When we first met Hagrid he wasn’t a Professor but, as Keeper of Keys, he was already a Hogwarts fixture. We learnt a lot from the incredibly kind half-giant over the years, and we’re not talking about the intricacies of a Blast-Ended Skrewt. Although, well, that too.
Could there be any better person to introduce Harry to the wizarding world than Hagrid? He’s at once integral to Hogwarts and also something of an outsider. We first knew Hagrid was important when we saw him drop baby Harry off at the Dursleys’. Dumbledore stated he’d trust Hagrid with his life, despite Professor McGonagall questioning Hagrid’s abilities. For Dumbledore, Hagrid’s loyalty outweighed any concerns. Sure enough, when it came to fetching Harry, it was Hagrid on a flying motorbike that Dumbledore trusted.
Our very first glimpses into the wizarding world, from owl post to The Daily Prophet, were supplied by Hagrid. But nothing could quite prepare Harry for the wonders of Diagon Alley, that magical corner of wizarding London with its goblin-run bank and wandmaker’s shop and people tripping over themselves to speak to him in the Leaky Cauldron. Hagrid, with his kind smile and his no-nonsense explanations, was the perfect person to counter Harry’s anxieties about how little he knew. He was also pretty good at screaming at Uncle Vernon for trying to ‘stamp’ the magic out of him.
Hagrid might introduce Harry to the magical community, but – despite his pink flowery umbrella – he isn’t supposed to do magic, strictly speaking, having been expelled from Hogwarts rather early on. Without magic Hagrid is much more physical than the other Professors, from carrying Christmas trees to hand-rearing magical creatures to pouring tea. Despite this, we’re under no illusions that his pink flowery umbrella most likely contains the pieces of Hagrid’s broken wand, given what he can do with it…
At first glance, Hagrid might seem frightening – a giant of a man with long, shaggy hair, a wild beard, beetle-like eyes and pockets full of cake and dormice. For his friends, though, he’s anything but scary. His loyalty is fierce and he’s kind to a fault, because Hagrid never judges on appearance – on the contrary, the scarier reputation a creature has, the more likely Hagrid is to sympathise. He almost always chooses to believe the best in others.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rita Skeeter reveals Hagrid is half-giant, a fact he has kept hidden because he fears the reaction, knowing giants have a reputation for violence as previous allies of Lord Voldemort. Hagrid, with his fondness for all creatures and disgust for Dark Magic, is about as far from an ally of Lord Voldemort as it’s possible to be. His friends know this, with Hermione, Harry and Ron persuading him not to resign and Dumbledore refusing to let him. That’s why it’s important for Hagrid that Harry win the Triwizard Tournament. He says it best: ‘It’d show ’em all… yeh don’ have to be pure-blood ter do it.’
Hagrid being persuaded not to resign is an example of a very valuable lesson – listen to your friends, they have your best interests at heart. Hermione, Harry and Ron also persuade him to give up Norbert, realising that a wooden hut is not the best home for a dragon, and Hagrid returns the favour on more than one occasion. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he tells Ron to make up with Hermione, saying: ‘People can be a bit stupid abou’ their pets.’
Hagrid may not have finished school but he is extraordinarily knowledgeable about magical creatures, so whether it’s instructing his class about approaching a Hippogriff or treating the centaurs of the Forbidden Forest with respect, only someone very foolish would deny he knows what he’s talking about. If someone more informed than you tells you something, pay attention. Draco Malfoy learnt this the hard way.
His mother might have abandoned him, but family is important to Hagrid. We can tell from the affectionate way he talks about his father and the heroic efforts he makes with his not-so-little half-brother, Grawp. But family is more than just blood. Hogwarts is Hagrid’s home, as it is Harry’s, and that’s largely due to the community Dumbledore has built through trust and kindness. In both cases, these are relationships Hagrid honours and defends.
If Dumbledore is the centre of Hogwarts, it is because of the unswerving loyalty he inspires. Hagrid epitomises this. It is enough for Hagrid that Dumbledore trusts Snape, despite any evidence to the contrary. When Dumbledore is removed from Hogwarts, Hagrid protests. When Dumbledore asks Hagrid to reach out to the giants, he goes. Hagrid is loyal to all his friends, especially Harry, and to the creatures he loves, from Norbert to Aragog. It’s a loyalty he never questions, which may occasionally lead to trouble but – Aragog’s man-eating family aside – Hagrid’s friendship is a prize worth winning.
His belief in the people around him gives Hagrid the strength to be brave, and his practical, no-nonsense approach endows him with wisdom. Whether it’s being sent to Azkaban for a crime he didn’t commit or fronting up to Rita Skeeter, Hagrid doesn’t allow himself long to wallow. It’s not that he’s not sad or scared, it’s just that he faces things head-on.
As he says in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: ‘What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.’