Episode 214: Life Lessons & Themes – All Sorts of Lessons

Harry learns a lot on his adventures through the wizarding world, but this week, we’re examining what we, the reader, are meant to take away from his stories. Join Alison, Kat, Michael, and guest host Paul, as they reflect on the life lessons and themes of the Harry Potter series.

On Episode 214 we discuss…

→ Harry’s Cinderella moment
→ “You will be independent because I demand it!”
→ The weird connection of Moaning Myrtle and Ginny
→ Beware nice words and pretty people
→ What’s Prisoner of Azkaban’s secret ingredient?
→ The shock of Goblet of Fire
→ Teachers of the revolution
→ The empathy of Luna Lovegood
→ Dumbledore’s diary
→ The essential sacrifice
→ What has Harry Potter taught you?

To listen to the show, simply click the player below or direct download the episode. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes. For more information about the podcast and to find out how to be on the show, check out our Be On The Show! page.

Skype users can send us a message to username AlohomoraMN. And as always, be sure to continue the discussion below!

Listen Now: | Download


RECAP: EPISODE 213

On this recap we discuss…

→ A lesson in paper sizes
→ Who’s chasing the Marauders?
→ MockingPhoenixJay
→ James and Sirius support the Moutahora Macaws
→ Can we spot Rowling’s writing?

Listen Now: | Download

  • Yer a Hairy… Wizard

    Amazing, thank you for such a hefty episode and such thoughtful reflections! It is no easy task to take on this challenge, and I especially appreciated when you all shared your stories on how Harry Potter has impacted your lives. It can be daunting to share such personal introspection, and it is not taken for granted.

    With your mentioned themes of love, death, and choice, I feel that Harry Potter firmly planted in my mind the perspective of what truly matters at the end of the day, and it’s a question of: how can I truly live a Good Life – and subsequently have a ‘Good Death’? The answer seems to be that we should always try our best to choose love, light, kindness – and generally be the best authentic version of ourselves. Amongst all the baggage and distractions of adulthood, it can be easy to forget the simplicity and purity of just trying to be a good person. By growing up with Harry, it almost felt like I was able to live a full life before the age of 14. It allowed me to ask myself early on: who do I want to be when I finally face death? In a way, it is the younger sibling of the Big Question: What is the Meaning of Life? I believe that it is the grappling of these major questions (paired with the awe-inducing yet hyper-realistic magical world of witchcraft and wizardry) that render the series so timeless, relevant, and relatable.

    I also wanted to thank your acknowledgement at the end of how utterly applicable Harry Potter is to the dark times of today. It is terrifying to see real-life Umbridges and Death Eaters pop up everywhere, and I think you are so right in saying that we have been given the tools to fight these manifestations of hatred and fear. I find it harder and harder every day to turn on the news, but it gives me hope to know that there will always be a corner of the world that believes in goodness, kindness, and love – and it doesn’t just exist between the pages of Harry Potter, but in the community behind it as well.

  • I like the comment on how Luna is a different kind of friend for Harry in the way Ron and Hermione aren’t able to be. It’s really the same for us in our Muggle lives, whether we are talking about a Luna, Hermione, Ron or another kind of person altogether.

  • daveybjones999 .

    One theme in Chamber of Secrets that I noticed was that of checking your sources for information. It’s here where we get the first instance of not just believing something because it is in print, and the concept that information can mislead you. Just because something is written down in a book doesn’t mean it’s true, or that the written word can be misleading. Lockhart’s books portray him as one of the greatest wizards of all time, but when we meet him, he’s this foppish and incompetent oaf. Hermione has a hard time seeing Lockhart for who he really is. Even though he makes every situation in which he is involved worse, Hermione just can’t see past what Lockhart wrote in his books. However, even though Ron and Harry can see that Lockhart clearly isn’t a good wizard they’re still surprised at the end of the book when it’s revealed that he never did the things he wrote in his books. Even though they see throughout the year that Lockhart is an incompetent joke, they still trust what he wrote in his book. Also compounding this theme and lesson is what Ginny and Harry see and learn from the diary. Ginny sees a sympathetic friend from the horcrux. She trusts what is written in the book and Voldemort is able to not only manipulate, but possess her. Harry learns from the diary that Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets, and believes it. However the book is lying to him, Hagrid was framed and Riddle tries to use this to manipulate Harry as well. We learn from Chamber that books can also lie so you can’t just believe everything you read in a book. You have to look past what’s written in the book and look at not only whose writing the book, but where the information in the book is coming from. See past the information and see the source of the information for what it is. If the source is trustworthy you can believe what is written, and if it is not take everything in the book with a grain of salt.

    • travellinginabluebox

      Oh yes, very true! It is also important that the trio learn this now, because in a way, it not only comes back to them in OotP, when the government and thus the government organized newspapers is spreading lies, but also the year prior in GoF. It is less settle there because we see the lies clearly happening this time, but remember how Molly Weasley is very much affected by them, even though she has met Harry and Hermione? Which is another setting stone for OotP when even fellow housemates turn against Harry, just because the paper says otherwise. The same people that had no problem whatsoever with Harry the years previously.
      And also in PoA the truth can’t be found in the papers, this time not because they lie but because the wizarding world decided to not give someone a trial and closely observe the situation at hand – even though everyone who knew James and Sirius would say “Those two were like brothers – inseperable”, which should have really made some people question the situation instead of blatantly go along with it. But that is a whole other story.

  • Rosmerta

    What a super episode on a wide topic. I think I’m probably substantially older than most of your listeners, or indeed yourselves but I am so impressed with the eloquence with which the topics are articulated. From the discussions themselves through to the comments; they are surely part of the legacy that these 7 YA novels, from a British author, have brought to readers across the globe for 20 years, and continue to do so. You are indeed, the Harry Potter generation.

  • Lisa

    Like so many others have pointed out, there are clearly important lessons when it comes to politics and unfortunately those lessons are becoming more and more applicable IRL. The parts about standing up for what is right, about how much harm discrimination causes in a society and about how tyrants will want to spread fear and divisive lies in order to gain power, are very relevant in today’s political climate. There is another discussion going on in the main Mugglenet site about whether JKR is being too harsh on Twitter. I would say no. She’s human like everyone else and she’s not supposed to be a perfect role model. She’s never (to my knowledge) shot down someone who actually asked her an honest question or intended to have a real debate with her. She’s shot down trolls and haters. I know some fans were disappointed because she was so vehemently against Trump and were even personally offended that she called him a Death Eater or something but honestly what did they expect? The HP books teach tolerance and understanding, not suspicion and hatred. My issue with JKR is that she sometimes doesn’t follow through with her ideals and politics, not that she has those ideals in the first place.

    I also think the books teach us the value of friendship. Because romance is very much in the background, the author can focus on friendship and other types of platonic relationships which are usually underestimated in favor of romance. To have friends like the Trio are who accept your shortcomings and will go through fire for you is really the greatest treasure one could have. As for the other relationships, I like the idea that your true family doesn’t have to be a biological family. Harry lost his parents but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have parental figures in Molly, Sirius, Remus, Dumbledore, and Arthur (perhaps also Snape in some way?). I think that’s a wonderful message to send, that you don’t have to be related to someone to receive their love and support.

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      Yes, yes, yes! Especially love the family aspect.

      It has been shocking to me to see HP fans who are in support of things that are so counterintuitive to the many lessons in HP. It’s like they took absolutely nothing deeper from the books than just this sense of “yay magic and adventure!” Blows my mind.

      Also, in regard to her twitter wars, isn’t that so reflective of how idols are treated in the books? Harry learns that our idols are never exactly who we think they are or want them to be; they are just people and therefore, imperfect and with their own fallibilities. We can praise them for some things, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also be critical of them. We have to continually judge for ourselves whether or not our heroes are worth our admiration. Even Queen Jo herself isn’t above reproach. Like you said, we might disagree with her actions, but we can also still praise the values she stands for. That we can expect better from her without condemning her entirely, is a testement to the value of the lessons she taught us. We know the dangers in idolizing anyone, but also that to make mistakes is to be human.

      This also has me thinking about her loss of readers over the things she does and says. For those who turned against her because she is anti-Trump, well, their loss. But the more concerning issue might be in the potential to lose her readers who most deeply value the ideals she espouses, because, as you say and I agree, she doesn’t always follow them through. I have dissapointments in her, but still on the whole think she is sincere in her ideals and admire her for them. Depending on what she does in the future though, that could change. The more she makes her voice heard without putting those ideals into practice, the bigger the risk she runs of losing her credibility altogether and that really would be a disappointment.

      • travellinginabluebox

        Absolutely agree with both of you!
        I live in Germany and for some reason, even though I have been on a school exchange program to a school in Idaho, it still boggles my mind, how people can be so racist and narrow-minded AND can’t see your points when you argue with them.
        Here in Germany, where we had the worst political situation from 1933-1945, we tend to be quite liberal and open-minded. Yes, not everyone and the right are becoming increasingly popular here as well, but in a way I sometimes think that we were the only nation that properly learned from WW2. I mean we had to and I am grateful for how my country pulled through and is now one of the better countries in the world to be living in, but WW2 did affect the world. And it is sad to me that countries like America who were declared as the winners of this war, then went on and did they whole opposite of the message they were sending during WW2.
        Same goes for the most comical behaviour that Britain is showing the world right now. Remember when there was this big British Empire and Britain pretty much ruled the world? Well now this same nation makes a fuss about people living in their country that are not British. You guys went out there, telling everyone the Great Britain was the best country and now you are wondering that people actually want to live in your country after they have been told how great that country is?
        And the list could go on and on and trust me you could list stupid stuff for Germany as well. Like how we still have the Nazi party (Hitler’s party) and we can’t ban it…

        I am forever greatful to have had the opportunity to grow up with Harry Potter, because it has taught me that it is ok to stand up for yourself and you definitely should make the choice for what is right and not for what is easy. And to be more open-minded about people who are different in whatever way and to try and not judge people for their looks and quirkyness.
        I have been laughed at for being so liberal and idealistic by older people, being all “Honey, this is not how the world works” and maybe they are right, but that doesn’t mean we should stop fighting for making this world a better place.

        DUMBLEDORES ARMY!

        • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

          we (idealistic young people) have something worth fighting for.
          And by fighting we mean this: we protest peacefully, reach out to those who have it harder than we do, call our representatives, donate to charity if we can, practice self-care, learn from others who have fought before us, and amplify the voices of reason.

  • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

    First, a word of praise: the shows you made five years ago were great already and you keep getting better – this episode is a new highlight!

    One question that was more clearly important to me after the reread is “who is telling the story?” it is a question that overlaps with “check your sources”, but it goes further. Who are the persons who get their voices heard? What do they stand for? Are they reliable in telling the facts or are they voicing only their subjective views? If they talk about their beliefs and goals, do they think of others before themselves or just aim for applause?
    Coming from this question I’d say one lesson that I take away from reading Potter is “be mindful whose advice you take”.
    Even if they are the McGonagalls in your life, adults whom you trust and who care for your well-being, or if they are your friends, who are by your side when you need them, you need to use your own brain. And your heart, while you’re at it.

    The one life lesson I’d wear on a shirt is “When in doubt, go to the library” and when I go for a little more meta and involve the people who brought Harry’s world to life and influenced so many hearts and minds, the life lesson is “heroines are human”.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      That’s a really interesting point to bring up: along with the themes of not judging people, questioning your media/government, etc., it’s important to go further and examine the different personal perspectives.

  • Thunderdor

    This episode was phenomenal! During the Order of the Pheonix part of the discussion, I loved how you referenced Luna as helping Harry with his grief. Additionally, I thought Ginny helping him understand his role in his attack with Mr. Weasley was key. Harry is reminded that others also suffer tragic events, especially as they bump into Neville at St. Mungo’s. I think the lesson from those examples are that you never know what others are going through on a personal level. If you let others in, they may be able to relate and provide a sounding board- possibly some valuable insight, too.

  • Minerva the Flufflepuff

    Loved the topic of this episode and your discussion!
    One theme, that you only briefly touched upon in Chamber of Secrets, is romance and sexuality – with Ginny’s crush on Harry, Hermione pining after Lockhart, Lockhart’s Valentine’s cherubs, sexy diary Voldemort and Myrtle’s ghost hormones all over the place, as well as the damsel in distress storyline of Harry having to rescue Ginny. All of this is of course picked up in a more… I want to say mature, but really, a more teenage way in The Halfblood Prince (Harry & Ginny, Ron & Lavender, Hermione & Cormac).

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      This is not entirely related but you reminded me of something a friend told me while reading the books for the first time recently. After the lake task in GoF she was like “Ha! Ron’s bragging about it like he was a hero, but let’s not pretend he was anything more than the damsel in distress there. What an idiot.”

      • Minerva the Flufflepuff

        Haha, that’s true… poor Ron was so starved for attention, he didn’t even care 😛

  • David Reynard

    The guest host made a comment something along the lines of ‘Harry chose to sacrifice himself to win,’ and I realized that this is directly paralleled to Ron’s knight sacrifice in book 1. For anyone not familiar with chess, that kind of move is even actually called a sacrifice, when you give up a piece to create a better opportunity. I think it’s really cool that Ron got that heroic sacrificial moment long before Harry ever did :).

    • Horned Badger

      @michaelharle:disqus Thanks for the shout out maxima! Glad to know my comment was on the shortlist :). Fyi I have a real username now and plan to comment more in the future!

  • Roonil Wazlib

    Hey now let’s not forget this all-important life lesson from Order: DON’T BE A SNITCH
    Cuz snitches don’t get stitches, they get cursed by Hermione Granger which is way worse

  • Tears of Fawkes

    Thank you for another fantastic episode – this one was quite emotional for me to listen to; my own story sounds similar to Kat’s and I could relate a lot to what she said about comparisons to her 15 year old self and the person she is today. The first book came out when I was 15 and I started reading the books but got into quite a dark place in my teens and put them down for a while. I picked them up properly again when I was at Uni and the HBP came out. When the final DH book was released, I shut myself up for the weekend to read and after finishing it (and the obligatory crying that followed), I actually moved out of the place I was in and had a major life change, such was the impact of reading that final book. It taught me above all things the importance of bravery. I have recently re-read the series (thank you alohomora ;-)) and have done so while making another major life change. I have been through a lot of illness and subsequently suffer from chronic and acute pain – while this may seem rather an abstract comparison, I have received a lot of comfort (especially in Order of Phoenix) when reading about Harry’s pain – his emotional, psychological and also physical. Learning to live with (any type of) pain can lead you to dark places and can ultimately help you find courage you didn’t know you had.
    While writing, I just want to make a shout out to Ron – I think his actions in the first book often get overlooked and his behaviour throughout all the books up to DH show time and time again, not only an insecure and flawed person, but someone who has a lot of love for his friends and is often selfless in what he does for them. I think his big turning moment in DH also shows his strength of character, as well as his weakness. While being under the influence (some may say similar to Ginny in CoS) of Voldermort, his insecurities and jealousies come out – he behaves poorly. But the real Ron sees where he has gone wrong and comes back – I think that’s a great strength of character, which I believe is another of Rowling’s messages. Accepting weaknesses in yourself and choosing to be the better person for it.
    To sum up, I have been given immeasurable comfort from reading the books, especially in terms of dealing with grief, facing my own mortality and the importance of love and empathy for others. When I look at the impact the books have had on my life, I am overwhelmed. I am entirely driven by knowing the importance of our own choices, who we choose to be and having the courage to face fear head on; and this is because I read the Harry Potter book series.
    (PS – I LOVE Chamber of Secrets and Half Blood Prince!)

  • George’s Holey Ear

    I really enjoyed this episode! I definitely need to do a re-read soon!

    One of my favourite things to analyse in both Chamber and Half-Blood are the similarities and differences between Harry and Tom Riddle. Alongside the nature vs nurture argument and the “choices” quote, I continue to be eerily fascinated by how close Harry could have followed in the steps of Tom had he made certain decisions throughout the course of the series. The same can be said with Tom Riddle, who could have just as easily used his cleverness for good instead of evil. (though unlikely as J.K revealed the whole enigma of Tom being conceived under the love potion).

    The older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve learnt about the people I know and their backgrounds – especially in relation to the nature vs nurture debate and which of the two has more of a significant effect on who we are as individuals, like Paul it taught me not to be so quick to judge, to try and understand perspectives and to place myself in the shoes of others. Moreover, When Dumbledore asks Harry whether he feels sympathy for Tom Riddle and he replies no I remember thinking yes, making it probably the first true time that I felt any kind of way about a villain I had read about which even as I’m typing this reinforces the eeriness and the ever-present greyness that J.K so skilfully incorporated into these characters – something i can’t say I ever experienced or questioned both in books and in real life before picking up a Harry Potter book as a child and then a teen.

    • Lisa

      I’m not sure that Harry had that much in common with Tom Riddle actually. I know we’re supposed to believe that they shared some traits and I’m sure they did but there are more difference than similarities, imo (even excluding the whole “one is evil, one is good” thing). Harry was never more than average at magic, firstly. He was never above average in the intelligence department either. He’s sporty, Tom Riddle isn’t, for all we know. Riddle was curious and eager to learn, Harry is quite lazy. One is ambitious, the other not so much. They both grew up in unfortunate circumstances and they were both orphans, but these are quite generic traits. Harry is bold and rash (duh, Gryffindor) while Tom is more calculated (at least pre-Horcruxes).

      Did she actually say the bit about love potion or is that yet another fandom myth? I can’t remember. But anyway, even if he can’t love because of the love potion thing that still doesn’t mean he absolutely had to be evil. He could have just been… indifferent I guess.

      • George’s Holey Ear

        I get you, I agree that they are different hence “the choices” quote but for me personally I find their circumstantial similarities most interesting because of how it applies – not necessarily to point blank good and evil but to how different people irl can be despite their similarities and especially how such things can lead to judgement etc.

        Perhaps i should have elaborated, i meant in the sense of how Harry reacts to discovering these facts during Tom’s monologue in book 2. We learn of how much they regard ‘Hogwarts as their home’. They’re both seekers – one in the physical sense and the other mental, are both more curious than they should be and though with very different motives are both leaders.
        Moreover the way they are viewed by others as children/teenagers and how people respond to them because of for e.g. their faces – Harry’s scar and by Tom being handsome, both looking a lot like their fathers, particularly in regards to their own reactions and how they deal with it.

        I remember reading it a while ago on Twitter,  so I’m not sure if it’s entirely canon… I think she said something about it being a contributing factor.

        P.s. I’d say setting a giant snake on muggleborns is a bold move!

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        I don’t know the exact quote, but Jo once said that while the symbolism of being born into a loveless union is there, the love potion isn’t necessarily the reason Voldemort was incapable of love. She said the influence was Merope in dying and not being able to raise him with love herself, and Voldemort growing up never experiencing love. Which is perhaps a better takeaway then “love potion babies end up sociopaths” IMO, because a lot of children are brought into the world by people who don’t love eachother and implying that that somehow makes them irrevocably damaged is problematic.

  • travellinginabluebox

    I definitely agree with all your points you mentioned in the episode. I personally can attest to having learned to be more emphatic and trying to make the right choices versus the easy ones. Like a lot of other people Harry Potter pulled me out of a very dark time in my life and had me better prepared for another shattering experience that happened a couple of years ago. It has shaped me into the person I am today and I often say that Harry Potter has influenced me more than my parents have in my entire life. And I am grateful for it to have guided me into adulthood and for all the amazing friends I have made through it and will keep making.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    I’m part of the HP 1st generation who were Harry’s age at the start of the series, reading each book as they were released and so, quite literally, were growing up with Harry. Growing up alongside a series whose main character, and the books themselves, grew and developed was such a unique experience that I haven’t had with any other series; it is a huge part of why HP is so special to me. I had someone once tell me that the HP obsession was just childhood nostalgia, but I was an adult by the time the last book came out! Not once when picking up a new HP book did I feel that they weren’t written for me. Potter was a constant throughout my adolescence and entrance into adulthood. I can almost look at the series as markers of my own development, because so often the lessons Harry was being confronted with were also being reflected back at me in the real world. For example, I remember clearly my first experience with a teacher giving false and destructive information came sometime after reading OotP. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence in my own righteousness or the courage to speak out at the time, if it hadn’t been for the influence of that book. Maybe, but maybe not. So while I credit a lot of literature with this, I’d say Potter more than any has influenced how I understand and approach the world and the kind of person I try to be. The beautiful thing about these books is that the lessons and themes do become more complex, so no matter what age you first come to them at, there is always more to get from them with every re-read. Which lessons stand out or seem most important to us can change as we grow ourselves, and that is such a true reflection of life and human development.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    I’m on team #CAPSLOCK HARRY with you Paul and Kat. While reading Harry in Order can be frustrating now, it isn’t unrealistic for a kid his age alone, much less one going through what he did. I was in my angsty prime around the release of Order, and I totally identifyied with his anger and frustration, and I wasn’t going through anything nearly as bad as Harry was. It didn’t bother me at all on first read, in fact it made me feel more sympathetic to him. I felt for him this overwhelming sense of helplessness and responsibility towards something so much bigger than just himself, while stewing in the depths of tragedy and grief. Even though now it’s easy to poke fun at “Angsty Harry”, it truly is a rather heartbreaking thing to watch him struggle through. Like the hosts talked about, thank heavens for Luna in particular, and the DA as a whole. Without those things, Harry’s waters could have been much rougher.

    • travellinginabluebox

      100% agree. Before listening to this show I wasn’t even aware that people struggled with #CAPSLOCK HARRY

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    The concept of bravery was always an important overarching theme for me. We learn that bravery not only exists in that very classic fairytale sense of the knight marching off to do battle with the dragon but that bravey takes many other forms as well, just as fear does. Going beyond that, bravery isn’t all or nothing. We can have moments of weakness, or cowardice, and still ultimately do what is brave and right, à la Lupin, Snape, Slughorn, Ron, Dumbledore, even Pettigrew. The choice to be brave doesn’t happen only once, but is reoccurring throughout our lives, in ways big and small. So maybe bravery isn’t determined by one choice, but the culmination of many choices.

  • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

    I can relate to Kat and her experience, but with another fandom. What brought me out of my shell as a teen and gave me confidence, important skills and very deep friendships was Star Wars. Potter was less important at that time, definitely there and fascinating, but not high on my list of interests. That changed when the Star Wars Prequels were over and my daughter was born.

    Gradually Potter became more relateable and present. I was Lily’s age when I became a mother and now my daughter is the same age as Harry when he returned to the magical world.

    Since I introduced my daughter to the books, I have become more aware of their influence on my parenting. For almost everything she asks me about the world, there is an example in the Potter books. They may be fantasy, they may be fiction, but they’re true to life. More than that, I make an effort to point out the life lessons I have identified in the story and that I try to apply in my everyday life.
    In the last two years my daughter has witnessed me rereading and discussing online, she sees how I listen for hours and make up my own mind, how I don’t take the story for granted and try to look beyond the books. She picks up on this critical thinking and adds her own creativity, she thrives in her friendships and at school through identifying as a Hufflepuff with distinct Hermione-tendencies. She has already learned to make informed choices, check her sources, acknowledge her privileges, to use those privileges for speaking up and resisting injustice. And I’m glad that she aims to become a teacher one day, to pass on what she has learned.

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      This is lovely. I don’t have kids yet but I can definitely see how the values instilled by the books would impact how we raise our children. Plus, having something that you and your child share a love for and can bond over is quite nice, especially since, as proven by all of us, Potter tends to stick with readers long after they’ve finished the series and left other childhood things behind.

      Sounds like you have an awesome kid! It so comforting to continually see new generations experience and grow with Harry, particularly now when those kinds of values are being so actively fought against in our society.

    • Rosmerta

      My children are now teenagers themselves and have read and reread the series and devoured the films. WHen asked, my daughter says that Harry potter is simply part of their world, quoted within their ‘squads’ as known literature, statements and even fact. I agree that it has helped my daughter partiularly (always the more avid reader of the two) analyse information, develop critical thinking and creativity – which she is putting to good use in her up coming GCSEs!

  • All these life lessons and themes made me recall the DESK PIG and all the ethical questions that came up as a result.

    Then I remembered I made a video last year that highlights exactly how horrific the Desk Pig situation is, and I forgot to share it with you all! Noah is the only one who has seen it.

    So here it is. Witness the horror of magical transfiguration with THE DESK PIG! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgHvhu55u0w

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      Oh. My. God.
      Lol, brilliant.

      Travelinginabluebox and I are relistening to old episodes to compile all the “questions for Jo”, so I just recently revisited the first desk-pig reference. This is beautiful timing. I forgot just how absurd things got with Noah around…

      • I always enjoyed how Noah would challenge so many different elements of the series. He really made us look at things from a different point of view!

        • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

          That’s for sure. Hopefully he’ll continue making guest appearances every now and then.

      • Kat

        WHAT?! Is that actually happening? A list for JKR? Man, you all constantly surprise and amaze me. I will legitimately send that list to Blair the SECOND you send it over to us. The. Second.

        • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

          Indeed it is! We’ve got the doc going and everything. We were hoping you would so we’ll pass it along as soon as it’s all caught up. Thanks Kat!

          • travellinginabluebox

            Haha yeah, we are that insane and now we even have one more extra helper with HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis, so hopefully we will not take too long to finish the list.
            Now I feel like I have to really step up my game on that list though…

      • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

        Do you need someone to join in? I’m relistening to old episodes anyway.

        • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

          That would certainly help us get it done faster! To ease confusion about which have been done, we divided episodes down the middle, evens/odds. I’m not sure how far she’s gotten, but I’m only nearly through book 1, so reconfiguring shouldn’t be too hard, I’m down if she is.

    • SnapesManyButtons

      Finally got a chance to watch this, it was so good! Thank you for the nightmares.

    • Soc.forRescueofVanishedAnimals

      I actaully found this on the tubes before you shared it here, but I want to thank you for drawing attention to the ethical problem of animal abuse illustrated by the desk pig, and for putting it out there where more people will hopefully see and be encouraged to think about it. As I’ve reread these books, I am struck by how rife with animal abuse they are — something I personally had given only passing thought to when reading the first time, being so caught up in the other wonderful aspects. It really makes me wonder about the views of the author and whether we are meant to question these things or just accept them … Edit: and what it means that the youngest readers of HP are being presented with such casual abuse wrapped up in the enchanting spectacle of magic. It’s almost like taking kids to the circus.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    Happy Birthday Remus Lupin!! /*

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      And to Michael! I meant to say it and forgot 🙁 Happy Belated Birthday to you anyway!

      • Michael Harle

        That’s all right! If people are wishing Remus happy birthday and not me, that just means the #LupinLove is spreading strong. :{D

  • Lisa

    Haha! Love the email adress!!!

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      Ha, thanks! It’s my delegated “geekery” mail.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    On a related note, I read recently that the HP subreddit has banned all political posting. I’ve also seen a lot of similar pushback on other fan pages from fans wanting discussions and posts to stick to Potter only. I understand that for many, Potter is an escape from the troubles of the real world and they want to protect that. I also get that discussions that get highjacked into political debates, particularly those that devolve into all out derogatory tirades and thoughtless shouting matches, can be frustrating, no fun, and counterproductive. However, I have to question these demands for blanket bans on topics that only some people think aren’t relevant to HP. I haven’t been on the Potter sub for a long time so I don’t know the exact circumstances but it is reddit, so I can imagine. Anyone who did see what was happening, perhaps you can shed some light for me. However, as nasty as things may have gotten I’m not sure this was the best solution. One article even called the ban “a move that reeks of Cornelius Fudge” and they have a pretty valid point there. As evidenced by this podcast and this episode alone, HP is incredibly parabolic and to ignore those moral lessons and not think them applicable to real-life is to miss the point completely. Relevant comparisons to our real world politics do exist, and for anyone in the fandom to want to police and prohibit those discussions is disappointing, to say the least. Yes, we absolutely should be encouraging kindness and understanding amongst ourselves and not tolerate mere trolling, but at the end of the day issues of social justice, love, bigotry, politics, media bias, etc. are all a part of Potter. I don’t know, it is a complicated issue and I don’t want the fandom to rip eachother apart, but I don’t see how burying our heads in the sand helps anything. Didn’t Harry learn that it certainly doesn’t?

  • SnapesManyButtons

    The thing I find most genius about this book series is the idea that what you believe is almost entirely determined by the knowledge you have access to, and reality may be completely different. This holds true for the characters as well as the readers. Harry believes Snape is after the Stone, but learns that he has actually been protecting Harry and Stone. He believes he knows Dumbledore but realizes that he didn’t know him at all as a person. And as readers we learn things along the way that make a 2nd reading of the books look completely different. When Petunia says she heard about Azkaban from “that boy” we know the 2nd time that she means Snape, not James. We see the interactions between Snape and the Marauders differently knowing their history. We all have limited viewpoints, none of us can really know another person completely, yet we all have to do the best we can with what we know and what we believe. I really believe anyone who has only read the series once, has missed a valuable experience because there is so much to be found on a second read that you just didn’t have the information to understand properly the first time.

  • thunderwitch

    What an excellent episode, I didn’t want it to end. I’ve been listening to the show since you were reading Goblet of Fire, but I only commented a few times and I’m trying to break that habit.

    I started reading the books when I was 7, the 1st book was probably among the first 5 novels I’ve ever read. Which makes it hard for me to know how the series shaped me as a person and my beliefs because I wasn’t really aware of it as it was happening. So I had to think about this for the last couple of days. What I think I took away at a younger age is that prejudice and judging people is wrong and that authority can and should be questioned. I was always inclined to question things but Harry Potter taught me to look beyond the surface and consider others’ perspectives. I can’t say for sure, but I’d probably be less empathetic if these books weren’t an important part of my upbringing.

    Also, rereading and analyzing the series definitely helped me to think more critically about what I read both for entertainment and for school, which is a very useful skill.
    As far as characters go, I don’t think I’m alone with identifying with Luna. I often felt like an outsider, she made me see that it’s okay to be yourself and you don’t have to change to fit in.
    Later on, something I had to deal with is that the people you look up to aren’t perfect and they won’t always be there to fix things, you have to do solve problems on your own. Going through something similar in the books with Dumbledore and the students taking things in their own hands with the DA was definitely helpful.

    (Finally, something slightly off topic, but I’m going to defend Maleficent because I like that both the concept and the actual movie. While I enjoy Disney, I find that they tend to take the guts out of fairytales (sometimes literally, traditional fairytales can be a little gory.) So a some of the complexity is lost, resulting in cute and entertaining but simplified versions with mostly black and white morality. Maleficent doesn’t do that. It was never supposed to be a live action Sleeping Beauty, but a subversive retelling from a different perspective.that asks the audience to think more deeply about good and evil. Another example is the tv show Once Upon a Time, they do something similar (most of the time, their Cruella was actually totally evil without a reason for being evil, as she should be).
    Admittedly, I don’t watch much Disney and I was familiar with traditional fairytales as a child before I ever seen any of their movies. Maybe that’s why a different approach resonates with me more. I really liked the 2014 French movie La Belle et la Bete, a based on the 18th century version of the Beauty and the Beast story. When I talked about the film with others I kept hearing that they didn’t enjoy it because they were expecting it to be similar to the Disney version, so maybe it’s just what we’re used to.)

  • Took me a few days to finish this episode, but this was one of my favorites in a while! Made me even prouder to be a Potter fan.

    Personally, I feel like Death is the number one theme in the series. I believe love, regret, guilt, and all the other themes branch off of the main theme of Death.

    In Sorcerer’s Stone death was approached relatively conventionally. Harry had dead parents and he wished to have known them. Voldee may or may not be dead. Quirrel dies at the end and there are no repercussions. Death is very cliche in this book.

    Chamber of secrets explores the preservation of life beyond death through history. Slytherin’s legacy is the main focus and his dangerous beliefs still motivate those living today. Slytherin may be dead, but his memory lives on, just as Riddle very actually lives on as a memory in a diary, a place for writing one’s own personal history.

    Prisoner starts to deal with death as a threat. Harry’s life feels threatened for the very first time. Death severity of death and the repercussions of one’s death intensify.

    In Goblet the theme of death is subdued. I believe Goblet plays with the idea that death can happen in an instant and at any moment. We see almost no themes of death throughout the book as Harry competes in what is supposed to be a very safe competition. But out of nowhere, in a moment that is supposed to be victorious and celebrated, a child dies.

    Order of the Phoenix is very obviously heavy with the theme of death. I don’t have to explain this one.

    Half Blood Prince looks at death through a different point of view. We watch as a child grows into a murderer and we try to understand the mindset of this murderer. At the end, somebody who we thought we could trust ends up being a murderer as well. Death at the hands of a murderer is quite a heavy theme.

    And of course, Hallows is all about why death should not be feared. Why death is necessary. Why death can should not be conquered, but welcomed at the right time.

    Each book explores a different aspect of death. Certainly the countless other themes are just as strong and just as important, but when I really look at the series I think Hallows really emphasizes that the series is about death.

  • DisKid

    Hey Michael! Fellow big time Harry Potter gamer here (especially with Sorcerer’s Stone PC), do you have Windows 7? If you do, you *can* get Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to play on there. I can do it still 🙂 I’m only hoping that one day somebody invents a device that allows gamers to play old PC games! I don’t know what I’m going to do the day I can’t play HP Sorcerer’s Stone on PC any more!

    I’m not able to become a sponsor on patreon, so I’ll miss your play through. But that may be for the best because I play it a specific way every time lol. Let’s just say I’m the biggest debugger ever! I always took extra time in the game because I was obsessed with crawling all over the Hogwarts roof with “HarrySuperJump” and all that. A play through from me would take hours. I hope one day you guys do a podcast on the games, that would be awesome! I’ll be listening to make sure you don’t forget all the awesome tricks, easter eggs, and hidden things in there 😉

    • Michael Harle

      I finally got it to run; it was working fine for a while, but when I recently tried to test it for a play through, the game wouldn’t start. Apparently Windows released a security update that disables games that included the SafeDisc feature (which, of course, Potter had). I had to go into my computer’s Command Prompt to temporarily disable the feature and run the game, but it looks beautiful on my new setup! Now I just need the right program to record it, since NVIDIA won’t do it. -_-

      And yes, I love HarrySuperJump! I found Neville’s T-model once using that; it was a little creepy.

      • DisKid

        Have you tried using JoinMe? I used that to record Oregon Trail.

        I used to obsess over the F8 key as it would change the camera position and one of them allowed you to see way, way, way far out if you had the patience. This would show you all of the T-models available. Couldn’t walk up to all of them, but you could see them. Most of the models you’d have to cleverly get Harry to jump in a way so it wouldn’t trigger the next scene and he could, literally, jump over it. Later in the game you can also find McGonagall’s T-model in the same spot as Neville’s and walk right up to it. Did you find that one?

  • travellinginabluebox

    Glad that didn’t happen then 🙂 That would have been not fun.

  • DoraNympha

    Thanks for the shout-out! ^^ I love that choice versus fate was discussed a lot in this episode: just yesterday I got into a bit of a heated debate on “prophecies” in Harry Potter – and I really do mean those quotation marks. Either the definition of prophecies is different from what it should mean or prohpecies simply don’t exist in the wizarding world. If you still have even a shred of possibility to change the course of events in a way that the “prophecy” will not come true after all, then it is rather a prediction. Sure, I guess most of the crystal balls at the Department of Mysteries contain predicitons that have come true or will come true. However, a prophecy should be an inevitability, a future that one cannot run away from, even if they try tooth and nail. If it really is a prophecy, like Oedipus, the involved parties would be running right into their foretold fates, and regardless of whether they have listened to it or not. This is not something that is valid for “prophecies” in Harry Potter, so they remain simply predictions. Why call them prophecies then? Well, it seems like wizards and witches keep calling them prophecies because it is such an ancient concept and, though it is a misnomer, they can’t rewrite all the thousand-year-old books and so they just define prophecies as not inevitable. Dumbledore, though dismissive of Divination itself, could be nitpicky, like we are sometimes nitpicky about using words such as “decimate” when we don’t mean the subtraction of exactly a tenth of something but we just roll with it, but I guess he had more important things… This is the civilized explanation to me repeating “PROPHECIES ARE STUPID” with a red face. I’m glad HP asserts the role of choice and always choice rather than predestination, just because Trelawney had a good day when the weather permitted!

  • DoraNympha

    Also, I have a question about topic submission: can we suggest more topics at the same time? Or is it easier for you to have one topic per submission and separate auditions if there are ideas already on them? (I had a number of ideas, should I raid the submission page in one go or in parts?)

  • DoraNympha

    Love, death, choice – I would add individuality as one of the greatest things I’ve taken away from Harry Potter (especially since I’ve identified as a Ravenclaw and have read the books from this alternative perspective to that of the main characters), both as fleshed out within the story as well as outside: around Order of the Phoenix, everyone around me thought HP was embarrsasing now, I had to pretend I only saw the movie 3 times the first three days it opened because I had a discount ticket thing and that it was really uncool etc. but I got out of that by HBP and now I frequently bring up HP examples at university like from any other literary work and anyone who dismisses it is missing out.

  • I was pleasantly surprised when my name was mentioned as being the Patreon sponsor of such a jam-packed, meaty episode! I loved listening to every minute of it on my drives to and from work, as I do with all of the Alohomora podcast episodes. And all of you got pretty close to pronouncing my last name correctly, but I thought I would give you a pronunciation breakdown (as Hermione once did with Viktor Krum ha). My last name is pronounced Kell-ih-her. Two years ago at the Celebration of Harry Potter 2015 in Orlando I had the pleasure of meeting Kat and Allison after one of the Q&A sessions with the “Harry Potter” cast members attending that year, several months after I began listening to “Alohomora” during the discussion on “Order of the Phoenix”, which was a great way to begin my Alohomora listening experience! But then of course I went back and caught up on the discussions of books 1 through 4, since a lot of the inside references (such as “is it alive?” and “deskpig”) I didn’t get until I listened to earlier episodes. I thought that you all did a great job covering such a broad topic on the themes that run throughout all 7 books, and each book could easily get its own episode discussing the themes within. There’s just so much that J.K. Rowling instilled into her stories, which is why “Harry Potter” is not just a fad or a temporary pop cultural phenomenon, but is legitimate literature that will last throughout future generations.