Harry Potter and the house-elf rebellion

Document Type


Publication details

Seymour, J 2012, 'Harry Potter and the house-elf rebellion', Write4Children: The International Journal for the Practice and Theories of Writing for Children and Children’s Literature, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 28-39.

Peer Reviewed



In the fictional world of Harry Potter, house-elves are creatures born into slavery who are magically compelled to serve a family of wizards until they die. They can be set free, but this is considered a punishment by most elves because they have internalised society’s image of them, and have no autonomy outside of the institution of slavery. Unlike in most instances of moral reasoning, where “bad” characters do bad things and “good” characters fight for justice, house-elf slavery is somewhat of a grey area in the books, with many “good” characters favouring it while others do not. This difference of narrative strategy provides more scope for the advancement of young readers as they develop moral reasoning skills and learn to apply them to morally ambiguous situations. Throughout the series, the narratives interrogate the conservative ideologies behind house-elf slavery and the stock narrative which has been internalised by the cultural centre in order to naturalise its superior position. As the series interrogates the values of key characters, it reflects the moral development of young readers by introducing new information gradually and guiding the reader through the later stages of moral development.

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