Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Publishing Date: 8 July 1999
Author: J. K. Rowling
Original Publishing House: Bloomsbury
I must say that when I started reading this volume, I couldn’t remember properly what had happened in the film, so reading it was almost like the first time. Although the first series was published at Bloomsbury in UK, I read the version published at Scholastic Publishing House in US. Can’t say I really fancy for the cover, but as long as the content is ok, the cover is not a problem.
Although the main plot of this series is Harry fighting Lord Voldemort (or You-Know-Who as some might say), this book doesn’t bring up the Dark Lord almost at all. In fact, I think it is the only book where he has a very insignificant role, being present only through other’s fears.
This volume is dedicated more to Harry’s past. We get to know Sirius Black, a criminal escaped from Azkaban that apparently has come to haunt Harry and kill him. The entire school is on alert with Sirius at large and the dementors wandering around Hogwarts for protection in case he shows up.
I can see in this book how the author tried to concentrate on bringing some light into Harry’s life. First of all, he finds out more about his parents, finds a long lost relative, wins the Quidditch cup and learns the Patronus spell, one that it is said only a very powerful wizard can perform. He finally starts to feel that things are working for him, although the thought that he is being chased by a serial killer isn’t of any help, especially when Professor Trelawney, the divination teacher, told him she saw the Grim in his cup, a black dog representing the shape of the Omen of Death. Does this has anything to do with Sirius Black? Could the Grim be a warning that his end is near?
It is interesting to find information about more magical persons like Animagi, wizards who can turn themselves at will into animals, and werewolves – a subject that Professor Snape insisted in teaching them at the course of DADA when substituting Professor Lupin.
Regarding the characters, there are some of them that have evolved during this book, but who impressed me the most was Hermione. Beside the fact that she took over much more subjects than the others, she started to be more open to crossing the rules and riot. She quit the divination course, punched Draco in the face and broke one of the most important rules of wizardry: not to play with time. She impresses me more with every volume that I read. It seems like she transforms more and more from a know-it-all girl to a responsible and courageous women who is not afraid to break some rules if that’s what it takes to help someone in need.
Another character that has evolved, but in the opposite direction is Snape. His hatred for Harry seems to be growing more and more with each day that passes. He bullies him every chance he gets, and even loses control at some point in front of the Minister of Magic. His grudge leads him to the point that he no longer thinks rationally and says imprudent things that at some point might cost him. Although the author lets us know the reasons of his behaviour, that doesn’t give him the right to treat Harry as he was to blame for it. But is there only one reason for his bad moods? What is his secret? What is the real reason behind his uncontrollable fury? Harry tries to escape him, to ignore him, but most of the times he bumps into him in the most inappropriate moments, like when he was coming from Hogsmeade with Marauders map in his pocket.
The map, created by some random Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail and Prongs has the purpose of showing where is anyone in the castle at any point. But when Snape opens it, he has to face some rude affirmations about him like the one that he has an abnormally big nose and that he is a slimeball. Just when he was set to throw himself over Harry, Professor Lupin appears and confiscates the map under the pretext of checking it against the dark magic. But is it only this? What does really Lupin has to do with this? Why is he always helping Harry and is so attached to him? He even helps him learn the Patronus spell against the dementors who seem to always make Harry lose his conscious.
Dementors are wicked, vicious creatures, as Dumbledore describes them, that take away all your happy memories and make you remember only the bad ones. When the dementors first appeared in the train, Ron said that he felt like he will never be happy again, while Harry was much more affected by them. The dementors are the projection of the depression that the author had suffered, that deep feeling of emptiness that keeps you from feeling happiness, love or other that can make for a good memory. The worst thing that can happen to a prisoner is to be killed by a dementors kiss. Cause it isn’t a physical death, but a spiritual one. The dementors suck the soul out of you and leaves you like an empty shell, with no feelings, no thoughts, no love or hate, like you don’t exist at all. Many of them prefer to die rather than receive the kiss of the dementor. It is said that most of the prisoners of Azkaban get mad because of the black soulless creatures who are feeding with their happy feelings and leave them only the horrible ones, making one feel like his life has no point. Hagrid himself, when was locked in Azkaban in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for two months, he came back a bit shredded and bitter.
I admit that I sometimes have difficulties in remembering all the naming in Harry Potter books. The Leaky Cauldron, The Shrieking Shack – who is said to be the most haunted house in England, the Whomping Willow – which, coincidence or not was planted the same year Professor Lupin came to Hogwarts, are all cleverly chosen names that correspond to what the place is known for. It is like the nicknames people put each other based on their behaviour, like the authors of the Marauders map. Although I cannot say why the wizarding pub was called the Leaky Cauldron. In fact I don’t think anyone knows. What we know about it is that it was constructed in the 1500s by some called Daisy Dodderidge and that it is a pub for wizards that it is invisible to the Muggles. It is important because there, Harry Potter first found out that he was famous in his first year at Hogwarts.
I found funny and quite interesting a fact that it isn’t mentioned in the book but which appears in the movie. When Harry enters the Leaky Cauldron, there was a guy reading “A brief history of time” by Stephen Hawkings in the background. Maybe it was added for the effect, or maybe it was only a mere coincidence. What does magic has to do with cosmology? Well not many, but how come it appeared precisely when Sirius Black came into picture? Sirius is the most shining star over the sky, and yet is is associated with the word “black”, which suggests darkness, creating a beautiful oxymoron. The word “black” associated with the cosmological element “Sirius” might be a sending to a black hole, a place where there is no escape from, just as Sirius Black can’t escape his punishment for his crimes. Hawking himself has helped develop the theory of the dark holes, so the presence of the reader might not be really coincidence.
His name might also mean the fact that after escaping, he is sentenced to spiritual death through a dementor kiss, who will leave him voided, empty, with no notion of space and time. For him everything will be black, just as his name. Did the movie director really thought about that or his name was chosen randomly from a series of possible names?
I think this volume was written as a consequence of the author’s feelings. She wanted to clear her thoughts just as Harry cleared his. And she did this through writing. She released all the feelings that were trapped into her soul and placed them so wisely into Harry. I think it was her way of letting herself free of emotions and pain. But whatever was the reason, she created a wonderful story that amazes us every time we read it. I can only wait until reading the next volume to see what’s next. Cause books always bring me more than the movies.
©Picnic on the Shelf, May 17, 2019