Metamorphosis: Transfiguration For Beginners

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Invertebrate Vs. Vertebrate

Chapter 8

When it comes to transfiguring animals, results will often vary, largely depending on what type of animal you are transfiguring. If you are wondering which type of transfiguration you wish to perform, it is a good starting point to look at whether your animal is a vertebrate or an invertebrate, and work from there. Invertebrates and vertebrates have different benefits and limitations in Transfiguration. The first thing to consider, of course, is the skill level required to transfigure that animal. The biggest difference between vertebrates and invertebrates is that invertebrates have no vertebral column (backbone), whereas vertebrates have complicated skeletal structures, which includes a vertebral column. Therefore, simple spells and transformations, such as size changing spells, work best on invertebrates because they are often protected by a hard outer shell, which is difficult to penetrate with complicated spells.


When working with invertebrates, it is best to aim for the underbelly, which is generally the weakest part of the armour. An example of this is the transfiguration of Cambodian Giant Fire Ants. When transfiguring these ants, very little progress will be made if you aim your spell at their tough outer shell. The only weak spot is on the underside of the thorax, which is highly vulnerable to magic. Some invertebrates do not have an outer shell, such as sponges, and these are ideal subjects for most transfigurations.

Due to a lack of an advanced supporting system, most invertebrates are also small compared to vertebrates (with exceptions). This means that often a quick, basic transfiguration spell is enough to make a significantly larger amount of progress. Vertebrates, however, are more suited to fiddly, complicated transfigurations. Their advanced skeletal build-ups prevent them from responding as readily to simple spells, as it is harder to remove, fuse or change all of their bones. Some basic transfiguration spells can, in fact, harm or kill the animal by squashing the bones too close together. (In accordance with the Fair Treatment of Magical and Non-magical Animals Act, any transfiguration which leaves an animal altered or harmed in any way when returned to its natural state could lead to severe penalties.) The more complicated of a structure an animal has, the more complicated it is to transfigure them.

This also applies to mental aspects. The more intelligent an animal is, the harder it becomes to make it inanimate, or to make it an animal that has less thought processes. As invertebrates are generally very simple-minded, relying only on instincts to get by (with the exception of octopuses), they are usually far easier to transfigure. To get past this problem, it is recommended to use transfigurations that involve many steps, or ones that only affect the animal superficially, such as colour-changing or switching spells.


Vertebrates are also generally larger and faster than invertebrates, making them harder to catch, but this isn’t usually an obstacle. The only problem that arises from this is when you are making an animal inanimate, which means you have to change them from having lots of movement to having no movement. In cases of highly active animals (such as the jumping Australian kangaroo), a preliminary stationary spell is advised, although not necessary.

On the other hand, many renowned wizards have claimed that vertebrates are, in fact, easier to transfigure. They say that this is because they are more human-like, and therefore we have a greater understanding and connection with them, which makes controlling them simpler due to similar mind-sets and build-ups. Nearly 98% of species are classified as invertebrates, and the other 2% are vertebrates. Despite this, the rates of transfiguring invertebrates v. vertebrates are nearly equal, with a lilt towards vertebrates. This is because vertebrates have five unique classifications (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish), all of which are greatly different to one another and are, therefore, often needed for more specific transfigurations, such as transfiguring birds into aircraft.

The classifications for invertebrates are less specific, and many of them are similar. The smaller size of invertebrates also means that vertebrates are the preferred classification because less of a change in size is required when transfiguring them. All of these limitations could easily be overcome, but as always when dealing with magic, the less spells and transfigurations that are required, the better.

Limitations and Exceptions

When it comes to magical animals, however, some of these limitations may be changed. Most magical invertebrates will usually have much higher limitations, for example. Their armour is tougher, which makes it much harder to penetrate with a spell. Their armour is also likely to be reinforced magically, so in some cases they cannot even be touched. On top of this, they will usually have some other forms of defence capabilities, whether it is a stinger or a shielding mechanism. This may make them harder to catch, and make it more complicated to transform them. They will also be generally much faster and larger than their non-magical counterparts, and in some instances smarter.

There are, of course, still magical invertebrates that are easily transfigured (such as Flobberworms), but on the whole, magical invertebrates are normally too well defended to easily be altered and are generally better off left alone, unless vital as a subject. Magical vertebrates are also rather different than non-magical vertebrates. As many magical vertebrates, such as centaurs, dragons or Sphinxes, are not legally allowed to be unwillingly transfigured, there are fewer subjects available. O

In some magical vertebrates, like dragons, there is also a layer of protective scales. The physical capabilities are slightly similar for magical and non-magical vertebrates, but the mental capabilities are by far greater for the magical vertebrates, due to the magic in their blood. This makes it harder and slightly less ethical to transfigure these creatures. It is because of this that most schools of wizardry and magical learning will use non-magical creatures to demonstrate and practise on. However, if you do manage to transfigure a magical creature, the results are usually of far greater concentration.

CASE STUDY: [Fire-Crab Into Fireplace One] case study for transfiguring invertebrate animals is transfiguring a fire-crab into a fireplace, a typical practise transformation for NEWT level students attending any magical learning institution. As the core element, fire, is the same for both the crab and the fireplace, the spell is not particularly difficult. It is always best to use a sleeping charm or draught on the fire-crab first, as they are known for their violent tendencies when under threat. Once appropriately sedated, the crab can be turned over to reveal its weak spot, just under the mouth and pincers. This is where the spell should be aimed.

 The easiest step to begin with is to enlarge the fire-crab until it is about the proper size. Next, you should build on the hard shell structure to make the outside of the fireplace. Thickening it, squaring it out, and changing the texture should give you the brick framework. If done correctly, the mouth will be around the centre of the fireplace now. This will provide the flame.

 The most difficult part of this spell is creating the brickwork, as the spell has to be aimed directly at the hard, magically reinforced outer shell. In worst-case scenarios, the spell may bounce back at this point, but persistence is vital to progress. The initial expansion, however, is typically easier, as it can be aimed at the weak spot and the crab is more or less inflated from there.

 In comparison, when transfiguring a wild phoenix into a fireplace, there are greatly different tactics required. As the phoenix is also a creature of flame, no elemental alignment changes are required. The first step to take is to harden and re-align the bones; this is to prevent injury later when the spell if reversed, as these transfigurations are not permanent. Once the bones have been re-aligned correctly, they will form a square shape.

 Now comes the expansion into the proper size. At this point, the feathered texture should be changed into one of brick. The final step in the transfiguration is to turn what used to be the wings into the flame. The hardest step is, of course, the last one, which requires a spell that is not actually taught in lower-level schools; further, specialised training in both Transfiguration and Charms is required to master this skill.

 The easiest step is the enlargement, as that can be achieved without much ability or effort. If ever actually performing this spell, however, be careful to check the regulations in your region, as the transfiguration of phoenixes is highly monitored. In comparison, for both transformations, the easiest step is the enlargement of the creature. Ignoring the flames, however, both present two highly different challenges. The biggest problem with the fire-crab transfiguration is getting past the highly protected exterior, whereas the difficulty with the phoenix transfiguration is altering the highly complicated interior. The easier of the two spells is (marginally) the fire-crab, although both are difficult transfigurations to complete without a proper guide and instructions.

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