Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 81

For this Podcast Question of the Week, we’re eager to hear your thoughts on a new piece of magic that we’ve just encountered.

In this chapter, we are introduced to Extendable Ears, an invention of Fred and George’s, and we are wondering exactly how these strange devices function. What is the magic behind them? What is the material that they are made out of? Extrapolating further, can we assume this particular invention was meant to foreshadow the loss of George’s ear in Deathly Hallows? Or was this perhaps a connection that was never fully intended or realized?

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

  • surprisinglyswishy

    I remember having a spy kit when I was younger that came with a small microphone attached to a speaker by a long-ish wire. I found it too ill-fitting for catching the jewel thieves and other nefarious characters whom I decided I was morally obliged to thwart, so I never actually used the device. Perhaps if I had a secret society headquartered in my house, I actually would have used it. It was basically the equivalent of the extendable ears, though. I’d imagine it would be the same sort of thing; the ear part would be the magical equivalent of a microphone (and we know that wizards have radio and would have a charm for something approaching this), the long, stretchy bit would conduct the sound, and the other end would, of course, be a speaker. It’s basically just something to capture a sound, have it travel through a long string, and broadcast out again. The Weasley’s probably could have managed something like it without either magic or technology. It’s not the most interesting answer, but it’s the most logical one.

    I don’t think the Weasley twins would make an actual ear, I think that feature is purely aesthetic and a very cool one. I always saw the material of the ears it as well-molded silly putty. The connection to George losing his ear was probably just an unfortunate coincidence. If you read the scene closely, Fred, Ron, and Ginny are the ones talking about them. Fred’s the one holding them. We know they’re George’s too, but the writing doesn’t hint at it. There’s no “George dropped the ear” or anything that might suggest that he’ll lose his later on.

  • In short I don’t think they used real ears. My ear doesn’t work properly, so I’m strangely lopsided in my hearing and have an aid. If I was to be really boring I’d say that maybe they stole or accioed a hearing aid and stuffed it inside a toy ear and then put a spell on it to bring it to life. Having said that I’m a muggle and they’re not. However, I’m going to be ‘creative’ here.
    So lets explore some possibilities. If we were to go on the theory that Fred and George were time travelers, then I say they went into the future and collected Georges ear and brought it back to present day, used the copying charm (can’t remember it) and kept copying Georges ear so much so, that they turned it to mush and he’ll never get it back…he doesn’t get it back anyway…yeah… I just remembered that Laura’s not keen on the idea of time travel so I think I’ll disregard this.
    Another possibility is maybe they actually decided to do some muggle scientific research. I mean they researched and taught themselves how to pick a lock muggle style. They’re obviously interested in how some parts of the muggle world works. Why not research the body whilst they’re at it? Maybe they accioed some skin cells and a small part of bone from an ear that was able to grow artificially. So it works a bit like IVF treatment and they just call it EVF – The Ears Vibration Front. Maybe they found a magical way to grow synthetic style ears that have the workings of a real ear and placed some kind of charm on it to amplify the sound more. Like a magic type of battery that never runs out. The ear workings is based on sensitivity and sound waves. Are there charms in the wizarding world for these kinds of things?
    I’m not a scientist, but I can imagine that Fred and George put a lot of thought and simple science into their magic. After all, science makes up a huge part of the world and who we are, so maybe they just wanted to find a way forward in magical scientific technology.
    One final thought before I go away and think on more. In the last book Hermione researched magical bugging. Is there are possibility that she may have help them in this aspect? Or maybe they knew she’d researched it and that’s where the idea came from in the first place.
    If you want the overall simple answer…it’s just simply magic.

  • AccioPotassium!

    I feel that Fred & George are tapping into their inter father’s obsession over muggle technology. The Extendable Ears are basically a magical version of the classic two tin cans & a string. They probably have seen many strange tools involving muggle communication from their Father’s workshop, and the ears are just away to add their own humorous artistic flair to a simple, yet useful muggle technology.

    • DolphinPatronus

      This is how always viewed them as well. Tho I will say that after reading suprisinglyswishy’s idea I feel like they could be a sort of hybrid of the two concepts.

    • surprisinglyswishy

      I thought of this too, but decided that they’re more like one can and a string, because you can’t hear/speak from both directions.
      Also, thank you for the marvellous image of Arthur Weasley trying to figure out how the tin can phone works.

      • AccioPotassium!

        I will bet Arthur was all tied up on the situation, because it must have look rather phony to him.

    • Ok so good theory but the tin cans work like a telephone. So it’s a lopsided ear.
      I just thought that although I don’t think there’s any foreshadowing of George loosing an ear, having both ears working correctly means you can balance well. I can imagine George inventing an extension of the extendable ears where he can find a way to attach the ear to the inside of his ear, much like Mad Eyes eye and then uses it to his advantage on top secret missions.
      Just a theory.

    • Margaret

      My opinion on the matter is similar to your ideas AccioPotassium!
      I think it is very similar to the cans and string. The EE are described in the book as being ‘Flesh coloured looking string’. So basically it’s just string, there is not ear, real or fake, on the strings. That was how the EE were portrayed in the films, but we’re not here to talk about the films are we? This is a reread, and that means canon. They are described as string, so it’s just a listening device…with a snazy name, because it’s Fred and George who invented it. Therefore, I also don’t really think it had anything to do with George’s ear…except maybe that when Jo thought of George losing his ear, she got the idea somewhat by thinking of their EE….and figured it might be funny to create a sort of running joke about ears….It seems like it might be her sense of humour.

      • AccioPotassium!

        Indeed I was wrong about the Extendable Ears having ears connected to the ends of the flesh color string. I must have had my memory change from the image of the movie, but I enjoy the film’s description of the Extendable Ears more than the novel portrayal of the device.

  • DolphinPatronus

    I (much like AccioPotassium!) always saw the Extendable Ears a bit like the classic 2 cans tied together with string. Tho I must admit after reading surprisinglyswishy’s ideas I like the element of the wizard radio being tied in to this tool. I also agree that the ear itself is simply for looks & most likely something (possibly a cup or tin can) transfigured to look like an ear. In fact maybe that is exactly what these are…2 cans tied together with string then transfigured to look like an ear with the magic that makes wizard radios work imbued into them.

  • swishandflick

    I know I was pretty intrigued that they were pictured as actual ears in the films, because that’s not the way they are in the book. The OoTP only ever refers to them as “flesh coloured strings”, and when they are at St. Mungo’s, those strings are describes as “skinny worms” that “wriggled” and “snaked under the door.” I kind of imagined them to be like animated headphones, where the jack is a super sensitive microphone… not really sure about the movie version though if I had to take a guess, I’d say there were just transfigured to look like ears, and animated to move around. The book ones make more sense though, because a piece of string is much less noticeable than an ear lying about, and I doubt Fred and George wanted to make something that would stand out so much- kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

    • Okay fair. For the film I think to make it clearer for the kids they made them ears to help them understand it better.
      For the book, I always imagined they were strings that wriggled as described but when they were at their point of where they needed to be, the end transformed into an ear so they could pick up the sound waves.

  • nikigryff

    I’ve always found it very interesting that in Deathly Hallows, Chapter 15 (I think) Hermione doesn’t have to place the ear outside their protective encasing, instead it appears that they are ambulatory. It seems that there is a certain way, perhaps through magic or perhaps just through their creation. that enables them to travel to find the certain things that the listener is intrigued about/wants to listen to.

  • Cassandra1447

    Perhaps the basis of the Extendable Ear is simply an enchanted tube. The input end of the Extendable Ear could catch the sound waves, which are then amplified and contained by spellwork, allowing the sound to propagate down the tube to the output end. We know the Sonorous Charm exists, so it is possible to amplify sound waves. We’ve seen spells which make things impenetrable or which create a shield, which suggests that a spell of containment is probably possible.

    The exterior could simply be the packaging so to speak. A more life-like exterior makes the tool more playful and more appealing to the prankster.

  • Halfbloodprincess

    There’s not much for me to say because everyone had the same idea as me, but I’d like to point out that someone should write a fanfic involving Fred and George murdering people for their ears…..

    • Margaret

      Lol sorry, but that cracked me up. I bet someone is working on this fanfic right now…although I do believe F&G would go to the morgue and find already dead people.

      • Elvis Gaunt

        They bought them from body-snatchers peddling their ware on Knockturn Alley.

    • Indeed! But there actually is a fanfic and audiofic after Fred’s death where he uses the “ghost” of George’s ear up in heaven to talk to George down on earth … it’s called something like Extendable Ears … and it’s pretty fantastic! Go audiofictions!

  • vaughnerich

    I didn’t realise Extendable Ears weren’t ear-shaped in the books, so that makes me dislike the idea less, thanks swishandflick.

    Re-reading, I question what the point of them was in that, I would think there would be a (possibly simple) charm equivalent that could be used. I suppose the positives of it would be that Ears can move and perhaps a spell would need direct placement whereas the devices can seek it out for you.
    Also, I don’t know if this is an actual positive, but there could be a differences between active magic, like casting a spell, and more indirect magic, like using a magical device. Perhaps the later is more difficult to detect because no one is technically “using” magic but just letting something magical do what it does?… Although perhaps its still magically imbued with some sort of spell so it’d be detected anyway.. No clue.

    This got me thinking about why wizards would ever use magical items anyway when it seems most things are manageable by spells themselves.

    Perhaps it’s just fun toys and novelty items for kids, Zonko’s and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes are seemingly targeting children as an audience. Possibly it’s just quirky and silly fun, or perhaps if even younger, the aren’t capable of such magic if they don’t have wands/sufficient skill. For such items I think in the story they add to a theme of the power of children. These silly things overlooked by adults can be used effectively. It could also be the idea of using items made by good for good (out of love of entertainment) against evil. Joke devices being overlooked in magic is a good reason to use them in general I suppose.

    There’s also other magical objects that aren’t as novelty, like Dark Detectors, which I would think again would have charm counterparts, but some of them like a Foe-Glass do seem more convenient than having to recast a spell constantly. The Remembrall seems a little stupid in that it doesn’t help you remember what it is you forgot..but perhaps a spell could do this. The Remembrall could still be considered convenient I guess.

    (BTWs I pronounce it (in my mind?) as (vaughn-erik) like just the two separate names…apparenlty I dont know what a space bar is..to be fair, most usernames don’t usually allow for spaces… underscores? What is this, Youtube?…)

  • Dianka_Potter

    I don’t think that Extendable Ears have some connection with the loss of George’s ear, it’s just a gracious coincidence ms.Rowling has made in the books.
    I always imagined them quite flexible and with an ability of the cable to take any shape you want, like children’s plasticine (it isn’t sticky though). I really don’t fancy the idea of actual ear on the end of cable (as it was shown in the movie), for me it’s just a thin flesh-coloured cord.

  • aLargeMalevolentBat

    Back in High School, to explain how stethoscopes worked, they had us tie some yarn to a metal hanger. From there they made us wrap the excess yarn around our fingers, put the fingers in our ears while a partner tapped on the hanger to simulate the transfer of sound waves. This is kind of how I imagine the extendable ears working. Sort of like the tin-can-string phone, except fleshy. For some reason, I more imagined the ear going up to the door, like a person would normally do, instead of under (though I suppose that would work just as well. As for what they are made of, I suppose the same stuff as theater prosthetics like elf ears or hobbit feet.

  • ArchdukeSeverus

    Fred and George have a magical stem cell lab in their room.
    We know that electricity doesn’t work in the wizard world (probably because of the root of magic being electromagnetic) but this doesn’t mean that other sciences don’t work. Various muggle sciences, if introduced to the wizarding world, could be helped along a lot by magic so that they are more productive and easier to do. Fred and George are the type of people that would be able to look past prejudices and experiment with muggle sciences. After all they looked into everything in making new products.
    If they did use this method then they would have probably grown some type of ear (probably human like) that picked up sounds like a ear would and transmit them along a string of nerves to the brain, or in this case some sort of natural speaker. I’d think that the natural speaker on the receiving end of the extendable ear would be the most difficult part to make as Fred and George wouldn’t have anything to base it on in nature.

  • I think that it’s less to do with magic and more to do with physics. Maybe the twins charmed it so that the sound waves would enter the “ear”, bounce off the sides of the string and come out the other end. It was probably made up of plastic or clay. As for the foreshadowing, STOP LOOKING SO INTO THE TEXT. Oh and i just realized that Grimmauld Place is simply Grim Old Place. I’m such a genius.

  • Olivia Underwood

    I just wanted to mention that I have a pair of Extendable ears from the Warner Bros Studio Tour. They actually work, with earphones input into the plastic ears. I wonder though that in the books maybe the plastic ears weren’t just decoration but actually could record sound and transmit it at the same time, like those old LP’s. So the ears were actually designed to receive soundwaves. I definitely think that this was a collaboration of the weasley twins’ wowsy magic and arthur’s knowledge of muggle technology.

  • Dwayne Roberts

    im sorry i know this is a bit off topic but something that nagged me alot during everything to do with number 12 was WHY WUD THE BLACKS WHO HATED MUGGLES HAVE THEIR HOUSE IN A MUGGLE SOCIETY OR ANYWHERE CLOSE TO MUGGLES …if you look at the way the movie shows u number 12 its like they were squashed between 2 really normal looking muggle houses and i just dont see the blacks somehow being happy with that …. as for the ears i dont know …even i think its just the magical version of a string with a can instead of 2 … i know my main question doesnt answer the question of the week but can some1 please gimme an answer im sooo confused with this 1 it bugs me

    P.S …i love u guys and ull have brought back my love for potter which seemed to be fading mostly due to post college life ….thank you sooooo much

  • Mama_Slytherin

    I always imagined them being made of something like silicone – much like what some creature make-ups are made of for movies. I would imagine the wizarding world has access to raw materials like this or a magical equivalent (hopefully this thick/gluey material I imagine isn’t made of poor unicorn hooves or something). They would mold these in some automated machine and then add a couple spells to them – one for the “extendable” part, which seems to be a common enough sort of spell, and then another spell to make them hear, maybe the opposite of muffliato spell.

    I never really considered that this was foreshadowing – but that is the fun of rereading the series like this with so many viewpoints available. JKR is known for these “easter egg” moments so it may very well be a small nod to her future plans. But what this really makes me question is whether he created a prosthetic for himself in later years using the same concept as the ears. After all they say he still had a “hole” left – I wonder if the auditory nerves were still viable and able to transmit a message if he made such a magical device. I would expect he could create a whole wardrobe of ears…pure gold, elephant, dog, cat….why not have some fun with it? There is mention on Pottermore of magical prosthetic (for Professor Kettleburn), so there is a precedence.

  • Porkchopsandwiches

    I always assumed that the extendable ears had to be created in a way similar to the metallic hand that voldy created for wormtail at the end of GoF. At first glance, I imagine that such objects involve complex magic that not only summons things of a certain shape, but to *synthesize* the material that has certain properties.

    But then again, since both the silver hand and extendable ears imitate the form and function of actual body parts, i would imagine that it doesn’t matter what the actual material is, but rather that it’s all in the enchantment. For that matter, the hogwarts statues spring to life and actually defend the school in DH.