A quick Harry Potter musing

Shaggy, Dan, and I were at Sam’s Club on a soda run, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was playing on several of the large screens. I only caught a moment of the film — the Death Eaters were terrorizing the Quidditch Cup crowd. I watched as the crowd of thousands scattered in panic, fleeing before a dozen spell-flinging evil wizards, and I wondered…

This is not a muggle crowd. This is a crowd of magic-using folk. Don’t most — if not ALL — of these people have wands of their own? Why are none of them counterspelling, or attacking back?

What would happen if everybody at the Superbowl over the age of 16 had been trained in the use of a handgun, and was currently carrying… then, suddenly, a group of armed men with RPG launchers attacked the stadium?

Answer? Lots of panic, lots of fleeing, but in short order it would quiet down, and there would be several dead men lying beside their RPG launchers. After all, at least a thousand of those fans would NOT panic, and would shoot back.

The Harry Potter universe is an armed society. A very, very well-armed society. Those wands are far more powerful than handguns, and the grown-ups give them to children who carry them around all day at school.

(Note: I know, I know… it’s a FANTASY, and it was originally written for CHILDREN. But just because it’s fantasy doesn’t mean it we can’t comment upon the internal inconsistencies and incongruities of the fantasy world.)

89 thoughts on “A quick Harry Potter musing”

  1. Pfft. It’s like when Han Solo tries to shoot Darth Vader, and he can just deflect the blaster bolts with his hand. You’re basically saying “Yeah, but if there were 1000 Han Solos, then some of the bolts would hit Darthy eventually.”

    Not gonna happen. Death Eaters are the Sith Lords of the Harry Potterverse.

    1. Actually, the situation you describe is PRECISELY the one that took out the Jedi: Lots of guys with guns.

      Besides, Darth vs. Han isn’t the right comparison. It should be Darth vs. a hundred Jedi, all using Force-magic rather than lightsabers. Remember, the thing that gets you into the stands at a quidditch match is the fact that you’re NOT a muggle. That implies the ability to use magic.

      1. Yes, but (from what I’ve gathered, anyway) the average wizard only uses spells like Mrs Weasley – “101 Easy Cooking Spells” and the like. They wouldn’t be well-trained in offensive and defensive spells. Most of them would probably just have office jobs. As such, I’m equating it to a clumsy blaster rather than awesome force-powers. Whereas Voldemort’s Army is well-trained in both offensive and defensive spells, not to mention powerful dark magic.

        When were the Jedi taken out with lots of guns? I’m only really familiar with the original trilogy.

          1. That’s 5-6 troopers for each Jedi, of course. The masters (unless they were taken by complete surprise) required at least twice that, at least that’s what I gathered.

          2. Oh, all of us who actually like Jedi agree whole-heartedly. Of course, me and my friends refuse to accept Mace Windu’s death. In OUR version of the world, he survived and became the puppet-master behind the entire revolution.

            Mace Windu is the man.

          3. In the words of IGN (paraphrased):

            What makes Mace Windu truly awesome, however, is that his lightsaber is purple. Purple. It’s like getting your arse kicked by a huge purple dildo.

        1. Yeah, they implied that dueling had fallen out of favor (at Hogwart’s at least) until the year of Chamber of Secrets, didn’t they?

    2. And it took only a handful of storm troopers to take down powerful Jedi – lots of firepower wins the day.

      If there were 1000 Han Solos, Vader definitely would have bit the dust 😉

      1. To a certain extent, one can absord energy and release it in a largish outward explosion…I take this from I, Jedi, which is a random book. But Luke did, in said book, say “My father was supposedly very adept at that type of power” or somesuch. Just sayin.

          1. You do recall correctly…but Vader was pretty good at blocking blaster bolts with his gloves, they didn’t get burnt off. Small testing sample, though.

          2. Underneath Vader’s gloves were robotic hands. Luke was also able to take a blaster bolt in his hand with little ill effects as well. IIRC, the hand even worked albeit at diminished capacity. and he was able to repair all but the skin on the trip to dagobah.

  2. I never had any ability to suspend my disbelief with Harry Potter for one simple reason.
    In a reality where people can turn invisible, fly on broomsticks, and become werewolves…..why does Harry need corrective lenses? Shoot, in THIS nonmagical reality, people can go in and have laser surgery and not need glasses…why can’t Harry or some trained wizard just zap his eyeballs?
    Blah….hate Harry Potter.

    1. To be fair, in this nonmagical reality, people who can go in and have laser surgery and not need glasses still make the choice to wear glasses instead of having their eyes fixed. I suspect that for most people you will find one or two “imperfections” that they could easily and or cheaply fix/correct/do away with that they live with because either the minimal effort/cost is more than they are willing to make/pay or because those problems or imperfections are a part of their self image. It is unrealistic to expect all people to make the most logical choices about every aspect of their lives (and that all could be replaced with most and probably with any.) Fiction where that happens tends to feel more forced than even moderately incompetant fantasy writing, and that sort of utopian Mary Sueism is rather quite boring.

      1. Yet, at the rate that Harry Potter keeps breaking his glasses, you’d think he’d op for corrective eye magic, or at the very least some magically indestructable glasses. Sadly, in the end, it all comes down to plot holes, plot devices, and deus ex machina; like how Velma in Scooby-Doo never gets contacts or a neckstrap for those glasses, or how the villans insist on scare tactics rather than killing off those meddling kids and their dog too.

          1. *watches jedi drop lightsaber and have the wrist strap lope it around, slicing him in half*

            *decides not to get wrist strap for own light sabre*

          2. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has thought about how my fictitious lightsaber is activated. Mine has an internal switch that needs to be activated via use of the Force. No random idiots getting ahold of it and chopping their own limbs off!

    2. Like star wars I cannot stand the elitist nature of it. You’re one of the cool in people because of genetics or eugenics or you’re not.

  3. I was saying exactly the same thing to my girlfriend when we went to watch it… “WTF!?!?! Those guys are outnumbered a few thousand to one!!! Why isn’t anybody fighting BACK?!?!?”

    Just TRY something like that with the NASCAR crowd. Where the hell was the American delegation to the game?

    I agree. GLARING plot hole.

    1. Ditto, I remember thinking this while watching the scene in the theater too.

      However, I don’t recall questioning it in the book. Was I too caught up in actively reading, or was there an explanation? Probably the former, although most of the Wizards in the potterverse do seem a bit inept and don’t really rely on reason much (or at all) and so the “you fool we all have guns” response somehow worked in that context.

      I read an interesting piece that stated that the wizards were fundamentally retarded as a society due to all of their shortcuts, and whenever they patronize the mundanes in the books for their quaint inventions to make up for their deficiency, it’s some well-positioned irony crafted by Rowling. After all, for all their wonder, the Wizard community is by far not the dominant race. Ruling castes don’t number in the thousands and hide as a fact of life… outside of the Illuminati, that is.

      1. Well, two things I vaguely recall from the book:

        1. The Death Eaters had muggle hostages. They were Imperiusing them in the air. If anyone tried to attack the Death Eaters, the muggles would doubtlessly be killed, and that would be a Bad Thing.

        2. Death Eaters will use Unforgivable Curses, and common wizards (even wizards supposedly trained to handle such situations) would never be able to compete. A handful of Death Eaters might be immobilized relatively humanely, but you’d also have a hundred or so dead innocents who didn’t go painlessly.

        And finally, though this is just added flavour, the Death Eaters were widely held to be extinct, and horror stories about them had grown wildly during their time away, so the half-asleep, hung-over sports fans were probably more likely to panic in a massive frenzy than to group up and fight back. Of course, the movie zipped through the entire sequence so quickly that it’s understandable one might criticise the mob mentality — especially one who only saw small snippets of the scene in a Best Buy. 😉

    2. Not really, it’s a reminder that magic isn’t perfect and can’t do everything. Its also a reminder that Harry is flawed, which makes him easier to relate to.

  4. I enjoy Harry Potter a lot. I’m the person in my family who gets to read the books first, mainly because I can have a given book finished by the evening of the day we buy it. That said, the world is chocked full of inconsistancies of that sort. Some fantasy gets around that by saying that magic isn’t technology and can’t be harnassed like technology (like electricity or steam power.) Problem is that in HP, magic is treated like another technology. A little less predictable perhaps, but essentially a technological approach to magic.
    I just leave that little chunk of my analytical mind behind when I read the books. They aren’t the fantasy version of hard science fiction, and to be honest, they are a lot more self-consistant than some fantasy that I’ve read.

    1. That’s one of the things that’s bothered me about Harry Potter; the magic is the equivalent of Star Trek technology. It set the mood and pads the story line but internal consistency and logic is somewhat lacking. Can almost see Harry Potter magic ships in the 23rd century, having to re-calibrate the main deflector wand…

      Another thing that bothers me about Harry Potter is that magic, in and of itself, is fairly mundane. It comes across almost Victorian in feel. Much prefer LeGuin’s EarthSea books. In her books, there is a price and consequence to magic.

        1. Now that I think about it, “Victorian” wasn’t the right word to use. Victorian/pre-20th C fantastic literature was all about consequences (Verne, Shelley, etc.) of technology. Exactly what is missing from Harry Potter land. Any ideas what the hell I’m talking about in my original post? I’m not sure I know now.

    2. A better take on the technological use of magic was done but Rick Cook. A programmer is sucked into a fantasy world and uses modern concepts to defeat evil. It could be a Larry Sue but it’s a lot of fun.

      He got real sick and hasn’t been able to write since as far as I know. Mall Purchase Night is a riot as well, it’s a stand alone novel.

      Title ISBN Publisher Year
      Wizard’s Bane 0-671-69803-6 Baen 1989
      The Wizardry Compiled 0-671-69856-7 Baen 1990
      The Wizardry Cursed 0-671-72049-X Baen 1991
      The Wizardry Consulted 0-671-87700-3 Baen 1995

      The Wizardry Quested 0-671-87708-9 Baen 1996
      Mall Purchase Night 0-671-72198-4 Baen 1993

      1. I’ve read the first few of the Wizardry books. Definately not the weakest example of the magic as tech subset. On the other hand, I think that Poul Anderson handled it better in Operation Chaos and Operation Luna. The magical Operating System/hackers thing from Cook never quite sat right with me. Anderson treated magic much like physics and chemestry, with a viable path from ancient lore and myth to modern magic a la the path from alchemy to modern chemestry. (one could nitpick there too.) But Anderson uses an alternate history to create the sort of world that Rowling created but with somewhat more sensible magic.

        Niven’s “The Magic Goes Away” series handled magic as technology fairly well too. I think it was that series that showed the fall of magic due to a magical arms race that lead to the development of devices that could deplete magic power (which was strictly a limited resource.)

        1. Niven’s treatment of magic

          I recall reading a short story from that series, probably in the collection “The Flight of the Horse” which was mostly time-travel screwing things up stories. The story was “What Good Is A Glass Dagger?” which began with the protagonist being cursed to remain in magic-containing areas by the use of the titular object. But yes, the Wizard Wars led to the development of devices that were designed essentially to burn mana (the ambient magical power in an area). Interesting concept.

          1. Re: Niven’s treatment of magic

            There are a few stories set very close to the beginning of our history where most of the mana is gone. They are a little bit sad, though the one about the djinn is fairly neat.

            And those pinwheel devices are the ones I was talking about. Actually, the story where they are introduced covers one of the best messages in his fiction. (One that both he and several of the people writing in the Kzin Wars section of his Known Space setting hit over and over again) You cannot legislate away/hide the laws of physics. (I’m refering to the stories where the ARM is trying to suppress technology in the colonies.)

  5. It makes me wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with her nationality. The Brits, in general, seem to be all about how guns and self defense and all that are bad, so maybe it didn’t even occur to her that the scene would run differently? Makes you wonder what a Swiss Rowling would have written the scene to be like. 😉

  6. a thousand people would shoot back — and mostly miss their target. Remember that guy in New York that was shot eleven times — the copys used over 40 bullets.

    LOTS of collateral damage.

    1. That’s because cops tend to be crappy shots.

      The point still remains: all the bad guys would be dead. IIRC, everyone had to take “Defense Against the Dark Arts” for at least the first 5 years. There were certainly far more recent Hogwarts graduates (who ought to remember something) there than there were Death Eaters. If every one of them tosses one hex, the Death Eaters are going down.

      I go with the “Brits don’t like self defense” theory.

      1. Yeah, except the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes have basically been a complete joke, with the exception of the year Lupin taught it. I believe it’s the book after Goblet of Fire where Harry has to start teaching a secret DADA class because they are given a class/instructor so useless that they may as well have a compulsory muggle studies class.

        1. Defense Against the Dark Arts was a joke when the pretty boy taught it, and when the Minister of Magic WANTED it to be a joke (year 5). Other than that it wasn’t a joke (Lupin, “Moody”, and Snape were all good, and I don’t remember the first year guy being bad).

          “Brits are wimps at Self-Defense.”

          1. Quirrel (“the first year guy”) was a decent instructor when compared with Lockhart (“the pretty boy”), but really only because Quirrel actually knew some of what he talked about. I don’t happen to recall any demonstrations in that class, which puts him right about on par with Umbridge (Year 5), but with a slightly better attitude toward students actually learning anything beyond book-based theory. Those three instructors, however, were all pretty much jokes.

            Snape was a much better caliber instructor when compared with those three. It’s already well established that, while he may be highly fluent with the material, he sucks as a teacher – no empathy with the students, and no desire for it either.

            Lupin and the false Moody were by far the best professors the students have had to date – and when you consider that one of them was a disguised Death Eater there for the purposes of kidnapping a student, that’s a really horrid commentary on the four previously covered. Lupin is actually the only real, qualified teacher the students have had in Harry’s entire Hogwarts career.

            And this brings us to the only other real teacher that the students have had: Harry himself. It’s really a stinging endictment against the school that the best teacher that the students have had is a fellow student, younger than some of those he’s coaching, with only about a year and a half’s special coaching, most of that conducted by his friends and peers (Ron and Hermione during the Triwizard Cup).

            Boy, they’ve come down a long way since the days of “We will fight them on the beaches…”, et cetera.

  7. I think you are underestimating the sheer fear the Death eaters instill. Reemeber, this is a world where people, even after they are supposed to be long gone, cannot bring themselves to say Voldermorts name out loud, and by extension the Death Eaters.

    Plus also remeber, it’s at night, in a packed tent city… mnay of the inhabitants of which are seriously under the influance of various intoxicants. yes some probably did shoot back, aiming at a dozen or so bad guys dressed in black among a crowd of several thousand randomly fleeing brightly clad people…

    wanna bet the bad guys didn;t get hit once, but quite few people took freindly fire… and since they couldn’t know where that was coming from, probably assumed there were lost more Death eaters scattered here and there.

    Also remeber, defense against dark arts is a specialist subject, one that very few wizards know. So most, if not all, of that crowd wouldn’t know the counter-charms, or simirly attack spells [I like the idea that offensive spells are taught in the defense class!]

    Or to follow your anlogy, yes the crowd is armed… and they are drunken Nascar supporters who’ve only ever fired at targets before and most are carrying airsoft guns anyway.

    1. That’s possible, yes. But in a crowd that size, certainly there would be a few capable folk to be found.

      The REAL reason is that Harry Potter lives in a world in which a child must fight the Ultimate Evil, and the only way for that to play out is for the vast majority of the adults to be fools, cowards, or both.

      In short, The Plot Requires It.

      1. Well, I’ll certainly conceed the point that there probably are a few capable people in crowd that size… and just how are they going to see the bad guys to shoot them?

        This is a tent city, at night, on hilly ground. and the bad guys are naturally wearing black.

        Heck, from what I hear it’s hard enough for professional soldiers to find each other on the battlefield. Under those conditions, fighting what is in effect a gurillia war…not good odds. [I have a little experiance of what it must be like thanks to paintball.]

        The bad guys oTOH, can just fire blidnly into the crowd, they’re bound to hit something.

        But yes, dramatic necessity is probably a prime motivator here.

          1. If it were that simple, the Death Eaters and Voldemort would be locked up or facing the magical equivalent of a firing squad already.

            They can’t even find Sirius Black, and they KNOW who he is.

      2. Indeed, the plot requires it. It can also be justified just as easily as it can be criticised. I think that’s better than a lot of the creative writing I can do. 🙂

      3. Considering what Fred & George were selling to the Ministry of Magic in book 6 and why, I think that Defense Against the Dark Arts is one of the first things students forget upon graduation due to nonuse.

        Also, when sudden decision is needed, a multipurpose tool is disadvantaged against a special purpose one for the job. (Quick, how do you disarm an opponent with a wand? How do you disarm an opponent with a gun?)

        I also believe standard gun safety drills (I did some riflery in Boy Scouts, but haven’t otherwise touched a firearm in years) stress the need to always think of the consequences; compare Harry vs. Draco at Hogsmeade in Book 3.

        1. Quick, how do you disarm an opponent with a wand?


          How do you disarm an opponent with a gun?

          SHOOT ‘EM IN THE HEAD!


        2. I think there’s also a degree of inept Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching going on out there. Hogswarts is supposed to be one of the best schools in the world to learn magic at, and it has trouble finding a good teacher. (Out of, what, six teachers shown, there’s only two that are any good?) How are lesser schools going to do?

          Plus, I’ll bring up the possibility that some of the magic the Death Eaters were slinging around were Fear spells, possibly harder to resist given how intoxicated everyone was after the game.

          1. (Out of, what, six teachers shown, there’s only two that are any good?)

            Three were good: Snape, Lupin, and “Moody”.
            One was OK: First year
            Two were bad: The pretty boy, and Umbridge. But Umbridge was bad because the Minister was trying to sabotage teaching DADA that year.

            As for “how do you find the Death Eaters?” How about shooting “Expeleramus” directly under the Muggles who the Death Eaters have flying above them?

          2. if you’re going to do that last

            you need to be organised enough to have someone ready to catch the Muggles who are going to fall as soon as the Death Eaters lose their wands.

            Organisation of that level seems to be distinctly lacking among the World Cup attendees.

          3. Re: if you’re going to do that last

            you need to be organised enough to have someone ready to catch the Muggles who are going to fall as soon as the Death Eaters lose their wands.

            You’re a lot nicer than I am.

            I’m not worried about catching the Muggles, I’m worried about hurting the Death Eaters.

          4. Re: if you’re going to do that last

            But “good wizards” don’t think like that in Rowling’s universe. Their mindset seems to be closer to Hippocrates (First, do no harm) than to what we know as the Witch’s Rede (An it harm none, do what you will). I suspect the first thing going through their heads would be “how do we save the Muggles?” rather than “how do we stop the Death Eaters?” even though the latter could answer the former as well.

            The only “good wizard” with an attitude like yours seems to be Mad-Eye Moody, and he’s… otherwise occupied at this point in the story.

          5. Re: if you’re going to do that last

            The only “good wizard” with an attitude like yours seems to be Mad-Eye Moody

            Such flattery. I think I shall swoon. 😉

  8. This is a good point, and in the book, the crowd put up much more of a resistance, particularly every Weasley older than Ron. However, you’re also discounting that the Death Eaters are pretty much the only wizards willing and able to use Avada Kedavra. So I think your analogy would be even MORE accurate if your armed Super Bowl crowd were only armed with rubber bullets. Or paintball guns.

    Of course, they still could subdue the RPG attackers simply by turning them into living bruises. In GoF, I don’t think the Death Eaters stuck around long enough for the crowd to mount any kind of organized resistance; seemed to me like they showed up, made a lot of noise, burned down some tents, shot up the Dark Mark, and got the hell out of there. I think it looks like they did a lot more damage in the movie.

  9. This is a problem only in the movie version. In the book, several wizards *did* put up some kind of resistance but the Death Eaters had muggle hostages the Ministry was not willing to sacrifice.

    There is probably also a “police mentality” among the general populace. Let the trained professionals deal with it while I get out of here. *Because* everyone is so well armed and the Death Eaters are best armed of all (being quite happy to use illegal curses) just about any criminal is incredibly dangerous.

    I generally ignore the inconsistencies in the books, but they’re harder to ignore in the movies.

  10. Death eaters have a supernatural fear aura scaring away pretty much everyone. The ones that could withstand the fear aura if they were intent on it and prepared for it are in a panicked crowd – panicked crowds do bad things to people’s ability to withstand fear.

    The comparison with mere mortals wielding mere mortal weapons doesn’t work for this reason. And anyway, the whole crowd could zap their wands on the death eathers and it’s unlikely much would happen. And they know this, meaning even the few that theoretically stand up to the fear aura are unlikely to draw attention to themselves.

  11. There are very few of them are trained in magical combat, most rarely use their wands outside domestic suff. A small group of soldiers can take on a much larger mob of civilans because the soldiers are organized, trained to think under pressure, and thus can take on high odds with small numbers.

    Also, these are the Death Eaters. The boogymen. Their boss was so scary, only a few are willing to speak his name. So yeah, hell yeah, people ran.

      1. But the facts, m’dear, the facts!

        In every country where there has been a disarming of the populace, three things predictibly happen. First, violent crime and gun crime increases- criminals know that their targets cannot fight back. Two, self-defense becomes criminalized. England has had several cases in the last 5 years of people who fought back against someone else to save their own lives, and ended up recieving more time in jail than the attacker did. The same happens in New York and New Jersey in the United States. Third, there is a steady erosion of other civil liberties.

        Culturally there is a stratification of society where the wealthy are exempted (or their bodygaurds), which produces as much social tension and strife as you’d imagine. This is not simply a gun issue- in Japan under the Shogunate there was a disarming of anyone who was not a Samurai, and all the abuses, class warfare, and increase in crime and banditry follow the rest of the pattern perfectly.

        Unless, of course, you think higher numbers of rapes, assaults, murders, muggings, centralization of power and erosion of civil liberties is a good thing.

        If you’re interested in any citations, statistics, and sources I have I would be more than happy to share, but I’d rather not de-rail Howard’s LJ. If you have any rigorus support for your statement, I would love to see them- I’m not infallable, but I have spent a lot of time pouring over the information and statistics, and when I saw the SAME pattern showing up every time the people were disarmed-from feudal Japan to modern day Austrailia- it convinced me that this was a standard pattern of human behavior with predictible results.

        1. Re: But the facts, m’dear, the facts!

          Interesting. I have spent much time in pursuit of much the same sort of information; in particular, I’ve been interested in the culture of Tokugawa-era Japan (and surrounding times) for decades, and have spent time in Australia and England thinking about the political differences between those cultures and the US.

          The only flaw I see in your exposition above: your use of “pouring” instead of “poring”. ];-)

          Best wishes.

          ===|==============/ Level Head

  12. gun-shy wizards?

    The answer that occurred to me, almost immediately upon reading the question “why don’t they fight back?” is that wizards don’t like to kill. (I’m assuming a kill-or-be-killed scenario, partly because of the power of dark wizards to defend themselves and partly because that’s what Howard’s Superbowl scenario is about: fighting back by killing.) Sure, they’re trained in defense, but the “football stadium full of handguns” scenario you describe implies that the only difference between the fans who run and the fans who fire back is courage. One of the reasons I don’t own a gun is that I’m more afraid of killing than of being killed. I don’t say that my view is right, or that it won’t change when I have a family to protect, but for now, there it is. (If you care why, it has to do with my views on the afterlife and the gravity of killing sinners. For all the (very true) talk about the evil of shedding innocent blood, I find the killing of a hellbound soul much more terrifying.) Maybe the wizards just genuinely believe life to be too precious. Sure, they do all that violent hexing and wizard dueling at that school, but they have a magical medical wing where they can regrow limbs if someone blasts your legs off in a schoolyard fight. But they don’t have a spell that brings dead people back to life. So killing by any means may be a pretty unthinkable option (actually, I believe “Unforgivable” is the tag they put on it).

    So, why aren’t they fighting back? Value of life? Pity for the damned? Sheer irrational terror? Many of them would probably be better trained, both magically and mentally, if so many hadn’t buried their heads in the sand about the presence of evil and the necessity of dealing with it. In fact, the employment of dementors and the refusal to acknowledge the return of Voldemort suggest a lot of denial and unwillingness to grow up and face their demons, so to speak.

    Now that I get to writing about it, I could probably go on for a while about how the wizards worked themselves up into a paralyzing phobia about Death Eaters over the years and did a lot of Voldemort’s work for them. Then I would draw some parallels to our battle with Satan. But it’s 2am where I am, and I know I’m not the smartest person in this conversation anyway, so I think I’ll just let y’all think about that yourself if you care to. Thanks for getting my mind moving on the subject, though, Howard. You’re always good for a think.

  13. Wizards, Handguns, Fabbers and Terrorism. Whee!

    Short answer, really, is “plot requirement”.

    Long answer, at this point, would that your analogy doesn’t really match the books. For one thing, the attack happened at the end of a long, eventful day, when everyone was tired, not exactly cognizant, and scattered over a large area. For another thing, the attack may not have happened for as long as the movie may have showed it; for all you know, the bulk of the attack took, what, 90 minutes… tops.

    Thirdly, the analogy of wands as handguns is a bad one; guns have a well-defined function, are usable generally one way, and people have them for generally one reason—for the option of hurting or killing people. So the Wizarding world is not exactly an armed society, inasmuch as a society armed with… oh, I don’t know, handheld matter compilers or fabbers is an armed one. I mean, it could be, but since fabbers and matter compilers are general-purpose items most people may not necessarily use matter compilers as weapons.

    Again, that whole British-American divide may be evident—American Wizards may actually be more willing to use their wands the way you imagine they would, and American wizards for all you know could be considered well-armed. But remember again, the crowd at wherever-it-was international, and again, the attack didn’t last for hours—it was a quick strike, panic the crap out of a lot of people, and then Disapparate the hell away.

    Fourthly… well, the British Ministry of Magic isn’t exactly a fountain of competence. They’re pretty damn useless, as a matter of fact, so the security would have been rubbish. That, in the event of a terrorist attack, counts against them, since what would have enabled a quick response to the attack would have been competent safety protocols, security officers and rapid response and communication. None of that, according to memory, was evident, so basically was caught with their pants down.

    That, of course, was why they made that attack. Like any terrorist attack, it wouldn’t have worked as well the second time.

    1. I admit it, it’s kind of embarrassing.

      It’s kind of sad to see how I drop words out of long posts like this one.

      Hell, it’s kind of sad to see how I just spent… more than five paragraphs talking about Harry Potter, of all things… -_-;;

  14. I think as suggested by others that the thing is most magic users simply aren’t trained or don’t have the skills to combat this.

    A friend of mine will occasionally bring up stories of military training. Apparently, in the American civil war, a surprising number of people didn’t shoot anybody. They would stand in the line, refilling their rifle and then, if they were lucky, walk away with a barrel full of ammo.

    The statistics showed that the majority of people fell into this category.

    Since these sort of discoveries were made, military training was adjusted and now it is able to churn out people who are able to kill.

    Being trained how to use a weapon is a very different thing to being trained how to kill (or even attack) someone. The impression I get from the books is that there are maybe a small handfull of people who able to do this. Look how difficult it is to get a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, and how innefectual they mostly seem to be.

    1. That’s a great example — Dave Grossman’s compilation of research on the subject of killing in wartime is very educational.

      Note, though, that around 5% of the population WILL kill. That’s why I figure that in a crowd of 50,000 you’ll have at least 1,000 “heroes” who actively fight back.

      The ineffectiveness of DAtDA teachers (and adults in general) in the Potterverse is, as pointed out before, critical to the plot and to the genre, but doesn’t directly map onto “real life.”

    2. wasn’t that data from the Civil War

      the reason that the N.R.A. was initially formed? I seem to recall something to that effect, given that US armies were still basically “citizen soldiers”, that some Union vets decided it would be a good thing if the citizens actually had some civilian training to they wouldn’t completely botch things the next time there was a war.

      I may be misremembering, but that’s how I remember it.

  15. Of course, the real reason is idiotic scriptwriters.

    I note in the book, the Death Eaters didn’t go around terrorizing wizards. They just played with some Muggles, Muggles who would have been injured or killed had the Death Eaters been randomly incapacitated by bystanders, and who could be used as hostages as well. So a coherent action by trained Ministry wizards was called for — and the DEs were frightened away by the Dark Mark before one was fully organized.

  16. I think part of it was half of the crowd was laughing and cheering them on, and the other half was running away. That didn’t really come through in the movie, but it was definately there in the book. The death eaters were surrounded by a bunch of ordinary wizards who WEREN’T running and WEREN’T fighting the death eaters, just watching the show. The movie paints a much different view of the scene with it looking like 10 deatheaters against the whole soccer match crowd.

  17. All of my thoughts have been brought up before. The movie scene is worse than the book, the comparison is more like people in a tank vs. handguns, British origins lead to a less vigilante mentality.

    Really though, and this goes for the book as well, I believe it’s there because other than Dumbledore and a few others (Order of the Pheonix) Rowling paints her adults as incompetent and stupid so that Harry and his friends have to save the day.

  18. I haven’t yet seen the film, but I did read the book.

    As mentioned above, sure, there’s the whole “Wizards don’t really think of their wands as Guns, per se, but tools” thing.

    Then there’s the fact that they are terrified of the Death Eaters, to the point of hysteria.

    Annnd the thing with the Muggles whose lives were in danger.

    But there’s one other thing to consider here. I’ve been to major events, packed in, trying to go THIS WAY when the rest of the crowd wanted to go THAT WAY. It’s pretty tough to do, even when everyone is moving slowly and calmly. If the “herd” was running and screaming, and I saw it coming at me, I would run to, even if I didn’t know what they were running from. I would be running from that panicked crowd. Hysterical people are way more dangerous than any Death Eater.

  19. It’s been a while since I read the book, but I seem to recall it played out a lot differently in the book – no screaming fleeing hordes. The Death Eaters set off the Dark Mark and started traumatizing the few muggles that were there, and most people, were too scared of the bullies to try to stop anything. (disclaimer: it’s been at least 18 months since I read it. I fully and readily admit my memory could be completely wrong).

    That being said, as much as I like the HP series, I find a lot of it difficult to believe – they are written for children, and children don’t worry about plot holes like adults do (I’m not saying children won’t notice plot holes, they just don’t worry as much).

    I also take issue with some of Rowling’s glaring grammatical errors that make my skin crawl, but that’s another thing children aren’t likely to notice.

  20. It’s very simple, actually.


    The *VAST* majority of the Wizarding world doesn’t think of their wands as weapons. They are, in fact, very, VERY systematically trained to NOT use them as weapons. They use them, for the most part, as a vest-pocket utility knife with a thousand uses.

    GUNS are not dangerous. People are dangerous. The same is true with wands in HP, and most of those people are not dangerous. They aren’t trained to fight. They don’t think of their wands as weapons. They don’t know how to defend themselves against most magical threats; “Defense Against the Dark Arts” is, as we have seen, often a joke, and generally appears to be mostly a theoretical course. And the Death Eaters are a name of terror, and the symbol of Voldemort one of such indestructible menace, that only people SPECIFICALLY trained in combat are going to do anything other than run like hell.

    Expecting that crowd to whip out their wands and fight is like expecting people whose background in chemistry consisted of a couple college courses to, if menaced by someone in their house, pull a MacGyver and improvise explosives from common household materials. They may have the knowledge, they may even have performed the exact chemical procedures in a lab, but they’ll NEVER think of it under pressure.

    The few who COULD fight were mostly trying to quiet the panic and get their loved ones OUT of the area. One of the points to remember is that the reappearance of the Death Eaters that way implied the return of Voldemort — who WAS utterly invincible and only defeated by one person, as far as anyone knew. If you’re not Harry, you’re toast if Voldy’s in that group.

    After the panicked crowds were removed, THEN the strike force came in, but that was too late.

  21. A great deal of it has to do with shock value: the Death Eaters (and virtually everyone who- unlike Harry- was brought up in wizarding society knew that that’s who they were) and the Dark Mark were associated with Voldemort, and years of shock, death and terror. In all honesty, if I was at the Super Bowl as terorists attacked, then even if I had a concealed handgun and permit for same, adios; that’s what police/Aurors are for. (Besides, most of the most effective Countercurses are Unforgiveable- damned if I’m going to Azkaban for defending myself.)

  22. It’s
    i)the british mentality, IMO. What? Me, go fight evil? Goodness, no, let the police take care of it.
    ii)plot device.

    You *know* that if that happened at a rodeo, everyone would run to their truck, grab guns, and run back shooting. 😀

  23. I was thinking about this a while ago… in D&D terms, a Fireball or Lightning Bolt is considered Dark Arts! The society is, in fact, not very well armed at all… because they deliberately discourage the teaching of deadly spells. It’s a little more like everyone is carrying tasers… as far as I can figure, curses and jinxes are somewhat easier to counter than all out go-for-the-throat killer spells… even a novice can shield against them fairly effectively. It’s long been my opinion that the “dark arts” are too heavily depricated in the HP universe. I can certainly see where the Unforgivable Curses are corrosive to the soul–in order to use them, you have to WANT the target to suffer. It requires an evil heart. However, for all other cases, it seems to me that the old NRA saying applies… spells don’t kill people, people kill people. And if the dark arts are outlawed, only criminals will know the dark arts. Certainly, DA is something you don’t perhaps want to teach gradeschoolers, any more than you’d issue them Glocks. But the knowledge adn training should be available to any responsible adult who asks, and especially to the armed forces–the aurors. One wonders if this suppression of the DA is worldwide, or a solely European phenomenon. It might explain why the Death Eaters don’t crop up so much in the American west.

    1. Dark Arts?

      I was thinking about this a while ago… in D&D terms, a Fireball or Lightning Bolt is considered Dark Arts!
      Yes and no. A Lightning Bolt, properly regulated, may be required to get that muggle magic “radio” to work. A Fireball, again properly regulated, is very useful in starting a fire in the flue.

      It’s the misuse of magic that’s the problem.

      It’s a little more like everyone is carrying tasers…

      Have you ever been hit by a taser? *wry grin* Trust me, it’s an eye-opening experience – and NOT one any but the most masochistic or dedicated would care to repeat.

      1. Re: Dark Arts?

        That’s kind of the point. Even if everyone in the Potterverse is capable of casting a Lightning Bolt, they are trained from day one not to cast one against another person… even in defense of their own lives. Hell, even the authorities won’t execute the most wicked and powerful of dark wizards, instead consigning them to prolonged mental torture until such time as they lose the will to live!

        I’m sure a taser is about as pleasant as a Jellylegs curse, but be that as it may, it’s not quite the same as a hail of gunfire.

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