Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 78

We have reached Order of the Phoenix! We’re kicking it off with a question that Rowling has addressed, but not fully answered – so we’re putting it to you all!

In this chapter, Dementors arrive in Little Whinging and both Harry and Dudley are attacked. While more information about non-magic humans and Dementors is revealed later, we want to know what Dudley’s experience in this chapter was all about. Did Dudley relive a moment of terror from his own life? If so, what was it?

Leave us your response below & we just might read them on the next episode of Alohomora!

  • FredWeasleysGhost

    I think the only thing Dudley could have relived would have been the incident at the zoo. I don’t think anything else really traumatizing has ever happened, although I know the whole present incident was quite distressing to him..but I highly doubt that would have been the thing he relived 😛

  • James Mahoney

    From what I understand from Rowling’s statements, Dudley’s life has always been a ‘moment of terror’: the Dementor attack just helped him realize this, which is why I’m pretty sad we hardly see Dudley in HBP at all. I know we get payoff from this attack in DH, but it’d have been nice to have it hinted at in HBP.

    • FredWeasleysGhost

      That’s really interesting, I had never heard about that. It’s pretty sad if you think about it, having a life full of moments of terror and coming to realize it all in one instant. That’s got to be depressing…

      • James Mahoney

        Yeah, no wonder Dudley takes a huge turn in personality by the next time we really see him.

        • FredWeasleysGhost

          I really wish they had included that moment in DH1, it was one of my favorites when I read the book.

          • James Mahoney

            Well, it was in the deleted scenes, at least, though overall, the first five minutes of that movie were just amazing.

          • FredWeasleysGhost

            Yeah, I am glad it was included there. And I agree, the first five minutes are amazing 🙂 The music is so wonderful too!

  • Jenna ⚡️

    I truly believe all of Dudley’s fears are Harry-based. Harry, who even though has been considered a nuisance, has demanded attention from Dudley’s parents throughout the years, subtracting and in Dudley’s eyes ruining several of what could have been his greatest memories, (i.e. the incident at the zoo). When Dudley encounters the dementors I think he sees the incidents in which Harry has not only turned against him, (the taunting, cruel jokes, instances of attention from Petunia and Vernon) but also where his own parents have neglected to give him the spot light. This sudden realization that his life has not been perfect, the opposite of what his parents want him to believe, hits Dudley hard. At the same time, he’s realizing that because Harry is so intertwined in his affairs his life must be pretty awful too; Creating the first weary and disoriented viewpoint of Harry (which we see in Chapter Two), followed by blame and distaste, and then concluded with a calm understanding (presented in DH).

  • Subjective Unicorn

    I think that Dudley has experienced how does it feel to be a victim of his own bullying. During the Dementor’s kiss a perspective shift had happened to him. He was having the events of his bullying repeated to him but from the victim’s perspective.

  • LeslieLovegood

    Dudley tells us that he felt cold and that he heard things in his head and that he felt like he’d never be happy again. So, to me it sounds like the reacts to the Dementors much like wizards would.

    As for what Dudley felt at that time. We know from the books, that not everyone relives a specific moment the way Harry does. Lupin tells him that the Dementors affect him differently because he has dealt with truly traumatic events. Dudley, who would probably react similarly to Ron and Hermione on the train in prisoner. He would have felt very depressed and scared, but I do not think he would be relivign a specific event the way Harry does.

  • AccioPotassium!

    Dudley experienced his worst memory of all, the tragic death of Yertle the Turtle!

  • I’ve always thought that it was sort of like the pensieve. That Dudley would see his actions and his treatment of others, especially Harry, in a neutral, unbiased, 3rd person point of view. And it terrified him. In his mind, Harry is responsible for everything bad in his life. Harry had intruded on his birthday outing to the zoo, Harry had taken one of his rooms, and I’m almost certain that Vernon had told him of Ron whisking him away. Seeing Dudley’s personality, I highly doubt that he would have any friends who would do that for him. He probably hated the fact that Harry had found extremely close friends only after a year at school. So, whenever he said/did something against Harry, he was simply “punishing” him for being in his life. Now, Dudley was seeing everything he had done/seen with an impartial perspective. He finally realised that he was “punishing” Harry harshly, and without any reason. Unfortunately, he don’t see him much in HBP, so we don’t see how his behaviour may have improved. But, in DH, we do see him trying to mend their relationship so he must have accepted what he saw when the dementor’s attackted him.

  • DolphinPatronus

    Based on things Jo has said (& to be honest my personal feels on the subject also) I think Dudley “saw” & felt everything he had ever dished out over the years. He was shown what a little…well I just say jerk to keep it family friendly, he was. Seeing himself like that is why he changes after this. He knows that if it weren’t for Harry he wouldn’t have a chance to become a better person & that’s why he starts being nice to Harry even though we don’t get to actually see it until DH.

  • ArchdukeSeverus

    I’m pretty sure that Dudley relived something. He had a pretty extreme reaction and this could only be caused by him reliving something horrible. I think that I read somewhere (maybe DH lectures) that the experience that Dudley had with the dementors was that he realised how others felt when he bullied him. This isn’t really reliving an experience but I think that it is well within the bounds of what a dementor can do.

  • HallowsMaster97

    A lot of people, including myself, seem to believe that spoiled little Dudley has never had a moment of terror, and to an extent, that is true. We are so accustomed to hearing Harry’s danger filled tales that everything else doesn’t seem as scary anymore. We forget Dudley is not a famous wizard being hunted by a Dark Lord, so his worst memories are not going to be as intense or frightening as Harry’s.
    Also, we’re focusing on “terror”, dementors force you to relive you worst memories and those memories don’t have to be terrifying. I believe Dudley’s worst memories consist of humiliation. He is obese and although others at school are frightened of him, that won’t stop them from whispering behind his back and making fun of him. I’m sure he’s heard people calling him fat and stupid at school, he’s heard Harry making all of those comments to his face. Dudley said he heard voices, could the voices be of those who mock him? Did the dementor send all those insults to flood Dudley’s mind at once ? I believe that is extremely terrifying, it certainly terrified Dudley to the scared, helpless state that we see in the next chapter.

    • thegiantsquid

      I agree with this, and I actually hadn’t considered this as an option before. He obviously feels the need to compensate for something with his behavior. He’s so coddled at home; it makes sense that he would want to feel dominant at school where he has the potential for control. In addition, his intimidating mass would only lend itself to one of two options: bully or be bullied. Imagine how awful he would feel about himself if he was treated like a baby at home and then teased relentlessly at school! I bet the Dementors surfaced his insecurities, and perhaps those were in the form of his classmates’ insults.

  • CentaurSeeker121

    “People usually ask me, what is it that Dudley saw during the Dementor attack?” Rowling said. “My feeling is that he saw himself, exactly for what he was, and for a boy that spoiled, it would be terrifying. So he was jolted out of it. Dementor attacks aren’t usually good for people, but this one was.” – J.K Rowling

    If this was Dudley’s reaction, I think think the only way it could have happened was for him to see himself the way others saw him and that he saw that the world wasn’t all about him the way he thought it was. He also may have come to the realization later that after all he had put Harry through, Harry still saved his life and that’s not something that one easily forgets about.

    • mollywobbles

      I like the idea that Dudley sees himself as insignificant in this moment. Most people who bully others are usually insecure and needy, maybe here in this moment is when Dudley realizes just how vulnerable he really is to “icky-dudle-kins” I’m sure that would be truly terrifying.

      • CentaurSeeker121

        Maybe it’s like that moment in The Avengers where Tony Stark/Iron Man goes through the portal and sees the aliens. He realized that there were things out there that could very well take him out with one fell swoop without so much as a thought. Up until that point Dudley was the big boxing champion beating up ten year olds making him feel like he was on top, then the Dementors come along and he realized what you, mollywabbles, just said. Or maybe it’s like the Sirens in the Percy Jackson series making Annabeth see what her fatal flaw was. The Dementors may have brought all of that forth and it terrified Dudley to know end.

        • mollywobbles

          I had never really thought about this before, but if we are comparing Dudley’s experience to another literary character I would pick eustace from “vouage of the dawn trader”. Both boys go through a physical transformation( eustace -dragon skin, Dudley -wrestling champ) and then have a terrifying and painful emotional experience which helps them to see maybe they aren’t the nicest most caring people. After the attack I’m sure that Dudley wasn’t a new person right away but the “change had started”.

          • CentaurSeeker121

            I imagine not being able to see it would be more than horrifying too….

            I think it would have also taken awhile for Dudley to fully process everything and realize he’d been a real jerk just like Eustace.

  • pygmypuff26

    It has always been my understanding that the dementors don’t show you your biggest fear(like boggarts), but make people re-experince moments that they went through in the past. The only traumatizing experiences that we as readers see is what happened to Dudley at the Zoo in sorcerer’s stone. Maybe the event that he re-lives is something that we as readers aren’t aware of. Dudley is, and always has been mean and aggressive towards Harry and some of his peers. I think that he re-lives a really bad bullying experience in which he is the victim. Quite often, bullies were once victims themselves and later became the bully as a defense mechanism. Looking at who Dudley is right now at this point, he is looked at as strong, tough and in-control. Being weak and vulnerable is something that he does not want to have to experience, and I think having to re-live a time where he did feel that way would really affect him.

  • Bullies fear or terror is of being exposed or being picked on themselves. What if Dudley’s terror stems back from something along those lines when PS has a 10 year gap?

    So from an early age Dudley isn’t a nice kid, and always got what he wanted. He learnt this, but didn’t realize this was a form of abuse to go with it, so he continued. He was shown this by the dementors. I agree though that this can’t be the only terror.

    Is it possible that Dudley may have been jealous of Harry, that Harry may get all the attention?

    Yes. A new toddler in the house that needs just as much attention as Dudley may cause issues, even if he doesn’t show it at first. Its an invasion of his territory. Almost like when a new child is born into a family of 3. It can be a psychological toll on any child of any age.

    What if Dudley himself was picked on before starting school?

    A bully picks on people to be ‘in’ with the crowd and mainly to prevent themselves from being bullied. I’ve seen it many times, even when I was at school. I would never get bullied because I wouldn’t tolerate it and the bullies always feared that, but they would always pick on others who were smaller, much more vulnerable and much more sensitive than I was.

    With Harry, in the very beginning, one of his mistakes was in some circumstances running away from Dudley and his gang, particularly at school. He was, to be fair, a bit of an oddball, but when he stands up to Dudley in OotP we see a much different reaction. I know Harry had his wand out, but even if he hadn’t, there still would have been the possibility that Dudley would have not taken his actions any further than big talk.

    What if Dudley had a terror/fear of exposure of his insecurities?

    Bullies hate being exposed. Anything that threatens them exposure, they back away from their target. This could be anything. In Dudley’s case, he may not have ever wanted to look weak. That in a sense is true I guess because he’s much bigger than Harry and most others from what we hear in this book.

    Could a factor of his weight be an insecurity to him?

    I think that maybe there’s a possibility of him being exposed as a manipulator. Dudley knows how to turn a situation to his advantage, and get people to do what he wants.

    Maybe Dudley is scared of being rejected, or being alone and actually suffers from low self-esteem. Alongside this, there could be emotional issues that he’s failed to address. Maybe when he’s alone without his gang, he dwells on these factors, maybe even too the extent of being haunted by them. In order to prevent him feeling low, exposed and inadequate he resorts to bullying.

    Would he have been forced to live them?

  • Padfoot42

    I do not think that Dudley has any particularly traumatic experiences to relive from what we have seen in the series. Despite what he might say, he knows that Harry does not detract too much attention from himself in that it’s not like Harry is “stealing Mama Petunia’s” love from Dudley. I do not think that the zoo scene counts as being traumatizing because we know that he exaggerates the details of what really happened. While frightening for an eleven year old, not enough to make him never return to a zoo. Rather than re-experiencing some horror in his life, I think he just experienced the hurt that his victims feel. He probably felt what it was like to be emotionally and verbally assaulted and to have people avoid being kind to you because of fear of what Dudley and his gang might do. He got a taste of the emotional pain he causes others rather than reliving some “horrid” experience.

    • Michael Saito

      This is Padfoot42 by the way… forgot to log in

  • nikigryff

    This is a hard one. My thoughts are that dementors are meant to drain a wizard of their powers if left for too long around them, which makes me think that a muggle would too be drained of their powers. What powers you may ask? A major theme within harry potter is the power/capability to love, which to me, is the greatest power a muggle has. Thus I think when a dementor affects a muggle, they lose the ability to love and are left with an dark and depressive entity.

  • niffler-patronus

    I’m certainly in the “Dudley saw himself for what he really was” camp … but then again, who are we to say that nothing worse happened in Dudley’s life for him to relive? It’s easy to hate him over the summer when he’s hanging around with his gang, beating up kids, and tormenting Harry. But what about during the school year? Maybe part of this shame and dread started there? We don’t hear a lot about Smeltings, besides the school reports on his weight, bullying, and grades – namely, what the teachers saw. But we know from Hogwarts that a lot can happen outside of the classroom! The Dursleys have absolutely no idea what Harry’s magical world is like; he carries the emotional weight of Voldemort alone, because it’s impossible to describe to such outsiders. But following Harry’s perspective throughout the series makes us blind, too – we have no idea what happened at Dudley’s Muggle school. Just another way that the cousins are interesting foils …. !

  • doxybite

    I honestly think the Dememtor attack made this young boy quickly grow up into a man and realise what a horrible spoiled brat he had been his whole life. As JK said herself!

    Not to draw on real life experiences too much but when I was around 14-15 (and basically a silly little girl) I would often jibe this one girl in my group of friends. I got a real kick out of making jokes at her expense. I went home one day to tell my mum and I retold everything I had said to this girl thinking that it was hilarious and my mum said to me: “Do you not think about how that would make her feel? I don’t think she would find it funny”

    Just like that it was a massive wave that came over me and made me realise that I was being a bully, it was a light switch moment. I was young, but it was like she had made me look in the mirror and I saw that I was being horrible. I instantly changed my ways and was never rude to that girl again. I feel Dudley had this sort of moment after the dementor attack, they left nothing but the harsh reality that he had been constantly horrible to his cousin and it made him see the sort of person he was and he didn’t want to be that person clearly!

    I think this explains why he was able to change and talk to Harry the way he did in DH. He didn’t want to act like that anymore.

    On the other hand, maybe some part of him thinks that if he acts nice from now on he won’t ever be affected by dementors like that again. He is obviously not very clued up on magic and dementors so maybe he thinks “Well if I’m nice to Harry and everyone else from now on, I won’t ever feel the way I felt that night ever again!” Do you know what I mean?

    But my gut feeling is the guy saw himself for what he truly was and he actively decided to change for the better. And good on him, definitely showed that he could overcome his parents upbringing to be a better person and not focus on their opinion of Harry anymore.

  • JeffDowning

    I believe Dudley experienced a severe moment of terror when kissed by the Dementor. In regard to what was seen by Dudley during the process, I do not think that memories have to be of your own personal past events. You can have memories of thoughts, feelings, and smells, among other things. I think what Dudley saw, like some of the other commenters have pointed out, was directly related to Harry. I believe that Dudley was forced to see memories of thoughts he had regarding the way Harry lived and was treated by all of the Dursleys. What Dudley then experienced as his moment and memory of terror was the thought of having to live his life as Harry did. The emotional abuse, the neglect, and the lack of love and attention are terrifying thought when you have never faced them yourself. To be stripped of all the doting, the gifts, the pride of his parents…this would be horrifying to someone who has lived the life Dudley has. I think it is these thoughts of living as an unwanted orphan that terrifies Dudley, and I believe it has long lasting effects. It could even be the impetus for his turn around in The Deathly Hallows when the Dursleys are leaving Privet Drive.

  • GiveUsPatrónUs

    I like to think that the pig’s tail Hagrid gives Dudley in Book 1 had to be surgically removed, that it was excruciatingly painful for Dudley, and that he was forced to relive this process during the Dementor attack.

  • niftyniffler

    I have always thought that Dudley was a very lonely child. Of course he had extremely doting parents, but I think that was all he truly had. I see his friends as more of power leeches. People like Piers Polkiss were only his friends because he always had the newest toys and technology and went on the most fabulous trips. He had “friends” who hung around him because he had the power of money and influence. He never really seemed to get into trouble, his parents didn’t really care what he did as long as he was happy, and he had the best of everything. However, when it came down to it, those same “friends” would not stick beside him if he needed them to. Dudley sees Harry with the Weasleys and the other wizarding people ans sees how well he fits in and how happy he is within that world. I don’t think Dudley feels that he fits in anywhere except with his parents, and being fifteen he does not yet appreciate that parental bond so he does not count it. When the Dementors attack he feels this intense loneliness and how truly unhappy he really is in life and begins to realize that life isn’t all about material things. It completely changes his perception on life and that in itself can be terrifying.

  • SpeakerAl

    It has been my experience that bullies are usually afraid that their own weaknesses will be exposed. I imagine that Dudders would relive those experiences in which he has felt inferior to those around him, and afraid that he’s not really loved so much as just intimidating. In earlier books, Petunia’s cloying affection seems to be given largely when he is throwing a tantrum (and thereby intimidating his parents). I don’t doubt that such fears also led him to take up boxing as well.

  • Snape’s-Lost-Button

    I don’t think Dudley had any traumatic events to relive during the Dementor attack. I believe that the Dementor could have shown Dudley, Harry’s perspective of the years from the Dursleys. He would have learned how Harry felt when Dudley used to tease him and bully him in his younger years. It could be like the ghost of Christmas past and would teach Dudley the error of his ways. This would be the cause of the change we see in the later books. I know that’s not typically how Dementors work but I just thought I’d put that idea out there.

  • Kevin Bloomfield

    I don’t think Dudley relived a specific moment of terror as he was a Muggle; Dementors have different effects on them it seems. More likely it appears that Dudley relived through the worse parts of his life and he was able to examine himself and his deeds somewhat objectively and it was this event which began the long and slow process towards him being somewhat redeemed, see moment in Deathly Hallows for case in point.

  • MorganStrike

    I think Dudley’s moment of horror could have easily been a time when maybe he didn’t live up to his father’s expectations or maybe let him down. Even though he wouldn’t have gotten reprimanded for it, he might have felt enough internal disappointment and maybe a little fear of what Vernon would think, that it was “horrible” enough for a dementor attack. Plus, we never see what goes on at the Dursley’s while Harry is at school, which leaves a lot of time for Dudley to get mixed up in maybe “dangerous gangs”. I mean, we’re not talking like New York City street gangs, but he is a teenager with a reputation which could easily cause danger and subsequently terror.