So I finally signed myself up to Pottermore.com. That, dear people, is what’s known as Participant Observation, where the researcher actively joins the culture he or she is investigating. Actually, what I’m after in joining the website is not so much the opportunity to take a close look at the species of Harry Potteris Fanaticus (curious creatures though they be), but the extra background information that J. K. Rowling feeds out in small, difficult-to-find bits and pieces all over the website.
But in order to get at those bits and bobs, you have to walk through that website. And let me tell you, that’s not an easy thing. Although immediately on signing up, i.e. giving them my email, a name, a birth date, a country of residence and the information that I have, indeed, read all the HP books and watched all the HP movies, they warmly congratulated me on the fact that I’m magical (you gotta wonder what visitors do who, after signing up, get the message “Sorry, you’re a Muggle. Get lost.”), my magic obviously isn’t quite strong enough to figure out how to navigate this site, or to be allowed to choose my own username. I’m Something-Pixie followed by a five-digit number – and they adjured me to choose a username from the six options they offered that would be “easy to remember”. Uh-huh. I can’t even recall what it is from the moment of reading it off the screen to the time it takes me to turn my head and look at another portion of the page. As for the password, they insisted it be one of those with “at least six letters and a number”. Woe betide any second-grader whose reading, typing and memorisation skills aren’t up to snuff. We couldn’t let children choose their own username and password, could we now? It wouldn’t be safe. And it would allow them to come back to the site another day, when they actually remember their username and password, and we really can’t have that.
Anyway, so I got signed in to the site. They informed me that in order to get into Hogwarts, I had to get some stuff first. I had 500G (Galleons, the wizard money) in the wizard’s bank Gringotts. So I managed to buy a pet (a black cat – heck, I like black cats, I’ve got two of them in real life) and a wand, but I’ve already mislaid both of them. I haven’t even had the chance to name the cat yet (I think when I find him again, he’ll be Shenopticus Caractacus. Just because). And I’ve forgotten what my wand was – I only vaguely remember it was pine, and unyielding, but no idea of the core or length. For some reason, my height (Tall For My Age – hey, how tall are 46yo’s usually?) and eye colour (Blue-Green) had something to do with the wand selection. I can see the height – you don’t want to give somebody short a really long wand, they’d overbalance – but the eye colour? Maybe the colour of the wood is meant to bring out the highlights in my iris when I hurl a Ridikkulus! at my first boggart. Ah well, whatever; as I can’t figure out where my wand got to, it really doesn’t matter. Another point of puzzlement: I started out with 500G; the cat cost 9G, and the wand 7G, but my purse said I only had 483G left. Was there a Galleon’s worth of shipping & handling included in that deal? Or did they dock me for postage for my Hogwarts letter?
So then I got to Hogwarts, and of course, first you’ve got to be sorted, which they do by asking you a bunch of questions. Well, let’s see. On one of the questions, you get to choose which you would least like people to call you. Among the options are “coward”, “ignorant”, “selfish” and “ordinary”. So, given the fact that Gryffindors are brave, Ravenclaws intelligent, Hufflepuffs kind & loyal, and Slytherins ambitious, what do you think that question was aiming at? Hmm, let me think… They also asked me if I preferred the stars or the moon (the moon, FYI) and left or right (left, in this case, although in a previous question, I chose to go right to a castle instead of left to the ocean. Maybe that says something about me being flexible?); I really have no idea what those questions tended to. So, after all this, the hat, or rather the website, sorted me into Ravenclaw. Good, I specifically picked my answers to that end. They might as well ask people what house they would like to be in – I mean, really!
Okay, so I’m a Ravenclaw with a missing unflexible pine wand and an AWOL black cat. But I’ve had about enough of the Hogwarts scene, so instead I set out to explore the Harry Potter story – because that’s where all the good bits are, inside information from J. K. Rowling that she didn’t put into the books. But oh, first you have to find those bits! So you click on a thumbnail that takes you to the book you want to investigate (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in my case). There are thumbnails of scenes, which you click on. They say you can click on the scene to go inside, but – maybe it’s because of my missing wand – I can’t seem to make that work. It just zooms in a bit, and then out again. Ah well. But occasionally, there is an item on the page that gets a shiny outline if you mouse over it, and if you click on THAT, it unlocks the magical Rowling ramblings. I don’t know if they’ll ban me from the site for telling you this, but on the first scene, “Number Four, Privet Drive”, the item in question is the “Privet Drive” road sign (it’s pretty big, so hard to miss on the mouse-over).
Ah, finally! So now you can find out fascinating stuff, such as that Rowling always, she doesn’t know why, disliked the number 4, and that the town of Little Whinging is named for the Brits word for “whining”. On another scene’s insider track, she says that the Dursleys’ house is a model of one she lived in as a child, and even though she doesn’t really describe it in the books, the house they built for the set of the first movie is identical to her childhood home, including the position of the cupboard under the stairs and the placement of the bedrooms. That’s kind of cool. It’s neat to know that the movie in many ways exactly embodies Rowling’s vision, puts on screen what she had in mind when she wrote the story.
I guess I’ll go back and mouse around Pottermore a little more, see what else I can dig up. Maybe I’ll even find Shenopticus Caractacus again. I hope so, he seemed like a nice cat.