In Chamber of Secrets (Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs), after the slug incident on the Quidditch pitch, Ron, Hermione and Harry head off to Hagrid's hut. As they approach, they see Lockhart leaving, saying:

"It's a simple matter if you know what you're doing!" Lockhart was saying loudly to Hagrid. "If you need help, you know where I am! I'll let you have a copy of my book - I'm surprised you haven't already got one. I'll sign one tonight and send it over. Well, goodbye!" And he strode away towards the castle.

We then learn what led up to this moment:

..."I knew yeh hadn't really. I told Lockhart yeh didn' need teh. Yer more famous than him without tryin'."

"Bet he didn't like that," said Harry, sitting up and rubbing his chin.

"Don' think he did," said Hagrid, his eyes twinkling. "An' then I told him I'd never read one o' his books an' he decided ter go"

With the phrasing used here, it's hard to tell whether he's saying that he's never read one of Lockhart's books, or the potentially more insulting, "I would never read one of his books". Lending more weight to the latter, he has also just said:

"Like I don' know. An' bangin' on about some Banshee he banished. If one word of it was true, I'll eat my kettle"

I.E. he would never bother to read the books, as he knows them to be untrue.

Was Lockhart leaving as his usual arrogant self trying to be helpful sending a book over because Hagrid "has never read" one of his books?

Or was he leaving more worked up and maybe slightly insulted, because Hagrid said "he never would read" one of this books? Evidence for the latter being that he was speaking loudly (despite there not-knowingly being anyone else around to overhear him) and striding away immediately after Hagrid stated "He would never read one of his books" and jibing him over Harry's fame. I wouldn't put it past him to be even more arrogant than usual and say he'd send a book over anyway.

Essentially, what did Hagrid actually say to Lockhart - ie was "read" pronounced as "red" or "reed"?

  • 10
    I'd never picked up on this, but it's such a valid point! +1 Sep 18, 2015 at 7:33
  • 9
    It has to mean "I had never read one of his books", which is why Lockhart promised to supply one. If Hagrid had meant "I would never read one of his books" why would Lockhart send him a book? The pronunciation of "read" would make it clear to Lockhart which meaning it was - "red" vs "reed". Sep 18, 2015 at 8:34
  • 9
    Ah, English, where read and lead rhyme and read and lead rhyme but read and lead don't and read and lead don't either. Sep 18, 2015 at 13:51
  • 2
    The ambiguity has nothing to do with "Hagrid's less than perfect English"; -'d for either would or had is perfectly standard.
    – ruakh
    Sep 18, 2015 at 15:44
  • 2
    @JamesThorpe: No, I had is quite proper in that context. (Google "pluperfect" + "indirect speech" for more information.)
    – ruakh
    Sep 18, 2015 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


In context, the fact that Lockhart immediately strode off would strongly imply that Hagrid told him that he hadn't read ('red') one of Lockhart's books before. For the record, this is backed up by the unabridged audio version of the book.

Since it makes it vastly easier for Lockhart to fool people if they already know about his famous adventures, it makes good sense for him to wait until Hagrid has had a chance to read one of his books (or at the very least hear about his fame from someone who's read one) and then approach him at a later date. This would explain his decision to send him a book.

By contrast, if Hagrid had told Lockhart that he would never read ('reed') one of his books, it seems more likely that he would have flounced off and avoided further contact with Hagrid.

  • 1
    Quite an accurate analysis of Lockhart's character; +1 Sep 18, 2015 at 9:45
  • 2
    Yes - I'm more inclined to think he's just said that he's never read one, not that he wouldn't. There was just enough going on in that section for me to wonder either way though :) Sep 18, 2015 at 9:47
  • How canonical is that audio version?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 31, 2016 at 1:27
  • 4
    @randal'thor - According to this interview, JKR has been personally involved in the recording of each book, down to helping Stephen Fry with voice characterisation and the pronunciation of difficult words. I'd guess that they're pretty damn canonical.
    – Valorum
    Jan 31, 2016 at 1:34
  • 2
    @Richard Helping Stephen Fry pronounce difficult words? Sounds like a job fairly quickly done with. :-p Jan 31, 2016 at 2:51

In Dutch, the line reads

En toen ik zei dat ik nog nooit een boek van hem gelezen had, besloot 'ie om maar op te stappen.

in which the crucial part translates to "I had never read one of his books".

Of course, this is just the Dutch translation, which may be off. But the initials RAB (which in a later book turned out to be those of Regulus Black) were translated as RAZ, in line with the Dutch translation of his surname, indicating that the Dutch translation is fairly faithful.

  • 3
    Nice approach, I like it! Sep 18, 2015 at 9:52
  • 4
    I forwarded Slytherincess an article about the inconsistencies in translation between the UK/US and French versions of HP. Although this is a novel solution (pun intended), there's no special evidence to suggest that the translator had special insight into the passage
    – Valorum
    Sep 18, 2015 at 10:05
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    @Richard The RAB/RAZ example shows that the Dutch translator had access to information not available to the general public at that time, so they most likely got that information from the author or the publisher. However, I have no evidence that they had the opportunity to request clarifications; the RAB/RAZ information may simply have been part of a "translation information kit".
    – SQB
    Sep 18, 2015 at 10:33
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    @b_jonas Yes, but a translation has to be accurate. I remember the speculation that went on at the time and the clues that were learned from the different translations.
    – SQB
    Sep 18, 2015 at 11:14
  • 9
    Novel approach. -- I am still skeptical though, even if the rest is translated well, this might be something the translator never thought to ask, and was never in any information kit. -- It's such a subtle thing. Sep 18, 2015 at 12:44

In Catalan, the line reads

Llavorens li he dit que mai me llegiria cap dels seus llibres i ell ha fotut el camp.

in which the crucial part translates to "I would never read one his books".

Of course, this is just the Catalan translation, which may be off.

  • 1
    Don't trust translations. Mind you, the Spanish translation translates "sherbet lemon" as "sorbete de limón" as if Rowling were American. I haven't read the Catalan books, but I've read enough not to trust forced Fabrian translations. Jan 31, 2016 at 8:44
  • @AlfredoHernández - wait, wut? I just googled "sherbet lemon" and found out it isn't a lemon ice, as I've assumed all along. I now put it in the same category as "Knickerbocker glory" - one of those things British people, strangely, have decided to call by the wrong name - thanks for the tip!
    – davidbak
    Apr 28, 2016 at 22:33
  • @davidbak you can even see some sweets in Dumbledore's office in the fourth film IIRC (which is one of the reasons I live the film adaptations; you can tell they've made artistic production and world-building a big deal). Apr 29, 2016 at 6:23

I'm of the opinion that he meant that he would never read one of his books.

EDIT: as a comment suggests, I'm clarifying on the why: Hagrid would never read one of Lockhart's books because he thinks Gilderoy is a fraud.

Throughout the books, Hagrid, while not bookish or very academically proficient (except regarding animals), is generally a very emotionally wise character. He has some unique insights into Harry's and others' state of mind, emotions and intentions (although he's very naïve on some occasions, especially while drunk) - and, in many cases, provides incredibly sound and wise advise - probably because of his purity of heart. In fact, I believe that's one of the reasons Dumbledore trusts him so much.

In this particular instance, I think Hagrid sees right through Lockhart - an intuition which, due to the final confrontation between Lockhart and Harry and Ron, we see is spot on. It might even be a very sly use of foreshadowing on the author's part.

  • Hagrid is literate. He has a preferred text about monsters and wrote a series of heartfelt letters to Lily and James Potter's friends asking them for photos. There's no special indication that he wouldn't read for pleasure.
    – Valorum
    Sep 19, 2015 at 6:51
  • @Richard: I don't see that the answer claimed otherwise? The argument is that Hagrid may feel Lockhart is a fraud, therefore his books are not worth the time.
    – chirlu
    Sep 19, 2015 at 6:58
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    Absolutely agree. Please note I never said illiterate, but bookish. I meant to say he isn't shown as spending tons of time reading books, not that he doesn’t read them at all. In any case, I think Hagrid is one of the wisest characters in the books. Sep 19, 2015 at 7:01
  • You don't need to be bookish to read trash novels.
    – Valorum
    Sep 19, 2015 at 7:19
  • I've no doubt that Hagrid sees through Lockhart (I've always thought it a rather weak point in the book when Lockhart ‘reveals’ himself to Harry and Ron at the end, because throughout most of the book, it seems like pretty much everyone [well, everyone male… plus McGonagall] saw right through him). That's not really an argument for either, though: even if Hagrid saw through him, would he talk to him like that to his face? “I have never read any of your books” is a pretty clear, dousing message to someone like Lockhart; “I would never read any of your books” would just be very rude. Jan 31, 2016 at 2:58

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