Hi there, Muggles and Mocha fans!
Today, we’re boarding the train for Hogwarts… isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for? Along with embarking on this new adventure with Harry, we meet so many characters we grow to love—the Weasleys, Hermione, Neville… It’s our first time meeting all of these characters and seeing Hogwarts for the first time!
In the video this week, we talk about all of these new people Harry meets, especially the Weasleys. Check it out!
For our article today, I want to take a moment and focus on the significance of the Hogwarts Express. This train has sort of become a symbol for the Harry Potter universe. It’s one of the first magical experiences Harry has as a Hogwarts student, and anyone who sees that scarlet steam engine knows what it is! Of course, we’ll talk about the train itself—its history and such—but I more so want to focus on what it symbolizes throughout this book series.
For Harry, the Hogwarts Express is a gateway, a portal to new places. But this isn’t just physically, even though that is important. We’re going to discuss all the ways the Hogwarts Express works to impact and change Harry during his first ride to Hogwarts.
Let’s get started! Picture this—we’re approaching the Hogwarts Express…
First, let’s talk about the train itself. As with a couple of other things we’ve discussed, J.K. Rowling has actually written an article about this train.
Before the train, young witches and wizards used a lot of different methods of travel to get to Hogwarts, like broomsticks, enchanted carriages and carts, and apparition. All of these weren’t very effective and could be dangerous, and Muggles would spot them constantly. Eventually, Ottaline Gambol, the Minister for Magic at the time, became extremely interested in the trains Muggles had invented. Apparently, there was a huge operation—where the biggest Concealment Charm of all time was used—and the Hogwarts Express magically (literally) appeared in Hogsmeade Station. Even though some disgruntled pure-blood families were angry at the thought of using a Muggle form of transportation, a law was passed that stated children weren’t allowed to attend Hogwarts unless they took the train.
So, there you have it! That’s what we know about the history of the Hogwarts Express.
The first moment Harry sees this train is right here in chapter six. Personally, I think it’s one of the most enchanting scenes in the series. We witness Harry conquering his fear as he sprints toward a solid brick wall. Rushing through it, he’s greeted by an amazing sight—Platform 9 ¾ full of Hogwarts students and a huge, scarlet train. His gateway to Hogwarts and the magical world.
Little does Harry know, this train is his key to a new life in more ways than one.
First, we have the obvious—the train takes him to a new place physically. He’s going to Hogwarts, the place he will view as his true home. In this school, he’ll discover friendship, develop his abilities, and find solace and strength in his parents’ world—one of his only lasting connections with them besides the people who knew them when they were alive. As the train trundles through the countryside, it takes him closer and closer to this great castle in the Scottish Highlands. It’s whisking him far away from his former life—away from Privet Drive, from the Dursleys, from being bullied. He’s heading toward new opportunities and new dreams.
Man. I think we should stop for a second and relish in the coming excitement. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s been a long time since I’ve read these books, and everything is just rushing back to me. When I was younger (much younger), one of my friends and I would play this game where we would pretend we were students at Hogwarts. We would plan our class schedules, pick out our “textbooks,” pack our trunks, take notes… It was so fun. I distinctly remember scribbling information about chimaeras from my Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book into a journal. I found it a couple of years later and couldn’t help but smile.
Those were the days. But yes, this part from the series brings back a lot of the passion I felt when I first read them as a kid.
But back to Harry! Along with physically, the Hogwarts Express is a gateway for him mentally and emotionally. As some of you may recall, I wrote an article last week about Harry’s shift in identity—this topic continues into Harry’s train ride. The Hogwarts Express is taking him somewhere where this change will continue to happen.
As he grows and thrives at Hogwarts, we’ll witness Harry develop into a wizard and a young man. He’ll grow through his relationships, classes, and adventures. Harry’s first ride on the train is just the beginning. Not to mention, he’ll also learn more and more about Voldemort and how the two of them are connected… about the Dark Lord’s history and how Harry is involved. This information may change him more than anything else!
Next, the train transports him to a place where he’ll change relationally. The Hogwarts Express is where Harry meets his best friends, even though he doesn’t realize it yet: Ron and Hermione. These are the two people who impact him more than anyone else. Think about it—these are the first real friends Harry’s ever had. So not only does he get to experience a wonderful friendship with two people who he grows to love more than anyone else, but this is the first time he’s experienced something like this at all.
And as the Hogwarts Express chugs along, Harry doesn’t realize how these people will change his life. I’m a person who’s intensely nostalgic, almost to a fault. I tend to horde things that may not seem that important, like a special rock I found when I was a kid or a grocery list my husband wrote when we were first married… yeah, okay, it’s weird. But I think that part of my personality really draws me to the big moments masquerading as small instances, like when the young Ron and Harry are enjoying candy together as Ron teaches Harry his “spell” to turn his rat yellow (Ugh, Peter Pettigrew… I miss the days when I could look at this sleepy rat with fondness). These two don’t realize how their presence in each other’s lives will change the course of their futures. This first trip to Hogwarts is full of so many meaningful moments that we can look back on with fondness and nostalgia (my favorite).
Goodness, I love when we get deep! But moving on…
Regarding relationships, we also see Harry meet some future enemies: Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. During this pivotal journey, Harry makes a decision that, in my opinion, will define him in our eyes for the rest of his life. From his interaction with Malfoy, we see Harry recognizes cruel people when he sees them. But more importantly, this is one of the first moments we get a glimpse of Harry’s gravitation toward compassion and standing up for the little guy.
This is, without a doubt, my favorite part—and the strongest part, I think—of Harry’s personality. We’ll see it return time and time again throughout the series, with my favorite moment coming in the fifth book… but we’ll get to that later. Hey, I have to leave some cliffhangers, right?
During this scene on the train, Harry chooses Ron and foregoes Malfoy’s offer of friendship. J.K. Rowling has since revealed that Malfoy was seeking this relationship with Harry because some of the leftover Death Eaters (like his father) hoped Harry was a powerful dark wizard, like Voldemort. But obviously, they were disappointed. Needless to say, Harry’s lucky he trusted his gut instinct about him! Also… who could ever choose Malfoy over Ron?
Wow. Hopefully, you’ll view this train a little differently after this article! It really is so significant during Harry’s time at Hogwarts. This train has become a staple of the Harry Potter series, too, and I always get a thrill of excitement when I read about the moments Harry boards it throughout the books.
One of my favorite moments when I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year was riding the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Oh man, guys… You get the full experience as you sit in the compartments and see and hear some of the things that may have gone on during Harry’s train rides. A dementor even comes by at one point! I never thought I’d say this about a dementor… but it was wonderful. I can’t wait to go back. I think it might have been my favorite part of the trip!
So, if you really want to nerd out—which, if you’re here, I’m guessing your answer will be, “Yes”—you can “virtually” ride the train through this video.
It doesn’t do it justice, but it’s still pretty cool. Ugh, it makes me miss it.
That’s all for today! We end this chapter with Harry just about to enter Hogwarts for the first time. Soon, he’ll meet Professor McGonagall, be sorted… It’s going to be such a fun time.
Next week, I’m breaking down each Hogwarts house and looking at them in depth—I think it’s my favorite article I’ve written so far. We’ll cover the qualities, famous members, and the concept of sorting in general. We will also have a guest speaker on the show: my husband, Bishop Darby! A Slytherin here to talk about his house. I’m so excited for this!
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I’m loving going over the series with you guys! Until next Friday!
Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.