Welcome to chapter seven of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!
It’s good to see you, Muggles and Mocha people. Last week, we got the chance to talk about Gilderoy Lockhart, the reasons behind his hire, and his effects on the students of Hogwarts. And it was fun, satisfying, joyful… every good adjective.
Today, though, we’re making a bit of a switch to a darker topic. It’s something we referenced in chapter four with Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley. As we’ll see, this destructive idea will haunt the rest of the series, influencing many of our villains and, as a result, the heroes who are defending the wizarding world as they know it. This is the idea of “Mudbloods,” or dirty blood, a derogatory name used to describe Muggle-born witches and wizards.
As usual, there will be *SPOILERS* in both the video and article. Get out while you can!
Here’s our video on the topic! I had a great time filming this one… you won’t want to miss it.
Honestly, one of the reasons I enjoy teen and young adult books is because of the way they handle difficult subjects like these, topics that can readily apply to the real world. Just because these books can be read by a younger audience doesn’t mean the author can’t talk about difficult ideas, but it forces the author to do so in a way that is subtle yet profound to us adults. This is the case with the themes we see in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
A quick disclaimer: Although today’s topic can be applied to the world around us in some specific ways, I’m going to be restricting the discussion to the Harry Potter universe today since that is our focus.
So, let’s get to it! Chapter seven is called “Mudbloods and Murmurs,” and today, we’re actually going to be talking about both of those things in our examination of the discrimination we see in the wizarding world.
As Harry attends his quidditch practice, he hears a word that’s unfamiliar to him, and it’s the first time we hear it as well—Mudblood. Malfoy spits this insult at Hermione, and we can immediately tell it’s bad news. The Gryffindor quidditch team erupts into outrage, with Ron even going so far as trying to curse Malfoy. For her sake, I’m glad Hermione didn’t know what this word meant when Malfoy said it to her.
In the scene that follows, we find out from Ron that “Mudblood” is a name some wizards use for Muggle-born witches and wizards. It references an opinion among pure-blood wizards that Muggle-borns have “dirty blood,” and are unworthy to study magic because of their Muggle roots. It’s a disgusting idea, and even though this is the first time we hear it, it’s going to be a staple of the book series from now on.
But first, I want to break down where this term and ideology came from. To begin, we need to recognize that humanity is constantly in a power struggle over one another, and this is something that’s also prevalent in Harry Potter. It drives our main antagonist, and we see the effects it has on many other characters as well. If you learn anything from these articles, know this—the struggle for power over others is the key behind much of the evil we see in these books.
However, in extra writing about the Harry Potter universe, we learn this harmful view of Muggles and Muggle-born children wasn’t always as present in the wizarding world as it is in the book series. Many, many wizards intermarried with Muggles, and there wasn’t much resentment toward them—that is, until the International Statute of Secrecy was established in 1692.
This statute was created because of wizard persecution at the hands of Muggles. This part of the Harry Potter series was based on events like the Salem Witch Trials in America, which actually took place in the same year. Over time, fear and resentment as well as the separation caused by the International Statute of Secrecy resulted in a bigger separation between Muggles and wizards, and intermarriage between the two groups dropped precipitously for a while. Another result of this time period was the “Mudblood” mindset we see in action in the Harry Potter books.
As fear and resentment grew, wizards began to view Muggles and Muggle-borns in a negative light. They began to examine their own blood status, placing more value on “pure-blood” wizards, and despised the thought of Muggles entering wizard bloodlines.
According to J.K. Rowling, intermarriage between Muggles and wizards had already been common for centuries though, so many who claimed the status of “pure-blood” most likely weren’t entirely. Instead,
“To call oneself a pure-blood was more accurately a declaration of political or social intent (‘I will not marry a Muggle and I consider Muggle/wizard marriage reprehensible’) than a statement of biological fact.”
In the video for today, I also discuss a list published in the 1930s called the “Sacred Twenty-Eight.” This list documented the so-called “pure-blood” families that were known at the time and sought to set them apart, informing everyone of who these families were in an effort to, “maintain the purity of their bloodlines.”
Some of these families (like the Weasleys, I imagine) publicly denounced this list and their involvement with people who discriminated against Muggles and Muggle-born witches and wizards.
So, that’s the history of this term and ideology! In chapter seven of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we get a glimpse of how the magical community viewed this mindset during Harry’s time at Hogwarts. Malfoy uses the term “Mudblood” as an insult against Hermione, and from everyone’s reaction, it’s immediately obvious this is completely unacceptable to most wizards. Ron describes it as one of the worst insults that can be used. From this response, we can see this mindset is thankfully limited to certain pure-blood families.
In the Harry Potter books, the practice of exerting power over another person or people is a pervasive theme among the antagonists, and this view of blood status is one of the ways they do that. Namely, this thought process is the key to Voldemort’s goals. He understands nothing but the pursuit of power and believes the power he has should be exerted over others, even from a young age. Likewise, the Malfoys and others who follow Voldemort are also seeking this type of power.
In chapter seven, Ron explains what this term means to Harry and Hermione in Hagrid’s hut. Personally, I find it extremely meaningful that Ron is the person who does this. He’s a pure-blood, too, after all, and his family is one of the “Sacred Twenty-Eight.” Yet, the Weasleys nobly defend Muggle-borns and Muggles, recognizing them as equals. They could have easily sided with the majority of the Twenty-Eight (which, if you examine this list, includes many families who followed Voldemort). But they didn’t.
Once again… can we just talk about what gems the Weasleys are?
However, after this conversation, this isn’t the only time we witness the discrimination against Muggle-borns in this chapter.
At the end of the chapter, when Harry is in his detention with Lockhart (ugh), he hears the disembodied voice… which we know is the Basilisk. But there’s more to this moment than meets the eye, especially with its connection to the topics introduced earlier in the chapter. Harry is hearing a creature that was created to kill Muggle-borns at Hogwarts. And it’s currently being controlled by a person who hates the thought of Muggle-borns learning magic possibly more than anyone else—Voldemort through Tom Riddle’s diary.
This means that in this one chapter, we get references to the full spectrum of this dangerous point of view. From Malfoy tossing out insults, to the Basilisk roaming the halls ready to kill, we see how an opinion grown from fear and resentment can transform into something deadly. While Harry sits in Lockhart’s office after hearing the word, “Mudblood,” for the first time, he has no idea just how harmful this viewpoint can truly be. But he’ll learn soon.
This book is the beginning of a theme that affects the rest of the book series, especially as we get to know Voldemort and what exactly he stands for. It’s a hatred toward those with impure blood, those who seem to him as if they would be weak, powerless. Hatred as a venomous as a Basilisk’s fangs.
On a serious note, I believe these books help us become more equipped to handle and recognize the discrimination we may see in our world today. After all, we’re Muggles ourselves; we can identify with the victims of these blood-purist wizards, which I think helps us empathize further.
And some people think fiction can’t teach you anything.
As I’m sure you already know, this idea of blood purity is one that will come back over and over throughout the series, and I’m excited to see and talk about how Harry and the gang interacts with this ideology. We’ll see what’s to come…
Well, folks, that’s our article for today! A deep subject matter, I know. But honestly, I’m eager to talk about it more as the series and our characters develop.
Next, we have… HALLOWEEN! We’ll attend the Deathday Party and also receive a shock at the end of the chapter. Are you ready to talk about ghosts? Because I sure am! I’ll see you next week with a review of chapter eight.
Don’t forget our video for today, which was a blast to make. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or reach out through the contact button!
Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.