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01 August 2005 @ 01:15 pm
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince  
As stated earlier i've finished the Half Blood Prince. I can't believe she killed off Harry Potter in the sixth book! What's she going to do for book seven? Er, wait, that was supposed to be behind the spoiler cut, sorry everyone!


So my initial guesses about the Half Blood Prince prior to reading the book were all way off, but my semi-educated guess at page 200 was mostly right on. Yay me :)

Of course one question remaining is, has Voldemort ever expressed an opinion about half bloods and muggle-bloods (presumably in book 2) or has it only been his followers that have been rabid about the subject? As Morna pointed out to me there's a history of insane dictators making exceptions to their notions of "purity" for themselves but not for any of their subordinates, in which case my theory about the reasons for Voldemort's and Snape's theoretical camaraderie falls apart. However if it would be ironic if Voldemort despises his followers for their views (at least in part) and has come to consider Snape as his only friend, and it turns out that Snape _is_ still loyal to Dumbledore :)

Which of course brings up the question of Snape's loyalty. It's certainly possible that Dumbledore thought sacrificing himself was worth the opportunity to "prove" the loyalty of their plant in Voldemort's camp. It's also possible he was dying anyways and figured what the hell, might as well get some use out of it. And Morna said that in the first book during the first potions class with Snape some kind of "Life in Death" potion was mentioned, so there's a slim possibility that Dumbledore isn't really dead.

I'm also curious if Snape's comment to Harry during their final battle about keeping his mouth shut and mind closed was just a taunt, or advice disguised as a taunt.

So why was Hermoine upset about Harry's use of the recipes in the book? Was it just because she thought they might be evil? Or was it because she felt Harry was cheating somehow? I can't see any really good justification to the later claim. Harry was following recipes out of a book, just like Hermoine, and he even offered to share the info with her. If Hermoine had gone to the library and researched better ways to make the potions she certainly wouldn't have viewed it as cheating. Harry stumbling across that particular book was certainly due to some really amazing luck rather than hard work, but that doesn't make it cheating.

You know, the whole deal with the Half Blood Prince's potions book really makes Harry Hermoine and Ron look rather incompetent. By his sixth year Snape was already improving on the standard recipes and inventing his own spells. Have any of the protagonists down _anything_ original? Harry unconsciously made a few spells at the beginning of book one, but since he came to Hogwarts nothing. Hermoine has done great in all her classes and looked up lots of stuff in the library, but still nothing creative that we've been shown as far as i can remember. The only current students we've been shown so far who have done _anything_ creative have been... Fred and George =P

In fact, not only have they not created anything, that can't even figure out the results of the creative process. They don't know _why_ anything works. Every skill they have is by rote. They can't even look at Snape's recipes and come up with a supposition as to why the changes he made improves them. Did Snape come up with the improvements purely through trial and error, or is there a knowledge of magical theory that Harry Ron and Hermoine are completely missing out on? Snape is either a genius or incredibly persistent at trial and error, or the protagonists are complete slackers =P

So what _does_ Harry plan to do against Voldemort by skipping his seventh year? He can't even defeat Snape, and Voldemort is supposed to be much stronger and more skilled. Not that completing his seventh year would narrow the gap that much, but having all the fundamentals covered would be at least a start. As it is he's going to have to get damn lucky, or the Order of the Phoenix is going to have to hold Voldemort down while yelling "Now! Quick! Stab'em! Stab'em!" to Harry.
 
 
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Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on August 1st, 2005 08:46 pm (UTC)
I went "Someone scribbled all over the potions book because he thought he knew better? It's probably SNAPE'S!" right off the bat. :P

And Morna said that in the first book during the first potions class with Snape some kind of "Life in Death" potion was mentioned, so there's a slim possibility that Dumbledore isn't really dead.

Then Harry, angsting over his mentor dying, commits suicide, after which Dumbledore comes back to life, and seeing the magical world's last hope lost, commits suicide himself, right?

By his sixth year Snape was already improving on the standard recipes and inventing his own spells. Have any of the protagonists down _anything_ original?

But I thought that Snape was supposed to be fairly a potions and dark arts genius, whereas Harry and Ron are supposed to be utterly average or below-average in most areas. Harry's honestly really only very good at DADA, which he would only be good enough to have a chance of inventing spells in if he had curriculum continuity and more than a couple decent profs. Ron sucks at nearly everything. And Hermione is very intelligent but not the slightest bit creative. They're not supposed to be, you know, Mudd-level geniuses. Whereas I think Snape and Voldemort are. As are Fred and George, actually, and as were at least some of the Marauders.

I also think that the whole war thing kind of messed up the level of education at HOgwarts, so on that level, yes, they're (1) slackers in the sense that they are not at all focusing on their work, and (2) not getting the education that the pre-war crowd did.
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 1st, 2005 11:46 pm (UTC)
Then Harry, angsting over his mentor dying, commits suicide, after which Dumbledore comes back to life, and seeing the magical world's last hope lost, commits suicide himself, right?

*laughs*

I like the fact that unlike most must such stories Harry doesn't turn out to be invested with phenomenal cosmic powers and destined by fate to destroy Voldemort. The prophecy is only kinda sorta a prophecy, and the only special power Harry has is love, which is great and all, but it's hard to whack Voldemort over the head with a big chunk of love :)

Regardless however, he's the child of two powerful wizards and is supposed to be above average himself. I'm not sure what you mean by "Mudd-level geniuses." Like people at mudd who are geniuses compared to the normal mudder? Well Hermoine is supposed to be like that it seems, even if she’s not particularly creative. Most of the time Harry and Ron are portrayed as somewhat competent people who are too easily distracted by other things. I never knew anyone like that at Mudd at all O=) However the results of the OWLs seems to indicate that they're more like the people who worry about how well they did on tests but get decently good grades anyways types. (Though obviously not to the even more annoying extreme of people like Hermoine who worry to extremes and then blow everyone else out of the water.)

I'm not sure what exactly the percentages are, but it certainly seems that out of an entire class of Hogwarts less than half are capable of passing the OWLs in any given subject. Harry got kick-ass in DADA, and pretty damn good in... six or seven other subjects? You could argue that maybe he shouldn't be expected to create new recipes in potions given his E in that, but why isn't he creating new spells in DADA?

And like i said, why do none of them even have the theoretical basis to figure out what's up with the new recipes after the fact? Unless all magic is on a trial and error basis then either they should have been taught some theory of potion making, or when the subject became relevant Hermoine should have been able to research it in the library. If they weren't able to understand why the new recipes were better before trying them they should at least have been able to figure out why afterwards. Instead it's just blind faith. Harry tries one of the variations just on a gamble, and after a couple such experiments he comes to the conclusion that any alternative offered in the book is better. They never try to predict the results ahead of time or analyze the effects afterwards. There seems to be _zero_ learning going on except for rote memorization. And this is a class in which Harry is supposed to be quite a bit better than average and Hermoine is supposed to be outstanding.

Yeah, the whole war thing is somewhat of an excuse, but they didn't seem to be doing that great along those lines before the war became the prominent feature in their lives, and other than Fred and George we don't hear about anyone from the current classes inventing anything, even before the war became a general issue for everybody.
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on August 2nd, 2005 03:05 am (UTC)
but it's hard to whack Voldemort over the head with a big chunk of love :)

....................................Let us never speak of this again.

*falls over laughing*

"Mudd-level geniuses" are people like us, who are both intelligent enough to understand most material and motivated/creative enough to build on it. It's not really so much IQ based... gah, I can't explain it. But, y'know, if Hoggwarts were like Mudd they'd expect everyone to be developing new spells before the end. (And about half the students would end up staying over the summer to start developing new spells after their second or third year, but most would somehow end up rewriting scrolls instead)

By the way, did you notice the grade inflation on the OWLs, which seem to indicate that you have to do significantly better than average just to be allowed to continue in a subject? It reminded me of high school.

Leora: ouroborosleora on August 2nd, 2005 06:45 am (UTC)
They are very young. But mainly I think it's that Hermione is not very creative and Ron and Harry are slackers. Plus, they spend so much time minding everyone else's business, they don't have much time to experiment. They are far more about creative application of what they have been taught than about discovering new things. And they are better about investigating and using their resources than most of the students seem to be.

But Harry's father and friends were more impressive. Not only did they become animagi on the sly and unassisted, but they made the Maurader's Map, which is a pretty amazing piece of wizardry.

Although the communication coins were somewhat clever. But really they are applying themselves in very different ways than a student would be expected to, and I think that is the major difference.
Steuardsteuard on August 2nd, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC)
They never try to predict the results ahead of time or analyze the effects afterwards. There seems to be _zero_ learning going on except for rote memorization.

You've raised a very good point here, I think. Moreover, Rowling said in an interview that "No, there's no University for Wizards." It seems like when you finish at Hogwarts, you're done with education. It's almost as if there's no such thing as magical research, or at least no organized structure for it. (How do magical research specialists get paid? It seems like it's treated as a hobby, not as a job.) And most of the things like magical research that we hear about sound more like engineering to me than like science. As a scientist, it's hard for me to imagine the former without the latter.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the ultimate reason for this is probably "story-external": Rowling's own background. Both from her books and from whatever bits of biography I've read, I don't get the feeling that she was ever much of a math or science person. And in my experience, a lot of people who aren't really into math and science don't really understand what they're all about. (Some do understand, of course, and thank goodness for them!) They think back on all the rote memorization in low level technical classes and assume that it's like that forever. (How many people out there know that most mathematicians hardly ever deal with actual numbers at all? Recall that Hermione's very difficult class is "Arithmancy", not "Analysismancy". :) ) If you were never the odd sort of person who asked "Why?" in science classes, it might not even occur to you to write about people who do.

So when Rowling went to create a wizarding world, she wrote about what she knew (generally good advice!). It turned out quite well, but naturally there are things about it that feel a bit odd to those of us with very different backgrounds than hers. As for a "story-internal" answer, I think that what others have said is fairly reasonable: Hermione is very knowledgeable but not especially creative, and Harry and Ron are often focused on things other than their studies (even more so than Hermione). Maybe all of the really creative ones end up in Ravenclaw. :)
Kirinkirinn on August 2nd, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC)
It seems vaguely plausible that most directed magical research in the HP world goes on at the Ministry of Magic, where we haven't spent a lot of time in the story (and when we have, we see it filled with mysteeeerious things). This might imply a somewhat scary level of government-centralization in the magic business, but then again, that might be counteracted by the commonality of self-absorbed wizards who, as you mentioned, might be inclined to go off and do research just as an unpaid hobby.
Steuardsteuard on August 2nd, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC)
That would make sense. Now that I think of it, I can see the whole "Department of Mysteries" as a magic research think tank. ("Magical Mysteries" is a much catchier name than "Theoretical Magic", after all. And it's a Beatles album.) I guess that if the wizard community is relatively small relative to the Muggle one, they'd have correspondingly fewer major research centers. So perhaps the Department of Mysteries is a sort of "National Lab", like Fermilab is for us American Muggles.

Whether it's wise to stick Fermilab in the basement of the White House is, of course, another question.
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 3rd, 2005 05:20 am (UTC)
Well obviosuly not _all_ of the creative ones end up in Ravenclaw, we've got the counterexamples of Fred and George and Snape.

Obviously Rowling knows that creation needs to be taking place in any reasonable world, but either she doesn't know how to describe the actual process or she doesn't think it would be interesting to observe.

Someone mentioned that training to be an Auror takes an additional three years after graduating, so although there's no college it seems like there's a trade school or aprenticeship system. I don't know if it was intentional on Rowling's part or an amusing consequence of her own lack of knowledge about the sciences, but the end result of everything we've learned so far from the books is the impression, on my part at least, that the wizards have realized that the muggles are onto something with their science and are trying to emulate the ways of their more prolific brethren without actually understanding what they're doing or exactly why they're doing it.

And yes, the scientific aspect of research and analysis seems rather lacking, it's more like the _old_ days of engineering. Back when rather than doing some calculations to see if it will stay up you build it and see if it falls over :) If you can't tell _why_ anything works how can you possibly come up with anything new other than pure trial and error?
Brie2gouda4u on August 2nd, 2005 01:44 pm (UTC)
My two cents on the competence of Snape vs. the incompetence of our heroes - maybe they use the same potions book for the later years of study? Perhaps Snape had the book for not only his last couple years of Hogwarts, but in whatever college equivalent the wizards may have? He could have worked at improving those spells as later exercises. There are other possibilities that don't make Harry & co. quite so incompetent.
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 2nd, 2005 01:57 pm (UTC)
That _would_ be a good explanation, except that for at least some of the spells we know he invented them while at Hoggwarts, because Harry saw the Maurader's using them in some of Snape's memories, and Snape seemed quite bitter about the way they were using his own spells against him.

I'm not sure how one improves spells. Potions it is apparently easy to improve, but spells? There's just one or two words, and once you've figured out the words there's apparently not much more you can do to improve the spell itself :)
Kirinkirinn on August 2nd, 2005 02:15 pm (UTC)
I get the impression that the words for spells may really be just a catalyst for the proper mental state. Obviously they don't really need to be spoken, as Snape has been trying to drill into Harry all year. In fact, he wants Harry to be able to cast spells without even "thinking them loudly", if that makes sense. Although there's nothing in the series so far to suggest how brand new spells are invented/discovered, I get the feeling that a high-level wizard could pull off new variations on a spell simply by thinking/willing it to work that way.
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 2nd, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC)
Well that may be partially true, but you can cast a spell just by knowing the words with no real idea of what it does. Maybe that septum whatever spell wouldn't have worked at all if Harry hadn't been thinking of attacking, but that's still not really much to go on.

And from what we've been told you don't have to say the spell, but you at least have to think the words. And yes, definitely the exact effect of a spell varies based on what the wizard is trying to accomplish. Another post i saw recently was detailing all the variations the disarming spell has had.
Kirinkirinn on August 2nd, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC)
Mm, yeah, that's a good point about the Septum incident. I guess the relationship between incantations and intentions just isn't terribly clear.
Brie2gouda4u on August 2nd, 2005 10:40 pm (UTC)
Hey - be nice! I was half asleep when I wrote that ; P

Re: first part - good point.
Kirinkirinn on August 2nd, 2005 02:01 pm (UTC)
I'm also curious if Snape's comment to Harry during their final battle about keeping his mouth shut and mind closed was just a taunt, or advice disguised as a taunt.

I think the latter; in fact I think that's one of the best parts of the end of the book and one of the best arguments for Snape's allegience. There Snape is, deep cover, massively confilcted and probably somewhat traumatized about having to kill Dumbledore, obviously barely holding it together at the end there... and he's still *teaching* Harry. Pretty impressive. Oh, and disguising it as taunts in case anyone else is paying attention.

As for Snape's creativity vs. the trio, it's been discussed a lot in other comments, but briefly: I think Snape probably *is* borderline genius, so his notes are pretty exceptional. And while none of the trio are dumb, Hermione immerses herself in the rote academics, and Harry (and often all three of them by extension) spends an awful lot of school time being dragged off into adventures. Snape, on the other hand, was a social outcast with nothing better to do than sit in his room inventing things.

It will be interesting to see how Harry pulls things off in the next book, given that it seems like he would have had little chance of getting the latest (fake) horcrux without Dumbledore along. This, among other things, makes me think D was already dying - otherwise it seems quite bad strategy to go and die without finding a few more horcruxes first. OTOH, D has always been all about tossing Harry insane challenges to prepare him for even worse things later on.
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 2nd, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Harry would have been screwed trying to get the locket by himself, and that's after someone else _already_ got through to it. And apparently did a much better job of it.

And it's not like Harry really learned much out of it. He learned about one particular secret door and one potion in particular. He has no better idea than before how to find secret doors in general or decipher other traps.

I still figure either the lion's share of the work is going to be done by the Order of the Phoneix in book seven, or there's going to be an _incredible_ amount of luck involved.

And when it comes time to kill Voldemort either the others are going to be there holding Voldemort down for him, or it's going to happen because of some stupid decision on Voldemort's part involving the prophecy. Like Harry getting captured and rather than having him executed Voldemort decides he needs to finish Harry off himself, we then get the traditional overconfidence on the bad guy's part leaves an opening for the good guy to exploit type battle. We've already had pretty damn strong hints that this is the way Voldemort would behave.
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