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The Five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law

by David Haber

Elemental transfiguration is the magical art of physically converting one thing into another. But as with all types of magic, there are limitations to what you can do with transfiguration, as we learn in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Hermione mentions the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration. But she only tells us one of them. What are the other four? I think we know two more, and can guess another.

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Reader Comments: (Page 16)

I think you're making some incorrect assumptions, Matthew. I don't think Ron creates life with the "eat slugs" curse. It's more likely that curse just brings them from someplace, perhaps engorging them in the process. I don't know the passages that talks about Chistmas crackers, but we know you can make food if you have food, we don't know what they started out as. Riddle didn't clone himself in Chamber of Secrets. That was a ghost of his memory. And as far as we know, weather can only be changed indoors.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles on January 26, 2009 3:33 PM

let me be more specific:
eat slugs, ron would have had to know where all those slugs were and summon them there, or the curse is so powerful that the curse it self knows where to find them.
In book seven the could have just cursed each other "eat hamburgers" instead of bad mushrooms.
Christmas crackers, may be wrong. harry has the feeling that the mice that came out of the crakers would become food for that cat. But, if you transfigure a rock into a dog would that dog be edible or just not nutritional.

If Riddle would have suceeded in CoS there would be two Voldemorts one younger one in Albania in "spirit form" after book 4 there would be two with bos but they probably would have fought each other

Posted by matthew from monterey on January 27, 2009 08:21 AM

I think that the idea of love (including other emotions) as "not a physical thing" is a false one. Love has a distinctly biological/physical basis, involving hormones, adrenaline, nerve endings, heart activity, and brain activity (synapses firing, increased blood to certain areas and so on). Much the same processes involved in “living”. So saying that you cannot replicate the complexity of human love is much the same as saying you cannot replicate the complexity of human life. Which would make it feasible as one of Gamp's Exceptions.

Obviously, whether these come under the topic of “Transfiguration” is still up for debate, and many people say no, however I think that Transfiguration is making one thing into another thing, which is a large umbrella to protect my theory from the rain.

I think, and this has been backed up throughout the thread, that extremely complex processes, biological or non-biological, cannot be replicated by magic. Except perhaps crudely (for example, I believe that the gerbil Fudge transfigured was a cheap imitation of a gerbil, and probably did not make a great pet for the Prime Minister’s niece).

Posted by Emma from Nottingham, UK on January 27, 2009 08:58 AM

guys, listen...the five are...1:food,as we know...2:money-cause otherwise the weasleys wouldnt be poor...3:dark magic u see throughout the books, all the injuries that were revived were still connected to the body (harry's arm, draco's secta wounds etc.). george's ear was knocked off causing the ear to not heal....4: any object...cause then lupin would not have torn clothes, people could summon books, and many other things (whats the point of money if you can just make things apear out of air). now the fifth cant be an object cause of 4... 5: i dont know....please help on that

Posted by joseph from new york on February 5, 2009 6:58 PM

"Riddle didn't clone himself in Chamber of Secrets. That was a ghost of his memory."

But the diary was a horcrux, Dave. So logically the 16 year old Tom Riddle that appeared was the bit of soul encased in the horcrux. That bit of soul could have been used to regenerate a body for Voldemort. At least, that was how I understood it. Not sure what would have happened then with the bit still lurking in Albania. Maybe Voldemort could have encased that in a new casing to act as a horcrux?

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on February 11, 2009 7:42 PM

Horcruxes are not used to regenerate a body that's d, and thus doesn't break one of Gamp's laws. The presence of a horcrux on earth simply prevents you from ing.

A horcrux works like this: Your soul and your body are meant to be together. When you , your soul goes on to the next place (to heaven, I guess, if you're religious) and your body ceases to be. A horcrux prevents your body from ing because as long as a piece of your soul is held on this earth, trapped in the horcrux, your body won't .

It's like an insurance policy...

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on February 11, 2009 10:28 PM

Money can't be tranfigured precisely because it is Gold! Gold and other precious metals are by nature magic repellent why do you think the Philosophers stone is so sought after? And why do you think Goblin metal are so valuable, why do you think Bowman Wright is such a famous wizard? Charming or casting magic on object in steel, iron, lead, silver...and all other metals is extremely dificult, it is for this reason charmed armors defend hogwarts against both Wizard and Muggles.

That's why gold is so valuable because you can't fake it.

I'd say the fifth exeption is living beings.

Posted by Geoffrey Laforge from Paris, France on February 19, 2009 10:31 AM

You know, Geoffrey, I think you're on something there! Why on earth didn't we see it? It was staring us right in the face, too. Gold. Of course.

You can transfigure living creatures, or even an inanimate object like a teacup into a living creature. What you can't do, I believe, is create a rational soul. This fits in with something I read in Beedle the Bard about ghastly consequences once you start messing with the deepest mysteries, the essence of life etc. So you couldn't turn a dog into a human or a horse into a centaur for example. Although I think my dogs are a great deal more rational (certainly nicer) than some humans I know!

But, gold - sheesh, how obvious. Brilliant! Did you go to Beauxbatons, or what?

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on February 20, 2009 8:10 PM

I hate to put a damper on the excitement, but Gold is not the missing fifth exception, as we've already counted it in the known exceptions, #2 in the list of the original article is "money".

And to the comment 2 previous, living beings is already #4 on the original article's list.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on February 20, 2009 9:07 PM

Well, rats! This discussion has been going on so long, and people have had so many good ideas, that I've forgotten the earlier parts. That or this paper and cyber world we live in has caused me to forget that the basis of our monetary system is gold. We could just ask Rowling of course, but half the fun (at least) is in the speculating and arguing. Arguing in the nicest sense of the word, of course.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on February 22, 2009 05:52 AM

All right I just wanna post my theories, hear what you guys think.

1: Definitely Food.
My question is what makes food different than other things that it cannot be changed?

Money: This is actually much deeper than someone else posted it. Right now, we are speaking about Gamp's Laws of Transfiguration, which is defined as changing a substance into something else. Multiplying does not fall into the category of Transfiguration. Therefore, in that sense, money is not in this category. (It's still not feasible to multiply money, but that is probably due to spells imbued by the Gringotts goblins.
Money (or rather, precious stones and metals) may be one of the exceptions because otherwise you can change what you have into something more valuable (ie. a Knut into a Galleon.) The reason for this, I believe, is that the materials that make up money, jewels, etc. emit a magical aura that negates certain magic cast upon it.

*** - I would just like to post here that life or living things are most probably not one of the 5 exceptions for a few reasons.
1: In Book 1 (Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone) McGonagall changes her desk into a real, live, pig (I believe I remember reading that, correct me if I'm wrong)
2: In Book 5 (Order of Phoenix) Chapter Three, Tonks specifically states that wizards can use wands to change their appearances. If this refers to Transfiguration, then life is not on the list. If it refers to Charms, like the disillusionment charm, then it may be on the list.

For #4, I disagree with Dave (no offense) because how can you transfigure a person not to be ? Transfiguration is taking a physical thing and changing its essence, and this doesn't apply to souls and spirits.

Love - Not physical, doesn't belong on this list.

Weather - I believe should be on this list. Wizards are able to protect themselves from the elements and all that, but not directly influence the weather itself through Transfiguration.

So far that's 3 (food, money, weather) the others at this point I am not sure, but there is definitely food for thought.

Posted by Anzion from Staten Island, NY on February 26, 2009 6:09 PM

I had a thought, could a law be something about electronic items not working around lots of magic...none at hogwarts or at any home of a magical family... lights flicker in movie when Harry gets mad at Marge.. Hermione says something about it... Arthur does not know how to pronounce it..

Posted by matthew from monterey, ca on April 13, 2009 10:22 PM

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