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In Deathly Hallows,

when Dobby died,

Harry wanted to bury him without magic:

“I want to do it properly,” were the first words of which Harry was fully conscious of speaking. “Not by magic. Have you got a spade?”

Is giving him a Muggle burial the most honorable thing Harry can do?

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<Comments removed> Take the discussion about spoiling things to meta or chat. –  Keen Jun 14 at 19:20
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I made a meta post to discuss this question: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/4718/… –  alexwlchan Jun 14 at 19:20

4 Answers 4

up vote 69 down vote accepted

Harry wanted to honor Dobby by doing the hard work himself. He didn't view waving a wand and having a hole magically appear as enough of a tribute for the sacrifice that Dobby gave.

It's an easy way vs. hard way, and the minor sacrifice of digging a hole by hand is the least of what Dobby deserved.

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You're not wrong, but can you back this up with anything other than your own opinion? –  Richard Jun 12 at 10:46
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@Richard I think the understanding is pretty clear from the quote in the question. –  Sulthan Jun 12 at 13:15
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@Sulthan - I disagree. While you and I may think it's clear, without a canon reference it's mere supposition. –  Richard Jun 12 at 13:31
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I'd suggest Molly Weasley's punishments to her children, as he made them do chores by hand as a punishment/lesson in humillity as an example for what Richard said –  Oak Jun 12 at 18:20
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@Richard If this answer is right, only JKR can confirm :P . Also, if thats the case, its the question, rather than the answer that is off topic, since its more about real world conventions –  Karthik T Jun 16 at 8:28

To expand on krillgar's answer somewhat:

Dobby was a house-elf. The job of a house-elf was to do menial tasks to make the life of a wizard easier. While Harry was perhaps not as strongly disgusted by this as Hermione with her S.P.E.W. campaign, he was familiar with how miserable this life could be, since he had grown up in a household where he was given the majority of the chores and housework. He therefore understood how important Dobby's freedom was to him (it was Harry that orchestrated Dobby's liberation, after all). Inherent in that was the idea of treating Dobby as an equal (Dobby himself commented on this when they first met).

It's likely, therefore, that Harry felt that using magic to remove the hard work from the task of burying Dobby would be disrespectful, given that Dobby had spent so much of his life doing hard work to make the lives of wizards easier.

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Warning: long answer.

General idea

Now, I know this would sound a bit odd (well, a bit might be too soft expression), but one of the things, that came to my mind after reading the question is from Dumbledore's speech at the end of Goblet of Fire:

“Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.”

I am very well aware of the fact, that Dumbledore is talking about kinda different situation. About the time when you must reveal, whether can fight for something, no matter the circumstances, and you stand to your best beliefs or if you cowardly stir yourself from your responsibilities and you sell yourself to the other side ( if you let me simplify it).

Now, I believe, that Dumbledore was talking about a very deep concept of principle upon you can build your life. A concept of making everyday or lifetime decisions, of taking the burden of responsibilities. You may then find, that what can matter is:

  • what is your motivation, what drives you in your life
  • how do you those things, if you can choose
  • whether you care about those around you

Harry's own motivation

I think Harry is this kind of person.

Together, as said in the answer above, it was improper because of Harry's feelings towards Dobby, who while sometimes too much, cared for Harry's good. whether it was :

  • fighting the Elf law of keeping family secrets (Chamber of secrets)
  • helping with the second task of the Triwizard Tournament (Goblet of Fire)
  • tailing Draco Malfoy, which meant not sleeping for many days (Half Blood Prince)
  • saving Harry and others from the Malfoy's Mansion
  • and others...

Harry realized this, I think. And well, there was not very much he could do for Dobby now, there was after all, nothing at all, that he could do for him.

He might remember the Christmas, when he did not think of Dobby, although Dobby thought of him:

“Can Dobby give Harry Potter his present?” he squeaked tentatively. “ ’Course you can,” said Harry. “Er . . . I’ve got something for you too.” It was a lie; he hadn’t bought anything for Dobby at all, but he quickly opened his trunk and pulled out a particularly knobbly rolled-up pair of socks.

He might feel pity, that he would not be able to repay to Dobby (not only this time, but also the other mentioned above).

The last thing, merely symbolic, was to honor Dobby by digging the grave with his own hands. To actually sweat and at least for a moment work as Dobby did his whole life.


A bit more about "no magic!"

Doing something very uneasy way is often considered character building process. Since it takes much more time, you can think about it. Parents/teachers use this punishment to teach you, that some things you should not take for granted, that is:

to expect something to be available all the time and forget that you are lucky to have it

the free dictionary

Aside from the part about Molly Weasley I do remember four more occasions:

  • “You will be polishing the silver in the trophy room with Mr. Filch,” said Professor McGonagall. “And no magic, Weasley — elbow grease.”

  • “Can’t you help us with these sprouts? You could just use your wand and then we’ll be free too!”

    “No, I don’t think we can do that,” said Fred seriously. “It’s very character-building stuff, learning to peel sprouts without magic, makes you appreciate how difficult it is for Muggles and Squibs —”

  • “He says you’re to come to his office at half past eight tonight to do your detention — er — no matter how many party invita- tions you’ve received. And he wanted you to know you’ll be sorting out rotten flobberworms from good ones, to use in Potions and — and he says there’s no need to bring protective gloves.”

  • “Mr. Filch has been looking for someone to clear out these old files,” said Snape softly. “They are the records of other Hogwarts wrongdoers and their punishments. Where the ink has grown faint, or the cards have suffered damage from mice, we would like you to copy out the crimes and punishments afresh and, makingsure that they are in alphabetical order, replace them in the boxes. You will not use magic.

  • or the typical writing lines

In the real world imagine having to write many page essay by hand, no use of computer. Or searching for the information in the book, no internet.

Those things done by hand are somehow more real. It is not easy, it takes a much more time, if you do a mistake (/accident - spilled ink), you might need to e.g. rewrite the whole page just because of that one thing. During the process you are almost forced to concentrate only on your work, it gives you plenty of time to think about the circumstances, that led to it.

Now, it does not need to be only punishment. I think Harry did it as a sacrifice of his time(well, not just time); remember, how he was in hurry to get the information from Griphook and Ollivander after the burial. But he stopped everything about the Horcruxes and Hallows to honor his friend, a friend who was in the eyes of the majority of wizards seen as a filthy servant (for being a House Elf).

He dug with a kind of fury, relishing the manual work, glorying in the non-magic of it, for every drop of his sweat and every blister felt like a gift to the elf who had saved their lives.

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Yes, good reasoning behind Harry's motivation. +1 –  Mooz Jun 12 at 21:27
    
@Mooz Thanks, I've tried to provide detailed reasoning. –  quapka Jun 13 at 16:36
    
Now, I've read this and I have to know: How... on earth... did you put together all of those excellent citations from such an extremely broad range of reading? For you to have cited so many of those specific events where it was demanded or required that no magic be used... You either would need an extremely reliable memory, have spent a few hours on google searching "no magic harry potter", or, more likely, have read the books 3-5 times each. –  user26060 Jun 25 at 20:43
    
@jt0dd Well, I did not write the answer in one moment. In fact the last bit was added one day later (so I had some time to think about it). For your tips: I would not count myself into the first group, I did not google, and yes I have read the books several times - so that helps, because after few minutes of recalling the books you can easily tip of the parts, that might be relevant. Than I just take the books and look those sections, or search them in pdf version, since there are things I am not able to classify correctly within the books. That's all the magic in it. –  quapka Jun 27 at 16:52
    
Ah so you didn't use magic. How appropriate –  user26060 Jun 27 at 17:05

Harry, being a (relatively) recent newcomer to the magic world probably still sees magic like most muggles would as a easy way to do something that you could do for yourself. Even wizards realized that this was the case.I don't have my books in front of me but there was a scene where Mrs. Weasley was punishing Ron with peeling potatoes and expressly forbade magic use.

It wasn't that using magic would be improper. He just felt that it would be lazy to do so and wouldn't give due respect to Dobby who had saved his ass on multiple occasions.

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Interestingly, Hermione (who has lived a Muggle live for as long as Harry) at one point describes electronics etc. as "all those things Muggles come up with as a replacement for magic" – probably quoted from Hogwarts: a History. At any rate, I don't think it's generally accepted amongst wizards that magic is just "an easy way to do something that you could do for yourself". –  leftaroundabout Jun 12 at 16:49
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I honestly think this is the best answer. I'm assuming you're referring to this passage; ‘What are you two up to?’ asked Ron. ‘Can’t you help us with these sprouts? You could just use your wand and then we’ll be free, too!’ ‘No, I don’t think we can do that,’ said Fred seriously. ‘It’s very character-building stuff, learning to peel sprouts without magic, makes you appreciate how difficult it is for Muggles and Squibs –’ –  Richard Jun 12 at 17:08
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@leftaroundabout In the situation of Doby's death, if this weren't a world of magic, but they had a backhoe available, I'm sure Harry would have said "I want to do it properly. Not with a tractor, get me a spade". It's the same idea, even if you equate magic and technology. –  Doc Jun 12 at 23:57

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