The Boy who Lived

The Harry Potter series consists of 7 best-selling novels by author J.K. Rowling. In this series, Rowling has created a world filled with the most unique and amazing fantasies- dark and light. Filled with magical beasts, birds, mirrors and everything else; this is among the most popular fantasy series ever written. Here are 10 of the best creations of this series:

10. Owl Post

We have heard of pigeons delivering letters. Even eagles and kites. But owls? That’s something new! Imagine waking up in the morning to have your post delivered by a parliament of owls. Snowy owl, barn owl, screech owl; anything will do! And they are fast as well. Imagine having a pet like Hedwig!

9. The Marauder’s Map

Prankster’s Delight

This might look like an empty piece of parchment at first glance, but speak the words ‘I solemnly swear I’m up to no good” and watch it reveal a full map of the Hogwarts castle along with people in it! Animagus disguises, Polyjuice Potion and Invisibility Cloaks cannot fool this map. This amazing map was created by James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew while they were students at Hogwarts.

8. Polyjuice Potion

A draught of this potion allows you to take the form of any person. Just add their essence. That’s some way of impersonating! Kills the need for disguises. Sherlock Holmes would be glad. Don’t use this for animal transformations though. It can cause nasty complications (as Hermione Granger discover to disastrous effect in The Chamber of Secrets).

7. Boggarts

There is one creature that can impersonate anyone (even creatures) without the Polyjuice Potion. That’s the Boggart. Shape-shifting creatures, they take the form of what the person before it fears the most. Wicked! No one knows what a Boggart looks like when it’s alone. Muggles can see them too! Beware.

6. Felix Felicis

Liquid Luck

This golden potion is the dream of everyone. Also called ‘liquid luck’, it makes the drinker lucky for a period of time during which everything he attempts will be successful. It’s highly toxic in large quantities though and its use is banned in all organized competitions like Quidditch. Guess their world has doping scandals too!

5. Quidditch

Undoubtedly the best sport ever created (albeit imaginary), it is played on flying broomsticks. The 2 teams consist of 7 players each (3 chasers, 2 beaters, 1 keeper and 1 seeker). This rough, fast-paced game has one catch. It goes on indefinitely until a seeker successfully catches the Golden Snitch. The longest game, according to Quidditch Through the Ages lasted 3 months. And we curse test matches!

4. The Mirror of Erised

‘Erised’ spelled backwards is ‘desire’. And that tells you what the mirror does. It shows people the innermost desire of their heart. The Mirror of Erised was the final protection given to the Philosopher’s Stone in the Philosopher’s Stone. Only a person who wanted to find but not use the Stone would be able to obtain it. You are the happiest person on the planet if you can see yourself in the mirror just the way you are.

(More about magical mirrors here)

3. Pensieve

Sieve for Thoughts

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” It acts as a ‘sieve’ for your excess thoughts. Useful during examinations, don’t you think?

2. Dementors

Feeds on Happiness


In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin calls them ‘among the foulest creatures that walk this earth’. And rightly so. Dementors are dark creatures. They feed off human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them (a living analogue of exams). They can also consume a person’s soul (called a ‘Dementor’s Kiss’), leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as “soul-sucking fiends” and are known to leave a person as an ‘empty-shell’.


1. The Room of Requirement

A place of your dreams

This room beats all places on the planet. In Dobby, the house-elf’s words, “It is a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker’s needs” It cannot create food though, as that is one of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. So don’t expect 5-star hotels. Still, a room to die for!

There are others that almost made the list- the Hand of Glory, thestrals, remembralls, omniculars and howlers. Not to forget the Sorting Hat. Create your own list! The magical world of Harry Potter is yours to explore! If only we lived there (albeit as muggles). Sigh!

To read more about fantasy literature, click here

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J.R.R. Tolkien - The Father of Fantasy

Many of us have grown up reading fantasy literature. Everyone who read Harry Potter wanted to be a student at Hogwarts and emulate The Boy Who Lived. Those of us who read Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy wanted to have a shape-shifting daemon and travel across different universes. Everyone wanted to be a demigod after reading Percy Jackson. However, there is one universe that is so vast and so vivid that people of all ages wish they had lived in – Middle Earth, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien’s masterpiece. Since today is his 122nd birthday, we will celebrate his life and the influence of his works across generations. J.R.R. Tolkien is without a doubt a writer par-excellence. His magnum opus, the Lord of The Rings has been rated as the greatest fantasy work in the world and inspired an entire generation of fantasy authors.

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on this date in 1892 at Bloemfontein in South Africa. His family moved to England when he was a child after his father’s death. He lived in Sarehole in Birmingham which was full of hills and bogs. This inspired the landscape of Middle Earth, especially the setting of the Lord of the Rings. He was educated by his mother who raised him to be a very astute reader. After her early death, he moved to Edgbaston to live with a guardian. In his teenage years, Tolkien was fascinated by the fictional languages he and his cousins created, such as ‘Animalic’, ‘Nevbosh’ and ‘Naffarin’. In fact, when Tolkien served in World War I, he communicated with his wife Edith using codes that he created to bypass the censors. After 1917, Tolkien began his first work on Middle Earth ‘The Book of Lost Tales’. His romantic tryst with his wife inspired the poem ‘Beren and Luthien’ which later led him to work on the Silmarillion, a collection of tales encompassing the whole of Middle Earth.


Perrot’s Folly in Edgbaston, one of the inspirations for the Two Towers

After the war, Tolkien took up teaching posts in various English colleges where he worked on various aspects of linguistics and writing. He began his work on ‘The Hobbit’ and the first two volumes of the Lord of the Rings in 1925. He worked for the British government during World War II as a cryptographer due to his expertise in linguistics and code writing. After the war, Tolkien published his final work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy ‘The Return of the King’ which acted as the closure for the series. He had joined a club called The Inklings where he was close friends with noted author C.S. Lewis until his retirement.In the years of his life after retirement, Tolkien’s works became increasingly popular and had made him rich and famous. He settled down in Bournemouth with Edith until her death in 1971 and moved to Oxford where he lived until his death in 1973.

Beren and Luthien in life and in death

The collected works of Tolkien span volumes upon volumes of notes and books. In fact, the size of his unpublished notes is many times over the size of his books. Tolkien often said that his love for languages inspired the creation of Middle Earth. He himself said that the languages used in his works precluded the creation of Middle Earth itself and the characters were merely the vehicles for languages. His books were not mere stories, but rather a canvas to paint the picture of Middle Earth to the reader’s mental eye. It is said that Tolkien was the father of high fantasy, the fantasy of legendary characters fulfilling prophecies in magical worlds. Every fantasy story written today takes inspiration from the Lord of the Rings, such as ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin, ‘The Elder Scrolls’ game series and ‘The Wheel of Time’ by Robert Jordan. This reflects the legacy bequeathed by this great author who leaves his readers spellbound and invigorates their curiosity.

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Queer and Queerer: Jabberwocky

This is the first part of a three part series that focusses on the oddities of art and literature. The first segment deals with an extravagant genre of literature. Read on to know more…  

Hey, diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

You may have heard this 16th century nursery rhyme. For years literary experts and historians have attempted to fathom the meaning of this verse.  Numerous theories came up involving (and not restricted to) Queen Elizabeth I, the flight from Eygpt, Egyptian Hathor worship and even corruption in ancient Greece. But at the end of the day, most scholars conclude that the poem actually may have no particular meaning at all. Welcome to the world of literary nonsense.

Childish fantasies of a nonsense realm

Believe it or not, nonsense literature is in fact a legitimate genre of writing. This art stems from the human desire to make sense of everything, even in places where probably none exists. But don’t get me wrong, nonsense literature still possesses its own semantics, phonetics and contextual meaning (paradox?).  This can be clearly discerned upon reading classic nonsense stories such as Alice In Wonderland (1865). The author Charles Lutwidge a.k.a Lewis Carroll is regarded as the knight in shining armour of nonsense tales. Alice In Wonderland, is often wrongly regarded a children’s tale, due to maddening content. But over time, it had been re-categorised as a work of nonsense- that even adults can derive joy from. Matter of fact, Queen Elizabeth and Oscar Wilde were some of the first readers of the book.Indeed, the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter cross the boundaries of the rational realm but there is always an unnerving logic to the plot. Through a cycle of frustration and understanding, readers whizz through pages of Alice before it hits them that half of what they read is mere balderdash. At one point of the story the Hatter asks Alice the infamous riddle ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’. As you would expect a few lines later the Hatter admits that even he doesn’t have the slightest idea why. It’s anecdotes like these that entrance the reader.

Illustrators often have a hard time when it comes to nonsense lit.

But Lewis didn’t stop at that; he made nonsense literature a worldwide phenomenon with his follow up to AliceThrough The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871).  In this, he goes a step ahead with the quintessential nonsense poem Jabberwocky. You can test the waters with the first stanza-

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.

At first glance I wonder, what in the world that man was smoking when he wrote this. At second glance…never mind.

Carroll here presents a tale in the form of verse, and the distinctive characteristic is the words of his own he added. The genius of it is that the placement and phonetics of the words are such that the layman may believe that they are simply out of his vocabulary. He also took the pains of annotating some of his creative privileges. For example with regards to ourgrabe he says ” ‘outgribing‘ is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle”. And thus is the tale of how the word Jabberwocky made its way into the Oxford Dictionary to mean nonsense.

At the end of the day nonsense literature is simply what you infer of it. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but once you do- you’re hooked. And therein grolls all its werpitude.

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Five Best Movie Fight Scenes (for the fantasy fan)

Sure wizards duels are cool, but let us set Harry Potter aside for a moment, and look at some of the awesome-st combat scenes in fantasy movies that pumps up your adrenaline.

1. Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Will Turner vs. Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Commodore Norrington : Over the the ruins, perching on the edges, rolling over the wheel, inside the wheel- the fight for the Dead Man’s Chest is probably the most entertaining fight scene you’ll see in your life time. It is not just the technique but also the style of the sword play, that leaves you gaping till the end. To add cherry to the topping Pintel and Raggetti with Elizabeth Swann bring laughter amidst the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’

2.The Matrix:
There is no need to say it out loud, but Neo’s slow-motion-bullet-dodging scene could be the most imitated fighting scene move in history. I bet you’ve thought you can do that in real life, haven’t you?

3.Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Anakin Skywalker fighting his Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi while surrounded by a sea of lava. The clash of the light sabers and the Jedi acrobatics are truly unforgettable. A non Star Wars fan may disagree, but no weapon is more suited for a combat scene than a light saber.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
You might think that the Chronicles of Narnia movies are for kids, and I cannot say I disagree, but the sword fight between Peter and King Miraz is a must watch for any one who loves an onscreen duel. It is the sort of combat that takes one back to the Medieval days.

5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
Alright don’t gag seeing the name of the movie, but the fight with the Volturi was honestly the best scene of the series. In addition to providing an interesting twist from the book’s original plot, the supernatural battle scene with werewolves and vampires is one of the coolest we have seen in the last one year.

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