Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chapter 3 3/4: Hagrid Knits

I went to see the most recent Harry Potter (The Half-Blood Prince) with my sons this weekend and was once again surprised to love it unquestioningly. Notably, I rejoiced at the inclusion of Dumbledore's interest in "knitting patterns" which he reveals upon emerging from the bathroom holding a knitting magazine he hopes to borrow. Though I suspected that J. K. Rowling was a knitter based on Mrs. Weazley's magical knitting needles and her annual fabulous knit gift for the children, my suspicion was confirmed by Dumbledore's admission.

During a reading of the first Harry Potter book to my sons years ago, I came upon a single sentence which implicated Hagrid as a knitter. My boys leapt at the reference ("Hagrid KNITS?!?!?!?") and so I created my own chapter (chapter 3 3/4) to further detail Hagrid's hobby. I wrote this essay in hopes of inspiring my own sons to see knitting as a non gender-based activity...perhaps by sharing it with young boys you know we could inspire our own magic in the knitting world.

Hagrid tossed another slab of meat to Fang. With an audible snap, the large dog caught the meal in mid air and swallowed it whole.

“Y’ be needin’ a little extra tonight…I’m goin’ to be out,” Hagrid muttered to his companion as he rifled through the pile of belongings on his desk.

July 31st. Hagrid reflected on the day. Harry Potter’s birthday. Could it have been 12 years already since the night he received the terrifying call from Professor Dumbledore to go fetch the baby. 12 years since the night he first held the tiny Potter orphan in his (literally and figuratively) giant hands. He remembered the night as though it was just recently. He recalled plucking the infant safe from his crib amidst a scene of carnage and destruction – the remains of the child’s parents only feet from his unscathed crib in the wake of the fateful visit from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. That night he swaddled little Harry in a blanket and tucked him inside his moleskin cloak, holding him tightly with one arm (though not too tightly, being careful not to crush the tiny infant), and sped on Sirius Black’s enchanted motorcycle to meet Dumbledore on Privet Drive…as directed.

Years had passed since that night, and the boy’s fame grew with every passing year since their intersection had resulted in Voldermort’s vanishing from the wizarding world. Even if Hagrid hadn’t felt Harry’s birthday seared into his memory, he would never have been able to forget its passing since the entire wizarding world now celebrated the date…as they celebrated Harry and his greatness in vanquishing the Dark Lord.

This birthday, however, was different from the preceding ones. This year, Hagrid had received the “OK” from Dumbledore to visit the boy again…on official business, of course. Hagrid nearly kissed Dumbledore’s pointy shoes, so overjoyed he was with the news that he was to deliver the Hogwarts letter of acceptance to the boy he had rescued from that unforgettable scene. On hearing the details of his mission, however, Hagrid’s enthusiasm began to fade. The Dursleys (that Muggle family which had been caring for the boy since he was orphaned and unwittingly hiding him in their thick mediocrity from the wizarding world) had squirreled him away to a remote rock in the middle of the sea off Cokeworth. Barring the use of magic, there would be no easy way of getting to such a place

“Not to worry, Hagrid,” Dumbledore reassured him, “flying would be permissable under the circumstances.” Hagrid breathed a sigh of relief. Since his expulsion from Hogwarts under suspicion of raising unpermitted creatures, Hagrid had not been allowed to practice magic. Not such a bad thing, really, since he had struggled as a student to begin with. Still, at times like this, even mediocre magic came in handy. Only in emergency situations did Dumbledore life the restriction against Hagrid practicing magic. the last time being the night of Harry’s rescue.

Thus it was that Hagrid found himself blustering around his hut, preparing for his departure. It was a bit of a trip, so Hagrid expected to be away from his comfortable little hut on the Hogwart’s grounds for at least a day and a night. Fang would be fine if fed a few extra pieces of meat. He would need to wear his moleskin coat as the small rock on which Harry was cloistered was at present under assault by a torrential rain and windstorm. The key, perhaps most importantly, he must remember the Gringott’s key. The letter. Some sausages…sustenance for the trip.

He had the essentials…all but one. It would be a long night in that dank cabin on the rock. If Harry needed to sleep before their journey, he had better pack a little something to keep him busy. Reading was out…he gave that up once he was expelled (apart from the guides he read on care and feeding of his magical creatures whenever he met a new challenge, and the Daily Prophet- though that was hardly worth reading any more with all the dodgy reporting). Fang was good company, but not much of a conversationalist at night and so, Hagrid had taken to knitting. It was a hobby that came in handy since, being a giant, and being forbidden to magically create clothes, it was difficult to obtain tunics and sweaters in his generous size. Knitting would be perfect to pass the time tonight.

Hagrid’s desk was as cluttered as the pockets of his black overcoat. With consternation he searched through the piles amassed atop the great desk. Pieces of flint, feathers, twine, a rusty pulley, acorn caps, a few Knuts…all sorts of objects that may come in handy to a grounds-keeper. Still, he couldn’t find his knitting needles. It shouldn’t be hard to find them…they were, after all, size 000 (anything smaller than 00 felt like toothpicks in his massive fingers).

Ah-ha, he at last recalled – in the umbrella stand, just where he had left them. He gathered a couple hanks of bulky canary-yellow homespun and stuffed them into a pocket with his scribbled notes on dimensions for the griffin’s saddle blanket. Ready, but for one final item…the cake. Hagrid stooped to open his refrigerator and, stuffed behind jars of frogs and pounds of meat, his oversized hand located it – the large, sticky chocolate cake he had purchased for the occasion. As requested, the Hogwarts baker had inscribed, “Happy Birthday Harry” with green icing. Hagrid placed the cake carefully into a box and stuffed it not-so-carefully into another pocket and strode out the door.

This short story was inspired by a two sentences from the touchstone novel by JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In Chapter 5, she writes, “Hagrid took up two seats and sat knitting what looked like a canary-yellow circus tent. “Still got yer letter, Harry?” he asked as he counted stitches.” The illustration was adapted from the wonderful illustrations in the book by Mary GrandPre.

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