What Kinds of Transportation are Used by Wizards in the Harry Potter Novels?

Mary McMahon

A variety of methods of magical transportation are used by characters in the Harry Potter books, ranging from difficult apparation to the Knight Bus. Depending on the age of the witch or wizard, his or her level of skill, and how quickly they need to travel, an assortment of magical transportation options are available. Many methods such as broomsticks and portkeys involve enchantment of various physical items, while others like apparation and Floo powder are entirely magical.

Wizards utilize a number of transportation methods in Harry Potter.
Wizards utilize a number of transportation methods in Harry Potter.

Physical methods of magical transportation include broomsticks, flying carpets, portkeys, the Knight Bus, and the use of thestrals. Broomsticks and flying carpets are physical items that are enchanted to carry the rider. In England, the setting of the Harry Potter novels, flying carpets are a banned method of magical transportation, because they might be seen by muggles. Wizards are permitted to use broomsticks for magical transportation, as long as they do so with care. Both require some skill, although riders can quickly learn how to control their transport.

Broomsticks are often used by witches and wizards to fly in the Harry Potter books.
Broomsticks are often used by witches and wizards to fly in the Harry Potter books.

Portkeys are items which are enchanted to whisk a witch or wizard to a location on the other side. Most portkeys are set up to be used only once: to get to a location and then return to the starting point. A wizard taps an object like a shoe, saying “Portus” to enchant it. Usually portkeys activate at a particular time, allowing several witches and wizards to grab hold of the item before it activates and yanks them to another place.

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The Knight Bus can be summoned by any witch or wizard in need who puts up a thumb. The Knight Bus combines magic and mechanics: it can be driven like a normal bus, or it can hop from destination to destination. However it is used, the Knight Bus sounds like a rocky ride for the passengers. Wizards can also use thestrals, winged horses that are invisible unless the wizard has seen someone die. Thestrals can be mounted and ridden like horses, and have an excellent sense of direction, making them a good method of physical magical transportation when you're not sure how to get where you are going, and need to arrive there with some stealth.

Purely magical transportation such as Floo powder and apparation are also commonly used. Floo powder can be used by wizards of all ages, assuming that a fireplace which is connected to the Floo network can be found. The wizard stands in the fire and casts a handful of Floo powder over the body, clearly enunciating the desired destination. The powder hurls the wizard through the Floo network to the other side, a process which is rather discombobulating. The preferred method of magical transportation for wizards who have reached the age of 17 is apparation, which allows a wizard to vanish from one location and reappear in another almost instantly. Apparation is quite dangerous, as it can cause severe bodily harm known as "splinching" if performed badly.

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Discussion Comments

Mor

@umbra21 - Well, to be fair, Hagrid used a lot of things he wasn't supposed to. And if I remember correctly, he only used the motorcycle at times when he was helping someone with a lot of authority, like Dumbledore or Moody.

The Harry Potter books seem to have a general rule that if something seems interesting or funny then that is more important than being strictly consistent, and I'm perfectly fine with that. No one criticizes Pratchett for being inconsistent with what goes on in his novels.

umbra21

@irontoenail - The Harry Potter books weren't exactly magical realism and I think that in some cases things were the way they were because Rowling said so, rather than because there was any real logic behind it.

On the other hand, I think she had a lot of good things to say about prejudice and it wouldn't surprise me if magic carpets were banned in England not because they were necessarily more extraordinary than brooms, but because they simply weren't traditional.

The same issue comes up over Hagrid's motorcycle if you think about it. No one seemed to mind that he had something that large and noisy that he drove through London skies, but they all freaked out about Harry and Ron driving a car along the route of the Hogwarts train, which is probably veiled from muggles anyway.

irontoenail

I don't actually see why magic carpets would be seen more easily than broomsticks. I mean, you might argue that a magic carpet transport might end up in a thrift store and bought by some confused muggles, but that could just as easily happen to a broomstick.

I can see why they were annoyed about the car that had been enchanted to fly, but a car is going to really look strange in the sky, while a carpet or a broom that is high enough will just look like a bird.

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