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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 20)

Actually, all of the five rules can be explained by using the rules from Fullmetal Alchemist (Anime). It basically states that to gain something you have to give something back of equal value. While that doesnt hold completely true in all cases in Harry's world it does enough. Although i dont think its about 'being cursed'.

1. Food or anything organic, you can make more of it, change the size, shape but not create it out of thin air.

2. Gold or anything that has in and of itself a substantial value. Remember gold is one of the things the philosophers stone creates because it has a value more than being shiny.

3. Life. Simple enough, you can transfigure something to be based on something else, make it behave realistically, but you cant make it live. Although, technically, bringing a guy back from the by shocking him should be possible.

4. Anything too complex, which requires something of true value. I think the weasleys didnt make new clothes because they knew that others would know it was fake. Although, to be honest, im not entirely convinced.

5. Anything too magical, which required specific magic. Like broomsticks and wands. This makes sense a lot of sense.

Personally, i dont think JKR thought it out because im pretty sure that anything she would have released, someone would have found a loophole. For example, if you cant make gold but can make iron, then why not make a ton of iron and sell it? or clothes? it cant be that hard to make your clothes look new. and there's the whole life/ thingy, why cant you bring someone back from the ? and then there are the things that behave like the living like the portraits and the ghosts too. I think this is something we'll never know the answer to. Pity.

Posted by Sameen from Bhopal,India on August 9, 2009 12:19 AM

1) Food.

2) Material goods
(cauldrans, wands, robes, etc....)

3) Unknown

4) Unknown

5) Unknown

We can only be 80% sure of these. Although, I DO think that no. 3 COULD be life, because we can transfigurate bos to act on our command (inferi)

Posted by Callum Jarvis from The Wizenagamont on August 13, 2009 01:51 AM

I think it might be potions. You cant make potions appear out of thin air. In OOTP umbridge asks for veritaserum, Snape says that she needs to wait for it to be brewed. And in POA the wolfsbane potion needs to be brewed, so Lupin cant just make it appear.

Posted by Swati on August 15, 2009 05:59 AM

Callum, wands are a good point actually. There are loads of references in the books where wands get destroyed and no one is able to fix them or to conjure them from anywhere once the wizard has lost his/hers. Only the Elder Wand seems to be able to repair Harry's broken wand - but only because the Elder Wand has special powers that only work for Harry.

Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on August 17, 2009 09:42 AM

Swati, you could be right, too. In OoTP Harry is given a bowl with this essence ( I can't remember the name of the stuff) by Hermione after his detention with Umbridge to soothe his bleeding hand - and he then spills it and is not able to retrieve it.

Posted by Siena from Nottingham,UK on August 20, 2009 08:43 AM

I think the 5th exception is Time. as quoted in PoA:
“Hermione,” said Harry suddenly, “what if we – wee just run in there and grab Pettigrew —“

“No!” said Hermione in a terrified whisper. “Don’t you understand? We’re breaking one the most important wizarding laws! Nobody’s supposed to change time, nobody! You heard Dumbledore, if we’re seen –“

So, therefore i pur forth the idea that Time is the 5th exception

Posted by Ben O'Dell from Luton, UK on September 3, 2009 04:15 AM

Yes, there are very definitely magical rules against meddling with time. However, they wouldn't be part of the Rules of Transfiguration, which is what we're discussing here...

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on September 3, 2009 06:37 AM

The food exemption seems rather vague. As discussed before many characters have transformed inanimate objects into animals, and although we may not want to eat all these animals, if you were starving in the woods, a rat may seem mighty tasty.
Furthermore, there are other things we can eat, which we normally don’t count as food but many characters have used transfiguration on to create, for example flowers. This 1st exemption raises many problems. I could eat just about anything if I wanted to, not that I do.
There have been many suggestions that another exemption has regards to increasing you personal wealth. However, almost anything increase you wealth, as long as you can sell it. People have said that you cannot transfigure stuff into gold, but what if I was to transfigure a few barrels of sea water into crude oil.
If one was to follow these simple principals of not being able to transform things into wealth or food, I would hardly be able to transform anything.
This would lead me to believe that perhaps Hermione was exaggerating, perhaps you could transform something into food, but you could not eat it or did not want to eat it.
Perhaps when something transfigures something, it still retains the essence of the original object, but physical is different. perhaps these objects have a tendency to revert back to the original object or if you tried to eat them, it would be like eating the original rock inturns of nutrients, flavour and energy. So if one was to transfigure a stick into a wand, the ‘wand’ would just act like a stick, thus making it quite useless, unless you wish to just look.

Posted by elleaqua from Sydney on September 12, 2009 11:40 PM

elleaqua - I don't think they could transform anything worthless into something valuable. Otherwise Slughorn woudn't have been so keen on the spider venom and the unicorn hair. He could have produced that himself then. Secondly, food is definately an exemption. Hermione was unable to transform the fungi she found in the forest into something edible. You are right, you could eat almost anything - but this doesn't mean that you produce something that provides any nourishment.

Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on September 15, 2009 07:00 AM

But they could never protect themselves against the elements - cold, heat and wet - without a potion. In "Philosopher's Stone" they take potions to walk through fire. In DH Harry has to dive into the ice-cold pond in the forest and has no way to protect himself against the icy temperatures. Maybe this could be an exemption? They certainly don't seem to have a spell for it.

Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on September 15, 2009 07:06 AM

I think one excption can be that no wizard can transfigure her/himslf into another one, or create a replica of self. Like cedric could turn rock into dog but not in a fellow wizard or self, not even for a short duration, or he could have created many animated copies of himself/others to confuse the dragon. That's a limitation which in turn be overcome by potions.

The only incidence requiring explation shall be when Nagini turned into Bathilda Bagshot at Godric's hollow but may be that she could take Bathilda's form only when Bathilda was .

Posted by swati from India on September 16, 2009 9:26 PM

these are the principal exceptions. this means the main exceptions.

Posted by aranel from TX on October 3, 2009 6:48 PM

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