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The house-elves can do some pretty good magic, so why at the Battle of Hogwarts do they chose to use knifes and cleavers? I assume they use magic to get out the kitchen

The centaurs Bane, Ronan and Magorian burst into the Hall with a great clatter of hooves, as behind Harry the door that led to the kitchens was blasted off its hinges1. The house-elves of Hogwarts swarmed into the Entrance Hall, screaming and waving carving knives and cleavers, and at their head, the locket of Regulus Black bouncing on his chest, was Kreacher, his bullfrog’s voice audible even above this din: ‘Fight! Fight! Fight for my master, defender of house-elves!2

Why the reliance on basic weapons?


1. Not sure why they don't apparate at this point

2. This is my favourite part of all of the Harry Potter series

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I believe it is reasonable to think that the Hogwarts house-elves were exhorted to attack by Kreacher largely on the spur-of-the-moment (they finally saw an opening and they took it), in which case they didn't plan any attack, they just grabbed whatever was on hand in the kitchen and rushed out in a rage.

And which would you find more satisfying - incapacitating someone kind of abstractly with some spell, or whacking them with a frying pan? :-) [on this, recall also the incident of Hermione vs Draco - wand, no; fist, yeah!]

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    Fist = "Brilliant!" – Skooba Sep 30 '16 at 19:11
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In addition to PMar's very nice ideas, I had a few other thoughts.

First, there's the sheer intimidation aspect - as you noted, it is a scene which is dramatic, visual, and a real mindgame against their foes. Magic gives impressive results, sure, but the visual of an mob outfitted with knives and cleavers hits the mind at a more visceral level, especially when it also (dramatically) served as reinforcements they weren't expecting. It may have also helped boost their own courage, having the weapon in hand reinforces the idea that they are going out to fight and defend, that all the others are with them and they can see that decision in their hands.

Honestly, blasting off the door may make good tactical sense in this context, as well - it is a loud obvious distraction for those already battling, it may be used as part of the attack (even if not hitting someone with the door), it may demoralize their foes and motivate their allies, because drama does that, it may give them a tactical advantage to use the door, or to not apparate (concentration of effort or rallying point?), or a psychological advantage, in seeing all their fellows charge with them and ready to fight...in which case they might as well go with the boom.

On the other hand (back to weapons), the knives and frypans might well serve as backup weapons or alternate options even if they do choose to use magic during the battle. After all, they have the magic to hand, the cleavers don't negate their inherent capabilities - if they see a place to use it in battle, what is going to stop them? but if there's some circumstance where they need (or want) to use a weapon instead, maybe to be picky about targets, engage multiple foes, or last-ditch self defense... better to have an extra weapon to hand, yeah? So they grab whatever is to hand first, and brandish it coming out because, why not? And then use their magic or weapons however they need to, to win.

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It may be that a bound house-elf is prohibited from using their magic against any human, whether of the master's household or otherwise, except on direct orders. So when the hammer goes down they grab up some kitchen utensils, many of which are good enough melee weapons in a pinch, and have at it.

I am reminded of the battle scene near the end of Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, in which the Talking Mice of Narnia join the fray. Though not as small nor nearly as bad-ass as Reepicheep and Co., the house-elves would enjoy their advantage of being an unfamiliar threat in an environment with which they themselves are quite familiar. You're a Death Eater, trying to avoid being hexed, jinxed, or cursed to death by the other humans, when suddenly your ankle is skewered; you can't fight or dodge anymore, so if you remain standing you are dead meat, but if you fall down the elves finish you off.

Much karma was repaid that day.

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