A Mysterious Plant
I am writing this editorial to point out something. I’m surprised I haven’t read any on this subject yet, especially while so many other things have been discussed. I am talking about the Mimbulus Mimbletonia here – the plant Neville got from his Great Uncle Algie for his birthday, and which he shows to Harry, Ginny and Luna on the train in Order of the Phoenix…
It is described as looking like a small cactus in a pot, except that it is covered with what looks like boils rather than spines. Furthermore, it is pulsating slightly, giving it the sinister look of some diseased internal organ. It is described by Neville as doing ‘loads of things,’ even though we only see it spit out stinksap when Neville prods it.
After the scene in the train, the Mimbulus Mimbletonia is pushed to the background; it gets only 3 more mentionings in the book: 1) its name is made the password to the Gryffindor common room, 2) Neville puts it on his bedside table and 3) it’s mentioned on the train back home.
The second mentioning seems the most useless to me; it is obvious that Neville is very proud of his plant – that’s why he puts it near him at night. All we hear about the Mimbulus Mimbletonia during the journey back home is that it has grown a great deal over the year and now makes odd crooning sounds when touched.
Sound like nothing special to you? Maybe not, but to me there are 3 striking things about the mysterious plant. The first is that it is made the Gryffindor password. Of course, we could argue passwords are just what they are: passwords. But there’s definitely something about them. As far as we know, the password to Dumbledore’s office has always been a sort of candy. The Slytherin password during the agitation about the Chamber of Secrets is ‘pure-blood’. So a Mimbulus Mimbletonia is definitely not just a plant, and isn’t it strange it is made password to the tower right when Neville has acquired one?
The second thing that strikes me about the ‘boiled cactus’ are the places of reference in the book; – at the start of the year and at the end of it. It looks like another of JK Rowling’s tricks we’re all so familiar with. She’s trying to make us forget Neville got a plant for his birthday that had stinksap as a defense mechanism, but she casually reminds us of it at the end of the book. Well, maybe I am oversensitive, but I am not taking it as just a plant of no significance – as just something Neville owns; I take it as one of Rowling’s subtle hints.
Which leads me to the third thing: What does a Mimbulus Mimbletonia do? When asked by Harry, Neville simple answers, ‘loads of things’ and demonstrates the stinksap function. We also learn about the ‘crooning sounds’ later, but those are the only two functions we know (yet).
So, what do I think a Mimbulus Mimbletonia can do? To be honest, I haven’t got a clue. It sounds to me like it has defensive mechanisms other than stinksap but what are they? Maybe it develops a more dangerous kind of sap when it grows, but we have no evidence of such. I do think that it is very well able to defend itself against attackers, and therefore play a (small) role in the series. It is rare, and it’s mentioned at remarkable phases in the story (at the beginning and end of a school year) as if it’s nothing special, and that makes me suspicious.
I’ll bet we’re to hear more about this plant and it’s functions in the books to come. After all, I’m sure Neville doesn’t have his Herbology talents for no reason.