he can do Voldemort’s bat trick, he states in the Order of the Pheonix ‘I don’ fly, meself. Well, look at the size o’ me, I don’ reckon there’s a broomstick that’d hold me’, he does say that he can ride Abraxian horses but Hogwarts doesn’t have any and Thestrals would probably be too small. I’m sure you’ve thought of the obvious solution here. Hagrid flew in on his motorcycle. When Hagrid flies that’s generally how he does it. Harry doesn’t hear anything to suggest the motorcycle was flying in but possibly the storm drowned it out. I agree this is almost certainly how Hagrid arrived, but what happened to the bike? Did it fly back on its own? Is it weirdly sentient like the Ford Anglia? Did someone summon it back? It’s certainly not on the island when they leave.
Note: I have been made aware that there is a theory that Hagrid says ”Floo’ as in he travelled by Floo Powder, and Harry misunderstood him due to not knowing about magical transportation. This is a nice theory but there are a few problems with it. Firstly, as mentioned in the Chamber of Secrets, you aren’t actually meant to connect muggle fireplaces to the Floo network and the appears to be administrative procedure to get a fireplace added. Of course you CAN get round that restriction, as Mr Weasley does, but it would probably take a certain amount of time and energy. The second, and more serious, objection is that Hagrid clearly comes in from outside. If you re-read the chapter you will find that there is one bedroom, where Mr and Mrs Dursley are sleeping, one sofa where Dudley is sleeping and some floor in the main room for Harry, he can hear Dudley snoring. The fireplace is in the main room with Dudley and Harry and there is no indication there is any other fireplace. Harry hears a bunch of strange noises that culminate in someone knocking on the front door and then busting in from OUTSIDE. Clearly then, Hagrid does not arrive through the fireplace so this theory does not fit the events as described in the book. I might come back late and add some exact quotes in, but please feel free to check this against your own editions.
Professor Binns is Hogwarts only Ghost teacher. Turns out there’s a good reason Ghost’s don’t usually teach. Though Binns is capable of lecturing his students and setting them homework essays on non existent witch burnings (more on that when we reach book three) he is not capable of collecting essays or marking them. He is also not capable of opening a book if he ever wants to check a fact. He can’t remedy this deficiency with magic because he can’t hold a want. He must have some sort of unmentioned assistant, either a teacher in training or a newt student or perhaps a house elf. That or the students have to spread their essays out across the classroom so he can read them and he has to mark them in his head and then remember all the marks and tell each student. This seems unlikely so we’ll settle for never mentioned teaching assistant.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Do you have a copy of Fantastic Beasts? I do, it’s an excellent book and essential first year reading for all Hogwarts students. I just wish I knew why. You would think that a book like Fantastic Beasts would be used for Care of Magical Creatures but no one does Care of Magical Creatures until third year so why would it appear on the first year book list? Possibly the answer is that it is needed to learn about certain dark creatures such as the Kappa for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Unfortunately the first year syllabus for DADA is never really mentioned. Certainly Lockhart and Lupin deal with dark creatures so it could be presumed that Quirrell does as well. However you might have thought a book more restricted to dark creatures and fighting them (such as Lockhart assigns) might have been more appropriate and there is another DADA book on the list ‘The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble’ though weirdly there’s no Astronomy books.
Troll In the Dungeon!
I don’t have to remind you of the troll in the dungeon. You remember the troll. It was big and tried to kill Hermione. You may also remember the knocked out troll in the magical obstacle course that guards the philosopher’s stone. That was Quirrell’s contribution. He has, as he says ‘a way with trolls’. I know Quirrell isn’t the worlds greatest mind that it might strike Dumbledore as suspicious that one day he’s blithely coaxing a troll into doing guard duty and the next day he’s terrified by the chance discovery of one in the dungeons. As it happens Dumbledore suspects him anyway (but is still cool with letting him teach and guard the stone) but even so for a man sharing head space with Lord Voldemort, supposedly one of the greatest wizards of all time, it’s a bit of a dim move.
Zombie Vs Inferius
In the Half Blood Prince an Inferi is defined by Professor Snape as ‘a corpse that has been reanimated by a Dark wizard’s spells. It is not alive, it is merely used like a puppet to do the wizard’s bidding.’ So it’s a wizard zombie? But no one ever uses the word zombie to describe an inferius. However zombies do get a mention in the Philosopher’s Stone. Quirrell is supposed to have got his turban for dealing with a troublesome zombie. Evidently that isn’t true and you aren’t meant to think it is but why would Quirrell say zombie instead of inferius? Is there a slightly different corpse puppet that is known as a zombie?
The Third Floor Corridor
Firstly why is it only locked when it’s perfectly possible to make a door that alohomora doesn’t work on. Moving on from that, there’s a trapdoor in the corridor that takes them, and I quote, ‘miles beneath the school’. Firstly that’s a hell of a drop even with a soft landing. However let us assume there is some sort of slow falling charm that stops them all dying horribly. Secondly why is there a trapdoor to some sort of underground dungeon from the 3rd floor? Would you not put that on the first floor? Did they block off some sort of fall shoot through the 2nd and 1st floors? It seems like unnecessary hassle unless there’s a convenient vertical secret passage.
The Tap-dancing Pineapple
The first year charms exam involves making a pineapple tap-dance. Presumably in order to make it tap-dance you need to give it legs. Otherwise that’s not a tap-dancing pineapple that’s a bouncing pineapple. As if to confirm that there’s this little quote:
“Essential Tip # 2: In order to make a subject dance, it must first possess legs (a spell for growing legs appears in the advanced CAST-A-SPELL training handbook).”
—The “Tarantallegra” entry on the Cast-a-Spell Kit.
However do you remember that scene where they are learning to charm legs onto a teacup? When is that? Fifth book. Is it really so much harder to put legs on a teacup than to put them on a pineapple? When they do it in fifth year is it simply O.W.L. revision? If so why are Harry and Ron so bad at it?
McGonagall’s Chess Set
Just a quick query. What is the object of chess? To checkmate the opponents king, I hear you cry. And indeed you are quite right. Therefore it seems to me that if you were caught in a giant, violent game of chess the thing to do would to be to make yourself or one of your friends king. Then unless you are utterly defeated the white queen is not going to throw you across the chess board. And while we’re at it why does Quirrell make his level a troll? Ok fine you have an afinity with trolls but if, say, you let a troll into the school and it almost kills someone that is going to look awfully suspicious. Now I’m willing to buy that Quirrell is that stupid but he does sort of have a special adviser sticking out of the back of his head.
Now we come to one of the weirdest things in Harry Potter. In order to steal the stone Quirrell must get Dumbledore out of the way. In order to do this he fakes an urgent owl from the Ministry. This is without any doubt the worst plan anyone has ever had and it is only made more ridiculous by the fact that it works. Quirrell sends the letter in the afternoon, when Harry tries to warn Dumbledore he has already left. However, Quirrell doesn’t seem to go after the stone until evening. It is certainly after everyone has gone to bed when Harry, Ron and Hermione depart. How did Quirrell know Dumbledore would decide to fly to the Ministry instead of appearating, using floo powder, or getting Fawkes to teleport him? All of which would have been much quicker and easier. Ok, he would have had to go out of the Hogwarts ground to appearate but that’s still going to be a lot easier than flying to London. Not to mention it was an urgent owl, how many people think ‘Oh an emergency, I must find the slowest method of magical transportation’. Dumbledore could have appearated/floo powdered his way to the Ministry found out he wasn’t actually needed and been back all inside about half an hour. Before Quirrel even got past Fluffy, making it unnecessary for three 11 year olds to brave death by poisoning, Voldemort and being clubbed by a giant chess piece. Does Dumbledore want Harry to go after Quirrel? Because, reminder, he almost dies.
I don’t know why I bother if you haven’t read the last book yet you are nowhere near enough into Harry Potter for this site.
It’s made clear in the last book that Dumbledore knows Quirrell is after the Stone. He introduces Harry to the mirror of Erised, he makes it so there’s a path to the stone. Including Devil’s Snare which is conveniently mentioned in first year Herbology. Harry is with Hagrid when he picks up the ‘top secret’ package. What’s that supposed to do except make Harry curious? And then of course he is conveniently out of the way at the critical moment. As is Snape.
So Dumbledore wants Harry to confront Voldemort? Does he think Harry can finish Voldemort? Maybe. He hasn’t come across Riddle’s Diary yet so he may not have realised Voldemort has Horcruxes. Still Voldemort failed to die the last time so I don’t know if I buy it. Best guess he’s using his mirror trick to test Harry’s intentions. To check Harry’s not too attached to life to die when necessary. To get the stone you have to want it but not to use it. You have to value the greater good. Are there better ways to do this than to nearly kill an 11 year old and his friends. Yes. Also Harry pretty much burns Quirrell’s face off in a move that causes surprisingly few emotional scars.