Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first book in the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling. It was published in 1997 and a movie version was shown in theaters in 2001. In the United States the book and movie are called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Story[change | change source]

Because this is the first book about Harry Potter, the author begins by setting the scene and introducing the reader to some of the characters who will be important through the books.

In the start, Rowling describes how in an ordinary suburb, somewhere in an English town, people who are leading their ordinary lives are suddenly surprised to see witches and wizards in odd clothing riding on public buses and appearing at places where people would not expect to suddenly meet a wizard. It is clear that something unusual has happened in the world of witches and wizards, and those people, who are normally quite secret, are out and about, enjoying themselves.

In this way, Rowling introduces the two worlds of her story, the world of ordinary people, called "Muggles", and the secret world of the magic folk who usually keep to themselves. Rowling then introduces the main character, Harry Potter, a little baby boy who is left on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle by an old wizard with a long white beard.

When the reader next meets Harry, he has grown to be a boy of eleven, living unhappily with his spiteful aunt, cruel uncle and bullying cousin Dudley. Suddenly he is rescued from his misery by a huge half-giant man with a great black bushy beard and a flying motorcycle. Harry Potter is a wizard without knowing it, and the giant man, Rubeus Hagrid, has come to help him buy his books and get ready to go to school. The school sounds most exciting. It is "Hogwart's Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry".

On the long train journey north, Harry Potter meets the two people who are to become his best friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Ron and Hermione have very different characters. Hermione, who comes from "Muggle" parents, is very intelligent and talented. She is such a know-it-all and so bossy that the boys do not like her at first. Ron, on the other hand, comes from an old family of wizards. He is number six in a family of seven children. He wears hand-me-down clothes and even his pet rat used to belong to his brother Percy. Ron knows all about Harry Potter.

The reason that Ron, and all the other people in the wizarding world, know all about Harry Potter is that Harry is famous, without even knowing it himself. The reason why he was left on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle is that both his parents are dead. They were murdered by an evil wizard who calls himself "Lord Voldemort". He is so evil that people are even afraid to say his name. Harry is famous because he survived the magical attack of the "He who must not be named", and since that day, Voldemort has gone into hiding.

Joanne Rowling then gives the reader a picture of the school that is to be Harry's home through seven books of the series, each one of which deals with a year in his life. The book describes the teachers, the lessons, the customs and the school sport so that it seems to be part of a real world. Even though the students learn magic and use magic, the book also describes Harry's growing up in a new and strange situation, just as any student must learn to fit in when they go to a new school among different people.

Harry soon discovers that while some magicians, such as the School Principal, Professor Albus Dumbledore, and Deputy Professor Minerva McGonagal can be kind and encouraging, others, like the sinister Professor Snape with his greasy black hair and nasty comments, are very hard to trust. One of the subjects that Harry really needs to learn is "Defense against the Dark Arts" but unfortunately, the teacher, Professor Quirrell, is such a bumbling and nervous man that he does not seem to be able to teach Harry very much at all.

As the year goes by, Harry discovers that Hogwarts has, hidden away for safety, a very precious treasure. If it were to fall into the hands of Lord Voldemort, it would be very dangerous indeed. Harry also discovers that in solving problems and overcoming difficulties, having friends with very different talents can be extremely useful.

In the book[change | change source]

  • The Harry Potter books are fictional {they are not related to real topics of life}. Joanne Rowling has created a fantasy world which exists as an unknown part of the world in which ordinary people live. The people who form the magical community are very ordinary in most ways. They are ordinary, except that they have an extra talent. They can do magic, and they go to a special school to learn how to do it properly, in the same way as a person who is talented at music might study at a special school. Students of magic have to learn to do their spells in a careful, safe and lawful way, because magic can be dangerous if it is not under control. In fact, a student needs a license to do some things.
  • Magic people and Muggles are really very similar. Even though the Muggles do not know about the Magic people, and the Magic people do not really understand how Muggles manage to live without magic, the way they live their lives is very similar. They do exactly the same sorts of things. They go to school, study, play sport, make friends, fall in love, get married, go to work every day, have children, shop, cook, read, go to the pub, have pets, get old and die. And like all the people in the Muggle world, they love and hate, they feel fear, jealousy, loneliness, prejudice and distrust. Even though Harry Potter is a talented magician, he has all these ordinary feelings to deal with. Harry's feelings, and how they change, is an important part of all the stories.
  • Two of the most important ideas in this book are "Love" and "Self-sacrifice". It is important to the story that Harry grows up without any love in his life. His Aunt, Uncle and Cousin do not want him at their house, but would not send him away because they care about what their neighbours might think. Harry has never had any friends at school, because of Cousin Dudley. He does not know what it is like to have a friend, until he goes to Hogwarts and meets Ron and Hermione. Even though he is not used to trusting people, he very quickly learns to trust his friends.
  • There are also three loving adults in his life, Professor Dumbledore who is wise and caring, who is not afraid of Voldemort, and who gives Harry good advice. Harry should completely trust the Professor, but his usual way of dealing with adults is to tell them lies or hide things from them. This is a very silly way to treat Professor Dumbledore, but it is what Harry does. The second loving person is Professor McGonagall. She is a crisp, stern teacher, but she is always fair and can be trusted. She is quick to see peoples' special talents, and she gives good encouragement. The third loving person is Hagrid, who is the giant gamekeeper and lives in his own little cottage near the castle. Hagrid has a special love for Harry, because he had rescued him when he was a baby. This gives him a strong fatherly feeling. He helps Harry to settle in, and is always there to listen to him and encourage Harry and his friends. Gradually Harry gets to understand the right way to treat people who are your friends.
  • "Self-sacrifice" is about being able to give something up, perhaps even one's own life, to help another person. Sacrifice has to do with loving. At the very beginning of the book, Harry's Mother, Lily Potter, has made a big sacrifice to save Harry. She has been killed, and Harry is still alive. The idea of "Self-sacrifice" goes right through the book, which shows that a person does not always have to seem very brave or be very strong in order to make a sacrifice for the sake of other people. If the reader keeps this in mind, then they will see that all the most important things that happen in the book, happen because someone is brave enough to face death to save other people.

Movie: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone[change | change source]

The movie was made by Warner Brothers. It was based closely on the book. In the United States, it was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry Potter was played by Daniel Radcliffe. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson played of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.