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Re: [mythsoc] Harry Potter IV (w / spoilers)

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  • Margaret Dean
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 13 , Aug 1 9:15 AM
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      LSolarion@... wrote:
      >
      > 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? >>
      >
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      > As someone pointed out in the book, Dobby was unusual for a house-elf. His
      > attitude was certainly unpopular, even unnatural, from their perspective.
      > 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 in
      > their natures by freely offered service (and that choice is important; it
      > would be different if overseers with whips were standing behind them forcing
      > them to work against their will -- which of course Dumbledore would never
      > 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 nature
      > is to serve, they are happiest serving.

      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, etc.).
      > 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?


      --Margaret Dean
      <margdean@...>
    • Sophie Masson
      The 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
      Message 2 of 13 , Aug 1 4:37 PM
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        The 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
        it.
        Sophie
        Author site:
        http://members.xoom.com/sophiecastel/default.htm

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Margaret Dean <margdean@...>
        To: mythsoc@egroups.com <mythsoc@egroups.com>
        Date: Wednesday, 2 August 2000 3:05
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Harry Potter IV (w / spoilers)


        >LSolarion@... wrote:
        >>
        >> 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? >>
        >>
        >> s
        >> p
        >> o
        >> i
        >> l
        >> e
        >> r
        >>
        >> a
        >> l
        >> e
        >> r
        >> t
        >>
        >> h
        >> e
        >> r
        >> e
        >>
        >> As someone pointed out in the book, Dobby was unusual for a house-elf.
        His
        >> attitude was certainly unpopular, even unnatural, from their perspective.
        >> 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
        in
        >> their natures by freely offered service (and that choice is important; it
        >> would be different if overseers with whips were standing behind them
        forcing
        >> them to work against their will -- which of course Dumbledore would never
        >> 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
        nature
        >> is to serve, they are happiest serving.
        >
        >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,
        etc.).
        >> 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?
        >
        >
        >--Margaret Dean
        > <margdean@...>
        >
        >
        >
        >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        >
      • LSolarion@aol.com
        In a message dated 08/01/2000 10:10:23 AM Pacific Daylight Time, margdean@erols.com writes:
        Message 3 of 13 , Aug 3 7:20 PM
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          In a message dated 08/01/2000 10:10:23 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
          margdean@... writes:

          <<
          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,
          etc.).
          > 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?
          >>

          :::silky voice of the Enterprise computer answers:::"I'm sorry; insufficient
          data to answer these questions."
          Speaking hypothetically, if a wizard in the past had changed the nature of
          house elves to make them love to serve, I suppose you could make a case for
          saying that the particular elves so changed were enslaved. However, there
          just isn't a mugglish analogy. Elves are magical creatures, with different
          natures than ours. Perhaps they are unfallen, and therefore lack the
          instinctive rebelliousness of our sinful natures (though of course Rowling
          offers no such hints, thank goodness). We just don't know.

          However, service seems to be the current dominant value in house-elf society,
          as can be seen by the sudden hostility that greeted Dobby when he preached
          (somewhat defensively) his ideal of freedom. Much like the village idiot
          spouting the praise of folly at a Mensa convention. Poor Dobby can't help it,
          he's a bit, you know, off...but trying to convert others arouses the social
          defense system.
          The symbiosis seems to work to everyone's benefit, I think; at least,
          everyone but Hermione the meddler and Dobby the house-elf village idiot are
          happy with it. If the house-elves see no harm in it, why should we?
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