This chapter is designed to give the reader their first impressions of Hogwarts. The film production did a terrific job with the sets – I saw them live when I took the tour in London and they are as majestic as they appear on the screen.
The first person Harry sees upon the castle doors being open is Professor McGonagall. She is described as “A tall, black-haired witch in emerald-green robes stood there. She had a very stern face and Harry’s first thought was that this was not someone to cross.” It has been said the McGonagall was a contemporary of Harry’s late father, which would make her quite a bit younger than Dame Maggie Smith, who portrayed her in the films. Still, I can’t think of anyone more perfect for the role, age difference aside.
The first year students are quite nervous about the experience of being sorted into houses, not knowing what to expect. They are led to believe there’s some sort of test, which Harry fears since he knows little to nothing about the Wizarding World and magic. Ghosts appear in the room while the students are waiting, and Peeves’ name is first mentioned. Peeves was jettisoned from the Harry Potter universe in the films. The description of the Great Hall matches what we see in the films, and I can tell you it’s even more impressive in person.
The sorting ceremony is depicted in more detail in this chapter than in the film. It includes a song the hat sings before it begins to sort the students. More details of the students being sorted is included in the book. When Harry is sorted into Gryffindor, the ghost Nearly Headless Nick congratulates him, and his touching of Harry is described like having a hand plunged into icy water. The Bloody Baron is the ghost of Slytherin House.
Neville Longbottom discusses his background a bit, being raised by his grandmother and the relatives who didn’t think he had any magic in him for a long time.
Professor Quirrell, in his absurd turban, was talking to a teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin.
This is the first sighting of Professor Snape.
Before being dismissed for the night, the students in the Great Hall sing the school song:
“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot,
just do your best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.”
Fred and George Weasley sing the sing like a funeral march and Dumbledore seems to be amused by them.
On their way to the Gryffindor wing, Percy Weasley leads the students to an encounter with the poltergeist Peeves.
“You want to watch out for Peeves,” said Percy, as they set off again. “The Bloody Baron’s the only one who can control him, he won’t even listen to us prefects. Here we are.”
This chapter was generally depicted well in the film, with the exception of losing the entire storyline around Peeves. The book has more details which make the story richer, but in general it’s a good adaptation. One major thing that was missing was Harry’s dream:
Perhaps Harry had eaten a bit too much, because he had a very strange dream. He was wearing Professor Quirrell’s turban, which kept talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin at once, because it was his destiny. Harry told the turban he didn’t want to be in Slytherin; it got heavier and heavier; he tried to pull it off but it tightened painfully — and there was Malfoy, laughing at him as he struggled with it — then Malfoy turned into the hook-nosed teacher, Snape, whose laugh became high and cold — there was a burst of green light and Harry woke, sweating and shaking