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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 21)

That's correct. So, that means there are more than five limitations to physical transfiguration magic. But, I think since we don't have the luxury of an 8 year Hogwarts education, I think we might have to just stick with wondering about the principal 5.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on October 4, 2009 06:55 AM

what about aguamenti?
it conjures water, so if food is one of the exceptions, then do drinks count?
and we know that you should be able to drink the water, because in hbp, in the cave harry is surprised by the fact the spell doesnt work, as he was intending on giving dumbledore a drink.

Posted by savi-xx on October 12, 2009 12:38 PM

You're right, augmenti CONJURES water. Does that mean it creates it out of thin air, or just bring it to you from some place? Probably brings it, but we don't know enough about auguamenti to be sure...

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on October 12, 2009 1:13 PM

Doesn't Hermione say that you can make more food if you have some already, but you can't make it out of thin air? When Harry does the aguamenti charm on the bottle in Hagrid's hut I think there is still some wine (or whatever it was) in the bottle. So he's just increasing what's there, so this fits in with the limitation. In fact looking at the word "aguamenti" gives the clue. Like nearly all the spells mentioned it's a Latinate word. In this case however I think Rowling has been a little sneaky with it. It looks to me as though Aguamenti is a very clever mingling of TWO Latin words; aqua, which we probably all know means water; and augmeninis, which means an increase, or growth. The closest English equivalent is "augment" as in if your employer augments your salary, s/he's giving you a raise.
She's blended the two Latin words to create a charm for increasing the amount of a liquid you already have.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on October 13, 2009 03:54 AM

That might be true, but the "mentis" could be as in "mind." Also, do we know for sure that the charm Harry uses in Hagrid's hut is aguamenti? I don't think so. The charm Harry uses at Hagrid's is referred to as the Refilling Charm, which I believe is a different charm from the Aguamenti Charm, which, when used, only seems to conjure water.

Posted by Anonymous from Arizona on October 13, 2009 12:16 PM

Elizabeth - I haven't come across the Latin term you mentioned - "augmeninis"? I thought the Latin noun for "growth,increase" is "augmentum(sg)/augmenti"(pl)- and the verb would be "augmento"?
Please correct me if you think I am wrong - you just got me puzzled here...

Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on October 14, 2009 12:17 PM

Siena - I looked it up in my Latin-English dictionary. I might have used a different form of the verb. I think it's the same root, anyway.
Sorry for the late response. I've been a bit busy.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on October 18, 2009 05:24 AM

1. Food: because this is stated in the book.
2. Love: You cannot conjure love. You can make love potions and attraction, but it is not true love.
3. Money: No wizard would be poor (the Weasleys or other families) if there was the ability to create or conjure money.
4. Soul/Life: You cannot raise any person from the because their soul has passed on. You cannot conjure people either because a human requires a soul to live.
5. Information/Knowledge: You cannot conjure what you do not know. There would be no point in searching for the Horcruxes if you knew a way to know where they are.

These are just my five that I hypothesize are the five principles.

Posted by Jonathen from California on October 23, 2009 8:01 PM

But Jonathen, doesn't Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration refer to physical change? You are changing something physical. Or not as the case may be. Love, Soul/life and information/knowledge are not physical entities. I agree that you cannot create these things with magic, but I'm not sure they would come under Gamp's Law. The soul/life thing is tricky, though. What I think is that while Cedric could transfigure a stone to be a functional dog and Fudge could turn the Prime Minister's tea cup into a Gerbil, they would not be able to transfigure the stone, dog, tea cup or gerbil into a creature with a rational soul. This might be one of the exceptions. For example a human, a centaur, a house elf, a giant. Getting into deep stuff here. What's that warning about messing with the essence of life? For a much older fictional example of the disaster that could follow from that, check out Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on October 24, 2009 05:31 AM

But strictly speaking food and money are no elements... so "elemental" probably has to be interpretated as "elementary" or "essential" - I think we have to think more along the line of objects. Therefore I am still convinced one of the exceptions is the transfiguration or fixing (altering) of wands - they are unable to change or fix the condition of a wand.

Posted by Siena from Nottingham,UK on October 26, 2009 04:02 AM

Elizabeth, I believe the law refers to simpler things such as money and food (as we already know). The soul is far too complex to be comprised under such a scientific law as Gamp's exeptions - it is more a universal, philosophical or religious concept and thus idealistic. I think Rowling meant to show that in the way she kept emphasizing how limited the magical world is really, basically not that different from the Muggle world - yes, they can repair a blown-up fireplace, transfigure mice and tales... but as far as the real matters in life are concerned - life, , love - the witches and wizards are as ignorant and in awe as we are. " Ah, music - a magic beyond anything we do here at Hogwarts" says Dumbledore in his opening speech in "Philosopher's Stone." There are things too magical to be explained by a law. This is why I think the soul or its transfiguration is not part of Gamp's Law. And as far as meddling with it is concerned - you don't have to look as far back as "Frankenstein" for examples - there is Voldemort and his mutilated form to demonstrate what happens if someone dares to extend his/her soul and its powers...

Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on October 26, 2009 07:14 AM

Siena, of course you don't HAVE to look back as far as Frankenstein. I was just pointing out that there is a history of authors exploring the tragic consequences of messing with this sort of stuff.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on October 26, 2009 5:57 PM

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