28

After Mr Weasley and Mr Malfoy have their fistfight in Flourish and Blotts, Hagrid says:

"Yeh should've ignored him, Arthur...Rotten ter the core, the whole family, everyone knows that. No Malfoy's worth listenin' ter. Bad blood, that's what it is. Come on now - let's get outta here."
(Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4, At Flourish and Blotts).

Now I've always understood Hagrid to be saying, in effect, "Don't concern yourself with the Malfoys. They're just a bunch of troublemakers." 'Bad blood' here would refer to the Malfoys' natural proclivity for starting arguments with their taunts and insults. Or he could mean that there is bad blood (i.e. ill-feeling, enmity and hostility) between the Malfoys and the Weasleys - and that that's the way it's always going to be.

Then it struck me that he could mean something else. He could be saying that the Malfoys are inherently spiteful, argumentative or disdainful simply because they are pure-bloods. In other words, he thinks that the 'blood' of the Malfoys makes them what they are.

Ordinarily, I would dismiss this interpretation as over-thinking Rowling/Hagrid's choice of words, since prejudice of this sort is out of character for Hagrid. However, it's difficult to gloss over Hagrid's statement when you consider the following fact:

Discrimination based on blood purity is the main central theme of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

It seems impossible that Rowling or her publisher could have simply slipped this sort of phrase in without thinking about it, considering the subject matter of the book. Purebloods like the Malfoys discriminate against half-bloods and Muggle-borns. The 'good guys' like Dumbledore don't differentiate between people based on their ancestry. So, as I say, Hagrid's language here doesn't fit. Yet are we really to suppose that it was entirely coincidental?

So is there any way of supposing what Hagrid actually meant when he said "bad blood"? Has Rowling commented on this at all?

Note: I'm not suggesting that Hagrid was prejudiced against purebloods in general. I'm just asking whether he was in this instance.

  • 19
    Bad blood is an existing phrase in English as you have discovered yourself. Also remember that Hagrid also states that there isn't a family with pure blood, making your statement saying he thinks they have "bad blood" because of their purity invalid – Raditz_35 Sep 18 '17 at 10:11
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    @Raditz_35 People like Hagrid still use 'pureblood' as a phrase, even though they know that no family is 100% wizard. – The Dark Lord Sep 18 '17 at 10:14
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    Hagrid tends to generalise groups (as his famous, "there's hasn't been a single Slytherin who hasn't gone over to the bad side", quote suggests) hero-worship (Dumbledore, James and Lily), but he doesn't discriminate. Had Draco Malfoy been a "blood-traitor", Hagrid is the type of person who would have warmed up to him, as he did with Sirius Black, before he came to be falsely known as a murderer. "Bad blood" here is probably a retaliation to the blood prejudice of the Malfoys. It makes sense that Rowling introduced that phrase, in introduction to the concept of blood prejudice. – Anya Mae Sep 18 '17 at 12:56
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    @AnyaMae You're getting the quote wrong. He didn't say that there hasn't been a single Slytherin that hasn't gone over to the bad side. He said that there hasn't been a single person who has gone over to the bad side that wasn't in Slytherin. In other words, he didn't say that all Slytherins are bad, only that all of the bad people happened to be in Slytherin. – Anthony Grist Sep 18 '17 at 13:53
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    @AnthonyGrist And of course, Quirrell and Lockhart and Pettigrew proved him wrong. – JAB Sep 18 '17 at 15:05
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He does not discriminate.

How many times have we seen him say it doesn't matter? Granted, that's usually in the case of Muggle borns being equal, but...

Consider who he's talking to. He's talking to the Weasley family, who are pure bloods (yeah, yeah, I know) themselves. He was a friend of many pure bloods and Muggle borns alike.

Also consider the entire paragraph again:

Yeh should've ignored him, Arthur...Rotten ter the core, the whole family, everyone knows that. No Malfoy's worth listenin' ter. Bad blood, that's what it is. Come on now - let's get outta here."

The whole paragraph is demeaning the Malfoy family. How are families related? Blood. The whole thing is just him decrying the Malfoys. Nothing more.

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    "He does not discriminate. ... The whole thing is just him decrying the Malfoys. Nothing more." - So he's decrying people based on which group they belong to, rather than based on their individual actions. Sounds like discrimination to me ;) (just not on blood purity) – marcelm Sep 18 '17 at 13:49
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    @marcelm - if the group is a family of a bunch of rotten Death Eater supremacists, then yes, you could say he's discriminating by group. – Mithrandir Sep 18 '17 at 13:50
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    @Mithrandir - cough Blacks cough Sirius. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 18 '17 at 16:01
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    @Mithrandir and Andromeda... – user68762 Sep 18 '17 at 16:32
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    @TheDarkLord "blood" here is a metaphor for family. Hagrid sees Malfoy as coming from a bad family, educated in all the wrong values. – Davidmh Sep 20 '17 at 11:34
36

"...prejudice of this sort is out of character for Hagrid."

That's... not entirely true. There are many examples in which Hagrid engages in casual racism, and is shown as prejudiced against some groups, but as he is introduced as a sympathetic character who opposes bad people the reader tends to skip over and justify his behaviour. Just to give a few examples:

Hagrid on centaurs:

‘Never,’ said Hagrid irritably, ‘try an’ get a straight answer out of a centaur. Ruddy star-gazers. Not interested in anythin’ closer’n the moon.’ ~Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: The Forbidden Forest

Hadrid tells this behind the back of a centaur with whom he is in a friendly terms to a group of first years. Good teacher material, isn't he?

Hagrid on muggles:

‘I’d like ter see a great Muggle like you stop him,’ he said. ‘A what?’ said Harry, interested. ‘A Muggle,’ said Hagrid. ‘It’s what we call non-magic folk like them. An’ it’s your bad luck you grew up in a family o’ the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on.’ ~Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone: The Keeper of the Keys

Notice - not the 'worst people' but 'the biggest Muggles'. As the Dursleys are terrible people who abused a minor who was under their care, the reader feels that Hagrid's behaviour is justified.

Hagrid on house elves:

“It’d be doin’ ’em an unkindness, Hermione,” said gravely, threading a massive bone needle with thick yellow yarn. “It’s in their nature ter look after humans, that’s what they like, see? Yeh’d be makin’ ’em unhappy ter take away their work, an’ insutin’ ’em if yeh tried ter pay ’em.” “But Harry set Dobby free, and he was over the moon about it!” said Hermione. “And we heard he’s asking for wages now!” “Yeah, well, yeh get weirdos in every breed. I’m not sayin’ there isn’t the odd elf who’d take freedom, but yeh’ll never persuade most of ’em ter do it—no, nothin’ doin’, Hermione.” ~Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I am not saying that Hermione's single minded approach is the right one, far from it. But the issue is more complex than Hagrid's 'they like it'. Hagrid has his racial stereotypes he's comfortable with, and it will be difficult, if not impossible to convince him otherwise.

On the other hand, one could claim that Hagrid in general uses derogatory language and expressions when he is irritated with someone. Some of those aren't racial slurs:

Uncle Vernon said sharply, ‘Don’t touch anything he gives you, Dudley.’ The giant chuckled darkly. ‘Yer great puddin’ of a son don’ need fattenin’ any more, Dursley, don’ worry.’ ~Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone: The Keeper of the Keys

Which probably could mean that Hagrid insults people in general when he dislikes them, using his limited vocabulary and insults he is familiar with. As it happens, many insults in the wizarding world tend to be about race and blood, so that's what we hear from him.

It was probably the case when Hagrid used the 'bad blood' expression - he wanted to say something negative about a family he disliked and pulled out a slur from his vocabulary.

It is ironic, really, that Hagrid uses loaded 'purist' terminology so popular with death eaters to describe the very group/family he disagrees with - but as we know, Hagrid is not the sharpest tool in the shed... and using inappropriate terms by people who oppose the ideology behind those terms happens more often than you would think.

  • The question isn't about whether Hagrid was prejudiced in general. It was about his use of 'bad blood' in Flourish and Blotts. Do you think he was being anti-purebloods and if so why? – The Dark Lord Sep 18 '17 at 14:10
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    An alternative view to Hagrid's summary of various magical species is that he's experienced rather than discriminatory, which is feasible if these attributes are true measures of the species. – Samthere Sep 18 '17 at 15:00
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    @Samthere so we should trust his judgement about slytherins being bad, elves should remain perpetual slaves? And that acromantulas make nice pets? – user68762 Sep 18 '17 at 15:07
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    @Morri Well, understanding magical creatures and other species is his expertise, so possibly not Slytherins. He might be wrong in saying that the world is better with house elves being servile, but he's correct in summarising the culture of the elves. What he describes is, in general, fairly accurate to how the elves themselves feel. Acromantulas as pets further highlights his expertise in handling other species, to the point that he thinks it trivial and doesn't realise how hard it would be for other people. – Samthere Sep 18 '17 at 15:14
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    @Morri I'm not saying he's not flawed, just that there can be a difference between prejudice and experience, based on what reality is. I don't feel that Rowling is exploring the nuance of Hagrid being discriminatory in at least some of these cases, just using him for exposition. – Samthere Sep 18 '17 at 15:16
8

Then it struck me that he could mean something else. He could be saying that the Malfoys are inherently spiteful, argumentative or disdainful simply because they are pure-bloods. In other words, he thinks that the 'blood' of the Malfoys makes them what they are.

You forget that the Weasleys are pure blood as well. It is just an English expression.

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    What does this add that I haven't already said in my answer or is in the question itself? – Mithrandir Sep 18 '17 at 13:14
  • This doesn't add anything to the answers already given – Alith Sep 18 '17 at 13:21
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    Jeez, you guys are like dementors. – Dr_Bunsen Sep 18 '17 at 13:24
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    @Dr_Bunsen without a sense of humour and hovering? It may seem like that but we're more like prof McGonagall - if you abide by the rules you can have politicly correct and sensible fun here – user68762 Sep 18 '17 at 14:27
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    I disagree Alith and Mithrandir, this does raise a good point. It is indeed reasonably common amongst the older British generation to refer to families who are known to be "problematic" by the person speaking (for whatever reason, right or wrong) to be referred to as "Bad Blood" - "She's just like her mother. Bad Blood there". It's fallen out of fashion now, probably due to its similarity/closeness to racism and other forms of discrimination. – Miller86 Sep 18 '17 at 14:27

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