Exploring the company we keep at UCI and beyond

Roller derby girls. God Without Religion. Harry Potter enthusiasts (fanatics?). These are a small sampling of the groups and organizations that have formed at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and around Orange County. Members share a devotion to their cause and a desire to pursue it in collaboration with others, which are the subjects we examine in this blog.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dumbledore's Anteaters Bring 'Harry Potter' to Life

By Samar Khoury

It is a cold January day at the University of California, Irvine. A chilly breeze sweeps across the campus, which is riddled with deep puddles from today’s storm. The members of Dumbledore’s Anteaters are on their way to the much anticipated memorial service that will be held in a classroom of UCI’s Social Ecology 2 building. Dumbledore’s Anteaters are one of many college organizations on campuses around the country devoted to celebrating JK Rowling’s bestselling Harry Potter series. Today at UCI, the members of Dumbledore’s Anteaters are filing in for their regular meeting. Dressed in black and ready to begin, they wait for their president to appear and begin the service. They sit and they talk; it becomes loud instantly.

Caitlin McEvoy, a philosophy major at the university, enters the room. She has dark brown hair, greenish eyes, and a confident stride. As she greets the talkative members, she announces that it is time for the memorial service: the dead characters in the Harry Potter series are about to be honored. After she heads her way to the podium, she takes out a sheet of paper and begins to read her eulogy about Severus Snape, a main and mysterious character in the novels. Caitlin chokes on her words as she praises Snape, leading the members to laugh hysterically. After listing other attributes of Snape, she allows other members to recite their speeches, eulogies, and poems on the character of their choice. The laughter continues.

Dumbledore’s Anteaters and the Popularity of Harry Potter

Dumbledore’s Anteaters consists of thirty to forty Harry Potter fanatics and admirers who gather every Wednesday at five o’clock to discuss and dive into the popular series. “The purpose of the club is to not only take Harry Potter activities from the books, but also to recreate them, keep members’ mind flowing, and really read deeper into the books. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it because we have a lot of fun,” says president Caitlin McEvoy.

Harry Potter is a series of seven novels. The stories take place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main character, Harry Potter, and his close friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, attempt to fight Lord Voldemort, an evil wizard who brutally murdered Harry's mother and father.

Harry Potter became a phenomenon among young readers, who have turned their interest into a bona fide extra curricular activity at the high school and college level. Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, California has its own “Harry Potter Club”, which gathers once a week and enjoys movie marathons. Universities around the world are playing Quidditch, a sport that is introduced in the first novel of Harry Potter. In the books, Quidditch is played at high speeds while players ride their broomsticks. In this violent, yet entertaining and fun game, there is one Seeker who catches a ball-like figure termed the “Snitch”. When this fast, small ball is caught, the game ends. Other significant figures to Quidditch are the Keepers, Beaters, and the Chasers. The Keeper guards three hoops to prevent the opposing team from hitting the Quaffle, also a type of ball, into the hoops. The Chasers are responsible for hitting the Quaffles into the hoops. The Beaters carry bats to protect their teammates from being attacked by Bludgers, big balls that attempt to knock players off of their brooms. In the non-fantasy version played on many campuses, students use hula hoops held up by PVC pipes to hit the balls through, volleyballs for the Quaffles, dodgeballs for the Bludgers, tennis rackets to serve the Bludgers, and a student dressed in all gold as the Snitch. Players are required to have a broom between their legs while participating.

According to collegenews.com, universities, such as Princeton, U-Mass-Amherst, and Vassar College are playing Quidditch and that New York’s Middlebury College hosted a Quidditch cup.

Some Anteaters Share Their Thoughts

Caitlin McEvoy provides her reasons for founding this club by expressing her admiration of the series: “There are so many characters that present so many different controversies that can relate to everyone’s life. What’s amazing about Harry Potter is that you are able to recognize this world like this Wizarding World. As you grow older, the books have bigger and bigger of an impact.”

Amber, a member, a prefect, and an English major, agrees: “I love everything about it [Harry Potter]. I just love the morals they teach. The whole basis of it is love. It is heartwarming, knowing that there are millions of children out there learning through the power of love. It affects me so much in so many different ways.”

And Sandy, who is a biology student at UC Irvine, reveals her opinion about Dumbledore’s Anteaters by stating, “It’s really fun. It’s a great way to relieve stress.” Regarding the Harry Potter series, Sandy says, “It’s really great for imagination. You grow emotionally attached to the characters. You know, when the Weasley’s ear comes off, I was like, ‘No! His ear!’”


Dumbledore’s Anteaters also participate in games, which the members create, and debates regarding the different storylines and characters of the series. Caitlin elaborates by stating that, “People will suggest discussion topics or the cabinet members will come up with one. Sometimes we Google discussion topics, and we bring up stuff that isn’t touched upon by J.K. Rowling. We try to go above and beyond the basic story.” The games that the club participates in are usually “modifications of old games from elementary school. [Caitlin and the members] will take one of the old games and make it Harry Potter.” Their Triwizard Tournament and their sorting hat ceremony exemplify this.

The Triwizard Tournament, which is a dangerous contest between Hogwarts and two other schools, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, occurs in the fourth book of the Harry Potter series. The Triwizard Tournament is comprised of three tasks, which test the competitors’ magical powers, the ability to deal with dangerous situations, and their bravery. One student from each school is chosen to compete and whoever wins the most points after the completion of the three tasks wins the Triwizard Cup. But Dumbledore’s Anteaters is doing the tournament differently. “We take suggestions from the club members. Usually, it’s like a brainstorm meeting between the Cabinet members, and we have random suggestions and we try to blow something from it,” Caitlin says about planning the Triwizard Tournament.

The Triwizard Tournament

In early February, a new member arrives, and Caitlin, with a smile from ear to ear, is ready to sort her. “Sorting” is the process by which students are assigned to one of four houses at Hogwarts, at least in the books. At UCI, sorting is done a bit differently.

Caitlin explains the typical sorting event for the club: “At the beginning of the year we sort them, the first meeting is a sorting ceremony, where we actually email people an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, and then when they come we put a hat on their heads and sing the sorting hat song, and I call out their names last name, first name, and either make them sit on a stool or just stand up and put the hat on their head.” The sorting hat is introduced in the first book of the series. Before students begin their first term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the sorting hat determines which house the students will be a part of. This black hat, characterized by its traditional witch's hat appearance, is old, covered with spider webs, and has a tear around the rim where its mouth is. First, the hat will sing a lengthy song about Hogwarts’ history, and then decides what house to put the students in by reading their minds. The four houses are Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff. Clever students are placed in Ravenclaw, courageous students are placed in Gryffindor, cunning students are placed in Slytherin, and loyal students are placed in Hufflepuff.

Today, there will be a special sorting ceremony for the club’s newest inductee. Caitlin asks the new member what she’d bring if she were stranded on an island. After the member replies that she would bring a book, Caitlin sorts her into Hufflepuff. The members then depart the room to begin the activities planned. After being sorted into Ravenclaw, I receive the opportunity to observe the Ravenclaws participate in Dumbledore’s Anteaters' version of the Triwizard Tournament.

The First Task

After the sorting ceremony, I depart the room and find that the Ravenclaws are already participating in the first task, consisting of four different games. They are playing the first game, hopscotch. The prefect, the head of the house, hands the members a stick, and explains that they have to throw the stick on one of the numbers on the drawn hopscotch figure on the ground, 1 being the easiest, and 9 being the hardest. Whatever number the stick lands on determines the level of difficulty of the question the prefect asks. The game continues for seven minutes.

The second game is in the classroom. The Slytherin prefect in charge of this task has placed five bottles of perfume on the board where the markers sit. The perfume bottles are considered potions, and the Ravenclaws’ task is to match the riddles that the prefect reads with their corresponding bottles of perfume. After two attempts, they match them correctly. The Slytherin prefect then gives them different riddles that they have to answer as quickly as possible. After answering some incorrectly and others correctly, the seven minutes have passed, and it is time for the next activity: 20 Questions.

The Hufflepuff prefect, who gives a description of a character the Ravenclaws have to guess, leads this task. After guessing the majority of the characters, they head to the last activity, jump rope, with the Gryffindor prefects in charge. The task is to answer a question that the prefects give about the series, and while jumping the rope, spell out the answer. After many times of tripping over the rope and sometimes making it all the way, the first task is complete.

The Second Task

It is mid-February and the second task is about to occur. Lo and behold, it’s a scavenger hunt. Each house receives a document with a list of activities and how much it is worth. The following is five points each if the house takes a picture of: A broomstick, “Harry Potter” on a Starbucks cup, and the Forbidden Forest (a forest located near Hogwarts ). The following is worth ten points each: A picture with the book series and a UCI student that looks like they’d be a Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw. The following videos are worth 20 points each: a stranger saying, “What the hell is a Hufflepuff?” and two strangers having a wizards’ (students) duel. Lastly, the following two videos are worth 50 points each: Bring back a stranger’s sock for Dobby and walk through King’s Cross, which is a train station in the series – Dobby is an elf that is introduced in the second book of the series. The elves are slaves, and their masters can only free them through a piece of clothing.

As the Ravenclaw house sets off for the scavenger hunt, Sandy, one of the Ravenclaws, is difficult to keep up with. Sprinting across campus, she approaches people with no hint of fear or embarrassment. As they approach people and attempt to complete their tasks, they receive dirty looks. After about half an hour of astonished looks and good exercise, they head back to room 1306. Ravenclaw receives 234 points.

The Third Task

It is now March, and the final task of the tournament is about to occur. It begins with a riddle: “Next, you must journey to a place of whispers and some screams/Where there are more pages than in Hermione’s NON-SCIENTIFIC wildest dreams/Beneath all the floors you must venture/ In order to carry on with this restricted adventure.” As Ravenclaw departs room 1306, it heads for the Langson library and then down to the basement. Again, the members have difficulty keeping up with Sandy, as she rushes to the library. There, they find the Ravenclaw prefect, who hands them another riddle – it leads them to Aldrich Park.

The Hufflepuff prefect, waiting patiently under a tree, hands them the following riddle: “The path to the secret world can be found here, so can a pint of tasty beer! With a tap of your wand you will reveal, an alley of secrets…but you must not squeal!!!!” The Ravenclaws rush to the pub and do not find the next prefect. After roaming the UCI food court, they enter the pub once again. There, reading a book, is the Slytherin prefect, and she hands them the last riddle: “For the last part of your journey you are required to find a place of needs and a place to unwind. Where young heroes learned to fight, where Dumbledore’s Anteaters must unite! RUN.” As Sandy runs to the room, the two other members struggle to follow. As they finally arrive back to the meeting room, Ravenclaw is the third house to arrive. Sweating and out of breath, they sit.

After the tiring third task of the Triwizard Tournament, members gradually arrive back to the room. Caitlin is in the process of adding up all of the points. The members commence with their various discussions, as noise fills up the room. It is time for Caitlin to read the results: Hufflepuff is in first place, Slytherin is in second place, Ravenclaw is in third place, and Gryffindor is in fourth place. After a few words and yells of excitement from Hufflepuff, and after Gryffindor quickly gets over its tragic loss, the members of Dumbledore’s Anteaters converse with each other once more as they look forward to future meetings and events. “It’s [Dumbledore’s Anteaters] going to be part of my college life,” says Sandy.

Reporting Notes:

- Interviews with three members: Minister of Magic, Gryffindor prefect, and a Ravenclaw member

- One-hour observations every week on Wednesdays that started on January 20, 2010

- Observed a memorial service on January 20 and observed the club perform the Triwizard Tournament on February 3, February 17, and March 3

- Researched other Harry Potter clubs in other locations. I also did some research about schools that play Quidditch.

- Observed a discussion about certain characters in the novel

- A link to the interview with Caitlin McEvoy: http://oc-groups.blogspot.com/2010/02/dumbledores-anteaters.html

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