|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character
|Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
Role in the Books edit
At one point when Harry, Ron, and Hermione call on him, Hagrid seems to be trying to hide something. It turns out that what he is hiding is a large black egg in the fireplace, which he admits is a dragon egg which he won from someone at a pub down in the village. Hermione immediately questions the wisdom of trying to raise a fire-breathing dragon in a wooden hut, but Hagrid has always wanted a dragon of his own and refuses to listen.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione are present at the hatching, but it turns out that Draco is also there, watching through the window. Harry and Ron recognize him as he runs up the steps into the school.
The Trio are adamant that, as Norbert has been seen by Draco, they must get rid of him; keeping dragons is strictly against the law and will get Hagrid into a lot of trouble. Despite the inconveniences of caring for a dragon – at one point, Hagrid is talking to the Trio through a window in his hut while Norbert is chewing, apparently painfully, on his foot – Hagrid only relents when Ron suggests that his brother Charlie could find Norbert a home. Charlie is duly written to, and responds saying that four of his friends will stop by to collect Norbert and take him to his new home.
Ron is bitten by Norbert while trying to feed him, and ends up in the Hospital Wing. While there, he is visited by Draco who borrows a book from him. It is only later that Ron remembers that Charlie's letter was in the book. As a result of this, Draco is in the halls looking for them when Harry and Hermione are taking the crated Norbert, under the Invisibility Cloak, up to the top of the Astronomy Tower to see him off. With Norbert gone, Harry and Hermione return to the school, but have forgotten the Cloak on the top of the tower and are caught by Filch.
Much later, Harry asks what the person who had given the egg to Hagrid looked like, and Hagrid says he did not know, the person had never taken his cloak off.
On his first visit to the Hog's Head, it occurs to Harry that this is, in fact, the sort of place where it is not so unusual that someone would never take their cloak off; amongst the four patrons present when he arrives, not one face is visible.
Hagrid, talking to Charlie, asks how Norbert is doing. Charlie replies that they are calling her Norberta now, as she is female. Harry asks how you can tell the difference, and Charlie replies that the females are more vicious.
Norbert is a dragon, and so has all the strengths of dragons: physical strength and armoured hide, ability to fly, resistance to spells, sharp claws and barbs, apparently envenomed fangs, and ability to breathe fire.
Norbert has the weaknesses common to dragons, notably less than human intelligence.
Relationships with Other Characters edit
While Hagrid seems to believe that Norbert recognizes him as a mother figure, impartial readers can see very little evidence of that; Norbert's attacks on Hagrid seem to be less severe than those on the Trio only because Hagrid's part-giant ancestry makes him less vulnerable. Hagrid seems to ascribe emotions to Norbert which are utterly foreign to dragons; for instance, he packs a teddy bear in with Norbert for companionship on the trip to Romania, and Harry believes that he hears Norbert tearing the bear apart before they have even left Hagrid's hut.
Norbert seems to be very much a side-light on our story. However, his appearance and departure serves a number of purposes in our plot development.
Firstly, the exposition surrounding the acquiring of the egg by Hagrid partially emphasizes that protecting the Philosopher's Stone has become more urgent. The Trio quite firmly believes, and with reason, that it is Professor Snape who seeks it. Knowing that Snape was involved with installing the guardian spells for it, they are certain that he must know enough about those spells to make his way through them.
Another purpose is setting up the scene in the Forbidden Forest, in the chapter following the discovery of Norbert. Without detention, there would be no reason for Harry to have to go into the Forest, and no way for him to witness the events that occur there.
Thirdly, it sets up the final scene in the book, where the Trio regain all the House points this escapade has lost them, and then some. A victory is sweeter if it follows, and reverses, a defeat.
Finally, these events shine a light on Draco Malfoy and also Hagrid. Draco discovered an advantage that he holds over Hagrid and the Trio, knowing Hagrid is engaged in something illegal and aided by the Trio. Rather than report this to the authorities, he instead remains silent, using this information to torment Ron in the hospital wing, and exploiting the situation to gain an additional advantage. This is classic Slytherin deviousness and ambition, though in this instance, Malfoy's actions later backfire on him and he also receives detention.
In passing, we should note that Hagrid's desire to own a dragon is not unheard of in popular fiction. It has appeared in films (Pete's Dragon, Eragon, Mulan) and books (the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey). It is possible that the Norbert episode was intended as something of a counterpoint: with the romance stripped away, taking care of a dragon might not be a lot of fun, and it might not actually be possible to civilize a dragon.
Greater Picture edit
We cannot, of course, be sure about how much planning the author had done concerning dragons and their role in the series when the chapter about Norbert was written. It is true that dragons will play significant roles in Harry's fourth year and seventh year. The characteristics of the dragons in those two situations will be similar to what we see here with Norbert. We cannot know whether Norbert was written with these characteristics in preparation for the later events, or whether the later events grew out of what Norbert shows us here. However, it is a safe bet that Norbert was planned to illustrate what dragons were, and how dangerous they are.