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25 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT QUIDDITCH
1. Why brooms? — Mr. Whisp traces the evolution of the modern flying broomstick to two primary sources:
a) The need for a bewitched object capable of providing flight to those wizards not bird animagi (animagi themselves being rare, those with flight capability even more so). “No spell yet devised enables wizards to fly unaided in human form,” he writes, and wizards who are transfigured (by their will or no) into flying creatures like birds or bats, find themselves with the brain of that animal as well, which one imagines might limit the experience; and b) Any object bewitched for flight would need to be discreet and easy to hide, and the portability and inexpensive nature of the broomstick lent itself to the task as well. There is no record of the first person to bewitch a broomstick.
2. Imagine the splinters. — Early broomsticks were neither aerodynamic nor comfortable. They also had limited movability: up, down and stop were pretty much it.
3. Quidditch wasn’t the first broom game, only the one that lasted. — The annual broom race of Sweden began in the 10th century and continues today, but due to its dangerous nature (300 miles long, most of it through a dragon reservation) it’s popularity is somewhat limited. Dated around 1105, a famous painting titled “Günther der Gewalttätige ist der Gewinner” (“Gunther the Violent is the Winner”) illustrates the German game of Stichstock, where players on brooms have to defend an inflated dragon bladder until it was either punctured, or the guardian had “succeeded in hexing all the opponents out of the running or collapsed from exhaustion.” Aingingein was Irish and involved players speeding through burning barrel hoops with a goat’s bladder. (Obsessed with bladders, these ancients.) Shuntbumps in Devon was basically jousting on broomsticks. Swivenhodge (pig’s bladder this time), mostly a children’s game nowadays, involves players sitting backwards on their brooms and hitting the bladder over a hedge.
4. Violent place, Scotland. — Creaothceann is the most notorious historical broom game. Magnus “Dent-Head” McDonald championed its return in the 1960s, but the Ministry of Magic upheld their ban. This 11th century Gaelic poem perhaps best illustrates why:
“The players assembled, twelve fine, hearty men.
They strapped on their cauldrons, stood poised to fly,
At the sound of the horn they were swiftly airborne,
But ten of their number were fated to die.”
5. Quidditch was invented in a marsh. — Queerditch Marsh, to be exact. We owe this knowledge to the 11th century diary of Saxon Gerdie Keddle, who wrote (amongst other things):
“Tuesday. Wet. Was out on the marsh picking nettles. Broomstick idiots playing again. Watched for a bit from behind a rock. They’ve got a new ball. Throwing it at each other and trying to stick it in trees at either end of the marsh. Pointless rubbish.”
6. Ouch. — The original bludgers were bewitched boulders.
7. Evolving names. — Bludgers were at one point called “Blooders,” Chasers “Catchers,” Seekers “Hunters,” and Quidditch “Kwidditch.”
8. The original Snitch was a small magical bird called a Golden Snidget. — Today they are a protected species, but in the 1100s Snidget hunting was very popular. The Snidget is a small golden bird with ruby eyes with a “remarkable agility in the air and talent for avoiding predators.”
9. The Snitch was not added to the game until 1269. — The Chief of the Wizard’s Council, Barberus Bragge, brought a caged Golden Snidget to a game and released it onto the pitch, stating that whoever caught it during the course of the game would be awarded 150 galleons (the number of points now awarded to the catching of the Snitch in modern Quidditch). The practice caught on, and Snidgets were soon almost Quidditched to extinction.
10. The Golden Snitch was invented by Bowman Wright of Godric’s Hollow. — It was exactly the size and weight of a Golden Snidget, but was bewitched to remain within the confines of the Quidditch pitch.
11. Muggles were a problem. — Aren’t they always? The Wizard’s council outlawed Quidditch within fifty miles of a town in 1362 when previous precautions failed or weren’t used (i.e. only using deserted areas like moorlands, muggle repelling spells, only playing at night, etc.). In 1368 this was amended to 100 miles. In 1419, the Council amended again, this time proclaiming that Quidditch could 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.”
12. Careless wizards swooping around are responsible for Muggles linking magic with broomsticks. — Well, that one was sort of obvious.
13.The Department of Magical Games and Sports. — Was created in response to the strict measures of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy in 1692. Quidditch teams that flouted the Statute were disbanded.
14. Modern Quidditch isn’t played locally. — All teams travel to Ministry approved and prepared locations for matches. Deserted moors are still best.
15. The Replacement of Goal Baskets in 1883 was met with consternation. — This was the last change made to the Quidditch pitch, and though people have since warmed to it, initial reactions went something more like this:
“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 goalscoring 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
16. The original Quaffle was not enchanted to fly. — It had straps!
17. Wizards experimented with lead bludgers as replacement for boulders. — Boulders were not ideal as when broken by Beater’s bats they had a tendency to turn into gravel and chase players around the pitch. Lead bludgers closely resemble Muggle cannonballs, but are historically very easy to identify anyway, notes Agatha Chubb, expert in ancient wizarding artifacts:
“The faint indentations of magically reinforced Beaters’ bats are visible and one can see the distinctive hallmarks of manufacture by a wizard (as opposed to a Muggle) — the smoothness of line, the perfect symmetry. A final clue was the fact that each and every one of them whizzed around my study and attempted to knock me to the floor when released from its case.”
18. There are 700 possible Quidditch fouls. — And all of them are known to have occurred in the first World Cup in 1473. Writes Mr. Whisp, “The full list of these fouls, however, has never been made available to the wizarding public. It is the Department’s view that witches and wizards who see the list ‘might get ideas.'”
19. “Stooging” was banned in 1884. — “Stooging” involves two Chasers entering the scoring area and moving the Keeper aside so that the third Chaser may score. It was banned in order to try and limit the number of injuries inflicted on Keepers. Historical archives indicate a six year old boy was not happy with this news, quoting him as saying: “‘I loved stooging,’ he sobbed to the Daily Prophet, ‘Me and me dad like watching them Keepers flattened. I don’t want to go to Quidditch no more.”
20. There are thirteen professional Quidditch teams in Britain and Ireland who vie for the League Cup. — The Appleby Arrows, Ballycastle Bats, Caerphilly Catapults, Chudley Cannons (who last won the Cup in 1892), Falmouth Falcons, (club motto: “Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads.”), Holyhead Harpies, Kenmare Kestrels, Montrose Magpies, Pride of Portree, Puddlemere United, Tutshill Tornados, Wigtown Wanderers (founded by seven offspring of a butcher, who would stand by the sidelines holding a meat cleaver and looking fierce), and the Wimbourne Wasps (whose fans are known as ‘stingers’, and who buzz loudly to distract opposing Chasers when they are taking penalties).
21. Evidence shows Quidditch had spread throughout Europe by the early 15th century. — See lines from the French wizard Malecrit’s play Hélas, Je me suis Transfiguré Les Pieds (“Alas, I’ve Transfigured My Feet”):
GRENOUILLE: I cannot go with you to the market today, Crapaud.
CRAPAUD: But Grenouille, I cannot carry the cow alone.
GRENOUILLE: You know, Crapaud, that I am to be Keeper this morning. Who will stop the Quaffle if I do not?
22. Some things that happened in the most violent match ever recorded, between Transylvania and Flanders. — “The transfiguration of a Chaser into a polecat, the attempted decapitation of a Keeper with a broadsword, and the release, from under the robes of the Transylvanian Captain, of a hundred blood-sucking vampire bats.”
23. The United States prefers Quodpot. — It involves an exploding Quaffle, and eleven players trying to get said Quaffle into a pot before it does its exploding. Typical, really.
24. The Cushioning Charm was invented in 1820. — The higher comfort on wizarding bums pushed forward the production of more reliable brooms that could be used to travel long distances or for sporting and racing.
25. Nimbus is the preferred broomstick of professional Quidditch teams. — Although this is most likely out of date. Whisp is due for an update to his beloved book, as I have it on quite good authority that most Quidditch players (professional and non-professional alike) now covet the Firebolt.