Posts Tagged ‘J. K. Rowling’

Today I’m sharing an article from Nature Magazine, published in 2015. The authors, Andrew J. Hamilton, Robert M. May and Edward K. Waters, purport to discuss the history of humans and dragons through European history.

Their theory: dragons are quite real, and were well known to people in the Dark Ages. However, climate change drove the creatures into a centuries-long hibernation. During this time, people became more concerned with scientific proofs than fictional tales. Unable to prove that dragons exist, most people came to believe either that dragons were extinct or that they had never existed at all.

However, the authors caution, the world is now warming again. Dramatic global temperature shifts are sure to bring dragons back from their hibernation!

You’ll note I said they purport to discuss these matters. The article is rife with references to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and especially to Newt Scamander, protagonist of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A close look reveals that the text was published on April 1, 2015. Obviously it’s an April Fool’s Day article. The Potter references suggest that the magazine was playing up for the Fantastic Beasts movie, which if memory serves was released later in 2015.

Anyway, I hope you’ll read the article and enjoy the faux scientific gravity.

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Just one other dragon played a direct and vital role in the saga of Harry Potter. That’s the poor, abused creature guarding the Gringott’s vault in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I’ve already mentioned the trade in dragon eggs, despite the belief that dragon were too savage to ever be tamed. Evidently, however, they can be trained to a certain extent. The goblins of Gringotts must have purchased this beast as an egg and begun brutalizing it from the moment of hatching. It became conditioned to expect agony when hearing the noise of “clankers” and retreated, allowing the goblins and their customers access to the deepest vaults.

From the start of the series, Hagrid had told Harry that parts of the bank were guarded by dragons. Still, it comes as a shock to encounter this poor beast when Harry & Co. infiltrated Gringott’s to recover a stolen artifact, early in The Deathly Hallows. The guardian they confront is very old and frail. Scars criss-cross its face, its scales are crumbling due to poor nutrition, and its eyes are clouded by cataracts. The author shows her skill in making any dragon come across as this pathetic.

Even in its pitiable state, the Gringott’s dragon is a force to reckon with. Chains might bind its feet, but it’s fire breath works just fine. Harry & Co. are only able to pass because a former employee, Griphook, shows them the secret of the clankers. But Griphook turns on Harry, abandoning him to face the dragon’s rage.

As often happened in this series, Hermione keeps her cool and finds a way to free the captive while also saving herself and her friends. She cuts the dragon’s chains with magic, then starts blasting at the ceiling. Scenting air, the imprisoned dragon also attacks the ceiling, with Harry and Ron joining in. Eventually they penetrate all the way through the main Gringott’s lobby and into open sky.

Harry & Co. barely cling on as the battered old dragon takes wing for the first time in its life. The ride is short-lived; our heroes dropped off as soon as the dragon swoops over a lake. Their great steed apparently unaware of their presence the whole time.

In all of wizarding history, this is the only known circumstance where a human rode on a dragon.

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Dragons once again played a prominent role in the fourth Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. These books have been out long enough that I no longer worry about spoilers when I say that Harry is chosen (through magical duplicity) to take part in a contest of wizarding champions.

At one time, the Triwizard Tournament had been held every five years, between the top three wizarding schools of Europe, Hogwarts in Britain, Durmstrang in Rumania, and Beauxbatons in France. However, so many contestants died that the competition was indefinitely suspended in 1792. At the beginning of Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore was concerned about Voldemort’s evident resurgence. He proposed re-starting the tournament as a way of strengthening alliances. Beauxbatons and Durmstrang accepted his invitation.

With the games back on, what challenge could the young wizards face that would best show their mettle? Well, could it possibly have wings and fire breath? Yes, it could. For the first task, Charlie Weasley and a group of fellow Dragon Keepers used sleeping potions (one can imagine the quantity required!) to subdue four female dragons and transport them to Hogwarts along with their eggs. A golden egg was added to each nest, and the challenge was to get this egg without killing the dragon or damaging her brood.

Actually, Harry faced a special challenge even before the contest began. Hagrid, his good friend, made sure to show Harry what the challenge would be. Harry then had to decide whether he would keep the secret and gain an advantage, or tell his rival, Cedric Diggory, and compete fairly. Harry chose the honorable path. Way to go, Harry.

On the day of the contest, Cedric had to battle a Swedish Short-Snout, which he distracted by transfiguring a rock into a dog. Fleur of Beauxbatons put the Welsh Green to sleep long enough to snag her egg. Viktor Krum of Durmstrang blinded his foe, the Chinese Fireball. And Harry? Harry got the worst of the lot, the Hungarian Horntail. He didn’t even try a spell, but used his skills at extreme broomstick-riding to make the beast chase him and doubled back to snatch the golden egg.

Some of these tactics contradict previous dragon lore, which stated that several wizards had to work together if their spells were going to be effective against a dragon. Krum and Fleur both got it done single-handedly. Nevertheless, this challenge gave us readers one of the most exciting scenes in all the books together.

Next time, a stranger and sadder dragon in the wizarding world.


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Through the first volume of the Harry Potter series, we get lots of interesting and amusing tidbits about dragons. That dragon hide gloves are a required piece of equipment at Hogwarts. That dragon liver fetches a certain price. But the dragons really come alive with the introduction of Norbert.

Now, the common wisdom in Wizarding circles is that dragons are too fierce to ever be tamed. Nevertheless, there’s apparently a recognized trade in dragon eggs. The business is well enough established to provide cover for the wicked Professor Quirrell. Posing as an egg trader, Quirrell tricks Hagrid into telling him about other impressive animals he’s taken care of. Allegedly this is to prove that he can take care of a dragon. In truth, Quirrell wants to know the secret of getting past Hagrid’s guardian beast, Fluffy the three-headed dog.

Even besotted as he is with the idea of owning a dragon, Hagrid knows people aren’t supposed to keep them as pets. He hides the egg, but is found out by Harry, Ron and Hermione. From these passages we learn that baby dragons need a diet of brandy and blood, and that even baby dragons are vicious. Everyone around Norbert seems to get bitten!

Alas for Hagrid, this biting habit led to Norbert being discovered after Ron was poisoned by a bite. (In the movies, it was that sneaky Drako Malfoy who ratted them out.) Dumbledore orders little Norbert sent to one of the dragon reserves, to live among his own kind. In one of the more bizarre Hagrid scenes, our half-giant friend weeps and wonders, “What if the other dragons are mean to him?”

During the remaining books, we get periodic updates on Norbert, courtesy of Ron’s brother Charlie, who is a Dragon Keeper. At last mention, it had been discovered that Norbert was actually a female dragon and had to be re-named Norberta.

Check back next time for a few more dragons who played important roles in the Wizarding World.


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The biggest fantasy in recent memory is, of course, the Harry Potter saga. Although dragons aren’t major characters in the books, they definitely are part of the Wizarding World.

Rowling’s dragons are very traditional creations. Huge, winged and scaled, with fiery breath. They do not seem fully intelligent, but rather are higher-order animals on a par with dolphins or wolves. Ten varieties are found in various regions around the world. As with many of this author’s creations, the names are evocative and conjure vivid images: Peruvian Vipertooth, Antipodean Opaleye, Ukrainian Ironbelly. Check here to see a full list.

Dragon numbers appear to be relatively small and confined to reserves in remote locations. Some wizards serve as “Dragon Keepers” whose chief responsibility seems to be managing dragon/human interactions. When dragons encroach into Muggle areas, the Keepers bring them back in line or kill them if necessary, then perform memory charms to keep witnesses quiet. A rather Men-In-Black approach, in other words.

The Keepers must also keep an eye on Wizards who might want to exploit their charges. Dragon parts have many uses in potions and spell casting. Indeed, one of the first things readers learn about Dumbledore is that he invented twelve uses for dragon blood. Dragon heartstring is a component in magical wands, and dragon dung fertilizes the greenhouses at Hogwarts.

Next time, I’ll look at some of the notable dragon characters from the Harry Potter books.


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