It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do another of these posts, but I haven’t forgotten about them, I promise! This is what happens when you spend a few weeks fighting off a nasty cold and then, even after you’re more or less better, you have to focus all your energy on the day job and on trying to get some writing done.
But now I’ve got a few cycles left over for Harry Potter. So let’s get back into Book 1, shall we? In this post, I’ll look at Chapter 8! Which means everybody’s favorite potions master who really wants to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, and who really has it in for our boy Harry. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Severus Snape.
As Chapter 8 opens Harry gets a taste of what it’s like to be the Boy Who Lived now that he’s finally among wizardkind: i.e., every single other kid in the school keeps talking about him as he passes. And I can only think that this has to be a whole new category of unnerving for the poor kid. I mean honestly, Harry’s previous experiences with school have all been along the lines of “how best can I hide to keep Dudley from trying to beat me up?”
Nobody’s trying to beat up Harry here, but on the other hand, this is not exactly a “help the new kid settle into a completely unfamiliar environment”, either.
I really like the paragraph that describes the staircases of Hogwarts, of which there are a hundred and forty-two, and I particularly like the phrasing of “some that led somewhere different on a Friday”. I love how Rowling does not specify where the staircases change to on Friday, and whether any given changeable staircase always changes to the same place. This is exactly the kind of phrasing that I daresay would have made eleven-year-old me squeal with delight if she’d had this book to read–because even forty-six-year-old me has her imagination tickled by the promise of that simple short phrase.
(One does rather hope that the changing staircases are at least consistent and predictable if you’re familiar enough with Hogwarts. Given how everything moves around in this castle, it’s a wonder any staff or students make it anywhere!)
This chapter also establishes caretaker Filch and his cat Mrs. Norris as antagonist characters for the students. Knowing what I know about what gets established about Filch later, it’s a little hard to find him completely vile. But at this point in the storyline, both he and his cat are the correct amount of scary. (And since I keep seeing Tolkien parallels in this story, I’ll also note that the description of the eyes of both Filch and his cat as “bulging” and “lamplike” totally reminded me of Gollum.)
We get an overview of various classes and their teachers. That the students have to study the stars and the movements of planets pleases the astronomy lover in me, though I also find myself wondering whether the wizarding world is up to speed on Muggle astronomy–or whether they just pay enough attention for divination purposes, or whatever other magical study requires the knowledge. And is Harry coming into these lessons aware that rovers and probes have been sent out into the solar system? Do other wizard and witch kids know this? Does this ever get brought up and discussed in class?
I like that we aren’t told what Professor Flitwick actually is–just that he’s so tiny he has to stand on books to see over his desk. This, too, is a lovely little detail to tease young imaginations. And older ones!
Professor McGonagall demonstrates her general badassery in Transfiguration, and we also get to see Hermione beginning to establish her badassery as well. Kid may be a know-it-all, but she is actually applying what she’s learning right out of the gate.
And the first look at Professor Quirrell’s Defense Against the Dark Arts class is notable mostly for the presence of garlic, and the turban the professor wears. I note as well that were I a student of Quirrell’s, I’d be eying his zombie story askance, too, since he claims to have gotten rid of only one troublesome zombie. Everybody knows zombies travel in herds. Duh!
But of course, all of this is prelude to the first Potions class, where the Gryffindors double up in class with the first-year Slytherins, and Snape gets his first serious on-camera appearance.
I do like Snape’s opening “I can teach you how to bottle fame” speech to the class, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it in my head delivered in Alan Rickman’s voice. He did do a fantastic job with the character, and the actor lent a lot of charisma to the role.
Here’s the thing for me, though. Snape goes from zero to stark raving asshole in no time flat. He automatically assumes the worst of Harry based on his own history with Harry’s father, and he’s an unremitting shit to the poor kid. He’s also an unremitting shit to Hermione, to poor Neville (who has an even worse time in that class than Harry does, arguably) and in general to everybody who isn’t a Slytherin. Enough that the opening impression I have of this guy is “why in the world is this asshole allowed to teach small children?”
Yet, Snape’s got a passionate fandom. I get that, and I get that Alan Rickman’s portrayal contributed a lot to that. But boy howdy, am I not in that fandom.
That said? He’s still a very, very effective character. I don’t have to like the guy to appreciate that there’s a big difference between whether a character is likable, and whether that character is well-written. He’s infinitely more scary than Filch in this chapter. Plus, we get the mystery of why he has it in for Harry so badly, a troubling question for him to ponder while the plot proceeds.
After that disaster of a class, though, we get the break of Harry and Ron getting to have tea with Hagrid–just to remind the kids as well as the reader that yes, Harry does actually have allies at Hogwarts as well as people who have it in for him. And as Hagrid is huge and adorable, it only stands to reason that he has a huge and adorable dog.
But that tea scene also serves the purpose of flinging another plot point at our young hero. Turns out that the break-in at Gringotts was on Harry’s birthday, and the vault that had been attacked was the very one Hagrid had emptied!
And Hagrid knows something about it and isn’t telling! And he also knows something about Snape!
I am shocked. SHOCKED, I SAY. Here is my shocked face!
Two Countries Separated by a Common Language
There’s very little to find in this chapter that differs between the UK and US editions, though I did spot the expected differences in spelling for “armour” vs. “armor”. And the UK edition says “staff-room fire” in the paragraph about Professor Binns, while the US edition says “staffroom fire”.
Once Harry and Ron make it to Hagrid’s, though, the US edition has a bit of extra description of the rock cakes as “shapeless lumps with raisins”, which the UK edition lacks.
(I’m a little surprised that the US edition doesn’t do anything with Peeves yelling “GOT YOUR CONK” at students, though! I had to look up “conk” to see that this is indeed a British word for “nose”.)
Five Things About the French Edition
Peeves’ aforementioned shout to the students is translated in the French to “JE T’AI EU”, which is simply “I GOT YOU!”
In the paragraph about Quirrell’s Defense Against the Dark Arts class, the translator loses some of the details. In the English editions, the students don’t believe his story about the zombie since they press him for details, and he only blushes and starts talking about the weather. In the French, though, it says: “Quirrell, en effet, avait été incapable de raconter comment il avait combattu le zombie.” Which is pretty much saying that Quirrell had been unable to tell how he’d fought the zombie. The additional details of his reaction to being asked aren’t there.
Snape’s speech to the class is pretty awesome in French, too. Of note is that when he says that he can teach them all the wonderful things if the class isn’t “as big a bunch of dunderheads” as he usually has, the words used are “bandes de cornichons”. “Cornichons” can mean “pickles”, but it can also mean “twits”, and I’m sure the latter is what the translator is using here. But it’s also funny to think of Snape saying “bunch of pickles”.
In the final scene with Hagrid, when Harry talks about how Snape hates him, in the English version Hagrid replies by saying “Rubbish!” In French, he says, “Tu dis des bêtises.” This translates to “you’re saying stupid things”.
Gramatical point of interest when Hagrid asks Ron how his brother Charlie is: Hagrid says in French, “Comment va ton frère Charlie ?” I already knew about “comment ça va?” as basically meaning “how’s it going?” Hagrid’s question is of course along the same lines. What’s interesting to me here though is that there’s no “for” in his question. If you translate it literally, it comes out “how goes your brother Charlie?” So an English speaker needs to think of “va” here (i.e., the conjugation of the verb “aller”, “to go”) in the sense of “things happening/going” for the subject of the sentence, in this case Charlie. In other words, “how’s it going for your brother Charlie?” or “how’s your brother Charlie doing?”
French Worldbuilding Terms
Filch’s cat is called Miss Teigne in the French edition. Interesting for two reasons: it’s “Miss”, not “Madame” or “Mademoiselle”. Also, according to Google Translate, “teigne” is “ringworm”. That’s a terrible thing to name a cat!
Professor Sprout is called “Professeur Chourave” in French. And I have to giggle at that, as I recognize “chourave” from my French vocabulary in Supermemo. It’s the word for “kohlrabi”. (Though in my vocabulary, the word is written as “chou-rave”.) Rather more descriptive than just “sprout”!
The names mentioned in Professor Binns’ history class are “Emeric le Hargneux” and “Ulric le Follingue” in French. Google Translate says “hargneux” is “fractious”, which is a bit of a downgrade from the English editions calling him “Emeric the Evil”. “Follingue” is a direct translation of “oddball”, although that he’s “Uric” in the English editions and “Ulric” in the French.
Hagrid’s dog Fang is called Crockdur in French. He’s described as a “molosse”, which is French for “mastiff”, but a bit of looking on Wikipedia indicates that this is still a pretty close match for how the English editions call him a boarhound.
Five Things About the German Edition
In the German edition, in the paragraph about the staircases of Hogwarts, we get what I’m pretty
sure will be this chapter’s winner for longest word: “einhundertundzweiundvierzig”. “A hundred and two and forty”. Twenty-seven characters in one word, baby!
Peeves’ shout to the students in German is “HAB DEINEN ZINKEN!” Which is actually “GOT YOUR TEETH!” rather than “GOT YOUR NOSE!” Why the translator made that call, I have no idea! Particularly since the narrative still says that Peeves is grabbing students’ noses.
Filch is called the “Hausmeister” in German. An English speaker could look at this word and mistake it for meaning “house master”, but according to the German-English dictionary at Reverso.net, it actually does mean “caretaker” or “janitor”, which is the function Filch fulfills at Hogwarts.
Other words I like: “hervorquellenden” and “lampenartigen”, the adjectives used to describe Mrs. Norris’ eyes. They’re a straight translation from the English words “bulging” and “lamp-like”. Also in the paragraph about the cat, I note with interest that the verb “patrouillieren”, “patrol”, looks like it might be a French loanword? Because the French word for “patrol” is “patrouille” for a noun, and “patrouiller” for the verb. I further note that the cat’s name is still “Mrs Norris” in German, specifically using “Mrs” and not “Frau”.
Another excellent German word: “hochgezogenen”. This means “raised”, and it appears in the paragraph where Harry and Ron are reacting to Snape’s opening speech to the Potions class, where the boys are exchanging looks with raised eyebrows. And I’ll put this in with the same last thing on this list, since it’s also an excellent word: “Stachelschweinstacheln”, which is “porcupine quills”. Or “quill pig quills”, if you translate it literally!
German Worldbuilding Terms
The personages mentioned in Professor Binns’ history class are “Emmerich den Bösen” and “Ulrich dem Komischen Kauz”. The former looks like a straight translation, but the latter is also translating “Uric” by adding an L as well as the ending CH. And “Komischen Kauz” is apparently “funny codger”.
McGonagall’s class is “Verwandlungen” in German.
Snape and McGonagall are called the “Hauslehrer” and “Hauslehrerin” of Slytherin and Gryffindor, respectively. My translation sources say this word (in its masculine and feminine forms, here) means “tutor”. It’s not clear to me whether there’s also the connotation of “head of house” that exists in the English, or whether that’s also what the German translator means here. (Any German speakers want to address this?)
Potions class is apparently “Zaubertrankunterricht”. Which is another nice crunchy German word! If I break this down into pieces, it comes out “Magic potion/drink lessons”.
And in closing
I leave you with this video, the source of the gif above!
Next time: Chapter 9, “The Midnight Duel”!