"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.
"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