When house elf Dobby first presents himself in the Harry Potter film series, he is making Harry miserable. Originally the house elf of the diabolical Malfoy family, he visits Harry in the Chamber of Secrets to warn him that the chamber would be re-opened, to everyone’s peril. In an attempt to get Harry’s attention, he bangs his head on furniture, smashes himself around the room and makes a general nuisance of himself, landing Harry in hot water with his uncle. And, like all house elves, he speaks in third person.
Freakin’ annoying, Dobby is.
While watching this scene, my frustrated 6-year-old complained, “Why does he keep doing that?” (The next day, she was banging her head against walls and dressers, saying, “Look, I’m Dobby!” In fact, she did it just the other night in a restaurant.)
I initially hated Dobby.
Then Dobby reveals himself to be the most loyal of elves — at least to Harry. After Harry frees him from servitude to Lucius Malfoy, the elder Malfoy threatens the little wizard. Dobby, now acting of his own volition, blasts Lucius with a some elf magic. “You shall not harm Harry Potter,” he shouts, cementing his allegiance to Harry and setting the scene for a courageous act of self-sacrifice in the final installment.
OK, so now he’s winning me over, though he’s still an annoying little elf.
We meet other house elves throughout the following episodes, who do their duty with a frown and a snort. But not Dobby. Though he was abused and tortured by the Malfoys, he remains jovial and light-hearted. Not sure what the message was here — that slaves should enjoy their servitude? — but we get a good vibe from the diminutive creature.
But in the last episode, “The Deathly Hallows,” Dobby puts his life on the line and dies protecting Harry and his pals.
What we realize during this oddly touching scene is that Dobby is grateful to simply have friends, people who loved and respected him. It’s a genuinely sad moment.
So few of us know friendships like this, and when we do, we often take them for granted. Dobby could be a bothersome bastard, but he had a giant heart and was loyal till the very end. My kid picked up on this, during that closing scene when she realized that Dobby saved them all and died in the process. Of course, she didn’t pick up on the idea that Dobby also cleaned the house and was available to help his “family” whenever they needed it.
I mean, our kid is no house elf. She’s not beaten (at least not regularly). But jeeze — a little help now and then?