It's here!!! The re-binge of Harry Potter has officially begun. The first episode of the Belated Binge podcast covers the first chapter of the series: Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone - The Boy Who Lived. This discussion puts a magnifying glass on Albus Dumbledore, the information he's keeping close to the vest, and the foundation of his master plan. Support the show on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/BelatedBinge for early access to ad free versions and bonus episodes! Engage on social: Twitter: https://twitter.com/belatedbinge Instagram: https://instagram.com/belatedbinge Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/belatedbinge --- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/belated-binge/support
Hello and welcome to the belated Binge podcast. I’m Zac and I’ll be your host throughout this journey, revisiting some of the most iconic series in recent memory that aside from their impact on pop culture, have 1 other key thing in common.
I nearly missed out on them completely. When these series were at their peak of popularity I was too cool, not cool enough, not nerdy enough, too busy, uninterested or otherwise oblivious - whatever excuse I gave myself I was completely unengaged until many years later. - that’s the belated part.
But now that I’ve come around they’ve become some of my favorite forms of entertainment. So now we’re going to revisit them all episode by episode, chapter by chapter, moment by moment taking a deep dive into world building, character development, plot holes, theories, themes and we’ll give away some meaningless awards too. - that’s the Binge part.
Together they make the belated Binge and today we begin our re-read of the Harry Potter series with the first chapter of the Sorceror’s Stone - The Boy Who Lived.
But first, 2 things:
That being said, we’ll start with this episodes play by play...
Play by play- recap of the chapter
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Perhaps the most iconic opening line in literature -- although coming from me isn’t saying much as I’m not the biggest reader.
It also reads much like Harry’s sarcastic sense of humor. As you know, most books in this series start right here at #4 Privot Drive, but through the eyes of Harry. But, since we don’t actually meet him until the end of this chapter, it makes sense that we start here and have a bit of a callout to some of the sassiness we can later expect from our protagonist.
Instead, we start through the eyes of Vernon Dursley and get introduced to this family that will be a cornerstone of the series and who are actually directly responsible for the safety of the Wizarding World - despite the fact that they hate everything about it.
But think about it… if they don’t take Harry in at the end of this chapter, the blood magic would never take and perhaps Harry never defeats Voldemort in the end, perhaps the bad guy wins…
But, we’re a long ways from that. At this point, we’re just meeting a grumpy fat guy with a nosey annoying wife and a spoiled kid.
In fact, we only learn about the wizarding world, indirectly through Vernon being angry at all these oddballs he sees throughout the day. We get easter eggs for Prof McG as a cat “reading, no looking at a sign, and maybe a map?”
We get mentions of owls and shooting stars, but it all just seems like strange behavior… not magic. And Vernon isn’t here for it.
It’s the only thing souring his otherwise normal day, until he overhears someone dressed in a cloak mention the Potters and their son Harry.
At that point he’s rattles, but he pulls a Taylor Swift and shakes it off (dated reference?).
But what’s truly ingenious about starting the series this way is that it cements the idea that what we later learn is the wizarding world is happening all around the muggles, us. It could be just behind that brick wall, or just around the corner, or maybe we caught a glimpse of something odd in that alley we passed. It’s all around us, just out of our reach.
This ends up being perfect for the audience that gravitates to this book in the first place. Many people use fantasy novels as an escape. A way to get out of their own world, for any number of reasons, and get lost in a new one where anything is possible. There are people who still identify with this story as adults who might say the owl with their letter from Hogwarts just got lost all those years ago, just as there are 10 year olds right now hoping that on their birthday, they’ll be getting their ticket for platform 9 ¾.
If we had just immediately jumped into this world full of unreal circumstance and wonder, leaving everything familiar completely behind...would it have had the same affect it did? I’m not sure… the books would still be good, but this was and truly still is a global phenomenon 2 decades later.
This sense of it all being just beyond our grasp is the fodder behind one of the theories I always chuckled at and liked. We won’t do a full theory corner on it, but there’s content out there for it. The theory is that Rita Skeeter was upset with how she was being treated and wanted to expose the wizarding world to the muggles. So she wrote a series of novels about the events of the war with the Death Eaters and Voldemort, the chosen one who saved the day Harry Potter and she sold it to the muggles under the name JK Rowling.
For the record, that’s one of the few times you’ll hear the author’s name mentioned on this podcast series. In light of her recent stance she’s taken and her insistence of trying to get her foot as far into her mouth as she can, here at Belated Binge, we recognize the controversy that has caused within the fandom. While this podcast isn’t going to dive deep into the subject as we’re not a current events or even truly a Harry Potter podcast, it’s also not a pro-Rowling podcast. There are real human beings who have been truly hurt and offended by the things that the author of this series has said. Our nod to those individuals is to keep our focus on the story and the world that spawned one of the most inclusive and socially aware fandoms - perhaps more than any other in history. And whenever possible, we’ll use the term “the author” - because this story became something much bigger and more impactful than any tweet the creator could write years later…
Beyond the idea that this world could very well be real and happening without our direct knowledge and beyond learning that magic exists.. We learn a ton in this opening chapter.
And one thing that doesn’t seem to get a ton of attention, and that’s just another example of the incredible piece of fiction this series is, is where it begins…
Many are aware that the Harry Potter series is a frame narrative, ring theory, circle theory, whatever you want to call it - as a collection it metaphorically acts like a record or cd (remember those?) where it flows in a circle revolving around a center point.
This has been talked about extensively by many. But, what I haven’t heard a ton bring up is that we actually begin the frame narrative in this very chapter. Our story begins when the wizarding world believes that the war with Voldemort ended. They think it’s over, but we’re just starting. It opens at the close. And we get most of that from the subject of our “ISO” segment...
Scouting report- where we focus in on one character
Dumbledore is the character we’re focusing on for this episode, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. This is his chapter. Sure it starts with the Dursleys and is told much from Vernon’s perspective. But, this is Dumbledore’s chapter. This is the beginning of his master plan and our introduction into exactly the kind of character he is, without even realizing it.
For starters, this is his grand plan beginning -- from the text alone, we can gather that he sent Hagrid to look after Harry and told him where to bring him and when to meet there. He made the call to take Harry from the wizarding world and bring him to his aunt and uncles in Little Winging. He’s the one McG is seeking for answers to the rumors she’s been hearing (btw, when? And how does she know about the crazy stuff that’s been happening that day? She’s been a cat sitting outside the Dursley’s all day - the news through the window? Maybe a stretch) - but anyways. She knows Dumbledore is calling the shots here and this is where he was going to be.
We also learn through her that Dumbledore is the guy in this world - he may not be the head wizard in charge of government, but he surely is on the street (even if it’s cobbled). She tells us that Dumbledore is the only one Voldemort ever feared. And if the person who’s terrorized an entire secret society for 11 years is scared of you, you have to be a badass.
We also learn about his belief that Voldemort is coming back, despite the fact that he won’t tell McG this directly, which is more about his character we’ll dive into in a bit. But, this belief is the foundation for his entire grand plan.
He’s simply working with information we just don’t have.
3 key bits of info he knows that nobody else does, and he’s not sharing:
The reason Voldemort went after Harry in the first place was due to a Prophecy that Dumbledore witnessed. He knows the entirety of what was said and he knows the piece that Voldemore heard as well as who ran and relayed it to him (and this is the first of many times we’ll say that Snape sucks).
He also understands the power of prophecy, although he mentions later in the books that he was never a big believer in the practice, unlike other studious characters we come to know like Hermione who writes it off as a form of magic not worth considering because it couldn’t be learned in a text book. We also hear McG turn her nose up at divination a couple times.
Both witches are extremely book smart, like we learn Dumbledore was. But, he understands that while it may not be a field of magic you can read about and learn to do, it is still a very valuable gift to be respected and when appropriate, feared.We have a theory corner episode, where we believe his respect for divination began, which has to do with his relationship with Grindelwald. If you’d like to dive into that Belated Binge original theory (at least to our knowledge) with us, head on over to Patreon. Becoming a Patron gives you access to additional content like theory corner where we’ll dive into some of our favorite theories and even some of our own, like this one. As well as early access to podcast episodes and more perks to be announced later.
The DADA curse
Only Dumbledore at this point of the story knows about the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts job at Hogwarts as he’s been seeking out a new professor for the post every year since he turned it down to Voldemort.
While it’s unlikely that in the past 24 hours, he’s had to hire a new professor for it. It is highly likely that he will soon need to fill the position before the school year starts and that will provide affirmation that his theory about Voldemort not being dead is correct.
If that curse is still in place - Voldemort is still around somewhere and alive somehow. Dumbledore would know… would he already be suspecting a horrcrux? The text might lead us to believe later in the story that he didn’t suspect horrcruxes until Harry brings him the diary at the end of book 2.
But, is that when he removed the horrcrux books from the school library? I doubt it.
Slugghorn tells Tom Riddle that Dumbledore is particularly strict on the topic 50 years before that point.
I believe he had already removed those books and knew good and well about horrcruxes by the time Harry’s parents were murdered. If that’s the case, he has to at least be considering a horrcrux as the way Voldemort was able to survive the rebounding killing curse.
Dumbledore knows about Lily’s sacrifice. The specifics. Not just that she and James died but Harry didn’t. He knows that she sacrificed herself in order to try and save her son. If he didn’t know this, he couldn’t have taken the steps needed to invoke the blood protection magic and he wouldn’t be bringing Harry to the Dursley’s in this chapter.
But how did he know? He wasn’t there when she did it?We also have a theory corner episode about this. Which is another of our own original theories (at least to our knowledge). Again, if you’d like to hear more about that, join us over on Patreon!
He knows all of this and yet he’s not forthcoming with McG about it, or Hagrid. Which lays the foundation of his character at the very beginning of our story and truly solidifies this upon a re-read as the Dumbledore story. Sure, we get it from Harry’s perspective. But the moving pieces, the events that take place, moving the plot forward… Dumbledore is the one controlling all of it behind the scenes. All the way up through the 7th book when he’s not even alive… It’s his book series as much or more than it is Harry’s.
So what do we learn about his character?
2 primary traits:
The Chess Master
In this chapter, he didn’t call on Hagrid to retrieve Harry by accident. He deliberately chose him to be the one to drop Harry off. This was part of a master plan, setting up Hagrid as a protector and friend for Harry from the very beginning (a very valuable chess piece).
We’ve established that he has a lot of information already about Voldemort, Harry, the blood magic, the sacrifice, the protection, and he’s not sharing any of it. Even with Prof McG, who has been a companion of his for decades. Depending on your acceptance of the cannon timeline, within the 7 books, McG would have been working at Hogwarts with Dumbledore for over 20 years at this point. And if she could come here to find him directly in the midst of such an important event in the wizarding world, there relationship had to be pretty close. Otherwise, would she be comfortable confronting him? Would he have just dismissed her right off? He let her be a part of this very intimate moment and key beginning phase of his master plan. If she isn’t already, she becomes his right hand, deputy headmistress. Yet, he doesn’t confide any of it to her.
If you subscribe to the fantastic beasts cannon, they would have been together for much longer. 70 years or so at Hogwarts? And her cameo suggests she was already in his corner ready to stand up for him against the ministry of magic. They were basically sidekicks. She would have been there through confronting Grindelwald, Tom Riddle at Hogwarts, the Chamber of Secrets the first time, the death of Moaning Myrtle, the birth of the Order of the Phoenix, everything! And he doesn’t share any of his plan with her. He simply says they’re leaving him there on that doorstep to be kidnapped by anyone, for his own good so he doesn’t grow up in the spotlight.
These two core traits ultimately define this character for the duration of this book series, which is a bit of a foreshadow… so let’s jump into our next segment - and I promise these next few will go by much quicker than the first couple - we’ll start with “4-shadow”
4 shadow, where we callout 4 things from each chapter that foreshadow something later in the series starting with:
That brings us to “a game of inches”
Game of inches - what if one of our characters made just one small change in their decisions in this chapter? What would happen to our story?
One decision in this chapter shaped the entirety of our story…
It’s time to give away some awards but first
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Again, you would think Vernon because so much is told from his POV and he’s an awful person. But, you can see throughout the entire chapter that he’s afraid of his wife and when he finally brought up her sister and her son.. Petunia was cold and angry and even he was shook… Petunia deserves our “red card” award for this chapter. Get her out of here!
That was fun… let’s give out the game ball
You would think Dumbledore would be deserving because this is his chapter, his plan and in a lot of ways his story. But, Hagrid is the one who got Harry safely out of Godrics hollow, presumably took care of him for 24 hours between the murder and getting placed on the doorstep, and was positioned to protect him from possible follow up attacks and entrusted to safely deliver him at the Dursley’s. For that, he’s our chapter’s MVP and deserving of the game ball recognition… which leads us nicely into our final segment of today’s episode “fumble”
Fumble - the point in the episode where we call out plot holes, choices made out of character and other things that simply don’t make any sense..
Let’s start with the missing 24 hours… Many have talked about this, so we don’t drag it on. But the text makes it seem as thought Hagrid had just pulled Harry out of the house, yet 24 hours have passed since his parents were murdered. Where did it go? We think we know what happened right after the murders, check out Patreon for our “How did he know” theory corner. But, aside from that… we can’t assume Harry was just in his crib for a whole day alone, nor can we assume it took Hagrid a day to ride over to the Dursleys… was he just chilling with baby harry changing diapers, feeding him from a bottle, and cuddling during nap time?
Next is the “How did you know it was me?” line in regards to McG as a cat… We’ve already laid out how long these two have known each other in either timeline you accept, we also know she’s registered with the ministry as an animagous, which is public record someone like Hermione can easily look up, and we also know she transforms in her classrooms as a bit for the students when she does it in Book 3 and is a bit taken aback by the lack of applause before learning Trulawney predicted Harry’s death.
Finally, the door step… this has been beat to death so we’re just going to say briefly. You left a baby on the front step to be stumbled upon by the person who lives there when she was putting out the milk bottles (which was a thing in the 90s? I grew up in the 90s and we bought our milk at the grocery store) -- maybe they meant milk carton, because that’s where this kid’s face would have ended up in the real world.
With that we’ve reached the end of a very long and robust first episode of Belated Binge.. We may combine some chapters in the future, but there was obviously a lot to unpack in this first chapter, so thank you for hanging through it all.
Shoutout to our producer Jack who we work like a dog, remember to follow & subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts, leave us a review if you enjoyed the show (5 stars please), become a Patron over on Patreon for early access and exclusive content, and we’re also on social media at belated binge on twitter, facebook, and instagram and our show segments are also available on YouTube.
Our next episode, we’ll tackle the second chapter, the vanishing glass.
Otherwise we’ll see you next time on the Belated Binge podcast...
Here are some great episodes to start with.