Literature: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
is the third Harry Potter
book. Published July 8, 1999, this was the last book published at separate times in the US and UK and the last "quiet" release of a Harry Potter
book. Often considered the point at which the series Grew the Beard
Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, the wizarding prison
. In response, the Ministry of Magic
sends Dementors, a Black Cloaked
race of dreadful creatures who guard Azkaban, to guard Hogwarts and their Emotion Eating
powers seem to affect Harry especially. Remus Lupin, meanwhile, makes his first appearance, taking on the dreaded Defense Against the Dark Arts post
The book's popularity may be partially due to the introductions of Sirius
, considered by some fans to be two of the coolest characters in the series. It also marks the point where the books started to become more serialized
with each ending setting up the next one
. It also has, quite possibly, the most complicated plot of the entire series, drawing in characters and events from all over the place; the Prisoner of Azkaban is obviously important, but the way
he is important zig-zags several times over the course of the novel, and the same thing happens to a bunch
of other characters. The end result is that, by the end of the novel, the story's landscape has irrevocably changed... and readers know that things are going to get really
interesting from now on.
Followed by Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I solemnly swear that these tropes are up to no good:
- The Alcatraz: Azkaban, which was first mentioned in Book 2, becomes central to the plot in this one.
- A Glass in the Hand: When Harry gets angry at Aunt Marge, her glass shatters in her hand, but Marge assumes she crushed it by accident.
- Antagonist Title: Subverted. Sirius turns out to be a good guy.
- Anxiety Dreams
- An Arm and a Leg: The reason the Care of Magical Creatures post is available for Hagrid.
Dumbledore: I am sorry to say that Professor Kettleburn has retired from his post at the end of last term, in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs.
- Awful Truth: Done twice, first with the story Harry overhears about how Sirius betrayed Harry's parents, and isn't just an insane criminal, then the real truth of Peter's even crueller betrayal. Whether the real truth is slightly better or slightly worse is debatable. On one hand, the traitor wasn't James' best friend, and said best friend is still alive. On the other hand Peter not only betrayed the Potters and murdered about a dozen innocent people, but also framed Sirius for his crimes, and got to live happily at the Weasleys' for twelve years.
- Berserk Button
- When Snape calls Hermione an annoying know-it-all, Ron lashes out at Snape, despite having himself insulted Hermione thusly.
- And don't call Hagrid pathetic in front of Hermione, unless you're looking for a slap in the face...
- This book shows us how McGonagall reacts to someone deliberately pulling off foul play in Quidditch. TWICE.
- And don't forget Harry's reaction to Aunt Marge's taunts.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Remus Lupin. At the climax of the book when he and Sirius confront Peter with the evidence of his betrayal, Sirius asks him casually "Shall we kill him together?" and Remus simply answers "Yes, I think so".
- Big Bad Ensemble: The Dementors and Peter Pettigrew.
- As a side note, this is the only volume in the series where Voldemort doesn't make an appearance in any way and is only mentioned.
- Book Ends: The first and last chapters are called "Owl Post" and "Owl Post Again", respectively.
- Book Snap: Hermione does this and storms off to another class when Ron makes an Innocently Insensitive remark. This leaves Harry and Ron confused, since they don't know she's using a time turner to attend multiple classes.
- Burn the Witch!: Lampshaded: Harry's over-the-summer essay is about how pointless medieval witch burnings were, since the few times the victim was a wizard and not a poor ordinary Muggle, they could simply cast a flame-freezing charm and pretend to be suffering. They go on to mention that some witches and wizards allowed themselves to be caught and burned multiple times because they liked the fact that it felt like being tickled.
- Care Bear Stare: Riddikulus (laugh!) has this effect on Boggarts and Expecto Patronum (think happy thoughts!) on Dementors.
- Cassandra Truth: Due to the convoluted truth of what really happened that night, Harry has a hard time convincing anybody. Also done comically, as Trelawney doesn't believe a prophecy that she herself just spoke.
- Cats Are Mean: Ron firmly believes this for most of the book.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Mark says it best:
Hey children did you enjoy this wonderful children's book full of wonderful awesome things for children well let me WRITE A BOOK BUILT ENTIRELY ON THE FEAR THAT A DERANGED, PSYCHOPATHIC MURDERER IS GOING TO EITHER KILL YOU IN YOUR SLEEP OR DESTROY YOU IN ANY SORT OF OPEN, PUBLIC SPACE.
- Chekhov's Gun: The series has its own page.
- Contrived Coincidence
- If the climax hadn't occurred on a night with a full moon, Pettigrew would have been arrested and Sirius cleared, completely changing the arc of the next 4 books. Lupin probably would have also remained teacher, since Snape wouldn't have found Sirius while trying to bring Lupin his Wolfsbane potion and ultimately outed Lupin as a werewolf out of spite. This is especially funny when it's revealed, three books later, that Voldemort cursed the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. So with this curse Voldemort was ultimately able to make a new body.
- The only reason that Sirius even breaks out of Azkaban in the first place is that A) the Weasleys win the wizard lottery, B) this is apparently front-page news, C) Ron has Scabbers in the picture, and D) Cornelius Fudge just happens to be carrying that exact issue of the Daily Prophet when he visits Black's cell.
- Harry just happens to get his hands on the Marauder's Map the very same year that one of its creators is teaching at Hogwarts. Not to mention the other two surviving creators also being around Hogwarts for that same year.
- That Peter Pettigrew happened to choose the Weasleys to live with, who happened to befriend Harry Potter.
- Cool Teacher: Lupin effortlessly puts Peeves in his place, tries to help Neville face his fear of Snape, and tutors Harry on how to repel emotion-eating monsters.
- Covert Pervert: A History of Magic contains an amusing little anecdote: witches and wizards who were caught and burned at the stake cast a charm that would protect them from the fire while all they felt was a gentle tickling sensation. Wendelin the Weird enjoyed it so much that she allowed herself to be caught forty-seven times. Yep, she definitely enjoyed it.
- Cruel Mercy: Harry asks Sirius and Lupin to spare Pettigrew's life, but not because he feels sorry for him; he just doesn't want them to become murderers. "He can go to Azkaban. If anyone deserves that place, he does."
- Deadpan Snarker: McGonagall throughout, but particularly in this book.
"You look in excellent health to me, Potter, so you will excuse me if I don't let you off homework today. I assure you that if you do die, you need not hand it in."
- Debate and Switch: Is it a colossal dick move to purchase, as a pet, a cat that tried to eat your friend's pet rat at the pet shop, and then make no effort whatsoever to keep said cat away from sneaking off to eat said rat, which it inevitably does? ...Probably. Is it bad enough to justify the rat owner never speaking to the cat owner again? That isn't entirely addressed. Turns out that Crookshanks is a highly intelligent part kneazle who knew that Scabbers was really Peter Pettigrew in disguise and was working with Sirius Black to bring Peter to justice. Crookshanks' actions turned out to be heroic, Scabbers turned out to be evil, and Crookshanks never even ate Scabbers in the first place, so the debate doesn't really apply.
- Demoted to Extra: Ginny Weasley.
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: A weird in-universe example, as the Marauders evidently anticipated Snape one day getting a hold of their Map and charmed it to insult him if he ever identified himself when trying to open it. This failsafe kicks in nearly twenty years later.
- It's possible the charm was merely for any teacher who gets their hands on it, not Snape specifically, since the insults it delivers are generic in nature.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Malfoy when he insults Buckbeak after Harry managed to tame and ride him. Needless to say, Buckbeak nearly tore Malfoy's arm off at the insult.
- Dirty Coward: Peter Pettigrew.
- Disappointed In You: Lupin to Harry, making him feel a lot worse than he did when Snape was the one giving him into trouble.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Harry is shocked to see Snape taking delight in the thought of a former school bully receiving the Dementor's Kiss ("YOU'RE PATHETIC! JUST BECAUSE THEY MADE A FOOL OF YOU AT SCHOOL..."). The real reason for Snape's hatred of Sirius can be deduced from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as Snape assumed like everyone else that Sirius betrayed Lily to Voldemort.
- What makes Snape's actions even more appalling is that Sirius is fully willing to co-operate with his arrest so long as he's taken to proper authorities with Ron bringing Scabbers as evidence:
Sirius: "As long as this boy [Ron] brings his rat up to the castle, I’ll come quietly..."
- Doctor's Orders: ]Madam Pomfrey asserts herself quite strongly, if not always successfully, when authority figures want to speak to students in her care.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?
- Lupin's werewolf condition and the wizarding community's reactions to it was thought by fans to be a social commentary on living with HIV. Word of God confirmed it later.
- A number of people (including the director of the movie) believed that Lupin was gay, so it could also be a metaphor for homosexuality; however, Rowling didn't write the character as gay (he married Tonks) and explicitly stated it was an HIV metaphor, so the signs don't fit quite as neatly.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: Scabbers, Ron's pet rat who seems to be involved in a minor subplot regarding Hermione's new cat, who has been around since the first book, is secretly a not-so-dead Peter Pettigrew, who is the real villain of the book.
- Dragon Their Feet: The public's general opinion of Sirius Black; on the day after Voldemort's downfall, he was outed as a Death Eater, and went on to kill 13 people (12 Muggles, plus the wizard trying to apprehend him) before finally getting caught.
- Dynamic Entry: Lupin busts the door open — "EXPELLIARMUS!"
- Emotion Eater: The Dementors.
- Empty Shell: The result of the Dementor's Kiss.
- Everybody Lives: Along with Chamber of Secrets, the only book in the series where no character dies (though several characters die in the Backstory).
- Evil Former Friend: Peter, although evil is too respectful a word to describe him.
- Evil Detecting Cat: Crookshanks. Justified in that J.K. Rowling stated that Crookshanks is half-Kneazle, a magical cat-like animal that can tell if someone is untrustworthy.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Hagrid being Hagrid, he sees nothing wrong with assigning The Monster Book of Monsters. You have to tame the book before you can open it, and it is absolutely feral until you do.
- The manager of Flourish and Blotts also mentions a book called The Invisible Book of Invisibility. Presumably, if a wizarding book can follow this trend, it will.
- Extreme Melee Revenge: When Harry first meets Sirius, Harry becomes so enraged that he forgets all about magic, forgets that Sirius is supposedly a powerful dark wizard trained by Voldemort himself, and forgets that Sirius is holding three wands. Harry charges Sirius down and nearly suffocates him.
- Fake Kill Scare: At one point, they hear what they think is Buckbeak being executed. It turns out to be the executioner hitting the fence (in the movie: a pumpkin) with his axe after he finds out Buckbeak escaped.
- Fantastic Time Management: Hermione Granger uses daily time travel to take more classes than would be otherwise possible.
- Fate Worse Than Death. The Dementor's Kiss.
- Finger Snap Lighter: Lupin.
- Lupin teaching Harry's class how to deal with the Boggart, a magical creature that is warded off with the combination of a spell and positive thoughts, foreshadowing him teaching Harry how to deal with Dementors.
- In this class, we learn that the Boggart can take on the form of a person's greatest fear. When Lupin pushes himself in front of Harry to protect him from the Boggart-as-Dementor, the boggart turns into a full moon. Why a full moon? Hmmmm...
- Dumbledore mentioning to Harry that Trelawney's latest prophecy brings her number of accurate prophecies up to “two.”
- Harry's two Quidditch-related dreams foreshadow two following books:
- After the match against Ravenclaw, Harry dreams about following a silver shape through a forest, together with a galloping shape before coming to a clearing, foreshadows both Harry's own Patronus (a stag) and the scene in book seven where Harry follows Snape's Patronus (a doe) through a forest into a clearing.
- Before the Quidditch final, Harry dreams that the Slytherins came to the match riding dragons and that he has to dodge the dragons' fire on his broom. Cue book four, where Harry dodges a dragon on his broom in the first trial.
- Professor Trelawney mentions Voldemort's servant returning him to life.
- This book introduces us to Sirius Black, named after the constellation Sirius. Notice how the only other similarly-named character in the books is Draco Malfoy? That's not an accident. As we learn in the fifth book, Sirius and Draco's mother are first cousins, and the twisted history of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black becomes a major source of drama in later books.
- Girls with Moustaches: Aunt Marge, in addition to being "large, beefy and purple-faced", has a small moustache.
- A Glass in the Hand: After one jibe too many about his family, Harry makes the glass Marge is holding shatter. She assumes she was gripping it too hard, having done the same thing before.
- Golden Mean Fallacy: Lupin explains that this is one of the advantages to tackling a Boggart in groups. It might try and combine two people's fears and end up with something a lot less scary than either of them.
- Gone Horribly Right: The purpose behind telling no one that the Secret-Keepers were switched was to make sure everyone went after Sirius Black. It worked.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Sirius Black, initially set up as the Big Bad, turns out to be this.
- Hijacked by Ganon: Subverted. Everyone said Sirius Black was a Death Eater, so an appearance of Voldemort was expected. It's the only book to not feature Voldemort as the Big Bad, replaced instead by Sirius Black, or more accurately, Peter Pettigrew.
- Hypocrite: Lupin tells Harry that he's appalled that Harry never brought the Marauder's Map to a teacher's attention given how useful it would be to catch Sirius or how useful it'd be to Sirius if he found it. Yet Lupin never bothers telling Dumbledore (or anyone except Harry, Ron, and Hermione) that Sirius is an animagus and knows about the tunnel from the Shrieking Shack onto Hogwarts grounds. In Lupin's defense, he was using the map to find and track Sirius anyway.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Remus acknowledges this failing in the climax, even noting that Snape From a Certain Point of View was right about him not being trustworthy. He noted that he was grateful to Dumbledore for giving him the chance to study at Hogwarts and could never admit that his friends became illegal animagi and risked their lives for him and lied to Dumbledore for over seven years. He says that he hoped that Sirius had tried to get in via dark arts rather than his skills as an animagus.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: When Snape takes over Defense Against The Dark Arts for Professor Lupin when he's sick, Snape is absolutely awful to everyone, even more so than normal, intentionally trying to paint Lupin in the worst conceivable light imaginable despite repeatedly being at odds with reality. Snape asks the class if they know the difference between werewolves and true wolves, and ignores Hermione when she raises her hand, then gets on the class's case for not knowing something "So simple", despite it not being on the curriculum for several months at the bare minimum, and says he'll have to report to Dumbledore about how incompetent a teacher Lupin is. When Hermione then speaks out of turn and starts trying to answer the question, Snape interrupts her and takes five points from Gryffindor "for being an insufferable know-it-all", an action that instantly enrages every single person in the entire class, despite the fact that all of them had called Hermione a know-it-all themselves at some point before.
- I'll Kill You!: Harry threatening to kill Sirius.
- I'm Standing Right Here: Aunt Marge makes several disparaging remarks about Harry and his parents while sitting at the same table as Harry. Harry spends most of the week trying very, very hard to think about something else.
- Intellectual Animal: The Wolfsbane Potion sort of invokes this. When a werewolf drinks it, they are able to keep their mind human when transformed.
- It Was a Gift: The Firebolt and Pigwidgeon.
- Invented Invalid: Lupin mentions that he would often claim his mother was ill as an excuse for his frequent absences, since he didn't want anyone finding out he was a werewolf and needed to be away from the school during his transformations.
- I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Hagrid says that if he had known Sirius' role in the Potters' death, he would have ripped him limb from limb. Hagrid is a half-giant, so a threat like this should be taken very seriously.
- Fudge rather pompously tells Hagrid that only trained “Hit Wizards” would have stood a chance. It seems reasonable to think Hagrid would have fared better.
- Kick the Dog: It's bad enough that Snape belittles and insults Neville in his own classes... but to have a small rant about how useless he is to another teacher is beyond cruel.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Snape has a moment of this when subbing for Lupin, claiming that the Kappa is more commonly found in Mongolia when it's actually Japanese. This gets followed up on in Fantastic Beasts: "Snape hasn't read this."
- Large Ham: Sir Cadogan.
- Laughing Mad: Offscreen, Sirius when he's arrested, which certainly doesn't help his case, even though The Reveal makes it obvious that it was due to heartbroken grief over James's death, the betrayal and the overwhelming irony of Peter's escape.
- MacGuffin Location: Azkaban
- Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Sirius.
- Moment of Weakness: Harry's blowing up Aunt Marge.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: Oliver Wood does it to himself, when he lists the members of the Quidditch team: "We've got three superb Chasers. We've got two unbeatable Beaters. And we've got a Seeker who has never failed to win us a match! (after long pause in which he realizes he's forgotten someone) And me." This leads to a rather heartwarming moment when Fred and George lead the team in saying they consider him a great Keeper.
- Narm: In-universe example: the Riddikulus spell involves making your worst fear funny.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Subverted, sort of, when Harry realizes the person who had cast the Patronus to save him, Sirius, and Hermione from the Dementors was not his father, but himself. Otherwise played straight.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Harry's decision to spare Wormtail's life starts a chain reaction that leads to Voldemort’s return and basically the plots of books four through seven.
- Non Indicative Name: Just prior to the events of the book Sirius escapes from Azkaban, so he's not technically a 'Prisoner of Azkaban.'
- Our Gryphons Are Different: Buckbeak the Hippogriff is introduced in this book.
- Overly-Long Scream: Ron uses up two whole lines of text to scream "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGH! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" after he wakes up to find Sirius Black standing over him with a knife.
- Power Incontinence: What happens when thirteen-year-old witches and wizards lose their temper.
- The Quisling: In The Reveal, Peter Pettigrew is found to be one.
- Rage Quit: Hermione. And it is awesome.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Professor Lupin, who, among other things, lies to Snape in order to rescue Harry and then proceeds to berate him because his actions could indeed have endangered himself or other people.
- Red Herring: Everyone believes that Sirius escaped Azkaban to kill Harry. His target was somebody else entirely.
- Rushed Inverted Reading: When Hermione tells Professor McGonagall about Harry getting a Firebolt for Christmas and then the teacher goes to temporarily confiscate it so that it can be checked for jinxes/hexes (on the chance that Sirius Black sent it), Hermione hides her face behind a book that she holds upside down.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Harry to the Dursleys after he blows up Marge. Shame it didn't take.
- Secret Keeper: The Trope Namer.
- Secret Secret Keeper: Hermione's figured out Lupin's "condition" and kept it from the others, including Lupin himself, until she came to the belief that he was an accomplice to Sirius Black. She even thought the teachers were unaware.
- Sequel Hook: The prophecy.
- Shout-Out: "Cockroach cluster" originally comes from a Monty Python sketch.
- Stable Time Loop: See also You Already Changed The Past and You Can't Fight Fate, below.
- Stab the Salad: Buckbeak's "death".
- Stealth Insult
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: Many instances throughout the series, but this book introduces two particularly good examples: the werewolf Remus Lupin (Romulus and Remus were humans raised by wolves in Roman mythology; "lupine" means "wolf-like") and Sirius Black (Sirius is another name for the Dog Star; he transforms into a black dog).
- Speak Ill of the Dead: Harry endures a week of Aunt Marge insulting him, but snaps when she starts on his mum and dad.
- Talking in Your Sleep: The Azkaban guards overheard Sirius saying in his sleep: "He's at Hogwarts..." and so are deployed there to protect it. He's talking about Peter Pettigrew, not Harry.
- Team Dad /Team Mom: Remus Lupin fulfils a quite parental role towards his students, and it is especially obvious when he takes it upon himself to help Neville out with his confidence issues. He is also one of the first true father figures that Harry has ever had, and by far the most approachable teacher yet to work at Hogwarts.
- Thirteen Is Unlucky: Sirius Black's last crime before being imprisoned: murder of 13 people. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you think of the 13th "victim", actually Peter Pettigrew. Trelawney brings this up during the Christmas feast, claiming that "the first to rise will be the first to die". Harry and Ron get up at the same time.
“My dears! Which one of you left his seat first? Which?"
“Dunno," said Ron, looking uneasily at Harry.
“I doubt it will make much difference," said Professor McGonagall coldly, “unless a mad axe-man is waiting outside the doors to slaughter the first into the Entrance Hall."
- Possible Foreshadowing/Fridge Brilliance, as you realize there were already thirteen people at the table because Peter Pettigrew disguised in Animagus form as Scabbers was in Ron's pocket, and Dumbledore stands up to greet Trelawney, making him the first to rise out of the thirteen.
- Time Travel: The Time Turners.
- Time Travel Tense Trouble
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Largely averted, but there is one slight inconsistency. Hermione mentions that a lot of wizards who have abused time travel ended up "killing their past or future selves". The immutable timeline model used should logically preclude killing your past self (although not killing your future self). Perhaps Hermione is mistaken, or exaggerating. Or she's referring to the very first time someone goes back in time. Being a stable time loop, there has to be a time where they actually go back. Then they panic and kill their past self, since there are two of that person in the time period. Someone else could easily see someone kill themselves, then see the killer vanish and report it.
- Too Dumb to Live: Harry himself defies this when Mr. Weasley asks him to promise not to "go looking for Black."
“Why would I go looking for someone I know wants to kill me? ” said Harry blankly.
- Then played hilariously straight, as he feels an urge to go looking for Black after he finds out some of the Awful Truth. He ends up hating Sirius so much that, when they meet at the end of the book, Harry charges at him and tries to choke him with his bare hands, forgetting that he was unarmed, much weaker than Black, and that Black had several wands on him at the time. Lucky for him, Black was there to protect Harry, not kill him.
- In all fairness, Harry's got so many people after him that if he wants to go looking for someone who wanted to kill him, he doesn't have to go very far.
- Totem Pole Trench: Totem Pole Dementor Cloak, actually.