Wizards vs. Muggles: The Showdown!
In 1692, at a meeting of The International Confederation of Wizards, The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy came into effect, and from that point on the wizarding world and the Muggle worlds were separated forever. Many have wondered what could have motivated the act, and how things may have been different had it not happened.
Though the statute was passed in 1692, wizards had been removing themselves from the Muggle world long before then. As early as 1362, at a time when witch burnings were common, the Wizards Council of the time banned all Quidditch within 50 miles of a town or village. In his popular work, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander notes,
Muggle persecution of wizards at this time was reaching a pitch hitherto unknown it is not the aim of this work to discuss the dark days that preceded the wizards retreat into hiding.
(Introduction, pg. xv)
Are we then to assume, by Scamander’s phrase, retreat into hiding, that the separation of the two worlds was a result of fear on the wizards part? Not only is this a rather large hit to take on our wizarding pride, it is rather inconsistent with the writings of other scholars. In A History of Magic, by Adalbert Waffling, he notes, “On the rare occasion they [the Muggles] did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsoever.”
No, it seems doubtful that the retreat of the wizards was motivated by fear, and indeed this makes sense. We forget, when looking at the Muggles of today and their impressive ways of compensating for magic, that they did not always have this technology. At the time that the statute was signed, Muggles were vastly inferior to wizards, much more so than today, and wizards had nothing to fear in the least.
What then, if not fear, motivated the split between Muggles and wizards? I fear that, without any writings surviving from those people making the decisions of the time, any conclusions we may draw on this matter are but conjecture, but there are several attempts we can make to see if we can explain the rift.
When Harry Potter, our saviour from the Dark Lord, reluctantly allowed his life story to be published under the guise of a series of Muggle novels, he recollects being told, in his first meeting with a magical person, “ everyone’d be wantin’ magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we’re best left alone.” ( PS/SS, British paperback, pg. 51)
Indeed, though Rubeus Hagrid is most certainly no historian, this view is one that is popular over all magical Britain, and one which I have found in my own research to be repeated back to me by many wizards and witches. It certainly makes sense: if Muggles did know about the wizarding world, and about many of the things that we can do, it is likely that they would desire magical solutions to a variety of their problems. The dubious morality of holding back such solutions aside, is this enough of a reason for a split between the two worlds? I do not think so. There are many spells capable of repelling Muggles (for example, the Muggle repelling charms placed on Hogwarts school, and on the Quidditch World Cup stadium); if the split was simply because of one wanting to avoid Muggles, then these spells could be cast.
So, with fear of Muggles and the simple desire to be left alone counted out — though these may have played a part in the split – there must remain another factor which counted towards the irreparable tear between our two worlds. I can only think of one possible option, unlikely as it sounds: we wizards removed ourselves from the Muggle world for their own protection. This noble act could have protected the Muggles in a number of ways.
For a start, with the separation of the two worlds, it will have been far easier for the Wizards Council, and more recently the Ministry of Magic, to prevent Dark wizards attacking and controlling and profiting unethically from the Muggles. Whereas before a Dark wizard mixing with Muggles may not have been spotted, any wizard performing magic near a Muggle is taken note of, and investigated suitably.
Secondly, it restricts the trade that takes place between wizards and Muggles, and so will reduce though not prevent completely the trickling down of magical artefacts into Muggle hands, the effects of which can be distressing or harmful to the Muggle in question. On a more political note, it also creates a vast amount of much-needed employment for wizards, as even Hagrid notes, ”their main job is to keep it from the Muggles that theres still witches and wizards up an down the country.” (ibid)
Thirdly, as part of the Statute, Muggles gained protection form all manner of magical beasts, many of which are dangerous to wizards, never mind Muggles. It does not need to be said that it is a good thing that there are not dragons rampaging in London, and for the most part this protection has been successful.
But that was then, and this is now. The Muggles undoubtedly needed protecting in 1692, but could it be possible that now, with their technology, the Muggles have caught up with us wizards, or maybe even surpassed us? Though their ingeniousness is to be acclaimed, I would say not.
Let us take a look at a few examples. Through the Floo system, British wizards and witches enjoy instantaneous communication. In this, the Muggles have indeed caught us up through the creation of telephones, though they cannot also directly transport themselves with these devices. The broom, which enables a wizard to fly, has also been replicated by the Muggles airplane; the effects of a wizarding portrait can be found in a Muggle television set.
Muggles have also come up with some ideas of their own. Email allows the immediate transmission of letters, computers allow for the storing of large amounts of information. However, though wizards may not have thought of these ideas themselves, the spells to replicate their effects have been in existence for centuries. To copy the effect of email, one simply has to cast a Protean charm (admittedly a difficult charm to master, but how many Muggles can program an email client?) on two notebooks for what is written in one to be transcribed on the other, and the combination of a library and a summoning or finding charm may duplicate the role of a computer. So it would not be fair to say that Muggles have surpassed us, though it could be argued that they have almost caught up.
And here we come to the meat of the matter. If Muggles have advanced so much, is the wizarding world in danger? If the Muggles were to discover our existence, might they wage war on us? More importantly, would it be possible that they could win?
Let us think first about the different possible threats that the Muggles posses that may be used against us. The most powerful offence that the Muggle world is capable of is a device known as a nuclear bomb. This explosive contrivance has enough force to level a city, and at first glance a wizard might panic at the sheer power such a device holds, but all is not lost at this early stage.
Nuclear bombs do not find their targets by themselves they have complex targeting systems, and though the power of a nuclear bomb may be frightening, if the Muggles have nothing to aim it at, then its power is neutralised. Making areas unplottable will prevent guidance systems finding magical targets, anti-Muggle wards will prevent the bombs being placed into magical areas by hand. In addition to this, there is protection gained from the fact that to destroy the magical areas of Britain, they would have to destroy most of Muggle London as well. Finally, though it has never been proven, a wizard could theoretically survive the blast of a nuclear bomb. A nuclear blast has three main components: heat energy, kinetic energy, and radiation. The danger from heat can be countered by a Flame-freezing charm, the kinetic force can be neutralised by a Cushioning charm, and to avoid radiation damage a wizard simply has to apparate away before he receives too high a dose. The key then lies in applying these spells with adequate speed, or being prepared. It has been documented that the reaction times of wizards are faster than those of Muggles; a wizard such as the late Albus Dumbledore was capable of drawing their wand in the blink of an eye, so such reaction times are not unreasonable to expect, at least of a competent wizard.
The other main threat that Muggles pose to wizard is through the use of guns. These mechanical devices fire a small metal point at high speeds at a target, and are capable of doing large amounts of damage to humans. However, in this case too there are defences that a wizard can conjure. Unless they are willing to rely on their quick reflexes unadvisable casting a shield, physical or magical, is not the recommended defence, as the wizard may not erect the shield in time. Far more preferable is to cast a charm on oneself to repel bullets. An example of a charm that shows this capability is with the incantation Impervious, used by the witch Hermione Granger on Harry Potters glasses in a Quidditch match: ”Hermione tapped them with her wand and said, ’Impervious! They’ll repel water!'” (PoA, pg. 133 British hardback)
A similar spell, possibly a variation of the same spell, was used on the kitchen door of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. In this case the spell repelled Dungbombs, though we are told that Tonks says it works with all physical objects:
Tonks told me how — just chuck stuff at the door and if it cant make contact the doors been Imperturbed. I’ve been flicking Dungbombs at it — they just soar away
(OotP, pg. 67 British hardback)
Obviously there are charms that can repel physical objects, and with the application of these charms to oneself, a wizard may be protected from bullets completely. You may say that bullets are faster than thrown Dungbombs, and so are harder to repel, but this is decidedly Muggle thinking. According to the Muggle laws of motion, it is already impossible to repel any object, as if by magic, and so it is no more impossible to repel a bullet than it is to repel a Dungbomb. With magic, both are equally possible. All that is required is the correct preparation and, as Alastor Moody would state, constant vigilance. This is not hard, since a wizard cannot be ambushed, due to the fact that within wizarding areas he is protected by anti-Muggle spells, and outside of wizarding areas he knows to be wary.
Now that we have established that wizards are safe from Muggle threats, let us take a look at how the wizarding world might retaliate. The magical population is at an obvious disadvantage in terms of numbers, so it would be indeed be difficult almost impossible to wipe the Muggles out, but crippling the Muggle worlds defences, government and infrastructure would be childs play. I shall name but a few options there are undoubtedly many which I have not thought of that are available to but a single competent wizard, that could damage the Muggle world.
Our first option is linked to Potions. How easy would it be for a wizard to brew a large batch of Sleeping Potion and slip it into the water supply, sending the Muggles of a large area, possibly even a whole country, into an enchanted sleep? Very easy. It gets even easier if we look to the Dark Arts. If a single wizard were to apparate into the homes of several important Muggle officials, or Generals, place them under the Imperius curse, and then force them to order the use of nuclear weapons against their own people and government unlike the wizarding world, the Muggles have no defence from their own weapons. These are but two options available to wizards who are set on destroying the Muggles, and are accomplishable not by an army, but by a single solitary wizard.
Though there would most certainly be casualties on both sides, it is safe to say that the wizards would win a war between the Muggle world and the wizarding world.
Given those easy processes by which the Muggles may be attacked with magic, it does not seem now so unlikely that the split between Muggles and wizards was for the Muggles own protection, as the only thing standing between vengeful Dark wizards and the Muggle world are those wizards who chose peace over war.