This week, we discuss: the return of Gigantic Fucking Spiders; the eternal question – is Snape acting, or just a dick?; we found the remedy for misuse of Petrificus Totalus; Ernie “Hot Take” Macmillan; Lockhart the useful idiot; impassioned Ron rules; wizards need Mag-Lites; Hagrid’s judgment is questionable at best; Arachne and Athena; the sexist history of spider lore; Japanese prostitute spiders; disturbing realizations that acromantulas might as well exist; the universality of spiders in mythology; what was Hagrid’s plan, exactly?; the Voldemort of the animal world; the sentient Ford Anglia; and the well-camouflaged Moaning Myrtle.
CONTENT WARNING: If you have arachnophobia, or are otherwise freaked out by photos and illustrations of large spiders, maybe stick with the audio version of this episode — the transcript includes many pics you may find unwelcome.
S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies! We are nearing the end of Chamber of Secrets! It’s so exciting! And we are going to talk so much! And I am so sorry.
C: That’s what you’re here for, though.
S: Yeah, you are the masochist. So we try to oblige you. Today we’re tackling Chapter 15: Aragog.
Before we get started, I have to do this because it’s me. This week I saw two movies: I saw that King Arthur movie that you and I previously said looked hilariously awful.
C: Whoever did the marketing for that should be fired, because it looks godawful.
S: It was astonishingly fun! I enjoyed pretty much every minute. It wasn’t a thinker by any means, it was just fun! Hans Zimmer had a lot of fun with the music, I personally enjoy Guy Ritchie’s style, so as far as a fun, crazy romp you don’t need to think about, with good visuals and good music – no arguments from me!
I also saw Alien: Covenant, which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since. I don’t care what people say – I loved it. So I’ve been on a thinky cloud ever since.
C: I’ve never seen any of the Alien movies because I don’t like scary things.
S: I can understand that. I hadn’t watched them before Prometheus, which I went to see because it looked intriguing. I was summarily intrigued, even though pretty much all the characters were too dumb to survive. Stupidity aside, I did like the movie. So I went back and watched all the old Alien movies. Some are good, some are the worst. Alien: Resurrection may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.
C: You’ve seen Transformers movies! I object.
S: They’re bad in different ways. Transformers is lazy, dumb teenage boy fare. Alien: Resurrection was a special kind of fucked up. I’ve even seen Alien vs. Predator. But Covenant, in my opinion, was great and brought a much-needed creep factor. So if that’s your thing, go see it. And if you’re a Michael Fassbender fan like me – GO SEE IT, because he’s amazing. That’s my segue done.
Chapter 15: Aragog
S: Subtitled: Gigantic Fucking Spiders, because that’s what this is. I mean, really.
C: It’s nightmare fuel.
S: I just… am running out of words. We start in a different place from the movie. I appreciated that in the movie they sped things up, whereas in the book, this takes a lot longer. Now it’s summer, and Hagrid has been gone for a while.
Harry and Ron can’t visit Hermione now, because visitors are barred from the hospital wing out of fear that the Heir of Slytherin will come finish everyone off.
C: Meanwhile, Hermione ‘s parents have no idea this is going on.
S: They have no idea their daughter is in a coma.
C: Everybody’s parents! I know I banged that drum last episode, but really.
S: It’s important!
C: I didn’t notice it at all reading these books, but now that I’m older and I have more children in my life, I’m like, what the fuck?
S: I didn’t think about it either when I was younger. But Dumbledore has been gone for a while too. Everything is messed up, and Harry and Ron are trying to carry on.
C: Speaking of people not knowing things – and I can’t believe I didn’t make this point in the last episode – the 12 governors of the school, Lucius Malfoy and the 11 Ottaline Gambols – voted to remove Dumbledore from the school. That’s got to be something that makes the news, right? People would know about it? That makes it worse that nobody knows.
S: I’m astonished that the Daily Prophet is not down here trying to find out what’s up. Oops.
Meanwhile, Harry and Ron are trying to puzzle out what Dumbledore meant when he blew out of there talking about loyalty, people finding help at Hogwarts. They can’t put it together. Even the thing with the spiders – all the spiders have buggered on out, and it’s hard to go looking for them because everywhere they go they have to be followed by teachers, escorted by someone. It’s annoying.
Malfoy seems pleased by the turn of events – he’s strutting around, gloating about how his father is the one who got rid of Dumbledore after all this time. Screw you, Malfoy, you had nothing to do with it. If it came down to it, Dumbledore could win the Ottaline Gambols to his side. He left of his own free will.
C: It’s true.
S: This scene is slightly odd, where Malfoy is gloating about how they’ll get a great headmaster. They’re in Potions, and he starts sucking up to Snape about how he should get the headmaster’s job. Snape is smirking about all this. It made me wonder how much of what Snape does from day to day is acting, and how much of it is him being a dick. It’s hard to tell sometimes. Pretty sure he’s not pleased that Dumbledore is gone.
C: No, because I’m sure he’s smart enough to figure out that there’s something around with the capability of killing people. And whatever you think of a person, if they are capable of keeping you alive, you’re going to be upset if that person is taken away.
S: I don’t think Snape is happy about this at all. But he plays his part well. I have a soft spot for this next moment where Malfoy is talking trash about Mudbloods –
“I bet you five galleons the next one dies. It’s a pity it wasn’t Granger.”
I love this line, because the boys have to hold on to Ron as he says,
“I don’t care, I don’t need my wand, I’m going to kill him with my bare hands.”
C: You go, Ron!
S: This is why I love Ron. He’s so loyal and impassioned, and I love that about him.
C: And then Hermione makes him be polite in the Cursed Child.
S: Maybe it’s foreplay. Anyway, Snape takes them to Herbology where everyone is subdued because two of their classmates are missing – Justin and Hermione. They’re trimming Abyssinian shrivelfigs, which – what the fuck is an Abyssinian shrivelfig? It sounds…unpleasant.
C: It’s what you take when you have Petrificus Totalus’ed your penis and it’s gone on too long.
S: It’s the four-hour remedy?
C: It is! It’s important to have around.
S: Well, that made that line read differently.
C: You’re welcome.
S: Upsides – Ernie Macmillan, it’s about damn time you’ve decided to stop being an ass. He’s come around to apologize, and what finally convinced him was Hermione getting attacked. He tells Harry he knows he would never attack Hermione, and he’s sorry about all the crap he said. Which, good on you, Ernie, for being able to suck it up and say I’m wrong, I’m sorry, I hope we can be friends. Hufflepuffs can be snotty but they’re also kind of awesome in that they can come around and apologize. Go, Hufflepuffs, go.
C: Unlike Malfoy, who apparently the entire time they were at Hogwarts really only wanted to be part of the trio, because “It’s exceptionally lonely, being Draco Malfoy.”
S: That’s going to be the tagline of this podcast.
C: I hate that play. It does have some inadvertently good lines, though.
S: “Being a lonely child – you may not understand that, Harry. But Tom Riddle understood it. And I do too.”
Okay, okay, if we go back we’ll never get anything good done. So good on Ernie and Hannah Abbott, who are now hanging out with Harry and Ron talking about who they think might be the Heir of Slytherin. Ernie comes in with the hot take that it might be Malfoy. Ron: “That’s clever of you.” He’s very annoyed at Ernie.
C: Ernie “Hot Take” Macmillan. Currently hosting an afternoon debate show on ESPN.
S: Yeah, that’s going to stick. But on the upside, we see spiders! Which is never something anyone will ever say in real life! But yes, there are several spiders marching single file across the grounds. Ron tries to look pleased, but fails. They can’t follow right now, but Harry can see where they are headed – the Forbidden Forest. And where else would they be headed? I mean, really.
C: Of course.
S: The movie clips along at a much faster speed – Dumbledore leaves, Hagrid leaves, and they march into the Forbidden Forest to find the spiders all in one night. In the novel, though, it takes them some tie to sort out exactly what they’re doing here. They’re trying to formulate a plan. They’ll have to use the Cloak and go into the forest to try to find the spiders. Whatever is happening, they’ve got to sort it out.
Poor Ron, he’s trying to stall but it’s not going to happen. And I like that they point out that Ron has never been in the Forbidden Forest. In the movie verse he has been there before, so when he’s freaking out the second time it makes less sense. Although I guess this time it’s the spiders.
C: I can’t blame him.
S: It’s okay, though. Everything is going to be okay. Do you know why it’s going to be okay?
C: Because Lockhart is here.
S: Buoyant! Bounding into the room! Speaking slowly to everyone as though they’re dim!
“Don’t you people realize that the danger is past? The culprit has been taken away!”
I love Dean here: “SAYS WHO?”
Says me, obviously! Oh, Lockhart, you condescending asswipe.
“The Ministry wouldn’t have taken Hagrid if they hadn’t been one hundred percent sure that he was guilty.”
C: Because that’s how governments work.
S: That’s right! They never do things they’re not sure are correct. They never do things they know full well aren’t correct and choose to do anyway! NO.
C: That never happens.
S: Lockhart certainly wouldn’t so such a thing, so why would the government? Ugh. I love that Harry is like, you know what, no. We all hate Lockhart and he’s an idiot, but he’s going to be our useful idiot.
Ron starts to talk back, but Harry is kicking him under the desk. Harry is so irritated with Lockhart, he “wanted to throw Gadding with Ghouls right in his stupid face.”
C: Well, who can blame him?
S: No! Instead, he contents himself with scrawling a note to Ron: “Let’s do it tonight.”
Ron read the message, swallowed hard, and looked sideways at the empty seat usually filled by Hermione. The sight seemed to stiffen his resolve, and he nodded.
Ron is such a badass, and is willing to do something that terrifies him because he loves his friends. How you could come away from this series and not think Ron is awesome, I don’t understand.
C: This book? Or the entire series? He’s mostly awesome. Occasionally not.
S: They’re all occasionally not. Even Hermione.
C: Let’s be honest. The only person in this series who is flawless and without blame is – OTTALINE GAMBOL.
S: Because she gave the Trolley Witch her job! How her honor could be in question in any way is beyond me.
C: Oh, god. I will never let this joke go, you guys. Just prepare yourselves.
S: Ottaline Gambol will be with us every step of the way through this journey. She is with us forever.
C: It’s true.
S: They’re going to do this tonight. They have to hang out in the common room for a while which sucks because everyone is there, because no one can go anywhere. They’re up till midnight before they can sneak out to the grounds. Poor Ron is so hopeful:
“Maybe we’ll get there and there won’t be anything to find!”
Sure, Ron. Because that’s how these books work. You enter the forest, and there’s never anything interesting happening there. It’s boring. Like the lake.
C: The only thing that ever happens at the lake that’s interesting is watching Fred, George, and Lee Jordan tickle the tentacles of the Giant Squid, or whatever it is.
S: Well, they reach Hagrid‘s hut and open the door.
C: Has anyone been feeding Fang?
S: That’s what I was just about to ask! Has anyone been letting him out? He’s going mad with joy at the sight of them. And then they feed him treacle toffee. I just picture him smacking his lips like dogs do with peanut butter.
C: I know, it’s so cute.
S: Poor Fang. The first thing he does is run out to pee. Please, SOMEONE tell me they’ve been letting this dog out, because Hagrid has been gone a long time. Tell me they assigned a house-elf to this.
C: Who was the Care of Magical Creatures teacher? They should take care of it.
S: They better have been. We get our moment where they see the spiders. Goddammit. Two solitary spiders. Fine. We’re headed in.
I liked in the movie the way that as they go in, the spiders gradually get bigger. I’m not sure which would be scarier – having them slowly get bigger, which gives you an impending sense of, “Oh, FUCK,” or the way it happens in the book where they’re following small spiders and then all of a sudden find big ones.
C: I think it’s worse in the book because they keep having to stop, crouch down and find them again. And the thing about Lumos is – it doesn’t seem to illuminate a whole hell of a lot. I want to say, Harry, sometimes there are things the Muggle world does better than the wizarding world, and one of those things is called a Mag-Lite. Get one.
S: Yes! An excellent choice in this situation. You wouldn’t have to keep bending down, and you’d have a heavy-duty flashlight to whack things with.
C: It serves dual purposes.
S: They’ve gone pretty deep in the forest, walked about half an hour. This forest is gigantic. And then they hear something big…it’s about to pounce…it’s getting closer… it’s the car!
We finally meet the car again, which seems to have recognized Ron. The forest has turned it wild, and apparently, it doesn’t need fuel because it’s been trundling around the forest for months.
C: I thought about that!
S: I guess Mr. Weasley magicked it so it wouldn’t need fuel? Seems kind of odd.
C: No, it seems smart. Because can you imagine Mr. Weasley going to a gas station and trying to fill it up?
S: Oh no. Trying to operate a gas pump?
C: And he would have to pay in Muggle money as well. He doesn’t have a credit card.
S: Disaster all around. I like that it seems to have remembered them, though. Harry: We’ve lost the trail, we need to move on, but poor Ron is frozen in terror – because there’s a Gigantic Fucking Spider THAT PICKS THEM UP AND LIFTS THEM OFF THE GROUND AND CARRIES THEM INTO THE FOREST. I always forget when I read this book that that happens. And then it happens, and I freak out imagining spider pincers around my waist hauling me into the forest.
C: It would be worse if it was cockroaches, though.
S: One has picked up Ron, one has Fang, one has Harry. Ugh.
C: Let’s move on.
S: Sure, let’s move on – deeper into the forest, where there are spiders the size of carthorses! It’s a massive nest of the worst day of your entire existence!
Hagrid…. Your judgment, Hagrid, we have to talk about it. Having one Gigantic Fucking Spider is one thing. Finding another one so that said Gigantic Fucking Spider can mate and have millions of other Gigantic Fucking Spiders – there’s a point where your judgment has broken down.
C: I wonder how long it would take for the spiders to multiply enough that they have to move on from the Forbidden Forest to find enough to eat.
S: You know they have to eat each other.
S: I know I’m being Nature Channel about it, but you know it has to happen.
And this is where we meet Aragog – a spider the size of a small elephant with 8 blind eyes. He’s old, he’s gone kind of gray. Hagrid – just, no.
His name, Aragog, has a nice reference to arachnid and Arachne, the most famous spider in Greek mythology. Are you familiar with the Arachne story?
C: I am not.
S: Arachne was a weaver, very talented, and she was a normal average woman. There are various stories – some say that Arachne got haughty and challenged Athena to a weaving contest — Athena, being the goddess of wisdom and handicrafts. So these two ladies decide to sit down and have a big sew-off. Some version say Arachne won, and others say Athena won. The one I remember said Arachne won and Athena got pissed, because not only did this mortal challenge her, but she won.
So Athena transformed her into a spider that would always weave.
I’m not sure how that solves the problem?
C: Well, if you like it so much, Arachne, do it for the rest of your life.
S: Here’s the version from Ovid’s Metamorphosis:
When Athena saw that Arachne had not only insulted the gods, but done so with a work far more beautiful than Athena’s own, she was enraged. She ripped Arachne’s work into shreds, and hit her on the head three times. In rage, Arachne hanged herself. Then Athena said “‘Live on then, and yet hang, condemned one, but, lest you are careless in future, this same condition is declared, in punishment, against your descendants, to the last generation!’ After saying this she sprinkled her with the juice of Hecate’s herb, and immediately at the touch of this dark poison, Arachne’s hair fell out. With it went her nose and ears, her head shrank to the smallest size, and her whole body became tiny. Her slender fingers stuck to her sides as legs, the rest is belly, from which she still spins a thread, and, as a spider, weaves her ancient web.”
C: So…. Athena bopped her on the head three times and then she killed herself?
C: Seems like an overreaction.
S: That thing about her hanging herself – that may be a variant version than the one I remember.
C: So then Athena brought her back to life to make her a spider?
S: Yes! She was like, “Oh-ho, nobody kills you but me!” She wouldn’t let her get away that easy. Brought her back to life, and decides she’ll hang for all eternity, while weaving as a horrible, ugly bug.
C: And she wouldn’t have had to go to the Underworld to get her soul back?
S: I guess not. And now we have lots of spiders, hip hip hooray!
So that’s where we get the word arachnid, because the taxonomical classification Arachnida, and names for spiders in Romance languages, derive from Arachne. So Aragog is definitely a nod to Arachne, and our words for spiders.
But I was researching giant spiders in literature and folklore, and you know what I kept coming across? Seems like every time there was a Gigantic Fucking Spider in lore, it’s almost always a woman. In fact, in Dante’s Inferno there’s an amazing illustration of a half-woman, half-spider that I am going to totally put up because she still has boobs. I think she’s supposed to be Arachne, actually.
There’s a 16th century Chinese folk novel in which this Buddhist monk is trapped in a spider’s cave and bound by beautiful women and many children who are transformations of spiders.
But my favorite one is the spider princess in Japanese mythology, because it has to do with prostitute spiders.
C: Well, I mean.
S: I feel like we can’t in good conscience continue this discussion without pausing to consider prostitute spiders.
The Japanese Tsuchigumo is a mythical, supernatural creature faced by a legendary hero Minamoto no Raiko.
This creature could take on the appearance of a boy or a woman, and at one point he lures Minamoto in the guise of a young boy. He strikes out at him, and realizes he’s actually in a gigantic spider’s web with a gigantic spider.
There’s also Jorōgumo, which is a “prostitute spider that transforms into a seductive woman and attempts to seduce or perhaps marry passing samurai.” I don’t understand why she’s a prostitute spider if she’s just randomly seducing things – are they paying her? I feel like there’s a distinction there.
C: I mean, you know why only women are the spider monsters in these stories, right?
S: Because we trap men in our webs?
C: Because weaving is woman’s work, and there’s no way any self-respecting alpha male would be caught dead doing anything remotely like woman’s work. That would be entirely too emasculating. So they get to be centaurs, and we get to be spiders.
S: I guess. Spiders over and over again are female in these. Spiders are sexist in lore. The things they symbolize – some are good, some are bad, and the bad are always things that tend to get lumped together with women – cunning, deception, intrigue, patience, death. So of course the first spider arose from a woman way too proud of herself. And we can’t have that! So she got punished for being proud of her admittedly outstanding craftsmanship.
So fuck you very much, you can’t have that. In Indian and Egyptian mythology, again – females. In ancient India – a large spider weaves the web of the universe, and she’s female. Egyptian mythology has Naith, a spinner and weaver of destiny, and a hunter. In West African stories there’s Anansi, creation deity and trickster god.
North American – there’s a Hopi creation myth of a spider woman, goddess of the earth. A lot of feminine things.
Ancient Chinese culture loved spiders – they were lucky and brought happiness, which – it’s nice to know at least someone is okay with them.
There are also tons of interesting spider gods and spider art in South America, in Peruvian art, there’s the mysterious Nazca lines in southern Peru shaped like a giant spider.
C: OHHH! You know what those have to do with? Ancient Aliens and ley lines!
S: LEY LINES! I love it. Hey, I found a picture of the spider princess prostitute.
C: But have you heard about the Spider-Pig? How does it go? “Spider Pig, Spider Pig, doing whatever a Spider Pig does, does he swing from a web, no he can’t, he’s a pig, look out! Here comes Spider Pig!” I think it’s from the Simpsons.
S: I remember that. We seem universally fascinated by spiders, which makes sense. They’re objectively cool. I don’t want to get too close to them, but they can be amazing. And there are some gigantic spiders. There have been suggestions that acromantulas in the story were inspired by this particular type of spider that are really common in England and Wales, and people have a problem with them coming into their houses, — and they’re humongous! They’re like the size of dinner plates.
C: UGH! I thought shit like that only grew in Australia.
S: There are some in Australia too. I think they’re a different species. I’ve seen pictures of some of these – and apparently they’re not dangerous, just big and terrifying. And where I live, there is a type of spider like that. It’s gigantic, can be about the size of a dinner plate, they’re not dangerous, sometimes they will come inside but they generally live in the tops of trees, although my husband said he saw one wandering across a parking lot one day.
C: I hope he ran over it.
S: No, he didn’t, because they’re not dangerous. They just chill out and eat bugs and they’re not going to hurt you. They’re just big and creepy.
So if the acromantulas are a nod to that, that’s cool. Back before there was the Wizarding World in Orlando and the big Studio Tour, I went to see a traveling exhibit of Harry Potter costumes, sets, etc. in Chicago, and I got to see the Aragog spider they used in the set. And it was terrifying. And the longer I stood there, the more I was like, please get me out of here.
So – we have sexist spiders that are good at laying eggs, weaving, and are punished for being good at stuff. Good job, ladies.
C: What is the myth that talks about the web of fate or strings of fate, and they have those women who cut off your line and you die?
S: The Fates?
C: That makes me think of spiders – people’s lives dangling by strings.
S: I think that motif is fairly universal, because everyone deals with spiders, and we all have strong opinions about them – whether we find them fascinating or repellant, we all have strong opinions. I don’t know many people who are “meh” about them.
C: They eat bugs and do a lot of great things. I just don’t ever want to see them.
S: There’s just a lot of creation myths, the web of the world, weaving and cutting the strings – and spider webs are amazing and beautiful, and there are some incredible web constructions out there. It’s definitely something that Western society, at least, has enjoyed using against women, though, because why not?
But that’s not the case here. Aragog is definitely a dude spider. His voice annoys me in the movie.
C: It’s been so long since I’ve seen it I don’t remember.
S: I don’t know why. Some of the voice work in the early movies annoys me, like the voice of the Sorting Hat bugs me. It seems so off and not what I was expecting. But I understand that this would be hard to do, because in the book the spiders talk while clicking their pincers the entire time.
Oh, this is great! The spiders tell Aragog they’ve found men. Aragog: “Is it Hagrid?” “No, strangers.” “Well, kill them, I was sleeping!”
Thank god Harry thinks fast on his feet and shouts that they’re friends of Hagrid’s. At least that stops Aragog long enough to say, okay, that’s weird, Hagrid doesn’t send people here. Credit to Hagrid for never sending someone into this lair.
A seems upset when he learns that Hagrid is in trouble. They tell him that Hagrid has been taken to Azkaban, and Aragog is not happy with this. But he’s confused, saying, “That’s what happened before – they thought I was the monster, and that Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets.” Harry: “SO… you’re not the monster?” Apparently, this is offensive. Aragog: “Psshh! I wasn’t born here!” A traveler gave Aragog to Hagrid when he was an egg. Hagrid does have a knack for getting people to give him dangerous things.
As awesome as it is, it’s kind of sweet. Hagrid kept Aragog, took care of him, brought him scraps. Aragog:
“Hagrid is my good friend, and a good man.”
And as weird as it is that there is a breed of magical spiders that can talk to you, you can carry on a conversation with and become friends with – I guess in a monstrous sort of way, it’s nice?
C: You’d have a hard time, wouldn’t you think, taking your shoe off and smacking a spider on the wall if the spider was talking to you while you did it?
S: Yeah. See, me, I’m a sucker. I let spiders build webs around my house – and there are a lot of them. My whole back yard is one giant nest of spiders. But they’re those big garden spiders, and they’re not hurting me or anyone, they build high up and they make these cool domed nests. So as long as I don’t have to look too closely, I let them do their thing. So I like to think that if the spiders at my house could talk, they wouldn’t talk too much smack about me.
C: As long as they stay outside the house.
S: They do. The ones inside the house are the Daddy Long-legs. They’re everywhere. They like the corners. You get used to it.
C: Do you sleep with earplugs?
S: Some of the time.
C: I would all the time. You never know what’s going to crawl down your ear canal while you sleep.
S: And lay eggs?
C: I wouldn’t worry about eggs. I just know people in real life who had things go in their ears while they slept.
S: Ick. Well, anyway, Hagrid not only took care of Aragog when he was discovered and blamed for Moaning Myrtle’s death, Hagrid protected him, got him out of the castle. He lives in the forest, where Hagrid visits him. And then Hagrid found him a wife, so that he could have a family and thousands of children spiders.
C: Which is really the most quintessential Hagrid thing.
S: It really is.
C: The smart thing to do would be to send Aragog back to the distant land where he was born, and presumably could survive on his own in whatever climate he was meant to live in. But no, Hagrid decides, I’m going to keep you because I like you, I’ll just bring you a wife and you can have many, many children. And Hagrid probably finds it delightful.
S: I’m sure when he goes to visit he is charmed by the vast number of Aragog’s children, is so pleased to see him happy and thriving with his wonderful legacy. Hagrid must not know that the only reason the vast family has not eaten him a long time ago is because Aragog told them not to.
C: How does it go when Aragog dies?
S: In Book 6, when Aragog dies, Hagrid is very incensed and startled that they tried to attack him.
C: Oh, does that happen?
S: Yeah! He’s shocked. “Can you believe it?” Yes, Hagrid! Everyone can believe it! Everyone with a functioning brain except you! I love you, but we all know this!
But at least Harry is like, stay on point, stop getting distracted by the massive grove of spiders waiting to munch your guts.
“So, you never attacked anyone?” No. “Out of respect for Hagrid I never attacked a human.” The girl’s body was found in a bathroom, and Aragog was always kept in a cupboard. Harry: “Well, do you know what killed her? Because it’s back.” Aragog: “Yes. Yes, I do, because we are terrified of it, and I used to beg Hagrid to let me go.” Harry: “What is it?”
And this is where we find that whatever is in the castle is the Voldemort of the animal world! You might as well call it “That Which Must Not Be Named,” because they won’t speak it! It’s just like You-Know-Who! It’s unbelievably funny that this parallels that way. Aragog wouldn’t even tell Hagrid. Which is probably a good thing, because if he had, Hagrid would probably have tried to track it down and make it a pet.
C: Oh god, I hope not.
S: Aragog seems to be getting tired, Harry thinks maybe I shouldn’t press my luck, so we’ll just go! Aragog: “Nah, I don’t think so. My kids don’t kill Hagrid because I ask them to, but there are limits to what parents can ask of their kids, and you came of your own free will (even though my kids carried you here, but whatever) – so bye.”
I feel like we’re losing sight of the whole point of this, which is to help Hagrid! They’re here to help Hagrid! Why let them be killed?
C: He cannot deny them fresh meat!
S: “Even as he reached for his wand, Harry knew it was no good. There were too many of them. But as he tried to stand, ready to die fighting” – way to be badass, even at age 12 – the car thunders down the slope, headlights blazing, horn screeching! Way to go, Car!
I wonder – how sentient is this car?
C: Clearly the car has forgiven them for driving it into the Whomping Willow.
S: It seems to remember them. Is the car coded to help all Weasleys? Or was it just bored and thought, “Oh, I remember those two losers, I’ll go and save them, shall I?”
You have to wonder, because this car has a personality for sure. Thank goodness for the car. And poor Fang. The one time someone let him out, they dragged him to the forest to be eaten. They manage to get in the car, and the car is like, nope, you are not driving, you remember what happened last time? We ended up in a tree. They speed up, crash through the forest, the car knows where it’s going.
This goes a lot quicker than the movie, where they drag out the spider attack.
Poor Fang is flinging himself at the window in anxiety to escape. Ron goes and vomits in the pumpkins. “Follow the spiders! If Hagrid ever gets out of Azkaban, I’ll kill him.”
C: Terrible advice.
S: “I bet Hagrid thought Aragog wouldn’t harm friends of his,” Harry said. “That’s exactly Hagrid‘s problem!” said Ron, thumping the wall of the cabin. “He always thinks monsters aren’t as bad as they’re made out, and look where it’s got him! A cell in Azkaban!”
It made me think of Newt, who at least seems very aware that just because an animal is good with him doesn’t mean it’ll be good with anyone else. Whereas Hagrid seems constantly surprised when animals don’t behave the same way to everyone.
Ron: “Why did we even do that?” Harry: We learned Hagrid didn’t open the chamber, he was innocent, and Hagrid wasn’t the monster. So all we’ve really done is eliminate things.
Now, if these boys were like Hermione, wouldn’t you just go to the library and look for something that is the enemy of giant spiders?
C: Any kind of spider.
S: “Hagrid was innocent.” Ron gave a loud snort. Evidently, hatching Aragog in a cupboard wasn’t his idea of being innocent.
C: I gotta side with Ron there. Bad move, Hagrid. Really, if he’d managed to keep Aragog inside, and I assume he’d want to as long as possible – he says he’s never attacked a man, so maybe he wouldn’t attack anyone in the school – but sooner or later table scraps would not have been enough, and he would have killed a house-elf or something, right?
S: Yeah, at some point he’d have to get him out of the castle. I mean, he’s the size of an elephant. There’s no way Hagrid could keep him inside if he was going to get that big eventually.
C: It was destined to end badly, no matter what.
S: Ron collapses on his bed, exhausted from terror. Can’t say I blame him. Harry is trying to think. He feels like it’s all a dead end – and there’s no one left to ask – until it occurs to him that yes, there is. There is someone we can ask. Because what if that girl who died never left that bathroom? What if she was not creative enough to realize she didn’t have to spend eternity at Hogwarts? What if her parents clearly didn’t care about her or she didn’t care about them enough to go visit home? No – what if she never left that abandoned, terrible bathroom?
C: “You don’t think – not Moaning Myrtle?”
S: I DO think, Ron! I DO THINK.
The first time I read this, I was stunned. I guess I should have seen it coming, but Moaning Myrtle seemed like she’d already served her purpose in the book. She’s an annoying ghost who keeps everyone out of the bathroom – so the bathroom is available to be used to brew Polyjuice. She’s the one who floods the bathroom, allowing Harry to find the diary. So it seemed like she’d served her purpose in the story. And then to find out, after all of that, that she is who she is?
C: She was camouflaged very well. She doesn’t stick out like someone put in there for one purpose. You can almost always tell, for example, in a movie with a male protagonist where there’s the one hot chick in the movie – ahh, that’s the love interest! Or when you’re reading a romance, you can tell who the male love interest will be. But I don’t remember thinking Moaning Myrtle would be the key to solving this.
S: She is hidden well because Rowling gives her multiple purposes. So you feel like she’s done her job. She feels like a funny, useful character. Then to realize that she plays a useful role this late in the game is great. It builds on your expectations for what’s to follow.
(Note: we split this week’s discussion in two, so forgive the abrupt ending! Ch. 16 will be up soon.)
Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod
Stafford, Jeff. “The Cave of the Spider Women.” San Francisco Silent Film Archive.
Day, Rebecca. “Sex-crazed spiders are set to invade your home (and some are the size of mice).” Manchester Evening News, 3 September 2016.
“Cultural depictions of spiders.” Wikipedia.org.
“The symbolic spider that wove its way through history.” Ancient-origins.net, 17 October 2014.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. J.K. Rowling.