Dudley Dursley

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Character
Name: Dudley Dursley
Occupation: student, ?
Title/Rank: Muggle
Location: number four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey
Status: alive
Relationships: Vernon Dursley (father)
Petunia Dursley (mother)
Harry Potter (cousin)
two children
Fandom: Harry Potter
Other: born c. 23 June 1980[1]
portrayed by Harry Melling in the films
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Dudley Dursley is Harry Potter's Muggle cousin. Dudley and Harry are the same age and grew up together following the deaths of Harry's parents. Whereas Harry was neglected and abused by his aunt and uncle, Dudley was pampered and spoiled.

In Canon

Upon his introduction and through the first several books of the series, Dudley is predominately described as fat, stupid, and greedy. He bullies and torments Harry growing up, and as a teenager bullies younger kids around the neighbourhood. In Goblet of Fire, he is forced to go on a strict diet on advice from his school nurse, and by Order of the Phoenix, he has taken up boxing and become muscular.

In Order of the Phoenix, Harry and Dudley are attacked by Dementors, which cause their victims to relive their worst memories. Harry saves Dudley from the Dementors, but Dudley is greatly affected by them. The incident changes Dudley, though this is not seen until the beginning of Deathly Hallows, when Dudley shows his gratitude toward Harry for saving his life by leaving tea outside his door, expressing concern for his safety, and shaking his hand before Harry leaves Privet Drive for good. Harry says: "Coming from Dudley that's like 'I love you.'"[2]

Post-Canon

J.K. Rowling revealed in Post-Deathly Hallows interviews and on her official site that Dudley and Harry stay in contact and remain on "Christmas Card" terms for the rest of their lives. Dudley goes on to have two children,[3] and Harry and Dudley visit one another "more out of a sense of duty and sit in silence so that their children could see their cousins."[4][5]

It is generally assumed that Dudley marries a woman with whom he has his children,[6] but this was never explicitly stated by Rowling or in any canon. (Although Rowling's other comments do indicate that Dudley's children are his biological children,[5] Dudley's relationship with the mother of his children is unknown.)

Fan Response & Speculation

Before Deathly Hallows, and especially before Order of the Phoenix, Dudley was widely seen as a two-dimensional foil and was the topic of few fanworks and little discussion for a character of his relative prominence in canon. Though theories about Dudley's role in later books and fanfiction featuring Dudley existed prior to the publication of Order of the Phoenix, both increased with its indications that there might be more to Dudley's character.

Some common discussions among fans:

  • Will Dudley be redeemed? Should he be held accountable for his bullying and bad behaviour, or are his parents to blame? (JKR stated in 2000 that she "see[s] him as just as abused as Harry,"[7] a sentiment echoed by Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince.[8])
  • Would Dudley develop magical abilities? (Based on JKR's 1999 comments that "there is a character who does manage in desperate circumstances to do magic quite late in life."[9] In 2004, she jossed this theory, stating that there was no more to Dudley than meets the eye: "What you see is what you get. I am happy to say that he is definitely a character without much back story. He is just Dudley."[10])
  • What did Dudley see during the Dementor attack? (JKR said in 2004 that "[we'd] find out" what Dudley saw during the Dementor attack,[11] but it was never explicitly revealed in the books. She said in 2007: "My feeling is that he saw himself, exactly for what he was, and for a boy that spoiled, it would be terrifying. So he was jolted out of it. Dementor attacks aren’t usually good for people, but this one was."[4])
  • Is Rowling's depiction of Dudley's weight fat-shaming? Is fatness used as a negative trait? (JKR responded to the criticism by stating that "'overweight' in no way equates to 'bad' in my fictional world" and linking to the MuggleNet essay Fat is a Feminist Issue by Andy G.[12])
  • Is the description of Dudley in the books influenced by Harry's biased POV?

Meta & Further Reading

Common Themes in Fanworks

Particularly in fanworks created after Order of the Phoenix, Dudley is often depicted as a sympathetic character and is redeemed for his behaviour as a child and teen. See the dudley_redeemed community and the Redeemed Dudley Dursley and Good Dudley Dursley tags at AO3.

The most common theme in Dudley fanfiction is Dudley dealing with the wizarding world, usually thrust into it unwillingly, with or without magical abilities of his own. Usually this involves Dudley making peace with the world he canonically fears (and not without good reason). Stories featuring a magical Dudley can take the form of an AU (e.g. where Dudley attends Hogwarts with Harry), or can be canon-compliant or canon-divergent, where Dudley finds out later that he has magical abilities (often drawing on J.K. Rowling's statements about "late-onset" magic—see above—or explained by the fact that Dudley's parents were deliberately concealing signs of magic Dudley had shown all along). See the Magical Dudley Dursley tag at AO3.

As a Muggle, Dudley may be forced into dealing with the wizarding world in canon-compliant stories set while he is in hiding during Deathly Hallows, or in AU fanworks where Dudley is forced to live among wizards for his own protection. He may also get reintroduced to the wizarding world by meeting and becoming involved with a witch or wizard, or by having magical children.

In Dudley slash, one common theme Dudley dealing with his sexuality and his conservative parents' reaction to it.

Dudley's Children

Original characters who are Dudley's magical children are common in fanfiction and roleplaying. When Dudley is shipped with a witch, or his children otherwise have at least one witch or wizard biological parent, wizarding genetics stipulate that the child is most likely also magical. A more common trope in fanfiction is for one of Dudley's children with another Muggle to be magical (and thus a Muggle-born), possibly due to recessive magical genes via Petunia re-emerging.

Rowling herself stated on her official site that she had considered giving Dudley a magical child who would have appeared at Kings Cross in the Deathly Hallows epilogue, but ultimately decided against it because "a short period of reflection convinced me that any latent wizarding genes would never survive contact with Uncle Vernon’s DNA".[5]

See the Dudley Dursley Has a Magical Child tag at AO3.

Shipping

Dudley/Harry is perhaps the most common Dudley 'ship, though it is often depicted as one-sided, dark, or unhealthy. Some fans find it squicky due to childhood power imbalance and cousin incest.

Dudley/Piers is also popular. Piers Polkiss was Dudley's best friend in Philosopher's Stone and still part of Dudley's "gang" as of Order of the Phoenix.

Dudley/Cho Chang became somewhat common after JKR's post-DH comments that Cho "married a Muggle."

Dudley/Ginny, Dudley/Susan Bones, Dudley/Pansy, Dudley/Fleur, Dudley/Neville, and Dudley/Snape all also have their own ship threads at FictionAlley Park's SCUSA forum. (See the Master Ship List.) Dudley is also paired with relative frequency with Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, and Millicent Bulstrode.

Pairing Dudley with an original character is also a popular option.

Example Fanworks

Fanart

Fanfiction

Wizard Rock

Links & Resources

Dudley-centric Communities

Fanwork Resources

Canon & Fandom Resources

References

  1. See Timeline of Dudley Dursley, footnote 1, at the Harry Potter Lexicon. Original page date 10 March 2001, last updated 6 October 2007. (Accessed 10 July 2016.)
  2. Harry actually says this in response to Dudley saying "I don't think you're a waste of space," and Hestia Jones then saying "But he [Dudley] hasn't said thank you at all!...He only said he didn’t think Harry was a waste of space!" (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow by J.K. Rowling, published 21 July 2007.)
  3. Ian Parker for The New Yorker. Mugglemarch: J. K. Rowling writes a realist novel for adults. 01 October 2012. (Accessed 10 July 2016.): "I asked her if Dudley, Harry’s cousin, had any children as an adult, and she told me that he had two."
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jennifer Vineyard for MTV. ‘Harry Potter’ Author J.K. Rowling Outs Dumbledore At New York Event. 19 October 2007. (Accessed 10 July 2016.)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 J.K.Rowling Official Site. Section: Extra Stuff — Harry and Dudley: Future Hope? (archived 08 December 2007 by the Wayback Machine; posted November or December 2007):
    "A couple of people have told me that they hoped to see Dudley at King’s Cross in the Epilogue, accompanying a wizarding child. I must admit that it did occur to me to do that very thing, but a short period of reflection convinced me that any latent wizarding genes would never survive contact with Uncle Vernon’s DNA, so I didn’t do it.
    "However, I know that after Dudley’s brave attempt at reconciliation at the start of Deathly Hallows, the two cousins would have remained on ‘Christmas Card’ terms for the rest of their lives, and that Harry would have taken his family to visit Dudley’s when they were in the neighbourhood (occasions dreaded by James, Albus and Lily)."
  6. For example, see the Harry Potter Wiki's article on Dudley Dursley's wife (created 10 November 2008; accessed 10 July 2016).
  7. J.K. Rowling, quoted by Frank Garcia in "Harry Pottermania in Vancouver, with J.K. Rowling: At the author's press conference, adults take a back seat to kids," Cinescape, 16 November 2000. Via Accio Quote!, accessed 10 July 2016:
    "You should keep an eye on Dudley. It’s probably too late for Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. I feel sorry for Dudley. I might joke about him, but I feel truly sorry for him because I see him as just as abused as Harry. Though, in possibly a less obvious way. What they are doing to him is inept, really. I think children recognize that. Poor Dudley. He’s not being prepared for the world at all, in any reasonable or compassionate way, so I feel sorry for him. But there’s something funny about him, also. The pig’s tail was irresistible."
  8. "...You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you." Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, published 16 July 2005.
  9. J.K. Rowling at the Barnes and Noble interview online chat, 19 March 1999. See also Three Rowling quotes that turned out to be wrong at the Harry Potter Lexicon (posted by Steve Vander Ark, 31 May 2014), which states: Fans came up with all sorts of interesting theories about who this might be. The top contenders were Dudley and Petunia.
  10. J.K.Rowling Official Site, Section: News. J K Rowling at the Edinburgh Book Festival, 15 August 2004. Archived by the Wayback Machine 16 March 2006.
  11. J.K. Rowling, BBC's World Book Day Chat, 04 March 2004. Transcript via Accio Quote! (accessed 10 July 2016).
  12. J.K.Rowling Official Site, Section: Rubbish Bin. JKR has no right to talk about the glorification of unhealthily underweight women in some sections of the media, because there's a fat boy in her books. (archived 12 June 2006 by the Wayback Machine). As of 09 July 2016, the MuggleNet article no longer online; it was first archived by the Wayback Machine 14 April 2006 and in 2007 was moved to HP-Encyclopedia.com (now offline).