The Triwizard Tournament
chapter twelve of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
After a very wet trip up to Hogwarts, the school Sorting takes place, and the feast is served (though when Hermione learns it was cooked by house-elves, she refuses to eat). Afterward, Mad-Eye Moody makes a dramatic entrance, and Dumbledore explains that the Triwizard Tournament will be played at Hogwarts.
“Wow!” said Dennis, as though nobody in their wildest dreams could hope for more than being thrown into a storm-tossed, fathoms-deep lake, and pushed out of it again by a giant sea monster.
Then a long tear near the brim opened wide like a mouth, and the hat broke into song:
“A thousand years or more ago,
When I was newly sewn,
There lived four wizards of renown,
Whose names are still well known:
Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor,
Fair Ravenclaw, from glen,
Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad,
Shrewd Slytherin, from fen.”
“So!” said Dumbledore, smiling around that them all. “Now that we are all fed and watered, I must once more ask for your attention, while I give out a few notices.”
A man stood in the doorway, leaning upon a long staff, shrouded in a black traveling cloak.
(by Laurence Peguy)
about the chapter
There’s a beautiful story buried in this chapter, about the only character in the Harry Potter series who is fully named for a real-life person. The following is quoted from a November 6, 2000 article in a Canadian publication called Maclean’s:
In July, 1999… Harry-mania was already exploding in English-speaking countries. In Edinburgh, Rowling was hunkered down, refusing all media requests and most outside distractions, as she worked feverishly on the lengthy story that eventually became the 636-page Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And in Toronto, nine-year-old Natalie McDonald was dying. “She was obsessed with the Harry Potter books,” remembers family friend and political activist Annie Kidder. “They had been her respite from the hell of leukemia. And because I’m the sort of person who thinks there must be something I can do, I badgered Rowling’s publishers in London, sending them a letter and an e-mail and a fax for her.”
Passed on by the publishers, the letter arrived at Rowling’s Edinburgh home a day after the author had left for a holiday in Spain. “When I came back two weeks later and read it, I had a bad feeling I was too late,” Rowling told Maclean’s. “I tried to phone Annie but she wasn’t in, so I e-mailed both Natalie and her mother, Valerie — because Annie hadn’t told Valerie what she had done.” Rowling was right in her foreboding — the e-mails were received the day after Natalie died on Aug. 3.
“Jo’s e-mail was beautiful,” Kidder says. “She didn’t patronize Natalie, or tell her everything was OK; she addressed her as a human being who was going through a hard time. She talked about her books and her characters and which ones she liked best.” And most remarkably of all, Rowling freely shared the secrets of her fourth novel, details media and fans desperately sought for another 11 months.
The story might have ended there, but Valerie McDonald wrote back, in thanks. “That letter touched deep,” Rowling says slowly, trying to explain the esteem in which she holds Natalie’s mother. “I just knew, reading it, that if we had been two mothers waiting for our kids at the school gate we’d have been friends.” So a regular correspondence began, and an unexpected friendship — “the one moment of light in this whole horrible thing,” says Kidder — was cemented last summer when McDonald, her husband, Bruce Stratton, and their two daughters travelled to Britain to meet Rowling. But even before that, the author had quietly commemorated the reader she never met. On page 159 of Goblet of Fire, the famous sorting hat of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sends first-year student Natalie McDonald — the only real person named in any of Rowling’s novels — to Harry’s own Gryffindor house.
I can think of no better reason to name a character. Thanks, Jo, for all the little things you’ve done, along with the big ones.
Something You May Not Have Noticed
One reason I’ve always found Slytherin house interesting is because virtually all the information we get about the house is through extremely biased sources. The books are predominantly written from Harry’s perspective, of course, and Dumbledore and Hagrid were both Gryffindors themselves. The Sorting Hat also tends not to portray Slytherin in a very flattering light – but we already know that Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor had a huge falling-out, and here the Sorting Hat confesses it was once Gryffindor’s own hat. Slytherin house and its founder have had their problems, to be sure, but it also wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to feel they’ve been unfairly portrayed.
Life at Hogwarts
In light of her newfound knowledge that the Hogwarts kitchen is staffed by house-elves, Hermione might want to consider some of the other things around Hogwarts that she’s always taken for granted. For instance, she once grabbed a set of spare robes out of “the laundry” – but who is it that’s most likely doing the laundry? And how did the students’ trunks get from the train up to the proper rooms? Now that I think of it, between the overlarge feast and the hundreds of sets of belongings that must be brought to the castle while the feast goes on (not to mention placing warming pans in all the beds), the night students arrive is a very busy one indeed for the house-elves.
The students’ knowledge of the Triwizard Tournament seems spotty, at best. Fred Weasley knows enough about it to exclaim loudly as soon as he hears the phrase, but not enough to know how the champions are chosen (even though this seems to be a fairly major part of the event’s history). And Hermione doesn’t even seem to have heard of the tournament, or at least know that people have died in it in the past – and wouldn’t she have come across something about it while reading Hogwarts, a History?
The Final Word
“I have been known to write on all sorts of weird things when I didn’t have a notepad with me. The names of the Hogwarts Houses were created on the back of an aeroplane sick bag. Yes, it was empty.”–J.K. Rowling, Spring 1999