July 19, 2012

back to basics: harry potter and the sorcerer's stone (propp's functions)

So, for you to better understand how Propp’s Fairy Tale Functions serve a story, here is a summary of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the bulk of it stolen from Wikipedia because, why not?):

Harry Potter is a seemingly ordinary boy, living with his hostile relatives, the Dursleys in Surrey (0. Initial Situation). For his cousin Dudley’s birthday, the Dursleys and Harry go to the zoo, but before they leave, Mr. Dursley tells Harry not to do any funny stuff while they’re there (2. Interdiction). In the Reptile House, Harry talks to one of the snakes, and Dudley pushes him out of the way. Angry, he does magic without meaning to, releasing the snake and trapping Dudley (3. Violation of Interdiction).

On his eleventh birthday, Harry learns from a mysterious stranger, Rubeus Hagrid, that he is actually a wizard (9. Mediation, the Connective Incident and 10. Beginning Counter-Action). In Diagon Alley, he meets several witches and wizards who all know his name, including Professor Quirrell (6. Trickery). Harry buys a wand from Mr. Olivander (14. Receipt of a Magical Agent), the twin wand to the person who gave him his lightning bolt scar, and Hagrid purchases an owl as a birthday present for Harry (12. First Function of the Donor). Harry wonders why he is famous in the Wizarding World (4. Reconnaissance), and Hagrid tells him why. He’s famous for surviving an attack by the evil Lord Voldemort when he was only a baby. Voldemort killed Harry's parents (1. Absentation and 8. Villainy or Lack), but his attack on Harry rebounded, leaving only a lightning-bolt scar on Harry's forehead and rendering Voldemort powerless (5. Delivery). Hagrid reveals to Harry that he has been invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After buying his school supplies from the hidden wizarding street, Diagon Alley, Harry boards the train to Hogwarts via the concealed Platform 9¾ in King's Cross Station (11. Departure and 15. Guidance).

On the train, Harry meets Ron Weasley, a boy from a large, but poor, pure-blood wizarding family, and Hermione Granger, a witch born to non-magical parents. Once they arrive at the school, Harry and all of the other first-year students are sorted into four different houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. As Slytherin is noted for being the house of darker wizards and witches, Harry successfully begs the magical Sorting Hat not to put him in Slytherin (13. Hero’s Reaction). He winds up in Gryffindor, along with Ron and Hermione.

At Hogwarts, Harry begins learning wizardry and also discovers more about his past and his parents. Harry inadvertently makes Gryffindor's Quidditch team (a sport in the wizarding world where people fly on broomsticks) as a Seeker, learning that his father was also a member of the team.

One night, he, Ron, and Hermione find a giant three-headed dog on the Forbidden Corridor on the Third Floor at the school. Ron and Harry successfully take down an escaped mountain troll (16. Struggle), rescuing Hermione (22. Rescue), and after Harry is nearly knocked off his broom (also Struggle) by a powerful curse during one of the Quidditch matches (which he wins by catching the snitch (17. Branding)), the trio assume that someone is trying to get past the dog. Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised which shows a person's heart's desire. The headmaster Albus Dumbledore moves the mirror and advises Harry against looking for it. Using information accidentally let slip by Hagrid, Hermione discovers that the dog is guarding the Philosopher's Stone, an item that can be used to grant its owner immortality. Harry concludes that his potions teacher, Severus Snape, is trying to obtain the stone (7. Complicity). Harry is caught out of bed at night and is given detention. While helping Hagrid in the dark forest Harry sees a hooded figure drinking a unicorn's blood for its healing properties. Harry concludes that the hooded figure was Voldemort and that Snape is trying to get the stone to restore Voldemort to full strength.

After hearing from Hagrid that the dog will fall asleep if played music and that he let slip this to a man in the local pub one night, Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide that Snape was the man in the pub and attempt to warn Dumbledore. Upon learning he is away on business the trio conclude that Snape will attempt to steal the stone that night and resolve to find the stone before Snape does (21. Pursuit).

They face a series of obstacles: surviving a deadly plant, flying past hundreds of flying keys and winning a violent, life-sized chess match (25. Difficult Task). The trio use their skills to overcome the obstacles. Hermione uses her knowledge of spells to get past the plant, Harry uses his skills as a seeker to get past the keys and Ron uses his skill at chess to win the chess match. However, Ron is nearly killed in the match and Hermione stays with Ron as Harry goes on ahead, alone.

In the final room, Harry finds out that it was not Snape who wanted the stone, but Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Quirrell (23. Unrecognized Arrival). Quirrell reveals that he let the troll in and tried to kill Harry in the Quidditch match. He also reveals that Snape has been protecting Harry and trying to stop Quirrell all year. Quirrell forces Harry to look in the mirror. Due to an enchantment placed by Dumbledore, Harry finds the stone in his pocket after looking in the nearby Mirror of Erised. While trying to get Harry to answer what he has seen in the mirror, Quirrell removes his turban and reveals Voldemort to be living on the back of his head (28. Exposure). Harry tries to escape but Quirrell starts a fire by clicking his fingers to trap him. Voldemort tries to convince Harry to give him the stone by promising to bring his parents back from the dead, but Harry refuses. Quirrell tries to kill him but Harry's touch prevents Quirrell from hurting Harry and causes his hand to turn to dust. Quirrell then tries to take the stone but Harry grabs his face, causing Quirrell to turn into dust and die (18. Victory, 26. Solution, and 30. Punishment). When Harry gets up, Voldemort's spirit forms and passes through Harry, knocking him unconscious, before fleeing.

Harry wakes up in the school's hospital wing, with Professor Dumbledore at his side. Dumbledore explains that the stone has been destroyed, and that both Hermione and Ron are fine (19. Liquidation). Quirrell burned at Harry's touch because, when Harry's mother died to save him, her death gave Harry a magical, love-based protection against Voldemort. At the end of year feast, Dumbledore gives last minute house points to Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville for their bravery and smarts (27. Recognition) so Gryffindor win the house cup (31. Wedding). Before Harry and the rest of the students leave for the summer, Harry realises that while every other student is going home, Hogwarts is truly his home (20. Return).

Note: the Unfounded Claims and Transfiguration functions are not present in the film. No one ever doubts Harry’s victory over Voldemort, nor does Harry really transform after his encounter with Voldemort. These could be applied to subplots, but it requires some creative explaining, so for sake of brevity and simplicity, we’ll leave it as it is.


  1. This is perfect for so many reasons that I can't explain them. I'll just have to bookmark this so I can come back and reference this great example as I work on this new project I have in mind.


  2. Brooke, your analyses always impress me!!

  3. Great story, I love the Harry Potter series. Nicely detailed. :D

  4. Y cant see all.. In number 3 jump to 9