In the fourteenth chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hagrid shares in a secret of his: he’s going to try to raise a dragon. When this is easier said than done, Harry and Hermione decide to assist Hagrid in getting rid of Norbert. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to re-read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: NORBERT THE NORWEGIAN RIDGEBACK
I think all of us have a collection of side characters (or even main characters) who we’d like to see more of, and I think that’s largely a testament to how real they all feel. Admittedly, sometimes it’s because Rowling never really gives them as much time as we think we want or they deserve. (Ginny got shafted GIVE ME A GINNY BOOK. That’s what I’m sticking to.) And while that’s certainly the case for most of us who are fans of this series, I really enjoy that Rowling does give us time with so many different characters. Chapter fourteen is largely the part of the story that belongs to Hagrid. We begin to see how his obsession with magical creatures and species goes just beyond fascination. He almost feels a kinship with them, even if that kinship is one-sided. Does he do it because he’s lonely? I imagine that life as the gamekeeper at Hogwarts, restricted from using magic, isn’t exactly the most accepting life. We see later how the regular bullies despise Hagrid, but even those who normally aren’t raging fuckfaces turn against him and his manner of thought.
I’m glad, then, that Harry, Ron, and Hermione grow so close to him. Here in chapter fourteen, maybe their motives are more for their own desire to know about the Sorcerer’s Stone, at least initially. But at the same time, I can’t ignore the way they show Hagrid that they care and are concerned for him. They’re first drawn to him after a particularly frustrating bout of studying for first-year exams. (God, I made study schedules, y’all. I AM HERMIONE GRANGER. I seriously am!!!!) Hagrid, being absolutely awful at the concept of “inconspicuous,” wanders into the library, and Ron figures out he’s looking for books about dragons. This sort of makes me want to re-write a Sherlock Holmes story with Hagrid as Holmes because he would be shit at it, and it would be so glorious.
It really doesn’t get much more magical than dragons, and I love how much they play into this series. They’re here, providing the situational set-up for this books endgame; they’re deeply important to the plot of Goblet of Fire; and the dragon scene in Gringotts in Deathly Hallows is one of the most tense moments in all seven books. Like most of what’s found in these books, Rowling is very matter-of-fact about it. Dragons just exist. They’re here. Ron’s brother raises them and studies them. And you can hatch their eggs by putting them over a fire. Even further, she gives us small details about them, such as the fact that they differ by geographical location, or that the Ministry of Magic works to keep their existence a secret.
So the trio go to visit Hagrid to get more information out of him, and I like that Hagrid finally just gives up. I mean, not only are these kids persistent as hell, but I think he knows it’s pointless to try to keep much from them. Unsurprisingly, they all flip out when they find out that Snape was one of the professors who helped place a spell to protect the Sorcerer’s Stone. DUN DUN DUN, the plot thickens. But their attention is lost because HOLY SHIT A DRAGON EGG WHAT THE FUCK.
“Where did you get it, Hagrid?” said Ron, crouching over the fire to get a closer look at the egg.
I’m pretty sure Viserys gave it to him THIS IS WHERE HE TRIED TO SELL DANY’S EGGS. Ok, kidding. Let’s instead enjoy the constant state of oblivion that Rubeus Hagrid lives in. It truly is a beautiful thing to behold: A grown man, obsessing over a dragon egg, unaware (or just uncaring) that his house is made out of wood, caring for the egg until it hatches, calling himself it’s “mommy.” Sure, maybe Hagrid lacks any sense of tact or practicality, but I don’t care. It’s beautiful. His pure heart is beautiful. More than anything, that’s what I take away from the character of Hagrid: he may be foolish and stubborn, but his heart is full of so much love and wonder. And perhaps that’s what I saw in him in chapter four that caused me to adore him so much. He’s been through so much, faced so much possible discrimination for being part-giant, and been left out of large parts of the wizarding world for what happened in the past. Yet it still doesn’t distinguish his vibrant outlook on life, and I really love that about him.
That’s what makes the plan to give up Norbert so depressing. Hagrid has Fang, sure, but there’s something about getting to raise Norbert that’s touching to me. Does Hagrid want children? Does he want to have the experience of raising a kid? Sure, I’m probably reading too much into this, but why would Hagrid become attached to the idea and then the dragon itself in such a short span of time? This means so much more to Hagrid than it being a banned mythology creature. He’s certainly not doing it just to be edgy. He wants this, and when Harry and Hermione come to take it away from him, it’s too much for him to handle. I mean, seriously: he packs a teddy bear in Norbert’s crate. IT’S SIMPLY TOO MUCH FOR ME TO HANDLE.
Simultaneously with this, we learn more about how Malfoy is a fucking asshole. Thankfully, he gets more complex as the series progresses. Because sweet christ he is unbearable in these early books. Spying on Hagrid? Teasing Ron about his dragon bite? Stealing books and then trying to set up Hermione and Harry to get in trouble? I still remember how victorious I felt when his plan backfired and McGonagall got him in trouble for being out in the castle. I consider that sweet, sweet victory, especially since the vast majority of my bullies never faced any negative repercussions for their actions. I SHALL VICARIOUS LIVE THROUGH YOUR NOVELS, J.K. ROWLING.
At the same time, I also like that we, the readers, have this moment of exhilaration, and then Rowling reminds us that Hermione and Harry also broke the rules as well. I know that the trio sort of get special treatment later in the series, and quite often at that, but I like that there’s still a sense of responsibility. They took a risk coming up to the tallest tower, and now they’re paying for it. OMG THE INVISIBILITY CLOAK. I FORGOT WHAT HAPPENS TO IT. Oh, this is just so fun to read again.