MuggleCast 630 Transcript
Transcript for MuggleCast Episode #630, Nagini the Narc (GOF Chapter 1, The Riddle House)
Dumbledore: I’ll be going now, Harry.
Harry: Professor, is this all real? Or is it just happening inside my head?
Dumbledore: Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why should that mean that it’s not real?
[Show music plays]
Andrew Sims: Welcome to MuggleCast, your weekly ride into the wizarding world fandom. I’m Andrew.
Eric Scull: I’m Eric.
Micah Tannenbaum: I’m Micah.
Laura Tee: And I’m Laura.
Andrew: And this week we’ll begin Goblet of Fire Chapter by Chapter, and to help us kick off the fourth book in the Harry Potter series, we’re joined by one of our Slug Club patrons this week, Summer. Hi, Summer.
Summer: Hello, thanks for having me.
Andrew: Welcome to the show. We’re excited to have you, and thanks for your support on Patreon. Let’s get your fandom ID.
Summer: Sure, so my favorite book… I’m bad at choosing. Favorite book is Prisoner of Azkaban or Deathly Hallows, favorite movie is Prisoner of Azkaban or Deathly Hallows – Part 1. My Hogwarts House is Gryffindor. My Patronus, I recently found out, is a grey squirrel. And my favorite character is – you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I might be the first person on MuggleCast, and it’s a very unpopular opinion overall – Harry Potter is indeed my favorite character in the Harry Potter series.
Andrew: Aww. That’s sweet.
Summer: I love him. Thank you. I love him. And Sirius Black is a close second. But he grows up in the horrible house that is the Dursleys’, and it really doesn’t turn him into a terrible character at all. If anything, he has a Horcrux living in him, and he’s still a good character at heart. And I think he’s very funny in the books and in the movies, but even funnier on the books. And my favorite first chapter in Harry Potter… this is a great question. I chose “Dudley Demented” from Order of the Phoenix, with “The Other Minister” as a close second. I know everyone loves that. But I love that Order of the Phoenix opening, getting another peek into Harry’s depressing world.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: “Another peak into Harry’s depressing world.” And fun fact about you, you also worked at the Harry Potter Store in New York, right? Their flagship store.
Summer: I did.
Andrew: What was that experience like?
Summer: It was so fun; I worked there this past summer. I was actually at the butterbeer bar, and I absolutely loved it. I will say that I like the butterbeer ice cream a whole lot more than the normal butterbeer, and I ate a cup of it every shift, and I was known for that.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Summer: I would see how long I could go without eating some because food service is hard work, especially when it’s busy every single day. So I loved it, and I got 30% off at the store, so that was another great part. And it was so fun. When the shifts would get long or I’d get tired, I would just stand there, and they play the soundtrack in the background, and then that would center me. And I’d love standing there listening to the music, even though it did get a little loud sometimes. But it was a lot of fun.
Laura: That’s so cool.
Summer: Yeah, and I was surprised by how many people who work there weren’t actually fans, and I was slightly disappointed because they’d be like, “Oh, you actually like Harry Potter?” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s why I applied here.”
Andrew: “I listen to a Harry Potter podcast.”
Summer: Yeah, I was like, “You don’t listen to MuggleCast?”
[Andrew and Summer laugh]
Eric: Listen, you need to hijack the speakers and start playing our episodes.
Summer: Oh, I know it. I might have tried.
Micah: I was going to ask, did you convert anybody to a Potter fan?
Summer: I think I tried, but they were… I tried.
Eric: It’s an uphill struggle. Harry Potter is actually over, Micah, nobody cares about it anymore.
Micah: That’s fair.
Andrew: Well, I was going to say, it’s hard in New York. You’ve got to get a job wherever you can, so people are out there being like…
Eric: Okay, that’s fair. That makes sense.
Andrew: “I’m applying at the Sbarro. I’m applying at the Harry Potter Store. I’m applying at the Duane Reade.”
Summer: And the pay was good. My one coworker, who wasn’t as big a fan as me, was also named Andrew, so shout-out to him.
Andrew: Oh, really? Okay.
Summer: And also Slytherin, so shout-out.
Laura: Are you telling us that Andrew worked undercover at the Harry Potter Store?
[Micah and Summer laugh]
Andrew: I was trying to hijack the sound system to play MuggleCast.
Eric: What, Sbarro wouldn’t hire you?
Andrew: [laughs] Well, thanks for sharing that, and welcome to the show. We’re excited to have you and get all your feedback today.
Summer: Thank you.
Andrew: So we have a couple of brand new announcements before we continue. First of all, Micah, I think a lot of listeners will be excited about this.
Micah: Yeah, Quizzitch Live returns later on in October. We’re really excited to bring this back. This was something we had a lot of fun with, particularly during the pandemic, but it’s something that we’re going to keep on doing as long as we can come up with trivia questions, and there are plenty of them out there. So we will be doing Quizzitch on October 28, more details to follow, and then we’re planning on releasing this as a full episode on Halloween. So this Quizzitch Live will have a Halloween feel to it of sorts; we’ll have questions about wizarding world candy, as well as James and Lily, given everything that went down on Halloween all those years ago, but the main focus of it is an OWLs edition, so study up on your Charms, your Potions, your Transfiguration, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. And huge shout-out to listener Nicole H., who provided these questions. Saved me a lot of work, to be quite honest, so we really appreciate her sending these in. She’s been a longtime listener of the show.
Andrew: Yeah, and so we know listeners really like these live Harry Potter trivia games that we put together. Everybody will be able to participate, so stay tuned for more details. But again, like Micah mentioned, this will be occurring on October 28. It is free to play, and there will be prizes.
Micah: Oh yeah, there will.
Micah: Andrew gave me full reign of the budget to be able to go and get prizes.
Andrew: I don’t remember talking about that, but all right, maybe Summer gave me too much butterbeer.
Micah: I was just going to go with full-size candy bars like you do for Halloween.
Andrew: Yeah, that is true. Thank you, Costco and your discounts.
Eric: And one thing about the Quizzitch is if you do miss the live stream, you can play at home later because that will be released on Halloween as the episode.
Micah: But no prizes if you play later.
Eric: Oh, yes, fewer prizes. If you want the prizes, the big, big prizes that we have plans for…
Micah: The prize is playing, really, at the end of the day.
Eric: The prize is the friends that we made along the way.
Andrew: So stay tuned for more details, but clear your calendars now, October 28 for the live Quizzitch. And we also have another cool announcement: So longtime listeners might remember that we used to do transcripts for the show.
Micah: Yes, I did.
Andrew: Micah led the transcripts team, we had a lot of people working on the transcripts for us, they were amazing… And then we got away from it because it was a lot of work. But now times have changed, and there are great transcription tools that automate a lot of the process, and so we’re excited to share that we are getting started again on transcripts, and we’re going to go back into our archive and get all the episodes that we haven’t transcribed, transcribed. And one exciting aspect of this announcement is that Eric’s girlfriend Meg, who is a MuggleCast listener herself, will be doing the transcripts for us. She’s going to be looking through what the bots transcribe and making sure everything’s up to snuff because they’re not good with Harry Potter words.
Summer: I was going to say, they might have some struggles with that.
Eric: “MuggleCast” comes out differently every time we say it. It’s very fun to see. [laughs] But yeah, the coolest thing about it is all the recent episodes of MuggleCast will have transcripts first, so it’s another new way to listen to or experience, let’s say, the latest episodes. They’ll be up usually within a week of the episode coming out. So yeah, it’s a fascinating thing. Transcripts are great. They also work much better in things with screen readers and other additional… it’s just great to have transcripts, and it’s a really great way for the archive to archive all the amazing things we’ve said and done over the years on this show.
Micah: We are now fully accountable for everything we say.
Eric: Yeah, unfortunately, that’s the one downside..
Andrew: It’s important for accessibility, as Eric was getting at. And Meg is just, as I said to you, Eric, the perfect person for this because she knows the show. She knows us. She knows Harry Potter, unlike the bots, so…
Eric: The craziest thing is that she’s going to be transcribing our complimenting her in like a week’s time.
Eric: It’s the weirdest thing. So the more we say nice, she’s going to blush, it’s going to be a thing… but yes, we’re very excited to bring Meg on. The reason that we can do this is because of support of listeners like Summer on Patreon. We can fund this kind of work, which is a lot of work. It’s hours and hours of work. The bots help, but they can only do so much, so we’re very grateful to all of our listeners. And hopefully, people use these transcripts. And my favorite thing to do, really, with transcripts is to Google if I’m like, “What’s that episode where we first said ‘Peace and love,’ and what were we talking about?”
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Eric: In five years, I’ll have the answer when all the transcripts are complete. Because I forget the origin of that phrase, for instance, but it helps you figure out where it all came from.
Micah: I will just shout out Meg, though, because it is a thankless, tedious job at times, so huge kudos to her in advance of taking on this project.
Summer: Thank you, Meg.
Laura: Yeah, she’s amazing.
Andrew: And speaking of Ringo Starr, Eric, you saw Ringo Starr the other day?
Eric: I saw, I got this T-shirt.
Andrew: He’s wearing a “Peace and love” shirt. Oh my gosh.
Eric: Peace and love, everybody, yeah! I’m very excited.
Andrew: Did you yell “Peace and love” at the venue?
Eric: Everyone was yelling “Peace and love” at the venue.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, the shirt… it’s this whole thing now. I think ever since he asked people to stop sending in fan mail to him, because he was getting overwhelmed, that saying… maybe it was before then, and that saying is just iconic. Yeah, he was great. You know what, 83 years old? He can move.
Andrew: Wow. Dang. Good for him.
Eric: Yeah, it was a great concert, his All-Starr band.
Remembering Michael Gambon
Andrew: And on a serious note now, last week we had our Goblet of Fire movie commentary. We actually had recorded that the week prior, as you may have heard at the top of the Goblet of Fire commentary. Michael Gambon passed away a little over a week ago. Of course, he played Albus Dumbledore in movies 3 onward, and we just wanted to take a moment to reflect on his role in Harry Potter. I know we’ve jokingly, maybe some of us more than others, talked about how… there’s always been a debate about who was the better Dumbledore, Richard Harris or Michael Gambon, but I’ve always felt like Michael Gambon was always my favorite Dumbledore. I thought the way he played it was necessary, especially for the later films. I have a hard time picturing Richard Harris playing out the cave scene, for example.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, I’ve said this before, and I think I reiterated it in the commentary, but Movie 6 Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore is flawless in my opinion and one of my favorites. The scene I actually get the most enjoyment out of watching him do is where they go and get Slughorn at the beginning of the movie.
Eric: That is just so fun, seeing Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, and Dan Radcliffe do those things. Everything from the knitting patterns to just… it’s so Dumbledore and it’s so perfect, and so I’m really grateful for him in general. I hope that he rests in peace and his family finds comfort, but yeah, that’s definitely a favorite all-time moment for me for him in films.
Summer: Yeah, going off of that, you just mentioned the cave scene; I actually just rewatched Half-Blood Prince with my boyfriend, and it was almost… I find the cave scene almost hard to watch every time I watch the movies, because Harry forcing him to drink that potion… it’s just awful. It’s awful in the books too. So that part is bad, but then when Harry gets taken under the water by the Inferi… and the whole fire spell scene is just incredible. My mom is a huge Dumbledore fan and a huge Michael Gambon fan, and yeah, Half-Blood Prince is her favorite movie, probably because of Michael Gambon. And also, not just because he passed, but because I feel this way anyway, I will, I think, agree with Andrew in terms of I am a Dumbledore apologist, but I will defend his delivery of the infamous line in Goblet of Fire of “Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire”?
Eric: You can try. You can try defending it. You will fail.
Summer: No, I think… in the books, I understand why he was calm. But in the movie, Dumbledore knows that there’s no way Harry is getting out of this, his name came out of the Goblet of Fire, he is magically bound to participate in the Triwizard Tournament and he is going to be in danger all year because of it, and so he is very stressed and angry at the situation. And I defend how he delivered that line because I think he knows exactly what is going to happen, which is Harry is once again in danger all year.
Eric: So basically, you’re like, “Everyone in this movie is shouting, why not Dumbledore too?”
Summer: [laughs] I mean, like he’s angry on Harry’s behalf that Harry has been drawn into this.
Laura: Well, and here’s what I will say: As Potter fans, no matter how you feel about that line, it is an iconic moment in Potter history. [laughs]
Eric: The shake and scream heard ’round the world.
Andrew: I will say, my favorite was probably the Snape’s memory sequence in Deathly Hallows. I mean, that was amazing. It was just… the info dump there was incredible, of course in the book, but in the movie as well, and I thought Michael Gambon played that really well. So that would be my choice, if not the cave stuff, because I also thought that was very good.
Micah: For me, I think first off, one of the things we have to take into consideration is that Michael Gambon was stepping into a role of a character that quite honestly, outside of the trio, was the biggest role in the series. And that’s obviously with no disrespect to Snape and Alan Rickman’s portrayal, but I think from a character standpoint, Dumbledore was probably the biggest outside of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and so I think it’s tough to come into that in the third film. But I will say, I think he really turned me over time to really appreciate the way that he portrayed Dumbledore, going off a lot of the points that were raised here, and I really loved him in the “King’s Cross” scene in Deathly Hallows – Part 2 with Daniel Radcliffe. I thought his delivery of some of Dumbledore’s most iconic lines was just spot on. And you could tell that he really enjoyed that scene; I think he talked about it being one of his favorite scenes as well. So I think that he became Dumbledore. I don’t know that he started out that way, but I think, at least for me, he became Dumbledore.
Andrew: I think that’s a beautiful assessment. Yeah, I think that’s great.
Laura: I would say a favorite moment that really sticks out to me is the Astronomy Tower at the end of Half-Blood Prince.
Eric: “Severus, please.”
Laura: I know, and I hate it because that’s Dumbledore’s death scene and we’re talking about Michael Gambon dying here, unfortunately. But I thought the way that he portrayed Dumbledore in that moment, talking Draco through what he’s going through and trying to literally get Draco to back away from the ledge and not do this to himself, full on knowing he’s about to die. Right? This is the plan, it has been the plan all along. I thought that he played that perfectly when I read the book initially. The way that they chose to portray this in the movie is almost exactly the way I imagined it when reading the book. And it felt like one of those moments where across the board, not just Gambon but everyone involved with the movie was completely in sync with the text. And his delivery of those lines and his mentoring of Draco, even though he knew he was about to die, was just spot on.
Andrew: Of course, we’re focused on his career with Harry Potter, but he was a legendary actor outside of the Harry Potter films, so rest in peace, Michael Gambon, and thanks for all of your contributions to the Harry Potter films.
Micah: No easy way to switch gears, but I did want to mention that we oftentimes on the show will talk about special editions of the Harry Potter books that have been released, and we’ve talked about MinaLima and the great work that they have done on the Harry Potter series, particularly the Harry Potter films and the Fantastic Beasts films. But they are in the business of releasing illustrated editions of their own of the Harry Potter books, and Prisoner of Azkaban was just released on October 3, so I wanted to just do a brief mention of that. There’s nothing really more to say, but I’m sure you know seeing their take on things is always very cool.
Chapter by Chapter: Goblet of Fire introduction
Andrew: All right, well, now let’s jump one book ahead to Goblet of Fire because we are kicking off Goblet of Fire Chapter by Chapter today. And before we get into Chapter 1, just wanted to look back at the initial publication of the fourth book. It was originally published July 8, 2000 in the US and the UK; this was the first book to be released simultaneously in both countries. There were midnight release parties, obviously, in both countries, but also around the world. This was the first midnight release party that I went to. I posted a photo to the MuggleCast Instagram; I think we’re going to repurpose that into a TBT coming up soon as well. Anybody else attend the midnight book release for this one?
Laura: I didn’t, and I’m so sad that I didn’t.
Andrew: Summer, not you either?
Summer: Uh, brace yourselves: I wasn’t born yet.
Andrew: You weren’t born yet!
Micah: This show is done.
Summer: I got a little bit of a shock looking at the doc and seeing that was the date.
Summer: I was not even a thought in my mom’s brain.
Eric: Oh my God.
Summer: I was born about a year later on July 7, actually.
Andrew: Oh, okay, so almost a year to the day.
Summer: Yeah, which – quick note on that. I always was a little sad that Harry’s birthday wasn’t on July 7. I thought 7/7 would be a great birthday for him. I know it was on the 31st because of the author’s birthday and the end of July and all that, but I was always like, “I feel like he could have had my birthday.” But yeah, I was not at the at the midnight premiere. [laughs]
Andrew: You were very much not. Well, I was and I had a great time as a millennial.
Eric: I don’t think I’m going to recover from this.
Andrew: July 8 was a Saturday, and they purposely picked a Saturday so kids would be off from school. Obviously, it was in the summer too, so that was helpful, but there was also no workday commitments. I think it was probably easier on parents as well to get their kids to a midnight release party if it was happening over the weekend. When was the last time each of us read Goblet of Fire? I think for me it’s been a while.
Laura: It’s been a long time.
Micah: So I was thinking about this, and I can pretty much with confidence say the last time I read Goblet of Fire was the last time we did the Goblet of Fire Chapter by Chapter, which was in 2010, so it has been 13 years since we have read and analyzed Goblet of Fire.
Eric: Hey, that is as long as Voldemort had to wait to kill Harry Potter in this chapter, he says.
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Micah: I might be a little rusty with this one.
Eric: This is the one… I’m so excited for this Chapter by Chapter. I always loved the fourth book; it’s very comparable to 3 for me. I have a lot to thank Goblet of Fire for, but here’s a fun fact about that: I also have something to not thank Goblet of Fire for. It was the first Harry Potter book I ever picked up, and I read just this chapter.
[Laura and Summer laugh]
Eric: I read just this chapter. You know what? This is isolating. This is excluding of any general audience member when you… and we’ll go through this, but I picked it up, I didn’t understand what the heck was going on, and I put the book down. And it was two more years before I was a Harry Potter fan. But yeah, Goblet of Fire. It’s funny because the way I read it, I read this chapter now and it’s a fantastic chapter. It’s really good. But not only is Harry not in it, “Wormtail” is a codename, and it’s all about the villagers of Little Hangleton and Great Hangleton and the gossip in the towns. I was like, “What is this book even about? Where are the boy wizards?”
[Laura and Summer laugh]
Eric: So anyway, it’s funny because I think that the departure… what this book does well is it opens up, is really brave, bold, new, exciting, trying new things, good world building, to everyone else’s point. But yeah, it shook me, and I put the book down for at least another year and a half. And it wasn’t until the first movie ended up coming out that I saw what it was all about.
Chapter by Chapter: Seven-Word Summary
Andrew: Now finally, let’s get to Goblet of Fire Chapter by Chapter, and this is Chapter 1, “The Riddle House,” and we’ll start as always with our Seven-Word Summary. Summer will kick things off. Here we go.
[Seven-Word Summary music plays]
Eric: … decides…
Laura: … to…
Summer: … plan…
Andrew: … a…
Micah: … amazing…
Eric: … murder.
[Seven-Word Summary music ends]
Andrew: All right, off to a good start.
Laura: The most amazing murder, in fact.
Eric: The most amazing murder!
Chapter by Chapter: Main Discussion
Laura: So I am so excited to be kicking off Goblet of Fire. I feel like I’m entering my spooky season era, right? This is my favorite month, we’re starting Chapter by Chapter for my favorite book, I’ve got my MuggleCast beanie on, I’m here, I’ve got my Dunkin’…
Andrew: You are living your best life.
Laura: I am living my best life! This is wonderful.
Andrew: You’re feeling all the peace and love, and spooks.
Laura: [laughs] Andrew is like, “Peace and love, please move on.”
Eric: If we waste 60 more seconds, Andrew will pass out and have a stroke. It’s good, it’s good.
Laura: He’s like, “Shut up.” But really, getting into it, I want to highlight – it’s pretty obvious, we all know this – but this is the first book since Sorcerer’s Stone to open without Harry. And as a matter of fact, Sorcerer’s Stone, Goblet of Fire, and Half-Blood Prince all do this to set the scene.
Andrew: I was wondering how J.K. Rowling’s editors felt about that when they got the manuscript for Goblet of Fire, like, “Oh, whoa, wait a second. This is a Harry Potter series. You’re big, but I don’t know if you’re that big. You’ve got to hook people from the beginning.” Obviously, at this point, Harry Potter was very big, so maybe they felt like, “Okay, we’ll let her do what she wants.” [laughs] But I don’t know. If I was an editor, I think that would give me pause. You can’t open up a children’s series with some grim chapter that doesn’t involve Harry.
Eric: Look, I’m proof. It turns people away. It really did.
Andrew: Thank you.
Eric: And I wanted those… Goblet of Fire was worth 23 points in Accelerated Reader if you read it, and I really wanted those points. I wouldn’t have to read the rest of the quarter. I might be speaking 1980s terms for people here, but I wanted the rest of those points. I wanted to like this book, and I couldn’t get into it because where the hell is Harry?
Summer: Voldemort and Wormtail are both in it, which are both very recognizable names. Well, I guess… I don’t think they say “Voldemort,” but it’s probably pretty obvious.
Eric: “My Lord,” yeah.
Summer: Yeah, okay. Eric, It says 4 on the binding, so I feel like we can’t keep defending that you read it first.
Eric: Now it does! Now it says 4 on the binding! That’s on me. I’m sorry.
Summer: Maybe it made the editors a little more open to it versus when you read the first book and it’s the Dursleys. I remember quickly losing interest, and it took me a couple tries to get through it. But Andrew, that’s a great point that, yeah, it’s supposed to be a children’s series and it is a very grim opening, so it might have turned a few people away.
Andrew: There is a specific mention of Voldemort. There’s a lot of “My Lord,” but there’s a “Lord Voldemort” at least once. I’m just looking right now.
Eric: Yeah, look, there’s something to be said for starting in the middle of the action. That’s good writing. The middle of this murder plot to get Harry is really good writing. I just read the chapter again; I love it. I will say, this is great. It’s one of the better chapters. The character of Frank, reading through it. But yeah, the whole way that it opens… is Harry absent, though? Because he’s kind of dreaming this.
Micah: Right, he’s there.
Laura: Yeah, we learn at the end of the chapter that…
Summer: It was a dream.
Laura: Yeah, he is somehow connected to this.
Eric: Huh. Like, via Horcrux or something.
Laura: And it’s so funny because there are definitely a couple of important Horcrux mentions in this chapter, even though they’re not directly mentioned. We hear about the events that led to two of Voldemort’s Horcruxes being created in this chapter, which is super fascinating.
Eric: Which two?
Micah: We’ll find out.
Laura: They’re in the course of the discussion. They’ll be revealed [laughs] as we talk.
Micah: This might be a bit of a hot take, but thinking back on it, to me, Sorcerer’s Stone almost opens a bit with a Casual Vacancy vibe to it, just the way that the Dursleys are described. And this book opens up totally differently, because to your point, you do get a lot of action. You get a murder in the very first chapter of Goblet of Fire.
Micah: Oh yeah, fair. Three.
[Eric and Micah laugh]
Eric: Justice for Tom’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jerkweed Riddle.
Micah: What I wanted to bring up is I think in past books, we talked about how there’s so much recapping of what happened in the prior book, particularly with Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. And it seems like, at least for the purposes of the first chapter, J.K. Rowling stayed away from that completely. Because I feel like if you are a reader that has been with her through the first three books, you don’t want to get hit with that recap again right away, and I think by the time you get to the fourth book, it’s really something that you shouldn’t need. So sorry, Eric, that you started on the fourth book. [laughs] But it’s just, it gets old.
Laura: Yeah. Well, also, by this point in time, we have to remember Harry Potter was a critical hit. I mean, it was a huge success, even at this point, so that would have given her the freedom to be able to open the book this way. Maybe if it were half as successful as it was or even less, maybe she wouldn’t have had that freedom and she would have had to do the info-dump recap chapter. But she doesn’t have to do it because Harry Potter is so ubiquitous and successful at this point. As a matter of fact, by this point, doesn’t Warner Bros. already have the rights for the first three movies?
Eric: By the time this was published, the movies are filming, I think. That’s also before you were born, Summer.
Summer: [laughs] Don’t keep reminding me.
Laura: Our point of focus from the start of this chapter is the damp, derelict, and unoccupied Riddle House of Little Hangleton. And of course, as anyone who’s read the prior three books, we can immediately tag this as “Okay, this has something to do with Tom Riddle.” So we already know about him. Eric, you had an interesting headcanon, dare I say, about the ownership of the Riddle House?
Eric: One of the things that we get in all of this world-building apart from the history of the mansion, how it went through different owners, is that it is currently owned by someone that does not inhabit it, and the local townsfolk think that this person owns the mansion for tax reasons, because that’s the kind of thing Muggles come up with when they have no explanation for what’s going on here.
Eric: But Frank is also said to be receiving a regular payment to still be the groundskeeper here. And I’m thinking, first of all, who’s the owner? And second of all, is Frank’s payment something that’s managed directly? Who owns the house? Is it Voldemort? If Voldemort has a vested interest, like maybe this was a one day safe house, or if it’s Lucius Malfoy who knew some kind of connection to the house, it ultimately is very interesting. I want to know who it is. And as far as regular payments, you could probably set up a spell to duplicate Muggle money and just deliver it in somebody’s mailbox on a regular… have it appear and reprint. Is Frank Bryce getting paid by an inanimate spell? I’m just thinking about how this all works to keep it going.
Laura: Yeah, it also makes me wonder if Voldemort could’ve Imperiod a Muggle, like found a wealthy Muggle and just cast the Imperius Curse on them to force them to take ownership of this home but never really want to visit it, so they’re financially responsible for maintaining it so it doesn’t get bulldozed or condemned or something like that. And as a result, that person is stuck paying Frank and any other staff who still live on the grounds, but now Voldemort has this safe haven that he can go to any time that he can count on being unoccupied.
Summer: I like that theory a lot. Definitely seems like something Voldemort would do, and that’s really an interesting way to think about it. And I also wonder if Voldemort – even though he doesn’t like his dad or his grandparents at all because they’re Muggles – if he feels like he has a right to the house, because technically he would be the heir to it, even though his dad didn’t know he existed or wouldn’t have actually left him the house, I believe. So almost, he would feel like he had a right to it because it belonged to his predecessors.
Eric: Yeah, as much as he tries to disown his predecessors, it’s like, “Oh, but this is also my house.” We know Voldemort likes to keep trophies, so “My father’s house, I killed him and his parents and took his house.” The thing that gets me about Imperius Curse is: Was Frank himself suffering from some level of commitment? There’s a question in this chapter of why Frank remains at the house, and why would you? If you were in your 20s, your employer and his family got murdered, and the whole town – which is a very small town that likes to talk a lot – suspects you, why would you stay? Why would you stay behind? And the question for me is, it’s talking about the boys that come and throw stones and break windows. The book says, “They knew that old Frank’s devotion to the house and grounds amounted to almost an obsession,” and it also says that “They rode their bikes over lawns that Frank worked so hard to keep smooth.” Listen, you’re fighting a losing battle. Why would Frank still invest this much time in this place that’s kind of a bad situation?
Laura: Well, we’re going to unpack Frank’s character and background a little bit here, and we might be able to unearth some hints about why he might do this. But I want to zoom out and think about the overall legend that seems to follow the Riddle House and exist in Little Hangleton. So just to set the scene for the time and place, because we’re talking about present day, this story taking place in 1994, but the events of this chapter actually cover events that transpired 50 years previously. So 50 years before this, so around 1944, the villagers of Little Hangleton all agree that a maid had entered the drawing room one morning at the Riddle House to find all three Riddles dead. Tom Riddle, Sr., his parents, a.k.a. Voldemort’s dad and his grandparents. They’re described as having their eyes wide open, being cold as ice, still in their dinner things. It’s a very bizarre sequence of murders because there’s seemingly no reason for these people to be dead.
Micah: It was the maid in the drawing room with a…
Laura: [laughs] I know, it’s like Clue.
Eric: Right before the Riddles died, there was a voice saying, “Rosebud!” It’s like such a mystery.
Micah: Sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off.
Laura: No, you’re all good. I also wanted to call out, first Horcrux mention of the chapter: Voldemort’s murder of his father, Thomas Riddle, Sr., is where we get the ring Horcrux. So the ring Horcrux was created with this murder back in the mid-1940s.
Summer: Yeah, I was curious. I’m sure it would have been mentioned if it had been, but was the Dark Mark not cast above the house? Maybe it wasn’t a thing yet. Is that something that Voldemort’s supporters made up? Or I’m like, does Voldemort himself ever cast a Dark Mark? Or is it one of the Death Eaters when they murder someone? But I’m imagining it wasn’t there because I think it would have been mentioned in the book, so I was curious why it wasn’t there, why Voldemort didn’t cast… or maybe that’s below him to do that, and that’s just what the Death Eaters do.
Micah: It’s a good question. I tend to think and agree with what you’re saying, that it just didn’t exist yet. And even if it did, it would probably would be passed off as oh, pollution, regular smog in the town of Little Hangleton.
Andrew: [laughs] Pollution?
Summer: Strangely shaped pollution?
Eric: [laughs] That’s a great point, Muggles are unwilling to believe anything could possibly be magical.
Micah: One of the things that’s really curious about this timeframe, too, is it is going towards the end of the Second World War, and this ties a bit into probably what we’re going to talk about with Frank, but that 1944 time period, the fact that Tom returns to his… well, he’s not returning; he’s invading his father’s and grandparents’ home to murder them. But going back to this whole idea of the house being a trophy, I’m also wondering, is there a curse here of some sort on the Riddle home? Because it’s not just this wealthy person that we hear about. The home has actually been owned by multiple people over time, but it’s said that they don’t stay very long, so it makes me think of those scary horror movies that you see where over time people just move in and out because something keeps them from from staying there. It’s very honestly comparable to what happens with the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, right? People continuously cycle in and out. So I wonder, would this have happened…? I’m trying to think of the timeframe with Tom Riddle, but is this another example of him being able to cast a curse of that sort, this time on on the Riddle House?
Laura: That’s so interesting.
Andrew: And maybe it wasn’t even intentional. It’s just like, once that occurred, it was a curse on the house, or just the vibes were off in the house henceforth. Maybe it had a funky smell to it.
Summer: Bad vibes.
Laura: The vibes were sus?
[Eric and Laura laugh]
Laura: No, I mean, I love it because at the very least, the Riddle House is cursed just by association with what happened, right? So it’s common knowledge that three people were murdered in this house, so you can assume that anyone who moved in there either knew about the murders when they chose to move in, or they found out about them not long after they moved to Little Hangleton.
Eric: That’s a good point.
Summer: Unsolved murders at that.
Eric: Oh, that’s creepy. Yeah.
Laura: So with that, I can imagine that it could carry a curse insofar as people just not being comfortable there. I mean, in real life, people have a hard time moving houses where people have died, right? Usually in most states, at least here in the US, you have to disclose that kind of thing, especially if it was something violent like a murder or like what we’re talking about here, and it can make it really hard to sell that kind of house. So there’s definitely a stigma associated with the Riddle House for sure.
Eric: Maybe the subsequent owners just couldn’t stand the gossipy nature of the small town people.
Eric: These people are unbearable.
Summer: They were above it.
Laura: Well, I’m glad that you bring up the villagers because it is noted that they do not waste their breath pretending to feel sad about the murder of the Riddles. Specifically, they are described as “Elderly Mr. and Mrs. Riddle had been rich, snobbish, and rude, and their grown-up son Tom had been, if anything, worse.” I really love this as a comparison to the Dursleys, if we think about the opening chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone where we get that “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” It’s giving very similar energy. So I love the comparison between the Riddles and the Dursleys as being these upper class, rich, snobbish, worst versions of Muggles you could imagine, and the impact those families have on Harry and Voldemort, who in a lot of ways, are very similar.
Eric: That’s a good connection.
Laura: Yeah, so I just love that because it’s interesting, Harry would never think about going to murder the Dursleys. You have the same family structure, you have the two snobbish parents and their crappy son.
Laura: So the fact that Harry doesn’t do anything overly malicious to them is just another example of Harry making the opposite choices to what Voldemort would do.
Micah: And what’s interesting about that, too, is Harry spends way more time with the Dursleys than Tom does with his family. Tom spends all of maybe an hour. Who knows what was going on in that room? That would be a great adaptation for the TV show; we don’t really get that much insight into it as far as I remember. But Harry is spending years with the Dursleys and turns out better than Tom does.
Andrew: And doesn’t want to kill them. [laughs] The whole time.
Micah: Well, as far as we know. I mean, I’m sure there were a couple thoughts.
Andrew: Tom spends an hour and is like, “I want to murder them.”
Micah: One thing I did want to bring up talking about Tom Riddle, Sr.: We don’t know a whole lot about him, at least at this point, and just the way that he’s described as being even worse than his parents, it raises the question as to why Merope was interested in him to begin with? We know that they’re younger, so was it purely looks based? Or what happened to Tom Riddle, Sr., was that a result of what Merope did to him? Does he become even worse than his parents Bbcause of being under this love potion for such a long period of time?
Laura: I love this.
Micah: Maybe he was the greatest guy in the world when they first met, but he becomes a bit of a you-know-what afterwards.
Summer: Yeah, I did find this description of Tom Riddle, Sr. a little surprising, because in my mind… even though we knew Merope wasn’t genuinely in love with him, in my mind, I saw him as the polite, handsome man who lives near them and Merope is infatuated with him. Maybe she saw him being kind to the neighbors outside and it made her like him and everything, so I was surprised to learn that he wasn’t necessarily a nice person or a polite person. So again, whether or not she was just obsessed with him purely based on looks, I think certainly that comes into it, and they were similar ages. And we know that part of the reason Merope got with Tom Riddle, Sr. was to spite her brother and her dad, the Gaunts, who were very much pure-blood, and because she seemed to be very isolated and had a horrible living situation. So I think any connection to the outside world, like a handsome boy who could distract her while she was living in that horrible house, all led up to her giving the love potion.
Laura: We talk a whole lot about how Voldemort, Tom Riddle, was doomed from the start because there’s just something broken in the soul of a person conceived under the influence of a love potion. I mean, basically Merope roofied Tom Riddle, Sr. into getting her pregnant, right? So if we’re going to say that something happens to impact the soul of a child conceived through these events, what happens to the person who is assaulted? In this case, Tom Riddle, Sr.?
Eric: That’s a great point, and it doesn’t need to be that they really had any kind of relationship. If we’re vilifying Merope for what she did and calling it rape, which it was, then you can kind of just say that this person who descended from a long line of Slytherins – not to malign Slytherins; I promise that’s not where I’m going from this – did the ultimately most Slytherin thing and had the ambition to go after what she wanted. She wanted Tom Riddle Sr. in her bed, and she got him, she reached out, she touched ambition, and so it’s not that they necessarily had a long courtship or that they would have interacted at all. I think he was probably just the stuck-up, snobbish, rich person that two stuck-up, snobbish, rich people have as their child, raised them with their values, a disdain for the local villagers, and that Merope did just think he was cute. She didn’t really have a point of reference, looking at her own family members. And she went for it.
Micah: Laura, going back to what you brought up before, comparing Harry and Tom in these moments, Tom makes the conscious choice to go and really eliminate his bloodline altogether, right? Specifically his father. I don’t know how much he really cares about his grandparents, but I would assume when he went there, the target was his father. And you think about Harry and how much Harry would give just to be able to have family, to have his father, to have his grandparents. It’s two completely opposite ends of the coin.
Eric: Oh, I love that. The other element here about killing all the family, when you said, Micah, just now that maybe just his dad was the target for Voldemort, what surely would have transpired while the Riddle seniors were having dinner is that Voldemort would have come and said, “Dad, why did you abandon my mom?” and the dad would have been like, “I don’t even remember, dude, she was a witch or something, and she coerced me into this crazy thing.” And Voldemort would be so embarrassed, so shocked, so vulnerable, to find out that his mom had hoodwinked a Muggle, that he could leave no survivors. He could not let anyone know how embarrassing and how shameful he must have felt in that moment, and so everyone died. Because he thought this whole time that Tom Riddle just wasn’t a good dad, that he wasn’t there because he had chosen to abandon his kid. He never chose to have the kid, and that’s a twist. And I can’t see Voldemort of any age being emotionally able to really wrestle with what that all means. He would have just killed everyone on site and left.
Laura: I agree with you, but I also think Voldemort went here with the intention of killing them and creating the ring Horcrux.
Summer: Yeah, now I am really curious about whether he confronted his father and they had a whole conversation – I think that would be super interesting to see maybe in the TV show – or if he just marched in there and murdered them. Because at first, I believe he just marched in there and murdered them, but now I’m very curious about whether he took the opportunity to talk to his father, if he would even want to, because we all know what Voldemort thinks about Muggles.
Micah: It makes me think of when they talk about Bellatrix, they say she likes to play with her food beforehand.
Micah: I don’t know the Voldemort is like that. Voldemort is very business.
Eric: No, but he would have had righteous anger. The thing about that is they all had a look of horror on their face, and if somebody walks in and brandishes a wand and says “Avada Kedavra,” you don’t have time to have a look of horror. You’re like, “Who’s this guy? And also what’s…?” A look of surprise, maybe, if he had just… he talked to them. He shouted at them. He said, “I’m going to kill you,” and that’s why they looked shocked when they died. There was an entire convo.
Laura: Do you think he walked in and went, “Hello, Father?”
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Laura: And then Tom Riddle, Sr. was like, “Who are you?”
Eric: He probably looks just like him, to be honest. I bet they knew immediately who Voldemort was.
Laura: It’s a good call. Well, like we see happening in society around major murder cases that are very highly present in the local news cycles or even on social media, if we think about the way things play out today, Little Hangletons in 1944 gathered in the village pub to gossip and spread rumors about this. Very interesting note that the village pub is called the Hanged Man.
Micah: I thought that the pub could easily be a reflection of the topic of discussion, right? Frank Bryce is a hanged man in the court of public opinion, all of these villagers. Maybe they took a little bit of convincing; early on we see that. But once the consensus is out there, Frank did it. And there’s plenty of examples in present-day society that we could point to that are similar to what happens to Frank here.
Eric: Frank has been canceled.
Andrew: Frank’s been canceled, and when enough people repeat something, it becomes true, right? Maybe with a name like the Hanged Man, they all feel encouraged to show up there and gossip about a lot of people all the time, especially when the mead is flowing.
Laura: I get the impression this is the only pub. Little Hangleton sounds like a very small town, and so when I imagine a small town like this, they have a church, they have the town pub, and they have a football pitch, and those are the things that their social culture revolves around. So the Hanged Man is where all of the Little Hangletons go to discuss town affairs.
Andrew: It’s also probably not news to a lot of our listeners that pubs over in the UK and Ireland have very fun names, and I did a little Googling and maybe J.K. Rowling was actually a fan of the Hanged Man’s Pub in Kildare, Ireland. Rated 4.6 out of 5 stars on Google Maps, so people seem to really enjoy it, and it looks like a great little pub.
Eric: This whole small town discourse is giving Broadchurch.
Laura: I know, right? I didn’t think about that. But Eric, you also had a good point about what the name of this pub could refer to.
Eric: For anyone who’s familiar with tarot – that’s been getting more of a shout-out lately as we talk about prophecies, divination, all these other kinds of cool branches of magic – the hanged man tarot card is the twelfth card in the Major Arcana. It depicts a man suspended upside down from a living world tree, bound by his right foot while his left foot remains free. The hanging man is not in distress as evidenced by his serene expression, signifying he has chosen this position willingly. Again, kind of questions why Frank Bryce would stay around. And if you get this card in tarot and it’s not reversed, it means wisdom, circumspection, discernment, trials, sacrifice, intuition, divination, and prophecy. So it’s just a great friggin’ name.
Laura: Yeah, there are so many layers to it.
Andrew: All right. Well, we’ll continue talking about this chapter in a moment. But first, if you’re hiring for your business on your own, you’re as helpless as Voldemort without an adult body.
[Indeed ad break]
Summer: Indeed is where I found my job at the Harry Potter Store.
Laura: Ooh, great endorsement.
Eric: Whoa, tried and tested, y’all!
Summer: I was so surprised because it said the location of the job, and it was like a 10-point font and it was like, “Harry Potter Store, West 23rd Street,” and I was like, “Is this a joke?” But it wasn’t, so…
[Andrew and Summer laugh]
Laura: That’s amazing.
Andrew: That’s good to know.
Laura: Great connection. Well, we spent a lot of time talking about the imagery that is evoked by the name of this pub, the Hanged Man. We get to hear now about Frank becoming the hanged man, and I love this imagery of it being the Little Hangletons in the Hanged Man who are socially hanging Frank. There’s just a lot to it. I love all the imagery and the alliteration there. But the Riddles’ cook did eventually arrive at the pub and announced that the Riddles’ gardener, Frank Bryce, who we spend most of the chapter with, had been arrested for the murders, so this is where we’re going to talk about Frank. We learn that Frank had had a “hard war,” and that he’s also nearing his 77th birthday in 1994, meaning that he was born somewhere around 1917. When you look at the list of various war conflicts that Great Britain was involved in, there are a few of them that Frank could have fought in, but World War II feels like the most obvious choice based on the timing and also based on the fact that we know World War II is a point in time that the author draws a lot of comparisons and allusions from for writing these books. So it’s interesting to imagine Frank fighting in World War II when we know that the Dumbledore/Grindelwald conflict is happening at exactly the same time. Makes me wonder where Frank might have been stationed, what, if any, contact he might have had with the wizarding conflict unknowingly?
Micah: My question with all of this, and this is a larger question every single time that we get to criminal acts, is: Where’s the evidence that Frank is responsible in the first place for this? Did Voldemort/Tom Riddle set him up in some way? We never hear about that. But why was Frank the choice of anybody to blame for these murders? Just because he’s the weird guy living in the shack on the property?
Andrew: Who had access to it, because there is no sign of anybody breaking in.
Eric: Of forced entry.
Andrew: I think one of the townspeople says that.
Micah: But what about the people already in the house?
Andrew: I agree with you, Micah, though, it’s not a good case. It’s not a good argument, but they just have nobody else.
Micah: What about the maid? Or the cook?
Eric: Well, there were no charges. Oh yeah, the maid got in somehow. Frank was not really arrested; he was questioned. And I think it’s just the coolest thing because this chapter really is about, in some ways, the way Muggles deal with magic being in their midst. None of them know magic is a thing. But later, when Frank hears Voldemort speaking Parseltongue, he’s 100% right in his intuition – having never experienced magic before – that that’s what’s happening. It’s happening in front of him. But confronted with the magic of “These people were killed,” a whole team of Muggles, the coroner and stuff from probably Big Hangleton, are unable to come up with anything and they’re looking at these magically killed corpses and can’t possibly discern what happened. Their best guess is the only thing any of these people are going to get to because they’re not magical. They can’t do a spell reversal. Magic always leaves traces. These Muggles can only guess at it.
Laura: And I think a lot of this, in terms of Frank being the hanged man here, comes down to scapegoating. And it’s so interesting to see this playing out in the Muggle world because we see it happen a whole lot in the wizarding world; we just finished reading a book where Sirius Black was the ultimate scapegoat, even though he didn’t do anything wrong. And people give excuses about Frank being already set up for failure here; they say things about him, like “The war turned him funny,” “He always had a nasty look about him,” “I wouldn’t want to get on his wrong side.” So it really doesn’t take much for the villagers to convince themselves that Frank is indeed the culprit.
Micah: But it’s also them finding something to attach to that gives them the reason to be able to put the blame at his feet. And Eric, you mentioned this earlier, this could be this timeframe’s version of cancel culture. That’s essentially what is happening to Frank Bryce, in this moment. It also seems to be a bit of a commentary, however brief it is, on the effects of war, and PTSD, and how society… not to say we’ve come a long way, with respect to this, because I still think there’s a lot in current day that we need to do. But at that time, how conditions of war affected people and how it was perceived by the rest of the community, the rest of society, it’s very easy for them to place blame at the feet of Frank. And we see this in other characters too, right? And actually one in this book in Mad-Eye Moody, who has also gone through the wizarding wars, and has himself lost his leg. And Frank is somebody who complains when he gets up about pain in his leg. Cormoran Strike is another character who went through the Afghan war, who lost his leg, and so I wonder if there’s a through line here in some of these characters that J.K. Rowling wrote.
Eric: It’s very clearly PTSD that he suffers from. He can’t have loud noises, he doesn’t like people very much, and this antisocial behavior, which is the horrors of war, for crying out loud, are given as evidence to say that he did it.
Andrew: This was definitely reminding me of Cormoran Strike as well while I was rereading this chapter. It almost felt like a chapter out of one of those books.
Summer: Yeah, and he’s kept himself quite isolated. His workplace and his home are on the same grounds; he lives in a little cottage on the ground and he tends to the garden. So if he ever does venture out to the town and people aren’t the nicest to him, it gives him all the more reason to just stay isolated, and then it gives all the townspeople more time to gossip and make up stories about him.
Micah: And we see this happen with Harry, too, right after his name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, and then you could probably even extend it a bit into Order of the Phoenix where he is treated in many ways as public enemy number one. And it’s all because of the gossip and the talk that is associated with him becoming a Triwizard champion, and then becoming a target of the Ministry later on in the series. So it’s just a nice kind of connecting the threads of sorts, because I’m not sure what book we’re supposed to connect Goblet of Fire to, since it’s right in the middle.
Andrew: Whichever one you want. It’s a wildcard.
Eric: [laughs] It a wildcard. It’s a free space on the Bingo.
Laura: This is why I love Goblet of Fire, because it’s not connected to any other specific book, it’s connected to all of them because Goblet of Fire is the mantlepiece of the series, right? And all of this setup is so dependent on what comes in Books 1 through 3; we have to have the setup from those books for any of this to make sense. But then Goblet of Fire also provides a lot of the necessary setup for the remaining three books in the series, so it’s just perfection. I will die on that hill.
Summer: Laura, I didn’t realize how much you loved Goblet of Fire.
Laura: I adore this story.
Summer: I feel like it’s not a very common favorite book.
Micah: She has a tattoo. I’m just joking.
Laura: I don’t, but I should probably get one. But while we’re talking about Little Hangleton, let’s talk about Great Hangleton. So it becomes clear that it’s really the police force of Great Hangleton that covers Little Hangleton; I guess they don’t have their own police. Frank is over in neighboring Great Hangleton, insisting that he didn’t do anything, and that the only person he had seen near the Riddles’ house on the day of their deaths had been a dark-haired, pale teenage boy. Dun-dun-dun.
Summer: Wonder who that could be.
Eric: James Potter? Snape?
Laura: Ultimately, as we’ve already established, Frank gets released from police custody because the autopsies of the Riddles confirm that the cause of their death is unexplainable. The only thing that the coroner notes is that they all have looks of terror on their faces, and there’s this great line saying something along the lines of, “Have you ever heard of a person being scared to death?” and that’s the only explanation that anyone can give, and there’s just no real way of proving that Frank could have scared them to death. But it is interesting. You have a good point here, Summer, about the Muggle perspective of the Killing Curse.
Summer: Yeah, I thought it was really interesting to get that perspective because we get a lot of the wizarding side of the Avada Kedavra curse, the big green spell and all of that, so I thought it was very interesting to see the Muggle side where it was, you can’t tell at all what it is. It’s not an inside joke, but it’s definitely you have to be on the inside of being a part of the wizarding world to know what happened here. And I’m curious if there was ever a wizard or someone from the magical community who lived in Great Hangleton, if they would have caught on. I think they would have. But yeah, it was interesting to get the Muggle perspective, and how it was just a great mystery. They couldn’t have said that they were… something that wouldn’t necessarily show on the outside, like they were all poisoned or something, but they couldn’t find that on the inside either.
Laura: And it is interesting, too, because you would think that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement would know…
Summer: Or get summoned.
Laura: … that Avada Kedavra was cast here. I mean, we know from all the letters Harry gets that they know when magic is performed in front of or around Muggles.
Summer: Great point.
Laura: So it raises the question, what was the Ministry involvement here? Or was the Ministry so bogged down by everything going on with the Grindelwald conflict at the time, that they just didn’t have the resources to address any of this and they let it skate on by without really investigating anything? We can fast forward now, after we’ve spent some time in the past, to 1994 where Frank Bryce awakens due to his bad leg, which we’ve already established, and when he goes to make himself some tea, he notices some lights glimmering in the upper windows of the Riddle House, and he has had it with these kids on his lawn!
Andrew: “Get off of my lawn!”
Laura: “You kids get off my lawn!” So he still has the key to get into the Riddle House. He still remembers the layout. He lets himself in, sneaks upstairs, and he pretty quickly finds the source of the light. It’s a lit fireplace in one of the rooms inside of which are two men, and he overhears a conversation between some man that he can’t see with a croaky high-pitched voice and someone named Wormtail.
Andrew: Some baby man.
Laura: [laughs] Baby man. We’re going to start calling Voldemort “Baby man.”
Andrew: Man child, something like that.
Laura: Honestly, at this point in time, at least based on how the movies depict him, he looks like a fetus, like Fetusmort. Very disturbing.
Andrew: Not an attractive episode title. Crossed my mind for a second.
Laura: Please don’t use that.
Andrew: Nobody’s going to hit play on that one.
Micah: I have an option for you coming up.
Laura: So we hear here that Wormtail is feeding Voldemort with a bottle.
Summer: So weird.
Eric: Aww. Does anyone else get a maternal instinct from this? This is really cute.
Laura: Yeah, but Voldemort is talking to Wormtail about how he needs to milk Nagini, and I know that he’s talking about her venom, right?
Micah: I hope so.
Laura: So Voldemort is drinking her venom out of a bottle.
Micah: Right, and so this led me down the road of wondering if Peter Pettigrew is in fact a certified snake milker because this is an actual job. It’s true; these people exist out in the world, and a snake milker is a type of herpetologist, which is basically a type of zoologist, and people who work in this highly specialized area extract venom from snakes and other reptiles which produce venom that could cause illness and death. They’re specially trained in handling these sensitive and protected animals, which often have legal protection. So to become a snake milker, it requires a lot of education. And there’s ultimately two main purposes for the extraction of venom: It’s either used for research, or it’s used to create anti-venom when people get bit by snakes to heal them. So I’m just wondering when Pettigrew learned how to do this. Does he just tell Nagini to roll over?
Micah: And this is our introduction to Nagini, too, right? The first time we’ve ever seen her.
Eric: Yes, and this is the day… well, I don’t want to spoil that.
Micah: Further abuse of her in this matter, actually.
Eric: Depending on Voldemort, what control he has over snakes… talking to snakes is different, but controlling them… he could just make her put up with it and not kill Pettigrew when Pettigrew does it. I can just imagine the sheer terror Pettigrew must feel every time he has to milk her fangs and hold her head down, whatever that is. But Micah, I do want to say thank you, especially on behalf of Meg who loves snakes and animals, to clear that up. This whole thing of “It’s time to milk Nagini,” I didn’t know what that meant for the longest time. The fact that this is a real process with real snakes, it’s a real thing because otherwise, it’s mildly concerning what this means. I don’t know.
Andrew: Was that the episode title you suggesting? “Certified snake milker”? Or is it still coming up?
Micah: I think it works well.
Laura: Well, poor Frank is standing here at the doorway listening to this conversation. It’s clear that this “Wormtail” and this man who is restricted from view at the moment are talking about trying to plan some kind of murder, but they’re talking about waiting until after the Quidditch World Cup and Ministry involvement and using some boy named Harry Potter in order to achieve this plot that the men have in mind.
Summer: Yeah, and real quick, I know you’ve talked about it on the show before, I think in regards to the opening of Half-Blood Prince where Snape is calling Pettigrew “Wormtail,” but why the heck is Voldemort calling Pattigrew by his Marauders name? I always thought that was a little weird. And “Pettigrew” is a perfectly good Death Eater/Voldemort sidekick last name.
Summer: So I think it’s weird that he calls him by the Marauders name because before Pettigrew turned evil, the Marauders name was quite special during his time at Hogwarts, so I found that a little strange.
Eric: That’s a great point, especially because it’s isolating to readers who didn’t read the third book because who the hell is Wormtail? At least Pettigrew is a proper last surname. Maybe Frank Bryce would confuse it with Miss Pettigrew, who is a nice person. I don’t know. It’s possible also that Voldemort calls Wormtail this because he knows that Wormtail is the name that Peter had with his friends who he betrayed, and so this whole through line where Voldemort says to Peter in this chapter, “You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have anywhere else to go, and you’re not loyal, you’re scared and cowardly,” etc., etc. He calls him “Wormtail,” and he’s Wormtail to all the Death Eaters probably as another way of just twisting the screw on Peter’s loyalty, which is worth garbage. So maybe Voldemort calls him that as a further form of torture.
Laura: Yeah, I mean, it could also be that they used that as a codename essentially for, again, back in the 80s, when Peter was acting as a double agent, right? And he probably didn’t want to have Death Eaters openly using the name Peter Pettigrew because of the events at the time. It would potentially compromise his position.
Summer: Good point.
Eric: That’s great.
Laura: It could be that’s why they were using it. But Eric, I want to talk about Peter’s cowardice here. Because obviously, Voldemort’s plan involves Harry, but Peter starts trying to convince him that another wizard could do; they don’t need to use Harry Potter for this. It’s going to be a lot harder to get close to Harry. They could arrive at the conclusion that we get in the summer following this book much sooner if they just went with another wizard. And he says things like, “My Lord, I do not say this out of concern for the boy. The boy is nothing to me.” But is that true?
Eric: No. I mean, two things I think. One, Pettigrew might, on some level, be aware that he owes Harry a life debt. He might on some level. It’s unknown how common the idea of life debts is because Dumbledore in the previous book said, “It’s deep magic,” so who knows who knows the deep magic? But the thing I think is more likely is that Pettigrew is scared of just having to confront Harry again, be in the same space as Harry again, because he escaped the last time that he was with him. Here’s another thought, maybe he’s even more terrified of what Ron would do to him. Because Harry is bound to be next to Ron whenever they go for Harry, and everyone at Hogwarts… Pettigrew just escaped this horrible situation where he was almost… everything. And so he doesn’t want to deal with… of course he’s scared.
Micah: And he would have to confront, presumably, Remus and Sirius again.
Eric: Oh, to get to Harry! Absolutely.
Micah: Right, there’s another layer of protection now that wasn’t there before.
Eric: There’s something there that wasn’t there before.
Laura: And it’s interesting, too, because it makes me wonder, what is Voldemort’s level of awareness about the events that transpired at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban? Because Harry ultimately made the choice not to kill Peter, right? They could have done it; Remus and Sirius were prepared to do it. Harry made the choice not to, and that directly led to Peter being able to escape. Dumbledore has that great line at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban where he says, “I doubt that Voldemort loves the idea of his servant being indebted to Harry Potter,” right? But I wonder at this point, does Voldemort know and is that why Peter is so nervous? Because he’s like, “Oh no, he’s going to find out”?
Micah: Well, we certainly see that Voldemort has, even in this form, a certain level of Legilimency that he’s using. He can sense when Pettigrew is not telling the truth, so I don’t know if he can read his mind completely, but I would assume at this point he doesn’t know about the debt owed to Harry. Maybe he finds out later on, or maybe he never finds out.
Eric: He underestimates the reasons behind how Pettigrew is feeling. So he insults him, he knows he’s weak, He knows his cowardice, but he doesn’t look further. I like to believe Voldemort doesn’t know about the life debt and never finds out because otherwise… here he needs Pettigrew, to survive, and could not get by without him, but by the time Malfoy Manor comes up in Book 7, he would have killed Pettigrew long before if he knew that he still owed Harry one.
Micah: The other thing that really comes across in this whole exchange is you get to see how truly vicious Voldemort is. We’ve seen a lot of the Tom Riddle side of him, which is a little bit more…
Micah: There’s an attractive side there, whereas with Voldemort, he’s just a complete you-know-what to Pettigrew, and Pettigrew is there for it. He could easily just leave him on the chair and go run off into the night, and he chooses to stay.
Laura: Well, and it almost seems for a second like Pettigrew might be trying to massage the process so that he can do exactly that, Micah, because he’s like, “Give me just a couple days, I will go find a suitable wizard and come right back to you,” and Voldemort is like, “Okay, well, you’re the one who’s responsible for milking Nagini. You’re the one who’s responsible for feeding me. If you leave me for two days, I’ll die, so no.”
[Laura and Micah laugh]
Summer: I think Voldemort would send Nagini with him, or if he tried to escape would send Nagini right after him.
Micah: What if he put baby Voldemort in a backpack and just…?
Andrew: Aww, that’d be cute.
Laura: Like if he swaddled him?
Eric: A little Baby Bjorn.
[Laura and Summer laugh]
Laura: Somebody do the AI art of these.
Summer: In a stroller. In a covered stroller.
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Laura: And Micah, you have a great call-out specifically relevant to this moment where Wormtail is reunited with Voldemort about Trelawney’s prophecy.
Micah: Yeah, it’s the prophecy. It’s the prophecy coming true, and to the point of what we were talking about earlier with this first chapter, if you did read Prisoner of Azkaban and you heard the prophecy, you’re getting rewarded right in the first chapter of Goblet of Fire with Wormtail and Voldemort being reunited with each other.
Laura: We also get some pretty heavy-handed hints about the ritual to come at the end of the book. I had forgotten about some of these. So Voldemort says, “I have my reasons for using the boy, as I have already explained to you, and I will use no other.”
Summer: Yeah, so this is referring to the flesh, blood, and bone at the end of this book where Voldemort gets a human body again, and he needs a human’s blood to do that. As far as I’m aware, he could use anyone’s, but he chooses Harry’s because he wants the protection of that and the power of that and just because Voldemort is a little crazy. So are we to believe that he could have had a human body much quicker if he just used anyone else’s blood? He could have had a human body like, today, but he waits a whole year so he could get Harry’s.
Andrew: That was the impression I was getting.
Laura: Yeah, that’s what Pettigrew says.
Eric: Past a certain point, yes. I think that when Pettigrew found him, he was still like dust, basically. But through the combination of Nagini and the milking, he could get one today, but he might not have been able to get one two weeks ago, though.
Summer: No, I agree.
Andrew: He’s crazy and it’s Voldemort’s ego. He’s like, “I will get Harry. I want this you-know-what. He’s mine. We will wait for him.”
Summer: The Boy Who Lived.
Laura: Now this is my other favorite: Voldemort says to Wormtail, “I will allow you to perform an essential task for me, one that many of my followers would give their right hands to perform.”
Andrew: That was way on the nose, way on the nose.
Andrew: I picture Voldemort rolling his little baby body over to the camera and staring right into it. “Just y’all wait.”
Laura: He broke the fourth wall like in an episode of The Office.
Andrew: I want to apologize to Voldemort, too, for just using the phrase “On the nose” right there. I know that’s triggering to you.
Andrew: That was unintentional. My guy, I’m sorry.
Laura: He also says, “I’m not asking you to do it alone. By that time, my faithful servant will have rejoined us.” And at this stage, that term, “My faithful servant,” could refer to a few different people, right, Micah?
Micah: Totally. There was a lot of theorizing back in the day about who this faithful servant was or was going to be, and it could have been anybody from Barty Crouch, Jr., who we’ll meet a little bit later on in this book, Snape very much a popular opinion, and then also Karkaroff, who we learn is a former Death Eater once we meet him a little bit later on in this book as well. So there was a lot of theorizing going on. That was a fun time to be a Harry Potter book fan. But you always had to read between the lines with these types of comments that were made by different characters.
Laura: Or if you take Cursed Child as cannon, Cedric Diggory. [laughs]
Summer: So do we think it is Barty Crouch, Jr.? Is that who he’s referring to?
Laura: I think so. I think so. Well, this is where we get the Bertha Jorkins name drop. We learn that Peter ended up coming across her somehow at an inn they were staying at, which is an interesting series of events given that Bertha was a Ministry employee and she would know that Peter Pettigrew is supposed to be dead. So obviously, from the moment she came across Peter, she was marked. She was already dead. There was no way she was going to survive this. But Voldemort alludes to information that she gave that allowed him to hatch their plan. I think that the information he’s referring to is about the Triwizard Tournament.
Summer: I agree.
Micah: Yep, definitely.
Summer: And that’ll be a great cover-up for getting Harry to the graveyard.
Micah: There’s so many questions, too, for me, that now come into play with Nagini being a Horcrux and her also being milked for the purposes of bringing Voldemort – or at least sustaining him until he’s fully brought back – to life. Because number one, she’s now a Horcrux. And number two, we know from the Fantastic Beasts series that she’s a Maledictus, so she’s cursed in and of herself. There’s a lot I’m sure that we could dive into in terms of how Nagini is being treated by Voldemort, given what we do know about her, but do all those things in terms of the blood and the cursed nature of her blood kind of invigorate Voldemort in a way?
Laura: Yeah, I think so.
Andrew: We mentioned also the Memory Charm, Peter muttering something about that, and I thought that was interesting because it also basically confirms that Wormtail doesn’t know what Voldemort is truly doing. Certainly not what it takes to create a Horcrux, if he’s suggesting something as measly as a Memory Charm. No, we’ve got to do something much greater.
Micah: It also shows he’s kind of stupid, too, because if you just put a Memory Charm on her, presumably there are witches and wizards back at the Ministry who could easily unravel it, and then all of a sudden – and I think Voldemort actually says this – they’re going to know things that they shouldn’t know or that he can’t afford for them to know. So it just shows you, I don’t know, maybe Wormtail is just… in the moment he’s very overwhelmed by everything that’s going on and he can’t think straight, but yeah.
Laura: Yeah, I think the thing is Wormtail is absolutely a baddie, and not in a good way. You can be a baddie in a good way, but he is not a baddie in a good way. He’s a baddie in a very evasive, sneaky way. He doesn’t want to get his own hands dirty, right? So he’s responsible for the Potters’ death, but he didn’t directly kill them, right? And he doesn’t have the stomach to be close to violent activity, it seems. So while he was perfectly happy to hand the Potters over to Voldemort, while he was perfectly happy to hand Bertha Jorkins over to Voldemort, he doesn’t want to have to witness any murder, right? And it is so interesting as we’re talking about the death of Bertha Jorkins, the creation of Nagini as a Horcrux, we know that she is the last Horcrux that he created. So the timing of this is super interesting that Voldemort creates his seventh and final Horcrux somewhere between Book 3 and Book 4. We just don’t know it at this stage as readers. Go ahead, Summer.
Summer: I found that very interesting too. In my mind I was always like, “Oh, they were all created before he came to murder the Potters and baby Harry overpowered him.” So I find that very interesting, too, that he gets a body again and then he wants to make another Horcrux even though he’s already so struggling to survive so much.
Laura: Yeah, no, it’s a great call-out because I had forgotten about the timing of this, too, until I read the chapter and I was like, “Oh my God.” Without even knowing it, we get direct descriptions of the creation of two Horcruxes in this chapter, which which is really, really cool. Well, Frank is not interested in hanging around at this point. He decides for the first time in 50 years, “Okay, maybe I can trust the police with this one thing, so I’m going to make a break for it and go get the police involved.” But before he can do that, Nagini is slithering towards him down the hallway. And I’m calling her Nagini the narc.
Micah: There’s a title.
Eric: That’s an episode title! There we go.
Andrew: We found it.
Laura: Nagini the narc tells Voldemort that Frank is outside the door.
Eric: Wait, is she a narc? Or is she a snake narc a.k.a. snarc?
Laura: I love that. Nagini the snarc. And again, this is another case where it’s similar to Bertha Jorkins. Frank is already dead, right? He doesn’t die for a few more minutes. Voldemort invites him into the room, they converse for a few minutes, but it is so clear that it is effectively lights out for Frank. And I loved the description from Frank’s point of view of Voldemort performing the Killing Curse on him because Voldemort’s current physical state is so horrifying that it receives no description. We just read about Frank being so horrified looking at him that he’s screaming. So Frank is so horrified at the sight of Voldemort that he is screaming, right as Voldemort casts the Killing Curse. Frank of course has no point of reference for the Killing Curse, so he doesn’t even catch what it is before he’s unfortunately dead on the floor.
Micah: Yeah, and it made me wonder: How is this version of Voldemort strong enough, number one, to use a wand, and number two, to cast the Killing Curse? Because we know that it does take a tremendous amount of energy, it does affect you, it rips your soul. So it seems like Voldemort in such a weakened state to be able to do this… he must be pure evil. There’s just no other way around it.
Eric: That was exactly the phrase I was thinking in my head when you were talking. Pure evil. He’s got to be pure evil. Also, I assume it gets easier the more times you do it, which is a sad thought.
Summer: Yeah, maybe it doesn’t take Voldemort as much power as it would take…
Eric: Well, it’s like how Harry with the Patronus is like… sometimes by the end of it, “Expecto Patronum!” and it’s like, immediately this whole thing, but it took him some.
Andrew: Yeah. Another day, another Horcrux. [imitates Voldemort] “Another day, another Horcrux.”
Laura: Well, and Voldemort’s soul is irreparably damaged at this point, right? Because he’s created seven Horcruxes at this point. His soul is just ripped to pieces, so it probably doesn’t cost him much of anything to do this. But I’m very interested in how something like this might be portrayed in the TV show, and I really hope that the first episode of the Goblet of Fire season really focuses on this chapter, because as we talked about with the movie commentary, we didn’t get any of this extra context, which really adds to the mystery of this book.
Micah: I was just going to connect the threads one final time here within the same chapter, actually, because it’s coming full circle, right? Voldemort kills his father and his grandparents in this house, Frank is blamed for it, and then at the end of this chapter, it’s Frank who is killed in the Riddle House in exactly the same way. And exactly the same facial reactions, too, right?
Eric: Oh man, what are the locals going to say about that?
Micah: Is the maid going to find him?
Laura: Yeah, who are they going to blame? [laughs]
Micah: Or do you think Nagini just eats him?
Eric: Yeah, Nagini probably eats him.
Laura: Aww, yeah, probably. Ew.
Eric: “Nagini, dinner.”
Laura: That’s her girl dinner.
Summer: Oh no.
Eric: Way to stay relevant, Laura.
Andrew: With “seemingly ranch.” Swifties will understand that.
Summer: I got the reference, Andrew.
Andrew: Okay, okay.
Laura: So this chapter ends with revisiting the hero of the series, with noting that 200 miles or so away, Harry Potter wakes up with a start, implying that he has witnessed the events of this chapter in his dreams.
Andrew: Hmm, speaking of Horcruxes, it’s almost like there’s a connection here!
Laura: We don’t know it, but this is the third Horcrux that gets mentioned in this chapter.
Andrew: You’re right. Yeah.
Eric: [laughs] Man! The difference between what Harry has dreamt before and what he’s presumably “dreaming” now is that it’s a window into the present. Harry is basically astral projecting. Harry is inhabiting Voldemort. The Horcrux is traveling to connect and touch off of its older… this comes up bigger in Book 5, when Harry is able to witness intimately conversations that Voldemort is having with his Death Eaters. That’s exactly what this is. The difference is Harry is not conscious yet when this happens, but I think Harry’s unconscious mind is having this link. The reason this is happening for the first time is that Voldemort is getting stronger, so Voldemort is more of a person and the brain patterns can relate. It’s basically just this magical special power that Harry has and is just turning on, and it’s extremely exciting. And it’s not touched on the rest of this entire book, but it’s amazing what’s coming. The idea that that happens in the twixt between these first two chapters of Book 4 shows that J.K. Rowling also knew exactly where she was going with this, and it’s heating up. It’s amazing.
Summer: Yeah, I like the connection that you make that it’s probably because Voldemort has a body and so their minds are actually able to connect, whereas in the past, Harry was connected to Voldemort only through his scar and the pains in his scar. So maybe Voldemort in whatever form he was in still had the slight power to trigger Harry’s scar paining, but not give these full visions to him. But now that he’s grown stronger, they get full visions/dreams. Very interesting.
Laura: It is. Well, we’ll pick up with Harry next week when we cover Chapter 2, but I think for now it’s time for us to go ahead and get into MVP of the week.
MVP of the Week
[MVP of the Week music plays]
Andrew: I’m going to give it to Wormtail. Look, he’s super helpful and he’s giving legs to Voldemort’s plan.
Summer: [laughs] Oh my God. I just understood what you meant by that.
[Andrew and Laura laugh]
Laura: I thought a lot about this because I feel like there’s only really one character in this chapter who deserves MVP who’s redeemable, but I think I’m going to have to give it to Voldemort.
Laura: Mainly because he’s a very effective planner. He had a goal. He’s seeing the goal through. You gotta give it to him for the motivation.
Eric: So MVP, in this case, is most Voldy the person of the week.
Andrew: Our friend Tyler, who’s been on the show once or twice, will be very happy with this pick, I think, Laura.
Laura: I know. Thank you. I’ll have Tyler’s endorsement. That’s all I need.
Eric: I’m going to counteract a Slytherin MVP with a Gryffindor one. Frank used his wartime bravery, and if he had gone to Hogwarts, would have been a Gryffindor. The willingness to set aside his police differences, also that trust in the system that intrinsically comes back to him… just love Frank Bryce.
Micah: My MVP goes to Nagini for being milked and providing Voldemort with the sustenance he needs to go on. Because without Nagini, who knows? Voldemort just… poof.
Laura: Nice Slughorn reference.
Summer: I’m going to echo Eric and choose Frank Bryce because he literally confronted Voldemort face to face and he says something like, “Turn around and face me like a man,” which I thought was very brave of him. And he says he goes in to talk to Voldemort because he hears that Voldemort is planning another murder of this Harry Potter boy and he wants to try to stop him. It’s very brave and valiant of him. So Frank Bryce gets two this week.
[MVP of the Week music ends]
Andrew: Next week we will discuss Goblet of Fire Chapter 2, maybe Chapter 3 as well. I’m heading up next week’s discussion. I looked ahead to Chapter 2…
Micah: Are you sure?
Andrew: It looked a little light. We’ll see. So maybe think about reading Chapter 3 as well. We will see later in the week as we really get planning that episode. And now it’s time for Quizzitch!
[Quizzitch music plays]
Eric: Last week’s question: Who found the Riddle family dead? And some people did submit the wrong answers this week, but the correct answer we’re looking for is the maid. Correct answers were submitted by Forrest the 10-year-old who’s back; Frank’s forgotten kettle choo-choo…
Eric: Frank I’ll-mow-your-lawn-anytime Bryce; Peter the snake milker; Moral fiber PSA you need 25 grams every day; Will the real bad Barty please stand up; Elphias Doge’s dodgy leg; I bet if Draco’s carpet matches – oh God – his drapes they’d probably look like Justin Timberlake’s ramen noodle hairdo…
Andrew: What happened to this segment?
Eric: [laughs] What happened to this whole segment? Dobby had a sock, now Dobby has a knife…
Eric: Talia loves bagels…
Summer: Oh my god. I’m crying.
Micah: They’re taking after me clearly. [laughs]
Laura: Man, this is… I told you, this is 50% of why I do this show, is just hearing all these names.
Eric: Oh man. Shout-out to everybody. Somebody submitted as “Hey y’all,” somebody else said, “It’s my birthday today October 7.” Congrats. And “Mom who thinks some fan fiction is canon.” Yeah, that’s me too. And I think some canon is fan fiction, so there we go.
Eric: Here is next week’s Quizzitch question.
[Quizzitch music plays]
Eric: In opposition of his new diet, what did Dudley Dursley throw out the window? Submit your answer to us on the MuggleCast website at MuggleCast.com/Quizzitch.
[Quizzitch music ends]
Micah: It wasn’t Harry.
Eric: He does not throw Harry out the window.
Micah: This is not Game of Thrones.
Eric: Click on “Quizzitch” on the main nav, if you’re on our website checking out the new transcripts that are up there! Last couple episodes are up there. Check them out. There’s a transcripts page. You’ll see it.
Andrew: Transcripts are brought to you by listener support. Your support helps us get those transcripts done. So if you want to support us like Summer does – and get a beanie like she just put on, the MuggleCast beanie, Laura has been supporting it today as well – you can head over to Patreon.com/MuggleCast and support us there for between $2-10 per month, and depending on what tier you pledge at, you get a variety of benefits. The Slug Club level is the $10 level and that’s where you get a new physical gift every year. And by the way, for $5 a month and higher patrons, we will be sending out the Collector’s Club stickers in the next few weeks, I think. I actually just got a notification this morning that the stickers have shipped and are on their way to us, so can’t wait to see those and can’t wait to get them out to everybody. You can also support us on Apple Podcasts for just $2.99 a month. You can receive ad-free and early access to MuggleCast right within the Apple Podcast app. If you’re enjoying MuggleCast and think other Muggles would too, tell a friend about the show, and we would also appreciate if you left us a review in your favorite podcast app. And don’t forget to follow us on social media; our username is @MuggleCast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Threads. Summer, thanks so much for joining us today. You were awesome.
Summer: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you. I had a fantastic time, and so glad I got to start off Goblet of Fire with all of y’all.
Andrew: Yes. Another exciting Chapter by Chapter series is ahead. All right, well, that does it for this week’s episode. Thanks, everybody for listening. I’m Andrew.
Eric: I’m Eric.
Micah: I’m Micah.
Laura: I’m Laura.
Summer: And I’m Summer.
Andrew: Bye, everybody.
Laura: Bye, y’all.