Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Question for Boy Wizard Fans

I went with my niece to see the latest film. It was okay. It's missing something that the earlier films had, some newness, perhaps. It's like the wizard world is too familiar now, or something.

Anyway, in the middle books, Rowling introduced elves; mostly in that film, they're house elves, basically slaves. Disgustingly, in the book, the house elves of "good" masters (as at Hogwarts) like being house elves. It's only when they have Malfoy type masters that they really hate their slavery.

But that aside, the elves seem very powerful in these texts. Really, really powerful. They're innately magical in ways that humans aren't, it seems.

So I have two questions: how did they get enslaved? And how come they don't take over?


  1. Hrm. Rowling never went into the origins of house elves' enslavement, but it clearly goes back a long time. The centaurs are another example of a powerful magic non-human community who, nevertheless, lack standing in the wizarding world.

    The big obstacle to the house elves taking over is social engineering. It's a point of pride for house elves to serve their masters with distinction. To be freed is shameful. That's why Hermione's S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare) fails so dramatically with the elves, themselves.

  2. Essentially, human beings IRL have been asking the same question ever since Karl Marx started publishing. Is it not so? (I mean, in a non-magical sort of metaphorical way.)

  3. Janice is right. And Dobby is the only one who likes/wants to be free. The rest shun him.

    Have you read any of the books? Husband thinks that most of the movies wouldn't make sense if you haven't read the books, and I agree with him on this one. What do you think?

  4. Anonymous4:27 PM

    I believe in her interview with Pottercast, JKR admits that the houseelves were enslaved as far back as the founders of Hogwarts (Because we did learn that Helga Hufflepuff did treat them right - what was the humane thing for the time period - 1000 years ago) - I'm not sure if she's ever shared more than that or not (and how much exactly is in all her notebooks of back information that may one day get published in her own "encyclopedia")

  5. Haha. I Lol'd :P
    last part is epic!

  6. Class issues. Don't you know slaves like being slaves?

    I'd like it better if JKR was interrogating the supposition. I read the book in question, and from what I remember she wasn't. Hermione was (more or less) being set up as sort of a dorf for wanting to free the House Elves.

  7. I don't recall Hermione being set up as a dork for wanting to free the house elves. I do recall her being painfully earnest and annoying to everyone around her -- but I thought that Rowling painted her as fundamentally correct. And really . . . insistently drawing people's attention to current evils will make one quite irritating to those who are OK with the status quo. If anything, I thought Rowling was setting Ron (and other wizards) up to look morally obtuse for not understanding that Hermione was right. (I think it matters that Ron comes from a magical family, and Hermione from a Muggle one. Her outside perspective allows her to see an injustice that Ron doesn't.)

    I found the house elves generally (and Dobby in particular) highly annoying, both in the movies and the books. But I thought Dobby was clearly the "hero elf," who recognizes slavery for what it is and rejects it. The house elves of bad masters are oppressed, and the house elves of good ones are socially conditioned to reject freedom. I don't think that Rowling was defending their enslavement, especially since a major theme of the last two or three books is that wizards need to have more respect for others -- both for other magical creatures and for Muggles.

    How they got enslaved in the first place, given their powers? That is one heck of a good question. I have no idea.