Lesson 8) Rabbits and Slippers

Rabbits and Slippers

Professor Mitchell sat giggling on the floor at the front of the classroom as the Second Years filed in.  She was surrounded by medium sized rabbits of nearly every color, from white to pink.  The room was a little chillier than normal and pillows and blankets covered the floor where the students’ desks normally sat. “Come in, come in! Take off your shoes and get comfy!” called the professor.

Desks can get so uncomfortable after a while so I thought today we’d have a more informal class period.  The transformation we’re learning is a little more informal as well and fits this type of setting just a little better.  You see, today we will be transforming rabbits into slippers!  Before we can get into the spell, I first need to give you all a little background into the differences between organic and inorganic materials.

Inorganic and Organic Material
I know you’ve all gone over molecules and compounds in your First Year Potions class, so I will just jump right into this.  Organic materials are those that come from some living organism, either a plant or an animal.  While this is true, living things are actually composed of both organic and inorganic compounds.  An organic compound is one which contains carbon, though there are a couple exceptions in which molecules containing carbon are classified as inorganic.  Examples of some organic compounds include nucleic acids, sugars, fats, proteins, enzymes, and hydrocarbon fuels, or compounds that consist of only carbon-hydrogen bonds.  These are most of the things that give you energy to move and grow and be alive.  In contrast, inorganic compounds include salts, metals, and other substances composed of single elements or lacking a carbon-hydrogen bond.  The main inorganic compounds that are found in organic or living material are water and minerals.

In terms of transfiguration, organic materials are typically harder to work with due to their increased complexity.  They are composed of molecules and cells that are the building blocks of life and therefore have a stronger resistance to unnatural change.  When transfiguring them into something else, as we have been all of this year, you must pull apart and mute these functions that are at the base of all existence and simplify them.  When going in the other direction, you are creating these molecules that are meant to work together in perfect harmony to sustain life and naturally grow and change.  Though you don’t necessarily need to be focusing on these exact processes while casting, it is still amazing to know what exactly you are capable of doing with this power you have had since birth.

Rabbits are small mammals of the family Leporidae.  They can be anywhere from eight to twenty inches in length and have long ears that can grow to be four inches or longer.  Their hind legs are strong, allowing them to jump and hop around the meadows, woods, deserts, wetlands, or grasslands in which they are known to reside.  While most commonly found in North America, rabbits can also be found in Southeast Asia, Southwest Europe, on some parts of Africa and South America, and on some islands of Japan.  They were also introduced to Australia in the 18th and are an invasive species, eating many of the native plants to the point of extinction, leading to a serious erosion problem.  They often live in groups and burrow underground, with only one species, the cottontail rabbit, living above ground.  In terms of appearance, rabbits, also colloquially called “bunnies,” have long, soft fur covering their bodies and a large tuft in the rear that is their tail.  They are herbivores, eating mainly grass and hay, but also enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables.  They can also be domesticated, being a popular pet among wizarding families as they have a slight affinity for magic. They aren’t full magical creatures, so you do not need to worry about overcoming a strong magical barrier. However, they can sense magic, similar to owls, and certain parts, such as the fur, liver, and feet, can be used in potion making.

Slippers: my personal favorite in the footwear department.  They are light shoes, typically worn indoors, that are easily put on and taken off.  While there are many different types of slippers, from moccasins to Cinderella’s famous glass slippers, made from many different materials, today we are aiming for fuzzy slippers with synthetic fur.  Fake furs can be made from acrylic polymers that are composed of chemicals derived from coal, air, water, petroleum, and limestone.  These are all inorganic compounds, but other fake furs can be made from organic material such as silk, wool, mohair, or cotton.  Fancier slippers than the ones we are aiming for can be made with cotton, suede, leather, or sheepskin and almost all slippers have a rubber bottom or sole.

The Transformation
Onto the transformation! Though it might be obvious, I feel the need to point out that this spell transfigures one rabbit into one slipper.  That being said, almost all of you have two feet, meaning you will need two rabbits in order for this spell to be applicable! Unless, of course, you happen to have lost just one of your fuzzy friends and only need to replace the one. The spell information is given on the board, so when you feel ready, come up and grab a rabbit.  Once you are successful with the first, you may attempt with a second if you so choose.

As mentioned, you must be sure to concentrate on the intended materials for this transformation.  Due to the strong visual and textural similarities that exist between rabbits and slippers, some forget that there are still more changes that must take place, particularly when it comes to the interior of the shoe and the molecular differences between natural and synthetic fur.  It is for this reason that the issues that are most often seen with the Rabbits to Slippers Transformation include the creation of a solid slipper, such that there is no hole for your foot, and a slipper with real rabbit hair, rather than a synthetic fur.  Many also often forget that your feet curve two different ways and end up with two left shoes, which can make for a slightly uncomfortable experience.

Where did this come from? Why do I care?
Interestingly enough, the origin of this spell is completely unknown.  Its first officially documented use was in 1792, but hints of its existence creep up in much older documents as well.  Despite the efforts of many historians and transfigurists who, like myself, feel that knowing where a spell comes from increases the understanding of the spell itself, many believe that the creation story for this transformation is completely lost to the ages.

Regardless, for as long as this spell has been known, it has had the sole purpose of keeping one’s feet toasty warm in the winter.  It’s one of the many reasons rabbits are such common pets in the wizarding world.

I do hope you all enjoyed today’s lesson! Remember to grab your shoes, and only your shoes, on the way out.  You’ve got a quiz and an extra credit essay to complete and next week will be your last lesson of Year Two and your final exam.  Until then!

*Compound image credit: http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=general-properties-organic-compounds*
*Rabbit image credit: http://shushi168.com/rabbit-wallpaper.html*
*Slipper image credit: http://www.clipartkid.com/women-fuzzy-slippers-cliparts/*

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