Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
Chapter 14 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
Professor Quirrell seems stronger than the Trio had expected, as Fluffy remains alert and growling behind the door.
With only ten weeks left until final exams, Hermione starts laying out timetables for studying, and insisting that Harry and Ron do likewise. So they are studying in the library when they see Hagrid removing a book from the Dragon section. Asked directly about Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone, he promises to tell them something about it, but not in the library; students are not supposed to know about it.
At Hagrid's hut, they learn that the Stone is protected by Fluffy, as well as enchantments created by Professors Sprout, Flitwick, McGonagall, Quirrell, Dumbledore, and... Professor Snape. This is alarming as, of course, it is Snape who wants the Stone. Adding to the confusion, Hagrid has won a Dragon's egg from someone at a pub in Hogsmeade village, and he intends to hatch it, even though it is illegal to own one, and despite living in a wooden hut—a decidedly unsafe place to rear a fire-breathing creature.
In due course, the egg begins to hatch, and Hagrid invites Harry, Ron and Hermione down to witness it. A baby Dragon emerges that Hagrid names Norbert. Unfortunately, Draco Malfoy, who is spying on them through Hagrid's window, also sees it. Now they must somehow conceal the hatchling before Malfoy tells Professor Dumbledore. Harry suddenly has an idea: Ron's brother Charlie works with Dragons in Romania. Maybe he can find Norbert a home. Though Hagrid is unhappy to lose Norbert, he finally agrees to the plan, as does Charlie, who arranges for his friends to pick up Norbert.
Ron suffers a dragon bite while helping Hagrid with Norbert, and ends up in the Hospital Wing. Draco Malfoy, visiting to bait Ron under the guise of comforting him, borrows a book, which Ron later remembers contains Charlie's response. Draco is waiting when Harry and Hermione carry the crated Norbert to atop the Astronomy Tower where Charlie's friends are waiting to collect him. Hidden beneath the Invisibility Cloak, Harry and Hermione observe Professor McGonagall catch Draco, who is penalized twenty House points and given detention. Harry and Hermione, still safe beneath the Cloak, arrive at the tower and send Norbert off. As they head back to the dormitory, Filch catches them - in their excitement, they left the Cloak behind in the tower.
At first glance, this chapter seems to have little purpose in the book – Norbert is introduced and sent away all in one chapter and never re-appears in the series, except occasionally Hagrid gets to missing him, and there is a mention in passing in the seventh book. It does serve to introduce us to dragons, however, and provide a little information about them. While Norbert is never seen again, other dragons will appear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And though Norbert may seem (to Hagrid) a cute, cuddly hatchling, the fully-grown, flame-spewing dragons seen in the later books are fierce and deadly creatures.
Generally, this chapter's purpose is largely preparatory. Firstly, it partially emphasizes that protecting the Philosopher's Stone has become more urgent. The Trio quite firmly believes, and with reason, that it is Professor Snape who seeks it. Knowing that Snape was involved with installing the guardian spells for it, they are certain that he must know enough about those spells to make his way through them.
Another purpose is setting up the scene in the Forbidden Forest, in the next chapter. Without detention, there would be no reason for Harry to have to go into the Forest, and no way for him to witness the events that occur there.
Thirdly, it sets up the final scene in the book. As we have not reached that yet, it will not be discussed here, except to say that a victory is sweeter if it follows, and reverses, a defeat.
Finally, this chapter shines a light on Draco Malfoy and also Hagrid. Draco discovered an advantage that he holds over Hagrid and the Trio, knowing Hagrid is engaged in something illegal and aided by the Trio. Rather than report this to the authorities, he instead remains silent, using this information to torment Ron in the hospital wing, and exploiting the situation to gain an additional advantage. This is classic Slytherin deviousness and ambition, though in this instance, Malfoy's actions later backfire on him and he also receives detention.
Hagrid, meanwhile, is emerging as a pivotal character who is increasingly important to Harry and the story. Hagrid is the one person among Hogwarts' teachers and staff that becomes like family to Harry. Though Harry grows closer to Dumbledore as the series progresses, they will always maintain a mentor/student relationship, while Harry and Hagrid develop a true familial bond. Hagrid is portrayed as a gentle, though somewhat uncouth, giant, who is unfailingly loyal to Dumbledore and Hogwarts; he is also a rather naive man-child who lacks a mature and sophisticated thinking process. Though he is Harry's protector, his simplistic, two-dimensional views often prevent him from accurately analyzing situations or predicting any possible dark or dangerous consequences related to them. This occasionally results in his giving faulty advice to Harry. Like many in the Wizarding world, Hagrid becomes blind to the approaching evil, and he fails to consider that malevolent forces are being unleashed within Hogwarts. From his viewpoint, Hogwarts is impenetrable, every teacher is entirely good, and Dumbledore's power is unlimited. We also see Hagrid's deep love for all animals, wild or domesticated, huge or tiny. His belief that all creatures can be tamed if treated gently often blinds him to their unpredictable and potentially lethal natures, as seen with "Fluffy", the ferocious three-headed dog, and now Norbert, a baby dragon. Just how he could secretly raise an illegal, fire-breathing animal that will likely torch his hut and grow to an enormous size never seems to occur to Hagrid when he hatches the egg. Instead, he is only focused only on the moment and on having obtained something he has always desired. This inability to foresee that a small, vulnerable, motherless hatchling will grow into a fierce, uncontrollable beast, becomes a metaphor for how Voldemort, also an orphan, was able to rise to power.
- How did Hagrid get the Dragon's egg? Is there anything suspicious or coincidental about how he obtained it?
- Why would someone want Hagrid to have a Dragon?
- Why was Draco spying on Hagrid and the Trio? What does he see?
- How could Draco know when Harry and Hermione were taking Norbert to the tower?
- How did Charlie's friends fly to the school to get Norbert if there are numerous enchantments protecting the school?
- Why did Draco not report what he saw in Hagrid's hut?
- Why does Hagrid agree to tell the Trio about Nicolas Flamel?
As mentioned in the Analysis section, this chapter also is significant in setting up the final scenes in the book. Having been involved in losing Gryffindor a huge number of House Points, as Harry will be in the next chapter's opening pages, how much sweeter is it that he is also instrumental in winning them all back, and more?
We will, of course, find out later that Snape is actually trying to protect the Stone... but even for those who are in on the secret, this is thin reassurance, because Quirrell is also responsible for one of the barriers to entry.
We learn here that Fluffy, one of the barriers to entry, is Hagrid's responsibility. This might seem a bit premature, as Hagrid is not the Care of Magical Creatures teacher, and so we might expect Professor Kettleburn might be more likely to have provided Fluffy. However, Hagrid is, even now, Keeper of Keys and Grounds, and so is necessarily familiar with the Forbidden Forest and its denizens. It is possible that Fluffy was something of a joint effort, with Kettleburn taking care of him after Hagrid retrieved him from the Forest. Professor Kettleburn, however, is not mentioned, so we can only speculate as to his involvement.
Norbert is mentioned in passing in the seventh book. Hagrid and Charlie happen to be together at the Weasley home, and Hagrid inquires about Norbert. Charlie says they are calling her Norberta now. Charlie explains that they know Norberta is a female because they are more fierce.
In this chapter we also see Harry's willingness to break rules if he believes he has a good reason. This ability to think independently will be useful in later years as increasingly more daunting tasks are put before him.
- The only connection we see in this chapter is a very minor one, as Norbert is mentioned in passing in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.