Many Replies re: Harry Potter & etc.

johanna at johanna at
Sat Feb 1 15:55:19 EST 2003

> Who was it on here who pointed out that a number of fantasy authors
> have "happy slave races"?

Ooh, I forgot about the hertasi--it's been years since I read Mercedes
Lackey. The Deverry books sound like they have an interesting touch on
that--& refreshing. And yes, the whole "happy slaves" thing is really

> Although Aunt Prunella, if I recall correctly, is stick-thin.

Yeah, I think you're right--is she also really stingy? Because that's
the complementary easy stereotype: really thin people are mean
tightwads. (She's not when it comes to Dudley, of course...)

>> Although this comes through in a lot of YA fiction--even DWJ... I'm
>> just reading Castle in the Air for the first time, for example, & I'm
>> thinking of Abdullah's fat nieces. Bah.
> Well...have you gotten to the end yet? I don't think DWJ is saying
> that the fat nieces are *bad*; they're just not what he wants, mostly
> because he wants Flower-in-the-Night.

Yes, but he particularly mentions their fatness in comparison to her
thinness. And the nieces are part of his hated family, who are rude &
pushy & everything disliked. It's just SO OLD that the fat people are
always undesirable for one reason or another--why is this kind of
thinking still okay, still seen as funny? I was cheered slightly by the
fact that the soldier chose Princess Beatrice because she wasn't a teeny
tiny princess like the rest, although I'm pretty sure they just meant
she was tall & not particularly willowy, not that she was heavy.

> To me, Rowling has nothing to redeem herself for.  In the course of
> the text, none other than Dumbledore is shown to agree with Hermione.
> Their methods only differ.  Dumbledore employs more house-elves than
> he needs, keeps their work-load light, and rewards them in ways others
> wouldn't even consider.  And he has always offered them freedom should
> they desire it.  So while others ignorantly claim that house-elves
> work so hard because it makes them happy (hello Ron and Harry), it
> becomes clear to us, the readers, that there is at least a touch of
> cultural
> conditioning involved.
> So I find Rowling's point one of the most important points in the
> book--you can't be any freer than you want to be.

I don't think it's a matter only of "you're only as free as you want to
be." Some people/creatures are never given the choice to be free--& yes,
that comes with a lot of social conditioning. This is similar to the
image of the "happy African" from the slavery period, the whole "but
they like it" thing (as you pointed out, that pretty much everyone else
besides Hermione & Dumbledore believe). And once you're given the chance
to completely change your life & throw off everything that's familiar to
you (even if it was hideous), it's not surprising that, yes, it will
take some getting used to & perhaps the familiar-yet-bad will be
preferable, as you mentioned. That doesn't mean that the house elves
really would want to live in servitude, or that they shouldn't be freed
because "they're not ready for it". It's just not that simple--like with
battered woman syndrome, it's a lot more complex than saying, "But why
don't they just leave?"

It is trickier in sf/f, because in the world of the fantastic, it's easy
enough to say that yes, there IS a race of creatures that exists only to
be subservient & to make your tea. Maybe they do. Maybe that's all that
Rowling invented them for. I'm a little sick of seeing that, though, &
wish the notion would be interrogated more. It's tired & outdated.
Falling back onto old, familiar stereotypes is an easy substitute for
doing the work to figure out what really could be going on w/the house
elves. If Rowling just wants a laugh, she could find other ways.

> I disagree.  I don't think Neville is clearly the Hufflepuff type.
> What trait are you assigning to Hufflepuff?  As I understand it,
> Hufflepuffs are those who work steadily towards worthwhile goals.
> They're loyal, determined and hard-working.  This doesn't describe
> Neville at all.

Yes, but isn't Professor Sprout, the herbology teacher, a Hufflepuff?
Maybe that's why the author of the original post (lost to my inbox, I
fear) associated Neville w/Hufflepuff, because he has talents in that

> towards eventual love and life with Harry. She's headed for . . . wait
> for it . . . didja guess? . . . Ron.

Yeah, that's pretty obvious... there are clues throughout the books, &
I don't think it'll be much of a surprise. I do hope Harry ends up with
Ginny, if she gets interesting--although I agree, as someone else (you?)
said, I kinda like Cho & hope she gets fleshed out more & not just
remaining as Token Other Girl Interest.

Re: what people were saying about Rowling's audience age & such. The
thing is, I think she can push her young readers if she dares to. Like
with Goblet of Fire--everyone was saying young kids wouldn't read such a
long book. But they did. So I think she could write in a more complex
manner & not rely so much on plot & other conventions, if only she
wanted to.

Whew! Um, I think that's all for right now... ^_~


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