There are many curious and intriguing things about the wizarding world of JK Rowling. The Potter universe as it is commonly known as consists of not only magic and wizards/witches but also many magnificent creatures who make this world more enchanting than the one we know.
A lot of people have expressed confusion over some things in the books and have even come up with certain loopholes and plot holes. While there definitely are some inconsistencies, we cannot deny how well thought out the whole series is. One such confusion or question that people have wondered about for a long time is the mystery of Thestrals.
Thestrals are magical creatures that look like a winged horse with a skeletal body, face with reptilian features, and wide, leathery wings that almost resemble a bat. What makes these creatures truly interesting, however, is that they are visible only to those who have witnessed death at least once. They remain invisible to everyone else and therefore mysterious. This fascinating detail brings us to the question that has been asked multiple times. Why couldn’t Harry see the Thestrals before his fifth year?
The argument is that Harry saw his mother die in front of her and even remembers a flash of green light from the killing curse and yet couldn’t always see the Thestrals. He only started seeing them after he witnessed Cedric Diggory’s death at the end of his fourth year. However, this question was answered by JK Rowling herself in an interview at the Edinburgh Book Festival back in 2004.
Rowling explained that seeing someone die when you’re so young does not count because obviously the person is not mature enough to process it. Death is a complex thing and it takes a level of understanding to actually comprehend the meaning and finality of it.
She said that Thestrals can be seen,
“only when you really understand death in a broader sense, when you really know what it means. Also, anyone who has suffered a loss knows there’s an immediate shock and it takes a little while to appreciate fully that you will never see that person again”
Therefore, Harry cannot see the mystical creatures at the beginning as he saw his mother die when he was just a baby who did not understand what it meant. So basically the first death that Harry really processes and feels is Cedric Diggory’s.
It has also been asked why Harry simply didn’t see Thestrals after the fourth year ended and when he was going back to the Hogwarts express. This was simply a creative choice made by JKR as the author. Although, we could also understand if Harry simply did not notice the creatures at the end of the fourth book because he was so disturbed by the death of Cedric.
She explained that she wanted to introduce the creatures in all their glory at the beginning of the fifth book and not at the absolute end of the fourth one. She even said that it would just seem odd if they just popped up at the end of the book. This makes a lot of sense and adds up as this reveals set up the tone for the fifth book very well. Thestrals fit the dark tone of ‘Order of the Phoenix‘ perfectly and we loved their debut in it.
Also, who doesn’t love the scene where Luna finally reveals this detail to Harry in the forest? They play an important part in that book and even lay a foundation for Harry’s friendship with Luna. Thestrals are one of the most fascinating things created by Rowling in her enchanting wizarding world that we love delving deeper into every chance we get.