Saturday 12 December 2015

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I will be rereading my Harry Potter books over the next few months or so as part of Andi's #PotterBinge.

There's not much that I can say about these books that hasn't already been said many, many times, so like Andi, and Katie before her, my posts for these rereads will be my random thoughts and observations.

I will avoid major plot spoilers as much as possible, but there will be references and allusions to certain events and character developments.

My first happy, happy joy moment occurred when I used this readalong to treat myself to a copy of the new fully illustrated (by Jim Kay) edition of The Philosopher's Stone.

Jim Kay has a fabulous website where he discusses how he came to create some of the pages.

For example, the sorting hat patches (below) came from a book of fabrics that Kay saw in the Royal Museum, Edinburgh years ago.

My understanding is that there will be a new fully illustrated hardback edition of each book over the next ten years (the last three books being split in half). I was also thrilled when I read the illustrator notes on the jacket sleeve to discover that Jim Kay was the person responsible for the amazing, eerie pictures in A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

My first 'WTF is that about' moment occurred when I realised that the UK/Australian edition of this book is called The Philosopher's Stone and the US edition is called The Sorcerer's Stone.

What's that about?

A philosopher and a sorcerer are very different character types?

The Philosopher's Stone (lapis philosophorum) is also a real, albeit, ancient and mythological symbol that has been the inspiration for writers, scientists and philosophers down through the ages. It has been linked to the likes of the biblical Adam, as well as Plato and Thomas Aquinas.

Does the word you choose to use change the meaning of the story?

At one point in the story, they discuss the real-world links to this ancient alchemy. What do they do in in The Sorcerer's Stone version at this point?

A sorcerer is a magician or wizard, although in medieval times the term was also used to describe someone who practised science in a laboratory.

Does the choice of word make one book appear more 'magic' and 'other-worldly' than the other?
Does this mean that the US version misses out on some of the delicious, tantalising 'could this be real' feeling?

Part of my love for Harry Potter is its 'world-within-a-world' set up.

All the references to real-world places and ideas such as the Philosopher's Stone make these stories feel plausible. There is a sense that if you could just find the right portal, you too, could enter Hogwarts.

I love how Rowling blurs the lines between our world and Hogwarts.
A simple boarding school, coming-of-age story about the power of love, captures our hearts and imagination because Rowling makes our mundane, everyday, real-world seem to be suddenly full of magical possibility.

Because I was curious about this change, I did a little research.

Most of the comments seemed to reflect the belief that American kids would find the word 'sorcerer' to be more fun. One reference alluded to a popular US drug of the 70's being called the philosopher's stone and concern that parents would not buy their children a book with this word in the title.

Several English words were also changed in the book - from clothes, food, common phrases and of course, words like mum, colour and favourite.

It has been reported that Rowling regrets agreeing to these changes, but I guess a debut author doesn't have much say in these things.

I wonder if these changes dilute the very Englishness that Rowling embedded the Hogwarts world in?

Are their any US bloggers who've read both versions of the book to see what, if any, impact the differences have?

On to other matters....

I enjoyed the foreshadowing that Rowling used throughout The Philosopher's Stone.

*The early mention of Sirius Black when Hagrid borrows his motorbike to bring baby Harry to the Dursleys.
*Hagrid's mention of Quirrell's year off  "ter get some first-hand experience" in the Dark Arts.
*Harry's dream on his first night at Hogwart's about Quirrell and his turban.

I was curious about Harry Potter Day.
What happens on this day? How is it celebrated/commemorated? When is it?

There were also many more tests to get through to the Philosopher's Stone than I remembered from my first read and the movie.

During the reread it is also obvious how these tests were designed to play to their individual strengths - which we had become familiar with throughout the book - Harry's flying/snitch catching abilities, Ron's chess skills and Hermione's logic and reasoning.

One could almost feel a little manipulated by Rowling at this point, except she cleverly suggests that it was, in fact, Dumbledore who devised these tests knowing full well that Harry would be the one to go through them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts as you reread these books too, so feel free to leave a link to your HP reviews in my comments below.

A big thank you to Andi for me giving me the excuse I needed to re-enter the world of Harry Potter.

For a review with lots of fun Potter facts check out Amy's posts @Lost in a Good Book.
#PotterBinge #XmasinSummer


  1. Hmmm ...... I heard that the publishers changed "Philosophers" to "Sorcerers" because they didn't think that Americans would know what the word "Philosopher" meant. :-Z Rather insulting, huh? The information was from a reasonably accurate source. Which would mean that there wasn't a really deep and profound reason for using "sorcerer", only a practical one. Personally I wish that they hadn't changed it. As you put so well in your review, there is a deeper meaning in the original title that is lost in the American version.

    I've read this series once, and while I'm too swamped to join you, it will be interesting to read everyone's comments!

  2. Anonymous12/12/15

    I've seen only the first movie and didn't read any of books.
    Potter-o-mania isn't for me.
    Enjoy your re-reads...!


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