Academic journal article Notes on Contemporary Literature

Basilisk Puns in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Academic journal article Notes on Contemporary Literature

Basilisk Puns in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Article excerpt

Late in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [New York: Scholastic Inc., 1999] Harry pries a piece of paper from the petrified hand of Hermione. The torn page contains a paragraph-long description of the mythological Basilisk stating that "... all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death;" below the paragraph, written in Hermione's hand, is the single word "Pipes" (290, bold emphases mine). Harry and Ron quickly piece together the probability that the serpent lurks somewhere in a subterranean vault beneath Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.

Before they can investigate, Professor McGonagall shouts through the Hogwarts corridors that all students must return to their dormitories. Harry and Ron slip into one of the novel's many 'chambers,' this time the teachers' staff room and ensconce themselves in a wardrobe behind musty cloaks so they can overhear news of the latest Hogwarts basilisk attack. As a sort of humorous sub-textual commentary about the basilisk's power, Rowling sets in motion three successive puns. First is Lockhart's late entry into the staffroom with all his pompous flare; he is described as "beaming" (293). The assembled professors immediately taunt the vaunted Lockhart. For example, "Yes, didn't you tell me you were sure you knew what was inside it [Chamber of Secrets]? …

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