2043Re: [mythsoc] Harry Potter IV (w / spoilers)
- Aug 1, 2000The idea for house-elves came, I'm sure, from the story The Elves and the
Shoemaker, in which the naked elves are given clothes and shoes at the end,
and thus lose their servitude. They in turn have echoes in folklore with
brownies and the like, who are tied to people's houses--and in turn derive
in a way from the Roman 'genii loci' who had their own shrines in each
house, and protected it.
Very clever, as usual, for JK to use these pre-existing things--my only
problem with it is that the house-elves' language and attitudes sound very
close to the 'happy slaves' idea of the Deep South..but then, I think that's
probably meant deliberately. Everyone except Hermione has a blind spot about
From: Margaret Dean <margdean@...>
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wednesday, 2 August 2000 3:05
Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Harry Potter IV (w / spoilers)
>> In a message dated 07/29/2000 9:18:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
>> margdean@... writes:
>> How do you account for Dobby's attitude? Was he sent round the
>> bend by the Malfoys' cruel treatment? He seems to continue to
>> enjoy working, but wants to be paid as a human would. Is he
>> enlightened or looneytunes? >>
>> As someone pointed out in the book, Dobby was unusual for a house-elf.
>> attitude was certainly unpopular, even unnatural, from their perspective.in
>> It's an interesting question: who gets to define what a certain group's
>> attitude and values are to be? If the house-elves are happy and fulfilled
>> their natures by freely offered service (and that choice is important; itforcing
>> would be different if overseers with whips were standing behind them
>> them to work against their will -- which of course Dumbledore would nevernature
>> allow), who is some self-righteous meddler to interfere? Should they be
>> "freed" by force? Is that freedom? If it turns happiness into misery and
>> contentment into frustration, how is it a good thing? If a creature's
>> is to serve, they are happiest serving.etc.).
>The next question that comes to mind at this point (at least to
>mine) is how the house-elves came to have that "nature" in the
>first place. What are their origins? Did they come to be
>independently, with the impulse toward service already there? Or
>did some primal wizard or group of wizards alter them somehow?
>If the latter, does that count as enslavement?
>> Our natures are disgusted at this, I
>> think, because we are fallen and prone to rebellion against the idea of
>> service (which we label derogatorily as subservience, obsequiousness,
>> But that's us. We may call a dog's devotion fawning or grovelling(unless we
>> are its object), but to the dog, it's natural.
>It's natural to a dog because it serves a practical purpose in
>the social organization of dogs. That it transfers over to
>humans in some situations turns out to be beneficial for both
>species (by and large. There are dog owners, of course, who take
>just as fearsome advantage of the dog's natural inclinations as
>the Malfoys did of Dobby's). How about house-elves? Same or
>different? Were their impulses directed toward humans (wizards)
>originally, or were they =conditioned= to direct them that way?
>If the latter, is the resulting symbiosis beneficial?
>The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
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