Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Memories: Stump the Wizard

 

There is a couple who are our friends who own and run an independent bookstore. The bookstore specializes in about ten categories, including among other things: art, Judaica, local authors and information, and children’s literature. It is a fairly eclectic mix. Besides the books, the store is decorated with old tin wind-up toys, Day of the Dead figures, African masks, and other eclectic bric-a-brac. The store is about as normal as its owners. Not to be unkind, but the male owner is just a bit flighty. He knows his stock well. They have been in business as an independent bookstore for decades, despite the rise and fall of such behemoths as Borders and the rise of Amazon. So, the man must be doing something right. But Mr. Bookstore Owner is also an artist. He has had a band. He’s a very interesting character and creative, but not always the most focused.

Back in the early 2000’s when the Harry Potter books were coming out, the book release parties became a very big deal. Bookstores were contractually obligated not to release the books until a specific date and time. In the summer of 2003, the fifth book in the series was to come out, and starting a few months before the event Mr. Bookstore Owner was looking for ways to juice up their book release party. They had treats and refreshments planned, but they were looking for something more. We somehow came to an agreement to do a joint production of a limited run miniature sixteen-page booklet about the size of an eighth sheet of paper. I would create the text, imagery, and file, and his people would print, cut, staple, and number them (limited edition, remember?), as well as putting on a bit of extra decoration to make the booklets more interesting. All that we had at that point was the first four books in the Harry Potter series. In that fourth book, two other schools of wizardry were introduced: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. It is mentioned that at Durmstrang, they not only teach Defense against the Dark Arts, but they actually teach their students the dark arts. I used that as inspiration for the little booklet, “Durmstrang Institute’s Manual of the Dark Arts.”

I used to work at a renaissance festival, so I had a lot of costume elements that would fit well into the Harry Potter universe. I was invited to show up at the party, where I would portray the Dark Arts Professor from Durmstrang Institute.

Writing the booklet went well. I had gotten the file over to the bookstore for production. On the day of the book release, I put together an appropriately dark costume and my wife and I went to join the fun. My understanding was that we would just wander around in costume to add some color to the festivities.

When I walked into the store, Mr. Bookstore Owner said, “I’ve had an idea!”

You may have gathered from my description of him in the first paragraph, that not all of Mr. Bookstore Owner’s ideas were fully baked. Now, he’s in a long black robe wearing a tall, pointed hat with stars, crescent moons, and spangles, and he has an idea.

“Okaaay…” I said.

“We can have a game: Stump the Wizard.”

“And how will this work?” I asked.

“We can put you back in the alcove, and we’ll have the kids line up and come to ask you questions about the Harry Potter books. If you can’t answer the question, we’ll give them something.” He looked around and grabbed a basketful of chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks off the treat table, “Perfect! Magic wands!”

I had not prepared for this. I had not reread the books, for instance. Springing this on me at the last moment was totally unfair. Still…

“Alright,” I agreed. I happen to be a bit uncomfortable in tight spaces. The aisles of this bookstore seem rather small to me at the best of times. I happen to be a rather large individual. I may not have Hagrid’s height, but I do have his width. Imagine having me walk around tight bookstore corridors with hundreds of little Potterheads running about. The alcove sounded like a great place to be.

The alcove is in one back corner of the store. It’s usually used for storage of various things. There are many of the aforementioned African masks on the walls. For this purpose, they had put up black curtains on the walls below the masks (also covering some of the stored items). They had gotten a smoke generator and a few other items to make the alcove a bit scarier. Then they put in a table and chair and me. They also gave me the limited-edition booklets to hand out as well as the “magic wand” prizes.

And then the game began. The children filed in. I would give them a copy of the limited-edition booklet and ask, “Would you like to try to stump the wizard?” At first I put on a German accent, but that seemed to scare some of the younger kids. (Especially me.)

At the beginning, the rules were very simple. They could ask me anything about the first four books in the series. I was doing very well with that. I had read all four books, and I have a very good memory and retention rate for what I read. Then the first budding lawyer came in. Now, to be fair, I think he had already cycled through the line three times before, and hadn’t stumped the wizard, but he had a will to win.

“What is the fourth word on page twenty-nine of the third book in the series?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. He got his prize, but he also engendered a rule change. Questions like that would not count.

About a dozen more children passed through, none of whom stumped the wizard. Then another budding lawyer came through and asked a complex question.

“That’s a very good question, and I don’t know.” I let her choose a “magic wand” and then asked, “What is the answer?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

Another rule change. If they stumped the wizard, they had to know the answer to get a prize.

By the end of the party, I had only given out three “magic wands.” When the appointed hour arrived, everyone lost interest in stumping the wizard. The books were available, and they all planned to get them and go home and read.

The remaining chocolate-dipped pretzels went on the table by the door for anyone to take on their way out, and the wizard retired until the sixth book came out.

How about you? Ever been stuck into a situation where your memory served you well? How about the opposite?

Published in Group Writing
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There are 28 comments.

  1. Saint Augustine Member

    Stump the wizard: What’s the last word of the original series?

    • #1
    • December 2, 2019, at 1:24 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant Post author

    Well.

    • #2
    • December 2, 2019, at 1:58 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. Saint Augustine Member

    Right on.

    • #3
    • December 2, 2019, at 2:02 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Saint Augustine Member

    Stump the wizard: Which Hobbit killed Dumbledore?

    Stump the wizard: How many years did Snape live among the White Walkers?

    Stump the wizard: Why did Voldemort make it always winter but never Christmas?

    Stump the wizard: Which fallen Guardian warned Thrall son of Durotan to get his Orcs out of Lordaeron to escape from the Death Eaters?

    • #4
    • December 2, 2019, at 2:17 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  5. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Can’t remember what game show it was, but once upon a time the show offered up as its question for a contestant to name as many words as possible in the required time that ended in the letters ‘th’. What the (probably fired) staff forgot that the contestant remembered was that most ordinal numbers end in ‘th’, and the show ended up paying out a lot of prize money that episode.

    • #5
    • December 2, 2019, at 2:55 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  6. Larry3435 Member

    Arahant: How about you? Ever been stuck into a situation where your memory served you well?

    Not that I can recall.

    • #6
    • December 2, 2019, at 4:04 AM PST
    • 20 likes
  7. Percival Thatcher

    If a chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how long will it take three chickens to lay three eggs?

    • #7
    • December 2, 2019, at 4:48 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  8. Judge Mental Member

    You didn’t post the picture. C’mon, show them why the kids were really scared.

    • #8
    • December 2, 2019, at 5:38 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  9. Mark Camp Member

    If someone’s compiling a Best of 2019, I nominate this.

    • #9
    • December 2, 2019, at 6:08 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  10. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I want a copy of that booklet! And I deserve one, since I am in Slytherin House.

    • #10
    • December 2, 2019, at 6:13 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. Hartmann von Aue Member

    My memory of the Harry Potter books in particular is coming in handy right now. Maedel wanted to watch the HP movies, so as a prerequisite, we require that she read the book before she watches the movie. To make sure she has actually read them, I have been asking her content questions. “What is professor Lupin’s first name?”, “Who kills Sirius Black?” etc.

    • #11
    • December 2, 2019, at 6:39 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  12. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I was introduced to the series by the first movie. I had never read them at all, but after that movie I was totally hooked. I have read all the books, including the “textbooks” that Rowling wrote. I am now collecting all the new illustrated editions, in the British editions. I found a wonderful online bookstore who sells them, and has free shipping to the USA.

    • #12
    • December 2, 2019, at 6:59 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant Post author

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You didn’t post the picture. C’mon, show them why the kids were really scared.

    Nope. That costume was even scarier than the ones you have seen.

    • #13
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:15 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant Post author

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Arahant: How about you? Ever been stuck into a situation where your memory served you well?

    Not that I can recall.

    I see what you did there. 😁

    • #14
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:16 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant Post author

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I want a copy of that booklet! And I deserve one, since I am in Slytherin House.

    I have done three or four since for subsequent book release parties, etc. There was Waldron Willowwithe’s Working without a Wand, for instance.

    • #15
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:17 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. Percival Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You didn’t post the picture. C’mon, show them why the kids were really scared.

    Nope. That costume was even scarier than the ones you have seen.

    So, were you Ningauble of the Seven Eyes or Sheelba of the Eyeless Face?

    • #16
    • December 2, 2019, at 9:33 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant Post author

    Percival (View Comment):
    So, were you Ningauble of the Seven Eyes or Sheelba of the Eyeless Face?

    Even worse.

    • #17
    • December 2, 2019, at 9:38 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Percival (View Comment):

    If a chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how long will it take three chickens to lay three eggs?

    I am not cleaning up that bloody and eggy mess. 

    • #18
    • December 2, 2019, at 12:33 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    When I was living in Georgia I got into a few evangelistic situations where my memory really helped me out. 

    One in particular came to mind in the village of Acura. I was pastoring a small Baptist church and there was a sweet family of farmers there and their daughter, also a Baptist christian, had run away from home to the big city and married a man there. This guy, the Son in Law, they called him. Was very educated and unlike many Georgians had continued to read books after school, in school Georgians read a LOT of books and after they graduate they stop reading and eventually lose the habit until middle age or later. 

    He was choosing to torment his wife’s family by debunking Baptist Christianity in particular and even Christianity in general. They pleaded with me to help them and even the girl, who had briefly attended one of my youth groups, begged me to talk to her husband. So I did. In most cases apologetics is about strengthening the faith of the believers as opposed to convincing the unbeliever.

    So the Son-in-Law gave a big stemwinder of an opening speech about how Baptists are stupid and only foreigners should be Baptist. I did not engage with that I simply asked him a question, “What bothers you so much about Baptist’s beliefs?”

    He asked four questions from an Orthodox perspective and each time I answered not with my opinion but with a verse or verses from the Bible that provided answers so clear they needed no further commentary. One example, “The Bible requires certain actions and behaviors to be saved yet Baptist claim it is by faith alone you are saved.” He then explained why that was stupid.

    I had my wife read, when I read Georgian I sounded like a kid just learning how to read, Ephesians 2: 4-9

    Then he switched from the Orthodox perspective to New Atheist categories: There were seven areas of questions he normally clustered three or four questions that were related together.

    For Example: “The Bible never offers any evidence of the resurrection and the literal resurrection was not important to early Christians.” I needed to explain that you see.

    1 Corinthians 15: 1-6 was followed by 1 Corinthians 15:12-13

    Every question was like that. The Son-in-Law even said at the end “You are good, I guess I need to read the Bible again.”

    The family asked me afterward how did I know what his questions would be in advance? I did not know somehow my memory of Scripture just matched up exactly with his questions. It was uncanny to say the least. 

    Part of the effect was how it looked like I was making so little effort to find answers to his questions. The wife returned to church, her family was encouraged her husband did not believe but stopped making fun of Baptists…I was grateful for a good memory that day.

    • #19
    • December 2, 2019, at 2:47 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  20. Saint Augustine Member

    Brian Wolf (View Comment):

    . . .

    He asked four questions from an Orthodox perspective and each time I answered not with my opinion but with a verse or verses from the Bible that provided answers so clear they needed no further commentary. One example, “The Bible requires certain actions and behaviors to be saved yet Baptist claim it is by faith alone you are saved.” He then explained why that was stupid.

    . . .

    For Example: “The Bible never offers any evidence of the resurrection and the literal resurrection was not important to early Christians.” I needed to explain that you see.

    . . .

    A golden opportunity to hijack a thread. Anyone up for a big theology fight?

    Just kidding.

    (Unless people really want to and Arahant doesn’t mind.)

    • #20
    • December 2, 2019, at 3:17 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  21. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Brian Wolf (View Comment):

    . . .

    He asked four questions from an Orthodox perspective and each time I answered not with my opinion but with a verse or verses from the Bible that provided answers so clear they needed no further commentary. One example, “The Bible requires certain actions and behaviors to be saved yet Baptist claim it is by faith alone you are saved.” He then explained why that was stupid.

    . . .

    For Example: “The Bible never offers any evidence of the resurrection and the literal resurrection was not important to early Christians.” I needed to explain that you see.

    . . .

    A golden opportunity to hijack a thread. Anyone up for a big theology fight?

    Just kidding.

    (Unless people really want to and Arahant doesn’t mind.)

    Hey it was just a story about memory man. Just a story about good memory. 

    • #21
    • December 2, 2019, at 3:27 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  22. Paul Schinder Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Stump the wizard: Which Hobbit killed Dumbledore?

    Gaffer Gamgee. Dumbledore was standing downwind when the Gaffer pulled a Swalwell.

    Stump the wizard: How many years did Snape live among the White Walkers?

    I thought he was a White Walker? So most of his life, including vacations away from Hogwarts?

    Stump the wizard: Why did Voldemort make it always winter but never Christmas?

    He’s an avid cross country skier, and his family doesn’t let him ski on Christmas Day.

    Stump the wizard: Which fallen Guardian warned Thrall son of Durotan to get his Orcs out of Lordaeron to escape from the Death Eaters?

    The Mandalorian.

     

     

    • #22
    • December 2, 2019, at 5:36 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  23. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Brian Wolf (View Comment):

    The family asked me afterward how did I know what his questions would be in advance? I did not know somehow my memory of Scripture just matched up exactly with his questions. It was uncanny to say the least.

    I’d say the Lord was working directly through you but I’m an atheist. 

    • #23
    • December 2, 2019, at 6:10 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Mark Camp Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    Brian Wolf (View Comment):

    The family asked me afterward how did I know what his questions would be in advance? I did not know somehow my memory of Scripture just matched up exactly with his questions. It was uncanny to say the least.

    I’d say the Lord was working directly through you but I’m an atheist.

    I think it was the person I call the Spirit; he was sent after the Lord left earth. But I’m not an atheist.

    My personal experience is consistent with the Bible, that the Spirit is what the Army calls “Combat Arms”. Front line, hand-to-hand combat. As crazy as it seems, I actually believe that I know this person and have witnessed him in action, and that’s what I base this on.

    I think I understand well why you’re an atheist and I’m not trying to convert you, and don’t think I can. If our places were reversed, you’d not be able to convert me even if you tried. I would say that your mind had fabricated these fantastical mental experiences of yours, having been pre-disposed to create them by exposure to Scripture presented to you as an authority at a vulnerable age.

    • #24
    • December 2, 2019, at 6:33 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  25. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    You need not be a wizard to conjure up a post on December’s theme: “Memories.” Stop by and sign up soon, before the days are all taken!

    • #25
    • December 3, 2019, at 12:29 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  26. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Arahant: At first I put on a German accent, but that seemed to scare some of the younger kids. (Especially me.)

    Great post, and I especially love the above line.

    • #26
    • December 3, 2019, at 10:30 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  27. Boss Mongo Member

    Brian Wolf (View Comment):
    It was uncanny to say the least. 

    Or Providential.

    • #27
    • December 3, 2019, at 6:34 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. Boss Mongo Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    A golden opportunity to hijack a thread. Anyone up for a big theology fight?

    Nah. Thanks @saintaugustine, but I’m a Catholic who likes to keep my religion transactional.

    • #28
    • December 3, 2019, at 6:35 PM PST
    • 5 likes