If you cast Avada Kedavra on a giant, will it work? How does a Cheering Charm work on a house-elf? Can you Obliviate a centaur or mermaid? What about Legilimency and the like?

In short: Can you anticipate the reaction a spell will have on a non-human?

  • The reactions are probably consistent across a species, so you can probably anticipate the outcome. But I don't know if it would be the same as when used on a human.
    – Xantec
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 19:34
  • @Xantec Fixed it.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 19:38
  • @Sly, what does SPaG mean?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 0:46
  • @Pureferret -- SPaG = Spelling, Punctuation, and/or Grammar. It's just a general term. It doesn't mean that all three areas needed attending to :) Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 0:50
  • 2
    @DVK - No, the Knockturn and Gorpus Manual of Style, 137th edition, most recently updated by Professor Porter "Porpoise" Quigley Twycross-Nott, forward by myself (who else? ;) ), available at your local Flourish and Blotts or Amazon.com. And, actually, since it's come up, I meant to comment to Pureferret and tell him that I noticed the British editions use different rules than the American editions; some rules are the same, but there are exceptions between the books. Meaning, it's six of one-half-a-dozen of another. (I think I might go for the Strunk and White badge!) Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 16:18

3 Answers 3


I think that one would not always be able to anticipate how a spell will affect a non-human (or a human, for that matter). There seem to be examples of magic working as anticipated, as well as not as anticipated, in canon.

In Goblet of Fire, Barty Crouch Jr. as Moody demonstrated that the Unforgivables work on spiders in exactly the same way they do with humans -- the spider was forced to act against its will, it was painfully tortured, and it was killed. As well, Crouch!Moody teaches Harry's class how to resist the Imperius Curse and some are able to do this better than others.)

At the beginning of HBP, in the chapter Spinner's End, Bellatrix Lestrange kills a fox with what appears to be Avada Kedavra (green jet of light, but no audible incantation; however, as she states she thought the fox might be an Auror, Avada Kedavra seems the logical curse).

In OOTP, Hagrid withstands Stunning spells coming from six individuals at once, due to the giant in him (conversely, Professor McGonagall survives four Stunning spells to the chest at once, which apparently could have been lethal for someone of her age and stature, so sometimes humans don't react to spells in the way they're supposed to.) Umbridge's Incarcerous spell works as it should on Magorian the Centaur in OOTP.

Voldemort did not anticipate that Kreacher the house-elf would not be killed by drinking the locket Horcrux potion, nor did he imagine that Kreacher -- whose magic is different than wizarding magic -- would be able to Apparate from within the Inferi lake back to No. 12 Grimmauld Place. Voldemort kills a Gringotts goblin with Avada Kedavra in DH.

Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were able to Untransfigure Wormtail back into his human form from his rat body as would be expected in PoA.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them notes the magical creatures that do not react readily to all magic (spells charms, and curses): Chimaeras; Yeti; Quintapeds; Erumpents; Nudus; Kappas; Lethifolds; Manticores; and Trolls.

  • Should Dementors be on that list too?
    – Joe White
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 13:12
  • "Voldemort did not anticipate that Kreacher the house-elf would not be killed by drinking the locket Horcrux potion" - that's because the potion wasn't designed to kill immediately in the first place, as Dumbledore said. Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 15:20
  • @JoeWhite -- Dementors? Sure, as they can't be killed, they would qualify as creatures that are not affected by Avada Kedavra. The books only show Dementors being affected by the Patronus Charm, IIRC. Should I edit in Dementors? :) Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 15:59
  • @DVK - Right. What I should have said is two things. First, Voldemort didn't anticipate that Kreacher wouldn't be killed by the potion at all, nor did he consider that Kreacher might have been able to Apparate from the cave. House-elf magic is different and Voldemort should have taken that into account. Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 16:04
  • Well, I thought I remembered something in canon saying dementors were immune to most magic, but now I'm not able to find anything of the sort. Lupin did say (in PoA chapter 10) "dementors are supposed to drain a wizard of his powers if he is left with them too long" and "there are -- certain defenses one can use", but that's not the same as them being immune to other spells like I thought I remembered.
    – Joe White
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 5:45

Depends on a spell.

The main known instance argues that there may be differences - specifically your "spell on a giant".

"It will take more than that to bring me down/finish me"

(Hagrid to Harry at the end of HP6 after being attacked by Death Eaters, quote from memory so not precise)

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    The exact quote is, "Take more'n that ter finish me."
    – Joe White
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 13:10

I think the difference would be minimal cross-species - this is magic we're talking about.

Most intelligent species seem to have human-like thought patterns, so the magic that works on the mind would likely apply the same.

Other than that, it would likely depend on the spell. Using a cheering charm on an angry lion, for example, would likely end up causing the lion to think that your body tastes FANTASTIC. It wouldn't keep it from mauling you, it'd just make them happier about it.

That said, the magical effects of spells should be fairly consistent across species, mitigated by whatever magical protections the creature has. If it's wildly inappropriate, though, it may have strange effects (of even harmful) - such as the spell that puts an air bubble around your head suffocating a fish.

  • I'm not too interested in Lions. What about house-elves, mermaids, centuars? Can they be cheerio charmed? What does a Legilimens spell cast on one of those do?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 0:23

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