The Weasley family has an owl named Errol and it's very old; it's moulting, and so exhausted that it can't even stand up after a flight - In fact it often downright loses consciousness after both long and short flights. If it even gets to where it's sent, because its eye vision has gotten so poor that it hits objects as it flies, which also can make it lose consciousness and could even kill it. Still the Weasley's keep using it for delievering their mail. In addition, their youngest son shows no compassion to it, calling it a "bloody bird", "menace" and "pathetic". And the Weasley parents bought one of their older sons a personal owl instead of buying a younger owl to take Errol's place.
This doesn't change during the series. In fact at one point Mrs. Weasley makes Errol deliever an enormous fruitcake and assorted meat pies, even though the owl would collapse even after delievering just one letter. It took Errol full five days to recover from that journey with the bakery goods.
Errol is not mentioned after the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and there's nothing official on what happened to it.
Now, please bear in mind that the first two Harry Potter books were more children's books than anything else, therefore it's likely that everything about Errol was written in humour purposes and in nothing more. A little like cartoon violence. Even adults can read an Errol scene and then just forget about it and enjoy the story, because Errol and the way it's treated has nothing to do with the main story, or any side-plot either.
I also want to make clear that:
- I love all the Harry Potter books.
- The books promote mostly good values!
- I don't think the books glorify cruelty to animals, so I don't think children would get any wrong ideas.
- The Weasley family are some of my favourite characters (apart from this Errol aspect)
- I first read all the seven books as an adult and I deeply and dearly love animals, and as bad as I feel for Errol, the character and its treatment does not take away from my reading enjoyment and I do not linger on the owl's suffering after an Errol scene is over.
- I am not critisizing Rowling.
Rowling actually does at times write compassionate remarks when Errol is used. But those remarks never come from a character point of view.
And here's the point of this article:
I think something like that can't be there without affecting the characters. Because Errol is happening in the story, it does matter in the story's world. Therefore whatever Rowling's motive was, whether she intented this layer or not, the Weasley's are practicing cruelty to animals and quite serious that of too, and it does stain their otherwise respectable imago in the eyes of the people who care enough, in the story's world.
And while it may not matter for the books' storyline, it does matter in general (and therefore in the world of fanfiction, making this topic worth discussing) because realistically thought someone would some time note Weasley's about Errol, perhaps even do something about it.
So, two questions for you to munch on:
1. What do you think the Weasleys would say, if someone came up to them and brought up the way they treat Errol?
2.) How does this layer on the Weasley family character affect your view on them? How about on Harry, who dearly loves his own owl and treats it well, but never speaks up about Errol's treatment?
I'd like to put emphasis on; this article's not critisizing Rowling or the books and I wish anyone won't start thinking ill of them. This article's point is to discuss the characters' conplexity and how this specific layer affects the story's world and the reader's view on the characters. I mean this as a completely harmless article for completely harmless, but in-depth discussion on its topic.