The Forbidden Forest
chapter fifteen of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Life gets tougher for Harry as McGonagall gives him and Hermione detentions, and he then overhears Quirrell giving in to a threat. Detention in the Forbidden Forest only makes things more interesting, as Harry finds a dead unicorn and is nearly attacked by the creature drinking its blood, but is saved by the centaur Firenze. Finally, back in his dorm, Harry unexpectedly finds his Invisibility Cloak again with a note: “Just in case.”
Poor, blundering Neville – Harry knew what it must have cost him to try and find them in the dark, to warn them.
(by Michael Greenholt)
Quirrell came hurrying out of the classroom straightening his turban…. [Harry]‘d have gambled twelve Philosopher’s Stones that Snape had just left the room.
(by Tealin Raintree)
The moon was bright, but clouds scudding across it kept throwing them into darkness. Ahead, Harry could see the lighted windows of Hagrid’s hut….
“Mars is bright tonight.”
Half blinded, he staggered backward. He heard hooves behind him, galloping, and something jumped clean over Harry, charging at the figure.
(by Keith James)
“The forest is not safe at this time – especially for you.”
“I set myself against what is lurking in this forest, Bane, yes, with humans alongside me if I must.”
about the chapter
This. chapter. is. CRAZY. What on earth are the adults playing at? Something in the forest is killing unicorns; regardless of whether the professors know what it is, it’s obviously going to be dangerous for a group of eleven-year-olds… protected only by a dopey dog… at MIDNIGHT. It just doesn’t make sense, and we’ll never see another detention like this one, either. So somebody made a conscious choice to send these kids into the forest. Why? And then, Harry gets his Invisibility Cloak back with a note that looks like it’s from Dumbledore (in the American versions of the books, Dumbledore’s handwriting has a unique font, which this note matches). What’s really going on?
There will be more clues in the coming chapters and books, and I’m realizing I’m going to have to write a full essay about Dumbledore’s position in this book after I finish my postings from it, just to work out my thoughts. But on the most basic level, I think it’s fairly certain the adults took some steps to ensure the students’ safety in the forest. Hagrid was with two of them, and brought his crossbow. And Firenze was almost certainly enlisted to follow the other group and protect them if they ran into trouble. As far as why they were sent in the first place? Let’s get through the next two chapters, and then I’ll post my thoughts.
Something You May Not Have Noticed
When McGonagall is chastising Harry, Hermione, and Neville for being out of bed, she mentions that it’s dangerous to walk around the castle at night – “especially these days.” What is it about these days that makes it dangerous? Not an external threat – we’ve already seen that security is minimal. It’s doubtful she’s talking about Fluffy, either, who is safely locked into a room. The only real possibility that remains, then, is the threat to the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry doesn’t notice this, because he’ll continue thinking the teachers don’t realize it’s being threatened. But this is a pretty solid clue that they have at least some idea that something’s going on.
The Wizarding World
The planet the centaurs are watching, Mars, is “the red planet,” named for the Roman god of war. This fits right in with Harry’s concern that Voldemort is the one drinking the unicorn blood, and trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone, but what’s particularly interesting is their repeated phrase, “Mars is bright tonight.” What is it about tonight that would place particular emphasis on war?
Life at Hogwarts
The first time I read this book, it was at about this point that the points system really started driving me crazy. Talking back to a teacher? Minus one point. Knocking out a troll? Plus TEN points. Out of bed after hours? Minus One hundred and fifty points. Unless there’s some pretty serious inflation going on, it seems pretty random and arbitrary. It also seems that McGonagall and Snape might be the reason, far more than anything students have done, that Slytherin has won the house cup so many years running. They both favor Slytherin – Snape because he loathes Gryffindors, and McGonagall because she seems to take off the most points when she’s disappointed in her own students.
The Boy Who Lived
Again my expectations are a bit high for an eleven-year-old boy, but I wish Harry would have talked to Neville when they were both lying awake all night. It seems to me that Neville’s crying wasn’t just from losing fifty points, which is all that occurred to Harry. Instead I think McGonagall’s assumption that Harry fed Malfoy a fake story – and that he “think[s] it’s funny” that Neville believed it – probably pierced Neville deeper than either she or Harry knows. Neville isn’t the most popular kid, and Harry and Hermione are probably the closest things to friends he has; at that age, no matter how true it is, that kind of thing is hard to hear.
Something to Remember
Here’s a fun sentence from the chapter: “In one night, they’d ruined any chance Gryffindor had had for the House Cup…. How could they ever make up for this?”