Want to Hear a Harry Potter Story? Just Ask Google Assistant

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Voice-activated technologies give us mere Muggles the opportunity to feel, if only for a moment, like we’re wizards. With a few words aimed at your device—and maybe even a flick of your wand, if you really use your imagination—you can cue “Hedwig’s Theme,” order some treacle tart, and curl up in your Hogwarts House bathrobe with a Harry Potter book in hand.

Now, Pottermore Publishing has partnered with Google Assistant to take your enchanted experience to the next (Ordinary Wizarding) level. If you say “Hey Google, tell me a Harry Potter story,” Google Assistant will play the audio edition of chapter six from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on your device.

It’s all part of Pottermore's annual “Back to Hogwarts” campaign to gear up students for another year of magical mischief, which begins on September 1 for young witches and wizards. That explains why they’ve chosen chapter six, “The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.” It takes place on September 1, when the Hogwarts Express carries Harry off to school for the first time ever, and J.K. Rowling introduces us to several series-long pivotal characters, including Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, and Draco Malfoy.

To try it out, download the Google Assistant app and the Google Books app onto your device (Android smartphones have Google Assistant built in already, so you’ll just need the Google Books app). Then, utter the aforementioned incantation, “Hey Google, tell me a Harry Potter story.” The command might not sound as bewitching as some other Latin-based spells, but you’ll feel like you’re en route to Hogwarts in a heartbeat.

[h/t Pottermore]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

A New Book by J.R.R. Tolkien Contains Previously Unpublished Essays About Middle-Earth

J.R.R. Tolkien photographed circa the 1940s.
J.R.R. Tolkien photographed circa the 1940s.
Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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It has been more than 80 years since J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit first appeared in bookstores in 1937—followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy during the mid-1950s—and the enthusiasm for all things Middle-earth doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon. While the premiere date for Amazon’s prequel TV series hasn’t been announced yet, another important date in 2021 has: June 24.

On that day, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) will release The Nature of Middle-earth, a book of heretofore unpublished writings by Tolkien himself. (HarperCollins will publish an identical edition in the UK.) As avid fans likely already know, this won’t be the first supplemental Middle-earth material in existence. Tolkien wrote prolifically about his fantasy world, and much of his other content was published posthumously—most notably The Silmarillion, an extensive collection of stories edited by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. As literary executor of his father’s estate, Christopher Tolkien edited and oversaw the release of most Tolkien works until his death at age 95 in January of this year.

Time to solve the mystery of which Middle-earthers can grow facial hair.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

According to Gizmodo, The Nature of Middle-earth was edited by NASA computer engineer Carl F. Hostetter, who also happens to be a venerated Tolkien scholar and the head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship (E.L.F., for short). HMH revealed in a press release that this latest compilation will contain previously unknown details about “Elvish immortality and reincarnation,” “the Powers of Valar,” “the lands and beasts of Númenor,” and “the geography of the Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor.” It will also reportedly clear up the confusion over which races (and sexes) can grow beards in Middle-earth, a topic that crops up on internet message boards with surprising frequency.

U.S. residents can pre-order The Nature of Middle-earth from Amazon now for $24.

[h/t Gizmodo]