"Everything went cold...and I felt...as though all happiness had gone from the world...and I remembered...dreadful things."
-- Arabella Figg (OP8)
Dementors are horrible, spectral magical creatures, hooded and robed, which feed on positive human emotions and leave only the negative ones.
Dementors drain ‘peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them,’ according to Professor Lupin (PA10). Even before a Dementor is seen, its presence is obvious; they are surrounded by an unnatural darkness and terrible icy cold (PA5).
Dementors affect even Muggles, although the Muggles can’t see the foul, black creatures (OP1, OP8). They were the guards at Azkaban prison and made that place horrible indeed. The Ministry of Magic used Dementors as guards in its courtrooms as well (GF30, DH13). When they breed, they create chill mist which permeates everything (HBP1). They drain a wizard of his powers if left with them too long. A Dementor’s breath sounds rattling and like it’s trying to suck more than air out of a room. Its hands are “glistening, grayish, slimy-looking, and scabbed”. It seems to exude cold (PA5).
A Dementor’s last and worst weapon is called the Dementor’s Kiss. The Dementor puts back its hood and clamps its jaws on the mouth of the victim and sucks out his soul, leaving him an empty shell, alive but completely, irretrievably “gone” (PA12, PA20).
“They sort of freeze your insides, don’t they?”
— Fred Weasley (PA6)
“sightless, soul-sucking fiends” (GF2)
Dementors feed on positive emotions, leaving only the negative ones (PA10)
Dementors have pale hands, dead-looking (PA5)
Umbridge had Dementors guarding the Muggle-borns at the Ministry, while she protected the judges with her silver cat Patronus. Harry was undercover and couldn’t use his Patronus, so he thought about helping Ron and Hermione as a happy thought to hold back fear and depression. Eventually he had to use “Expecto Patronum” to save Mrs. Cattermole and the others (DH13)
demented = Eng. crazy, insane
Ms. Rowling created Dementors as a personification of depression. She described it this way:
‘It was entirely conscious. And entirely from my own experience. Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced...It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It's a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.’ Treneman, Ann. ‘J.K. Rowling, the interview’, The Times (UK), 30 June 2000. (from The Lexicon page 82).
Discussants on Episode 4 of the Mugglenet Academia Podcast also discussed the connection of dementors to Azkaban prison and the possible associations of a dementor's effect on an individual to the depression prisoners incarcerated today can feel.
On the same episode, discussants likened the Dementor's Kiss to the death penalty and capital punishment. Their discussion involved considering whether extracting someone's soul could be considered in the same way as executing someone for a crime they have committed (in the eyes of the law). The discussants noted that JKR seems to imply a repulsion to the death penalty via characters' (such as Dumbledore) disdain for Fudge's actions in allowing the Dementor to kiss Barty Crouch Jr., for example. --Hufflepuffskein
From the Web
Writing by J K Rowling on WizardingWorld (Pottermore):
AccioQuote interview transcripts:
- Ann Treneman, The Times, 30 June 2000: "J.K. Rowling, The Interview"
- BBC Christmas Special, 28 December 2001: "Harry Potter and Me" (HPM)
Harry Potter Wiki: Dementor
LanguageRealm: The Dementors in Harry Potter
Fansided: Depression and the Patronus Charm by Katie Majka
Wailing the Dead: Dementors in Muggle Legends and Tales by Barbara O’Quinn
WizardingWorld (Pottermore) feature: Why Dementors are the scariest magical creatures?