The knocking continues, and Vernon grabs the rifle that he picked up on the way to the shack. Suddenly, a giant man with bushy black hair (later revealed as Hagrid) smashes through the door to the shack. The wild-looking man greets Harry warmly, saying that he hasn’t seen Harry since he was a baby. Vernon points the gun at Hagrid and demands that he leave, but Hagrid simply grabs the gun and bends it effortlessly into a knot before tossing it away. Hagrid then gives Harry a birthday present: a large chocolate cake.
Hagrid’s arrival initiates an enormous shift in Harry’s life. Not only does Hagrid go on to reveal Harry’s magical abilities, but more than that, he cares deeply about Harry, and this birthday cake provides Harry with the first real sense of love he’s ever had. This highlights once again how, because Harry’s family does not provide him with love, he is forced to look for it in other places.
Harry is stunned, and asks Hagrid who he is. Hagrid introduces himself as the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. When Harry still doesn’t fully understand, Hagrid explains again that he works at Hogwarts, assuming that Harry knows about Hogwarts; Harry says that he doesn’t. Hagrid continues to question Harry, asking if he knows where his parents “learned it all.” Harry is still confused, making Hagrid even angrier. Hagrid then turns to the Dursleys and thunders at them, shocked that they haven’t told Harry anything about who he is or about his parents. Hagrid turns swiftly back to Harry and reveals to the young boy that he is a wizard.
Hagrid’s big revelation allows Harry to be initiated into the magical world, from which Vernon and Petunia had been trying desperately to keep him away from. Hagrid represents the possibility of finding a place in the world where Harry feels he truly belongs—and magic parallels the excitement that Harry feels in trying to find that place.
Hagrid pulls out a letter, which Harry finally reads: it is an invitation to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry’s head explodes with questions. Hagrid then pulls out an owl from one of his giant pockets and writes a note to Dumbledore, saying that he has given Harry his letter and is taking him to buy his school supplies the following day. The owl takes the note and flies off.
Like many other coming-of-age stories, Harry is soon to attend a new school and find a place where he belongs. Although Harry’s development has a unique facet to it because of his magical abilities, the sense of coming into one’s own is a universal subject.
When Hagrid has finished, Vernon announces that Harry is not going to Hogwarts. Hagrid says that a Muggle is not going to stop Harry, quickly explaining to Harry that Muggle means non-magic people. Vernon says that when they took Harry in, they resolved to “put a stop to that rubbish.” Harry is appalled that they knew he was a wizard all along.
While the Dursleys imply that wizards are the strange ones and don’t fit into the normal world, wizards likewise believe that Muggles are very strange, out of the norm, and separate from the wizarding world.
Petunia flies into a rage, saying that Lily had been a “freak.” She explains after Lily met James and they had baby Harry, Petunia knew that he would be just as “abnormal.” And then, she goes on, the Potters “got themselves blown up,” and the Dursleys got stuck with Harry. Harry is hurt by this, saying they told him his parents had died in a car crash. When Harry says this, Hagrid becomes enraged anew—furious that every child in the magical world knows Harry’s name, and yet he doesn’t even know his own story.
In reveal that Harry is a wizard, Hagrid allows Harry to understand more of his backstory, which ultimately gives him a stronger sense of identity. On the other hand, Petunia continues to emphasize Harry’s otherness by using words like “freak” and “abnormal,” which separate him from the norms in their lives.
Harry presses Hagrid to tell him what actually happened to his parents. Reluctantly, Hagrid explains that several years ago, there was a wizard who went “as bad as you could go.” Hagrid has a hard time saying the wizard’s name, but eventually musters up the courage to say it: Voldemort. Twenty years ago, Hagrid explains, Voldemort started looking for followers, and was able to gain a lot of power. Some people tried to stand up to him, but he would kill those who tried.
Hagrid goes on to say that one day, when Harry was just a year old, You-Know-Who went to Harry’s home—maybe because he thought he could persuade Lily and James to join him, or perhaps he just wanted them out of the way. You-Know-Who killed them, and tried to kill Harry as well, but for some reason he couldn’t do it. That’s how Harry got his scar, and that’s why Harry is famous. No one had ever survived Voldemort’s killing curse before.
At the end of the novel, Dumbledore reveals the reason that Harry was able to survive the curse: love. The love from Harry’s parents, and particularly the sacrifice of his mother, gives him life-saving protection.
Vernon counters, saying that while yes, there might be something strange about Harry, a good beating could cure him. As for Lily and James, he says, they were “weirdos,” and the world is better off without them. He also says he always knew they’d come to a bad end. At this, Hagrid pulls out a pink umbrella and points it at Vernon, who immediately cowers.
Vernon’s unfeeling and abrasive statements, especially in light of this tragic new information about Lily and James, demonstrate the contrast in how different families can act; while Harry’s parents loved him so much that they sacrificed themselves for him, the Dursleys make Harry feel extremely unloved and abused.
Harry asks Hagrid what happened to You-Know-Who. Hagrid says that he vanished the night he tried to kill Harry, and no one knows where he went. Most people think he’s still out there somewhere but has lost his power. Regardless, something about Harry stopped him. Harry feels confused, worrying that there must be some mistake. But when Hagrid asks him if he’s ever made anything happen when he was scared or angry, Harry starts to look at some of the odd things that had happened to him in a new light.
Harry starts to contextualize some of the incidents recounted in the earlier chapters. Rather than these being strange occurrences, Harry now understands that they were simply expressions of his identity. And now, thanks to Hagrid, he is able to understand that identity and feel less abnormal.
Hagrid beams at Harry, saying that he’ll be famous at Hogwarts, and that he’ll finally be with people like him, learning from the best headmaster Hogwarts has had: Albus Dumbledore. Vernon again says that Harry will not be attending, arguing that he won’t pay for some “crackpot old fool to teach him magic tricks.” At this, Hagrid whips out his umbrella. A flash of violet light erupts, and Dudley grows a pig’s tail, poking through his trousers. Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley quickly flee into the other room in fear.
In a short period of time, Hagrid quickly becomes a kind of father figure to Harry. He is proud of Harry, excited for the journey on which he is about to embark, and also fiercely protective of him. This love is exactly what Harry had been lacking from the Dursleys, and why both Hagrid and his friends at Hogwarts become so important to him.
As Harry and Hagrid get ready to leave, Hagrid asks Harry not to mention this pig-tail incident—he’s not usually supposed to do magic. He was expelled from Hogwarts in his third year, he explains, but doesn’t say anything else about it. Instead, he throws Harry his large coat and says that they should get some sleep, because tomorrow they have to leave early to buy all of Harry’s books and supplies.
Hagrid’s explanation affirms that magic automatically comes with a degree of power, like causing someone to grow a pigs’ tail. The fact that Hogwarts can expel people for its misuse hints at how wizards (like Voldemort) can use it to do a great deal of harm, and therefore one has to be cautious when wielding that kind of power.