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Harry Potter – Death Count so far

03 Dec

One of the (myriad) reasons for the Harry Potter coverage being delayed was my decision based on your feedback from the last update to start a count of all the times the characters really should have died had various scenarios been written realistically. After some thought and discussion we decided not to include a lot of the more obvious ones simply because the narrative does provide a way for the problem to be dealt with – for instance, fighting the troll would probably have killed three first-years, but the book acknowledged the danger and showed an actual solution so it gets a pass. Likewise, Harry fighting Quirrell should have killed him but there was an explicit in-universe reason why it didn’t. (And Harry being alive at all, of course, but let’s not completely invalidate the entire series. At least not yet.)

[Basically, if the narrative acknowledges the danger and provides an in-story explanation for why the characters survived and/or weren’t badly injured, we’re probably not going to count it. We’re focusing on evidence of authorial neglect (and, in-story, things like supervisory neglect at Hogwarts), the dangers that should be there if the setting adheres to any level of realism but are elided or glossed over by the narrative.]

I finally found a coherent way of explaining this – we’re explicitly counting things that Rowling didn’t realise would have killed her characters, not things she explained away.

So let’s see the body count so far. Lots of head injuries, as you might expect…


Philosopher’s Stone:

  • Harry dies of exposure after being abandoned overnight on a doorstep in Britain in November at the age of one.
  • (Edit: Neville dies the first time from being thrown off a pier in Blackpool as a toddler. This could have been an honourable mention but there’s nothing in seven books to support the idea that his family care enough to fish him out before he drowns.)
  • Neville dies again from a broken neck after being dropped out of a window by his uncle as a child – he may well have bounced but he still explicitly hit the ground head first.
  • Neville dies a third time in the present day after falling twenty feet off an out of control broom during his first flying lesson.
  • Katie Bell and Marcus Flint both take cannonballs to the head during a Quidditch match.
  • Harry, Ron and Hermione fall an unknown distance of at least four stories down the trap door.
  • Ron dies again shortly afterwards when a giant stone statue bashes him in the head.

Honourable mentions: Vernon, Petunia and Dudley probably drowned trying to swim back to the mainland after Hagrid stole their boat, but it is theoretically possible that the old guy who owns the boat realised they hadn’t come back and sent help, or that there was a lifeboat patrolling nearby after the storm. [Or they could have died of thirst or starvation if they were stranded there long enough without rescue. But there’s enough ambiguity around how to count this that we’ve decided to let it slide.]

Harry nearly swallowing the Snitch likewise gets an honourable mention, since although it would have sliced his face up nicely and caused some damage through choking it wouldn’t have killed him per se. Nor would the resulting fall, since he’s probably the only student anyone would bother trying to save instead of the usual Hogwarts method of letting them splatter.

Scabbers gets an honourable mention for being thrown into a window after biting Goyle. We decided not to include animals because the counts would be sky high, nobody feeds their pets or gives them anywhere safe to sleep and all owl owners constantly make them fly way too far in unsafe conditions, but this one stood out. [Loten didn’t want to include this one, but I argued for it and this was our compromise. I think it’s relevant because Scabbers will later turn out to be (or be retconned as) a human character who is important to the plot, and instances in which he should really have died or sustained brain damage are relevant to assessing how stupid his plan is (and/or how sloppy the retcon was).]

Possible honourable mention, this might be moved to the main count later – any of the kids could have tripped over and broken their necks or fallen on broken branches in the Forbidden Forest detention. The narrative insists the monsters are no threat, and Quirrellmort were too incompetent to be a danger to anyone, but wandering around proper ancient woodland in total darkness isn’t safe regardless of external hazards.

Final count: Neville: 3. Ron: 2. Harry: 2. Minor characters: 2 (Katie and Marcus are unlikely to feature here again). Hermione: 1.

[It’s worth keeping Katie in mind though, for when we eventually get to Half-Blood Prince in something like a decade’s time. She barely exists as a character but might still have more than one entry on the death tally. Though the second one might be better counted for a different tally, “would have been a death if not for Snape’s intervention.”]

I think that tally would be a little redundant since by the end of the series it would comprise literally every character still alive…

Interesting that Neville racks up the highest count despite not being a major character and – according to the narrative – not having the angstiest backstory to ever angst. Yet another argument in favour of his being the superior protagonist.


Chamber of Secrets:

  • Harry and Ron die of dehydration and heatstroke in the flying car that the book insists is more of a flying oven, or alternatively die of dehydration and hypothermia in a more realistically written one.
  • Harry and Ron die again almost immediately when the car crashes.
  • Ron then dies a third time from complications caused by his untreated serious head injury. He’s not doing well.

Count so far: Ron: 3. Harry: 2.

Honourable mentions: Hedwig and Scabbers were both in the car, though Hedwig’s already died from malnutrition and again from exhaustion.

Overall total so far: Ron: 5. Harry: 4. Neville: 2. Minor characters: 2. Hermione: 1.

Feel free to jump into the comments if we forgot something, or if you think something should/should not be included – our criteria were pretty arbitrary and I’m happy to tweak this before we return to the main series.

 
23 Comments

Posted by on December 3, 2017 in loten, mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

23 responses to “Harry Potter – Death Count so far

  1. Rose

    December 4, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    The deaths of exposure in the first and of dehydration in the second are debatable.

    I don’t exactly remember how long Harry was there, canonically, or whether that’s even specified. Theoretically, a cat could have slept on him and kept his body temperature just high enough. Lucky coincidence could have saved him.

    The slightly more reasonable thing to do would be to ring the doorbell after leaving Harry on that doorstep, but I cannot recall them doing anything like this.

    The dehydration thing: Harry and Ron weren’t toddlers left in a closed car, they were children old enough to open a window and/or land the car and get out. I therefore conclude Harry must have exaggerated in the description. (Especially since I do not recall him mentioning any symptoms of heatstroke).

    Regarding Scabbers, I would argue that rats are tough animals (at least the wild ones …), so he might have survived, but it does drive home the point of it being a stupid retcon / very stupid plan. Though one has to take into consideration that originally he was Percy’s pet rat, if I am not mistaken, and Percy would have taken better care of his pet.

    (And Scabbers might have died in the car. Unlike the boys, he wasn’t able to do anything about the situation. Unless … how about Peter turned back to human once he got uncomfortable enough, summoned some water for himself as adult wizards were shown to be able to, erased the boys’ memories of this, and then broke Ron’s wand so that no one would be able to find out he had used it?)

    I don’t worry about Hedwig. There was a juicy rat for her to nibble on.

     
    • Andrensath

      December 6, 2017 at 6:02 am

      It’s heavily implied that they don’t ring the doorbell (and given the general ignorance even supposedly muggle-friendly wizards display, may not know what one is), since the Dursleys don’t learn about Harry getting dumped on them till the following morning.

       
    • Loten

      December 6, 2017 at 10:37 am

      I think making allowances for random cats is stretching a bit too far. Theoretically the house could have caught fire and that could have kept him warm too. It’s explicitly stated he wasn’t found until morning.

      As for the dehydration in the second, you’re right that it would have been completely avoidable, but the narrative makes it clear they didn’t. Harry spends the entire time describing how dangerously uncomfortable they’re getting, with no acknowledgement that they could just stop for a break. If we take the narrative as truth – as we’re always, always meant to, regardless of plausibility – they’d have died. Stopping wouldn’t have helped with dehydration either, only heat – we’re never told just when they’re taught how to create water but I shouldn’t think it was first year and Harry at least is STILL completely incapable of using magic.

      The notion of Peter casually saving himself and mind-wiping them afterwards is certainly interesting, I wish this series were complex enough to support theories like that.

       
  2. janach

    December 6, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Neville gets two potential deaths that we know of before Hogwarts: not only breaking his neck after being dropped out of a window, but also drowning after being pushed off Blackpool Pier. And who knows how many others that he didn’t happen to mention to Harry.

    Terri_testing has written a story branching off from the Blackpool Pier incident, starting with a double drabble, ‘Lost at Sea’ (https://terri-testing.livejournal.com/50427.html ) in which Severus rescues five-year-old Neville with an Accio, then decides not to return him to a family that is willing to let a child drown if he doesn’t measure up their standards. It is followed by multi-chapter ‘Folly’ (https://terri-testing.livejournal.com/50561.html ) in which Severus and his adopted apprentice/son unexpectedly grow attached to each other. Still a work in progress, but if more of us encourage Terri, maybe she’ll continue.

    Fanon likes the idea that the Malfoys kill their squibs, but in actual canon, the Longbottoms (or Augusta’s family, if Algie is her brother) are the only family we know for certain to have attempted it.

     
    • Loten

      December 6, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Good point, I’ll edit to add that one in. The fic sounds cute.

       
  3. Andrensath

    December 6, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Shouldn’t the midnight trip into the Forest count? Even if you ignore the giant anthropophagic spiders since they’re not mentioned until the second book, they’re damn lucky none of them tripped and broke their neck, or got killed by Quirrellmort.

     
    • Loten

      December 6, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Good point. The narrative insists that the Forest is safe so I don’t know that random monster attacks are in the spirit of the count – I’m mostly going for things Rowling didn’t realise would have killed her characters – and Quirrellmort were too incompetent to be a threat, but just breaking their necks from not being able to see a damn thing might need a count. I’ll see what Mitchell thinks and if anyone else wants to weigh in.

       
      • liminal fruitbat

        December 6, 2017 at 11:21 am

        There was enough moonlight to see the dead unicorn and for Firenze to gallop around (and, of course, Hagrid had a lantern, so his group might have been fine), so I’m not sure if the Forest’s darkness was legitimately just enough to be atmospheric-but-not-too-dangerous or if this is plot convenience striking again; I have very little experience of walking around moonlit forests.

         
  4. Ymfon

    December 6, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    How about Ron’s dragon bite in book one? He gets bitten in the evening, by the following morning his hand’s swollen to twice its normal size, and he waits until afternoon to seek help, by which time the wound’s starting to turn green. I know Madam Pomfrey’s supposed to be able to fix almost anything, so maybe this counts under “explained away”, but when Harry and Hermione visit Ron after at least several hours he’s still showing no signs of improvement. And at the very least, I’m side-eyeing the teachers who let him wander around in that state for most of a day.

     
    • Loten

      December 6, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Yeah, I considered that one for a while but since he does (eventually) get medical treatment – and since Hagrid gets bitten more than once without apparent lasting harm – I decided to leave it off. The criteria are pretty arbitrary, I admit 😛

       
      • janach

        December 8, 2017 at 3:36 am

        The example of Hagrid doesn’t entirely match with Ron’s experience, since Hagrid as a half-giant appears to have more resistance to magical injuries than we could expect from Ron. But the fact that Ron gets treatment removes this case from the list of unacknowledged fatalities. Ron neglected his injury at first in proper Gryffindor fashion, but he got to Madame Pomfrey in time for her to save his hand and possibly his life. Likewise Ron went to Madame Pomfrey in Book Six after the canary attack (the coward!), and therefore did not die due to the love of Hermione.

         
  5. Maniafig

    December 11, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Hello!

    I found out about this blog about two weeks ago from the Pokémon Sage review, and was intrigued by all the Harry Potter and miscellaneous posts. I’ve since tore through every blog post, all the way from Pottermore musings to this very death tally.

    I really liked your take on the books so far and have found the spell and death tallies quite amusing. I don’t have much to say right now, but I wish you best of luck in continuing your coverage of the books and in life in general!

    Also, that tally certainly puts Ron the Death Eater in perspective, I wonder who’s going to be at the top of the tally in the end. I’m putting my bet on Neville, the books seem to take a near sadistic delight in putting him in dangerous situations.

     
    • Loten

      December 11, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      Welcome aboard! I don’t think Neville will top the list in the end. If there was any justice in the world he really ought to, but most of his awesome dangerous stuff happens offscreen and I don’t think we’re given enough details to add much to his count… we’ll see when we get there.

       
  6. liminal fruitbat

    December 12, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    I’m not sure Harry’s surviving his confrontation with Quirrellmort is really explained away – Voldemort and his hosts can’t touch Harry, but to paraphrase Ron, is Quirrell a wizard or not?

     
    • faktririjekt

      December 13, 2017 at 6:30 am

      Somehow, I never thought about that.

       
    • Loten

      December 13, 2017 at 9:01 am

      He is. He’s also monumentally stupid. Realistically Harry shouldn’t have stood a chance, but the book’s consistently shown that the villains are idiots, so it does make sense that the final confrontation would continue in that vein. (Given that Quirrell was allegedly a Ravenclaw, I think we have to conclude that the process of possession caused brain damage.) We certainly ranted enough during that post about all the ways Quirrell could have stopped Harry.

       
      • Andrensath

        December 13, 2017 at 6:53 pm

        TBH, a lot of stuff in the books only makes sense if you assume the characters involved are idiots and/or actively malicious (*side-eyes Dumbledore*). Announcing that obstacle course to the entire school is a case in point.

         
  7. Cl Hanson

    January 1, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Hi Loten and Mitchell — I really love your Harry Potter deconstructions. I read all of them right after discovering your site (through Ana Mardoll’s site) in February of 2017. But in the second half of 2017 you only did one chapter!

    Naturally I can’t complain about a free service, but I’d definitely be willing to become a patreon subscriber if it would help. (Do you have a patreon account?) At this rate you’re never going to finish the series…

    BTW, I once made a brief Harry Potter video that you might find amusing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnRP2cn_a1E

     
    • Loten

      January 3, 2018 at 7:31 am

      Welcome aboard! Thanks for the question, but no, we don’t have a Patreon; unless it made enough for us both not to have to work, it wouldn’t really help (we live in different time zones and work non-traditional, i.e. non-sleep-friendly, hours). But our update rate has been shocking recently, I know – we’re planning to start the next chapter this weekend and hopefully things will pick up. Thanks for your patience in the meantime. Nice video, too.

       
      • Cl Hanson

        January 3, 2018 at 6:39 pm

        Yeah, I totally understand how hard it can be. I have a couple of blogs myself that I don’t really have time to fill with regular content.

        On a related note, is there any chance I could send you a proposed guest-post/reader-essay? The essay is a lot more relevant to your audience than to mine, and I’d be curious to get some feedback on it from people who enjoy analysing the Harry Potter series.

        If you are open to the idea, please email me, and I’ll send it to you. I think the WP admin dashboard should show you my email address.

         
    • mcbender

      January 6, 2018 at 10:33 pm

      Thanks for stopping by; we always appreciate getting feedback on our work, and I hope you’ll stick around for future instalments 🙂 (I think I recognise you from elsewhere on the internet, too; not that you’d necessarily know, since I often lurk places without commenting. Regardless, it’s good to see you here.)

      That said, it’s hard to keep a steady update schedule and the two of us have joked to each other that this project will take us the better part of a decade at least. We haven’t abandonned it, but this past year has been quite hectic and it’s a lot harder to schedule time to work on these when our offline lives keep intruding.

      I will email you about your guest post request. At the very least, we’d be interested in reading what you have to say; I don’t want to make any promises about hosting it until after we’ve seen it and had a chance to discuss. Our audience is also fairly small, judging by the kind of traffic numbers I see, so I can’t make you any promises about the kind of engagement such a guest post might receive.

       
      • chanson

        January 7, 2018 at 10:00 am

        Cool, I’ve just sent the essay — I hope you’ll like it!

        That would be a funny coincidence if you’ve seen me around on the Internet. I used to be a very active blogger several years ago. Now I mostly just write for Main Street Plaza ( http://mainstreetplaza.com/ ) , and even that’s kind of winding down. Harry Potter isn’t one of my main topics, but I wrote some posts about the series a few years ago: http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.ch/search/label/Harry%20Potter

         

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