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A Reader's Guide to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Chapter Four:
The Keeper of the Keys The Keeper of the Keys, PS4, by Mary GrandPré

 

On this page:

Synopsis by William Silvester
Notes and links by Steve Vander Ark and Michele L. Worley

US hardcover edition: pages 46 - 60
UK hardcover edition: pages 39 - 48
UK paperback edition: pages 55 - 70
Timeframe: 31 July, 1991

In which Hagrid arrives at the hut and informs Harry that he is a wizard and has been accepted into Hogwarts. Harry also learns the truth about the deaths of his parents and the origin of the scar on his forehead, much to the chagrin of his uncle.


Interesting facts and notes on the text of this chapter:

Just how exactly did Hagrid get to the Hut-on-the-Rock? He says that he flew, of course, but how exactly? It's difficult to imagine someone as bulky as Hagrid riding a broomstick, and he certainly isn't able to Apparate. (See notes on PS5 for more about this - something that wasn't settled properly until Order of the Phoenix.)

The title of this chapter is also one of Hagrid's titles at Hogwarts. He is the Keeper of the Keys, which means that he has a large ring of keys which can lock or unlock any door on the Hogwarts grounds. Presumably Filch has a simliar set of keys, but only for doors inside the castle proper. Hagrid controls entrance to the grounds and to the buildings. Perhaps he would also be called the gatekeeper--his hut is fairly near the front gate judging by the sequence of events during the battle at the end of book six.

Figuratively speaking, Hagrid here holds the keys to Harry's entry into the Wizarding World. When he breaks down the door into the hut on the rock, he bursts through into the Muggle world and opens the way for Harry to enter the Wizarding World and to find his true identity.

A giant of a man was standing in the doorway.

One of my favorite lines of the first film comes just at this point. Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid comes crashing through the door, flattening it in the process, and glowers. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he says "Sorry 'bout that." and picks the door back up. In that one brief moment we are introduced to the gentle giant of a man who will become Harry's first real friend.

It's hard to remember back to reading this passage for the first time, but even now I can still get a sense of the delightful anticipation Rowling creates in the previous chapter. I do remember a strong sense of someone or something being outside the house, watching the Dursleys and always aware of what was going on. When Hagrid first appears, the effect is thrilling.

The Keeper of the Keys, © Keith Johnson

Dudley squeaked and ran to hide behind his mother, who was crouching, terrified, behind Uncle Vernon.

The next time the three Dursleys come face-to-face with an adult wizard on their own turf - when the Weasleys come to pick Harry up for the World Cup - they take this same tack, and it works just about as well as it does here.

"Yeh look a lot like yet dad, but yeh've got yet mom's eyes."

This is our first encounter with this oft-repeated phrase. As Harry grows up, he looks more and more like his father, but many remark on the fact that he has his mother's eyes, which were green.

...they couldn't see what he was doing but when he drew back a second later, there was a roaring fire there...

Presumably Hagrid has just used an Incendio spell. Since there was no wood, however, he may have used something a bit more complex, similar perhaps to Hermione's Bluebell Flames. At any rate, the empty fireplace now contains a roaring fire, complete with wood to burn.

'Gallopin' Gorgons!'

The Gorgon is a creature from Greek mythology. The exclamatory used here was invented by Rowling to sound appropriately magical. As the series progresses, characters use the phrase "Merlin's Beard" more often.

'Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that - that school - and came home every vacation with her pockets full of frog spawn, turning teacups into rats.'

This has occasionally been used as an argument for Lily's having done underage magic, but given what we later learn about Lily and James, and what we know of Petunia, it bears another interpretation. We know Petunia doesn't approve of imagination, so the 'teacups into rats' incident probably happened. But who would have been likely to make it happen, and why?

We can see from her outburst here (as well as her treatment of Harry all his life) that Petunia resented Lily, and as we learn in PA, Petunia is "the nosiest woman in the world". Even though she hates magic, Petunia would have been bound to stick her nose into Lily's business and eavesdrop on any friends who came to visit. In fact, we know she eavesdropped on at least one of James' visits to Lily from OP2, because that's how Petunia first heard about the dementors of Azkaban. Since James and Lily began dating in their seventh year, they would both have been of age to do magic outside school by then.

And as Mr. Ollivander tells Harry in the next chapter, James, not Lily, had a wand that was "excellent for Transfiguration", and from what we are to learn of him over time, Transfiguring a teacup into a rat would have been more his kind of joke than Lily's.

"How could a car crash kill Lily an' James Potter?"

The implication here is that nothing as mundane as a car accident could kill a Witch or Wizard. So how exactly does being magical protect someone from being killed in a car accident? Do wizards have some sort of built-in protective magical shield? Is this the same magical shield which protected Neville when his Uncle Algie accidentally dropped him from an upstairs window?

"Nah - can't spell it. All right - Voldemort." Hagrid shuddered. "Don' make me say it again."

Harry tends to think that before he met Remus Lupin, the only people he'd ever heard say the name were himself and Albus Dumbledore. This is the only time we've ever heard Hagrid say it.

Just a note on pronunciation: Rowling pronounces Voldemort with a silent 't' at the end--VOL-duh-more. Just about everyone else, including the cast of the films, says VOL-duh-mort. Jim Dale pronounced it Rowling's way until the recording of the fifth book, when he inexplicably changed to the incorrect pronunciation. My guess is that his producers wanted his reading to match the film. Sad, really.

Head boy an' girl at Hogwarts in their day!

James, however, was not a Prefect. Remus Lupin was the Prefect for Gryffindor during those years. How James became Head Boy is a bit of a mystery. Part of this mystery may have been explained when Harry became Captain of Quidditch in his sixth year:

The day after...their letters and booklists arrived from Hogwarts. Harry's included a surprise: he had been made Quidditch Captain.

"That gives you equal status with prefects!" cried Hermione happily. "You can use our special bathroom now and everything!" (HBP6)

Perhaps the Head Boy and Girl are chosen from the Prefects and the Captains of Quidditch.

...were too close ter Dumbledore ter want anythin' ter do with the Dark Side...

Voldemort's supporters themselves are called Death Eaters, although we don't learn this term until book four. At this point in the story, the enemy is referred to generically as the Dark Side. Interestingly, this term is never used in books five and six, when the war is begun and has become more personal.

"An' then - an' this is the real myst'ry of the thing - he tried to kill you, too."

Hagrid isn't speaking here as though he's trying to hide anything. It seems clear that Dumbledore kept Sibyll Trelawney's first prediction a secret from Hagrid, although Hagrid was and is a member of the Order of the Phoenix - and a good thing, too, since Hagrid has no talent for keeping secrets.

...he turned up in the village where you was all living, on Halloween ten years ago.

We're back to guessing dates for the attack on the Potters. As you will recall from the notes on chapter one, there is some debate as to whether the attack on the Potters actually happened very early in the morning on October 31. This passage, while not definitive, strongly suggests that Rowling intends the attack to have happened on the evening of Halloween, and therefore that the day of owls flying to and fro and Uncle Vernon encountering a cat on his garden wall was November 1.

That's what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh -- took care of yer mum an' dad an' yer house, even -- but it didn't work on you...

Assuming that we can trust Hagrid's interpretation of events, we can see that the curse used against Harry caused the destruction of house in Godric's Hollow. To be precise, the massive energy released in the misfiring of the spell must be what caused such devastation. We do get the sense that the energy of spells causes physical damage to inanimate objects from the descriptions of battles elsewhere in the canon. However, this must have been an exceptional case to destroy an entire house.

What caused the spell to misfire? Just the words of a prophecy wouldn't be enough to protect Harry. After all, it could just as well have been Neville. Is there perhaps something like the Priori Incantatem effect between Harry and Voldemort? What causes this? What is the common factor between them--and between Voldemort and Neville--which made this spell misfire so spectacularly? With the wands, it was the pre-existing common core in the wands.

"No one ever lived after he decided ter kill 'em, no one except you, an' he'd killed some o' the best witches and wizards of the age - the McKinnons, the Bones, the Prewetts - an' you was only a baby, an' you lived."

All these people were members of the original Order of the Phoenix and their families. Harry will learn more about them, and how they died, from Mad-Eye Moody at the prefect party in Grimmauld Place, a little over four years from now.

This should also start first-time readers thinking: Harry's family were only the last in a long line of victims. There must be other kids his age and older in Hogwarts who have lost family members. Neville Longbottom and Susan Bones are the only two obvious candidates during Harry's sorting - Neville since his grandmother is bringing him up rather than his parents, Susan because we know about the Bones family from Hagrid. Harry only learns about Neville's family in their fourth year, and Susan and the Prewetts in their fifth.

The Prewetts, incidentally, are Molly Weasley's brothers, Fabian and Gideon (JKR).

...there was a flash of violet light, a sound like a firecracker...

Hagrid is trying to perform a bit of transfiguration magic here. He tells us in a few moments that he was actually trying to turn Dudley into a pig, but the spell wasn't powerful enough coming from an untrained wizard with a broken wand.

I was allowed ter do a bit ter follow yeh an' get yer letters to yeh an' stuff...

So does this mean that all the magic by which the letters found their way into the Dursley home was performed by Hagrid? It seems unlikely, given the cleverness of those spells and Hagrid's lack of magical skill. Hagrid may only be referring to the Sunday and Monday when Uncle Vernon drove around the countryside looking for a place to hide. Hagrid probably tailed them on a thestral, using that animal's magical ability to find things.

I -- er -- got expelled, ter tell yeh the truth. In me third year. They snapped me wand in half an' everything. But Dumbledore let me stay on as gamekeeper. Great man, Dumbledore."

At this point, Hagrid was fourteen years old. That's a bit young to become a full-fledged gamekeeper. Probably Hagrid worked under the existing gamekeeper first. However, the actual timeline for all of this is complicated by a reference to this previous gamekeeper in book four.

Let's take a look at what we know. Rita Skeeter writes about Hagrid's past:

Rubeus Hagrid, who admits to being expelled from Hogwarts in his third year, has enjoyed the position of gamekeeper at the school ever since, a job secured for him by Dumbledore.  (GF24)

This suggests that Hagrid has been a gamekeeper right from the start. However, Molly Weasley remembers another gamekeeper before Hagrid, and she and Arthur were at Hogwarts much later than Hagrid, probably in the mid-1960s.

Mrs. Weasley was intrigued by the Whomping Willow, which had been planted after she had left school, and reminisced at length about the gamekeeper before Hagrid, a man called Ogg. (GF31)

The exact details of Hagrid's history are hazy, then, but it would seem that he left school at the age of 14, in 1943, and was given the job of gamekeeper as an apprentice or assistant to Ogg. When Ogg retired in the early 1970s, Hagrid took over the position exclusively. It is also possible that Molly and Arthur were students much earlier than the 1960s, but in book six we learn that they eloped during the first rise of Voldemort to power. This would put their wedding around 1970. It's also possible that Ogg was not the gamekeeper anymore when Molly and Arthur were at school, but that they knew him anyway. That's not really the way this passage reads, however. Molly does seem to be reminiscing about her own school days here, and Ogg would seem to have been part of that.

"Why were you expelled?"

Harry learns more than he wanted to know about this in his second year, when he and Ron meet Aragog.

"You can kip under that..."

The contrast betweem Harry's circumstances at the beginning of this chapter and now is startling. Where before he was forced to find a soft bit of floor and shiver under the thinnest blanket, with a cold empty fireplace and his snoring cousin for company, now he snuggles in front of a roaring fire under a thick warm coat. The world that Harry knows is changing fast.

Characters introduced in this chapter:

Characters returning in this chapter:

Characters mentioned in this chapter:

Settings and locations:

Exceptional character moments:

Spells:

Links and Resources:

Memorable lines:

Strictly British:

Timelines/Calendar:

Hagrid arrives just after midnight on July 31, 1991.

July / August 1991

SUN MON TUES WED THU FRI SAT

July 29

July 30

July 31

midnight: Hagrid knocks on the door of the hut on the rock, enters, and discusses various Harry-related topics with the Dursleys; some time later, they all go to sleep, Harry snug under Hagrid's enormous coat

August 1
August 2
August 3

August 4


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Page layout by Lisa Waite Bunker and Steve Vander Ark, banner graphics by Camilla Engelby © 2007.

Primary editor: Steve Vander Ark. Previous editor(s): Steve Vander Ark, Michele Worley.
Synopsis © 2002 William Silvester
original chapter artwork by Mary GrandPré © Warner Bros., used by permission
artwork by Keith Johnson, used with permission

Original page date 18 March 2002; Last page update 10 July 2011 SVA.