The House-Elf Liberation Front

chapter twenty-one of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

After a party celebrating Harry’s First Task success, Harry heads back to class – another escapade with Blast-Ended Skrewts (interrupted by Rita Skeeter) and more death omens in Divination. Hermione then takes Harry and Ron to the kitchens, however, where they find Dobby and Winky, the latter of whom is very depressed.

A Little Snow Over Hogwarts, by Jess Paul

The start of December brought wind and sleet to Hogwarts….


Well, Well, Well... by gerre

“Well, well, well… this does look like fun.”
Rita Skeeter was leaning on Hagrid’s garden fence, looking in at the mayhem.

(by gerre)


Rita Skeeter, by Edgar Torné

“Thought Dumbledore said you weren’ allowed inside the school anymore,” said Hagrid, frowning slightly…. Rita acted as though she hadn’t heard what Hagrid had said.


Trelawney, by salamandersoup

“Death, my dears.”


by Amanda Grazini

[Hermione] seized his arm again, pulled him in front of the picture of the giant fruit bowl, stretched out her forefinger, and tickled the huge green pear.


Dobby, by lberghol

“It is Dobby, sir, it is! Dobby has been hoping and hoping to see Harry Potter, sir, and Harry Potter has come to see him, sir!”


Winky, by lberghol

Winky was sitting on a stool by the fire.


House-Elves, by Sebastian Theilig

“I think this is the best thing that could have happened to those elves, you know,” said Hermione…. “Dobby coming to work here, I mean. The other elves will see how happy he is, being free, and slowly it’ll dawn on them that they want that too!”


about the chapter


I wish I could have seen Dumbledore’s reaction when Dobby came to him, dragging Winky, looking for employment at Hogwarts. Dumbledore certainly already knew about Dobby, but he must have found the whole encounter incredibly amusing – I mean, a goofy house-elf who wants to be paid but not too much, and who probably talks about Harry Potter every other sentence? I’d have been laughing for days.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

In Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts class we git a bit of a glimpse into the personalities of some of Harry’s classmates. Because when the Skrewts burst out of their boxes and most of the class (including all of the Slytherins) flees into Hagrid’s hut, just a few stay outside to help: Harry, Ron, and Hermione, of course, thanks to their friendship with Hagrid, but also three others: Seamus, Dean, and Lavender Brown. We don’t generally see much in the way of bravery from these three, although we know they must have it because they’re in Gryffindor; but especially for Lavender, who we know doesn’t think much of Hagrid or his class, it says something that she’s willing to stay outside and help, especially when it seems her best friend, Parvati, is hiding away indoors with Neville and the Slytherins.

The Wizarding World

I love that, crazy as Dobby is among the house-elves for loving his freedom, he still “beats down” Dumbledore’s offer of employment, taking essentially a tenth the salary he was offered (and roughly a tenth the days off, too). Come to think of it, on his one day off a month, it seems he’s probably heading into Hogsmeade to buy clothes – I wonder what on earth the villagers of Hogsmeade think of this little guy wandering around?

The Final Word

“Hermione gave me a lot of trouble! She was really misbehaving. She developed this big political conscience about the House elves. Well, she wanted to go her own way, and for two chapters, she just went wandering off. I just let her do it and then I scrapped two chapters and kept a few bits. That I liked. That’s the most trouble anyone’s ever given me, but it was fun so I gave her her head.”–J.K. Rowling, November 2000

23 Responses to “The House-Elf Liberation Front”

  1. You mentioned the villagers and how they would react to Dobby. I’;ve wondered about that too! Since there is so much prejudice against House-elves, I always want to know how people treat dobby now they obviously can see that he’s free…Probably not so nice…

  2. I love that Hermione is so invested in SPEW. I think it gives us an idea on how she really feels about all the muggle-born prejudice in the wizarding world.

  3. The SPEW thing always got under my skin. Hermione’s been one of my favorites from the start (second only to Luna Lovegood), but her house-elf obsession started to try my nerves. On the one hand, I see where she’s coming from…but on the other hand, I’m kind of with Ron: the house elves, for the most part, don’t WANT her “help”, and she’s being more than a little hypocritical trying to thrust it on them. I’ve always wondered if she ever stops to notice some of her own political irony.

  4. fenshae, she’s definitely a bit annoying (though compared to Umbridge or Lockhart I don’t mind at all…), but I think that’s part of the point. Part of her growing process is her need to *learn* that not everybody wants the same things she does, and that while rights and freedoms are necessary for her happiness, this isn’t necessarily the case for everybody. She’s just a kid, after all. :)

  5. I can’t blame Hermione for anthropomorphsizing the house elf’s plight. It shows her compassionate muggle background, where in her world all people are created equal and slavery is WRONG. I didn’t find it annoying but I would have if I was a house-elf.
    Just like with anyone who thinks they are doing right by you by expounding their moral philosophy or prosyletizing to the point of trying to trick you into doing what they feel is ‘best’ for you, it rubs me the wrong way. But then I am a freedom loving person.
    Also though as Sirius points out later, it’s how people treat their inferiors that shows the mark of a man. In this way, I see Hermione being a better person for her efforts.
    It’s not an easy situation to be objective about IMO.

  6. I too noticed the students who stayed behind in Hagrid’s class, and thought it was really interesting! In particular, I liked that Lavender stayed behind and helped, which shows that there’s more to her than the goofy Lav-Lav we see in HBP. I think Hagrid should’ve given extra credit to all those who helped round up the skrets! :D

  7. I also wonder about the dobby thing… I wonder if this was when he buiilt up his friendship with Aberforth?? :/

  8. Good point about Aberforth, Danielle.

    I agree, while I can see all the good intentions in Hermione’s obsession with SPEW, it became really annoying. Thank goodness JKR threw out the longer version!

  9. I’d just like to point out that though Parvati Patil is often perceived as Lavender’s annoyingly giggly and shallow friend, she is the one who tells Malfoy off for making fun of the injured Neville and steps into defend Harry when he seems to be in trouble for retrieving Neville’s remembrall (that Malfoy stole) in their first flying lesson. This occurs quite early on in their first year at Hogwarts and Parvati would have barely known Neville or Harry all that well- yet she stands up for them. I think JK Rowling has done a good job of indicating the various character strengths for all the Gryffindor students in Harry’s year. As for Neville- well we all know what a lionheart he turns out to be :)

  10. I know a lot of people probably don’t really agree with me, but I LOVE Dobby. I think he’s hilarious and such a good House Elf. I was very sad when…um, well you know, what happens to him in DH. I love Iberghol’s drawing of Dobby. That’s pretty much how I’d imagine Dobby with all of his clothes. I have sympathy for all three House Elves that we get to know throughout HP: Dobby, Winky, and Kreacher. I’ve always wondered about what Sirius says about Crouch: don’t judge a man based on how he treats his equals, but how he treats those below him. What does it say about Sirius since he treats Kreacher so badly?

  11. I agree, Doby was in a way…a kind of Pet i supose but he was so much more in my mind… more a companion of human type..

  12. **Spoiler**

    I found Hermione’s SPEW stuff very annoying until Deathly Hallows, when we really see what wizards have done to house elves as a species. Hermione had the right idea all along. The elf’s don’t realize it, but wizards should know better than to treat fellow creatures that way, which is at the heart of SPEW.

  13. @Pam, I agree. When I first started reading the series there were only four books, and for a long time I wasn’t sure whether I agreed with Hermione or not. On the one hand they should really have wages etc, on the other hand they don’t want them. Respect their rights or respect their wishes? I definitely did not agree with her methods in OotP, knitting the clothes and leaving them out, that just showed her lack of understanding of the matter. She convinced herself that the elves wanted freedom, despite having seen almost only evidence to the contrary (Dobby excluded), and was blind to the fact that if she had succeeded she would only have created a host of Winkys. But in DH, with Kreacher, I feel she was proved firmly right. And when you think about it, most of the excuses wizards give for enslaving house elves are excuses given by people who advocated black slavery – they like it, they need us etc. I wonder how house elves came to be in the service of wizards. Given that they are magically bound to stay, I doubt somehow that it was out of choice, or at least I doubt that it was their idea. If they wanted to be there originally then why put those bonds on them to make sure they stay?

  14. about house elf enslavement.

    slughorn forcing an elf to test his food for poisen was a despicable act and no matter how happy they are to serve, they should have some basic rights AT LEAST!
    Hermione’s going a little over the top but i think the overall idea is a good one. Although forcing freedom onto people who dont want it is one of her low point..
    I wonder if Dumbledore just hired any elves that unwittingly picked up the hats back, or would they be to proud to ask.

  15. @X. That’s a point about Slughorn. I think he’s generally a pretty decent bloke but that really just displays how unthinking pureblood wizards are towards house elves. If someone had pointed it out to him he probably would have blinked at them in surprise.

  16. What makes me laugh – and maybe its mostly because I’ve gone through your posts from the last three books in little over a day so it’s still all fresh in my mind – but I find it funny that Dobby says “Dobby has been hoping and hoping to see Harry Potter, sir, and Harry Potter has come to see him, sir!”

    You pointed out in book two that it was amazing how Dobby found time to stop Harry’s mail, and close the entrance to platform 9 3/4 etc… yet he still found the time. In this chapter, we learn he is at Hogwarts every day, yet he can’t find time to go find Harry on his own and say hi? I feel this backs up your assumption that the Malfoys might have had something to do with Dobby spying on Harry in book Two.

  17. Isn’t there something mentioned off-hand about why the house elves are enslaved in OotP or something? That they did some kind of wrong to wizard-kind a very long time ago, and since then they’ve been forced into obedience, to the point that the elves just see it as normal to be enslaved and happy to be working with no pay or benefits? I could be completely wrong here, but I could have sworn I remember something about this…

  18. Casey, I don’t think so….

  19. Well, the problem with finding out when this all began and how it all started is that the best source for that information is also the source that our main character pays the least amount of attention to, namely Professor Binns and the History of Magic class. Just like the Goblin Wars, I imagine Binns could teach us all about the start of House Elf enslavement…if we could manage to stay awake, that is.

  20. In these few chapters we see Krum hanging around a lot in the library – maybe trying to catch a glimpse of a certain other character who’s there a lot…? ;) After all, he always seems to be within eye distance to Hermione, doesn’t he?

  21. AAAAND, did you notice in the last chapter that he seemed upset to see Hermione with Harry in the library?
    “‘Oh no, he’s back AGAIN, why can’t he read on his stupid ship?’ said Hermione irritably, as Victor Krum slouched in, cast a surly look over at the pair of them, and settled himself in a distant corner with a pile of books.”

    I love the Canary Creams scene in this chapter, with Neville moulting and all. Just a glimpse of everyday life with Fred and George!

  22. In relation to Hermione knitting and hiding the clothes for house-elfs. Didn’t the gift of clothes have to come form the owner?* Which means that the clothes would have to come from Hogwarts staff?
    * As in Harry putting the sock in some thing of Mr. Malfoy’s so it seems that he gave Dobby the sock.

  23. Any Red Dwarf fans here? Dobby calling the Malfoys bad wizards and then hitting himself on the head because he hasn’t got out of the habit always reminds me of Kryten trying to break his programming and call Rimmer a smeghead. Both make me laugh :-)

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