Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
Welcome to the first of twenty-six blog posts in our Canon Celebration! This time around we’re exploring the first five chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Why am I not saying “Sorcerer’s Stone”? Because that’s not the original name of the book, as you probably know. That’s the title that the editors at Scholastic came up with because they thought that kids in the US wouldn’t want to read a book with the word “philosopher” in the title. Here’s what Rowling said about that:
They wanted to call it something different and I said well how about Sorcerer’s Stone as a compromise. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t changed but to be honest with you I was so grateful that anyone wanted to buy my book at all that I was maybe a bit too compliant about that (HPM).
Ready to have some fun exploring? Here we go!
These guides were originally written in March of 2002. Since that time, a few edits were made here and there but basically the text remained the same. To get ready for this Canon Celebration, our editors have been revising each one. We’ve added fan artwork to the Guide which illustrates the text. At the bottom in the Commentary section we’ve added a gallery of additional artwork. So even if you’ve read our guides before, please give them another look. And if you’re doing a re-read of the first book, have the Guide to each chapter open as you go! I’m sure you’ll find a lot of information you didn’t know. Here are the Reader’s Guides for each of the first five chapters:
Fitting the first book into the real-life calendars isn’t easy! In fact, it’s impossible. But that didn’t stop us:
Text Changes of the Editions and the Years
The text of the first book didn’t stay the same after first being published. The first US edition had quite a few changes in order to make it understandable for American children, who the editors apparently considered to be pretty dim. Here’s the list of differences between the two versions:
In 2004, Bloomsbury re-released the books with new covers, including a series for grown-ups who presumably didn’t want to be seen reading a children’s book on the Underground on the way to work. The text changes fixed some errors and inconsistencies. Here’s that list:
More than You Ever Wanted to Know about Frog-spawn by Professor Koniphorus Swamp
The Put-Outer and Magic on Privet Drive by Cindysphinx
Imagi(c)nation in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Connie Ann Kirk
We have hundreds and hundreds of pieces of fan artwork in our collection. Some subjects get a lot of depictions — Diagon Alley is a favorite topic, for example, and, well, of course it is! But there are a few pieces which illustrate more unusual moments in the text. Here are a few examples:
“I had a dream about a motorbike,” said Harry, remembering suddenly. “It was flying.”
Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a mustache: “MOTORBIKES DON’T FLY!” (PS2)
“Don’t be sorry, my dear sir, for nothing could upset me today! Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day!”
And the old man hugged Mr. Dursley around the middle and walked off. (PS1)
Once, Aunt Petunia, tired of Harry coming back from the barbers looking as though he hadn’t been at all, had taken a pair of kitchen scissors and cut his hair so short he was almost bald except for his bangs, which she left “to hide that horrible scar.”Next morning, however, he had gotten up to find his hair exactly as it had been before Aunt Petunia had sheared it off. (PS2)
Finding Privet Drive
Is this Number 4 Privet Drive? Note the multiple chimneys, which the house would have to have if it has a fireplace in the kitchen. This is a house in Camberley, a small town just outside London, located where Little Whinging is likely to be. I took this photo while researching my book In Search of Harry Potter for Methuen Publishers of London.
Where is Little Whinging?
Above, I said that Camberley is in the right place to be Little Whinging. Out of all of Surrey, why did I think that Camberley might be the place? Ravenclaw Rambler works out the probable locations for Little Whinging and also the Hut on the Rock. Fellow essayist Nik the Hermit adds in his two cents to the discussion here and here.
Here are some lovely plans for Little Whinging and the house at Number 4, Privet Drive:
The Missing 24 Hours
In 2001, when I was working on the timelines of the Wizarding World, I encountered a bit of a conundrum. While a casual read of the first chapter of Philosopher’s Stone seemed to say that Hagrid gathered up baby Harry from the wreckage of the cottage in Godric’s Hollow and flew with him to Privet Drive, a more careful reading revealed that the events in Privet Drive actually happened a full day later. When I brought this up in discussions online, I was told that I was wrong. But eventually everyone had to agree that the text does in fact say that Hagrid was in Godric’s Hollow the night of 31 October and that he didn’t fly into Privet Drive until just before midnight the next day, the first of November. It wasn’t until 2005 that Rowling acknowledged this fact and she never did explain it.
“I’m gonna have to really go back through notes, and either admit I’ve lost 24 hours, or, I don’t know, hurriedly come up with some back story to fill it. Either way, you either get to be right, or you get more story. So you can’t complain.”
— J.K. Rowling (PC/JKR1)
Here’s the Lexicon’s analysis of those events:
Coming up next week…
We’ll be exploring the rest of the first novel, chapters 6 through 17. Also, we’ll be announcing an art challenge, so keep visiting the Lexicon and immerse yourself in Wizarding World lore!