Book Group Thing has started back up, and with
it, a stream of winding discourse on more diverse topics than our ostensible subject, Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy. A tangent on book-thievery and book-reclaiming prompted me to bring up Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis, which is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Latin.
“How did the translator render the spells?” wondered my fellow bibliophiles. “Some of them are already in Latin, yeah? How do they get set apart as spells?”
“Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much to the characters, does it?” said I. “Instead of thinking of the spell as Nox, they just say, Night! Or [instead of Expecto Patronum,] I EXPECT A GUARDIAN!”
Which prompted a bit more laughter than I expected, and more thought on the Patronus Charm than is typical. Not everyone reading is a Potterite, so here’s a brief description: a Patronus is a sort of offensive shield, a silvery animal-shaped guardian which is the corporeal form of a happy memory or thought. It launches itself at both Dementors and Lethifolds, holding them at bay if not driving them off.
There are several occasions where Harry or other characters conjure a Patronus; the spell’s use becomes ever more frequent in the later books, as war descends and Dementors appear more and more often. I wanted to focus on three particular occasions of Patronus charm use:
- In the maze Harry goes through to reach the Goblet of Fire, he meets a Dementor-shaped Boggart. Driving it away isn’t quite the same as driving away a real Dementor, but the mechanism is the same: he concentrates on getting out of the maze and celebrating with Ron and Hermione, something that hasn’t happened, but which he hopes for.
- During battle in Deathly Hallows, Harry attempts to conjure a Patronus but cannot summon up any happy thought whatsoever. Luna prompts him with “We’re all still here; we’re still fighting.” It costs him more effort to conjure than it ever has before, as the situation is so grim, but Harry’s Patronus still bursts forth to stand guard.
- Harry uses one to drive away a lot of Dementors near the end of Prisoner of Azkaban. In his words, “I knew I could do it this time, because I’d already done it – does that make sense?” In this event, he focuses not on a happy memory, nor a positive thought, but on his certainty that the Patronus will save him because it already has in his other-time’s experience.
Dementors as Rowling wrote them aren’t a foe we ever meet with; that said, it is Monday again, and we have our own battles to fight, be they e’er so humble. Where a happy memory may not get us through, our hopes may; perseverance may; or faith may, the assurance about what we do not see.
There are occasions, even in the Muggle world, when our happiness is drained away, when we feel as though we will never be happy again. What happy memory or hope is your guardian against Dementor-like feelings?