Chapter 6 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is, for my money, where things finally start getting interesting. We’ve had a lot of exposition thrown at us in the first five chapters of this story, mostly courtesy of Hagrid, who gives Harry his intro to the world.
But in Chapter 6, when Harry is finally on his way to Hogwarts, we get introduced to Ron and Hermione. Accordingly, we get the very beginnings of the friendship that is the foundation of the entire series.
We start the chapter by seeing how the Dursleys are outright terrified of Harry at this point, refusing to even acknowledge his presence any time he’s in the same room. This is, admittedly, an improvement in his situation. And for a tiny bit of an instant, I get another glimmer of almost feeling sorry for these people. They’re terrified of an eleven-year-old.
But then I remember the kind of treatment they’ve given Harry up to this point, and well. Not so much with the sympathy after all. Particularly when Uncle Vernon is perfectly willing to abandon Harry right there at the train station. In the middle of London. And without the slightest hint of concern about how the hell Harry is supposed to find where he’s going, or whether he can, and whether he can make it home safely if he doesn’t.
Yeah, seriously, fuck that guy. It makes me rather wish Hagrid had given the father a pig’s tail as well as the son, although I suppose Hagrid would have gotten into more obvious trouble if he’d done that. Ah well!
It’s a damned good thing that the Weasleys happen along just at the right moment, bless the lot of ’em. And bless Molly Weasley in particular, who’s motherly to poor Harry the instant she lays eyes on him, and clues him in about how to get onto Platform 9 3/4. Which, I must say, is another example of how I love how Rowling portrays her magic: something that’s commonplace to everybody in the wizarding world, yet is brand new to Harry and therefore really kind of amazing. That wonder is conveyed in turn to us, the readers.
We get our first glimpses of Ron, the twins, and even Ginny at this point, too. And it’s not really surprising that the twins are the ones who stand out most obviously in this initial meeting, since Fred pretends to be George and rags on his mother about it. That Molly replies in an entirely unfazed manner suggests to me that the twins probably pull this on a regular basis, and she humors them–because what else can you do, with sons like Fred and George? I wouldn’t put it past her for an instant to actually absolutely know which twin is which, at all times.
Once Harry’s on the platform, we get a first glimpse of Neville Longbottom, too–who’s lost his toad, and who’s getting sighed at by his grandmother. Thus beginning a series-long tradition of poor Neville generally always struggling with the world around him.
We get our first glimpse of Lee Jordan as well, mostly notable by a) his dreadlocks, therefore indicating at least one student of color in the Hogwarts contingent, and b) his giant tarantula!
And, of course, the twins are the first of the Weasleys to actually recognize Harry, thanks to his scar. At which point we also get a first look at Percy Weasley, who right out of the gate establishes his series-long tradition of being a complete prat. And Ginny, too, initially distinguishes herself by wanting to meet Harry. Not that this is foreshadow-y or anything!
Then we finally see Ron getting to actually chat with Harry, and the two of them hitting it off instantly–particularly as Harry specifically does not give Ron any shit for being from a less-than-well-off family, and having to use hand-me-downs from all his older brothers. We see Scabbers for the first time, yet another thing that’s going to be very important much later.
Harry also kindly shares all his snacks off the trolley with Ron, another friendly gesture that helps cement the two of them as pals, and which also serves as another excuse for exposition: introducing Chocolate Frogs and the Every-Flavour Beans, as well as giving Harry a chance to see a picture of Dumbledore for the first time. And to see how wizard pictures move.
I have to admit that it’s kind of amusing seeing Dumbledore’s bio on his Chocolate Frog card, and the reference to his “partner”, Nicolas Flamel. Knowing that Dumbledore is in fact gay makes me ever so slightly disappointed to learn later in the book that Flamel is in fact married to a woman, because it would have been supremely awesome to have “partner” here be used in the spousal sense. But no! Sigh.
And, finally, enter Hermione! It’s noteworthy here that we meet her as she takes poor Neville’s cause in hand, trying to help him find his lost toad. Neville, unsurprisingly, can’t get a word in with Hermione towing him around. Even here, even at age eleven, she’s a small force of nature and I adore her. Rattling off book titles and everything. (heart)
Hermione’s entrance also gives us a chance to learn the names of the other two Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.
Once she’s gone, we get yet another plot point flung out as Ron and Harry continue to chat: Gringotts being robbed. Thus demonstrating Rowling’s ability to fling plot points at you fast and furious, all nestled inconspicuously in the chatting of two young boys.
Draco arrives on the scene next, with his (as we find out later) usual cronies Crabbe and Goyle in tow. Draco’s found out who Harry is at this point, and it’s very telling that he tries to take advantage of this by ingratiating himself with Harry. And Harry is having none of his bullshit, particularly when Draco insults Ron and his family. None of this is surprising. What is surprising to me here is that Scabbers actually intervenes, biting Goyle. Given what we find out about Scabbers later on in the series, it speaks rather well of him that he feels moved to defend Ron here.
Once the train finally reaches its destination, Harry is greeted with the reassuring sight of Hagrid, who takes charge of the first-years so that they know where to go upon entering Hogwarts. And given that Hagrid is in fact the groundskeeper, it’s not at all surprising that he’s the one to find Neville’s toad.
We end the chapter with Hagrid and the first-years reaching the front entrance of the castle–and all the first-years are, quite rightly, full of ooh and aah that Hogwarts is in fact an actual castle. But they–and we–ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Two Countries Separated by a Common Language
On the first page of the chapter, in the UK edition, we’re told that Aunt Petunia doesn’t come into Harry’s room to “hoover” anymore. In the US edition, it’s “vacuum”.
The UK edition describes the “divide” between platforms nine and ten, while the US edition calls it a “dividing barrier”. In the same paragraph, the UK edition refers to “the last rucksack”, while the US opts for “backpack” instead.
Similarly, the UK edition refers to Harry going through the “ticket box”, while the US sticks with “barrier”.
The UK edition capitalizes Head Boy, Prefect, and House. The US edition does not.
What comes around to bring the snacks is a trolley in the UK edition, and a cart in the US one.
While the actual text isn’t different, the UK edition gives less prominence to “Albus Dumbledore, currently Headmaster of Hogwarts” than the US edition does. In the US edition, Dumbledore’s name is in all caps and in a larger point size than the text, and “Currently Headmaster of Hogwarts” is in smallcaps beneath that. Then the rest of the bio text begins. An interesting difference in text rendering choices, there.
Once we get the description of the Every-Flavour (which is spelled with a u in the UK edition, and without one in the US) Beans and all the various flavors, the flavor Ron relays that George got hold of once is “bogey” in the UK edition and “booger” in the US.
Ron has trainers in the UK edition, and sneakers in the US.
Five Things About the French Edition
The chapter title here is “Rendez-vous Sur La Voie 9 3/4”, which at first glance to my eyes translates as “Meeting on the Way 9 3/4”. But in this instance, “voie” is actually “track” or “line”, according to my usual online French dictionary. Which makes sense in the context of trains. So that makes the chapter title “Meeting on the Track 9 3/4”.
In the French edition, it gets a bit more explicit in describing how Harry ticks off the days until September 1st. Here, the translation specifically calls out “le calendrier de fortune” that Harry makes for himself. I didn’t recognize “de fortune”, and when I looked that up, I saw that this can mean “makeshift”. So this is describing Harry having a “makeshift calendar”, as opposed to how the English editions just talk about his piece of paper on the wall.
Molly Weasley is described as “une petite femme replète”, which is “a small stout woman”. In the English editions, she’s just “a plump woman”.
There’s an exchange between Ron and Harry early in their meeting that doesn’t occur in the English edition, where Ron explains to Harry what a prefect is. And later in the chapter, there’s extra explanation of the four houses of Hogwarts, too, calling them all out by name.
The flavor of Every-Flavour Bean George is said to have acquired is “blood of goblin” in the French edition: “sang de gobelin”. I am not sure whether or not to call this an improvement over “booger”.
French Worldbuilding Terms
Harry’s owl is “Hedwige”, with an e, in the French edition of the story. And Ron’s rat is “Croûtard”.
Chocolate Frogs in the French edition are “les Chocogrenouilles”. And the Every-Flavour Beans are “Dragées surprises de Bertie Crochue”.
The two remaining houses of Hogwarts are identified in Hermione’s intro as “Gryffondor” and “Serdaigle”.
I think Draco’s the first of the major recurring characters I’ve noticed who has a differently spelled name in the French edition: i.e., Drago Malefoy.
Five Things About the German Edition
Harry’s calendar is described differently in the German edition, too. Here it’s just a straight-up monthly calendar, with no suggestion that it’s a piece of paper he’s marking off on, or a “makeshift calendar”.
Ginny calls her mother “Mammi” in this edition, similar to how the French edition says “M’man”. I was familiar with “M’man” (and recognized this as a shortening of “Maman”), but not “Mammi”.
I think my favorite long German word in this chapter is “Fahrkartenschalter”, or “booking office”, referring to what Harry has to walk into to get onto Platform 9 3/4. That said? “Atemberaubender” is also a contender. It means “breathtaking” and is used to describe the speed at which Hermione talks.
When Molly lectures the twins about not making toilets explode, the term for “toilet” that she uses is “Klo”. And it’s interesting to me that the phrasing used for “blowing up” is “in die Luft jagen”. A bit of googling gets me this definition, which suggests that the phrase is the equivalent of “blowing something to kingdom come” in English.
Harry and Ron tell the twins “Tschau”, which seems to be pretty much the same as “ciao” in Italian. I do not remember off the top of my head whether I was ever taught this in German class in school. Similarly, Ron uses “tja” for “well”.
German Worldbuilding Terms
Percy’s position as prefect is given in this edition as “Vertrauensschüler”, which, interestingly, is not the translation I get looking it up on my online dictionary. I know “Vertrauen” is “trust” and “schüler” is “student”, but I wonder if this is an archaic usage? If I look up “prefect” in my online dictionary, I get “Präfekt”.
In this edition, Scabbers is called “Krätze”.
The Every-Flavour Beans in this edition are a tongue-twister: “Bertie Botts Bohnen in allen Geschmacksrichtungen”. The Chocolate Frogs are “Schokofrösche”.
Ha, George’s suspect-flavored bean is booger-flavored in German, too. 😀 “Popelgeschmack”.
Ah, here we have the first occurrence of one of the main characters undergoing a name change: in the German edition, Hermione is “Hermine”.
Gryffindor and Ravenclaw come over into German as-is.
And with that, we’re done with Chapter 6. Now that our young heroes have reached Hogwarts, y’all know what this means: Harry’s first sight of the Sorting Hat!