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New essay! House-elves in DH

House-elves really came into their own in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — this fact, and some similarities between the characters of the house-elves and the theme of the greatness of servitude in the Christian gospels, was not lost on new Lexicon essay contributor Leanne Bruno. Enjoy!

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  • John

    It was a really great and true to life essay, go Leanne!

  • hpboy13

    A wonderful summation of house-elves’ role in the series. I always did say that Hermione was trying to do the right thing, but the wrong way. House-elves delight in serving, but they shouldn’t be forced to. Great job!

  • Reader2

    Ironically, Dobby explained the true views of house-elves in HBP: “Dobby is a free house-elf, and he can obey anyone he wants to.”
    That was their idea of freedom.
    The last book finally pointed out that different beeing think differently.
    That concerned not only house-elfs, but also goblins, giants, centaurs…

  • Reader2

    Also, I think I now see why house-elfs joined into the battle in the last moment.
    Kreacher accepted Harry as his master when he found out that this would match his previous master Regulus’ wishes.
    Similarly, the Hogwarts elves would need to know wheather fighting is what their master, the Hogwarts Hedmaster wants them to do.
    The headmaster at that moment kept his true motives hidden, so the elves were cofused. All Kreacher would need to convice them to fight would be to tell them that the Headmaster was on Harry Potter’s side after all.
    It is not impossible that through out all the events of DH Kreacher kept secretly checking in on Harry.
    After all, since he accepted Harry as his master he would be concerned about him.
    If he saw Harry accept the bottle of memory from SNape, he would figure out that they are on the same side, and share that discovery with the Hogwarts elves.

  • Cricket

    Well, since Snape left Hogwarts, that left Professor MacGonagall the Headmistress and she orders the castle to defend itself, with the suits of armor and the statues. I am wondering, going along with the last comment, that
    the house elves, being attached to the castle to serve the needs of those in the castle or take orders from Dumbledore?

    Dobby says in GOF that the house elves keep Dumbledore’s secrets and their silence for him. Now that he is dead, but still able to communicate via his portrait, is he still able to command the house elves or does MacGonagall
    carry the right? Without the formalities of the MOM, would they have
    followed Dumbledore’s orders after Snape left or MacGonagall’s? And did they know that Dobby had been killed by Bellatrix?

  • Marco

    There is a 2 questions in the book:

    1.As Yaxley apparated accidentally side-along within the boundary of the Fidelius Charm of Grimmould Place 12, HRH decided against summoning Kreacher, but at the showdown Kreacher was suddenly in Hogwarts. Had Harry ordered him there at any point, p.e. to steal food from the Hogwarts kitchen for them?

    2.How was it possible, that Aberforth Dumbledore could deploy Dobby to rescue HRH from Malfoy Manor? Dobbys working place was in Hogwarts, and Aberforth was bartender in Hogsmade and couldn´t get into the castle.

  • luna Lupin =moony

    it’s a good essay. Here are some notes
    concerning house-elves I made during the
    series.

    House-elves can indeed do powerfull
    magic (Dobby Good, Winky & Hokey
    neutral,
    Kreacher bad and good):
    – Hokey can use protective
    enchantments, cf. what mrs. Hepzibah
    Smith said to her when she had to take
    away the boxes
    containing the locket and the goblet:
    “Here, Hokey, take these away and lock
    them up again…. The usual
    enchantments…” (HBP20)
    – House-elves can leave the house
    of their master if they really wanted to
    do (OP23).
    – Kreacher could possibly injure
    Buckbeak
    (OP32) without being woonded himself.
    Draco was less lucky: he insulted the
    hyppogriff and
    was injured (PA6). If that’s the case,
    it’s another example of Kreacher’s
    power! Possibly, Kreacher had injured
    himself as a
    detention, because he knew he did
    something wrong
    by hurting Buckbeak. But Rowling
    didn’t mention this clearly. So, it
    could also be possible Buckbeak had
    injured Kreacher’s hands.
    – House-elves can apparate/disapparate
    where wizards can’t: Dobby in and out of
    the cellar in Malfoy’s manor (dh23),
    Kreacher escaped from the inferies
    (dh10), …

    House-elves have to obey a direct order
    from their master (HBP3, dh10).
    For most wizards they seemed to be less
    worth than a pet: Cf. Fudge’s reaction
    when Dumbledore offered to summon Dobby
    (OP8); the
    case of Hokey: the Ministry was
    predisposed to suspect her, because
    Hokey confessed the crime and she was
    just a house-elf (HBP20);
    Slughorn used one to taste the bottles
    of wine for making sure there wasn’t
    another poisoned bottle (HBP22);
    Voldemort needed an house-elf, Regulus
    sent him Kreacher with the explicit
    order to do Voldemort’s bidding, and
    when Voldemort didn’t need the poor
    Kreacher anymore, he abandoned the elf
    in the cave (dh10).

    Harry didn’t mistreat the house-elves
    under his command, he made them usefull
    in a (for them) harmless way: he used
    Kreacher and
    Dobby for tailing Draco Malfoy (HBP19)
    and Kreacher for tracking down Mundungus
    Fleetcher (dh10-dh11),
    without punishing them or using
    violence.

    So, house-elves seem to be pawns. But if
    you know how to play chess, you know
    pawns aren’t
    just “little pawns” (as most of the
    wizard community are thinking). They
    could be
    important.

  • kamion

    Kreacher emerging at the head of an army of House Elves is not that surpricing. I think that House Elves after a change of situation fall back on the last given clear order. In Kreacher’s case it’s the order Harry gave him in ch. 3 of HBP; nl to make himself usefull at Hogwarts. All other orders were for situations no longer appropriate. And kreacher is probably clever enough to realise once Yaxley crashed in at nr 12 Grimmault Place that his Master would not come home soon, neither is he capable of defending the house against intruders ( he could not stop Dung sabotaging Regulus’ last order, either) so why stay at the Black home.

    Dobby considered himself in the employment of Albus Dumbledore, not in the general employment of Hogwarts. So after the death of Dumbledore it does not sound unreasonable he took contact with the closest heir of Albus. And the contact clicked: Aberforth is not only very critical about his brother, but I get the impression he doesn’t like wizards in general very much.
    Is it for Albus part a learned process and part wisdom to treat House Elves well, it is natural for Aberforth to treat House Elves as equals. In all his kindness I don’t see Albus sipping tea with a House Elf, but for Aberforth it was probably a very relaxing business. He must have had a way of contacting Dobby and he needed only to mention Harry was in danger, the rest Dobby did on his own account.

  • Reader2

    Another suggestion:
    House-elves have powerful magic, but they can not use it until oredered to.

    Dobby as a free elf was an exception, that’s why he was using magict in the break out at the Malfoy Manor, but all the other elves could not use magic in battle without a direct order, and no one had a chance to give such an order.

    That is why they resorted to kitchen knives. They had to get creative.

  • hpboy13

    kamion brings up a good point. Albus was too high and mighty to confide in just about anyone (remember his version of “telling Harry everything” and how he “trusted Severus Snape”). Aberforth, on the other hand, operates the Hogs Head and probably doesn’t think that he’s on a pedastal. I’m sure that Dobby would make an excellent drinking buddy ;)

  • luna lupin =moony

    About Kreacher keeping an eye on Harry and friends during the year, after they didn’t come home: if Kreacher did so, hrh wouldn’t be so hungry during their search, possibly Kreacher couldn’t find them, because the protective charms weren’t penetrable for him (but I think protective charms would not stop house-elves (Dobby can enter the da-room of requirement). Concerning the thoughts I sent lately, I tried to put some links in there, but the toughts were refused.

  • Reader2

    Luna,

    House-elves can penetrate any charms, but only when they are ordered to.
    Remember “Kreacher’s tail”, he apparated out of the haunted lake, but only because Regulus had summoned him. Othervice, Kreacher would just drawn.
    Kreacher should be able to sence Harry where ever he went, but he would not approach his master unless summoned, that’s part of the rules.

  • hpboy13

    Reader2 is right. Dobby coudl enter the RoR because they didn’t want to keep him out. I bet if he was workign for Umbridge he wouldn’t have been able to enter.

  • carolyn

    about Dobby being a free elf–
    I think that though a free-elf he still has the inherint nature of an elf to serve a master. But since had no official master he chose to follow those that he respected. He respected Albus and Harry obviosly but he also seems that he respected Aberforth.

  • Fab Black

    Hi, Im sorry this has nothing to do with house elves, but my computer is playing up and wont send emails so I can’t contact you at the Lexicon. I was reading the timeline and noticed that it said Bellatrix Black Lestrange was born when her father was thirteen. However, she was born when he was twenty-two, if your birthdates are correct. Sorry if this has been mentiooned 100 times before (which it probably has!) but I really felt I should point it out. Keep up the good work!!!

  • Bandersnatch

    The Timeline also has Bellatrix’s father Cygnus born in 1938, so it is consistent (Bellatrix was born in 1951). But as you point out, the Black Family Tree states that Cygnus was born in 1929. Perhaps an erroneous year on the Tree was corrected, but the change didn’t carry over to the Timeline?

  • Reader2

    Fab and Bansdersnatch,

    The Black Family Tree got edited when it was used in the OoP movie.

    That’s when Cyngus’ date got changed from 1938 to 1929, to everyones relief.

    Althoug, it also had two generations added to it, and we are all still waiting to see those.

  • Pureblood

    House-elves are so brave.they also have powerful magic.
    impressive

  • kamion

    The Black Family Tree got edited when it was used in the OoP movie.

    That’s when Cyngus’ date got changed from 1938 to 1929, to everyones relief.

    Althoug, it also had two generations added to it, and we are all still waiting to see those.

    Really, two generations? I am surpriced because I heard from Steve, who saw the stage prop himle, that all the Black names used were those in the Black tree as published here….. ad that they also ran out of names to fill the sides of the tree, so they used Disney names for it.

  • hamburglar

    Ooooo! House-elf related thought! Possible inspiration source! Ever read ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’? Naked little elves work tirelessly and gladly for the shoemaker until he gives them clothes, on which they rejoice and run away, never to return. I remember thinking when I was small that giving them a gift was a mistake, since they stopped working and left!

  • teachermom

    Loved your comment in 3rd paragraph about Harry’s grief over Dobby giving him clarity of mind. For me, this was the most profound moment of the book, the power of grief, which is fueled by love, to show one what is truly important in one’s life. I’m glad Jo gave Dobby this honorable role to play, one of courage and self-sacrifice which forshadows Harry’s own role.

  • Samwise Weasley

    The power of love and self sacrifice – whether Dobby’s or Harry’s is a hugely powerful image. It is so obviously linked to the story of Jesus’s sacrifice, although I don’t think JK Rowling would call herself Christian. Amazing that even in such a humerous original wide reaching series the really important stuff is still there to resonate with our spirits as well as our emotions and intellects.
    I’ve loved the books – Quidditch, geeky relations, friends, prejudice, false clues, fun AND fear.

  • Elizabeth

    (to Samwise Weasley) Thank you for pointing out that the books are Christian. I’ve been trying to tell people (not here) this for a while and, of course, some are sceptical. Just to let you know, J.K. is a Christian and says that her faith is crucial to understanding her books.

  • poldi

    j.k. rowling did NOT deny her earlier experiences with human rights activism. that makes her a great writer. the house elves raise

    – traditional human rights issues (slavery, forced labour in traditional structures such as debt bondage);

    – truly and truly controversial feminist issues (paid domestic work).

    this may be the reason for omitting, for instance, all of the S.P.E.W. discussions of ron & hermione in the films. but i see no reason to “christianise” the harry-potter by idealising slavery – j.k. rowling did not idealise slavery, so why should readers?

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