When I first read this chapter, it felt like coming home for Harry to me. After the grisly murders at Little Hangleton and the hostility of the Dursleys, I loved reading about the Burrow, encountering all the familiar faces and seeing a happy Harry.
Upon re-reading this chapter, I noticed it has three functions. First, it serves as a flashback to previous books. For example, we see Ginny go scarlet when meeting Harry again, the trio talks about Sirius, and Harry thinks about how much he had missed Quidditch during his stay at Privet Drive.
Second, the chapter functions as a setup for a lot of threads which will be unraveled throughout this book. For example, we officially meet Bill for the first time – he will attend the Triwizard Tournament later that year. Ron mentions how Percy is obsessed with Mr. Crouch. Krum is mentioned. And Mr. Weasley and Percy discuss the disappearance of Bertha Jorkins. I had already forgotten about her by this chapter; how about you?
Third, the chapter serves as a setup for one thread which will continue in other books: Molly’s disapproval of the twins Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. We will see this theme return both later in this book, in Order of the Phoenix and in Half-blood Prince.
We also re-encounter some familiar animals, like Crookshanks and the gnomes, and the Scops owl Sirius had given to Ron, called Pigwidgeon. Like Harry, I was wondering why Ron was calling the owl Pig. The name Pigwidgeon did not enlighten me much either, until I looked into it in the Oxford Dictionary. Pigwidgeon is an ancient term for something small, but has also been used to mean an elf or fairy. It is attributed to the English writers Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge, who used it in the play Selimus in the 16th century. Rowling may have encountered it during her English Classics study at the Exeter University.
Also, according to the website worldwidewords.org:
“The experts guess that the first part of the word may be connected with pug, another old name for a fairy, which may be a variation on puck. The second part was once wiggen, an unknown word that was said with a hard g; later it shifted to widgeon with a soft j sound because in the seventeenth century the duck that went by that name was a byword for being stupid.”
This explanation gives new meaning to Ginny’s sentence: “Because he’s being stupid”. It may not refer to Ron after all!
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