Sentient to an unknown degree
Azkaban, later worldwide (excepting tropics)
|Height of average adult||
3 meters (9.84 feet)
|Ministry of Magic Classification||
Extant, presumably decreasing in number
- "Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."
- —Remus Lupin[src]
A Dementor is a non-being and Dark creature, considered one of the foulest to inhabit the world. Dementors feed upon human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them. They can also consume a person's soul, leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as "soul-sucking fiends" and are known to leave a person as an 'empty-shell'.
The Ministry of Magic employed Dementors as the guards of Azkaban prison, until mid-1996, when Lord Voldemort was sighted in the Ministry, and their defection to his side was realised. The Dementors supposedly led the Death Eaters and Voldemort into the Ministry of Magic. After the end of the Second Wizarding War in 1998, the Ministry was reformed, and Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt ensured that they were not used by the government again.
There are certain defences one can use against Dementors, specifically the Patronus Charm. Dementors hold no true loyalty, except to whomever can provide them with the most people to feed off. They cannot be destroyed, though their numbers can be limited if the conditions in which they multiply are reduced, implying that they do die off eventually.
Dementors have a humanoid shape, approximately three metres, or 10 feet high, and are covered in dark hooded cloaks of long, ripped black cloth, making them closely resemble wraiths. Its body is greyed and decayed looking, like a decomposing corpse, and its breath sounds rattling, like it is trying to "suck more than air" out of a room. Its hands are "glistening, greyish, slimy-looking, and scabbed". They seem to exude cold.
A Dementor's face consists of empty eye sockets, covered with scabby skin. There is also a gaping large hole where the mouth should be, which is used for sucking the soul out of the victim in a process called the Dementor's Kiss, leaving victims in a state generally considered worse than death. The Dementor pulls back its hood and sucks out his or her soul, leaving the person an empty shell, alive but completely, irretrievably 'gone'. Unlike other creatures, who move through some means of physical support, Dementors are able to fly freely. The books describe them as able to glide over the ground only, and in any case, they cannot pass through solid obstacles.
Dementors are also known to be blind, as they do not have any eyes. However, they have the ability to sense whether a presence is near them or not. This is because they sense the victim's emotions.
Nature and behaviour
- "He felt the unnatural cold begin to steal over the street. Light was sucked from the environment right up to the stars, which vanished... The cold was biting deeper and deeper into Harry's flesh... Then, around the corner, gliding noiselessly, came Dementors, ten or more of them, visible because they were of a denser darkness than their surroundings, with their black cloaks and their scabbed and rotting hands. Could they sense fear in the vicinity? Harry was sure of it: They seemed to be coming more quickly now, taking those dragging, rattling breaths he detested, tasting despair on the air, closing in —"
- —Description of Dementors as they close in[src]
In "AZKABAN HAS A REALLY DARK HISTORY", published on Halloween 2014, Rowling details the history of the North Sea island on which the wizard prison is built, explaining that it has never appeared on any map, wizard or muggle. Perhaps the first resident, the sorcerer 'Ekrizdis', who practiced the worst kinds of dark magic, constructed a fortress and lured Muggle sailors there to torture and kill them. After his death, the various concealment charms placed on the island faded, and the Ministry became aware of the mysterious site's existence. “Those who entered to investigate refused afterwards to talk of what they had found inside,” Rowling writes, “but the least frightening part of it was that the place was infested with dementors.” Fearing the potential reprisals of these dark entities, should any attempt be made to evict them from their home, the Ministry decided to simply permit the sizeable colony to remain, unmolested and unchecked, until the fortress's official conversion into the wizarding state prison.
Dementors seem to suck all the light and happiness from the air as they draw long, rattling breaths, and cause darkness to close in everywhere and the victim to feel incredibly cold. They can glide toward a victim without sound, and they are sentient enough to taste and sense fear, being drawn to it and the promise of positive memories that it can feed off of. They are also intelligent enough to be greedy: they obeyed the Ministry of Magic for years because, in guarding Azkaban, they were provided with sustenance of any remaining hope or happiness in the prisoners. They can understand and follow at least simple instructions, which allowed a Dementor to act as a bodyguard to Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge in 1995, and for them to escort prisoners in and out of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission courtroom in 1997.
They were able to communicate what they had heard Sirius Black saying in his sleep to the Ministry in 1993, implying that they can speak or otherwise communicate with wizards. Albus Dumbledore also said that Dementors are vicious creatures and won't distinguish between those they hunt and those that are in their way. He also says that forgiveness is not in a Dementors nature.
Being blind, Dementors sense and feed on the positive emotions of human beings in order to survive, forcing their victims to relive their worst memories over and over again. The very presence of a Dementor can make the victim's surrounding atmosphere grow cold and dark, and as the number of Dementors increase, so do the effects. Those that are kept in the company of a Dementor for too long tend to become depressed, and are often driven insane, which was the main source of Azkaban's well-deserved horrible reputation when they still guarded its prisoners. After spending only a few months there, Rubeus Hagrid claims he wished he would die in his sleep.
Dementors rely fully on their ability to sense emotion and physical and/or mental health to track the movements of the prisoners in their care, and are generally unable to distinguish one person from another if both are in similar physical or mental condition. They were unable to identify Mrs Crouch being snuck into Azkaban disguised as Bartemius Crouch Jr using Polyjuice Potion, or Barty Crouch Jr being snuck out disguised as his mother, since both were ill, as divulged by Bartemius Crouch Jr. under the influence of Veritaserum in 1995 (though it may be that they simply did not care who they were sucking happiness from so long as they were "fed"). They can also not distinguish between humans and animals very easily; Sirius Black, an Animagus, was able to escape from Azkaban in his dog form. When he became his dog form during imprisonment, the Dementors thought he was losing his mind.
Although Muggles cannot see Dementors, they are affected in a way similar to wizards and witches, becoming depressed when near them. While at least one Squib, Arabella Figg, has claimed to see a Dementor, the truth is that Squibs cannot see them, but have enough magical knowledge to identify their effects.
After Bartemius Crouch Jr.'s mother died in Azkaban, Dementors buried her body, which shows that Dementors are also capable of physical labour, such as grave-digging. Also, Sirius escaped when the Dementors came to give food, another way of labour.
Also, Dementors have the ability to fly freely, without support. It is also stated by Remus Lupin that, provided a wizard remains in close contact with Dementors for an extended period of time, a Dementor can drain a wizard of his powers. This is not touched upon after being mentioned, so the truth to this statement is unknown. If this is the case, however, it would make Dementors the only known being to permanently render a wizard without magic.
In addition to feeding on positive emotions, Dementors can perform their last and most dangerous ability: the Dementor's Kiss, in which a Dementor latches its mouth onto a victim's and sucks out the person's soul. The victim is left as an empty shell, incapable of thought and with no possibility of recovery. It is believed that existing after a Dementor's Kiss is worse than death: as a person's soul is their true self, to be 'kissed' by a Dementor is to cease to exist, and yet also remain. The Ministry of Magic occasionally allowed this as a punishment, before Kingsley Shacklebolt became Minister for Magic. It is unknown what effect a Dementor's Kiss would have on a person who had split his or her soul through use of a Horcrux.
The only Kiss portrayed in the books occurred in 1995; Barty Crouch Jr, who had been working in secret for Voldemort, and was restrained at Hogwarts awaiting trial. His soul was sucked out by the Dementor accompanying Cornelius Fudge as a bodyguard. The unfortunate consequence of this act was that it rendered Crouch unable to testify about his master's return, allowing Voldemort almost a full year to gather strength while the Ministry continued in its denial.
Protection from Dementors
No one has ever demonstrated the ability to kill a Dementor, implying that they can not be killed through physical means, but can only be driven away or temporarily kept at bay. One of the few ways to shield oneself from Dementors is by use of the immensely difficult Patronus Charm to fend them off. The charm summons a Patronus, the magical manifestation of good will and happiness, providing varied levels of protection against the Dementors' influence, based on the caster's strength as a wizard.
As the Patronus is not alive, the Dementor is unable to feed on it. Only when summoned by an experienced caster will the Patronus take the form of an animal significant in some way to the individual. While the lower level Patronus was more amorphous and ephemeral, corporeal Patronuses chase down Dementors and force them to flee the vicinity. An incorporeal Patronus only slows a Dementor down, as if the creature is walking through quicksand, and tends not to last long.
Since Dementors can not properly sense the less complex thoughts and emotions of a person when he or she takes on an Animagus form, doing so allowed some, such as Sirius Black, to temporarily avoid feeling the effects of the Dementors' presence. When they sensed his less human thoughts, the Dementors simply thought Sirius was losing his mind.
Though clearly not a common method of repelling Dementors, the enigmatic form people take after being brought back by the Resurrection Stone appears to function much like a Patronus, as the 'resurrected' forms of Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and James and Lily Potter were able to shield Harry Potter from the Dementors Voldemort had stationed in the Forbidden Forest in 1998.
There may be another, more common way of repelling a Dementor, aside from the Patronus Charm, as Harry Potter disagreed with Professor Snape on the best method for confronting one when it was the subject of a report in his sixth year. This implies that there are, indeed, other methods.
Chocolate is an effective first-aid to mild cases of contact, given to a victim to help regain their strength after an encounter with Dementors.
Separation from the Ministry
The Dementors served the Ministry of Magic as the guards of Azkaban, as it allowed them to feed on the emotions of the prisoners. However, by July 1996, all of the Dementors of Azkaban staged a mass revolt against their employers to join Lord Voldemort, who offered them more victims. This aided the 1996 and 1997 escapes of Death Eaters from Azkaban.
By mid-1996, the Dementors who had joined Voldemort were multiplying, thus causing an 'unseasonal' July mist. Cornelius Fudge also admitted they were factors in the British Prime Minister's recent decline in terms of public approval, as they were making people less happy in general.
When Kingsley Shacklebolt became Minister for Magic after the end of the Second Wizarding War in 1998, Dementors were no longer used by the Ministry of Magic, presumably because they were deemed untrustworthy and exposing people to their effects is considered inhumane.
Harry Potter's encounters with Dementors
Harry Potter first encountered Dementors during the 1993-1994 school year, when they were sent to guard Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry against Sirius Black, who had recently escaped from Azkaban. Whenever he got near one, Harry was forced to relive his worst memory: hearing the last moments of his parents' lives before they were murdered by Lord Voldemort. The first of these encounters was on the Hogwarts Express, during which he was protected by the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin. While the Dementors were at Hogwarts, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore warned the students not to give the Dementors any reason to harm them. He refused to let the Dementors enter the School Grounds. When Sirius Black was found to have entered the school, the Dementors wanted to help search the school, but Dumbledore refused to let them enter.
Harry endured a second encounter with a group of Dementors during a Quidditch match, which caused him to lose consciousness and suffer a fall from his broom. He was that time rescued by Dumbledore, who slowed Harry's fall and then drove the Dementors away with a Patronus. They seemed to be particularly attracted to Harry because, due to his miserable childhood and many bad memories, he was particularly vulnerable to their influence. Professor Lupin later claims the atmosphere of excitement during a Quidditch Match would be like a feast to the Dementors, and they were unable to resist it.
To overcome the Dementors, Harry asked Lupin for assistance. Lupin taught Harry the Patronus Charm, using a Boggart, as it transformed into a Dementor round Harry. Harry's Patronus took the form of a stag, which was both the form his father's Patronus took and the form his father himself took as an Animagus. During the next Quidditch match Harry was in, 4 Slytherins, Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle and Marcus Flint disguised themselves as Dementors to distract Harry. However Harry cast a Patronus at them and won the match, after which the students were given detention by Minerva McGonagall.
Harry initially failed to produce a fully formed Patronus, when he, Hermione and Sirius were attacked by a group of Dementors in the Forbidden Forest; the three were saved by the intervention of a powerful and fully formed Patronus before the Dementors were ready to take the souls of Sirius, Harry, and Hermione. This Patronus had been conjured by Harry, who travelled back in time with Hermione Granger by use of her Time-Turner (this technically counts as both Harry's third and fourth encounter with the Dementors, since, due to his time travelling, he experienced this same encounter twice). Because the Dementors tried to Kiss Harry during this encounter in the Forest, it was enough to convince the Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge to have the Dementors removed from Hogwarts at the end of the school year. Dumbledore seemed very happy about this.
Harry met a Dementor in the Triwizard Tournament, confusing it as a Real Dementor he conjured the Patronus Charm and soon the Dementor stumbled and then Harry knew it was a boggart and soon cried 'Ridikkulus'.
Harry's fifth encounter was in an alley near his home on Privet Drive, when he and his cousin, Dudley Dursley, were ambushed by two Dementors sent secretly and illegally by Dolores Umbridge. He was able to successfully use the Patronus Charm and was subsequently rescued by a Squib named Arabella Figg. Harry was put on trial for his use of Underage magic, but ultimately not punished, as it was recognised as having been self-defence. Nearly a year later Umbridge revealed what she had done to Harry.
While Harry was disguised as Albert Runcorn, he encountered the Dementors in the Muggle-Born Registration Commission court room, where they were used to take away convicted Muggle-borns after interrogation and to terrorize them during interrogation. Dolores Umbridge protected herself and the other questioners with a cat Patronus, which dissipated when Harry stunned her. Harry and Hermione then performed the charm to save the Muggle-borns who had yet to be interogated from the dementors, and to allow them all to escape.
After Apparating to Hogsmeade, Harry, Ron and Hermione set off a Caterwauling Charm and hid under Harry's Invisibility Cloak. Unable to find them, the Death Eaters dispatched Dementors to attack the trio, and Harry was forced to cast his Patronus to protect them from being Kissed. He drove away the Dementors, but almost gave the three away before Aberforth Dumbledore saved them and passed off Harry's stag as his own goat.
Later, during the Battle of Hogwarts, the Dementors fought on the side of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley were attacked by large numbers of Dementors, and due to the horrific events they had experienced and witnessed, including the recent death of Fred Weasley, they all had difficulty summoning their Patronuses. In fact, Harry welcomed the fate that came with a Dementor's Kiss, but Seamus Finnigan, Luna Lovegood and Ernie Macmillan attacked the Dementors with their own Patronuss holding them at bay and encouraged Harry to do the same, allowing him to finally summon his Patronus, which caused the Dementors to scatter. Later, Harry encountered more Dementors in the Forbidden Forest, but the presence of James, Lily, Sirius and Lupin, summoned through the Resurrection Stone, shielded him from them.
After the Second Wizarding War, the Ministry of Magic became headed by former-Auror and Order of the Phoenix member Kingsley Shacklebolt. Due to their actions during the war (allowing Death Eaters to escape back to Voldemort and joining forces with him themselves), Shacklebolt disbanded the Dementors as guards of the wizard prison. It is unknown where they went or what they did without their only known application. It is likely that more humane security measures were put in place at Azkaban.
Behind the scenes
- J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for Dementors came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success. She described the feeling as an "absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad."
- In an attempt to sabotage Harry during a Quidditch match in 1994, Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, and Marcus Flint dressed up as Dementors to scare him. Malfoy was standing on Goyle's shoulders. Considering how tall Dementors are (they are described in Prisoner of Azkaban as reaching from the floor to the ceiling on the Hogwarts Express), the foursome appear to account for two Dementors, when just a few pages earlier, Harry saw three Dementors. (Although Marcus Flint, as an older student - in his fourth, fifth, or sixth year - may have been tall enough to pass as a Dementor without someone on his shoulders.) However, their attempt failed when Harry cast a Patronus Charm at them.
- The Dementors in the film series seem to possess the ability to fly, whereas in the book they only seem to glide.
- Animatronic Dementors appear in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, chasing the riders' flying bench through the Chamber of Secrets and around the skeleton of the Basilisk. The Dark Mark appears along with them, suggesting that a Death Eater summoned them to Hogwarts.
- Dementors are often compared to the Nazgûl from The Lord of the Rings, as well as the Spectres from His Dark Materials. They can also be compared to the Ra'zac of The Inheritance Cycle in that the foul breath of the Ra'zac engenders terror and lethargy in humans, though the Ra'zac cannot be repelled by a simple charm, nor are they are amortal spirits that cannot be truly destroyed.
- According to W.O.M.B.A.T., Dementors may be unknown in tropical regions.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, a large Dementor serves as the final boss of Year 3.
- J.K. Rowling has said that Dementors don't breed, but grow like fungi where there is decay; and are immortal in terms of age.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Aberforth repels the attacking Dementors in the Battle of Hogwarts with a wave-like Patronus, similar to the one cast by Harry in the film version of Prisoner of Azkaban.
- Dementors and the Dementor's Kiss exhibit interesting parallels to Lord Voldemort and the spell that creates a Horcrux:
- The Dementor's Kiss sucks out a victim's soul, while the Horcrux spell allows part of the caster's soul to be broken off. Total soul removal results in something similar to a Persistent Vegetative State and is irreversible, while creating a Horcrux reduces the humanity of the caster, both in terms of morality/behaviour and appearance (evidenced by the once handsome Tom Marvolo Riddle becoming monstrous and snake-like in appearance over time). The damage of creating a Horcrux may be undone through remorse, but the process is so painful it can be fatal.
- The victim of a Dementor's Kiss cannot become a ghost, since the soul has been lost. Presumably, the victim also cannot enter the afterlife, or possibly even Limbo. Similarly, the maker of a Horcrux cannot die, while the Horcrux(es) is/are intact, and if an unrepentant Horcrux maker is killed, he or she is trapped in Limbo and cannot enter the afterlife.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin states "the only people that know what's under a Dementor's hood are in no state to tell us (being soulless)" but from the 5th movie and onward, they are shown without any hood at all. This is likely due to change of directors.
- A species of wasp, Ampulex dementor, is named after the Dementor. This name was chosen to reflect the fact that the wasp uses a toxin to neutralize the neural behaviour of cockroaches and make them docile, as if they had had their souls sucked out.
Foreign words for Dementor
- Albanian: "Marroses"
- Bulgarian: "Диментор"
- Catalan: "Demèntor" (pronounced duh-MEN-toor)
- Taiwan: 催狂魔 - cuīkuángmó - "drive-mad devil/demon"
- Mainland: 摄魂怪 - shèhúnguài - "suck-soul devil/monster"
- Czech: "mozkomor" - "plague of the brain"
- Danish: "Dementor"
- Dutch: "Dementor"
- Finnish: "ankeuttaja", from "ankeus" - "drearyness"
- French: "détraqueur" - "that which makes (things) go wrong or break down"
- German: "Dementor"
- Georgian: დემენტორი (დემენტორები); (pronounced dementori, plural: dementorebi)
- Greek: "Παράφρονας" (pronounced "Parafronas") - from Greek "παράφρων" meaning "mentally ill".
- Hebrew: "סוהרסן" - from "סוהר" ("prison warden") and "הרסן" ("destructive")
- Hindi (India): दमपिशाच (damapishācha or dampishāch) - from Sanskrit dama = "house" and pishācha (a type of Hindu demon: see pishacha).
- Hungarian: "Dementor"
- Icelandic: "Vitsuga" - The one who sucks out your mind, or sense of anything.
- Indonesian: "iblis" - "demon of death and happiness remover"; see wikipedia:Iblis
- Italian: "dissennatore" - "he who takes sanity away", from senno meaning 'mental sanity'
- ディメンター - dimentā
- 吸魂鬼 - "kyūkonki" - suck-soul ghost/demon (modeled after East Asian words for vampires)
- Lithuanian: "Psichas" - Mental/Psycho
- Latvian: Atprātotājs
- Macedonian: Дементор
- Norwegian: "Desperant" - One that brings out despair
- Persian: "دیوانه ساز" - Maddening
- Polish: "Dementor"
- Brazilian: "Dementador"
- European: "Dementor" (plural: "Dementores")
- Romanian: "Dementor"
- Russian: "Дементор" (plural: Дементоры)
- Slovak: "Dementor"
- Slovenian: "Morakvar"
- Spanish: "Dementor"
- Swedish: "Dementor"
- Thai: "ผู้คุมวิญญาณ" - "Poo-khum-win-yarn" - Soul Warden
- Turkish: "Ruh Emici" - "soul-suckers"
- Ukrainian: "Дементор" (plural: Дементори)
- Vietnamese: "giám ngục Azkaban" - "prison guards of Azkaban"
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Seen as Boggart) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) (Disc 2)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book
- Harry Potter: Find Scabbers
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter LEGO Sets
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Pottermore: New from J.K. Rowling - "Boggart"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 30 July 2007 Bloomsbury WebChat with J. K. Rowling
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- ↑ Extra Stuff: Squibs at J.K. Rowling's Official Site
- ↑ Interview on 24 March, 2008
- ↑ http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-canadianpress-moore.htm
- ↑ "The Soul-Sucking Wasp by Popular Acclaim – Museum Visitor Participation in Biodiversity Discovery and Taxonomy" - PLOS ONE
Alecto Carrow | Amycus Carrow | Antonin Dolohov | Augustus Rookwood | Avery (I) | Avery (II) |
Barty Crouch Jr. | Bellatrix Lestrange | Crabbe | Evan Rosier | Gibbon | Goyle |
Jugson | Lestrange | Mulciber (I) | Mulciber (II) | Nott | Rabastan Lestrange | Rodolphus Lestrange | Rosier | Selwyn | Thorfinn Rowle | Travers | Walden Macnair | Wilkes | Yaxley
|Death Eaters who Defected:|
|Death Eaters' allies:|
Vincent Crabbe | Golgomath | Gregory Goyle | Fenrir Greyback | Narcissa Malfoy (defected) |
Quirinus Quirrell | Scabior | Dolores Umbridge
Dementors | Giants (Golgomath's control) | Muggle-Born Registration Commission | Snatchers | Werewolves