“Why is Fred Called ‘Rodent’?”

“Hi, John, this is Don from Portland, first time caller, long time reader, big ditto head, especially on the alchemy. Loved Finding God in Harry Potter and gave it to my church lady neighbor.”

Welcome , Don. Thanks for joining us. What’s your Deathly Hallows question for the Hogwarts Professor?

“Well, I’m trying to figure out why on the PotterWatch broadcast in Chapter 22, ‘The Deathly Hallows,’ ‘River’ Jordan calls Fred ‘Rodent’ instead of ‘Rapier.’ What’s up with that? I’m guessing it has something to do with his death in the Battle of Hogwarts. Am I close?”

Great question, Don. Let’s talk about that broadcast and the chapter it is in:

The context is the trio have just escaped from the Lovegood ziggurat and are coming to terms with Xenophilius’ explanation of the “triangular eye” symbol as a glyph or ideogram for the three Hallows. Harry is having serial epiphanies and realizes in short order that the Hallows do exist (one, of course, has been his companion for six years, and he realizes another is in his possession), the Dark Lord is after the Elder Wand, and Harry needs to act fast to beat him to it. Hermione is having none of it and delays Harry exactly as Dumbledore explains later was his plan. It’s not a warm and friendly climate.

This is when Ron finally guesses the password to PotterWatch correctly. The password, ‘Albus,’ is meaningful because we’re in the meat of the white stage leading up to Harry’s purifying or ablutionary experiences with Dumbledore’s eye in Malfoy Manor and in Dobby’s grave at Shell Cottage. The other password given is another eye reference, ‘Mad-Eye,’ which points to the importance of the five eyes in the last book for “getting inside” or unlocking the story.

Anyway, the three gather round the little radio to listen to their brave friends in the Resistance. We are, no doubt, meant to think of Voice of America and BBC broadcasts into occupied Europe during WWII and into the Eastern Bloc during the long Cold War. They feel “fully connected to the outside world” (page 440) for the first time in a long time and are cheered and inspired.

Four characters come to the microphone: Lee Jordan, Remus Lupin, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Fred Weasley (there is some dispute about whether it is Fred or George but Ron says it is Fred and he is called ‘Fred’ in text). As men of the Resistance, they have all chosen code-names of remarkable transparency beginning with the letter ‘R.’ Lee Jordan, the PotterWatch host, is “River,” Kingsley Shacklebolt is “Royal,” Remus is “Romulus,” and Jordan calls Fred “Rodent” but he insists on being called “Rapier” and the host relents.

“River” Jordan is a reference to the place Christ was baptized; a more straight forward albedo pointer is hard to imagine. If “Kingsley” isn’t enough perumbration for Shacklebolt’s becoming Minister of Magic at story’s end (“Minister for life” according to Ms. Rowling in an interview), he gets tagged with the HRH “Royal” and “River” tells him Jordan will be voting for him to become the new Minister. “Romulus” is the lupine brother of Remus in the wolf-twins legend; he is also Remus’ murderer according to the story detailing Rome’s founding (which story has its river elements in it as well).

And “Rodent”? Three notes, in no particular order.

First, there’s the transparency. A weasel is rodentine if not exactly a rodent so the ‘R’ code-name “Rodent” is a give-away that the speaker is a Weasley in a way that “Rapier” isn’t.

Second, there’s the humor. The best part of PotterWatch for Harry isn’t “feeling connected,” if not feeling so isolated and alone was an “extraordinary tonic” (444). It’s the laughter that works this magic. “For the first time in weeks and weeks, Harry was laughing. He could feel the weight of tension leaving him” (443). Fred’s jokes are the fun of the show — and the first joke that cues it is comedy time is “Rodent.” Everyone else gets royal, religious, and legendary names; Fred wants to be Errol Flynn and a pirate or Musketeer — and gets to be a rat.

Third, if there is any kind of foreshadowing in “Rodent” of Fred’s demise in the Battle for Hogwarts — and this is a real stretch — it’s that “rod” auf Deutsch, pronounced something like “road,” is the word for “red.” We have a Black death at the end of Phoenix’ nigredo, an Albus/White death at the end of Prince’s albedo, and we have the F-Red death at the end of Hallows’ rubedo. Just a thought because you brought it up and said you were an alchemy buff.

PotterWatch, of course, is the last bit of fun the trio have for quite some time because Harry breaks the Name Taboo moments after the broadcast and the Snatchers grab them. Their time with friends and laughing is a small comic interlude in which we learn Lupin has his head (and family) together again, that Dean Thomas and a goblin are MIA, and that the Resistance is alive and centered on Harry… Just what we needed before the drama in Malfoy Manor and the pivotal eye-contact Harry makes in the dungeon with Dumbledore.

Does that answer your question?

“Sure did, Professor. Thanks for taking my call!”

Thank you, Don. And that’s all we have time for on this week’s silent podCast from your Hallows Answer Man. Your comments and corrections are welcome as always — and send in those questions for next week’s edition of Hogwarts Plus.


  1. I wonder – perhaps another stretch – but could there be a nod to Reepicheep here? After all, Rowling has referenced her love for Narnia, and even direct Lewisian influence on her novels. Reepicheep carried a rapier (hence Rodent/Rapier). He was a mouse known for his courage more than anything else (and what is Rowling’s favorite virtue?). And he goes to his “death” willingly; indeed, desires nothing more than to move on to the “next great adventure.”

  2. Arabella Figg says

    Could F-red’s choice of name, Rapier, also forshadow the sundering of twins Fred and George? Just a thought.

    Kitties have 18 rapiers apiece and know how to use them…

  3. Arabella Figg says

    I meant “severing” of the twins.

  4. I thought Rodent was a reference to Weasley (your first answer). I was wondering what connection there was to Rapier…perhaps becuase Fred considered himself to have a “rapier wit?”

  5. schmalchemy says

    Could it be as simple as Fred wanted to be known as a Rapier wit, rather than a Rodent? Think of how many times Fred first starts the jokes?

  6. “Hallows Answer Man.” Ha! (speaking of small comic interludes…)

  7. “Rodent/Rapier = Reepicheep” is grand, but I think ‘rapier wit” is Fred’s way of self-identifying. Just like a Weasley (and a twin) to want to mark identity as an individual rather than with the group “just another Weasley.”

    John, hat off to the All-Pro answer folk

  8. Hi John, I’m a longtime listener, first-time caller! May I indulge in a pet theory that I have been nursing since you put up your Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #21 last year? I promise I will eventually make my way to Fred the Rodent.
    I think that the 7 tasks to reach the Philosopher’ Stone contain within them the seven themes/sections of the series as a whole. The seventh task is the Mirror of Erised (set by Dumbledore) and it sets the theme for Deathly Hallows, making the seventh book a mirror of the entire series (with a focus on Dumbledore). The Deathly Hallows has seven distinct segments that mirror in turn each book in the septology. The third task is, of course, the “flying keys” put in place by Flitwick the Ravenclaw and professor of Charms. Therefore all elements of the series falling into Section 3 are influenced by flight, air, Ravenclaw braininess, charms, cheerfulness, keys, silver, jewels, and the silvery moon. (White stage? Yeah!) I’ve taken to calling this section “The Seeker’s Reward.”
    What falls into Section 3? In order I would say : Section 3 of Book 1, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin as the third DADA professor, Section 3 of Book 4, the third task of the Maze in the Tri-Wizard tournament (the golden mist), the locket as the third horcrux, and Section 3 of Deathly Hallows that begins with the appearance of The Silver Doe.
    Recalling that the overall theme of Deathly Hallows is the mirror, this section of the book gives us a reflection of Prisoner of Azkaban. With the return of Ron and the destruction of the LOCKet, cheerfulness and the trio have been restored. In a funny inversion of Book 3, it is Ron who must make up to Hermione for acting like a jerk because of the chain hung round his neck. This recalls Hermione’s insensitivity to Ron in PofA due to the Time-Turner hung on a chain around her neck. Hermione’s studiousness leads them to the Lovegood’s windswept tower on a hill. It is here, although we don’t know it at the time, that we discover the keys to the resolution of our story. We see the diadem of Ravenclaw and discover the existence of the Hallows. We also see Luna’s chain of friendship which does not weaken, but strengthens the wearer.
    Shortly afterward, Ron succeeds in finding the password(key!) and Potterwatch is live and on the air. I see in Potterwatch a return of the Marauders from PofA complete with pseudonyms. Remus reprises his own role. Kingsley is a padfoot in his lynx patronus form. Lee Jordan, the defacto leader of the broadcast takes the role of James. This leaves the role of Wormtail to be taken by Fred. Fred is initially called Rodent, because as John has pointed out, it is a transparent reference to his Weasley name that begins with R. Thus the connection to the Marauders is established, but we cannot leave poor Fred to be compared with a rat like Pettigrew. He chooses a different name and Rapier may have won out for any of the reasons others have mentioned above. The Potterwatch jokers complete the circle with an insult to Professor Snape.
    At this point, the trio is then dragged off to the “Shrieking Shack” that Malfoy Manor has become where they will encounter once again a werewolf, a Black, and Wormtail. It is here that Pettigrew’s life-debt is resolved. And here that Dobby makes his miraculous appearance to save them all from certain death by sending a great light, in the form of that massive chandelier, to scatter the dementors of his own past. This is a transitional chapter that begins to move the action to Section 4 “The Transformative Challenge”, but that is a discussion for another day.
    All this being said, I think John is still correct in his analysis. It’s just a testament to the richness of Rowling’s vision. Thank you for letting me ramble on a bit.

  9. In Dutch, fret means ‘ferret’ and a ferret is a rodent… JKR is known for borrowing things from obscure languages, so why wouldn’t she have used Dutch or a similar language?

    So I think the true explanation is easier than the ones mentioned above… but that doesn’t deny that multiple things can be ‘found’ in Fred’s nickname.



  10. Hi, I just wanted to add my bit.
    Its obvious that Kingsley is Royal because well, King. Also, I recognized Remus from Romulous because I had prior knowledge of that mythological sheWOLF story. Lee Jordan chose River because the Jordan is a river. But then there’s Fred.
    Fred was Rodent because Weasley sounds like weasle and they’re rodents but, I had never quite understood why Fred preferred Rapier. Until today. I looked up the word ‘Rapier’ and most definitions meant a sharp, pointy sword, or something to do with fencing. BUT, I found that a modern use of the word ‘rapier’ was sharp/quick wit. WIT people! If Fred and George Weasley aren’t the most quick witted characters in all 7 of the books combined with their prankster personalities and ability to make a joke out of anything (even when bleeding to death; plus didn’t Fred die with the smile brought on by a good joke on his lips?) then Im not sure I’ve read them right. I believe ‘Rapier’ goes with Fred’s personality rather than being a clever wording of his name.

Speak Your Mind