Rita Skeeter's Scoop
Chapter 24 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Rita Skeeter's Scoop
Hermione is hardly surprised to hear that Hagrid is a half-Giant; he is too large to be human, though Giants typically are twenty feet tall. And there must be decent Giants, just as there are decent Werewolves.
Now that the holidays are over, Harry is worried. February 24th is looming much closer from this side of Christmas, and he still must solve the Egg's riddle. Harry's unfriendly feelings towards Cedric prevent him using the hint Cedric gave him.
Classes resume and no one is looking forward to Care of Magical Creatures and renewed acquaintance with the Skrewts. Arriving at Hagrid's hut, however, they are met by Professor Grubbly-Plank. Ignoring Harry's questions about Hagrid, she leads them to where a Unicorn is tethered. The boys are waved back because unicorns interact better with girls. Malfoy japes that Hagrid is too ashamed to show his face and produces a copy of the Daily Prophet. Rita Skeeter's scurrilous story claims students have been injured in Hagrid's class. Crabbe is quoted as being bitten by a Flobberworm. Worse, the article reveals Hagrid's mixed Giant-human ancestry. Harry is incensed, but Malfoy sneers that parents will be too terrified to have Hagrid teach their children. Harry is so angry he is barely able to concentrate on the class. At the end, Parvati declares it was better than Hagrid's lessons and hopes Professor Grubbly-Plank stays a long time. Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to Hagrid's hut after Divination, but their repeated knocks go unanswered. Hagrid is absent the next week, while Professor Grubbly-Plank continues teaching. Hagrid is not even seen performing his grounds-keeping duties.
Harry intends to go to the next Hogsmeade weekend, much to Hermione's surprise and displeasure; she was expecting him to work on solving the Egg riddle. Harry lies and says he nearly has it figured out. There are still five weeks left, after all. Heading to Hogsmeade, they spot Viktor Krum diving into the lake, apparently unaffected by the cold. Ron says he almost hopes the giant squid will get him.
At the Three Broomsticks, they see Ludo Bagman deep in conversation with Goblins. Bagman notices Harry and charges over for a private word. He and the Goblins want to contact Barty Crouch, but nobody knows where he is. Percy claims he is still sick at home and sending instructions by owl post. If Rita Skeeter uncovers this, she will probably report him as missing, just as she had with Bertha Jorkins. Harry refuses Bagman's offer of help deciphering the Egg, and when Fred and George suddenly appear and offer to buy Bagman a drink, he declines and departs, the Goblins trailing after him. Rita Skeeter enters, telling her photographer that someone (probably Bagman) refused to speak to her. Harry accuses her of intentionally ruining other peoples' lives. She responds the public has the right to know the truth, and asks for Harry's version. As they leave, Hermione tells Skeeter that she is an evil woman. Looking back, Harry sees Skeeter's quill racing across parchment; Ron suspects Hermione may be next in line for Skeeter's axe.
The Trio return to Hagrid's hut, and Hermione pounds on the door. It is Professor Dumbledore who answers and invites them in. According to Dumbledore, many letters have arrived supporting Hagrid, many demanding that he remain at Hogwarts. Hagrid protests that he is half-Giant, but Harry points out his own relationship to the Dursleys, and Dumbledore mentions his brother Aberforth, who was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. Dumbledore orders Hagrid to return to work on Monday, then leaves. Showing the Trio a picture of his late father, Hagrid says he would be disappointed by his son's behavior. Hagrid asks how Harry is doing with the Egg; Harry again lies that he nearly has it solved. Hagrid tells Harry how proud he is of him, causing Harry to feel ashamed. Harry privately concedes it is time to swallow his pride and use Cedric's hint.
That Hagrid immediately went into hiding after Rita Skeeter's article was published shows his rather child-like nature. Rather than confronting an issue and standing up for himself, he instead retreats into seclusion, to the extent that even his friends and supporters are unable to convince him to show himself. Hagrid symbolizes how innocent individuals are easily victimized by powerful entities like the media. Rita Skeeter represents that power and how it is interrelated with the bigotry that permeates the series, and how fear and suspicion can be deliberately manipulated to inflame peoples' hatred, perpetuating racial stereotypes. And while Skeeter's article is bias-driven, it may be less about her personal beliefs than deliberately skewing facts to incite readers' terror about Giants, possibly to sell more newspapers. Despite Hagrid's gentleness and devoted service to Hogwarts, Skeeter falsely casts him as a dangerous and irresponsible individual, though that description seems more applicable to her. Surprisingly, the backlash results in supporters rallying to Hagrid's defence rather than condemning him; many are probably former Hogwarts students who fondly remember Hagrid. And while Skeeter represents many characters' bigoted views and racial oppression, Dumbledore and Hermione become its antithesis, championing equal rights and opportunities for all magical denizens who may be at even greater risk as Voldemort's power continues to rise.
Of the many characters Harry has a close relationship with, it is clearly seen here that Hagrid is among the most important and influential, and whose good opinion Harry cultivates and values. Although Harry never means to disappoint others, his laziness results in him procrastinating and lying to everyone (and probably to himself) about solving the Egg riddle, and he seems impervious to Hermione's criticism. He is, however, completely shamed and humbled by Hagrid's total and unconditional faith in him, a faith Harry has failed to meet. Possibly only Sirius, Lupin, and Dumbledore could have close to the same effect that Hagrid has, though they, knowing Harry's nature, would likely have doubted his claims. Harry guiltily realizes his actions have hardly represented how a Triwizard Champion is expected to behave, letting down those who have supported and believed in him. Harry resolves to work hard on solving the Egg riddle.
Just how much Ron is lacking in emotional sensitivity is shown here as well. Immediately after Dumbledore orders Hagrid back to work, the room is still emotionally wrought, Ron asks if he can have a cake; however, he probably unintentionally helped break the tension somewhat.
February 24th, according to statements in the story, falls on a Tuesday, so the preceding Saturday ought to be the 21st. If Harry still has five weeks to solve the puzzle of the Egg, then the Hogsmeade weekend should be falling on the 17th of January. This suggests that Harry has been back at school for two weeks, with Hogwarts re-opening on the 5th; so Hagrid has been closeted for two weeks when Dumbledore visits him. It is extremely unlikely that a Hogsmeade weekend would be scheduled for the first weekend following the return to school. We note that the days of the week do not line up with the story's supposed years, 1994-5, but as usual we point out that this has no effect on the story.
- Why has Harry been so reluctant to work on solving the Egg's riddle, even despite Hermione's prodding and Cedric's hint?
- Why does Harry feel ashamed when he lies to Hagrid about the Egg, but not to others?
- Why does Harry finally decide to use Cedric's hint?
- Why has Hagrid gone into hiding? Why does he agree to come back?
- What motivated Rita Skeeter to write such a scathing story?
- Why does Ron think that Hermione will be Rita Skeeter's next "victim"? What does he mean by this? Is he right?
- Rita Skeeter's quill seems to be able to write when nobody is speaking, despite it supposedly being a "Quick-Quotes Quill". What is it actually writing? Given its sour green colour and apparently similar taste, so appropriate to the tone of the stories Skeeter turns in, could the stories actually be partly generated by the quill, autonomously?
Ludo Bagman's conversation with the Goblins in the Three Broomsticks appears to be going badly, and he seems to have lost much of his bounce. Bagman, we will find, is in trouble with the Goblins over his gambling debts, and this is yet another episode where he attempts to settle matters with them. His abrupt retreat indicates he was unsuccessful, although Fred and George's sudden arrival may also have scared him off; he is avoiding the Twins because he also has refused to pay their winnings.
In that encounter, we see another clumsy attempt by Bagman to help Harry with the Tournament. Almost certainly, the Goblins that Bagman was speaking to are the same group with which he is betting on Harry's victory. One might wonder why the Goblins allow him to blatantly talk to Harry, as Bagman has already demonstrated that he is not particularly trustworthy. The Goblins must suspect that Bagman would attempt to influence the tournament's outcome in his own favour, despite his being a judge.
Rita Skeeter's story about Hagrid points up the prejudice and discrimination that the Wizarding world retains towards the other magical races; we will see this brought out again, in the person of Dolores Umbridge, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Umbridge will exhibit this prejudice to an extreme, displaying an irrational hatred for "half-breeds" like Hagrid and, illogically, the entire Centaur race. Voldemort will use this prejudice to win himself allies among those races that have been subjected to discrimination, notably the few remaining Giants and the Dementors.
It is suggested that Skeeter's story is slanted towards the sensational in order to sell more papers. This will be reiterated in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In this chapter, Skeeter says that the public deserves to know the truth; in the next book, when Hermione throws that back at her, Skeeter will call her a "silly girl" and tell her that newspapers want stories that will sell more newspapers. Skeeter is clearly very good at writing these kinds of stories, though we have to wonder how much of it is her, and how much springs from the magic on her quill.
Readers have probably noticed that many characters are first introduced by name before they actually appear in the story. Here, Dumbledore mentions his somewhat wayward brother, Aberforth, who will play a significant role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We note that the more mature reader will likely jump to a conclusion on hearing what Aberforth was accused of. This conclusion will never be refuted. This thinly veiled innuendo, and other similar events, is part of what makes the series satisfying for all ages; adult readers will see things in it that children won't, and will be entertained by revelations that younger readers simply won't get.
- In this chapter we first hear of Aberforth Dumbledore. Mention of his having performed "inappropriate charms on a goat" turns out to be a very broad hint: one of the characteristics of the Hog's Head Inn, when we first visit, is "a strong odour of goat", which astute readers will correctly interpret as a clue that the bartender is, in fact, Aberforth. Aberforth will play a significant role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where we will also discover that his Patronus is a goat.