This week, we discuss: bloody imagery; complex book motives and actions vs. action-scene movie choices; Crookshanks and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Sirius says “SAVE MARTHA!”; robbing Ron; the cat knows which series he’s in; misdirection and Sirius-Lupin ships; WHY WOULDN’T YOU JUST PUT THAT IN THE MOVIE?; Sirius is out of fucks; so is Snape; no one ever sees Expelliarmus coming; the complications of Fidelius Charms; Death Eaters in South America —AND NOW FOR THE WEREWOLF PORTION — Peter Stubbe, Werewolf of Bedburg; belts, nudity and violence in werewolf lore; werewolves all over the world and why there are so few female werewolves; werewolves and Christianity; werewolves as metaphors for homosexuality and deviant male sexuality; how JK Rowling doesn’t understand the metaphor she actually wrote; and why it’s far too simplistic to read Lupin as gay or an AIDS survivor; the power of NOT sterilizing your lore; male role models; Hermione and Ron and menstrual subtext; and really, just all the proof that the Year 3 Book is the sexiest Book so far.
S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies. I’m so excited! I am Professor Seraphine here with Professor Creed, and we are back to talk about Prisoner of Azkaban some more. Are you excited?
C: I’m sorry, who are you? What is this? Where are we?
S: New phone who dis? Oh my goodness, it’s been forever. We are going back to the old standby of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and I’m not going to lie, reading these chapters that we’re going to do today, which is chapters 17-19, reminded me of why this series is so fucking good. These chapters are so good. It was really enjoyable to reread them. So are you ready to do this?
C: I am ready. I will say up front that I have forgotten almost all of our running jokes. So we may come up with new ones.
S: Maybe we should just make new ones. I think that’s a fair approach.
C: The night is young.
S: Well, when we left off last, all the action was about to start. It was right when the Ministry of Magic had sent their loser executioner and they chopped off Buckbeak’s head. And now we pick up reading Chapter 17, ominously entitled:
Ch. 17: Cat, Rat, and Dog
C: I have never heard anything so ominous in my life.
S: It’s a little ominous! We just open with the three standing there under the invisibility cloak. I mean, and they don’t know what to do, but he just lost his head. You know, things die. And that is a little bit of a startling thing for the kids at that point. I also want to say I know there’s a lot of blood in this book, like references to blood. Even now when they’re talking about the very last rays of the setting sun casting “a bloody light over the ground.”
We’re going to come back to that because I have thoughts, but anyway, I’m just wanting to bring that up now. And they had back to the castle. And you know, as I was reading this, I was noticing all the places where the book covered its bases and the movie just didn’t. I don’t know — you don’t really remember the movie very well, do you? It’s been a while since you’ve seen it.
C: I remember that it is different in some ways from the book, but I also remember liking the third movie better than the others.
S: It’s a brilliant movie. And my biggest issue with it was that they lead they left out some key things and we’ll talk about some of that. But just a little thing like this — for example, in the movie, once they’ve seen Buckbeak’s head chopped off, and they’re standing there freaking out and then all of a sudden, Scabbers bites Ron’s finger, Ron drops him and Scabbers beelines it into the woods and they’re all very confused about why this is happening. And I had even forgotten! Because my husband watching this movie, you know, he was like, why would he do it now? Like, why wouldn’t he wait? And I was like, I don’t know. No, we have a reason. The reason is Crookshanks is on the job. We have this moment where Ron is holding Scabbers and suddenly like, panicky, freaking out trying to get out of his pocket. You know, he tries to hold him, Scabbers is terrified, he’s trying to get out of Ron’s grip. And then when we get the line,
But Harry had just seen — slinking toward them, his body low to the ground, wide yellow eyes, glinting eerily in the darkness — Crookshanks.
C: Ya boi!
S: He has not let it go for an instant. He is still on the case and he is determined. He is going to get that rat. He is even following them in an attempt, once again, to try to get the rat. I mean, like he’s creeping up to them. That would have been a very easy thing to include in the movie, to be quite honest, because they let the Crookshanks thing fall away. And maybe they felt like if they included it, they would have had to explain it. I get that. But I love this image of Crookshanks creepily heading, very determinedly, towards the contents Ron’s pocket. It’s beautiful. And so Crookshanks gets close, and Scabbers gets away. And Ron panics, throws the invisibility cloak off, he’s running after him, and then Hermione and Harry follow. And Ron’s just chasing it. Reading the action of this — you know how in movies, you can always almost expect that the studio’s going to pump up action scenes to make them more action-y? This is one case where I feel like they kind of goofed, because the action as described in this book is a little more action, and the action in the movie is like a CGI roller coaster with the Whomping Willow. But if you actually look at what happens here, Harry and Hermione almost fell on top of Ron, who’s sprawled on the ground. He’s just caught Scabbers and then — there it is.
The soft pounding of gigantic paws… Something was bounding toward them out of the dark — an enormous, pale-eyed, jet black dog.
C: Dun dun dun!
S: Okay, so the the dog jumps at Harry, knocks him to the ground. And then it rolls off of him. Harry’s like, oh my god, are my ribs broken? Ron jumps to his feet; he pushes Harry out of the way of the dog. The dog instead bites Ron’s arm. Harry jumps forward, grabs a handful of the dog’s hair. But the dog has got Ron and it’s dragging him away. Then Harry gets smacked in the face with something and knocked off his feet. Hermione gets smacked with something. He’s got blood in his eyes. And they realize they’re under the Whomping Willow. Already this action scene is way more intense than the stuff that happens in the movie.
C: What happens in the movie, do they just run?
S: There’s running, there’s “Oh my god, the dog!” and then the dog gets Ron by the ankle and drags him down into the Whomping Willow, and then they all get whacked around by the Whomping Willow a lot.
But of course, there’s no blood because kid movie. They just run, and as much as they get knocked around doesn’t feel very serious.
But this is pretty rough and tumble, what’s happening here. And when they realize they’re at the base of the Whomping Willow, they see the dog dragging Ron backward into a large gap. Ron’s fighting to get away from the dog and then it says the leg
hooked around a root in an effort to stop the dog from pulling him farther underground.
But then there’s this horrible crack and they hear Ron’s leg break.
And then his foot vanishes. Holy shit!
C: It’s pretty intense!
S: In the movie, the dog just bites Ron’s leg and drags him around and Ron’s leg is like, bitten. Like they don’t do the whole “Oh, let’s all watch Ron’s legs snap as he tries to prevent himself being dragged.” Hermione’s bleeding from the shoulder because the Whomping Willow got her. It keeps getting at them. And then again, we get another moment of awesome from Crookshanks, who the movie treats horribly, because Hermione whispers, “Oh, help, please.” Crookshanks darts forward slithers between the branches and puts his front paws on a knot on the trunk and the tree stops!
C: I did not even put that together with Hermione saying “help” and Crookshanks being, “I got you, boo.”
S: I didn’t either until I read it again this time, and I was like holy shit! Crookshanks is over here understanding English! He runs up and puts the Whomping Willow on pause so they can get down below.
C: Crookshanks is the unsung hero of this book.
S: I mean, this this book should really be called Crookshanks and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Because Harry is not as involved in the outworking of this plot.
C: I agree.
S: And I think it’s hilarious this conversation that Harry and Hermione have. Any other person would be confused by what Harry says here, but it’s Hermione, so she’s not. It says:
“Crookshanks!” Hermione whispered uncertainly. She now grasped Harry’s arm painfully hard. “How did he know–?”
“He’s friends with that dog,” said Harry grimly. “I’ve seen them together.”
Hermione doesn’t ask, like a normal person would, “What do you mean? He’s friends with the dog and you’ve seen them together? It’s a cat.” But no! Hermione, like Crookshanks, is smarter than the average Hogwarts student.
C: I mean, Crookshanks is the best, what can I say?
S: He really is. He’s so underserved. We really need a version of the movie that’s just as beautiful as the Cuaron version, but that gives Crookshanks his proper due, dammit.
C: I agree wholeheartedly.
S: So they get down and there’s a tunnel underneath the jumping Willow. And they’re not sure where it goes. He’s like, you know, it’s on the Marauders Map, I think it comes up in Hogsmeade, but they’re not sure. It’s really long. I mean it says it It felt at least as long as the one at Honeydukes, and I think earlier in the book like it took me like an hour to get to Honeydukes, so that’s pretty long.
C: I mean it probably is, because it is in Hogsmeade, but if you were doubled over running very far, it wouldn’t take long before you were like, fuck this, you know?
S: True. He does say it felt at least as long. And then finally the tunnel rises, there’s light, and they come up in a room, a very dusty room with
paint stains all over the floor; every piece of furniture was broken as though somebody had smashed it. The windows were all boarded up.
And then Hermione realizes where they are: they’re in the Shrieking Shack. The most haunted building in Britain!
Except Hermione again is back to being smarter than everyone and she’s like, I don’t know about this. Finally Harry’s caught a little bit of Hermione’s smarts, and he’s like, um, but look, there’s a good chair with chunks that have been torn out of it. And a leg on the chair has been ripped off. Ghosts don’t do that. And this is one of the few fictional universes in which they can say that because they know actual ghosts.
There’s a second floor they hear someone upstairs. They go up. I mean, just the description. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust except to the floor where a wide shiny stripe had been made by something being dragged upstairs.
Oh, that’s hard.
C: Um, it’s like horror movie.
S: It is. And it’s so great. The atmosphere has shifted and it’s it’s so dark and creepy. Only one door is open. They hear movement. They hear a low moan and a deep loud purring. And Harry gets the door open and there we have a magnificent four poster bed with Crookshanks, who is purring, apparently quite happy. And here Ron is on the floor beside him. They rush to him and want to know where the dog is. And Ron is like not a dog. It’s a trap! He’s the Animagus!
To be fair this is one of the more effective moments in the movie, where you’re like, oh my god!!!!!!1!!1
I don’t know, do you remember? I remember I did not see this coming. Did not when I was first reading it.
C: When I first read the book? Oh, no.
S: I remember getting chills when they said “he’s the dog. He’s an Animagus.” And I remember just being like, Oh my God! And it is. It’s Sirius Black.
The way he’s described! The matted hair to his elbows,
The waxy skin was stretched so tightly over the bones of his face, it looked like a skull. His yellow teeth were bared in a grin. It was Sirius Black.
Let’s see — he disarms them. And then he kind of creeps up on Harry a little bit, saying things that are usefully easily interpreted in a different way than he means them, as all great villains should do.
“Your father would have done the same for me. Brave of you not to run for a teacher. I’m grateful…it will make everything much easier…”
Thank you for being as vague as possible, Sirius Black. That really helps so that we can have a nice fight scene before we get to the truth.
And this is a really good description. In the movie, Harry’s just seems kind of stupid. He attacks Sirius and points his wand at him, and then I think he must have a moment where he realized he doesn’t know how to kill anyone.
But at least in this one he’s not even thinking. In true Harry fashion, he’s so angry. He just wants to attack this guy. And Hermione gets this line in the movie, as a short changing of Ron, but it’s actually Ron here who was like, if you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us too.
C: Why did they take that line away from Ron?
S: Because they constantly take good lines away from Ron! It really sucks.
And actually, Prisoner of Azkaban is pretty bad about it. And the only thing I could think is laziness on the part of the screenwriters, trying to use Ron for comic effect, but it could be that screenwriters were falling into the same trap of thinking that Harry and Hermione were going to ultimately end up together. Maybe they were trying to lay the groundwork early on, not realizing that that was not where this was going.
C: You don’t think JK would have told Steve Kloves earlier?
S: I would have hoped so but it’s hard to know. It seems obvious even in movie two that the director seems pretty aware of it, but I don’t know. Either way, it’s lazy. It’s not the only time, even in this movie, where they have Ron not defending someone that he does in the book, because Ron is actually awesome. Immature, but awesome.
There’s just so many good things going on here. “Something flickered in Black’s shadowed eyes.”
And the fandom was like, “Oh my god, I know what it is! I know what it is! He’s moved by the sight of such loyal friends, just like James. Oh!!” That’s what the fandom sounds like. Just so you know. When you log on to a fan page, that’s what they sound like. Just saying.
And Ron says, “Did you hear me? You will have to kill all three of us.” Black’s like, nah. “No, I’m good. I just want to kill one person, I’m fine. And then Harry loses his shit again.
C: Can I interrupt you for a second?
C: Ron says, “Did you hear me? If you kill him, you’ll have to kill us too!” You guys think he blew up a streetful of Muggles. One murder, three murders — who cares?
S: Yeah, their bargaining powers are not useful — and also, they’re not listening! Ron says that about killing them, and Sirius’s response is, “Lie down, you’ll damage your leg more.” If he wanted to kill you, he wouldn’t be suggesting that you limit your injuries! It would not matter; you would be dead. But they’re not listening. The adrenaline is pumping, Harry’s mad, you know, he’s got the story in his head. And this is a great paragraph:
He had forgotten about magic — he had forgotten that he was short and skinny and thirteen, whereas Black was a tall, full grown man. All Harry knew was that he wanted to hurt Black as badly as he could, and that he didn’t care how much he got hurt in return —
Perhaps it was the shock of Harry doing something so stupid
Well, Sirius, you just don’t know Harry very well. There will come a time when Harry doing something so stupid will not shock you at all, because that’s Harry. He does something very brave and very stupid.
Also, their fight here is rougher than it is in the movie too. I mean, Harry actually punches Sirius on the side of the head and they fall into the wall, and the wands in Sirius’s hand almost get Harry — there’s a jet of sparks that barely miss Harry’s face. Harry is using his other hand, “punching every part of Black it could find.” And then Sirius gets his hand around Harry’s throat and Hermione comes along and just kicks Sirius Black for all he’s worth. Ron throws himself on Sirius’s wand hand. They are all three ganging up on Sirius Black. I want to see this fight. This fight is way better.
S: This — this is fantastic. And then Crookshanks!
S: Crookshanks has joined to the fray!
both sets of front claws had sunk themselves deep into Harry’s arm.
Crookshanks is not here to stop Sirius! Crookshanks is there to stop them from hurting Sirius. Yeah, he goes after Harry’s wand, Harry kicks at him — I mean, this is bad. Hermione’s lip is bleeding. Ron is barely holding on. His face is turned green. He’s been fighting with a broken leg, people! What the hell?
C: That’s, uh – yeah. I couldn’t do that.
S: No, I know! Which just goes to show you how desperate and gutsy he is, that he’s still willing to do it despite the mass amount of pain that you know he’s in. I’m surprised he hasn’t passed out at this point.
And then again, we get some more vague dialogue. “You killed my parents!” “I don’t deny it, but if you knew the whole story…” Goddamn it!
C: That is not – no! Nooo, Sirius.
S: “Listen to me, You’ll regret it if you don’t! You don’t understand!” Might as well just say “Save Martha!”, Sirius. Come on. I’m expecting the “Why did you say that name?” any moment now, because you guys are having just as productive a conversation.
C: That was such an amazing imitation! Do it again.
S: “Save Martha! Why did you say that name???”
C: Ha! How does that movie’s entire plot hinge on something so stupid?
S: You know, I’ve watched so many breakdowns of that movie, trying to understand why is sucked so much, and I can’t understand it. No one can. Even the people who are analyzing it can’t. Because they try to argue, you know, maybe that line makes sense for Bruce Wayne because it’s the first time he realizes Superman has family, and you know, needed someone protected that he cares about. But no, because literally like seconds before, when he’s dragging Superman’s body over he’s like, “I bet your parents taught you you were special.” Okay then! So you’re perfectly aware that he had parents, you moron.
C: Bad guys have families! Who cares? What is so funny to me, I mean, it’s not funny, but like you know how women are either reduced to the love interest trophy the man gets, or a bland, benign, sexless mother? It’s not even that! The mothers are just reduced to their names!
S: Yeah, yeah, we just both happen to have mothers with the same name, and now I love you! You’re my brother! The only way that movie makes any sense is if you accept that Batman is psychotic, has had a break with reality, and gone insane. That’s the only way it works. But I digress. We’re back to Crookshanks being awesome because again, Crookshanks is trying to protect Sirius to the extent that he literally jumps and sits on Sirius’s chest and just blinks at Harry, like, “Bring it, bitch. What are you gonna do, kill a cat?”
See, here’s the thing. Crookshanks is one of the only people who knows he’s in a Harry Potter book. And he knows that Harry Potter can’t kill the cat. He can’t be Harry Potter and be killing innocent animals! Crookshanks is like, whatever, I got this! Just try it, see what happens to you. I mean, you can tell he’s tempted, but I still don’t know how he thinks he’s gonna kill him!
So what if he had to kill the cat too?
Harry raised the wand. Now was the moment to do it. … He was going to kill Black. He had to kill Black.
The part we don’t mention — how do I kill Black? I won’t know the words Avada Kedavra until the next book!
C: Can I just point out that in these three chapters that we’re covering, the number of ellipses and dashes that are used? It’s a stylistic choice, but it’s just over the top.
S: There are a lot of ellipses, I will agree with you. The dashes, I can deal with, because so much of the discussion that is happening is people talking over each other, right? And you’ve got to have the dashes. I mean, it was a stylistic choice, but it’s just over the top through this scene.
Then Hermione starts screaming because I mean, let’s be fair, she wants to save the cat as much as everybody else. And Harry gets an Emperor Palpatine in his head, in this moment: “Do it!” says a voice in his head.
I thought that you would appreciate that.
C: Do it!
S: But footsteps comes thundering up the stairs, and then it’s Lupin! He takes in the scene. I mean, I really do have to wonder what Lupin expected to find when he comes in and finds Ron lying on the floor, Hermione cowering next to the door, and Harry standing there with his wand covering Black, and then Black himself, crumpled and bleeding at Harry’s feet. He disarms Harry and Hermione. Again.
C: Is there not a counterjinx to Expelliarmus?
S: There actually is… Well, wait. Maybe not for Expelliarmus. In book five, when they’re in the Ministry, Harry has the prophecy in his hand and I think somebody tries to use Accio on it and I think he tries to use a Shield charm or something to kind of catch it. He barely hangs on to it, but it’s not Expelliarmus. So I don’t know. I guess the only thing to do is a Shield charm. But at this point, Expelliarmus is still one of the only spells we know, so even the adults have to stick with it because we can’t learn anything new yet!
That is kind of a bummer about these books, because it does feel like in these scenes that the adults would come in with all these spells, and the kids would be like, wait, what is that?
S: And then we get the material for the Sirius-Lupin shippers!
Then Lupin spoke in an odd voice, a voice that shook with some suppressed emotion.
C: Oh, man.
“Where is he, Sirius?”
You’re gonna be on the Lupin-Sirius ship before it’s over.
C: “It’s love.”
S: And then Sirius points at Ron, which makes total sense.
“But then…” Lupin muttered, staring at Black so intently, it seemed he was trying to read his mind, “…why hasn’t he shown himself before now? Unless”— Lupin’s eyes suddenly widened, as though he was seeing something beyond Black,s omething none of the rest could see — “unless he was the one … unless you switched… without telling me?”
They know each other so well they don’t need to speak in complete sentences!
C: You know, how long has it been since this happened again? Thirteen years now, since James and Lily? I don’t know if I would jump to that after more than a decade.
S: Lupin is — yeah, he’s either very persuadable or just preternaturally intelligent. I’m not sure which one it is. It’s extremely lucky for everyone involved, you know, that Lupin did come to this conclusion. But then, so much of this series depends on a series of lucky coincidences.
But it doesn’t matter, because Lupin is lowering his wand!
The professor walked to Black’s side, seized his hand, pulled him to his feet so that Crookshanks fell to the floor, and embraced Black like a brother.
S: The ‘like a brother’ was important. She had to put that in.
C: Yeah, we couldn’t add any of that gay stuff until after the fact, when it turns out that Dumbledore was totally gay.
S: Yeah. Hermione calls it first. “You, you, you and him!” Yes, Hermione. Him and him.
“I didn’t tell anyone!” Hermione shrieked. “I’ve been covering up for you–“
“I trusted you,” he shouted at Lupin, his voice wavering out of control, “and all the time you’ve been his friend!”
“You’re wrong,” said Lupin. “I haven’t been Sirius’s friend. But I am now.”
Awww! And then Hermione just drops the bomb.
“He’s been helping Black get into the castle, he wants you dead too — he’s a werewolf!”
Well that explains everything!
C: Oh, the humanity!
S: It just explains everything. And also I adore Lupin’s response to this in the book, more than the movie. He stays completely calm.
“Not all up to your usual standard, Hermione,” he said. “Only one out of three, I’m afraid.”
May we all be so calm and collected in the face of crisis!
“I have not been helping Sirius into the castle, and I certainly don’t want Harry dead…” An odd shiver passed over his face. “But I won’t deny that I am a werewolf.”
RON! What the hell, Ron? Seriously, what is this? Lupin goes towards Ron, looking concerned, and Ron’s like, “Get away from me, werewolf!”
C: Yeah, it’s kind of racist.
S: Yeah, replace that with anything else and it’s the worst. I mean, what the hell, Ron.
C: It’s along the lines of if he’d said “Get away from me, Mudblood!”
S: Really, it’s not far! But that’s the point, too, I know. The idea that, you know, prejudices exist even amongst good people, but still this is just disappointing from Ron.
Hermione’s known for ages, since she did Professor Snape’s essay.
“He’ll be delighted,” said Lupin coolly. “He assigned that essay hoping someone would realize what my symptoms meant. Did you check the lunar chart and realize that I was always ill at the full moon, or did you realize that the boggart changed into the moon when it saw me?”
“Both,” Hermione said quietly.”
C: And I never picked up on the moon thing, either. I always wondered, a silvery orb? What’s that?
S: Great misdirection from the beginning. What did she say? “Why is Professor Lupin afraid of crystal balls?” That was the misdirection, and I love that Hermione put two and two together way before the rest of us did.
Um, there’s a line coming up here to where Harry is just boggled at the amount of effort that Hermione puts into her homework and I have to say I agree.
C: Can I say too that in the beginning of the book Hermione gets Crookshanks, and if I remember correctly, the woman who runs the shop says that he’s been there a long time and no one will take him. Crookshanks was waiting for someone who was smart enough for him. He had standards, and the only one who was smart enough for Crookshanks was Hermione.
S: Absolutely true. And yeah, you know, Ron’s like Dumbledore hired you when he knew you were a werewolf? Is he mad? No, the staff knows, Dumbledore knows, people know! And Dumbledore had to work to convinced people that Lupin wouldn’t murder them in their beds.
But you know at least Lupin has some common sense. He’s like, look, people, we need to explain. Have your wands back. You’re armed. We’re not. Let’s talk. I will explain things.
“I knew he was here because the Marauders Map.” “You know how to work the Marauders Map?” “Of course, I know how to work the Marauders Map. I helped make it. I’m Mooney.”
There’s so much just information being thrown at you in this next segment where Lupin is just answering all your questions right and left! It’s a little bit overwhelming the first time you read it. The revelations keep coming, and oh my god, what?
S: And they just completely leave that part out in the movie. They don’t ever tell you who Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs are in the movie. They don’t tell you that Lupin knew how to work the map because they made it, any of that. And I’m like, it would have been so easy! Because he deals with it in, like, two lines. “I helped write it. I’m Mooney.” Okay, moving on.
C: Yeah, I wonder if that was a thing that was filmed and cut, or was it never in the screenplay to begin with?
S: I’m not sure, but it seems silly not to include it, especially given later events in the book that are kind of important. But yeah, Lupin knows so much more than they thought he knew. He’s like, “Yeah, you had your cloak on.” “Wait, how did you know about the cloak?” “Dude. I’ve seen the cloak so many times. I can’t even with this. Okay, so you’re on the Marauders Map, I watched you leave Hagrid, you go back to the castle, but see here’s the thing — someone else’s with you.” And Harry’s like, “Pssh, no one was with us.” “No, no, there was! I almost thought it was crazy, but then I saw Sirius Black and he pulled the two of you into the Whomping Willow. Yeah, two of you. Do you think I can have a look at the rat?”
What’s Scabbers got to do with it?
C: ALL THE THINGS.
S: Again, just another one of those mind-blowing revelation moments in reading this book! The rat? The rat? What the fuck? We’re all kind of with Ron when we get to the point where —
“That’s not a rat,” croaked Sirius Black suddenly.
“What do you mean — of course he’s a rat–”
“No, he’s not,” said Lupin quietly. “He’s a wizard.”
“An Animagus,”said Black, “by the name of Peter Pettigrew.”
C: That is such a good cliffhanger for this book!
S: Oh, it’s so good. I remember reading this the first time and I remember — it was late by the time I got to that. I think it was 11:30, 11:45ish. And I was like, screw it. I don’t care where I have to be, I cannot stop reading right now. I have to keep reading.
C: That’s the thing about the last part of this book. I mean, from the moment Buckbeak gets his head chopped off, BOOM. Everything starts, and it doesn’t stop.
S: It’s like you cannot put the book down at a certain point, which is another reason why these books are so well done, for whatever flaws they have. In almost every single book, once you’re past a certain point in the last quarter of the book, you cannot stop reading. It’s just not possible.
So we get to:
Ch. 18: Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs
And we’re back to the whole, let’s chase each other around the room thing, and Sirius lunges at Scabbers again and he falls on Ron’s leg. I mean, come on, man. Lupin has to drag Black away. He’s like, you can’t just do it like that. We kind of have to explain, too! Black’s like, fuck that, we can explain afterwards.
C: I have a question. What do you think would happen if they killed Pettigrew as a rat? Would he stay a rat? Would he transform post-mortem back into a man?
S: My initial thought is he probably would have just stayed a rat, which I think is what Lupin was thinking and why he is so determined not to kill him yet, because they need to show what this is, you know? And Sirius is not thinking like that. Sirius does not care. Sirius lost all his fucks in Azkaban, and has no interest in getting them back.
So Lupin’s trying to be the voice of reason, here. He’s like, hey, Ron kept him as a pet! There are parts of it even I don’t understand! Black’s like, fine. Tell them whatever you like, but make it quick, Remus. “I want to commit the murder I was in prison for.”
C: So dark!
S: Very dark, right? He’s so harsh. And I love that Ron is like, “You’re nutters! I’ve had enough of this, I’m off!” What does he think he’s gonna do? One-leg-hop all the way down the tunnel? Come on, Ron, even you know better than that.
Ron is clearly struggling with this bit of information. I mean, because Lupin keeps calling Scabbers Peter, and Ron is like “He’s not Peter! He’s Scabbers!” He’s having a hard time with this information about his rat, really.
It’s so much information we have to come through. I like this:
Harry looked down at Ron, and as their eyes met, they agreed, silently: Black and Lupin were both out of their minds.
Hermione’s trying to talk to Lupin calmly. “Scabbers can’t be Pettigrew, it just can’t be, because people would know if he had been an Animagus.” I looked up the Animagi in class. The Ministry of Magic keeps tabs on all these people, you have to be registered, and there’s only been seven in this century and Pettigrew — his name wasn’t on the list. And here we have:
Harry had barely had time to marvel inwardly at the effort Hermione put into her homework
This is why she’s the brightest person you’ve ever met — because she looks everything up.
C: This is why one day she’s going to be the Ministry of Magic! Although it doesn’t explain why she only knows Alohomora.
S: And why she loses some of the most important items, thanks to her stupid Gothic bookshelves.
C: Cursed Child, why? Why do you exist? I mean, we know why – money – but really, why?
S: Because Dark Magic Moves. And again, this doesn’t improve my perspective on the Ministry, either, because Lupin says “the Ministry never knew there were three unregistered Animagi running around Hogwarts.” Not one, but three. Ministry had no clue. Well, that that checks with everything we know of the Ministry so far, let’s be honest.
I’m curious what you think about this, where Lupin is about to tell the story and it says:
Lupin broke off. There had been a loud creak behind him. The bedroom door had opened of its own record. All five of them stared at it. Then Lupin strode toward it and looked out onto the landing.
“No one there…”
“This place is haunted!” said Ron.
“It’s not,” said Lupin, still looking at the door in a puzzled way. “The Shrieking Shack was never haunted… The screams and howls the villagers used to hear were made by me.”
I wondered about the function of that paragraph — whether that was just a way for her to lead into clarifying that no, the Shrieking Shack was never haunted, In fact, the whole purpose of this building was for Lupin, or if that’s meant to suggest that maybe Snape is already out there listening.
C: Yeah, that’s what I assumed. He’s just snuck into the room right now. I’ll have to look at it when we get to the end of the chapter, but does that mean that he’s so focused on Sirius and Lupin that he’s not paying attention to any of this, does he think Lupin is lying, or does he just not care about the truth and just wants to get rid of them regardless?
S: None of those options are good, to be honest. If Snape really is out there listening to all of this this entire time, then yeah, he’s so far gone, either he’s convinced that none of it is true, or he doesn’t care. That’s almost worse. It’s hard to know. And I’ll have to see when he shows up if it gives us a timeline as to how long he was there, or how long it took him to get to them.
C: The only other thing I can think is, however Harry or Hermione came in, as he came in and shut the door, maybe there was a gust of air that rattles door or frames, so maybe he’s inside the building but not close enough to hear anything.
S: That makes a little more sense. At the very least is suggests to us that someone else is out there. But maybe he’s not there there, like outside the door there, yet. I think I’m going to go with that one because it gives Snape a tiny sliver of benefit of the doubt in a book where frankly he doesn’t get much.
So it all starts with Lupin becoming a werewolf. He was bitten as a very young boy, the Wolfsbane Potion hadn’t been invented yet. The potion makes him safe at the full moon. He’s still transformed into a wolf, but he doesn’t harm anyone. He remembers who he is, so he can just kind of hang out in his office and wait for the moon to change.
But before that was invented, he was a monster every month, and it seemed like there’s no way he could go to Hogwarts. Other parents didn’t want their kids around him. But then Dumbledore was like, well, there’s really no reason why he can’t come to school. And so had the Whomping Willow planted the year that Lupin came to Hogwarts. They use the Shrieking Shack and the tunnel that led directly to it, so that Lupin would have somewhere to go where he wouldn’t hurt people.
There’s just no way to look at this story that isn’t awfully dark. I’m just trying to imagine what that is as a kid, to be like, you know, we have to sequester you so that you don’t harm everyone.
S: And the way they described the transformations — that is very painful to turn into a werewolf. He’s separated from humans to bite, so he would bite and scratch himself. The villagers heard the noise and the screaming and thought they were hearing particularly violent spirits. Dumbledore encouraged the rumor.
I bet he did.
Even now, when the house has been silent for years, the villagers don’t dare approach it…
And then of course, he had three friends at school, who, after a while are going to notice that you disappear once a month, and they figured it out. And as much as Lupin was afraid that they would desert him, instead, they do something nearly impossible. All three of them discover how to become Animagi. They’re not born them, they figure out how to turn themselves into Animagi!
The amount of ingenuity! I mean, I know we talked about the Marauders Map and how genius it is, but, my god.
C: You and I are really good friends. If you were turning in to a mindless monster every month, I don’t know that I would go out of my way to go hang out with you.
S: Well, clearly you are not one of the Marauders? I don’t know. I mean, it’s brilliant. And it is this incredible show of friendship that they’re like, Okay, well, you won’t attack us if we’re animals because werewolves only attack people. So if we’re with you, we can hang out with you. Maybe it’ll be a little better. And like he says, “My body was still wolfish but my mind became less so when I was with them.” So yeah, I mean, it’s freaking awesome. It’s kind of mind blowing at all levels that any of this happened that they managed to pull any of it off — that all three of them managed to pull it off.
C: Yeah, I don’t know how Pettigrew got in there. I know it says they had to help him a lot, but still.
S: I also found this interesting. They said Sirius and James transformed into such large animals, they were able to keep a werewolf in check. I thought that was interesting, because if they’re choosing, you have to wonder, did they choose what kind of animals they wanted to turn into? Or was it just figure out the process and then hope that it works, and they just happened to turn into you know, hey, I’m a dog. What do you know? Seems like Sirius and James would turn into big animals, thinking if we’re big and Lupin loses his shit, then we can keep him in check. You know, he takes a good solid kick from a pair of hooves and calms down. But Peter would choose to become something extremely small and easy to miss.
C: Well, but they did that for a reason. So he could hit the knot on the Whomping Willow.
S: Fair enough. That’s true. He could slip through and touch the knot that freezes the Whomping Willow.
C: I mean he could have chosen to be a cat like Crookshanks, because clearly Crookshanks is small enough to do it. But for thematic reasons, he became a rat.
S: Yes, we’re going to talk about the thematic reasons I promise. I have so much.
C: And in a world where you can suddenly turn into whatever you need to turn into, you pick a big dog and a deer? I’d be like, I’m gonna be a fucking lion. I’m gonna be a fucking dragon. But nah, I’m just gonna be a big dog. A big dog works for me. And out of all the things, a deer? I mean, a deer is fine, who doesn’t like deer. But it’s kind of unusual when the other animals you’ve picked are dog and a rat, and also not unusual enough because you’re in the Wizarding World!
S: You are correct about all of this. And it’s like, you realize this is still really dangerous, right? You could have gotten away from them. You could have attacked somebody in the dark! To which Lupin says, accurate. It still terrifies me to think about.
It should. As he says, we were young and thoughtless, we thought we were awesome. Which, as we’ve seen in this book over and over again, when you’re that age, yes, that does seem to be the thing.
And Lupin kind of sets the pattern for himself that we see surface later on — that he would feel guilty about betraying Dumbledore’s trust, he felt guilty about breaking the rules, but he always managed to push past it and forget about how guilty he felt the next time that stuff came up. And as he said, “I haven’t changed.”
This entire year he’s been battling with himself. Do you tell Dumbledore that Sirius is an Animagus? So we have our answer. You know, we wondered, did Dumbledore know that this stuff was going on? No, he did not. He does not know that Sirius is an Animagus. He didn’t know any of this stuff. And Lupin could have told him and chose not to.
It would have meant admitting that I had betrayed his trust while I was at school, admitting that I’d led others along with me… and Dumbledore’s trust has meant everything to me.
I mean, and it has. He got him into school, he got him a job. He can’t get a job because of what he is.
And so I convinced myself that Sirius was getting into the school using Dark Arts he learned from Voldemort, that being an Animagus had nothing to do with it… so, in a way, Snape’s been right about me all along.
C: Guys, you’re really not helping your case when you say things like that.
S: I know. And I love that Black is like, “What’s Snape got to do with it?” “Oh, he’s here.” Of course Snape has fought very hard against Lupin being appointed to the position, has been telling Dumbledore all year that he’s not to be trusted. And he has a damn good reason because, you know, we almost got him killed that time.
“Sirius here played a trick on him which nearly killed him, a trick which involved me–“
Apparently Severus had also figured out that something was up, was trying to figure out what was up with Lupin disappearing once a month. Lupin is just lying out his ass right here when he says “he especially disliked James. Jealous, I think, of James’s talent on the Quidditch field,” or else he really is that obtuse and doesn’t know why Snape hated James so much. I don’t know.
C: Or it’s true that that’s where it started, but just isn’t where it ended.
S: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s not like he hated him from the beginning just because of Lily.
C: Because didn’t we find out in the last book that James and Lily didn’t get together until their seventh year and that she didn’t really like him?
S: No, true and he certainly made his life plenty miserable beforehand. So you’re right, fair enough. And Sirius thought it would be funny to tell Snape how to get in past the Whomping Willow to find out where Lupin was, and if he had done it, he would have gone down the passage and found Lupin, a fully transformed werewolf.
C: Okay, so here’s the thing about this. Number one: no. This is a terrible thing to do, you’re going to get someone killed. Two: you’re setting your friend up to feel like a murderer. Because yeah, he’s not in control of himself, can’t help himself, but that’s not going to matter to Lupin the human when he transforms back.
S: And realizes that he killed someone that he went to school with. Yeah, it’s not a good thing. None of this is good, all around. And at the very least, James stopped it. James heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape, and stopped him. But Snape did see him at the end of the tunnel, and Dumbledore forbade him to tell anyone, so Snape has known about Lupin since they were kids.
This situation, man. I love this situation as an author. I feel like it’s such a smart thing to do, because this complicates your perspective on every single person involved. And as much as I love Sirius as a character, you know as much as I love these characters, you have to be like, but they’re not always good people.
C: Sirius and James in particular seem like they were dicks.
S: They were dicks! They were 100% absolutely. And then then we get Snape.
“So that’s why Snape doesn’t like you,” said Harry slowly, “because he thought you were in on the joke.”
“That’s right,” sneered a cold voice from the wall behind Lupin. Severus Snape was pulling off the Invisibility Cloak, his wand pointing directly at Lupin.
C: Oh, buddy. It’s about to get real!
S: Oh shit. Okay, so do we want to finish talking about all the plotty aspects of chapter 19 and then go into talking about all of this stuff that I have found about werewolves and shit, or do we want to talk about werewolves now and then go on? What do you want to do?
C: Let’s go ahead and finish off talking about the plot.
Chapter 19: The Servant of Lord Voldemort
S: Oh damn! Snape had the cloak. “Yeah, I found that at the base of the tree, thanks Potter, cuz I know it’s yours.” Snape in the movie is one thing. Snape in this chapter–
C: Is off the wall?
S: Has crossed into unhinged territory. He really truly has. Lupin is trying to explain – Sirius is not here to kill Harry. But Snape does not care.
“Two more for Azkaban tonight,” said Snape, his eyes now gleaming fanatically. “I shall be interested to see how Dumbledore takes this… he was quite convinced you were harmless, you know, Lupin…a tame werewolf–“
“You fool, said Lupin softly. “Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man back inside Azkaban?”
BANG! Thin, snakelike cords burst from the end of Snape’s wand and twisted themselves around Lupin’s mouth, wrists, and ankles.
So, there’s your answer. That’s a resounding yes from Snape.
C: Is that Brachiobendo?
S: No, Brachiobendo didn’t have any ropes or anything. Brachiobendo just stupid. Actually we mentioned this when we were talking about the preview for Fantastic Beasts. I believe Brachiobendo is actually showcased in Fantastic Beasts, even though we don’t actually get to see it used. It’s a spell that like, brings Johnny Depp’s arms like up behind him and they’re locked in place.
C: Oh, I remember seeing a shot of that in the trailer. It’s quite creepy looking.
S: So you know, at least it’s got that going for it. Oh man!
Snape pointed his wand straight between Black’s eyes. “Give me a reason,” he whispered. “Give me a reason to do it, and I swear I will.”
Not good. None of this is good. And this is so great, because the dynamic is completely changed. There’s all this stuff happening with these adults and the three kids are still standing there, and as out of control as this situation was, it’s way worse now.
C: This is not helping, Snape!
S: Ron doesn’t know what to do. He looks super confused. Hermione tries to talk to him. And Snape – yeah.
“Miss Granger,you are already facing suspension from this school. You, Potter, and Weasley are out-of-bounds in the company of a convicted murderer and a werewolf. For once in your life, hold your tongue.”
And then you start shouting! Because, you know, he can’t keep his shit together. He’s about to lose it! And even Sirius is being reasonable for Sirius, I guess, where he’s like, “As long as this boy brings his rat up to the castle I’ll come quietly.”
Snape, however, is like, “The castle? We don’t have to go up to the castle. I mean, I’m going to call the Dementors and they’re just going to deal with you now. It’s totally fine.”
C: What do we think would have happened if the Dementors came down and killed Sirius before Dumbledore knew? So if there’s a situation where the Dementors kill Sirius, and maybe Lupin, you know, maybe he lets them take Lupin too – what happens with Dumbledore and Snape? Oh, but he hasn’t gone undercover yet, so never mind.
S: I mean, essentially that’s the best possible outcome for Pettigrew. That would have been horrible.
But there was a mad glint in Snape’s eyes that Harry had never seen before. He seemed beyond reason.
And there comes a moment where Harry has to act.
Harry had crossed the room in three strides and blocked the door.
Oh, shit. This is so tense on so many levels, and now Harry has decided, “I’ll face off with Snape. Let him argue with me!” That’s gonna go well.
And of course he sasses Snape, which is like the one thing that Snape cannot stand on top of everything else. He cannot stand that!
“Professor Lupin could have killed me about a hundred times this year,” he said. “I’ve been alone with him loads of times, having defense lessons against the dementors. If he was helping Black, why didn’t he just finish me off then?”
C: Harry, we’re not here for logic! This is all about pure rage.
S: And tired stereotypes, apparently. Snape:
“Don’t ask me to fathom the way a werewolf’s mind works.”
Oh, come on. Get out of here with your bigoted self.
And then Harry just yells at him, which is amazing.
“You’re pathetic! Just because they made a fool of you at school you won’t even listen!”
God dammit. Come on.
“I will not be spoken to you like that,” Snape shrieked, looking madder than ever.
“Like father, like son, Potter! I have just saved your neck; you should be thanking me on bended knee! You would have been well served if he’d killed you. You’d have died like your father, too arrogant to believe you might be mistaken in Black — now get out of the way or I will make you.”
Why didn’t we get to see this? I want to see this. I want to see Snape losing his shit, hardcore losing his shit! He doesn’t really lose it in the movies.
C: But can you actually imagine Alan Rickman losing it like this? Because I can’t.
S: I know, and that’s the thing, because it’s such a fine line for him, you know, he’s got to keep this character under control. And if he loses his shit like this, it kind of undercuts all the work that he’s doing to present this character as a highly controlled character. Which is true in the books — he’s not as highly controlled as we would like to think — but that doesn’t play as well in the film, and when you have less time and space to explore nuance it just comes across as inconsistent, so ultimately it probably would have hurt the portrayal of the character.
And then again, another moment that should have been portrayed this way in the film, but wasn’t because we’re stupid, I guess. Harry Disarms Snape, but he does it at the same time as Ron and Hermione! All three of them Disarm Snape at the same time! In the movie, it’s just Harry, but no, this time it’s all three of them. And they knock Snape out against a wall!
And Hermione, instead of saying “Harry, you attacked a teacher!” Hermione’s like, “Oh shit, we attacked a teacher!”
C: So does no one in this universe ever see Expelliarmus coming? People have selective memory. It’s like, they know it’s a spell, but they’re not quite sure what it does until BAM! They get hit with it and lose their wand.
S: Well, see, here’s the thing. They have to be completely, constantly surprised by it until we get to Book Five and we introduce the concept of Shield Charms, and then everyone is using Shield Charms right and left. But that can’t happen until we learn about it!
So let’s prove that Pettigrew is who they say he is. Ron is like, how is he supposed to know what rat it is? Hey, that’s a good question — how did he know? And finally that little tidbit about Cornelius Fudge giving Sirius Black his newspaper when he visited Azkaban comes full circle, because we see that Sirius has the picture from the Daily Prophet of Ron and his family – with Scabbers on his shoulder. My god, this is good mystery writing! Ridiculously useless clues embedded at the very beginning of the story that you have no reason to think are significant! I love it so much!
C: Something about the Weasleys being in Egypt makes it all feel a little Agatha Christie.
S: It does feel a little Agatha Christie, doesn’t it? Oh, this is such a good this is such good mystery construction. This is probably one of the better constructed mystery plots of the series. It’s so well done. Everything pays off and they realize why Sirius knew that it was him — because of his paw. Because Scabbers is missing a toe.
And then we get the description of what happened that day, from what Sirius actually saw — which explains why he was laughing his ass off when they came to take him. He yelled for the whole street to hear that Sirius had betrayed Lily and James, then he blew apart the street with his wand behind his back, killed everyone within 20 feet of himself, and sped down into the sewer with the other rats.
And only Sirius really knew what he was looking at. Like, oh my god, that takes balls.
S: You know, somebody on Twitter the other day was talking about Peter Pettigrew being in Gryffindor and all that, and I was like, you know, it does take a certain amount of guts to double, triple-cross your friends, never give any indication that that’s what you’re doing, then frame one of your friends for doing it, get his ass sent to prison forever, kill a bunch of people in the process because you just don’t care, and then hide in plain sight for a decade.
S: That’s gutsy. Not gonna lie.
C: Yeah, just like the fact that you’re ambitious doesn’t mean you’re going to be evil – Slytherin — just because you’re brave doesn’t mean you’re going to be good or noble.
S: No, but in this case, it takes a lot of guts to do what he did. And he did it, and he pulled it off very well. Oh man, why was he living so long? Should he have lived for 12 years? Probably not. Not looking too good at the moment. I bet he’s been losing weight ever since he heard Sirius was on the loose, and Ron’s like no, that’s because of Crookshanks! And Harry‘s like, No, no, it’s not. Scabbers wasn’t looking good since Egypt — since Black’s escape.
And at least someone appreciates Crookshanks!
“He knew I was no dog. It was a while before he trusted me… Finally I managed to communicate to him what I was after, and he’e’s been helping me…”
“He tried to bring Peter to me, but he couldn’t… So he stole the passwords into Gryffindor tower for me…as I understand that he took them from a boy’s bedside table.”
C: Poor Neville. Just an innocent casualty of this!
S: And then Peter got wind of what was going on and ran for it. Crookshanks told Sirius that Peter had left blood on the sheets. He bit himself to fake his own death. And then we come back to shouting about the confusion about who was the secret keeper for the Potters. It was supposed to be Sirius. And then Sirius has his moment of guilty confession — he persuaded Lily and James to change to Peter at the last second. And that gave Peter everything he needed. That’s a lot to live with.
C: You know, what sucks about that is it says later on that Pettigrew had been sliding secrets over to Voldemort for over a year. So it makes sense that at that point Sirius and Lupin were suspicious of each other, even though I’m sure they didn’t want to be. But of course none of them would have expected timid little Peter Pettigrew to be the one.
S: Exactly. He’d be the last one you would suspect. Sirius and Lupin would distrust each other for obvious reasons. As close friends as they were, eventually Sirius would come back to, “He’s dangerous, and I know he’s dangerous, because he’s a Black.” And Lupin would come back to–
C: He’s a Black.
S: Yeah, exactly! It’s going to come back, and even though you don’t want to think about it, you will. Obviously they knew someone was giving secrets to the other side. They knew there was a spy in their midst. They just distrusted the wrong people. So Sirius at the last minute changed Secret-Keeper to Pettigrew, which was probably more than Pettigrew could possibly have hoped for.
C: So, everybody knew there was a spy, or at least those two knew there was a spy. Well, hell, James and Lily knew there was a spy; that’s why they were in hiding. Couldn’t they just Veritaserum everybody?
S: They probably could if they had some. I don’t know.
C: I mean, come on. This is a universe where in Cursed Child, those two dumbasses wander somewhere and then they’re like, Oh hey, this this cottage just happens to have this woman with shit, and the door is unlocked, and let’s just go down into her basement, and she’s got all of these exotic things that we need just right there for us.
S: And we suddenly know everything there is to know about potions!
C: Yeah, I mean, we hate school and we’re terrible students. We can totally make this on the fly. No problem. I don’t want to run down this book or run down the series because the books are great, the series is great. It’s all so well constructed and well put together. But even with that, because this is a world of magic, you still have situations like this, where there are things they could have done, that, if the plot didn’t have to be the way the plot was, they would have done.
S: To be fair, that is always something I loved about the plots of the books that the movies never addressed – this thing of being a Secret Keeper. It’s a great example of actually thinking creatively about something you could do in a world where you have magic. A Secret Keeper, once they know a thing, they are the only ones who can tell you. Voldemort could have walked past the Potters for years and never seen them, because their location was a secret being kept by their Keeper. I mean, that’s a brilliant concept in and of itself! It’s a brilliant bit of magic. And I love that idea that that was so important and that something that exists in this world because it’s very clever, and they never touch on it in the movies. They just make it seem like they were just hiding — like they were just hiding somewhere unexpected, and then Voldemort just got their location and went to go find them, which–
S: Which doesn’t make any sense at all, and makes the whole thing seem even less challenging than it already does. What, Voldemort just had a lucky day and use Google Maps and found them? As opposed to this very complex, magical thing that literally makes it impossible for you to find them as long as the person who is keeping their secret does not give it to you. That’s very elegant. I love it. So I do love the Secret Keeper thing. I think that’s a smart thing, and it would explain why if nothing else, they would have thought maybe they were safe? That as long as the right person was protecting them, it would be okay, even if there was a spy. They’re still using the magic of the Secret Keeper and Voldemort can’t get past that. Which is a logical assumption – as long as you can trust your friends.
C: You know what happens when you assume.
S: You die at the hands of Voldemort?
C: Not just Voldemort — Craft Services Voldemort! Honestly, Craft Services Voldemort from the first movie is the greatest gift of this series.
S: He is the definitive Voldemort of all time.
C: I want to watch that part of the movie again – just that part! All I want to see, on a loop.
S: Ralph Fiennes comes into the series, and frankly he just brings the level down from Craft Services Voldemort.
C: It’s true!
S: Craft services Voldemort will always be one of the best things about this series.
C: It’s so great!
S: Well, now we finally get to see Peter Pettigrew, who has been a rat for so long, he’s starting to look like one. His skin looks like Scabbers fur, and
something of the rat lingered around his pointed nose and his very small, watery eyes.
which the movie decided to go really hardcore on, making him very rat-like, teeth and everything. You know, Pettigrew does not disappoint here. For a character that’s been built up for so long because he’s been talked around for an entire book, you finally get to him and you’ve got to be wondering, what kind of a person is this really? We’ve had the kind of vague misdirection where Harry, when he’s talking about Pettigrew, has pictured him kind of being like Neville, which primes us to be a little more sympathetic to him. But once we find out what we find out about Pettigrew? Oh my God. He does not disappoint. He is the most weaselly, cowardly little piece of slime to ever crawl the earth. My goodness.
C: How does he die in Book 7?
S: Oh, it’s so great. And the movie does not do it justice. All right, so if you remember in Book Four, in order to bring Voldemort back, part of the ritual that Voldemort has him perform–
C: He cut off his hand.
S: A ritual Voldemort invented, in fact. He cuts off his hand and Voldemort gives him a new one. It’s made out of some kind of silver, whatever, and it works like normal hand. It’s magic and it’s really cool and shiny. And when he gives it to him, he tells him, “May your loyalty never waver again.” Now, I don’t think that Pettigrew thought anything about that. But Voldemort certainly did.
So in Seven, when the boys are being held captive and Malfoy Manor and they’re trying to get out, and Pettigrew is trying to keep them from getting out, Harry says to Peter — like really, after all of this? I saved your life! You owe me! And for just a split second, he hesitates. Pettigrew hesitates, and then because of that hesitation, what he didn’t realize – what he thought was maybe just an off comment from Voldemort — was actually a bit of a spell that he put into the making of this hand. Because of that hesitation, the hand turns on him and chokes the life out of him.
C: Oh, wow. I don’t remember that at all.
S: Yeah, it’s it is rough. And I guess I see why it wasn’t in the movie, but my god I wish it had been, because I always thought that was an incredibly brilliant moment. And in Four, or in this book, I can’t remember, they foreshadow it, because as Dumbledore tells Harry, “One day you may be very grateful that you spared Peter Pettigrew’s life.” And that pays off in Seven. But they don’t touch it in the movie of Seven. They just have Dobby knock him out, take his wand, they escape, and that is the last we ever see of him.
C: Well that’s unsatisfying!
S: Extremely unsatisfying. He deserves a better end than that, and he definitely gets it in the book.
But anyway, he wavers so many times. You know, you see Peter looking wildly around the room, trying to decide who he can best manipulate.
Remus you don’t believe you don’t believe him. He tried to kill me. He’s He’s come to try to kill me again. He killed Lillian James and now he’s gonna kill me too. You’ve got to help me!
And then he starts to realize that okay, maybe Lupin doesn’t believe him as much as he would like him to.
He even tries the “He’s got dark powers! Voldemort taught him things!” At which point Black just about dies laughing. This is a great exchange.
“Voldemort, teach me tricks?” he said.
Pettigrew flinched as though Black had brandished a whip at him.
“What, scared to hear your old master’s name?” said Black. “I don’t blame you, Peter. His lot aren’t very happy with you, are they?”
This is a really great thing, because if you just watch the movies, one of the questions that comes up a lot from people is: why does Pettigrew hide out as a rat with Ron for 12 years? He didn’t have to do that; he could have just gone on about his life. But Sirius explains very cogently why Pettigrew has been hiding out as a rat for 12 years.
“You haven’t been hiding from me for twelve years,” said Black. “You’ve been hiding from Voldemort’s old supporters. I heard things in Azkaban, Peter. They all think you’re dead or you’d have to answer to them. I’ve heard them screaming all sorts of things in their sleep. Sounds like they think the double-crosser double-crossed them. Voldemort went to the Potter’s on your information, and Voldemort met his downfall there. And not all Voldemort supporters ended up in Azkaban, did they? There are still plenty out there biding their time, pretending they’ve seen the error of their ways. If they ever got wind that you were still alive, Peter–“
C: There are so many monologues that happen during the multiple tense standoffs in these chapters.
S: It’s a good monologue though! This one’s good. At least he’s using it for intimidation purposes. He’s not just using it to monologue for the sake of monologuing. He’s using it to intimidate Peter. “I know why you’re doing this, you little coward — because you’re scared of Voldemort supporters. You would be dead, wouldn’t you? In very unpleasant ways, wouldn’t you?”
C: Okay, so I’ve got another question for you. Is America, say, a country that exists?
S: Um, explain your question further?
C: LEAVE BRITAIN. Or, like, Australia or some other part of Europe! Or Asia! Or Africa! Or South America! You have a multitude of choices! It’s a large planet!
S: This is an excellent point. Why didn’t he do what all good Nazis did and just go to South America?
C: Exactly. I mean, Argentina was right there waiting for you!
S: That should have been a plot point in here. There really should be at least one brief mention of Death Eaters fleeing to South America.
C: Are we sure there’s not? Because that would be funny.
S: And if there is, I’m gonna just throw myself a party. Let’s see. “Voldemort supporters were after me because I put one of their best men in Azkaban.” Really dude? This is reaching, even for you. And I appreciate you, Sirius.
“When did I ever sneak around people who were stronger and more powerful? But you, Peter — I’ll never understand why I didn’t see you were the spy from the start. You always liked big friends who look after you, didn’t you? It used to be us…
C: You know why you didn’t see it from the start? Is because you’re a smug, arrogant son of a bitch and yeah, you guys hung out with him, but you probably weren’t actually all that nice to him. You just didn’t see it.
S: And you might not have gotten to know him as well as you thought you did.
“Lily and James only made you Secret-Keeper because I suggested it.”
S: True! He thought it was the smartest thing because Voldemort would come after Sirius – which, fair! He’s a Black, right? Your entire family supports him. You’re an obvious person to go after, and everyone knows you’re super close with the Potters.
I can understand why he would do it, but man, this line.
“It must have been the finest moment of your miserable life, telling Voldemort you could hand him the Potters.”
S: You know, he’s probably right. You can just see it.
C: I think it would very likely. I think it would be a combination of his finest moment, and I don’t know, I mean, maybe I’m just a sappy person, but I feel like it wasn’t that the friendships meant nothing to him, it’s that he was weak and afraid.
S: Very likely. He’s scared, and I think this line that comes up really speaks to that, because if we are really looking at the fact that Voldemort is a Hitler figure, and a lot of this is paralleling the rise of Hitler, you’re also looking at this tyrant seizing power and encouraging people to turn on each other. The question comes up, what pushes people to do it? Well, Peter was one of those people. And it’s a few pages ahead. We haven’t got there yet. But when he basically finally confesses that he did it, he’s like, “He was so powerful. You don’t know what he could do. You know, what was I supposed to do?” I think he says, “what would have been gained by saying no? What would have what would have been the point of fighting it?”
And that’s such an important thing if you’re trying to look at this as an allegory on how people give into tyrants, and Peter is one of those people who’s like, well, I can’t stop him, so why should I try?
Meanwhile, Sirius and Lupin are over here like, uh, you should die trying because that’s the point!
Which is also one of the lines that Gary Oldman really nails in the movie. But I think it’s better in the book, like most things in here. Let’s see. So we talk about how Sirius gets out of Azkaban. Hey, and we finally get that moment you suggested, that Sirius dogpaddled all the way across the channel! He did, though!
He would transform in his cell, and Dementors couldn’t really sense that he was a dog because they can’t see.
C: So many ellipses!
S: You know, the Dementors just sensed something less complex, which they thought meant he was losing it like literally everyone else. And then, I appreciate this — that he saw Peter in the picture. And it wasn’t even just that — and this is a nuance that gets lost in the films too — it wasn’t just that Sirius sees Peter and is like, “Aha! I can finally get my revenge!” No, he says that he realized Peter was
“perfectly positioned to act, if one hint reached his ears that the Dark Side was gathering strength again…”
“…ready to strike at the moment he could be sure of allies… and to deliver the last Potter to them. If he gave them Harry, who’d dare say he’d betrayed Lord Voldemort? He’d be welcomed back with honors. So you see, I had to do something. I was the only one who knew Peter was still alive.”
It’s just a minor distinction, but I do appreciate it. That Sirius is just as much motivated by anger and desire for revenge as he is by realizing, “Shit! I am the only one who knows who he is. He’s hanging out with Harry Potter’s best friend at Hogwarts. He could kill him anytime he wants! He could take him back to Voldemort if he got the chance. I can’t let that happen!”
So that’s just a minor note, but it also helps to make Sirius a slightly more complex thinker than we normally think of him as being.
S: I really do appreciate that. And then, he slips through the door where they bring food, and then he climbs through the bars because he really is that thin, and then he swims back to the mainland, even though apparently he has no muscle tissue left.
C: You know, it’s canon these days in Star Wars that Darth Maul, who was sliced in half, bisected by Obi-Wan at the climax of The Phantom Menace actually managed to survive that, and then lives quite a significant amount of time and becomes the head of a crime syndicate for a while and also is involved with the Clone Wars and all kinds of stuff. He survived because of the power of his hate, and if Darth Maul can survive being literally cut in half, I am willing to believe Sirius Black with no muscle tone dogpaddling across the English Channel or whatever the hell he did.
S: Hear, hear! Then we get the nice sentimental moments where Sirius says he’s just been hanging out in the forest except when he came to the Quidditch match because he wanted to see Harry and he loves him. Now all of a sudden Harry is like, crap, I believe him.
So now Peter, panicking, tries everything he can think of. He tries to throw himself on Lupin’s mercy, on Sirius’s mercy. And then we get the line you were referring to. Pettigrew is like, “You do n’t believe this! Wouldn’t Sirius…”
“Not if he thought I was the spy Forgive me Not at all. Forgive me for believing you were the spy. Of course.
These two are the best.
“Shall we kill him together?”
“Yes, I think so,” said Lupin grimly.
Pettigrew turns to Ron. “I’ve been a good pet!”
“If you made a better rat than a human, it’s not much to boast about, Peter,” said Black harshly.
Oh, now he tries Hermione. And then he tries for Harry, which pisses Sirius off.
C: Notably, he doesn’t try Crookshanks.
S: No, I wouldn’t either if I were him. Crookshanks has made his position quite clear at this point.
Oh, man, he plays the mercy card. “James wouldn’t have wanted me killed! James would have understood.” You know, we don’t know that, Peter. We could ask James — except he’s dead, and it’s your fault. because you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
C: You know, I would say, out of the two of them, I would lean toward Lily being more likely to show him mercy, but then again she literally died thinking, “Oh shit, he just killed my husband. He’s gonna kill me and he’s gonna kill my baby.” So maybe not.
S: I don’t know. I mean, Lily might. If James did let Peter live for any reason, I could see him being like, he could have killed my son for a really long time, and he didn’t do it. So I guess I’ll give him a break. I mean, I still want him to get thrown in Azkaban, but you didn’t kill my kid when you could have. Although that is a REALLY low bar.
Okay, here is that great line where Peter says, “What could I have done? I was scared, I was never brave like you and Remus and James!” (BULLSHIT.)
“He was taking over everywhere. What was there to be gained by refusing him?”
“What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed? Only innocent lives, Peter!”
“You don’t understand! He would have killed me, Sirius!”
“THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!”
Oh, I like that line better than the movie version. The movie version, he says to Sirius, “What would you have done?” and Sirius says, “I would have died.”
I like this better. “You should have died.”
C: Yeah, I agree.
S: It’s stronger here, because it’s not just like a difference in personality, like, “I would have been brave enough to die.” No, you should have been too! YOU should have died rather than betray your friends.
Harry, why you gotta be good and shit? Like, why you got to be Harry Potter?
C: Cuz he’s the heeeeeeerooooooo.
S: Crookshanks is over here like, “Yeah, we know he ain’t gonna kill him, stupid. If you’d let me eat him earlier this all would have gone so much easier.”
But no, Harry says, you can’t kill him. We’ll take him up to the castle, we’ll hand him over to the Dementors, he can go to Azkaban, but don’t kill him. I’m doing it because I reckon my dad wouldn’t have wanted his best friends to become killers just for you.
Damn it. It’s all true! Oh, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine. Fine. We know you’re right. We just don’t want to admit it. Bastard.
Is it sad that I noticed here that Lupin says, “So I can’t really mend bones as well as Madam Pomfrey, so we’re just gonna strap up your leg.” And I was like, finally a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who doesn’t try to do every job!
C: I appreciated that.
S: Hey, he does use a spell we’ve never seen before!
C: Explain to me the Latin behind Ferula.
S: You know, it nagged me when I read it because I was like, that’s really familiar. Let me look it up because I feel like I know it, but it’s one of those things where you know it but you can’t think of it. Come on.
C: Oh, like on pencils! The metal part at the top is the ferrule. Pencils are made out of wood, and he straps a wooden strap on Ron’s leg? It all makes sense.
S: Hey, that’s clever. I love it. How awesome are you? Also your internet is much faster than mine.
C: That came out of my head, thank you very much. Which, you would know if it hadn’t because my keyboard is damn loud.
S: This is actually really interesting. Okay. The Latin name ferula means carrier or vehicle, and also there is the papal ferula, from teh usage that means “rod” or “staff,” which the pope carries. So ferula creates a solid rod or staff which straps to his leg. It’s like a carrier — it’s a vehicle! On a pencil, that’s the carrier or the vehicle for the lead, like you said.
C: I’m a genius.
S: What about Snape? Well, he’s still knocked out. Good for him. Mobilicorpus. We’ll just drag him along. Two of them are chained to Pettigrew, and I like that Ron volunteers. It’s going to be Lupin and Ron who are going to be chained to Pettigrew.
C: Sure, let the kid with the broken leg be half of this.
Ron’s face was set. He seemed to have taken Scabbers’ true identity as a personal insult.
C: I mean, since he was such a bitch to Hermione about Crookshanks going after him this whole time…
Crookshanks leapt lightly off the bed and led the way out of the room, his bottlebrush tail held jauntily high.
S: At least one person is like, “I win!”
C: Crookshanks! You are the best.
S: Oh my god. Okay. I have so many things I want to talk about with all of this stuff about werewolves.
C: I am all ears.
S: Maybe we should talk about the werewolf stuff before we get into the vaguer stuff.
So: WEREWOLVES! We really need to talk about werewolves. And there’s a lot of symbolism with the various creatures that all three of the Marauders transform into.
Let’s start by talking about Peter Stumpf, or Peter Stubbe.
C: Who is that?
S: Stubbe is pretty much the basic starting point of the werewolf as we know him. We know about him because of a 16-page pamphlet published in London in 1590, and was discovered again in 1920 by an occultist who found it interesting.
C: By an occultist?
S: Did you know that was a thing?
C: I know people who are into the occult exist. When you tell me 1920’s and the occult, I’m immediately like, Cthulu’s coming.
S: Peter Stubbe was a German farmer. He goes by several names – Griswold, Stumpf. Apparently he had his left hand cut off at a certain point. He lived Cologne, in the village of Eprath, and so apparently people called him Stumpf because he was missing his left hand. Which I also think is funny, given Peter Pettigrew missing a toe, but it’s purely coincidental, I think.
And, frankly, his story is pretty rough. He is known to history as the Werewolf of Bedburg. Weird stuff starts happening in Stubbe’s village, children are going missing, people start getting attacked, and a lot of animals start being found brutally massacred in fields. Logically, people assume that it’s an animal, a bear or a wolf or something. And for quite a while the people of the village are hunting, trying to find what it is that’s causing all of this. And I’m trying to find in here, if it says exactly how they come to the conclusion that it’s actually Peter who is doing all of this.
C: Well, it was the Middle Ages, and they were superstitious people who didn’t know much about science.
S: That is true. And to be fair, the jury is somewhat out as to whether or not Peter Stubbe actually did do this stuff or not. He’s arrested in 1589, and accused, and evidence is brought forth saying that he had been attacking and eating goats, lambs and sheep, but also men, women and children for over 25 years. That was the accusation. Now. This article says, “facing torture, he then confessed.” Now, I don’t know if that means he confessed before they tortured him or that he confessed while they were torturing him. It’s anyone’s guess.
C: How dare they ruin this for us with poor sentence structure?
S: It’s unfair. But he did confess to having murdered and eaten 14 children and two pregnant women. In fact, he describes — this is gross, I’m sorry, trigger warning — he described actually having extracted the fetuses from the pregnant women and eating that too.
C: I mean, in for a penny in for a pound.
S: Yeah. If you’re going to go that far, I guess he figured it was a bonus. He also confessed that he regularly had sex with his daughter.
C: And I’m sure his daughter appreciated that.
S: I’m sure she did. And he claimed to have had sex with a succubus that the devil had sent to him.
C: Okay, so I think now we know he’s crazy.
S: So either he’s making shit up, to get out of being tortured, which — fair? Or, he really was kind of crazy. It’s hard to know. What I’ve read about him has mostly led me to think that it might be a little bit of both. I know the evidence is limited, but my personal opinion is that he was a little crazy. And it is possible that he had killed some animals, and maybe some people, I mean, the fact that he went on for so long. And this was something that he claimed he had been doing for a really long time. I don’t know, there’s, as you can imagine, lots of very imaginative engravings of this. I just don’t know what to think. He could be crazy. He could be just making stuff up because they’re gonna torture him.
C: Here’s the thing, though. We don’t know that he actually confessed to any of this at all. And, presumably he was — anybody who is an expert in, you know, European Middle Ages, if I’m wrong about this, feel free to write in and tell us — probably not super educated, probably not even literate. So if they were like, here’s a whole bunch of shit that you did, including boning a succubus, he’d be like, okay, here’s the X. I did it.
S: It’s possible. Now I am going to say that the records indicate that he was wealthy and was a pretty respected member of the town and a wealthy farmer and landowner. So I don’t know. Now they do torture him and we find out the things he confesses to get more outlandish with torture, so you know, big surprise.
C: Wait, are you telling me waterboarding doesn’t work?!
S: Yeah. Just before being stretched on the rack, Stubbe confessed to having practiced black magic since he was 12. He said the Devil had forged and given to him a magical belt, enabling him to metamorphose into “the likeness of a greedy, devouring Wolf, strong and mighty with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body, and mighty paws.” When the belt was removed, Stubbe claimed, he would transform back to his human form.
C: How did he take off his own belt? How is he even wearing about when he’s in wolf form? How does he take off his own belt with his big paws that don’t have opposable thumbs, without say, tearing the belt?
S: That’s like you asking why Jacob Black isn’t naked every damn time he transforms into a wolf and back out of being a wolf, and I don’t know why you got to bring your logic into this.
C: I just wasn’t meant to be a superstitious person, I guess. I don’t know.
S: I’m more inclined to think that Peter Stubbe might have been, if anything, a serial killer, and an incestuous, abusive man. His confessions get more fantastical the closer we get to the threats of torture, which is not surprising. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he might have actually had killed some people. And then as the interrogation become more intense, it’s like, “I did it because the devil and magic and I’m a werewolf also!”
C: Do we know anything about his daughter or his family?
S: You’re not going to like it.
C: Are we sure that he — I mean, obviously, we can’t be sure. But was he actually having an incestuous relationship with his daughter? Or was that one of the increasingly outlandish horrible things he confessed to because Oh, God, maybe they’ll stop?
S: That actually seems to be one of the earlier things he confessed to before the torturing. So I don’t know.
C: That’s just deeply unfortunate.
S: It is. And you’re not gonna like what little we do know about his family. Because it’s awful. They execute him on October 31 — Of course they do – in 1589, in what even now people consider an extraordinarily violent way to kill someone. This particular article compares it to something aesthetically similar to a scene from the Saw franchise.
C: Oh, God.
S: So, you were warned listeners, but I’m going to tell you what it is anyway. They strap him to a wooden wheel. They tear flesh from his body in 10 places with red-hot pincers.
S: And then I’m a little bit confused because again, how dare they confuse me with their vague syntax? This is the second time this has happened in one article, and I’m very displeased! Because the quote from the pamphlet says “flesh was torn from his body in 10 places with red hot pincers, followed by his arms and legs.” So that leads me to believe that they tore his arms and legs off. But then it says, “Then his limbs were broken with the blunt side of an axe head to prevent him from returning from the grave.” So I guess his legs were still attached and they just broke them.
C: If they tore off his arms and legs, I don’t think he would have survived that happening too long, right? Because of blood loss.
S: Yeah, so maybe it’s just the bad syntax — they pulled flesh off of his body, including his arms and legs. Then they broke his limbs. Then they beheaded him and burned him on a pyre. Unfortunately, for everyone, history is a horrible place to be and people are horrible in general…because his daughter and his mistress apparently were flayed and strangled and burned along with his body.
C: That just seems unfair.
S: And as a preventative measure, the torture wheel was erected on a pole, with the figure of a wolf on it, topped by Peter Stubbe’s severed head as a warning to all.
C: So then, do these weird attacks and murders continue?
S: Apparently not. Now, there is some speculation that there might be something additional here because it says that the pamphlet and all the broadsheets that talk about the execution noted that there were members of the aristocracy, including the new Archbishop and elector of Cologne, in attendance at Stubbs execution. And they think it might be relevant because of the fact that he was committing his crimes from 1582 to 1589. And apparently, the electorate of Cologne was already in a bit of a political upheaval because Protestantism had been introduced and Peter Stubbe was an early convert to Protestantism.
C: Now we get to the real shit behind it!
S: “In 1587 Protestants were finally defeated, and the new Lord of Bedberg made Bedberg Castle the headquarters of his Catholic mercenaries who were determined to reestablish the Roman faith. Stubbe’s werewolf trial may have been performed to, a tad more than gently, persuade the remaining Protestants to sign up to Catholicism, it is unlikely that any of Germany’s elite would have attended a regular werewolf or witch trial, and they were regular. It is most likely the case that having drawn up Stumpp’s alleged and truly outrageous crimes, the elite constructed a popular popular public spectacle with assured visibility to the public at large, and then attended the embodiment of a werewolf, a Protestant scoundrel and archetype of anti Catholic spiritual darkness.” Again, none of that really speaks to whether or not he actually did one, two, or all of the things that he said. But it certainly suggests that whatever he may or may not have done was very likely highly exaggerated, to see much worse than it actually was. And, you know, there’s no way to ever know. The guy may have just been crazy. He may have just been slightly crazy and maybe did a couple things, and all the rest got tacked on. He may have done none of it. I don’t know. We don’t know. But he is certainly one of the most famous werewolf figures that we have.
And, lycanthropy is this mythological folkloric thing that’s been in our society for a long time that has always really kind of focused on the intersection between human nature and beast nature.
So werewolf legends are all over the world. And there’s a lot of them in Norse mythology, the Volsung saga that resembles werewolf legends, fighters who would wear hides of animals and then channel the spirits of those animals. And then there’s 11th century Russian folklore. This Prince, Vseslav of Polotsk, was considered to have been a werewolf — at night he proud in the guise of a wolf. Armenian folklore is one of the few that actually talks about women becoming werewolves.
C: Aw, yeah.
S: Very few female werewolves. And we will talk about why here very soon. But it should surprise no one that we’re going to see a lot of intersection between fear of werewolves and concerns over Christianity. This is one of the few cases in which we have a creature who is not compared unto our Lord and Savior.
There are quite a few werewolf trials in 16th century France. There was Gilles Garnier in 1573 — there was clear evidence against maybe a wolf attack, but not against the man. There’s different documented events caused by the full moon. There was from 1764 to 1767 an unknown entity which killed upwards of 80 men, women and children. And the creature was described as a giant Wolf by the sole survivor of the attacks. So then they went and killed a bunch of wolves and that stopped, so hey, it was probably just a wolf. But in lore, there’s different ways to become a werewolf, obviously, the one that most of us think of is getting bitten by a werewolf – which, from what we understand, is what happened to Lupin — but you can also become one by drinking water from a wolf’s pawprint, eating wolf brains, wearing a wolf skin or wolf skin belt, or a wolf skin garter — that one is really common, the idea of a belt of putting on a belt or some kind of girdle and that is what turns you into the wolf and then you take it off — a pact with the devil, of course, or some kind of family curse. And there’s all kinds of really interesting ones! In Portuguese and Brazilian folklore there’s the idea that the seventh of the sons, or your seventh child, will become a werewolf. In Portugal, the seventh daughter becomes a witch and the seventh son will become a werewolf. Don’t have seven kids, I guess.
C: That’s — that’s really unfortunate.
S: Yeah, it’s an odd one, right? I think the very rare example of — because after a while, everybody’s like, okay, werewolves and the devil go hand in hand — there was this one dude in 1692 in Jergenberg in Livonia, a man named Thiess of Kaltenbrun who “testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the hounds of God, that they were warriors who were who went down into Hell do battle with witches and demons, and their efforts ensured that the devil and minions did not carry off the abundance of the earth down into hell.”
C: Now, that dude was clever.
S: He was! “He was steadfast in his assertions, claiming that werewolves in Germany and Russia also did battle with the devil’s minions in their own versions of hell, and insisted that when werewolves died, their souls were welcomed into heaven as a reward for their service.” So we have found the first person to hazard the concept that, indeed, All Dogs Go To Heaven. Apparently, he was ultimately sentenced to 10 lashes for his superstitious and heretical beliefs.
C: I mean, that’s so much better than being stretched out on a torture wheel and having hunks of yourself torn off with red hot pincers.
S: Oh, yeah, that I forgot about when it said talking about like eating the brains of a wolf could turn you into one, I forgot that is also one of the things that that Peter Stubbe said that he did, only it was his son. He said that he killed his own son. The guy had problems. Or else he didn’t. And I’m not sure which one it is.
So, to kill a werewolf, you can either take the coat or the belt off. strike them in the heart with a silver bullet, arrow, or knife, have three drops of blood spilled or be struck three times on the head with a knife (that seems really like a broad spectrum,) or touch it with an object made of iron. Hmm, very, very strange vulnerabilities. I mean, silver seems to be the thing, but also of the weaknesses that werewolves supposedly have, the most common is an aversion to wolfsbane, (the Wolfsbane potion), and in mythology, wolfsbane is a plant that supposedly sprouted from weeds, watered by the drool of Cerberus, while he was brought out of the underworld by Hercules.
S: Fluffy drool has magical powers! They also apparently have a notable dislike for certain metals, which is iron or silver, which are both considered to represent the moon; and unlike vampires, they are not harmed by religious artifacts, such as the crucifix.
All right, all that is fine, and probably not all that surprising. That’s pretty straight-up what we all know about werewolves. Not that unusual. Most of the lore that we have about werewolves hasn’t changed all that much.
But there is a pretty key element that has — and I’m about to pull that up and talk about it.
So, we talked a lot about the medieval view of things because that seems to be really important in terms of where she pulls a lot of her ideas from, and the Hogwarts world itself feels very medieval. The church had this bestiary where a lot of these magical creatures from the Harry Potter universe come from, like basilisks and manticores. But werewolves were not included in the bestiary. And that’s partly because the bestiary was supposed to communicate a moral message from God to mankind somehow. But werewolves were not included in that. Mainly, this is because everybody hated wolves in Europe, because you know, they’re dangerous, and they eat everything. And they’re very powerful creatures.
In the allegorical tradition, they’re linked with greed, and gluttony. There’s a lot of different kind of werewolf stories. Some of them have to do with a man who’s trapped in a bestial form. Usually, it’s his wife’s fault, for some reason.
C: I mean, come on.
S: Blame the woman! Blame the witch! That’s a moral of a lot of the stories — learning that the lady is to blame, and can’t be trusted. But it’s really the tail end of the Middle Ages, in the 15th and 16th centuries, where people start believing that werewolves, like witches, are servants of the Devil. And so if you’re convicted of being a werewolf, you can be burned alive.
C: May I interrupt you? At what point did it come into the tale that you transformed into a werewolf during the full moon? Because I thinking it would be really easy to hold someone for a month and see if they transform into a werewolf. And if they don’t, I guess they weren’t the person killing people, I don’t know, maybe we should let them go instead of torturing them to death.
S: That’s so smart. You’re so logical. You’re so wise.
C: I mean, one doesn’t get to be a professor based on emotion alone.
S: No, no, that is true. No, I mean, I think it’s probably tied in with the fact that — and there is data to back this up — human behavior can be affected by the moon. They say crime tends to go up around the full moon. And that’s just kind of a thing that happens. People get a little goofy, and scientists hazard that it maybe has something to do with, you know, the pull of the moon affects the pull of water, and we’re mostly water. So maybe there’s something there. I’m not sure where when exactly that idea became firmly entrenched.
But it may not surprise you to learn that in a lot of cases, the werewolf symbolized anxieties about male sexualities that were considered deviant. Particularly, three motifs common in Netherlands, Flanders and Germany can be considered as metaphors for male homosexuality, sexual violence, and bestiality. The first motif featured the werewolf as a “back rider.” In legends dealing with this, the werewolf would jump on someone’s back, who then had to carry the werewolf. And the werewolf would also then lick or urinate on the person he jumped on, which according to this historical anthropologist, indicated homosexual acts. Although if that’s the case, I don’t think these people know what homosexual acts actually entail. Because that’s not how any of that works.
C: Well, I mean, if the back jumping is supposed to represent, let’s say, non-missionary –
C: Yes. Straight people do that, too. And I’m sure that is not something that started in the 90s after everyone got the internet and easy access to porn.
S: But not the GOOD straight people!
C: Oh, please.
S: I’m sorry, I couldn’t even finish that.
C: Yeah, that’s why like the state in this country that watches the most porn is Utah, with all those good Mormons out there who would never touch it.
S: So there are versions of putting on clothes that the devil gives you that turns you into a werewolf. There was also this this one version of a story that’s honestly really reaching, that had said that they kind of interpret it as some kind of take on bestiality or something like that. But the bottom line is that the werewolf tends to be on this border between civilization and wildness.
This is the one that I feel is really reaching. “Another theme that reflected anxieties about male deviant sexuality can be found in the most common type of werewolf story called The Hungry Farmhand.” Oh, dear. Okay. I don’t know if he realized where that was going. “In these legends a group of laborers took a nap. One of them put on a belt, transformed into a werewolf, and devoured a foal. Another labor only pretended to sleep and watched the werewolf.” Because I guess he gets off on watching. When the werewolf returned, he complained about a stomachache or a lack of appetite, depending on the legend. The labor who watched him replied that this was no wonder, since he had just eaten a foal. Since in some stories the werewolf put off his trousers before the transformation, and due to the impossibility of devouring an entire foal in such a short period of time, the anthropologist interpreted this type of legend as a metaphor for bestiality.
C: Um. Okay.
S: And then of course, we have our dear friend Peter Stubbe. One of the crimes he was accused of was killing a girl who he had first “deflowered.”
Many cases associated werewolves with sexual violence that was perpetrated after their transformation. “And the underlying anxiety was once again the Devil would undermine Christian society with the help of werewolves. In Westphalia, Hesse and Schonburg werewolves were often called the Boxenwolf, meaning “trouser wolf,” and this name stressed the lower half of the werewolf’s body and thus their sexuality. It should be noted that in many stories, means such as belts or girdles help the werewolves to assume their form. Peter Stubbe claimed the same thing — that he would put on a girdle and that would help him transform. Most of the stories — even in stories for the Brothers Grimm. And since belts and girdles divide the body into two halves, they emphasize the lower half of the body and hence the person’s sexuality.” Additionally, “wild hair stands for wild morals,” the anthropologist pointed out. Oh my!
C: Are we sure that’s what that’s talking about?
S: “But essentially, in looking at all the stories and how they overlap, it becomes obvious at least in these areas, the werewolf is often a metaphor for deviant male sexuality. Thus, the werewolf in these regions expressed anxieties about male sexual deviance closely associated with the transformation and the lupine shape. The animalistic nature of a werewolf enabled by the Devil posed a danger to society, since it caused people, particularly men, to deviate from early modern sexual norms.” How dare they! Because that’s really what it was. It wasn’t you know, men being into other men, it’s because the Devil made them do it. Not that, dude, your neighbor is hot, you know?
C: I mean, look at how burly he is after spending 14 hours a day tilling his rocky soil that he doesn’t own, you know.
S: And so according to Catholic tradition, the wolf symbolizes heresy, gluttony, false prophets and the devil. Gluttony of multiple natures, particularly a sexual nature.
C: What other than lambs and doves does the Catholic Church not think symbolizes the Devil? And let me actually just rewind that and just let’s say all of Christianity, I don’t want to like, pick on them.
S: It’s either Jesus or it’s the devil. It’s one of those two things. They also point out that lycanthropy can be a metaphor for puberty — all the changes, trying to struggle with your primal instincts. It could also be a metaphor for menstruation — a regular monthly cycle, changing once a month. And then of course, “because of its typical transmission through biting and frequently fatal outcome, lycanthropy can also be a metaphor for any contagious disease, particularly those that are transmitted sexually.” So all of this brings me back to the fact that JK Rowling said that she intended Lupin being a werewolf as this metaphor for HIV.
C: Have we talked about that on the show?
S: Briefly, but we hadn’t really got into it much because I had lots of complicated thoughts and didn’t want to get too deep into it.
C: I mean, I don’t remember that which should shock no one who knows me because my memory is terrible.
S: I think that’s pretty widely acknowledged. JK Rowling said herself that she originally intended Lupin’s werewolf status — him being an outcast, people are afraid of him, no one wants to trust him with their children, he has a hard time keeping a job, his appearance of being sickly and thin and everything — that she had intended it as kind of an AIDS metaphor.
C: I mean, I guess I can see that. You become a werewolf when someone bites you and you know, it’s transmission by bodily fluid, essentially. I would not have come up with that on my own, like reading it, I would not have made that connection. Um, I guess it’s kind of interesting that that’s what she was going for.
S: Now, as a result of that, David Thewlis said—
C: Oh, okay, I remember this now!
S: — that he when he was playing Lupin, his thought was he was trying to play Lupin as kind of like a gay junkie. That’s exactly what he said – a gay junkie.
Now, he had no idea at the time that he was going to have a female love interest written into the series. So as he has said, when he had Lupin in his mind, and the way he played him in Prisoner of Azkaban, in his mind Lupin was gay and maybe had a drug problem, or at least it was a parallel for that. And then he had to deal with the introduction of the Tonks story, which was surprising to him but he was like, okay, you know, whatever, I’ll go with it. And I just wonder what your thoughts are on that because I know we haven’t gotten to the Tonks love story. And I know that everybody loves Lupin and Tonks, because Tonks is awesome. Lupin’s awesome. We like the idea of someone like Lupin finding love after everything that he’s done. We like the fact that Tonks loves him for him, despite the age difference, despite everything. But JK Rowling apparently was not super thrilled with people suggesting that Lupin might possibly be gay or anything like that, which, you know, big shock. JK Rowling being unhappy about other people suggesting things that she didn’t suggest first.
C: You know, I really feel like she at this point is herself moving into problematic fav territory.
S: She is. And Lindsay Ellis did a great video about Death of the Author, in which she talked about JK Rowling. And yeah, we’re kind of we kind of are getting into that territory and if she keeps going the way she’s going on Fantastic Beasts, I think we’re definitely getting there. But here’s my thing with Lupin. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about this until we get to book six. But you know, we’ll never get to book six. So I might as well talk about it now.
C: We can talk about it again because I will have completely forgotten all aspects of this conversation.
S: In book six, we’re introduced to the character of Fenrir Greyback. When we first hear his name, when his name is first mentioned, Lupin is described as gripping the thing he is holding convulsively, and freaking out just at the name. He asks Harry, “Oh, you don’t know who that is?” And Harry doesn’t. Well, Fenrir Greyback is one of the most notorious werewolves in the wizarding community, and he is super into being a werewolf, to the extent that he actually positions himself near children on purpose so that when he turns he’ll be near enough to bite children and victimize them. And that he’s in fact so far gone that he’s begun attacking children, it is suggested, even when it’s not a full moon and he hasn’t fully transformed. Later in book six when we finally see Greyback, and he’s talking to Dumbledore, there’s this scene where he is described as slowly and obscenely licking his fingers. It’s suggested that he has attacked someone down below in Hogwarts, so he’s got blood on his fingers.
C: Is that when he gets Bill?
S: think it might be. And then Dumbledore makes a comment about how he is so far gone that he’s allowing his monstrous urges to take him over. And Greyback licks his fingers slowly and says, “Oh, but Dumbledore, you know how much I love children.”
S: So, all of that taken together, my thoughts on Lupin become much more complicated, and probably not a place that most people want to go with the character. But it seems pretty obvious by the time we get to book six that that werewolf-like behavior is being pretty heavily coded along the lines of pedophilia. I mean, there’s really no question about the way Greyback is being depicted. And Lupin struggles violently with being a werewolf, with the trauma of what has happened to him. And then in book seven, when Tonks becomes pregnant, part of the reason he runs is because he says, What if he’s like me, but also his fear that he might attack his kid.
And I know I’m taking this in a very dark place. And I don’t mean to suggest that Lupin is a pedophile by any means. But what I do mean to suggest is that part of Lupin’s issue is being a victim of sexual assault at a very young age. If we take lycanthropy as being a coded way to look at sexual assault, in a series that is very careful to heavily redact sexual implications, but in THIS ONE CASE really doesn’t — to me, that explains a lot more about his issues with his relationship with Tonks, his hesitation to get married, his struggles once he does get married, as more of a sexual trauma coded thing, rather than an AIDS metaphor. But that’s also an extremely dark and troublesome way of looking at a much beloved character. And so it’s not something I bring up very often. But having gone through all that, I would love to hear your thoughts.
C: Well, my first thought is this pernicious lie, that will never go away. Or I mean, hopefully one day it will go away, but has not in God only knows how many years, is that that gay men are pedophiles.
C: So – ugh. Obviously, HIV and AIDS is the thing that afflicts everyone, but it first became a big crisis among the gay male community, and these books are set in sort of that time period. Well, a little later than that, I suppose. I hope that was not what she was going for with that, because I know you said that she was irritated with a suggestion that Lupin was gay, and that was just like a David Thewlis thing. But all of that together is not ideal.
S: It’s not. Here’s what I think I. I don’t think that she intended for Lupin to be gay. And I actually don’t read him as gay. I can see where people could though. I could see, given his close relationship with Sirius, his longtime bachelorhood, his continued ostracism from the rest of the wizarding world — and frankly, and I know, I would anger a lot of people by saying this — but frankly, his steady resistance to being in a relationship with Tonks and their lack of chemistry post-relationship is very suggestive.
I don’t think Lupin is gay, but I also think that JK messed up in her thought of being a werewolf as being equivalent to having AIDS — because if that was her intention, she messes it up when she introduces Greyback. Because by introducing Greyback, she makes it much clearer that her intention actually is a lot more along the lines of sexual trauma, and sexual predators, and dealing with the fallout of that. Now, is it possible that a sexual predator could give someone AIDS on purpose? Sure. But I don’t think the metaphor holds up very well that way. I think, as a metaphor, once you introduce Greyback, it becomes much more about a person who’s been victimized and is struggling to have any kind of healthy sexuality post-that kind of trauma. And that goes a lot farther to explaining his problems with having any kind of a healthy relationship and his insistence on keeping tongs at arm’s length, and just his fear after the fact that he’s going to ruin it because, you know, you’re dealing with massive trauma, and that kind of thing affects you.
That’s my read on the whole Lupin thing. And people don’t like that so much, because it’s not so clear cut. And it’s also a little bit darker and a little bit more distressing. And I guess it’s not as cool and subversive, at least from like, a straight person’s point of view about ‘Oh, Lupin could be gay and wouldn’t that be cool,’ but yeah, I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think it holds up. And I actually think it’s a really bad and lazy reading to just be like, oh, Lupin’s gay because reasons. Saying that he’s gay just leads into, like you say, more troubling associations with the stereotype of some gay dude with AIDS, you know?
C: Yeah. And there’s a whole big fandom around the Marauders, you know, all sleeping together. Or at least James, Sirius and Lupin.
S: Sirius and Lupin are a really common pairing.
C: And part of that, I think comes from, one, there’s just such a dearth of depictions of straight male friendship, or even straight-gay male friendship. Because, you know, God forbid. So anything that’s like remotely affectionate or close? People hone in on. Also, that comes from the fact of there’s a dearth of queer representation in media. So anytime you see something, it’s like, oh, my God! and people imprint on it whether it’s there or not. I get why people would look at Lupin throughout the books and think, hey, he’s gay, he and Sirius had a thing or whatever. But at the same time, he marries Tonks. He and Tonks have a kid. Not that you can’t do that as a gay person, because that has happened too, plenty of times. It very openly still happens with people who are Mormon. I’m sure it happens with women too, but mostly happens with men that I’ve heard of. Men admit, “Yes, I’m a gay male, but it’s okay. God loves me as long as I don’t act on it.” And women marry them knowing their husband is gay.
But at the same time, I think you have to deliberately read against the text to say, Oh, yeah, this is going on, but secretly Lupin’s gay.
S: I guess the problem where I get nervous about my read on Lupin is that I wouldn’t want to make the mistake of looking at sexual trauma in that that terrible stereotype, like you said, that idea that like all gay men are pedophiles, or, even conversely, that a man who is abused by another man grows up to be a pedophile and to repeat the abuse, which is not true. It can happen, certainly. But just the fact of Lupin’s own fears about himself as a parent — to me, you could read it that way. To me, I think it’s more a fear of just himself as a person being emotionally stunted. Like, he’s afraid that the traumas that he has been through have made it next to impossible for him to be a healthy person emotionally, as a spouse, as a father.
C: And if we go with the assumption that Lupin actually does love Tonks, hence him marrying her and having a child with her, his fear, too, is especially as a man, she’s going to be ostracized with me, our child is going to be ostracized with me, they’re going to lose everything, I’m not going to be able to provide for them. It’s literally everything.
S: At the same time, it’s something that I almost wish was a more common reading of Lupin, because in terms of healthy and positive representations of men who have suffered sexual trauma at a young age at the hands of other men, which is explicitly in the text, right? It could do so much good. Does that make sense? Lupin is this incredible, heroic, wonderful person. He’s a complex person that that provides so many wonderful traits, ways to to be masculine, and to be a man and to be a compassionate person. And if we were more comfortable talking about the fact that she pretty much wrote into the text that he’s a man who was sexually assaulted by another man, if you follow her own coding patterns, and he spends the rest of his adult life struggling to deal with that — I know, that’s a really heavy thing to throw into a kid’s series, but it’s also there! She put it there!
C: The thing is, though, and not that you’re wrong, because having said everything you’ve said, absolutely, I can see that. But to me, it’s like her making the bankers hook-nosed goblins. You explained to me, who is an ignorant person, how that was a Jewish stereotype. And of course, Jewish people have this stereotype of being rich and being money lenders or whatever, all that nonsense. The assumption here with this would be that that’s what she thought of, and that’s what she’s intended, where we have this other example of the goblins where presumably she didn’t realize this what she was doing. And, and that seems like that at least, despite me not knowing stuff — she’s a writer, maybe she would know a little bit more than I do? And would be more up on stuff like that? Maybe not. I don’t know. All I’m saying is she used stereotypes once and let us hope that she did so out of ignorance. So, if that’s the case, then it’s likely that happened with this as well.
S: It is possible. It’s just so suggestive because she’s shown that she understands mythology and a lot of these creatures really well, and their origins. And we’ve said that she’s taken a lot of these mythological creatures and their origins and really sanitized them. And maybe that’s what she intended to do here. And maybe what she ended up doing with Fenrir Greyback was completely by accident. And even if it was entirely subconscious, though, this is the one time when she didn’t sanitize the myth. Because everything in the way that she describes Greyback really speaks to this idea of deviant male sexuality. He’s described as lascivious, in a way, deviant, unsafe. And we only meet two werewolves in the story — well, one of them is a predator who’s constantly talking about how much he likes children. I don’t know that we can avoid the association for the other one and not look at the implications of that. Whether she intended it or not, she picked a mythological creature that’s steeped in sexual connotation, and in this case particularly, didn’t really expunge the sexual connotation. It’s one of the few times where she didn’t! We have brooms that go from sexual objects to fun sports things. But we also have werewolves that go from deviant male sexual and murderous behaviors… to…um… deviant male sexual and murderous behaviors.
That may be what bugs me about it, because she did sanitize everything else. But she didn’t sanitize this. Whether it was on purpose, I don’t know. It might not have been, it might just come across that way and she didn’t really realize she was going there until it was done. All I know is that Lupin is one thing, but once you introduce Greyback and provide that kind of context for Lupin’s own story, it changes a lot of stuff. And then his reaction to his own future with Tonks is also something that is just I struggled with for a long time. The whole Book 7 rounding out of his arc confused me for so long.
C: I’ve only read book seven once, but I was super disappointed with all of that. They got married and had a kid and everything, that’s great. But it’s like, Lupin, man, you’re not the character you were! What has happened to you?
S: I struggled with it at the time. But the more I thought about it in the context of Greyback and the metaphor, it all of a sudden made a lot more sense. Reading it through that lens, everything Lupin does in seven actually makes a lot of sense. So I guess that’s the reading I go with because it makes his behaviors as a character consistent throughout the story. I think that’s possibly what makes him so fascinating to me because, if that’s true, we’ve got a character who’s undergoing a massive internal struggle that he never talks about. We got a character undergoing a massive internal struggle that we only see through a limited external view, through Harry’s eyes. And so as adult readers who are more perceptive than Harry is, we read it, and we’re like, oh, there’s way more going on there than Harry realizes. That’s just has been one of the more complex and interesting things to me about Lupin and about the whole werewolf thing. And as we go on, it’ll come up again, I know we’ll talk about it more.
But I also thought you might appreciate knowing this. I’ve talked so far about the symbolism and the history of werewolves. But I also thought about looking at it in context of werewolves’ interactions with the other animals, like the Animagi in the books. And there’s some interesting stuff here.
First of all, rats. It may not surprise you to know that rats don’t have a real positive symbolic history in medieval art. The rat or mouse, because of its destructiveness, is a symbol of evil.
C: Of course!
S: All these other animals have, like a full paragraph, and this one is so simple, because rats are destructive, and everyone hated rats. It was a massive problem in the Middle Ages. And so it’s just a symbol of evil, plain and simple. Okay, fine.
So then I’m going with this whole symbolism-of-animals-with-religious-overtones, because so much of this is that, so I was like, Okay, what about the deer? The deer, according to Catholic saint information, is a symbol of solitude and piety. It could denote someone who was a hunter in life. And deer are associated in art with a lot of people — King David, Jesus, and then a whole bunch of saints, and one of those saints is –
C: SAINT POTTER!
S: St. Francis of Assisi was a rich cloth merchant. He was well educated, but he had a bit of a misspent youth. And he was a prisoner of war at a certain point and had a conversion experience, and so began to take his faith seriously, renounced his former life, began following Christ, etc. St. Francis of Assisi is really a big, big one among the saints. In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis because they believe that he was opposite the demon in heaven. He’s a powerful dude in the world of saints.
C: Meanwhile, poor Francis is over here like, “Dude, I just liked animals.”
S: Well, here’s an interesting story about Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. The Wolf of Gubbio was a wolf that terrorized the Umbrian city of Gubbio until it was tamed by St. Francis of Assisi acting on behalf of God. So according to the story, around 1220, a fierce wolf appeared in the country and began attacking livestock. “And soon the wolf graduated to direct assaults on humans and not long after began to dine upon them exclusively. It was known for lingering outside of the city gates and wait for anyone foolish enough to venture beyond them alone. No weapon was capable of inflicting injury upon the wolf and all who attempted to destroy it were devoured. Eventually, the mere sight of the animal caused the entire city to raise alarm and the public refuse to go outside the walls for any reason. It was at that point that St. Francis announced he was going to take leave and meet the wolf. He was advised against this more than once, but irrespective of the warnings, he made the sign of the Cross and went beyond the gates with a small group of followers. When he neared the lair of the wolf, the crowd held back but remain close enough to witness it.” So the wolf rushes at St. Francis with its jaws open, and Francis commands the wolf to cease its attacks in the name of God, at which point, the wolf trots up to him docilely and lays at his feet, putting its head in his hands. And then it describes what he says — he calls him his brother, he says, “You’ve done much evil in the land, killing creatures of God, you’ve dared to devour men, etc. All men cry out against thee but I will make peace between them and thee,” so if you’ll be good, they’ll forgive you and no one will chase you anymore. And the wolf agrees, submitting to St. Francis. And Francis in return offered, “If you make this peace, you’ll be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as you live among them. You will no longer suffer hunger. And I will do all of this for you if you promise never to attack any animal or human being again.” So, in agreement, the wolf placed one of its four paws in Francis’s outstretched hand and the oath was made. Francis then commanded the wolf to return with him to Gubbio, and it was considered a miracle. And when Francis reached the marketplace, he offered the assembled crowd an impromptu sermon with the tame wolf at his feet. He is quoted as saying, “How much we ought to dread the jaws of Hell if the jaws of so small an animal as a wolf can make the whole city tremble with fear!”
C: Something tells me that didn’t really go down that way.
S: Probably not, because apparently the wolf kept putting its paw in St. Francis’s hand to illustrate their pact, so either that’s a really well trained dog or I don’t know what, but according to tradition, they gave the wolf an honorable burial at the church of St. Francis, and apparently, during renovations in 1872, they did actually find the skeleton of a large wolf, apparently several centuries old, buried under a slab near the church wall and then reburied inside.
C: I kind of dig that part of it!
S: I just found it super interesting that in, in medieval art and lore, the deer or the stag is associated with St. Francis. And the deer is constantly a symbol of Jesus, with the cross and everything. There’s all these legends about a deer that was spotted out in the forest and somebody tried to hunt it, but then they looked closely, and a cross appeared between its antlers. And they were like, “Oh, no, I can’t kill it! Apparently, it’s Jesus!”
C: I’ve never heard of that!
S: That’s apparently a legend that shows up a few times from this time period. So, the deer is consistently associated with Jesus, but it’s also consistently associated with St. Francis. And St. Francis is considered the guy who befriended the wolf when nobody else would. And so I find that just very interesting that you have James Potter as the deer, who’s the guy whose son ends up saving the whole wizarding world, but he’s also the guy who helps befriend the wolf, and makes it possible for the wolf to you know, not kill people and stuff.
C: That’s probably deliberate.
S: I’m going to say it probably is. Even if it was a coincidence, that would be one hell of a coincidence, and I think it probably is pretty deliberate. I just liked that a lot. I thought that was really cool. But rats don’t get anything quite so good. They’re just awful and evil, and we want them all to die. So there’s your moral lesson for today.
C: What about big dogs?
S: Well, we talked about big dogs previously in one of our last episodes, and I need to go back and look at what all we said about them. We talked about the folklore of them being specters of death and signs of death, but also very loyal. And then that was that awesome guy who used to take his dog out on the battlefield and everybody thought it was like possessed or immortal or something, which was freaking cool. But um, let me see. I think there was something —
C: Dogs are Jesus.
S: Of course they are! Oh, this is fun. “Dog symbolize fidelity, loyalty, watchfulness, and orthodoxy. There are many examples of the faithfulness of dogs.” And then occasionally, black and white dogs were used as symbols of the Dominicans, dogs of the Lord. Because the friars wear black and white robes. So the loyal dog that stays at the side of the holy ones and assists, one would assume, with the taming of the werewolves? It’s complicated. But it’s fun to look at all these little intersections of medieval lore that come into all of this. I mean, there’s just so much there. And it’s crazy, the depth of what goes into choosing these animalistic symbols for these people. And since so much of this book is about that intersection between animal and humans, it’s a great time to look at it. The medieval world was really interested in this. A lot of medieval time and effort that went into this discursion of the boundaries between the animal and the human and where that lay.
C: I think it’s fascinating that the animal is always the lower part of your body, as if wanting to bone is a terrible thing.
S: It is, though, according to this kind of thought! Because this goes back to the philosophical idea that the soul and the body were two different things. And that not only that, but that the soul was the divine and the body is the earthly, and that one had to fight the other, that you had to resist the flesh in order to be more divine. And this is where we get all of our sexual hang ups. Because of the idea that you had to fight the impulses of your own flesh in order to be closer to the divine, or closer to God. And so people get all caught up in the struggle.
S: That’s why the lower half of your body with all the fun sexy times been portrayed as the animal side!
C: Because it couldn’t be that like, human beings were supposedly made deliberately by God in a specific way, and that maybe God wants us to have fun boning. And that’s why it’s fun.
S: You know what I’ve always found hilarious? The idea, and I’m going to offend so many people with this, although if you’re listening to our podcast, you’re not easily offended, so nevermind. This is this is not new. The idea that sex is the original sin. You know, the story in the Bible, Adam and Eve, and the tree —
C: I thought it was about disobeying God!
S: That really is a much more logical interpretation of it. But for forever, the Catholic Church said that no, the original sin was sex. And the reason they said that is because Eve tempted Adam into it. And that whole partaking of the fruit thing, that that was just a big metaphor for sexy times. Which is funny because the Bible just straight up calls it like the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. And that actually when Satan’s talking to Eve, he’s like, “You know, if you eat of this fruit, you’d be like God, and you’d know what was good and bad, and you could make your own decisions.” Not, “You can go hump your husband!”
C: They were already humping!
S: This is where I get to that part, because the Catholic Church maintained forever this concept of original sin, and that original sin was sex, that led to the downfall of man. And that’s why we blame the women, because they’re the reason we can’t keep it in our pants. And that led to the fall of mankind, etc, etc. Right? And only after the fall, did Adam and Eve have children? And so they took that as evidence that you know, sex was the thing. But see, that doesn’t work. Because in Genesis, I think Genesis 1:26, before all of that nonsense with the tree, God’s like, “So now that you’re here, here’s what I want you to do, Be fruitful and fill the earth!” Well, how do you think they’re gonna do that? People? I’m pretty sure that was God-sanctioned boning right there.
C: Well, and the other thing, too, is like, after all of this happens is we’ve only been talking about Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, and then they have their son Seth, you know, here’s your replacement kid be happy, whatever. Yeah. And then suddenly, they’re like all these other tribes out there. Okay, where do they come from?
S: Yeah, well, because the implication being that actually, you know, Adam and Eve had some daughters too, but they just didn’t mention them. Because, you know, Cain gets married, he has a wife at a certain point.
S: So that would be his sister. Because, you know, that’s the other part that nobody really wants to have to talk about that at a certain point. That’s the thing that happens — limited number of people, limited number of boning partners. But yeah, anyway, I just always found that whole Original Sin thing really funny given that like two verses ahead of that idea, it’s completely flatly contradicted, and it makes no sense.
C: Wait, are you telling me the Bible contradicts itself?
S: No, what I’m saying is that people reading the story of Adam and Eve and being like, “Aha, this is clearly a lesson on how women are evil! Having sex ruins everything!” had an agenda, is what I’m saying. Because if you walk away with that message, you brought your problems to the to the story. I don’t know how you could read that and be like, “Oh, yes, obviously, it was sex. That was the problem.”
C: Gosh, you should tweet Mike Pence and let him know.
S: Oh, it would be very distressing to him, I imagine. Mike Pence is also, I think, pretty clearly closeted, too. I mean, his life would be so much better if he could just get past that.
C: Oh, what was the name of that one Republican woman who ran for president?
C: YES. Her husband – my word. Allegedly. Presumably, I know nothing. I know nothing. I’m not saying this is fact. I have no idea. I kind of feel like that may be a situation like that. I don’t know, I feel like they’re going to come sue us for this.
S: They’re not going to listen to this! We’re talking about Devil fiction!
C: Well, that’s true.
S: Harry Potter is the devil and we’re already practicing witches just by talking about it. I mean, hello. No, I know exactly what you mean. And that just always makes me think of Parks and Rec with that lady Marcia Langman, who’s the head of the family something and something else Council. And she’s always trying to destroy anything and everything that has any vague relation to sexuality, but her husband is so obviously gay it’s insane. Thank you Parks and Rec, I love you so much.
Wow, I feel like we got off topic, just in a different way than normally. Rather than just being horribly heretical, we ended up in this deep dive of medieval sexuality and the way that mythology is used to explore that fear of deviant male sexual mores. But seriously, like all that werewolf legends and stuff like I don’t know, man. I don’t know why. And I can’t remember what version of the story it was. But the first time I heard that Peter Stubbe story, some of the stuff that they were saying that he did, and the way it was described, really made me think of child victimization. And that’s kind of what led me to the whole thing with Greyback. So I don’t know, I feel like werewolves are another one of those concepts that we invented, because we can’t process how some people can be so horrible and predatory towards others, particularly the weak. And maybe that’s where we get that idea from, because we’re trying to process it.
But then again, it could just be good old homophobia, although I feel like that’s what centaurs are for. Gotta love the centaurs having big old bone fests in the forest.
C: If there’s one thing I think we’ve learned is that it’s fine to have multiple ways to criticize homosexuality. Why stick with one when you could have all of these different things?
S: Well, as long as we can do that, and not focus on the problems inherent in our own misogynistic patriarchal culture that seems to prioritize heterosexual relationships while simultaneously demonizing one half of the heterosexual relationship and then wondering why stuff doesn’t work well, then. Sure.
C: I mean, if women just knew their place, if we would just stay home and have babies and raise babies!
S: But don’t enjoy it, though.
C: You’ve got to be amazing at sex and do all kinds of different things. But you know, you yourself can’t enjoy it.
S: Yeah, blaming the gays is so much easier.
Okay, well, if you’re not completely like turned off and offended by everything we’ve said thus far, we haven’t dragged your personal beliefs through the mud somehow, some way, or your personal views of the character that you liked, somehow, some way –
C: Just give us time.
S: Then you pass the test. Just so you know, we’re only on book three. There are four more books of this, so if you haven’t stopped listening yet, you may still, I mean, there’s time.
C: How low can we go? LOWER THAN YOU THINK.
S: So next time we’ve got chapter 20, “The Dementors Kiss,” – woo! Things getting spicy up in here.
We can finish the book next time! We’ve got “The Dementor’s Kiss,” “Hermione’s Secret”… You know, if we really read these chapter titles wrong, all sorts of things are going on.
C: “Hermione’s Secret!” She’s having a love child with a Dementor!
S: Oh my god, there was one other thing I wanted to bring up to you. Oh my god. Do you mind?
C: No, go for it.
S: I know this episode is super long. Okay, so I want to bring something up that has been on my mind. And you might find this ludicrous and think I’m overreading into this story, which is very, very possible.
But I was thinking about the age at which all of this is happening at. Everybody’s 13. And the movie actually kind of makes some sly visual jokes about that — I mean, they’re really not that subtle or sly, what with Harry playing with his wand under his sheets at night at home now that he’s 13. But I was really struck by the struggles between Ron and Hermione in this book. And their back and forth, back and forth, and Ron’s –
C: Being a total dick?
S: Yeah, being a dick and being really frustrated with her. And then my brain went so Freudian I frightened myself. Do you want to hear my Freudian take on all of this?
C: I mean, why the hell not?
S: Okay. So when we encounter Ron and her money in this book, and we are reintroduced to their struggles with each other, they’ve really taken it up a notch. And you’ve got Ron’s super strong attachment to his rat, which I think is very emblematic of his childhood. It’s something he’s grown up with. He’s had it for 12 years, as long as he’s been a kid, but he’s 13 now, right? Puberty is a thing that is happening. The kids are moving into adulthood. But Ron is very not happy about that. And I think he’s clinging very hard to his rat and his concept of his rat. At the same time, you’ve got Hermione, who is instead embracing something new in her personal development, as symbolized by her purchase of Crookshanks in Diagon Alley — which is also a cat, which – I’m not going to get that Freudian, but —
C: VAGINAS is what we’re talking about, Ladies and gentlemen.
S: So she purchases a cat, and Ron immediately is unsettled by this choice.
C: *dies laughing*
S: And they spend a lot of time feuding over the disconnect between her cat and his rat. This is the worst sex talk ever.
C: HER VAGINA, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
S: This is what really clinched it and made me start thinking along these lines anyway, and I should have brought it up last time, but I had didn’t have the fully formed theory on my brain yet. So there’s sniping back and forth. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Hermione is showing herself to be much more mature than Ron is in this book, but also that Hermione is feeling a little bit overwhelmed by a lot of the stuff that she’s taken on herself this year — stuff that the boys have no conception of. She’s frazzled, she’s overwhelmed, she’s a little stressed out. She’s a little exhausted, and the boys are completely clueless. And yes, I know. That’s the Time Turner. But again, puberty. And all of this culminates in what is actually kind of a breaking point in the relationship between Ron and Hermione, until the plot points swoop in to save us all, which is when they’re up in the dorm and Ron storms up there, and there’s all this confusion. And the evidence that ends up serving as the breaking point for them is some blood on a sheet.
You knew I was going there right?
C: Yeah, as soon as you got close to it.
S: And that’s the thing that pushes Ron deep into denial territory. Like hardcore, angry denial territory! Hermione, meanwhile, is really frustrated and emotional about this. She’s like, I don’t understand why everything I do is wrong. This sucks, and he’s being an ass.
Man, did my brain just run with it. Because there’s so much in this book that’s just a metaphor for struggling to deal with not only your own puberty, but the fact that the people around you are going through puberty, particularly the girl that you kind of like, and is developing and maturing in ways that you’re not, and you’re having a hard time dealing with that.
C: This is my new favorite interpretation.
S: Is it? I was afraid you were gonna be like, Oh my god, you’re the worst. Why would you think of it that way? But I’m pleased that you are appreciative of this reading.
C: IT’S ABOUT VAGINAS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
S: It’s about vaginas. And it’s about periods. But really, in a book that certainly deals with puberty, but does not deal with the nitty gritty stuff and is, frankly, obtuse about a lot of Hermione’s situation growing up, and focuses mainly on the boys situation, this feels very authentic, in a sense of their being completely oblivious and completely confused by what she’s going through and how she’s behaving. And then their entire worldview is disturbed and thrown off because periods! And fortunately, there’s a convenient murder-liar-spy plot going on to distract them from all of this terrible puberty stuff! But seriously the more I thought about it, the more I was like, ooh, the undertones are definitely there.
C: Yeah, I would not have thought about it. But I’m glad you did. Because I find it hilarious.
S: Yeah. The more the more we go forward, I’m going to continue kind of keeping my thumb on that particular pulse.
C: What are you going to keep your thumb on?
S: VAGINAS. Because I think we’ve established that JK Rowling, whether she intends to or not, puts interesting subtext through some of these books. And do I think that she intended to do it that way? I have no idea. But if she didn’t, my hat’s off to her subconscious for doing that in the book where they’re all 13.
C: Here’s the thing about subtext, though. Because I felt this way when we were in school and analyzing some of our books and stuff. Is there ever a point where you’re reading something and your professor’s like, but what is the theme? And you’re like, there’s no fucking theme. He just wrote a book, not everything means something, some things are just things, you know.
S: Yeah. And I think there’s validity to both interpretations of that. This is what I’m always telling my students, because my students come up with the same question. When is blue just blue? Or a house is just a house? You know? And the interpretation rests on context. If you’re going to try and say, Okay, I think the color blue symbolizes this, or this or that, okay, if you’re going to back that up, you need evidence from multiple usages throughout the book that are tied to significant events. There needs to be a pattern and some evidence to back you up. In this case, a book, you know, a spot of blood on a sheet being a problem in a relationship between a boy and a girl of 13 years of age. That’s suggestive. But is there enough in the rest of the book that supports the thought that maybe there is a symbolic meaning to that? I think there is. And that’s why I started my explanation back in Diagon Alley with the relationship that’s established, and then the problems that are introduced in it, and then the unraveling of it going forward. I think there’s enough evidence to support it. But with anything like that, there has to be enough to back you up. Otherwise, it’s not a very good interpretation. It’s just you trying to assign value to things. Some people try read into everything. And I know, I have been annoyed by that listening to other Harry Potter podcasts that are like, “Oh, this thing, it must mean that!” No, it doesn’t. And the reason I say that and the reason I feel confident in saying that you’re wrong is because there’s simply not enough there to support your reading.
C: You’re an English teacher, damn it. You know shit.
S: Yeah, I mean, I do. But I’m also one of those English teachers that gets annoyed at other English teachers that take a book like 1984 and ask “What does the clock mean in this scene?” or “What does the book mean in this scene?” or “What does the pen mean?” That drives me up the freaking wall, I get really annoyed at that. Because unless there is a clear pattern, and some kind of motif, there comes a point where you are picking at objects looking for symbolism, and yes, maybe you can read a certain amount into certain things. But there comes a point where there’s not enough and you’re just trying to pick apart a scene. Maybe the author did sit down and proclaim, “In this scene, this shall symbolize this!” But it’s much more likely that the author wrote a scene that they thought would be a good scene, and had the characters doing things that seemed important to further the scene in a way that meshes intertextually with patterns of literature as they themselves have consumed, processed and interpreted them. Maybe as an author, I’m picking up on subconscious connections to other scenes that I’ve seen, maybe I didn’t even really think about the fact that the pattern was there, and I put it there, but it is there. And when you go back and read it, you’re like, oh, that really is there! Did I mean to put it in? Maybe I didn’t, but it’s there nonetheless. But that’s a whole further discussion about intertextuality and that leads us back to Death of the Author and all of that, but there’s a point where you’ve either got to be able to defend it or stop.
I think my interpretation this time is defensible. If nothing like that ever shows up again, going forward in the series, then it could just be a one-off, it could definitely be a fluke, it could be something that she didn’t really intend to do. We’ll see if it comes up again. I don’t know. But I’ll be looking.
C: Good to know.
S: I’m always looking for, you know,
S: We’re always looking for vaginas. And crotch broom fun times.
C: Can you please name this episode Crotch Broom Fun Times? I mean, it will greatly mislead people but when they finally get to that comment it’ll be worth the two and a half hours.
S: So…Sexy Werewolves and Crotch Broom Funtimes?
C: Except the werewolves aren’t sexy!
S: They’re very unsexy. They’re very sexual, but they’re very unsexy.
C: You should definitely put Sexual Werewolf in there somewhere, because that sounds like — like Dark Magic Moves is eau de parfum for women, but Sexual Werewolf is cologne for men.
S: I think it needs to be Hypersexual Werewolf. I don’t know why but it just sounds better.
C: I like it.
S: All right, well, before we get ourselves into any more trouble with Freudian interpretations or more penis symbolism –
S: — I think we’re gonna wrap this one up. We got so close, man. We did an entire episode. We talked about religious symbolism and the deeper implications of mythology and then we dovetailed into just saying vagina over and over, because THAT’S WHAT THIS PODCAST IS.
C: Can I say for the record, that you were the one who brought it up?
S: I did. Yes, I did. I brought up periods and pussy symbolism. I guess I’ll see you in hell.
C: I mean, my ticket’s already been punched.
S: Well until next time, I don’t know when it is, but keep the faith, dear listeners! We will be back with more heretical takes on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Until that time, I am Professor Seraphine—
C: I am Professor Creed –
S: And we shall see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies!
Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod
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