It took a while but I finally got through the fourth book in my Harry Potter re-read quest. It wasn’t that I disliked this re-read, in fact I liked it a lot, other books just needed to be read first. Honestly, someday, maybe, possibly, probably not, I’ll get my library lending under control. So, now I’m finally done Goblet of Fire and it was totally worth it. This is where the big, big stuff starts to happen. The books get darker. The damages get more severe. The consequences more extreme. And naturally, the differences start widen between the books and the movies. There is so much happening in these books. Not necessarily big exciting events, just lots of stuff. The timelines are extended. The everyday stuff is included. And the books still include big sections aimed at their young audiences – as they rightfully should. The audience for the books was basically whatever age Harry was in that particular book. They were still pretty young at this point. But the movies were a huge success with adults and began to pull in an audience that had either overlooked the books or would never end up reading them.
After Chamber of Secrets, the movies really started gearing older. They focused more on the darkness present in the magical world. Overall, I prefer the darker portions, but some of the stuff the movies overlook is pretty funny. Blast ended skrewts and bubotubers and other silly moments. But GoF also contains one of the most annoying events in the Harry Potter franchise – the creation of S.P.E.W. I had actually forgotten about this portion until a recent conversation with someone reading the books for the first time. She was annoyed that this section was left out of the movie. That shit cray – as the kids are saying, or whatever. S.P.E.W is Hermione’s attempt to unburden a group of beings that don’t believe they are being burdened. And she does pretty annoyingly. She’s so up in everyone’s business to get on her side. Granted, there is actually an important message hidden in this otherwise annoying distraction– does disagreeing with the way people live, give us the right to impose our values on them? We wouldn’t want them to do that to us, so why are our values better? This is something western culture is super guilty of. Where do we draw the line to say this is good and this is bad? It’s a lot of deep thought and conversation worthy stuff, but that’s not what comes across in the books. It turns into a silly thing that Hermione becomes passionate about and the boys are able to make fun of her for. I can’t remember if this carries forward into the next book, but I have a sneaking suspicion it does – something about Hermione making Christmas presents for the elves or something…
But let’s leave S.P.E.W alone until then and get back to the things in this book that I liked. Moody is different in the books than he was in the movie. He is much more distant from Harry in the books. He works behind the scenes to make sure Harry wins the tournament. You’re distracted from him by other events. And other people. Ludo Bagman is introduced early in the book and continues to be involved with the students through most of the action. And he is suspicious as hell. He is always trying to help Harry and running off and disappearing. He’s a perfect patsy – who doesn’t even warrant a role in the movie. Turns out he’s got a wee bit of a gambling problem and all of his actions are simply to ensure he wins the money he needs. Moody is our bad guy – well, Barty Crouch Jr actually. The backstory for Crouch is far more interesting in the book. It’s intricate and heartbreaking. And it shows how dangerous pride can be. BC Sr doesn’t save his son because of fatherly love. He does it because his wife begs him to. He is ashamed of what his son has done. He knows that as long as his son remains in Azkaban, people will always remember what he did. Will always associate that with his father – no matter how much work his father does for the magic community. But, if he’s home and hidden and under a spell, people will eventually stop thinking about it first. Maybe that’s the theme of this book – the seven deadly sins. We’ve got pride and avarice in this paragraph alone.
I noticed something in this read through that I’ve never noticed before. It actually makes me a little more annoyed with Harry when he’s all angsty-pouty-accusey about Snape in the future books. When Voldemort is in the cemetery with Harry, he is talking about his death eaters. Talking about the three that aren’t accounted for. Three with exceptionally detailed descriptions. One who is a coward and has run away from the fold. One who he believes he has lost forever to the other side. And one who is his faithful servant and has helped ensure that Harry got where he needed to be that night. There are only three people who fit these roles – Karkaroff, Snape, and BC Jr. Okay. At the time, Harry doesn’t know about Crouch, and he’s in immediate peril, so I forgive that he doesn’t make the connection immediately. But later, when Crouch is explaining how he’s always been loyal to his master and how everything he did while at the school was to ensure the dark lord’s return, it’s obvious that he is the third person’s Voldemort was talking about. And Karkaroff is clearly the first. If you didn’t make the connection, Crouch spells it out for us. So that leaves one description and one person to pair together. Snape – who Voldemort believes has turned against him for Dumbledore. For all his faults and flaws and vanity, Voldemort seems pretty good at understanding who is working for him and who is not. Harry even comes to this realization at the end of the book. He wonders if maybe Snape was a double agent – working against his original allegiances – who only went back to the death eaters to pass information back to Dumbledore. He actually has these thoughts. Articulate, specific thoughts. Not generic maybe Snape’s not so bad thoughts. Now, maybe there’s stuff in the next books that I don’t remember, but this connection seems to fly right out of his damn brain whenever Snape is present. Harry is coloured by rage wherever Snape is involved. He can’t seem to get over it. But now I’m curious to see what thoughts happen in the next few books that wasn’t included in the movies.
There was a strange part of the book I had forgotten about – Rita Skeeter. Now, I remember her from the movies – how could you forget her? Miranda Richardson does such an amazing job capturing Harry’s eyes as they glisten with the ghosts of his past. But, I did not remember how prevalent she was in the books. Her Daily Prophet articles slamming Hermione once again demonstrate that Hermione of the books doesn’t actually deal all that well with stress. After receiving threats and hate mail and losing the respect of Mrs. Weasley (briefly), Hermione becomes obsessed with figuring out how Skeeter is getting all the dirt from within the walls of Hogwarts. She is so single mindedly determined that she goes so far as to trap Skeeter in her transformed state (as a beetle) in a glass jar and puts her in her backpack! Hermione entraps a woman and holds her captive against her will… Does this not seem weird to anyone else? Is this a sign that future Hermione is capable of more than clever thinking? Or was it just meant to be a funny moment? It strikes me as a totally frigging weird moment. The events of this book have taken their toll on our little Miss. Hermioninnie. Proof that social pressure can get to even the smartest and most rational of all of us.
A couple other quick things I noticed. This is the book where Ron and Hermione’s interest in each other really starts to show itself. It’s still a distant, background thought for both of them – especially him. But they’re both starting to understand that there’s something between them that is different from what she has with Harry. It’s actually more present in the movies – especially during the scene at the ball. The tournament takes up less of this book than I remembered. Oh, and Neville isn’t the one that tells Harry the trick for the second task! Dobby does it. I totally, 100% do not remember that. Crouch sets Neville up with the answer, but Harry never asks him. Dobby… can I just stick with it being Neville? Since I love him and he deserves more page time.
This is a long book – not as long as the next one, but long. It could have been shortened significantly without hurting the quality of the book – maybe even improving it. This one came out just as Harry Potter was becoming extremely popular. I think Rowling may have gotten away with more that she might have otherwise. Been less under the thumb of an editor. That might not have been in her long term best interest, but it worked out pretty damn well for her. I’m really glad I decided to re-read these. But now I have Order of the Phoenix, which is only marginally higher than Chamber of Secrets for me. I still get a bit of an eye twitch just thinking about how damn angsty Harry is in that book, but it has to be done. Maybe with some distance from all the hubbub, it won’t be quite as intense as I remember. And so the re-read continues!