content shared from Pottermore by JK Rowling
“If Hogwarts had a debating club, what might it say on the subject of elf rights? We explored both sides of the argument spurred by Hermione and S.P.E.W.
Hermione’s one-witch crusade to free all house-elves didn’t exactly go as planned. She gained virtually no support from anyone at Hogwarts (elves included), but soldiered on making impassioned speeches and poorly knitted hats. Despite her best efforts, S.P.E.W. (‘Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare’, aka the ‘House-Elf Liberation Front’) ended up making little impact on elfish life.
We’re not sure if Hogwarts ever had a debating society, but let’s imagine it did. How might it tackle the thorny issue of the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare?
To S.P.E.W. or not to S.P.E.W. – that is the question.
To S.P.E.W. (pros)
Our self-appointed champion for elf rights would no doubt be the first to speak on the issue:
‘It’s slavery, that’s what it is! That Mr Crouch made her go up to the top of the stadium, and she was terrified, and he’s got her bewitched so she can’t even run when they start trampling tents! Why doesn’t anyone do something about it?’
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
After witnessing the mistreatment of Winky at the Quidditch World Cup, Hermione discovered there were house-elves at Hogwarts, cooking and cleaning for zero pay. And yet, nobody seemed to care. Horrified to the point where she couldn’t stomach the Hogwarts feast, she described the situation in two words – ‘slave labour’.
While it sounds heavy-handed, Hermione does have a point. No matter how you slice it, house-elves are unpaid labourers, magically bound to serve, left at the mercy of their respective owners. The system is ripe for abuse, and we have evidence! Step forward, Mister Dobby.
‘Dobby is always having to punish himself for something, sir. They lets Dobby get on with it, sir. Sometimes they reminds me to do extra punishments…’
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Read more of this brilliant analysis by JK Rowling on Pottermore