The Harry Potter Reread has this problem where every time someone asks it what part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art they should visit, it automatically says “The Egypt stuff!” And then everyone gives it the side-eye and asks about paintings, and the Reread sadly mutters, “But… Egypt stuff…” to itself for the next hour.
This week we’re going to try playing with matches and watch a very important game. It’s Chapters 7 and 8 of The Goblet of Fire—Bagman and Crouch and The Quidditch World Cup.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Chapter 7—Bagman and Crouch
The group head to their camp site for the Quidditch World Cup, which are on Muggle camping grounds. The Ministry is having a hell of a time keeping the Muggles in the area ignorant of all the magic going on around them, as the wizard community isn’t doing a great job of keeping everything on the down-low. They pitch their tents, which appear to be regular Muggle tents, but on entering, Harry finds that they are more like small apartments. Mr. Weasley is excited to start a fire the non-magic way, and sends the trio to get some water.
The three head over to a tap, running into classmates and various communities from all over the world as they walk. They overhear an argument about wearing trousers. They see the decoration for the Ireland and Bulgaria teams. Ron tells Harry and Hermione about Viktor Krum, the Bulgarian Seeker—he’s immensely talented and incredibly young.
They get back, make the fire, and get lunch ready. Bill, Charlie, and Percy show up in time, and so does Ludo Bagman—the Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Bagman is wearing the robes of the Wimbourne Wasps, who he played for when he was a young man as a Beater. Bagman tries to get everyone interested in betting on the game, and the Weasley twins volunteer all their savings in a wager that Ireland will win, but Krum will get the Snitch. Mr. Crouch—Percy’s boss—also shows up, needing a word with Ludo about the Bulgarian officials. He makes a mention to Arthur about a gentleman trying to lift the embargo on flying carpets as well. Bagman tries to spill the beans about something else the two of them are working on that will occur at Hogwarts that year, but Crouch stops him.
The kids spend some time buying souvenirs from various carts and vendors. The Ministry gives up on trying to keep a lid on the magical activities, and soon night falls. The lanterns light and the Cup is about to start. Everyone heads into the stadium.
If all tents were wizarding tents, I would go camping all the time, everywhere.
Harry notes that their tent has similar decor (and cat smells) to Arabella Figg’s house, which is another clue that she’s not a Muggle before that reveal comes in the next book. And we get such a fun glimpse of all sorts of everyday wizarding life and activities. The toy broomsticks give us a pretty great idea of Harry’s flying aptitude in retrospect; he shows a knack for it without growing up on toys like that (though we know he rode one as a baby due to a later flashback). We also get a good idea of how rough it is to be a parent to magical kids—that woman dealing with her baby blowing up a slug is probably pretty commonplace.
On the other hand, it would be so much fun to see some Muggle family members in the mix here. People running around, trying to help all these folks blend in, teaching them how to light a regular fire, adjusting their clothes. We really don’t see any, even Seamus (who’s father is a Muggle) seems to have arrived with just his witch mother. I want more immersion! Even if the wizarding community is isolated, there have got to be a couple people wandering about with their non-magical spouses.
Between the obliviate charms done on the campsite groundskeeper and the Muggle Repelling Charms put on the stadium, we can also see that modification and manipulation of the Muggle community by magic-users is entirely normal and frequent. Which gets creepier the longer you think about it. They’ve clearly adopted a policy of Do No Harm, But After That Anything Goes.
The argument between Archie and his buddy over wearing trousers is comical, of course, but it also does a great job at reinforcing that lack of logic in the wizard community. Archie thinks he should wear a floral nightgown because he found it in a Muggle shop. Now, I don’t care if Archie’s in lady’s clothes if he wants to be, but it’s like wizards have zero-to-no observation skills. There are Muggles everywhere. You see how they dress. You could pick up a magazine and see it there. I think Archie must live way out in the country. Not a Muggle for miles.
We meet Ludo Bagman, and I have to say—Rowling has this knack for describing people in such a way that you immediately know how much you should like them. Bagman is an affable guy, but he’s too over the top, too flashy for the warning bells not to go off. You sense pretty instantly that he may not be evil, but you definitely shouldn’t trust him with much.
This chapter does a good job of establishing just how fractured the wizarding international community is. Harry realizes that it hadn’t even occurred to him that there must be other schools like Hogwarts around the world, and he’s equally surprised to see wizards from different countries with different customs and different magic. We don’t dive right in the pool so to speak, but Rowling begins to color in more of the picture. And we can clearly see that the wizarding world has all the same prejudices that the Muggle one does, from Bagman’s quip about difficult accents to the general disregard everyone seems to have for the Bulgarian magic officials.
The talk that Crouch has with Arthur over the import of magic carpets sort of drives this point home. According to Arthur, they can’t sell them in the UK because in English wizarding law, carpets are a Muggle artifact. Because brooms aren’t a thing that Muggles use, too? Really? It seems to be a pretty clear case of “we don’t want that stuff from not-Europe over here, you keep that away from us.” Arthur doesn’t even broach the subject of having the law looked over or maybe revisited, because the Ministry never changes anything.
And then Crouch talks about the good old days when his dad had a magic carpet—back when it was legal, of course. Because Crouch would never do anything illegal. And his vehemence there is a pretty big red flag, but we don’t know why. At least we didn’t the first time around, and this time around it just makes you want to cringe. You begin to see how much deflection Crouch does from the very beginning on a reread. He has spent the last decade trying to make everyone forget anything about his son.
The souvenir purchasing is a real fun section, and the Omnioculars are basically like having a sports station in your hands, with the play-by-play and so on. Which contributes to that argument that wizards never make advances because magic does so much for them in the meantime. But the best part of their little shopping spree is Harry knowing how to make Ron less self-conscious about money; he really wants to get his friends a gift, so he just laughs it off by telling Ron he doesn’t get a Christmas present that year. A+ Harry, you are good at friends.
(I also love that Hermione gets them programs, because they can be read, which is the important part. Being the person who also always buys the programs—I feel you, Hermione.)
Chapter 8—The Quidditch World Cup
Everyone takes their seat in the top box (Ludo Bagman is responsible for their excellent position), and Harry notices a house-elf sitting in one of the seats who his mistakes for Dobby. It turns out to be Mr. Crouch’s house-elf, Winky, but she knows Dobby. She tells Harry that freedom has given Dobby dreams above his station, that he now wants to get paid for his work. She considers it a house-elf’s job to do whatever their master says—in this case, it’s holding Crouch’s seat in the top box, even though she’s terrified of heights. Cornelius Fudge turns up with the Bulgarian Minster, who doesn’t speak any English, much to Fudge’s chagrin; he’s been miming to the man all day. The Malfoys all show up in the top box (which they got because Lucius made a giant donation to St. Mungo’s hospital, making them Fudge’s special guests) and are their usual horrible selves.
The match begins with a performance by the mascots for both teams. First up is Bulgaria, and their mascots are veela: gorgeous, magical women who dance and so enthrall the male population that boys become distracted and prone to ridiculous acts to get their attention. Next is Ireland, with Leprechauns who shower gold coins on the attendees. Ron grabs a handful to give Harry, paying him back for the Omnioculars Harry got him.
The match begins, and it’s furiously fast. Ireland has the best Chasers by far, and they make goal after goal. Krum feints out the Irish Seeker, leading to his need for medical attention. The play gets meaner, vicious, and the Bulgarian Beaters cause a nasty foul that heats things up between the mascots—leading to an all-out brawl between them. The veela’s appearances change when they’re angry; they gain bird heads and wings and they can shoot fireballs from their hands. While Ministry workers are busy trying to calm the fray, a Bludger hits Krum square in the face, breaking his nose and blacking his eyes. The game should be paused to get him medical attention, but the officials and referee are busy looking elsewhere, and the Irish Seeker has found the Snitch. Krum bolts after him and catches the thing, but Ireland still wins by ten points. Harry understands that Krum simply wanted to end the match on his terms.
The Quidditch Cup ends with the teams coming into the top box to get the Cup. Fred and George go to Bagman to get their massive payoff from the wager.
This is a total sidetrack, but when Harry first sees the Quidditch Cup Stadium, he makes the observation that at least “ten cathedrals” could fit inside, and my immediate thought was, what an arbitrary unit of measurement for a kid to think. (I know, there are many of them in the U.K., it’s still weird.) Which then led to me making a joke in the office, which led to us deciding that Harry must measure everything in “cathedrals.” Which is why he’s so bad at Potions. The measurements are so very different from “cathedrals.”
Okay, this is also a total sidetrack, but I kind of started to panic as the description of the stadium got more detailed because: You’ve got the Irish colors (white, green, and orange) and the Bulgarian colors (white, green, and red), and then there’s the stadium (gold and purple), and it’s like a weird rainbow kind of vomited on everything, like, WHY WOULD YOU MAKE THE STADIUM THOSE COLORS considering who was playing? Couldn’t you have picked a more neutral set of colors or stuck to wood or maybe just not picked two colors that were going to clash with literally everything? I think I just imagined it too hard and freaked out. Ahem.
Poor Winky. Harry’s responses to her distress over Dobby are correct (hell yeah, pay Dobby for work), but a little too flippant to be helpful to her. And I’d forgotten that in this introduction, Hermione barely notices her, interestingly. Winky’s distress being sent up so high in the stadium instantly makes you dislike Barty Crouch, if you hadn’t already. We’re getting a functional understanding of Crouch largely from a distance, and it’s actually quite fun to puzzle out—we hear about him from Percy, from Bagman, from his house-elf. What we basically understand at this point is that he’s fastidious, near-genius, and entirely unconcerned with the feelings of others. He is also appearance obsessed. When you know the endgame here, it’s hard not to try and imagine Barty Crouch, Jr. growing up with a father like that. Yikes.
We get a tell here between the Malfoys and the Weasleys that shows the divide between them exactingly. While Lucius Malfoy gets the Top Box tickets by essentially buying his way there (as he does for everything), Arthur gets them because he’s just a likable guy who Bagman gives a favor to. And we keep seeing that over the course of these chapters—Arthur Weasley seems to know everyone, and everyone is kind to him because he’s an all around great guy. Percy hasn’t absorbed any of that into his person thus far, he’s all show and no substance. That low bow for Cornelius Fudge where he shatters his glasses isn’t even amusing at this point. It’s just sad.
Fudge’s communication issues with the Bulgarian Minister of Magic are ridiculous in the extreme, and prove yet again how out of touch wizards are in terms of international understanding. At the same time, Rowling is also making a great jibe at English speakers all around, as it is frightfully common for us to assume everyone speaks English and be annoyed by or dismissive of people who don’t. So the fact that the Bulgarian Minister turns out to be having a laugh at Fudge’s expense (we find out at the end of the chapter that he speaks English fluently) adds an extra level of zing to that burn. The guy was pretending so well that he takes another several seconds to realize who Harry is, just to get on Fudge’s nerves. They were giving Bagman and the rest a hard time about top box seats, deliberately acting as though they didn’t understand just to be a nuisance. Bulgarian wizards for the win.
Then we get to the mascots and… I just have so many issues. So many. The obvious one being that the mascots are species of sentient beings. At least the teams are employing those beings rather than having some wizard in a goofy suit or facepaint dress up as them, but the similarities this has to the problems with racist mascots in the real world are impossible to ignore. I mean, if veela are native to Bulgaria and surrounding countries, you could potentially have one on their team—oh wait, no you couldn’t because I’m sure only humans are allowed to play Quidditch.
The Leprechauns are very small in the Potterverse, normally no taller than six inches in height. Rowling goes for a pretty stereotypical take on them too; they spread around (fake, we’ll find out later) gold, they make rainbows, they’re incorrigible tricksters who enjoy riling people up. There’s very little finesse here, which is unfortunate. A sightly more mythic turn would have been welcome.
And then we’ve got the veela. There are several aspects to this species; they’re sort of a splice of vila (which are Slavic nymphs essentially), Greek sirens, and harpies. Which…I’m not sure why these things needed to be combined in the first place? Also, why do they have to be only women as mascots who only seduce the minds of men? (I cannot say this enough, it is a real pet peeve of mine. WOMEN CAN LUST. THEY ARE SUSCEPTIBLE TO PRETTINESS.) Like, either have male veela, or have the women also attracted to the female veela—people will shout “no gay in the kid’s series!” to which I say “it’s magic, whatever” and also “so what?”—or just make this a little less creepy on the boys’ parts? Like, you have to stick your fingers in you ears and avert your eyes? Because men can’t be expected to control their libidos when magic is involved? I’m really not liking where this is going.
And then it gets worse because they turn into bird-headed, winged, fireball-throwing harpies when they get angry. Because we all know that angry women aren’t pretty. (Sorry, that’s another pet peeve.) And then Arthur Weasley sees the boys’ reaction to that transformation and his Dad Teaching Moment is “And that, boys, is why you never go for looks alone.” Or, you know, you don’t do that because physical attraction by itself is not a basis for a meaningful relationship, but PLEASE CONTINUE HELPING RON GROW UP, ARTHUR.
And yes, I understand that a lot of things here are meant as parody of overblown sport events, but that doesn’t mean we’re required to condone it within the universe. Some of the satire here is on point. Some of it really leaves a sour taste.
Outside of my rage, the World Cup is actually a real fun match to read about, and I love how hardcore Rowling makes Krum from the get-go. He is not waiting for magic medics, he’s gonna let blood fly from his nose while he races to that Snitch. I mean, I’m impressed. (Wonder what Cedric was thinking at that point, too, and then when he later realizes they will be competing.) And of course, Fred and George are ready to collect on Bagman’s wager. Those winnings don’t exactly work out as planned down the road, though.
And the rest of the evening won’t go as planned either.