"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 negative human emotions. Dementors drain ‘peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them,’ according to 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. They were the guards at Azkaban and made that place horrible indeed. The Ministry 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).
There are certain defenses one can use against Dementors, specifically the Patronus Charm.
- on the Hogwarts Express (PA5)
- "They sort of freeze your insides, don't they?" (Fred Weasley, PA6)
- attend a Quidditch match (PA9)
- description by Lupin (PA10)
- the Dementor's Kiss (PA12, PA20, GF36)
- defeated by Patronus Charm (PA5, PA12, PA20)
- "sightless, soul-sucking fiends" (GF2)
- Dumbledore's opinion of them (PA4)
- feed on positive emotions, leaving only the negative ones (PA10)
- hands pale, dead-looking (PA5)
- gave Kiss to Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr. (GF36)
- attacked Harry and Dudley in Little Whinging (OP1)
- Petunia had heard "that awful boy" meaning Severus Snape tell her sister Lily about Dementors at Azkaban (OP2,DH33)
- Mrs. Figg could both see and feel the coldness of the Dementors even though she was a Squib (OP8)
- Dolores Umbridge sent the Dementors to attack Harry (OP32)
- Dementors fled Azkaban when Voldemort took over, causing a depressing mist everywhere (HBP1)
- Professor Snape disagreed with Harry about the best way to defend against a Dementor, but Snape's method is unknown. Possibly he wanted Harry to use something less showy than a Patronus (HBP21)
- Harry thought the Dementors had changed Dudley's personality for the better (DH3).
- 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).
- Some Death Eaters wanted to let Dementors "kiss" Harry to weaken him for the Dark Lord, but Harry fought them off with his Patronus (DH28)
- Dementors fought for Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts (DH32).
- When surrounded by his loved ones thanks to the Resurrection Stone, Harry felt no chill from the Dementors (DH34)
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