How come House Elves in the world of Harry Potter (such as Winky, Kreacher and even Dobby) are forced to work as servants to Wizarding families?

  • Please add where you have found this information.
    – Möoz
    Jul 28, 2014 at 1:31
  • 5
    @Mooz Isn't the fact that House Elves serve the wizards a major sub-plot-point with SPEW and Dobby and Winky and Kreacher?
    – Shisa
    Jul 28, 2014 at 2:48
  • @Shisa I have the feeling he meant the "branded" part
    – Izkata
    Jul 28, 2014 at 3:30
  • I'm having an off day, I thought you meant physically branded. Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/60922/…
    – Möoz
    Jul 28, 2014 at 6:21

2 Answers 2


House elves are by definition slaves to a particular house. However, as stated by Dobby an Elf can be freed if given an article of clothing by their master.

This implies there are free elves (although not very many), in fact some of the elves at Hogwarts are paid by Dumbledore. But again not many as Elfs love (or have been conditioned to love) work.

As for why, its covered in Hermione's SPEW story line that Elves have been subjugated by Wizards for time immemorial, to the point that even the "good Wizards" like the Weasley's don't see why having House Elves is a problem - just that you should treat them well.


To begin with, it is not strictly true that House Elves are slaves to Wizards. They are servants to specific houses (thus the name). Harry, for example, inherits Kreacher only because he inherits 12 Grimmauld Place, and the House Elves of Hogwarts serve all Hogwarts students.

One of the more fascinating insights about House Elves actually came recently from Pottermore's discussion of previous World Cups, which introduces us to African House Elves called Yumboes. To quote the wiki:

During the 1998 Quidditch World Cup, more stringent security measures were put in place (as a response to the riots that broke out on the night of the final of the previous World Cup). One notable incident was the arrest of the Senegalese team mascots, Yumboes, outside the stadium. The Yumboes responded to the arrest by stealing every bit of food within a ten-mile radius in revenge and vanishing into the night.

This depiction of House Elves is drastically different from the subservient ones we see in Britain. (Of course, the last depiction of House Elves is thousands of armed elves hacking away at Death Eaters. But even then, that was in service of their "master," Hogwarts.)

So it is not the case that all House Elves are slaves and servants, as even the example of Dobby showed. This is just speculation, but House Elves themselves (as opposed to just Elves) may even be a distinctly British arrangement, a relic of its formally rigid class structure.

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