Folder #3: Rita Skeeter
Today's folder from The Phoenix Files is that of Rita Skeeter, one of the newest and most
interesting characters in the series. We first meet Rita Skeeter in the fourth book, Goblet
, and throughout that book she causes mayhem and is constantly up to no good.
Thankfully, Hermione captures her at the end of that novel, but Rita's vow of silence (which she
took for one year after the fourth book ended, according to the American edition; some of the
editions have conflicting information on this) is now over as we prepare for the sixth book,
Rita writes for The Daily Prophet and is known for her Quick-Quotes Quill, the acid-green
pen that writes lies and destroys reputations. (Interested in some theories about her Quill? I'll
explain more in the CoS Forums. Click the link at the bottom of this page!) As Galadriel Waters and company pointed out in
Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter, Rita Skeeter is described
in detail by J. K. Rowling. Waters seems to imply that Rita Skeeter is not at all a woman, but
rather a man in disguise. Evidence presented include Rita's "surprisingly strong grip, large,
mannish hands, and curiously rigid curls" (283). All true, all described in detail by JKR.
While it is true Rita may not be what she seems, there are a few flaws I find with Waters'
analysis of Rita:
3) Real Rita
First, why would a wizard wear a disguise when there are much better methods of infiltrating
enemy areas, such as Polyjuice Potion or Invisibility Cloaks? I just don't see a wizard putting
on a wig to try and fool other wizards. Maybe that's the point, though. Perhaps nobody in the
Wizarding World is looking for a disguised reporter/who-knows-what? While it's true Rita is
described by JKR to be manly, could she herself be a half-breed, perhaps with a troll or other
species? That would certainly cause her to appear less feminine.
The second problem is that the Rita Skeeter we know is an animagus. She can change into a
beetle at will and appears in this form multiple times during the series. This means that if a
man is disguising himself as Rita Skeeter, he would have to be an animagus. This is possible,
but unlikely. We would then have the problem of clothing. We don't really know how clothing
works with animagi; the third film shows the Scabbers-Pettigrew transformation with Pettigrew
keeping his clothes, but then when he transforms back at the end of the film, his clothes stay
behind. Would he then re-transform naked? There are still a lot of questions left to be
answered about animal transformations. Similarly, there are a lot of questions still to be
answered about the existence of Rita Skeeter, as will be evidenced in the next paragraph. Does
that mean the real Rita Skeeter is also an animagus? If so, is she also a beetle? If not, how
did she get her inside scoop?
Third, is there even a real Rita? Or is Rita Skeeter a made-up character? In other words, is
Rita Skeeter an alias for someone sympathetic to Voldemort's cause who is using the media's
influence to turn the public's ear away from Harry and Dumbledore? Or is/was there a real
person named Rita Skeeter who has been "replaced" as Mad-Eye Moody was replaced throughout the
fourth book by someone sympathetic to Voldemort's cause? Rita is present in the scene in the
Pensieve, looking younger, but sucking on her acid-green quill. Is this Rita the same person as
the Rita who interviews Harry at the Wand-Weighing Ceremony, or not? If so, then that would
mean either that Rita is totally made-up and an alias of one of Voldemort's supporters or that
her character has been used by that supporter for years and years. If not, then when did the
Skeeter-switch take place?
As you can see, the theory proposed by the WWP is a good one, but it creates more questions than
it answers. I believe it is highly unlikely that Rita Skeeter is a man in disguise; however, I
will not go so far as to say that she is acting of her own free will. It is quite possible she
is either under the Imperius Curse or is getting paid by Malfoy or another Voldemort supporter
to run the horrible stories she is writing.
In the fifth book, we only see Rita briefly, in Hogsmeade, and she looks like she wants to
"thrust" an umbrella "up Hermione's nose". In fact, a whole chapter is devoted to her -- "The
Beetle at Bay" (Chapter Twenty-Five). Hermione basically blackmails Rita into writing the story
that appears in The Quibbler, proclaiming Harry's story to the world. Carefully examining
all the events leading up to the meeting, we can infer some information.
First, Hermione sent the owl immediately after the Death Eaters escaped from Azkaban, and it
took "ages" to come back. That means that either Rita was very far away from Hogwarts or she
waited a long time between receiving Hermione's letter and returning her response.
Next, the hair was lank and unkempt around her face. This seems to denounce the wig theory; wigs
don't become lank after time. Her fingernail paint was chipped and her glasses were missing a
few jewels. In other words, she was pretty beat up. Was she possibly in hiding as Sirius was in
Book Four? If so, from whom/what is she hiding?
Then her reaction to the sound of Voldemort's name (when Hermione says it this time) -- she jumps
very badly and slops "half her glass of firewhiskey down herself". None of the Death Eaters
ever did this; in fact, they just get furious for someone having the courage to speak his name.
This denounces even more that Rita could be a Death Eater in disguise. It is possible she could
be a Fudge-like Voldemort supporter, I suppose, but there are still way too many questions to
answer before we begin speculating too much on this idea. Rita also believes The Quibbler
is full of rubbish like Hermione herself did. If you look more closely, Rita seems to know the
ins and outs of being in business, explaining to Hermione the Prophet "exists to sell
itself" and that "Fudge is leaning on the Prophet". She wouldn't admit that if she was a
huge supporter of Fudge. So, let's suppose Rita is not a Voldemort supporter or a man in
disguise (and we KNOW she's definitely not a Fudge supporter or Bagman supporter). Then who is she?
I believe she is just one of those horrible people you meet once in a while who likes nothing more
than ruining other people's reputations. She represents everything JKR herself sees in the media.
She is nosy, obnoxious, and often willing to stray from the truth in order to sell her stories.
Regardless of Rita's "true" identity, we do know and realize one thing: she is vitally important
to the rest of the series. What she writes seems to have a lot of sway (just think of all the
people who followed Harry's story [Seamus's Mum for one] -- and that was in The Quibbler!)
Who will be her next target? Is it possible she could come to our side (even though she hates
Hermione) and begin reporting horrible stories about Death Eaters? To follow yet another
commentary by JKR on the world around her, the people in the wizarding world (much like people
in our own world) sure seem to believe anything that she writes in print, no matter how
far-fetched or illogical. I wrote an entire essay on this subject for my college composition
course. If you would like a copy, or just want to comment on this editorial, feel free to e-mail
me at the address below. I really like hearing from you. And who knows? Your e-mail just may
end up here someday!
Thanks for reading! Remember to send me your comments and be on the look-out for Folder #4, that
of Seamus Finnigan--a much more interesting character than he first appears!
Discuss this installment in the forums.
If you'd like to contact Christopher, you may do so at christopherstephened at hotmail dot com.