Today I want to talk about objects that can think for themselves. When Ginny emerges from the Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Weasley scolds her, “Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain” (CS18). I’ve been thinking about that quote and wondering what other sorts of objects Mr. Weasley has in mind. He comes across a lot of Muggle-baiting objects–that is, Muggle objects that have been enchanted, often for the purpose of harming or embarrassing Muggles–in his job for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. But a regurgitating toilet isn’t really a toilet that thinks for itself… or is it? No let’s not go there.
The first magical object that really strikes me as sentient, after the diary of Tom Riddle, is the Marauder’s Map. It’s interesting to see that this had fallen into the hands of the Weasley twins–who were presumably taught, just as Ginny was, to be wary of sentient magical objects. I wish I could see the moment when the twins stumbled across the Marauder’s Map in Filch’s office. Which passwords did they try before they successfully activated it–and did the Marauder’s insult them, or were they pleased? Did they, perhaps sensing kindred spirits, guide the twins to the correct password? Were the twins appropriately cautious in interacting with the map? A little birdie (possibly Pigwidgeon) tells me they probably weren’t.
It’s also interesting to think about the more “ordinary” magical objects that seem able to think for themselves. Many portraits and some mirrors can communicate verbally. While portraits are an imprint of a witch or wizard, capable of at least mimicking the characteristics of those they represent, mirrors in the magical world simply seem, at times, to have personalities of their own. When the one in the Burrow shouts at Harry, “Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!” it comes as no surprise to anyone else in the house. Has it simply been bewitched to scold members of the household whose appearances would meet the disapproval of Mrs. Weasley? Or does the mirror itself have opinions and feelings regarding unkempt appearances? I would guess the former, but I don’t think we can be sure, based on current information. It would be difficult, I think, to grow up in a house like the Burrow, with seemingly sentient items kind of haphazardly strewn about, and then remember to beware of them outside of the home.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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