The Plank Papers
Un-Grubbing & De-Planking the Wilhelmina Enigma
Introduction to The Plank Papers
C a l c u l a t i n g W i l h e l m i n a
Accurate Arithmancy Applied and Applauded
By: Kabouter Guilderoy Kolder 1
1. Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank: Hyphenated Hype-to-Be
Unexpected, Unplottable, Unreadable
˜Everyone here?' barked Professor Grubbly-Plank, once all the Slytherins and Gryffindors had arrived. ˜Let's crack on then.'2
I can almost hear you think:
"The Plank Papers?"
"Er ’ did we miss something?"
None other, definitely and ... er ’ yes, you just might have.
Professor Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank, Hagrid's substitute as Care of Magical Creatures teacher in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, requires all the attention we can muster. Indeed, Grubbly-Plank is no hype ’ not yet. The proof I present, however, will hopefully urge the reader to move Grubbly-Plank in his or her thoughts from the ranks of the walk-ons to the forefront of the pivotal characters. Unless I'm very much mistaken, our Sturdy Substitute is going to play an extremely significant part in Book 7. This Introduction to The Plank Papers explains why.
The Plank Papers are, of course, only intended for Madurodam's Professors and students. Just as Madurodam University is Unplottable, The Plank Papers are utterly Unreadable ’ at least, I have made every possible effort to make them so. So, if you don't believe or understand what is explained in this Introduction or any other part of The Plank Papers, by all means do continue to concentrate on such seemingly crucial issues as Dumbledore being dead, alive or just a picture, and Snape being good, bad and/or ugly.
The Plank Papers are a work in progress. I expect my fellow Professors at Madurodam's to further analyse, from their own particular area of expertise, Wilhelmina's suspected or unsuspected traits.
Finally, a word of thanks to Madurodam University: The Plank Papers could never have been initiated if my Alma Mater hadn't graciously decided to temporarily exempt me from all my teaching duties, a decision which was highly applauded by colleagues and students alike.
Let's crack on then, shall we? And don't skip the notes!
2. What's in a Name?
Oh, Nothing Much, Really ... Only the Triumphant Trio
˜This isn't a coincidence,' he [Harry] said, his hands forming fists. ˜She knows.'
˜She can't,' said Ron at once.' 3
It was her name that caught my attention in the first place. Sure, Nymphadora Tonks, Bathilda Bagshot and Pomona Sprout are peculiar names. But Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank is different.
We were introduced to "Professor Grubbly-Plank" in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,4 but only in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix do we learn her first name, "Wilhelmina". In what would prove to be her very last appearance to date, still first-nameless Professor Grubbly-Plank turns to walk away with Hedwig to cure her of an ailing wing. But professor McGonagall then calls Grubbly-Plank to let Harry take a letter from Hedwig's talon:
‘Just a moment, Wilhelmina!' said Professor McGonagall. ˜Potter's letter!' 5
Harry takes the letter from Hedwig and Wilhelmina disappears into the Teachers' room. And that's it.
So Grubbly-Plank, a mere substitute teacher, suddenly gets to have a first name (at the last possible moment), while a host of full-time teachers haven't received such honour.6 And what's more, this first name is revealed to us precisely in the conspicuously inconspicuous manner we have come to suspect. Apparently, "Grubbly-Plank" wasn't enough; somehow, J.K. Rowling needed "Wilhelmina". She could have easily written the above-mentioned scene with similar actions but without giving Grubbly-Plank a first name. It got me wondering ... could Wilhelmina perhaps be one of the "things" J.K. Rowling "had to put" in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, of which she spoke in the interview at the Royal Albert Hall on June 26, 2003?
I had to put in some things because of what's coming in 6 and 7 and I didn't want anyone to say to me: ˜What a cheat, you never gave us clues'. Because if I didn't mention certain things that happen in Order of the Phoenix I think you could have said to me: ˜Well, you sprang that on us', whereas I want you to be able to get them if you've got your wits about you. There are a few surprises coming.7
Did J.K. Rowling require Grubbly-Plank to be "Wilhelmina" just so that she (Rowling) would be able to say: "I didn't spring it on you. You could've detected it, if you had your wits about you'?
If so, what's so special about this first name?
For J.K. Rowling there must have been hundreds of names from which to choose but there was no place for a Xantippe, a Yolonda or a Zillah. No, it had to be Wilhelmina.
And for some very good reasons.
Because closer inspection yields that the good Professor's initials, WGP, coincide with the first letter of each of the Trio's surnames: Weasley, Granger, Potter.
But there's more.
The number of letters in the Trio's last names is 20, and 20 is also exactly the number of letters in Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank (oh yes it is, if you read the hyphen as a "minus" sign so that you can deduct the two connected letters "y" and "P").8
Personally I find it difficult to attribute all this to sheer coincidence. It was enough for me to take up what I have come to regard as J.K. Rowling's special WG-P challenge to us and went looking for more evidence.
For even harder facts.9
There are no harder facts than Numbers.
3. Planck's Constant
The Groundwork for Something Great
Hermione recited at top speed:
˜Precisely!' beamed Slughorn.10
The German Muggle physicist Max Planck (1858-1947; Nobel Prize for Physics, 1918) discovered what later became known as Planck's Constant, a formula describing the sizes of quanta, which is widely regarded as one of the corner-stones of Quantum Physics.
Oh, all right then, here it is, Planck's Constant:
E=h.f or put in words: energy is frequency times h; h being 6,626075×10-34 Js.
Although this bears all the signs of needlessly complicated Muggle science,11 not all of Mr Planck's work has been in vain. I succeeded in Transfiguring Planck's Constant into solid Arithmancy (and I attribute this to a daring combination of creativity, perseverance and single malt whisky).
I have dubbed my method Plank's Constant for, instead of describing the size of a quantum, Plank's Constant can be used to describe the size of the part Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank will play in Book 7.
4. Plank's Constant
Grubbly-Plank in Book 7
˜Only!' said Hermione snappishly. 'I've got Arithmancy and it's probably the toughest subject there is!' 12
Yes, Hermione is quite right, as usual.
But the Arithmancy supporting my Plank's Constant is, I think, clear and simple.
And let me say forthwith that, personally, I believe neither in the Blibbering Humdinger nor in the Crumple-Horned Snorkack.
But, my dear friends, I know a clue when I see one. And the numbers below are clues we simply cannot ignore:
– Words spoken by WG-P in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 5213
– Words spoken14 by WG-P in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 375 (note the increase: factor 7.2)
– Number of chapters in which WG-P appears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 115
– Number of chapters in which WG-P appears in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 416 (note the increase: factor 4)
– No words, no appearance for WG-P in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We shall reward this with a neutral factor 1.
In order to establish the extent of Grubbly-Plank's role in Book 7, we must use an Arithmancical comparison of Books 4 and 5, and extrapolate from there on. We first need to multiply 375 (WG-P's part in words in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) with 4 (number of chapters in which WG-P appears in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). That's exactly 1500.17 As we have seen, the increase in words and chapters (Book 5 compared to Book 4) was a factor 7.2 and 4, respectively. We must multiply those factors, obviously. 7.2 times 4 is an impressive factor 28.8. To establish the extent of Wilhelmina's part in Book 7, we again multiply this factor 28.8, this time with the said 1500, which makes 43,200 words (!), whether you're a Wizard, a Being, a Beast or a Muggle. With some 375 words to a page,18 that's more than 115 pages purely devoted to Wilhelmina in Book 7.
It is, I think, now up to my fellow Professors at Madurodam University to work out the finer details, including the question what it is, precisely, that WG-P will be doing all these 115 pages. Obviously she must be of stupendous importance to the overall plot. I would be very much disappointed if The Plank Papers develop into anything less than, say, thirty chapters.
Now, it is far from me to interfere with their research, but at the same time it would be utterly heartless not to thrust my colleagues in the right direction.
Therefore, as a bonus, let's examine one final introductory aspect of WG-P, shall we?
5. Of "giant grubs", an "overstuffed armchair" and "a submarine or something"
Wanderings with Inanimagi?
˜What are they, Hagrid?' asked Harry, trying to sound interested rather than revolted, but putting down his rock cake all the same.
˜Jus' giant grubs,' said Hagrid.
˜And they grow into...?' said Ron, looking apprehensive.
˜They won' grow inter nuthin',' said Hagrid. ˜I got ˜em ter feed ter Aragog.' 19
As is the case with so many other names of Harry Potter characters, Grubbly-Plank is quite likely to be indicative of her character or part, isn't it? Now, the whole raison d'Ãªtre of a grub is to grow into something else. Therefore, unlike Hagrid's above-cited giant grubs, our Wilhelmina is likely to be a grub that does change into ... well, the hyphen leads us to believe: into a "Plank", apparently.
What else can a Plank, in the Wizarding World, reasonably possibly mean than the ultimate Magical Thing made of wood?
A Wand. Indeed.
I don't think this is such an odd idea, Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank Transfiguring into a Wand in Book 7. She may just be what I would call an Inanimagus. While an Animagus can change into an animal, an Inanimagus can change into something inanimate. It is not that uncommon. We know that Horace Slughorn can change into an "overstuffed armchair." 20 Some of our own teachers are known to virtually disappear by blending into the blackboard. And apparently Hogwarts students can learn to change into "a submarine or something' 21 no less, so for a Professor to change into a wand would be a piece of rock cake.22
In my personal opinion, however, being a Wand as a leading character only brings you so far, so I'm as curious as the next person to read the coming instalments of The Plank Papers.
Thanks much for reading this Introduction and be sure to contact our Publications Department for a subscription to The Plank Papers.
Note on (and by) the Author
Prof. Dr. Kabouter Guilderoy "The Count" Kolder is Professor of Applied Arithmancy and a Whole Lot More at Madurodam University. His prolific academic activities cover a spectacularly wide range of topics, as is reflected in his publications, of which we only mention:
- An Arithmancical Comparison of Were-Oranges Distribution in Northern Europe and China, Medlar & Windfall, 2001;
- Water in Potter: Some Notes on Sub-Normal Frequency of Personal Hygiene Related Activities among Wizards, Mephitic Monthly, August 2003;
- Sleep and Lack Thereof in Harry Potter ’ The Hurting of the Scar is No Mystery, Journal for Interdisciplinary Insomniacs, 2004, Vol. 4.
Dr. Kolder is also Editor-in-Chief of the highly popular almanac The Netherlands' day-to-day Weather Forecasts 2006-2011.23
1. I would like to thank my research assistant, Dr. Lena Thek, Jr. for her invaluable work. Naturally this Introduction remains my sole responsibility (except for any and all mistakes Dr. Thek might have made).
2. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003. p. 233.
3. Ibid. p. 314.
4. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. p. 379.
5. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003. p. 319.
6. E.g., Binns, Kettleburn, Sinistra, Vector.
7. Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter and the Magic of the Internet." Interview with Stephen Fry. Quick Quotes Quill. 26 June 2003. Quick Quotes Quill. 20 June 2006. <http://www.quick-quote-quill.org/articles/2003/0626-alberthall-fry.htm>
8. These clues were “lost in translation”: as an example, four foreign languages in which Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank received a different name: Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank is Wilhelmina Makkeret (number of letters: 18-2=16) in Danish; Wilhelmina Varicosus (19-2=17) in Dutch; Wilhelmina Raue-Pritsche (22-2=20) in German and Wilhelmina Gobe-Planche (21-2=19) in French, none of which have the required combination of WG-P as initials and 22-2=20 letters (although the French Wilhelmina comes frighteningly close). Nor do the clues add up in the local language: the Trio's initials (both first and last names) are the same in these languages as in English and the number of letters of the Trio's last names in these languages are, respectively: 20 in Danish, German and French (same (last) names as in English) and 18 in Dutch (Weasley=Wemel; Granger=Griffel; Potter=Potter).
9. Frankly, I don't attach any significance at all to the fact that Wilhelmina is also the first name of Muggle Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (1880-1962), who was the symbol of Dutch resistance during World War II (1939-1945). Is this an indication that our Wilhelmina will combat Voldemort in the Second War? Hardly. If we pursue this so-called lead, why don't we look beyond, then? It just so happens that Queen Wilhelmina's mother was Queen Emma (1858-1934), and Emma by Jane Austen is, as we all know, J.K. Rowling's all-time favourite book because of its superb plotting (see Boquet, Tim. "J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter." Reader's Digest, December 2000, in which J.K. Rowling is quoted as saying: "The best twist ever in literature is in Jane Austen's Emma. To me she is the target of perfection at which we shoot in vain." <http://www.quick-quote-quill.org/articles/2000/1200-readersdigest-boquet.htm>). And here's my own twist: Jane Austen's Emma just happens to be the basis for the 1995 blockbuster film "Clueless" (directed by Amy Heckerling; see <http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0112697/>). Clueless, that's right, and that's where this Wilhelmina "lead" leaves us.
10. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005. p. 351.
11. They've done so much better: what about H2SO3F+ ? Indeed, that's Magic Acid, one of the inorganic superacids. It can easily protonate saturated alkanes to form carbonium ions, so don't hold your wands too close! For your information Magic Acid is made by mixing antimony pentafluoride (SbF55) and fluorosulphonic acid (HSO3F).
12. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003. p. 632.
13. For clarity's sake: ˜let's', ˜you'd', ˜can't,' ˜that's', ˜don't', Dumbledore's', ˜I'm', ˜I'll', ˜they've', ˜we'd', ˜something'', ˜can't', ˜Hagrid's', and ˜shouldn't' (and that's in order of appearance) count as one word each. The four hyphenated combinations: ˜Grubbly-Plank' (when she introduces herself), ˜first-years', ˜body-parts' and ˜well-trained' (also in order of appearance) count as two words, thank you very much.
14. Same methodology as described in note 13.
15. The chapter is nr. 24.
16. The chapters are nrs. 10, 13, 15 and 17.
17. Obviously Half Blood Prince's factor 1 doesn't make a difference: 1×1500 is still 1500.
18. This may vary between editions (UK/US; paperback/hard cover; English/other language).
19. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005. p. 217.
20. Ibid. p. 65.
21. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. p. 418: the Trio try to find a way for Harry to stay underwater for an hour, for the Second Task. They consider a number of options, and then Hermione suggests:
˜The ideal solution would be for you to Transfigure yourself into a submarine or something,' she said. ˜If only we'd done human Transfiguration already! But I don't think we start that until sixth year, and it can go badly wrong if you don't know what you're doing...'
22. Come to think of it, we are in desperate need of a Wizarding equivalent of the Ehrenfest classification of phase transition as used in the Muggle world. Although later proved to be somewhat inaccurate, the Ehrenfest model provides for a simple and useful scheme, based as it is on the degree of non-analyticity involved. Phase transitions are labelled by the lowest derivative of the free energy that is discontinuous at the transition and are classified in first- and second-order phase transitions, with theoretical room for third, fourth and even higher-order phase transitions. For further reading I highly recommend Goldenfeld N. Lectures on Phase Transitions and the Renormalization Group, Perseus Publishing, 1992. I wonder what is stopping anyone from divining the Wizarding equivalent? Once we have the Wizarding Transfiguration Classification, we will go from there and no doubt learned scholars will in time fine-tune it and come up with refinements analogous to the Muggle discovery of the Bose-Einstein condensation and, of course, the revelation of the Berezinsky-Kosterlitz-Thouless transition in the two-dimensional XY-model.
23. Just so that you know, according to the Almanac, Saturday, July 7, 2007, promises to be a bright and shiny day.