I love this chapter. Rowling is on top of her game here. I talked about her skill at writing conversations in a previous episode, and she’s at it again in this chapter. The nuances of the conversations, first between the Trio and Hagrid and then between Hagrid and Umbridge, are nothing short of delightful.
The whole tale of finding and interacting with the giants is brilliantly done as well. Geeky side note: Star Trek fans will recognize that plot twist of the leader being killed immediately after the “good guys” make contact, to be replaced by another leader who sides with the “bad guys,” from the original series Star Trek episode called “Friday’s Child.” Rowling tells the same tale, embellished with her own brand of imagination and wit.
But I want to take a moment to talk about the Cloak of Invisibility. I realize it’s hardly the focus of the chapter. However, the way it’s described provoked some interesting discussion among our editors some months back.
The question was, does the Cloak grow and shrink to fit whomever it covers?
In this chapter, the Cloak is used by the Trio to sneak out of the castle and visit Hagrid. When the three put it over them, Ron feels the need to crouch to keep his ankles from showing because he’s grown so tall. Here’s how it comes up at the beginning of the chapter:
They crept through the portrait hole and covered themselves hastily in the Cloak – Ron had grown so much he now needed to crouch to prevent his feet showing – then, moving slowly and cautiously, they proceeded down the many staircases, pausing at intervals to check on the map for signs of Filch or Mrs. Norris.
Remember that one of the things which makes the Cloak so unusual, since it is one of the Deathly Hallows, is that it protects and hides more than just one person at a time. Dumbledore explains this the Harry in chapter 35 of Deathly Hallows:
“And the Cloak . . . the true magic of which, of course, is that it can be used to protect and shield others as well as its owner … (DH35).
Is this true magic somehow flawed? Does it only “sort of work”? If you get too tall, does it fail and show your ankles? Or is this just a problem if the people underneath are of widely different heights?Those were the questions the Lexicon editors were bandying around.
There are other facts to consider. For example, the cloak fits perfectly enough over Harry the night he receives it and wanders the castle. A few chapters later, it covers not only Harry but also Hermione and a crate full of baby dragon. It certainly seems to change its size.
However, there are plenty of references to Harry, Ron, and Hermione using the cloak and having to guard against their ankles showing. So it seems that the cloak only stretches so far, and after that, too bad.
Of course, those references might simply refer to the fact that no matter how well it covers you, your feet are always going to be in danger of showing if you walk around, especially if you are trying to match steps with one or two other people. And then again, it could be that in each of those cases the Trio is worried that they’ll be spotted, but the fact that they never are suggests that maybe they worried for nothing and their feet never did actually show.
That debate occupied our time for several days. We never did come to some sort of definitive answer. So what do you think? Does the Cloak of Invisibility expand or contract to cover whomever is underneath?
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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