13

Do the House Elves share the family name (aka last name) of their masters? If so, what happens if they are freed? For example is Dobby "Dobby Malfoy" or is Kreacher "Kreacher Black"?

If they do not have last names does that mean they don't have actual families? If they do not have families where did they come from and how were they born?

10
  • 11
    Of course house elves do not share the names of the family they serve. This would be mortifying to the family. They are servants.
    – anemone
    Nov 1, 2016 at 12:02
  • Related scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/60879/… (including some of the related posts thereof)
    – anemone
    Nov 1, 2016 at 12:14
  • 4
    @Abemone yet Dobby curiously says " “Dobby had to punish himself... Dobby almost spoke ill of his family, sir. . . .” we have no idea how they refer to themselves when there's no humans around, maybe they even have their own language ( like goblins). Winky felt responsible for her family which is not usual 'slave behaviour'. Almost as if she owned them. The family they're connected to is the most important thing for the elves, so maybe they refer to each other as 'Dobby of the Malfoys' or 'Winky of house Crouch' and free elves who have no such name are lower in status...?
    – user68762
    Nov 1, 2016 at 13:16
  • I'm not sure they have need of a family name. From what we know of their lives pre-Hermione's reforms, it seems like they'd never or almost never even leave the house or at least the company of their master. Some may only very very rarely even encounter another elf. Therefore, one name would do just fine and all the reasons that humans have family names may be unnecessary.
    – ThruGog
    Nov 1, 2016 at 13:38
  • 1
    @ThruGog yeah, but those hogwarts elves are just personalitiless entities, the greek chorus of dobby & winky. Kreatcher, though, is perfectly capable to work around orders and visit whomever he likes. So how we're supposed to believe that h.elves are those perfectly obedient and compliant creatures when the three elves we do get to know behave differently?
    – user68762
    Nov 2, 2016 at 10:31

4 Answers 4

17

Not as far as we know.

No house-elf is ever referred to by more than a single name in any canonical materials - books, Pottermore, or even films. Dobby, Winky, and Kreacher are always called simply Dobby, Winky, and Kreacher, not Dobby Malfoy, Winky Crouch, Kreacher Black, or by surnames of their own.

According to Wikipedia (which is of course not a canon source, but it's the best I could find):

House-elves are small elves used by wizards as slaves. They are 2–3 feet tall, with spindly limbs and oversized heads and eyes. They have pointed, bat-like ears and high, squeaky voices. Their names are usually pet-like diminutives, and they do not appear to have surnames. They habitually refer to themselves in the third person.

(emphasis mine)

But we don't really know much about house-elf culture, if indeed they have any culture among themselves beyond simply serving wizardkind. So it is possible that house-elves have surnames which they might use to each other, but the wizards they serve simply don't care and refer to them by a single name because it's easier. (I've previously discussed the issue of house-elf culture here.)

4
  • 7
    We do know that they have lineages, witness the row of house-elf heads at 12 Grimmauld Place and Winky talking about her mother and her mother's mother serving the Crouches and how ashamed they would have been of her
    – Au101
    Nov 1, 2016 at 12:17
  • We learn a bit about their culture from W.O.M.B.A.T. Grade 2, Question 7.
    – ibid
    Nov 1, 2016 at 20:01
  • @ibid I assume that's the same question referred to in this answer?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 1, 2016 at 20:42
  • @Randal'Thor - Yeah.
    – ibid
    Nov 1, 2016 at 20:46
8

They certainly don't have surnames of their own:

He wanted to ask, 'What are you?' but thought it would sound too rude, so instead he said, 'Who are you?'

'Dobby, sir. Just Dobby. Dobby the house-elf,' said the creature.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - p.15 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 2, Dobby's Warning

Of course, it is still possible that they take the name of the family they serve. In this case, presumably Dobby wouldn't want to reveal his surname to Harry, which would still be compatible with the way he introduced himself to Harry. All the same, in that case, it seems to me that you wouldn't introduce yourself as 'just Dobby', you'd just be careful not to mention the name Malfoy. But he clearly doesn't have his own last name.

4
  • +1 good catch, except it reminded me Treebeard and the unpronounceable trope. (It's probably just Dobby, but how cool would it be if JKR would write a book with another elvish language)
    – user68762
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:02
  • @R.Skeeter - I think Tolkien desired to make a distinction between elfs (ie - fairie-esque creatures) vs 'elves' as seen in his works
    – NKCampbell
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:16
  • Not sure Dobby reminds me of a fairy. He's also not arrogant and tall enough to get a ticket to the west. Anyway, we SPEW activists wont bow our heads to discriminatory language and will continue to call them elves.
    – user68762
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:36
  • should be accepted
    – TGar
    Apr 9, 2018 at 9:24
1

No, they did not

House-elves so do not share their family's last name. As @anemone posted in their comment, that would be downright shameful on the family. House-elves are considered a family's belongings, as any interaction between the Malfoy's and Dobby can prove this.

However, there is an explanation for this. There is no need at all for house-elves to be documented, and therefore they do not have last names.

Some might argue the House Elf Legion Office dealt with fired house-elves and whatnot, but this clearly is not the case. When Dobby and Winky were freed, there was no department or office that they went to, at least not explicitly mentioned.

"When Dobby goes to Winky, and he finds out she has been freed to, sir! So we goes door to door looking for work, and many slammed doors in our faces, saying 'House Elf-looking for pay," they says, "that isnt the point of a House Elf."

They would have visited said department, if there really was one. It sounds as if the Ministry is trying to seem on top of any possible issues to satisfy the public.

Does that mean they don't actually have families?

Dobby seems to be a relatively young house elf (they have life expectancies of several human generations) and each Elf's parent seems to have passed by the time their offspring comes of age. (See Dobby and Winky)

Also, how JKR has lead us to believe the reproduction process of house-elves is a house elf from one esteemed family and one house elf from another prominent family, (ex. Malfoy and Black) and the offspring lives with the mother, who raises it. When the offspring comes of age, the mother appears to either die of old age or be "taken out back" by the owners.

See quote:

This is the heads of beheaded house-elves, when they got to old to carry a tea trey.

That already isn't a proper family, so its safe to say that few (free elves) to none had proper families, if you consider a proper family to be a Nuclear family. (Nuclear families were the 'norm' in this time period.)

Elves did not have proper families, and also had little documentations, if at all. Therefore, there wasn't a reason to give a house elf a last name.

1
  • 1
    This might make sense in the Potterverse, but in historical fact, about a third of the descendants of U.S. slaves today have surnames derived from their owners'. Most weren't allowed to adopt surnames until Emancipation. You're dead on, however, about the lack of documentation. Slaves were counted but not individually named in the U.S. Census right up to 1860. In wills and other documents that did deal with slaves, they were treated almost as if they were domestic animals. See History of Common African-American Surnames. Oct 7, 2021 at 21:12
-1

I don't think they have last names because they aren't really humans. And they aren't born into those families are they?

5
  • But that's just my idea so... yeah Aug 12, 2021 at 8:16
  • 3
    You don't need to be human to have a last name, or at least a family name. Kryptonians, Asgardians, Bajorans, and Hobbits all have individual names and last names or family names. Aug 12, 2021 at 8:27
  • 2
    Last names are also culture specific even in humans
    – Separatrix
    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:39
  • 2
    You "think"? This would be a better answer if you could give some evidence for this.
    – Chenmunka
    Aug 12, 2021 at 9:53
  • this answer may be better suited as a comment.
    – ava
    Oct 7, 2021 at 18:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.