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‘Nother New Essay, In Search of . . . The Burrow

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  • Ellha David

    Very interesting and accurate.
    But perhaps all this surgical dissection of JKR writings cause a loss of magic in her work.
    One example for all: the three false starts of the second year in leaving to King’s Cross look to me more as a literary tool to convey the panic of the moment and perhaps the subdued beginning of Ginny’s bewitching (as such it works very well indeed!) then a factual event.

  • beauxbatons

    I think that most of the fun in Ravenclaw Rambler’s essays comes from the fact that, Rowling’s world being magical, it is impossible anyway to make it coincide with ours. The fun is to try anyway, try to accomplish what can’t be accomplished !
    The bet of all literature critics is that their dissection won’t cause a loss of magic (and I mean ‘magic’ metaphorically), and maybe show even more of it. A good work of art can survive dissection !
    By the way, could’nt it be possible either that Ron and Harry didn’t know how to use the Ford Anglia properly — hence the lack of speed — and/or that Arthur was deliberately exaggerating, when he said that King’s Cross was just ten minutes away, in order to get a chance to use magic ? After all, the one who knew less about the Ford Anglia’s performances was Molly herself !

  • Deborah Hubbard

    Don’t let’s overlook the Ford Anglia itself in our analysis. It’s no ordinary car, and at least some of its abilities seem not to have come from Arthur’s modifications.

    Consider its new life, running wild in the Forbidden Forest (and perhaps getting to know a certain flying motorbike that it could have some interesting chats with). Glad to escape from Muggles and Wizards alike, wouldn’t you say? And yet … it chose to save Harry and Ron from the hungry spiders. Why should it care? But it did.

    Similarly, perhaps it knew more about the weather over the central spine of England than we might think possible, which might have made overlying Norfolk a les turbulent option. And perhaps it refused to go flat out when there were only two extremely inexperienced illegal drivers on board. They wouldn’t know the difference! But it could be powerfully confusing to us eager Muggles, leaving free will out of our equations.

  • Exeter Two

    Had always assumed that as it was called Ottery St Catchpole, and as JKR went to university here in Exeter, quite close to Ottery St Mary and the river Otter (which is where the ‘Ottery’ comes from in the first place) that the Burrow was in Devon. It may not fit exactly, but if the Burrow were closer to London, they wouldn’t need to leave that early in the morning. Also, the general terrain of this part of Devon is hilly and very empty in rural areas – Stoatsead Hill and a secluded spot for Weasley Quidditch could exist easily.

    It seems to be a simple modification of place names, as with Budleigh Babberton coming from Budleigh Salterton, also in the area.

    And, just because JKR said ‘motorway’ doesn’t necessarily imply that it means a *true* motorway/M road – it could be the A30, which is a major road with 3 lanes, and close enough to the Burrow to allow returning for Horcruxes.

    Plus, nobody in their right mind would go to the M5 from the east side of Exeter, because getting through or around (though especially *through*) Exeter is fiendishly difficult, and the whole thing is counter intuitive – it takes you out of your way in a circuitous route that adds miles to the journey.

    Is also just possible JKR imagined it was in Devon and didn’t bother checking the route exactly (plus, if she was travelling from Bristol to Exeter, her idea of the route would be different to those who travel from the south east).

    Or maybe the Weasleys speeded and enchanted cars can’t be caught by speed cameras XD

  • Ellha David

    As Severus Snape’s character demonstrates sometimes it is difficult to tell which are the reasons of somebody’s actions.
    With @Beauxbaton, I also mean ‘magic’ metaphorically and enjoy Harry Potter’s world as a free space in which streching out imagination and speculation. In this way it’s powerful. So I feel that trying to oblige Harry Potter’s world inside our own and worrying about miles and revolution counters is…to much mugglesh (how is its spelling?)!

  • beauxbatons

    Well, there might be a point anyway… We know about “Wizard space” and carrying a whole family in only one Ford Anglia. Maybe there are also some kind of “Wizard geography” making Devon closer to London than it is for us Muggles…
    Just kidding, of course.

  • Kacky Snorgle

    Unfortunately, most of the speed-and-distance calculations in the essay are rendered pretty much irrelevant by the fact that Ron and Harry’s speed toward Hogwarts was determined entirely by their need to follow the Express. The car is clearly capable of substantially higher speeds than the train, since Ron and Harry caught up to the Express almost immediately, even though it had a significant headstart. They would presumably have been able to travel from London to Hogwarts in far less time than the train, then, if not for the fact that they were relying upon it to show them the way.

    On the other hand, Arthur’s ten-minute estimate would have been based on the Anglia’s top speed (and as already noted above, he may have been exaggerating besides).

    These considerations would tend to reduce the fifty-to-one distance ratio proposed by the essay, by an unknown but potentially very large amount. As a result, it’s not clear whether we can safely infer *any* constraints on the Burrow’s location within Britain from such calculations….

    Still, it was a valiant attempt, and a good read. Thanks for the essay! 🙂

  • kamion

    This nice and neat analyses walks and drops with the attention Rowling herself payed to the exact traveling time. It think the connection Rowling-Exeter carries more weight for Ottery St.Cathpole being more or less the equivelent of Ottery St.Mary then how much miles an hour an Ford Anglia drives. As she happenly ignore the fact that Valentines Day was not in a weeking in 1995(OotP) or September 1 is not always a Sunday, she may have also ignored the distance between Devon and London.

  • John D.

    @kamion: i too believe that jk really doesnt pay much attention to this kind of thing, considering she is bad at maths and probably didn’t do an exhaustive research about motorways to and form london while writng the books.

  • ravenclaw rambler

    Thanks for all your comments. If I may exercise a right of reply……….

    Like Beauxbatons, I find the fun is in seeing how much of the stories can be reconciled with our world. Unlike somewhere like Middle Earth or the Discworld, JKR uses real places, and I find it very interesting to try to fit the imaginary ones into this context. I wrote the first of these essays in response to an invitation to expand on a comment I had emailed to the Lexicon about an entry which I didn’t think fitted the available facts. In expanding that to a full essay, I was surprised to discover an alternative location existed which fitted much better. the other essays followed.

    Exeter Two: thanks for the suggestion about the A30 – a near-motorway standard road running very close to Ottery St Mary. However, it was only completed in August 1999 (opened just in time for the crowds heading for Cornwall to view the Total Eclipse) and at the canonical date of 1992 the old A30 was nothing like a motorway.
    Also, the M5 passes to the east of Exeter, so you don’t need to go through the city to reach the M5 from east Devon. Although I agree with you that using the M5 takes you miles out of your way, you would be surprised how many people stick to the blue lines on the map at all costs.

    The suggestion that the Weasleys were speeding significantly is unlikely: the manufacturer’s claim even for the larger-engined (1200cc) version was only 82 mph flat out, and it would need a good run-up to achieve that, given the 0-60 time of over 20 seconds. And remember, Anglia production ended in 1967, so this one was hardly factory-fresh in 1992!

    Several commentators have pointed out that the car has more magical powers than perhaps even Mr Weasley realises, and that the 50:1 ratio is unreliable, as I acknowledge in the final paragraph of the essay. Nevertheless, for the journey from the Burrow to London, Molly had expressly forbidden the use of magic, and it would take a braver man than Arthur to defy her! Without magic, I don’t think even a modern car could make the 150 mile journey in the time available, and the same journey in “Goblet of Fire” is made in muggle taxis: definitely without magic.

    And I know British train fares are exorbitant, but would anyone – especially a family as hard-up as the Weasleys – make a 150 mile journey by taxi, especially if floo powder is available?


  • Marco

    Rawenclaw Rambler has forgotten an important point – and that was the journey of Fred and George to Surrey to free Harry and bring him to the Burrow at the begin of CS. FG hat freed Harry in the dead of the night and arrived at the burrow at dawn, approx. at 6 a.m. It seems, that FG were away from the Burrow for a few hours, or Molly wouldn´t have noticed, that they were missing.

    On the way back to the burrow George said to Fred, that he was driving too far west, what indicates, that the burrow is somewhat west of Surrey. Actually Exeter is SW-WSW of Surrey. Surrey itself is south and west of London, and Rawenclaw Rambler had presumed in another essay, that Little Whinging is rather at the western border of Surrey and a considerable distance west of London.

  • ravenclaw rambler

    Marco – I hadn’t been able to conclude much from the escape from Privet Drive, but you comment inspired me to re-visit it:
    George was looking at a compass, so when he said they had gone too far west he was talking about a direction, not a distance. If you are going from Surrey to Devon, you want to travel generally west, and any course corrections would be described as further north or south (of west). But Fred was on a heading “too far west” (e.g. NW instead of north, or SW instead of south), so that comment suggests the journey was in a generally north/south direction.
    If anything, this reinforces the argument for the Chilterns. If Fred had headed due north from Camberley for 40 miles, he would find himself about 5 miles west of Ivinghoe.
    We don’t know how long before their return it was before Molly noticed they were missing, but even if she had woken up only ten minutes before, she would have been concerned to find three of her children missing, but 40 miles each way implies a round trip of well over an hour (plus the time taken to extricate Harry from his bedroom), if we assume a similar speed to that Ron would have achieved to reach Scotland in nine hours.

  • Peanut

    I hope we all realise that all of these essays are in good fun and JKR, though I love her work dearly, probably didn’t put quite as much thought into the actual physical locations as she did into fun place names etc. Plus any muggle analysis can be waived by the simple expaination of MAGIC 🙂

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