|By: John Ankerberg; ©1999|
|Poor Harry. He’s back home at the Dursleys for the school holiday. The Dursleys don’t like Hedwig, Harry’s owl; the Dursleys don’t like magic—even the word; the Dursleys don’t like Harry’s school things—his wand, robes, cauldron, books, broomstick, have all been locked in the closet under the stairs for the summer; the Dursleys don’t like Harry.|
At least Harry does have a bedroom now, although Dudley is not happy at having to give up his extra room. But when company comes (on Harry’s birthday, no less) Harry is expected to "be in my room, making no noise and pretending I’m not there." (p. 6)
The only problem is that when Harry goes to his room, it’s already occupied by a house-elf named Dobby. Dobby warns Harry that he must not go back to school, because if he does "he will be in mortal danger…. There is a plot… to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year." (p. 16)
In the process of issuing the warning Dobby makes so much noise that he gets Harry in even more trouble. But, not to worry. His friend Ron comes to the rescue in a flying car!
Well, of course, Harry goes back to school. After all, the alternative—staying at the Dursleys—is far less appealing than being in mortal danger!
In the process he:
In Herbology class Harry learns about mandrakes.
We learn later in the book that these babies, once they’ve grown up, are cut up and stewed to make the potion. (p. 234) And lest you think that mandrakes should not be too closely associated with humans, consider these quotes:
Can you think of a good reason children would not see these as humans who are being cut up and stewed?
We learn that some wizards (obviously the Slytherins, who practice dark magick) feel very strongly that only "pure-blood" wizards should be allowed to learn and practice witchcraft. Hermione, whose parent’s are Muggles (non-magical), is called a "Mudblood" by one of the students: "It’s a disgusting thing to call someone," said Ron, "…Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It’s ridiculous. Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway." (p. 116)
Harry starts hearing voices no one else can hear: "Come…come to me…. Let me rip you…. Let me tear you…. Let me kill you…." (p. 120)
Then on Halloween, strange things start happening at the school. Harry hears the voice again:"…rip…tear…kill….soo hungry…for so long… kill…time to kill…"(p. 137), and finds a message written on the wall: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE. (p. 138) The caretaker’s cat, Mrs. Norris, is found dead nearby. Hagrid’s roosters start disappearing or showing up dead, and several students are found petrified—alive but "stiff and frozen."
Professor Binns, the dead History of Magic teacher, explains the legend of the Chamber of Secrets:
It seems that the Chamber has been opened, but who is the heir? Harry thinks it must be Draco Malfoy, a fellow student, and he, Ron and Hermione decide to investigate. Hermione tells them about a potion that will allow them to turn into someone else—the Polyjuice Potion.
The three collect (steal) the ingredients for the potion, brew it up, and in a scene reminiscent of demonic possession, they drink it:
Remember, all this is happening to a twelve-year-old boy!
Unfortunately for Hermione, the potion she drank contained a cat hair, and she turns into a cat-person! But, not to worry, Madam Pomfrey will fix her with a potion! Oh, and did we mention that Harry at one point loses all the bones in his arm when a teacher’s charm goes wrong? But Madam Pomfrey just gives him some Skele-Gro potion, and all 33 bones grew back overnight. Aren’t potions great?
Harry also discovers another skill—one that is usually only practiced by dark wizards. He can talk to snakes. (pp. 194-195) This convinces some of the students that he is the heir of Slytherin:
Then Harry discovers a diary. Only it has nothing written in it. Ron tries to warn him that it might be dangerous (p. 230), but he can’t leave it alone. Then one day he spills some ink on it by accident. The ink disappears, and its secret is revealed. When Harry drops ink onto a page on purpose, the ink soaks into the paper, then reappears as words from the owner of the diary!
He discovers that the diary belonged to a 16-year-old boy named Tom Riddle who had attended Hogwarts 50 years before. The diary acts as a divination tool through which Tom feeds Harry his version of events that took place when Tom was at school. We learn later that some of the information is false, and some has been slanted to give a false impression—a not uncommon result for those who dabble in divination!
Well, Harry finally learns that the horrid creature in the secret chamber is a Basilisk, a mythological snake that grows to gigantic size and kills its victims by meeting their gaze. He realizes that the voice he has been hearing is the Basilisk’s voice. He has heard it when others didn’t because he can speak snake language—Parseltongue.
Then Ron’s sister, Ginny, who has been acting oddly, suddenly disappears and a new message is written on the wall: "Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever." Ginny has been taken into the Chamber of Secrets. It’s up to Harry and Ron to try to rescue her.
Harry discovers the door to the Chamber of Secrets—in a girl’s bathroom. He opens it by speaking Parseltongue, and enters the Chamber. There he finds Ginny, unconscious, but alive, and he also finds Tom Riddle—the owner of the diary.
It turns out that Tom Riddle is the evil Lord Voldemort! He has possessed Ginny through the diary—which was slipped into one of her books at the beginning of the year—and has been using her to do his dirty work:
We learn that Voldemort has been feeding and gaining strength on a diet of Ginny’s emotions:
Now Voldemort plans to call up the Basilisk and get rid of Harry.
But wait! Here comes the cavalry: a phoenix and a Sorting Hat! How are those going to help? And don’t forget Harry’s most powerful weapon: his mother’s sacrificial death: "So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that’s a powerful counter-charm. I can see it now…." (p. 317)
Well, of course we know that Harry prevails with the help of his charmed companions. The phoenix pecks out the Basilisk’s eyes so it can’t look at Harry, the Sorting Hat magically produces a sword that Harry uses to kill the Basilisk—but there’s still Voldemort to deal with:
Oh, don’t worry. He’s not gone for good—after all, there are still five more books in the series! But for now, Ginny is un-possessed, Hagrid is cleared of suspicion, Dobby (the house-elf) is free of his harsh master, the mandrakes have been cut up and stewed so the petrified students can come back to normal, Harry’s a hero, and we find out that "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (p. 333)
Isn’t the magickal world so much better and more fun than the real world?
In this book Harry practices divination/sorcery (p. 240-41); engages in witchcraft (p. 186); casts spells, (p. 192); acts as a medium (p. 240) and consults the dead (p. 123). Each of these is a practice God has condemned. See the companion articleGod’s Warning About Witchcraft: Definition of Terms from Deuteronomy 18.