Chapter Four: The Keeper of the Keys
In which Hagrid arrives to rescue Harry from the Dursleys, and to tell him the truth about the night his parents died.
There was a crash behind them and Uncle Vernon came skidding into the room. He was holding a rifle in his hands – now they knew what had been in the long, thin package he had brought with them.
Dude, overkill! And completely pointless lol.
So anyway, here we have Hagrid again. Yay! He breaks down the door and scares the crap out of everyone in the room, and then asks for a cup of tea. (Which is not quite as hilarious as the line in the movie but is still pretty awesome.) And hey, guess what the first thing he says to Harry is?
‘Las’ time I saw you, you was only a baby,’ said the giant. ‘Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh’ve got yer mum’s eyes.’
Which of course we know Harry will get very sick of hearing, but this is the first time he’s been told anything about his parents and his connection to them. How comforting that must be!
Right, so we all know what happens now – some casual intimidation of the evil Dursleys by Hagrid, giving Harry cake, making fire, cooking sausages, insulting Dudley etc etc etc before he finally gets around to introducing himself. It’s very fitting that Hagrid is the Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts: to Harry, Hagrid is the gatekeeper, giving Harry to tools to cross over into this new world. It’s a classic fantasy trope. Anyway, Hagrid assumes that Harry knows all about Hogwarts, but of course he doesn’t. (I love how Harry apologises for not knowing. Poor kid.) And, unlike the movie, Hagrid gets extremely pissed off when he realises how much the Dursleys have been keeping from Harry.
‘Do you mean ter tell me,’ he growled at the Dursleys, ‘that this boy — this boy! — knows nothin’ abou’ — about ANYTHING?’
Harry thought this was going a bit far. He had been to school, after all, and his marks weren’t bad.
‘I know some things,’ he said. ‘I can, you know, do maths and stuff.’
But Hagrid simply waved his hand and said, ‘About our world, I mean. Your world. My world. Yer parents’ world.’
Hagrid looked as if he was about to explode.
‘DURSLEY!’ he boomed.
Yay for righteous anger. Which is fair enough, obviously – Harry’s lived his whole life without knowing where he came from and poor Hagrid gets stuck with the job of explaining it all to him. Hagrid’s the first person who’s ever really stood up for Harry, and even though he’s all giant and scary it must be so nice to have someone getting angry on his behalf. Finally we get the great reveal (after a “gasp of horror” from Petunia):
‘Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh,’ said Hagrid. ‘Harry — yer a wizard.’
This has a different feel to Hagrid’s pronouncement in the film – here, he’s stating a simple fact, and rather casually, too. And Harry’s like, “Sorry, what now?” and finally gets to read his letter. (I love Dumbledore’s list of qualifications, with “Supreme Mugwump” just stuck in there like it’s completely normal. Lol.)
‘A Muggle,’ said Hagrid. ‘It’s what we call non-magic folk like them. An’ it’s your bad luck you grew up in a family o’ the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on.’
When the term Muggle is finally explained, it’s already being used as a derogatory term (“the biggest Muggles”). No one ever thinks twice about this. The Dursleys are never painted in a bad light for being Muggles, though, but because they’re abusive and boring and more concerned with societal standing than kindness. Anyway, now we get Petunia’s outburst, which makes for much more interesting reading now we know the whole story:
‘Knew!’ shrieked Aunt Petunia suddenly. ‘Knew! Of course we knew! How could you not be, my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that — that school — and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog-spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was — a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!
She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed she had been wanting to say all this for years.
Oh, Petunia. It’s actually kind of obvious here that all this anger is rooted in jealousy, which we now know it was, but most of us didn’t realise it at the time. Jo, you are SO CLEVER.
Next, poor Hagrid has to tell Harry about how his parents died. Harry takes it pretty well, considering. Of course, Hagrid doesn’t know any of the finer details, so Harry doesn’t either until they gradually come to light later in the series. Hagrid makes some educated guesses, though, which leave the reader satisfied for the time being.
‘… An’ then — an’ this is the real myst’ry of the thing — he tried to kill you too. Wanted ter make a clean job of it, I suppose, or maybe he just liked killin’ by then.
Again, BRAVO JO. Since Hagrid thinks that Voldemort went to Godric’s Hollow with the intention to kill Harry’s parents, Harry never considers the possibility that the target was actually him, leading to a very powerful reveal in book five.
‘No one ever lived after he decided ter kill ’em, no one except you, an’ he’d killed some o’ the best witches an’ wizards of the age — the McKinnons, the Bones, the Prewetts –‘
We don’t find out who any of these people are until Moody shows Harry the photograph of the Order, four years from this moment: the McKinnons are Marlene and her “whole family” who were killed two weeks after the photograph was taken, the Bones are Edgar and his wife and children, Edgar being Susan’s uncle and Amelia’s brother, and the Prewetts are Gideon and Fabian, who were Molly Weasley’s brothers. They were all members of the Order. All this also shows that Voldemort was used to killing entire families, including children, so no one thinks it’s unusual that Harry was also targeted.
The most beautiful thing about this scene, though, is Harry’s reaction:
Hagrid looked at Harry with warmth and respect blazing in his eyes, but Harry, instead of feeling pleased and proud, felt quite sure there had been a horrible mistake. A wizard? Him? How could he possibly be? He’d spent his life being clouted by Dudley and bullied by Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon; if he was really a wizard, why hadn’t they been turned into warty toads every time they’d tried to lock him in his cupboard?
Harry has none of his father’s conceit – he’s all modesty, and I love that about him. But Hagrid soon sets him straight, and then he gets all pissed again and tries to turn Dudley into a pig with his pink umbrella (what a great addition to Hagrid’s character, by the way), because this is a kid’s book after all, and bullies always get shown up.
Now, he’s a comic by Loleia which is kind of vaguely related to this chapter! Yay!