18 December 2010


Locus Focus: Take Thirty-Two!

A good setting is more than just a backdrop!
Join us every Saturday as we write about our favourite settings
and the books that make them come alive!

Some reminders before we begin . . . so that I can feel like a teacher addressing her homeroom class again . . .

First, remember that next Saturday, Christmas Day, shall be Narnia Day: The Return. (Yes, it was originally "The Reprise"--but then I remembered that one properly returns to Narnia.)

Secondly, as I've been saying for weeks (elsewhere, if not here), I'm in the middle of a personal "Potter-thon", rereading the first five books and finally starting the last two. Accordingly, I'd like to have another special day for all of J.K. Rowling's settings within the wizarding world. How does late January or early February sound to everyone? I'd like to do it before Lent begins--because Lent will be for J.R.R. Tolkien.

In the meantime, to mark the "Potter-thon" landmark that is the first novel, I offer a setting from Rowling's wizarding world to whet everyone's appetite . . .

Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, eleven o'clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three Quarters on it. He had done it.

Smoke from the engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every colour wound here and there between their legs. Owls hooted to each other in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and the scraping of heavy trunks.

The first few carriages were already packed with students, some hanging out of the window to talk with their families, some fighting over seats. Harry pushed his cart off down the platform in search of an empty seat. . .

The Harry Potter books remind me of what one of my old professors calls "Portal Fantasy"--although the wizarding world is not separate from our own at all, but rubs along more or less peacefully with ours. But I think of it, anyway, when I think of portals, because I believe the "doorway" the reader uses to cross from his world into the author's fantasy is an essential detail. That is why I feel a bit sorry for every Narnia lover who first entered Narnia through one of the pools in The Magician's Nephew rather than through the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. You can return to a fantasy world a million times in your life . . . but you can enter it for the first time only once. (Okay, I'll shut up about Narnia now.)

I like to think of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters as an extended portal into Hogwarts, which becomes our boy hero's haven and proving ground. It is not his portal into the wizarding world itself: the Leaky Cauldron has already served that purpose. But school--even a magical school--is always something else. Harry had a reliable guide through the confusing Diagon Alley; but upon Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, he is alone. And if the words "First Day of School" mean anything to you, then you understand perfectly.

In later books, Harry enters Hogwarts using very different methods of magical transportation, but nothing beats the shock of sudden immersion in his first view of Platform Nine and Three Quarters. Although Rowling doesn't pile on the details in her description, I think she more than makes up for it in her invention of the method by which one gets on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

"All you have to do is walk straight at the barrier between platforms nine and ten. Don't stop and don't be scared you'll crash into it, that's very important. Best do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous . . ."

It's the first real test of Harry's ability to do magic--his true initiation into the wizarding world that completely makes up for his having been a stranger to it for ten years. If he had failed at this point, all the learning in Hogwarts could have done nothing for him. But he makes it through . . . and it is this point, more than any other, that marks Voldemort's ultimate failure.

And now I know where my subconscious got that idea about traveling through time by running into walls. (Remember These Dreams: Time Travel?)

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This Week's Other Loci Foci:

Peter Ackroyd's London @ What' Kate's Reading

London, 1584 @ Birdie's Nest

Image Source: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling


Kate said...

My first post - I'm so excited! Thanks for having me as a part of the group!

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm off to read it now, Kate. Thanks for joining this week! =D

Birdie said...

new poster--yay Kate!

Also, I *love* Platform 9 3/4. I have one or two pictures of various friends being silly at the 9 3/4 they've actually constructed now. (well, it's just a push trolley that looks halfway into a brick wall) *giggle*

I'm all down for Potter settings in the new year! *puts on thinking cap*...I've already done Spinner's End....perhaps the pub at Hogsmeade? hmmmmm

Belfry Bat said...

There are at least two pubs in Hogsmeade.

Enbrethiliel said...


Birdie: You know, I was just thinking that Potter-heads must be going to King's Cross Station all the time and trying to walk through the barrier. =P

Now I'm reminded of the Tripod that was erected in Woking, Surrey in honour of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. It was where my favourite professor grew up, and since Wells just happened to be his favourite SF writer, he would bid his mother goodbye everyday by saying, "I'm off to the sand pits to look at the Martians"--or something like that.

England must be such a wonderful place for lovers of literature!

Bat: I've just finished The Prisoner of Azkaban and realised that while Rowling has given us a really great wizarding world, we might have to portion out her most memorable settings. The different rooms and passageways in Hogwarts, for instance--or the different establishments in Hogsmeade. Unless, of course, we turn out to be another small, intimate party and RSVP in advance! =)

Birdie said...

Belfry Bat--you're right, of course CLEARLY I need to read the books again!

Enbrethiliel--We might indeed have to parcel out bits of Hogwarts. I'll just be over here in the dungeons taking a nap in Prof. Snape's quarters. LOL.

I LOVE the story about the prof. with the Wells interest! Life is so fun that way, isn't it?

PS--I have a friend who refers to the bathroom as the "Room of Requirement" ROFL

Enbrethiliel said...


Speaking of Rooms of Requirement, I was thinking of rooms I wouldn't want to read about and instantly came up with Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. LOL! Poor Myrtle . . . But it's her own fault, really. =P

On the other hand, the Prefects' Bathroom is a shoo-in!

Belfry Bat said...

It's funny in that in old times "the necessary" has also been a euphemism for generalized latrines.

Enbrethiliel said...


Hmmmmmm! This conversation is making me wonder what kind of results a "Rooms of Requirement" challenge would yield. =P

But given that a certain scene from Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting is coming to me now, perhaps I'd better not risk it? (LOL!)