‘Harry Potter’ countdown: A primer for Muggles

Nov. 17, 2010 | 1:43 p.m.

A MONTH OF MAGIC: Hero Complex is counting down to the Nov. 19 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” — the penultimate film in the history-making “Potter” franchise — with exclusive interviews, photos, videos and reports from the set. Today, a recap of the story so far…

hpdh1 03087 Harry Potter countdown: A primer for Muggles

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in "Harry Potter and the deathly Hallows - Part 1" (Warner Bros)

We are told by those who claim to know, that there are people on this planet who do not have the cinematic canon of “Harry Potter” committed to memory — otherwise sentient beings who could not tell you the difference between a Horcrux and a house-elf, who might not even know why the dark wizard Voldemort wants to kill young hero Harry. Some of those folks might be tempted to miss the first part of the series finale, which opens Friday, on the mistaken notion that six movies in, it’s too late to catch up. For these unfortunates, we offer this brief magical education.

The basic mythology: As an infant, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) miraculously survived a murderous attack by the evil and xenophobic Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), one that seemed to destroy Voldemort and left Harry with a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead. To protect the orphaned Harry from the attentions of Voldemort’s revenge-seeking followers, the Death Eaters, Harry was placed in the custody of his “Muggle” (non-magical) relatives, the Dursleys. On his 11th birthday, Harry learned about his magical gifts and entered Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As prophesied years earlier by one of his professors, the owlish, odd Sybill Trelawney (Emma Thompson), Harry becomes the Chosen One — the only person capable of killing Voldemort, who, as the series evolves, recovers from his injuries and gathers increasing power.

Where we are now: At the end of the sixth film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” Harry and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) figured out that Voldemort had cheated death by dividing his soul and concealing the pieces in magical items called Horcruxes. Two of the charms have been destroyed, but Harry and his best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), believe they must destroy the five others in order to finally defeat Voldemort. Meanwhile, Voldemort ordered Harry’s long-time schoolmate nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), to kill Dumbledore. When he was unable to, Dumbledore’s own ally and Hogwarts professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) stepped in to finish the job.

The good guys: In addition to Harry, Ron and Hermione, Ron’s large family, the Weasleys, figure prominently in the story. Ron’s sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright), is Harry’s girlfriend, and his parents (Mark Williams and Julie Walters) have always treated Harry as one of their own. There’s also Hogwarts’ large and lovable game warden, Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane); the wry and sensible Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith); the imposing “Mad-Eye” Moody (Brendan Gleeson); mild-mannered werewolf Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) and his girlfriend, Tonks (Natalia Tena). They are all part of the Order of the Phoenix, which also included Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). And then there’s Dobby the house-elf (Toby Jones). House-elves are creatures that function as indentured servants to their households, but Harry freed Dobby from the Malfoy family and Dobby has been Harry’s loyal friend ever since.

The bad guys: The reptilian Voldemort and his gang of Death Eaters, chief of which are Draco’s father, Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), and  Draco’s aunt Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter).

Magic 101: Every witch and wizard has his own wand; Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands share a common core — a feather from the same phoenix. Wands are used to cast a variety of spells, including “accio,” which summons an object, or “expelliarmus,” which disarms an opponent, or “obliviate,” which erases or alters someone’s memory. Additionally, wands are used to cast protections such as the Patronus charm; Harry’s Patronus takes the shape of a stag. Harry also possesses the unusual ability to speak to snakes using Parseltongue, another characteristic that links him to Voldemort, who just so happens to keep a giant snake as his personal companion. An odd choice for a pet, sure, but very handy when you need a creature to devour your enemies.

— Mary McNamara and Brendan Caver


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6 Responses to ‘Harry Potter’ countdown: A primer for Muggles

  1. tbs says:

    Fantastic review! It's very similar to an article I wrote, which reviews the actual movie franchise more than the story like you did so wonderfully. I would super appreciate you checking it out!

  2. A Reader says:

    Correct me if I am wrong; but I believe that Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks are married by this time, and they have their first child before the big battle at Hogwarts.

  3. vishal says:

    suparb. i am very big fan to harry potter movie and books too.

  4. MaryB says:

    I've never read the books, but perhaps that's a difference between the books and the movies? I don't know that the Lupin/Tonk marriage and family was disussed in the movies. Or if it was, it was ever-so-briefly mentioned.

  5. Kami says:

    Great summary =). A bit of typo in paragraph 3 though, the trio needs to destroy 4 horcuxes, not 5. As far as Harry knows, Voldemort split his soul into 7, but the 7th bit is in Voldemort, leaving 6 horcruxes total.

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