19

Does the Obliviate charm wipe out entire memory, or only the person's identity (as seen in the case of Gilderoy Lockhart).

Could a strong enough Obliviate charm make the person forget about being a wizard, and forget about magic?

3
  • 4
    The memory charm Hermione uses on her parents in Deathly Hallows presumably makes them forget about magic, but I don’t know if it was Obliviate. And of course, they’re not magical themselves.
    – alexwlchan
    Jun 5, 2014 at 9:27
  • @alexwlchan Addressed in my answer. Jun 5, 2014 at 9:39
  • Note: making someone forget that they're a wizard is not the same as wiping out their entire memory. Doing that would render them unable to speak, eat unaided, or function in any meaningful way in society. Even people who suffer from severe memory loss (in the real world) still retain a great deal of their accumulated memory; only part of their memory is blocked out. Feb 9, 2016 at 3:21

4 Answers 4

18

I know that the Hermione reference is brought up a lot so I shall address it first.

To quote from a webchat from JK Rowling shortly after the release.

Laura Trego: Did hermione really put a memory charm on her parents she says she did but then about 50 pages later tells ron shes never done a memory charm

J.K. Rowling: They are two different charms. She has not wiped her parents’ memories (as she later does to Dolohov and Rowle); she has bewitched them to make them believe that they are different people.

If obliviate could have been used to erase memories i.e targeted memories Hermione probably would have used that instead.

“Listen to him,” said the Healer, taking Lockhart’s arm and beaming fondly at him as though he were a precocious two-year-old. “He was rather well known a few years ago; we very much hope that this liking for giving autographs is a sign that his memory might be starting to come back. Will you step this way? He’s in a closed ward, you know, he must have slipped out while I was bringing in the Christmas presents, the door’s usually kept locked… not that he’s dangerous! But,” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “he’s a bit of a danger to himself, bless him… doesn’t know who he is, you see, wanders off and can’t remember how to get back… it is nice of you to have come to see him.”

This demonstrates that he has lost his entire identity he doesn't know who he is at all. It could be a side affect of using Rons wand but it also seems his ability to remember has been affected as he can't remember how to get back.

“I’m very well indeed, thank you!” said Lockhart exuberantly, pulling a rather battered peacockfeather quill from his pocket. “Now, how many autographs would you like? I can do joined-up writing now, you know!”

He has however made some progress as you can see, he has learnt to do joined-up writing now. It is not clear as to whether he remembered that he used to give people autographs it could be somewhat of a muscle memory or something that he has learnt to do. The nurses may have used autographs as a way of teaching him how to write.

“I am not forgotten, you know, no, I still receive a very great deal of fan mail... Gladys Gudgeon writes weekly... I just wish I knew why.” He paused, looking faintly puzzled, then beamed again and returned to his signing with renewed vigour

He clearly however has no idea what he has done in his past life.

Conclusion! I think that Obliviate does what it says it literally Obliviates the persons entire self, memories, personality and identity as a whole. What we have to remember is that there are other Memory Charms in the world. Obliviate is really the only prominent one we hear of there are mentions of Memory Charms elsewhere in the book and you would think they would say Obliviate if it was always Obliviate. As is also the way in Harry Potter it seems that spells are extremely specific in what they do so it would be illogical to think that Obliviate can do everything and anything to memories.

  • It does both.
  • Yes it could. It does seem however that they retain certain aspects of their former life much akin to the varying degrees of amnesia.
3
  • In case of Hermione's parents: I think she confunded them, instead. Confunding also modifies the memories, but does not destroy the original ones (the new ones just sit on top of the old ones), while obliviate does.
    – Andreas
    Jun 5, 2014 at 15:11
  • The confundus charm does seem to be the general consensus with Hermione @andreas Jun 5, 2014 at 15:45
  • Obliviate is also used to target specific memories, e.g. on Mr. Roberts in Goblet of Fire.
    – Alex
    Nov 23, 2018 at 17:41
8

Forgetting that you are a wizard should probably be possible, as well as forgetting about magic. The problem would lie in the fact that even though you don't know about magic, you still possess it, so you may cast spells unknowingly (like young wizards who don't have any control over their power yet), so the existance of magic would be revealed after some time.

Such a person would also not be allowed to roam free because of the damage he/she could cause (unknowingly and unwillingly ofcourse)

1
  • Seconding this. Although there is no canon reference to such a case, it would seem perfectly logical.
    – Pwassonne
    Feb 9, 2016 at 7:27
5

He (Lockhart) raised Ron’s Spellotaped wand high over his head and yelled, “Obliviate!”

[…]

“I’m here!” came Ron’s muffled voice from behind the rock- fall. “I’m okay — this git’s not, though — he got blasted by the wand —”

“His memory’s gone,” said Ron. “The Memory Charm backfired. Hit him instead of us. Hasn’t got a clue who he is, or where he is, or who we are.

[…]

An extraordinary lightness seemed to spread through his whole body and the next second, in a rush of wings, they were flying
upward through the pipe. Harry could hear Lockhart dangling below him, saying, “Amazing! Amazing! This is just like magic!”

From Chamber of Secrets its heavily implied that Lockhart doesn't know what magic is, that on top of the fact that he has forgotten his name, profession, and where he is, its highly unlikely he somehow, MAGICALLY remembers hes a wizard.

So based on the text in book 2, as well as the follow up in book 5, it appears that yes, Obliviate can cause someone to forget they are/were a wizard.

3
  • Exactly what I thought when I read the question—it's fairly clear that Lockhart doesn't remember he's a wizard. (You could also add in the bit where he says something like, “Wand? Don't think I have one of those… this boy does, though”, or whatever it is exactly. That also implies rather heavily that he doesn't consider a wand anything that makes any sense to associate with him.) Feb 9, 2016 at 3:17
  • @JanusBahsJacquet i just looked for it, it looks like its "“Sword?” said Lockhart dimly. “Haven’t got a sword. That boy has, though.” He pointed at Harry. “He’ll lend you one.”"
    – Himarm
    Feb 9, 2016 at 3:23
  • Oh, that's right, it's the sword, not a wand. Never mind that bit, then. Feb 9, 2016 at 3:24
2

Yes it could. In fact when Lockheart used obliterate on Ron but because of his broken wand it backfired. Making him forget everything about him. Even his own name. (Chamber of Secrets)

4
  • There's no indication he forgets that he's a wizard.
    – Valorum
    Sep 29, 2015 at 20:19
  • @Richard Certainly there is; see Himarm's recent answer. Feb 9, 2016 at 3:18
  • 2
    @janusbahsjacquet - A fair point. That being said, without a reference this still remains a relatively poor answer.
    – Valorum
    Feb 9, 2016 at 7:08
  • @Richard Oh, I quite agree on that account. :-) Feb 9, 2016 at 7:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.