An image of Fenrir Greyback holding someone in Harry Potter and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Grayback is the Victim

Humans are not born with evil tendencies, but forced by the hand that oppresses them. Fenrir Greyback from the Harry Potter Series is an example of this forced hand of evil. A beast with no remorse for his victims who wants to tear every human limb from limb. Most view these actions as pure evil. I argue that it is the humans that are evil for oppressing Fenrir Greyback as a werewolf and making him hate humans. I argue that Grayback’s actions are not unjustified, but rather a desensitized act of revenge that has caused Grayback to become the blood thirsty beast he is in the wizarding community. The only information we have on Fenrir Grayback are the dark deeds he carries out in The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows. Therefore we must come to conclusions based on his heroic counter part Remus Lupin who is also a werewolf and who suffers the same persecutions as Grayback.

An image of Remus Lupin from Harry Potter

Because the wizarding world has such prejudice for werewolves, quick accusations are made that essentially make it nearly impossible for any werewolf, regardless of being good or bad, to have a normal and un-oppressed life. In her essay of Accepting Mudbloods: The Ambivalent Social Vision of J.K. Rowling’s Fairy Tales, Elaine Ostry makes note about the fact that Ron, who acts as “the mouthpiece of common prejudices”, shrinks back from Lupin, a teacher he previously respected, when he finds out that he is a werewolf. Ron of course is also under the impression that Lupin has switched sides and is in league with Sirius Black, momentarily viewed as Lord Voldemort’s ally. Ron’s reaction is a bit hypocritical however, as if it was always a bad idea for Dumbledore to hire Lupin when he says as a reaction to the information, “Dumbledore hired you when he knew you were a werewolf?… Is he mad?” (The Prisoner of Azkaban 346). Now questioning Dumbledore’s decision, as everyone seems to have a tendency to do, Dumbledore is of course never wrong and Ron’s reaction is merely an outcome of his bigotry that has grown from rummers he has believed over the years.

When Lupin begins to pack up to leave the school after his werewolf secret is reviled, Lupin tries to explain his side to Harry, who is an outsider to the beliefs and bigotry of the wizerding world. Lupin states that parents, “will not want a werewolf teaching their children” (The Prisoner of Azkaban 423). Brent Stypczynski analyzes this statement in his article Wolf in Professor’s CLothing: J.K. Rowling’s Werewolf as Educator by stating that, ”we have to consider both the idea of lycanthropy as a disease that Lupin could easily pass on to any number of children and the terror created by the actions of Greyback and his followers. Since Rowling has established that Greyback targets children as a form of terrorism and encourages his followers to do the same, the parents of Hogwarts students are likely to think that any werewolf must be an equal threat.” Therefor the prejudice is already there and any association with a werewolf is a bad one. Granted, Grayback is the cause of this particular prejudice, but who was there before Grayback and was he or she any better? It would be my guess that Grayback is now only filling in the shoes for someone who had done similar actions and caused similar prejudices before, therefor turning Greyback into what they feared most.

An image of Remus Lupin as a warewolf

J.K. Rowling succeeds in addressing real world problems in relation to her text. She brings up the idea of werewolf segregation just as we have racial segregation. Stypczynski brings up the fact that, “The sentiment is important since it ties the anti-werewolf prejudice in Rowling’s world to racism… As if to add subtle insult to injury, we discover in book five of the Harry Potter series that this prejudice came to Ron through another likeable character; his mother. Upon learning that a werewolf is sharing a hospital ward with her injured husband, she asks, “A werewolf?.. Is he safe in a public ward? Shouldn’t he be in a private room?” (Phoenix 488). Her concern comes after years of knowing Lupin, the clearest exception to the prejudicial stereotype, and at a time far removed from a full moon.” Stypczynski’s point is clear because he points out that even though Molly Weasley is friends with a werewolf and knows that the full moon is nowhere near the current time in the book, she still has a stigma in her mind as she jumps to quick conclusions behind the stereotypes and rumors of werewolves. As soon as she hears that there is another werewolf in the room all of her knowledge of the time spent with Lupin goes out the window, regressing to her original beliefs.

It has always been the idea that the werewolf is a half human who becomes a blood thirsty beast at the sign of the full moon. An unstoppable machine that attacks everyone and everything in its site until the end of the full moon. Amy M. Green points out in her article Interior/Exterior in the Harry Potter Series: Duality Expressed in Sirius Black and Remus Lupin that, “ Rowling’s werewolves take the form of over-sized wolves in their transformed states, but are also murderous, bloodthirsty, and devoid of their humanity. Victorian writers shifted focus to the nature of the werewolf as an “outsider who posed a threat to the natural order, setting up Rowling’s vision of the lycanthrope as an ostracized, reviled figure in Wizarding society.” The bottom line is that Remus Lupin became an outcast the moment he was bitten by Fenrir Greyback. People have always feared werewolves and they always will. Even when Lupin is human he is still feared because he is different and misunderstood.

An image of Remus Lupin from Harry Potter

Besides the fowl views that civilians give werewolves, they are also persecuted by the law just for being a werewolf. Similar to our own history, werewolves are persecuted out of misunderstanding and fear of the different cultures. Amy M. Green continues to point this out in his article by saying that, “Werewolves suffer grave injustices in the Wizarding world, which not only looks upon them in disgust but passes legislation limiting their ability to earn a living. In every sense, they are outcasts. Since Remus was bitten by Fenrir at a very young age, most of his life experiences contain some degree of societal scorn. He understands that others view him as something less than human and begins to adapt his behavior accordingly. Critics describe the shunning of werewolves in Harry Potter as commentaries on modern societal inequities ranging from racism, class distinctions, homophobia, and the discrimination AID’s sufferers face, especially in the early days of the disease.”

As in history, werewolves are rounded up like the Japanese when they were put into internment camps or the persecution toward Muslims and their religious attire just because they were feared or misunderstood. One of them becomes a bad egg and the rest are immediately associated with that kind of behavior. A Muslim with a turban getting onto a plane causes the same fearful reaction as the presents of a werewolf in any building. It is these stereotypes that destroy the humanity of the werewolf and cause them to shy away from society and hide their presence from the world. The work that they are turned away from is their only means of acting as a normal human being in society. The political officials make it so these half breads are forced to act as the animals they are accused of being and live off the land or underground in order to fit in somewhere. It is the government that makes them a monster and it is the government’s fault that they become hateful and attack those that oppress them.

Fenirir Greyback probably hunted and ate wildlife around the farmer’s land and on occasion the farmer’s live stock because he had no other means of food with having no one to give him a job and know one willing to sell him food. This caused the farmer to hate Greyback for this very reason and strike back with a force that made Greyback retort with aggression and violence until he started planting himself near the farmer’s children to turn them into werewolves as an act of revenge for the oppression he has received. Revenge is never justified, but it is always provoked by another’s injustice.

An image of Fenrir Greyback in Harry Potter and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Werewolves are viewed as human and inhuman. Amy M. Green further points out that, “No one around Remus ever describes him as a human being—a victim of Fenrir Greyback, but human still. He is only ever a werewolf, as are all others suffering the same condition.” This disassociation that people make between werewolves and their better half is exactly what causes such prejudices against werewolves. Similarly it is like the stereotype that Muslims are not people, but solely terrorists. This is obviously a terrible misconception that has ruined the mind’s eye of Americans and in the same light, has made Americans a stereotype for being prejudice against what they fear and do not understand. Werewolves are treated the same way, if not worse, because there is a real danger behind them, but they try to control it because they truly do not want to hurt people. They just want to be treated normally. If they need to be locked up every full moon then that is what they have to do to protect others, but if they can accomplish that then they should be allowed to live among society every day with the exception of one night a month.

The only time Remus is celebrated for being a werewolf is when Dumbledore asks Remus to join the other werewolves as a spy. Among telling Harry this, Remus seems to sound “a little bitter, and perhaps realized it,” (Half-Blood Prince 334). His thought then becomes that the only good he can do is by doing something terrible that is ruining his life. It only goes to prove just how easy it is to turn evil or at least sinister just to have a “better” life. If it is a choice between living in forced poverty because no one will give you a job or living like an animal with whatever you can catch for food, then the animal instinct in the werewolf would seem much more appealing. With that said, having the promise from Lord Voldemort that joining him will allow for more freedom among the werewolf community, it would be very tempting to join his side in the rebellion against the wizarding world. This then could lead to a werewolf’s point of view of justified theft and justified murder in order to survive in a world that treats them so coldly.

An image of Fenrir Greyback in Harry Potter and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Fenrir Greyback was most likely oppressed in his youth because of these prejudices, with the mindset that Fenrir himself was bitten as a child, it would be logical to conclude that one day he just had enough, causing him to exact revenge on his oppressors. He gave in to his own stereotype and continued to repeat this vicious cycle. He became the monster he was forced to be and could not live as a civilized man any longer. He acted the role that man gave him and turned on them with vengeance hoping that they would regret their actions. Now Greyback is a monster and his continued oppression will only lead to his becoming a blood thirsty nightmare for the wizarding community. Similarly, if Remus Lupin did not have the support from the friends he had in school at Hogwarts, I would venture a guess that he would have followed in Greyback’s footsteps. He would not have seen Greyback as a mentor, but he would very likely be taking a similar path because of his oppression. Like Severus Snape, an ex Death Eater, Dumbledore gave Remus a chance and saved him from his potential evil instincts that were sure to come.

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