Boggarts, or What are You Afraid of?

I look forward to my commute these days. Instead of listening to the same five terrible pop songs over and over again on the radio, I am instead immersing myself in the world of Harry Potter. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time stuck in traffic if it means I get to listen to Jim Dale read me another chapter of the story. Let me tell you, Quiddich – especially Lee Jordan’s commentary – is much more entertaining aloud than on the page.

I’m on book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s arguably the best of the seven (emphasis on arguably). The third book is my favorite for a few reasons. The characters aren’t in their angsty phase yet. It has Quiddich, but also classroom work. You delve into the stories of Harry’s parents. Hermione slaps Malfoy. And Harry finally has people on his side, adult-people who loved his father and love him. They’re happy for the moment.

We also meet one of my favorite characters: Professor Lupin. He reminds me of every teacher I ever admired. There are some slight differences (you know, having to do with the moon), but Lupin engages his students, expects them to do well, and gives them practical training that turns out to be very useful. He inspires respect, gets involved in their lives, and allows them to be children while at the same time helping them mature. He’s an educator – a shabby, prematurely-gray educator.

In one of Lupin’s classes, he brings a boggart to the students. What? You say you don’t know what a boggart is? Shame on you, Muggle. Shame. In Rowling’s world, it is a creature that hides in the dark, and when forced to emerge, takes the shape of whatever scares you most. The students have to literally face their worst fears – giant spiders, failing grades, mean professors, zombies – and laugh at them. The counter curse is “Riddikulus,” which turns the feared item in something humorous. It changes fear into silliness.

We all have boggarts in our life. They are the things that take the shape of our biggest fears. It is that person who implies that we cannot accomplish our dreams. Or someone we are afraid to lose in order to pursue passion. It is our reasons, our excuses for not moving ahead.

The fear is always real – that emotion that stops us in our tracks, that feeling that drains our face of blood and our stomach of buoyancy. But the thing causing our fear? It is most often unfounded. If he loves you, he will love your dreams and stay. If she tells you it cannot be done, she does not know you or what you are trying to do. And if the reasons to not seem bigger than the reasons to do…laugh at them.

They don’t seem so scary now.

I fear to try, because I fear to fail. My boggart would simply berate me for being foolish, afraid, alone, and a failure – none of which are fair, honest, or true. I would prefer a severed hand, I think. When we grow up, our fears become less external and more internal.

I struggle to laugh at them because they feel so real. The boggart speaks in a voice I know all too well – the voice of my friends and family, the voice of myself. And yet, put some helium in that boggart’s voice, and all of a sudden, a cartoon is telling me I am not good enough. I can’t believe that.

We all have our boggarts. Are we brave enough to face them? To laugh at them? To call them “riddikkulus” to their faces and carry on anyway?

When all else fails, think of Snape in that dress. That’s funny enough for anyone.

What’s your boggart? And how can you laugh at it today?

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One thought on “Boggarts, or What are You Afraid of?

  1. Came here for the Civil Wars, but having fun looking through the rest. Really cool blog. Jealous you can read that many books each month! Think we have very similar tastes.

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