Friday, July 13, 2007

Harry Potter and the... Goat?

In my previous post about the Order of the Phoenix movie, I said that:

"I was the only one in the entire, packed movie theater that laughed when there was a goat in the Hog's Head. Okay, it's an obscure reference, but I thought it was hysterical that they included it in the movie."

My husband just read my post and wanted me to clarify that he got the joke too, he just didn't think it was laugh-out-loud funny like I did. (Which, technically, makes my comment still true).

So what was the goat reference about? (If you understood it the first time, or aren't interested in Harry Potter... you'll probably want to skip the rest of this. And you should also skip this if you haven't finished reading Book 6.) For the two of you who are still reading, it is an obscure reference, but I'm pretty sure it will be important in Book 7.

In Book 4, (Chapter 24- Rita Skeeter's Scoop) there's a scene in Hagrid's hut in which Dumbledore, Harry, Ron and Hermione convince Hagrid to return to work after Rita Skeeter's article about Hagrid's giantess mother.

Dumbledore says: "My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. It was all over the papers, but did Aberforth hide? No, he did not! He held his head high and went about his business as usual! Of course, I'm not entirely sure he can read, so that may not have been bravery...." (Goblet of Fire, pg. 454)

All page numbers in this post refer to Scholastic hardcover editions.

Seems like a throw-away comment from Dumbledore, doesn't it? Go ahead and read these two excepts from Book 5 (Chapter 16- In the Hog's Head):

Description of the Hog's Head: 'The Hog's Head bar comprised one small, dingy, and very dirty room that smelled strongly of something that might have been goats."(Order of the Phoenix, pg. 335)

Description of the Hog's Head barman:
"The barman sidled toward them out of a back room. He was a grumpy-looking old man with a great deal of long gray hair and beard. He was tall and thin and looked vaguely familiar to Harry." (Order of the Phoenix, pg. 336)

Well, now it's starting to come together. But nothing is ever definite until J.K. Rowling confirms it. Let's she what she said when asked about it in a Q&A session at the 2004 Edinburgh Book Festival (it's a great interview by the way, well worth reading... just remember it came out before Book 6 was published).

Audience member: "Why is the barman of the Hog’s Head vaguely familiar to Harry? Is he Dumbledore’s brother?"
J.K. Rowling: "Ooh—you are getting good. Why do you think that it is Aberforth?"
Audience member: "Various clues. He smells of goats and he looks a bit like Dumbledore."
J.K. Rowling: "I was quite proud of that clue. That is all that I am going to say. [Laughter]. Well yes, obviously. I like the goat clue—I sniggered to myself about that one."

So, yes, the barman at the Hog's Head is Dumbledore's brother Aberforth.
Once you know that... there's a few other throw-away comments that suddenly become more important.

Such as...
-In Book 6 (Chapter 20 - Lord Voldemort's Request) Harry and Dumbledore are watching a memory in the Pensieve about Voldemort's request to teach at Hogwarts. Dumbledore lists the names of several Death Eaters that accompanied Voldemort and mentions that they are staying in the Hog's Head that evening. Voldemort is extremely surprised that Dumbledore has this knowledge and comments:
"You are as omniscient as ever, Dumbledore."
'Oh no, merely friendly with the local barmen,' said Dumbledore lightly."
(Half Blood Prince, pg. 445)

-Also in Book 6 (Chapter 25- The Seer Overheard) when Trelawney describes her job interview in the Hog's Head and says it was interrupted by Snape. Trelawney : "There was a commotion outside the door and it flew open, and there was that rather uncouth barman standing with Snape." (Half Blood Prince, pg. 545) Aberforth is mentioned in Book 5 as being in the original Order of the Phoenix... so he was the Order member who caught Snape and ejected him before Snape heard the rest of the prophecy.

One more reference in book six (Chapter 30- The White Tomb). Harry mentions several of the people who attend Dumbledore's funeral and they include: the barman of the Hog's Head. (Half Blood Prince, pg. 641)

Anyways, rather long explanation... but now you know that the Hog's Head barman is Dumbledore's brother (although you probably already knew that). But that's why there was a goat in the Hog's Head bar in the movie and why it made me laugh... and my husband smile.

Now you too can laugh at the goat when you see the movie.


  1. So, what's so funny about that? I still don't get it !!!

  2. he had sex with a goat, dude.