Sunday, June 24, 2007

Conjunctivitis Curse

In GoF, Harry is warned about the dragons in the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament by Hagrid. He's talking to Sirius in the fire a few days before the task and Sirius says there's a simple spell a single wizard can use to deal with a dragon. Then he is interrupted before he can tell Harry what it is.

Later, after the task, he writes Harry a letter and just happens to mention that the spell he'd been about to tell Harry is the Conjunctivitis Curse. A dragon's weakest point is its eyes, he says. But Harry's way, Summoning his Firebolt and using it to fly around and confuse the dragon, was better, much more spectacular from the point of view of a movie producer if not also the reader of a book.

So that's that, right? No need to remember that old Conjunctivitis Curse, eh? I wonder what it does? Conjunctivitis is also known, here in the States anyway, as Pink Eye. It's an infection in your eyes or, more accurately, I believe, in your tear ducts. I remember having it as a kid, I was horribly sick and my eyes were actually so stuck together, stuck closed, one morning when I woke up, that my mother had to spend a couple of minutes with a washcloth to get it open. So, if I were writing it, the Conjunctivitis Curse would make a dragon have red, irritated and weepy eyes. But I'm not J.K. Rowling. Maybe the term has a different connotation in the UK and maybe in her world, it makes the eyes go sort of out of focus, blurry, pupil-less.

Sound familiar? Others have said they believe the dragon on the Deluxe Edition cover is an Antipodean Opaleye, due to the fact that the picture doesn't show pupils in its eyes (and conveniently, it's supposedly the only dragon who won't eat humans, though I still believe the Welsh Green falls into that category as well). I have been against this idea because the Opaleye also has irridescent scales and I don't think the picture shows that.

This would be another explanation for the strange-looking eyes. And it would make Harry's ability to conquer and ride this dragon even more spectacular, if it's not the tame, sheep-eating Opaleye but a Norwegian Ridgeback or a Hungarian Horntail that he ends up riding. I've wondered what an Opaleye, native to New Zealand, would be doing somewhere a bit closer to th UK, or how the trio would end up all the way Down Under, it just doesn't make that much sense. I think the Opaleye exists because Jo decided that part of the world deserved its own dragon species and here was this great name practically sitting there for the picking, opals being also a commonly found thing in that part of the world.

So, here I am, going on record that not only is this dragon not an Opaleye but that Harry or Hermione use the Conjunctivitis Curse to subdue it and ride it, probably to escape some sort of danger. I mean, think about it, ride a dragon who can't see normally? You'd probably only do that in a real crisis, when the other choice is staying around facing certain death.

Think about how dragons have been portrayed so far in the books. Harry's practically beside himself, anticipating the first task, once he knows what it involves. Ron's opinion is changed as he witnesses how dangerous this is, no one could choose that of their own free will. The movie makes the dragon seem even more fearsome. Harry has ridden other creatures, true, but they've been virtually tame besides a dragon. A Hippogriff will actually bow to you if it likes you. And Dumbledore has ridden Thestrals before, so that's a cake-walk. Riding a dragon has to be suitably dangerous to really knock our socks off in this last, and best, book of the series. Wouldn't riding a dragon known not to eat humans be a little of a let-down?


Behold a Phoenix said...

You could be on to something with the Conjunctivitis curse. I also finished reading Goblet of Fire and noticed that bit about the curse. Like you said, Sirius mentioned it. I do not think that was coincidence. The trio will definately have studied the curse and will be able to do it in Deathly Hallows with a dragon. Good stuff here.

Captain Enterprise said...

Although it's not explicitly stated, it's implied that Krum used the Conjunctivitus curse against his dragon in the first task (page 359, Goblet of Fire) with poor results. Ron reported that: "Hit it with some sort of spell right in the eye. Only thing is, it went trampling around in agony and squashed half the real eggs..." I would say that pretty definitively rules out your hypothesis.