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

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  • 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 1 of 13 , Aug 1, 2000
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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 2 of 13 , Aug 3, 2000
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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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