Everybody poops, including fictional wizards. But the logistics of pooping in the Harry Potter universe continues to bother the fuck out of me.
This is all thanks to Pottermore, an online portal that features interactive games, articles, and unpublished information—many written by J.K. Rowling herself—about the Potterverse and its inhabitants, but rarely about the characters I actually want to know more about (justice for Lily Evans). Nearly two years ago, Pottermore published an article about the history of the Chamber of Secrets that revealed an alarming nugget of information about wizard poop (emphasis mine):
When first created, the Chamber was accessed through a concealed trapdoor and a series of magical tunnels. However, when Hogwarts’ plumbing became more elaborate in the eighteenth century (this was a rare instance of wizards copying Muggles, because hitherto they simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence), the entrance to the Chamber was threatened, being located on the site of a proposed bathroom.
This was immediately controversial, prompting a firestorm of tweets about the absurdity of wizards shitting themselves around the Ravenclaw common room, etc. Is it canon now? That depends on your stance on whether or not the author is dead. I accepted Rowling’s post-series admission that Dumbledore is gay. I chose to actively ignore this poop canon, however, because... ew.
Unfortunately, in a tweet today, Pottermore decided to make sure I never fucking forget:
Okay, so we will never escape the scourge of wizard poop, so we might as well consider it seriously.
Modern plumbing is clearly a marvel, as is the toilet. But there were plenty of ways of dealing with pooply matters before toilets became ubiquitous: chamber pots, pit toilets, etc. The concept of privacy as we know it is a relatively modern concept, but given the wizarding world’s obsession with secrecy, it’s not a stretch to imagine that an appreciation privacy would have manifested in other intimate acts, like pooping.So what’s up with wizards avoiding those mechanisms?
Well, western European wizards weren’t alone in their penchant for popping and peeing on the go. There’s some evidence that palace aristocrats back in the day did this too. Check out this account from Memoirs of Louis and His Court and of the Regency, which claims Princesse d’Harcourt pooped and pissed on herself all over Versailles.
Moreover, all the gluttony, and all the promptitude to relieve herself from the effects thereof; so that she drove out of their wits those at whose house she dined; was often a victim of her confidence; and was many a time sent to the devil by the servants of M. du Maine and M. le Grand. She, however, was never in the least embarrassed, tucked up her petticoats and went her way; then returned, saying she had been unwell. People were accustomed to it.
In other words, she pooped and pissed on herself. Versailles apparently had latrines, but according to Versailles: A Biography of a Palace, “if people found the latrines closed, they would relieve themselves in the public corridor.”
So Versailles smelled like shit. Luckily, Hogwarts and other wizarding world locales had the benefit of not smelling like shit thanks to magic. But surely it would have been preferable to find a private place to “relieve themselves” or change a magical tampon (magical menstrual cup?) before magicking away the evidence than to taking a dump in the Great Hall? Seems pretty impractical!
Plus, if underage witches and wizards aren’t allowed to use magic outside of school, what did they do with their excrement before they started Hogwarts or during the summer months? Would a parent have to magic their mess away for them? Would they get in trouble for doing this? What if they got the spell wrong and poop just flew everywhere?
Then again, this is a society that—as of ‘90s, when the Harry Potter series took place—had yet to realize that pens are superior to quill and ink. So maybe I’m thinking too highly of the critical thinking abilities of wizards.
Joanne... this literal shit is leaving us with more questions than answers. Reconsider this, please. And give me my deep dive into Lily Evans already.