My second installment on the meaning behind Harry Potter names is now available! Click here or on the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named tab at the top of the page to learn more about all seeing Argus Filch, the evidence that the Weasley’s protect Harry, the twisted nature of Augustus Rookwood, and much more.
I recently published my first installment on the meaning behind Harry Potter names. I will publish these chapters in sections of twenty names each. So, if you’re interested in learning the etymology of Mad-Eye Moody’s unusual first name, the sinister origin of Antonin Dolohov, or clues to Mrs. Figg’s status as a guardian to Harry, click here or on the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named tag at the top of the page.
This post is in honor of both Hagrid’s birthday (December 6th) and Charlie Weasley’s birthday (December 12th), to recognize their interest and respect towards all magical creatures.
There is a large variety of magical creatures in the wizarding world, many of them with their own cultures, societies, and skills. All of them, however, are under the control of the wizarding population against their will. The Ministry of Magic has a department for this specific purpose, called the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, which includes Beast, Being, and Spirit Divisions. This department gets to decide where the creatures live, what magic they are allowed to use, whether they can be transported to different countries, and how they are punished for breaking any of these laws.
Although Harry himself is fairly oblivious to most of what goes on in the Ministry, we are given clues throughout the books of the corruption and inequality present in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. One of the first examples we receive involves Buckbeak the hippogriff in Prisoner of Azkaban. Within the Department is the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, who are all, as Hagrid says, “in Lucius Malfoy’s pocket” (The Firebolt, POA). Rowling gives us other clues to the corrupt nature of the committee, including the fact that they bring an executioner to the appeal, who later turns out to be a Death Eater. Even without corruption, however, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong about the justice system for these creatures. For animals like hippogriffs, who can not talk, their entire fate rests on having a human who is willing to vouch for them. Hagrid always takes the side of magical beasts, but it is easy to imagine a situation where all humans present would be too prejudiced or scared to want to save the creature’s life. In fact, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione do research for Hagrid, all they can find is a long history of magical creatures who have been sentenced to death for injuries inflicted on humans. The committee’s title, Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, implies that their main function is not protecting the rights of these creatures, but disposing of them. They are always on the side of wizards, and the punishment they inflict is severe and medieval: execution by beheading.
Although Hagrid speaks on the side of creatures who can not talk, there are plenty of magical creatures with their own cultures, languages, and societies whose voices are still not recognized by the Ministry. These include centaurs, goblins, giants, and house elves. Not only does the Ministry control many aspects of these creatures’ lives, most wizards treat these creatures as lesser than themselves, despite the fact that many of them have intelligence and skills that wizards do not. Indeed, it is probably for this intelligence that wizards are so intent on controlling magical creatures.
The Ministry uses many different techniques for control. One method involves land and territory, which mainly applies to giants and centaurs. In the past, there were many tribes of giants living throughout Britain, but Ministry aurors killed many of them and forced them out of the country. For this reason, they are constrained in the mountains, living together in large groups, which is quite against their nature. As a result, they are dying out faster than before. Centaurs, on the other hand, are given specific areas to live by the Ministry, but they have no control or ownership over them. When Dolores Umbridge confronts the centaurs in Order of the Phoenix they ask, “What are you doing in our forest?” and she responds, “Your forest? I would remind you that you live here only because the Ministry of Magic permits you certain areas of land” (Fight and Flight, OOTP).
The Ministry of Magic does not only physically control magical creatures, it also controls their magical abilities, particularly in the case of goblins and house elves. According to Griphook in Deathly Hallows, “The right to carry a wand has long been contested between wizards and goblins” (The Wandmaker, DH). It is easy to see why wizards would want to keep magic from these highly intelligent creatures, and the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures has even created laws to uphold this wizarding advantage. In Goblet of Fire we are informed by Amos Diggory, a member of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, that Clause 3 of Wand Use states “no non-human creature is permitted to carry or use a wand” (The Dark Mark, GOF). We are shown how strictly this rule is enforced, since Winky is threatened to be put on trial just for picking up a wand she found. Even though both house elves and goblins are able to do magic on their own, the Ministry is determined that the secrets of wandlore be kept among wizards.
Wizards, however, do not go unpunished for the way they treat magical creatures. The Ministry of Magic, with its fountain of creatures looking adoringly at witches and wizards, pretends that the relationship is fine, just as they pretend that Voldemort has not returned. In Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore tells Harry, “The fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.” (The Lost Prophecy, OOTP). As Voldemort rises to power, he uses the creatures’ anger at wizards to his advantage, gaining the support of giants, werewolves, acromantula, and some goblins. The series also shows, however, that the kindness of a few individual wizards can make all the difference for the cause. Although people scoff at Hagrid’s acceptance of magical beasts, because of him Grawp, Buckbeak, and the thestrals all help out in the Battle of Hogwarts. Although the acromantulas join the side of the Death Eaters, Hagrid proves that his kindness towards Aragog was strong enough to keep him alive despite the spiders’ tendency to eat humans. Harry’s kindness towards Dobby and Kreacher also pays off in the end, and he is able to gain Griphook’s trust through his burial of the elf. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, by the end of the series we are left with some hope for the future of magical creatures in the wizarding world.