In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the fifth of the series) Hermione Grainger begins her knitting hobby.
Harry Potter is frustrated to be isolated at Privet Drive with no information about the outside world from any of his school friends. After witnessing the re-emergence of Lord Voldemort at the end of year four, Harry is irritated that he has no knowledge of what his nemesis is planning. Harry faces a year of torment and obstacles but when he finally faces the Dark Lord’s followers, he and his friends are barely prepared.
During one hot summer evening Harry and his Dudley are attacked by two terrifying Dementors. Harry and his cousin barely escape with their lives, but Harry is soon summoned to an intimidating court hearing at the Ministry of Magic to account for his actions. He faces losing his wand, being expelled Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and possibly even imprisonment in Azkaban.
Harry is fifteen and not the child of earlier years. He is very much the angst ridden teenager as he enters the headquarters of a mysterious organisation called the Order of the Phoenix whilst he awaits the court hearing. Even though he knows almost everyone in the Order, Harry is further frustrated to find that the members divulge very little further information about Lord Voldemort’s actions.
Dumbledore and the Order try numerous ways to try to counteract the growing influence of Lord Voldemort. However, a personal grudge against Dumbledore by Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic, proves to be a huge hindrance in their endeavours. Fudge restricts Hogwarts School and suspects anyone associated with Dumbledore. This allows Voldemort almost free rein to re-establish his followers and prepare a scheme to become the most powerful wizard alive.
Amongst the new characters in this book is Professor Umbridge, who intimidates both the pupils and teachers at Hogwarts. She is such an evil and unpleasant character that it is hard to think of one redeeming feature. As her power in the school grows Harry finds that everything that he enjoys about Hogwarts is threatened.
Hermione decides to further her efforts to promote elf rights by trying to set free the elves who serve the witches and wizards at Hogwarts. She does this by taking up knitting elf hats and socks. She leaves these around Gryffindor common room for the elves to pick up, hoping thereby to set them free. She makes her first creations over the summer the Muggle way! Ron likens these early offerings to woolly bladders and so, he says, they may not count as clothes!
Once back at school, Hermione is free to create more knitted elf clothing with magic. She is soon pleased to be able to add patterns and bobbles to her hats and finds it so much fun that she thinks that Harry might like to help. Harry, however, cries off opting to tackle his mountain of homework instead.
Hermione actually wears one of the elf hats that she has created when she goes with Harry and Ron to visit Hagrid. Whilst Ron complains about the time she takes to put on her knitted garments, she simply responds that it is cold outside!
The fifth book in the Harry Potter series is the longest but this allows more development of the characters and this, it could also be argued, is in its favour. Although there are other characters that mature within this book, it is to Harry that we feel closest. Being with him through the series, we have seen the best and the worst of him. We have witnessed him making mistakes and we see Harry at his most vulnerable in this book. This endears him to us and makes him feel more real. To me this book is very much about character development, although there is plenty of action too.
One of the themes of the book is inner struggle. Harry struggles constantly with the link that he has with Lord Voldemort; a battle that at times threatens to rip away the close friendships he has created over four years. This novel, more than any of the others, has a theme of defiance against authority. This comes in the form of rebelling first against Dumbledore, then Umbridge and the Ministry.
Harry is becoming a young man. When Harry and Cho Chang visit Mrs Puddifoot’s teashop on Valentine’s Day he wrestles with his feelings for her. Over coffee and amongst the decor of frilly napkins, golden cherubs and pink confetti, the two young people try to understand their relationship and how it is affected by the death of Cedric Diggory.
The background of Severus Snape is enhanced in this book. This section gives a better understanding of what motivates one of J K Rowling’s most inventive creations when he interacts with Harry throughout the entire series. Neville Longbottom also matures and becomes a more proficient wizard (as do Ginny, Cho and others) as Harry discovers more about Neville’s family and background.
There are plenty of laughs too; maybe because the characters are often having such a miserable time the funny sections stand out! For example one unfortunate ends up being sent to the infirmary because he has bludgeoned himself with his own bat!
The Order of the Phoenix also handles the theme of tolerance of other people and creatures. The least liked characters are less open minded towards half breeds and non magical beings whereas those that we come to love, like Dumbledore, are very accepting to all.
J K Rowling brilliantly threads together numerous plot lines and there are frequently theories which turn out to be red herrings. She has plenty of surprises and there is also a lot revealed especially later on in the story. I particularly enjoyed the details of the wizarding community all around us, in the Order of the Phoenix. The fifth book in the series digs a little deeper into this world and we are able to see the workings of St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, the Ministry of Magic and the Order itself!
This is the longest of the Harry Potter series. There are numerous plot lines in what is a big and complex book. There are a lot of threads woven into the tale, so could J K Rowling have left some out and made it less challenging for younger readers? Probably, but in my opinion this has added rather than taken away from the drama and suspense of the book. Some readers may think that it is long winded, and if you are expecting the same depth of plot and characterisation as in the Philosopher’s Stone then you will be disappointed.
As there are so many characters in the story now, inevitably some of them have lesser role; Lupin and Moody for example. However, this is as it is in life; some people play a bigger part in life and others become less important.
This is rather an epic story by J K Rowling. It is extremely readable. The theme of friendship and camaraderie gives it a wonderful spirit, if tinged with sadness. I love exploring the magical wizarding world that she has created for us which you can easily imagine all around you.
I have read the hardback version, the Kindle version and listened to the Audible version of the book and I have enjoyed each one. I must say that Stephen Fry’s reading of the series on Audible is brilliant. He captures the people’s voices and emotions better than any reader that I know.
I would highly recommend Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as it adds a great deal of magic (and some knitting) to the series. It is a true adventure from start to finish.
The knitted garments in the photos attached to this blog are mostly woolly hats which I have enjoyed knitting. Some of them are on the Knitting Squirrel: Eton Cap, Cable Hat using Cashmerino Aran, Fair Isle Beanie Moodboard, Sockhead Slouch Hat No1 and No2. The yarn is available here.