In the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets film, Harry Potter speaks to Dobby:

Harry Potter: You can't have met many decent wizards then.

Dobby: No, I haven't. That was an awful thing to say. Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!

What's so awful in Dobby's words?

  • 11
    Dobby is, at this stage, completely enslaved and it appears house elves are essentially responsible for maintaining their own subservient status (he carries out his own punishments etc.). The "awful" thing is that he is saying something against his masters, which of course isn't awful except in that state of self-subjugation.
    – AJFaraday
    Jun 25, 2021 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


The book describes this scene slightly different than the movie, and also contains the explanation (my emphasis):

“You can’t have met many decent wizards,” said Harry, trying to cheer him up.

Dobby shook his head. Then, without warning, he leapt up and started banging his head furiously on the window, shouting, “Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!”

“Don’t — what are you doing?” Harry hissed, springing up and pulling Dobby back onto the bed — Hedwig had woken up with a particularly loud screech and was beating her wings wildly against the bars of her cage.

“Dobby had to punish himself, sir,” said the elf, who had gone slightly cross-eyed. “Dobby almost spoke ill of his family, sir....”

Thus, the problem with what Dobby said (or in the book communicated nonverbally) is that it implicitly condemned the family that owned him, and/or nearly led to him explicitly condemning them.


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