There are many heroes in Harry Potter: James and Lily Potter, whose selfless sacrifice leaves their son an orphan, but is never forgotten throughout the series, Sirius, Harry’s godfather, who gives up twelve years of his life in the notorious wizarding prison, Azkaban, when former friend, Peter Pettigrew blasts away a street full of Muggles and leaves a finger behind, leaving the Wizarding World thinking he is dead, when he is living as a rat with the Weasley family. Mr and Mrs Weasley, who open their homes and their hearts to Harry from book one, when he is lost on King’s Cross, trying to get onto Platform 9 ¾. And then there are Professors McGonagall and Snape, who protect Hogwarts, and Harry, until the end, in their own ways, with McGonagall ensuring that Harry gets through his OWLs, despite the cruelty of Dolores Umbridge, and ensuring he is able to get the Battle of Hogwarts under way. And Snape, whose hatred for Harry runs deep, spends the series as a double agent, and his death to ensure Voldemort doesn’t find Harry, despite this hatred. As readers, we all remember these heroes. But there is one group of heroes we don’t hear much about, at least in the movies, but they have a much bigger role in the books. The house elves.
We are first introduced to house elves with Dobby, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He has, unbeknownst to his masters, the Malfoys, run away from their Manor to try and prevent Harry from returning to Hogwarts for his second year. He has stopped Ron and Hermione’s letters from arriving, and has now come to cause havoc to ensure his expulsion. Yet, in a further act of deviousness, he closes the barrier at King’s Cross, and once Harry is finally at Hogwarts, tampers with a Bludger that injures Harry, and results in the bones being removed from his arm by the wildly inadequate, yet egotistical Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart. At the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, after discovering Dobby serves the Malfoy family, Harry presents the diary of Voldemort to Lucius in a sock, which he flings aside and Dobby catches it – setting him free, as the only way a house elf can be released from his or her servitude is with clothing.
Dobby makes another appearance in book four, where Harry, Ron and Hermione find him working in the Hogwarts kitchens with Winky, who, until the beginning of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had worked for the Crouch family. Dobby comes to Harry’s aid again in the second task when he brings him Gillyweed, to help him breathe underwater to save Ron, and so it turns out, Fleur Delacour’s younger sister.
In book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dobby again helps Harry (this time without injuring him) find a secret place where Dumbledore’s Army could meet and Dobby delivers, showing him how to find The Room of Requirement, and then warns Harry that they have been discovered. During this time, Harry also employs Dobby to spy on Draco Malfoy so he can find out what he is up to, and then gives Kreacher and Dobby various tasks during this time. Dobby defends Harry against Kreacher’s screeching that Draco would make abetter master as well – proving his loyalty to Harry, and showing that house else are just as loyal and heroic. Later on, Kreacher becomes loyal to Harry following the death of Sirius, and together with Dobby, brings Mundungus Fletcher to Harry in the final book when they are searching for the Horcuxes.
Dobby, who has been the house elf who has received the most amount of page time so far, though was not as involved in the movies as he should have been, makes the ultimate sacrifice at Malfoy Manor when Harry, Ron and Hermione are captured and plot to save Luna Lovegood, Griphook and Garrick Ollivander from the Malfoys. As they Apparated out of Malfoy Manor, Bellatrix Lestrange threw a knife at Dobby, and upon their arrival at Shell Cottage, Harry discovered Dobby’s fatal injury.
Dobby, who had dedicated his last years to helping Harry, uttered his final words in Harry’s arms: Harry Potter, He was buried near Shell Cottage, under a headstone that reads:
Here lies Dobby, a free elf.
Kreacher only appears in the last few books, and at first, endears himself to nobody, lamenting the death of his mistress, Mrs Black, and lacking respect for his new master, Sirius. Influenced over the years by Dark Wizards and their thinking, the respect Kreacher is shown by Harry and Hermione is what makes him begin to help them with Dobby, and lead the House Elves of Hogwarts into the Battle of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is missing in the movies, and the omission of the role of the house elves in the books from the movies is perhaps what makes them the unsung heroes of the series. As Kreacher only has a small part, much smaller than Dobby, but just as important – both have been mistreated, and are seen as lesser beings by many wizards. They are valued by Harry, Ron and Hermione – and therefore are loyal to them. Whilst Dobby is faithful to Harry and will defend him against anyone, Kreacher takes a bit longer to come around, and it is Harry’s kindness in allowing him to keep some Black family relics in his bed, and speaking to him as an equal that eventually brings Kreacher around, and follows his orders to go to Hogwarts. It is his loyalty that makes Kreacher lead the other house elves into the battle when Dobby is no longer there to give that help.
Dobby and Kreacher are the two most significant house elves in the series but they are all heroes in the end, giving their lives and freedom for Hogwarts, which is as much their home as it is Harry’s, and they will defend it, even if they are not ordered to. This act, and the many acts of Dobby that ensured Harry’s survival, show that somebody small can be a hero. Amongst the heroes that are remembered from the series and the Battle of Hogwarts, it is not always the house elves that are remembered. On this anniversary, 20 years of Harry Potter, the house elves shall be remembered, and it all started with an elf with eyes the size and colour of tennis balls called Dobby.