I know, I know, Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration!... but hear me out.

I am aware that food cannot be produced out of thin air. However, I just realised, there seems to be some sort of exceptions to this law. Serpensortia produces snake out of thin air! That seems strange to me, given the above law. I know snakes aren't exactly considered food in many parts of the world, but there are plenty that do.

Also, Hermione seems to be able to conjure canary out of mid air too. Book 6:

He found her in the first unlocked classroom he tried. She was sitting on the teacher’s desk, alone except for a small ring of twittering yellow birds circling her head, which she had clearly just conjured out of midair. Harry could not help admiring her spellwork at a time like this.

Furthermore, she seems to have some control over the conjured birds; Book 6:

“Oppugno!” came a shriek from the doorway. Harry spun around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her expression wild: The little flock of birds was speeding like a hail of fat golden bullets toward Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his hands, but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.

And then, we have plenty examples of transformations of objects into various animals.

Seeing as how snakes and birds can be conjured from thin air, there must be a way to conjure other animals as well, right? (I can't think of any examples where this happens in the books right now, though)

Why did Sirius Black, in book 3, go days and possibly weeks starving and eating out of trash cans when he could have just conjured a chicken or a rabbit out of thin air, ordered them to stay still and humanely kill the animal and conjure some fire and cook the animal and eat? Even if you can't conjure rabbits, Freshly cooked snakes and birds would surely be better than food scavenged from the bins, no?

Same with our favourite trio: Ron, Hermione and Harry. When they are on the run from the death eaters Ron constantly complains that they always have the same thing to eat (was it fish?). Surely, Hermione is clever enough to figure out that she could conjure animals, instead of wasting time hunting and fishing?

How does conjuring animals work? Why doesn't the Gamp's law apply in this case? Why didn't anyone think of conjuring animals for food instead of fishing / hunting / scavenging / starving?

  • 5
    Of course this assumes a knowledge of how to humanely kill the animal, how to butcher it without wasting too much meat, and how to store and preserve the uneaten portions while on the run. May 6, 2016 at 22:31
  • Also, presumably, such a conjuring could lead the authorities (or death eater's) right to you. May 6, 2016 at 22:58
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    @MattGutting Diffindo. And you don't need to expertly butcher it without wasting meat and store the meat if you can conjure a new source of meat at any time.
    – user32390
    May 7, 2016 at 0:17
  • 1
    @LilyM - yes, my bad, fixed :) thanks for keeping me honest Mar 16, 2017 at 13:37
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    I never understood why they never said something to the effect like, "Accio anything edible within 100 feet". You'd get all sorts of plants, shrooms, berries, animals, bugs, etc to eat (like when team Potter is hiding in the forest). And they'd get more "real" food the closer to civilization they got.
    – iMerchant
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


They probably wouldn't have been edible

There are indeed many examples of people conjuring apparently edible things out of thin air. You mention the animals that Hermione and Draco conjured, but there are plenty of other (apparent) examples. For example. Mr. Ollivander conjured flowers out of Fleur Delacour's wand, which could potentially be edible:

Mr. Ollivander ran his fingers along the wand, apparently checking for scratches or bumps; then he muttered, “Orchideous!” and a bunch of flowers burst from the wand tip.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

However, as indicated in this answer, it is possible that conjured objects will disappear after a short while, making them rather useless as a form of nutrition.

In addition, this answer suggests that conjured objects may have the appearance of edible food, without being nutritious per se.

Let us remember that Gamp's Law is mentioned in the context of explaining why the apparent conjuration is food is merely apparent. As such, looking to explanations like these seems prudent.

  • 1
    Slughorn mentions getting ... something - a goldfish, maybe? I don't remember - from Harry's mother, which he treasured for many years until one day, in fact one Halloween, it disappeared... and then he found out that Lily was killed. In other words, conjured items revert to thin air when the source of their conjuring is no more. Stands to reason that transfigured things are the same way. I would take it a step further and theorize that conjured/transfigured things retain the nutritional value of what they're made of.
    – Martha
    May 25, 2016 at 22:31
  • True, @Martha, though that is only in film canon (I think).
    – Adamant
    May 25, 2016 at 22:32
  • It seems like a sort of magical Law of Conservation of Energy. Since Wizards do seem to be under the law of gravity et al, perhaps the muggle Law of Conservation of Energy applies as well.
    – jfa
    Oct 17, 2016 at 1:49
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    @JFA - tell that to Lord Voldemort, re: gravity May 5, 2017 at 14:03

Gump's Law doesn't seem like one with loopholes. Those animals were not real, they were just figures. I'm sure living things is one of the five exceptions to Gamp's law and anyways, they might not have been conjured, rather transported from somewhere else. For example, Hermione might have conjured those birds from the window or something.

  • 1
    this largely seems like your opinion rather than facts based on books Aug 10, 2016 at 16:03

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