Hagrid and his Sausages: Another Doctor Dolittle Allusion?

In one of my first Harry Potter talks–before Newt Scamander was more than a textbook author–I called Hagrid “the best fictional naturalist since Doctor Dolittle.” Many years and movies later, I speculated here that Newt Scamander could be inspired by, or even a tribute to, the good Doctor from Puddleby. Later, I made a connection with postal owls and another book in the series, Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office. I recently recalled a bit from the Newbery-winning The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle that reminded me, yet again, of Hagrid.

The scene is 10-year-old narrator Tommy Stubbins’ first encounter with John Dolittle. Stubbins, a poor cobbler’s son, has just delivered a pair of shoes to a very Dursleyish man, Col. Bellows, who loudly berated the lad for coming to the front door of his home instead of the tradesman’s entrance. Tommy, who had recently brought an injured squirrel home, decides to stop by Dolittle’s house, hoping to get help for the animal. Needing to know the time, Tommy has the misfortune to encounter the same Colonel.

It was not a very cold day but he had so many clothes on he looked like a pillow inside a roll of blankets. I asked him if he would please tell me the time. He stopped, grunted and glared down at me—his red face growing redder still; and when he spoke it sounded like the cork coming out of a gingerbeer-bottle.

“Do you imagine for one moment,” he spluttered, “that I am going to get myself all unbuttoned just to tell a little boy like you the time !” And he went stumping down the street, grunting harder than ever.

As I said, Vernon Dursley.

As if in retaliation for the grouchy man’s bluster, an almost supernatural storm suddenly whips up.

I have never seen it rain so hard. It got dark, almost like night. The wind began to blow; the thunder rolled; the lightning flashed, and in a moment the gutters of the road were flowing like a river. There was no place handy to take shelter, so I put my head down against the driving wind and started to run towards home.

Young Tommy literally bumps into the Doctor, and both are knocked down. Doctor Dolittle, showing the compassion he has for all creatures, takes Tommy to his home to get warm and dry. Once they arrive, and a warm fire is lit, the Doctor asked Tommy to fetch his worn medical bag.

“I don’t believe in a lot of baggage. It’s such a nuisance. Life’s too short to fuss with it. And it isn’t really necessary, you know—Where did I put those sausages?” The Doctor was feeling about inside the bag. First he brought out a loaf of new bread. Next came a glass jar with a curious metal top to it. He held this up to the light very carefully before he set it down upon the table; and I could see that there was some strange little water-creature swimming about inside. At last the Doctor brought out a pound of sausages….The sausages were put over the kitchen-fire and a beautiful frying smell went all through the house.

Consider how many elements this scene has in common with Hagrid’s visit to the Hut-on-the-Rock. We have a a cold and shivering 10-year-old boy, recently browbeaten by a fat, cranky, puce-faced man. An unnaturally strong thunderstorm begins.

As night fell, the promised storm blew up around them. Spray from the high waves splattered the walls of the hut and a fierce wind rattled the filthy windows… The storm raged more and more ferociously as the night went on. Harry couldn’t sleep. He shivered and turned over, trying to get comfortable, his stomach rumbling with hunger. Dudley’s snores were drowned by the low rolls of thunder that started near midnight.

Then, once the kind rescuer arrives, he starts a fire, pulls a lot of stuff from his pockets, then finds and cooks sausages.

He bent down over the fireplace; they couldn’t see what he was doing but when he drew back a second later, there was a roaring fire there. It filled the whole damp hut with flickering light and Harry felt the warmth wash over him as though he’d sunk into a hot bath. The giant sat back down on the sofa, which sagged under his weight, and began taking all sorts of things out of the pockets of his coat: a copper kettle, a squashy package of sausages, a poker, a teapot, several chipped mugs, and a bottle of some amber liquid that he took a swig from before starting to make tea. Soon the hut was full of the sound and smell of sizzling sausage.

And, though this doesn’t happen until later, we know Hagrid’s pockets contain living creatures, just as the Doctor’s bag does.

It may all be pure coincidence—  I suppose sausages are a common British food to cook over a fire– but there are enough similarities to make me speculate, once again, that Ms. Rowling enjoyed Doctor Dolittle’s adventures as a child.


  1. Ms. Rowling may not have enjoyed Doctor Dolittle’s adventures as a child but I certainly did. I will never forget meeting the pushmi-pullyu or the Great Glass Sea Snail. Thank you for reminding me of them.

  2. Sausages often pop up in stories from the UK. C.S. Lewis also includes a lovely description of sausages in the Narnia book “The Silver Chair”.
    “She had a vague impression of Dwarfs crowding around the fire with frying-pans rather bigger than themselves, and the hissing, and delicious smell of sausages, and more, and more, and more sausages. And not wretched sausages half full of bread and soya bean either, but real meaty, spicy ones, fat and piping hot and burst and just the tiniest bit burnt. “

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