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16 July 2007 @ 01:32 pm
HP Essay: Zombies versus Inferi  
Zombies and Inferi in the Wizarding World

I have been curious about this topic ever since the publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is going to be published in five days time I think that the time is right to approach this topic seeing as J. K. Rowling isn't likely to address the issue in DH what with the other, more important, dangling plot threads to tie together. On re-reading the books in readiness for the publication of DH, I've been reminded of my curiousity and I'm determined to look for some answers!

At first glance Zombies and Inferi (both mentioned by name in the series) share so many similarities that it is possible they are two different names for the same things. A Zombie is traditionally an animated human body, devoid of a soul, although later ideas of Zombies have adopted the thought that the soul has left the body through death and the body has been reanimated. From what we hear of Inferi in HBP, they are pretty much the same thing, reanimated dead bodies under the control of the wizard who reanimated them.

It could be possible that Zombies and Inferi are the same creature under a different name, Dodos are known as Diricawls in the wizarding world after all. However, Snape, who has given thorough accounts of other dark creatures before, failed to tell the class that Inferi are also known as Zombies and in the interest of being thorough with the class about this addition to Lord Voldemort's forces, Snape surely would have told the class that both names for the 'living dead' are at least acceptable academically.

Then we have the case of Seamus Finnegan. As the son of a witch mother and Muggle father who was brought up in the wizarding world, Seamus eagerly accepted Professor Quirrell's story that he fought an African Zombie and was interested in how Quirrell defeated it (PS/SS, ch 17), yet in HBP (ch 21) Seamus asks Snape how to tell the difference between a ghost and an Inferius. This suggests to me that Zombies and Inferi are clearly different creatures as Seamus was aware of what Zombies were in his first year, yet cannot tell the difference between an Inferius and a ghost in his sixth. However, when Harry describes the difference ("Yeah, ghosts are transparent but Inferi are dead bodies, aren't they? So they'd be solid -" pg 431), it appears that Inferi and Zombies are extremely similar after all.

Therefore, the difference between the two creatures must be semantic. As traditional voudoun lore states that a Zombie is simply a living human devoid of a soul, perhaps Inferi are the opposite; human bodies raised from the dead, yet soulless and missing the personality they had as living humans (Dumbledore has said that no spell can bring the dead back to life in the way in which we know them now). Whilst a Kiss from a Dementor can remove the soul from a living human, leaving the person a shell but still alive (PA, ch 12), Snape tells us that an Inferius is created when a dark wizard reanimates a dead body using certain spells (HBP, ch 21, pg 431). Perhaps, then, Zombies are those wizards who have been on the receiving end of a Dementor's Kiss, whilst Inferi are strictly dead humans who have been reanimated by dark spells.

Lord Voldemort has used Inferi in the past to terrorise his enemies and has a lake of Inferi guarding the location of one of his Horcruxes, Slytherin's locket. Inferi are under the control of the wizard who reanimated them. In contrast, once a person has received a Kiss, they are soulless and alive, yet 'worse than dead'. I believe this statement to mean that once someone has been Kissed, they are unable to care for themselves and must rely on others to care for them for as long as they continue to live. The Wikipedia entry on Dementors likens the effect of the Kiss on a human to a Persistent Vegetative State, where the patient is unmistakeably alive, yet in the main unresponsive to outside stimuli, although some PVS patients react to pain stimuli and, either in response to stimuli or completely unprovoked, exhibit semi-conscious behaviour such as crying, screaming or grinding teeth and could experience sleep-wake cycles, or be in a state of wakefulness with their eyes open persistently.

In contrast, the Inferi Harry and Dumbledore fought at the end of HBP responded only to heat; Dumbledore conjured a fire to protect Harry and himself as the Inferi prefer dark, damp places. Harry used, amongst others, the Sectumsempra curse, yet it had little effect as the Inferi were simply reanimated long dead bodies with no blood left to spill. Had he used Sectumsempra on a Zombie (as in, someone who has been Kissed by a Dementor) Harry would not likely have caused the person to regain consciousness, but blood would have been spilt and he would have caused the Zombie pain.

If my theory is correct, Barty Crouch Jnr is now a Zombie and there must somewhere in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, presumably a closed ward on the First Floor (Creature-Induced Injuries), where these Zombies are being cared for by healers. There is no cure for a Dementor's Kiss, yet as the Kiss does not kill, these recipients are in need of constant care and attention particularly if they were administered the Kiss accidentally rather than on Ministry instruction. In contrast, Inferi are at the mercy of the wizard who reanimated them. They need no food or rest because they are dead, they could be put to constant work and their toil wouldn't affect them in the slightest. Inferi are still capable of movement and sense, whereas a Zombie is not. A Zombie cannot move from their bed and can perform only small movements such as blinking and perhaps slight movement of fingers and hands.

We are likely to see more Inferi attacks in DH seeing as HBP ended with an overt introduction to the concept that Lord Voldemort has used Inferi in the past and is not averse to using them in the present. We may even see a connection to those who were killed by Avada Kedavra making the best kind of Inferi as the bodies are left unmarked and undamaged, compared with other deaths such as old age and disease. Lord Voldemort's creation of Inferi may even be related to specific deaths...a wizard may only be able to reanimate the bodies of those he has killed.

However, J. K. Rowling probably intended Inferi and Zombies to be the same thing and didn't realise that she had already mentioned Zombies earlier on in the series. Inferi simply means 'the dead' in Latin and Zombies are colloquially known as 'the dead' in many Zombie films, comics and books. Even if her intention was to have Inferi and Zombies be one and the same, the fact that both are mentioned in the series and no connection is made between them (even Muggle-born Hermione and Muggle-raised Harry make no connection between the Inferi and popular culture Zombies), indicates that the two creatures are unconnected. It would be nice to hear a definitive line on the topic though, because the implication is quite serious for those who have been Kissed and for those who die of Avada Kedavra. It could even mean the return of Dumbledore under the control of Snape if my theory over the creation of Inferi is correct.

I really can't wait to see what DH is going to bring to the table!
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
¿?optimistic on July 16th, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
Hello. This was a really interesting read. I don’t know though, and I might be alone in thinking this, but I always thought Zombies didn’t actually exist in the Wizarding world. The reason I think this is because they’re only mentioned twice in the entire series. The first time, in PS during Professor Quirrell’s DADA class, it has just been prefaced by “Quirrell's lessons turned out to be a bit of a joke.” Professor Quirrel says he acquired his turban from an African prince after he did away with a “troublesome zombie.” When Seamus, a muggleborn, asks how he fought the zombie off, Quirrell blushes and changes the subject, which obviously suggests that he was talking bs. At first I thought he changed the subject because he hadn’t really fought off a zombie. But he could have just made a story up, unless, of course, zombies don’t exist in the wizarding world, in which case he would have no idea how to fight one off.

The second time we hear zombies mentioned is in POA during Harry’s mud attack on Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle, and the word is used to describe Crabbe: “[he] blundered forward, his long arms outstretched like a zombie.” I always thought this was a very muggle description and attributed it to the fact that Harry was raised by muggles and therefore would have seen movies where zombies behaved in precisely this manner.

I don’t doubt that Rowling meant to draw a parallel to zombies with her depiction of Inferi. I am just not convinced that zombies themselves exist in the wizarding world. A zombie cannot be someone who has been Kissed, as in their soulless, vegetative state they would not be able to cause the kind of trouble that would require someone to get rid of them, as Quirrell claimed to have done. It could be that Rowling meant to come back and define zombies in relation to Inferi and then promptly forgot about that intention. Also, if we knew that Quirrell was a muggleborn or a half-blood it could explain why he’s making claims about creatures that might only exist in muggle pop culture. But we don’t know anything about his lineage.

Deccaboo: HP: Bother!deccaboo on July 16th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
I was under the impression that whilst Quirrell was a bit of a pathetic person socially, he was a proficient DADA teacher and very widely travelled. He was also the only DADA teacher since Lord Voldemort cursed the position to hold the post for at least two years. Quirrell wasn't as much of an embellisher as Lockheart was and I doubt he would have invented the concept of Zombies because Hermione (or another student, but it is usually Hermione) could have easily caught his lie out with the briefest research. He could have used the term Zombie as an alternative name for Inferius too, which is easily done as the original concept of Zombie and the Romero Zombie concept have been merged.

Seamus isn't a muggleborn, he is a half-blood, and brought up very aware of the wizarding world. His mother certainly gives the impression that she rules the Finnegan roost and Seamus seems unsurprised by most common and not so common wizarding things (which is a puzzle because he can't tell the difference between a ghost and an Inferius in HBP). Perhaps Quirrell blushed and changed the subject because he was embellishing a little, perhaps 'saving the African village' from the Zombie was nothing more than putting the poor soulless creature out of its misery, Quirrell surely would have changed the subject to try and preserve a bit of awe in his students for his abilities, particularly as he seems so pathetic in other areas, (but this is all speculation with no basis in canon!)

The second mention of Zombie is one I totally missed, but I think the description is more for our benefit than an internal wizarding commentary.

It would be nice to know what she intended. Perhaps she always intended to refer to them as Zombies yet later thought Inferi sounded better? That's always something to consider!
¿?optimistic on July 16th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
perhaps 'saving the African village' from the Zombie was nothing more than putting the poor soulless creature out of its misery, Quirrell surely would have changed the subject to try and preserve a bit of awe in his students for his abilities, particularly as he seems so pathetic in other areas, (but this is all speculation with no basis in canon!)

Yes, actually I can see this. Okay, that was big slip on my part about Seamus. And I do think that it's possible that she meant to go back and touch on the Zombie/Inferi point but simply forgot during the 4 books that came before HPB.
Deccaboo: HP: Severus: Bugsdeccaboo on July 18th, 2007 12:25 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't be surprised if that was her eventual intention, but obviously the Zombies/Inferi thing is such a small part of an epic series that there are obviously more important things to resolve than a possible connection between the two.

Maybe I just need to write fic to get the idea out there...it will give me more to do than be angry at all the selfish people who want to spoil DH for the rest of us!
¿?optimistic on July 18th, 2007 12:31 pm (UTC)
Fic is always the answer!

I don't know, I guess it'll all depend on whether Inferi make an appearance or not in DH. Seems possible, especially if Harry wants to retrace his steps in the Horcrux hunt or something like that.

(no subject) - cezi78 on March 3rd, 2017 03:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)