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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 13)

Hm. Interesting idea. Can anyone think of an example in the books when a wizard transfigured something really big?

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on August 25, 2008 1:38 PM

People keeps mentioning impossible things, let's review:

1) Love: Not possible, it's not a physical object, and as such, you can't point a wand to it, therefore, you can't transfigure it.
2) Time: Same as before.
3) Weather: Weather is actually an abstract human concept that is used for reference on several unrelated pehnomena, it's not a "thing" per sť, so I dont' think so. (Just because some mutant does it in a comic book doesn't mean it applies to HP's universe).

And just because they don't do it in the books doesn't mean it can't be done. Perhaps, as someone mentioned before, it's easier for someone with lesser ss to just buy something instead of transfiguring it if it's too difficult to do it.

I don't have a idea of what else could be, I'd have to read the books again... Maybe it's horcruxes, after all, you HAVE to destroy them...

Posted by Dreadjaws from La Paz, Canelones, Uruguay on August 25, 2008 8:14 PM

Cedric Diggory turned a rock into dog to divert attention of dragon in the first task of triwizard tournament. do we know of rock's size?

i think human itself may be the exception as to why could not have professor McGonagall turned all things (say utensils in the kitchen) into solrs and order them to fight the final battle at hogwarts, that would have been really helpful. u can create small form of life (Gerbill or dog etc.) by transfiguration but not the human or say wizard.

Posted by swati from india on August 25, 2008 9:17 PM

What about when Dumbledore and Voldemort are battleing in ministry of magic in OotP? I think they transfigurate a snake into fire and then to nothing. Also in DH, when McGonagall battles Snape on Hogwarst? Doesnt they transfigurate too?
I think you can transfigurate as big as you like, if you got enough power.

Posted by Peter from Slagelse, Denmark on August 26, 2008 04:12 AM

There's the possibility that you can transfigure an object into something that looks and behaves like an animal, but isn't really one. A spell might transform a cup into a rat, and it move and behave as one, because it's not difficult to "program" an object to behave like one, but it might not be a rat at all, just "something" that looks like one. But, since human behavior is much more complicated, you can't really emulate it, ergo, you can't transfigure something into a human. You can see it in ly Hallows, when the snake Nagini is transfigured into a woman but can't really behave like one, even if it follows orders.

It's, I think, a little bit like when programmers make video games. They can easily create an animal that behaves pretty much like a real one, but in the case of the humans, they probably never . As someone said once: "If the human brain was simple enough for us to understand it, we would be so stupid we wouldn't understand it anyway".

Posted by Dreadjaws from La Paz, Canelones, Uruguay on August 26, 2008 07:38 AM

that makes sense dreadjaws.

however, i saw someone mentioned the fact that you could never actually transfigure a muggle object into anything. i mean something purely muggle like a computer or a cell phone. i couldn't just take my mouse and turn it into a real mouse, now could i? we've never heard of that happening or refresh my memory, have we?

Posted by miss cissy from malfoy manor on August 28, 2008 7:13 PM

Hi, this interested me so i checked it on wikipedia, that eternal source of all knowledge, and it says:

"Out of the five exceptions, only four are mentioned in the series: food, love, life, and information. The fifth and final exception is likely money, as Rowling once remarked in an interview money is something wizards cannot simply materialise out of thin air"

I can see where food, love and life are mentioned in the series, but not information... i don't get where this comes from, anyone help me out?

Posted by Alistair Hardy from London, UK on September 2, 2008 3:34 PM

oh and as regarding whether these have to be elements it doesn't matter... the law is of "Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration" in this case the word elemental is not used as in "relating to or being an element" but in the form "elementary: of or being the essential or basic part;e.g. "an elementary need for love and nurturing" ".
This means the law could be rewritten as Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law of Basic Transfiguration, but that doesn't sound as flashy does it...;-)

Posted by as above... on September 2, 2008 3:41 PM

I think you're barking up the wrong tree there. Yes, elemental CAN mean that, but it still says "elemental transfiguration". Transfiguration. The only time we've seen transfiguration used in Harry Potter books, it was to change something physical. The books never referred to anything like transfiguring feelings, or emotions. You use potions or spells for things like that. We have example after example of this. Transfiguration, as used in the Harry Potter universe, deals with changing one physical thing into another.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles on September 2, 2008 7:25 PM

Dreadjaws, I don't think Nagini is transfigured into a woman. You mean the scene at Godric's Hollow, don't you? I think what happened there is that Bathilda has been re-animated by Voldemort so she is an Inferi, and Nagini is literally hiding inside the corpse. Which is a seriously gross image!

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on September 4, 2008 05:17 AM

I am still adamant in my conviction of love being an element.

Look at alchemy. Clearly the characters transfigure the ingrents of their cauldrons with the help of several tools including the flourishes of their wands into concoctions that are described as manifestions of the abstractions they are meant to instill on the imbiber.

Book 6 we're introduced to how one creates or transfigures luck into being! Luck, a purely abstract and non-physical idea is replicated as is in the form of a liquid, literally imbueing the drinker with luck itself.

We read about love potions, yet slughorn clearly states one cannot recreate love only an imitation of it; however, he never expressed felix felicious being anything less than the embodiment of luck itself. What is to the say there don't exist an embodiment of other abstractions through means of transfiguring elements via alchemy.

Luck, and all other abstractions such as happiness, sorrow, infatuation, courage, fear, etc are all surely elements that fall under the criteria for which Gamp evaluated what would be exempt from transfiguration. And clearly, love is at least one of the candidates for an abstractual -element- beyond transfiguration, as clearly stressed by slughorn in the 6th book.

Because something is non-physical doesn't exclude it from being an element, and surely doesn't exclude it from being beyond transfiguation. Someone mentioned an element being something physical at an atomic level - what's not to say the various ingrents(elements) are transfigured into the actual and expressed abstractions in the form of atomically physical liquid/gas.

If you remember the felix felicious potion itself bubbles to a degree where it could nearly spill, but serendipitously it does not and probrably cannot. Being luck itself in liquid form, it is exempt from misfortune.

Posted by Robert Melendez from Laredo Texas on September 4, 2008 5:13 PM

Perhaps you cannot transfigure humans / create human life because humans have souls?

Posted by Joe from England on September 6, 2008 11:16 AM

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