29

How/Why/When did the house elves start serving wizards? I tried on my own to find the answer but I couldn't find anything relevant to my subject but I am bad at searching.

  • 1
    the only explanation i can come up with is that they were either always very obedient or that they lost a war in the past and due to that were enslaved. but i don't have any sources or further knowledge besides the books... – Armin Jul 8 '14 at 18:49
  • @Armin Like Gobins? – Hashir Omer Jul 8 '14 at 19:25
  • yes like goblins in the case they were enslaved after a war. – Armin Jul 8 '14 at 19:28
  • @Armin enslaved? i thought that the war decided the right of carrying a wand! – Hashir Omer Jul 8 '14 at 19:30
  • 1
    Elves have magic that the humans can't resist. Maybe there was a time when humans and elves worked in cooperation, but struck treaties that slowly deprived the elves of their freedom, to the point that they were forced to work for humans unless certain conditions were met. The nature of their bondage could be either magical or ethical. I think that when Malfoy inadvertently gives Dobbie a sock, it's probably clear to the elf that Malfoy hadn't done it deliberately, yet he still felt free to leave. So still, we don't know if it's a relief that is magical in nature or ethical in nature/ – Howard Miller May 17 '16 at 0:22
16

House-elf enslavement predated the Founding of Hogwarts (c. 990 AD), and was brought to Hogwarts by Helga Hufflepuff, (although she didn't start the enslavement.)

This was most clearly by J K Rowling in a Pottercast interview.1

J.K. Rowling (JKR): This had better not be about House-Elves.
Melissa Anelli (MA): Jo, it is! I'm sorry! It is.
Sue Upton (SU): Hey, Jo! Hello!
John Noe (JN): Hey, Jo!
MA: Hiiiii!
JKR: What? House-Elves? Go on then.
MA: Still. Still. They are still arguing about this, and I'm sick of it, and we need you to answer it so bad.
JN: What I'm telling Sue is that, if she remembered from when we talked about this in New York1, Jo said that Helga Hufflepuff was a plantation owner of the House-Elves ....
SU: Yeah, but she gave them refuge! Refuge! R-E...
JKR: Refuge.
SU: She didn't enslave them.
JKR: Yeah, it's a complicated issue, you know? I would say that Hufflepuff gave... Hufflepuff did what was the most moral thing to do at that time, and we are talking about over a thousand years ago. So that would be to give them good conditions of work. There was no kind of activism there, so no one's gonna say, "Here's an idea. Let's, let's free them. Let's, uh, let's pay them." It was just "well, we'll bring them somewhere that they can work and not be abused."
SU: See? She did not go around with like a whip and say "Yaaah! You must work in the kitchens!" you know?
JKR: Definitely not, no. That would not be... No, no. Definitely not.
SU: See? Woohoo! Thank you, Jo.
(Anelli, Melissa, John Noe and Sue Upton. "PotterCast Interviews J.K. Rowling, part one." PotterCast #130, 17 December 2007. (transcript))

There is currently no more information than that.


1: This was previously revealed by J K Rowling during the Open Book Tour at Carnegie Hall in a conversation with the Leaky Cauldron. No transcript or recording exists to the best of my knowledge, but it was talked about in Pottercast #122 (jump to 12:55) (transcript)
(summed up by Accio-Quote as "Helga Hufflepuff offered the house-elves refuge at Hogwarts, though conditions there were slave-like too, if a bit kinder than elsewhere.")

  • The question was about how HouseElves started serving Wizards in general, which - based on what interview says - clearly predates Hogwarts' founding. – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 17 '16 at 16:22
  • @DVK-in-exile - Isn't that what I say in my answer? – ibid May 17 '16 at 16:44
  • I am not sure how this answers the question then, sorry? (It wasn't "did Helga start it?") – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 17 '16 at 16:46
  • @DVK-in-exile - I say that it started before the founding of Hogwarts, putting the later bound even earlier than your answer did. – ibid May 17 '16 at 16:48
  • 1
    @Martha - Is there a different word that I should be using instead of enslavement? – ibid May 17 '16 at 22:04
14

Houselves are "discovered" on Pottermore, in Book 4, Chapter 14, The Unforgivable Curses. The text says:

The practice of house-elves being attached to wizarding families goes back centuries.

That's pretty much the full extent of the data on the start of House-Elf service that I was ever able to find, in books, interviews or Pottermore.

We can probably idly speculate that the data isn't there both because Wizards don't treat House-Elves as important and thus didn't bother remembering or telling how things started (just like there's no note of how wizards started to use owls for post that we were given).

  • 2
    that doesn't answer my question. – Hashir Omer Jul 8 '14 at 19:07
  • 1
    @HashirOmer - there's no more data than that that I was able to find. Sorry. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 8 '14 at 19:10
  • 12
    @HashirOmer - you most definitely can :) Just click on the checkbox near it. Whether you want to accept it is of course entirely your own decision :) Someone may dig something up that I didn't, but I wouldn't bet even leprechaun gold on that. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 8 '14 at 19:19
  • 1
    @DVK-in-exile - Did I dig up the leprechaun gold? – ibid May 16 '16 at 22:01
  • 4
    Nearly two years later, and I'm still waiting for the second half of that ‘both’ sentence… – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 16 '16 at 22:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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