This episode, we discuss: evolving friend dynamics; Snape gets around; Neville is a badass; rabbit holes; Medieval Elvis; my incredible overarching theory of the series OMG; principles of alchemy; why the Sorcerer’s Stone, both the book and the object, are the keys to the entire series; the four stages of creating a Sorcerer’s Stone; color schemes; Jungian theories of individuation; literary aneurysms; Hagrid is just all around ill-advised; and the ‘alternative facts’ of Hermione Granger.
Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel
S: I’m warning you all, we’re going down a serious internet rabbit hole on this chapter once we cover the main events. So prepare yourself. Deep breaths, maybe do some stretches.
They find out that Snape is refereeing the upcoming Quidditch match. Why? Was he worried about Quirrell? Was it Dumbledore’s idea?
C: I hadn’t considered that. We know Snape is suspicious of Quirrell, so Dumbledore must be too. They know something is fishy and have got to be almost certain of who was jinxing Harry, so I guess Snape can be a sneaky, not obvious bodyguard? Except it is incredibly obvious.
S: Maybe they think if he tries anything with Harry’s broom Snape would be in a good position to handle it. You mentioned, also, that at this point they don’t have a real reason to think that what Quirrell’s up to has anything to do with Voldemort. They’re suspicious, but he could be under the Imperius Curse.
C: Yeah. You’d have to think it was something like that, and instead of arresting him they want to see where he goes and follow the trail back, and in so doing they are incredibly cavalier with student safety and miss out on a chance to do what they could have done with slimy back-of-the-head Voldemort. Although let’s say they had caught him, alive with Voldemort. Obviously they couldn’t kill Voldemort, but would there have been a way to keep his essence trapped in Quirrell and locked down somewhere until they could figure out what the hell to do?
S: I have no idea. If Voldemort is capable of possessing whoever he wants because he’s alive in an incorporeal form, how do you contain essence of Voldemort? As far as the plot’s concerned it’s a damn good thing they didn’t figure it out, because nobody in the wizarding world even knows how to lock a door! They’d be fucked!
C: That’s an excellent point. They would be.
S: Meanwhile, the trio thinks they’re fucked with Snape refereeing. Ron: “Pretend to break your leg! No, really break your leg!” Then Neville comes hopping through the portrait hole, under the Leg-Locker curse courtesy of Malfoy. Ron: “You gotta stand up to Malfoy.” Harry gives Neville his last chocolate frog, telling him, “You’re worth 12 of Malfoy.” And now we realize that without Hermione, the entire wizarding world would be doomed. Because without her having given Harry the frogs, he never would have had one to give Neville, who then kindly gives him the collectible card, which allows them to find — Nicolas Flamel! On that incredibly mundane bio on Dumbledore’s card!
So Hermione dashes off to bring back a book. We finally find out what the Stone is: produces the Elixir of Life, can turn any metal into gold. The only stone currently in existence belongs to Flamel and his wife Perenelle, who are both over 650 years old.
C: I would also like to comment on how enjoyable I find this exchange when Hermione rushes off and comes back with a book. “I got this out weeks ago for a bit of light reading?” Ron: “Light?” Then: “I knew it! I knew it!” Ron: “Are we allowed to speak yet?” And she tells them dramatically about the Sorcerer’s Stone. “This didn’t have quite the effect she expected. ‘The what?’ ‘Oh, honestly. Don’t you two read?’” I love that exchange because that is so indicative of their entire relationship as a group of friends.
S: It is perfect and you should love it. It’s great writing, and gives you a strong indication of who they are. So much personality in that exchange. So they’re not sure what to do about this. Meanwhile, Snape is in a terrible mood. Harry wonders if Snape knows about the stone – “he sometimes had the horrible feeling Snape could read minds.”
We get to the Quidditch game! We step away from Harry’s POV and find out that Ron and Hermione have been practicing the leg locker curse behind his back, in case they have to attack Snape. Already these “let’s leave Harry out of it” hijinks. It also makes me laugh that in Movie 3 Hermione yells at Harry for attacking a teacher. Whatever – Book 1 she was already planning to attack a teacher. She does not mess around!
C: She would have done it, too! She’s not afraid.
S: Oliver asks Harry to catch the Snitch ASAP. Then Fred points out that Dumbledore came to watch the game. Part of me wondered why – concern over Snape’s behavior, maybe checking on Harry?
C: Dumbledore just felt like a spot of Quidditch that day.
S: Up in the stands, Malfoy is being an asshat because he’s secretly jealous of this group of friends – “You shone, you know?”
C: OH GOOD GOD.
S: He’s making fun of the Gryffindor team, saying the only people who make the team are bad at something.
C: And funnily enough, the only way he makes it on the team next year is through his dad buying everybody new brooms.
S: Projection much? Neville defends himself to Malfoy using Harry’s compliment to him. “I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy!” AWWWWWWWW NEVILLE. Ron, not looking away: “You tell him, Neville!” Barely in the game, Harry’s going for the Snitch, Malfoy makes one last crack about the Weasleys, and Ron is like, “Fuck this!” Ron tackles Malfoy, Neville goes in too, everyone’s fighting, Hermione screaming for Harry to hurry up, who then catches the Snitch in under 5 minutes! Now Gryffindor’s in the lead. Dumbledore pats Harry on the back. Everyone is headed back to the common room, and Harry sees Snape and follows him on broom. Oh look, it’s Snape and Quirrell, having a rendezvous.
S: NOT SEXY.
C: I thought Snape belonged with Filch! And here he is, running around on him.
S: Snape gets with whoever! He asks Quirrell about getting past Fluffy, and is Intimidating Quirrell. Depending on your pre-existing opinion of Snape, you can hear two different things here, which I appreciate. Rowling always handled Snape skillfully so that you could read him multiple ways depending on what you think. We know what Harry thinks, and it just verifies what he thinks. So he goes back up to the castle and finds Ron, who has a black eye, and hears that Neville is still out cold from taking on Crabbe and Goyle single handedly. Little first year Neville tried to take Crabbe and Goyle BY HIMSELF. Neville is the man.
Harry sneaks off with Hermione and Ron to tell what he heard. They figure this means there are things guarding the stone, and Snape’s trying to break through. And if it only is safe while Quirrell stands up to Snape? Ron: “It’ll be gone by next Tuesday!”
Now, I have a rabbit hole we need to go down! Are you ready for this?
C: I don’t know if I can handle it!
S: You may not, because I couldn’t! There were moments of me making serious squeaking sounds at my computer that I’m really glad no one else could hear as my brain tried to process the sheer fantasticness of all this.
I had heard of Nicolas Flamel outside of the series, but I didn’t know much about alchemy beyond the idea that it’s supppsed to let you turn lead into gold, something like that. So apparently Flamel did exist, with his wife Perenelle. He was an author, scholar, maybe dabbled in alchemy a bit, but basically Flamel was the Medieval Elvis. After he died, he got turned into this urban legend where people were convinced, no, he wasn’t really dead, he had succeeded in making a sorcerer’s stone and was alive somewhere! And no one really knows why that happened, but he became this legendary figure.
As I was researching, I formed a theory: the entire series, or at the very least the major cornerstone books – 1, 4, 7, which are the cornerstones for Harry’s arc, leaving out stuff with Draco and Harry’s family – that tell the arc of how Harry survived in the beginning and what allows him to survive again – that entire thing centers around the sorcerer’s stone.
This book is the linchpin that makes that whole thing work. If you’d asked me about that before I would not have said that, because while I liked this book, I didn’t realize how important it was. But now I know. And now you’re going to know too, because I’m going to tell you.
Texts exist showing how to make a stone, but the steps are either obscure or impossible, and there is one text called Mutus Liber that is a pictographic book on alchemy. But there are also symbols, and there is an alchemical symbol that in itself represents the creation of the sorcerer’s stone. It also doubles to symbolize the achievement of the impossible. The process is often referred to as “squaring the circle.” It looks like this:
C: Why doesn’t the triangle get name checked?
S: I don’t know.
C: That is shapeism, and I’m not okay with it. We have let shapeism go unchecked too long in this country, and it’s time to say no. I am saying no, right here and now, on this podcast!
S: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we take a stand against shapeism! It might be an unpopular one, but we will take it, because someone has to stand for the triangles of this world! Aside from Beyonce and the Illuminati.
C: Oh my god, you’re so right.
S: Maybe that’s why it’s not name checked. It’s an Illuminati conspiracy. It all makes sense now.
But NO! This symbol looks remarkably like the symbol of the Deathly Hallows, which symbolized the Hallows quest. That symbol looked like this:
The 3 elements of that symbolized the 3 Hallows, Cloak, Stone and Wand. They also symbolize the attributes. Wand = power, Stone = quest / ties to people, and the Cloak = protection and knowledge. The say the person who unites the Hallows masters death, but we also learn that it takes a very unique person to unite them. So it’s fitting that the symbol has its roots in THIS symbol, which symbolizes both the Sorcerer’s Stone and a symbol of the impossible.
The final stage of creating a stone was in fact considered the magnum opus, or great work. Now, that’s step 1. I HAVE SO MUCH MORE.
Let’s go back to the Deathly Hallows symbol. I started looking at more alchemical symbols for things and I found 3 interesting symbols. One was for antimony, a lustrous gray metalloid, and the symbol looks like this:
The symbol for stone, literally, is this:
The symbol for sulfur, an element associated with transformation and change, is this:
So put those together and you basically have the Deathly Hallows symbol by uniting these three mundane elements – antimony, a reactant, so power; a stone symbol; and sulfur. It’s brilliant! My brain is running circles around itself and it’s about to collapse in a puddle, because I’ve got MORE!
C: I’m overwhelmed! I’m being washed away by this tidal wave of knowledge!
S: WELL, START TREADING WATER, BABY. Inflate your floaties. Because we’ve got more! There are 4 stages in the process to create the stone. They have Latin names, and are correlated with colors.
Stage 1: nigredo (blackness), which symbolizes putrefaction and physical or spiritual death.
Stage 2: albedo (whiteness), which symbolizes purification.
Stage 3: citrinitas (yellowness), symbolizes solar, the dawn, awakening
Stage 4: rubedo (red), which is symbolized by blood, a rose, a crowned king, or a phoenix
Obviously the fact that the phoenix is associated with the final stage of creating and achieving a sorcerer’s stone is huge.
But what blew my mind and led me to the connection theory – jump ahead to Deathly Hallows, which I know you don’t remember well. The last 4 chapters of Deathly Hallows are pretty much THIS PROCESS. And the colors are the same! She heavily relies on color in those last few chapters of the book. To the extent that, even if it was accidental, it’s an incredibly fortuitous coincidence.
Stage 1: blackness, death. Harry enters the forest in the middle of the night to be killed, surrounded by blackness and dark imagery.
Stage 2: whiteness, purification. Harry wakes up in a bright white room, which he later sees as King’s Cross station. This is where he meets Dumbledore and they talk.
Stage 3: yellow, dawn, awakening. Harry is carried back to the castle as the sun starts coming up, and she describes a slow brightening of dawn.
Finally, stage 4, symbolized by the phoenix: redness. Even on the cover, the original Mary Grand-Pre cover is very orange, but I recall in that last description the color from the sunrise is flooding the scene. I recall descriptions of this deep color from the sunrise coloring the scene as Harry and Voldemort face off.
It is uncanny. And so much of 7 is tied into the sorcerer’s stone!
We know she loves ring theory, or chiasmus. This blew my mind.
C: Knowing what we know about J.K. Rowling, I’m going to guess it was done purposely.
S: I would be willing to say so. We know she has a deep knowledge of mythology, lore, medieval history and esoteric things. I find it hard to believe that she would write a book about the sorcerer’s stone, that is such a linchpin – the founding book of her series – and not know about how a sorcerer’s stone is made. So I don’t believe it is coincidence, especially the transition from black to white. I remember being jarred by the King’s Cross chapter the first time I read it, because it seemed off. I had to read it a few times to grasp why it fit.
Later on, Carl Jung took these 4 stages and created a model of attaining individuation. Stage 1 (blackness) he called Persona, where people where a social mask designed to conceal their true nature and appeal to others. So basically the stage of social acceptability, but you haven’t achieved the full understanding of who you are.
C: Also known as junior high.
S: Yes. Stage 2 (whiteness) is Ego, cloaking the id with rationality, delaying gratification in order to function, conscious awareness and memory coming to bear on a person learning to separate what is real and not real, and learning to make sense of the world.
C: Also known as college.
S: And at the end of the King’s Cross chapter in Deathly Hallows, Harry asks Dumbledore, “Is this real? Or has this all been happening inside my head?” And that’s the chapter where Harry gets all his answers from Dumbledore, sorts out what was real, the truth.
Stage 3 (yellow) is shadow, an aspect of personality in which the conscious self begins to recognize the unconscious. It’s like once you’ve learned to function, you’re becoming self-aware, it’s like metacognition, awakening to a deeper self but not fully there.
C: Also called mid life crisis. I’m going to take this as far as I can go.
S: Finally, you achieve individuation at the red stage, the Self: a unification of outward and inward understanding, at which point a person truly solidifies in their understanding of “me,” “I” as an individual. That final stage for Harry – it is only after Voldemort tries and fails to kill him, inadvertently killing the Horcrux in Harry, that he is ever truly himself. It is the first point where he’s finally free of Voldemort and is truly, completely Harry Potter, and only Harry Potter.
C: Except that he’s really not, because in Cursed Child he can speak Parseltongue.
S: FUCK YOU CURSED CHILD. Harry is not a Horcrux anymore! Okay. So that’s Harry achieving complete individuation. And again, we come back to this notion of uniting the selves – subject and object in the mirror – Harry unites them in the end of Sorcerer’s stone when he achieves the impossible and unites the aspects of himself. He does the same thing at the end of Deathly Hallows, but to a much greater degree. So what is the Self stage?
C: Retirement age with a Viagra prescription.
S: Is it the stage where you finally stop giving a fuck, and start doing, saying and wearing what you want, and tell people to go soak their heads when they ignore you? Is it the cool, crazy grandma stage?
C: Yeah, let’s go with that one. You can be outlandish and people can handwave it as “Early onset dementia, ignore grandma.”
S: Interestingly, Jung said there could be an intermediary stage before realizing the Self that was linked to gender, that could be seen in the figure of a masculine initiator and guardian, a wise older man, or a female figure, called mana. These figures of a collective unconsciousness allow you to overcome psychic splitting, bring halves together, provide wisdom and guidance, but can also relate to gender identity and roles. You certainly do have that embodiment of wise old man and guardian in Dumbledore, who guides Harry through this process.
But yes, gold and red and phoenixes are all associated with the final creation of a Sorcerer’s Stone. All of this was a total mindfuck, but in a good way.
C: It’s part of what makes these books so good!
S: Yeah. And I liked this line from the 17th century: “The idea of the sorcerer’s stone is that the first matter of the stone is the very same as the first matter of all things.” That made me think of “I open at the close,” the circular nature of this whole thing for Harry, and how the beginning of the series is the same as the final matter of it and the overall construct of this entire epic saga.
C: At least until we get to Cursed Child.
S: Cursed Child did not happen. It was a nightmare Harry Potter had after too much firewhiskey and Every Flavor Beans. It was awful, because he dreamed he had a horrible, douchey, closeted son who reset time and wanted to see his father die, didn’t change at all, and was horrible. Thank god it wasn’t real.
C: But aren’t you glad I made you do that one first so we didn’t have to end on that note?
S: You’re right. Because looking at the incredible detail and complexity of this series, if I’d had to go on to Cursed Child I might have literally bashed my head against a wall.
C: You would have had an aneurysm for sure.
S: That would be very inconvenient! And I’m not sure my insurance covers literature induced aneurysms.
So that’s my awesome, crazy rabbit hole, and I loved every moment of it.
Now, let’s end on something funny!
Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
S: I have to squeak every time I say Norbert’s name. I don’t know why.
C: Oh, Hagrid. You need help. You need counseling.
S: Yeah, he has issues. His obsession with dangerous animals is to an extent a form of self-love – he loves the things that seem dangerous and scary that no one else loves, like himself, so it’s a form of self-acceptance – but he also thinks they’re cool. But as Hermione says: “Hagrid, you live in a wooden house.”
Exams are coming up, Hermione is nagging the boys with color-coded schedules. They keep checking on Fluffy and Quirrell, both of which are hanging in there, so they figure it’s okay. They’re coming up on exams, and they meet Hagrid in the library, who is sneaking out a book. They let Hagrid know they know about Nicolas Flamel and the Stone, “but we do have questions,” and Hagrid is all, SHUT UP NOT HERE. And they see what he’s looking for – books about dragons. From Egg to Inferno.
Ron knows this stuff. Stupid fucking Cursed Child authors. He knows about dragon breeding outlawed by the Warlocks Convention of 1789 and the different dragon breeds. They go to the cabin, which is really hot for some reason. And Hermione lays on the charm to get Hagrid to say “Who Dumbledore had trusted enough to help him, apart from you.”
C: OH, God.
S: Hagrid’s too easy. So he tells him who protected the stone: Hagrid, Sprout, Flitwick, Quirrell, McGonagall, Snape, Dumbledore himself. And then we learn why the hut is so hot: there’s a giant black egg in the fire under the kettle.
C: It’s just all so ill-advised!
S: He won it in a game of cards drinking with a stranger in the pub. He’s been reading up on how to raise it. “Now they had something else to worry about – what might happen to Hagrid if anyone found out he was hiding an illegal dragon in his hut. “I wonder what it’s like to have a peaceful life?” Ron sighed.”
Hagrid sends a note about it hatching, and Malfoy overhears them talking about it. They rush down to the hut and see baby Norbert hatch.
“Bless him, he knows his mummy!” But Malfoy saw through the window. Then he sits on that information, letting them know he knows. Meanwhile Hagrid is getting attached to the dragon, who has tripled in size in a week.
C: I’m like McGonagall. “Really, Dumbledore? REALLY?”
S: Why, Hagrid? Then Harry has an idea about Ron’s brother Charlie – maybe we could send him Norbert since he studied dragons. They send him an owl. Ron comes up to the common room later, yelling about how Norbert bit him and Hagrid told him off for frightening it. “And when I left he was singing it a lullaby.”
Charlie agrees to take the dragon. They will use the cloak to get him up there. But the problem is Ron’s bite is swelling and green, they take him up to Pomfrey, and while he’s up there alone Malfoy comes around to intimidate him, and then takes Ron’s book with Charlie’s letter in it. So now they’re really screwed.
C: CHILDREN. You act like this is the first time you have done this. And technically it is since it’s the first book, but I am still disappointed!
S: I find it funny that the first real interaction we’ve seen with Malfoy and books is him taking a book from Ron to have an excuse to mess with someone, giving him information he can use as leverage. But it’s to late to change the plan. They go around to see Hagrid. “When they told him about the letter his eyes filled with tears – although that might have been because Norbert had just bitten him on the leg.” Hagrid crates Norbert up with rats and brandy and a teddy bear, which Norbert rips up. They get the crate up the highest tower.
C: They have learned Wingardium Leviosa. Can they not just levitate the crate?
S: That seems logical. Maybe they weren’t confident in their ability to direct it up stairs? But it’s a good thing they’re invisible, because they run across McGonagall dragging Malfoy inside. He went to tell her about Harry sneaking out for a dragon, which she doesn’t believe. Charlie’s friends show up, they rig Norbert up and get him out, head back down – and run into Filch, where they realize they’ve left the Invisibility Cloak at the top of the tower.
C: That is the worst. I am disappointed in Harry, I am deeply disappointed in Hermione.
S: Of all the things to do, how do you do THAT?
C: To be fair, I guess this actually makes her terrible security choices in Cursed Child not seem so ludicrous, since we have proof that she can be irresponsible and dumb.
S: BULLSHIT! SHE’S 11! She grows out of it. Later on she saves their asses over and over again with her clever security measures. Nope, you cannot convince me that Cursed Child was justified. That was a hatchet job on Hermione put together by anti-Ministry propagandists trying to destabilize her term as Minister.
C: It was an “alternative view” of Hermione Granger as Minister.
S: But that gets us through Chapter 14, and to the end of our lengthy, philosophical discussion this week!
C: Next week, can we get back to the broom sex stuff? Because that’s really what I’m here for, is stuff like that.
S: We can try. If you can look ahead for next week and find something you can make into dirty commentary, I’m happy to get on that train with you.
C: I can find something to work with, I’m sure.
S: I trust you to find a dirty joke in anything.
C: I am a master of my craft!
S: So next time: The Forbidden Forest, Through the Trap Door, and then The Man With Two Faces. We might be able to finish next week!
C: Oh my god, then it means it’s time to watch the movie. I had forgotten we were going to do that.
S: Yes! Then we will figure out our Drunk Potterwatch. Yeah, but – we’ll figure it out. Either way, I hope everyone will join us. We can’t record audio of the movie itself, but you’ll hear our commentary as we watch. That way we don’t get sued unto oblivion by Warner Brothers / J.K. Rowling. We have nothing to give them, other than our brilliant minds. It would be a lost cause.
C: That would be bad. Other than free publicity that they don’t need.
S: That’s true. I’ll be having you represent me in court. Well, until next week, I am Professor Seraphine –
C: I am Professor Creed –
S: And we will see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies!