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Mysteries about the Map

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Mysteries about the Map

Today I received an interesting question in email from Katty Geltmeyer, a great fan friend of the Lexicon:

“In PA, Lupin told Harry, Ron, and Hermione that he found out they were in the Shrieking Shack by using the marauders Map. But Harry and Hermione traveled back in time and were lurking around the Willow. How is it possible that Lupin didn’t see the extra Harry and Hermione on the map?”

Here’s my opinion, based on canon.

First of all, it’s important to remember that we don’t know how the Map actually works, what it actually looks like. The version we see in the film doesn’t match what’s described in the books. We can be pretty sure that it isn’t just a two-dimensional map with little moving feet.

Second, we have to assume that Lupin DIDN’T see the extra Harry and Hermione for the purposes of this discussion. We can’t say “This couldn’t have happened!” We have to say “It happened, let’s figure out why.”

Here’s what Rowling says about the Map, in response to the often-asked question of why Fred and George didn’t spot Pettigrew on there:

“Fred and George used the map for their own mischief-making, so they concentrated, naturally enough, on those portions of the map where they were planning their next misdeeds. And finally, you must not forget that hundreds of little dots are moving around this map at any given time… Fred and George did not know everyone in school by name, so a single unfamiliar name was unlikely to stand out.” (JKR)

So let’s make some inferences from what she said.

It would seem that Fred and George see only what they’re concentrating on seeing. I suspect that the map appears somewhat out of focus except for where the user is intentionally centering his or her gaze, with various levels of the castle, area details, and moving names (not footprints, that’s just in the film) coming in and out of clear view as the user looks around.

Even if the Map isn’t out of focus, it is incredibly complex and abuzz with activity, depicting a three-dimensional, dynamic world  in real time. What a user sees when looking at the map is a view that is complicated and confusing, with “hundreds of little dots moving around” through multiple floors and spaces. Any user would have quite a time finding any single detail on the map without a lot of practice.

But wait, Harry uses it easily the very first time he opens it, right? Well, he does see things, certainly, but that doesn’t mean that he sees everything perfectly at the same time. He casts his eye around and various things come into focus. And he’s looking for a way to get out of the castle, so that’s what appears. That’s what comes into focus for him.

This whole focus thing is likely another example of a witch or wizard’s intention directly affecting their magic: in other words, the Map focuses on and shows a person only what they’re intentionally looking for, and they’re only going to see something else by chance as they move their focus around or if that thing happens to be in very close proximity to what they were already looking at. Fred and George wouldn’t have been looking for Pettigrew, since they didn’t even know who he was, and Lupin wouldn’t have been looking for more than one Harry and Hermione.

Commentary

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  • While I like your theory in general, I’m not sure it holds up. You say “he’s looking for a way to get out of the castle, so that’s what appears.”

    Harry was clearly not looking for Peter Pettigrew, yet he happened to see him, and it’s not like he was looking for Scabbers either, so I’ve always presumed the map at least partially works like a regular map, you can look around and see things at random if you happen to be looking around the map in general.

    Rowling’s statement would also imply that everything would be otherwise visible when she says “you must not forget that hundreds of little dots are moving around this map at any given time.” which would imply that those dots are indeed always visible.

    I think based on her statement, and the fact that Harry did see Pettigrew imply that the solution to both the Pettigrew question and Katty’s question regarding the double Harry/Hermione pair is a lot simpler than that. I think the Harry noticed Pettigrew because it was a name he had recently heard and it was not one he was expecting to see, so it “stood out” as Rowling put it.

    Meanwhile Lupin noticed the trio heading to the Shrieking Shack, and he didn’t really have any need to look around and see if there happened to be any other Harry Potters around, because why would he. They weren’t right next to the Shrieking Shack when it happened, in fact they were purposely trying not to get noticed by their other selves so they were keeping a safe distance, so the double pairing was not something that would be visible in one glance. It is true that Lupin could have noticed Harry and Hermione hiding first and then he might not have noticed the Harry in the shack. It’s also possible that he would notice the pair in the forest first, then continued looking for Pettigrew and/or Black and then been confused by finding Harry and Hermione in the shack too, but it’s not necessarily probable. As Rowling said “hundreds of little dots” the likelihood that he would find the hiding Harry first is relatively slim, especially as he was more likely looking for Pettigrew and/or Black, rather than Harry.

    I might be inclined to believe that if you were looking for something in particular, your intent would help the map highlight what you are looking for, otherwise looking for a person would be rather difficult when there were hundreds running around, but I disagree that the map would blur out most of the map, it just doesn’t jive with the [admittedly vague] description in the book, nor with Rowling’s answer to the Pettigrew question.

    To be fair, I always had a counter to Rowling’s Pettigrew description. Scabbers was hanging out with Ron in his dorm every night for the first 2 years of the series, it seems unlikely that they would not have said once “Hey I wonder what our brother is up to, hey who is this Pettigrew person and why is he on top of Ron…” Which would undoubtably result in a lot of chiding about another guy sleeping in Ron’s bed with him.

  • While I like your theory in general, I’m not sure it holds up. You say “he’s looking for a way to get out of the castle, so that’s what appears.”

    Harry was clearly not looking for Peter Pettigrew, yet he happened to see him, and it’s not like he was looking for Scabbers either, so I’ve always presumed the map at least partially works like a regular map, you can look around and see things at random if you happen to be looking around the map in general.

    Rowling’s statement would also imply that everything would be otherwise visible when she says “you must not forget that hundreds of little dots are moving around this map at any given time.” which would imply that those dots are indeed always visible.

    I think based on her statement, and the fact that Harry did see Pettigrew imply that the solution to both the Pettigrew question and Katty’s question regarding the double Harry/Hermione pair is a lot simpler than that. I think the Harry noticed Pettigrew because it was a name he had recently heard and it was not one he was expecting to see, so it “stood out” as Rowling put it.

    Meanwhile Lupin noticed the trio heading to the Shrieking Shack, and he didn’t really have any need to look around and see if there happened to be any other Harry Potters around, because why would he. They weren’t right next to the Shrieking Shack when it happened, in fact they were purposely trying not to get noticed by their other selves so they were keeping a safe distance, so the double pairing was not something that would be visible in one glance. It is true that Lupin could have noticed Harry and Hermione hiding first and then he might not have noticed the Harry in the shack. It’s also possible that he would notice the pair in the forest first, then continued looking for Pettigrew and/or Black and then been confused by finding Harry and Hermione in the shack too, but it’s not necessarily probable. As Rowling said “hundreds of little dots” the likelihood that he would find the hiding Harry first is relatively slim, especially as he was more likely looking for Pettigrew and/or Black, rather than Harry.

    I might be inclined to believe that if you were looking for something in particular, your intent would help the map highlight what you are looking for, otherwise looking for a person would be rather difficult when there were hundreds running around, but I disagree that the map would blur out most of the map, it just doesn’t jive with the [admittedly vague] description in the book, nor with Rowling’s answer to the Pettigrew question.

    To be fair, I always had a counter to Rowling’s Pettigrew description. Scabbers was hanging out with Ron in his dorm every night for the first 2 years of the series, it seems unlikely that they would not have said once “Hey I wonder what our brother is up to, hey who is this Pettigrew person and why is he on top of Ron…” Which would undoubtably result in a lot of chiding about another guy sleeping in Ron’s bed with him.

  • Katty Geltmeyer

    Nick, Harry never saw Pettigrew in the books, this is a film contamination. Pettigrew was first spotted on the map by Lupin in book 3, Harry saw him in the film, but I consider the books as the preferable source. The problem with the map is, we know too little about it. What’s its reach: does it include the lake, the forest (probably partially), … and what isn’t included? What is visible on the map and what’s not? I mean, when Crough Sr. is killed and transformed by his son (fake Moody) would he be visible on the map? Lupin didn’t see the extra Harry and Hermione, but Snape didn’t neither. The room of Requirement is not on the map, or it is unplottable on the map (I suppose it isn’t on the map as the makers of the map didn’t seem to know the room). I hope Mrs. Rowling will clarify this issue sooner or later?

    • I can’t believe I actually let the movie discolor my memory of how things went in the book (especially considering I hated that movie so much for how far it strayed from the book), I was so sure I remembered that in the book too but you are right, it is only Lupin who saw Pettigrew on the map.

      Regardless of who it was who saw Pettigrew on the map, my argument still stands though. The simplest explanation as to why Lupin didn’t see the double Harry on the map and why Fred and George didn’t see Pettigrew on the map is simply that there was too much going on on the map to notice absolutely everything, and once you are fixated on something on the map the liklihood that you would notice something odd (like a second Harry and Hermione, or a random name of a wizard that’s been dead for 13 years) is relatively slim.

      Lupin noticed Pettigrew only because he was following Harry, Ron and Hermione, and he didn’t notice the other pair because he was fixated on the trio he had been watching.

      As for your other questions, they are relatively simple.

      The room of requirement isn’t on the map for the same reason the chamber of secrets isn’t on the map, because the Marauders never found it. The map was made, the 7 secret passageways were on it only because the Marauders knew of it.

      As for the range of the map, it seems to be quite extensive, Harry notices the passageways that leads into hogsmeade which would imply that Hogsmeade is on the map or at least that the passageways extend to the edge of the map in the direction of Hogsmeade in a fashion that it must be unmistakable that they lead that way.

  • Katty Geltmeyer

    Nick, Harry never saw Pettigrew in the books, this is a film contamination. Pettigrew was first spotted on the map by Lupin in book 3, Harry saw him in the film, but I consider the books as the preferable source. The problem with the map is, we know too little about it. What’s its reach: does it include the lake, the forest (probably partially), … and what isn’t included? What is visible on the map and what’s not? I mean, when Crough Sr. is killed and transformed by his son (fake Moody) would he be visible on the map? Lupin didn’t see the extra Harry and Hermione, but Snape didn’t neither. The room of Requirement is not on the map, or it is unplottable on the map (I suppose it isn’t on the map as the makers of the map didn’t seem to know the room). I hope Mrs. Rowling will clarify this issue sooner or later?

    • I can’t believe I actually let the movie discolor my memory of how things went in the book (especially considering I hated that movie so much for how far it strayed from the book), I was so sure I remembered that in the book too but you are right, it is only Lupin who saw Pettigrew on the map.

      Regardless of who it was who saw Pettigrew on the map, my argument still stands though. The simplest explanation as to why Lupin didn’t see the double Harry on the map and why Fred and George didn’t see Pettigrew on the map is simply that there was too much going on on the map to notice absolutely everything, and once you are fixated on something on the map the liklihood that you would notice something odd (like a second Harry and Hermione, or a random name of a wizard that’s been dead for 13 years) is relatively slim.

      Lupin noticed Pettigrew only because he was following Harry, Ron and Hermione, and he didn’t notice the other pair because he was fixated on the trio he had been watching.

      As for your other questions, they are relatively simple.

      The room of requirement isn’t on the map for the same reason the chamber of secrets isn’t on the map, because the Marauders never found it. The map was made, the 7 secret passageways were on it only because the Marauders knew of them from their late night excursions around the school.

      As for the range of the map, it seems to be quite extensive, Harry notices the passageways that leads into hogsmeade which would imply that Hogsmeade is on the map or at least that the passageways extend to the edge of the map in the direction of Hogsmeade in a fashion that it must be unmistakable that they lead that way.

  • Olvar

    Fans tend to over-think things, and I believe that is the case here. A simple explanation could be that that none of the Marauders had access to a time-turner during the construction of the map, such magic was not imparted, and therefore time-turned characters would not show up.

    “Time-turned characters” would be the ones who used the hourglass necklace, of course.

  • Olvar

    Fans tend to over-think things, and I believe that is the case here. A simple explanation could be that because none of the Marauders had access to a time-turner during the construction of the map, such magic was not imparted, and therefore time-turned characters would not show up.

    (“Time-turned characters” would be the ones who used the hourglass necklace, of course.)

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