Lesson 1) Introduction to Animate Transformations

Introduction to Animate Transformations

Professor Mitchell stood in front of her desk, waiting eagerly for her Second Years to settle in so she could begin the first lesson of the year.  “Hurry in everyone, we have lots to go over today!”

Welcome all to your second year of Transfiguration! Last year we covered general inanimate to inanimate transformations and this year we are going to step it up a notch and delve into the realm of animate to inanimate transformations.  As there is a lot of responsibility that comes with this branch of transfiguration, today we will be focusing solely on the ethics and theory involved.  First, though, I must give you your schedule for the year:

Considering we will be dealing with live animals this year, I’m sure you can all guess that there will be some safety and ethical concerns that we will need to consider before we begin our transformations. It should go without saying that anyone found handling the creatures in this class without the proper care and consideration will be finding themselves in detention with me on Friday night.  

The first thing to consider when transforming live animals is what is happening while they are in their transformed state. I will go into the theory behind this in a moment, but the bottom line is that their basic essence as a creature still remains. As such, it is important to remember that while the object you hold in your hand might not appear to be alive, it still encases a living being, so you must be as careful with it as you would be with that creature. Any damage to the object in question could result in an injury to the animal.  The severity of injury directly correlates to the damage on the object, therefore, you can imagine that shattering a cup would mean very bad news for the bird from which it was transfigured.

Unlike inanimate to inanimate transformations, animate to inanimate transformations will revert back to their initial state after a period of time due to their inherent life force.  The ever present will of a creature to live as it was meant to shall always be stronger than your initial spellcasting will.  That being said, it is still important that you take all the necessary precautions to ensure the creature can be transfigured back into its natural form when you are through with the transformation, as it can take a while for it to naturally revert.  How would you like to be stuck as a goblet for days on end?

Other concerns to think about when transforming a live creature include backfires and what they could mean for the targeted creature.  As described last year, when a transfiguration spell backfires, it could mean one of two things.  First is that the spell simply doesn’t work.  This would be the ideal backfire in this case, if there is an “ideal” backfire.  The second possibility is that the transformation is not completed.  This could have serious consequences if it happens to a creature and there isn’t someone around who knows how to reverse the process.  Make note that this does not only occur on the physical level.  The transformation may appear to complete correctly on the outside, but the animal may still retain consciousness or feeling on the inside.  I will describe this a little more in a minute, but it is for this reason that I will be walking around and checking that all of your incantations and wand movements are correct before you actually attempt to cast any of the spells we learn this year.

The bottom line is that, when performing these spells, you are taking the life of another being into your hands.  You are making it defenceless and taking away all of its natural responses to danger, something we will discuss a little bit more next week.  This is a lot of responsibility that you need to be sure you are ready for before casting.  I don’t mean to make you nervous with all of this information, but it is something that you need to keep in mind, both now and in the future, when you cast any type of spell that may affect another living thing.

So I’m hoping some of you will remember the theory on general transformation that we discussed last year, but if not, that’s okay because I will be reiterating some of it here.  When we perform a transformation, the particles within the target object adjust and shift to become the item we wish it to become.  Sometimes this means also drawing in particles from the environment around us and other times scattering particles into the atmosphere.  In addition to these physical changes, when performing animate to inanimate transformations, you are also changing the mind and soul of the targeted creature.  Essentially, what you are doing is concealing its consciousness and life force within the transfigured object.  It’s kind of like putting it into a coma, or a deep sleep. It will have no consciousness while transformed and no recollection of the incident once it is untransfigured other than some slight disorientation.

In order to perform these transformations, we have to consider all of the aspects that make up both the target and desired object and figure out what has to change.  We do this through observation and research into the objects in question.  From there, we must concentrate on all of the similarities and differences and what needs to change during the transformation.  With animate to inanimate transformations, this concentration factor will need to be larger than that for any of the transformations we performed last year due to the complexity of our animate targets.  There are inherently going to be more differences simply due to the fact that one of our objects is alive.  What makes things a little easier, though, is the fact that with these transformations we are simplifying our target.  We are taking something that is constantly moving and changing and turning it into something static and solid.  As we will learn next year, going in the opposite direction, from inanimate to animate, requires even more concentration due to the fact that there is a lot more detail that needs to go into creating a “living” being.

The other major difference that needs to be taken into account for animate to inanimate transformations is the level of willpower required to make the spell work.  In addition to the inherent will made up by the matter in the creature, which we dealt with in inanimate objects last year, there is also a much stronger natural resistance to change that comes from the mind of the creature.  In order to successfully complete the transformation, you must overcome both of these forces with your own willpower.  Doing this is what muffles the consciousness of the creature, as I described before.  Not putting forth enough willpower could cause the backfire in which the creature still retains some level of consciousness, even while transformed.  This becomes a big problem when the object naturally gets a little bumped around: the creature will be able to feel every bump and scratch, which brings us back to our previous ethics discussion.

There are a multitude of factors that affect the relative amounts of concentration and willpower that you will need in order to perform animate to inanimate transformations, simply due to the wide range of creatures that we will be working with.  Physical complexity varies greatly from creature to creature, altering the level of concentration needed.  The required willpower relies mainly on the mental complexity of the creature at hand and will be our main focus this year.  We will be discussing everything from consciousness, to intelligence, to trust, as these all play a large roll in animate transformations.

And with that we have covered all of the theory that you will need to begin performing animate to inanimate transformations.  We will begin next week with the Beetle to Button Transformation.  Until then, class dismissed.

*Backfire image credit: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)*

In Transfiguration 201 we delve into animate to inanimate transformations and discuss some of the complexities and ethics behind these spells. Enroll