A Plot Hole Big Enough to Drive a Ford Anglia Through
An original editorial by ProfRJLupin
A few weeks ago, I was skimming through a book that was criticizing the Harry Potter
Aside from the usual criticisms (which I am not here to discuss), the one that
piqued my interest most was a criticism of the second movie, Harry Potter and the
Chamber of Secrets
, stating that the film was marred by several plot holes. I did
not have time to read further to see what these "plot holes" were
specifically, but I was intrigued and set to thinking. In the next day or so, I
viewed my copy of the film at home and was indeed struck by a plot hole, mistake,
error (or what have you), that I had never noticed before. Re-reading the book
confirmed that the "error" was not isolated to the film alone. Having searched listed mistakes and other places on MuggleNet, I could find no other
mentions of what caught my attention. Forgive me if I am mistaken in believing that
I am the first to bring this to attention. If I am mistaken, then let me simply add
my perspective to the matter.
The error that I'm talking about in Chamber of Secrets has to do
with the Chamber itself. Instead of a plot hole or a mistake, perhaps the better term would be anachronism.
Simply put, the question raised to my mind that I had never noticed before is,
"Why is the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, built and hidden by Salazar
Slytherin, founder of Hogwarts, approximately one thousand years ago, accessed
through indoor plumbing?"
The date of the founding of Hogwarts (and the subsequent building of the Chamber) is
confirmed in Chamber as Professor Binns tells his class the legend of the Chamber
of Secrets: "You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a
thousand years ago, the precise date is uncertain . . ." (150).
Please understand, by the way, the reference to the "precise date"
being unknown does not contradict that we are talking about an event that took place
a millennium ago, it merely means that the actual date of the founding (month, day, etc.)
is unknown. Binns goes on to explain that Slytherin built the Chamber before his
falling out with the other founders (Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Helga
Hufflepuff) and subsequent departure from the school (150-151). Therefore, we know that
Salazar Slytherin built the Chamber of Secrets sometime in the late tenth century,
circa 990 AD.
One hundred and fifty pages later we learn, along with Harry, Ron, and Professor
Lockhart, that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is indeed found in Moaning
Myrtle's bathroom: "It looked like an ordinary sink. They examined
every inch of it, inside and out, including the pipes below. And then Harry saw it:
scratched on the side of one of the copper taps was a tiny snake" (300).
Harry then reveals the entrance by speaking in Parseltongue, and we see ". . .
at once the tap glowed with a brilliant white light and began to spin. Next second,
the sink began to move; the sink, in fact, sank, right out of sight, leaving a large
pipe exposed, a pipe wide enough for a man to slide into" (300). The
description of the opening of the entrance clearly shows that the entrance is
explicitly linked to the indoor sink and its plumbing--innovations that didn't
come into existence until almost nine hundred years after the building of the
There are two possible explanations for this anachronistic connection. The first
asks us to believe that the wizarding world, in fact, invented indoor plumbing at
least nine hundred years before Muggles did. In fact, perhaps it was a careless
witch or wizard that inadvertently supplied the non-magical world with the
inspiration to install sinks, taps, and toilets in their own homes. This, of
course, is highly unlikely. We know that the Romans, who conquered Britain circa 47
AD, (Emperor Claudius named his son, Brittanicus, in honor of the victory) had the
means to bring water into and remove it from domiciles, but their methods were
nothing so sophisticated as that of the porcelain and pipes of modern plumbing. If
we suspend our disbelief and fully envelop ourselves in Rowling's fictitious
world, then we know that the wizarding world was also perfectly capable of contriving
a system to bring water in and out of their homes long before
Muggles even dreamed of doing so. But to do so using the exact same means that
Muggles would master? In other words, the wizarding world could have created any
means or methods of elaborate plumbing. Why settle for something so mundane as
an "ordinary sink" (300)?
The second possible explanation is that sink-hidden entrance wasn't developed
until years later, when all buildings had indoor plumbing. While it is entirely
plausible that Hogwarts would undergo renovations throughout its thousand-year
existence, are we perhaps to believe that ordinary Muggle sinks were brought in to
make the increasing number of Muggle-born students feel at home and less culture
shocked? More importantly, if the sinks were put in during a renovation, why
wasn't the entrance to Chamber found? Binns tells the class, "Naturally, the school
has been searched for evidence of such a chamber
many times, by the most learned witches and wizards" (151). Are we
expected to believe that while Dumbledore and his many illustrious predecessors were
unable to find the Chamber, a plumber is able to?
One might argue that Binns himself provides the answer in his statement,
". . . according to legend . . .The heir alone would be able to unseal
the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of
all who were unworthy to study magic" (151). In other words, since Tom
Riddle alone is the heir of Slytherin, then he alone would be able to find the
Chamber. This "fact" is, however, part of the fiction portion of the
legend (as a legend, by definition, always contains some measure of fiction). We
know that others besides the true heir of Slytherin could not only find but open the
Chamber of Secrets: Harry did, as well as Ginny Weasley. The entrance to the
Chamber has no sentient properties; it does not discern who is opening it other than
the one wishing to enter must be able to speak Parseltongue. More likely, this
"fact" is best attributed to the notion, as supported by the text, that
anyone can enter the Chamber of Secrets, but only the heir of Slytherin can control
what lies inside.
The logical conclusion is that the fact that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets
is accessed through the means of indoor plumbing is an anachronistic error. To
avoid this conclusion, a reader would have to believe that at the very same time
that Hogwarts is being ravaged by the beast from within the Chamber of Secrets the
first time, plumbing renovations proceed as scheduled, and an unwitting plumber has
his memory modified by Tom Marvolo Riddle (also known as Lord Voldemort) so that the
installation of a certain sink in the girls' bathroom will take place without
too many questions. Far-fetched theories like this are best suited to guessing what
will happen in books six and seven.