I. Basic Information
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published by: Scholastics Inc.
Copyright: © 1997 by J.K. Rowling
No. of Pages; 309
II. Author’s Background
J.K. Rowling was a struggling single mother when she wrote the beginnings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on scraps of paper at a local café. But her efforts soon paid off, as she received an unprecedented award from the Scottish Arts Council enabling her to finish the book. Since then, the debut novel has become an international phenomenon, garnering rave reviews and major awards, including the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the year, and the smarties prize.
Ms. Rowling lives in Edinburgh with her daughter.
III. Synopsis (Summary)
Before the start of the novel, Voldemort, considered the most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, kills Harry’s parents but mysteriously vanishes after trying to kill the infant Harry. While the wizarding world celebrates Voldemort’s downfall, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid place the one year-old orphan in the care of his neglectful and abusive Muggle (non-wizard) uncle and aunt: Vernon and Petunia Dursley, who also have their own son, Dudley, a spoiled and selfish boy.
For ten years, Harry is repeatedly tormented by the Dursleys. Shortly before Harry’s eleventh birthday, a series of letters addressed to Harry arrive, but Vernon destroys them before Harry can read them. To get away from the letters, Vernon takes the family to a small island. As they are settling in, Hagrid bursts through the door to tell Harry what the Dursleys have kept him from finding out: Harry is a wizard and has been accepted at Hogwarts.
Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley, a magically-concealed shopping precinct in London, where Harry is bewildered to discover how famous he is among wizards as “the boy who lived”. He also finds that he is quite wealthy, since a bequest from his parents has remained on deposit at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Guided by Hagrid, he buys the books and equipment he needs for Hogwarts. At the wand shop, he finds that the wand that suits him best is the twin of Voldemort’s; both wands contain feathers from the same phoenix.
A month later Harry leaves the Dursleys’ home to catch the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross railway station. There he meets the Weasley family, who show him how to pass through the magical wall to Platform 9¾, where the train is waiting. While on the train Harry makes friends with Ron Weasley, who tells him that someone tried to rob a vault at Gringotts. During the ride they meet Hermione Granger. Another new pupil, Draco Malfoy, accompanied by his sidekicks Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, offers to advise Harry, but Harry dislikes Draco’s arrogance and prejudice.
Before the term’s first dinner in the school’s Great Hall, the new pupils are allocated to houses by the magical Sorting Hat. Before it is Harry’s turn, he catches Professor Snape’s eye and feels a pain in the scar Voldemort left on his forehead. When it is Harry’s turn to be sorted, the Hat wonders whether he should be in Slytherin, but when Harry objects, the Hat sends him to join the Weasleys in Gryffindor. While Harry is eating, he questions Ron’s older brother Percy about Snape.
After a terrible first Potions lesson with Snape, Harry and Ron visit Hagrid, who lives in a rustic house on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. There they learn that the attempted robbery at Gringotts happened the day Harry withdrew money. Harry remembers that Hagrid had removed a small package from the vault that was broken into and searched.
During the new pupils’ first broom-flying lesson, Neville Longbottom breaks his wrist, and Draco takes advantage to throw the forgetful Neville’s fragile Remembrall high in the air. Harry gives chase on his broomstick, catching the Remembrall inches from the ground. Professor McGonagall dashes out and appoints him as the new Seeker for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
When Draco tricks Ron and Harry, accompanied by Neville and Hermione Granger, into a midnight excursion, they accidentally enter a forbidden corridor and find a huge three-headed dog. The group hastily retreats, and Hermione notices that the dog is standing over a trap-door. Harry concludes that the monster is guarding the package Hagrid retrieved from Gringotts.
After Ron criticises Hermione’s ostentatious proficiency in Charms, she hides in tears in the girls’ toilet. At the Halloween Night dinner, Professor Quirrell hastily reports that a troll has entered the dungeons. While everyone else returns to their dormitories, Harry and Ron rush to warn Hermione. The troll corners Hermione in the toilet but when Harry sticks his wand up one of its nostrils, Ron uses the levitation spell to knock out the troll with its own club. Afterwards, several professors arrive and Hermione takes the blame for the battle and becomes a firm friend of the two boys.
The evening before Harry’s first Quidditch match, he sees Snape receiving medical attention from Filch for a bite on his leg by the three-headed dog. During the game, Harry’s broomstick goes out of control, endangering his life, and Hermione notices that Snape is staring at Harry and muttering. She dashes over to the Professors’ stand, knocking over Professor Quirrell in her haste, and sets fire to Snape’s robe. Harry regains control of his broomstick and catches the Golden Snitch, winning the game for Gryffindor. Hagrid refuses to believe that Snape was responsible for Harry’s danger, but lets slip that he bought the three-headed dog, and that the monster is guarding a secret that belongs to Professor Dumbledore and someone called Nicolas Flamel.
Harry and the Weasleys stay at Hogwarts for Christmas, and one of Harry’s presents, from an anonymous donor, is an Invisibility Cloak owned by his father. Harry uses the Cloak to search the library’s Restricted Section for information about the mysterious Flamel, has to evade Snape and Filch after an enchanted book shrieks an alarm, and slips into a room containing the Mirror of Erised, which shows his parents and several of their ancestors. Harry becomes addicted to the Mirror’s visions and is rescued by Professor Dumbledore, who explains that it shows what the viewer most desperately longs for.
When the rest of the pupils return for the next term, Draco plays a prank on Neville, and Harry consoles Neville with a sweet. The collectible card wrapped with the sweet identifies Flamel as an alchemist. Hermione soon finds that he is a 665-year-old man who possesses the only known Philosopher’s Stone, from which can be extracted an elixir of life. A few days later Harry notices Snape sneaking towards the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. There he half-hears a furtive conversation about the Philosopher’s Stone, in which Snape asks Professor Quirrell if he has found a way past the three-headed dog and menacingly tells Quirrell to decide whose side he is on. Harry concludes that Snape is trying to steal the Stone and Quirrell has helped prepare a series of defences for it, which was an almost fatal mistake.
The three friends discover that Hagrid is raising a baby dragon, which is against wizard law, and arrange to smuggle it out of the country around midnight. Draco arrives, hoping to raise the alarm and get them into trouble, and goes to tell Professor McGonagall. Although Ron is bitten by the dragon and is sent to the infirmary, Harry and Hermione spirit the dragon safely away. However, they are caught, and Harry loses the Invisibility Cloak. As part of their punishment, Harry, Hermione, Draco, and Neville (who, trying to stop Harry and Hermione after hearing what Draco had been saying, had been caught by McGonagall as well) are compelled to help Hagrid to rescue a badly-injured unicorn in the Forbidden Forest.
They split into two parties, and Harry and Draco find the unicorn dead, surrounded by its blood. A hooded figure crawls to the corpse and drinks the blood, while Draco screams and flees. The hooded figure moves towards Harry, who is knocked out by an agonising pain spreading from his scar. When Harry regains consciousness, the hooded figure has gone and a centaur, Firenze, offers to give him a ride back to the school. The centaur tells Harry that drinking a unicorn’s blood will save the life of a mortally injured person, but at the price of having a cursed life from that moment on. Firenze suggests Voldemort drank the unicorn’s blood to gain enough strength to make the elixir of life from the Philosopher’s Stone, and regain full health by drinking that. On his return, Harry finds that someone has slipped the Invisibility Cloak under his sheets.
A few weeks later, while relaxing after the end-of-session examinations, Harry suddenly wonders how something as illegal as a dragon’s egg came into Hagrid’s possession. The gamekeeper says he was given it by a hooded stranger who bought him several drinks and asked him how to get past the three-headed dog, which Hagrid admits is easy – music sends it to sleep. Realising that one of the Philosopher’s Stone’s defences is no longer secure, Harry goes to inform Professor Dumbledore, only to find that the headmaster has just left for an important meeting. Harry concludes that Snape faked the message that called Dumbledore away and will try to steal the Stone that night.
Covered by the Invisibility Cloak, Harry and his two friends go to the three-headed dog’s chamber, where Harry sends the beast to sleep by playing a flute given to him by Hagrid for Christmas. After lifting the trap-door, they encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires special skills possessed by one of the three, and one of which requires Ron to sacrifice himself in a game of wizard’s chess. In the final room Harry, now alone, finds Quirrell rather than Snape.
Quirrell admits that he let in the troll that tried to kill Hermione on Halloween, and that he tried to kill Harry during the first Quidditch match but was knocked over by Hermione. Snape had been trying to protect Harry and suspected Quirrell. Quirrell serves Voldemort and, after failing to steal the Philosopher’s Stone from Gringotts, allowed his master to possess him in order to improve their chances of success. However the only other object in the room is the Mirror of Erised, and Quirrell can see no sign of the Stone. At Voldemort’s bidding, Quirrell forces Harry to stand in front of the Mirror. Harry feels the Stone drop into his pocket and tries to stall. Quirrell removes his turban, revealing the face of Voldemort on the back of his head. Voldemort/Quirrell tries to grab the Stone from Harry, but simply touching Harry causes Quirrell’s flesh to burn. After further struggles Harry passes out.
He awakes in the school hospital, where Professor Dumbledore tells him that he survived because his mother sacrificed her life to protect him, and Voldemort could not understand the power of such love. Voldemort left Quirrell to die, and is likely to return by some other means. Dumbledore had foreseen that the Mirror would show Voldemort/Quirrell only themselves making the elixir of life, as they wanted to use the Philosopher’s Stone; Harry was able to see the Stone in the Mirror because he wanted to find it but not to use it. The Stone has now been destroyed.
Harry returns to the Dursleys for the summer holiday, but does not tell them that under-age wizards are forbidden to use magic outside Hogwarts. IV. Details
Harry Potter is an orphan whom Rowling imagined as a “scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard.”
Ron Weasley is Harry’s age and Rowling describes him as the ultimate best friend, “Always there when you need him.”
Hermione Granger, the daughter of an all-Muggle family, is a bossy girl who has apparently memorised most of the textbooks before the start of term. Neville Longbottom is a plump, diffident boy, so forgetful that his grandmother gives him a Remembrall. Neville’s magical abilities are weak and appeared just in time to save his life when he was eight.
Hagrid, a half-giant nearly 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, with tangled black hair and beard, was expelled from Hogwarts and his wand was broken, but Professor Dumbledore let him stay on as the school’sgamekeeper, a job which enables him to lavish affection and pet names on even the most dangerous of magical creatures.
Professor Dumbledore, a tall, thin man who wears half-moon spectacles and has silver hair and a beard that tucks into his belt, is the headmaster of Hogwarts, and thought to be the only wizard Voldemort fears.
Professor McGonagall, a tall, severe-looking woman with black hair tied in a tight bun, teaches Transfiguration, and sometimes transforms herself into a cat. Petunia Dursley, the sister of Harry’s mother Lily, is a thin woman with a long neck that she uses for spying on the neighbours. She regards her magical sister as a freak and tries to pretend that she never existed.
Vernon is a heavily-built man whose irascible bluster covers a narrow mind and a fear of anything unusual.
Dudley is an overweight, spoiled bully.
Draco Malfoy is a slim, pale boy who speaks in a bored drawl. He is arrogant about his skill in Quidditch, and despises anyone who is not a pure blood wizard – and wizards who do not share his views. His parents had supported Voldemort, but changed sides after the dark wizard’s disappearance. Draco avoids direct confrontations, and tries to get Harry and his friends into trouble. Twitching, stammering Professor Quirrell teaches Defence Against the Dark Arts. Reputedly he was a brilliant scholar, but his nerve was shattered by an encounter with vampires. Quirrell wears a turban to conceal the fact that he is voluntarily possessed by Voldemort, whose face appears on the back of Quirrell’s head. Professor Snape, who has a hooked nose, sallow complexion and greasy black hair, teaches Potions, but is eager to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. Snape praises pupils in Slytherin, his own House, but seizes every opportunity to humiliate others, especially Harry. Several incidents, beginning with the shooting pain in Harry’s scar near the end of the first dinner, lead Harry and his friends to think Snape is a follower of Voldemort.
The school’s caretaker, Filch, knows the school’s secret passages better than anyone else except possibly the Weasley twins. His cat, Mrs. Norris, aids his hunts for misbehaving pupils. Other members of Hogwarts staff include: the dumpy Herbology teacher Professor Sprout; Professor Flitwick, the tiny and excitable Charms teacher, who is discreetly friendly towards Harry; the soporificHistory of Magic teacher, Professor Binns, a ghost who does not seem to have noticed his own death; and Madam Hooch, the Quidditch coach, who is strict but a considerate, methodical teacher. The poltergeist Peeves wanders around the buildings causing trouble for whomever he can.