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On several occasions in the early Harry Potter books we're told that the purpose of a Bludger is to unseat riders from their brooms.

The Bludgers rocket around trying to knock riders off their brooms

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

and

Bludgers never concentrated on one player like this, it was their job to try and unseat as many people as possible

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Why then, if this is considered a normal part of Quidditch gameplay, was everyone so shocked about the fall Harry has following the arrival of the Dementors in book three? Admittedly he falls 50 feet, but it seems like falls were a natural and normal part of the game whereas Dumbledore’s involvement and the reaction of his teammates and friends would suggest otherwise.

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    Do you mean book 2 "Harry put on a burst of speed and zoomed towards the other end of the pitch. He could hear the Bludger whistling along behind him. What was going on? Bludgers never concentrated on one player like this, it was their job to try and unseat as many people as possible …" – Valorum Oct 27 '18 at 19:51
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    I apologize, in book one the direct quote from Oliver wood states “The Bludgers rocket around trying to knock riders off their brooms”. However the main point of my question remains- if this is such a normal part of the game, why the reaction from everyone? – Jhill67 Oct 27 '18 at 20:07
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    I've done a pretty big edit in order to try to make the question a little clearer. Hopefully you approve. – Valorum Oct 27 '18 at 20:35
  • @Jhill67 - I may be mis-remembering my events, but didn't the bludger break his arm? Might that not have been what everybody was concerned about? – Odin1806 Oct 27 '18 at 20:39
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    @Odin1806 He's referring to in Prisoner of Azkaban, when the Dementors attack Harry at the Quidditch match and he falls off his broom. – F1Krazy Oct 27 '18 at 20:54
68

While the theoretical purpose of Bludgers may indeed be to knock players off their brooms, in practice all they really do at Hogwarts is cause minor injuries. This can be seen from the exchange between Harry and Wood shortly after the quote you cite in your question:

“Er — have the Bludgers ever killed anyone?” Harry asked, hoping he sounded offhand.

“Never at Hogwarts. We’ve had a couple of broken jaws but nothing worse than that. You don’t have to worry about the Quaffle or the Bludgers —”

If the worst that ever happened at Hogwarts was a broken jaw, then it sounds like no one has ever actually been completely knocked off their broom and fallen like Harry did in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Thus, even though the students know intellectually that players can be knocked off their brooms and fall from great heights, they have never actually experienced such a situation at Hogwarts. Therefore, when it does actually happen to Harry it is a very big deal.

  • I wonder if bludgers have spells cast on them to prevent falls from such great heights? Maybe the spell goes something like this: "If the rider I am harassing is 10 feet in the air, go all out and try to unseat. If the rider is 50 feet in the air, just annoy & bludgeon him/her a bit but don't try to unseat." Also see @HarryJohnston's answer – trysis Oct 28 '18 at 15:01
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    @trysis The entire game is played considerably higher than 10 feet off the ground. If the Bludgers are (almost) always going to be limited, just have that be their normal state. – Anthony Grist Oct 28 '18 at 17:01
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    @trysis Also, there may be an "anti-hurt" mechanism in place. From what we see, bludgers aren't soft, so a quick bludger to the head or neck could easily turn into a life-threatening concussion, or spinal injury. Humans are soft. – Anoplexian Oct 29 '18 at 17:00
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    From the given quote I'd at least think that even if students had fallen off the broom they still had some means of preventing themselves hitting the ground too hard (cushioning charms, for instance). Recall that Harry was rendered unconscious by the Dementors. An unconscious wizard falling off a broom would be a greater concern than a conscious wizard knocked off one. – JTPenguin Oct 30 '18 at 8:26
  • "If the worst that ever happened at Hogwarts was a broken jaw, then it sounds like no one has ever actually been completely knocked off their broom and fallen like Harry did in Prisoner of Azkaban." I am not sure that I agree with your conclusion. I would expect that a strike powerful enough to cause a broken jaw would cause the victim to fall off their broom quite promptly. – Mad Physicist Oct 30 '18 at 15:35
54

The reaction in the books is in keeping with how people react to life threatening events in real sports. To give an example: consider crashes in Formula 1.

As with most motorsports, dramatic, high-speed crashes are a regular part of Formula 1. Minor incidents happen almost every race, and there are usually several more serious incidents over the course of a season. Yet any time a car flips, gets air, or collides with considerable force with the barriers, etc. there will be concern from the commentators and spectators until it is known that the driver is safe.

So just because an event occurs regularly in a sport does not mean that people will not be concerned about it. Being knocked off one's broomstick is a serious incident with the potential for injury; it's natural that there will be concern that this potential may have been realised whenever it occurs.

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    This seems like commentary. Can you offer any evidence (from the books perhaps) to back this up? – Valorum Oct 28 '18 at 12:45
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    @Valorum: I disagree. It speaks directly to the logic of the books: it isn't anything special to the book, it simply reflects what happens in the real world. – Jack Aidley Oct 28 '18 at 13:49
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    @Valorum: That's such a bizarre response to my answer, I'm wondering whether you've read it at all. – Jack Aidley Oct 28 '18 at 15:59
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    I'm surprised to see so many comments raising issue with your answer, which to me is perfectly clear and very plausible. – RyanfaeScotland Oct 29 '18 at 13:11
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    @HarryJohnston: I'm saying the reaction in the book is entirely in keeping with how people react to real world sporting events and requires no special explanation. You're getting hung up on incidental word choice. – Jack Aidley Oct 29 '18 at 19:03
34

The team was worried Harry might have died from so high a fall.

In addition to the unusual circumstances that caused Harry to fall, he’d also fallen from high up, and his teammates thought he had died from it. They were likely more concerned in this case than in other cases of falling off a broom because of how serious it could have been.

“It was as though Harry’s memory was on fast forward. The lightning … the Grim … the Snitch … and the Dementors …

‘What happened?’ he said, sitting up so suddenly they all gasped.

‘You fell off,’ said Fred. ‘Must’ve been – what – fifty feet?’

‘We thought you’d died,’ said Alicia, who was shaking.”
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9 (The Grim Defeat)

When Harry just broke his arm, they don’t all seem this worried - the severity of this particular fall and their belief he might have died likely made them more concerned than in a typical situation.

Also, they were likely also shocked at the Dementors being there.

In addition, it’s also likely that part of the reason that Harry’s teammates are so shocked when Harry falls off of his broom is the way it was caused. He didn’t fall off as a result of any of the typical Quidditch hazards like Bludgers - he fell off because Dementors were below him and he’d fainted.

“And then a horribly familiar wave of cold swept over him, inside him, just as he became aware of something moving on the pitch below …

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 below.”
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9 (The Grim Defeat)

Therefore, it seems likely that at least part of the reason they’re all so shocked, in addition to them thinking Harry might have died, is that Dementors got onto the Quidditch pitch.

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    Also it's HARRY POTTER. You know, the dude supposed to take out the Dark Lord? Would you want to be the one to say, "Er yeah, well he fell during a Quidditch match and we just assumed he was okay. So sorry about the whole Voldermort ruling the known world thing." – Mark Oct 29 '18 at 12:24
  • In your first set of quotes, Fred uses "feet" as a measurement. Is that from the original, or are you quoting the translated American version? – DCOPTimDowd Oct 29 '18 at 20:17
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    @DCOPTimDowd I think it’s from the original - the version I used is part of a book set that starts with “Philosopher’s Stone”, not “Sorcerer’s Stone”. – Bellatrix Oct 29 '18 at 20:23
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    @Mark I’d love to be the one to say that! “My Lord, Harry Potter is dead! We shall rule the world!” – Bellatrix Oct 29 '18 at 20:25
  • I think this is spot on. It wasn't the bludger that everyone was terribly concerned about but the arrival of the Dementors and Harry's reaction to them. We also read elsewhere that the Dementors themselves have an overall affect on people's mood and could have contributed to everyone being a little more on edge than they otherwise would have – VerasVitas Oct 30 '18 at 15:45
14

It's a matter of interpretation.

When Quidditch players talk about someone being "knocked off their broom" or "unseated" they probably just mean that the rider has been dislodged from the correct position for broomstick riding. They might be upside down, or hanging from the brookstick by one hand, or otherwise temporarily taken out of the game: actual falls are apparently extremely uncommon.

Obviously, this is someone speculative. But I think it is the only reasonable way to make sense of the reaction to Harry's fall.

7

It is very likely that the school bludgers have been tamed a bit.

If we compare their behavior over the series to the only canonical game seen outside the school (the world cup finale), they appear to do a lot more damage there.

Compare it to real life, where in particular a lot of contact sports played in schools are played with softer and safer rules than in the real world. That still does not diminish the reputation these sports may have.

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    Like if a kid in a flag football match was hit by a full-on tackle by the other team – Tacroy Oct 29 '18 at 7:33
  • @Tacroy When you say "football", do you mean "American football"? Outside the USA (and this is an international site), most people mean "soccer" when they say "football". – user76377 Oct 29 '18 at 15:57
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    @user76377 Presumably American football. While an american myself and therefore not the best sample size, I've never heard of "flag football" referring to soccer, and I'm not sure how flags would be useful in that scenario – Punintended Oct 29 '18 at 17:13
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    @Punintended Perhaps instead of flopping when someone brushes you, you can pull off your own flag instead to get a penalty kick? – Azor Ahai Oct 29 '18 at 22:49
  • @AzorAhai I did say "useful"... ;D – Punintended Oct 29 '18 at 22:56
-1

As OP may have missed in the citations they gave:

Even though it might be the Bludgers' purpose to knock off as many players as possible they never concentrated on one single player like this.

This conspicuous observance combined with the natural concern students would have about a player falling dozens of feet to the ground doesn't leave many questions open.

  • I'm not sure you're really answering the question, even if one Bludger does one attack on one player they could still fall off. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 30 '18 at 11:31
  • Yes exactly, and then people would be understandably concerned. What I'm trying to say is the fact Harry not only got unseated by a Bludger but was hunted down by several Bludgers in such spectacular way made the whole event all the more noteworthy. – gogoLama Oct 30 '18 at 11:48
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    You're talking about book two, the question is asking about the events of book three, when Harry falls off his broom during the Dementor attack. – F1Krazy Oct 30 '18 at 12:10
  • oh yes, thx... I totally mixed up book two and three here! – gogoLama Oct 30 '18 at 17:20

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