Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Movie vs. Book – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 5: The Whomping Willow

With all that happens in this chapter, my favorite part is the first paragraph:

The end of the summer vacation came too quickly for Harry’s liking. He was looking forward to getting back to Hogwarts, but his month at the Burrow had been the happiest of his life. It was difficult not to feel jealous of Ron when he thought of the Dursleys and the sort of welcome he could expect next time he turned up on Privet Drive.

The books provide subtle lessons to young readers. This is one of them. You can have all the money in the world, or at least a comfortable existence, and still be miserable. You can struggle and be happy. Harry finds more joy and love among the struggling Weasley family than he does at the comfortable home of the Dursleys.

In the film, we only see the family at King’s Cross Station on the day they are to depart for Hogwarts and are told later on that Arthur Weasley brought them there in his enchanted muggle car. In the book, readers get treated to all the chaos of the day of departure, including three trips back to The Burrow for things that were forgotten. This is one of the reasons they are running late and have to hurry.

Harry couldn’t see how eight people, six large trunks, two owls, and a rat were going to fit into one small Ford Anglia. He had reckoned, of course, without the special features that Mr. Weasley had added.

“Not a word to Molly,” he whispered to Harry as he opened the trunk and showed him how it had been magically expanded so that the luggage fitted easily.

Molly Weasley just thinks it a remarkable feat by the muggles who built the car.

The scene in King’s Cross is the same in the book as it is in the film. Harry and Ron are the last ones in the family to try to get to Platform 9 3/4 and can’t. Their solution is to take the car to Hogwarts.

“But your Mum and Dad…” said Harry, pushing against the barrier again in the vain hope that it would give way. “How will they get home?”

“They don’t need the car!” said Ron impatiently. “They know how to Apparate! You know, just vanish and reappear at home! They only bother with Floo powder and the car because we’re all underage and we’re not allowed to Apparate yet…”

In the film, the next thing we see is Harry and Ron in the flying car. There’s a little bit more to it in the book as they attempt to not attract the attention of muggles.

Ron pressed a tiny silver button on the dashboard. The car around them vanished — and so did they. Harry could feel the seat vibrating beneath him, hear the engine, feel his hands on his knees and his glasses on his nose, but for all he could see, he had become a pair of eyeballs, floating a few feet above the ground in a dingy street full of parked cars.

At first, their plan seems to be working.

Then there was a popping noise and the car, Harry, and Ron reappeared.

“Uh-oh,” said Ron, jabbing at the Invisibility Booster. “It’s faulty —”

Both of them pummeled it. The car vanished. Then it flickered back again.

Ron then takes the car up into the clouds. They spot the train and follow it towards Hogwarts, descending from the clouds every half-hour or so to check that they are still headed in the right direction. There’s no scene where they are on the tracks and the train comes up behind them, as in the film. It was a cute scene in the film, though.

Several uneventful hours later, however, Harry had to admit that some of the fun was wearing off. The toffees had made them extremely thirsty and they had nothing to drink. He and Ron had pulled off their sweaters, but Harry’s T-shirt was sticking to the back of his seat and his glasses kept sliding down to the end of his sweaty nose

At higher altitudes, wouldn’t it be colder? A small nit-pick of the book, but both of them get the perspective that taking a flying car to Hogwarts isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Ron put his foot on the accelerator and drove them upward again, but as he did so, the engine began to whine.

Harry and Ron exchanged nervous glances.

Uh oh! There’s a lot of tension as the book creates this scene well with Ron and Harry trying to make it to Hogwarts and the car slowly dying. It’s something missing from the film, but I suppose the scene with the train nearly crashing into them from behind is their answer to it.

Just as they are above the lake at Hogwarts, the car dies. The scenes in the film of them crashing into the Whomping Willow are pretty faithful to the book, except that there is more action on their part to try and stop it from happening, rather than just gripping the steering wheel and yelling.

“We’re done for!” he moaned as the ceiling sagged, but suddenly the floor of the car was vibrating — the engine had restarted.

“Reverse!” Harry yelled, and the car shot backward; the tree was still trying to hit them; they could hear its roots creaking as it almost ripped itself up, lashing out at them as they sped out of reach

The car then ejects all of their luggage, as well as Hedwig (who flies up to the Owlery, done with Harry for the moment) and them, then speeds off into the darkness. Ron is now worried about what his father will say.

It wasn’t at all the triumphant arrival they had pictured. Stiff, cold, and bruised, they seized the ends of their trunks and began dragging them up the grassy slope, toward the great oak front doors.

In the mind of a pre-teen, they were not going to have repercussions for what happened and were going to be the coolest kids at Hogwarts for what they had done.

There’s a bit of a recap in the book of what happens at the Sorting Ceremony, as Ron and Harry look on from outside the Castle. They notice that Professor Snape is not in his usual chair on the dais.

“Maybe he’s left,” said Harry, “because he missed out on the Defense Against Dark Arts job again!”

“Or he might have been sacked!” said Ron enthusiastically. “I mean, everyone hates him —”

“Or maybe,” said a very cold voice right behind them, “he’s waiting to hear why you two didn’t arrive on the school train.”

They don’t run into Professor Snape inside the Castle as is depicted in the film. Instead, he comes and finds them outside looking in. Snape brings them down to his office, where it becomes apparent he already has some idea of what happened. He reads them the news from that evening’s Daily Prophet where it seems the car was spotted by six or seven muggles.

“I believe your father works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office?” he said, looking up at Ron and smiling still more nastily. “Dear, dear… his own son…”

Another thing that never crossed their minds. They wait in Snape’s office while he fetches Professor McGonagall. When she arrives and confronts them, there’s more to the scene than in the film. Ron launches into an explanation that they couldn’t get through the barrier at King’s Cross, and tries to tell her they had no other choice.

“Why didn’t you send us a letter by owl? I believe you have an owl?” Professor McGonagall said coldly to Harry.

Dumbledore then enters with Professor Snape, and it’s a ner repeat of the scene with Professor McGonagall.

There was a long silence. Then Dumbledore said, “Please explain why you did this.”

It would have been better if he had shouted. Harry hated the disappointment in his voice. For some reason, he was unable to look Dumbledore in the eyes, and spoke instead to his knees. He told Dumbledore everything except that Mr. Weasley owned the bewitched car, making it sound as though he and Ron had happened to find a flying car parked outside the station. He knew Dumbledore would see through this at once, but Dumbledore asked no questions about the car. When Harry had finished, he merely continued to peer at them through his spectacles.

After that, it’s the same as the film where Ron offers to get their stuff and leave; they figure they have been expelled.

“Not today, Mr. Weasley,” said Dumbledore. “But I must impress upon both of you the seriousness of what you have done. I will be writing to both your families tonight. I must also warn you that if you do anything like this again, I will have no choice but to expel you.”

In the film, it’s Professor McGonagall who says this rather than Dumbledore. Ron wants to see his sister sorted, but McGonagall informs him the ceremony is over and Ginny is in Gryffindor like the rest of the Weasleys.

“I will not take any points from Gryffindor,” she said, and Harry’s heart lightened considerably. “But you will both get a detention.” It was better than Harry had expected. As for Dumbledore’s writing to the Dursleys, that was nothing. Harry knew perfectly well they’d just be disappointed that the Whomping Willow hadn’t squashed him flat.

I always wondered what the Dursleys reaction would be. Harry is probably right. Professor McGonagall makes them eat sandwiches in Snape’s office before heading to their dormitory. When they arrive at the door, they realize they don’t know the password for the new year. They are waiting outside when Hermoine finds them.

“There you are! Where have you been? The most ridiculous rumors — someone said you’d been expelled for crashing a flying car!”

Hermoine’s reaction feels a lot like Professor McGonagall’s to Harry and Ron. The rest of Gryffindor, though, seems to think it was great. Fred and George wonder why they didn’t think of it. Only Percy seems to be as severe as Hermoine is.

The dormitory door flew open and in came the other second year Gryffindor boys, Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, and Neville Longbottom.

“Unbelievable!” beamed Seamus.


“Cool,” said Dean.


“Amazing,” said Neville, awestruck.


Harry couldn’t help it. He grinned, too.

This chapter is adapted pretty well in the film. There are some details changed or left out completely, but nothing major.


Previous chapter (link): Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 4: At Flourish and Blotts

Next chapter (link): Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 6: Gilderoy Lockhart


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