43

In the Battle of Hogwarts, Neville tells Harry about a plan:

'Mandrakes!' Neville bellowed at Harry over his shoulder as he ran. 'Going to lob them over the walls - they won't like this!'

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - p.499 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 31, The Battle of Hogwarts

Now, given that:

'The cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it'

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - p.72 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 6, Gilderoy Lockhart

I would have said this attack is fairly OP (overpowered). And yet, it doesn't seem to have done much damage. Certainly, one is given the very distinct impression that the defenders of Hogwarts are losing when Voldemort calls a ceasefire and none of the big-name Death Eaters seem to have been taken out by the Mandrakes.

So how come?

  • 7
    It's never stated if they are fully grown or not. The last time they reached maturity they were used for potions straight away. – CandiedMango Nov 3 '15 at 0:55
  • @CandiedMango Strictly speaking, I suppose you're right; although they are described as "large potted plants", while the young ones in CoS are described as "tufty little plants". I also think it'd be an unusual use of time during a battle to lob immature Mandrakes at Death Eaters. And I'd still expect them to incapacitate a fair few of Voldemort's fighters. Although I concede I'm having my cake and eating it a little there, as the ability of immature Mandrakes to knock you out may have been considered reason enough for a head of house and around 6 others to use them – Au101 Nov 3 '15 at 1:03
  • I still think, though, that neither the decision to use them, nor the lack of any apparent mass-effect, points that way – Au101 Nov 3 '15 at 1:04
  • I guess once a few DEs run into them the others would just destroy the plants before getting too close. – CandiedMango Nov 3 '15 at 1:04
  • 8
    I wonder how susceptible Mandrakes are to fall damage – CandiedMango Nov 3 '15 at 1:09
45

There are several things to keep in mind.

  1. According to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the cry of a mandrake is only fatal if the mandrake is fully grown. A juvenile mandrake would knock anyone who heard it unconscious for several hours, but its cry would not kill them. Given that the purpose of the battle was to delay (not defeat) Voldemort and the Death Eaters, juvenile mandrakes could have helped to buy time. The books do not clearly state that the mandrakes had reached full killing potential. They were probably not young juvenile plants, but we do not know how large they were, or whether all of them were at the same level of maturity.
  2. There were a lot of Death Eaters. We only know the important ones by name. The fact that none of the Death Eaters we know were stunned or killed by the mandrakes' cries, does not mean that no Death Eaters were affected.
  3. Chamber of Secrets indicates that the school was not in the habit of keeping a large supply of mandrakes. If there are roughly eight people carrying the mandrakes, which appear "large" and "potted," they probably could not have carried more than one at a time--two at the most. That means there were probably somewhere from eight to sixteen mandrake plants--not a huge number. As a result, there may not have been enough to throw over all parts of the castle walls. The mandrakes might have made a difference at a crucial section of the Hogwarts defenses, but there would not have been enough mandrakes to throw at all of the Death Eaters.
  4. For the mandrakes to take effect, they had to be heard--and battles are noisy. There would be yelling, of course--not all wizards are proficient at nonverbal spells, and not all wands will perform them (dogwood wands are known for lacking the ability entirely). Any spells that missed their targets could hit parts of the castle or other physical objects, which would cause additional loud noises. The Death Eaters had also brought along nonhuman allies: the giants, in particular, were known for their loudness. Even if the mandrakes were full grown--which is uncertain--they would not have killed anyone if the battle noise drowned out the screaming mandrakes.

We do not know the extent to which the mandrakes were effective. What we do know is that Neville and the others succeeded in delaying the Death Eaters--and the book does seem to hint that the mandrakes had a part in that achievement.

  • Personally I'm not sure I agree with 1, or 2, (although, with 2, I think the general point that Voldemort's army was likely relatively large is sound). There are enough good points here for a +1 though and I really like point 4, which I think is your strongest. Point 3, though, I think is not correct "He was roused by Professor Sprout, who was thundering past followed by Neville and half a dozen others, all of them wearing earmuffs and carrying what appeared to be large potted plants". The general point of lack of ammo, however, may very will still hold up :) – Au101 Nov 3 '15 at 1:27
  • 1
    Good point--I edited #3. – E. J. Nov 3 '15 at 1:30
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    What exactly is it about the Mandrake screams that is inherently lethal? If they knock out or kill based on sheer volume alone, then presumably the sound they make must be quite loud - louder than any battle sounds for certain. Battles might be noisy, but nobody was ever killed just by the sound of battle... – Darrel Hoffman Nov 3 '15 at 15:38
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    @DarrelHoffman In the original lore, stopping one's ears with wax and persuading a dog leashed to the mandrake to run (hence pulling it up) sufficed to quieten the mandrake to a completely non-harmful level (for you, the dog was said to fair less well). In Rowling's take on it, mere ear-muffs were enough. It would seem that the lethal quality is not based on volume alone, nor are they necessarily very loud. – Jon Hanna Nov 3 '15 at 15:55
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    @JonHanna That is a fair point. However, in CoS the earmuffs are said to block out all sound and, when her students are wearing them, Professor Sprout has to communicate through gestures, as nothing else can be heard. On the other hand, the greenhouse walls are presumably enough to protect passers-by. – Au101 Nov 3 '15 at 16:58
25

Remember that the Mandrakes are being used not on defenceless civilians, but on experienced warriors. There are a couple of spells the Death Eaters might be able to use to keep the Mandrakes from incapacitating them:

  • The Silencing Charm. Silencio can be used on animals, and presumably also on plants. It would shut the Mandrakes up so their noise couldn't be heard.

  • The Muffliato Charm (one of the Half-Blood Prince's inventions). Death Eaters could use this on each other so that they couldn't hear the Mandrakes and were immune to their effects.

  • The Quietening Charm. Quietus makes things quieter, though how effective it would be on objects whose sound is fatal might be questionable.

  • 4
    I'm sorry to quibble, but do you have any canonical reference to any of these spells being effective against Mandragora? The Wikia for Silencio only mentions its use against beasts and beings, which excludes magical plants. Also, wouldn't Silencio have been the obvious choice for Professor Sprout to have used in her class on repotting mandrakes; certainly a well cast Silencio charm would've been more effective and reliable than a pair of earmuffs that could easily have been ill-advisedly removed or even slipped off by themselves? – Deepak Nov 3 '15 at 3:13
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    Silencio is difficult to perform, they only learn it in fifth year. So I doubt Professor Sprout would have cast it when earmuffs are so much more simple. But I also doubt a normal wizard could cast it in the middle of battle (only Hermione and Voldemord use it in battle). – Michael Nov 3 '15 at 6:38
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    @Deepak The course with Mandrakes occurs in book 2. Silencio is first mentioned in book 5. In a sense, Silencio didn't exist yet(JK Rowling has a habit of making new spells as the series progressed, regardless of their implication on previous story elements). Also, if the professor handled all the safety aspects, then the students wouldn't learn how dangerous mandrakes are. By having them wear earmuffs, the students are constantly aware of the danger. And ultimately, a student who takes off their earmuffs wouldn't end up dead, they would only be knocked out. Which hopefully helps them learn. – Shaz Nov 3 '15 at 14:52
5

Just adding to the already available answers

The mandrakes seem to be quasi sentient and in Chamber of Secrets it was told that after they reach a certain level of maturity they can come out of their pots to move to other ones, and I think at one point it is even mentioned that they had a loud party in one of the green houses which meant they were mature enough to be stewed

So it's also also possible that once the mandrakes were let out, they cried and bought some time for the Hogwarts army, but then found their way back into the soil after some time

Also, it's also possible that that mandrake cry is only harmful to humans, there were many non human fighters in Voldemort's army who could keep on fighting even if the human fighters were knocked out

4

I don't think it fair to make any such claims of "lack of effect" or the like.

Considering that the defenders of Hogwarts were few, and the aerial views of the battlefield, before the clash, showed what must have been a few thousand "villains." Flashing forward to the following dawn, where the tattered and bedraggled survivors of Voldemort's warriors had approached the main gate, showed that their losses had been "legion," to coin a pun.

We had been able to get accurate impressions of Voldemort's supporters, before the opening of hostilities, from those aerial views. Remember, we are able to count both the minions physically with Voldemort, who had been contributing to the destruction of the defensive barrier; as well as the horde of virtual "wild were-animals" who had approached the bridge over the gorge.

Voldemort had been able to field not only turncoat magic-wielders and criminals lately freed from prison, plus beings such as werewolves, as well as non-human magical beings like the vicious giants, and even dark creatures that are essentially "cannon-fodder," like the giant spiders from the heart of the Forest.

The aerial views of the environs of Hogwarts as the "Dark Forces" advanced upon the defenders made it very evident that there had been thousands of Dark Warriors.

Then, battle was joined. It was obvious that the "clever lads" had properly booby-trapped the covered bridge, leading to the demise of hundreds of those that some have been calling the "Savage Horde." The horde had evidently been largely composed of beasts like werewolves as well as the "juvenile-delinquent witches" or "punk thugs with wands," who seemed to have sprung up during Voldemort's reign.

Very few werewolves were seen, during the later battle for Hogwarts; and in fact, the morning's survivors who had assembled in the far end of the courtyard was clearly a rather small fraction of those who had come swarming through the woods, or who had stood with Voldemort, before the onset of battle.

DID "bombing" the attackers with Mandrake plants "help" by slaying large numbers of Voldemort followers?

I great deal has been said about the noise or din of battle. I feel, however, that there are many factors which have not been considered in the debate.

I should like to point out that creatures such as werewolves, among others, have supernaturally-acute hearing.

Plus, there's really no information as to how well--or how far--the shrieking of fully-developed Mandrakes is lethally-effective. It is not a subject that frequently comes to the fore.

If the defenders reached the wall unremarked by those below, they could have lobbed Mandrakes into clusters of villains, initially at their leisure.

It must be remembered that this was nothing like a "regular" battlefield: With the exception of "explosive spells" that had caused something akin to an explosion.

There was nothing like the echoing rattle of gunfire, the loud explosive "Bang" of rocket-propelled grenades, or the hollow echoing detonation of thrown explosive ordnance to add to the overall battle-noise.

There would only be the shouts of spell-words or phrases, and the "bang" of intermittent or occasional "explosive" spells, and other human- or creature-made vocal-outbursts. It would actually be a "quieter" battlefield that what modern soldiers would routinely face.

In a scene such as this, the "kill-radius" of Mandrake screams could be rather large. Eight or ten such "bombs" delivered from the top of the wall could easily slay upwards of a hundred or more attackers.

This contention could be borne out by comparing the crowds of supporters who had gathered about Voldemort, before the attack on the magical "shield" had begun, combined with the comparatively huge numbers composing the "Horde" that attacked Hogwarts from the playing-field side.

Both of those scenes clearly indicated that Voldemort had hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters.

But when Voldemort and his followers approached the main gate of Hogwarts the following dawn, well over half--possibly as many as three-quarters or more--of his combatants were not in evidence.

During the intervening night, somewhat between fifty and seventy-five percent of his forces had evidently been slain.

Most tellingly, these losses included all of his "heavy forces"--- there had been "naught but wand-wielders left," so to speak.

It was also abundantly obvious that a great many of the remaining Voldemort supporters were "rather loose about the belt." As a soldier would say, they were greatly lacking of guts; or courage.

As soon as Potter "resurrected" and bounded off, and Hogwarts defenders took up the joyous cry of "Harry's Alive!" dusky plumes of smoky magical energy leaped up as several supposedly-staunch Voldemort supporters deserted with alacrity.

And all this, while Voldemort was not only alive and alert, but close to hand!

And of course, supposedly trustworthy Lucius Malfoy, wife and son in hand, had turned tail and were legging it, homeward-bound across the causeway, before Harry had even crossed the courtyard and rejoined his friends.

As at any real battle, action had become general across the entire front, and the scattered--and sparse--Voldemort supporters were pitching it to and fro with the Hogwart contingent until Longbottom put paid to the snake, and Harry had given at-last-mortal Voldemort his comeuppance.

Once Voldemort and his final horcrux had been dispensed with, the few remaining foes had no heart to go on.

But it is evident that Voldemort's initial numerical superiority had been very seriously eroded; not just during the night, but prior to Voldemort's offer of a respite to allow the defenders to gather their dead.

Battle had not resumed until after Harry "resurrected," and still the visual appearance of the Voldemort contingent was hardly a quarter of what it had been, before fighting commenced.

SOMETHING had slain them; if this had included upwards of a hundred laid low, the victims of Mandrakes' screams, then there it is.

  • The points you make seem to be already addressed in the earlier answers. E.J. also supported his answer with evidence, while doing it in way less than 970 words. – Meat Trademark Nov 6 '15 at 2:06
  • I did not realize this was a competition. My "take" on the site was as a place where intellectual discussion and monographs on all topics were welcome, excluding Sophomoric attempts at insults. It had been my impression that such lowest-common-denominator, calloused-knuckles, approaches were unwelcome. Personally, I do as most successful authors do, and simply smile in a patronizing fashion! – Fred Kerns Nov 7 '15 at 8:29
  • I only commented on the length because out of your 30 paragraphs only 7 contain two sentences. The rest are one sentence paragraphs. It just read like a disjointed 420ish stream-of-consciousness thing to me while not adding much to the existing answers. Also, I'm a little out-of-it, having been awake for 3 days in great pain. I meant it as constructive but see how it probably seemed mean. Apologies, and welcome to the site. Long answers are, of course, better than tiny ones, link-onlys, or insults. – Meat Trademark Nov 7 '15 at 14:43
  • My sympathies re: the pain issue. I'm a bit familiar with chronic pain: (Spine & 2-vertebrae neck fractures; crushed L. leg w/compound fractures; wrecked shoulder cups; and others) and I get 'round in public on 3-litres oxy., in an electric chair. [Plus my wife & daughter are no more, thanks to a drunk driver, so I'm alone.] All I have that's still functioning 5x5 is the brain. All structural damage is from the early '80s, so I'm rather used to it. – Fred Kerns Nov 8 '15 at 16:27
  • Sorry; clocked off before making a vital point: For +30 years I've (virtually exclusively) been a "thinking machine." THE "THRILL OF DISCOVERY" RULES MY LIFE! Rolling about, seeing, hearing & thinking-- then writing theories from observed data. Did excellently as a classified "think-tanker" for the government, then went into journalism. There, garnered several Associated Press awards. Then I'd "retired again," post-heart attacks. Truth to tell, I really SHOULD have "fully" retired sooner! – Fred Kerns Nov 8 '15 at 17:52
1

My understanding was that the battle was so loud that they couldn't hear the Mandrakes over the chaos. There was a lot of noise, what with Seamus' pyrotechnics, suits of armor defending the castle, and Hagrid's dwarf-giant half-brother clomping through the grounds.

Throwing the Mandrakes over the walls would hit some Death Eaters, and only those in the vicinity would be affected.

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