The Quizoner of Azkaban: my life trapped in Harry Potter trivia

The internet is no longer alive with vibrant Harry Potter communities coming up with esoteric queries.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

1. Which two Muggle characters have alliterative names?

 

I’ve been a trivia enthusiast pretty much from birth. As a child, whilst other (genuinely talented) children were being encouraged to learn languages, play the violin or become champion badminton players, I memorised the artist behind every work in a coffee table book of Impressionist paintings. At 5 years old, my party trick was distinguishing a Pissarro from a Sisley, which impressed precisely no-one who wasn’t related to me. But the seed was planted, and I was just waiting for an outlet.

2. Give the middle names of the following characters:

Hermione, Ron, Regulus Black, and Mrs Figg.

I arrived late to the Harry Potter phenomenon; only after seeing the second movie did I give myself over fully. I had a sense, to begin with, that I was somehow superior to the popularity of the series – preferring dusty editions of the Willar Price adventure books from my school library – but once I dived in there was no turning back. I was consumed by the detail of the world. My life became a tangle of theories, fanfictions, debates, discussions and needlessly aggressive interrogations. “What is the password to the prefects’ bathroom?”, some stranger on one of the fan forums I frequented would ask me, and I would yell back “Pinefresh!” before the sweat from my nose could kit the keyboard.

3. What comes next?

Bellatrix Lestrange, Hermione Granger, Vincent Crabbe, Ron Weasley, Mad-Eye Moody…?

When I was 12 years old I struck upon the only million dollar idea I’ve ever had. Every day now, I internally pitch start-up ideas (Uber for dogs, dogs for Uber, selling dentistry equipment, etc) knowing full well that my best idea has been and gone. When I was 12, I came up with the idea of Trivia Duelling, a game where unspeakably hard Harry Potter questions were fired between a potentially unlimited group of players. I had been transfixed watching Judith Keppel become the first person to win the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and I saw Trivia Duelling as an opportunity to combine the thrill of a televised quiz show with my panoply of obsessive Harry Potter knowledge. I was 12 years old and I don’t think the executives at ITV would’ve taken my calls, so I set about building Trivia-Duelling.com.

4. Spot the connection between the following characters:

Viktor Krum, Madam Rosmerta, Harry Potter, Katie Bell and Amycus Carrow

My website never took off. I had neither the technical skills nor the management discipline to run it. When other stray children suggested we open a Trivia Duel about Eragon or His Dark Materials, I flat out refused. Harry Potter had become the sole thing that I felt qualified to compete on, occupying an unreasonably large percentage of my brain space. Over the next few years, I forewent normal teenage activities (drinking, shagging, having friends, etc) – in favour of increasing my Potter knowledge. I had no endgame here: other than occasional visions of it being my specialist topic on Mastermind, there was no purpose to the task I was setting myself. A decade later, at university, I genuinely dazzled a romantic partner with a late-night Harry Potter trivia contest (slaying in brutal fashion the most esteemed member of our university’s Potter clique) – had I foreseen this, age 12, I would only have given myself up more entirely.

5. What comes next?

Vernon Dursley, Vernon Dursley, Vernon Dursley...?

Harry Potter makes for such a satisfying trivia subject because almost everyone I meet socially really backs themselves on it. That’s true of fairly few specialist subjects: for instance, I know quite a lot about the 1946 New Towns Act and the 70s TV show M*A*S*H, but it is hard to find people to go head-to-head with on them. With Harry Potter, everyone wants to take me on (and everyone loses), but the baseline for knowledge is so high that you can be as confrontational as you like. If you’re in your 20s, Harry Potter is probably the single cultural artefact that you consider to be your area of expertise, so answering questions like “What’s the name of Harry’s owl?” or “What do Hermione’s parents do for a living?” is boring. You want to be challenged, you want to be puzzled.

6. Spot the connection between the following characters:

Peter Pettigrew, Marvolo Gaunt, Horace Slughorn, Mundungus Fletcher, Aunt Petunia and Hepzibah Smith

The internet is no longer alive with vibrant Harry Potter communities coming up with esoteric queries. If you trawl the myriad Harry Potter Facebook groups and pages, you will find mind-numbingly repetitive meme-sharing and wild copyright infringement (every day I have to skip my way past Italian and Portuguese language livestreams of the Potter movies). The creativity of theorising, fanfictioning and quizzing has been relegated to the annals of internet history, along with MySpace, minesweeper, and that friendly paperclip chap. Now, when I write Harry Potter quizzes it feels a strangely analogue process, like I’m back flipping through that book of Impressionist paintings, rooted in something more solid than this ephemeral social media fandom.

7. What may or may not Derek have eaten?

There will only ever be seven books that form the Potter literary canon, even as the universe wrapped around them continues to explode. The best trivia, therefore, should have an element of mystery, a touch of contrivance. I’ve smattered this piece with questions of varying complexity, ending with my masterpiece. Hopefully they will infuriate you as much as they were designed to.

Answers (highlight to read):

  1. Dudley Dursley, Piers Polkiss.
  2. Jean, Bilius, Arcturus, Doreen.
  3. Barty Crouch, Jr.
  4. All placed under the Imperius curse.
  5. The Riddle’s Maid.
  6. All appear in the Pensieve.
  7. A chipolata.

Now read the other articles included in the New Statesman’s Harry Potter Week.

Free trial CSS