Quidditch

chapter eleven of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry discovers that Snape tried to get past the three-headed dog, and then in Harry’s first Quidditch match, Hermione spots Snape casting spells as Harry’s broomstick bucks out of control. She saves the day by setting Snape’s robes on fire, and when Harry regains control of his broom, he grabs the Snitch and Gryffindor wins. Finally, while celebrating with Hagrid, the trio learns that Nicolas Flamel is involved with the mysterious object in the third-floor corridor.
 

Hermione and the Blue Fire, by Heather Campbell

Hermione… had conjured them up a bright blue fire that could be carried around in a jam jar.


 

Confiscate, by Laura Freeman

“He’s just made that rule up,” Harry muttered angrily as Snape limped away.


 

Harry Sneaking Up on Snape, by Hala Zabaneh

Harry pushed the door ajar and peered inside – and a horrible scene met his eyes.


 

Professor Hooch, by Laurence Peguy

Madame Hooch stood in the middle of the field waiting for the two teams, her broom in hand. “Now I want a nice fair game, all of you.”


 

Marcus Flint, by Ani Bester

Harry noticed that she seemed to be speaking particularly to the Slytherin Captain, Marcus Flint, a sixth year. Harry thought Flint looked as if he had some troll blood in him.


 

First Quidditch Match, by Sheena Kristen Sy

Fifteen brooms rose up, high, high into the air. They were off.


 

Quidditch, by Keith James

The Slytherins were cheering. No one seemed to have noticed that Harry’s broom was… carrying him slowly higher, away from the game….


 

Fred and Oliver, by glockgal

The whole crowd was on its feet, watching, terrified, as the Weasleys… circled beneath him, obviously hoping to catch him if he fell.


 

Quidditch, by NicoPony

Hermione crouched down, pulled out her wand, and whispered a few, well-chosen words.


 

about the chapter

 

Now that all seven books are out I’m used to thinking of Harry and his friends as being nearly adults, and it’s a little jarring to me when they act like eleven-year-olds with a simplified view of things. Harry and Ron, for instance, are easily convinced that Snape is trying to steal whatever Fluffy is guarding, mostly because he’s mean to them. Down the road, their ideas and theories will become much more complex and thought-out – for instance, it doesn’t occur to them to wonder why Snape is sitting openly in the staffroom and talking about trying to get past Fluffy, when they believe he’s trying to thwart Dumbledore in doing so.
 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

So Madam Hooch referees Quidditch matches… and teaches flying lessons to first years at the start of each school year. But what else does she do? We’ll get clues that she’s more than a part-time employee of Hogwarts, but it’s hard to think of other responsibilities that might be placed on her. Hmm.
 

The Wizarding World

On first glance, Quidditch doesn’t seem to be an especially well-developed game. There’s the obvious problem that unless a team’s Chasers build a rather astonishing 150-point lead, nothing they do affects the outcome of the match at all; there’s also the strange idea that all points are given in multiples of ten – after all, why not just make a goal worth one point and the Snitch fifteen? But over time we’ll learn more about these idiosyncrasies. For example, the point values derive from a historical source (a 150-Galleon reward on the capture of a Golden Snidget), and it turns out that points rather than wins and losses are used to calculate standings, so the goals are quite meaningful even if a team loses an individual match.

There is one aspect of the sport, though, that still bothers me. We learn in this chapter that the game has seven hundred fouls, yet from what we can see, every single one warrants nothing more than a penalty shot for the other team. Nearly every other sport has varying levels of fouls (for instance in soccer, different infractions could give anything from possession of the ball all the way up to a free kick or the expulsion of a player). The Slytherins do play dirty, but I have to admit that if I were in Flint’s shoes and I could save 150 points by fouling Harry – and know the Gryffindors would only get a penalty shot out of it – I’d probably take Harry out with everything I’ve got.
 

Something to Remember

We’ll learn later that a brand-new Snitch is used for every Quidditch match, because the spells on it are used to help determine the outcome of a disputed match. So if that’s the case, what happens to the Hogwarts Snitches after they’re used? We’ll see one or two zooming around the Gryffindor common room on occasion, but this one seems to disappear without a trace. Suffice it to say that somebody else is paying this particular Snitch a little more attention than Harry is.
 

The Final Word

“I had a blazing row with an ex-boyfriend. I had been writing Harry Potter books about…about a year I think I’d been working on Harry at that point, maybe slightly less, and I had decided that one of the unifying characteristics of any given society is sport, you know. Almost any society you can think of, they will have their own games and sports. And I decided I wanted to…and then we had this blazing row. I don’t know whether it was cause and effect. I doubt it. But I actually walked out of the flat and I booked into a hotel for a night and rather than sit there and mope about this row, I sat there and invented Quidditch.”–J.K. Rowling, July 2000
 

“I love making up words. There are a few key words in the books that wizards know and muggles, as in us – no-magic-people, don’t know. Well, “muggle” is an obvious example. Then there’s ‘quidditch.’ Quidditch is the wizarding sport. A journalist in Britain asked me… She said to me, ‘now, you obviously got the word ‘quidditch’ from ‘quiddity,’ meaning the essence of a thing, it’s proper nature,’ and I was really really tempted to say, ‘yes, you’re quite right,’ because it sounded so intellectual, but I had to tell her the truth, which was that I wanted a word that began with ‘Q’ — on a total whim — and I filled about, I don’t know, 5 pages of a notebook with different ‘Q’-words until I hit ‘quidditch’ and I knew that was the perfect one – when I finally hit ‘quidditch.’ Yeah.”–J.K. Rowling, October 1999
 


35 Responses to “Quidditch”

  1. I just adore Quidditch. I’m not that much of a sporty person, but I could easily see myself enjoying Quidditch. The way Mrs. Rowling gives you such an intense play-by-play in her books makes it feel as if and wish you were actually there watching or experiencing the game, and there aren’t that many sports or books that do that to me, an avid reader. So congratualtions to Mrs. Rowling for making the nerd fall in love with a sport. :)

  2. Keith James’ quidditch picture is wonderful! Love the perspective.

  3. Maybe the used Snitches are used for Quidditch-practice? Some of those will get lost when they aren’t found before practice is over. No one will have noticed that this particular one was missing.

  4. Snitch-makers must earn a lot of money! I imagine after professional matches the snitch is probably much-coveted by fans.

  5. I agree with Kara. I’m possibly the least sporty person in the world and really hate the idea of sitting in front of a TV wasting time watching sport, but reading about Quidditch is just so exciting to me.

  6. For the longest time I was sure that the name Quidditch came from the QUaffle, the two bluDgers and the snITCh…and now I have no idea where that even came from…

  7. I too have a problem with quidditch scoring, but it’s different than the writers. All the scores are multiples of ten, which makes little sense, when you think about it. It’s needless score inflation, especially if a goal is only ten points and, except for getting the snitch, the only way to score.

    Contrast it with other team sports. In American football, you can score two, three or six points at once and with the possibility of one or two extra points after a touchdown. In basketball a basket can, depending on circumstances, score one, two or three points. Baseball, you can get one to four runs in at once. soccer and hockey are only one point per score.

    In a game with three goals, it’s be more interesting to have different values for each goal ring.

  8. For the longest time before Book 7 came out I was SURE a golden snitch was going to be a horcrux. Probably because the first creator of them came from Godric’s Hallow, and the Gryffidor association with the name, etc. and the fact that James had one he had kept with him , playing with it over and over as we saw when he went to Hogwarts. Well at least a snitch did come into play in Book 7 after all. :)

  9. Keith James’ picture is awesome.
    And I agree about what seems to be the pointlessness of the Chasers.

  10. In the Quidditch World Cup match later, the chaser’s points seem very important! Thier points also determine standings of the teams, to a great extent.

  11. I always wondered, what does “Potter for President,” mean? I mean I guess it’s sort of a “Yay Harry” poster but is that a common saying in England?

  12. Phoebe, I like that play with the letters!

  13. Joyce, it’s not a common saying in England (at least, I’ve never heard it and I’ve always lived over here). I wonder if it’s something to do with the sport itself (is there a Quidditch Association with a president, for examply?) or if it’s just something they made up on the spur of the moment.

  14. I’ve read the theory that yes, in terms of an individual game, the Chasers’ role and the individual points don’t really make sense. But Quidditch isn’t designed to be played as individual games, it’s meant to be played as a *season*. And over the course of an entire season, all the extra points that the losing teams get in each game may add up to make some bigger cumulative effect.

    Remember in one of the books (I have a feeling PoA but not sure and cbf checking :P) when Wood was telling Harry “Don’t get the snitch unless we’re more than 50 points ahead”? This just emphasises the *seasonal* nature of Quidditch; Griffindor was clearly 200 points behind Slytherin (I think it was), and so in order to win the season, and not just that match, Harry has to get the snitch when they already have a 50 point lead. Similarly, in PoA, after Harry loses the match and he goes to hospital, Fred and George are discussing how the loss doesn’t necessarily mean that Griffindor will not win the league; it depends not only on who wins the other matches, but HOW MUCH they win other matches by.

    The only real problem I can see with this is that two Seekers can make some sort of deal (like they are not to try and get the Snitch until 6 hours into the game or something) which will mean that both sides have scored so many points by the time the Snitch is caught that these two teams will automatically be the top the league and beat all the other teams. Of course, the same thing could be argued for any sport, but it makes it easier when the deal only needs to be between one player on each team rather than both entire teams being in on it. It makes it less likely that someone is going to betray the deal (c.f. The Prisoner’s Dilemma).

    Oh, and I agree with what JamesW said about the scoring. I have always thought that the factor of 10 is useless (originally I had thought that Quidditch points were perhaps added onto house points, which would make the *size* of the points relevant, but the separation between the Quidditch Cup and the House Cup strongly suggests that the points are not connected). Why not just make each goal 1 and the snitch 15? Especially if there are no penalties which involve taking off some other number of points. Perhaps the points are as they are due to some traditional or historical reason (most stupid and illogical systems in the world are as they are for this reason :P).

  15. For fun, I looked up Dean’s soccer team, West Ham United, on Wikipedia. Their crest is a castle – coincidence? Imagine that poster that Dean cherishes hanging in Griffindor Tower. It would show the crest with its castle and two crossed long-handled hammers (a little like the crossed wand and bone on the St. Mungo’s crest). To students from wizard families, like Ron, Seamus and Neville, it would look like something that was supposed to be magical but wasn’t.

  16. Billie, an interesting thought. it was just a coincidence that Rowling chose the team with the castle logo, though, as she chose West Ham for other reasons. This was posted on her website a few years back:

    “The Irish Quidditch team players are all named after people I have known. ‘Moran’, ‘Troy’ and ‘Quigley,’ are good friends. ‘Troy’ is one of my very oldest friends and she also happens to be a passionate supporter of West Ham Football Club. It is in her honour that the only soccer team ever mentioned in the books is West Ham.”

  17. Thanks, Josie – that’s very interesting!

  18. Others have already said most of what I was going to say about the purpose of the Chasers’ points in the league. We’ve also been shown that the team who catches the snitch does not always win the same, like in the world cup match in GoF. A really good team of Chasers can put a team so far ahead of the other that catching the snitch doesn’t make a difference. And given how long a game can last there’s lots of time for the score to go any number of ways.

    “Why not just make each goal 1 and the snitch 15? Especially if there are no penalties which involve taking off some other number of points. Perhaps the points are as they are due to some traditional or historical reason (most stupid and illogical systems in the world are as they are for this reason :P).”

    Jo says in Quiddich through the ages why the snitch is worth a hundred and fifty points.

  19. EXCELLENT point about snape and filch being so out in the open! i NEVER thought about that! but it makes sooo much sense, since he’s not actually trying to be sneaky, but is totally in dumbledore’s confidence about why he was on the 3rd floor. wow. ive read these books so many times and, like you, looked up lots of references and read essays like the ones on this site, and I STILL find new things, even from the first book (my copy of which is in pieces from overreading lol)

  20. Hi, I agree with the original blogger that the rules of Quidditch don’t make sense. The way I see it, the socring by chasers is just window dressing to the seeker’s role; the chasers/beaters/keepers allow the crowd to “get into” the game by providing entertainment, nothing more. Whereas the true game is the seeking of the snitch. I recognize the point about season points, but I think that was a bit of a last minute gimmick JK did to answer the orginal problems raised by readers and viewers of the movies.

    I would have changed it so that unless a team scores a certain number of goals (let’s say about 5 or so) the snitch would be invisible to the seekers. This makes the scores important for the seeker to be found. If one team scores enough points, then their seeker (and only the seeker) would then be able to see the snitch. Then the rest of that team’s goal becomes stopping the other team from scoring while still trying to increase their lead for the rankings (or just to ensure their win). Once both teams gain the ability to see the seeker, then both teams now must still try to take the game out of reach for the opposing team.

    Haivng the snitch be magically hidden until a set number of goals are scored ties the snitch to the actions of the rest of the team and helps explain why they care at all about scoring.

    Of course, this also means that the snitch should be much harder to catch than shown in the films. IT’s not just a matter of a small, fast object to catch – the snitch should be almost impossible to catch and only by shear luck does on catch it at all. This way, if a team has a head start on finding it, the odds are agianst their seeker catching the snitch before the other team is able to catch up in points. Just my two cents worth.

  21. Wait a second Andre: you just said it only matters how much points the teams win by, therefore it wouldn’t make sense for two seekers to make a deal because it would be by point differential. For instance, let’s say the score ended up being 1300 – 1000. the winning team would still only get 300 points because that’s how much they won by

  22. I was just rereading this chapter when I realized how young the Gryffindor team is. Harry is the youngest house player is a century but, Katie Bell can only be twelve because she is in her seventh year in HBP. Fred, George, Alicia, and Angelia are only thirteen. And Oliver Wood is the oldest member at fifteen. All seven of them must be really good players to be the best in their house that younger. Wood brings up how they haven’t won the cup since Charlie left, but maybe the other members of Charlie’s team were also really good and were in his year. So when they left, the team was depleted of good players so it took a couple years to rebuild.

  23. Regaurding your thoughts on Madam Hooch:
    I’ve always thought of Madam Hocch as a sort of school gym teacher….although she can’t really be a real “teacher” or else she’d be known as “Professor Hooch”. Me thinks she is just an employee of Hogwarts (like Hagrid,Flitch,Pince and Pomfrey) who is in charge of all broomstick related business. Thats why in POA she is given the firebolt to inspect.

  24. When I just re-read this chapter, I realized a lot of the things that are talked about here in the comments. Such as, Snape talking openly about trying to get past Fluffy, and the fact that all of the members of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team are very young for players. I would just think that as tryouts and things go, then the better players would probably be of an older age. As we see in HBP, many of the students come to try out for a spot on the team (though a lot of this comes from their fascination with Harry, once he’s been vindicated). It just surprises me that the best players coming out of the tryouts would be 12-13 year-olds (not including Wood, because he’s the one choosing the players). Speaking of Wood, since he’s so intense about having a good Quidditch team and winning the cup, that surprises me even further that he would choose such young students to play on his team. I guess age just isn’t always directly proportional to skill.

    I also really enjoyed the Keith James illustration of Quidditch! It was very, very well done! I also really liked Kula’s revised Quidditch rules. They make a lot of sense to me, and would certainly make the game a tab more interesting! If anyone’s played the video game for Quidditch World Cup, they’ll know that the game gets very boring very quickly. It’s just back and forth with the Chasers the whole time until the Seeker manages to spot the Snitch. I feel these new rules would really liven up the need to score points! (Of course, I’m sure being on a broom high up in the air would give enough excitement for a real life game =P)

  25. What I also don’t like about Quidditch is that the player with the best broom can get ahead. That means the richer people will have better chances! So that the game doesn’t depend on skill, but on money. I think that’s ridiculous!

  26. I never thought about Snape talking openly or the ages of the team. It’s amazing that I’m still discovering new things ten years after I first read it.

  27. I second what almost everybody else has already said in this chapter. I haven’t noticed about Snape talking about Fluffy in the open; that was a nice catch, Josie! And yet, I wonder… why would Snape had Filch treat his wounds? Why not go up to the hospital wing? Madam Pomfrey IS capable of keeping secrets, such as with the case of Hermione’s Polyjuice Potion mishap on CoS, isn’t she?

    There’s one more thing: Snape docks off five points for a library book concern, whereas McGonagall takes away the same number of points because Hermione “supposedly” went off to tackle a troll on her own. Seriously, how unfair is that?

  28. I don’t remeber it ever saying in any of the books that points alone determine the winner of the league. I got the impression that Win-Loss record determined the league winner and that points might have been used as a tie-breaker (as in Football, or as we Americans say “Soccer”). In the case where Wood tells Harry not to grab the snitch until they’re 50 points ahead, Slytherin had a record of 2-0 and Gryffindor was 1-1, meaning that Gryffindor needed 50 extra points in order to win the tie-breaker. If both teams were 2-0, then a 10 point win for Gryffindor would have been as good as a 200 point win in order to win the league. Also, it never says that total points over the course of the season is the first tie-breaker. It seems more likely that point difference would be the first tie-breaker (also like it is in soccer). Wood indicates this when he says to wait until they have a 50 point lead, as opposed to saying “wait until we’ve got a 50 point lead and at least 200 points”. An example of point difference in this scenario would be like Slytherin having a +400 point difference from their two wins and Gryffindor having a +10 point difference from their win and loss combining for a very low point difference. We can’t know this for sure because Rowling never gives us the final scores of the other league games. Therefore, if Gryffindor wins by 200 (a 50 point lead plus 150 points for catching the snitch) They would end the season with a +210 point difference and Slytherin would end up with a +200 point difference, thus losing the tie-breaker. Seeing as how Rowling is British and is likely familiar with soccer, if not an avid fan, it seems plausible that Quidditch would follow the same type of ranking and tie-breakers used in soccer. I wish she would have gone into more detail about such matters. The fact that she didn’t seems to point to the idea that they might be exactly the same as they are in soccer.

  29. Here’s a look at the importance of Chasers in terms of game theory. It is suggested in the books that a seeker could take either a offensive or defensive strategy (e.g. Cho Chang blocking Harry’s attempts to catch the snitch is a defensive posture). It seems likely that if team A’s Chasers and Keeper were a lot better than those of team B, team A’s seeker would take a more conservative and defensive approach, trying to prolong the game and stop team B from getting an easy win by catching the snitch in the early game, while team B’s seeker would take a more offensive strategy, hoping to get the win before the game becomes out of reach. Even if both seekers started out with a defensive aproach, as team A closed in on the 150 point lead, team B’s seeker would become even more desperate to catch the snitch before it’s too late. At the point when team A went beyond the 150 point lead mark, team B’s seeker would immediately have to fall back into a strictly defensive posture, while team A’s seeker would then be able to focus all efforts on catching the snitch with no fear of team B being able to win the match. Also, it seems reasonable that if team B’s beaters were assisting in the effort to keep team A from catching the snitch, at this point they would shift their focus to helping the chasers swing the point balance in order to make the game win-able once more. Without team B’s beaters trying to stop him/her, and with no need to defend against team B’s seeker catching the snitch, it seems almost imminent that team A’s seeker will catch the snitch and team A will win in short order. Thus, good chasers = 150+ lead = easy snitch capture = win.

  30. Mark, your point about tiebreakers is certainly possible – it’s never explicitly stated in the books, after all. But there are two reasons I disagree with your idea.

    The first is that, if the way of determining the Quidditch Cup winner is simply by looking at records and then tie-breaking, wouldn’t it make much more sense for the first tie-breaker to be who won the head-to-head matchup? If Gryffindor and Slytherin end the season “tied,” then in my mind it would make a lot more sense for the next question to be, “which one beat the other?” and the points don’t matter. But that’s not the way we see it working, because the points clearly do matter. This makes me think that the points aren’t a tiebreaker, but rather the thing that matters.

    The second reason I think this is a bit unfair, because it’s based on a bit of J.K. Rowling’s world that most fans have never had the opportunity to see (and that those who have seen it have been asked not to publish). But in 1999 or so, Rowling had a fan club in England, and one of the perks of being a member was receiving a quarterly “Daily Prophet” in the mail. There were four issues, and each one had a Quidditch page – which included standings. The standings didn’t list wins or losses; they only listed points. And it was clear from reading the articles that the “points” in the standings weren’t referring to standings points (like in American hockey, where you get 2 points for a win and 1 point for losing in overtime), but points scored during matches. So I’m pretty sure that was Rowling’s intention.

    Of course, your system would be more logical. Otherwise if Puddlemere United were to play, say, the Chudley Cannons, they could have their Seeker deliberately avoid the Snitch, assuming Chudley’s Seeker won’t catch it either, and have their Chasers run up the score in the meantime. But then, there’s a lot about the Quidditch point system that isn’t logical. :)

  31. I’ve never thought that much about Madam Hooch.. so, she’s like the Broom keeper in Hogwarts?

  32. Good idea, Daziy!

    Hagrid: Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts
    Hooch: Keeper of Brooms and Pitches at Hogwarts

  33. I always assumed that Hooch teaches more than this one class for the first years, but gives regular flying lessons for all age groups (perhaps mandetory to a certain age, or until the students reached a certain skill level). Either way, we just don’t read about them, because Harry doesn’t partake in them after he is made seeker (after all, being on the team it would be silly for him to go to the lessons, too). If just for the first years of longer – there just HAS to be additional lessons. Otherwise no one in Harry’s year would be able to fly at all.

    I think it’s more interesting that although Ron flew regulary with his brothers (and turns out to have enough talent to be at least a decent player) and Draco flew early on, too (even if he used the wrong grip), Harry is better than both of them at his very first try – Ron doesn’t even manage to call the broom up to his hand.

  34. I like the idea of Madam Hooch being ‘Keeper of brooms and pitches’… I would assume that Madam Hooch would have taught flying lessons to all students through a certain year. To wizards who either never fully learned to apparaite or choose not to, flying would likely be a primary from of transportation (portkeys don’t seem to be practical for everyday use and floo powder would likely be costly) Along these same lines I’m sure there would be some sort of laws or regulations in regards to the statute of secrecy that Madam Hooch would need to explain to them. Just thinking of all the possible things that would have been taught in her lessons makes me wish Harry would waited a few lessons before proving himself worthy of being Gryffindor’s new seeker

  35. I love Quidditch so much! Although, when I first saw the movies I didn’t really care for those scene’s and thought they were boring. But when I started reading the books, I began enjoying it! I hope that they’ll soon find a way for us ‘muggles’ to play Quidditch in a somewhat realistic way ;)

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