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Animagus abilities/limitations - Rita Skeeter's beetle

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jitenshasan, Jan 18, 2020.

  1. jitenshasan

    jitenshasan Squib

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    So an animagus transforming, I have been told, keeps his sense of self (knows who (s)he is) and humain intelligence.

    But doesn't he still perceive the world through the animal's senses?

    It seems realistic to me that a mammal (cat, dog, rat...) hear more or less like a human and so can spy on people by listening to their conversations.

    But a snake? as far as I know they perceive vibrations of the ground, but are deaf to airborne sounds... so I am supposing they wouldn't be able to hear a conversation at all? (though the infrared vision would be pretty cool).

    And what about Rita? how do insects perceive sound? I am sure they can perceive even tiny vibrations, but there is a big difference between communicating with another insect or feeling a predator is coming and actually differentiating all sounds necessary for human speech. Of course it could be that she uses her form only to hide and infiltrate places and then spy the "normal" way.

    And then there is the problem of memorization. A dog or a raven car definitely learn things (raven can even teach other ravens new things), which implies having a sufficient memory... but can a beetle actually learn something new? Or do they simply fonction on instincts? How can you remember what you learned as an animagus, if you are an animal with a brain that is not able to "encode" the type of information that you seek?

    I really have problems with imagining an insect animagus to be honest, because their brains are so different/small. People who have changes in their brain (stroke, illness, etc.), often have personality changes and loss of intelligence/abilities. Even if an insect would be able to perceive vibrations precisely enough to hear human speech, I can't imagine that they can interpret it to truly understand it.

    And even if you are the same person inside while you are in your animal form, how can you reason the same way using a brain not made for it? Like a person who has a stroke is still the same person, and sometimes can know what they should be able to do, but still cannot overcome brain damage and speak/memorize/taste/see the same as before.

    So is there somebody who knows more than me about insects? What can they actually perceive, understand?
    I mean sure you can say... it's magic... but meh.
     
  2. Silirt

    Silirt Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    I think the idea that she applies a listening charm, something journalists in general might know, to herself in order to hear human speech makes more sense than 'it doesn't matter, it's magic'. She has a quick quotes quill, which writes down anything she thinks, and I suspect part of the reason she has it is she doesn't always have human hands when she wants something written down.
     
  3. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    It's magic.

    Strictly speaking, nothing prevents your animagus form from being some random bacterium. But that's exactly the kind of logic that leads to MoR, in other words, it's missing the point. Animagi are supposed to be something cool. And part of that cool is that you stay you, but get additional animal skills, like flying or fast running. How this possibly can work, esp. that you retain all capacity of thought even though you're a beetle that's smaller than even a fraction of your brain ... the question doesn't make sense. It's magic.

    In particular w.r.t. Rita: In reality, most beetles are deaf. But that's totally besides the point, because obviously Rita is not. She's a beetle that can hear. And Voldemort's snake can also hear and in fact parseltongue is built on the idea that snakes can hear, so they can. Looking up "animals that can hear" on wikipedia leads you nowhere.
     
  4. Gaius

    Gaius Second Year

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    interesting question. transformations could be seen as somewhat Ovidian, i.e. animagi become hybridized. e.g. Rita looks a bit buglike as a human (acid green quill and loud-colored robes, large glasses = bright colors and strange eyes), so therefore keeps some of her human capacities (like her mind and ability to understand language as a bug). she may see things in a strange way, but can probably make sense of them with her human mind.

    alternatively, we can think of this as a sort of "metaphorical" transformation à la Maimonides, the medieval theologian, who says when God "hears" or "sees" things, of course he doesn't use ears or eyes because that would mean he was limited in form. so if animagi can "hear" or "see" things, perhaps it works in a similar way that isn't perfectly analogous to the animal's body (so basically "bc. magic").

    this idea has come up elsewhere on this thread, bc. Parseltongue, for example, makes no sense since snakes don't vocalize sounds and are incapable of a language or speech in the way Rowling presents it. so if snakes can "speak" without a voicebox, it seems reasonable to me that other senses that may be somewhat difficult for the animal could still work for the animagus.

    also, silirt's suggestion seems spot-on to me. charms and things last, so one could cast them beforehand and they'd still work.
     
  5. jitenshasan

    jitenshasan Squib

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    I always thought parseltongue as being a sort of mind to mind communication with some side effects (the hissing). The problem is more that snakes are actually boring (there are basically the pest control of nature until they get eaten by a bigger animal not sure they have much interesting to say), so it is really only useful to talk to mythological / made up magical snakes.

    I like the idea if an animagi actually becoming a sort of hybrid creature.

    For all we know Rita Skeeter isn't fully human to begin with, making it easier for her to become something so alien...
     
  6. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

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    They speak snake, which sounds like hisses, because it's magic. It's not mind to mind, snake language is hissing. Magic.

    It's not especially alien, it's a bug. The same mechanism (magic) preserves the sapience of the animagus when they turn into a giraffe as when they turn into a beetle.

    She wears bright colors and has glasses because it's foreshadowing and theming. Just as when you can see a Disney character and always(except recently) tell their personality and whether they're the good guy or bad guy. Her having a green quill doesn't make her inhuman, her personality does. It's magic.

    No, it's magic.

    M A G I C



    The thing a lot of people have trouble understanding about HP magic is that it's not mechanistic in nature, but conceptual. You don't summon fire by synchronizing your magicule molecules at the correct harmonization to transfer energy as directed by the vibrations of the incantation and movements of the wand to excite air until combustion occurs. It makes conceptual, elemental fire.

    Death, Life, Love, Beauty, Hate, Secrets, Fear. These are actual phenomena, Concepts that have a meta-self that can be mirrored and accessed through magic. When you transfigure something, protons/neutrons/electrons aren't ricocheting around inside, recombining into the atomic structure of the target. You'll note that when learning transfiguration, they aim not for physical or literal similarity, but for thematic and conceptual similarity. Hedgehog and pincushion, being the prime example. A thing that pokes and a thing that is poked, because the concept of "poking" is the similarity.

    As popular as the Hard Magic, metagaming, "physics based," magic systems are online with the advent of communities like SpaceBattles and the Rationalist sphere, trying to apply that paradigm to the objectively superior Soft Magic systems is an exercise in futility.
     
  7. jitenshasan

    jitenshasan Squib

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    It's magic! Nothing to discuss... move on.

    Is boring.

    And lazy (it's magic so it's doing whatever I want to pull from my ass to create a plot).

    I get how my musings seem too scientific... but they do study magical theory and write tons of essays for 7 years. So there must be something to discuss...

    In fact I don't like much that they study magic that way, that is such a muggle way to do things, if magic is so different, then they should learn it differently... nothing more efficient to kill the wonder that to have to write essays about it.
     
  8. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    It's neither, actually. That's the second misunderstanding, that because a scientific way to pick it apart is the wrong way, there's no way at all and it must be inherently shallow.

    It's true that magic can be adapted to create a plot (but then again, I'd question the opposite, that one would artificially restrict one's creativity because "magic can't do that" ... what's the point of having it, then?), but within the plot, it must obviously follow (once-established) rules. Just magical ones, not whatever scientific angle you have. One good example of that is that whatever laws there are are often fuzzy, somewhat flexible, not strict. The First Fundamental Law (Beedle's Tales) doesn't say you can't get around the deepest mysteries -- life, self --, it says the consequences will be extreme and unpredictable if you try.

    In terms of Animagi, I find it supremely uninteresting to ponder the question "where does the brain go". That's a scientific question to ask, not a magical one. Even arguing "there's an expansion charm on the inside of the beetle" is too much. You are trying to logically explain something -- that is, create a causal chain with reason and result -- that doesn't need an explanation, in a place where causality is discarded from the get-go.

    Instead, I'd much rather ponder whether the animagus says something about the character of the person, whether, perhaps, it's an outwardly manifestation of the metaphysical sense-of-self, a concept-given-form, as it were. And, perhaps, whether, going back the the First Law, there is a price for tampering a little bit with what surely is the essence of self, if the Animagus isn't a self-form in the prior sense.

    Those questions are neither boring nor shallow, and they allow for a rich underlying theory of what Animagi are. How Animagi work is quite uninteresting compared to that, in my opinion. I wouldn't even investigate it if I had magic; "it's magic" is quite enough -- and for that matter, I wouldn't at all be surprised if there was no common theme concerning "how" to be found across different Animagi; in fact, I'd rather like if the particulars of an Animagus were individual and resisted generalisation. It keeps magic unpredictable and mysterious, and that's a nice idea.
     
  9. jitenshasan

    jitenshasan Squib

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    Well since you have to become an animagus (instead of naturally being one), it implies you have to change something about yourself. So I would say it is both a reflect of your personality and a processus that changes it.

    Makes you wonder if Peter would have been another animal and developed a slightly different personality if he was free to learn the animagus transformation later in life.

    And I really like the idea that the processus is individualised enough that you don't have a set of instructions to do it. So it may not be difficult to achieve because the magic is hard, but difficult because you can't follow a given process but have to discover your own.

    I don't see what's wrong to think about what happens to your brain though. A wizard without a brain because somebody blasted his head off is dead. He may be able to resist brain changes/transformations more than a muggle would, but he still does need a brain to be alive and be his own person.
     
  10. Quick Ben

    Quick Ben In ur docs, stealin ur werds.

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    I think @Sesc argument that its magic, just go with it, is the best one.

    However, for the sake of discussion, I think the best way to think about animagus transformations is by thinking about it as a human being inhabiting an animal's body.

    The animal's body is like wearing clothes, or the invisibility cloak. The animagus retains all their human faculties while also taking advantage of the animal's ability. So they can do everything a human can do, including perceiving and understanding speech.

    However, the biggest argument against my point would be to point out that we have never had an instance of an animagus speaking while in animal form. Implying that the animal transformation limits them in that regard.
     
  11. jitenshasan

    jitenshasan Squib

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    If Harry sees the snake that he frees in the zoo wink at him (which is physically impossible for a snake I think), then I don't see why animagus couldn't speak even if their animal body don't have the necessary mouth/vocal chord, etc.

    That's why I thought parseltongue was mind speak with snakes. Harry's brain equates what the snake wants to communicate with a human gesture he would understand. When he hears parseltongue his brain magically translates it into english, he isn't even conscious of it. Seems like telepathy to me.
     
  12. Goten Askil

    Goten Askil Seventh Year

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    If parseltongue was mindspeak, people around wouldn't hear anything. Telepathy is communicating words without sound, automatic translation of what you hear has nothing to do with it (and Harry also hears the hissing, re-read book 6). Either parseltongue is a magical language that snakes can hear despite being deaf, or snakes in HP world are not deaf.

    As for the importance of the brain size, you say it best in your first sentence, OP:
    Human intelligence includes your knowledge of language and your ability to learn and memorize new things. That's the whole point of being an Animagus.

    Why would you try to apply real-world biology to a scenario where you can turn into an animal at will? And more to the point, why would you want to?

    Now, the question of senses is a better one, and there could be some cool things on paper (infrared vision, echolocation, enhanced smelling/earing...), but the moment it becomes detrimental to the wizard by making him blind or deaf, it ceases to be cool and becomes annoying, and magic becoming annoying is quite the sign that your theory is wrong. So once again, either the Animagus transformation keeps your human faculties with your mental ones (and gives you your animal's in addition), or any animal you can transform into must be able to hear and see at least as well as a human.
     
  13. Silirt

    Silirt Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    Everyone asks if the dog can read.
    [​IMG]
    No one asks if the dog can feel.
    upload_2020-1-20_13-24-58.png
     
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