Even when the two dementors are still a good distance a way from him, Dudley quickly becomes a sobbing wreck in the first chapter of Order of the Phoenix. Why is this? As I recall from Prisoner of Azkaban, this is not a normal reaction to dementors. For example, when there was a single dementor on the train in Prisoner of Azkaban - which I imagine to be much closer proximity than what we had at the start of this encounter in Order of the Phoenix - Harry, who is known for being very sensitive to dementors, is the only one who has a reaction on the same scale as Dudley's.

Preemptively, I'd like to state that I'm not asking what he heard. This is only a question of comparative dementor effectiveness.

2 Answers 2


The dementors on the train were searching, not attacking. This could produce a difference in their effect on people.

Furthermore, Dudley has been carefully coddled by his parents in a manner that produces a complete lack of resilience and inability to handle difficulty; he can't even handle not getting as many birthday presents as the year before. What would be shrugged off by a normal person hits him with severe difficulty.

  • 1
    Do you have a source for the claim in your second sentence? The second paragraph seems the most accurate (Dudley is just very cowardly), but the unsubstantiated claim in the first paragraph is preventing me from giving this an upvote.
    – TylerH
    Aug 31, 2020 at 13:25
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    @TylerH - The first sentence is a fact from the books, and the second following from it seems more than adequately qualified to count as a trivial claim.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 31, 2020 at 14:40
  • @T.E.D. I think you have it completely backward; what the Dementors were doing (we know creatures can change what they 'do') is a trivial fact and from the books. Whether they change how their presence affects others, e.g. to what degree or at all, is not trivial and is in fact the entire crux of the question. If it were trivial then OP should be able to discern it just from checking the source material. 1/2
    – TylerH
    Sep 14, 2020 at 15:25
  • @T.E.D. Further, all evidence I can recall indicates that Dementors can't change how they affect people because the books/movies emphasize how uniform the effects are by showing how all affected people, when prompted, seem to describe the exact same experience. In fact the high Wizarding court was ready to take a Squib's eye-witness testimony as adequate proof of dementors as satisfactory/admissible (until Dumbledore swooped in and bullied Fudge into dropping the charges right then and there). I have to give -1 for a completely unsubstantiated claim here. 2/2
    – TylerH
    Sep 14, 2020 at 15:28

The dementors in that chapter were there to attack: they were aggressive and were ordered to cause harm (or even suck some souls, we are not sure about this). The other dementors were there as wardens and surely were told by the ministry to hold back in a train full of children.

This fact can simply describe the difference in their effect on the persons.

I was asked for evidence that dementors can control the severity of their effect on people in the comments.

The very first encounter with dementors already shows that they CAN control their effect:

And then the thing beneath the hood, whatever it was, drew a long, slow, rattling breath, as though it was trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings. An intense cold swept over them all. Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest. The cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart ...
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 - The Dementor

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    Is there any evidence that the effect of Dementors is something that they can control the severity of? Aug 30, 2020 at 18:33
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    @AnthonyGrist: Is there any evidence that they can't?
    – TonyK
    Aug 30, 2020 at 20:23
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    @TonyK The burden of proof lies with the one making the claim. If Torsten says Dementors have the ability to change how others are affected by them, then it's Torsten who needs to back that claim up, not Anthony who needs to disprove a positive (something not feasible, if even possible).
    – TylerH
    Aug 31, 2020 at 13:26
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    @TorstenLink I bet if you type the relevant portion of the text in German into Google Translate you'd get at least close enough to the English version that we could take that info and find said portion in a native English publication. Could you at least provide the book, chapter, and page of where it is stated in the German version? That should get us pretty close.
    – TylerH
    Aug 31, 2020 at 13:28
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    Here's a passage from the books, showing the Dementor in fact specifically engaging its ability: "And then the thing beneath the hood, whatever it was, drew a long, slow, rattling breath, as though it was trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings. An intense cold swept over them all."
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 31, 2020 at 14:50

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