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In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Draco calls Hermione 'a filthy little mudblood'. She never let slip she was muggleborn in the Philosopher's Stone book or film, so how does he know Hermione was muggleborn?

My theory is that Lucius Malfoy (who was a governor at the time) would have told Draco who all the muggleborns are.

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    to simply your theory: Hermione hangs out with Harry and Harry and Draco do not get along. It likely came up when researching Harry and his friends. – Colin D Jan 9 '14 at 13:50
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    Not all the interactions between students are in the books. They discuss lineage several times in the books, they most likely discuss it outside them too. – Kevin Jan 9 '14 at 15:21
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    Children are extremely skilled at figuring out the most cutting insult they can apply to another child. – zipquincy Jan 9 '14 at 15:55
  • To the Muggle Born – SQB Dec 29 '16 at 22:11

10 Answers 10

61

I'm not sure why you think Hermione "never let slip" that she was Muggle-born. She talks about it freely the very first time we meet her:

"Are you sure that's a real spell?" said the girl. "Well, it's not very good, is it? I've tried a few simple spells just for practice and it's all worked for me. Nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course..."
— "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", chapter 6, "The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters"

Malfoy wasn't present at that time, but if she saw no reason not to talk about her parents, he could easily have heard her mention it at any time — perhaps even that same day on the Hogwarts Express as she's going around trying to help Neville find his toad.

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    I think also that muggles tend to stick out when surrounded by witches/wizards. Presumably Hermione's parents were with her on the platform boarding the train and Draco simply observed her parents were muggles. – Kapler Jan 23 '14 at 19:12
  • @FGreg How would you observe that someone's muggle? – Lobo Dec 2 '14 at 17:01
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    @SachinShekhar On the first day of school, after stepping through what you thought was a solid wall but actually turns out to be a magical portal to a hidden train platform? I imagine if the Wizarding world is brand new to you you're going to have a distinctive look of fascination/confusion that wouldn't be matched by a member of a Wizarding family. Even in Chamber of Secrets they seem utterly bemused/fascinated by everything going on in Diagon Alley, and you'd assume they'd already been there once before prior to her first year. – Anthony Grist Dec 2 '14 at 19:57
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    @SachinShekhar It could have be a simple mannerism that is common to muggles (checking a smartphone, talking about dentistry, dressing 'appropriately', etc...) that gives them away. TBH my comment was simply reflecting on a general feeling I got while reading the books that it was easy for magical folk to identify muggles; especially when those muggles are in a "magical" area. I am not suggesting, however, that it is impossible for a muggle to "fit in" with a magical crowd. – Kapler Dec 3 '14 at 0:29
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    @SS-3 But we still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea. – user867 Mar 30 '16 at 6:08
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Draco Malfoy would probably use that insult on anyone who doesn't come from a well reputed ancient and noble wizarding family. There are very few such families, and Draco might have researched all of them, so he can confidently guess and call anyone else a mudblood.

Alternately, he might have noticed that Hermione didn't get owl post from her parents during dinners in the common room.

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    No, he definitely knew she was Muggle-born; he and his father had a discussion about it in Knockturn Alley at the start of the year. "'I would have thought you'd be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat you in every exam,' snapped Mr. Malfoy." (CoS Ch4) – Joe White Jan 11 '14 at 19:22
  • This answer is obviously not correct. – TGar Jun 20 '17 at 8:20
  • @Tgar why is that? It sounds plausible enough – user13267 Jun 22 '17 at 7:36
  • @user13267 The assumption about an owl is fine, but it's only a guess. But the fact about Malfoy using that insult on anyone is not correct as that term (mudblood) is well defined and used only in 'muddle parent' cases. +what Joe White wrote. – TGar Jun 22 '17 at 10:50
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The Malfoy family is a pure-blood family, and similar to many royal families and the upper strata of social culture (for good and bad) - everyone knows everyone. Think of the social interactions of The Hamptons or Beverly Hills, Mumbai, Cambridge, etc.

Draco probably would not have done much research (or needed to be told) because he would have grown up surrounded by those 'worthy' of associating with. And just from the portrayal of the character I doubt Draco would have put that much effort in researching before slinging an insult at anyone, especially one of Harry & Co.

7

For snobs like the Malfoys, the only thing that would've counted was being part of the Sacred Twenty-Eight. This is a directory of pureblood families, compiled in the early 1930s, by one Cantankerous Nott.
A British real world equivalent would be A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, better known as Burke's Peerage.

Title page of Burke's Peerage

Directories such as this exist in several European countries. For instance, The Netherlands have the Nederland's Adelsboek and the Nederland's Patriciaat, Germany has the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels.


Assuming that pure-blood is modelled at least in part after blue blood, or nobility, Draco wouldn't even need to look up Hermione in any directory. He would've known from growing up in that environment who the pure-blood and 'pure enough'-blood were.

And after all, the wizarding community isn't that big. So anyone not already known to be a witch or a wizard, must be muggle born.


Also, as indicated in this answer, Hermione made no effort to hide it either.

6

I don't have the books to hand at the moment. I am however relatively certain that in the diagon alley scenes Hermione's parents are around. Something along the line of Arthur Weasley talking to them, after some research i found this on the wikia.

http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Arthur_Weasley

A few days later, the family, as well as Harry, went to Diagon Alley to purchase school supplies for the upcoming year. While there, they visited Flourish and Blotts where Gilderoy Lockhart was having a book signing event, during which, Arthur got into a fist fight with Lucius Malfoy over Arthur's fascination with Muggles. He was very excited to meet Hermione Granger's parents, both Muggle dentists, insisting on taking them out for a drink.

By this confrontation draco could easily recognise Hermiones parents as muggles.

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    They knew before that. Lucius and Draco discussed the fact that Hermione's parents were Muggles in Knockturn Alley, before they met them in Flourish and Blotts. "'I would have thought you'd be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat you in every exam,' snapped Mr. Malfoy." – Joe White Feb 12 '14 at 0:52
3

We know he is explicitly told in Chamber of Secrets.

’‘Though if his school marks don’t pick up,’ said Mr Malfoy, more coldly still, ‘that may indeed be all he is fit for.’‘It’s not my fault,’ retorted Draco. ‘The teachers all have favourites , that Hermione Granger –’‘I would have thought you’d be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat you in every exam,’ snapped Mr Malfoy.

This takes place during Harry's accidental trip to Diagon Alley.

1

As other answers have pointed out she makes no point of hiding it.

Also the wizarding world is really a small tight-knit community and Hogwarts isn't really a huge school (okay the building's huge but the student population isn't....its probably less than 300 students). Information (gossip) probably travels quite quickly through the whole of the community. And given "pure-bloods" are all related they likely all know each-other and probably most "half-bloods" at least by reputation.

0

Quite simply, she doesn't have a last name associated with any (living) wizarding lineages. There are a few known Granger wizards, but not for at least a couple of centuries. Potter and Weasley were, no matter their reputation, magical at the root.

That said, it is likely her association with Harry that caused him to single her out for this insult.

  • The notice-board in Gryffindor tower refers to a "Neville Granger"; vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/harrypotter/images/8/8a/… – Valorum Mar 22 '17 at 10:00
  • @Valorum What exactly is the source of that picture? Because to me this kind of looks like a kids' shipping joke between Neville and Hermione. Sitting in a tree levels, basically. – Weckar E. Mar 22 '17 at 10:05
  • It was in the deep background in several of the Potter movies. – Valorum Mar 22 '17 at 10:25
  • The "Beedle the Bard" book mentions a Hector Dagwood-Granger as an historical wizard of some repute. – Valorum Mar 22 '17 at 10:26
  • @Valorum I know :) "There are a few known Granger wizards (...)" – Weckar E. Mar 22 '17 at 10:40
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I don't have anything in the text to support this, but I didn't want to leave it as a comment: I think it's as simple as Malfoy not recognizing Hermione's last name. If she were not Muggle-born, Malfoy surely would be familiar with the Granger family (or her mother's family, if only her mother were magical). The entire Malfoy family is obsessed with bloodlines, so I've always assumed they just know, from memory, which families are Muggle-born and which are not.

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Putting it simply, Draco was just being a brat when he called Hermione a mud-blood. He had no way of knowing if she was or wasn't, but all pure-bloods believe lesser witches/wizards are mud-blood. Not to mention, pure-blood families make a point of staying inter-connected to other pure-blood families, or at least being in the know of them. I'm sure it was just matter of the Granger name never coming up that he knew.

  • There was a Hector Dagworth-Granger, founder of the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers. Without any references, and given the useful information in the other answers, this really doesn't ring true to me – Au101 Sep 12 '15 at 20:41

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