Harry Potter: Why The Elves Were EnslavedBy Wizards
Elves were bound to serve wizard familiesin the Harry Potter universe, but why couldn't they all be free? And how longhad they been servants?
The Harry Potter universe is not safe fromdarkness and cruelty, and one of the elements found in the Wizarding World thathas raised many questions is elves working as servants for most wizardfamilies. In 1997, readers all over the world were introduced to the story ofthe boy who lived in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first entryin a series of seven novels chronicling Harry’s journey in the Wizarding Worldand his battle against the darkest wizard of all, Lord Voldemort.
The Harry Potter novels made the jump tothe big screen between 2001 and 2011, with the final book, Harry Potter and theDeathly Hallows, being split into two films. The Harry Potter saga expanded thefanbase, but as it happens with all adaptations, many details were left behind,leaving a lot of questions about many topics. Among those is why elves aren’tfree creatures and instead serve as servants, which is explained in the booksto an extent.
Throughout the Harry Potter series, readers learned that almostevery wizard family had a house-elf, and even Hogwarts had many working at thecastle. In the movies, the audience’s first approach to an elf from theWizarding World happened in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with theintroduction of Dobby, the Malfoy’s house-elf who was freed at the end of themovie. In the books, however, there were more house-elves mentioned throughoutthe novels, and the terrible conditions in which elves worked prompted Hermioneto found S.P.E.W (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) in Harry Potterand the Goblet of Fire, after witnessing the unjust treatment of elves at the1994 Quidditch World Cup. During this storyline, it’s mentioned that elves hadbeen serving wizards for a long, long time, to the point where it wasn’t seenas “slavery” nor anything like that, instead being a common practice that mostelves enjoyed.
It’s unknown how and why elves startedserving wizard families, but J.K. Rowling did give a bit of backstory to theelves’ arrival at Hogwarts. Rowling revealed that elves were brought toHogwarts by Helga Hufflepuff, in hopes to give them good work conditions –meaning getting paid and not being abused, which is what happened in mostfamilies. Sadly, not all elves got accustomed to being free or getting paid dueto their kind having served families for centuries. A good example of this canbe found in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Hermione knitted clothesto give to Hogwarts’ elves and thus free them, but the elves were so accustomedto their work and actually enjoyed it that they saw Hermione’s actions asinsulting, and refused to clean the Gryffindor room.
Although J.K. Rowling has expanded on manyelements from the Harry Potter universe for years, to the point where she hassometimes changed canon, she hasn’t spoken much about elves and their historyin the Wizarding World, specifically why they have served wizard families forso long. It’s important to note that Hermione’s efforts weren’t in vain, ashouse-elves participated in the Battle of Hogwarts, which changed some people’sviews on them, and she went on to work for the Department for the Regulationand Control of Magical Creatures at the Ministry of Magic, so it’s possiblethat elves are no longer bound to serve families – or, at least, are gettingpaid and aren’t abused anymore.