Lesson 7) Hidebehinds
How many of you were able to successfully answer the riddle? Did you find it to be a challenge, or was it easier than expected? It is unlikely that any of you will find yourself in a situation in which you are required to pass a sphinx, yet these skills of applying logic will serve you well far beyond simply protecting yourself against them individually. If you struggled with the presented riddle, I suggest you attempt to find more riddles to work on; or get a book of logic puzzles and solve them.
Today, we will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean and looking into the lore of, and defense against, a creature that is based in the United States, though it is the offspring of two European-centered creatures. The creature you will be introduced to today is the hidebehind.
Origin and Habitat of the Hidebehind
Before we get into any information about the hidebehind, it is critical that I explain the origin of the hidebehind, as it will help put a lot of the pieces together later. Though many Muggle folktales will be unspecific about the first “sighting” of a hidebehind, it is impossible for there to be a sighting prior to approximately 1493 (It would not be 1492, as much settlement needed to occur before too many people made mass migration to the New World). This is because the hidebehind was the result of a creature smuggling gone wrong on a voyage to the New World. Long prior to the United States being referred to as such, the New World was a place of great opportunity, and not only for Muggles. For a more in-depth discussion of these opportunities, I would suggest you have a conversation with your History of Magic professor; though their area of expertise may not necessarily be “American” history, they are quite knowledgeable about the subject and will be happy to fill in this gap further.
Back to the story, there were many voyages via ship from Europe to the New World. One of these voyages included the infamous creature trader Phineas Fletcher. Fletcher was known not only for his illegal trading business, but also his carelessness with how he handled the creatures he traded. His plan was to venture to the New World to establish his business while the developing country was still in flux, both on the magical and Muggle sides. During the voyage, one of the creatures he was smuggling out of England - a Demiguise - managed to escape its cage. Because of the natural abilities of a Demiguise, which we will not be covering in depth in this course, it was continually able to elude Fletcher and his attempts to recapture it. While it hid from him, and moved around to avoid capture, it eventually found a ghoul that had stowed away on the ship. The two creatures ended up mating with each other and creating a new breed of creature: the hidebehind.
Nobody on the ship ever found out about the hidebehind. At the end of the voyage, Fletcher was able to recapture the Demiguise and ended up trading it, the ghoul disappeared without a trace, and the newly created hidebehind escaped into the wilds of present day Massachusetts. There, it acted on its natural instincts and caused many problems. If you are interested in the further history of the first hidebehind, I encourage further research about it.
Characteristics of the Hidebehind
Now that you know where the hidebehind comes from, we can progress into understanding its characteristics. It is extremely difficult to get an accurate description of the hidebehind, since they are incredibly adept at hiding and have the ability to seemingly vanish in an instant. However, there are some specifically known characteristics that we can reference to aid in our discussion today. They are incredibly thin creatures: the actual width of a hidebehind is undocumented, but there have been records of these creatures hiding successfully behind trees that are no more than ten inches in diameter. They are also known to have an extremely long gait, which is an indication that the hidebehind has incredibly long legs.
One of the most challenging components in identifying a hidebehind is the fact that it has no standard shape. It can become invisible quickly and, if it does not have time to become invisible, it has the ability to contort its body into any shape that is required for it to hide. This means that it is extremely rare for a hidebehind to be sighted; it takes a witch or wizard with incredible skill and perception to be able to catch sight of a hidebehind. It has been done, however, and there are some known physical characteristics that can help us identify them.
First, it is a tall creature with silver hair (when it is visible or when the hair has fallen off of the creature). When it is invisible, obviously the color of its hair cannot be seen. In height, it has been estimated that the hidebehind stands at approximately six feet tall, give or take a few inches. It is a carnivorous creature and will almost exclusively eat humans, rather than any other kind of meat. Because of its nature, and its magical abilities, there have been no reports of Muggles who have survived a hidebehind attack. It lives in seclusion and will never enter a rural or metropolitan area, choosing to keep to woods with few other inhabitants besides its fellow woodland creatures.
Second, as previously mentioned, the hidebehind has long legs that make up about half of the creature’s complete height. These long legs are used to help the hidebehind always stay behind its prey. However, its long legs do not, in turn, make it a clumsy creature. On the contrary, it actually allows for the hidebehind to move more carefully, as it has such complete control of its body that it can move silently and with great finesse.
Finally, the general appearance of the body gives it the appearance of a large, thin, white bear. Most references to a hidebehind identify it as a bear-like creature. This works well to help it blend into its natural woodland habitat. However, it is only in physical appearance that the hidebehind is at all like a bear, and some scholars are considering better ways of describing the hairy physical appearance of the hidebehind, to better reflect it.
I think it is obvious where the characteristics of each of the hidebehinds parent creatures plays into the biology of the creature. However, there are some components that do not make sense. Of course, the Demiguise parts are namely the invisibility. The ghoul part is its lumbering limbs that, in theory, should make it a clumsy creature. The confusion comes from the fact that the creature is tall (neither of its parents are necessarily thin) and its finesse in movement, though this could also potentially be from the Demiguise. The research is still unclear about whether this is a natural ability that has simply become refined, or if this is an evolutionary adaptation of the hidebehind anatomy.
Defense Against a Hidebehind
Now, this would not be a class on defense if we did not, at least briefly, cover methods of defense against a hidebehind. I will be blunt: there are many defenses, but none of them are easy. Most of the spells you already have learned in this course would help you defend against them: the Stunning Spell, the Impediment Jinx, or even the Leg-Locker Curse would all be perfectly adequate in stopping a hidebehind in its tracks. The challenge comes from attempting to hit a target that you cannot see. With its finesse, maneuverability, and ability to become invisible, it is nearly impossible to see, which makes it nearly impossible to hit.
One way that I, personally, have found to be helpful is to treat it like a Demiguise and attempt to act unpredictably. While it is wickedly fast, it also has tendencies to act like a Demiguise and move based on its best predictions of what you will do. While there is no clear link between hidebehinds and the psychic abilities of the Demiguise, the way it moves to always be perfectly behind you would be far easier if it knew how you were going to move. Perhaps, post Hogwarts, one of you could work with the variety of fields that relate to creature studies - including magizoology - to determine the full capabilities of this Dark creature.
There is one other method of defense that has proven successful in all recorded instances, but it is also the method of defense that I least encourage. For some unknown reason, hidebehinds have an aversion to the smell of alcohol; more alcohol is more of a deterrent, but comes with risks that will be mentioned later. In all cases of hidebehind attacks, they would always intentionally avoid those who were inebriated to any extent, or had come into contact at all with alcohol. However, I will immediately discourage this method of defense, as it presents more problems than it solves. While you will be safe from a hidebehind attack, you will not be safe from an attack by anything else, and in an inebriated state, you will be incapable of defending yourself to the best of your ability.
With that, we have arrived at the end of the lesson.The hidebehind is a creature that you will likely never encounter, similar to the sphinx of the previous lesson, but some of these skills will be useful to you. If you can spot and defend against a hidebehind, you can spot and defend against just about anything. Always think about ways you can apply the skills you develop in this course to new situations.
Next lesson, the serious work begins. We only have two lessons left in Year Six, and I need to ensure that you are all prepared for the content we will be covering in Year Seven. Therefore, the kiddy gloves are coming off. Starting next lesson, you will be exposed to one of the foulest, Darkest creatures known to wizarding kind. I will not judge you if you feel you are incapable of participating in the next lessons, or if you decide at the end of the term that you would prefer to pursue another field of study. The Dark Arts are no joke, and you must be prepared. For those who do choose to continue, it will only get darker and more evil from here. For those who stick through the end of the term, I will give a brief overview of your final year at Hogwarts.
For your assignment, you will have to apply what you have learned in class, as well as your own skills, in order to achieve a passing grade.
Best of luck to you all, and I do hope to see all of you return next week.