"Wandering around at midnight, Ickle Firsties? Tut, tut, tut. Naughty, naughty, you'll get caughty."
"Oh Potter, you rotter, oh what have you done,
You're killing off students, you think it's good fun -"
-- Peeves (CS11)
Peeves is a poltergeist — not a ghost, but an “indestructible spirit of chaos” that haunts the halls of Hogwarts (JKR). He is a little man dressed in loud, outlandish clothes including a bell-covered hat and an orange bow tie. Compared to the Hogwarts ghosts, he is solid-looking, not pearly white and transparent (CS8, GF12). Peeves swoops around the corridors and in the classrooms of the castle causing mischief and trouble wherever he can.
Most of the time, Peeves’s jokes are in good fun; he answers to no one (except the Bloody Baron) and particularly enjoys pestering Filch (PS7, PS9). Peeves sometimes shows “an affinity for rare students (notably Fred and George Weasley)”(Pm). His jokes, which usually involve dropping things on people, are fairly predictable; as Nearly Headless Nick says, “Subtlety has never been Peeves’s strong point” (OP14). However, he also takes a sort of wicked pleasure in far more serious situations, getting very excited by the opening of the Chamber of Secrets (CS11) and the impending execution of Sirius Black (PA21). Peeves’ impudence and unpredictability proved to be useful when the whole school revolted against the despotic rule of Dolores Umbridge. To her fury, Peeves was completely beyond her control (OP30).
Peeves is also well-known for his rhymes and songs; when he thinks Harry is unleashing the monster of Slytherin, he sings “Potter, you Rotter” for months with a matching dance routine (CS13), and at Christmastime he likes to hide in suits of armor, filling in the words they don’t know as they attempt to sing Christmas carols (GF22). After Voldemort’s defeat, Peeves flew around singing:
We did it, we bashed them, wee Potter’s the one,
And Voldy’s gone moldy, so now let’s have fun! (DH36)
In 1876 a Hogwarts caretaker named Rancourous Carp baited a trap for Peeves with various weapons he might enjoy, hoping to lure him and then drop a large bell jar over him (Pm). But Peeves broke the jar and escaped “armed with several cutlasses, crossbows, a blunderbuss and a miniature cannon,” which caused the castle to be evacuated. Rancorous Carp was so traumatized by the failure of his plan, he took early retirement and left the school.
Peeves won this battle because he wouldn’t surrender until Headmistress Eupraxia Mole promised him several things (Pm):
- He could swim in the boys first floor toilets once a week
- He could have stale bread from the kitchens for throwing
- He could have a new hat made by Madame Bonhabille of Paris
It is widely known that Filch would love nothing more than to get rid of Peeves once and for all (CS8), but unfortunately for him Peeves “comes with the building” (TLC) and will likely be around for a long, long time.
Cackling, rude noises, chewing gum, writing songs and poems, blowing raspberries, and generally annoying students and staff.
Other canon notes and references
- 'My dear Friar, haven't we given Peeves all the chances he deserves?
He gives us all a bad name and you know, he's not really even a ghost…' (PS7)
- 'Peeves,' Percy whispered to the first-years. 'A poltergeist.' He raised his voice, 'Peeves – show yourself.' A loud, rude sound, like the air being let out of a balloon, answered. 'Do you want me to go to the Bloody Baron?'
There was a pop and a little man with wicked dark eyes and a wide mouth appeared, floating cross-legged in the air, clutching the walking sticks.
'Oooooooh!' he said, with an evil cackle. 'Ickle firsties! What fun!' (PS7)
- 'You want to watch out for Peeves,' said Percy, as they set off again. 'The Bloody Baron's the only one who can control him, he won't even listen to us prefects…' (PS7)
- Peeves stuck out his tongue and vanished, dropping the walking sticks on Neville's head. They heard him zooming away, rattling coats of armor as he passed (PS7).
- Peeves the Poltergeist was worth two locked doors and a trick staircase if you met him when you were late for class. He would drop wastepaper baskets on your head, pull rugs from under your feet, pelt you with bits of chalk, or sneak up behind you, invisible, grab your nose, and screech, 'GOT YOUR CONK!' (PS8)
- 'Wandering around at midnight, ickle firsties? Tut, tut, tut. Naughty, naughty, you'll get caughty.'
'Not if you don't give us away, Peeves, please.'
'Should tell Filch, I should,' said Peeves in a saintly voice, but his eyes glittered wickedly. 'It's for your own good, you know.'
'Get out of the way,' snapped Ron, taking a swipe at Peeves – this was a big mistake.
'STUDENTS OUT OF BED!' Peeves bellowed. 'STUDENTS OUT OF BED DOWN THE CHARMS CORRIDOR!' (PS9)
- 'Which way did they go, Peeves?' Filch was saying. 'Quick, tell me.'
'Don't mess about, Peeves, now where did they go?'
'Shan't say nothing if you don't say please,' said Peeves in his annoying sing-song voice.
'All right - please.'
'NOTHING! Ha haaa! Told you I wouldn't say nothing if you didn't say please! Ha ha! Haaaaaa!' (PS9)
- Professor McGonagall pointed them into a classroom that was empty except for Peeves, who was busy writing rude words on the blackboard.
'Out, Peeves!' she barked. Peeves threw the chalk into a bin, which clanged loudly, and he swooped out cursing. Professor McGonagall slammed the door behind him and turned to face the two boys (PS9).
Quotes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (UK ed.)
Compiled by Lori Damerell
- 'PEEVES!' Filch roared, flinging down his quill in a transport of rage. 'I'll have you this time, I'll have you!' (CS8)
- 'That vanishing cabinet was extremely valuable!' he [Filch] was saying gleefully to Mrs Norris. 'We'll have Peeves out this time, my sweet.' (CS8)
- 'I persuaded Peeves to crash it right over Filch's office,' said Nick eagerly. 'Thought it might distract him –' (CS8)
- 'Nibbles?' he [Peeves] said sweetly, offering them a bowl of peanuts covered in fungus. (CS8)
- 'Heard you talking about poor Myrtle,' said Peeves, his eyes dancing. 'Rude you was about poor Myrtle.' He took a deep breath and bellowed, 'OY! MYRTLE!' (CS8)
- 'Miss Granger was just talking about you –' said Peeves slyly in Myrtle's ear. (CS8)
- Moaning Myrtle burst into anguished sobs and fled from the dungeon. Peeves shot after her, pelting her with mouldy peanuts, yelling, 'Spotty! Spotty!' (CS8)
- 'Why, it's potty wee Potter!' cackled Peeves, knocking Harry's glasses askew as he bounced past him. 'What's Potter up to? Why's Potter lurking –' Peeves stopped, halfway through a mid-air somersault. Upside-down, he spotted Justin and Nearly Headless Nick. He flipped the right way up, filled his lungs and, before Harry could stop him, screamed, 'ATTACK! ATTACK! ANOTHER ATTACK! NO MORTAL OR GHOST IS SAFE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! ATTAAAACK!' (CS11)
- 'Oh Potter, you rotter, oh what have you done?
You're killing off students, you think it's good fun –' (CS11)
Quotes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (UK ed.)
Compiled by Lori Damerell
- 'Loony, loopy Lupin,' Peeves sang. 'Loony, loopy Lupin, loony, loopy Lupin –' (PA7)
- 'This is a useful little spell,' he told the class over his shoulder. 'Please watch closely.'
He raised the wand to shoulder height, said 'Waddiwasi!' and pointed it at Peeves.
With the force of a bullet, the wad of chewing gum shot out of the keyhole and straight down Peeve's left nostril; he whirled right way up and zoomed away, cursing. (PA7)
- 'You'll be lucky!' said a cackling voice. It was Peeves the poltergeist, bobbing over the crowd and looking delighted, as he always did, at the sight of wreckage or worry.
'What do you mean, Peeves?' said Dumbledore calmly, and Peeves's grin faded a little. He didn't dare taunt Dumbledore. Instead he adopted an oily voice that was no better than his cackle.
'Ashamed, Your Headship, sir. Doesn't want to be seen. She's a horrible mess. Saw her running though the landscape up on the fourth floor, sir, dodging between the trees. Crying something dreadful,' he said happily. 'Poor thing,' he added unconvincingly.
'Did she say who did it?' said Dumbledore quietly.
'Oh, yes, Professorhead,' said Peeves, with the air of one cradling a large bombshell in his arms. 'He got very angry when she wouldn't let him in, you see.' Peeves flipped over, and grinned at Dumbledore from between his own legs. 'Nasty temper he's got, that Sirius Black.' (PA8)
'Peeves!' Harry muttered, grabbing Hermione's wrist. 'In here!'
They tore into a deserted classroom to their left just in time. Peeves seemed to be bouncing along the corridor in tearing spirits, laughing his head off.
'Oh, he's horrible,' whispered Hermione, her ear to the door. 'I bet he's all excited because the Dementors are going to finish Sirius…' (PA22)
Quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (UK ed.)
Compiled by Lori Damerell
- 'PEEVES!' yelled an angry voice. 'Peeves, come down here at ONCE!'
'Peeves, get down here NOW!' barked Professor McGonagall…
'Not doing nothing!' cackled Peeves, lobbing a water bomb at several fifth-year girls, who screamed and dived into the Great Hall. 'Already wet, aren't they? Little squirts! Wheeeeeeeeee!' And he aimed another bomb at a group of second-years who had just arrived.
'I shall call the Headmaster!' shouted Professor McGonagall. 'I'm warning you, Peeves –'
Peeves stuck out his tongue, threw the last of his water bombs into the air and zoomed off up the marble staircase, cackling insanely. (GF12)
Quotes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (UK ed.)
Compiled by Lori Damerell
- 'Why, it's Potty Wee Potter!' cackled Peeves, allowing two of the inkwells to fall to the ground where they smashed and spattered the walls with ink; Harry jumped backwards out of the way with a snarl.
'Get out of it, Peeves!'
'Oooh, Crackpot's feeling cranky,' said Peeves, pursuing Harry along the corridor, leering as he zoomed along above him. 'What is it this time, my fine Potty friend? Hearing voices? Seeing visions? Speaking in –' Peeves blew a gigantic raspberry '– tongues?'
'I said, leave me ALONE!' Harry shouted, running down the nearest flight of stairs, but Peeves merely slid down the banister on his back beside him.
- 'Oh, most think he's barking, the potty wee lad,
But some are more kindly and think he's just sad,
But Peevesy knows better and says that he's mad –'
'SHUT UP!' (OP12)
- Fred and George: 'Give her [Umbridge] hell from us, Peeves.' And Peeves, who Harry had never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about… (OP29)
- But not even the users of the Snackboxes could compete with that master of chaos, Peeves, who seemed to have taken Fred's parting words deeply to heart. Cackling madly, he soared through the school, upending tables, bursting out of blackboards, toppling statues and vases; twice he shut Mrs Norris inside a suit of armour from which she was rescued, yowling loudly, by the furious caretaker. Peeves smashed lanterns and snuffed out candles, juggled burning torches over the heads of screaming students, caused neatly stacked piles of parchment to topple into fires or out of windows; flooded the second floor when he pulled off all the taps in the bathrooms, dropped a bad of tarantulas in the middle of the Great Hall during breakfast and, whenever he fancied a break, spent hours at a time floating along after Umbridge and blowing loud raspberries every time she spoke (OP30).
- … Harry witnessed Professor McGonagall walking right past Peeves, who was determinedly loosening a crystal chandelier, and could have sworn he heard her tell the poltergeist out of the corner of her mouth, 'It unscrews the other way.' (OP30)
- Hermione: 'They could tell her – I don't know – that Peeves is up to something awful as usual…'
'I'll do it,' said Ron at once. 'I'll tell her Peeves is smashing up the Transfiguration department or something, it's miles from her office. Come to think of it, I could probably persuade Peeves to do it if I met him on the way.' (OP32)
- 'So, Potter,' she [Umbridge] said. 'You stationed lookouts around my office and you sent this buffoon,' she nodded at Ron – Malfoy laughed even louder – 'to tell me that the poltergeist was wreaking havoc in the Transfiguration department when I knew perfectly well that he was busy smashing ink on the eyepieces of all the school telescopes –' (OP32)
"peeve" - late 14c., peyvesshe "perverse, capricious, silly," of uncertain origin, possibly modeled on Latin perversus "reversed, perverse"
A "pet peeve" is a "particular annoyance"
Possibly a pun on "Jeeves," the perfectly well-mannered servant in the novels of P.G. Wodehouse - of which Peeves is the badly-mannered opposite.
The characters Jo created the very first day were Harry, Ron, Nearly Headless Nick, Hagrid and Peeves, then she developed Hogwarts. Conversations with JK Rowling, p.37-8
Peeves "comes with the building" and doesn't really answer to Dumbledore, as JKR said in the Mugglenet Interview:
Peeves is like dry rot. You can try and eradicate it. It comes with the building. You’re stuck. If you've got Peeves you're stuck. (TLC)
"It would be a laugh to be someone like Peeves, causing mayhem and not bothering."
-- J.K. Rowling (WBD)
Peeves's loud, multicolored outfit and belled hat recall the costumes of the fools and jesters of medieval and Renaissance European courts. Fools were often representative of Vice in medieval iconography but came to be regarded as mostly benign, if trouble-causing, entertainers and household members by the early seventeenth century. Fools were frequently seen as uniquely able to disrespect the king or other leader at whose court the resided and therefore in a special position to speak truth to power. Peeves, an irksome and chaotic fixture or Hogwarts life with little respect for authority but with a true loyalty to the school, reflects all these aspects of the fool tradition. He also resembles the Lord of Misrule, an individual appointed as ruler during the raucous medieval celebration known as the Feast of Fools. (Sources: Welsford, Enid. The Fool: His Social and Literary History. Doubleday, 1961. ; Otto, Beatrice K. Fools Are Everywhere: the Court Jester around the World. University of Chicago Press, 2001. ; Billington, Sandra. A Social History of the Fool. Harvester Press ; St. Martin's Press, 1984.) -BB