40

I'm discussing with a couple of friends, and we can't settle.

Do dementors fly in the books?

We recall them flying in the movies, but we're not sure about the books. Its there a specific quote stating whether they fly or not?

  • 1
    This has been bugging me ever since I watched PoA in the cinema when it first came out. They are described as seemingly gliding when first introduced, but never mentioned to actually be able to fly. – Kevin Dec 11 '16 at 16:47
  • Sounds more like they hover. See Blackwood's answer. – Joshua Dec 12 '16 at 0:04
  • It seems they've discussed this on Reddit, too. – mgarciaisaia Dec 12 '16 at 18:05
52

Dementors are described in the books several times as gliding. For example, from the attack on Dudley and Harry in The Order of the Phoenix:

A towering hooded figure was gliding smoothly towards him, hovering over the ground, no feet or face visible beneath its robes, sucking on the night as it came

Of course, gliding does not quite equate to flying, but it certainly means they weren't walking in the books.

In addition, during Harry's trial in OotP, Amelia Bones explicitly states to Mrs. Figg:

"Dementors don't run, they glide."

Unfortunately, I do not recall a single quote that would directly prove or falsify Dementor's ability to fly.

  • 4
    We won't recall a specific quote - 🍻🍻 - but we sprt of agreed they didn't walk. The thing was wether they remained close to the ground - like if they were walking - versus flying like if on a broomstick. – mgarciaisaia Dec 11 '16 at 4:37
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    "Gliding" is frequently used to describe a fluid motion while walking. "She glided toward him, her eyes never leaving his..." -- "They glided across the dancefloor..." – DevSolar Dec 12 '16 at 15:10
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    @DevSolar "A towering hooded figure was gliding smoothly towards him, hovering over the ground, no feet or face visible beneath its robes, sucking on the night as it came" ---> "A towering hooded figure was gliding smoothly towards him, hovering over the ground" ---> "hovering over the ground". For emphasis, "hovering over the ground". Does this sound like walking to you? – DBPriGuy Dec 12 '16 at 17:01
  • My books aren't close... But isn't Snape ALSO described as gliding in them? Which would tend to indicate it's used by Rowling as a way of walking, no? – Patrice Dec 15 '16 at 1:20
  • @Patrice: Yes, Rowling uses the word gliding to describe a type of walking in the books, however, as per my answer, and my comment to DevSolar, the Dementors are explicitly stated as "hovering over the ground" in the same sentence as "gliding", highly suggesting that the type of gliding that Dementors do is not "gliding as in walking". – DBPriGuy Dec 15 '16 at 2:46
49

As usual, it's hard to prove a negative. However, the time I remember seeing dementors flying in the films was during the Quidditch match in Prisoner of Azkaban. If I look up the passage in the book, the dementors are on the ground and not flying.

Before he'd had time to think, Harry had taken his eyes off the Snitch and looked down.

At least a hundred dementors, their hidden faces pointing up at him, were standing beneath him.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 9: Grim Defeat

This is the moment when we see the flying dementor in the film.

  • Dementors in the film(s) also fly when depicted near the lake with Harry and Sirius, in the 'flashback' footage (for lack of a better term) of Azkaban, and, if I recall correctly, near the tower when Fudge attempted to administer (using a Dementor as a proxy, naturally) the Dementor's Kiss at the top of one of the towers in Hogwarts. I also recall them flying (or at least floating rather than hovering close to the ground) outside the Hogwarts Express when they stop it on a bridge on its way to Hogwarts, in order to search for Sirius Black. It seems the film shows them flying most of the time. – TylerH Dec 12 '16 at 19:10
13

There is no quote directly stating it one way or another but there is some evidence both for and against.

For

  • Dementors "live" on the island of Azkaban. Although the island is nearish to the coast, Sirius manages to swim the distance, I doubt the Dementors swim there. Maybe they get taken their by ministry boat or side-along apparition (I wouldn't want to be a Dementor transporter) but they still can clear the distance themselves when they escape Azkaban to attack Harry in OotP. This suggests they can fly but they might only be able to move at low level, just above the water so it isn't conclusive proof of full flight.
  • The Dementors manage to go long distances unseen. They do this to reach Harry in OotP and they carry this on when they travel with Voldermort in later books. Travelling at ground level they would almost certainly be spotted by wizards and/or muggles (muggles may only see Dementors as drifting fog as in the Half Blood Prince but purposefully drifting fog crossing Britain would still generate some news that the Order would pick up on). The Dementors apparently are not seen as if they were Dumbledor would mention it in the trial and the Order would follow the Dementors and track Voldermort or at least mention the possibility. As no one does mention this it suggests Dementors can travel above ground in the cloud cover where they would be hard to spot.

Against

  • When the Demetors come to the Quidditch pitch in the Prisoner of Azkaban it is suggested they were hungry and couldn't resist so much happiness all in one place. If this were the case why would they stand on the ground so far from the happiness rather than fly up to the players or the spectators in the stands. Since the Dementors didn't go closer to the spectators and just stood their watching it suggests they cannot fly.
  • No Dementors are around when the Order escort Harry from the Dursley's house in the Deathly Hallows. Dementors would be useful here as they would cause panic among the Order's ranks and allow the Death Eaters to work out who was the real Harry by watching who has a stag patronus. The only reason not to bring Dementors would be if they cannot fly.
  • Dementors are often described as fleeing before patronuses (patroni?). If they can fly why do they never attempt to flee from the patroneses via flight?
  • I thought fog in Britain was fairly common? Could they maybe apparate? That could be how they get on/off Azkaban and how they snuck up on Harry. – Azor Ahai Dec 11 '16 at 19:40
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    Fog is common in Britain. We get a lot of low lying fog in valleys. It usually stays fairly still though. A fog drifting at speed in one direction, possibly against the wind, and causing panic wherever it goes would be noteworthy. I don't think they can apparate or they would surely use this when fleeing from patronuses and when trying to get to their victims. – Bellerophon Dec 11 '16 at 21:52
  • @Azor-Ahai Fog is common in Britain in the same situations as it is in most places. In the 1950s, there were many cases of deadly smog (generally called "fog" at the time), but that has been greatly improved since the Clean Air Act. – Blackwood Dec 11 '16 at 23:10
  • I guess I mean I figured the whole dementia are fog to niggles thing was a nod to England's foggieness.maybe not – Azor Ahai Dec 11 '16 at 23:17
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    "The only reason not to bring Dementors would be if they cannot fly." Or that it's one of presumably many plot holes. It's not all that useful to over-analyse fiction that wasn't written with such analysis in mind. – user42419 Dec 12 '16 at 9:08
8

Others have given many quotes from the novels which describe the Dementors gliding (and we get a sense that this is just above the ground).

I have been studying Prisoner of Azkaban and in Chapter 12 'The Patronus' as Harry is learning about them with Lupin, it says,

The Dementor stepped from the box. (Page 238 Scholastic paperback edition).

As Harry faces them in defence of Sirius in Chapter 20 'The Dementor's Kiss' on page 384, it says,

It couldn't walk through the cloud of silver mist.

I provide these as evidence that they most definitely glide very low to the ground, surely in order to add to their fear-factor, but they remain very human-like and certainly don't fly as in the films.

  • 2
    FTR, the first one isn't really a Dementor but a Boggart in Dementor shape. But the second quote is pretty clear indeed (though, logically speaking, “it can't walk through the cloud” doesn't imply it could walk if it weren't for the cloud – but, JKR is not a mathematician...). – leftaroundabout Dec 11 '16 at 20:45
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    @leftaroundabout - I know the first quote is a Boggart and considered mentioning it. But since the Boggart is a shape-shifting magical creature which becomes the target's worst fear, I don't think it matters. It's not a bloke dressed up as a Dementor or anything ;-) I think both quotes (along with pictures on Pottermore which I'm considering a bit of a backup source) show that they may glide but it's basically at walking height. – ThruGog Dec 11 '16 at 20:59
  • @ThruGog Only responding since you emphasized the word I take umbrage at (pun intended): "becomes". Boggarts take on the form (visual appearance) of their target's worst fear. They don't actually become them. The classroom Boggart as a full moon did not cause Professor Lupin to transform into a werewolf or cause massive gravitational shifts in the area (though I suppose there's the argument that it's always a 1:1 ratio of size to mass of the object whose form the Boggart takes; it appeared the size of a melon, so probably only that much mass of moon, too, if it actually became the object). – TylerH Dec 12 '16 at 19:15
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    @TylerH - OK, so maybe it doesn't become the target creature/thing so completely to deserve italics. But it will move in the same way dammit! ;-) – ThruGog Dec 12 '16 at 21:09
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    @ThruGog Sorry! Being nerds we naturally must discuss this kind of thing to ridiculous lengths! :-) – TylerH Dec 12 '16 at 22:10
2

From the books

We can't emphatically rule it out but there is no direct example of Dementors flying in the books. The closest we get to it is here:

"And as if that all wasn't bad enough," said Fudge, barely listening to the Prime Minister, "we've got Dementors swarming all over the place, attacking people left right and centre..."

The Prime Minister sank, weak-kneed, into the nearest chair. The idea of invisible creatures swooping through the towns and countryside, spreading despair and hopelessness in his voters, made him feel quite quaint.
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 1, The Other Minister).

Now swarming is a verb that is often used to describe flying animals (insects, bats, birds and the like) but can also encompass non-flying animals and people as well. The Prime Minister pictures the Dementors swooping around, which may imply flight. It's possible that he's imagining Dementors swooping out of the sky, bearing down on people from a height. But they could also be swooping at ground height. The passage arguably implies that they fly, but this hardly a clear-cut example.

We also have this excerpt, which suggests that Dementors don't touch the ground when they move.

A towering, hooded figure was gliding smoothly towards him, hovering over the ground, no feet or face visible beneath its robes, sucking on the night as it came.
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 1, Dudley Demented).

Here they are hovering over the ground, not flying.

I think that there is strong evidence that Dementors don't fly in the books, however - courtesy of The Prisoner of Azkaban.

And then Harry saw them. Dementors, at least a hundred of them, gliding in a black mass around the lake towards them. He spun around, the familiar, icy cold penetrating his insides, fog starting to obscure his vision; more were appearing out of the darkness on every side; they were encircling them...
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 20, The Dementor's Kiss).

If Dementors could fly, why would they bother gliding all the way around the outside of the lake when they could just breeze over the top of it? Bear in mind that the Dementors were crazed with the prospect of fresh souls and were eager to devour their prey. They would have taken the most direct route towards Sirius, Harry and Hermione. The reason they didn't fly over the lake (as they did in the films) was because they couldn't.

From the films

So if the books don't have floating Dementors, why do the films have them?

This behind-the-scenes production documentary from the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD gives an insight into the thought process of some of the filmmakers. Stuart Craig, the film's Production Designer, betrays something of an assumption about Dementor movement (4:23)

Dementors don't walk, they float. And so if they float, I guess it was a fairly natural step to say, "OK, well, what would happen to the robes? How would they move most effectively?"

His starting point is a belief that Dementors "float" (perhaps based on the excerpt from Order of the Phoenix quoted above). Floating is not flying. But it's credible that during the creation process an assumption that Dementors float evolved into the idea that they also fly. They seem to be flying in all the concept art that's playing in the background.

Staying close to the books doesn't seem to have been a priority for these guys. Alfonso Cuarón (the Director) stated that "we wanted to do something that was abstract and metaphysical" with the Dementors. Steve Rawlins (Lead Animator): "it was really more a matter of trial and error and imagination".

Remember that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released in May 2004, less than a year after the conclusion of Peter Jackson's hugely popular Lord of the Rings adaptation. The Nazgûl had a big role in those films and their look, feel and characterisation had already been well-established in the minds of audiences in the early 2000s. Dementors share a lot in common visually with the Nazgûl - possibly because they are based on them - and so part of the job of the filmmakers was to give the Dementors a distinctive look. Allowing them to fly certainly accomplished this.

I suspect that the main reason that the Dementors fly in the films is because of creative decisions taken by the filmmakers and because of the need to distinguish them from the Nazgûl.

2

There appears to be a clear example of dementors flying. In the beginning of Order of the Phoenix when Harry stops the dementors we have the following description (my emphasis):

The dementor’s eyeless face was barely an inch from Dudley’s when the silver antlers caught it; the thing was thrown up into the air and, like its fellow, it soared away and was absorbed into the darkness. The stag cantered to the end of the alleyway and dissolved into silver mist.

The dementor was launched into the air by the patronus, but it did not return to the ground. From its airborne position it soared away, which ostensibly means that it flew.

  • It's not conclusive but it seems more likely to me that the "soaring" was part of the action of the Dementor being thrown up by the Patronus rather than a separate movement on the part of the Dementor. – The Dark Lord Dec 13 '18 at 13:18
  • @TheDarkLord To me it sounds more like the soaring was a separate action after being thrown into the air. – Alex Dec 13 '18 at 14:24

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