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Mar 5th 2013 at 3:19:26 AM •••

Moved this example here.

  • This is the source of dispute within the Harry Potter universe. The villains take being "pureblood" very seriously, and state that having children with non-magical "Muggles" pollutes the gene-pool and decreases magic. While non-magical children have been born to purebloods (called "Squibs") and magical children have been born to Muggles (called "Muggle-borns" or, as a slur, "mudbloods") the exact genetic nature of magic hasn't been elaborated on significantly. Rowling has, however, stated that magic is "a dominant and resilient gene"; the exact meaning of "resilience" here is unknown and we have know idea if Rowling is speaking of dominance in the Mendelian sense to begin with, but it's been suggested that it magically ensures its own propagation. One Mugglenet editorialist hypothesizes that magic is codified in a pair of dominant phenotypes, each defunct without the other - which reconciles the dominant gene and the existence of Muggle-borns. Most geneticists who have better things to do just assume that magical ability is a complex trait, the result of polygenic inheritance and a bit on non-Mendelian genetics and mutations thrown in for good measure, and call it a day.
    • Many of the most powerful wizards (including Lord Voldemort himself) are half-Muggle. And Hermione Granger, arguably the most talented witch of her generation, has no known wizarding ancestors.
      • Lily Potter, also a Muggle-born, was the most talented witch of her generation according to Slughorn. In fact, a conversation between him and Harry discusses how Muggle-borns are just as skilled or more so than their full-blood counterparts, contrary to expectations of them.
        • Not brought up in the books, but suggested by various things: it's possible, and accepted in some parts of the fandom, that the efficacy of magic depends a lot on personal will/emotions/putting in the effort to do the work, etc.. Everyone who has the ability to use it can, but there are different rates of success to consider Hermione is ridiculously intelligent and talented, but as we learn from her boggart (Professor McGonagall telling her she failed everything), she's deathly afraid of failing and, thus, has a considerable motivation to be the best (and to know so much that it puts the Ravenclaws in awe of her).
          • Harry has a few cases of this to examine: he can produce a Patronus, which even adult wizards find taxing, but he doesn't manage to produce a fully corporeal one until he knows/truly believes that he can; similarly, he has massive difficulty with summoning charms while markedly stressed from personal concerns (Ron refusing to talk to him, most of the school thinking he put his own name in the Goblet of Fire for attention and hating him, being a Triwizard Champion against his will, having nightmares where he gets inside Voldemort's head, etc.), but when learning them has the potential of winning him points in a Triwizard task (or getting him killed by a dragon), he pulls an all-nighter with Hermione and gets them down; on the contrary, he's shown having difficulty with Occlumency most directly because he doesn't do the reading, which he skives off on because he resents being forced to deal with Snape.
          • And then there's Neville: he clearly has the desire to do well at things ... but just rarely gets it. Reason why, under this reading: he has the self-esteem of a hole in the ground. And based on the revelations we get about him, this makes sense: his parents were famous Aurors, he's their only son, and when he was a magical late bloomer, his entire family took to physically and emotionally tormenting him to try and force him to display accidental magic. (And his grandmother, who primarily raised him, is a pretty terrifying lady with rigid expectations of things, which more than explains his nervous demeanor.) And then he gets to school ... where a defining trait of his classmates is how often they pick on him for being "stupid." He displays a great deal of desire to learn magic, but due to various outside circumstances, he doesn't believe that he'll ever amount to much, so his progress is rather slow. He eventually develops a passionate love of herbology and a knack for charms that's notable enough for McGonagall to praise it and then he Takes A Level In Badass when Dumbledore's Army and fighting against the oppressive reign of Snape and the Carrows makes him go, "What Would Harry Do" and end up as the leader of the Hogwarts underground resistance in Harry's stead.
          • Thus, the implications that Muggleborns have a magical leg up on Purebloods could be read less as a statement that being Pureblooded isn't all it's cracked up to be, and more as one that, because they're so convinced of their own superiority, they overwhelmingly don't see a reason to work that hard at magic, and thus they don't make as much of it as the Muggleborns do. (Exception to the rule: Draco has the motivation of Lucius looming over his shoulder and publicly berating him for letting Hermione beat him. Then Draco has the motivation of, "my father is in prison, I've been drafted into the Death Eaters, and if I don't kill Dumbledore, the Dark Lord will kill my family." Which, regardless of Draco's other traits, is motivation enough for most everybody to buckle down and make the magic freaking work. And, notably? He didn't have the desire to kill Dumbledore. Inferring from Bellatrix's reprimand of Harry's attempted use of the Cruciatus in OoTP "You have to feel it, Potter!" Dumbledore's, "You're not a killer, Draco," and Draco's hesitance and overly defensive "you're wrong"-ing of old Dumbles, we can guess that, even if Draco had tried to cast the Killing Curse, it probably wouldn't have worked.)
    • What's interesting about the obsession with pure blood is that at one point it's explicitly stated that all pureblooded families are, to a greater or lesser degree, related. The character who says so probably just meant "in Britain" since it's a big world and for all pureblooded families everywhere to be related would be a trick, but nonetheless, it's not going to be long before even the pureblood enthusiasts have to start marrying Muggles lest their children turn out like innumerable rulers throughout history, some of whom couldn't chew their own food. It's explicitly stated in The Half-Blood Prince that one notable blood-purity-obsessed family had gone down the route of insanity due to inbreeding.
      • Most pureblood families seem to have very low fertility in spite of the generally longer lifespans and better physical health of the wizarding population. The Weasley family is seen as an exception, with the majority of other pureblood families only having one or two children. Without the addition of half-bloods and muggle-borns this trend would have resulted in the virtual extinction of wizards and witches.
    • For the record, that despite the vocabulary used by many journalists who only know the Potter Verse through cultural absorption (and many Moral Guardians itching to prove that the books are Satanist), "Muggle" does not equal "human" and "wizarding/magic(al)" does not equal "witch." They're all human, and only girls or women are called witches. Boys and men are wizards, or very occasionally warlocks (a word originally used to mean wizards particularly skilled in duel magic, now often meaning one with a fearsome appearance). Magic occurs with equal frequency in both genders.
      • Pedant note: "Warlock" was originally an Anglo-Saxon word for a witch of any gender, meaning something like "faith-breaker" for the association with pacts with the Devil.
        • Further pedant note: "Warlock" was also an Old Norse word for a spell caster, derived from waelogr, meaning "weird songs" or "spells."
    • There's also a Witch Species within the Witch Species: Metamorphmagi, who can change their appearance at will, are born with the skill, and those who aren't, can't learn it.
      • That's not the only one: Another rare gift among witches and wizard is Parseltongue. Presumably there are other rare traits as well.
      • Then there are True Seers. It doesn't seem to be a learned ability and Professor Trelawney, one of the few confirmed true seers in the the series, only made two true seer predictions.
    • Funnily enough, J.K has said that despite magic apparantly being dominant and resilant, it still won't survive contact with Dursley genes.
      • That statement may have been a joke.

It's extremely long, filled with Conversation In The Main Page, and excessive detail. It needs to be trimmed down to something more concise, and in a way that it doesn't seem to be arguing with itself.

Edited by Morgenthaler
Oct 10th 2011 at 10:57:22 AM •••

Strictly speaking, Tiffany Aching is only the granddaughter of a witch because she's decided she is. "Granny Aching was going to be a witch if Tiffany had to argue all day." There's plenty references in the books to Granny Aching fulfilling the social-work and headology aspects of witchcraft for the Chalk, but as far as I recall, nothing about her having actual magic.

Apr 21st 2011 at 6:10:17 PM •••

I changed this part a bit: So, witchcraft has become more of a matter of Superpowerful Genetics (which, ironically, is the closer to what the Azande of Africa believe, where it is an inherited organ that allows potentially unconscious use, often located near the liver).

Besides clearing up the wording, I dropped the word "ironic", because it wasn't clear in context just what is ironic about this.

Apr 19th 2010 at 4:46:56 AM •••

From the Nanoha example: "It probably wasn't due to her age, because there were martial artists studying in the family school who weren't much older."

Nah, it's because everyone was so freaking scared of her unleashing her mad White Devil powers of Massive Ordnance Friendship onto their sorry asses, they decided against ever training her in the arts of magic. At least, they didn't exile her, like Caro's tribe did...

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