House-elves as Saviors? Dumbledore’s Trump Card

This week seems to be my time to tip my hat and introduce the work of Fandom friends whose grasp of Harry Potter is magisterial. Just below, you can read the Red Hen’s exposition of the critical back-story of what really happened at Godric’s Hollow. By reflection on Voldemort’s special ability to possess others and suggesting a possible two step spell process for Horcrux creation, Joyce offers a more than plausible theory of how Harry became a Horcrux, how Lily’s love saved him, and why Voldemort was vaporized in the back-blast. A big part of the past or foundation of these stories seems to have been filled in.

But what will happen in the future? How will Harry and friends overcome the combined forces of the Dark Lord, his Death eaters, the Giants, the Goblins, and the rapidly-reproducing dementors?

Travis Prinzi, maven at the Sword of Gryffindor weBlog and, yes, like Joyce, one of my friends (full disclosure!), has a theory that I think satisfies one of the Postmodern requirements of the story, namely, that the periphery become the center, that the “other” becomes what is good and decisive in the central conflict. Travis’ theory is that the house-elves in Hogwarts are Dumbledore’s real Army; Ollivander has “disappeared” to arm them with wands and Dobby will lead them in combat against the Dark Lord they all despise to save their hero, Harry Potter. Travis’ original post, “What Happened to Ollivander,” is worth reading in its entirety, but here is the part about the house-elves I find so striking:

[The goals of S.P.E.W. as Hermione shares them in Goblet are:] fair wages, good working conditions, political representation, and — wands. Wands! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same book that focuses so heavily on house-elf slavery also focuses so heavily on wands, and makes the point that the wizarding prejudice against house-elves is actually institutionalized, by forbidding them wands. We should probably conclude from this that, with wands in hand, house-elves would be powerful enough to be a threat to wizards.

And a threat to wizards is exactly what we need, isn’t it? Let’s take up a quick assessment of Voldemort’s army: (1) Voldemort himself, (2) Death Eaters, (3) Dementors (a vast and growing army), (4) innumberable Inferi, (5) werewolves, and (6) giants. Yikes. Compare that to (1) Harry, (2) the bungling MoM, (3) the leaderless Order, and (4) a bunch of kids from Hogwarts, and it’s not much of a fight, is it? Something is going to have to give as full-scale war breaks out, which it will, now Dumbledore’s out of the picture.

So my theory is basically this: Ollivander’s been hidden by Dumbledore, maybe protected by a Fidelius charm (with Snape as the secret-keeper?), and he’s got wands for an army of house-elves, ready to fight for their freedom.

But they don’t want

I know, I know. I’ve already established that a revolutionary change in house-elves’ status is not something the house-elves themselves are ready for. So why would they voluntarily fight? The key to this lies with Dobby. Despite the fact that Dobby is held in ill-repute for wanting freedom and wages, he makes a point universal to house-elf experience in Chamber of Secrets: the house-elves were treated horribly during the first reign of Voldemort, and Harry is something of a hero to their kind. Let’s hear Dobby’s explanation:

Ah, if Harry Potter only knew what he means to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, we dregs of the magical world! Dobby remembers how it was when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was at the height of his powers, sir! We house-elves were treated like vermin, sir! life has improved for my kind since you triumphed over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Harry Potter survived, and the Dark Lord’s power was broken, and it was a new dawn, sir, and Harry Potter shone like a beacon of hope for those of us who thought the Dark days would never end, sir.(CS-10)

In short, then, Harry Potter may just be the person to inspire the house-elves to desire their freedom, especially if the alternative option is to return to the Dark days under Voldemort’s reign. Dobby’s words, combined with Dumbledore’s urgency to teach Harry about the evils of prejudice against other magical brethren suggests that Harry will be something of a great uniter in Book 7, and house-elves certainly have the motivation to follow his lead.

But house-elves must obey their wizarding families, correct? How many families will agree to give up their house-elves to VoldWar II, or even command them to go into battle? Probably not many.

There are, however, at least a hundred house-elves at Hogwarts, and the school may not even be open in Book 7. I’m willing to bet a good number of them were refugees from Death Eater households who fled to sanctuary with Dumbledore after Voldemort was destroyed and the DEs were rounded up after VoldWar I.

Consider this: Everything so far has foreshadowed an attempted Voldemort takeover of Hogwarts. In Books 1, 2, and 5, Dumbledore was tricked or forced entirely out of the castle. In Book 6, he was AK’d right out of the picture, and Death Eaters were loose in the school. “The only one he ever feared” is gone, and we learned from Book 6 that Hogwarts is the only place Voldemort ever truly had affection for. It’s where he wants to be. Expect an attempted Voldemort takeover of Hogwarts in Book 7.

Harry feels the same way about Hogwarts, and he’s not going to give it up without a fight. I don’t think the house-elves of Hogwarts would be too keen on having to submit to Voldemort himself, especially if many of them recall their days as slaves of Death Eaters. Look for a force of house-elves, finally armed with wands provided by Ollivander himself, in Book 7.

In terms of the Five Keys, this theory satisfies the Postmodern theme requirement, Traditional Symbolism (can you say, “the Last will be First”?), Repeated Elements (what Travis points out in the several attempts at taking Hogwarts from Dumbledore’s control), Literary Alchemy (Harry as quintessence, the resolution of contraries), and, of course, Narrative Misdirection. As important as Dobby, Winky, and Kreacher have been in the story-line thus far and as involved as Hermione has been in her fantasy of liberating the oppressed house-wives (I mean “elves”), no one takes the house-elves very seriously, do they? House-elves are comic relief, and pathetic comic relief at that.

But it is just this “overlooking” that is the strongest pointer to the likelihood of Mr. Prinzi’s theory. Dumbledore doesn’t overlook the strengths and possibilities in people or Magical Brethren.

On their first meeting in Goblet of Fire, Dobby says to Harry, Ron, and Hermione down in the kitchens that he and the other house-elves are delighted to be in the Headmaster’s service. He goes so far as to say the house-elves know the Headmaster’s secrets.

“Tis part of the house-elf’s enslavement, sir. We keeps their secrets and our silence, sir. We upholds the family’s honor, and we never speaks ill of them — though Professor Dumbledore told Dobby he does not insist upon this. Professor Dumbledore said we is free to — to –”

Dobby looked suddenly nervous and beckoned Harry closer. Harry bent forward. Dobby whispered. “he said wec is free to call him a — a barmy, old codger if we likes, sir!”

Dobby gave a frightened sort of giggle.

“But Dobby is not wanting to, Harry Potter,” he said, talking normally again, and shaking his head so that his ears flapped. “Dobby likes Professor Dumbledore very much, sir, and is proud to keep his secrets and our silence for him.” Goblet, Chapter 21, ‘House-Elf Liberation Front,’ Scholastic page 380.

The biggest of these secrets seems to be his training them for more than cooking and cleaning duties. All Five of the Keys for the Serious Reader (have you ordered Unlocking Harry Potter yet?) point to Travis’ being “spot-on” in his SWAG that the house-elves will be the deciding factor in the climactic battle in Deathly Hallows. A tip of the hat to my friend at “Sword of Gryffindor” and my request that friends here will share their thoughts about this possible ending of the series. Don’t forget the house-elves at the Ministry of Magic after the battle between the Dark Lord and the Headmaster…


  1. Wow, that’s interesting! But house elves are already tremendously powerful without wands; I think the stricture against wands for house elves, like the anti-Muggle prejudice, arises from the fears of pure-blooded Wizards. However, I also think that they have, for the most part, forgotten how powerful the elves can be, and underestimate them. So it might just happen!

  2. I agree with Mary that some other possibilities exist for magical power and use by the elves based in some of what we have seen in text particularly by Dobby in COS, that he can do charms that register as regular wizard wand magic, such as the floating pudding that registers on the MOM radar as a hover charm (which, incidentally, gets mentioned specifically by Dumbldore in lessons with Harry in HBP … which to me strengthens Travis’ and your argument for the house-elves to play some much larger role in the final chapter of the saga) and his blasting Lucius once he has been free. I think the point is that the big hang-up is not whether the elves have wands but how well they are able to handle the idea of being liberated. That is the big material one, since putting a wand in their hands would not do any good anyway if they did not use it, and we have seen in Winky and Kreacher, and even in the other elves at Hogwarts (as Travis and you have brought out really well here) that the elves generally have difficulty accepting the concept, some more simply neurotically (Winky) and some with definite bad-temper (Kreacher).

    BUT, that having been said, I think that there is also something important here in Travis hitting on the wand thing because I think the wand is a very important symbol in the potterverse. It may be that the wand itself might not make as much of a difference in an elf’s physical ability to do powerful magic … but for wizards I think the wand is a VERY special thing and their refusal of the use of it to elves is indicative of a prejudice and arrogance that is much more ubiquetous in the wizard world than just in the death eater camp.

    And I think, aside from that prejudice itself, we do see a lot of import in the wand as a symbol. And I think that, in terms of somef what you bring up about sybolism in your Hidden Key book, that is exactly what the wand is … the symbolic. We see the same thing in some of the Star Wars universe regarding the light saber. In Return of the Jedi the disdain is fairly dripping off the words when the emperor refers to the light saber as the “weapon of a Jedi,” and in Revenge of the Sith I think he is just waiting for the chance for the fight with Yoda to go beyond the light saber duel, to be standing above him and weilding power over the physical universe, winning the fight without the mediation of the symbolic element (and specificaly wielding it through his control in the realm of politics, as he hurls specifically the senate pods, symbolic of how he has been weilding and controling the senat as a weapon throught the whole plot of the prequels … just as Voldy can “trust” Wormtail with his wand in GOF because he wields a “greater magic” over him, he wields Nietzche’s “Will to Power,” he wields fear like a weapon, able to command the wills of others without a wand, even in his “baby” form … I think that really floats his boat … I may be imagining it but I think I hear a disdain for wand magic when, in GOF, we hear Voldy mention that the only spells that would have aided him require the use of a wand, akin to Palpatine’s disdain for the “weapon of a jedi”).

    Furthermore, I think we can see in Harry himself am import of the symbolic quality of the wand, and the symbolic in general (specififc traditional physical mediums through which a wizard wields magical power) in some of his reactions to different kinds of magic. He shows particular heightened sensitivities to it. As just one example, apparition is magic done without an incantion activated through a wand, and Harry is the only one we find mentioning what a “horrible feeling of compression” it is (HBP 579). Molly and Arhtur and others simply go around blithely popping in and out of places, and in OotP Fred and George are popping in and out of Harry and Ron’s bedroom at #12 Grimmauld place simply for the pleasure of irritating Ron (as either Seamus or Dean mentions his cousin doing in HBP). What does Harry prefer to apparition? – A traditional symbol of magic: his broom.

    Also, as I said above, I think Voldy himself has particular sensitivities to “needing things such as wands … just as, at least on DD’s guess, he would dislike being dependent upon something like a Philosopher’s Stone (HBP 502). I actually think this theme connects up with some of the good observations of Red Hen and Swythiv in the stuff on possession … which, on their hypothesis, Voldy was doing well before he ever had a wand. To be sure, at 11 he was definitely uber-interested in getting a wand (“his expression greedy, he pointed at the wand. ‘Where can I get one of them?'” HBP 272), but as he grew as a wizard I think he probably has secretly has come to view wand magic a bit like he views his birth name as “anything that tied him to other people, anything that made him ordinary” (HBP 277)(such a dislike probably even “secretly from himself” since he knows, like it or not, he’ll get a LOT further with a wand than without it … but even the speculations pointed to by Travis of people thinking Voldy kidnapped Olivander in order to get a new wand because his wand core presents certain problems, I think indicates that we the readers ubiquetously pick up on a certain irritation on his part with the “wand way of things”). I think his mention in GOF (insightfully pointed out by RH and Swythiv) of still being able to possess animals after he was undone reveals a secret fondness for and pride in the magic he was able to do even as a boy without a wand.

    So, all that just to say that I do think it very insightful, this paying attention to the role of the wand – it is something unique and special as a symbolic element, and unfortunately wizard-kind has chosen to symbolize by it also an arrogance over those such as house elves (even if they have managed to “keep their hands clean” by keeping this consideration on the sub-conscious level and buttressed the particular rule with a lot of other flimsy arguments or whatever).

    All in all, I really like this post by Travis and think it is really insightful. There are varying degress and better and worse use of this theme in different “literature.” Personally I found George Lucas’ “teddy bear brigade” of ewoks in Return of the Jedi pretty useless but Tolkien’s having a halfling and a woman disguised as a warrior bring down the hubris of the Witch King of Angmar (leader of the 9 Nazgul) and his “cannot be hindered by a living man” charm, I found execellent. I think Rowling’s probable use of this same type of theme is really unique and rich … the characterization, especially of Dobby, but also of the other elves is, I think, really rich … I’m pulling for them and think that, under the influence of the lovable liberated elf Dobby, the group will kick some serious behind.
    Beyond that, I had not before seen Travis’ work on the Order and the Fabian Society, but upon reading it I think it is a great piece of research and well grounded and argued. I like a good bit of Red Hen’s stuff (especially on the possible hidden import of dementors and the culpability of the MOM in Voldy becoming the un-man he is today by their alliance with the dementors and the stuff I mentioned just above about her and Swythiv’s insightful notice of the import of Voldy’s ability for possession) but I have to agree with Travis on the reading of Dumbledore as manipulative to the level of almost mailgnant, or even (to give away my affinity for some “hippy” things by quoting the Grateful Dead) “Old and In the Way.” I thnk DD is much more conscious and contemplative and insightful about things than we can see very often from Harry’s limited perspective (although I think the hints are there for “those who have eyes to see”) and that this proposed conscious choice of the “patient path” is insightful and well within his character as presented in the works (not too mention, as I said, Travis pretty much nailed the undeniability of Fabian connection with some really solid research). I think we see his definite having given considerable conscious consideration to the most prudent methods by which to bring about change even in some of his technically less related conversations, just in the way he prhases somethings that he says: “My dear boy, … If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first disarmed me, you would not have stopped for this pleasant chat about ways and means” (HBP 591).

    Finally, I really like this focus on the house-elves partially because of one other thing I had noticed in text along the lines of the chiastic structure I think to be the primary meta-structure of the series (and, again, I’ll say that I’m not wedded to this theory, but at present, until I read and think about book 7, it makes the most sense to me). This is something that I had noticed actually not until watching the 4th movie and then relistening to GOF on tape and noticing that they had altered it in the movie (having only actually read the text of book 4 from cover to cover once at that point). In the book it is Dobby who gives Harry the gilliweed for the lake task, whereas in the movie they have Neville be the one (which I at first found, and still find, a neat adaptation for the emphasis it puts on Neville’s unique skill in herbology … but in the line of this post and discussion, the house-elf connection is more important to me).

    If I am correct that book 4 is the cruxt of a chiasm (the X structure), the placement of the lake task, fairly dead center in the plot of GOF (it is not exactly dead-center in terms of the “textual space,” or the placement in the actual quantity of text before and after it, but it is close enough for me, I would say very arguably the center of the time span of the school year framework as a structure for the plot of the book) … it is the center of that center. This connects up with larger chiastic structure particularly in the motion of chiasm, the moving into a center and then back out again, with the “return leg” and particularly its culmination in the final element, displaying a progession in the themes and elements begun in the first leg, a progression by means of key interpretive elements the cruxt (here GOF). The motion connects up in that, if the lake is the center of GOF, it too has a center, for it too has that same motion of “going and returning” … in the simple descent to the bottom of the lake and the return, and thus what happens is present at the lake bottom and what happens there becomes very important.

    This connects up with 2 BIG elements of the works. First there is the 4-elements cosmology and the need for the quintessence to arise from the reconciliation of the elements. Harry handles the water element (the lake) not by isolating himself, as with the bubblehead charm, but by becoming, to a certain degree a part of that world, and by the used of a earth element (the gillyweed plant). However he does not try to become too much a part of that world by becoming an actual fish, like Krum does in partially transfiguring into a shark (and thus risking danger to Hermione in trying to cut her bonds with his teeth, as Harry notes – GOF 500-501), rather he becomes, with is webbed feet and hands … more like an amphibian. And the person who “empowered” him to do so, and to save not only his own hostage but also another, is Dobby the Hous-elf.

    But Dobby is more than a “deus ex machina” element here, and this is the second important thematic connection. Dobby wakes Harry up just before he is disqualified for the task, and shoves the gillyweed on him, infact insisting that Harry will do the task (emphasis original) when Harry has given up on going through with it, and specifically mentioning that Harry Potter must go “save his wheezy” (GOF 490). Here Dobby is specifically the carrier of that most central theme that both Dumbledore and his creator, JKR, have hammered over and over again into Harry’s head and ours … Love.
    CS Lewis wrote on The Four Loves and in classical Greek thought and language there are 3 words for love: Eros, Phileo, and Agape. And what do you have at the bottom of the lake? You have basically 4 relationships embodying the 3 kinds of love. In Krum and Hermione and Cedric and Cho you have the 4 elements (Cedric = Earth, Krum = Water, Cho = Air, Hermione = Fire) embodied in 2 romantic relationships (Eros). Then you have 2 sisters (familial love, Phileo being “brotherly love”), and finally you have a phileo transformed into Agape in a love of friendship (the one thing we know Voldy is definitely not interested in) based not even in the bllod ties of family, but in the choices that Harry has been making ever since he told Draco thet he thought he could tell for himself which types of people and wizards and wizarding families were the ones really worth being friends with, all the way back in PS/SS. In fact, it is exactly in “saving his wheezy,” actually driven to it and also empowered to do it by our favorite bat-eared house-elf, that Harry becomes a savior of those even beyond the scope of who he is supposed to focus on according to the rules of the task as tournament, by helping Krum figure out how to cut Hermione loose without biting her legs off, and directly saving Gabrielle DeLaceur (the latter at great danger to himself from the rule-gaurding and extremely formidable mer-people).

    So I think we can say that it is rather fitting to guess that we might see “house elves as saviors” in book 7, since we have seen Dobby (who will hopefully function as a paradigm and example for the other elves in how to approach and think about their liberation) as such an impetus, catalyst and facilitator (and I would say even pegaogue) for Harry being a savior at this central juncture in GOF (even if I am entirely wrong about my chiastic reading of the series lol)

  3. I must say I really like all that all of you have said about the house elves coming to Harry’s aide. It does make a lot of sense, that they are all there at Hogwarts for a reason, and very loyal to Dumbledore, as well as to Harry, with the exception of Winky, of course.

    One of my favorite Dobby moments was in COS when he was freed and confronted an angry Lucius who, having just lost his servant, was ready to attack Harry. Dobby didn’t even hesitate to use wandless–and apparently very powerful–magic to protect Harry.

    There are several other places where the powerful magic of house elves is mentioned, one being Winky using her powerful brand of magic to bind Barty Jr to her in order to control him. And all that without a wand.

    There are a few things that bother me about wands though. We’ve only seen a few of them broken–Hagrid’s when he was expelled, though it seems to still be useful enough to start a fire to cook breakfast, enchant a boat to go faster and to make the pumpkins grow larger than normal. Neville’s wand gets accidentally broken at the MoM during the fighting, and we learn that it was his father’s wand.

    Now, the problem I have is this–when they are fighting, why is it that no one intentionally breaks someone else’s wand. Hermione’s wand is laying there until Harry gives it to Neville; Harry’s wand gets ripped from his hand several times. And in GOF, when Harry and Cedric end up in the graveyard, why didn’t Wormtail just snap Harry’s wand in half as a way of controlling him?

    I can understand that wizards on Dumbledore’s side would find that dishonorable, but it seems that the Death Eaters aren’t bound by the same code of honor as the rest of the wizarding world. So, does that mean that each wand is somehow protected from purposeful destruction? We do need to get Ollivander back, so he can answer some of those questions.

    Brett, you mentioned that Dobby was the one who gave Harry the gillyweed for the Second Task. He also was the one who showed Harry how to get into the Room of Requirement in OotP, and he and Kreacher were keeping tabs on Draco and reporting back to Harry.

    If Rowling is going to have the house elves play a big role in winning the final battle, I’m a bit curious why she didn’t insist that they be included in the movies, beyond Dobby’s role in COS. I know the movies aren’t the books, and that’s fine, but I am afraid the house elves can’t be very important to the outcome of the story if they were so easily dropped and replaced by other characters.

    I just looked at the listing for OotP, and there is no mention of any of the house elves–even though we have a centaur and Grawp (whose character I thought could easily have been left out). Not even Kreacher–how very disappointing. And unfortunately, I’m afraid that may be the reason that the house elves won’t play the role that we all think they could. Perhaps Rowling only wanted them there to make her points about prejudice and the treatment of a class of people.

    I hope, though, that Travis is right, and we will get more from the house elves than just dinner and a clean castle.


  4. Pat,
    Some really good observations.

    On Wands

    The thing on the wands is a good question as to why the wand itself does not figure as crucially into fighting and battles but I’m not sure there is a necessarily good answer for it other than that it is difficlut for an author to cover and integrate all bases, especially when the bases are from a variety of perspectives (physical action, symbolic import etc). In a good American action flcik, the protagonist/antagonist is going to go for covering the physical action bases – dump the spare gun that is lying around so his/her enememy can’t get it and use it (or take replace the ammo clip with an empty one, like in th eend of US Marshals, but even there, anyone who is knowledgable about semi-automatic handguns knows the switch could simply not be pulled off as within the physical parameters of action onscreen in which they would have had to been pulled off for ut to work, and the typical pulling the trigeer several trimes with an audible click doesn’t work since it in the force of the explosion from one actually firing of a round that powers the action of chambering the next round, and that that action is what sets the firing pin for the next round, especially with Glock handguns [specifically mentioned as the type in US Marshals], which, unlike most other semi-autos, has absolutely no external hammer that can be cocked and decocked, the firing pin mechanism is completely internal, inside the rear of the “slide” … such things fall under the “necessary suspension of disbelief” in that, with all stories there are elements where the reader/viewer/hearer has to supsend the demand for tight coherence in the physical realm if certain larger elements of plot and character are going to work out – a balance has to be struck, if the physical parameters become too implausible, it seems to me like you risk damage to the “analogy” connection between the “inner meaning” elements of a story and the physical details through in which those elements are “en-fleshed,” but at the same time the phyical world and its laws are so multifarious that that analogy eventually breaks down on the level of a story … it’s not that the analogy breaks down in the way of it being shown that the “deeper meaning” and the physical elements are in contradiction, but that at some point it invloves mystery and, to try to tie it out too much breaks one or the other.

    (I think of it in terms of an image used in the movie “Pi” … where you get the impression that the protagonist is right, Everything in the world can be fit into mathematical formula … but not by a human mind, and id a human mind tries gets to far along the path of seeing how it all fits together it becomes like staring at the sun, which the protagonist, Max, relates having done as a child and gone blind for daysand suffered from migrane headaches from then until the end of the present nrrative of the movie, it’s too much for the human mind to take in OR to construct fully cohesively in a story and so you accept inconsistenices on a certain level and “suspend disbelief” because not doing so would inhibit your ability to grasp the alrger story as a whole [you lose the forest for the trees, to use the old cliche] of break your mind in the process of trying to reconicle everything … not that the “incarnational” correspndance isn’t there, but pinning it down at al levels, in eiather reading OR writing the story, might simply break you and undo the whle project)

    All of tha having been said, the points you raise are some good ones with regards to the disposition that characters in the story have towards wands and the impact thta has on our understanding of the importance of wands. My personal opinion is that the wand is very important, as evidenced in the considerations on wand cores, that Rowling has been careful to have the leading trio represnt all 3 of Ollivander’s cores of choice and things like that (along with the other stuff I mentioned) but that it may not be possible to “tighten” that down on all levels in the story, but I also think that SOME conjectures can be made. The first is that, given the power of the wand, the power to choose it’s owner, the symbolism in the cores etc, wand destruction MAY be a sort of “risky business.” It may be something that is best done under controlled conditions and something that individuals think better of than to try to do it on their own on the fly in battle (it may be best to have certain control paramters in place when snapping a wand, akin to the parameters thta seem to be naturally built into Harry in whatever happened when Voldy tried to kill him. parameters which DD does not naturally have and which make it much more dangerous for him to try to destroy a Horcux, when Harry can simply do it on the fly with no damage to himself). It is entirely possibly that this is not the case, just a suggestion of a possible reason why all characters in general may not be so keen to go trying to destroy wands (although, as you mention, Neville’s wand snapping in the ministry battle without anybody getting hurt etc at the ministry would be a glaring anomoly in this theory).

    Whatever the case, what we have seen is a power in the wand that characters consciously take into consideration when fighting. We know that wizards simply cannot do certain things without their wand, at least not below some VERY HIGH level of magical prowess and development of skill. Voldy mentions that he would have needed a wand to do any of the spells that would have helped him in his vapor-mort state. Harry tries summoning his wand aboard the train when he is under Draco’s PT spell and cannot. In the final scene between Harry and Snape we see Snape disctintly keeping an eye on where Harry’s wand is in relation to Harry himself (hitting it with a spell that moves it away), but then that is one on one, unlike the battle in the castle itself. In the graveyard the wand seems to be pretty far away from Harry and so maybe not a concern to Peter and Voldy as long as they keep an eye on Harry himself and make sure he is not near getting his wand back … for the present (see below).

    In general the pattern of action seems to me to be to separate your opponent fomr their wand (such as knocking it away as Snape does, or making sure Harry can’t move to get it, as in Draco’s PT on the train) and then not worry about it. As far as keeping an eye on making sure it they cannot be re-united, sometimes they lose track of things when it is in a big fray (as in the battle in the castle). The only thing I would add is that in the particular case of not destroying Harry’s wand in the graveyard, Voldy had particular interest in Harry being able to have a wand at some point … he wanted his death eaters to see him finally defeat Harry “on even ground,” so that there would be no doubt left in their minds about the meaning of the failure of the original attempt. To quote Cipher in the first Matrix movie, “I mean, how can he be ‘the one’ … if he’s dead?” And if I killed him in a fiar fight, him not bound in ropes and him having a wand in his hand for a “fair” duel, how can you ever question whether or not this boy could have beaten me? Beyond that – why not his own wand? (at this point Voldy not knowing that the shared cores could cause a problem).

    I think that what I said about the paramount symbolic value of the wand Voldy’s disdain for the wand is there in the text, at least on a latent level, but that in a certain way the wand may be too fundamental for him to tackle. One could take the “sel-sufficient” arrogance to the level of hating having to rely on air but only somebody who has completely lost reason is going to think they can survive without breathing … at a certain point there will be some things one has to accept as commonplace “hard corners” of reality. But I do think that we do see something of it “floating Voldy’s boat” to dwell on the instances where he is above the normal wizard reliance on wands, such as his ability for possession and his ability to see into the souls of others and know whether they are lying, even without a wand or the “legilimens” incantation (as we see in him as a boy in HBP) or his ability to wield the wills of others through fear … he “accepts” the use of wands because he has to, and he’ll use the Immperius curse but if he can control a person without it I think he likes that better (if he can make Harry bow with his “wit” and satirical taunts against DD’s character and concerns, saying that DD would not want Harry being impolite, that means more to him) (Snape having been in Voldy’s camp and participated at one point in that mentality, seems to me to have some traces, not the thing itself but just little traces here and there, of the mentality in how he veiws potions as such a subtle and sophisticated art with “no waving of wands or yelling incantations,” as he puts it in that first lesson in PS/SS … but not all of Snape’s snyde remarks carry across the board, he praise Non-verbal spell casting pretty highly in a way that seems to skip over any possible decrease in power, but we saw in the ministry in book 5 that NVB does diminish power at least in certain cases, in that I think specific mention was made that if the violet/purple NVB curse Hermione got hit with had been verbal the curse would probably had much more damage, much closer to the intended damage, which could not be done by the Death Eater since he had been muted).

    the House Elf Thing

    The big question here, I think, is that of the import of any element(in this case the issue of house-elf liberation) as “underpinning” and how it plays out on screen, even just considering “on-screen” as the books themselves. First I’ll admit that, when all the books are done and the whole story in our hands, it is always easier to argue the symbolic etc import of an element if it has played out concretely in the text (in other words, I’m saying I admit that, if it does not play out in text my argument weakens. I still make it because I don’t think it disappears, but the validity of the questions you raise, already valid now, os heightened) In short, I think we would both agree that there is something about hose-elf liberation that is important as far as the larger questions in the series, but the question is whether it plays out in the physical action.

    The best way I can find to approach this is by giving the example of something I think is of paramount importance as an underpinning of the stories but that I do not think will play out on screen in the 7th book (unless maybe vaguely in that final chapter where we find out what everybody who makes it goes on to do). I think the “protection of muggles act” that Arthur Weasely was trying to push through is very important to understanding the “message” of the books. With the powers that wizards have by nature I think it is at least implicit in the works that they have an obligation to protect muggles in a way that muggle cannot protect wizards and that Arthur is a man who gets this. The place I would see an image of the fulfillment of it is in book 5 when Harry wards the dementor off of Dudley. I don’t think though, that we are likely to have in book 7, some big scene where Arthur gets that law passed (like I said, at most I would think it possible to be one among many in that whole group/category of things that happens after the main scope of the srory). At a certain point this story is primarily about Harry’s specific path of undoing Voldy and that law falls in the category of things that are important to the underpinning of HArry having a right view of what magic is all about on the larger scale but cannot play out in the specific scope of this story itself. That law itself may have very well already served its role/purpose in the story: Arthur Weasely is a good man, Harry sees him as a good man and respects him greatly, Arthur thinks something like the protection of muggles act is an important thing, Harry (at least subconsciously) picks up on this and learns from it, and when he sees a muggle in need, even one he has “issues” with like Dudley, he instinctively reacts to protect … and that is simply part of the character of this person called Harry Potter who will be the one to undo the great evil that is Voldy (and beyond that it simply may not be within the scope of this particular story to have that specific element play out in more concrete terms).

    I see the house-elves thing as maybe on that level. I am still holding out hope that Travis is right and that we will see it play out concretely on-screen, but accepting that it may have already served its purpose in the story and that it may not be within the scope of the works to have it play out onscreen (outside of maybe something in that final chapter that Hermione goes on to make greta headway in the future, gets an act passed in the course of a career in the ministry focussed on such things – that sort of thing)

    The point you mention about her role in the movies is a good one … that the fact that she has not pushed for their material inclusion more may indicate that in her mind their absense will not cause any material inconsistencies in later films because she does not have plans to play the house-elf thing out materially in the text. It could also be that, inlight of the more limited scope of the medium of the films, he distinguishes “sub-plots” and main plots and accepts the exculsion of certain “sub-plots” as not nexessary to translating the basic story to the medium of feature length films. I really liked the LOTR films and thought they did a good job of translating the main,/I> story to film (much better than I thought of the 4th HP film), but even there you had some major reowrking and altering and downright dropping of “sub-plots” and their characters to make the adaptation work (Dobby was simply TOO central to the material action of COS to drop him in the movie, and plus, at least for one movie of that genre … he sells pretty well).

    In summary, I too am, obviously, hoping we get more houes-elf involvement in Book 7, and I think we have already gotten a lot more in the books themselves … but as far as whether or not that sub-plot element will play out onscreen … you make some really good points.

  5. Oh yeah, just remembered … Ron’s wand snapped in COS without any explosions or damage to the boys etc (although of course it does have some drastic [and humorous] effects when an attempt is made to use the wand) … so that would count as decent eveidence against the probability of any particular danger in the snapping of wands, even intentional and directed attempts to completely sever/dysfunctionalize a wand.

    My best guess:
    1. The wand is important symbolically.

    2. The wand is important functionally on the material plane of doing magic – even if Dumbledore is rusing and “play-acting” for Voldy via HArry’s scar-cam (I’m not saying I’m in the full blown scar-o-scope camp, just saying “even if”), it is a plausible story he presents because of the necessity of a wand for most magic, to the extent that if DD has no wand and Draco does, anybody looking at the situation would say Draco has the upper hand regardless of how much better of a wizard DD is.

    3. As much as I might like to, one cannot tie the bond too tightly between the symbolic importance of the wand and its material functionality. I think the connection is ther eand functions as part of how the story works as a story but such connections may be simply too latent, or nebublous, or mysterious to bear much direct scrutiny without slipping through ones fingers.

    4. The reason for people not trying to snap other peoples wands during battle may simply be focus. Once you have separated wand and wizard the wizard cannot retreive the wand (accio) without the use of … a wand (which seems to be Harry’s predicament on the train, where he has confused Non-vebral magic with wandless magic – what he specificaly thinks about of Dumbledore is being able to do magic without speaking [HBP 156] … dunno if there is anything to him making that confusion in such specific language or not) … so, why bother going out of your way if you can control the situation without doing so (my best guess). And generally there does not seem to be an overlap of wandless and wanded magic – we generally haven’t seen certain powerful wizards being able to do without a wand what usually takes a wand (at least in controlled ways … I suppose Harry could have blown up Aunt Marge with something like “engorgio” or made the glass at the zoo disappear with “evanesco” if he had a wand and training but these are instances of uncontrolled, and mor eimportantly inintentional, magic [but that offhandedly makes me very curious what would happen if one tried to “evanesco” a wand? would it work?]): somtehing like apparition does not seem to use a wand even if you have one on you and Voldy does not seem to use a wand to possess even when he has one.

  6. The first time I read HBP, I thought the house-elves were conspicuously absent from Dumbledore’s funeral. Especially when Rowling made a point of including the merpeople and the centaurs. Could they be keeping a big secret during the service about the reality of his death?

  7. shortbottom says

    In CH 2 of HBP did anyone else think that DD saying aloud twice that #12 G.P. was the OotP is going to be important since no-one can speak or tell anyone where the OotP is located since the secret keeper is now dead? Maybe the Dursleys can go there for some reason?

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