Witches and Wizards in the Harry Potter Series Attract Appropriate Animagus and Patronus Animals
By Carissa P.
J.K. Rowling introduces two magical animal forms in the Harry Potter series, the Animagus and the Patronus. The animal shape taken on by an Animagus wizard reveals indications of the wizard’s inherent character, while the animal form of a wizard’s Patronus provides clues not only to the wizard’s character, but also at times romantic inclinations, as well as sources of the character’s innermost emotions. This essay will explore aspects of these transformative and protective magical creatures which provide us a greater understanding of certain Harry Potter characters.
General Definitions of Animagi and Patronuses
An Animagus is a wizard that can transform at will into a particular animal.1 The markings on the animal, if any, may resemble features of the wizard when transformation is complete,2 The necessary magic to become an Animagus is dangerous and difficult,3 and Animagi are required to register with the Ministry of Magic.4 According to Rowling, the animal form taken when an Animagus transforms is unknown until the transformation is complete5 and reflects the wizard’s personality,6 being the most appropriate animal for the wizard.7
The Patronus charm produces a transparent guardian in an animal form that is particular to the wizard, to protect the spell caster from Dementors8 – hooded soul hunters and guards of Azkaban prison. A wizard’s Patronus is a projection of their positive force, be it hope, happiness, love, or desire to survive.9 According to Rowling, a Patronus is not hindered by physical barriers; is unique and distinctive to its caster; and can only be conjured by the wizard to whom it belongs.10 The Patronus charm, “Expecto patronum, means “I await a protector” in Latin,11 and is also very advanced magic.12
Animagi in the Harry Potter Series
I. James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew
James Potter was an Animagus who transformed into a stag, a male deer. The stag indicates his pride and speed, as well as the quick reflexes necessary to a Quidditch Chaser.13 Rowling hints that someone transforming into a stag as their Animagus wanted “to be something impressive,” 14 which also fits with the Pensieve-James of Snape’s memory trying to impress the nearby girls and arousing Lily’s outburst about his arrogance.15
Sirius Black’s Animagus form was an “enormous, pale-eyed, jet-black dog.”16 Dog-like, Sirius acted recklessly at times, embittered by his incarceration despite his innocence. Sirius’ redeeming quality, that of a good dog, was his immense loyalty and protectiveness; “Sirius risked everything, always, to see Harry, to help him.” 17 Moreover, Sirius exhibited playful existential delight when accompanying Harry to the Hogwarts train.18 As a dog, Sirius existed among Muggles and magical people alike as a “loveable stray.” 19 Sirius’s emphasized black coloration is a witty play on Sirius’s family name, Black, by Rowling.
Peter Pettigrew transformed into a rat. Primarily, Peter’s Animagus indicates his betrayal – he “ratted out” the Potters’ hidden refuge to Voldemort. Pettigrew’s taking the shape of a rat, instead of a more impressive animal on Rowling’s scale, like a stag, may also reinforce the inferiority Peter felt or lack of magical skill he possessed as compared to James and Sirius.
Rowling asserts that the animal form taken when an Animagus transforms is unknown until the transformation is complete20 but when Remus Lupin explains the process to Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Shrieking Shack, he suggests that James and Sirius intentionally chose large animal Animagi, capable of shepherding a dangerous werewolf, and that Peter likewise intentionally chose a small animal Animagus so as to enable him to press the knot that stills the Whomping Willow.21 So some aspects of a wizard’s Animagus form, like size, are susceptible to the wizard’s intent or desire.
II. Professor Minerva McGonagall and Rita Skeeter
Professor McGonagall, the only registered Animagus encountered, transforms into a Tabby cat, a cat with a distinctive coat of stripes, dots, or swirling patterns.22 The markings on cat-Minerva’s face resemble the glasses she constantly wears.23 As a cat, Minerva has the ability to move easily and without arousing suspicion amongst Muggles.24 Moreover, like a cat, Professor McGonagall is independent, and can be indifferently scornful and gruff, but battles ruthlessly and is capable of deep affection.25
Rita Skeeter’s Animagus form is a beetle. Like Professor McGonagall, the markings around her beetle antennae resemble her habitually worn rhinestone glasses.26 The small size of Rita’s Animagus animal allows her to repeatedly escape detection while eavesdropping on Hagrid at the Ball, on Hermione and Victor Krum at the lake, and on Harry in his Divination class, as well as to gain an interview from Draco Malfoy while concealed in his hand.27 A beetle is an appropriate representation of Rita, who makes herself a great nuisance to Harry and Hermione generally, and particularly in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, because beetles have long been considered agricultural, forestry, and household pests.28 Like James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew, whose Animagus sizes appear to have been chosen deliberately, Skeeter’s particular Animagus form being such assistance in her profession indicates that a wizard possesses some influence on the size of his or her Animagus animal. This reinforces the conclusion that, while a wizard cannot be certain of the animal shape he or she will assume, the Animagus form will correlate to the wizard’s character and some of its aspects, such as size, may be influenced by the wizard.
Patronuses in the Harry Potter Series
I. Harry Potter’s Stag: Patronus Inheritance
Harry’s Patronus form, like his father’s, James’s, Animagus creature, is a stag. Harry, like his father, is a Quidditch player, and seems to have the speed and quick reflexes of a deer. After Harry accomplishes his first corporeal (i.e. fully formed, physical) Patronus, Dumbledore explains:
Dumbledore may be indicating that Harry’s Patronus form was “inherited” from his father genetically, like his Quidditch reflexes or his general physical appearance (excepting his mother’s eyes). It seems unlikely that Harry would desire to be ‘something impressive’, like his father seemed to, given Harry’s burdensome notoriety. Harry associated the stag with his father before anyone confirmed that James’ nickname, “Prongs,” referred to a stag, implying Harry possesses subconscious, perhaps inherited, knowledge of the animal form of James’ Animagus. However, Dumbledore also seems to infer that Harry’s Patronus resulted from Harry’s reliance on his father to protect him in endangered situations, pointing to a degree of choice on Harry’s part as to the shape of his Patronus. While romantic love often inspires a Patronus form, as discussed below, Harry’s Patronus proves filial devotion may also inspire a wizard’s Patronus creature as filial devotion may be a source of hope and joy, especially for an orphan.
II. Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore: Pet-Inspired Patronuses
Albus Dumbledore’s Patronus is a phoenix, a mythical, sacred firebird with gold and red plumage,30 similar to his pet phoenix, Fawkes. Phoenixes live for hundreds of years,31 and such long lives impute two of Albus’ qualities to the birds: wisdom and a curious acceptance of mortality. Albus is the only wizard assigned a mythical creature as his Patronus. I think Rowling chose a mythical creature for Albus’s Patronus and pet to underline his social isolation.32 Like a mythical creature surrounded by ordinary animals, Albus had a vast intelligence and intuitive understanding that left him without a worthy peer. Such underlining of Albus’s loneliness allows a fuller understanding of his youthful attraction to Grindelwald, a young wizard with genius and power-lust comparable to Albus’s own at the time.
Albus is the only character, other than his brother, Aberforth, with a correlation between his Patronus and his pet (that is known). Aberforth Dumbledore’s Patronus is a goat, an animal he has been associated with since his childhood.33 While goats are not considered noble animals, they possess fastidious taste and are extremely useful, providing of milk, meat, hide, and wool.34 Despite Aberforth’s rough and uncouth exterior, he, too, is useful in indirectly rescuing Harry and the other prisoners of Malfoy Manor; protecting Harry, Ron, and Hermione from Death Eaters in Hogsmeade; feeding Neville Longbottom and his fellow outlaws; and in providing access to the castle to Voldemort’s opponents.35
The Dumbledore brothers are the only two people in the Harry Potter series whose Patronuses resemble their pets, which suggests that their pet/Patronus relationship may be hereditary, a family trait similar to Harry’s instinctive adoption of his father’s stag Animagus form as his Patronus beast. The pet/Patronus relationship may also indicate the brothers’ respective fondness and devotion to their pets.
III. Patronuses Affected by Romance: The Potters, Severus Snape, Nymphodora Tonks, Ronald Wesley, and Hermione Granger
Perhaps the most obvious animal affinity is that of James’s Animagus stag and Lily’s Patronus doe. Rowling explains that “the Patronus often mutates to take the image of the love of one’s life because they so often become the ‘happy thought’ that generates a Patronus.” 36
Both Professor Severus Snape’s and Nymphadora Tonks’s Patronuses change to different animal forms as a result of their romantic love for another – Snape’s into Lily’s Patronus doe and Tonks’s into the werewolf form Remus Lupin endured monthly. The reformation of a Patronus is, apparently, common from Rowling’s above-quoted explanation that a wizard’s (true) love influences his or her Patronus form. Nevertheless, Snape offered Tonks only contemptuous comments on her changed Patronus, belittling it as “weak,” 37 despite his completely analogous Patronus shifting. Snape may also be referring to Tonks’s weakness is apparently unrequited love, a perceived weakness of his own.
Due to Snape acting as a double (or triple) agent, he had to be careful to refrain from producing a Patronus, for communication or otherwise, as his doe would express his true allegiance to Lily and, therefore, to Dumbledore.38 Snape hiding his doe Patronus, physical proof of his love for Lily and loyalty to her memory, is symptomatic of Snape’s secretive nature in that, tragically, he insisted on hiding all evidence of his courage and loyalty.39
Hermione’s otter Patronus and Ron’s Jack Russell terrier Patronus are well suited for each other. Like a Jack Russell terrier, Ron is intelligent, protective, and playful, but can also be stubborn and moody, and needs a firm hand.40 According to Rowling, Ron is always there when you need him,41 much like a loyal and protective terrier. Hermione’s clever, hard-working, otter-like sensibilities42 provides the disciplined approach Ron requires, and Ron’s sense of humor and tendency to procrastinate counter-balance Hermione’s rigidness. Moreover, otters are cousins to weasels, and Ron is a member of a weasel-themed family, as discussed below, providing again the Patronus affinity reminiscent of James and Lily. Ironically, an otter is an also appropriate animal for Hermione because it, like Hermione, has prominent front teeth.43
Ginny Weasely’s horse Patronus and Cho Chang’s swan Patronus offer indications of their innermost aspirations and qualities and, therefore, their respective romantic suitability for Harry. Swans are beautiful, elegant birds that are believed to mate for life.44 Cho’s intense, swan-like loyalty to Cedric’s memory, her constant tears, and her feminine wiles require frequent explanations by Hermione of her conduct.45 Cho must be generally accepted as pretty since so many guys pursued her, but she also always seems needy, indecisive, emotional. Rowling claims she and Harry would never have been happy together.46
Ginny, in contrast, as her horse indicates, possesses a forceful personality,47 and courage evident in the Ministry of Magic battle with Death Eaters. Ginny does not cry in situations when Harry knows she sustains physical or emotional pain, and he is fond of this strength Ginny shows48 – especially after his experience with Cho, her intermittent tears and her needs for sympathy and protection. When Ginny tells Harry she anticipated him hunting Voldemort, and that she likes this brave, noble quality of his,49 she obviously recognizes and loves the very essence of Harry. Self-confident and strong-willed Ginny is imminently more suitable for Harry than frail, pretty Cho.
IV. Professor Minerva McGonagall, Dolores Umbridge, and Kingsley Shacklebolt: A Contrast of Cats
Professor McGonagall is the only character whose Animagus and Patronus are given in the Harry Potter series. Minerva’s Patronus, like her Animagus, is a Tabby cat with markings similar to her glasses around the cat’s eyes,50 which may permit the conclusion that every wizard’s Animagus animal is identical to his or her Patronus animal. Possibly a wizard’s Animagus and Patronus are always identical both because (1) both manifestation and transformation provide indications of the wizard’s character and inspiration, and (2) Professor McGonagall’s Patronus and Animagus forms are extremely similar, and this is the only example we have of both from the same witch or wizard. Logically, however, a wizard’s Animagus and Patronus cannot always be identical because a wizard has control over some aspects, like the size, of his or her Animagus animal, and may be swayed by hereditary or emotional factors as to his or her Patronus, and therefore may choose different beasts for Animagus and Patronus. Since a wizard’s Animagus form never varies and a Patronus may change, even a wizard with identical animal Animagus and Patronus at one time may find they are later different if his or her Patronus changes form
Dolores Umbridge produces a cat Patronus for protection. Dolores cannot contain her passion for kittens and attempts to adopt a kitten persona in public: sweet, innocent, obtuse, and hiding sharp claws. Umbridge’s mock-girlish exterior hides a cruel, power-hungry politician, and her cat Patronus evidences her true nature.
McGonagall’s Patronus cats, in their only brief appearance, run sleekly to deliver messages of danger to the other teachers at Hogwarts.51 Umbridge’s long-haired cat, meanwhile, prowls to protect Umbridge and her co-workers from the cool despair of the Dementors she is using to torment Muggle-born wizards.52 Rowling’s use of the witches’ Patronuses emphasizes the difference between their ideals and their priorities: McGonagall’s Patronus sent warnings to protect Hogwarts’ student and staff; Umbridge’s Patronus guards her during her Muggle-blood-based exploitation.
Kingsley Shacklebolt is protected by his lynx Patronus. A wild member of the cat family, the lynx is a solitary animal, seldom seen, that relies on stealth, rather than speed, to capture its prey.53 Kingsley says little the few times he appears, but his actions suggest he is a cunning and intelligent wizard. For instance, in Dumbledore’s office, ostentatiously with the Ministry of Magic, Shacklebolt, unobserved, modifies the memory of a girl with a tale incriminating Harry.54 Likewise, Kingsley passes himself off successfully as a Muggle amongst well-educated Muggle politicians55 though most magical people utterly fail in their attempts to pose as Muggles.
V. Arthur Weasley, Ernie Macmillian, and Luna Lovegood: Word-Play Patronuses
Arthur Weasley’s Patronus is a
weasel. “Weasley” and “weasel-ey” are obviously related words indicating weasel
qualities. Though usually mild mannered, Arthur exhibits more than once the
speed, ferocity, and ability to fight in tight spaces that characterizes
and that renders him a very effective member of the Order of the
Ernie Macmillian’s Patronus is a bore, a wild, tusked pig, a gregarious animal.59 Through the majority of the Harry Potter books, Ernie is pompous and hypocritical. For instance, he flourishes his wand unnecessarily in Dumbledore’s Army meetings;60 uses a loud, carrying voice often;61 frequently feels an urge to express his opinion in an aggressive manner when no one opposes him;62 and hypocritically hesitates to commit to Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons from Harry after asserting their importance.63 Rowling wittily chooses Macmillian’s Patronus as a boar because, often, Macmillian is a bore, slang for someone tiresome and pompous.
Luna “Loony” Lovegood, like Ernie Macmillan, often serves as comic relief, and Rowling also chose Luna’s Patronus with her tongue firmly in her cheek. Luna’s Patronus is a hare, a wild rabbit. People acting oddly, as Luna often does, may be accused of being ‘as mad as a March hare.’ This phrase apparently references the zany March dancing and boxing hares engage in.64 Scientists now believe the hares’ activity is a complex mating ritual, and not at all demented.65 Though Luna carries unusual, illogical confidence in mythical creatures, remedies, and the properties of some objects, she also shows the capacity to be remarkably shrewd and resilient. So, like the March hares, Luna’s madness is imminently sane.
Clearly a wizard may affect some aspects of his or her Animagus and Patronus animal form. While a wizard’s Animagus animal provides indicators of the wizard’s character traits and ambitions, and may be influenced by a wizard’s desire or intent, a wizard’s Patronus form allows a view of their innermost joys and sorrows. A wizard’s Patronus form may adopt the particular shape of a beast as a representation of the wizard’s character, for hereditary reasons, as an expression of romantic love, or as a humorous ruse by Rowling; a wizard attracts the animal appropriate for him or her.
1. Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, 108.
18. Ibid., 181-2.
19. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 522.
20. Ibid., “Edinburgh ‘Cub Reporter’ Press Conference.”
21. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 354-5.
22. Wikipedia, s.v. “Tabby Cat.”
23. Rowling, Sorcerer’s Stone, 9.
25. Ibid., “About the Books: Transcript of J.K. Rowling’s Live Interview on Scholastic.com.”
26. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 728.
28. Wikipedia, s.v. “Beetle.”
29. Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, 427-8.
32. Anelli and Spartz. “TLC/MN Interview Part Three.”
33. Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 25.
34. Wikipedia, s.v. “Goat.”
35. Rowling, Deathly Hallows.
36. Ibid., “
37. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 160.
38. Ibid., “
39. Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 679.
40. Wikipedia, s.v. “Jack Russell Terrier.”
41. Rowling, “Harry Potter and Me.”
42. Otternet.com, “Otternet Homepage.”
43. Rowling, Sorcerer’s Stone, 105.
59. Wikipedia, s.v. “Boar.”
60. Rowling, Order of the
61. Ibid., 262.
62. Ibid., 344.
63 Ibid., 346.
64. Wikipedia, s.v. “Hare.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Weasels,” http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/furbear/weasels.php
Annelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. “The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet Interview with Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Three,” The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005. http://www.leakynews.com/#static:tlcinterviews/jkrhbp3
J.K. Rowling Official Site. “FAQ: Do You Like Sirius Black?” http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq_view.cfm?id=61
———. “FAQ: So How DO the Members of the Order of the Phoenix Communicate with Each Other?” http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq_view.cfm?id=99#content
———. “J.K. Rowling at the
Mugglenet.com. “Name Origins,” http://www.mugglenet.com/books/name_origins2.shtml#W
Otternet.com. “Otternet Homepage,” http://www.otternet.com/index.htm
Rowling, J.K. “About the Books: Transcript of J. K. Rowling’s Live Interview on Scholastic.com,” Scholastic.com, 16 October 2000. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-scholastic-chat.htm
———. Harry Potter and the
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet
———. Harry Potter and the
———. “Harry Potter and Me,” BBC Christmas Special, 28 December 2001. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/1201-bbc-hpandme.htm
———. Harry Potter and the Order
———. Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban.
———. Harry Potter and the
———. “J. K. Rowling at the Royal
———. “J. K. Rowling’s World Book Day Chat,” BBC, 4 March 2004. Transcript Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2004/0304-wbd.htm
———. “Rowling Bloomsbury Interview,”
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Beetle.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beetle.
———. s.v. “Boar.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boar
———. s.v. “Goat.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goat
———. s.v. “Hare.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare
———. s.v. “Jack Russell Terrier.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Russell_Terrier
———. s.v. “Patronus Charm.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patronus_Charm
———. s.v. “Tabby Cat.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabby_cat
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, “Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)” http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/factsheets/mammals/Lynx.htm
The Young Peoples Trust for the Environment. “Weasels,” http://www.ypte.org.uk/docs/factsheets/animal_ facts/weasel.html