.A Survey of Contemporary Muggle Habits,
by Arthur Weasley

Author: Bironic
Summary: A response to Fiction Alley's Back to School/Witching Hour Contest: "write up to 5000 words from a paper, essay or answer to an O.W.L. or N.E.W.T. question from the perspective of any character in the HP books." Feedback always appreciated, and can be left on her livejournal.

Third Year Muggle Studies
End-of-term Paper

Arthur Weasley (Gryffindor)

Q: Analyse some of the ways in which modern Muggles live without magic and compare their practices to those of the Wizarding World, touching upon at least three areas of society. Be sure to include secondary references. Ten inches.


Since the beginning of recorded Wizarding history, Muggles (homo sapiens sapiens nonmagus) have been considered inferior to wizards in many ways, all because they don't have magic. And indeed they do seem to go about things charmingly backwards sometimes. But they have managed to get by and have even compensated for their unfortunate situation with some rather marvelous inventions. It's ingenious, really, what they've come up with. I particularly like learning about eckeltricity and ecklectic devices, but this essay is only supposed to be 10 inches, so the subjects I am going to talk about are transportation, medicine, and sports and leisure.

1. Transportation

Muggles can't Apparate, of course, and they can't make Portkeys, but they use cars and trains like we do to get around places (although instead of magic these run on things called patrol and cole, which Muggles call 'natural resources' and which are made from very old dead animals and trees that are sucked out of the ground with gigantic tubes). They have underground trains furnished with straps and bars to cling to – rides on those must be like crowded days on the Knight Bus.[1] They don't have any Floo networks, so a witch or wizard visiting a Muggle residence has to remember not to arrive or communicate using this method or else you might scare them or set your robes on fire.[2]

[1] I haven't yet had a chance to ride the Underground, so this information is taken second-hand from the pocket reference, 'Don't Panic! 75 simple steps to follow if you get lost in Muggle London.'

[2] The last time a wizard broke this rule was over 100 years ago (just before the International Confederation of Wizards decided to detach Muggle fireplaces from the Floo network) when Conrad the Corpulent drank too much firewhiskey on the way to his extended family's Christmas party in Geneva. Ralph Skeeter writes in his book The Great European Floo Fiasco that Conrad bundled up in red furs, slung his sack of gifts over his shoulder and proceeded to accidentally Floo to dozens of Muggle homes that night until his sister managed to catch him in Glasgow. The Muggles still tell their children that if they're good he'll come through the chimmy and give them presents on Christmas.

Muggles have boats to travel over water, like we do. These run on patrol like cars and trains. They have tried to travel under water in a few different ways too, including sealing themselves in heavy machines called submarines that they used as a sort of weapon launcher during a recent war.[3] For individuals they also have scooby diving gear that works like a Bubble-Head charm. They use the same sort of technology for exploring outer space.[4] (Seems silly to look up there. It's empty; that's why it's called 'space.' But that's Muggles for you, bless them.)

[3] This was all happening around the time we were fighting against Grindelwald. Lucky for us the Muggles were too busy blowing each other up to notice our own fireworks. (At least, that's what I think Professor Binns said. It's hard to tell sometimes. He is unspeakably old and wheezy.)

[4] Astronomicus Biggle, Muggles in Space: What Are They Thinking?

Muggles have other means of personal transportation such as motorbikes and bicycles and shoes with wheels on them. Bicycles are what Muggles call man-powered, which means people have to work hard to get them to move. Photographs in Anthropollia Jackson's best-selling From Sorceress to Secretary: My Life Among the Muggles show bicyclists all short of breath and sweaty – but for some reason Muggles use them for fun, even when they don't need to go anywhere. Kevin Bones told me once after a holiday in France that they have an annual tournament there to see who can ride a bicycle in a huge circle the fastest. Adorable.

Muggles don't ride brooms, they just use them for cleaning floors.[5] The closest they get to flying is these humongous contraptions called airy planes that carry hundreds of people above the clouds. How they stay off the ground is anyone's guess[6], but you've got to give the Muggles credit for buckling themselves into them for hours at a time.

[5] As noted in Wigworthy's Home Life and Social Habits of British Muggles.

[6] Italian Arithmancer Atomico Ferdinelli says it has to do with something called fizziks. I wonder if this relates to the effervescent properties of Fizzing Whizbees. Professor?

Come to think of it, the Muggles have a pretty good idea there. Maybe we ought to try something like that someday; brooms can be awfully hard on the – well, you know, Professor – especially when you're going a fair distance, and they don't protect you against the rain or cold. I wonder if you can fuse magic and Muggle technology to make a flying car, or maybe something smaller to start...

2. Medicine

Instead of 'Healers' Muggles go to people called 'Doctors' for help when they're hurt or sick. Doctors study at a special school and then have to undergo more training (similar to a Wizarding apprenticeship) to learn how to stick people with needles properly and whap them on the knees with rubber mallets and look into their mouths with lights and things. Even all this preparation must not be enough, though, because Muggles say that Doctors 'practise' for years afterward.

Some Doctors go through yet more schooling so they can get permission to cut people open – sorry, Professor, it's graphic but it's true, it's documented all the way back through Caduceus Hipposmythe's Compleat Hiftory of Muggle Medycyne – and fix complicated problems in a procedure called surgy. These Doctors are very respected and each is dubbed Sir Gin (even the women) to reflect their exalted status. Blenheim Stalk suggests that this moniker may have its origins in an old Muggle custom of giving a surgy patient alcohol to dull pain.[7]

[7] Care and Feeding of the Native British Muggle, Chapter 4, 'The Myriad Uses of Alcohol'

A few examples of tools that Doctors and Sir Gins use are caster plasts for broken bones (these stay on for weeks and weeks – they haven't developed anything like Skele-Gro, poor souls), Anne's freesia to help with pain, scappels during surgy and stitches after surgy. Some witches and wizards find this all very sharp and frightening, and I know many people here at Hogwarts think the entire field is pathetic[8] if not downright barbaric.[9] Sometimes I feel kind of bad that Muggles don't have quick-healing spells and magical plants like we do. Like for example they don't have mandrakes to wake people up who've been Petrified (Muggles can suffer from a similar condition they call 'being in a comma'), they perform permanent surgy procedures in place of glamours, and they don't know about how bubotuber pus can treat acne (which really helps, even if it smells awful).

[8] 'Their hearts are in the right place, but they're simply hopeless when it comes to proper Healing. Now hold still and count to ten while I get rid of these extra ears. Boys nowadays. Where do you come up with these hexes?' --Madame Pomfrey, personal interview

[9] 'What Muggles call 'medicine' is a nightmare. Poking and cutting and trying to close wounds with Spellotape and pulling babies out with tongs. And don't even get me started on blood transfusions. It's no wonder their average lifespan hasn't hit 100 yet.' --Molly Prewett, personal interview

Anyway, there are some ways in which Muggle medical practices are similar to ours. For example they used to do a sort of shock spell for mental illness using eckeltricity, like the mediwitches do at St. Mungo's, only the Muggles decided that it didn't really work and now they sit and talk about feelings and call it 'spy collogy.'

I believe Muggle medicine does have its strengths. In fact there are some ways in which they have moved beyond us. I read in a recent issue of Muggle Monthly that they've developed their own sort of magic in the form of a machine called a Lei Serr. (Lei Serrs don't have any visible flower wreaths so the name is a bit of a mystery.) Sir Gins shine beams of Lei Serr light on people's eyes and skin and stomachs and places and it heals all sorts of problems. The Ministry might consider sending someone over to investigate. I know I wouldn't mind trying Lei Serrs if it meant I could get rid of these pesky glasses.

Lastly, Muggle patients who don't like these ideas can choose to have complementary medicine done, which is about eating fruit and getting massages and listening to music and lighting smelly candles and having pins stuck all over you. As Amos Diggory remarked while trying to copy my homework, 'Sounds like fun, except for the pins.'

3. Sports & Leisure

Before I took this class I assumed Muggles must lead terribly boring lives. Their sports have to be played in two dimensions on the ground, and none of their equipment can be enchanted to move on its own. Their playing cards never explode and they don't have spitting gobstones. Their chess pieces just sit there and don't give the players any advice. Plus with all the effort they expend on tasks we can do in seconds with magic, I wondered, did they even have the time or energy to engage in their woebegone pastimes?

Some have argued that the daily drudgery of being a Muggle is too much to bear.[10] This year I learned the opposite is true: they can and do entertain themselves in some interesting, if (delightfully) odd, ways.

[10] See for example Chapter 3 of Cygnus Black's No Magic, No Meaning: Our Moral Obligation to Put Muggles Out of their Misery.

Until a few years ago it was widely thought that Muggles didn't play sports or games. Thanks to the pioneering research (or what Molly's brother Fabian calls 'shameless spying') of a few brave witches and wizards, it is now suspected that Muggles actually have a culture complete with art, literature, music, sports and other forms of entertainment.

In her exposé Obliviate Me, Please! How I Married and Divorced a Muggle and Will Never Try it Again, Gossamer Grunge divides Muggle sports into two categories: 'boring' and 'worse.' I think a better way is to label them 'slow' and 'fast.'

Slow sports include sitting and looking at things like birds and stars (maybe they are developing Divination like the Centaurs?), usually with the help of simple eyepieces a little bit like omnioculars. Muggles also make games out of catching food, such as fish. They don't have Accio charms so they make do by tossing hooks with bugs and worms and feathers into the water to trick fish into biting. The funny thing is that this seems to work, even if it takes so long that most of their time is spent staring at each other and drinking butterbeer.

'Peeping Tom' McThompson reported in the Spring issue of Muggle Watching that a new trend among Muggles involves looking at the tell o'vision, a ritual where they sit in front of a bright box and fall into an ecstatic trance for hours on end. This can be done in groups or alone, and often involves laughing. McThompson states that the trance sometimes falters but can be re-achieved after turning a few knobs on the box.[12]

[12] He probably would have found out more if he hadn't used a patch of nettles for leverage while leaning in to get a better view into the Muggles' sitting room.

The majority of organised fast sports seems to consist of the word 'ball' with a descriptive prefix – for example, in Foot Ball you kick a ball with your foot, in Basket Ball you throw a ball into a basket (really quite practical names they've given their sports, Muggles), in Volley Ball two teams try to decide whether to keep a ball in the air or slam it into the ground, and American Muggles have one called Base Ball where you take turns being Beaters and running in a circle in between standing around making intricate finger gestures and spitting.

There are also perplexing sports such as Rug Bee, which involves neither rugs nor bees; Tens, where two or four people dress in white and use stringed paddles to try to keep a small green ball from escaping the boundaries of a grassy rectangle; and Cricket, which wizards at the newly established Institut des Jeux Non-magiques in Paris have been analyzing round-the-clock for months but have yet to understand the point of it (or spot a cricket, for that matter).[13]

[13] See Gambadeur et Coquille, 'Pourquoi "le cricket"?'

Muggles also have fast sports for individuals, such as strapping sticks called skees to their feet and trying to stand on water while being dragged by boats at high speeds or trying to stay upright while careening down snowy hills. Muggles have also been spotted gliding through the air on big bright kites, jumping out of airy planes, and climbing mountains. It may be mad, but I sort of admire Muggles for doing these kinds of things when they don't have levitation or cushioning charms.

(I could go on about this but Molly is about to drag me away from the parchment and believe me, Professor, you don't want Molly to be cross with you, so I'll finish now.)

In conclusion, Muggles may be lagging behind us in many areas but they are doing all right overall, and I think that not only are they fun and fascinating to watch, maybe we can learn something from them as well. (I know Wizarding tradition says we're superior, but you've heard my arguments, Professor.)

I think it's a shame that the Ministry of Magic has one small department for the misuse of Muggle artifacts and one outdated edict regulating Wizard/Muggle intermarriage but no position dedicated to studying Muggles or helping protect them or establishing a working relationship with them (although I've heard that the Minister of Magic talks to the Muggle Prime Minister sometimes, so there may be some hope). I look forward to continuing with Muggle Studies next year and learning more about these endearing and creative people.

P.S. Professor, I would appreciate it if you didn't mention this last bit to Molly; she's already worried that I'm half-mad for Muggles and this might be the straw that breaks the thestral's back.


Back to fanfiction page