In a weekly series, staff writer Katie Majka takes a look at some of our favorite witches and wizards, and how they fit into literary and social archetypes. This week: Rubeus Hagrid
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Rubeus Hagrid is a testament to the philosophy that nothing sticks like a first impression and, moreover, Hagrid’s first appearance in the Harry Potter series gives us the most succinct summary of a character yet. In his first scene on Privet Drive, Hagrid proves himself capable, loyal, emotional, and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Harry Potter’s safety and well-being, and these traits are consistent throughout the entirety of the series. When someone or something is put under Hagrid’s care, he will fight to the death to protect it.
So while Argus Filch might claim the professional title of caretaker, it’s the Hogwarts groundskeeper who earns the title in every other capacity. In fact, Filch and Hagrid represent two sides of the same coin in how they allow their separation from the Wizarding world to affect them, and these differences are key in proving Hagrid’s archetype.
But instead of taking his bitterness at the system out on the students who are awarded the education Hagrid was not, he loves, teaches, and protects them, rather than resenting them for having what he should have had, too.
It’s not only to the students that Hagrid is devoted, but an array of non-humans as well, a theme which quickly becomes a recurring one in the series. Hagrid’s preoccupation with dangerous creatures and his insistence that they’re just misunderstood is a reflection of his own self-image. Hagrid takes control of any baser instincts he may have inherited from his giantess mother, and is known to be a kind and gentle man, despite his mishaps. Because Hagrid knows how difficult it is to prove oneself, he takes pains to allow everyone and everything that same opportunity, a fact which is made obvious in Hagrid’s care of Norbert, Fluffy, Aragog, Buckbeak, the Blast-Ended Skrewts, and Grawp alike. He treats them all with love and respect; although it’s not always to his benefit, he believes that’s what these creatures deserve.
This philosophy leads into Hagrid’s defense of Firenze in Half-Blood Prince, when the centaurs would have beaten their fellow to death for accepting Dumbledore’s offer of employment—because, to Hagrid, there is nothing shameful in lending a helping hand, no matter how your traditions or customs protest otherwise. Hagrid would not let his giant’s blood determine his character for him, and as such he believes that the centaurs’ lifestyle should come second to what he believes is the right thing to do.
But all of this proof that Hagrid is the ultimate caretaker plays second fiddle to his relationship with our favorite bespectacled boy wizard. When we say that Harry loses all of his father figures throughout the series—and I am as guilty of this as anyone—we do Hagrid (as well as Arthur Weasley, but that’s another story) a great disservice. Because when we take a moment to consider it in full, Harry’s journey out of the Muggle world and into the Wizarding one—along with his acceptance of the destiny that comes with it—begins and ends with Hagrid.
Harry’s escape from his neglectful childhood is bookended by Hagrid, who brings him to Privet Drive in Sorcerer’s Stone and then takes him away in Deathly Hallows. And while thought to be a great joke on the part of Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Hagrid carrying Harry’s thought-to-be-dead boy out of the Forbidden Forest is not a humiliation, but rather Hagrid once again bringing Harry precisely where he needs to be.
In the interim, Hagrid proves himself to be the most consistent adult figure in Harry’s life, and makes him feel like a person with a future beyond his predestined one as the Chosen One. He helps Harry to get to know his past when he puts together the photo album of Harry’s parents, and does everything those parents would have done, between baking him a birthday cake and escorting him around Diagon Alley. During this time in Sorcerer’s Stone, when Harry is feeling especially vulnerable in light of everything Hagrid has taught him about himself and the Wizarding world, Hagrid senses his anxiety and reassures him:
“Don’ you worry, Harry. You’ll learn fast enough. Everyone starts at the beginning at Hogwarts, you’ll be just fine. Just be yerself. I know it’s hard. Yeh’ve been singled out, an’ that’s always hard. But yeh’ll have a great time at Hogwarts — I did — still do, ‘smatter of fact.”
As Hagrid understands his parade of otherwise misunderstood creatures, he understands Harry as well, and from there on he always has time Harry, no matter what he needs. Hagrid not only gives advice and encouragement, but a firm word when need be. He tells Harry and Ron off for being on the outs with Hermione in Prisoner of Azkaban, and often tries to put the trio in their place whenever they—Harry especially—voice their usually unfounded suspicions about Snape.
Considering Harry’s heavy destiny, all he wants is to be in control, and he finds what he needs in Hagrid’s reassuring words that no matter what the world expects from you, being yourself is all you can do and you have to be content with that. Through caring about Harry as a person rather than a commodity in the war against evil, Hagrid teaches Harry to treat himself the same way. Hagrid knows from personal experience that even if you can’t change the world’s perception of you, you do control your own self-image, and sometimes the knowledge that you are you—and that you are good—is enough.
Be sure to check out our other Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes installments.