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Teaching Descriptive Scenes from "Harry Potter" and "The Hobbit"

I have been a teacher for a few years now and I know how hard the job is. I write articles to help teachers come up with great ideas.

Sometimes you just need some good reading material to help you when you're writing a description. As a teacher, there are some wonderful resources to use to teach children how to analyze texts and use what they've learned in their own work.

The Harry Potter series and The Hobbit are amazing novels that most children enjoy reading. Sharing this descriptive work with the children is a great way to get them excited about literacy. I have also included videos to go alongside the descriptions. Improving a child's visual literacy is a great aid to help improve their writing.

Descriptive Scenes From "Harry Potter" and "The Hobbit" That Can Be Used by Teachers

  • When Harry Sees Hogwarts for the First Time
  • When Harry Sees Diagon Alley for the First Time
  • When Harry Enters Hogwarts' Great Hall
  • When Harry Sees Platform 9 3/4 for the First Time
  • The Description of Bilbo Baggins's Hobbit Hole
  • When Bilbo First Sees Rivendell
Harry Sees Hogwarts for the First Time

Harry Sees Hogwarts for the First Time

When Harry Sees Hogwarts for the First Time

Novel: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Page: 83

Do your children need or want to describe a castle in their stories? If the answer is yes then there are not many finer examples than Hogwarts. The first time we see it is a magical moment. If you can emulate this in your writing then you are onto a winner.

Scene Description:

  • "Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec," Hagrid called over his shoulder, "Jus' round this bend here."

    There was a loud "Ooooooh!"

    The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

    "No more 'n four to a boat!" Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. Harry and Ron were followed into their boat by Nevlille and Hermione.

    "Everyone in?" shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself, "Right then— FORWARD!"

    And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.

    "Heads down!" yelled Hagrid as the first boat reached the cliff; they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy which hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them right underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out on to the rocks and pebbles.

    "Oy, you there! Is this your toad?" said Hagrid, who was checking his boats as people climbed out of them.

    "Trevor!" cried Neville blissfully, holding out his hands. Then they clambered up a passageway in the rock after Hagrid's lamp, coming out at last on to smooth, damp grass right in the shadow of the castle.

    They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded around the huge, oak front door.

    "Everyone here? You there, still got yer toad?"

    Hagrid raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.

What Your Students Can Learn From This Scene

  • How to create a great image of a vast landscape.
  • How a description can illustrate power, glory, and wonderment.
  • How to choose images that illustrate mystical properties.
Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley

When Harry Sees Diagon Alley for the First Time

Novel: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Page: 55

I love Diagon Alley. The range of fantasy creatures and objects that are present when we walk down this street is just enchanting. Harry's reaction would be exactly like mine.

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Scene Description:

  • Vampires? Hags? Harry's head was swimming. Hagrid, meanwhile, was counting bricks in the wall above the dustbin.

    "Three up... two across..." he muttered. "Right, stand back, Harry."

    He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella.

    The brick he had touched quivered—it wriggled—in the middle, a small hole appeared—it grew wider and wider—a second later they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archway on to a cobbled street which twisted and turned out of sight.

    "Welcome," said Hagrid, " to Diagon Alley."

    He grinned at Harry's amazement. They stepped through the archway. Harry looked quickly over his shoulder and saw the archway shrink instantly back into solid wall.

    The sun shone brightly on a stack of cauldrons outside the nearest shop. Cauldrons—All sizes—Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver—Self Stirring—Collapsible said a sign hanging over them.

    "Yeah, you'll be needin' one," said Hagrid, " but we gotta get yer money first."

    Harry wished he had about eight more eyes. He turned his head in every direction as they walked up the street, trying to look at everything at once: the shops, the things outside them, the people doing their shopping. A plump woman outside an apothecary was shaking her head as they passed, saying, "Dragon liver, sixteen sickles an ounce, they're mad ..."

    A low, soft hooting came from a dark shop with a sign saying Eeylops Owl Emporium—Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown and Snowy. Several boys of about Harry's age had their noses pressed against a window with broomsticks in it. "Look," Harry heard one of them say, " the new Nimbus Two Thousand—fastest ever," There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eels' eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon...

    "Gringotts," said Hagrid.

    They had reached a snowy-white building which towered over the other little shops.

What Your Students Can Learn From This Scene

  • How to illustrate magical properties.
  • How to describe a child's awe.
Hogwarts Great Hall

Hogwarts Great Hall

When Harry Enters Hogwarts' Great Hall

Novel: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Page: 86

What kid doesn't love magic? Well you don't get much more magical than the great hall. I remember having glow-in-the-dark stars and planets on my ceiling when I was small and I loved it. Is this where J.K. Rowling was inspired?

Scene Description:

  • Feeling oddly as though his legs had turned to lead, Harry got into line behind a boy with sandy hair, with Ron behind him, and they walked out of the chamber, back across the hall and through a pair of double doors into the Great Hall.

    Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place. It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles which were floating in midair over four long tables, where the rest of the students were sitting. These tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting. Professor McGonagall led the first-years up here so that they came to a half in a line facing the other students, with the teachers behind them. The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight. Dotted here and there around the students, the ghosts shone misty silver. Mainly to avoid all the staring eyes, Harry looked upwards and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars. He heard Hermione whisper, "It's bewitched to look like the sky outside, I read it in Hogwarts: A History."

    It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn't simply open on to the heavens.

    Harry quickly looked down again as Professor McGonagall silently placed a four-legged stool in front of the first-years. On top of the stool she put a pointed wizard's hat. This hat was patched and frayed and extremely dirty. Aunt Petunia wouldn't have let it in the house.

What Your Students Can Learn From This Scene

  • How to describe a crowded and rambunctious room/group of people.
  • How to describe a character's feelings of bewilderment and awe.
Hogwarts express at Platform 9 3/4

Hogwarts express at Platform 9 3/4

When Harry Potter Sees Platform 9 3/4 for the First Time

Novel: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Page #: Throughout chapter 6

The romance of the steam engine. A great nod to an English invention that changed the world. Harry Potter wouldn't have been the same with a diesel engine waiting for them. The steam gushing up from the platform makes this scene so wonderful.

Scene Description:

  • "How do you get on to the platform?" she said kindly, and Harry nodded.

    "Not to worry," she said. "All you have to do is walk straight at the barrier between platforms nice and ten. Don't stop and don't be scared you'll crash into it, that's very important. Best do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous. Go on, go now before Ron."

    "Er - OK," said Harry.

    He pushed his trolley round and stared at the barrier. It looked very solid.

    He started to walk towards it. People jostled him on their way to the platforms nine and ten. Harry walked more quickly. He was going to smash right into that ticket box and then he'd be in trouble - leaning forward on his trolley he broke into a heavy run—the barrier was coming nearer and nearer—he wouldn't be able to stop—the trolley was out of control—he was a foot away—he closed his eyes ready for the crash—It didn't come... he kept on running... he opened his eyes.

    A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, 11 o'clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the ticket box had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He had done it.

    Smoke from the engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every colour wound here and there between their legs. Owls hooted to each other in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and scraping of heavy trunks.

    The first few carriages were already packed with students, some hanging out of the window to talk to their families, some fighting over seats. Harry pushed his trolley off down the platform in search of an empty seat. He passed a round-faced boy who was saying, "Gran, I've lost my toad again."

What Your Students Can Learn From This Scene

  • How to describe a character's immense excitement for something new.
  • How to make a magical or mystical object seem completely real.

Now for a Very Different World, Middle Earth!

Middle Earth is a very different land to that of Harry Potter's world. For one, Harry lives in a world we already know, as we live here too so everything described is very much as we would recognise it.

Middle Earth faces a different challenge for the author because it is a fantasy world and, as such, some things need extra description due to the fact that we are not familiar with them in our world.

Hobbits are amazing creatures so they needed somewhere to live that was just as different, yet homely. The hobbit hole perfectly matches this description. Who wouldn't love to live in a home like this? In fact, I have seen a lot of eco-homes which may very well be inspired by this wonderful creation of Tolkien's.

See what you think with some of the descriptions below!

A hobbit hole, and that means comfort.

A hobbit hole, and that means comfort.

Bilbo Baggins's Hobbit Hole

Novel: The Hobbit

Page: 15-16

Scene Description:

  • In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

    It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with paneled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors.

    The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles around called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage.

    The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in) for these were the only ones to have windows—deep-set round windows looking over his garden and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

    This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Baggins had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind.

What Your Students Can Learn From This Scene

  • How to create a setting that perfectly matches a character's personality.
  • How to think about what objects are relevant to mention when describing a character's home.

When Bilbo First Sees Rivendell

Novel: The Hobbit

Page: Throughout chapter 2

Elves come in various guises in different fantasy worlds (including fables), and yet the Elves of Middle Earth are the most majestic. Vastly superior to us mere mortals, these beautiful creatures needed something just as magical to live in. Rivendell shows the world how beautiful the natural world is and is in stark contrast to the industrialization of the Orks. Was Tolkien trying to tell the world something about the way humanity was heading here?

Scene Description:

  • "Here it is at last," he called, and the others gathered around him and looked over the edge.

    They saw a valley far below. They could hear the voice of hurrying water in the rocky bed at the bottom; the scent of trees was in the air, and there was a light on the valley-side across the water. Bilbo never forgot the way they slithered and slipped in the dusk down the steep zig-zag path into the secret valley of Rivendell.

    The air grew warmer as they got lower, and the smell of pine-trees made him drowsy, so that every now and again he nodded and nearly fell off, or bumped his nose on the pony's neck. Their spirits rose as they went down and down. The trees changed to beeth and oak, and there was a comfortable feeling in the twilight. The last green had almost faded out of grass when they came at length to an open glade not far above the banks of the stream.

    "Hmmmmm! it smells like elves!" thought Bilbo and looked up at the stars. They were burning bright and blue. Just then there came a burst of song like laughter in the trees.

What Your Students Can Learn From This Scene

  • What images and colors can be used to illustrate a stoic and proud civilization.
  • How a setting can match a people's culture.


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