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6 questions we still have about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Did Professor Quirrell sleep on his back? And what does ‘Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!’ actually mean?

Quirrell teaching in his classroom with a lizard
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone raises some serious questions; questions about grief, about evil, about the everlasting struggle to come to terms with death. But we’re not interested in those today. Today we want to know about the weird stuff – weird stuff like…

How did Professor Quirrell sleep?

As you no doubt know, Professor Quirrell spent most of Philosopher’s Stone walking around with Voldemort on the back of his head: a shocking reveal that should in no way, shape or form be thought about any deeper. For if you do that, you’ll end up asking yourself the strangest questions about Quirrell’s daily routine.

For instance, how did Quirrell sleep? Because, of course, he couldn’t sleep on his back, lest one of the most powerful, most evil wizards who ever lived suffocated from having his face forced into a pillow. So… did he sleep on his side? Or maybe his belly? Did Quirrell and Voldemort stay up late chatting? Did Quirrell shower? And if so, did he have to reach behind his head and wash Voldemort’s face?

Whatever happened to ‘Hoggy Warty Hogwarts’?

Upon Harry’s first ever night at Hogwarts, after the Sorting Ceremony, Albus Dumbledore invited everyone to sing the Hogwarts school song ‘Hoggy Warty Hogwarts’. The lyrics are thus:

‘Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot,
Just do your best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.’

The best part about the song is that it can be sung to any tune desired, and all the other staff seem to have a secret loathing of it. Now, we know dark times were ahead and all that, but we never got another rendition of this classic again. Did Professor McGonagall have a quiet word? Either way, it was weird and we miss it.

What does ‘Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!’ actually mean?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Another moment of wonderment from the start of term banquet was Albus Dumbledore’s parting words at the end of his speech: ‘Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!’ For years the world’s greatest scientists and linguists have been trying to figure out what on earth the headmaster was on about, but it still makes completely no sense. Maybe it’s all foreshadowing for later books in the series. Let’s see: nitwit means a daft person, blubber means extra fat, oddment means a portion of cut-off fabric, and tweak means to slightly adjust something. So that must mean… Nope, us neither.

What was Hagrid knitting on the train to London?

During Harry’s sudden trip to Diagon Alley, Hagrid was seen knitting what looked like a ‘canary-yellow circus tent’ on the train. What was this circus tent and what was its chief purpose? Was there a secret circus scene that was cut from the books? Was Hagrid fashioning himself a jazzy jacket? Was it the top-secret fourth part of the Deathly Hallows? We may never know.

Why was ‘Mars bright tonight’?

In the Forbidden Forest, Hagrid, Hermione and Harry met Ronan the slightly sombre centaur. He was sort of the Morrissey of centaurs, if you will. Upon trying to ask him if he’d seen anything unusual, Ronan simply replied to Hagrid with: ‘Mars is bright tonight.’ That’s nice, Ronan. Then Firenze turns up and also starts going on about Mars. What’s so great about Mars? In fact, Firenze loves Mars so much, he brings it up again in Order of the Phoenix. You know, because Mars is the God of War and war is coming, etc. Maybe planets just get bright sometimes, Firenze. You know, science?

Did Snape write the poem that accompanied the Potions logic puzzle?

The seven potions testing logic that protect the Philosopher's Stone.
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Near the end of Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry, Ron and Hermione were trying to get to the eponymous stone, they were confronted by a series of puzzles. And one of them, a potions puzzle set up by Professor Snape, came with a poem. It goes like this:

‘Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,
Two of us will help you, whichever you would find,
One among us seven will let you move ahead,
Another will transport the drinker back instead,
Two among our number hold only nettle wine,
Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.
Choose, unless you wish to stay here for evermore,
To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four:
First, however slyly the poison tries to hide
You will always find some on nettle wine’s left side;
Second, different are those who stand at either end,
But if you would move onwards, neither is your friend;
Third, as you see clearly, all are different size,
Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;
Fourth, the second left and the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.’

So... did Snape write that? If so, it’s lovely. Who knew the sallow Potions master had such a great command of meter? More Snape poetry, please.

JKR Severus Snape illustration

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Pottermore will explore themes, moments, characters and much more from the very first Harry Potter story. Come back on Friday when we look at all the times we should have realised that Quirrell was the bad guy.