Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 86

This week presents us with a question that we have long waited to ask. Brace yourselves, it’s an obvious one.

THIS IS IT! This is the chapter where Mad-Eye Moody confirms that yes, that is a boggart in the drawing room desk. What exactly does he see? What does the boggart look like? BUT – there is more. Molly goes in there to try and get rid of the boggart, and sees all her dead children, husband, and is really fretting over the impending war. What would Molly’s boggart be if the Wizarding World wasn’t on the doorstep of a war? Also, if you want to go more in depth, what would Moody’s boggart be?

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

  • Bill White

    A) Moody either sees a formless shape but knows it’s a boggart
    B) Considering that every human fears death I almost think it would be the same or maybe arthur losing his job.
    C) I think Moody’s boggart would be the person that took his eye because that would be his greatest fear to lose the other one. Or it could be Voldemort getting away from him as he might have in his past

  • WizardorWhat

    a and c) I think that your first and last questions could have the same answer – Moody’s power is to look through the wood of the cupboard, and at the boggart. But what’s to say that the boggart doesn’t know that it’s being looked at by Moody and assume an appropriate form? Boggarts appear to have some magic about them which enables them to assume the form of whoever is near/looking at them – it seems to me unlikely that this magic could be defeated by the wood in the cupboard doors. I therefore think that Moody will be seeing whatever it is he fears most, and realise that it’s a boggart. I think an analogy can be drawn here with quantum physics – you can’t measure something without affecting it; in the same way, you can’t observe a boggart without its realising and assuming an appropriately scary form.

    As to Moody’s boggart – I should think that it would be the triumph of his enemies/defeat of his friends. Defeating dark wizards is his passion – I would have thought that losing to them will be his fear. Voldemort looking pleased with himself standing over a stricken Dumbledore would seem a reasonable candidate. Or maybe, as Bill White says above, the visage of any wizard who either defeated him (Moody) or at least gave him a run for his money. An alternative might be something potentially threatening which Moody doesn’t understand (e.g. an unmarked box) – we know that Moody can react unreasonably to such objects(e.g. in destroying the carriage clock which he mistook for a basilisk egg) – perhaps he fears being tricked or trapped by underhanded means.

    b) My understanding is that a boggart reveals one’s greatest fear, not merely one’s most pressing fear. Hence Ron’s greatest fear being spiders, even though his interactions with spiders are few and far between. If Voldemort were not Voldermorting about, I think that Molly’s greatest fear would still be her family (inc. Harry) dying – the fact that it would be less likely would not affect this.

    • Mama_Slytherin

      “Voldermorting about” ***snort***

      Next time I am feeling rather grumpy, I am going to tell my family that is what I am doing. lol

  • AccioPotassium!

    I feel that Molly’s Boggart would be the same regardless of the war was ahead of them. In this series of novels, we see Molly deeply caring about the wellbeing of her children throughout their lives. To childhood, to adulthood she has always profoundly loved her children. We also should remember she has already lost family members before the second coming of the Dark Lord. I feel this question is rather naïve, because the thought of losing any one of her seven children would be easily one of the worst fears of any mother, and it almost seems to undermine her as a mother.

  • WatchSky181

    it seems kind of like a parallel to quantum entanglement. the act of observation will cause the wavefunction to collapse (i.e. the probability distribution collapses into a fixed location). I see the same thing happening here. The act of observation forces the boggart to take shape. Crucially (though “schodinger’s cat” may mislead you), observation need not be conscious so it wouldn’t matter whether the boggart is aware of who is looking. Perhaps the boggart never intrinsically changes, but rather the magic works on how it manifests within your brain.

    • WizardorWhat

      re quantum entanglement – it depends on how far you want to take the analogy. Taken all the way, the boggart might be occupying a superposition until observed. But I was imagining the boggart as having some unknown form, which I think Lupin hints at in PoA – with the boggart assuming a scary form as soon as it became aware that it was being observed. A similar result, but achieved through magic rather than physical phenomena.

  • LeslieLovegood

    I think that Molly as such a loving a protective mother would have the same boggart even if the war wasn’t going on. Molly loves her family so fiercely that she would always worry about them. Shown in the fact that she has that fabulous clock.

    I think Moody would see something related to a mad breakout of Azkaban. All those death eaters that he put behind bars walking free. He worked very hard to catch criminals and I think he would fear those people being on the streets again.

    I also think as Lupin hints that the boggart has some kind of natural resting form. Showing fears is obviously the boggarts defense mechanism, so it cannot constantly be in that form. I’ve always thought that it takes on the form of fears when the boggart itself feels threatened by human presence. When in the cabinet, the boggart would not feel threatened and would be in it’s resting form:

  • RuddyOwls

    What does Moody see?
    A very interesting question which doesn’t only touch upon what form an unobserved boggart takes – how does Moody’s magical eye work? Looking into the writing desk isn’t just about seeing through solid objects… there is unlikely to be any light source inside the desk so it ought to be pitch black unless the magical eye somehow lights up the scene it is looking at. So either it has a magical endoscope function and Moody saw the Boggart, or it was dark but he somehow used it to sense magically the type of presence hiding in the dark.

    So assuming that Moody sees the boggart, does he see it in its true form, a formless blur or in the shape of his worst fear? His worst fear would have to be either conveniently small (a secret fear of snitches?) or scaled down and not very intimidating version of his fear (a micro dark wizard who somehow manages to overpower him?)

    What does the Boggart look like? I wonder if “What does a Boggart look like when no one is looking?” is the sort of philosophical question in the magical world that the Ravenclaw door knocker would ask, and similar to the muggle question “If a tree falls in the middle of a forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound?” I’ll offer another one, What would the Boggart appear as if you weren’t scared of anything?

    I like the idea suggested by Leslie Lovegood that appearing as someone’s greatest fear is a defence mechanism when it is threatened, like a spikey hedgehog/porcupine, or a butterfly that has eye markings on its wings. Such a powerful defence mechanism would probably be protecting a very vulnerable form – small, fragile, possibly cute! I imagine it could either be a formless ever moving blob, or a little bouncing black thing like the soot gremlins in “Spirited Away”. Energetic anyway with all the rattling they do to warn off people, like a rattle snake.

    Although the idea that they don’t really change form and its just how our mind perceives them is interesting – as people in the series can see the form someone else’s boggart takes (the classroom scene, Mrs Weasley’s etc) I think it must take a form rather than project one into the mind. The anecdote about the ‘Headless Slug’ and about confusing the Boggart suggests that there is some kind of mind there to battle with that can make mistakes.

    Molly Weasley’s Boggart. I think that losing loved ones or seeing them come to harm is going to be a common Boggart regardless of how likely it is to occur, so like previous commentators I think it would always take this form for Molly. The effect the war has is making the boggart much more difficult for her to fight because she can’t easily brush them off as silly or irrational, her family is under real threat. The curious thing about this scene is that the boggart is able to try out different frightening forms on the same person. Its not like a animagus form or patronus where there seems to be one for each person (unless they change a great deal), there are many potential fears a boggart could play on, and if given the opportunity it would try out several.

    As for what it would be if it wasn’t her family dead or related to the wizard war. I think that she would have fairly normal grown up concerns – not having enough money for things the family needs, Arthur losing his job, the Twins getting themselves into trouble with the law, Percy not reconciling with the family etc.

    Moody’s fears… hmm… he’s definitely a bit of a paranoid and suspicious old soldier as well as very brave. I think he would be scared of not being able to protect Harry (his most important mission when we meet him), he’d also probably fear attack even more since his imprisonment in Goblet, so being trapped in a trunk or other small space would probably feature highly.

    Sorry for the epic post, I don’t expect you to read it all out. I’ve just discovered Alohomora in the past few weeks and have been listening from the beginning – I love the show as I am usually in a constant state of re-read (Stephen Fry’s Audio books are my favourite thing to listen to on my mp3 player) and its nice to have company. I’m currently listening to your shows at the beginning of Goblet of Fire so I should catch up over the next couple of weeks and get stuck into Order of the Phoenix discussions.

    Ruddy Owls (A Gryffindor from Scotland who supports her local quidditch team the Montrose Magpies!)

  • SpectacularlyHypothetical

    For some reason I always pictured a natural boggart as looking like Toothless from How to train your dragon. Something that tries to be scary but is just cute.
    I reckon because Moody has seen the boggart’s natural form there’s an argument that he is immune to their effects. When you know and understand something, it’s much less frightening.
    Finally, it’s a bit of a cop-out answer but I think Molly’s boggart would be the same. Molly is the archetypal mother in the series, a mother’s deepest fear will always be the death of her children. I think Molly would have faced boggarts like this before. But it’s never been as real for her, that’s why she’s struggling.

  • Hufflepug

    I agree with the others that Molly would always see her loved ones just because she is the archetypal mother figure. However, I don’t think this necessarily means that your boggart can’t change depending on your situation. Think of Harry: in his third year he saw dementors, but how has his world changed since then? I’m almost certain that, had Harry been the one to find the boggart, he would have seen something related to Voldemort’s return or Cedric’s death because the anxiety from that event has been plaguing him for months. People like Ron, who saw things that may seem “superficial” like spiders, were under no great stress from the world in their third year. In times of war I’m sure it would be way more common for someone to immediately think of their loved ones being dead when a boggart appears because this is a fear that exists in basically everyone but is hardly ever at the surface unless there is a reason for it to be. In a literary sense, Molly physically seeing the boggart is a way for Jo to show that this collective fear is starting to manifest.

    Also, I’m not sure what Moody saw, but I’ve always pictured boggarts as cute little shadow-type things with a big pair of blinking eyes, all tucked into a cupboard.

  • I think Molly’s bogart would stay the same. It’s nature vs nurture. Molly is very much a nurturer and would hate to see nature take it’s course and steal one of her children. No parent should have to bury their child.
    I think the true form of a bogart is a bit of a conundrum. I think it may take the form of black mist that looks like it has substance. This mist could change at will.
    I think Moody’s fear would be himself. He’s a dangerous man who is trained to think like a dark wizard. I’d imagine that he would fear himself in a fit of dark rage or what the dark wizards would make him do should they ever gain control. Fear of not being in control of yourself is a terrible fear to have.

  • Elvis Gaunt

    I completely agree with Spectacularly Hypothetical that Moody can see the boggart in its actual form and thus is immune to it. However, if we assume that, due to his previous year’s experience, being locked up in a small, dark, closed space is one of his major fear, if not the worst, by looking at the boggart in the writing desk, he is still, in a way, seeing that fear.
    I believe Molly’s boggart was different before the war started. She was quite confident when she headed upstairs to get rid of the boggart. She seemed to have some experience with the creature and knew how to reduce her then worst fear into a funny form. She did not realize her boggart had changed. On seeing the boggart’s new form, she was thrown completely off balance because it was unexpected, shocking and there was no way of imagining it in a funny way. My guess is that her previous worst fear was Voldemort returning to power.

    • GinnyWeasley002

      Though I agree with Nuer in thinking that Moody in fact saw the boggart, not in it’s natural form, but as his fear, I 100% agree with you that a small, dark, space would be his fear. Fascinating deduction, all around. Though I’m sure Molly’s Boggart was always her family members getting injured in some form (It’s just her personality, her nature. The Weasley family clock, for instance, shows that that was always a fear of her’s). I do agree that it had changed, at least to some extent, since she had last battled with one.

  • Nuer

    I think Moody recognized a Boggart as soon as he saw it transform into his fear. I am assuming the Boggart always knows when it is being looked at; not even a magical eye can fool it. If Moody or anyone at all had known what a Boggart originally looks like, there would’ve been some kind of documentation of it. It wouldn’t be a mystery.
    To answer the second part, I think if there was no war going on, Molly would still have seen something horrible happening to her children. Maybe the family running out of money and starving. She’s always had to take care of her family, even before Voldemort, and remember when she freaked out when the twins and Ron flew the car to get Harry from the Dudleys? “Beds empty, no note”. She thought they could’ve died. Oh and the Howler! She only got angry because she got scared.
    I am curious about one thing though. What if more than one person are looking at the Boggart at one time? What is it going to turn into?

    • HelenTheEagle

      Professor Lupin beat you to that last question. He asks Harry during the boggart lesson why they have an advantage as a group and Harry answers correctly that it is because the boggart won’t know which fear to pick. Professor Lupin then confirms that it will likely get confused. He even mentions that he once saw a boggart that tried to combine both fears and messed up completely.
      I imagine that’s why he makes them line up, it will only face one person at a time.

      I’m guessing that, depending on the intelligence of the individual boggart, it will either pick one fear or try to transform into all the fears at once, believing it will scare all of them at the same time.

      • Nuer

        Man! I should’ve remembered that! I’ve read all the books thrice but it’s been a long time since my last marathon :p well, thanks for jogging up my memory!

        • HelenTheEagle

          You’re welcome, happy I could help 🙂

    • GinnyWeasley002

      I COMPLETELY agree with you! At first, I was a bit confused regarding what a Boggart looks like, especially since (I believe) Lupin once said that nobody knows what a Boggart looks like when it’s alone. So, I must say that I agree with you. The Boggart did not need Moody to physically be present in order to transform into his fear, it only needed him to look at it. I definitely agree that a Boggart would not be fooled by Moody’s magical eye. Excellent deduction.

      • Nuer

        Yeah! Thanks for the encouragement, haha!

  • MoodyHorcrux

    For me, I always imagined the boggarts would look something like a Bezor, accept vibrating and shaking around angrily, till faced with a witch or wizard. Wait!!… Can other magical creatures like goblins and house-elves see

    • Mama_Slytherin

      I have always thought that if a boggart were in a Muggle home, it would be the “monster under the bed” or in the closet, in fact Lupin mentions they love the spaces under beds and in closets. To me, that was Jo’s nod to childhood fears of monsters that are so common. So I think that everyone can see boggarts…but not everyone can do something about it.

      • MoodyHorcrux

        That’s an interesting way to look at it. So if everyone can see boggarts, is it only witches and wizards who see a much more materialized fear from the boggart, and is therefore equipped with the magic to get rid of it if they needed to? Whereas muggles sense them hiding in the dark (their fear aka the boggart) and creates that feeling as if someone is watching you, but they can’t see it?
        … Where would house-elves and goblins stand on this? I have a feeling they’d be able to see them more than muggles would. But if they can see them how would they get rid of them?
        Is it possible that house-elves and goblins can see boggarts in their true form? Like how moody sees boggarts?

        – ( I’m agreeing with what people have previously stated, that I don’t believe the boggart could feel Moody’s eye on it therefore wouldn’t transform into his fear, and he would be able to see the boggart in it’s true form)

  • GinnyWeasley002

    Not specifically an answer to the Question of the Week, but, I once saw a post on Tumblr, I think, that said something along the lines of: “When Molly Weasley was faced with a Boggart in OotP she saw Fred and George, dead. Because EVEN IN HER WORST NIGHTMARE, her most intense fear, she could never imagine them separated. Not in life, not in death.” A heartbreaking idea, but one to which I definitely adher.

  • MrSleepyHead

    A variety of questions here. Since this batch of questions stemmed from what a boggart’s true form is, I’ll start there.

    In PoA Neville defeats the boggart, and “the boggart exploded, burst into a thousand tiny wisps of smoke, and was gone.” This is the only insight we have of a boggart’s form outside of when it’s shapeshifting into a victim’s fear. Therefore, if I had to give a straight answer on what a boggart looks like when it’s alone, I would say that it is an amorphous ‘body’ of smoke. This answer’s not altogether satisfying, though, since it could be analogous to, upon seeing smoke from a burning log, assuming that the final molecular stage
    is the same as its resting stage (i.e. wood). But we do know at least one form the boggart takes when not shapeshifting, and that’s wisps of smoke upon death. That’s as canonical as we can be. Though I really
    enjoyed the point made by WatchSky181 about quantum entanglement.

    The other two questions have been discussed with more rigor than I’ll get into, largely because I think the best answer is in the discussion.

    – Moody’s magical eye may have seen the boggart in its true form, or he may have seen his worst fear. We know the eye transcends normal magical barriers (the Cloak of Invisibility, even), so it seems possible that
    the boggart wouldn’t be aware of Moody’s gaze.

    – If the latter, though, his worst fear is plausibly tight spaces (an interesting fear for the boggart to resolve: I’ve always wondered how boggarts recreate more abstract fears. And also an interesting fear for Moody to process if looking at the inside of a desk) or failing his mission (a very mission-oriented person).

    – Molly is so family-oriented that I think her worst fear would always be something bad happening to her family; with war looming so close, this “something bad” was embodied by death. In a non-mortal peril period, I imagine “something bad” could be of varying degrees. But I think it brings up an interesting point about the shape a boggart will take: it seems to be the individual’s greatest fear at that time; just like a Patronus, that fear can change situationally. I think Elvis Gaunt makes a good point about Molly’s
    boggart having seemingly changed since she last faced one, though perhaps she hadn’t faced one since Care of Magical Creatures! But it does seem that she wasn’t cognizant of what shape the boggart would
    take: that could be because she wasn’t thinking about it (‘it’s just a boggart’) or that she wasn’t attuned to what fear the boggart would latch onto. There’s a whole psychology of what constitutes a “greatest
    fear” that would be interesting to get into.

  • SiriusPotty

    I think Mad Eye would see a hazy mist of some sort. Because a boggart has to see a person to transform into their fear, it would therefore be logical that it would not take a form when it is alone. But I think Mad Eye would obviously know that it was a boggart. I also think that Molly would see exactly the same in her boggart if there was no war. I think given her character, she is extremely protective of her family and I imagine that is her worst nightmare, as it would be for most mothers! Lastly I think for Mad Eye, his boggart would be some sort of representation of him being very weak and unable to defend himself. I imagine being an Auror that would be your worst nightmare, being in a dangerous situation where you couldn’t defend yourself and because he was an Auror for so long I would think that mind set would have stuck with him, even after he retired. Perhaps he would see himself without his leg and eye and wandless, wounded.
    P.S – I just wanted to quickly thank you guys for this amazing podcast! In the past two weeks I have listened to 37 episodes of Alohoroma! as a way to get me through my exam stress and after taking my exam yesterday, I could not have been more calm for it! So thanks again 🙂

  • Mama_Slytherin

    I imagine the boggart is like a blob of ectoplasm or ball of vapors when just chilling out of human sight.

    I think that Molly’s boggart would be the same. As a wife and mother myself, I can tell you that my boggart would also be my family dead/tortured. I can’t even talk about the “what ifs” of my husband or children dying (for instance, to write a will or funeral plans). I start crying right away. Since Molly is THE mother figure in the series, I think her boggart would always be something to do with the well being of her family, and since boggarts go to the root of an anxiety, seeing them dead would be the most effective boggart form.

    I think Moody’s boggart may be similar to Molly’s honestly, if he has any family left. Even without family I would imagine he fears failing the Order and Dumbledore, or the fear Voldemort will totally take over and have no opposition.

    I think most adult’s boggarts would be similar to Molly’s. We see Lupin’s boggart when he had no real emotional attachments – would his boggart be different after his marriage and Tonks being pregnant/having Teddy? For Dumbledore, I would imagine that a vision of Ariana would be his boggart as that event (her death) seems to be his darkest moment and the part of himself he can’t come to terms with. I think Sirius would have seen himself dead…MAYBE Harry, but I doubt it. Sirius was, in my opinion, very wrapped up in himself. Anyway, my point being that adults leave behind the fears of childhood (mummies, spiders, Snape) and realize that losing life and love are the things to be feared.

  • catfreak25

    I think that what Moody sees is a purpleish, cloudy shape made out of some vapor or gas along the lines of Gastly the pokemon (he is a shape-shifter too). Just what I always pictured in my mind of what one would look like. That is, of course if Moody can actually see the real shape of a boggart. Still not sure if he can actually see its true form or if, like my mom said, the boggart can sense from a distance if someone is looking at it and take that shape. Cause if Moody can see its true shape, how can he know it is a boggart for sure since no one has ever seen it in it’s natural form? Anyways, I think Moody’s real boggart would be a fear of tight spaces. After spending so many months locked up in his own trunk, it would drive anyone to be claustrophobic. Would be interesting to see how a boggart could pull that one off though.

    As for Molly, I think it might have to do with the twins; maybe seeing them without work and homeless on the streets, begging for food and shelter. She is always worried about their studies and their future and keeps saying that they will never amount to nothing if they do not give up their foolish dreams of opening a joke shop (that is of course only looking at the first 5 books). She constantly reminds them to apply themselves more to their studies in order to have more options for a proper career and a more secure one than going into a joke shop. So the fear of seeing them not succeeding in life is something that is often on her mind.

    A question for you all though, you think a boggart shows only fears that a person is conscious of having or do they also show some that their victims are unconscious of?

    ~catfreak25 (Minerva Lupin in the forums)

  • elliecanfly

    I have always thought of a Boggart as being non-corporeal when unobserved by a human. They are not creatures in their own right but only exist due the magic which picks up on the fears of whoever stumbles upon them. There are three possibilities of what Moody could see when he looked into the desk: either a vapour/ghost-like substance of some sort, or his worst fear, or nothing at all. I think it unlikely that the Boggart would be able to pick up on Moody’s emotions, or even realize that it was being watched, from another floor of the house, so I am inclined to believe that he saw nothing of any particular form and deduced from this that it must be a Boggart creating the noises.
    As far as I can remember, there aren’t any examples of people who’s Boggarts change over the course of the series. Something very dramatic would have to happen in one’s life to make their greatest fear change. I think due to Molly’s personality, as such a caring motherly figure, her Boggart would always be the death of her loved ones, war or no war, as she has been through this in the past with her brothers.

  • Elena Ragner

    I think one thing to keep in mind, in regards to Molly’s boggart, is PTSD (which, coincidentally, seems to be a recurring theme in the series). She’s been through the terrible trauma of having both of her brothers, presumably some of the closest people to her, being murdered by a terrible force of evil. One of the consequences of PTSD in the Muggle world is that people with PTSD always fear the worst, in any given scenario. I think tht may explain whya MOlly sees such gouesome images of her family murdered, because in her experience it’s a real possibility. That leads me to believe that even if there wasn’t a war she would see something similar, if in a diferent format.