The Best Reveal in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Is the One About the Hogwarts Express

Illustration for article titled The Best Reveal in iHarry Potter and the Cursed Child /iIs the One About the Hogwarts Express

Everyone shut up, sit down, and let me tell you about the best part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It involves a character you have probably never paid attention to, who turns out to be the most terrifying entity in the entirety of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Illustration for article titled The Best Reveal in iHarry Potter and the Cursed Child /iIs the One About the Hogwarts Express

Hey, kids, remember the kind old lady puttering around the Hogwarts Express selling treats to Hogwarts students? She is also the train’s security. She was hired in 1830 by the Minister who got the Hogwarts Express built and she’s stuck around for nearly two centuries feeding kids and keeping them on the train. She’s been doing it for so long she doesn’t remember her name. But she’s never let a kid get off the train.

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Now, because the world of Harry Potter is an endless cycle of things that should be terrifying but have been normalized by centuries, the way the Trolley Witch keeps her charges on the train is fairly disturbing.

So let’s play a quick guessing game. How does she keep her charges on the train? Does she:

A) Transform her pumpkin pasties (of which she has made over six million) into a grenade and throw it at children

B) Does something even worse with Chocolate Frogs

C) Have spikes for hands

D) All of the above.

Of course it’s D! It’s the train to Hogwarts, a school where the stairs move around and they once kept a giant three-headed dog, after all. Of course its version of rail security is also “terrifying the students.”

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The scariest part of this isn’t just how scary the Trolley Witch is, it’s that the adults’ reaction is, “She keeps talking about letting down the person who hired her, she’s so proud of her record” and not the more reasonable “If a kid is up to some minor mischief and thinking about getting off the train, we shouldn’t besending an old woman with spikes for hands and exploding treats after them.”

I love this development. It is exactly the kind of hilariously ridiculous thing that made me love Harry Potter in the first place. Also, the witch is described in the stage directions as “Her hair wild. Her spikes particularly spiky,” which is amazing.

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I really have missed having more Harry Potter stories.

Katharine is the former managing editor of io9.

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DISCUSSION

I’m sad that the lame first movie’s “stairs move around” interpretation of Hogwarts has supplanted the books’ version in people’s minds. In the books, the stairs didn’t simply rotate while you watched; the entire topography of the school’s corridors altered itself invisibly and unpredictably from one day to the next, like reality itself was altering, or like the school existed in more than three dimensions. It was so cool and mysterious in the books, and so numbingly prosaic in the movie. This is why I dislike the first two films — they adapted the surface of the text with plodding fidelity, but completely failed to capture its underlying spirit of wonder.

I had a similar reaction to the Thing in the Addams Family movies vs. the TV sitcom. In the show, the Thing was a hand and arm that came out of various boxes, and it was never explained what was at the other end of Thing’s arm, or how it all fit inside the box, or how Thing moved from one box to another. It was unseen and mysterious and paradoxical and cool. And then the movies came along and reduced Thing to an overtly disembodied hand that ran around from place to place on its fingertips. It was certainly a fancier special effect, but it was just so literal that it took the wonder out of it. Some things are so much better if they’re left implicit.