Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 75

It’s the final chapter of Book Four and here’s our final Goblet question:

In this last chapter, Harry notices the horseless carriages coming towards the students. Bearing in mind Jo’s own words on the matter, do you agree or disagree that Harry should have been ready to see the Thestrals at the end of this book? Hasn’t Harry been through enough and come to enough of a realisation of what has happened, for the Thestrals to be visible to him now? Or, if Cedric’s death needs more time to sink in, at what point precisely would this have occurred for Harry?

Let us know in the comments below!


Jo’s interview answer:

“With Cedric, fair point. Harry had just seen Cedric die when he got back into the carriages to go back to Hogsmeade station. I thought about that at the end of Goblet, because I have known from the word go what was drawing the carriages. From Chamber of Secrets, in which there are carriages drawn by invisible things, I have known what was there. I decided that it would be an odd thing to do right at the end of a book. Anyone who has suffered a bereavement knows that there is the immediate shock but that it takes a little while to appreciate fully that you will never see that person again. Until that had happened, I did not think that Harry could see the Thestrals. That means that when he goes back, he saw these spooky things. It set the tone for Phoenix, which is a much darker book.”

– JKR, Edinburgh Book Festival, Sunday 15th August 2004.

  • spielerman

    Here’s a somewhat refined thought experiment from the one that appears on the episode: Say that there are 25 people (men, women, children – all magical) in a room where a sudden and unexpected death occurs. Every person witnesses this death, which happened of natural causes in the room’s epicenter. If you were to assign a Thestral to each of the remaining people, and after they leave the room the Thestral follows them everywhere they go (quietly), when do they become able to see it? Right at the beginning? In a day? A week? A month? Is it different for each person, and is that based on age? If not, which factors?

    • ArchdukeSeverus

      it would also be interesting to see if any of the people don’t see the thestral at all. I expect that even though Voldemort has seen death he does have the capacity to feel the emotions necessary to see thestrals.

      • Thestral

        I AGREE

  • mollywobbles

    If you look at grief/loss from a traditional Kubler-Ross model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and if according to J.K.’s quote Harry would need to fully process the loss of Cedric before “seeing” then it would make sense that he cannot yet see the Thestrals at the end of the school year. Harry has had some time to start on the stages and has clearly made some progress when we encounter the horseless carriages but we can see in his upcoming “emo summer” his depression and may only come to true acceptance of this loss after moving to Grimwald place and being again in an environment where he feels loved.

  • Ellen Dawn

    My view on the subject of Harry not seeing the thestrals is definitely more aligned with Eric’s comments on the episode. I understand that JK’s reasoning about people accepting death makes sense, but I still think the horseless carriages at the end of the 4th book were definitely more of a plot choice. At the end of the quotation, JK mentions that she needed the thestrals to set the tone in the 5th book. I think that this (and the introduction of Luna, etc.) is the only reason Harry can’t see them at the end of GOF. Basically, I think that JK came up with the reasoning for it because she knew it would be questioned, but her motives were based on the way she saw book 5 unfolding.

    On the second point made by Eric (the mass death witness for thestral research, haha), I think most would be in agreement that everyone would see the thestral at a different time, if we are using JK’s reasoning. People go through grief at different pace’s, and some people actually never come to terms with death. That is one of the reasons I don’t agree with JK’s explanation. Harry has definitely not come to terms with Cedrics death by the time he arrives at Hogwarts and see’s the thestrals. That leads me to believe that under JK’s explanation, you can see thestrals part way through the grief process. Perhaps at the depression stage?

    Also, I do believe that age has a significant effect on the grief process, so in turn it would have an effect on the timing of thestral visibility. A young child who has never dealt with death before would perhaps not even understand what had happened and therefore would not be able to see the thestral at any point. There is evidence in the book to support this. Harry can’t see the thestrals in first year even though he witnessed both his parents deaths (and does have some suppressed memories of the event as we see through his dreams of green flashes in SS and his encounters with dementors in POA).

    And on the topic of young people and the grief process, do thestrals only work for human death? What if a young child was to lose a dog that they have had their entire life? Would they be able to see a thestral once they had accepted that death? In reality, the child will go through a grieving process very similar to losing a human family member since the dog has always been a part of their life.

    • QuibblerKat

      Your last point is interesting — to go further, would seeing a house elf’s death trigger it? If someone were to witness a goblin’s death, or a Veela’s, or a giant’s, would they see them?

    • Susan

      I completely agree. Before reading the post from Jo mentioned above, I thought that the carriages were supposed to remain horseless for the entire series, and that Jo came up with the thestrals between book 4 and 5 (just before she wrote Fantastic beasts). The fact that the carriages are horseless, is a very unusual aspect of Hogwarts. I was therefore not surprised that Jo would mention horseless carriages at this point in Goblet of Fire.

      But while writing Order, the Thestrals became crucial in the developing the plot, both in Harry dealing with death and being separated from everyone, and in transporting Harry and co to London. It is in OotP that Harry really needs (to see) them. But he should have been able to see the Thestrals at the end of book 4. So this was a mistake. The idea of death needing to sink in, always came across as an afterthought, a cop out to me. I considered it a Mark Evans.

    • Thestral

      I don’t think a child would be able to see Thestrals if the
      only loss they had experienced was that of
      their first beloved family pet. I still remember my first dog very, very vividly.
      He was a big German shepherd collie mix, and he would always lick me whenever I
      wanted. He was so loving, and I was crushed when he died, but my parents helped
      me through it. That loss, I don’t think would’ve been dramatic enough. Having
      just lost my beloved father, I can tell you that the grief is so much more
      severe than losing your first pet, and I know some people grieve very heavily
      at the loss of a pet. I think in order
      to see them, you have to have experienced the death of a close family member or
      friend. Not only that, but you must be at least starting to process grief to be
      able to see them. I think you may only be able to see a Thestral at the death
      of a pet, if, say, that animal was literally your best friend, and had helped
      you through a lot in life, and if they were your first real loss. If for
      instance, you were an adult who lived alone with a pet, or you were a child or
      adult who lost a service dog. Those losses are very real, since those
      friendships are unusually, fiercely, strong. So yes, you might be able to see
      them on account of losing a beloved animal, but usually, people in that
      situation would be older, and might have already lost someone whom they care
      about deeply. But I think the ability to see Thestrals is meant to be linked to
      human loss. I don’t mean to discount individuals like Dobby or Griphook. If the
      first death Harry witnessed and was aware of processing was Dobby, I think he
      would’ve been able to see them, particularly since he was so close to Dobby.
      This would also explain why Harry couldn’t see them for years, not until Cedric’s
      death. He had certainly grieved the loss of his parents, but never having known
      them, it was an entirely different kind of grief. It’s like loving and missing
      someone whom you never knew. If he had been a child, not a baby, and been able
      to remember them clearly, I think the pain and grief would have allowed him to
      see Thestrals earlier.

  • QuibblerKat

    If you look at the stages of grief, denial is an early stage – this would demonstrate that Harry might still be at a point of it all being somewhat surreal. He didn’t see Cedric frequently, so he would not have felt a tangible lack of his presence for a time. If Ron had died suddenly at the end of the year, I think Harry would have seen the thestrals. That week of constant grief would have been enough for it to totally sink in. But with Cedric, a week of not seeing him — even though Harry logically knew Cedric was dead — would not have seemed out of the ordinary, so the constant absence of Cedric would take longer perhaps to settle in. Harry’s emotional state would have been in turmoil, with the confusion, shock, grief — there wasn’t enough time for him to process it by the time of seeing the “horseless” carriages.

    Also, to point out: even without the thestrals, technically the carriages are horseless. There are only thestrals, not horses. So, if Jo had wanted to, she could have said that he saw the thestrals, but didn’t see horses, thus reinforcing the horseless carriages.

    • Olivia Underwood

      Totally agree about the denial of death and the illusion that remains in the mind of the witness: the feeling that the deceased are still alive. What I wonder is whether you have to feel remorse or grief in order to see the thestrals or whether you just need to be capable of acknowledging the death. I’m thinking specifically about Voldemort, because if we think along the lines of what Rowling has officially stated, he should not be able to see the thestrals, despite the fact that he has killed countless people. To expand further, this technically means that psychopaths (and one could argue sociopaths) in general cannot see them either, and that creates an interesting dynamic about the thestrals. They are the physical embodiment of sadness, grief and loss, which are all different sides of love. They do not, in fact, represent death itself, which is why they are seen as warm and good-natured, living, breathing animals to Harry and Luna, not ghosts or dementor-like figures. They are misinterpreted as omens of evil, because people fear not evil, but losing those that they love and having to feel these indescribable emotions. It also makes me think about who actually came up with these dark labels, because perhaps it was those who feared that they could not feel at all that resented thestrals the most, as they could not see them.

      As Dumbledore says to Harry, “”Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live
      without love.”

      • QuibblerKat

        That is a brilliant point. Because if we are going to say that the thestrals are seen after a process of grieving, can they be seen without that process?

        My question here is, if we are going by that logic, could someone unsee the thestrals? Say a person were to watch someone die, feel grief over it, see the thestrals, could the process then turn if they found out something radically different about the person? Like, if Harry had seen “Moody” die, but a month later find out that that was actually Crouch trying to kill him, would he unsee the thestrals? Because now he’d have the real Moody “back” as it were, so he didn’t actually see Moody die, he saw Crouch die. Can a person be deceived into seeing thestrals if they thought they saw a person die and had the process following it?

        • Thestral

          QuibleKat, you bring up a very interesting, complex, and thought-provoking
          query. I don’t know the answer to that. Here are my thoughts: it would depend upon what these
          creatures were meant to represent. I think we could only ascertain the correct
          answer by asking Jo. If Olivia is correct in the supposition that grief is an
          excruciating, but poignant and necessary embodiment of love, I presume Thestrals
          would only be visible if you cared for the person. So yes, I think it’s
          perfectly plausible that Harry could have seen them because he was grieving
          over the death of Moody, and then come to the realization that the person he
          cared about was not actually dead, and so now there was no longer any need for grieving.
          If that were the case, I think they could become invisible again. However once
          you have seen them, I don’t think you forget what they look like. Maybe it
          would be a case of, they disappear and once you actually lose someone you care
          about, you could gradually start the grieving process again, and then when you
          are ready, see them again. Therefore they would presumably be less frightening.
          Particularly if someone had previously explained to you what they were.

          But there could be an interesting loophole here. If you
          thought you had seen death and had come to terms with it enough to see the Thestrals,
          but you actually didn’t see the person you care about die, you only thought you did, would the Thestrals
          necessarily disappear? It depends on what Jo intended. Maybe once you have
          gradually developed the ability to accept grief once, these beautiful creatures
          always will remain visible to you, as a gentle reminder of the fact that death
          is a part of life. Or maybe you can’t un-see a magical creature.

          But I don’t necessarily think they would always remain
          visible once you knew they were there. Grief is a lesson that is very hard to
          learn, and we definitely revisit it with each new loss we experience. Just
          because you’ve accepted one person’s death, does in no way mean that you might
          be ready to accept another person’s. If the Thestrals are a gentle symbol of
          acceptance of death, in theory they could reappear and disappear throughout
          your life, as you gradually come to terms with each new loss, because each loss
          represents a person that you cared about. On the other hand, I definitely don’t
          think Harry was in any way recovered when he first saw them. That takes time,
          and I don’t know if you can ever fully recover. Basically, I don’t know at what
          point in the grieving process you can start to see them, definitely not initially.
          I really like the idea proposed by other commenters that they would become
          gently and gradually visible to you, especially if you had been told what they
          were. In this way, I think Harry was flat out cheated. Dumbledore should have explained
          to him what Thestrals were, and that he might come to see them, at the end of
          the fourth book, so that when they did become visible, Harry wouldn’t have been
          shocked, or think he was going mad. This was an incredible oversight, but on Dumbledore’s
          part, most assuredly not Jo’s. Major shortcoming on Dumbledore’s part that cost
          Harry unnecessary suffering and worry. But Jo knew what she was doing. She had
          experienced loss before, and probably wanted to give Harry, and the reader
          time. Time is very important in the process of grieving, and in exploring it,
          both in life and in a book. It deserves proper treatment, so that’s why she
          couldn’t go into it at the end of the fourth book.

          I don’t think you actually have to love the person, because
          Harry certainly did not love Cedric. He respected him, and he definitely comes
          to care for him after his death, and maybe even before as a friend, but he
          definitely did not have as strong of an attachment to him like he had with Sirius
          or Dumbledore. So, interestingly, it may be that you have to care about the
          person without necessarily loving them. Or, maybe, witnessing death as an innocent
          bystander, especially a sudden and traumatic death, is really the key to being able to see them. In that case you would
          not need to have known the person, but possess innocent and caring feelings toward
          them and the occurrence. I agree with many here that Tom Riddle would not have
          been able to see them. Thestrals are an embodiment of caring, and he never
          cared about the people he killed. On top of that, he fears death, and does not love,
          as Dumbledore so perfectly put it. Tyrants would not grieve over people they
          had killed.

          So, could you see Thestrals if the person you saw die was
          actually an evil person when you thought they were good? Yes, I think you can
          be duped into accepting loss, but as acceptance takes time, I think being duped
          into it would have been very hard to do. Harry almost immediately discovered that
          the actual identity of the imposter after the event occurred. He would not have
          had time to even begin to accept Moody’s passing. On the other hand, Remus
          thought that Peter Pettigrew was dead for years. He thought he was innocent,
          and probably missed him terribly, along with Lily and James. He would have had
          time to come to two terms with their deaths, even if he had not accepted them fully,
          and could definitely see Thestrals. Once he learned that Peter was in fact
          evil, and not dead, that probably messed with his head majorly. So maybe the Thestrals
          became invisible again, since he no longer cared for Peter, a person he thought
          was dead. I’m sure they would have reappeared shortly though, because he would
          have already known about Lily and James’s deaths. He would have been shocked though,
          the story was just altered dramatically for a while. Once he had correctly interpreted
          and accepted what had occurred, I’m sure the Thestrals would have reappeared
          for him.

          I do find it interesting that, using this logic, you don’t
          necessarily have to love the person you lost in order to see Thestrals. I imagine
          that if you desperately love this person, it would take a much longer time to
          actually see the Thestrals. I think the reason Harry was able to see them so
          soon after Cedric’s death was that he didn’t really love him. That’s not to
          imply that he was fully recovered, as we see throughout the events of the next
          book. I merely mean that, if you lose someone you really truly love, it may
          take years before you are able to see Thestrals. Not sure whether my theories
          about their disappearance and reappearance for different people’s deaths and
          the circumstances surrounding them are correct, but just a guess.

          Can you see a Thestral
          if your first experience of death is that of an enemy, and you are a righteous
          person who still cares about the fate of this person, even if they are evil? I
          don’t know, but I don’t think so. If Thestrals are an embodiment of love, then
          absolutely not. I think you have to
          grieve in order to see them, and you definitely not grieve the loss of an
          enemy. If Thestrals merely represent the loss of innocence that comes with
          accepting your first death, they would appear for you, regardless of the
          character of, or attachment to, the lost person. And, they would always remain
          visible. But I like the deeper meaning of Thestrals that the “love” theory
          represents. Thestrals aren’t an omen of evil or death. Since they are gentle
          and represent the ability to come to terms with loss, and taking into account
          the themes of the series which are all about love conquering evil and death, I
          don’t think they are about losing innocence. Losing innocence is a necessary byproduct
          of experiencing death, but it doesn’t follow that the poor gentle Thestrals
          themselves represent that aspect. They seem pretty innocent themselves, and as
          a commentator rightly said, their presence might be another way of saying, “we’re
          here for you. it’s incredibly hard, but it will be okay.”

        • Olivia Underwood

          I think that seeing as Harry would have seen a death but not acknowledged it (as it wasn’t who he thought it was), let alone have felt grief or remorse for that particular person, I do not think he would have been able to see the thestrals as he would be grieving for the wrong person. If he could, then we’d have to revert and say you need only “see” death in order to “see” the thestrals. Therefore, I believe that both parts (seeing and grieving) are needed in order to see thestrals. I don’t believe you need to “love” someone to feel grief or remorse; if you are human and have a heart then you are capable of sadness, even for those who you did not know very well because I like to think that to see the loss of life is enough to feel grief.

      • Thestral

        Beautiful point Olivia! Really well said.

  • thegiantsquid

    I think it’s important to remember that in the beginning of the chapter, Rowling makes it clear that Harry’s memory is not so great during this time. Harry isn’t fully involved in what’s going on around him, and he’s probably in a bit of denial, as other people have suggested. He’s kind of living in a haze, trying to forget but being forced to remember his trauma. Harry still has hardly internalized the idea that the whole incident even happened, let alone that someone had been killed right in front of him. I think it makes sense that he wouldn’t see the thestrals yet, if we apply that scenario to Rowling’s explanation.

  • Katie

    I maintain that Harry should have been able to see thestrals for the entire duration of the series, due to having watched his mother die. The obvious argument is that he was a one year old and doesn’t remember the event, but clearly there is a subconscious memory there, as he recalls it when dementors come near him. Even without a dementor around he can remember flashes of green light that was the curse that killed Lily.

    • QuibblerKat

      But here isn’t the green light the one that was directed at him? And he remembers the voices and screams… maybe he didn’t see it, just heard it. Does that count as seeing death though? What do you think?

    • thegiantsquid

      He can remember parts of it, yes, but isn’t what causes a person to see thestrals the fact that the person understands, internalizes, and accepts the death? At a little over a year old, Harry can’t possibly understand the death. He’s even lied to and told that it was a car crash and he accepts this without question; that’s how little he understood and retained. He accepts their deaths, sure, but not necessarily in a way that took thought and meditation, but as a fact of life in the simple way only children can understand things.

  • BluntsSnitches&Bathsalts

    I think it make complete sense that Harry didn’t see the Thestrals at the end of the book. You only have to look at the stages of grief, acceptance being the last. As for when Harry “accepts” the death, I believe it’s over the summer but because of the Ministry. I think it’s because of the hearing and seeing how he and Dumbledore are being ridiculed and called liars. The Ministry is flat out denying Cedric’s murder and I think this makes Harry “accept” the death because now he is fighting for Cedric’s honor and to uphold the truth. The Ministry in a way forces Harry to come to terms with Cedric’s death, and now Harry in a way is fighting for Cedric. All that being said I do think the Thestrals not appearing at the end of GOF was a mistake, but Rowling’s explanation works right? So who cares.

    • Thestral

      I think this is a very pertinent question, and I am thrilled
      it was asked. Unknowingly, by posing it, you’re helping me walk through my own
      grief. You see, I’ve just suffered a tragic loss. My beloved father passed away
      as a result of a traumatic brain injury sustained during a freak fall. I fell too,
      and came away with only minor injuries. Needless to say, I feel so bad for him,
      myself, and my entire family. We are all dealing with grief as best we can. My
      father and I shared a love of Harry Potter. I’ve been an avid listener to this
      podcast for more than a year, and it’s really helping me through this time.
      Thank you so much.

      Given the circumstances, I feel uniquely qualified to chime
      into this discussion. 🙂 I don’t think Harry would have been able to see the Thestrals yet. No way. As other people have already said, there
      are stages of grief, and while no one experiences grief the same way, the
      stages don’t fit into any particular order. You can go from disbelief to
      acceptance in a matter of hours within one day, and then experience several
      other stages the next day. While it is true that Harry did not really know
      Cedric all that well, he was incredibly traumatized. He hadn’t had nearly the
      time he needed to even began to accept the loss. I think he was still in shock
      and disbelief, and that’s why he couldn’t see the Thestrals. Even months later,
      after that horrible summer, he still had trouble processing the loss, but was further
      along in the process of grief. Remember that, when he did see them at the
      beginning of the next book, he freaked out. They looked incredibly scary, and
      he thought he had gone mad because they had previously been invisible to him.
      It’s only when Hagrid teaches a lesson about them that he finally understands
      that they are not scary creatures. In book 7, he tells Al that “they’re gentle
      things.” I don’t think you have to have fully accepted death in order to see
      them, because working yourself out of grief can take months or even years, and
      seeing them right away would have given Harry an additional shock that he was
      in no way prepared to process. Besides, JK Rowling says that she wanted to wait
      until the fifth book to explore them. As was mentioned in the podcast, there
      simply wasn’t enough space in this book to do that. And yes, given personal
      experience now, I can say that I really think that every person in a crowded
      room who had witnessed a sudden death would see the Thestrals at a different
      time. It all depends on their own grieving process. But one thing is for sure,
      you don’t finish one stage before moving on to the next. Grief is like riding a
      wave that hopefully will eventually settle to a
      ripple.. Hopefully eventually, whenever I think of my dad, I’ll be able
      to smile and laugh, and keep him with me always. I hope I will see him again. I
      love you daddy.

      One of the things I now am coming to
      appreciate about her writing, is that she deals with death very respectfully.
      She doesn’t gloss over it, or its trauma. I’m glad he’s given the summer to
      grieve over Cedric, in which we clearly see the agony he goes through. He’s clearly
      still going through it while at school during his fifth year, but is able to
      process it extraordinarily well, so much so that the reader doesn’t fully
      realize he is still grieving. I do think that the interview with Rita, (thus getting
      back at the Dairy Profit for calling him a liar, and finally getting the
      opportunity to tell his story to the wizardidg public,) his anger with Umbrage and
      starting the D. A ,. were all important actions he took to assuage his grief
      about Cedric. By the end of the book, I think he did come to terms with that
      particular loss because he had to grieve over Sirius, who was far closer to
      him. However, I am confused about why JK had Harry apparently process the
      sudden, traumatic deaths of both Dumbledore and Sirius rather quickly, or at
      least not publicly like he had Cedric’s death. He grieves violently right after
      their deaths happen, and they are mentioned frequently in subsequent books. Harry
      is clearly still grieving over them, but he seems to have developed a process
      of grieving internally. Whether that is due to his temperament, his
      extraordinary strength, how busy he is, or the amount of grief and change he
      must suddenly accept while preparing for war, I don’t know, but I think it’s at
      least partially due to plot points. Rowling had so much action to get through
      in book 6 and 7, that she probably couldn’t go into detail about Harry’s grief,
      and doing so would have been emotionally very hard on the readers. I think she’s
      able to really have Harry explore his grief again by using the Resurrection
      Stone and the final battle . Harry probably finally got the chance to finish processing
      in private, after the books were completed.

  • Adriene Galindo

    The mention of the horseless carriages is really just there for foreshadowing. It’s not an oops by Jo–it’s actually the opposite. It’s a reminder that they are still there so that they’re still relatively fresh in our minds by the time we get to Hogwarts in the next book. You may not like it and you may think it is out of place, but it does have a purpose. I think what would be *more* out of place here is if the thestrals were described in this moment; there wouldn’t be enough time to explain it and give it the nuances it deserves–Jo says as much in that quote from the Edinburgh Book Festival. I also must stand by the idea that Harry hasn’t yet accepted the fact of Cedric’s death, or the consequences of it (i.e. Voldemort has returned), and that is why he can’t see them here. There hasn’t been nearly enough time to begin process it by the end of the chapter–that’s what Book 5 gives us. Book 5 not only shows us that Harry has accepted Cedric’s death and Voldemort’s return, it also solidifies Harry’s determination to defeat the Dark Lord, and the thestrals are meant to be evidence of that.

  • InfestedWithNargles

    I’m wondering how many of the hosts and people commenting on this have actually experienced a traumatic death. I think those of us who have may be able to relate a little bit better to what JKR was getting at. I lost someone close to me 4 years ago, so to me it makes sense that Harry would not have processed Cedric’s death a mere month later. It took me months to get used to the fact that this person was gone, that he was not just going to show up one day. The emotional rollercoaster one experiences after losing someone is indescribable. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harry could see the thestrals on some days and not others in the month following Cedric’s death. That’s what the process is like; some days you can deal with it and some days you can’t. You make progress and then you lose it on a whim. I also think (and I look forward to discussing this in book 5), that Harry is not necessarily being “emo”, but experiencing very severe PTSD. I have mentioned previously that I am a military wife and I have witnessed the symptoms of PTSD. It takes a while to show up, which is exactly why Harry does not see the thestrals right away; traumatic things like this take a while to surface.

    • Thestral

      I think you make an excellent point, infested. Before the
      traumatic loss of my dad, I always turmed that summer the “emo” summer. I know
      people who thought he was a brat throughout the entire book, and while I don’t
      know anything about PTSD, I know the normal grief is excruciatingly painful. It
      feels like it will never end. So I can imagine what he was going through during
      that summer. He had absolutely no support from anyone. He was completely cut
      off from the magical world, with abusive relatives, and Dudley actually teasing
      him mercilessly about his dreams. He didn’t have anyone to talk to, and couldn’t
      assuage his feelings by taking action. That’s what Harry does. There is a quote
      in Deathly Hallows about how Harry felt that nothing but action would assuage
      his feelings of guilt and grief for Dumbledore. He can’t talk about his
      feelings. I think that’s why he and Cho were incompatible. I feel so bad for
      both of them, and people always give her a hard time too. It’s unfair to both
      of them, but no wonder they broke up. She needed to talk about it, and he
      really couldn’t handle talking about it. People handle grief differently, and
      he was going through so much additional stuff. On top of grieving Cedric, he
      had to cope with Umbrage, the Daily Profit, the entire school turning against
      him, Dumbledore ignoring him, and the dark Lord returning. Not to mention OWLS,
      “ remedial potions lessons” with Snape, and his fears that he was being possessed.
      It’s enough to drive anyone up the wall!

      Though I can’t presume to know the hosts or anyone’s history, I think you might be right
      that many people who post discussion questions or comments might not have dealt
      with a traumatic loss, or the loss of someone they really, really, love yet. If
      so, you are blessed. I don’t think we can expect anyone who has not yet
      suffered great loss to understand what it’s like. We wouldn’t want you to. But
      I would ask the hosts to please be sensitive in how you talk about death on the
      podcast or phrase discussion questions because to some of us, grief and death
      are not hypothetical concepts. They are very real. Many commenters have been
      sensitive to that fact already, for which I am grateful. I did get a chuckle
      out of “yay, death” though. I knew the hosts were trying to be ironic, and
      perhaps they have suffered great loss in their own lives, but when you are
      actually experiencing it, few people would use those words. 🙂 And it’s okay,
      people sometimes need to be lighthearted about these things, especially if you
      haven’t experienced it yet, or in a traumatic way. Not trying to be critical. But
      that’s probably why I think questions like “How with the story have been
      different if Cedric had survived?” Were painful for me to consider. Whereas, if I hadn’t lost someone
      so close to me, I don’t think hypothetical questions like that would be
      painful. This isn’t trying to point out insensitivity on anyone’s part. How
      could you know that your listeners might be going through grief and death?
      Thanks again for everything you do hosts and moderators. 🙂 And commentators

  • texaskid

    Personally I think sink in is a really bad term for what it takes to see thestrals. Remember it has only been a week since Voldie returned, Harry watched Cedric die, Harry was in a struggle for his life, and Wormtail cut his hand off. If it was me I’d be in shock. You can’t come to terms with all of that in a week, especially if you don’t talk about it. In my opinion it’s something that would take time. I think a better term to use would have been death really had to “hit him: before he’d see the Thestrals. A weeks time isn’t really enough to understand that this guy, one who had been living, breathing, and helping him was just gone. Not walked out of his life but dead and never coming back. It’s the first real death that Harry is faced with and each person has a different reaction to death and how they handle it. Especially when it is such a traumatic death. It also mentions that Harry felt as though Dumbledore’s speech had unblocked him and it was easier to talk about with Hermione and Ron at that point. It seems to me that he wasn’t really dealing with everything that happened including Cedric’s death up until this point on the ride home.

    • Silverdoe25

      I am with you. Harry is completely in shock at the end of GoF, going through the motions of daily activities. How about if the thestrals really appeared to Harry, yet he was in such a state of mind that his brain just replaced what he expected to see (horseless carriage). I can’t give you a timeline, but once the initial shock wears off, I expect Harry could see the thestrals.

  • Elvis Gaunt

    We see these horseless carriages for the first time in GoF. What was the purpose of introducing them at all if not to give a reason for those thestrals to be present at Hogwarts. The students could just walk to Hogwarts. Or there was no need to mention this scene at all. Also, this is the first time we get a scene on the platform before leaving Hogwarts. I suppose the purpose of setting this scene at the platform is to remind the readers of those carriages. The goodbyes with Krum and Fleur could have taken place at Hogwarts as well.
    Also, as carriage-pullers, they are ideally placed for Harry to get an up and close view of them as soon as he steps into the school premises. I think its too much of a coincidence that such a convenient position was available for them when Jo decided to introduce the thestrals in OoTP. It was pre-planned.
    However, I do think that she introduced the death having to sink in aspect for narrative purpose. It would have been better if Hagrid had explained it during his class. It would have put a rest to this debate.

  • ArchdukeSeverus

    I agree that it would have definitely narratively incorrect to introduce the thestrals at this moment. A way that this could be explained by the story line is that since the death of Cedric everything has been hussle and bussle and he has not much time to think. I expect that when Harry got back to number 4 Privet drive there would have been a situation like this: He would have gone into his room, put down his trunk, sat down and it all would have hit him there and he wouldn’t get up again for a couple of hours.

    • thegiantsquid

      “Narratively incorrect” is a good way to put it. It’s the last chapter of the book, thestrals are complex, and important not to the current story, but the next one. It would have been inappropriate to toss them in at this moment, because they would not have gotten the explanations they deserve, which would have led to confusion and a fragmented story line.

  • CentaurSeeker121

    I don’t think Harry should have been able to see the Thestrals at the end of Goblet of Fire. As was said before Rowling stated in the narrative that Harry was scattered and he had no idea how he managed to get through it. He witnessed Cedric being killed, Pettigrew cutting his hand off, Voldemort’s return, the DEs….not to mention having to duel for his life, plus everything afterwards. I think it really wasn’t until he had some time to himself that what happened started to come to the forefront. Up until then he was just trying to get through everything.

    As for him not being able to see the Thestrals before hand. I lost my grandfather at the age of two and have about the same amount of memories of him that Harry has of his parents. Is it sad? Well yeah, but that death doesn’t really effect me as much because I never had a chance to know him, and I think it’s the same for Harry. Sure, he didn’t know Cedric all that well either, but he was also 14 and old enough to know what death is. I was 14 when I lost my grandmother and her death was devestating and I went through a great deal of grief. The effect was WAY more profound, so I can see why he wouldn’t see them until then.

  • Pig-desk

    I love xoxo Forever Harry Potter books, but we all know Jo has had some over sights. I have read the books several times and listened to them many more. In my opinion books one through four read as stand alone books with a bit of intertwining. The story truly takes off with Order of The Phoenix (so excited for the up coming podcasts I’ll have to audition to be a guest). Jo can say she had all the books planed, I say hogs-wash. This is a good example of Jo dreaming up Thestrals when writing Order of The Phoenix and covering her tracks. I loves Thestrals great add, but it is an over sight. Playing Slytherin’s advocate: if it is not an over sight it plays like one and should be treated as such.

  • Pig-desk

    To answer the question, yes. Harry should be able to see them by now, death is death. Magic is not going to wait for a person feelings to come to fruition before turning on. I think it would affect Harry immediately he should be able to see them at the end of the book. Over sight!

  • Kayla Lopez

    I don’t think this was at all a plot hole on Jo’s part. It was well thought out, as was most everything in the series. We learn throughout the series that magic is not two-dimensional, examples such as Patronuses, Horcuxes, Unforgivable Curses, and the Unbreakable Vow. There’s always meaning behind it. As Voldemort says “you have to mean it, Harry.” So although this isn’t a spell, there is obviously magic to the thestrals. It’s not an automatic “BOOM! I saw death, now I see these creatures.” It seems that it isn’t until death is accepted that one is able to see these magnificent and haunting beasts. Other than his parents, Harry doesn’t truly experience death happening right in front of him. So Cedric being his first, and unfortunately certainly not his last, is a turning point for Harry. But over the summer while he grieves and comes to terms with Cedric’s death, is when he can see the thestrals. OGM. BAM!

    • Thestral

      If you meant that Harry was shocked that he could see them
      suddenly, your comment would make complete sense. Where did those creatures come
      from? I get where you are going, and I strongly agree with most of what you’re
      saying, but I respectfully disagree with the “OMG BAM “ part. The grieving
      process is and is not like that. Although there are numerous realizations of
      sudden, dramatic, and excruciatingly irrevocable change, finally accepting
      grief is a long and painful process, with hopefully a gentle conclusion. These “gentle
      things” as Harry later rightly calls them, are not intended to be a sudden,
      dramatic, and painful reminder of the person you have lost. Harry just panicked
      because he saw creatures that he thought no one else could see, and therefore
      thought he was going mad. He didn’t associate them with Cedric or death until
      he learned what they were. And he very quickly came to the conclusion that they
      were nothing to be feared.

  • I think it could have been that the more it “sinks in”, the more vivid they become. Before you have seen death, they will not appear before you. And Harry didn’t see them here, but I think he just didn’t look. Why would he? He probably just glanced at the carriages and assumed they were horseless- as always. But if he had been looking, he might have seen the faintest outline of one. He obviously knew that Cedric had died, but hadn’t really processed the information so that it was no longer always at the back of his mind. If he had been staying at Hogwarts and perhaps seeing the Thestrals everyday, they would have become more noticeable as time went on, until they could be seen completely. Because processing death is not a sudden thing; you do not simply wake up and accept it one day. You gradually become more aware and accepting of it, and only when you look back do you see how much you have progressed. It was simply the fact that Harry was not there until the start of next term, where he saw they had taken full form. I like to think of them as more of a representation of the acceptance of death.

    Just a Luna-ish theory of mine
    CrumpleHornedUnicorn. 🙂 🙂 (Don’t get depressed over all this talk about death!)

  • GobblingFire

    I think whether it was oversight or not it was a great illustration of life trying to ‘return to normality’ after such a tragic event/year and. And the fact that they then appear on return the following year shows that you cant go through these things without change.

  • PixieDragon137

    Technically, yes, Harry should have been able to see the Threstrals at the end of the book because he has witnessed a murder and he knew for a fact that Cedric was dead. But it seems that merely observing the act does not trigger whatever it is that makes the threstrals visible. The death of the person must mean something to the one who witnesses it and one must ‘appreciate fully that you will never see that person again’ as JKR says. Or else Harry would’ve seen the Threstrals at some point during the school year because he had seen Frank Bryce being murdered by Voldemort in the first chapter. (ofcourse, that could be because he didn’t see it through his own eyes).

    In case of Cedric though, Harry had been through too much to be able to process anything at this point in the time. For him to completely come to terms with Cedric’s death he would have to think about and process everything that had happened to him. And the last thing Harry wanted to do was to think about the events at the graveyard. In the last few days that he was at Hogwarts, he had Ron and Hermoine to keep him company and take his mind off the whole incident. For all we know, Madam Pomfrey had prescribed him the dreamless sleep portion for every night until he returned home-because there is no mention of him having nightmares until the next book. And I think it is precisely during that time, when he was deliberately being kept in the dark from all that was actually happening in the magical world, and with none of his friends to keep him preoccupied, that he begin to acknowledge the enormity of what had happened and the finality of Cedric’s passing.

  • SupLordV

    When it comes to the Thestrals, I’ve always seen them as, not an omen of death, but instead an omen of life. I think if they truly were to represent a “death omen,” Harry would have been able to see them right off the bat because it would have been a shocking narrative point. Death is shocking! Instead, Jo has chosen for us to find them when Harry is in this conflicted state, where he is battling a lot of his emotions, and that is when we first meet the Thestrals. The fact that the death you see has to “sink in” is a perfect way to say, in order to see these fragile and misunderstood creatures, you have to accept the hard truth that you saw someone pass away. The Thestrals are there in the narrative to say “you can see me, you can move on and live your life; it is okay.”

  • fullmetal49

    Personally I do not believe Harry should have been able to see the Thestrals at the end of Goblet of fire. The discussion during the show seemed to focus on “hasn’t Harry been through enough?” I do not think it’s about going through events but processing them. I think that the horrible events that have happened during this book are constantly on Harry’s mind during this period of time. I believe that over the summer with no distractions is when he is able to truly process what has happened to him and begin to move on and not be fixated on these events so completely.

  • Lord_Trolldemort

    I’m not quite sure that there is much more brilliance that I can add to this conversation, but I agree with Jo here. Even though this is a rather neat explanation for what could have been an oversight on her part, I entirely understand this reasoning. Coping with death does not happen on a universal level. There is no point where everything becomes as it was before. I find, personally, that the time at which one has accepted death is when one realizes that life cannot turn back to what it once was. I believe that Harry may have been feeling this standing in the kitchen after the Dementor attack, faced with the bleak future of the darkness which would now await him when he now re-entered the wizarding world, where he used to find so much comfort in.

    …Man, I feel depressed just talking about this. I’m going to go get myself a butterbeer.

  • FeatherSickle7662

    As someone who has seen death herself, I feel like we need to pay
    attention to the fact that Harry hasn’t been through all the stages of
    grief yet (see wikipedia). He is too scattered and too worried about friends now that
    Voldy has returned. I feel that because Harry has not accepted the
    death yet, that he will not be able to see the Thestrals. You can not
    put a time limit on this either, you go through the stages when you go
    through the stages. Everyone is different, but a good amount of the
    time people accept death in the same general way. I think Harry went
    through these stages over the summer and when he has returned to the
    wizarding world, he has completed these stages, accepted the death and
    is now ready to face a bigger threat (though with a little teenage
    hormonal rage going on).

  • Sheetlebug

    Harry has been through a hell of a lot, but having gone through something doesn’t mean you’ve accepted it. These things take time. And it takes different people different lengths of time to do so. You don’t even have to look at death to see this sort of thing happen.

    I think to ask “at what point precisely” is a gross misunderstanding of how someone processes any sort of feeling. It is definitely a gradual thing, and you won’t just wake up one day going “Well, that’s me internalised and accepted that, time to move on!”. There would be no precise moment that the switch would turn on. Someone else in the comments mentioned that they imagine that there would be on and off days for Harry seeing the thestrals, and I like that idea quite a bit.

    This all could be some elaborate cover-up by Jo to deal with a deliberate plot choice that was made – however, the cover-up makes sense. The cover-up works, because it reflects how people deal with death and grief. I don’t really understand the issue with it that was brought up during the show.

  • nikigryff

    I agree that Harry shouldn’t have been able to see them at the end of book 4, but I also don’t think he would have even been able to see them at the start of book 5 either, if it weren’t for Sirius. In chapter 5 of book 5, Sirius explains to Harry about their attempts to gain supporters and it is here that I think Harry truly begins to understand the magnitude of the upcoming events; particularly when it is mentioned that ‘nobody apart from his Death Eaters was supposed to know he’d come back. But you survived to bear witness.’ It is here when Harry learns about the deep split between the Ministry and Dumbledore and the tone of this chapter is very militant, the feeling of inevitable war builds. I think Cedric’s death would have truly settled here as this is where he begins to see that he will have to fight, and that fighting is the only way to avenge Cedric’s death. I think acceptance is far more powerful than the grief/loss aspect.