Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Hedwig
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
|Hair color||None (white feathers)|
Overview[edit | edit source]
Hedwig is Harry's pet owl. Since mail is delivered by owls in the wizarding world, she plays a valuable role in Harry's life. More than that, however, she is one of Harry's companions; sometimes Harry feels that Hedwig is the only friend he has left.
Role in the Books[edit | edit source]
Harry is allowed to bring a toad or a cat or an owl to school, according to the book-list. Hagrid, who is guiding him through Diagon Alley, decides to buy Harry an animal as a birthday present. Toads, he says, are old-fashioned and would get him laughed at, and he doesn't like cats, because he says they make him sneeze, so he takes Harry to Eeylops Owl Emporium and buys him a snowy owl. Back at the Dursleys' home, Harry decides to name his owl Hedwig, a name he had found in his History of Magic text.
At King's Cross Station, as he tries to find Platform Nine and Three Quarters, Harry feels that Hedwig's cage on top of his luggage cart makes him seem out of place. When he sees another family walking past, talking about Muggles, he begins to hope they might be able to show him the way to the platform, but he only dares approach them when he sees one of them also has an owl in a cage. We will later learn that this is the Weasley family, and the owl in question is Hermes, who belongs to Percy.
During the first week of school, Hedwig occasionally flies in with the post owls at breakfast, to nibble affectionately at Harry's ear and get a bit of toast before going off to sleep in the Owlery. On Friday, she brings a note from Hagrid, inviting Harry to tea after class. Harry immediately sends a response back saying he'd be glad to.
When Harry, Ron, and Hermione plan to get Charlie Weasley to take Hagrid's pet dragon, Norbert, to Romania to release it back into the wild, it is Hedwig who brings Charlie's response back to the Trio. From this we can assume that it was Hedwig who carried the request to Charlie.
In the chamber with the logic puzzle, Harry instructs Hermione to return to the Owlery and send Hedwig with a message for Dumbledore. It turns out that Hermione never gets that far, meeting with Dumbledore in the Entrance Hall.
Because Uncle Vernon doesn't want strange things happening at his house, he refuses to let Hedwig hunt; he has locked her into her cage. Harry is locked into his room after the disastrous visit of the Masons on the evening of his birthday. We see Harry giving Hedwig most of his vegetable soup, and see her disapproval. When the Weasleys arrive to rescue Harry, he nearly forgets Hedwig; her loud hoots at being nearly abandoned wake Vernon up, and he charges into Harry's room just too late to catch Harry. The twins have taught Harry how to pick locks with a hairpin, and Harry opens Hedwig's cage; she flies alongside the car for some distance.
Hedwig had sent Harry a letter, from Hagrid, but he doesn't notice, so she gets his attention by nibbling him sharply, during that time, Neville gets sent a howler, and he runs out of the Great hall, then, Hedwig helps herself with Neville's cornflakes, and sets off for the Owlery
After the Dementor attack at Little Whinging, Harry writes letters to Sirius Black, Ron, and Hermione, demanding an explanation. Hedwig is out hunting; when she returns with a frog she has caught, Harry immediately sends her away with the letters, and instructions to peck at the recipients until they have written good long letters to send back to him. She leaves straight away, still clutching her frog, and Harry regrets having sent her away, as she is the only sympathetic person at 4 Privet Drive. He expects her prompt return, but she does not reappear.
Hedwig flies down from her perch on top of a wardrobe and lands on Harry's shoulder when Harry arrives at Number 12, Grimmauld Place, where she had stayed after delivering the messages Harry had given her. Harry is very glad to see her, and keeps stroking her even while speaking angrily to Ron and Hermione, who both show signs of Hedwig having pecked them. When Harry gets too angry, Hedwig retreats, reproachfully, to the top of the wardrobe.
After the meeting that evening, Hedwig and Pigwidgeon are clattering around on top of the wardrobe. Ron throws some Owl Treats up there for them, explaining that Dumbledore doesn't want them out hunting too often, it would raise questions.
On the last day before the start of classes, Harry climbs on a chair to clean all the owl droppings off the top of the wardrobe. Finishing, he tosses the accumulated owl droppings into a wastebasket, which swallows them and belches loudly. During the conversation that follows, the wastebasket occasionally makes soft gagging noises as it coughs up the owl droppings. Hermione borrows Hedwig at this point to send her parents the news that she has been made a Prefect.
Hedwig returns just before everyone leaves for the Hogwarts Express, and obligingly flutters off Hermione's shoulder and over to her cage as Harry finishes packing. At an angry call from Mrs. Weasley downstairs, Harry stuffs her unceremoniously in her cage and carries her and his trunk downstairs.
Harry travels to King's Cross Station with a number of members of the Order, and does not see Hedwig again until Mad-Eye Moody, in porter's uniform, brings her and all the luggage to Platform Nine and Three Quarters.
When Harry's scar pains him at the end of his fourth detention with Professor Umbridge, Harry writes a coded letter to Sirius to ask for advice. He carefully tells Hedwig that although the letter is addressed to Snuffles, it is really for Sirius. Hedwig blinks, which Harry takes to be understanding, and flies off from the Owlery.
The day after the initial meeting of what becomes Dumbledore's Army in the Hog's Head, a bedraggled Hedwig appears at the window of Harry's History of Magic class. Harry lets her in, then, finding her injured, asks Professor Binns for permission to go to the Hospital Wing as he doesn't feel well. Getting grudging permission, he instead goes to the staff room, where he finds Professor McGonagall. Hearing that Harry has an injured owl, Professor Grubbly-Plank also comes to the door, and she in turn takes Hedwig, saying she'll get Hedwig all fixed up. McGonagall reminds Harry of the message on Hedwig's leg, then quietly warns him that all communications in and out of the school are monitored. Hedwig, meanwhile, seems to feel that Harry is abandoning her.
The message on Hedwig's leg proves to be from Sirius, and reads simply "Tonight, same time, same place." When Sirius is nearly caught in the Gryffindor common-room fire by Umbridge, Hermione guesses that it was on Umbridge's order that Hedwig had been intercepted.
Hedwig and Pigwidgeon are then not seen again until the trip back to London on the Hogwarts Express. It is noted that Hedwig and Pigwidgeon are disturbed by Ron's outburst when he learns that Ginny is going out with Dean.
Hedwig, when we first see her, is sulking, either asleep or pretending. Harry knows that it is because she has been allowed so little time outside her cage in the past short while. When Harry pushes a couple of owl nuts through the cage bars to her, she ignores them. She remains unmoving while Harry, possibly in jest, shows her the places around the house at Privet Drive that hold memories for him.
Climbing into the sidecar of Sirius' flying motorcycle, Harry finds very little room for himself and even the few possessions he is taking with him. He ends up with his rucksack tucked uncomfortably under his feet, and Hedwig, in her cage, on his knees.
Trying to avoid the first strike of the Death Eaters, Hagrid turns the motorcycle so sharply that it turns upside down; Harry has to grab for Hedwig's cage and the rucksack, and watches his Firebolt fall to earth. Green flashes fly past, and Hedwig falls dead to the bottom of her cage. When the sidecar breaks free of the motorcycle, Harry manages to keep it in the air while Hagrid loops around to pick him up, but Harry can only take his rucksack. To disable one of the following Death Eaters, Harry destroys the sidecar, feeling a dreadful pang of regret for Hedwig as he does so.
As they wait for the Portkey to activate to take them to The Burrow from the house of Tonks' parents Ted and Andromeda, Hagrid asks Harry about Hedwig, and is shocked to hear that she has been killed.
In the Forest of Dean, Harry hears an owl hoot and is reminded of Hedwig.
Strengths[edit | edit source]
Hedwig is exceptionally intelligent for an owl, being able to follow more complex instructions such as to "keep pecking them until they've written decent-length answers", and to carry deliberately misaddressed packages (e.g. a package addressed to "Snuffles" was carried to Sirius). She also fought to get away from Umbridge, despite being wounded, suggesting that she is capable of loyalty and other "human" emotions.
Weaknesses[edit | edit source]
Hedwig is a snowy owl, very beautiful but easily seen and recognized. Snowy owls are not native to Britain and Hedwig was known to belong to Harry. Therefore, Harry could not use Hedwig to deliver messages when security and anonymity were required. Hedwig was easily offended and sulked when Harry used other owls for messages to Sirius.
Hedwig was a headstrong and proud owl who displayed an exaggerated sense of propriety. Hedwig quite obviously disapproved of the undignified enthusiasm of Ron's owl Pigwidgeon.
Relationships with Other Characters[edit | edit source]
Hedwig is very loyal to Harry Potter. During Harry's summer breaks at the Dursleys', Hedwig is often Harry's only companion and link to the Wizarding World. For Harry's sake, particularly in the early years, Hedwig puts up with quite a bit of discomfort and deprivation through the summer months at Privet Drive.
When Harry had loaned Hedwig to others, Hedwig seemed to accept the situation easily. For instance, when he loaned her to Hermione so that she could pass the news of her becoming a Prefect to her family, Hedwig quite cheerfully rode her shoulder while the message was being prepared, then returned to Hermione until Hermione brought her back to Harry.
Hedwig seemed sympathetic to the plight of Errol, the Weasley family's geriatric owl, at one point allowing Errol to share her perch, water, and food, and on another occasion actually helping Errol carry a package to Harry. Towards the over-exuberant Pigwidgeon, however, she seemed to show much more disdain, and went to great lengths to demonstrate how a post owl ought to behave.
Analysis[edit | edit source]
An uncanny amount of intelligence has been ascribed to owls in general in the Wizarding world. Implicit in their use as postal carriers is the suggestion that they can read and interpret written addresses, and given a name locate the corresponding wizard – in Hedwig's case, even if it is an alias. Owls are assigned an almost human level of understanding in fact, noticing that other owls may need help in fulfilling their missions, and with awareness that they are being rejected in favour of other letter-carriers, though perhaps without the ability to understand why.
It may be that Hedwig's apparent intelligence was considered a plot necessity by the author. It's certainly true that on several occasions, Harry feels rejected by everyone at Hogwarts, and Hedwig is the only companion he can turn to. Whether a less-intelligent pet would have provided the necessary solace is uncertain; it is obvious, however, that Hedwig's ability to be affronted and to react in somewhat sentient manner to Harry's requests does add drama and depth to their relationship.
J.K. Rowling, in interviews, has stated that snowy owls, unlike most other breeds, are diurnal and so would normally be sleeping at night, a thing she was not aware of when she decided Hedwig's breed. She has also described the death of Hedwig as the end of Harry's innocence. Hedwig died four days before Harry came of age at 17 years old.
Questions[edit | edit source]
Greater Picture[edit | edit source]
Harry found the name "Hedwig" in his textbook A History of Magic. In Muggle history there is a Saint Hedwig, who was the Duchess of Silesia and was canonized in 1267. The Sisters of St. Hedwig was founded in 1859 and are dedicated to the education of orphaned and abandoned children, children not unlike Harry.