ALL ABOARD THE KNIGHT BUS! This is Muggles and Mocha, and I’ll be your conductor for this article.
But enough of this cheesy beginning. We took a quick break around here, but I’m excited to get into our next chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban!
Welcome back to Muggles and Mocha, where we are working our way through the third chapter of the third book of the Harry Potter series.
Before we begin, I have to show you the most perfect Christmas present I received—it’ll be something that will become a staple of our videos! I have finally gotten my very own Muggles and Mocha mug!
Get ready to see this bad boy in more of our videos!
Speaking of which, here’s our video for today, where you can check out the full discussion of anything and everything to do with Chapter 3. We talk about Harry’s first encounter with Sirius and Harry’s journey back to the Wizarding world. As always, there will be *SPOILERS* in both the video and article.
As we jump into Chapter 3, we’re going to analyze our favorite triple-decker, violently purple vehicle—the Knight Bus.
In this chapter, Harry has fled from the Dursleys’ in a rage, having just blown up Aunt Marge by accident. He packed all of his school things and stormed out of the house, but he quickly begins to feel frightened. In his mind, he’s an outlaw now. Who knows when law enforcement will swoop in and capture him for breaking the International Statute of Secrecy?
Trying to decide what to do next, he catches a glimpse of something in the nearby alleyway. A person? A beast? Just as he sees its glowing eyes, he stumbles backward and crashes to the ground.
Then… the Knight Bus appears on the scene! What an entrance. Mistakenly flagged down by Harry’s fall, Stan Shunpike ushers Harry (or Neville) aboard this bus, which takes him to the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley.
But what is this bus, really? What’s the story behind its invention? And most importantly for all of you literary-minded folks out there, what does it represent in this series, specifically concerning Harry?
The Story of the Knight Bus
According to J.K. Rowling, the Knight Bus was proposed in 1865 by then-Minister for Magic Dugald McPhail as a solution to the problem wizards were having with transportation. As we’ve discussed before, transportation was a consistent issue with wizards in the past. This was especially true for wizards traveling with children, as we see with the adoption of the Hogwarts Express and train-use in the Wizarding world.
Regarding the Knight Bus, it was created for witches and wizards who are unable to travel by other magical means, such as Apparition, Floo Powder, or Portkeys. Knowing this, we can see it was the most helpful magical object Harry could have encountered at a time like this. Even though he had his broom, the Knight Bus was obviously more convenient.
J.K. Rowling wrote this about the Knight Bus on Wizarding World’s website:
“For witches and wizards who are Floo-sick, whose Apparition is unreliable, who hate heights or who feel frightened or queasy taking Portkeys, there is always the Knight Bus, which appears whenever a witch or wizard in urgent need of transportation sticks out their wand arm at the kerb.”J.K. Rowling – Wizarding World
As Rowling points out, the way to hail the bus is by sticking your wand arm into the air. As with the Hogwarts Express, some wizards—specifically, pure-blood witches and wizards dedicated to preserving the “wizard” way of life without Muggle interference—pledged to boycott the Knight Bus since it was inspired by Muggle transportation. Like we’ve discussed in the past, the Wizarding world, for the most part, didn’t enjoy copying Muggle inventions, thinking that magic could do anything better and more efficiently. However, this high-minded way of thinking most likely held them back from many discoveries that could have impacted the magical community for the better.
I like to think Hermione would have done everything in her power to change this after she left Hogwarts.
Despite the boycott, the Knight Bus persisted and is used by many witches and wizards throughout the series. From Hagrid and Buckbeak in Prisoner of Azkaban, to Harry and the gang in Order of the Phoenix as they travel back to Hogwarts after the Christmas holidays, the Knight Bus comes into our story a couple more times.
For J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for this bus, she named it the “Knight Bus” because of the sound-alike “night.” The bus was modeled after the many night buses that run throughout Britain, so it’s a mode of transportation that British readers especially will be familiar with. I’m assuming. I’m not British, unfortunately, so… British readers, feel free to chime in!
Rowling’s second reason behind the chosen name is my favorite. She said,
“‘Knight’ has the connotation of coming to the rescue, of protection, and this seemed appropriate for a vehicle that is often the conveyance of last resort.”J.K. Rowling – Wizarding World
This is something we’ll be talking about later in connection with Harry’s encounter with this bus in Chapter 3.
Last, Rowling actually named the driver and conductor, Ernie and Stanley, after her two grandfathers. How neat is that?
The Symbolism of the Knight Bus
If you know me by this point, then you know we’re definitely going to be diving into the themes connected with this bus.
In Chapter 3, when Harry sees the Knight Bus for the first time, what does it represent in this moment? What does it showcase for us regarding Harry and the position he’s in?
As I pondered these questions, a couple of answers came to mind, and I was surprised by just how much the Knight Bus reveals to us about how it functions in the series. In this moment, it’s more than just a convenient bus that shows up at the right time.
First, the Knight Bus embodies the idea of escape.
This is the first time Harry has been in severe distress outside of the Wizarding world with no assistance. Even though the Muggle world is where he was raised, it’s foreign to him when it comes to thriving, surviving, and functioning in a way that leads to success and safety. After all, he’s never felt safe in the Dursleys’ house. But there, at least he had shelter and a minimal sense of security. Now, he’s on the lam, so to speak, outside of the Wizarding world with no help whatsoever.
When the Knight Bus shows up, it’s his “knight in shining armor.” Please don’t roll your eyes at the pun. But seriously, it’s just like Rowling said—in the Middle Ages, knights came to the rescue and protected others when they were in distress, and this is true for how the Knight Bus works here as well.
Second, the Knight Bus gives Harry anonymity, at least for a moment.
One of my favorite characteristics of the Knight Bus is how it’s able to go anywhere, do anything, without anyone noticing. Houses and trees simply jump out of its way, but no one realizes it’s just passed. In that way, it is truly invisible to the point of non-existence. It’s not only invisible to the eye—people don’t even feel its presence. It leaves no trace.
Just as the bus is invisible to Muggles, it gives Harry a small taste of this power as well. It’s the first time Harry has had the opportunity to hide in plain sight within the Wizarding world. Stealing Neville’s identity for a little while, Harry is able to talk to Stan and Ern without them realizing who he is. For a brief instant, his identity is gone. I find a lot of irony in the idea that the Knight Bus, too, has this ability, and I like to think it shared this gift with Harry just when he needed it.
Last, not only does the Knight Bus rescue Harry, but it also takes him to the first place he ever went in the Wizarding world—the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley.
To me, the Leaky Cauldron is the “gateway” to the magical world. Since we accompany Harry through his point of view, it was the first magical place we visited as well. After Harry walks into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time, his life is never the same. Even though Harry is on the run in this chapter, he chooses to go to the first place that led him to the world he would call home—and that’s the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley.
These are only a few of the thoughts I had when considering the Knight Bus, its impact on Harry in this moment, and the themes it symbolizes at this point in the narrative.
Like I said, it will be back! But for now, Harry comes face-to-face with the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. The rest of the chapter consists of an interesting conversation with Fudge (to say the least) and Harry’s new room at the Leaky Cauldron. Staying in Diagon Alley for three weeks sounds like a dream…
But we’ll be talking about that in Chapter 4! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about the Knight Bus because I personally haven’t thought about it in this much detail until now.
Next week, we’ll be in Diagon Alley and will discuss how J.K. Rowling uses foreshadowing in her work, especially in Chapter 4. You don’t want to miss it! Plus, Harry discovers the secret everyone’s been hiding from him…
Read Chapter 4 for next time! In the meantime, don’t forget our video, and you can always follow me through the social media links below to keep up with all of our news and updates.
This mischief is managed!
Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.