Seven Things: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the series. I read it back in December. So lets get on with it shall we?

Seven things about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

One

Time Travel

Let’s start with the big one. Time Travel is complicated. I’ll let an expert explain.

I’ve let the whole clip play because it’s brilliant.

Time travel exists in many different universes. Each film, book, or TV show uses it in slightly different ways. Unfortunately the presence of time travel, in the Harry Potter universe, is rather problematic. In Doctor Who there is at least something of an explanation in that the Doctor has a sense of time and knows what he can and cannot do. That is not the same here.

Spoilers here for all of Harry Potter.

To me the introduction of time travel is a big mistake as it leads to too many questions. If McGonagall can get clearance for a time turner to give to Hermione then why aren’t they used more often? In this book they travel back to save Buckbeak – couldn’t it have been done to save Harry’s parents?

This sort of question is always there once you establish the existence of time travel. In Star Trek IV Kirk is able to travel back in time in a Klingon Bird of pray. A bird of pray is the space equivalent of a <inset name of car that isn’t very good>. So if this is possible why isn’t time travel used in a top of the line ship?

The same problem exists here. In my opinion the introduction of time travel, into the Harry Potter universe, was the biggest misstep of the series.

Two

The Telephone

Ron’s inability to use the telephone is a funny scene. Nevertheless I have to wonder why the magical community doesn’t seem to have some equivalent.

As explained here texting, or writing a letter, has definite disadvantages. In fact the only advantage of an owl is that it can tell you when your letter has been delivered.

In later books we do get to see long-ranged communication. In the films, and I think in the books as well, this is shown in the form of a face in the fire. Is Sirius the only one who knows how to do this?

Three

The Sapience of Paintings

We all know that the paintings move in the Wizarding World. This isn’t really a nitpick, just an observation, but when does this occur?

There was an episode of TNG, Ship in a Bottle, which discusses the creation of artificial life. It links back with the episode ‘Elementary, Dear Data.’ – Geordi and Data inadvertently create a new life form and the moral implications are discussed.

In the Harry Potter universe it seems that paintings are also sapient. They, for lack of a better way to phrase it, have souls. Since any one can draw does that mean that a small child can create life?

This is something I’ve only really thought about while writing this. If I was at Hogwarts and I drew a few stick figures could I make them come alive? What about action figures? Is The Indian in the Cupboard happening everyday in the Wizerding world?

Four

Azkaban

Obviously I’ve got to talk about Azkaban itself. The way it is talked about throughout the series makes it sound like a hell hole.

Crime and punishment is an extremely difficult subject to talk about. The world over there are so many different opinions as to what is and isn’t justice.The death penalty exists in some countries and in Norway prisons have been compared to holiday camps. Yet the results speak for themselves as Norway also has a very low rate of re-offenders.

In the Wizarding World though it seems like crime and punishment is rather twisted. From what we learn about Azkaban it is quite clear that prisoners are being abused and mistreated.

There is never any claim made that the Wizerding world is ‘good’ – but it seems amazing to me that the practices at Azkaban are generally accepted by the population at large. The Dementors are terrifying and if we imagine a technological way of doing what they do it would certainly be banned by the Geneva Convention.

Personally I’m against the death penalty. I believe that it’s not really justice and there is always the possibility of a mistake being made. If someone is wrongfully imprisoned you can compensate them, it doesn’t give them back the years obviously, but at least there is something. If you kill them there is nothing you can do. Similarly, in the Wizarding World, a wrongful conviction could lead to unreversable mental damage. This to me is almost worse than a wrongful execution. At least that would be a painless end.

The Dementor’s kiss is basically a from of torture. I would hope that most people would agree that torture is unacceptable. Even if it’s called ‘enhanced interrogation‘ or performed by ‘pain technicians‘ – yet to Witches and Wizards it seems to be acceptable.

Five

The Marauder’s Map

I can’t not talk about the Marauder’s Map. This is, essentially, like the most sophisticated security system ever devised. It can show every person in Hogwarts. It knows where everyone is and maybe even what they are doing. (Let those who know those those who don’t.)

This is another example of the rather strange way magic is sometimes applied in these books. In other parts of the series the inadvisability cloak is used to sneak around the castle – but it seems you’re only invisible to people in the vicinity. You can be seen on the map even with the cloak.

So if four students can create a map like this why hasn’t the faculty? In our world there are CCTV cameras almost everywhere surely in the Wizarding world they’d use a system like this for security purposes?

I suppose though it’s not entirely unbelievable. The Ancient Greeks could’ve invented the steam engine but didn’t.

Six

Care of Magical Creatures

This book sees Hagrid’s debut as a new teacher of Hogwarts. For this he requires all students to have a copy of: The Monster Book of Monsters.

This book attacks anyone who attempts to read it. We see the proprietor of Flourish and Blotts having to reach into a cage to retrieve these nasty biting books.

Now obviously this idea is there for a bit of fun. And in rereading these books I’ve come to realise there is a lot of silliness.

Nevertheless I do wonder why a biting book would be seen as a good idea. Surely they should at least come with a pamphlet to explain how to care for the book.

Then of course we have the rather questionable judgement of having a Hippogriff for a first lesson.  This however isn’t really a nitpick as it’s perfectly in keeping with Hagrid’s personality.

Seven

Peter Pettigrew

This one is related to number five. Perhaps it should be with number 5 but this post has been in draft for so long I want to finish it.

Okay…

In Chapter 18 we get this…

‘I believed it myself – until I saw the map tonight. Because the Marauder’s Map never lies … Peter’s alive.’ [Lupin – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban]

The long and short of it is that Peter, even in rat form, shows up on the map. So again we are faced with the question of why more maps don’t exist.

The entire plot of this novel is based around a false accusation of murder. We learn of the fight in which Pettigrew was supposedly killed. We know few details about the case against Sirius but we do know that he knew he hadn’t killed Peter.

I wonder what investigation was done to validate his claim of innocence. As discussed above there is a lot to be desired from the Wizard criminal justice system. However I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that Sirius would’ve had a defense.

As always in science fiction and fantasy its always difficult to know what is possible in each universe.

In Charmed there may be a spell for something that is considered impossible in another magical universe. In Star Trek a stranded person can just be beamed up – in another work the rescue might be a whole episode.

Nevertheless in this novel a finger, Pettigrew’s finger, is found. Couldn’t that be used to find the rest of him? It does seem like the type of thing that a wizard or witch could do.

I just reckon that something of that type might have been done, by a defense lawyer, in the process of proving Sirius innocence.

With this last point I know I’m clutching at straws. However it does seem to be a symptom of how magic is applied in these books. Magic seems to be ahead of us in many respects. It can do many things that technology can’t and then there are other things that we can do that they can’t.

***

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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