Reading this volume was like a memory refresh. Although I have seen the movies so many times, I always seem to forget important details that really matter for the plot.
I can see how the author continued to write the story in the same simple manner, understandable by anyone aged 10 to 100, but this time added some spicy details, giving us a more in depth view of Hogwarts, as it is now and as it was 50 years ago.
Although the style remains the same childish (and when I say that it is not a reproche) and simple manifestation of Harry and his friend’s lives, this time we get into some more dark secrets that threaten to put an end to the quiet, peaceful times at the famous school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
We find out about a Chamber of Secrets that hides mysteries nobody seems to be willing to talk about. It is a chamber full of evil, that can bring the most horrid terrors if opened.
The intrigue starts when Mr. Filch’s cat, Mrs. Norris, is found petrified next to an out of order girls bathroom, under which it is painted a message that seems to trouble everybody. Even the calm and calculated Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, seems to be a little disconcerted.
These events create complete chaos into the school, everybody trying to figure out who is responsible.
According to the legend, only the true heir of Salazar Slytherin would be able to open the chamber. But who is this true heir? Harry seems to be the main suspect, given the conjuncture and the fact that he speaks parsoltongue.
Through an abandoned journal of some wizzard called Tom Riddle, Harry finds out that the room was opened by none other than Hagrid himself, fifty years ago. But what is in fact the truth? Who is the responsible for this entire disaster? Is it Draco Malfoy, is it Hagrid, or could it actually be Harry? Could a ghost be the key to the entire mystery?
What I liked about this book was the fact that through it I was taken into a young Voldemort’s past and I found out more about him. I found out how he grew to be one of the most feared soccerers of his time and a bit more of why everybody is scared of calling his name. It is sort of a fear that he might show up if one says his name, probably in the same way a ouija board can call spirits. But is it an induced fear or is it an acquired one? Although it is not mentioned in the book, it might be possible that, at one point, Voldemort wounded or even killed the ones who would’ve dared to call his name. Although there are some people who are not afraid, among which Harry and Dumbledore of course. I think it is a combination of both of the above. For people who might have had a certain interaction with Voldemort it might be the fear of the character itself, but for the youngsters it might be an induced one, based on the tales from their parents. Regardless of the reason, his name produces panic, horror, fear and the feeling of helplessness and lack of importance, like people are not worthy enough for saying it.
A fact that I have almost missed was an apparently unimportant remark from Hagrid when talking to Harry, Ron and Hermonie. In the context of bringing Gilderoy Lockhart as a teacher for Defense Against the Dark Magic, an unprepared, arrogant and opportunist man, Hagrid mentiones that he was the only one who volunteered for the post. Why? Because everybody started to think it was jinxed, as nobody resisted long enough as a DADA master. But is it just a superstition, or is it a fact? Maybe Voldemort had something to do with it. Even though it is not mentioned in the book, the Harry Potter fandom seems to give us an answer.
A character that had risen into this book is Ginny Weasley. If in the first volume of the series she was just a little girl holding her mother’s hand and running away when seeing Harry, now she is a full time student at Hogwarts. She starts to become more and more visible and her part seems to be well defined into the whole Chamber of Secrets opening story. She is still a shy, bit naive girl, but she starts to grow, to have her own opinions about life and about what she wants. She starts to fight and to become more aware of herself and her feelings.
Hermonie also impressed me in this book, when she decided to leave aside her ‘I am not breaking any rules and you should do the same’ attitude and to be more useful than reading some books in a library, although this was not a bad thing. Actually it was her habbit that sort of saved Harry. If she hadn’t found out the truth behind the whole story, it might have had a completely different ending.
We can see how in this volume the author took her inspiration from different sources, among them being the European and Slavic mythologies. The basilisk is a mythological creature, a hybrid between a rooster and a serpent. In the book, the Basilisk was discovered by Hermione while reading in the library:
“Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken’s egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of his eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it.”
I couldn’t help but notice the irony. The Basilisk is hatched from a chicken’s egg, but the rooster is fatal to it. But why spiders are so afraid of the Basilisk? Well in the book there is no clear reason. Aragog himself didn’t give a reason to Harry, but it was clear that it was their biggest enemy. Why? Hard to say. Maybe because the Basilisk can kill with only a glance, and spiders have eight eyes surrounding their head and no eyelids to protect them from it.
He can live for many hundreds of years, according to the definition found by Herminone, but this one seems to be much older. It was brought to life almost a thousand years earlier when the school was founded (the exact date is not known) and was still alive when the action occured.
What I can say is that I haven’t liked much Gilderoy Lockhart, with all his “Magical Me” and “The most charming smile Award” attitude, but I guess it was intended. It was part of the story and it had his well placed purpose into the plot.
This book has brought much more intrigue and mysteries than the first one and I definitely enjoyed it more than the previous. I liked the characters, the plot, the events and the way the author presented them.
But in the end, what is this Chamber of Secrets and what has to do a mythological creature found in a book with it? When was it last open and by who? But was it really opened in the past? Who would have such a twisted mind and such fury inside that it would release so many attrocities over a handful of students? Lots are to be discovered into this book. Much more than one can expect or imagine.
© Picnic on the Shelf, April 19, 2019