This is the foundation, the book that sets the stage for the series and introduces the major characters. The hero is Harry Potter, an 11-year-old boy reared Cinderella-style by his cruel aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley. In contrast, the Dursleys lavish gifts and attention on their son, Dudley. Harry spends the first years of his life sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs.
The villain is Lord Voldemort, an evil wizard who for some reason killed Harry’s parents when he was only a year old. Voldemort used a death spell to first kill Harry’s father, James Potter, and then his mother, Lily, who begged for Harry’s life. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry, the spell ricocheted and hit the former, severely weakening him and virtually destroying his body.
Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Minerva McGonagall, assistant headmistress, work with the school’s Keeper of the Keys and Grounds, Rubeus Hagrid, to deliver Harry to his aunt and uncle. Petunia is Lily Potter’s sister. While McGonagall feels these guardians are horrid people, Dumbledore says it’s better for Harry to grow humble and not totally aware of his fame in the wizards’ world.
They notice a still bleeding scar on the toddler’s forehead, shaped like a lightning bolt. Dumbledore says the boy will have it for life — it is the place where Voldemort’s death spell hit him.
Harry is a thin boy with unruly black hair, green eyes, round eyeglasses and a distinctive lightning bolt shaped scar in his head. He rather likes this scar. His guardians tell him he got it in the car accident that killed his parents. This is how he grows up for 10 years, think his parents died in the crash.
Harry is very mistreated. He wears Dudley’s huge hand-me-down clothes, hardly gets any good food, and experiences no family love. His eyeglasses are fastened together with clear plastic tape because of the many times Dudley has broken them by punching him in the nose. Vernon and Petunia try as much as possible to hide his existence from the neighbors. Dudley and his pals beat up Harry at school and prevent the other kids from befriending him.
Things that can’t be explained also happen. Aunt Petunia, furious about his unruly black hair, chops it off down to the scalp. The next morning, it has completely grown back. Another time he tried to run away from Dudley’s bully friends and somehow ended up on the school roof. A third time when Petunia was trying to force one of Dudley’s ugly sweaters over his head, it kept shrinking until it was no bigger than a piece of clothing for a hand puppet.
On Dudley’s 11th birthday, Harry is dragged along to the zoo after Mrs. Figg, his regular babysitter, was unavailable. He is relieved — Mrs. Figg is an odd old lady whose house always smells like cabbage and bores him with endless stories about her huge collection of cats.
Uncle Vernon warns Harry that there better be no “funny stuff” when they visit the zoo. At first, things go swimmingly, because Harry gets a lemon ice cone and the rest of Dudley’s knickerbocker glory sundae. Harry sees a primate in the ape house that he laughingly thinks to himself looks like Dudley.
At the reptile house, Dudley and his friend Piers Polkiss poke at a boa constrictor’s cage. The snake seems to tell Harry that he wants to go home to South America. Before anyone — especially Harry — knows what has happened, the front of the cage has totally vanished, and the snake has gotten away! The distraught Dursleys comfort Dudley and rush home, locking Harry in his cupboard for the night.
until the Dursleys finally decide to give him a vacant bedroom jam packed with broken castoffs from Dudley
Harry’s world is this bad — a prisoner of unkind people…
…Until the letter arrives. It’s only one letter, but it’s addressed to Harry, who has never gotten any mail in his life. It’s from Hogwarts School, but Harry does not know that yet. Vernon takes it away, looks at it with Petunia, and they both gasp. It is immediately tossed out.
More and more letters arrive, showers of them delivered by owls. These birds of prey serve as the letter carriers in the wizard world. Letters come through the mail slot, the fireplace and inside of eggs! They won’t stop! Afraid that the wizards might hurt them, Vernon tells Harry to start living in a vacant bedroom jam packed with broken castoffs from Dudley. He bawls and protests, but his parents will not give in to him this time.
The letters pursue the Dursleys and Harry from their house, to a hotel, to a remote shack on a rocky point jutting out into the ocean. Late at night, midnight arrives. Harry sees the time on Uncle Vernon’s watch. It is 31 July, his 11th birthday, and no one remembered.
The door is pounded upon during the stormy night. Hagrid finally knocks it off its hinges and strides inside. He has finally reached Harry and the Dursleys at the hovel. He is a giant of a man, with bushy black hair and beard. Vernon tries to point a gun at him, but Hagrid simply bends the barrel and throws it into a corner. Hagrid is head gamekeeper and Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts. delivers the Hogwarts admission letter to Harry. He also tells Harry the truth about how his parents died and the terrible reign of Lord Voldemort. After Vernon shouts out that he won’t pay to have a “crackpot old fool” teach Harry “magic tricks,” Hagrid loses his temper and points his pink umbrella at Dudley. The boy yells out, and they look — he now has a pigtail growing out of his behind! (Later the Dursleys must take him to a private hospital to have it discreetly removed.) Hagrid, who was expelled from Hogwarts years ago for some reason, had his wand broken in half and still keeps it inside his umbrella.
After a hearty breakfast the next morning, Harry begins to discovers the “wizarding world,” with Hagrid as his guide. The Keeper of the Keys takes Harry to London and through the doors of the Leaky Cauldron, a pub few non-magical people ever notice. Before moving on, Harry’s hands are pumped, and he’s eagerly greeted by many witches and wizards who are well aware of his fame that he is only beginning to discover. Hagrid introduces him to a shaky, stuttering man named Quirrell, whom the big man says will be Harry’s Defense the Dark Arts professor come fall.
Hagrid goes into the courtyard behind the Leaky Cauldron and taps a certain brick in the courtyard wall. Instantly the bricks draw aside and reform into a tall archway leading into a hidden shopping district! This is Diagon Alley, the place in London where wizards do their shopping and business.
Harry first goes to Gringotts Wizarding Bank and withdraws money from the small fortune his parents left him. Gringotts is a very secure place, managed by clever, tough little goblins who also use dragons to guard wizard fortunes stored in vaults deep beneath London. A goblin named Griphook takes Harry and Hagrid on a crazy ride in a little cart along a track that is part of a network that leads to the vaults. Hagrid gets very sick in the speedy ride.
Harry shops for his school supplies in the alley. He buys a robe, books and cauldron with wizard money –bronze Knuts, silver Sickles and golden Galleons. Hagrid buys him a snowy owl named Hedwig for a birthday present. She will become a dependable, loyal pet. He also gives Harry his boarding ticket for the Hogwarts Express and lets him know to report to King’s Cross Station in London to catch the train on 1 September.
The biggest adventure is yet to come: attending Hogwarts, the United Kingdom’s private boarding school for young sorcerers, located in a secret place in Scotland.
In September, Harry gets the Dursleys to begrudgingly give him a ride to King’s Cross. He must find Platform 9 3/4, and he’s afraid to ask people about it. He feels odd and out of place, what with a trunk full of wizard supplies and a caged owl. At last he hears the phrase “…packed with Muggles…” and sees a mother and her large family of kids, all of whom have red hair.
Harry cannot believe his eyes when one of the students seems to vanish before his eyes by a wall. Then a second boy, and a third. He approaches their mother, who is Molly Weasley. She tells him not to be nervous and introduces him to her son Ron, who also is a Hogwarts first year. She tells him to go straight at the wall, which is really a magic portal to Platform 9 3/4. “Best to do it at a bit of run, if you’re nervous,” Mrs. Weasley adds.
Harry looks at the seemingly solid wall and makes his dash. Instead of crashing into masonry, he passes through and finds himself at a train platform in the sunlight. He’s made it. Before the Hogwarts Express leaves the station, Harry is the object of much attention, since he survived Voldemort’s attack. He unknowingly has been a celebrity among wizards since he was a tot.
He becomes further acquainted with Ron. He has a pet rat named Scabbers that he tries to turn yellow with an old, battered wand. Ron reports that just about everything he owns he inherited from his five older brothers because money is so tight in their household.
Harry also befriends Hermione Granger, a very smart girl whose parents are “Muggles,” or nonmagical people. She comes barging into their compartment, stating that she is helping Neville Longbottom look for his missing toad, Trevor. She also mentions that she’s excited to begin school and has already read most of her textbooks.
Neville Longbottom is a clumsy, shy boy from an all-wizard family whose own magical abilities appeared rather late in life.
On the Hogwarts Express, Harry again meets up with the snooty Draco Malfoy and his two bullying bodyguards, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. He rejects Draco’s offers of friendship and to help him not mix with riffraff, choosing to stay with Ron instead. This sets up an emnity with Draco that continues at least through the fourth book.
In a lighter note while riding the train, Harry also gets his first taste of wizard candies, such as Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, whose flavors include grass, dirt and boogers; Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum; and Chocolate Frogs, each of which comes with a collector’s card showing a famous witch or wizard. It is from these cards that he learns that the subjects in wizard photographs move around!
The Hogwarts Express pulls into the school’s station late at night. Hagrid ushers the first years to magically self-propelled boats to take them across Hogwarts Lake to the school castle. A ripple of water is the giant squid living in the depths. Hagrid also locates Trevor, the missing toad.
Professor and Assistant Headmistress Minerva McGonagall meets the first years in Hogwarts’ vast entrance hall. She lets them know that tonight they will be selected for the house in which they will spend their next seven years of study.
In the Great Hall, Harry studies the faculty sitting at their head table. He sees a glowing man with a hooked nose and long, black greasy hair talking to Quirrell, who is now wearing a silly purple turban. His scar begins to burn, which unnerves him. He asks Ron who the black-haired prof is, and is told that he is Severus Snape, professor of Potions.
After a sumptious feast in the Great Hall, Dumbledore makes a welcoming speech. Everyone sings the school song — out of tune and not in unison. Harry is very, very nervous, because Fred Weasley, one of Ron’s older twin brothers has told him he must pass a test in order to be selected for a Hogwarts house.
Hogwarts has four houses, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, named after the school’s original founders. The enchanted Sorting Hat, a garrulous, singing headgear, selects the house into which each child will enter. This is actually the “test” about which Fred teased Harry!
Student after student is summoned to a stool by Professor McGonagall. Hermione and Neville are sent to Gryffindor. Draco naturally joins Slytherin. The hat shouts out each house. Finally, “Potter, Harry.”
“Not Slytherin!” Harry thinks. The hat can read his mind and replies telepathically that he could do great things in Slytherin. Harry again says no, and the hat says, “Better … be … GRYFFINDOR!” Great cheers arise from the house’s table as he joins them.
Harry and his friends and foes quickly settle into school life: the monotonous History of Magic with Professor Binns; the intriguing world of plants in Herbology with Professor Sprout; astronomy withe Professor Sinistra; perfecting spells with Professor Flitwick in Charms. Binns is the school’s only ghost professor; he died one day while sleeping in the staff room, woke up and didn’t even know he was a spirit. Professor Quirrell is only a so-so Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor.
The harhest class is with Snape in Potions. The Gryffindor first years must attend Snape’s course with their Slytherin counterparts. Snape liberally takes away house points from Gryffindors and repeatedly belittles them while the Slytherins laugh.
Harry meets many friends and foes at Hogwarts. McGonagall is the head of his school house, Gryffindor, and the woman who gets him a slot on the team for Quidditch, a fast game played aloft on broomsticks. Harry’s talent is discovered by accident after Nevill falls off a broom in Madam Hooch’s flying class and drops his Remembrall, a device to help him stop forgetting. Draco flies off with it and throw it, and Harry makes a spectacular flight and save of the ball, catching McGonagall’s eye.
Harry becomes the youngest Seeker — the one who goes after the prized Golden Snitch ball — in the history of Hogwarts. Madam Hooch pushes him to improve his natural talent and learn to be the best Quidditch player — an area where Gryffindor team captain Oliver Wood also works with him.
Hagrid becomes a best friend, with whom he shares tea and the dilemma of a nippy baby Norwegian Ridgeback dragon named Norbert. He must be not be kept as a pet due to wizarding regulations and his danger to people. Harry and his friends help get Norbert delivered to Ron’s older brother, a dragon expert.
Harry’s two major foes are Professor Snape and Draco. Snape heads Slytherin House and resents Harry for his fame and is especially hard on him in Potions. Malfoy also mocks Harry’s fame when he is sorted into the rival Gryffindor.
The Hogwarts castle is haunted by friendly resident ghosts, and one each represents the four houses. Harry meets Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, or “Nearly Headless Nick.” Nick was beheaded, but the axe did not go all the way through his neck, so his ghostly head sometimes flops around. Nick and Harry also become good friends.
The worst ghost is Peeves the Poltergeist, an annoying little man dressed like a court jester who appears out of nowhere to sing mocking songs, tattle on students to caretaker Argus Filch, and sometimes throw things at people, such as walking sticks. Mrs. Norris, Filch’s big-eyed, scuffy cat, also is a pest who patrols the corridors and quickly lets the caretaker know if she’s found students sneaking around.
Outside of class, there’s Quidditch practice. It is a sport that combines elements of soccer, basketball and polo. It is played aloft, with all team members on broomsticks. There are seven players on each team. Three players called Chasers try to score in the three hoops at the end of each field with the Quaffle. The Seeker looks for the fastest ball, worth the most points, the winged Golden Snitch. Two Beaters protect the Chasers and Seeker from the attacking black balls called Bludgers and try to whack them back toward the opposing team members. The Keeper is like a goalie, flying back and forth and trying to keep the rival Chasers from scoring.
The topic that causes the biggest buzz in Hogwarts is a break-in at the wizard bank, Gringotts. Later Harry, Hermione and Ron learn that whoever tried get into Gringotts was looking for the Sorcerer’s Stone, a magical substance that makes the owner immortal, cures all ills and gives them enough power to rule over the world. The stone is eventually brought to Hogwarts, where it is surrounded by a series of traps and a nasty three-headed dog that Hagrid ironically has named “Fluffy”!
Harry, Ron and Hermione think that Professor Snape is the one trying to steal the stone. They become even more suspicious when Harry’s broom goes out of control at a Quidditch came, and he is nearly killed. Ron and Hermione spot Snape mumbling spells or other words under his breath, so Hermione goes over toward him and sneakily sets his robe on fire. She crashes into Quirrell, who also was nearby.
Halloween is very eventful. The best is Professor McGonagall quietly arranges for Harry to receive a Nimbus 2000, the top broomstick on the market. This will make him even better at Quidditch. However, the broom causes Ron and Hermione to stop speaking to each other, because she believes it is a reward for breaking rules during flying class. He believes it’s a great thing that will help Gryffindor be Quidditch champions.
The worst, though, is someone lets a mountain troll into the school – and Harry and his friends are the ones who discover it – in a girls’ bathroom! And Hermione is trapped in there with him. She went their to pout and cry after fighting with Ron. Through sheer bravery and luck with magic spells, they defeat the huge, stinky creature.
At Christmas Harry and Ron stay over at Hogwarts. They get hand-knit sweaters and pies from Mrs. Weasley, which is her annual tradition. Harry receives a most unusual gift, the Invisibility Cloak, which completely hides the one who wears it. The person who sent this gift is unknown.
With the Invisibility Cloak, Harry begins on occasion to explore Hogwarts’ corridors at night. He must dodge Peeves, Filch and the ever-vigilant Mrs. Norris.
Harry comes across a disused classroom containing a fancy looking glass. He becomes obsessed with this Mirror of Erised, a magic thing that shows the person their deepest wishes. He sees his mother, father and ancestors when he looks into it. He is compelled to come to it nightly to stare at his long-dead parents, until Dumbledore intervenes and explains its powers, to bring Harry back to his senses. Some people have starved to death before the Mirror of Erised after they could not tear themselves away from its imagery, Dumbledore tells Harry.
After the holidays, school resumes in earnest. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Draco are given detention for creating a fracas in Snape’s Potions class. Filch leads them to Hagrid, and laughingly tells them he hopees they don’t get killed that night.
Hagrid has them enter the Forbidden Forest to look for an injured unicorn. The students meet the thoughtful centaurs, Bane and Ronan, who want only to discuss the stars and signs in the skies. Centaurs, half man and half horse, are not much as conversationalists.
Harry is at one point paired with Draco and Hagrid’s huge, friendly dog, Fang, to find the horned horse. Something startles Draco, Harry and the dog. They watch in terror as some cloaked creature crawls over to the now dead unicorn and starts drinking its blood! Harry’s scar begins to burn. Draco and the dog run away. The creature notices him and starts to come toward him until something sounding like another horse comes running up and scares it off.
The rescuer is Firenze, a third centaur who is different from the others. He is outspoken and not shy about mentioning that some evil is lurking around Hogwarts. He takes Harry back to the other centaurs, who criticize him for letting a human get on his back and for getting involved with people’s problems. Firenze tells Harry that drinking unicorn blood helps restore life to people. The creature is doing this until it can get to the Sorcerer’s Stone and become immortal.
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS BIG-TIME SPOILERS. CEASE READING AT THIS POINT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO RUIN THE ENDING!
Because Dumbledore has gone to London, Harry, Ron and Hermione decide they must get to the Sorcerer’s Stone themselves to stop whoever is trying to steal it. The leading suspect is Snape. They use their combined knowledge to get to the stone. They first find Fluffy the three-headed brute, whom someone put to sleep with a harp. They use Hagrid’s flute to put him back in dreamland.
The second challenges is a choking, vining plant called the Devil’s Snare. With some urging by Ron, Hermione sets the plant on fire, which drops them.
The third challenge is a room full of flying keys. One of them will unlock a door on the other side of the room. The trio find some flying brooms and pursue the flying things. Harry, the great Seeker, quickly spots and grabs the proper key. He notices it has a broken wing. Their enemy has already caught it and used it to go toward the Sorcerer’s Stone.
The fourth challenge is a giant chessboard with life-sized pieces. Ron, an expert at wizard’s chess, directs a game with the three of them taking the place of other pieces. Ron sacrifices himself to the violent opposing queen. Harry gets through by placing her in a checkmate. He and Hermione continue.
The fifth challenge already has been eliminated. A large troll, even bigger than the mountain species they fought at Halloween, has been knocked out and left on the floor by their enemy.
The sixth challenge is a series of dangerous potions mixed in with benign ones. This is Snape’s trap. Hermione, the best Potions student, quickly solves a riddle poem and helps figure out which mixtures will protect them from fire that blocks the entrance and exits of the potions room. There is only enough potion for one person to leave the room, so Harry is the only one to face the foe looking for the Stone.
Harry gets to the room where the stone is hidden. The Mirror of Erised also is there. He finds not Snape, but Professor Quirrell! The little prof is not totally what he seems – the turban he was wearing conceals the real controller of his body, the weakened Voldemort.
Quirrell reveals that he was the one who let the mountain troll into the castle, tried to kill Harry in the Quidditch game, drank unicorn blood to sustain Voldemort, and tried to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. Hermione luckily stopped him when she ran into him at the Quidditch match. He confesses that he is now Lord Voldemort’s servant.
Quirrell stares at the Mirror of Erised to see if it reveals where the Sorcerer’s Stone is hidden. Harry stares at it too and wishes that he could locate it. The stone, hidden in the mirror by Dumbledore, materializes in his pocket.
Quirrell begins to argue with an unseen person. This second voice tells Quirrell that he wants to speak to Harry. Quirrell slowly unwraps his turban and turns around. The boy gets a real shock when he sees Voldemort’s face in a hole in the back of Quirrell’s head!
The Dark Lord has pale white skin and snake-like eyes with red irises. He tells Harry that without a physical body to live in, and unicorn blood to drink, he has no form. Voldemort at first invites Harry to join him and hand over the stone, but Harry refuses. This Dark Wizard commands Quirrell to strangle Harry, but his hands are severely burned. Harry has powers within him, passed to him by his mother’s great love, that protect him from attack. Harry keeps Quirrell from hitting him with a spell by putting his hand on Quirrell’s face. He passes out.
It is only through his courage in facing Voldemort’s magic and Dumbledore’s last-minute arrival that Harry avoids death and protects the Sorcerer’s Stone. When Harry awakes after his battle with Voldemort, he is in Hogwarts’ hospital wing. Dumbledore is there and told him he was badly injured, but is recovering. Quirrell is dead, and Voldemort is at large again.
Harry also finds out that the Invisiblity Cloak once belonged to his father, and Dumbledore sent it to him at Christmas.
Hagrid also visits Harry and gives him a photo album. He opens it up and sees the magical photos common to the wizarding world. In them are his parents, James and Lily, who smile and wave at him from every page.
At the final feast of the academic year, everyone thinks Slytherin has won the House Cup. Dumbledore gives Harry, Ron and Hermione receive special commendations for protecting the Sorcerer’s Stone, and even a few points for Neville Longbottom for bravery. Gryffindor house also beats out the other three to win the school championship and House Cup. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw cheer along with Gryffindor, because none of the houses like to see Slytherin win the cup!
After a very adventurous school year, Harry boards the Hogwarts Express in June to go back for a couple of dreary months with the Dursleys. Ron says that he must come and visit during the summer. He tells Ron that he’ll have a little fun, because the Dursleys do not know what he can and cannot do to them as a wizard.