Very closely related (but not identical): In Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid's Owl Wanted Payment. Do Owls Use Wizard Money?

In Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone, an owl demanded payment from Hagrid for delivering a message. However, there's no record (that I'm aware of) in the series of any other bird demanding money.

The linked question is about why that particular owl wanted payment. (Actually, I'm wondering the same thing and think that there could be more detailed answers there, but that's a separate question). My question is - why does this only appear in Philosopher's Stone? Sure, Harry's owl wanted food and other rewards, but why don't any other birds demand money - why just that one?

  • 16
    also remember, the HP series (at this time) is all from Harry's perspective. Things that are new will be called out as they occur, but may not necessarily be "noticed" again, instead, Harry just integrates these news things into his worldview
    – NKCampbell
    Jul 26, 2017 at 15:18
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    I find it humorous to think of the bird itself wanting the money, not just collecting on someone else's behalf
    – Kik
    Jul 26, 2017 at 17:34
  • 2
    This is how they make a collect call.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 27, 2017 at 14:51
  • They do - you just must not have dated enough.
    – stdunbar
    Jul 28, 2017 at 1:55

2 Answers 2


The owl wasn't delivering a message. It was instead delivering a newspaper, the Daily Prophet. The Daily Prophet offers a subscription service that apparently requires you to pay for each copy of the paper daily, rather than paying upfront.

The owl only "demanded" money because it hadn't been paid, and it needed to be. There are other instances in the books of owls delivering copies of the Daily Prophet and being paid (you'll have to take this on faith right now as I don't have access to the books). It seems reasonable to assume that, had they not been paid, they also would have made attempts to obtain payment.

There's another, slightly related, example of an owl "demanding" something from the recipient of a message. At the beginning of Order of the Phoenix Harry sends a message, and tells Hedwig to make sure that the recipient (Ron and/or Hermione, if I recall correctly) responds with actual news about what's been happening. We later find out that Hedwig fulfilled that request.

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    +1, the way I see it the owls are asking for money only because their owners told them to. And people don't usually tell their owls to ask for money because it'd be incredibly rude. Jul 26, 2017 at 15:20
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    You can see this answer for places where it's mentioned that Hermione paid for Daily Prophet newspapers.
    – ItamarG3
    Jul 26, 2017 at 19:05
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    I'm now imagining email-style-scams via owl-post... "Dear friend, I've recently come into a great deal of money, but I am unable to reach Gringotts due to an unfortunate case of dragonpox. Please deposit the cheque attached to this owl into your account and send half of the money back with it, so that I may pay for my treatment. You may keep the other half of the money as a reward."
    – tonysdg
    Jul 26, 2017 at 19:24
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    @tonysdg That's what Sneakoscopes are for.
    – Deepak
    Jul 27, 2017 at 3:11
  • 3
    @MaciejPiechotka I'm sure a long lost prince will find a way to leverage what ever financial tools are available.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:44

As Anthony said, the payment is for the subscription of The Daily Prophet. We see this happen a couple times in the books.

‘Hagrid!’ said Harry loudly. ‘There’s an owl –’

‘Pay him,’ Hagrid grunted into the sofa.


He wants payin’ fer deliverin’ the paper. Look in the pockets.’

Hagrid’s coat seemed to be made of nothing but pockets – bunches of keys, slug pellets, balls of string, mint humbugs, tea-bags … finally, Harry pulled out a handful of strange-looking coins.

‘Give him five Knuts,’ said Hagrid sleepily.


‘The little bronze ones.’

Harry counted out five little bronze coins and the owl held out its leg so he could put the money into a small leather pouch tied to it.
The Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

Hermione, however, had to move her orange juice aside quickly to make way for a large damp barn owl bearing a sodden Daily Prophet in its beak.

‘What are you still getting that for?’ said Harry irritably, thinking of Seamus as Hermione placed a Knut in the leather pouch on the owl’s leg and it took off again.
The Order of the Phoenix - Chapter 12: Professor Umbridge

(emphasis mine)

It is not mentioned every time a subscription of The Daily Prophet shows up because it doesn't need to be. Rowling established that you pay a few (between 1 and 5 apparently) Knuts for the subscription, and trusted that the reader would remember that. This information is worldbuilding, but not really integral to the plot, so it's not mentioned every time.

The rest of the time we see owls being used as messengers, it's either Hedwig/Pig whose job is to do whatever Harry/Ron wants. Or it's a school owl that also has to do what they want. The owls themselves could not care less about the money. They just want food and care. So long as they get that, they seem to be willing to ferry mail around.

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    I guess Hermione gets a student discount? Jul 26, 2017 at 16:09
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    Maybe Hagrid pays for a week at a time instead? Or (non-universe explanation) - JKR forgot how much she said a subscription was supposed to cost?
    – Adam V
    Jul 26, 2017 at 16:26
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    Was it, perhaps, a weekend edition? They often cost more.
    – Dancrumb
    Jul 26, 2017 at 17:06
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    @MissMonicaE or the owl knows to charge more for flying to a barren island in a raging storm
    – Stephen S
    Jul 26, 2017 at 21:05
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    Maybe Hagrid is a generous tipper. Especially after the owl had to go through so much to get to Hagrid. Hagrid was more of a fan of the paper while paying for it than Hermoine was! The owl don't seem to specify the amount, Hagrid tells him how much and could have included the tip in is calculations.
    – Christy
    Jul 27, 2017 at 8:27

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