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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 17)

What if, instead of saying "life" is one of the exceptions, we were to call it "soul" instead? Perhaps souls cannot be transfigured. They're within humans throughout their lives, but when humans , their souls leave into another existence. However, souls cannot be transfigured.

Posted by Alice from Newark (formerly Milton) on April 29, 2009 07:11 AM

1. Food
2. Money
3. Curse Damage
4. Bringing Back the

5. Clothes?
-Mrs. Weasley is always knitting everyone sweaters
-Mrs. Weasley actually had to buy Ron dress robes for the Yule Ball
-Why couldn't Ron or anyone transfigure the ugly robes into something that looked more "modern"
-Ron and Harry have to buy new robes for school because they outgrew them...why couldn't the old robes be transfigured so that they are longer?

Posted by Anna from Toronto, ON on May 14, 2009 5:19 PM

I agree with Anna. I've been thinking about times when clothes were obtained (for example Mad-Eye brought different clothes for all the other "Harry's" in the first part of DH) rather than transfigured, too.

Posted by Alice from Newark (formerly Milton) on May 19, 2009 6:06 PM

Well, as far as clothes are concerned, I think #2, Money, should be expanded to material possessions, which includes clothing and shelter, etc. or anything that requires money to obtain. Otherwise, why would anyone pay for anything? Maybe there's a wizard version of patents or copyrights that don't allow wizards to create things they usually would have to buy. Although, the point that they can't make things look like new through transfiguration is a good one. Perhaps should be expanded to the effects of Time, which would include , aging (they can't really make themselves older or younger!) and wear on objects and clothing.

But I think that the Fifth exception is definitely Love. Each time someone attempts to create love, it is always something that resembles Love, usually obsessive infatuation, but it isn't real Love. It's usually done through a potion, but, in theory, could also be the result of an Imperius Curse.

Also, Love is shown to be more powerful than a lot of forms of magic, like the blood bond that protects Harry from Voldemort when his mother gives her life for his. The only other force that seems to truly be more powerful than any Magic is /Time, which is already on the list.

Posted by Kate from Plattsburgh, NY on June 12, 2009 1:14 PM

After I was done my last submission, I thought of something else that magic can't seem to effect: knowledge. There's no spells that just download knowledge into you brain, like in the matrix. They have to learn, memorize, just the same way muggles do.

Also, I may have been onto something with the Age thing and them not being able to make themselves either younger, otherwise they'd stay young forever, or older, like when the twins want to enter the Triwizard Tournament, they only physically age with the aging potion, growing beards and getting wrinkles, but it can't fool the age line because they still haven't been alive for 17 years or more.

Also, they don't seem to be able to alter themselves permanently, except body parts lost through curses, except in minor ways, like Hermione's teeth. They can't make themselves physically stronger, smarter, faster or better looking (at least not permanently) otherwise they'd all be perfect in every way.

However, this, along with many other things mentioned here, are some possible exceptions that may fall into the category of things wizards DON'T do as opposed to what they CAN'T do. They probably don't often create buildings or weather because it would be far too easy for muggles to notice things like that.

Posted by Kate from Plattsburgh, NY on June 12, 2009 1:29 PM

Ok, third and final post (I should have gone through others' arguments before writing my first one!)

For the nay sayers, that say it cannot be love, or for that matter time, "elemental" doesn't have to refer to physical things, just the opposite it seems.

definition from, by the way.

el⋅e⋅men⋅tal  [el-uh-men-tl]
1. of the nature of an ultimate constituent; simple; uncompounded.
2. pertaining to rudiments or first principles. (**This one fits well**)
3. starkly simple, primitive, or basic: a spare, elemental prose style; hate, lust, and other elemental emotions.
4. pertaining to the agencies, forces, or phenomena of physical nature: elemental gods.
5. comparable to the great forces of nature, as in power or magnitude: elemental grandeur.
6. of, pertaining to, or of the nature of the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire, or of any one of them.
7. pertaining to chemical elements.

Posted by Kate from Plattsburgh, NY on June 12, 2009 1:40 PM

Yes, but as we've seen, there are other forms of magic, spells, potions, that can affect the non-physical world. And there are two parts to what we are defining here, "elemental", and "transfiguraion", which means to physically change something. I still think we must assume the study of Transfiguration is limited to magic involved in physically changing one thing into another.

While certainly affected by different forms of magic, I don't think either Love or Knowledge fall under the topic of transfiguration, because they are not physical things.

The more I've thought about it, the more I believe #5 must be:

You can't make a human being. You can turn a tea-cup into a hamster, and Barty Crouch/Mad-Eye Moody turned Draco into a ferret, but we've never seen any examples of bigger animals.

I think it would be immoral to make a human being, because, being an intelligent creature, it would be wrong to it, but why not, if it's only something you made? To avoid this conumdrum, it would be an exception and not allowed by the magic of transfiguration.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles on June 12, 2009 1:43 PM

Makes sense. Thanks.


Posted by Alice from Newark (formerly Milton) on June 13, 2009 5:02 PM

The last may be not being able to change the weather.
Even though crouch made it stop raining in the great hall that was a bewitched cealing

Posted by Readhp1008 from PA on June 14, 2009 08:42 AM

I've had second thoughts about my quick agreement with Dave about making a human being as the 5th exception to Gamp's Law. Would making a human be simply an extension of not being able to bring a living thing back from ? Would both of those be one entity that includes soul/life? That is, life/soul cannot be created or re-created? Just thinking.

Posted by Alice from Newark (formerly Milton) on June 14, 2009 10:47 AM

Yes, I thought about that too, before I posted it.

But from a moral standpoint, the two things, bringing back someone from the , and making something alive that had never been alive before, in other words, creating a whole new life, are similar, but not the same. You can make different arguments for and/or against both. That's why I think possibly they'd both be banned, to avoid the moral dilemmas.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on June 14, 2009 2:50 PM

Good point.

Posted by Alice from Newark (formerly Milton) on June 15, 2009 05:11 AM

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