Happy Birthday, Hagrid!

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Dec 06, 2017

Posted by: Dawn Johnson | Comments

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Today, we mark the day of Rubeus Hagrid’s birth. Though he had humble beginnings and a life fraught with setbacks, he pressed on with good humor, good faith, and good heart. While Dumbledore may have served as the sage mentor of Harry’s growing-up years, Hagrid was his protector and friend, occupying a special place in J.K. Rowling’s story and charming us all.

Over the course of the series we learned more and more about Hagrid’s background as he felt comfortable enough with Harry, Hermione, and Ron to share it. He was their sounding board when working through a problem, their refuge when escaping the frustrations and conflicts of school, and their help when in need. Naturally, that relationship became mutual.

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They learned that he was a half-wizard, half-giant, raised by his loving father after his mother’s abandonment at the age of 3. He nonetheless seemed to have a happy childhood. But things might have been different at school. He most certainly encountered the stigma associated with his heritage–not only could he not claim pureblood wizard status, but he was also only half-man. He was likely insulated from this before coming to Hogwarts.

No doubt Dumbledore, a professor at the time, made an effort to welcome him and put him at ease. But Hagrid came to Hogwarts in 1940 during the height of Grindelwald’s campaign. There must have been more tension among students than we know. Also, Tom Riddle was a student at the time, and though he was exceptionally skilled at hiding his true inclinations, he was not sly enough to charm Dumbledore. This may have prevented Riddle, as the Heir of Slytherin, from more openly harassing the students he considered less worthy, but it’s very likely he did plenty of damage behind the scenes.

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It’s possible this is one reason Hagrid turned to his love of magical creatures. While he probably always had an affinity for the unusual beasts–and perhaps related to them–he may have channeled all his natural compassion and affection into the beings he cared for, finding few close relationships among his peers. Though we’d like to think his Gryffindor classmates were kinder than that, the young Hagrid may simply not have known how to reach out and compensate for the awkward distance he already felt.

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And then when Riddle needed an out for the horrific murder of Myrtle Warren, he blamed Hagrid, an easy scapegoat. Like Hagrid standing against Lucius Malfoy in front of the Wizengamot years later, it wouldn’t have taken much to convince other wizards, the Ministry of Magic included, that Hagrid was the culprit.

Dumbledore, seeing through the circumstantial case and understanding Hagrid’s true character, convinced Headmaster Armando Dippet to let Hagrid remain at the school, training to be a keeper of the grounds. Dumbledore’s faith in Hagrid later proved well-placed time after time, and J.K. Rowling opened her epic with the great giant-man gently shepherding the orphan child Harry to the place where he would be safe in protective custody until he was old enough to enter Hogwarts for himself.

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Dumbledore trusted Hagrid with his life, a most telling statement, and one that was more than just talk. Many people could claim such endearments, but Dumbledore put that trust into practice. Over and over again, he tasked Hagrid with protecting the most precious and valuable–from Harry to the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Armed with pink umbrella, Hagrid later rescued Harry from the Dursley’s and guided him through his preparations for school, serving as his first memorable connection with the wizarding world. He bought Harry an owl, Hedwig, who Harry would treasure. He softened the shock of re-entry and kindly but matter-of-factly told Harry what to worry about–and, more importantly, what not to.

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Though his tendency to be loquacious and have a blind affection for his creatures occasionally got him and his friends into trouble, especially after being promoted to Care of Magical Creatures professor, there are far worse faults to have. He never failed to be loyal and to serve wholeheartedly wherever and whenever needed.

When Lord Voldemort returned to power, he rejoined the Order of the Phoenix and accompanied Madame Maxime on a mission to parley with the giant population–a dangerous and potentially-disastrous journey. Though Hagrid must have had mixed feelings about the job, he never voiced them, that we know of. He simply went. And they escaped a giant uprising with their lives–and with Hagrid’s half-brother in tow.

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Hagrid didn’t see Grawp as a problem to be managed or as a giant he should fear and loathe. He saw him as his brother and acted accordingly, trusting and hoping that his compassion and kindness would win in the end.

This is the man who J.K. Rowling intended to usher Harry into her world and then carry him into the culmination of it. She has mentioned previously that she always planned to begin the resolution of the story with Hagrid cradling Harry’s body onto the grounds of Hogwarts. It was symbolic of so much–of his place in the story and of his relationship with Harry. It would not be the same without him!

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So today we recognize his remarkable bravery, his indefatigable spirit, his unquestioned loyalty, and his unfailing compassion. Don’t just raise your glasses–raise a brimming stein of butter beer to Rubeus Hagrid. Cheers!!





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