Harry Potter hanky-panky

By Kera Bolonik


Salon Staff
January 18, 2001 1:04AM (UTC)

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While I admit that the way they've fixed the goof in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is a bit odd, it's not the first time a publisher has had to make such changes after the fact to keep sci-fi and fantasy fans happy.

In Larry Niven's classic "Ringworld," the first scene features the main character, Louis Wu, taking teleportation booths to different cities (and parties) around the globe, staying ahead of the sun, so his birthday would last 48 hours. The book went to press, but after publication, they noticed Niven had Louis traveling the wrong way around the Earth, so that his birthday would only have lasted 12 hours!

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In those days before computers, making a change like that was a big deal, especially since it might have thrown the pagination off for a whole chapter, but they couldn't leave it that way. So Niven had to find city names the same length as the ones he selected, get them typed, paste the names in on the final proof, then reshoot the plate for the one page. Needless to say, that first edition of "Ringworld" is worth a packet today.

Of course, let's not forget that to many, a Harry collection won't be complete unless they have two copies of "Goblet of Fire," one first edition with the "error" and one later edition with it fixed. And shall we take bets they'll do it again, to fix Lily's name? Maybe that's the ulterior motive after all.

-- Vinnie Bartilucci

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Kera Bolonik's article reveals that the out-of-order appearance of Lily and James in "Harry Potter IV" was, in fact, a mistake. But there's one mistake in Book IV that no one ever talks about: the mistake of the Triwizard Tournament itself. Why on earth was it necessary for Harry Potter to win the Triwizard Tournament to be transported to Voldemort's graveyard? Think about it. First, the "bad" Alastor Moody was already in place by the start of classes. Second, it was explicitly shown in the narrative that any object can be made into a portkey. Third, nowhere in the text is there any stipulation that Voldemort needs time or anything else specifically connected with the tournament to regain his power. All he needs is Harry. This means that it was not necessary for Harry to compete in the tournament at all, let alone win. In fact, Bad Moody could have sent Harry to the graveyard the first time he saw him. All that had to happen was this: "Harry, could you -- stay after class for a moment?" "Sure, Professor Moody." "Oh look, I dropped one of my pencils. Could you get that for me?" "Sure, Professor MooAAAA!!" Harry's gone, Voldemort rises (admittedly in the middle of the day, although presumably Wormtail could keep Harry under wraps until a suitably dramatic night falls), no one's the wiser.

In short, the fourth book should have begun with the rise of Voldemort, not ended with it.

At least that's how I see it. I feel like I must have read the Alternate Universe Harry Potter or something, because nobody else seems to have mentioned this. Except for a subliminal wish on Bad Moody's part to do things the really hard way, there was no reason at all for Harry to enter the tournament. The whole book is a mistake.

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-- Savannah Jahrling


Salon Staff

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