Harry Potter and the Horrors of World Building

Let’s have some posts about things we can just lightheartedly hate on.

When Andreas talked about the problems of interspecies relations in Pokémon, he also touched on the Harry Potter universe. I have talked about the world building problems in Harry Potter before though mostly in comments, so this is a nice opportunity to put those thoughts into a stand alone piece.

I’ll start by saying that most fictional worlds, whether low fantasy settings (such as Harry Potter, which plays in our world where magical beings are hidden) or high fantasy settings (say Lord of the Rings or Discworld, where the world is definitely not Earth) have some major issues with their world building. This is kind of natural and stems from several problems:

Number one: people want to tell stories, not histories. Unless you’re a freak like Tolkien, who invented a language first and then built a world to serve that language, authors often don’t start out building a logical and consistent world. Instead they build a world around their stories. As the stories grow, the world grows, things are added to serve the story, earlier features are in conflict with later points. This is often closely linked to –

Number two: the longer a series, the more troublesome the worldbuilding gets. Especially when the author didn’t expect a series to run that long, and the series doesn’t have a fixed end point, but more of an episodic character. I think the Discworld novels are a really good example of that. When you read the first ones, there are many things that just disappear in the later ones. In Equal Rites a powerful female wizard is established, yet we never hear of her again.

Number three: authors make use of their bad knowledge of our own world. This is often the case in medievalist fantasy: People have some really shoddy ideas of the middle ages, they fill the gaps with “knowledge” from other fantasy or from our own world, thus creating impossible trade relationships, unsustainable farming, etc. I always cringe when the poor part of town is characterised by “food and old barrels rotting in the street”. No medieval person would have let a barrel gone to rot. There was iron in that thing. And they would have used all the food. If it was truly inedible they’d have fed it to some animal to eat the animal.

Number four: authors don’t know how to wrap up loose endings. Sure, life doesn’t work backwards, so when something happens, it doesn’t have a specific and in mind. Life also doesn’t have a last page by which all major stories should come to an end. Life just goes on. Books don’t. If a story had several story lines going on, and only one of them comes to a satisfying end, readers and viewers are disappointed. Sometimes when authors notice those loose ends, they just put something in the world that makes them end.

These issues are often less pronounced in works where the whole series has been thought out before the first book was published. Notable examples are N.K. Jeminsin’s Broken Earth trilogy, or Seanan Macguire’s October Daye series. They are very different series, with one being a trilogy that works from start to end on one story, and the other one being a many novel series where different stand alone stories are connected with a longer story.

So, how do these issues apply to Harry Potter? The problems in the Harry Potter universe are two-fold: One is a very shoddy world building from the pure standpoint of “does it work”? the other one is a moral issue: “Are the things depicted as moral and heroic actually moral?”. I’ll add that I come from a perspective of having loved Harry Potter, been immersed in the fandom, and then having first sobered and then soured on the novels, long before their author revealed herself as a racist Queen Terf.

Let’s start with the first part: Why the Harry Potter universe doesn’t work.

Harry Potter play in Britain, where a parallel magic world exists that is kept secret from the non-magical people, although it keeps interacting with it. The major issue here is size. Let’s start with the central location for the novels: Hogwarts. Hogwarts is the one and only boarding school in Britain and Ireland where almost all wizards and witches send their kids to, plus the kids from non-magical families who show magical abilities. This means we have all children of the magical population in one school. This should give us an idea about the size of the magical population. If you look at Harry Potter’s year, this comes down to around 40 kids, give or take a few. We know most of Harry’s housemates by name (Harry, Ron, Neville, Hermione, Dean, Seamus, Padme, Parvati, Lavender,…), and a few from the other houses. Always two houses a year share one class, which means that two houses have about 20 kids together, so it’s 40 in a year. If we suppose that each year is about 1% of the total population (wizards live in general longer, but some still die young, and it’s a ballpark figure anyway) that leaves you with a total wizarding population of about 4000 people.

That’s not much. That in and on itself isn’t the problem. the problem is the rest of the world, because it’s a world with really huge specialisation in work. The ministry alone has several highly specialised branches with their own training and prerequisites. How many Aurors are there? The Mystery department? Then there’s several competing companies that just specialise in brooms much like there are car brands. It’s made clear that they are luxury items that are often handed down within families. Unlike cars they aren’t even useful  for your everyday life, since public transport works in less prominent ways, for example via the chimneys (another major part in the wizarding world we only learn about in book 4 or so, presumably because the author needed a plot device). Even if broommakers were just family businesses, there’s not enough demand to actually sustain them, especially with a new model being developed and going on the market every year or so. Not to mention that there are apparently several companies that produce sweets and clothing, let alone magical artifacts. Even if they source all their material from the muggle world, where does stuff come from?

And where do people come from? In a community of a few thousand people, everybody will be related to everybody else. Yet strangely, people don’t seem to have relatives. There’s Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange and that’s about it. The Weasleys have a hell lot of kids, but no cousins? Come on, my town is much larger than all the wizarding world combined and even I went to school with my cousin. One explanation given is that wizards tend to marry Muggles, but that only gets you a whole other bunch of problems: Where do they meet? The wizards are so oblivious of non-wizarding world, they hardly manage to take public transport, but they manage to engage in meaningful relationships with Muggles*?

Another area where numbers don’t add up is Quidditch. Now, the game as such doesn’t make much sense apart from establishing Harry’s status as super hero, but even if we accept the ridiculous premise, who’s playing the game? We know that all kids are in Hogwarts. Hogwarts has 4 houses, 7  kids play in a house team. That makes 28 junior players at any given time, yet for some reason, outside of Hogwarts there’s a whole league outside of school. And the Captain of the school’s most successful team can only get a job as an extra once he leaves school?

Now, all of these things can be dismissed as “nitpicking”. They don’t distract from the magic world, you can simply ignore them, and indeed, it took me some time to spot them, and I am after all somebody who studied literature and is therefore trained to view such things with a critical eye. What I found far more annoying was the deus ex machina called the Deathly Hallows. Somehow, the Deathly Hallows are a fundamental part of wizarding folklore, yet they never appear within six books. The Horcruxes, they make sense. They felt natural within the world. Throughout the books it was hinted that Voldemort had done things that made him basically immortal, enchanted artifacts make sense within the world, and, well, that’s also knowledge you wouldn’t throw at preteens and young teens.

But the Deathly Hallows? How did they never come up, even as some figure of speech? Just think about how our fairly tales influence our world, how we will casually call somebody “Sleeping Beauty” or “Cinderella”. Hoe my husband will use Harry Potter’s own “Lumos” while turning on the lights, or how we have taken to call somebody naive “my sweet summer child” from GoT. Yet, nothing. Six books and not even Ron ever mentions how Harry’s invisibility cloak is damn special, just like the one in the fairy tale. Indeed, the cloak isn’t treated as extraordinary throughout those books. Ron, who is our wizarding encyclopedia, treats it as another luxury item his friend got, but not as beyond attainable. In the end, the Hallows feel like an easy way to finish up the story without giving it too much thought.

I could go on and on about the problems with the world, not just in HP, but the other works like Magical Beasts (please explain a Jewish wizarding girl in New York to me), but I’ll leave it at this. I’ll write about the ethical problems another day , since the post got long already.

*How those relationships are portrayed is a different matter for the “Ethics” post.


  1. anat says

    In Equal Rites a powerful female wizard is established, yet we never hear of her again.

    She shows up again in person in ‘I shall wear midnight’. She is still powerful, still doing her own thing. But the idea of training girls as wizards at the Unseen University, as was proposed at the end of Equal Rites never took off (perhaps the archchancellor of that time got assassinated too soon afterward, as was the tradition in pre-Ridcully days).

  2. DonDueed says

    Yes, the worldbuilding in HP is far from perfect, but that’s pretty common in serial fantasy (as you pointed out). Many of the points you make have been handwaved or retconned by the fandom. For example, the invisibility cloak’s uniqueness is masked in part by the fact that two of the three main characters were raised in the muggle world, and the third (Ron) seems to think such cloaks are “really rare” but not necessarily the one and only Hallow — which was an element of a fairy tale. Would someone in our world who was presented with a glass slipper assume it was Cinderella’s actual footwear?

    For me there are other, far more problematic aspects to the HP canon, which I’m sure you will eventually cover if you proceed with posts about ethics in the HPverse. One thing that really stands out is the absolutely shameful standards for pedagogy and mentoring at Hogwarts!

  3. xohjoh2n says

    @2 I’ve always thought there should be an OFSTED report into Hogwarts that recommended immediate replacement of the senior management team and placement into special measures.

  4. says

    I noticed the population of the school vs. gen pop numbers of witches & wizards when I first read it. I thought it was a bad error. (All she had to do was make Hogwarts a version of Eton, which it already was in some ways, and allow for many other “lesser” schools of unspecified number.)

    The cloak bit didn’t bother me b/c Ron specifically compares the invisibility cloak to more common cloaks that provide something between exceptional camouflage & invisibility, saying he hadn’t thought about how the cloak was decades old yet still providing perfect invisibility. I actually found this quite plausible, since kids tend to accept what is in their environment as “normal”. The hallow was legendary; the cloak was just a thing they used to sneak out after curfew. The way the mind of a child works would tend to connect the object with ordinary activities (slipping out past curfew) rather than epic/legendary events (defeating death). In fact, many kids tend not to think about death a lot.

    Anyway, Ron is a bit of a ditz, so, again, there’s that.

    But, yes, there’s bad world building in HP, even if I wasn’t bothered by the specific example of the cloak.

  5. anat says

    The fun thing to do with the Potterverse is to take anything that was thrown at the reader in a later book and see what it implies to events of early books, what it implies to characters who would have known such things and so forth.

    Like -- what were the twins thinking when they constantly saw the name ‘Peter Pettigrew’ accompanying Percy on The Marauders’ Map? (And they would have wanted to know if Percy was around to catch them at their mischief.) Or what did the map show next to Quirrell when he was being possessed? (I’m guessing ‘Tom Riddle’)

    How did a ‘Vanishing Cabinet’ that was paired with another at a wizarding artefact shop end up at Hogwarts? Was it being used by students or staff for quick clandestine trips to London? If not -- what prevented them? Who built all those ‘secret passages’ under Hogwarts and how many people had discovered them over the years? Why didn’t the school block them?

    In their third year Harry and his friends learn about so many magical creatures, yet in DH the trio are camping all over Britain and never run into any. How come? Are they all on verge of extinction outside of locations such as the Forbidden Forest?

  6. Callinectes says

    It’s known that Arthur Weasley had two brothers, they were either childless or were, with their children, of a very different age. A Weasley cousin in Slytherin was cut from the story. Molly’s brothers were in the original Order of the Phoenix, and were both murdered.

    Everything we know about Magical Britain is post-war, whole families had been wiped out and it is likely considered inappropriate for Hogwarts student to pry into each other’s parents, for many have lost one or both. Harry’s year were born at the height of it, and are thus likely the smallest cohort. This is of course post-hoc rationalisation.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    “please explain a Jewish wizarding girl in New York to me”

    Given that this is Rowling, who created Gringotts Bank, staffed entirely by sinister, hook nosed goblins who love money, my explanation for this would be something the lines of “New York -- fuckin Jooz EVERYWHERE, amirite?”

  8. Allison says

    With a lot of these story “universes,” I can’t tell if the authors have a poor understanding of physics, population arithmetic, economics, etc., or if they just don’t care — that is, it’s all wish-fulfullment fantasy anyway, like a daydream, so things don’t have to fit together or make sense. You’re not supposed to ask questions, you’re just supposed to enjoy the fun things that happen.

    (And you’re not supposed to worry about what the characters that aren’t main characters go through. Their sufferings and deaths are just plot points, at best. They’re just “redshirts,” who have no existence or humanity beyond what happens to them. Cf. John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts or the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.)

    What bothers me is the sneaking feeling that people frequently approach real-world things with the same attitude. You can believe “facts” which don’t fit together or make sense because they’re part of a daydream of how things really are that you find satisfying. Things like QAnon, or the fantasy that Trump really won the election. Basically, things are “true” if you want them to be true.

  9. anat says

    Crip Dyke: In the first book Hagrid says Hogwarts is the best wizarding school in the country, implying there were others, but in book 4 when the kids encounter unfamiliar teenagers at the Quidditch World cup they immediately assume they must be from another country. And even if there are additional schools in Britain, how is it determined who attends which one? Hogwarts has students from all over the country, from all levels of income, and with a very broad range of raw magical talent, with or without known magical parentage.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Maybe magical kids have to take their own version of the eleven-plus exam. The top scorers go to Hogwarts, and the rest go to various magical comprehensive schools.

  11. says

    Whoa, hold yer horses, I planned a similar post after reading at Andreas’s. Are yo channeling my thoughts?

    I did like the HP books for a really long time because the characters are mostly well written and believable. I was not that much bothered by the inconsistent worldbuilding since the whole premise of the books is silly. I could suspend my disbelief enough to ignore the inconsistencies you mention, although I did notice them too.

    What I was not able to ignore though was how insufferable were the wizards as a whole and a whole plethora of dubious moral issues in their society. Let’s list a few:
    1) Date rape drugs. Not only apparently legal but sold over the counter to teenagers to boot. I was appalled at this and I was seriously surprised that a woman would include something like that in her books. If they were only illegal, then they could be a useful plot device, but the Weasleys selling them? WTF?
    2) Racism towards anyone not wizard enough. And I am not only thinking about hostile racism ala Voldemort. The condescending benign racism of Arthur Weasley was cringey and asking for a knuckle sandwich too on occasion.
    3) House-elves. An entire race enslaved and nobody even thinks about it? And when Hermione actually starts a discussion, it is presented as something ridiculous that she grows out of later on. Real-life racism was never so clear cut, even in ancient times were people who objected to slavery. That wizards as a whole had such a blind spot is just appalling. And sweet Molly Weasley longed for nothing more than having a slave of her own, although she already could do most household chores by a flicker of a wand with ease that even modern technology does not give to any housewife.
    4) Complete disregard of privacy and consent of non-wizards and sometimes even wizards. Wiping someone’s memory without their consent is an assault and as such should be the last resort to avoid the use of deadly force only. But in the books, the wizards are sometimes shown quicker on the draw with it than US policeman draw their guns when faced with a black man showing empty hands.
    5) More disregard for privacy -- Moody’s magical eye, which he can use -- and apparently does use -- to look through people’s clothes. At a school full of teenagers. And this is actually even hinted at as being creepy as hell -- yet the eye is still allowed and OK?
    6) The magical education is, frankly, crap. Nowhere in the books is a mention of educating the kids in non-magic but essential things, like maths, language, civics etc. That can’t work, since wizards obviously need to be able to count (especially with those nonsensical prime-number ratios for their currency). Children go to wizarding school at eleven years, and they obviously already know some basics there, so where did they learn it? there is some hinting at homeschooling, but with no standard imposed that would be widely problematic. The kids could of course go to muggle schools before that, but that is inconsistent with them being totally bamboozled with such ordinary things as non-moving pictures.
    7) Complete disregard of the lives of apparently sentient and sapient creatures such as mandrakes -- who are deemed “ripe” when they stop being secluded and shy and throw a party. This implies intelligence on a level with humans.

  12. says

    I have not read any of the Rotten Harpy‘s books, so no comment there.

    Elfquest is a good example of world building going from right to wrong. When WaRP (Wendy and Richard Pini) first planned the comics, they were only writing and expecting a two year run. They worked out all the details of where in the world and who, the distances involved, the histories, languages, etc. Everything made sense and fit in, even when it was new, because they had planned all the stories and events in advance. You can read those comics and never need any of the subsequent material.

    The second series -- and expansion of the world -- was written after the first run of comics became popular. Because they had an existing world with gaps they could add things, they were able to write a new series and reuse characters. Again, the second series felt complete and you can stop there. By the third series and later, it started to become product, creating new characters because they couldn’t reuse the ones before or prequels to give unnecessary backstory. Eventually you run out of room and new ideas, and the quality suffers.

    Another is Michael Moorcock’s “Eternal Champion” multiverse, which I spent my teen years reading. Each EC came from a different universe created from scratch, so they never had to be consistent -- the most powerful gods in one universe were minor in another, and the human or humanoid beings in each were different. They only time he had to be consistent was when multiple ECs met at certain points, and that was in an alternate universe. Even then, that “meeting” story gets told multiple times in different ways across each series.

  13. says


    Everything we know about Magical Britain is post-war, whole families had been wiped out and it is likely considered inappropriate for Hogwarts student to pry into each other’s parents, for many have lost one or both. Harry’s year were born at the height of it, and are thus likely the smallest cohort. This is of course post-hoc rationalisation.

    Nah, I’m not buying it. Times of crisis usually get families together, not shut up about being related to each other. And even with all the death, how come families never work horizontally? The only one who’s got an aunt is Harry, whose aunt is not a witch. And with just 4-5k people they would have to be related at least as second cousins or something.
    Re: school
    In some book or other the Weasleys explain that it’s either Hogwarts or home schooling and in book 7 Hogwarts is made mandatory for all “purebloods”

    @ Charly Hey, most of the time I’m happy to know my own thoughts…
    But you don’t need to take revenge by writing my second post as a comment. *sticks out tongue*

  14. says

    And even with all the death, how come families never work horizontally?


    She needs a population of a couple hundred thousand -- at least -- just to support a single large shopping center like Diagon Alley. So that’s also evidence against the idea that there are really only a few thousand magic folk in the UK. But if you did want more evidence, Giliell is absolutely correct that in a population of just a few thousand there would be more relatives that are important to one another than we see. Neville living with his grandmother is just one example (and perhaps the only example) of a phenomenon we should have seen throughout the books, but didn’t. We didn’t even really have any experiences of older siblings or younger siblings showing up in the books save for the Weasleys & the Creeveys. It’s kind of weird, when you think about it, that amongst the minor characters in the student body there are exactly as many instances of a pair of older/younger sibs as there are of twins. (At least IIRC.)

  15. lumipuna says

    In the first book Hagrid says Hogwarts is the best wizarding school in the country, implying there were others, but in book 4 when the kids encounter unfamiliar teenagers at the Quidditch World cup they immediately assume they must be from another country.

    My sister’s ex-boyfriend, an Englishman, once told us how in England they have “football schools” and “rugby schools”. In retrospect, I figure he was probably trying to make some point about social class.

    At the time, however, I was distracted by an instant association with Hogwarts, where life seems to largely revolve around quidditch. This notion of school experience being defined by a sport is culturally alien to me, something that seems befitting Fantasy England, but then causes a little whiplash when it comes up in real life. I immediately proceeded to make some quip about “quidditch schools”.

    Now, it occurs to me, you could perhaps retcon that quidditch is only one of several wizard sports, and only played (seriously, anyway) in one school in Britain. Then again, I don’t really care, I only have hazy memories of reading the first four books before growing out of the series.

  16. says

    I wouldn’t mention this if picking nits wasn’t sort of the plat du jnour here, but…

    @13 Giliell

    The only one who’s got an aunt is Harry, whose aunt is not a witch.

    This is technically not true. Though it’s weird none of this is mentioned in an appropriately familial context, Narcissa Malfoy, née Black, had three siblings: Bellatrix LeStrange, Regulus Black… and Sirius Black. So at least before everything went all war-flavored, Draco had at least one aunt and two uncles.

    Voldemort’s immediate family was revealed as well and included his uncle, Morfin Gaunt. Then there’s whole weird family trees…

    None of this addresses the actual underlying weirdness though: you could even argue it’s WEIRDER that the various aunts and uncles and cousins and such exist but are somehow irrelevant and not really treated in a familial way by… anyone, ever.

  17. says


    We didn’t even really have any experiences of older siblings or younger siblings showing up in the books save for the Weasleys & the Creeveys.

    Yeah, I am now in my third year of teaching at a small middle school and I have so many siblings and cousins in my different classes now…

    Hmmm, so we got uncles and aunts (very few of them), but they’re always evil?
    I think Tonks had some family relationship with someone, but yeah…

  18. anat says

    We are told in passing (by Sirius?) that all pureblood families are related, that both Molly and Arthur are related to the Black family somehow, and the Black Family Tree (with all its obvious mistakes such as a couple of 13-year-old fathers) has a Prewett (who might have been Molly’s uncle) married to one of the later-generation Black women and another Black woman from another branch was burned off the tree for having married a Weasley (Arthur’s dad), making Ron and Draco third cousins once removed (at least, they might be closer related through some other path). Re: Tonks -- she is Draco’s first cousin.

    At Bill and Fleur’s wedding we meet the extended Weasley family, and Ron definitely has uncles (plural), to the point that by disguising Harry as someone with red hair gets him passed as some relative. Yet none of these relatives ever pop up for a visit or even a floo-call during any of the times Harry was staying with the Weasleys, nor do they ever send Christmas cards or gifts. The only relatives the Weasley kids ever mention are Molly’s second cousin who is an accountant (presumably in the people world -- we don’t have to call ourselves by a term imposed by others), Molly’s great-aunt Muriel (who shows up at the wedding), and Uncle Bilius (whom the kids remembered, but he was dead by the time he was first mentioned in book 3).

  19. says

    Complete disregard of the lives of apparently sentient and sapient creatures such as mandrakes — who are deemed “ripe” when they stop being secluded and shy and throw a party. This implies intelligence on a level with humans.

    I feel like a lot of these are cases of “that sounds funny” and then she never stopped to think it through. Arthur Weasley’s lack of understanding of muggles often comes across like that.

    Personally, I find the political and legal system rather fascinating. It seems to suffer from the same problems. E.g. in PoA there’s a throw-away comment about how the Minister of Magic had to inform the Prime Minister about Sirius’ escape.
    Hold on, does that mean the ministry of magic is actually a ministry of the British government? Except most of the electorate has no idea they exist and if they find out, ministry officials come along and wipe their memories. It’s starting to sound rather Men In Black-ish.

    Wiping someone’s memory without their consent is an assault and as such should be the last resort to avoid the use of deadly force only.

    Weirdly, memory charms aren’t unforgivable curses, which means if you’ve performed an unforgivable curse, there’s no incentive to not try to wipe the memory of every witness.
    Indeed, if you wipe a person’s memory, installing a new one where they’re your friend and servant and owe you their life, you can achieve much the same as an Imperious curse. This ties into the love potions, as well. Apparently, it’s not a problem to mentally control other people, you’re just not allowed to do it with this one particular spell. Any other way is fine.
    Same with killing. Use Avada Kedavra: Unforgivable. Use Stupefy and then strangle the guy: No problem.

  20. anat says

    Same with killing. Use Avada Kedavra: Unforgivable. Use Stupefy and then strangle the guy: No problem.

    You can also torture someone with Wingardium Leviosa -- a first year spell -- if you are so inclined. Or kill them.

    When in book 1 the possessed Quirrell says that he gave up his ideals and adopted Voldemort’s philosophy that there is no good nor evil, only power we are supposed to expect differently from normative wizarding society, but wizarding society is based on power, and there is not that greta a difference between Voldemort and everyone else.

  21. says

    The kind of examples mentioned in the original post are the things I can overlook. The author should have mentioned that there exist other wizard schools in the UK for the population numbers to make sense? Oh well, that’s relatively not a huge deal. Of course, I often notice such “minor” mistakes while reading some book and they do bother me to some extent, but usually I just read on a story without dwelling on it. In my headcanon I can just imagine that there are other wizard schools in the UK.

    The kind of examples Charly listed @#11 (date rape drugs, racism…) are the ones that I cannot just decide to overlook. That’s where my brain starts to scream, “Wait, stop, there’s a huge problem with this story!”


    Unless you’re a freak like Tolkien, who invented a language first and then built a world to serve that language

    Linguists are not freaks. And we can have a hobby. Pondering about how to construct a new language is super fun. Not that I ever created a language, it would be lots of work. Personally, I was instead more interested in playing with developing new writing systems for existing languages. It’s really fun.

  22. says

    Honestly, hasn’t everyone tried inventing a language or alphabet? I know I at least tried long enough to realize that it was way more difficult than I’d thought.

  23. says

    Linguists are not freaks

    Hey, no need to be upset. First of all, I did not call all b linguists freaks. Second, I read Tolkien back when that made me a freak. I do have the LotR in three different languages as well as a couple of course books on both Sindarin and Quenya. Inventing a language is cool. Inventing a complete world with its own (pretty consistent) mythology and history just as a backdrop for the language? That’s beyond it.

  24. says

    @LykeX #22 I do not know about everybody, but I did, as a kid, try to devise my own alphabet. It was fun for one afternoon and then I forgot it, but I did try.

  25. 183231bcb says

    One that always warded me out is that in Book 7, we find out Ron can open the Chamber of Secrets just by imitating Harry’s parstletoungue. But in book 6, we found out Dumbledore could actually fully understand parstletoungue when watching memories of the Gaunts. Dumbledore was a teacher when Myrtle died: he ought to have known where she died. Putting it all together, that means Dumbledore had 50 years after V first opened the Chamber of Secrets to go there, see a fairly obvious emblem on the sink, open the chamber himself, go inside and kill the basilisk. Why didn’t he do it?

  26. says

    @ 183231bcb, that Ron was able to open the chamber of secrets was a bit of “Deux ex Machina” moment. This one moment stood out to me as especially immersion-breaking.
    As a multilingual person, I know that trying to remember and imitate one word of a language you have only once heard but not understood is extremely difficult. And since parseltongue is basically just hissing, it is safe to assume that it would rely on inflection and tone to convey meaning, and those are the hardest to imitate.
    But I never interpreted anything in the book as implying that Dumbledore actually understands parseltongue, merely that he recognizes it as such when he hears someone else speak it. So he would not be able to imitate the word “open” unless he actually too heard someone say it.

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