Quidditch Through the Ages Read online

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  Madam Rabnott’s brave action might have saved one Snidget, but she could not save them all. Chief Bragge’s idea had for ever changed the nature of Quidditch. Golden Snidgets were soon being released during all Quidditch games, one player on each team (the Hunter) having the sole task of catching it. When the bird was killed, the game was over and the Hunter’s team was awarded an extra one hundred and fifty points, in memory of the one hundred and fifty Galleons promised by Chief Bragge. The crowd undertook to keep the Snidget on the pitch by using the Repelling Spells mentioned by Madam Rabnott.

  By the middle of the following century, however, Golden Snidget numbers had fallen so low that the Wizards’ Council, now headed by the considerably more enlightened Elfrida Clagg, made the Golden Snidget a protected species, outlawing both its killing and its use in Quidditch games. The Modesty Rabnott Snidget Reservation was founded in Somerset and a substitute for the bird was frantically sought to enable the game of Quidditch to proceed.

  The invention of the Golden Snitch is credited to the wizard Bowman Wright of Godric’s Hollow. While Quidditch teams all over the country tried to find bird substitutes for the Snidget, Wright, who was a skilled metal-charmer, set himself to the task of creating a ball that mimicked the behaviour and flight patterns of the Snidget. That he succeeded perfectly is clear from the many rolls of parchment he left behind him on his death (now in the possession of a private collector), listing the orders that he had received from all over the country. The Golden Snitch, as Bowman called his invention, was a walnut-sized ball exactly the weight of a Snidget. Its silvery wings had rotational joints like the Snidget’s, enabling it to change direction with the lightning speed and precision of its living model. Unlike the Snidget, however, the Snitch had been bewitched to remain within the boundaries of the field. The introduction of the Golden Snitch may be said to have finished the process begun three hundred years before on Queerditch Marsh. Quidditch had been truly born.

  Chapter Five

  Anti-Muggle Precautions

  In 1398 the wizard Zacharias Mumps set down the first full description of the game of Quidditch. He began by emphasising the need for anti-Muggle security while playing the game: ‘Choose areas of deserted moorland far from Muggle habitations and make sure that you cannot be seen once you take off on your brooms. Muggle-repelling charms are useful if you are setting up a permanent pitch. It is advisable, too, to play at night.’

  We deduce that Mumps’s excellent advice was not always followed from the fact that the Wizards’ Council outlawed all Quidditch-playing within fifty miles of towns in 1362. Clearly the popularity of the game was increasing rapidly, for the Council found it necessary to amend the ban in 1368, making it illegal to play within a hundred miles of a town. In 1419, the Council issued the famously worded decree that Quidditch should not be played ‘anywhere near any place where there is the slightest chance that a Muggle might be watching or we’ll see how well you can play whilst chained to a dungeon wall’.

  As every school-age wizard knows, the fact that we fly on broomsticks is probably our worst-kept secret. No Muggle illustration of a witch is complete without a broom and however ludicrous these drawings are (for none of the broomsticks depicted by Muggles could stay up in the air for a moment), they remind us that we were careless for too many centuries to be surprised that broomsticks and magic are inextricably linked in the Muggle mind.

  Adequate security measures were not enforced until the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy of 1692 made every Ministry of Magic directly responsible for the consequences of magical sports played within their territories. This subsequently led, in Britain, to the formation of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, Quidditch teams that flouted the Ministry guidelines were henceforth forced to disband. The most famous instance of this was the Banchory Bangers, a Scottish team renowned not only for their poor Quidditch skills but also for their post-match parties. After their 1814 match against the Appleby Arrows (see Chapter Seven), the Bangers not only allowed their Bludgers to zoom away into the night, but also set out to capture a Hebridean Black for their team mascot. Ministry of Magic representatives apprehended them as they were flying over Inverness and the Banchory Bangers never played again.

  Nowadays Quidditch teams do not play locally, but travel to pitches which have been set up by the Department of Magical Games and Sports where adequate anti-Muggle security is maintained. As Zacharias Mumps so rightly suggested six hundred years ago, Quidditch pitches are safest on deserted moors.

  Chapter Six

  Changes in Quidditch since the Fourteenth Century

  Pitch

  Zacharias Mumps describes the fourteenth-century pitch as oval-shaped, five hundred feet long and a hundred and eighty feet wide with a small central circle (approximately two feet in diameter) in the middle. Mumps tells us that the referee (or Quijudge, as he or she was then known) carried the four balls into this central circle while the fourteen players stood around him. The moment the balls were released (the Quaffle was thrown by the referee; see ‘Quaffle’ below), the players raced into the air. The goalposts in Mumps’s time were still large baskets on poles, as seen in Fig. C.

  In 1620 Quintius Umfraville wrote a book called The Noble Sport of Warlocks, which included a diagram of the seventeenth-century pitch (see Fig. D). Here we see the addition of what we know as ‘scoring areas’ (see ‘Rules’ below). The baskets on top of the goalposts were considerably smaller and higher than in Mumps’s time.

  By 1883 baskets had ceased to be used for scoring and were replaced with the goalposts we use today, an innovation reported in the Daily Prophet of the time (see below). The Quidditch pitch has not altered since that time.

  Bring Back Our Baskets!

  That was the cry heard from Quidditch players across the nation last night as it became clear that the Department of Magical Games and Sports had decided to burn the baskets used for centuries for goal-scoring in Quidditch.

  ‘We’re not burning them, don’t exaggerate,’ said an irritable-looking Departmental representative last night when asked to comment, ‘Baskets, as you may have noticed, come in different sizes. We have found it impossible to standardise basket size so as to make goalposts throughout Britain equal. Surely you can see it’s a matter of fairness. I mean, there’s a team up near Barnton, they’ve got these minuscule little baskets attached to the opposing team’s posts, you couldn’t get a grape in them. And up their own end they’ve got these great wicker caves swinging around. It’s not on. We’ve settled on a fixed hoop size and that’s it. Everything nice and fair.’

  At this point, the Departmental representative was forced to retreat under a hail of baskets thrown by the angry demonstrators assembled in the hall. Although the ensuing riot was later blamed on goblin agitators, there can be no doubt that Quidditch fans across Britain are tonight mourning the end of the game as we know it.

  ‘’T won’t be t’ same wi’out baskets,’ said one apple-cheeked old wizard sadly. ‘I remember when I were a lad, we used to set fire to 'em for a laugh during t’ match. You can’t do that with goal hoops. ’Alf t’ fun’s gone.’

  Daily Prophet, 12 February 1883

  Balls

  The Quaffle

  As we know from Gertie Keddle’s diary, the Quaffle was from earliest times made of leather. Alone of the four Quidditch balls, the Quaffle was not originally enchanted, but merely a patched leather ball, often with a strap (see Fig. E), as it had to be caught and thrown one-handed. Some old Quaffles have finger holes. With the discovery of Gripping Charms in 1875, however, straps and finger holes have become unnecessary, as the Chaser is able to keep a one-handed hold on the charmed leather without such aids.

  The modern Quaffle is twelve inches in diameter and seamless. It was first coloured scarlet in the winter of 1711, after a game when heavy rain had made it indistinguishable from the muddy ground whenever it was dropped. Chasers were also becoming increasingly irritated by the necessity of diving continu