Episode 3: The Chamber of Spoilers

Get ready to level up, Second Years!

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It’s time we stop pretending there won’t be spoilers in this podcast. We’ll do our best to give you ample warning when a spoiler is coming, and we won’t discuss the spoilers at length, so hopefully our listeners reading along with us don’t have the magic ruined for them. But if you are reading along with us—and for the first time—we really want to encourage you to go on and read ahead. xo

17 thoughts on “Episode 3: The Chamber of Spoilers”

  1. I’m not sure that I agree that Hermione’s characterisation is problematic in this book. Hermione is clearly incredible, she solves more tasks than Harry in book one, saves the day alongside Harry in book three etc. In this book she still saves the school despite being petrified via that note in her hand, and her ‘petrification’ was not due to any incompetence on her part but because she was targeted as a muggle born. And yes, although she does accidentally put a cat hair in the polyjuice potion, she still brewed it basically by herself which is said to be incredibly difficult, especially for a 12 year old! She just fell at the final hurdle.

    Her infatuation with Lockhart, though embarrassing at points, is relatable and displays that although she is amazing and fiercely intelligent, she is still a child. A child with scope for development as she matures throughout the series.

    I hope that’s not just an overly sympathetic reading but I enjoyed Hermione in this book because in some ways it’s the first time she’s human (?). I loved your reading of this book being a gothic novel and that you pointed out the cruelty of Harry and Ron at the deathly party; when I was re-reading that it was so tragic and I had completely forgotten about it!

  2. I have just started listening to this podcast this week. I discovered it while listening to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. I am an American, but am currently living in Jinan, China. I have lived here for the past three years.


    As I was listening I had a thought about something you said. You were discussing Tom Riddle’s problem with women, because he kills Harry’s mom, he kills Mrtyle, uses Ginny to open the chamber, and because the entrance to the chamber was in the girl’s bathroom, and I am sure I am forgetting something. I have since moved on to other episodes, so forgive me.

    Anyway I had a thought that instead of all this demonstrating that Riddle hates women, why couldn’t be that he sees them as powerful, even more powerful than men?

    For one, he gets his magic from his mother’s side of the family. He refers to his father as a filthy muggle. So, without his mother he wouldn’t have any of the magic that he does have. Furthermore, we learn in book 6 that it is because of his mother that he is a descendant of Slytherin’s. Without his mother he would not be a part of this world. And he would not be Slytherin’s heir. Maybe the fact that the entrance is in the girl’s bathroom is eluding to that.

    As for him ‘choosing’ Ginny to be the one to open the chamber. (I am not really sure we can say he chose her, because it was Lucius who gave her the diary, but lets assume he did choose Ginny.) His magic is born of woman, so in his rebirth through the diary he chooses to be born of woman again. I think the fact that his mother is a witch and his father is a muggle is very important. I think to him witches more powerful, because without a witch (his mother and now Ginny) he wouldn’t be a wizard, and he would never have become Lord Voldemort.

    As for him killing women, for one he kills a lot of people. He does not seem to be too picky, men, women, muggle, wizards, etc. But if he views women more powerful he had to kill Lily. She was the power standing between him and the child that he thinks will be able to stop him. He kills James right away, without even blinking. But Lily gets between him and Harry. I think that is a very powerful image. He has to destroy this witch to get to a baby. A baby has no power, but then his mother gives him power, through her death. Proving that she is more powerful than her husband. Maybe not really, we don’t know. But James died as well trying to save his family. His act did not give Harry any protection, but Lily’s did.

    Now something I also thought about, which is not present in the second book at all, but as I was thinking about Riddle and women is that the fact when you look at his death eaters they are all men, except for Bellatrix. Now I think many people would assume right away that it is because he hates women. However, I think it shows something else. Bellatrix is not only the only female death eater, but she is one death eaters within the inner circle. She is important to him. To me looking at the fact that he has a lot of men, and only her in his ranks is that he thinks men are ‘a dime a dozen’, and women are much more special. The men in his life are fleeting. She is also one of his most loyal supporters.

    I think Riddle thinks women are powerful, and because of this he fears them. So he either kills them, in the case of Lily or keeps them close, in the case of Bellatrix. He believes he is the most powerful wizard in the world, but without women he is nothing. And I think he realizes this.

    I do not know if this makes sense. I have been thinking about this or the past day. It makes a lot of sense in my head! I listen to the podcast walking to and from work and on the bus, so can’t really write anything down as I think it. I hope it makes sense. And I hope to hear from you both to see what you think.

    1. This is a super interesting reading, with lots of excellent points. Voledemort is often feminized in his associations with chthonic/earth magic and with female characters, and there are definitely ways to read him afraid of women because he recognizes their power. That said, being afraid of women because you think they’re powerful and hating women are NOT mutually exclusive. Lots of misogyny and violence against women stems from fear of women and desire to keep them disenfranchised. In that way Voldemort embodies a certain face of misogyny perfectly. The fact that only one, special woman is good enough to be close to him again implies a misogynist stance, even if that one woman is extra-special. It’s fascinating to think about how he is both feminized and depicted as anti-woman at the same time; in this way his representation really reverberates with Orientalist tropes, in which the racialized man is both more effeminate and more misogynist than his Western equivalent.

  3. (I’ve just picked up listening to the podcast, so sorry for the late comment.)

    I had a different thought about what was happening at the dueling club. I think we should look at anything Snape does with an eye to “is there something about this that is actually Snape being protective of Harry, while also concealing his purpose?” Snape volunteered to help with the club, and I think he did this for a couple reasons. First, since he knew that Lockhart was incompetent, Snape needed to be on hand to prevent Harry being killed.

    But also, unlike what goes on in potions class, this is where Snape is actually functioning as a valuable teacher. The spell he used was “Expelliarmus” and he deliberately used it in a way to show its power. And of course, this would go on to be Harry’s signature spell. I don’t think it was an accident that Snape made sure he learned this spell this early on.

    1. That’s a really interesting take! I struggle to find moments when Snape is actually offering Harry any valuable lessons (e.g. the totally failed occlumency lessons), but this is a good example of a moment when Snape really does teach him something useful!

      1. It’s even possible that the entire Dueling Club was actually Snape’s idea (or Dumbledore’s) to be sure Harry was exposed to that important spell. We know Harry doesn’t actually pay that much attention in class, so if they wanted him to learn it, they needed to stage something attention-getting. It would probably be pretty easy to plant the suggestion with Lockhart, who would quickly manage to convince himself that it was his own idea. I don’t remember if there’s any specific mention of this in the books, so I’ll keep this as my own headcanon.

  4. Re: The orientalizing of Voldemort, the name Salazar is interesting to me. It’s Spanish/Basque, and all the other house head first names are somewhat Western European- Godric, Rowena, Helga. Maybe you guys talk about this later, but I had that thought and wanted to bring it up. Fantastic podcasting! I’m listening for the first time (sent here by Book Riot) and loving it.

  5. Loving this podcast. Trying to binge-listen at work.
    I am finding it frustrating that there is no button that takes me directly to the next podcast.
    lol plz add one?

  6. Hey, just found the podcast, think it’s super interesting.

    When you started talking about the chamber of secrets and the sexual undertones I assumed you’d go to a very different reading.

    If you take the narrative of a 12/13 year old boy and a giant murderous snake only he can hear I immediately get notions of out of control male sexuality; and the chamber being more femanine suggesting what is desired by that out of control sexuality. The themes of domination and control by men, be it patriarchal figures like Dumbledore or Gilderoy, or monsterous males like Tom and Aragog, suggested to me the more usual gothic tale about scary sex and scary male sexuality. (Aren’t spiders also coded in sexual overtones with things like Little Miss Muffet and Welcome to my Parlour?)

    I understand the reading of snakes and caves in terms of the Syballae mythos and the anti women sentiment of post pagan Christianity, and maybe that’s an additional subtext, but to me it feels a lot more about prepubescent fear of sex and things.

    Enjoying the series, hope to get through it quickly!


    On ‘did Salazar Slytherin foresee that the heir of Slytherin would be a woman’… maybe he did. As we know from the later books, one of the last of the *pureblood* Slytherin line is Merope Gaunt, and she is objectively equipped to open the chamber because she speaks Parsletongue. It just looks like she was never allowed to attend Hogwarts.

  8. I am super late to this party!

    I have a burning question about the ‘bad wizards are from Slytherin’ thing: How does Hagrid know that Voldemort went to Hogwarts and was in Slytherin? I thought they didn’t know what his real identity was yet?

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