Why the Fat Friar Might Not Be Such a Good Person

Hufflepuff is well known for being the nice House, and their House ghost seems to be no exception to that. The Fat Friar always comes off as cheerful in the books. However, despite his kind countenance, there may be something more devious lurking beneath.

The evidence for this comes from his name: the Fat Friar. Allow me to break that down. Friars are members of religious orders that call them to uphold the vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty. Unlike monks, they don’t live in cloisters, but instead travel among the common people, spreading their faith. Like the disciples of Jesus, they are meant to live off the charity of others.

However, not all friars actually do so. In fact, during medieval times, friars were often despised because they were frequently corrupt, coercing people into giving them money and food so that they could lead lavish lives rather than ones of devout poverty. There are numerous literary depictions of this kind of friar, one of the most notable ones being Chaucer’s friar in The Canterbury Tales.

Of course, what does any of this have to do with the Fat Friar? After all, there were friars who weren’t corrupt. Couldn’t he be among them? The answer to those questions lies in the other half of his name, for he is not just any friar, but the Fat Friar.

Now, there are people who are naturally plump, but usually that’s not considered such an integral part of their identity that it becomes a part of their name. Even in his introduction on Pottermore, it’s one of the first things mentioned that “Not much is known about the Fat Friar. He’s fat, obviously.” Given the emphasis on his fatness, it’s likely that this trait shows a important part of his personality, such as a fondness for indulging in food and drink.

But a truly pious and devout friar should not have had the money to indulge in such a way, and there’s no way that such food could have been provided to him by magic, given that it’s the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. Thus, he had to have purchased those indulgences, meaning he either used his faith to guilt people into giving him money, which he then used for his own personal use instead of for charity, or he used magic to create fake money which he could spend on food and drink. Either way, those aren’t particularly moral actions, showing that the Fat Friar was one of the corrupt ones in this order.

Therefore, while the Fat Friar may be a kindly ghost, he might not have been such a paragon of virtue while he was alive. Now, that doesn’t make him an irredeemable person, but it certainly helps show that not all Hufflepuffs should be stereotyped as simply nice.

  • Iain Walker

    Alternative character interpretations are all well and good, but I think we need a little more to go on than the fact that he is (was?) overweight. All the Hogwarts House ghosts we encounter have straightfowardly descriptive names or nicknames relating to their appearance – the Bloody Baron, the Grey Lady, Nearly-Headless Nick. Why then shouldn’t the “Fat Friar” simply be descriptive in the same way?

    (There’s a fandom myth that Rowling associates fatness with poor moral character in the books, although even a cursory survey of the characters reveals this to be unfounded. This essay seems to be playing into this trope, with an equal lack of foundation.)

    Pottermore does actually reveal quite a few details about the Friar, few of which particularly fit your interpretation. We know that he made a habit of using his magic to cure the sick. We know that he doesn’t seem to have taken the rituals of the Church too seriously (producing rabbits out of the communion goblet). Everything we’re told about him suggests a benign, helpful, easygoing nature, and his few brief scenes in the books seem to back this up.

    The only negative thing we’re told about him is that he still resents not being made a Cardinal, although it’s hard to see why such an expectation might have been realistic. But perhaps that might hint at a darker side of the character – as a kind of ecclesiastical Gilderoy Lockhart, with more ambition than talent. Maybe he healed the sick to gain himself a reputation as a miracle-worker, and maybe messing about with the Eucharist simply reflected an arrogant belief in his untouchability. This still doesn’t fit his canon personality particularly well, although I suppose that being murdered by his own Church may have taught him some humility.

    • Mikaela

      I can see your point. And I by no means am insisting this has to be true. However, I will say that my basis for this was less on the way Rowling uses fatness in the books, and more how she frequently draws from classical and medieval sources, such as perhaps the Canterbury Tales. The friar in that text is also quite cheerful, he’s just also somewhat corrupt and enjoys luxuries. Perhaps Rowling took some inspiration from him. That begin said, I am intrigued by the your last suggestion. I’d never considered that before. It’s fun to speculate.