You did raise many questions, but I greatly enjoyed this nevertheless. I do consider it unethical to transfigure someone against their will. Especially so in the case of Malfoy, because even though he was being a jerk and shot at Harry's back, Crouch/Moody's response was still far to harsh. Draco was probably scarred for life. What is most disturbing is that everyone else was so happy about it.... But anyway, as this tangental review would suggest, your essay did raise many interesting questions that I will definitely ponder further. Who knows, I might even write something on the subject. This is quite inspiring. :)
I have similar thoughts about transfiguration, its complete change of one thing to another, and the fact that there could be ethical issues associated with it. Often I wondered why those poor kittens were vanished, but it ultimately came back to the Bible where man is created to be in a word, superior to all other beings, and none other than man have an immortal soul. Others rightly or wrongly can be considered food.
On another note, in my close read of the books for clues to what transfiguration really is, I found only few instances where the word transformation was used when I anticipated transfiguration. To back up a bit, when I started I anticipated that transfiguration and transformation would be used almost interchangeably - i.e. that during transfiguration, something would be described as being transformed from one thing to another. But interestingly, it is not. As careful as JKR was about her writing and layering, it made me think that perhaps in her world these were in fact two different things.
In almost all circumstances, the world transform is used to describe:
animagi, polyjuice potion, Voldemort, werewolves, veela, metamorphmagi, portkeys, and kelpies. The reference in OTP is also that time transforms the Death Eater's head into a baby head. In each of these references, the transformation seems to indicate that there is some part of the original still left behind. We know for example that polyjuice changes the exterior/body but not one's knowledge. An animagus retains its human thinking and reasoning powers.
However, when transfiguration is mentioned or takes place, JKR often uses the phrase "changes into" or "turns into" and almost never "transforms." Are they different? Can we tell by the exceptions?
The two exceptions: the golden dance floor is "transformed" during the wedding (does the fact that it is still a floor mean it's not transfiguration? weak, I admit) and more interestingly Hermoine "transforms" Ron's face at Shell Cottage before their trip to Diagon Alley in DH. If transfiguration is considered a permanent change, it is astounding that JKR uses transform in the case of rearranging Ron's face as the magical transformation is washed away in Gringott's tunnels. It led me to wonder that if he had been transfigured, and transfiguration is a complete change, then the Thief's Downfall would not have changed him back. What do you think about that?!
JKR has put out some great stuff! Keep the analysis coming, this is really fun!
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That was well-written, and also really interesting. I do have to say, I disagree that the desk would really be a big, because you can't create food. That's a definite truth in the series. And wouldn't creating a pig essentially be creating food?
Nicely done, though! :-)
Author's Response: Thank you! The exact quote about food, though, is "You can't make food out of thin air!". So, if we follow my logic, you could make food out of something that already exists. That's why it's so complicated :)
Awesome post. This is something I've wondered about myself as well. In that passage with Draco, when McGonagall gets angry at Crouch-disguised-as-Moody, it made me think that maybe over the years there have been changes in the laws and norms of the wizarding world, perhaps with greater concern about the ethical implications of forcibly transfiguring others than there were in the past, though as you wrote, there are lots of concerns still.
Liked your article. One thing you forgot to mention: When Ron was a tender age of three, Fred turned Ron's teddy bear into a giant spider. Fred was five at the time. This contributed to Ron's fear of spiders. We don't know if the spider turned back into the teddy bear. It is possible one of their parents change it back to a bear.
Tonks was a metamorphagus. She changed her appearance at will. She was born that way. And her son Teddy, could also change his appearance at will. We learn that Tonks could change her hair color and her facial features. Teddy's hair color changed too. Could Tonks and Teddy turn into inanimate objects or just some of their features. And, Professor Slughorn turned himself into a chair. He was still Professor Slugorn, he was disguised as a chair. He wasn't transfigured, was he?
I agree that this is a tricky subject. I always wondered about Krum (as you mentioned) turning into a shark to save Hermione in the Second Task. If we look at the quote you mentioned about the wizard turning into a bat, would Krum remember to save Hermione assuming his Tranfiguration was correct (it did mention he did it incorrecly and thus lost points)? Would he pose more of a danger to the champions and the people they had to save? Or did he purposely do it incorrectly so he could both swim and keep his mind?
As for the desk/pig debate, I do think that the pig is edible. Hermione states that food cannot be tranfigured, but a pig isn't really just food. It's not a loaf of bread that's ready to eat. You would have to kill and cook it first. So you may not be able to tranfigure something directly into food, but you can do an animal then make food out of it. We never see plants being tranfigured, but I assume it's the same process. You might be able to tranfigure a chair into a pea plant, but then you have to cut up and cook the plant for food.
I think this is a great article. It may, like you said, bring up more questions but isn't that the point of Alohomora? The more questions, the more discussions!
I found this article very interesting and thought I'd chip in my tuppence. I am reminded of book 7, when McGonagall must answer the question posed by the door of Ravenclaw Tower, "Where do vanished objects go?" her answer, "Into nonbeing," is clever and correct, and also conflicts with one of the basic laws of physics; that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, merely changed into something else.
As that statement conflicts with the laws of physics, this is where the subject of Transfiguration makes things interesting. It changes matter. Does what McGonagall said then apply to the subject of Transfiguration? Do the slippers simply go into a state of nonbeing until their owner decides to change them back into bunnies?
What happens to the consciousness of that bunny? What if I transfigure the bunny into a horse? Does the horse retain the memories it had as a bunny?
I don't think that changing one thing into another and leaving it there is ethical. Especially if what you're transfiguring the living thing into happens to be inanimate. But, this also creates the question, what if ti's reversible? What about if I turn something inanimate into something animate?
Questions questions everywhere, and not an answer in sight. Good article though.
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