Some of our favourite moments in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone involve Harry being constantly baffled by the wizarding world.
From the moment that Hagrid says to him ‘yer a wizard’ (to which Harry’s response is, quite sensibly, ‘I’m a what?’), he is thrown into a world where pointy bits of wood can turn a table into a pig, and owls deliver post. These are some of the best freaked-out Harry moments.
Even before he gets his Hogwarts acceptance letter, there’s magic afoot – such as when Harry accidentally causes the glass to vanish from the snake enclosure while at the zoo with the Dursleys.
Actually, Harry handles this situation pretty well. While he merely gasps in response to the disappearing glass, the poor keeper of the reptile house goes into shock. You’ve got to feel sorry for the guy. Inexplicably absent glass and a missing deadly snake. Not a good day at work.
The idea of owls delivering letters is now commonplace to readers of Harry Potter – but Harry’s initial surprise when he discovers owl post is a reminder that this would actually seem to be a bit barmy to Muggles.
When Harry first sees Hagrid handing a rolled-up note to an owl, who he throws out into a storm, Harry just ‘realised his mouth was open and closed it quickly’. Yet another instance of Harry styling out his magic mystification.
What’s adorable about this scene is that Harry is just as shocked about the idea of wizarding banks being a thing as he is about goblins being real.
‘They didn’ keep their gold in the house, boy! Nah, first stop fer us is Gringotts. Wizards’ bank. Have a sausage, they’re not bad cold – an’ I wouldn’ say no teh a bit o’ yer birthday cake, neither.’
‘Wizards have banks?’
‘Just the one. Gringotts. Run by goblins.’
Harry dropped the bit of sausage he was holding.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Hagrid could’ve been just a tad more specific with his instructions regarding how to board the Hogwarts Express. But once Harry finds out how he’s supposed to find platform nine and three-quarters – being told by Mrs Weasley that he has to run at a brick wall with a trolley and caged owl – his understated reaction is kind of hilarious.
He pushed his trolley round and stared at the barrier. It looked very solid.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Being raised by Muggles, Harry is used to those newfangled motion pictures – the talkies, if you will – but not so much people disappearing from collectible cards or portraits that can have conversations. When Dumbledore disappears from Harry’s first Chocolate Frog card, he can’t help but state the obvious: ‘He’s gone!’ Bless his secondhand cotton socks.
Picture this: you’re a cute little 11-year-old who has turned up at a big, freaking scary castle for your first day of boarding school, and then LOTS OF GHOSTS COME FLYING THROUGH THE WALLS.
When the new first-years are faced with the ‘pearly-white and slightly transparent’ ghosts, several of Harry’s classmates scream, while he jumps ‘about a foot in the air’. He’s stoic under pressure – a true Gryffindor.
Given that Harry has come from the Dursleys – where he wasn’t starved per se, but certainly never had enough to eat – his joy at discovering the endless plates of food at Hogwarts mealtimes is perfectly understandable. His joy at the wizard Christmas crackers is even more so – they explode with a cloud of blue smoke, and contain prizes such as a rear-admiral’s hat and live white mice. They make Muggle Christmas crackers, with their bad jokes and plastic combs, quite underwhelming in comparison.
Oh yeah. Half-man, half-horse creatures are real – and they’re annoyed that you’re trespassing in their forest, too. This is another (literally) jaw-dropping moment for both Harry and Hermione.
‘But there aren’t wild dragons in Britain?’ sweet, innocent Harry says to Ron. If only you knew, Harry, that in a few years you’d be facing off against a Hungarian Horntail.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, every Friday Pottermore will explore themes, moments, characters and much more from the very first Harry Potter story. Come back next week for Pottermore's guide to dragons.