Hey! As of this post, I’ve been writing Monster of the Week for one year! Pretty nifty.
I generally try to balance my monster posts between four categories: mythology and folklore, recent urban legend, gaming, and pop culture. It’s about time for a pop culture post, so I figured I’d write about my favorite monster to be left out of the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie — the blast-ended skrewt.
Those of you who’ve read the Harry Potter books may remember the blast-ended skrewt as Rubeus Hagrid’s monstrosity du jour from Goblet of Fire. Now, since Hagrid is the Care of Magical Creatures professor at this point in the series, they also become his lesson plan… and everyone else’s problem.
Hey, look, I know — “problem” isn’t the nicest way to put it. And let me be clear: just because Harry and friends aren’t thrilled to have class with the skrewts doesn’t mean that I don’t love them. Any reader of this blog will not be surprised to learn that I share Hagrid’s love of all things terrifying and bitey. Maybe his ability to find beauty in any creature, no matter how monstrous, will even earn Hagrid a post of his own someday — there’s certainly enough to talk about between his monsters and his own character development. But even I have to admit that blast-ended skrewts can be a little, uh, inconvenient.
But I digress. Now to the question that all the non-Potterheads are asking:
What the hell is a blast-ended skrewt?
Well, it’s a hybrid creature — you know, it’s like how a mermaid is half human and half unspecified fishtail? Except both species that beget the skrewt are a lot more lethal. On one side you’ve got the manticore: a lion with a human’s head and a scorpion’s tail. On the other is a fire crab, a creature from Harry Potter lore which could best be described as a jewel-studded turtle. Where does the fire come in, you ask? Is this a subtle metaphor to suggest that the jewels embedded in its shell are rubies?
Nah. It shoots fire out of its bum.
Now, uh… let’s all try not to consider the logistics of how a half-manticore, half-fire crab could come into the world.
they did the mash, they did the monster mash
Gah — no no, wait: whether this unholy union comes of magic or cross-breeding is, thankfully, unknown.
What is known, thanks to the Care of Magical Creatures class of ’95, is exactly what kind of terror their bizarre offspring can visit upon humankind.
Let’s start with the babies.
I would say that the baby skrewt has a face only a mother, or Hagrid, could love, but I don’t think that it actually has a face. The book describes newly hatched blast-ended skrewts like so:
They looked like deformed, shell-less lobsters, horribly pale and slimy-looking, with legs sticking out in very odd places and no visible heads.
Aside from their offensive smell (rotting fish), the male skrewts have stingers and the female ones have suckers they use to drink blood. But the skrewt’s most notable feature is the one it inherited from the fire crab.
Yes. Like its mighty forebears, the blast-ended skrewt can create powerful explosions… with its butt.
The mighty skrewt toot.
This is why we have magic, folks. Hey, now. J.K. is a classy lady. Nobody ever said otherwise.
As the skrewts age, they get new features, like hardened grey shells and genuinely large, toxic scorpion stingers. Oh, and they get bigger. The six-inch babies can grow to a jaw-dropping ten feet, which is about ten feet more of blast-ended skrewt than I would want to meet in a dark alley — or anywhere else, for that matter.
But as much as they change, they never lose their trademark blast-ends. Those only become more powerful as they grow.
They become highly efficient killing machines.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), they are also very good at killing each other. Combine that with the fact that Hagrid and his students never figure out what they like to eat — and oh, boy, do I not want to know — but the population dwindles down to one lonely skrewt.
A skrewt which just happens to wind up in the end of year Triwizard Tournament death maze.
Oh, suck it up, it’s wizard school. If something doesn’t try to kill you at least once a semester then you’d better ask for your galleons back, kid.
Our not-so-lil’ guy does his job admirably until the series villain, Harry, blasts his vulnerable belly with a spell and goes on to save the world or some sanctimonious shit like that. Our hero, the last of his kind, is never heard from again. It could be that he died there in the line of duty. Or maybe — just maybe — he lived on and fled into the Forbidden Forest to father more unfathomable monstrosities.
I choose to believe.
So, do I think the blast-ended skrewt is a good monster?
Heck yeah! It’s threatening in several ways while also being hilarious. Sure, fart jokes are juvenile. But Harry Potter is a children’s series! More to the point, Goblet of Fire is the midpoint of the series — the place where it begins to pivot from a more lighthearted series of children’s books to a darker, more adolescent tone. What has that got to do with fart monsters? Well, it’s nice to see the series maintain a connection to its youthful levity even in a monster that’s genuinely dangerous.
Plus, fart jokes. C’mon.
Outside of just being a fun creature, blast-ended skrewts serve a purpose in the story. I don’t mean plot — their effect on the overall plot is small enough that they were easily cut out of the movie — but they’re part of Hagrid’s character arc. In this book we learn that Hagrid himself is half-giant, which might rank as the world’s least surprising spoiler ever. Suddenly his persistent affection for creatures that others would call monsters makes a lot more sense. And yeah, the skrewts are just one more entry in a long list of monsters, but we get to see Hagrid’s efforts to nurture them and share this nurturing experience with others. That storyline throws his struggle with his half-giant identity into a new, more interesting light.
Character development! *finger guns*
So, there you have it, folks. I’ve never made the case for fart jokes as character development before, but, hey. You learn something new every day, right?
I’ll never forget you, Toots.