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While doing some research for another question I found out that there is a spell that can propel boats forward:

"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"

If there's a spell to propel a boat forward it seems incredibly likely that there is also a spell that could move a carriage.

So why does Hogwarts use Thestrals to pull the carriages and not magic?

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    Madness this way lies. Why do anything except purely by magic?
    – Harabeck
    Sep 7, 2021 at 17:01
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    It's generally a mistake to try and find consistency in the HP universe. But how about this: moving on water is easy as you just go in a straight line and don't have to avoid anything else; moving a carriage on land is much harder, especially with loads of other carriages around at the same time. Sep 7, 2021 at 17:03
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    Why not use horses like muggle scum
    – Valorum
    Sep 7, 2021 at 17:27
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    Maybe Hagrid — who we know owns at least part of the responsibility for getting students from the train up to the school — just thought using thestrals was cool? 😅 Sep 7, 2021 at 22:22
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    Thestrals move at the speed of plot.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 8, 2021 at 17:51

1 Answer 1

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Officially, Hagrid is not allowed to use spells

"Be grateful if yeh didn't mention that ter anyone at Hogwarts," he [Hagrid] said. "I'm - er - not supposed ter do magic, strictly speakin'. I was allowed ter do a bit ter follow yeh an' get yer letters to yeh an' stuff - one o' the reasons I was so keen ter take on the job -" -- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, pg. 69

So for Hagrid, an obvious display of wizardry in front of many witnesses is right out. Carriages drawn by Thestrals on the other hand are a perfect match for his occupation as Game Keeper.

Also, in the same book the first-years are indeed ferried from the train platform to Hogwarts by magic -- magic boats, albeit this time not propelled by a spell performed by Hagrid. He only gives the command "Forward", which either triggers a prepared spell or tells some wizard (who is not explicitly mentioned in the book) to bring the boats to Hogwarts. As mentioned in "The Prisoner of Azkaban", this is a tradition at Hogwarts:

Harry, Ron and Hermione turned and saw the gigantic outline of Hagrid at the other end of the platform, beckoning the terrified-looking new students forward for their traditional journey across the lake. -- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, pg. 97, emphasis by me

And of course: Aren't thestrals magic, too?

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    I don't think this really answers my question on the use of Thestrals over the use of magic. I know Hagrid can't do magic, but he's not present when the carriages set off. Your second quote again doesn't really explain the use of Thestrals over the use of magic, it just points out it was a tradition for first-years to use the boats.
    – fez
    Sep 8, 2021 at 18:18

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