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"As every school-age wizard knows, the fact that we fly on broomsticks is probably our worst-kept secret. No Muggle illustration of a witch is complete without a broom and however ludicrous these drawings are (for none of the broomsticks depicted by Muggles would stay up in the air for a moment), they remind us that we were careless for far too many centuries to be surprised that broomsticks and magic are inextricably linked in the Muggle mind."
Kennilworthy Whisp, Quidditch Through the Ages[src]

Broomsticks, also known as brooms, were one of the means employed by wizards and witches to transport themselves between locations. Wizarding broomsticks, unlike non-magical brooms, were enchanted to fly, allowing for a witch or wizard to travel to their destination through the air, as well as for playing broom games such as Quidditch.[1] Their use in Great Britain and Ireland was regulated by the Ministry of Magic's Broom Regulatory Control.[2]

The earliest recorded use of the broomstick was in 962 in a German illustrated manuscript.[1] Only wizards and witches appeared to use broomsticks in the wizarding world. House-elves, for example, Apparate. Broomsticks appeared to have a bit of a personality of their own, as they were able to respond to the simplest of commands, such as "Up!".[3]

History[]

Early days[]

Since no spell was devised by wizards to enable them to fly[1] (with the exception of Lord Voldemort in 1997,[4] and Severus Snape a year later)[5] they had to come up with another way to do so. Animagi who transformed into winged creatures, like birds, enjoyed the sensation, but they were rare.[1]

Long before the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy came into force, wizards were savvy enough to realise that Muggle neighbours would seek to exploit their abilities. Therefore, if they were to keep a method of flight in their homes, it would have to be unobtrusive and easy to hide. The broomstick was ideal — it was portable, cheap, and required no explanation. However, the first broomsticks were uncomfortable.[1]

The first brooms[]

Medieval Broomstick

A Medieval broomstick

Records showed that witches and wizards in Europe were using brooms as early as AD 962. A German manuscript of this period showed three warlocks dismounting from their brooms with looks of exquisite discomfort on their faces. The first brooms bewitched were neither comfortable nor aerodynamic (they had rough twigs at the end and unvarnished handles), and in 1107 Scottish wizard Guthrie Lochrin wrote of the "splinter-filled buttocks and bulging piles" after a short ride from Montrose to Arbroath. The charms on the broom were also basic; they would move at one speed and could only go up, down, and stop. Wizard families generally constructed their own brooms, so there was a variation in speed and comfort depending on the skill of the builder. By the twelfth century, wizards began to barter services, and skilled broom-makers could trade their services for goods such as the potions of a neighbour.[1]

Racing brooms and mass production[]

Nimbus 2000 (Concept Artwork)

A Nimbus 2000, high-quality racing broom

Until the nineteenth century, broomsticks were of varying quality, although the invention of the Cushioning Charm in 1820 by Elliot Smethwyck greatly enhanced the quality and comfort of the rides. However, they were still handmade by single wizards, and they were generally incapable of achieving high speeds and were difficult to control at high altitudes. They were also designed with styling and craftsmanship in mind, and not performance. Brooms such as the Oakshaft 79, the Moontrimmer, and the Silver Arrow all made an impact on the broom market, but were still made by single wizards and witches.[6]

In 1926, the brothers Bob, Bill, and Barnaby Ollerton formed the Cleansweep Broom Company, and the racing broom was born. Their first model, the Cleansweep One, was produced in large quantities and was an instant hit. Three years later, in 1929, Randolph Keitch and Basil Horton formed the Comet Trading Company and released the Comet 140 with a patented Horton-Keitch Braking Charm. For several years, the Cleansweep-Comet rivalry dominated the field, until the creation of the Nimbus Racing Broom Company in 1967. The Nimbus brooms combined reliability and easy handling, and became a favourite for Quidditch teams across Europe.[6]

Universal Brooms Ltd was a broomstick manufacturing company which was very popular in the past, but eventually shut down in 1978 due to heavy losses, both financial and in popularity.[6]

Modern-day brooms[]

Nimbus 2001

A present-day broomstick

Eventually, nearly every wizarding household in Britain owned at least one broomstick.[1] Dedicated riders kept their brooms in top condition with a Broomstick Servicing Kit.[7]

Instead of broomsticks, wizards in Asia and the Middle East generally preferred to use flying carpets (a notable exception being Japan), which were outlawed in Britain, where they were classified as Muggle objects.[1]

Despite the popularity of mass manufactured broomsticks, there may still have been a market for individual artisans even into the 1980s. Rowan Khanna's uncle was a top broom maker- one of his creations took several months to make and cost several thousand galleons.[8]

Broomstick magic[]

Broomsticks had various spells cast on them to help with riding and flying. Over time these spells progressed from simple[1] to complex. For example, modern broomsticks were versatile and came with a Cushioning Charm.[6]

When Harry fell off his Nimbus 2000 during a Quidditch match, it didn't fall to the ground but instead drifted away toward the Whomping Willow,[9] suggesting that it may have had some form of enchantment on it to keep it flying without a rider.

Harry's Firebolt, when held and then released, floated at exactly the right height for him to mount it.[10]

Early broomsticks had only simple charms placed on them. A model on display in the Museum of Quidditch only moved forward at one speed and would move up, down, and stop.[1]

Manufacturing companies[]

Models[]

Nimbus 2000 2001

Two of the Nimbus Racing Broom Company's products with their owners: Harry Potter with a Nimbus 2000, and Draco Malfoy with a Nimbus 2001

Nimbus2001

Nimbus 2001

The Order on Brooms

Members of the Order of the Phoenix on their broomsticks before the Battle of the Seven Potters, with Alastor Moody at the very front

Broom games[]

PS C11

A game of Quidditch

Behind the scenes[]

  • From the the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and onwards, the broomsticks were seen with a crossbar used as a foot rest. These only appeared on the Nimbus 2000 and the Nimbus 2001 in the film versions of Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets. The crossbars on the broomsticks are not mentioned in the novels.
  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, it is required for one to shout, "Up!" before mounting your broom so that it can take off. While in the first video game, Harry continues to shout "Up!" to get his broom, in all other games, books, and films Quidditch players simply mount their brooms and fly away. It is possible, though, that saying "Up!" is an incantation to summon the broom, and that it is uttered nonverbally in the later books, films, and games.
  • At least one broomstick appears in every film.
  • In the films, the Death Eaters are shown to have mastered the ability to fly independently, partially turning into long, thick pillars of black smoke while doing so, but in the books no witch or wizard apart from Voldemort and Severus Snape could truly fly like this, so the Death Eaters used brooms. Additionally, in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, during the battle in the Department of Mysteries, the members of the Order of the Phoenix are also shown to perform unsupported flight, though they are shown to turn into plumes of white smoke instead of black. They were not stated to have accomplished this in the book.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, most of the Order of the Phoenix members use brooms to take Harry Potter to safety. Many of the Death Eaters in this film during the Battle of the Seven Potters also were using brooms, despite seemingly all of them demonstrating the ability in flying in smoke form, as well as demonstrating being able to use magic while flying.
  • Culturally, Broomsticks seem to be analogous to bicycles in the Muggle world. This can be seen in the variance of builds, capabilities, and incorporation into professional sports, as well as it being normal for wizarding children to have toy broomsticks, similar to how muggle children play on tricycles and other beginner-level bikes in their youth.
  • According to J. K. Rowling, brooms, like wands, are tools to channel magic and that the most gifted can dispense with them.[12]

Appearances[]

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Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Quidditch Through the Ages, Chapter 1 (The Evolution of the Flying Broomstick)
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 7 (The Ministry of Magic)
  3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 9 (The Midnight Duel)
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 4 (The Seven Potters)
  5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 30 (The Sacking of Severus Snape)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Quidditch Through the Ages, Chapter 9 (The Development of the Racing Broom)
  7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 1 (Owl Post)
  8. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 4, Chapter 5 (Time to Fly)
  9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9 (Grim Defeat)
  10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 13 (Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Quidditch Through the Ages, Chapter 2 (Ancient Broom Games)
  12. Twitter

See also[]

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