Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Trouble with Dobby

One of the most troubling and problematic aspects of J.K. Rowling’s world is the creation of a race wholly designed for enslavement and degradation. More than anything else, the house-elves make me wonder what on earth Rowling was thinking and what exactly she is revealing to her readers about herself and her worldview.
The domovoi usually appear as a living (or deceased) Master, 
or occasionally as the family dog or cat.

Granted, I’m not very familiar with English household spirits. In my mind, the closest I come to Rowling’s elves are the domovoi - the home-guardian/poltergeist/servant/master who wreaks havoc when his will is thwarted, punishes violently the lazy housewife, the drunken husband, the neglectful servant, drives off animals he considers ugly, and of course, helps out with chores when he considers it worth his while. He is decidedly Slavic though, and I knew I wouldn’t find him in Rowling’s England, so I hunted down the less terrifying English equivalent: the Brownie. Like Rowling’s elves, Brownies leave when offered clothes (the domovoi stomps around in peasant garb and boots, or else skulks through the yard as a dog or cat..rumors have him even becoming a bouncing sack of grain, but I’ve no experience with such playful domovoi.) Brownies are tame, and decidedly English in their Faerie ways, but they have dignity. They are never the slaves of the family they serve, and are not so beaten as to miss the chance to harangue an unpleasant home-owner or defend their strange Faerie pride. It’s a dignity Rowling denies Dobby and his race, and the idea that a being exists not merely to serve, but to be enslaved is horrific. Then to use such a being leaves a sour taste in me that all Harry’s kindness to Dobby can’t wash out. I know Rowling does try to work her way through this problem as the series continues, but at her best she seems to manage a sort of Gone with the Wind attitude: happy slaves, well-meaning but ignorant abolitionists, loving masters, and no concept that a soul could be designed for more.

Adorable Dobby

But Jenna loves Dobby, I know, and so do many fans of the series. Dobby is loveable (though honestly I had trouble finding him loveable until Seth drew Adorable Dobby for this post). He’s earnest if nothing else, and sort of sweet, but why the life-time of slavery for all house-elves? And why is that not troubling anyone (SPOILER/ ‘well meaning but ignorant abolitionist’ aside)? The creation of the house-elves as they are - a downtrodden race with no self-respect and the dismissal of even the tiniest bit of self-worth as being akin to insanity - is the product of a sort of negligent relativism on the part of the author: negligent because she should have been more aware of how her house-elves would reflect on back on her own views and character, which seems to be a sort of contentment with the status quo enslavement of creatures that very obviously have personhood; and relativistic because such an order of creatures - even in an entirely imaginary world - indicates a complete lack of moral order within that world. It’s one of reason why I’m much happier with my Domovoi; demonic tricks, self-serving household management, and all. He’s fully Faerie - in the Slavic sense - dark, dangerous, and too, too intimate; house-elves are merely abused to various degrees, they’re depressing to read about and disturbing to consider.


  1. I LOVE the picture of Dobby!!! The domovoi is adorable, too...

    OK, if Rowling is complacent toward slavery, I'm an old pillowcase. :P And if she was negligent, I would have been, too, because I never would have gotten that set of implications from the imagery! I read the whole thing totally differently. Here's my explanation; you can decide whether it makes sense...

    First, I don't think the house-elves are designed to represent slavery in the usual sense. I think the whole portrayal, from Dobby's SPOILERS to Winky's Stockholm Syndrome to the way Hogwarts kitchen elves relate to Dobby later in the series to Kreacher's misery and SPOILERS--all that means something, but I don't think it means that slavery is anything better than a vicious affront to the dignity of personhood.

    There are various options for what house-elves might represent; I've heard the traditional submissive housewife proposed, presumably because the elves love their work and (usually) their masters so much, and (usually) react with such horror to the idea of freedom. One of my own readings, as I described partially in my Harry Potter for Nerds essay, is that they--particularly Dobby--work as a sometimes-allegory for the spiritual slavery to sin, from which THERE BE SPOILERS. Gah. This is hard to talk about this early in the book! ;)

    I don't think Rowling was straight up allegorical with the elves, but I do think that what they primarily represent as a whole is the complexity of trying to do good things for the world. You can't make someone understand their need; I know someone who helps provide low-maintenance water filters to third-world villages, and sometimes the people in the village will take care of the filter and sometimes they won't, even though the filtered water can mean saved lives. You can't always be revolutionary about changes (ALL KINDS OF DUMBLEDORE SPOILERS); it can cause more problems than it solves.

    As to why it isn't troubling anyone, apart from our future well-meaning but ignorant abolitionist--well, first, I think it does trouble Dumbledore, as we'll see in book four. But Dumbledore generally seems to believe in changing hearts, not politics. He's not going to force a freedom on them that would make them miserable. Second, I think the fact that most people, including Harry and Ron, seem unbothered by elf slavery is that... humans tend to be very accepting of the status quo, and very uncomfortable with change, particularly if the status quo makes their life easier and change is difficult. That's a sharp indictment of humanity, there.

    Rowling leaves her world unfinished at the end of book 7. There are still wrongs left to right. Her original epilogue contained a lot more about future rightings, I believe--at least, she's said some things that I'll try to remember to share when we get to the end of book 7--but she cut it to bring the story full circle.

    Keep in mind, too, as per the discussion of origin between you and George over on my blog: we don't know how the house-elves began, or how they began to be slaves. They're slaves to wizards. Wizards can do magic. Wizards are not always known for respecting the moral order. Heaven only knows how house-elves' devotion to their enslavement began.

    1. That should read "Also, you can't always be revolutionary..." Water filters are not revolutionary, as my grammar implies. :P

      There are strong hints of Rowling's feelings toward the house-elves' state, too. Harry's reaction to the Fountain of Magical Brethren, for instance. I think we get to that one in book five.... :)

    2. Isn't he cute! I just wanted to hug him when I saw him!

      I can see how you'd come to your conclusion about house-elves, but it's not something I can see in the books..though I agree that their not designed to represent slavery in the normal sense..Actually, I see that as sort of part of the problem..because if they were written as J.K. Rowling's Views on Slavery, I think she would have been more careful with her treatment of them. I feel like they're more of a throwaway group..a Rowlingized version of any real domestic spirit, and used comically and to sort of flesh out the whole 'different races working together' theme she has going.

      I also wouldn't call them allegorical - at all, really. I really liked your essay in Harry Potter for Nerds but, well..umm...Dang it how do I respond without SPOILERS!!! This is so hard!

      My problem is not so much that the house-elves are written as an allegory defending human slavery, because while they resemble it, they're not; but that their written as beings who's greatest happiness is in loosing their wills to others, and that the problem is addressed comically and then dropped. We're given no indication it's in anyway a distortion of their nature by wizards either, and we're reminded again and again that they do have magic enough to defend themselves and others if they chose that too spoilerific?? I'm left with the impression that the behavior Rowling writes in them is their natural being, and that can't exist inside a moral universe..

      I actually wanted to include bit from your essay on a sort of 'other side' sort of angle, to balance myself out a bit, but spoilers are rough.. ;) And you're right that Rowling seems to sort of speak through Harry and Hermoine in what I would assume her attitude is towards the elves...which is one of the reasons I am so interested in her direction here..because she's not consistent in this.

      The water filter analogue was great though..If I liked Dumbledore more I might give it to him ;)

    3. Hahaha!! The temptation to use spoilers is terrible! I can hardly begin to respond to this without examples from at least the end of CoS...

      But I'll grant you the point about the problem being addressed comically and then tossed. Rowling was focused on Harry's story and the conflict with Voldemort, and she definitely let issues slide. As a fantasy novelist myself, perhaps I just grant her a bit more indulgence for authorial fallibility. A seven-book series with this much worldbuilding is a LOT to keep together. :)

      I'll try and remember to revisit this post at the end of book 2. :D But in the meantime, while it's true we're given no direct indication that wizards distorted their nature, and it's true that the house-elves have significant magical power of their own, the fact that their power is so thoroughly and specifically subjugated to powerful wizarding households (notice that the Weasleys don't have one, and Ron's brief explanation of why) is suggestive. And since there are historical tales of magic more immense than anything seen in Harry's time (the Hogwarts founders, Ignotus Peverell), and since the Imperius curse exists as a means of subjugating the human will, the possibility is more or less there. Perhaps the house-elves were once akin to your domovoi, but a little experimental breeding and/or misuse of magic took them in a more submissive direction... OK, now I think I'm writing fan fiction. :P

    4. Yeah, I think we'll have to revisit this sort goes hand in hand with the use of [SPOILERS] by Harry much, much later..and of course, I won't be able to not talk about the house-elf problem in book four.. I have a feeling though, that trying to 'imperius' a domovoi would produce less of a Dobby than just a very angery domovoi..they've to more of than a hint of the demonic about them ;) .. that would be a funny fan-fiction "Draco goes to Russia"..hahahaha! I would LOVE to see that! Maybe we should have a fan fiction challenge at the end of the read though :D

    5. "Maybe we should have a fan-fiction challenge . . ."

      Yes please. :D

    6. Sounds like fun. I've added it to my list of things to do with the H.P.B.C. Of course, you might still remind me, if you think of it. :D

  2. I think it would be better to move away from what Lewis might characterize as the personal heresy. That is, looking at what an author says or creates in a book as being mostly autobiographical. That's why I'm saying I don't think it's quite fair or charitable to characterize the state of the House-Elves as being a reflection of Rowling's views & values.

    That being said, I don't think it illegitimate to consider Rowling's literary use of the House-Elves. One mentioned is how Dobby seems used for comic relief. That's a fair point, although I don't think it holds up as the series goes on.

    I also think it's fair to look critically at how Rowling wraps up things or fails to wrap them up as the case may be. As Jenna quite accurately notes, a lot of questions are left unanswered.

    And it's really quite right to ask why all these questions aren't more troubling to people.

    1. While I agree wholeheartedly that just because an author states something in a book it does not mean they condone it, there's clearly a reason for it being stated in the first place. And insofar as a book is the creation of the author, anything included tells us something about that author. For instance, Vladimir Nabokov clearly wouldn't defend pedophilia no matter what he has Humbert Humbert say in 'Lolita'. But the presence of that subject matter does tell us something about Nabokov's worldview.

      In a similar way, while the attitude of the wizarding world toward house-elves may not reflect Rawling's personal philosophy, her inclusion of such a race does reveal something of her. What is that exactly? Well, that's what debates like this are for. I for one don't think she's racist or pro-slavery in any form, but I do think she has a warped view of the importance of the rational will. The house-elves will is his own but is over-ridden by the will of his Master. This is undeniably problematic (Rawling herself indicates that it is) but then uses these characters (as George points out) as comic relief. And that strikes me as not only a bit of a mistake in storytelling, but indicative of a relaxed attitude toward a person's autonomy.

      All that being said, I really enjoy the PERSON of Dobby even if I find his BEING problematic (sorry about the all-caps, Masha told me how to do bold and italicized but I'm stupid when it comes to these things.

      -The Neglected Husband

    2. Oh dear..I didn't mean anything at all autobiographically..but I do think it is essential to care about and interact with the point of view, values, and intentions of the author. Not because it's 'autobiographical' in any sense, nor in an attempt to psycho-analyze, but because reading in a holistic sense does include an awareness of what the author is trying to convey both in plot and in worldview.

      I guess we just read in a very different sense, and for very different reasons. :)

    3. That was directed to Dear neglected husband needs to work on his spelling before I'll respond to him. ;p

      (hahahaha!!! This is the First time in all the time I've know him that I get to correct his spelling!!!!)

    4. I don't disagree with the idea of reading holistically. However, the way I read your above post, it seemed as if you were making a comment on Rowling's personality & values by ascribing the degradation of the House-elves as somehow her own personal views or values.

      Primarily I found this statement troubling, "...negligent because she should have been more aware of how her house-elves would reflect on back on her own views and character..."

      Now, I can admit that is a possible way to view things. I think it more of a worry for E.L. James, though, rather than Rowling.

      And certainly writers don't write in a vacuum but oftentimes out of their own experiences & they oftentimes, either consciously or unconsciously put a lot of themselves & their values into a work. Kind of like Sauron imbuing the One Ring with his own qualities & power. Or maybe not. :)

      But it's also true that sometimes they don't. And oftentimes it's hard to tell when something is a reflection of the author's views & experiences & when it is not. Which is why I tend to follow Lewis' position that it's oftentimes unproductive & unhelpful to deal too much with the author's own personal intentions & views. To be sure, sometimes it is helpful for context, but can easily go astray.

      Which is perhaps why my primary reaction is so strong because I've so often seen discussions of a work derailed into psycho-analyzing the author & of spending so much time trying to figure out what the author meant based on their personal history that the actual work itself & the questions it presents gets obscured.

      Anyway, just wanted to explain a bit where I was coming from on this. I don't think we have to be in opposition, though. And I've already contributed to the problem, because the one thing we're not talking about is the House-elves.

    5. Oh, bar fights from the glory days of The Hog's Head. I think George and I have traces of PTSD left over from that. Which is why I stay out of Facebook battles. :P I've been having a blast with the above back-and-forth, though... I really like talking about Dobby! And sometimes I just like talking like Dobby....

      Jenna is laughing very hard, George, sir, about the E.L. James comment. :P

      On a more serious note: Neglected Husband, what does it say about Nabokov that he wrote a book about pedophilia? I'm sincerely curious. As a writer, I think I'd want lots of Lewis-recommended freedom to have put something in the book just because it randomly struck me... possibly this is what makes me not as good as Nabokov, although I admit that something as central to a story of mine as Humbert Humbert's lust is to Lolita would probably have been intentional. :P Especially if it were an issue that huge and horrifying.

      Possibly it's also true that not understanding how to think backward from text to author is one of the weaknesses I've got from not having become an English major like normal book nerds do.

    6. George..I guess I just don't understand how you can read a work of fiction without seeing it as the work of a person, a creation of a specific imagination..which sets the bounds of the work it creates. I can write about evils, but I can't write a universe where to submit to and relish in an evil is the natural (as written) state of being to a particular being. That does not fit within the bounds of my imagination..that it does seem to fit within the bounds of Rowling's is interesting and sort of sets the stage for further relativism in the series.. So is it a statement on her views of slavery? No, probably not. Is it an indication that free will and objective morality will be fuzzy and fluid throughout the series? Yes, it is, because her imagination seems comfortable in relativism..

      ..but E.L. James...ewwww! She doesn't count as an author..and fan fictiony porn is ALWAYS all about the authors views, fantasies, other disturbing aspects..Let's not put the two together! Rowling still has her dignity and E.L. James makes me cry :(

      Jenna..Good point..the Hog's Head sounds like a scary, scary place! Sorry George if I caused any flashbacks!

      I don't know what Seth would say..but to me, Lolita always seems less like a study of pedophilia than about the damage people do to each other when they lie to themselves about who they are and what they're doing..which we all do to some degree, but Humbert is sort of supreme in this..the use of pedophilia being sort of an extreme way to show how completely self-deception cuts us off from the suffering and the needs of others..I could be wrong though, Nabakov said the idea of the book came when he saw the first drawing done by an animal - a gorilla at the zoo drew the bars of his cage. And writing Lolita is, I guess an exploration of the the girl, Dolores' cage (Humbert) and the realization that she'll never be able to really see beyond that..

      As for sticking something in a story 'just because it struck you'..I think that, first off..there's the very intentional, central themes, like you mentioned, and then of course, the things that strike you are striking to you, the author..they may not be striking to another author..and that is sort of telling, in that..well, different people see the world differently and treat what they see differently..But Seth's probably clearer about this all, he usually is ;)

    7. ..and I don't think you missed much as an English major. I think about these things more because I think in circles than because I went to college..I don't think my professors liked it much, actually.. you just would have been told that "real English majors don't read Harry Potter anyway. Here, read Lolita!"
      Unless you went to a Catholic school..then you'd be reading Flannery O'Connor. ;)

  3. I suppose the question becomes, do we want to talk about the House-elves or do we want to talk about what the House-elves say about Rowling? We can certainly go with talking about what it all says about Rowling, but I generally find it unhelpful to try & psycho-analyze the author. Not that it can't be done & done validly & even done well. But it usually isn't my cup of tea.

    1. I don't think the question becomes that at all. I guess we'll just have to disagree.
      -The Neglected Husband

    2. We're not necessarily disagreeing; we're just not agreeing. That is to say, you're right, the question doesn't necessarily have to become that. It's just that I've often seen it devolve into that and my preference is to stick more closely to one or the other, preferably to discussing more of the text. So, no disagreement at all, just differing preferences. I apologize for not being more specific.


    I'm late to the party AGAIN because moving is eating my life. That said. . .

    I think it's important to separate what a text is doing with what we know or think about the author's intentions. I can feel pretty confident in JKR's opposition to slavery in all its forms, and if you asked her, she could probably tell you all about her intentions with regard to the house elves, and I don't doubt at all that they would be good intentions (though possibly a little muddled from having been made up on the spot). But as other people have said, intention isn't everything.

    I don't want to say anything about JKR's intentions here or what Dobby and the gang says about her; I don't know or care about any of that. I'm sure she's a lovely person with a good work ethic who gives all her clothes to Oxfam. But! you (general) don't need to have bad intentions or to be an active (or passive) slavery apologist to write a story about slavery that's problematic in some way. It's actually very easy and happens all the time. You just need to have a great story idea with some slavery in it and not think it through quite as much as you should. I am pretty sure that's what happened here.

    But as nice as JKR undoubtedly is and as much as she almost certainly didn't mean to step on any toes, there's still no moral way for Hogwarts to be run by magical slave labor, and making the slaves really into being slaves just makes it creepier. I'm all for Faerie being morally alien, but I think as a human author writing for humans, you have to be cautious about some things. And it's a problem for your story to have a whole race of sapients who just naturally love making sammiches and doing laundry for another race of sapients. Always Slavishly Devoted races are just as problematic as Always Chaotic Evil ones. And to have basically no one in the Wizarding world notice or acknowledge the problem, and for the only one who does to be portrayed as a well-meaning but naive outsider everyone rolls their eyes at. . . it kind of leaves me with nowhere to stand in a dense and thriving forest of icky.

    It's true that we don't know how they got that way, and for sure don't put it past Wizards as a class to be blithely self-serving (at best) in their conduct toward other magical races, either. But any speculation on the subject is fanfiction; we never really get the chance within the text to learn anything about the house elves or their history. We don't really get a challenging house-elf perspective the way we get, e.g., a Goblin perspective later.

    It might have been possible to "fix" the problem to some extent -- like if we learned more about the house elves and their situation (idk, maybe they were bound to Hogwarts by powerful feudalism magic back in 1110 or something and no one can figure out how to break the spell, though again, it would be nice if someone were actually TRYING) or if they didn't talk like Jar Jar Binks, but I honestly dislike the house elves and their plotlines enough to not want to bother too much speculating on how. And I don't feel that way about many things in Harry Potter :( :( :(

    Anyway, I hope everyone's doing all right! I still love HP, just not the house elves!

    also WHO IS E. L. JAMES???

    1. Laura, if you don't already know who E.L. James is, then you don't want to know.

    2. never mind; I looked it up because I thirst for knowledge as the hart for spring water. It's the Fifty Shades of Grey author! I tried to read that book one time but it was boring, so I gave up. :(

  5. hahaha my original comment was TOO LONG TO PUBLISH!

    What I cut out was this -- Jenna, I think the water filter example is great. But I also think it helps illustrate how the house elf storyline, if it's supposed to be about the complexity of trying to do good things for the world, is a missed opportunity.

    The way our elf liberation crusader's activism turns out and the story it presents about what house elves are like comes off more like, "Hey, some people just don't like clean water!" than, "We didn't take into account the particular needs of this village" or "There are other factors at work here that just adding a water filter doesn't address."

    A story where our elf-friend ran in without asking and made a mess of things and then learned to listen to the people they were trying to help -- that would have been great!

    But I don't feel like we actually get that. Instead what we get seems more like, "Hey, some people (and Those People in particular) just don't like freedom! You're silly for thinking this is even an issue!" Which is a problem.

    And not as it stands, an awesome storyline to build into a book series about choosing between what is right and what is easy (except where [SPOILERS] are concerned, of course).

    And I might as well add, Jenna -- as an English major at my school, you could do a Popular Culture concentration and read Harry Potter to your heart's content!

  6. Before reading the others' comments, I'll give my first impression:

    brownies are what I'm familiar with (far too so, if you believe my stories about misplaced paraphernalia--my folks never did!).

    As far as first impressions, my first meeting Dobby was in the movie, and I did find his behavior and whatever customs or breeding affecting it disturbing. Even just reading about his banging his head violently against a wall and "punishing himself" makes me cringe--seeing it was worse. If it's being used as comedy, I don't like it. But that's me. My two-and-a-half year old finds Charlie Chaplin type humorous pain quite amusing. I can't stand it, whether it's of the literaly Dumb and Dumber variety or just the awkward, self-inflictingly painful situations of Everybody Loves Raymond and other sitcoms.

    As far as storytelling and characterizations, I would be much more fascinated by a race of beings like my brownies or your domovoi. But I suspect Dobby serves a purpose plot-wise. Could Rowling have kept her plot nearly the same and nearly as interesting without Dobby? Without creating a race of inherent slaves? I don't know. Is her not seeing a problem in it directly reflective of her world view and moral relativism? It could be. . . At least, I've never been hesitant to hand her credit of full knowledge when I've found something good working in Harry Potter.

  7. Seth said,

    I do think she has a warped view of the importance of the rational will. The house-elves will is his own but is over-ridden by the will of his Master

    That. I know I couldn't bring myself to write a story with natural slaves because the reality of free will is slap-in-the-face obvious to me, and to remove it from any attempt at world building would lead the plot to crumble into to utter nonsense (similar to how I couldn't get past a few pages of The Golden Compass; suspension of disbelief died in me when Pullman tried to posit a universe in which a being is not his own soul . . . I can't even write that sentence without confusing myself!).

    Masha said,

    I can't write a universe where to submit to and relish in an evil is the natural (as written) state of being to a particular being. That does not fit within the bounds of my imagination..that it does seem to fit within the bounds of Rowling's is interesting and sort of sets the stage for further relativism in the series..

    Exactly! I'd even say that our beliefs aren't just personal opinions but the Way of Things. This tickles me, too, because I dare to say it's exactly the point Chesterton was trying to get across with his chapter on Fairyland in Orthodoxy. That there is natural (moral) order to the universe, and to imagine it any other way is nonsense. (Even pure materialists who claim nothing exists outside of nature don't say a universe where 2 and 2 doesn't equal 4 is possible. So far, M.'s the only one I've ever met who can imagine it, and even she can't imagine a morally inverted universe! So maybe logic and reason can be negated, but right and wrong most certainly can't!)

    But we can't know if Rowling meant the house elves to be natural slaves or if they evolved that way through original sin, wizard tampering, or something else, right?

    1. This makes me think of the part in C.S. Lewis' "Perelandra" where the Green Lady states that she can make a story where all sorts of illogical things occur but to make a story where the will of Maleldil (God) is thwarted is outside of her ken.
      -The Neglected Husband

    2. *nodnodnodnodnod* Such a good part!

  8. Combining a bunch of replies into one, for time's sake:

    Masha, thanks for the explanation! That helps...

    Laura, if the center of your point is that the house-elf storyline is a missed opportunity, I'll freely agree. Though you say: "A story where our elf-friend ran in without asking and made a mess of things and then learned to listen to the people they were trying to help -- that would have been great!" And I think we have that; it's just focused on one individual of the race, gets said individual only the beginnings of his redemption, and doesn't set the race itself free, mentally or physically. But still, your point is made. :)

    I do love the house-elves, though--not their natural slavery or their self-harming compulsions, which make me sad, but their comic sweetness and the character arcs of a couple of them. Gah. SO MANY SPOILERS. We need to talk about this again when we get to Kreacher. He's incredibly important to this conversation...

    Christie, gotta respond to a couple of things you said!

    My two-and-a-half year old finds Charlie Chaplin type humorous pain quite amusing. I can't stand it, whether it's of the literaly Dumb and Dumber variety or just the awkward, self-inflictingly painful situations of Everybody Loves Raymond and other sitcoms.

    Ah, slapstick and mean relational comedy. The former is bearable to me, even amusing if the pain doesn't look real and isn't made out to be intense, but the latter is unbearable. I can watch the old Dick van Dyke show and laugh and laugh at it... but ELR is not funny to me, and I get depressed if I try to watch more than one episode in a row. (For me, Dumb and Dumber is a very weird combination of excruciating, revolting, and hilarious, probably owing to my having watched it in the right mood and with the right people to appreciate the surprise humor. "Oh, no! How did he die?" "His head fell off!" *collapses into mortifying level of giggles*) Verbally brutal relational comedy makes me terribly uncomfortable, but because it's art (lower-case A), I haven't formed a hard judgment on it yet. I am not morally opposed (yet--feel free to try and convince me otherwise) to light slapstick, on account of which I wasn't shocked at myself for half-smiling along with my horror when Dobby said he'd have to shut his ears into the oven door. But that's the removal of fiction from reality. A real-life sentient creature making that statement would not be funny, and would warrant immediate protection.

    "So maybe logic and reason can be negated, but right and wrong most certainly can't!"

    Yes. That. (Or if logic itself can't be negated, science can.) I wish I could remember who first argued this point to me in so many words, because I'd quote them--it could've been Lewis, or Chesterton, or Card; I just don't recall... Their point, anyway, was that when writing science fiction or fantasy, there are rules you can bend and play with, and rules you can't. And what you can play with is the state of being we know by reason and science. You can make wild forms of magic possible, dream up societies dwelling on nonexistent worlds or worlds that are apparently uninhabitable, make your characters capable of Apparating or traveling at the speed of light. But what you can't play with is moral order. You cannot call good evil and evil good. You can write a loving slavemaster, because such contradictions exist in human nature, but you can't make out slavery to be a rightful thing. Etc. Great point. :)