*Disclaimer: The following is based on how the characters are depicted in the Harry Potter book series, not in the movies.
Rubeus Hagrid is one of the most beloved characters in the Harry Potter universe. He is kind, loyal, patient, both physically and emotionally strong, and of course, an invaluable friend and confidante. Hagrid is one of the primary supporting characters of the Harry Potter series and from his very first appearance, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, when he shows up to retrieve Harry from the Dursleys, complete with a misspelled birthday cake, it is made clear that Hagrid, while important to the series, will never be treated as an important person.
Hagrid is bispecies, half giant, half human, and as I previously mentioned in my character analysis of Dobby, though a hierarchy exists in the magical world where (human) wizards and witches were firmly on top, and house elves at the very bottom, there are many magical creatures in the Harry Potter universe, and giants fall somewhere in the middle. Hagrid had a giant for a mother and a human as a father, leaving him with the appearance of a very large man, or a very small giant, depending on who is observing him. Unlike many auxiliary characters, we actually learned a great deal about Hagrid as the series progressed, whenever it benefited Harry to actually ask. Hagrid, whose father had been a wizard, was one as well, and though admitted to Hogwarts, he made a great patsy when Tom Riddle framed him for opening The Chamber of Secrets, causing Hagrid to be expelled in his third year.
Though only 13 at the time, and clearly lacking the magical aptitude to perform such powerful magic, Hagrid was a convenient scapegoat for a school filled with fully human wizards with a lot of internalized anti-giant feelings and open anti-giant bigotry. Classmates and teachers who’d called him stupid and simple before magically (pun intended) decided that he was now definitely smart and crafty enough to have orchestrated the opening of The Chamber of Secrets, and the death of a student. Like Dobby, Hagrid needed a respected wizard, Professor Dumbledore, to vouch for him, in this case to keep him out of Azkaban, and get him a job when no one else would hire him.
Throughout the series, Hagrid is often depicted as disheveled, blundering, mildly incompetent, and just barely tolerated by other wizards, for Dumbledore’s sake, until the humans in his life have need of him. And Hagrid himself is all too happy to lend a hand whenever they should come calling. Though half giant, Hagrid has no giant friends and only seeks out other giants for assistance when Dumbledore has need of their impressive strength. We are told that Hagrid’s mother, Fridwulfa, left him and his father and took up with another giant, but he doesn’t know anything about her, really, and neither do we. Though Hagrid believes she left because he was smaller than what she wanted her child to be, I felt it was a disservice to readers that he never questioned her abandonment beyond that. Those paying attention to the series, however, might be able to glean some clues.
Hagrid was discriminated against for being only half giant, visibly smaller and more humanoid than other giants. How much more discrimination might his mother, a full giant and a female at that, have faced in the wizarding community? The series even tells us that wizards have hunted giants for so long that their numbers “in the wild” are incredibly low, making half giants like Hagrid, with a human parent to their name, the safest of them all. Yet, Hagrid’s mother, though he never speaks ill of her, is never spoken of with as kind regard as the wizarding community in which Hagrid choses to insulate himself, a community which despises when persons from other species (see: elves and centaurs) demand their civil rights. Despite making their feelings for him very clear upon his expulsion, Hagrid continued to fraternize with and champion for the “good” wizards, even as the discrimination for people like his mother continued. Giants are depicted in the series as only slightly smarter, prettier versions of trolls. Half giants, like Hagrid and Madame Maxime, clearly don’t fit into either world. Their giant blood others them in the wizarding community, but their size, as well as their assimilation into said wizarding community, makes them outsiders in the giant community as well.
Despite knowing how wizards have hunted and isolated giants, essentially forcing them to live apart, giants are depicted as crude, unintelligent, uncivilized, and “primitive” as opposed to the elegance, refinement, civility, and “class” of wizards and witches. Whenever Hagrid pleases wizards and witches, his intellect is attributed to his human wizard side, but whenever he falls short, he is quickly reminded that he is half giant, and therefore will never truly be one of them, or ever aspire to much. Even as a teacher at Hogwarts, in a subject where he clearly knew what he was doing, Professor Hagrid wasn’t afforded the same level as respect as the other teachers, and the disregard for his authority, as well as his assumed incompetency, causes a student injury which he is blamed for. Countless times, the lack of faith in Hagrid’s skill and competency, as well as the baseless assumption that he is inherently violent and crude, does him and those around him more harm than good.
When Hagrid’s younger half-brother, Grawp, is introduced to the series, the anti-giant animosity, as well as Hagrid’s own bias against giants, bubbles up to the surface. Hagrid found Grawp and brought him home because he, too, had been abandoned by their mother, and was being bullied by other giants… but he brought his brother to a place where he would have to be tied up, hidden in the woods, and kept secret because wizards hated and feared his species so much. Essentially: Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Hagrid and Madame Maxime are portrayed as “acceptably giant”, the bispecies ambassadors of human and giant relations, with wizards being their superiors, and full giants their inferiors. This is grossly similar to how biracial people are often seen as the inferior to their lighter half, and the superior to their darker half. And while Hagrid and Madame Maxime as described as having average to beautiful appearance (respectively), Hagrid’s full giant brother is depicted as ugly, dentally-impaired, and stupid. Hagrid was then left with the task of teaching his brother English and good manners to make him more “civilized”, like an intermediary colonialist.
As the ultimate battle against Lord Voldemort approached, Hagrid who (to reiterate) had no giant friends or acquaintances other than fellow half-giant and love interest Madame Maxime, was only too glad to go and recruit giants, the very people whom wizards despised and feared, to help “good” wizards fight an evil wizard. I repeat: Hagrid asked people who were hunted and alienated by wizards for centuries to come and help wizards out of the mess they made. Because when it came time to fight, they’re strength, notorious “violence”, and enormous size (the very things they were hated for) all became advantages to be exploited. When the human wizards are prospering, it’s their world; when they were not, it’s everyone’s battle. And neither Hagrid or the humans saw anything wrong with this whatsoever.
Hagrid, Madame Maxime, and the giants had absolutely no assurance in allowing themselves to be recruited for Dumbledore’s Army. Though they accounted for many of the casualties in the final battle, those nameless giant soldiers sacrificed for naught. At the end of the day, wizards and witches were in charge, and from beginning to end, it is very clear that while other species are certainly good enough to help them fight their battles, they have absolutely no plans to share that power. If anything, winning the battle secured Hagrid’s place as half giant token, but it did nothing to help full giants, and only made their numbers smaller.
What’s interesting is that even though Hermione had (misguidedly) attempted to help the house elves, a species which she has no direct ties to, being half giant, and treated as full giant in human wizarding spaces, wasn’t enough to motivate Hagrid to try to secure rights for what is an endagered species. Like the wizards who had raised him, Hagrid didn’t think enough of full giants to seek them out until he needed their help, or to help them once their services had been rendered. Though an amazing friend to the humans in his life, Hagrid was only a “giant” when it suited him (or when he pissed off the wrong wizard and they reminded him) until he could fully assimilate into, and be fully embraced by, the human wizarding world. The tragedy is that, although seen as smarter and better than his full giant counterparts, Hagrid, rather than try to dispel this stereotype and use his privilege to help giants secure their rights, only furthered its perpetuation in how he interacted with his brother and distanced himself from other giants.
If nothing else, Rubeus Hagrid is a cautionary tale of the skewed identity that comes as a result of being the child of a marginalized person procreating with someone who is directly privileged over them, whose privilege comes as a direct result of their own oppression. It is always deemed easier to try to assimilate into the world of the oppressor than try to dismantle oppression. Hagrid championed for those who had made giant-hunting a sport, because they were the privileged, and therefore the standard, the model to strive to, no matter how barbaric wizards truly were. The lesson learned here is that the “bad guy” is whomever the person making the rules say it is, and that trying to do the right thing in an oppressive system will never make it less so.
Hagrid was a smart wizard, a great teacher, a friend to wild beasts far and wild. But he treated giants, whose blood ran through his own veins, like all of those wild beasts, something to be trained and tamed, so as a giant, he was wildly disappointing.