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I know that thestrals pulled the carriages for the non-first year students, but am not sure whether any magical creature pulled the boats for the first year students at Hogwarts. So is a magical creature(s) pulling the boats across the lake?

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  • Half-dupe (perhaps more than half) of Why do first years cross the lake to get to the castle?
    – Jenayah
    Sep 7, 2021 at 14:59
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    @Jenayah That doesn't even look like it's 1% a duplicate - why do you think there's overlap? Sep 7, 2021 at 15:03
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    @Anthony because the JKR interview in the accepted answer is pretty clear about no Thestrals pulling the boats, and given the whole "dreamy magic blahblahblah" thing, seems to mean no creatures pull them and the whole thing is some kind of spell.
    – Jenayah
    Sep 7, 2021 at 15:16

2 Answers 2

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The boats are most likely magical

The biggest piece of evidence that the boats move by magic is that Hagrid actually uses a spell to speed up the trip to shore after rescuing Harry from the island the Durleys were holding him hostage staying on:

"Seems a shame ter row, though," said Hagrid, giving Harry another of his sideways looks. "If I was ter — er — speed things up a bit, would yeh mind not mentionin' it at Hogwarts?"

"Of course not," said Harry, eager to see more magic. Hagrid pulled out the pink umbrella again, tapped it twice on the side of the boat, and they sped off toward land.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Chapter 6 - "The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters"

We know Hagrid isn't supposed to be using magic, so the boats at Hogwarts would have been enchanted by a professor prior to the first-years' arrival.

So, knowing that there is in fact a spell that would propel boats forward, why complicate things by adding creatures? Creatures that would need to be trained, fed, housed, etc. Much simpler using magic I would say

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    "So, knowing that there is in fact a spell that would propel boats forward, why complicate things by adding creatures? Creatures that would need to be trained, fed, housed, etc. Much simpler using magic I would say" - Presumably there are spells to propel carriages too but they use thestrals for those, thus why I was curious... Sep 7, 2021 at 16:06
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    @honeste_vivere - I was actually planning on asking why the use of thestrals over magic, seeing as there is a spell for the boats why not one for the carriages as well?
    – fez
    Sep 7, 2021 at 16:15
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    Asked here. If anything relevant comes up in an answer I'll update
    – fez
    Sep 7, 2021 at 20:21
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    @honeste_vivere My guess would be that they happened to have thestrals around, and they don't mind pulling carriages to give them something to do, whereas the various denizens of the lake are less inclined to be helpful (and/or anything sufficiently domesticated to pull a boat is also liable to be eaten by the giant squid). Sep 8, 2021 at 10:50
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    @honeste_vivere my guess is that the boats can be propelled forward in a "set it and forget it" manner. There is no turn to make, no climbing road, etc etc. Meanwhile the road to hogwarts that is used by the thestral is going around the lake, so I would assume it is easier to train a thestral to pull it and follow the road than to use magic to propel and follow the road. Plus a thestral would be able to react to unpredicted things on the road (a lost student, a fallen off tree etc) while a fully automatic carriage probably would'nt
    – user3399
    Sep 8, 2021 at 14:19
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Probably no.

The boats move all at the same time to the same direction, without any identification of sail, paddles or engine. It seems the boats move by magic itself:

The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. "Everyone in?" shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself. "Right then -- FORWARD!" And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood. "Heads down!" yelled Hagrid as the first boats reached the cliff; they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy that hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them right underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out onto rocks and pebbles.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 6 - 'The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters'

Of course there could still be some invisible marine creature pulling the boat, but that would be just speculation. Do also note the lake is "as smooth as glass", which rules out a creature that swims up on the surface.

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    I'm just joking, but the lake is home to a not-so-scary giant squid which, despite not being invisible, could be pulling the boats from the depths. Do we know how many boats are there? Maybe no more than eight? :-)
    – lfurini
    Sep 7, 2021 at 16:43
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    @Ifurini Squid only have 2 tentacles. They also have 8 arms, but those are only big enough to get food into their beak. That aside though, we don't have an exact count of students per year, but given the number of Gryffindors it seems safe to say there are at least 50. Since Hagrid has a boat to himself, that would make at least 7 students per boat if there were 8 boats. That's starting to need more than just "little" boats.
    – Graham
    Sep 8, 2021 at 13:46

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