NEW YORK – It's three days until Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone opens — do you know what a Muggle is?
Even if you've never opened a Harry Potter book, there's no need to feel left out of one of the most-hyped cinema events of all time.
Read this handy primer and you should be able to bluff your way through J.K. Rowling's alternate universe.
To appear really in-the-know, make up your own words and look shocked when your friends have never heard of Squiddlepuss and his tiny pal Tiddlytops. (Tell 'em they're characters from J.K. Rowling's yet-to-be-released fifth book.)
Why is everyone so wild about Harry?
One hundred million readers can't be wrong. J.K. Rowling's four Potter novels are the equivalent of literary comfort food. Just as C.S. Lewis did with Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkein did with Middle Earth, Rowling has created an entire enchanted universe — one where good always prevails — where it's possible to completely escape the harsh realities of the world.
Suddenly, it's cool to believe in magic.
What is Quidditch?
Quidditch is the top sport of the wizarding world — a cross between soccer and hockey, played on broomsticks.
Why are the Muggles — non-magical people — so oblivious to the wizarding world?
Partly, it's because they find non-magical reasons to explain away otherworldly occurrences, but mostly, it's because the Ministry of Magic works so hard to keep them in the dark. If a Muggle accidentally sees something they shouldn't — like a dragon — the Ministry sends out Obliviators to erase their memory of it.
What is the Sorcerer's Stone?
The fabulous magical stone transforms any metal into gold and also produces the Elixer of Life, which makes the drinker immortal. There is only one in existence.
What is the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?
A boarding school full of moving staircases, flying candles and paintings come to life, which exists in an alternate magical universe.
Once first-year students arrive there — on the Hogwarts Express — they don the Sorting Hat, which assigns them to one of four different Houses: Gryffindor (for the brave and chivalrous), Hufflepuff (loyal, hard-working), Ravenclaw (learned and alert) or Slytherin (cunning and ambitious).
What sort of weird candy is sold on the Hogwarts Express food cart?
The strangest of all are Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. As well as the traditional chocolate, peppermint or strawberry, they come in spinach, liver, vomit and ear wax flavors.
Will there be a sequel?
Yes. Production begins this week on the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, due next fall.
Rowling — currently working on the fifth book in the series — plans to write a total of seven. Warner Bros. hopes to film all seven.