Fluffy’s political representation in a dog-eat-dog-eat-dog world
Cerberus, derived from Greek mythology, constitutes the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to the Underworld. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, the Cerberus, christened “Fluffy,” is a giant three-headed dog that guards the trapdoor on the third floor, the first challenge of seven to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone. Fluffy, as a three-headed dog, remains a rare creature in the wizarding world, perhaps one of the only of his kind. His three heads specifically keep him distinct as a magical animal and the ideologies they represent. Fluffy as a magical creature in the Harry Potter world serves as a symbolic political representation of such ideologies as elitism, conformism, perfectionism, and perspectivism.
Fluffy’s primary purpose is in the first Potter novel, in which Dumbledore places him, as a challenge from Hagrid, as the first obstacle to get to the Philosopher’s Stone. In Greek mythology, Fluffy’s predecessor Cerberus guards the entrance to the Underworld, as previously mentioned, but it is significant that Fluffy guards a trapdoor: a trapdoor suggests descent, or a fall, down beneath its hinges, much like an entrance to the Underworld. This guarding of the trapdoor suggests that only an elite few would be able to get past it, based on Fluffy’s singular weakness of music. Only those who acquire inside information on how to satiate Fluffy will be able to get past him. Interrogating the information out of Hagrid only proves successful when he is not asked outright directly or when he is drunk: “Fluffy’s a piece o’ cake if yeh know how to calm him down, jus’ play him a bit o’ music an’ he’ll go straight off ter sleep—” (Rowling 266). That being said, as knowledgeable or elite as someone must be to acquire this valuable piece of information, it is easily coaxed out of Hagrid by three children; it is Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, who exemplify perfectionist politics, in that they rise above the average challenges and plunge themselves into certain difficulties. They willingly involve themselves in the protection of the Philosopher’s Stone and look for means to get past Fluffy in order to ensure this. This segregates them from the rest of the people when they retain information the general public does not have or when they reach beyond the average person. This makes them both elite and perfectionist in nature. Connecting back to Greek mythology, Cerberus guards an entrance to what can be assumed is some sort of eternal life—be it Elysium, the Fields of Asphodel, or Tartarus—as Fluffy guards the trapdoor leading to a stone that gives the power of certain eternal life through the Elixir of Life. A cerberus for the Potter books, the parallels between Fluffy and the Cerberus of the Underworld directly correlate to Fluffy’s political presence in the novel.
Fluffy is a giant dog, as per Cerberus. This characteristic already removes Fluffy from conformism because Fluffy’s appearance is anything but conforming. Fluffy’s sheer size isolates him from all other dogs; his huge, looming presence towers over everyone, even Hagrid, isolating him as sort of one-of-a-kind: “how many three-headed dogs d’yeh meet, even around Hogwarts?” (Rowling 266). This sets Fluffy up as an abject figure to conformism politics because Fluffy is not seen as elite due to his unique and distinctive nature as a creature or monster of Hagrid’s; his association with Hagrid is enough to ostracize him, though the full repercussions of Fluffy’s association with Hagrid are never seen, if not simply for what kind of creature Fluffy is, with “three pairs of rolling, mad eyes” (Rowling 160) and more. Fluffy would not be praised by anyone but Hagrid, and perhaps Dumbledore, who sees him as an obstacle to be of use. Dumbledore never inquires about Fluffy directly in the novel, but it is apparent he employs the three-headed dog to do his bidding, that of guarding the Philosopher’s Stone. Fluffy will forever be in the out group of wizard society, on the surface it being because of his huge stature and three heads.
The most notable feature about Fluffy is his three heads. These three heads, though attached to one body, still at times snap at each other and compete with each other to see who can launch their mouth at something first. Like his mythological counterpart Cerberus, Fluffy’s three heads hold high symbolic meaning. The three-headed figure is perhaps representative of Albus Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic, and Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters all coexisting, much like political ideologies all generally exist not only together but also against each other. If the head of Voldemort is perfectionism, then the head of the Ministry is conformism, and the last head, Dumbledore, is a different form of perfectionism.
The Ministry of Magic, favoring a conformist system, sees the madness of both the Death Eaters and Dumbledore. They believe both forms of perfectionism to be too extreme to govern the body politic of the wizarding world; what is needed, to the Ministry, to keep things in line is a simple dose of conformism, further set forth by laws such as the International Statute of Secrecy and the Decree for the Restriction of Underage Sorcery: if it is believed one wizard should be in hiding from the Muggle world, they all should be in hiding. The Ministry is often caught in the middle between Dumbledore’s politics and the doings of Lord Voldemort, much like the center head of Fluffy must work with both heads on either side.
Fluffy’s right side head would be representative of Lord Voldemort’s perfectionist ideologies. This hiding of the wizard goes against Voldemort’s form of perfectionism, which declares that pureblood magic trumps all, especially Muggles, evident most clearly in Deathly Hallows, where Voldemort and the Death Eaters have gained control of the Ministry. As with Dumbledore, or the left head, the Ministry has trouble empathizing with his zany ways and going along with them because they do not contribute to conformism: they beg perfectionists to rise and take action, which the Ministry disapproves of heavily. Dumbledore puts Harry on the line because he recognizes what this boy is and is capable of, whereas the Ministry would rather keep Harry in the dark and smother him into submission, as a means to keep up their conformist presence. Fluffy’s three heads may all fight over the same piece of meat, may all go haywire should someone pass the trapdoor, but his heads all have distinct personalities and thus represent the three distinct ideologies of Dumbledore, the Ministry of Magic, and Voldemort in constant political battle.
Hagrid, as a direct symbol of perspectivism himself, obtains Fluffy from a bar after winning a hand of cards, as he does with the dragon egg that will become Norbert. To Hagrid’s perspectivist perspective, Fluffy remains in his eye a sort of cuddly creature despite the difficulties of raising him. In the text Fluffy is even described as “monstrous” with “thunderous growls” (Rowling 160-161) that would lead to a certain maiming or death. In spite of this, Hagrid christens the three-headed cerberus “Fluffy,” indicating something beyond mere fondness and stretching into his empathy with Fluffy’s abnormality of three heads, which may have not been naturally created, much like Hagrid himself. Like his other monsters throughout the series, Hagrid sees himself reflected in Fluffy, but Fluffy does not embody Hagrid’s perspectivism politics: Fluffy is merely the first example of many.
Therefore, Fluffy the cerberus manifests several different political ideologies in Rowling’s first novel in the Harry Potter series. Fluffy correlates to the elite as well as abjection from conformism; likewise, his three heads represent the three major conflicting ideologies of Dumbledore’s perfectionism, the Ministry of Magic’s conformism, and Voldemort’s differing perfectionism. While Fluffy is not directly related to perspectivism, he is a product of Hagrid’s perspectivist views. These ideologies fuse and formulate in Fluffy’s character as a magical creature, showing that even a three-headed dog represents the ideologies of politics.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: A.A. Levine, 1998. Print.