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10 June 2007 @ 06:53 pm
Dumbledore, The Death of Sirius, House Elves  

Dumbledore, Great Man with a
               Blind Spot

With DH Update
and the House Elf Consequence
at the end (Spoiler Alert!)

Dumbledore was the greatest wizard of his age.
Some say he was omniscient. 

But he had a bind spot.  
A blind spot that may have lead to the death of Sirius.

Dumbledore, Great Man with a Blind Spot

with DH update at the end

  “Great Man, Dumbledore”
, is what Hagrid would say.  And it is so.  Dumbledore (my favorite character, horribly portrayed in the movies since Richard Harris’s death) is a great man and the greatest wizard of his age.  He tries to stand for all that is good and pure, right and just.  He can be an excellent arbiter for what is right and wrong.  He has great vision.  Some would say he is omniscient.  He sees the good in most people, even those accused of wrong doing and gives them a chance to redeem themselves when others might not.  He sees the evil in a young Tom Riddle, but gives him a chance too.  He sees the damage done by the treatment of fellow magical creatures by wizards, who do not show them the respect they deserve.  He sees the smallest evidence of magic left by concealment charms.  He sees the injustices of a government that abuses its authority.  He sees the power of love over that of the Dark Arts.  He sees the future laid out in front of Harry.  It seems he may have even foreseen his own death.

  But, alas he is a man (as are we all), and so, as he himself admits, he has flaws.  He seems to have a blind spot.  A bind spot to an injustice.  And not just any injustice, but one of the supreme injustices one creature can perpetrate on another.  The keeping of slaves.  The same blind spot that plagued another famous slave holder, Thomas Jefferson, the man who penned these inspiring words;


“WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

  Perhaps Mr. Jefferson thought the slaves he kept were not Men.  The slaves* in the WW are not Wizards.

  DD is a slave holder, although he always touts treating the slaves well.  At every turn he says and does what he can to make their lives as slaves easier, but he does not go as far as taking any steps to change their station in life.  He doesn’t even talk about it directly.  Does he not see the vast injustice being done by enslavement of other magical fellows?

But very few in the WW can see it.  Hermione sees it.  At some points she is focused on it like a laser beam.  She even stops eating (for one meal) when she learns that the food at Hogwarts is produced by slaves and starts S.P.E.W.  Harry sees it.  He is told by Dobby of the difficult life of the slaves in a Dark Wizard household and he understands the injustice immediately.  His reaction is to trick Lucious Malfoy into freeing Dobby with a sock.  Who else in the WW sees it?  Can only Muggle raised wizards see it?

 But what of Dumbledore's ability to see this injustice? 
It can be pointed out that he would and does pay the elves if they want.  He pays them if they want, but accepts the financial and personal benefits of keeping them enslaved if they don’t want.  And he well knows that the vast majority won’t want.  This is reacting to someone else’s action (of wanting), but taking advantage of the status quo if left to his own initiative.  In fact he only employs one of them, the rest are enslaved (Winky’s status?).  He benefits both personally and professionally from keeping slaves.  Dobby tells us that DD doesn’t even demand respect from them.  He may not demand respect or to be well referred to by them, but, other then Dobby, who is employed not enslaved, the Hogwarts slaves must inflict harm upon themselves for undertaking such disrespectful actions, which is one of the magical imperatives forced upon them by their enslavement.  DD may have taken some action to mitigate this, but it is not a point emphasized in canon.  Perhaps Mr. Jefferson would have allowed his slaves to call him a “barmy old codger” as well, while he kept them as slaves during his life time.  The beneficent master is still the master.  Slaves and their decedents understand this all too well.  The privileged are not always so sensitive to this, and quick to accept any sign that a slave is “happy”.

  As mentioned, Dumbledore often talks about being respectful to other magical creatures.  These are good points, well made by a very good and generally very caring man.  But what about the penultimate disrespect – Slavery? (The ultimate disrespect is total disrespect for one’s right to life – Murder.)  What, exactly, does Dumbledore say concerning slavery?  In a critical discussion with Harry concerning Kreacher and Sirius at the end of OotP, we hear;

  “And,” whispered Harry, his hands curled in cold fists on his knees, “and Hermione kept telling us to be nice to him ---”

“She was quite right, Harry,” said Dumbledore.  “I warned Sirius when we adopted twelve Grimmauld Place as our headquarters that Kreacher must be treated with kindness and respect.  I also told him that Kreacher could be dangerous to us.  I do not think that Sirius took me very seriously, or that he ever saw Kreacher as a being with feelings as acute as a human’s ---”

  DD “warns” Sirius.  Is he warning him about the negative consequences to Kreacher?  Is the warning about the injustice and negative impact of slavery to those enslaved?  Unfortunately, no.  He is warning him about the negative consequences to the OotP if an unhappy captive (who might get loose) is kept in their midst.  But he goes on to mention “Kreacher as a being with feeling as acute as a human’s…”.  Again, this altruistic acknowledgement is made to support the warning (hurt his acute feelings and he will make us pay), not in support of a point made to demonstrate why slavery is wrong.  DD does not tell us about any statements he made to Sirius in defense of Kreacher’s rights or Kreacher’s best interests relative to his enslavement.  He doesn’t, for instance, suggest Sirius set Kreacher free.  This would protect the Order, and give Kreacher the right to decide is own future; the right of self determination.  The Malfoys may need a replacement for Dobby and he might like it there, or he might just like freedom (although this seems improbable from the canon evidence of other elves, i.e. about a 100 to 1 shot).  DD does not even suggest sending him to Hogwarts (at this point), where he would at least be well treated, yet still enslaved.

Later, in that same exchange;

“Kreacher is what he has been made by wizards, Harry,” said Dumbledore.  “Yes, he is to be pitied.  His existence has been as miserable as your friend Dobby’s.  He was forced to do Sirius’s bidding, because Sirius was the last of the family to which he was enslaved, but he felt no true loyalty to him.  And whatever Kreacher’s faults, it must be admitted that Sirius did nothing to make Kreacher’s lot easier ----”

  Kreacher is not a pleasant fellow at this point.  He has not been treated well.  Kreacher has been made to perceive his basic sense of good feeling comes from being a good slave to the traditional Black family.  He has been made to like slavery.  Kreacher is to be pitied.  This is about as close as DD gets to speaking out directly against slavery.  But he says nothing as direct as “slavery is wrong” and nothing about what should be done to correct it (as Hermione might).  He goes on to mention Kreacher “felt no true loyalty” to Sirius.  Does he expect slaves to owe some loyalty to their masters?  Are they to be well treated to build a “true loyalty” so that the masters will be better served and safer from retaliation, as he discusses above?  And DD mentions Kreacher’s “lot”.  His fate?  His destiny?  Sirius is his master and has the power to change Kreacher’s circumstances at any moment.  DD makes no mention of a change to Kreacher’s status as a slave, just making his life as a slave easier.  DD’s tacit acceptance of his position as a slave is evident.  It’s ok to have slaves if you treat them well.  It’s their lot in life, and they like it.  It is easy to be blinded to the injustice here. 

Again, later;

  “Sirius did not hate Kreacher,” said Dumbledore.  “He regarded him as a servant unworthy of much interest or notice.  Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike….  The fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie.  We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.”

  Here DD projects Sirius regarded Kreacher as a servant.  Sirius knew well that Kreacher was enslaved with all the enchanted imperatives that come with it.  DD’s statement mitigates the impact of the difference between servitude and enslavement.  A huge difference exists between the two conditions.  Servants are employed.  They choose their employers and have many rights.  Slaves have no choices.  They are forced to do what they do.  They have no rights.  They are not treated as beings unto themselves but as property to be owned and disposed of as the master sees fit.  Why does DD choose to project Sirius’s view of his relationship with Kreacher as one of an employer and a servant?  It only serves to misrepresent the true relationship here.  Does he see a servant and a slave as close to the same?  Is he blind to the enormous difference and the absolute injustice of slavery?  Is he trying to blind Harry to this injustice as well?  DD goes on to discuss the poor treatment Kreacher received from Sirius.  “Indifference and neglect” are mentioned.  What about enslavement and how this is an evil, and one of the worst types of mistreatment?  It is not mentioned at all.  Is DD blind to the humungous issue here?

  And finally, the fountain told a lie.  Again, an excellent point, made to teach an important lesson.  We should treat others with the respect.  Why?  Because it is right and just?  Because lack of respect is detrimental to those disrespected?  Because of the consequences to those mistreated?  These things are, of course, implied.  But what is explicitly stated is that there are consequences to be suffered by the privileged, who demonstrate the lack of respect to others and build up their ire.

  What DD has taught Harry on the subject of slavery is critical as well.  Harry is the hero who will lead the charge from here on out.  So what has DD taught Harry concerning slavery?  He has taught Harry to treat all creatures well and with respect in general but what of slavery in particular?  We were shown above that DD has blurred the line between slavery and servitude for Harry.  This might help Harry understand why DD holds slaves at Hogwarts – they are really simply to be perceived as servants not slaves (attempting to blind Harry as well).  The most critical points are made in reference to Kreacher.  Yes, Kreacher is presented in such a negative way as to sway opinion against him, but let’s try to see beyond that.

  DD told Harry that Kreacher is the way he is because he has been made that way by wizards, and that that is true for other magical creatures as well. Good points, well made.  When Harry is presented with his possible ownership of Kreacher in HBP, Harry rejects the idea. “I don’t want him”, Harry says. DD’s immediate reaction is to tell Harry about the downside to the OotP if Harry doesn’t take ownership of him (a good and valid point). But he doesn’t say anything about any psychological harm to Kreacher if Harry were to free him (which maybe on the tip of Harry’s tongue.  You could almost see him looking for a sock. He did it for Dobby with excellent results). As a matter of fact, DD doesn’t raise any concerns at all for Kreacher’s feelings at this point (an overwhelmingly critical point for Kreacher – the direction of his life is being determined – determined for him by Wizards – no respect for Kreacher, and his right of self determination, shown here, and no hint of objection from DD).  But DD does suggest he be sent to the kitchens of Hogwarts (which is one of the best places in the WW for house elves). What reason does DD give for suggesting this? Because it is best for Kreacher?  No.  He says that it is so “the other house elves could keep on eye on him”.  Harry, who didn’t want to be a slave owner and whose only deterministic action taken regarding house elves, to that point, was to free one, has been taught what here? Don’t worry it’s OK to keep other magical creatures enslaved if the alternative is a difficult one? Harry easily succumbs to his mentor and becomes a knowing slave master.  The reader is lead down the path that this is to be dismissed as just the continued enslavement of just another house elf.  Harry freed Dobby in SS/PS without any discussion of the issue with DD concerning the plight of house elves. Harry takes action because he recognized what is right, with no prodding from DD.  But at a critical point in the life of Kreacher, DD is strangely silent concerning respect for other magical fellows. At the end of GoF, DD speaks to all the Hogwarts students of a time when there will need to be a choice between what is right and what is easy. This seems like such a time. Even though the consequences may not have been easy to deal with, should not Kreacher have been shown the respect to choose his own future?  DD has taught Harry it’s OK to be a slave holder if it fits your needs!  Is he blind to the injustice here?  And isn't he helping Harry to forget what he clearly saw as an injustice before?

  Hey wait, Kreacher is a nasty guy anyway who helped in a plot that lead to the death of Sirius!  Wasn’t DD just protecting the good of the Order and helping the fight against LV here?  It goes back to the decision to use 12 Grimauld Place as HQ for the Order in the first place.  DD knew and discussed the risks of having Kreacher at the OotP headquarters.  If Sirius’s house was chosen as HQ, then a known anti-sympathizer would be in the midst of the Order.  He decided to accept that risk. Why?  Because he dismissed, out of hand, the real risk to Kreacher?  Kreacher would never be able to be out of the sight of the Order after this decision was taken. There was a total lack of respect for Kreacher’s future, before he had any inside knowledge of the Order at all.  It was DD’s responsibility to be accountable for a decision he took, that placed Kreacher in an untenable position.  Where was "respect for other magical creatures" then?  Did he accept 12 Grimauld Place as HQ** because he thought that if Kreacher were treated with “kindness and respect” that he would not be “dangerous to us”?  As things prgressed, DD was aware of what was going on at HQ.  He saw that the situation with Kreacher was not going as he had hoped and took no action.  His choice of location and his inaction relative to security of his Order’s HQ lead to the plot in which Sirius was killed.  Any one with a relative serving in Iraq would probably think that the commander who chose a headquarters in which an acknowledged al-Qaeda sympathizer resided would be held accountable if that decision lead to their loved one's death. It wouldn’t fly too far if, in the commander’s court martial, his defense was “I though if we treated the al-Qaeda sympathizer well he won’t give up our secrets”.  Who is responsible in this aspect of the death of Sirius?  DD who established an obviously dangerously insecure situation or Kreacher who simply told a lie about Sirius’s whereabouts?  Is DD held accountable?  No, Kreacher is.  Kreacher suffers continued unhappy slavery.  And DD is not only totally free and unencumbered but there to use his priviledge and power to ensure Kreacher’s slavery persists, as Harry might well have freed him when he found out he owns him.

  But what else could have been done?  Kreacher now has important intell on the order!  Is it not more important to put the issue of defeating LV over rights of Kreacher?  And so we step close to the slippery slope.  Was it not more important to put the threats of the Japanese Empire over the rights of Japanese Americans in WWII?  And thus internment camps came to be.  There are many such cases in history.  Lincoln at first gave freeing the slaves a back seat to saving The Union.  Only when he retook the moral high ground with the Emancipation Proclamation did things turn in his favor.  Being on the side of good cannot be pushed aside when it is expedient or it gets difficult.  It is the foundation upon which great societies should be built.  So what could DD have done here?  We can be assured that the greatest wizard of his age could have used some magic to bind Kreacher to secrecy.  DD already stated, “Kreacher was not able to betray us totally” because of his current magical bindings associated with his enslavement.  DD could construct an unbreakable magical contract (a la GoF) to bind Kreacher to secrecy and then allow him the right of self determination.  It might be hard to do but those are the sorts of things that make someone the Greatest Wizard of his age.  It is easier to just keep Kreacher enslaved.  And let Harry know it’s OK to be a slave holer.  Could DD not see the injustice here?

  And what of the slaves at Hogwarts?  What is Harry taught by seeing DD being the slave master over about 100 House Elves at Hogwarts?  The message seems to be that it is OK to hold slaves if you treat them well.

  There is a whole myriad of possible options for DD regarding the house elves.  Of course, the house elf character is crafted in such a way that it is difficult to come up with scenarios that move them sympathetically toward liberation and thus the reader is compelled to accept slavery as a good solution.  Their psychological enslavement should be handled sensitively.  A writer of JKR’s talent and imagination could do better than what will be presented below, but here are a few things DD could have done;

  DD could have easily released the Hogwarts elves from their imperatives, with no change in their living arrangements and no change in their duties, no paying, etc. No change in anything substantial at all.  Freedom does not mean that the House elves could not choose to serve someone, if they liked.  He could have even signed a contract “binding” them to Hogwarts voluntarily, if that made them feel secure.  And keep them protected from the fear that started the slavery in the first place. Just with the removal of the magical imperatives. No more slavery! Perhaps Hermione should be addressing herself to the slave owners who have the power to act instead of the enslaved who are relatively powerless (although Dobby demonstrated quite some power against Lucious Malfoy after he was freed).  If they worked without paying, appropriate amounts of funds could be placed in a magical trust account administered by the goblins (helping the goblins out by their benefiting from the admin fees).  Keep it secret if it is offensive to the elves.  The trust would revert to them upon their psychological liberation (next year?).  But that might be expensive.

  He could have started a subtle media campaign with ads in the Daily Prophet and Quibbler and on WWN Radio, The Magical 77.7.  Perhaps a “Be a Good Master” campaign would be a good start.  Then maybe a “Show your Elf a Good Time” theme, followed by (dare we try it?) a “Give your Elf a Day Off” promotion.  Expensive, but hopefully sensitively executed.  Perhaps an elf focus group could be established to test market these concepts and try to ensure they are not offensive to the elves.  Take it slow but move forward.

  DD could have given Hermione guidance in her SPEW efforts (he seems to know what is going on in and around the castle).  His tutelage could have focused her on more thoughtful and sensitive tactics to achieve her goals (isn’t that why the kids are at school – to get guidance from the teachers?).  But again he was inactive, contributing to her failure and disillusionment by his omission.  Was it because he didn’t want them free?  Alright, perhaps he isn’t omniscient.

  If nothing else, he could have had Prof. Binns create a History of House Elves curriculum and require his slaves attend such a class.  It would have focused on the great and noble achievements of Elves and polish up the image of freed Elves subtly (academia has never used their position to advance a political agenda before, has it?).  It would help re-establish and rebuild their self images.

  The possibilities are endless.  You can be active without being insensitive.

  The reality within this fantasy is that DD has chosen the status quo. He seems to accept the situations as presented to him. He hired Dobby based upon Dobby’s (and indirectly Harry’s) initiative. If an elf wants paying, OK. If they prefer enslavement, OK. Many slave holders profess that everyone, including their slaves, should be well treated. But they are slave holders so they seem blind to the main injustice and you don’t hear them speaking out specifically against slavery. DD is a slave holder who also talks about treating others well but says nothing specifically about slavery. It is very hard to believe that if DD had even been just giving speeches (no real affirmative actions) against house elf enslavement for the last 100 years (ok, it took him 57 years to see the injustice) that it would have had no effect. He has followers that risk their lives on his say so. Would even just 50 years of hearing such speech’s from their Head Master and the Head of the Wizengamount had no effect on Arthur and Molly Weasley? There is canon evidence that Molly unabashedly would like to own a house elf.  Are we to think that if DD had made a position against the injustice of slavery clearly and well reasoned to Molly, she would not have come over to DD’s side on this one?  She might have given different lessons to her many children – and the ball would have started rolling (several generations of Weasley’s might be able to cover the world). But of course that is a tough lesson to sell when you are a slave holder (as is Harry now, based on DD inputs).  His actions to help their plight must be more than talking about treating them well and allowing them to call him a twit.  Even DD would have to admit that, in the 157 years of his life (~140 adult years), having been able to elevate the house elves to a level where they could call their master a “codger” was not much progress.  But maybe he doesn’t see the injustice of it all.  

  This will all be resolved in the next WW year.  The accumulated progress of the last 140 or so years will be swamped by the results to be seen in the next twelve months in the Potter world.  These results will take place as a consequence of the actions to be taken by Harry helped along by Hermione (and her dedication to elf rights) and Ron, with the image of DD and his best altruistic words in the forefront of their minds.  This will all be resolved, Voldemort will be vanquished*** and the house elves will be freed****, centaurs will be respected, giants and werewolves will be integrated into wizard society (given jobs as nannies, maybe [oops, that’s going a little too far - sorry about that!]) and all will be well in the WW.

  Maybe we are being misdirected and DD’s concealed true vision on this issue will be revealed in DH.  But a blind spot toward slavery has been evident during DD’s life time.

  This is but one facet of the ultra-facetted epic that is the diamond of the HP series.  As with any diamond it depends upon what optics you use to determine what you see within.  One of the main issues on these points is that these books have a vast audience with children.  Those children who read the series to this point are left with the mental image of the happy slaves living under the beneficent slave master, DD, who treats the slaves well, but accepts their enslavement and accepts his benefits therefrom and does not work vehemently against this terrible injustice.  (Even Harry is now shown as a slave hoder.)  Hopefully the developing minds of these young readers will recognize this as a blind spot in the expansive vision of an otherwise illusrious man and not as a good and proper way for things to be in our world.  If they read the whole series, perhaps there will be redemption for this one smudged facet of a great man, Dumbledore.

  I hope so.


*  But are the house elves slaves at all?  The vast majority of them seem to like their lot.  How can you claim they are slaves since they seem to enjoy it?  Well, if they would do exactly the same things without the magical enslavement, why are the bonds of enslavement thust upon them?  There must be some yet to be revealed reason for the house elves enslavement. Reading Red Hen’s discussion of the folklore behind house elves (http://www.redhen-publications.com/Servants.html) it may be that they are protected from some major threat to their existence (maybe physically, maybe psychologically) by a compromise with wizards several hundred years ago, in which the wizards gave them places to live (and thus protection) in return for their acceptance of imperatives to service, loyalty and secrecy. It seems the elves do like to serve but can also be mischievous, devious and willful, and seen as such by wizards (as witnessed by the actions of Dobby and Kreacher relative to their masters and Winky’s actions from the distorted point of view of Mr. Crouch). The wizards took them in only because this potentially disastrous willful nature was controlled by magical imperatives. No one would want a house elf that wants “paying” because it is a sure sign that the elf in question would be disruptive, as his willful nature is not in check. Even the fact that an elf was freed would be a stain on them that would indicate they are devious to the point of banishment by some other wizard.  This behavior must be controlled, in the minds of the wizards, and protection from a disastrous threat must be obtained, in the minds of the elves.  The basis of a good compromise was established.  Wizards get service and loyalty; elves get places to live and protection.  Whatever caused them to accept enslavement, it must be very significant from the point of view of the house elves.  Without the wizard’s protection the elves face a terrible but unrevealed (to us) fate.  They put on a Happy Face only out of fear of The-Threat-That-Has-Not–Yet-Been-Named.  In any case, the argument about wether the elves are really enslaved because they like their lot has really been settled by JKR who said, the house-elf subplot is about slavery - she said: “The house elves is really for slavery, isn’t it, the house elves are slaves, so that is an issue that I think we probably all feel strongly about enough in this room already.”  So the elves are slaves and it is correct, in the WW, to deal with this as an issue of slavery

** The Black House was far from secure (other than enchantments placed on it that could have been placed on any other building as well). There was Kreacher, portraits of Blacks which could have mates in other homes of relatives, other conceivably strong Dark Wizard connections and it’s location in London where the comings and goings of Order members could easily be observed (they apparate out in the street). Any old structure in the woods outside of Hogwarts (not within it’s boundaries) would have been much more secure. With aparation available for travel, a HQ in London seems a risky choice in any case.

*** Maybe DD kept the house elves so they could be compelled to fight VWII (a la The March of the Wooden Soldiers, “Hey Ollie, what about the wooden soldiers?”).  Hermione would point out the wrong in this though.

**** I get the image of the munchkins popping out from behind the flowers when Glinda tells them they are free, “the wicked witch is dead”, and they burst into song.

Deathly Hallows, A Disappointment


Deathly Hallows disappoints in so many ways. Many things throughout the book make little sense and some are downright incongruous. Especially as it concerns the house elves. But, let’s see, where to start? "Start at the beginning and when you get to the end, stop."*

What was the need for Harry, Hermione and Ron’s pointless meandering "search" for horcruxes? With Hermione’s brainpower alone, a target of action could have been determined in hours. And the three of them had, at least, over a month to each determine a course of action they would like to see taken. Harry already said he wanted to go to Godrics Hollow. His time at the Dursley’s could have been spent planning the visit and his defenses for the potential ambush awaiting him there.

And then there is the two way mirror. A Christmas present from Sirius to Harry. Christmas presents are usually memorable and given on that occasion to make them so. But not for Harry or Sirius. Throughout OotP Harry and Sirius struggle mightily to contact each other when they have a direct line cellphone to each other available. They risk (and in Sirius's case lose) their lives because they "forget" they have this link. Incredible! (in the "not credible" sense) And Sirius pledged to have it with him at all times. And he forgot it? Perhaps, for plot congruency purposes, he had to forget it so it did not fall through the veil with him (the ultimately unexplained veil). This whole plot mechanism is put in place so we can see Dumbledore's eye in DH and hope for his return. Weak manipulation of the reader, IMO.

Riding the dragon is cool. But we are to believe that the dragon would not notice three wriggling people on its back (who throw exploding spells all over the place). Its tough hide is not sensitive, but about 400 pounds of weight would be felt below the hide and it would significantly effect the dragon’s ability to fly. Yes, it has been in Gringots basement a very long time but this reasoning doesn’t fly, as might not a dragon with three people unnoticed on it’s back. It would not notice the sounds they make? Yes it is mostly blind, but we are not told it is deaf.  We are told that for some time during their ride, Ron is yelling at the top of his lungs.  And what of those trying to capture the heroic trio at Gringots? None could "accio" a broom and continue the chase? We know from GoF that a dragon does not easily out run a broom.

What of the good guys gone bad? Harry and other’s on the good guy’s side end up using "unforgivable" curses. Well, frankly, there was hope for a White Knight Hero at the end and this puts some rather large stains on the white outfit. It may remain "unforgiven" by some. And Ron uses the expression "effing" and Molly calls Bellatrix a "BITCH". Yes, these are really used quite a lot in real life but this isn’t real life. There was hope for an idealized goodness being projected by this series. It was dashed in DH. There is no need for these references, especially in a children’s book that had avoided such vernacular references to that point (predominately and for the "good guys" at least), with good reason. To give us an abiding hope for good over coming bad. Of course good over came evil but it was quite a tarnished and diminished goodness.

The hiding spot (and explanation thereof) for the Ravenclaw Horcrux is nonsensical. LV thinks no one will find the Room of Requirements, as a store room, when the evidence of hundreds, if not thousands, of people having found it before him is right before his eyes? He puts no other protections in place (remember the extent to which the locket was protected)? Suspension of disbelief, which hung on such a tenuous thread given the other issues, was tough to maintain. And the tiara of Aunt Muriel is referenced far too many times. All right, there are two possible tiaras. We get it already.

LV lets Harry watch, through his mind, his coming and goings throughout DH, when he knew and controlled things in this regard since the end of OotP? This is a tough sell. Perhaps it’s a plot mechanism to remind us of the old connection between Harry and LV. Ok, we’re reminded already.

The removal of the LV soul piece that resides within Harry is another area of much disappointment and incongruity. Harry hears of the Voldemort soul piece in himself and hears his death is the solution. His reaction? Immediate defeatism and all too willing submission to death. His viewpoint may be one of self-sacrifice for the greater good, but this is all too easy and weak. He takes no time (not one minute, not one second) to consider the situation and seek alternatives. Hermione has the Horcrux books. What does she and/or the books say? There is still Nagini to kill. If he could find a way to kill the snake, he could die in a way that takes LV with him (as predicted by many) then all is solved and the prophecy is fulfilled. And how is the soul piece released? Harry does not die!!! JKR has said, repeatedly, that death is final and irreversible. The Kings Cross scene happens in Harry’s mind, it is stated. For his mind to be operating his brain is functioning and he is, therefore, not dead. Why is the soul piece released? Because it is needed to make the plot line congruous? OK, it is released. Why does it not just jump to the nearest living person in the area as it did when LV AK’d Harry as a baby? This whole plot mechanism is disappointing.

What of the attack of the house elves? These creatures, with their uniquely strong magic, join the battle against the hated Death Eater! Hurrah!! And in their moment of extreme glory, they use kitchen utensils to assault the ankles and shins of the enemy!? What the ….??? This is the release of their anger after centuries of abuse??? What of their powerful magic??? And although we may be gladdened to see Kreacher at the front of the battle charge, what a disappointment it was not Dobby!!

And then there is the hope for the "And Justice for All" ending. It died! It died when Grawp was given no leadership role within the population of Giants. It died when Remus was killed and left Fenrir as the werewolf leader. And it died when Bellatix’s knife killed Dobby. And this was the cruelest blow of all. Dobby had been the symbol of freedom for the house elves and others. Dobby died and with him the hope for a bright and shining future for all died with him. And what of our hero and his relationship to the house elves? Harry’s role as the freer of Dobby is given a diminished back seat to his role as the beneficent master of Kreacher, which is strengthened in DH. This is an abhorrent image to leave for children around the world. Kreacher’s years of psychological manipulation by the Black’s is thrown off in a heartbeat, by Harry being nice to him a couple of times. We are left with the indelible image that it is OK to have slaves if you treat them nicely. This is a vastly disappointing image to be left with. It is beyond disappointing. It is heartily discouraging and leaves the series with severe black eye. All the thoughts that elves could not be freed previously because they have a strong psychological bind to what they are taught and were, thusly, strongly psychologically enslaved, were debunked by Kreacher’s quick change in attitude toward Harry and his Mudblood and Blood Traitor friends. He is so turned about that he leads the charge of the house elves against the Death Eaters (many of whom are relatives of his beloved House of Black). Why could not the fact that the elves live more in the current moment not have been discovered by DD in all his years as the Master of the Hogwart’s elf slaves? Because he accepted the status quo and took no action which could lead to this discovery. Again a major disappointment. But we do find out that Hermione gets "hot" for house elf rights (Harry has a tough time unclenching Hermione and Ron when Ron touts not manipulating the elves).

Harry abandons the stone?  The most burning desire of his heart (as seen in the Mirror of Erised) and the strongest thread through the last 6 plus years of his life (and all the books) was to spend time with his parents!  He doesn't want it to unite the Hallows.  He wants it to have time to get to know his parents.  Of course, the experience would not be fully satisfying, but it would mostly fill a major void in his heart.  And he just let's it sit on the forest floor?  He chooses to keep the cloak instead?!?  Incredible!  It doesn't even work as a way to reasonably eliminate someone finding it in hopes of uniting the Hallows.  Without other enchantments, a simple "Accio Resurection Stone" and anyone could have it. 

Finally, in the Epilogue, Harry’s son does not know why people are staring in their direction. An 11 year old, brought up in the WW, with siblings at Hogwarts, does not know why people might want a good look at the Potter’s. Not possible!

All in all, the Harry Potter series is a great saga and a compelling story to read. If it could have ended in a way that would have left us with a parable of how a basically untarnished goodness will ultimately prevail over evil, then perhaps the time spent by so many in discussion and analysis could have been justified. Justified in the sense that the books could be used as an ideal for all, of what the world should be at it’s best and what we should strive for if even it were not totally attainable. DH leaves too many dark spots on the good side of the balance. Yes, that is more realistic. But we have the daily news for realism. We are left with the image that it is OK to make some bad choices and we may still triumph over evil. If, in an idealized world, it’s ok to make some bad choices, then it may be ok to make a bad choice at any decision point. And thus we start our slide down the slippery slope. The ideal needs purity to stand as a beacon for all to strive for when the darkness encroaches. That ideal is not met here.

It is time to move forward and expend mental energies that have been spent in discussion and analysis of this series, on issues of improving the real world. We need to parse out the good examples in HP and apply them to trying to reach the best we can, the ideal, in our day to day existence. The real world can use all our best efforts in helping it move toward a more ideal place for all of us to exist.

*The Mad Hatter said to Alice

Thanks to Travis Prinzi and all the commentors at
www.swordofgryffindor.com for their inputs during lively debate.

悲劇は目蓋を下ろした優しき鬱polygonia on June 10th, 2007 11:57 pm (UTC)
Not sure if I agree with your points.
If Dumbledore tried to free all of the house elves they'd whine in protest about how it's their duty to serve Wizards and Witches and how they want nothing more than to do that.
It's in their nature
Which is why they annoy me so much.
Hermione tries to convince them that they deserve freedom and equal rights, but they through their little elf hands in the air and refuse. They need a lesson from the Wolfriders, I think.
I think Dumbledore's blind spot was trying to be too protective towards Sirius by keeping him in 12 Grimmaud place. The poor man was bored out of his brains, and he's a fairly active and fiery man that wants to be out there fighting. He had been called useless by Snape every five seconds and he had to deal with an insane house elf, who, if freed, would have just died from the shock of it.
It's one thing to enslave people and creatures who don't want to be enslaved, who value their freedom, but what do you do with the folks who LOVE their chains? Who want nothing more than to be oppressed? Who will kowtow and worship their masters and if anyone comes along and tries to save them, tries to show them that they can be free, they will merely be hostile against them, and that's what makes HP and the house elves interesting.
Billpstscrpt on June 11th, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)
My reading of Order of the Phoenix was that Dumbledore did see a great evil in the house elf situation, but it was that wizards had magically created (or modified) creatures who would only be happy in slavery. Now that it's been done, he gives the elves whatever freedom they want, but their nature seems to be beyond his abilities to fix.
makani, buttface: hrmmmbuttfacemakani on June 11th, 2007 04:08 am (UTC)
He doesn’t, for instance, suggest Sirius set Kreacher free.

I may be wrong, but I think this was suggested in the book. They could not release him because he knew too much or something..?

DD who established an obviously dangerously insecure situation or Kreacher who simply told a lie about Sirius’s whereabouts? Is DD held accountable? No, Kreacher is.

Really? I've never held either of those characters responsible. The fact is is that if Sirius had thought at all about the possible consequences of telling Kreacher to "get out", then Narcissa would have never had communication with him. If Sirius had not acted so brash and short-sighted, Kreacher would have never have been dangerous. It is only through Sirius that Dumbledore supposedly made any mistake. If there were any other threats to the security of the house, then I'm sure some other information would have gotten through in the entire year that they were in there...

I see this whole house-elf situaton not as Dumbledore having a blind spot, but just knowing something more about house-elves that Hermione does not. I think it is evident that his intellect is nothing to be laughed at, and the amount of knowledge he has of the wizarding world, why would he have a blind spot on such a seemingly simple situation? Slavery is slavery after all, right? In my opinion, Dumbledore is aware of the house-elves' nature, which is to serve, I believe. We see a certain evidence of this by Dobby, who had hated serving the Malfoys, suddenly practically assign himself to Harry once he was free to make his own choices. Is it slavery if the creature biologically wants to serve other beings? I see the House Elf situation as mutualism (flashback to 8th grade science ftw). Our need to satisfy ourselves is a behavior that evolved, and I think the opposite type of behavior could have evolved in house-elves just as well. Just because humans are generally a self serving species does not mean that we do not ever like to help others for little to no real benefit for ourselves, and I think the vice verse could certainly be true for house-elves. A house-elf that "wants paying" could be the equivalent of a human that devotes themselves completely to the service of others without compensation. Just because some members of a species do it does not mean that the rest of the species is the same. Just because elves act mischievous and willful occasionally does not mean that they obviously are all naturally independent beings.

You are assuming that this fantasy race has the same innate yearnings as human beings, and without being JKR, we can never prove either way. The point is is that these creatures are intelligent and should be treated with the same respect you would treat any other being, be that human or elf etc. etc., and that these beings should be allowed to do whatever makes them most happy. If they want to get paid, they should, and that's what Dumbledore does for Dobby. If the house-elves do not want paying and it makes them upset to receive it, it should not be forced upon them.

For fun let's say hypothetically that they are truly natural, biological servants, at least as long as the relationship between their "master" and themselves is mutualistic (Dobby's was obviously more than harmful to him and he gained nothing from it, therefore there was no natural benefit). If you're set on making them free, then that is going against what they biologically want, and forcing them into a life that they are not meant to lead. Is that not the same as forcing a race that is not meant to serve others into slavery? Forcing peoples into a livelihood that they are not attuned for biologically, for your own benefit (in the case of free people -> servants: the master's material benefits; in the case of servants -> freed people: the "emancipator's" own piece of mind) is the same action either way. In both cases, it is the initiator of the conversion controlling and gaining a benefit at the expense and discomfort of the oppressed group.

Of course if it does come out in DH that they all do want to be free or get paid, then you're absolutely right, I suppose.
travisprinzi on June 11th, 2007 04:31 am (UTC)
You've made lots of interesting and challenging points here, and I'll just respond to a few.

As I've argued before (at SoG, which you kindly linked - thanks!), and the commenters here have already noted, the great tension here is between "Free will" and "Freedom" as a human right. What, exactly, is "freedom" if it goes against a person's free will choices?

This is the problem with the Kreacher debacle. Kreacher, even if he had been offered a chance at freedom, would stay at 12GP no matter what. Remember the way he talks in OotP about how he'll "finally be alone with his mistress" now that Sirius is gone. Kreacher would never, never have left 12GP if DD had left it up to his free will choice (which, as far as we know, he might have asked Sirius to do before moving the Order in!). So Kreacher got exactly what he wanted.

Same with the house-elves at Hogwarts. DD requires none of the things that magically bind house-elves in their enslavement - secret-keeping, honoring masters, etc. House-elves at Hogwarts get exactly what they want.
eroej_kab on June 11th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Sucked in again! (I've got to work at this freedom thing)

Many here seem to be confused over the difference between servitude and slavery. Free folks can serve others. Free house elves can choose to serve wizards. No one is saying that the elves, once freed, cannot chose to serve wizards. Fine, knock your freed socks off. Chose to serve or chose not to. Once freed they can chose as they will. Remove the magical imperitives and continue as things are!!! Therein lies the falicy. The imperitives are there for some reason. If there were no reason at all for them - (i.e. the evles would serve and be totally loyal without them) - why would these imperitives ever exist! They wouldn't (by use of logic).

Kreacher can stay at 12 Grimauld Pl. only if the owner invites him. You can only stay at my house if I invite you. No difference. "As far as we know" is what is in canon. DD has never, in canon, suggested the freeing of a slave. (as we discussed at SoG the lack of evidence that something did not happen is not proof of it's happening, and is seriouly flawed logic)

The final statement concerning the vast majority of house-elves at Hogwarts is a falsehood. They are are slaves. DD is the Master Slave Holder. They are forced by the magical imperitives to which they are bound by fact of their enslavement to do "secret-keeping, honoring masters, etc.". If they try to show disloyalty, there is canon evidence that they **must** hurt themselves!
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 11th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Sorry to jump in, but - mary_j_59 on June 12th, 2007 02:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Sorry to jump in, but - travisprinzi on June 12th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 13th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 13th, 2007 02:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 17th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 17th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 13th, 2007 02:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 17th, 2007 12:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 17th, 2007 01:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 23rd, 2007 02:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 23rd, 2007 02:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
Thanks - eroej_kab on June 23rd, 2007 03:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Thanks - travisprinzi on June 23rd, 2007 03:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
travisprinzi on June 11th, 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
Also, some quick points in response to the charge that DD has failed miserably at accomplishing house-elf freedom over his 140+ adult years:

I think it’s probably safe to assume that DD did not enjoy the widespread influence and popularity we see in the first few Potter books until after his defeat of Grindelwald. Prior to that, while DD may have been an advocate for social rights, even in the public square, it’s unlikely anyone would have begun to take him seriously.

Under the threat of Grindelwald, while probably not as big a debacle as Voldemort, there probably was similar mistreatment of house-elves on par with what Dobby describes. And there aren’t a whole lot of years in between Grindelwald and Voldemort - certainly not enough for one man to change a centuries-old tradition of house-elf oppression, especially when (a) the WW did not see any injustice in the first place, and (b) DD, in that part of his career, was simply a Transfiguration professor.

Since then, DD’s priority has been Voldemort, the greatest threat to ALL magical brethren. The house-elf situation is vastly complex and deeply-rooted in the WW, and there’s only so much one man can do in a given period of time, especially when he is the only one putting up any reasonable fight against perhaps the most terrible dark wizard in history.
eroej_kab on June 11th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
I will (for now) accept your assertion - DD was totally ineffectual until the defeat of Grindelwald (ca. 1945 from the Lexicon time line). In the next 12 years (appearance of "Voldemort" ca. 1957) there is no canon evidence that DD did any thing at all to help the enslaved elves (see Molly Weasley argument above). "Voldemort" AK's Harry and is out of commission (ca. 1981). It is 11 years till LV shows his mist again. What has DD done for the slaves in that 11 years. There is no canon evidence that he did anything at all! He is Headmaster at Hogwarts. If he just spoke out against it in his speeches at the Hogwart's feasts some enlightment would be given to the next generation of wizards. But he says nothing on this. But how can he? He is a slave master.

The pessimistic view that one man can do nothing is depressing. Every endevour of man kind has begun with just one man. All things must start with just one person. Hermione recognized this.

Why is it Hermione and Harry see the wrong here? Is this seen only by Muggle raised kids?

The -putting of whats right till the fight is over argument- is delt with above.
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 11th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 13th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 13th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 17th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 17th, 2007 01:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 23rd, 2007 02:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 23rd, 2007 02:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 13th, 2007 02:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 13th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 17th, 2007 12:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 17th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 23rd, 2007 02:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 23rd, 2007 02:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
Security of 12 Grimauld Pl - eroej_kab on June 23rd, 2007 03:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Security of 12 Grimauld Pl - travisprinzi on June 23rd, 2007 03:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
focusf1focusf1 on June 11th, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
I think it is a situation beyond Dumbledore's control. As Travis Prinzi pointed out, is freedom of elves really the issue to deal with if it goes against the creature's freewill?

As for not giving Hermione enough guidance in her pursuits, I am pretty sure that dealing with a Dark Lord on the rise was the more important issue. Dobby himself recalls dark days under Voldemort's first rise where he and his brethren were treated as "vermin." I'm not saying most elves are treated like Gods now, but at least they wern't sought for extermination.

eroej_kab on June 11th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
The argument about wether the elves are really enslaved because they like their lot has really been settled by JKR who said, the house-elf subplot is about slavery - she said: “The house elves is really for slavery, isn’t it, the house elves are slaves, so that is an issue that I think we probably all feel strongly about enough in this room already.” Nuff said.

If DD does not have the time, etc., to give tutiledge to his students, he should step down and give the job of Headmaster to some one who can give it proper attention. I don't buy it. He just avoids the slavery issue -why? We are yet to see.
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 11th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 13th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 13th, 2007 03:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 17th, 2007 12:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 17th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 23rd, 2007 02:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 23rd, 2007 02:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 13th, 2007 03:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 17th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisprinzi on June 17th, 2007 01:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 23rd, 2007 02:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - focusf1 on June 12th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on June 11th, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC)
House-elves and freedom
I have to disagree with the idea that house-elves reject freedom out of fear. They seem to look at their relationship with humans from a different frame of reference.

If you look at the folkloric roots of house-elves, you will see a common thread: elves aid a DESERVING human as a REWARD for that human's virtue. The human must be kind, industrious, and in many stories, "keep the old ways" by leaving out offerings for the Good Folk. The elf's help is then a free gift from the elf to the human. That's where the whole clothes thing comes from - in bygone days a suit of clothes was commonly part of a laborer's wage. The housewife may have thought of the clothes as a thank-you, but to the elf, it was a sign that the elf was performing a hired service. As long as the elf does not accept pay, he can still keep up the belief that his services are a free gift.

The humans, of course, have forgotten this. They have a Ministry office that regulates, controls and assigns house-elves. Most elves are pretty much in denial about this. Dobby, for some reason, has seen through it and adopted the humans' frame of reference. From his perspective the elves are slaves and he wants freedom. BUT, note that he negotiates with Dumbledore for a LOWER wage than the one Dumbledore originally offered.

As for Kreacher, he seems to be something like a victim-turned-perpetrator. His relationship with Walburga Black appears to have been extremely unhealthy. He's probably so damaged by now that he can't be fixed.

Don't forget it was Sirius who told Hermione that a man's true measure is how he treats his inferiors; that Barty Crouch's unjustified sacking of Winky was a sign of something unsavory in his character. Dumbledore also said that Sirius was generally kind to house-elves. But Kreacher was in all probability the agent of Walburga's abuse; it was psychologically impossible for Sirius to regard Kreacher with any sort of objectivity. His mere presence opened way too many old wounds.
eroej_kab on June 11th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: House-elves and freedom
Very good points and background.

Although JKR has said she is not bound to the confines of traditional folklore and twists traditional precepts to fit her needs, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the causation of the magical binds that now enslave the elves?
Miss DW: HP Ravenclawgoldenmoonrose on June 11th, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC)
Excellent essay, and I fully agree. My most beloved character is Sirius, who ironically said that you judge a wizard on not how he treats his equals, but how he treats his inferiors. Of course, Sirius was referring to someone else's treatment of a house elf. Although Sirius' actions were deplorable, I think he mistreated Kreacher not because he was a house elf, but because Kreacher himself. He treats him how he treats any enemy (i.e. Snape). Of course, this doesn't excuse him in the least.

But Dumbledore and the Wizarding community at large is obviously horribly flawed. The treatment of House Elves (no matter how much they "want" slavery) is just one piece of a larger picture. Voldemort might be considered evil by the populace at large, but this is a community that also allows for horrible government-sanctioned discrimination against werewolves, that treats goblins and centaurs as subhumans. The parallels here aren't just the archaic 19th century slave system, but the racial segregation of the 1950s, the treatment of women, the animal rights violations of today, not to mention the restricted rights of people who are gay and lesbian. From the first moment that Harry first walked through Diagon Alley on his birthday, this was a corrupt, unhappy, troubled world build on a crumbling foundation of prejudice, hatred, and mistreatment. Harry doesn't only have to save the world from Voldemort (the absolute extreme of these ideas), but every trace of Voldemort's ideals.

Again, excellent essay. So very, very true.
Miss DW: HP Ravenclawgoldenmoonrose on June 11th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, and to respond to the idea that House Elves don't want to be free (made both in canon and by readers), that's just ridiculous. Hermione is right, they just don't know any better. Many, many slaves in the 19th century said the same thing. It's human nature to not want change, to fear the unknown (i.e. what would they do, how would they surrvive after freedom?). It's condescending to say that they like to work, so let's just abuse the situation and get gain from their work. Nothing excuses the immorality of owning another creature. The price of the system is obvious, there are house elves like Kreacher, abused so deeply that he's gone insane, his loyalty turned to poison. There's house elves like Dobby that are abused and miserable. And then there's house elves like Winky that is so controlled by the system that, given her freedom, she is emotionally destroyed. We haven't met a happy, healthy house elf. The only one is Dobby (presently), and he's free. Obviously, there is something deeply wrong in this system.
(no subject) - tickledpink_ on June 11th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - goldenmoonrose on June 12th, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tickledpink_ on June 13th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
indis_earfalasindis_earfalas on June 12th, 2007 10:37 am (UTC)
Awesome essay. Some bits I agree with, other bits not so much - but an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Just quickly:

DD could have given Hermione guidance in her SPEW efforts (he seems to know what is going on in and around the castle). His tutelage could have focused her on more thoughtful and sensitive tactics to achieve her goals (isn’t that why the kids are at school – to get guidance from the teachers?).

Yes, he could have - but on the other hand, maybe Hermione needed the lesson: Its not always going to be successful if you go in with all guns blazing ... no matter how "right" you are, and no matter how good your intentions are. Some things can only be taught by experiencing them first hand.
eroej_kab on June 13th, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)
Yes, you're right. DD does like to let his student find their own way.
Josef Djugashviligoddlefrood on June 13th, 2007 07:48 am (UTC)
House Elves and Others
A thoughtful piece, however, I do not agree with the assessment of Dumbledore having a single blind spot. More on that much later (10,000 words and counting so far). He has several, but as you will see the matter of not helping the House Elves towards freedom is not one of them, IMO.

Generally on House Elves and other magical beings in canon I would point out that there is far too little to go on to form a truly adequate conclusion as to what House Elves and others may or may not want. Each of the sentient beings mentioned in canon have a liaison office or relocation office at the MoM and there is some legislation governing them. That witches and wizards have prejudice against some of these magical beings is not something that can be dealt with overnight, or even perhaps in 130 or so years. There are sex discrimination laws and race relations laws in the real world that do not always work. Sometimes they go too far too.

One rather odd example is the Isles of Scilly Fire Service. Due to positive discrimination there is a requirement that at least one officer of that service should be from an ethnic minority. The thing is there are no ethnic minorities in the Isles of Scilly and this ethnic minority officer has to be uprooted from wherever he or she might reside and placed in the Islands. (They are a real place and both this and the story above can be attested if necessary).

House Elves do not seem overly displeased with their lot, which is no argument for slavery of course, but we do not know how they became enslaved in the first place. They are older magical beings than wizards and witches most likely and are based on hobs, iirc, so do have a look at the lifestyle of a hob, should you care to it may be of some benefit. Dobby is not a slave but has been emaciated, Winky too, but she's far from pleased about that, in fact she is ashamed. Kreacher could not be released due to what damage he might do, and he did plenty already. IMO it's just as well he is currently under Harry's authority. I'd go so far as to say the House Elves are not slaves at all but continue to fulfill a mutually beneficial function for wizards and witches. This function would have pre-dated their interaction with the WW as a whole.

It should also be kept in mind that magical beings, if left entirely to their own devices, might cause a breach of the International Stautue of Wizarding Secrecy, something that each Country is responsible for not allowing, so there has to be some control over each sentient being. House Elves having apparently their own brand of magic, and with their somewhat mischievous nature, would be less easy ro police should they be manumitted. Dumbledore as one of the top dogs in the WW, including in the International wizarding community, per his title of Chief Warlock, International Confederation of Wizards, would be well aware of all this. Why, then, is it felt to be a blind spot at all, when Dumbledore is simply being realistic?

Briefly on a few others, the last goblin rebellion which is dated occurred in 1612, iirc. The goblins are now looking after the majority of wizarding world money and also fulfilling the role of bookmakers. Of the sentient beings they seem the most trusted, but they are far from integrated.

Centaurs and Merpeople choose, by the account we have, to live separately from witches and wizards, and who would really blame them?
Josef Djugashviligoddlefrood on June 13th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC)
Re: House Elves and Others
Dobby may be emaciated, but he is also emancipated. I'm always mixing those two up, not always to my shame.
Re: House Elves and Others - goddlefrood on June 13th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
jodel_from_aoljodel_from_aol on June 15th, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC)
Something needs to be more closely examined, here.

Dobby is NOT a free elf. He is a *runaway* slave. He is still bound to the Malfoys. That's why even as late as HBP, some 3.5 years after he is supposedely freed, he still tries to throw himself into the fire when he speaks against them. They are still his masters.

Elves do the laundry. They can handle clothing. You can hand them *your* clothing and it will not free them. Lucius did not *give* Dobby that sock to keep for his own, he threw a sock away and Dobby caught it. Dobby then stated that; "Master has given Dobby a sock. Dobby is FREE!" It was no such thing, but Lucius was distracted enough to let it pass without immediate rebuttal, and Dobby escaped. But he is Not Free. He is still the Malfoy's Elf.

And Hermione's whole nonsense of the hats was totally a waste of effort. You cannot trick an Elf into freedom. They left her hats alone because they were an insult to their inteligence.
Josef Djugashviligoddlefrood on June 16th, 2007 02:57 am (UTC)
Although this is an interesting biewpoint, it is not one with which I find myself in concurrence.

Quite simply the reason for that is that Dobby was the Malfoys' House Elf, presumably almost from birth (unless he had been relocated from elsewhere), and old habits die hard. That would equally explain his behaviour some time after his manumission as would that proferred above.

Chin chin
(no subject) - eroej_kab on June 30th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jodel_from_aol on June 30th, 2007 07:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladylavinia on August 8th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ladylavinialadylavinia on August 8th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
He doesn’t, for instance, suggest Sirius set Kreacher free. This would protect the Order, and give Kreacher the right to decide is own future; the right of self determination.

I would agree . . . if the majority of house elves wanted freedom. But aside from Dobby, they don't seem to want freedom. From what I have heard, house-elves are based upon a magical creature called a Brownie, who desire kind treatment or appreciation from those he or she serve, not freedom. House elves or brownies are not the same as human slaves in history.

As for Sirus' death . . . the person I mainly blame is Harry. He was the one who could not get himself to learn Occlumency, despite everyone from Dumbledore to Hermoine, urging him to do so. He allowed his dislike of Snape to get in the way. And because of this, he allowed Voldemort to trick him into going to the Department of Mysteries, where Sirius met his fate.
eroej_kab on August 9th, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC)
Freeing Kreatcher
Freeing Kreatcher at that point in the discussion would have been a protective measure for the OotP and Kreatcher, not a choice based upon Kreatchers wants. In life we don't always get what we want (but if we try real hard, we get what we need). Don't be drawn in by JKR's superficial characterization of the elves. They may live more in the current moment than the picture shown thru HBP.
ladylavinialadylavinia on January 8th, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)
Exactly how would freeing Kreacher would have been a protective measure? And your comments seemed to tolerate enforcing one's will upon another. Now, I could accuse the Black family and Harry of the same thing. But since the majority of house elves seemed to have no desire for freedom . . . but you seemed to want to do exactly that by giving them something that Kreacher and others like Winkie DO NOT WANT.

And JKR's characterizations of house elves were not superficial. She did based them upon Brownies. But after reading some of the comments about her "failure" to free the other house elves, I cannot help but wonder if she realized that many fans would deliberately ignore her similarity of house elves to Brownies.
eroej_kab on January 18th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Exactly how would freeing Kreacher would have been a protective measure?

Protective in the sence that it would protect his ability to have a right to self determination. DD's choise sealed Kreacher's fate - he could never be out of the Order's control after his abode was made Order HQ. Freedom is, of course, not protective - it is quite risky indeed.

I am sure this is covered in comments above, but.... The house elves, like the brownies, like to serve. They do not, neccessarily, want to be enslaved. A servant is humonguously different from a slave. They get their self respect from performing the service they render. The slave has their self respect stripped from them. Servants want to do their service. Slaves have imperitives forced upon them. I am in no way adding a negitive connotation to service. If the house elves are doing exactly as they would without the enslavement (and thus the imperitives) then there should be no issue at all in freeing them from their enslavement! Go ahead and free them. They will be free to do as they may. And that may well be to serve. The enslavement and thus the imperitives are logically there and enforced for a reason. It is a dissapointment that we are never illuminated with JKR's explanation. This explanation would help to us to understand why the elves avoid being freed. Is it a strong psychological tie to their binds? Kreacher's quick change of sides debunks the notion that elves have strong commitment to whatever they have been indoctrinated to. Have they traded their rights to cause mischef (as do brownies) for protection from the Threat That Has Not Been Named? We may never know, as JKR has failed to explain it. But she has ended the main part of DH with our hero, Harry, looking to get a sandwich from his slave.
ruthpo on July 30th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
I agree with the house elf thing and how it is an oversight but I have a theory concerning the room of requirement it shows people what they want to see right? Voldermort (Tom Riddle) was so arrogant that what he wanted was to see was something only he knew about so he could hide the horcrox possibly he saw empty shelves.
ctrent29: pic#121585290ctrent29 on September 14th, 2013 07:59 pm (UTC)
I have a few comments to make. One, I disagree with the assertion that Michael Gambon gave a horrible portrayal of Albus Dumbledore. Two, Dobby is not a "runaway slave". He was freed by Lucius Malfoy at the end of "CHAMBER OF SECRETS". Harry tricked Malfoy into freeing Dobby. And Sirius mistreated Kreacher because the latter reminded him of his family and their "pure-blood" ideals, which he detested. Sirius projected his dislike of his family upon Kreacher. And when the opportunity came, Kreacher betrayed Sirius, just as Dobby betrayed Lucius Malfoy, who had mistreated him.