Monday, November 3, 2003

The more things change...

In my spare time (i.e. driving back and forth to someplace), I've been listening to tapes about Victorian Britain.  (There'd be a link here, but their website is down.)  I mention this not for its inherent snootiness, but for something I heard on a tape this morning.  Today's lecture was on "Leisure" and it discussed the different sports Victorians engaged in.  The working class played football (that's "soccer," to you); the middle class played golf and tennis; the upper class hunted; and everyone played cricket.

Cricket, says our lecturer, crossed class lines.  Everyone played cricket, and it was as huge a deal to play it in a gentlemanly fashion as it was to play it well.  Cricket etiquette was as important as cricket itself.

We are then told that cricket was a huge part of every British schoolboy's life.  That his final year in school was generally marked by the big cricket game that he would remember for the rest of his life.  That most autobiographies and fictional accounts of British schools generally had much to say about cricket and its importance in forming the moral character of those who played it.

And I thought, "Damn, that's quidditch."  I started realizing that, in the Harry Potter novels, JK Rowling isn't just writing a fairly classic fantasy storyline about a kid growing into his destiny, she is also writing an equally classic British schoolboy coming-of-age story.  I've occasionally heard debate about whether the books should be Americanized for the folks on this side of the pond (witness changing "Philosopher's Stone" to "Sorcerer's Stone") -- but the truth of the matter is that they can't be fully Americanized.  The very essence of the stories is British -- encompassing everything from the class system (the old wizarding families like the Malfoys looking down on those of mixed blood) to the importance of playing sport not for individual glory, but for the honour of the team.

Yeah, quidditch is standing in for cricket.  Both have games that can go on for days.  Why didn't I notice it before?

1 comment:

marciaperlmutter said...

Rawlings, however, blasts the caste system by including girls on the team, in fact, making one captain, even! Wouldn't it be nice if the Brits took notice?