Back in the 1960s, Irish novelist Brian Moore published a Cold War thriller called Torn Curtain – later turned into a Major Motion Picture by Alfred Hitchcock. I don’t know what that really has to do with Dobby’s torn pillowcase except to say that both refer to torn fabrics, and both deal with undercover spy work.
Yes, little Dobby the House Elf is something of an undercover spy.
Nobody asked him to go undercover (and he’s going to have to punish himself something fierce for it), but he has spied on his own master and is working at cross-purposes to his master’s will. To use Cold War lingo, Dobby has defected to Harry – at least in his affections. And his unsought (and unappreciated) efforts come at great danger to himself.
After Dobby learns of the threat to Harry Potter (the hope, apparently, not only of the Wizarding World but even of the House Elves) he cannot keep silent. He must warn the Boy Who Lived. His warning, though, is unwelcome. After all, he’s telling Harry that he must not return to Hogwarts… and Dobby resorts to extreme measures to prevent Harry’s return – even to the point of stealing letters from Ron and Hermione and wrecking the Dursleys’ dinner party by splatting the pudding on the floor.
I don’t know how anybody else reacted, but my first encounter with Dobby came in the CoS movie… and I found him really annoying. It was shocking and uncomfortable to watch him punish himself – and make so much racket that Harry was bound to get into trouble. And then, of course, there were the really unscrupulous matters of the letters and the pudding.
But Dobby’s punishments and his tears on being treated as an equal also gave me some measure of sympathy for him. And in the end, when we find out who Dobby’s master is and the dimensions of the plot endangering Hogwarts, Harry’s final act of compassion towards Dobby becomes quite gratifying.
So… what do we learn from Dobby’s warning?
- For months, Dobby has known that there is a plot to make “most terrible things” happen at Hogwarts, and that these terrible events will endanger Harry. (Judging by Dobby’s remarks, Harry is not the specific target, but he could still become a victim.)
- Dobby believes that Harry is too important for the future of the Wizarding World to be allowed to endanger himself
- The plot, Dobby claims, does not derive from Voldemort – but the Elf’s inability to speak against his master and his simultaneous inability to tell the dimensions of the plot lead us to infer that the plot derives from Dobby’s (currently unknown) master
- Dobby speaks of “powers Dumbledore doesn’t… powers no decent wizard….” Horcruxes!!! Yes, the first unnamed reference to Horcruxes comes from Dobby.
- Dobby believes the danger is grave enough that he levitates the Dursleys’ pudding to the ceiling and drops it on the floor in order to bring down the wrath of the Dursleys on Harry
The end result is that Harry is imprisoned in his room as Hedwig has been imprisoned in her cage! He’s being starved, and things are looking pretty bleak, when the Weasleys arrive with a deus ex machina. And yes, it literally is a machine!
Here’s how the kitteh’s LiveTweeted Cos, Chapter 2.