The First Task

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Chapter 20 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The First Task← Chapter 19 | Chapter 21 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The next morning, Harry drags Hermione off for another walk around the lake, during which he relates what he learned from Hagrid and what Sirius told him. Returning to the library, they search for a spell to defeat a Dragon, but find nothing. Krum's arrival in the library, heralding the arrival of his retinue of giggling girls, annoys Hermione, and she and Harry return to the Gryffindor common room.

Realizing that only Cedric is unaware that the First Task involves Dragons, Harry trails him through the halls between classes, and charms his bag to fall apart, spilling his books. Once Cedric is on his own, Harry runs up and tells him about the Dragons and that both Fleur and Krum know. Professor Moody, overhearing, sends Cedric on his way, then commends Harry for his fairness. Cheating, he says, is also a Tournament tradition. Moody tells Harry to play to his strengths. Harry believes he has none, apart from Quidditch; Moody comments that Harry is an excellent flyer and suggests using a simple spell to get what he needs. Harry understands, and he asks Hermione for help with the Summoning Charm before the First Task next afternoon. They practice through lunch and after dinner. Finally, at two in the morning, Harry seems to have the spell working properly.

Practicing the spell the day before had eased Harry's nerves, but they return full force before the First Task begins. Professor McGonagall escorts him to a tent where the other Champions are waiting, along with Ludo Bagman. Each Champion draws a token representing what they will face; their task is to retrieve a golden Egg. Fleur draws a Welsh Green Dragon, number 2; Krum, a Chinese Fireball, number 3; Cedric, a Swedish Short-snout, number 1; and Harry, the Hungarian Horntail that he had seen earlier, number 4. The other Champions' expressions reveal they had already known what they would be facing. Ludo takes Harry aside to ask if he is OK or if he can get him anything. Harry responds he is fine, he has a plan. The first whistle sounds for Cedric's Task, and Ludo bolts – he is supposed to be commentating.

Harry waits, listening to the roaring crowd, as all the other Champions precede him into the enclosure. The commentating tantalizes, but reveals little about what is happening. Finally, it is Harry's turn. In the enclosure is the Hungarian Horntail and the golden Egg. Harry casts the Summoning spell, and is surprised how well it works, bringing his broom. He flies over the Dragon's head, baiting it. When it lunges, he swoops down and grabs the Egg. Slightly injured by its spiked tail, Harry is waved into the first aid tent, where Hermione and Ron join him. Ron sees that there is a very real threat to Harry's life, and is finally convinced that Harry did not choose to enter the Tournament, and the two boys reconcile. The judges post Harry's scores: 8 (from Madame Maxime), 9 (from Crouch), 9 (from Dumbledore), 10 (from Ludo), and 4 (from Karkaroff), tying Harry for first place with Krum. Charlie Weasley runs in to congratulate Harry, then leaves to send Mrs. Weasley an owl about the outcome, and says Mr. Bagman wants the Champions back in the tent.

Ludo informs the Champions that the next task takes place the morning of February 24th; the golden Eggs they captured contain a clue. Harry and Ron head back to the castle, running into Rita Skeeter, who asks Harry for a few words. Harry refuses to comment.

Analysis[edit]

Harry attempts to research ways to defeat a Dragon, but, in what will become a familiar pattern, he becomes so terrified that he briefly considers running back home to the Dursleys. He quickly abandons this idea, instead accepting help from others. We have seen that Harry has an over-developed sense of responsibility; we have seen that he takes things onto himself that perhaps don't properly belong to him. As early as the first book, where we hear Harry deciding that he must try to protect the Philosopher's Stone, there has been a tendency for Harry to determine that he alone must take on some task. As this has been such a large part of his make-up, we can expect it to continue throughout the series, and we can also expect other characters to play on it to some extent. In this chapter, we see Harry actively soliciting help from others, however, perhaps indicating that he is beginning to accept that the battle is not his alone.

While Harry and Hermione research ways to defeat Dragons, it never seems to occur to either that Harry could probably learn much just by secretly observing how Charlie Weasley and the other handlers keep the fiery beasts under control. Even if Harry felt it would be cheating to go back and watch, we note that when Hagrid first showed him the Dragons, Harry watched how the handlers used multiple Stunning spells to control the animals. Although Sirius tells Harry that single Stunning spells are ineffective, this still might have given Harry at least some ideas on how to subdue one or to better understand Dragon behavior. Of course, the time involved is quite short. Harry first sees the dragons Saturday night. Sunday is spent in the library and common room, researching. On Monday, Hermione insists that they should go to class, and it is during this time that Harry informs Cedric and is caught by Professor Moody. Monday afternoon and evening is used in learning the Summoning charm, and the actual task occurs Tuesday afternoon.

And while Harry wants to win the Tournament, he wants to do so without any inequitable advantages. Cedric's ignorance about the Dragons while the other Champions are using ill-gotten information to prepare their strategies represents an uneven playing field to Harry. It would never be a true victory if another Champion was at an unfair disadvantage. Moody commends Harry for his honesty and fairness, which Moody has already shown are traits he values in himself, as well as others. Cedric is also grateful, and and we suspect that this is something he himself would have done if their situations had been reversed.

A few additional noteworthy points:

First, Moody seems to be handing the first task to Harry. While it does take Harry some time to realize what Moody is hinting at, Moody has provided Harry a tool that will serve him better than it would any other Champion. It would seem logical that Moody might similarly guide Cedric Diggory, also a Hogwarts student, but he apparently does not. Whether Moody has any special reason for wanting Harry to win is unknown, though he could be motivated by his concern over how and why Harry was entered into the Tournament. Additionally, as Harry is the youngest and least trained among the Champions, Moody could be attempting to "level the playing field" by preferentially giving Harry assistance.

Second, Ludo makes a clumsy attempt to assist Harry with the challenge, then assigns him a perfect score, which Harry feels is unwarranted. It seems Bagman also wants him to win, but why is unclear.

Finally, Rita Skeeter continually appears from nowhere, though we are led to believe there is some sort of protection preventing unauthorized entrance to the school grounds; this may prove important.

It should be noted that the book's actions apparently take place in 1994 and 1995; but the first task's date, November 24th 1994, is not a Tuesday but a Thursday, which is consistent with the day of the week mentioned in Chapter 15. This does not affect the story in any way; the fact that there is this conflict is provided more as a curiosity than as something scholars need to concern themselves with.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why does Harry tell Cedric Diggory about the Dragons?
  2. Why does Moody give Harry advice about the first task? Is Moody breaking the rules?
  3. Why does Harry ignore Ludo Bagman's advice and feel that the high score Ludo gives him is unwarranted?

Further Study[edit]

  1. Why does Ludo Bagman give Harry unsolicited advice and a perfect score?
  2. Harry usually masters basic spells quickly. Why then is the Summoning charm so difficult for him to learn?
  3. What clue might be hidden in the Golden Egg?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Of note, Harry apparently stops reading the Dragon book just before the passage containing the spell he needs. The passage he does read aloud from Men Who Love Dragons Too Much goes: "Dragons are extremely difficult to slay, owing to the ancient magic that imbues their thick hides, which none but the most powerful spells can penetrate." The next passage would probably discuss their one weak point, which Sirius later identifies as their eyes. In a later message from Sirius, we learn that if their conversation had not been interrupted, Sirius would have suggested using the Conjunctivitus curse to blind the Dragon. This is what Krum will do in the Task, but the blinded Dragon, flailing about, will break some of her own eggs, losing Krum points.

We will later learn that Ludo is trying to recoup his losses on the Quidditch World Cup by betting on Harry to win the Tournament. His clumsy offers to assist Harry, which will be uniformly rejected, are an unethical attempt to influence the Tournament's outcome, made worse because he is a Tournament judge. Moody also intends for Harry to win the Tournament; offering Harry a strategy to complete the First Task is his most overt attempt in his role as a trusted mentor to ensure Harry's victory. Moody's other assistance will be less obvious to Harry, revealed only when Moody explains it following the Third Task.

It is only Harry's inherent honesty and belief in fairness that prompts him to share information about the Dragons with Cedric, and also to reject Ludo's proffered assistance. In a future chapter, Cedric reciprocates Harry's fairness towards him: Cedric will solve the Egg's riddle before Harry does, and will pass on an important hint.

Connections[edit]

  • It is mentioned that Viktor Krum once again appears in the Library while Hermione is there. This is part of the eventual revelation that he has set his romantic sights on Hermione. Hermione and Viktor will be seen together a few times in this book, and will communicate by Owl Post throughout the next two. Viktor will finally have his hopes dashed in the final book of the series, when Ron declares himself as Hermione's boyfriend.
  • The unexpected appearance of Rita Skeeter will turn out to be a clue. This unexpected appearance, repeated in the next chapter, coupled with publication of events at which Skeeter was not present but where a large beetle was in evidence, will fuel Hermione's discovery that Skeeter is an unregistered Animagus. Hermione will be able to use this knowledge to force Skeeter to write an honest interview of Harry in the next book.