Peter Pettigrew

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Character
Name: Peter Pettigrew
Occupation: wizard, spy, Death Eater
Title/Rank: Gryffindor House
Location: Great Britain
Status: unknown blood status; deceased
Relationships: Marauders (Hogwarts friends); Percy & Ron Weasley (owners); Crookshanks (enemy); Severus Snape (housemate); Voldemort (master)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Other: born c. 1960, died March 1998
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Peter Pettigrew is a supporting character in the Harry Potter novels who forms one of the main antagonists. He is also known as Wormtail, his nickname among the Marauders that he also used in the service of Lord Voldemort, as well as Scabbers, the name of his animagus form.

Canon

One of the Marauders at Hogwarts, as an adult Peter joined the Order of Phoenix. At some point, for unknown reasons, he changed his allegiance to serve Voldemort, betrayed his friends, caused the deaths of Lily & James Potter, Harry's parents, framed Sirius Black for the crime, and faked his own death. He spent 12 years in hiding as Percy & Ron Weasley's pet rat Scabbers, his animagus form, while lauded as a hero. When unmasked, he became one of Voldemort's most faithful servants, giving his right hand to fuel his re-embodiment, only to be murdered by his own prosthesis after showing a moment of mercy.

He is played by Timothy Spall in the films.

Fannish Opinion

Peter Fans (& the Peter Neutral)

...Pettigrew's seriously bad news. But I still find him more sympathetic than Karkaroff somehow. Maybe that's because Karkaroff still has some pride. He's smug and preening and sleek and vain, he vacillates between smarming up to Dumbledore and snarling accusations at him, he's mean to his students (with the exception of Victor), and his solicitousness to Victor...well, maybe that was just me. ...

...there still wasn't very much there to garner my sympathies—until he starting reacting to the reappearance of the Dark Mark, that is, at which point he did start to rack up some sympathy points with me. I sympathize readily with desperation, and with people trapped in no-win situations.

Pettigrew, on the other hand...well, every time we see the poor wretch, he's in some state of utter abjection. If he isn't grovelling for his life, then he's weeping in helpless terror at his impending death at the hands of his old classmates, or he's cringing in fear and revulsion from his Evil Undead Baby Master, or he's screaming or sobbing or moaning in physical agony. He's a broken man; his life is just one long unending misery; I don't believe that he's enjoyed a single moment of happiness or pleasure or even real contentment since the first day he joined Voldemort's cause. Even as a rat, he seemed profoundly depressed. ("Sleep...eat...sleep...eat...")

And, yeah. That does make him somewhat sympathetic. To my way of thinking, at least. (Elkins)[1]
Peter Pettigrew is an enigma. ... He is nervous, unattractive, clever, manipulative, cunning, and one of the most disliked characters of the series. (stiletto)[2]
Yes, believe it or not, I do love Peter - for many different reasons, mostly boiling down to that I feel sorry for him, can relate to him, think he's turning good and don't think he's as evil as everyone cuts him out to be. (Julia H Iscariot)[3]
We always, always have fear as the only or the primary conclusion. Can we really hate a man for being afraid? Can we hate him for having a desire to save himself? Honestly, wouldn't you do the same things, in his position? (Well, maybe not the killing twelve people . . . I wouldn't, anyway . . ..)

My point is, this hatred of Peter is not justifiable. We can't hate him for being human.

Me, I like Peter, and I really think he has more potential for explanation and development than any other character in the whole series. (Gileonnen)[4]
"I love Peter. ... He is (apart from sevvie and draco) my all-time favorite character. He had many reasons to do what he did and that's the crux of it. Bagging him out because you think he's evil when you haven't heard his side of the story makes you worse than him. Torture, imperius curse, and peer pressure could contribute to it. He was regretful and begged his friends apologies. When he turned to Voldemort in the fourth book it may only have been because Sirius and Remus, his lifelong friends, had rejected him and he was hurt. You are all entitled to your opinions and I to mine, but until I see the entire story, I cannot decide whether Peter was wrong or right in what he did. ...

Basically, I don't think Peter was evil. As some people pointed out, he was weak and cowardly. However, I highly doubt you who are reading this are able to tell me that you have never been weak and cowardly also.

There is a little of Peter in all of us. That's what makes him so interesting. (Gothic Princess)[5]
It was a bloody war situation; people were getting killed right and left, terrorism attacks all over, chaos and fear dominating everything. How many of us know what that's like? How many of us know how we ourselves would act, growing up in such situations?
I don't like what Peter did, but my first and foremost reaction is Walk a mile in their shoes before you condemn them utterly. And I still say he's got future-redemption written all over him. If Vader could redeem himself, why not Peter? (Ashfea)[6]
Being the possessor of a rather hard personality, I am not often sorry for HP characters (any characters, to be honest) but I /am/ sorry for Peter. How could I not be, when he is one of the most human characters in the series? Snape may be more complex than him (and everyone else in the books, for that matter), but Snape has an almost preternatural ability to handle himself. Peter doesn't; no matter what he chooses, all sides are his enemy. Sometimes it is too late to turn back - by embodying that uncomfortable truth, Peter is the presence of the tragic in HP.
I think that Peter has so many detractors because when people look at other characters, they see whom they would like to be, and when they look at Peter, they see who they are. (Miss Milton)[7]
...Peter is a convoluted and complex character. McGonagall says he was never quite in the league of James and Sirius, talent-wise -- that he was "always hopeless at duelling." ... Yet he managed to blow a hole so big "it had cracked the sewer below" and kill thirteen Muggles -- while cutting off his finger, and with his wand behind his back! Yet he can make the difficult Animagus transformation at fifteen, with only the help of his friends!

It is these irregularities in his character -- the mixture of cowardice and bravery, good and evil, cunning and clumsiness -- that have led myself, and others, to sympathise with and speculate about Peter Pettigrew. He has been a rat for half the series so far, yet he displays more of the true elements of humanity than most other characters. ...

J. K. Rowling has given us a weak-willed character who is not the parody that Fudge is, a morally ambiguous character that does not have Snape's cold detachment, and a villain who is crucial to the series: without his betrayal, there would be no books.

He provides questions that need answering and character to explore. I want to know why he did things, want to reason out his motivation and why he seems to say one thing and do another. I want to hate him, and sympathise with him, and love him. I want to talk about him - argue with other people about him.

However it is not only for metaphysical reasons that I love Peter. I love characters with moral ambiguity, like Snape and Peter. I feel that Peter, though, represents the darker side of humanity, and that is why so many people dislike him.

He is the epitome of every socially-awkward teenager who clamoured for affection from his friends, who would do anything for affection. (Greenie)[8]

Peter Detractors

I am really blown away by the fact that people are defending Peter. It makes me question the future of humanity.

Peter. Is. Scum. He is below human. Nothing anyone can say can change that.
If Peter was tortured, all he had to do was tell Voldemort one poece of information and he would have been set free. He could have gone to Dumbledore and been protected. But he spied for Voldemort for over a year. You don't do that by mistake. He made a conscious decision to betray the people who cared for him. ....
So what if he was tortured? His body could only take so much. He would eventually die, and die with dignity. And besides, he says in PoA that he was afraid the Dark Lod would kill him. Not torture, kill. He would have been saving the lives of at least James, Lily, and Harry (no one could have anticipated his surviving teh curse). Later we find out that he would have saved twelve other lives. ...

So just stop defending him, alright? So what if he was a weak, pittiable child? He betrayed his friends. He was willing to let a BABY die for his own personal gain. He doesn't deserve to be called human. The things he did were some of the worst imaginable. (Melanija)[9]
I hate Peter more than anyone else. As you know, he pretty much screwed his entire circle of friends over. He didn't even spare any consideration for his mother, the coward. Plus, he took a knife to Harry. I find that unforgivable.
Younger Peter is okay, generally, but someone should have poisoned him. (Juniatha)[10]

Fandom

Many HP fans consider Peter one of the series' least attractive characters, worse even than Voldemort himself. Despite his unprepossessing appearance[11] and sorry history as a coward, betrayer & murderer, Peter has a small but loyal following among fans who don't deny his crimes but feel he's more complex & interesting than canon presents, or simply feel sympathy for him. His fans often describe him as human, rather than heroic; some draw the parallel between Peter & Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.[7][12] Peter's fans assert that canon gives us little of Peter's point of view; most of the information about him derives from Sirius, not the most reliable of narrators.[13] Some of his fans consider Peter's appearance is a major factor in his lack of popularity; Narcissa Malfoy, for example, states If he was handsome, and suave, and taunted Harry for betraying his parents, I'm sure there'd be a huge Peter following. As it is, they hate him because he's in a bad shape, somewhat remorseful and very miserable.[14]

Fans of Peter first appear to have poked their heads above the parapet in during the three-year summer after Goblet of Fire. Mike Gray posted an essay on Peter to the closed Harry Potter for Grownups YahooGroup in November 2001,[15] and Elkins posted nuanced Peter meta to the group from January 2002.[16] A Peter-friendly thread started by Cedar in October 2002 at the high-traffic FictionAlley forums evolved into the Peter is Sympathetic Association (PISA), now hosted at Ani's fan site.[17]

Fanworks

The Marauders by Laura Freeman. Peter (here on the left) is often erased from Marauder fanworks

Fanworks featuring Peter are most often set in the Marauders era, when the four were friends at Hogwarts. However, because of his subsequent history, he's bashed or completely ignored in many Marauder fics.[18] There are also many stories set during the first war, when Peter was a double agent. He doesn't tend to get much attention in his later career as a Death Eater, after Voldemort's re-embodiment. Sympathetic portrayals often assume he's a lot cleverer & more competent than he appears, covering up his talents to avoid being noticed. He's not depicted as being sexually active – at least not non-solo – in fanworks as often as most HP characters. One trope is to portray him as impotent. He's also often written masturbating, fantasising or pining, usually for James or Sirius.[19]

Nevertheless, a variety of pairings have been written, mainly slash, usually with one of the other Marauders. Remus Lupin is perhaps the most common partner; Pauraque writes to slash them is appealing on an interesting level, since Remus is narratively-metaphorically queer and Peter is just plain gay [albeit not for Remus specifically].[20] A common trope for this pairing is that both are pining for Sirius; given the overwhelming popularity of the Remus/Sirius pairing this only rarely ends well for Peter. Peter/Sirius is also common, building on Sirius's Little Black (Leather) Dress qualities. Peter's canonical hero worship of James underpins this pairing, perhaps the least common of the three. Marauder threesomes & foursomes also exist, as do fivesomes with Lily Evans. Other male partners include Ron and other Weasleys, usually while he's in his rat phase, Severus Snape, Lucius Malfoy, Regulus Black, various other followers of Voldemort and even occasionally the Dark Lord himself, plus assorted hangers on. Het pairings are only rarely written, with Lily perhaps being his most frequent female partner from canon; again this rarely ends happily for Peter. He's sometimes given an original female character as a partner. He's an occasional character at the HP Beholder's fest for rare pairs featuring characters that aren't conventionally attractive.

Gen fanfiction for the character is relatively common. Given the plethora of Marauder fics, there are plenty of wacky adventures where Peter plays some form of role. Much gen takes the form of character studies, exploring the contradictions in his character, his feelings about betraying James & Lily, and whether he might be redeemable; the angst factor is often set to max. These questions are also explored in meta about the character. Another meta topic is parallels with other characters/figures, including Snape, Ron, Neville Longbottom, Gollum, Grima Wormtongue and Judas.[15] Before canon closed, fans speculated on Peter's role in the endgame; sacrificing himself to save Harry[21] & killing Remus with his silver hand were among the possibilities mooted.

Filking was an early occupation for Peter fans.[15]

Ani Bester recalls At the time I got into the fandom, no one was really drawing Peter.[22] As of 2014, there's a moderate amount of fan art, including portraits during the Marauders era and as an adult in Voldemort's service, illustrations of scenes from the novels, portrayals of him in rat form or as a human–rat fusion. Fan art only rarely idealises his appearance as an adult, although cute chibi-style depictions of him as a student abound; most artwork is not based on Spall's appearance in the film. Group portraits of the Marauders sometimes include Peter, but he's often erased or replaced with Lily. Very little art ships Peter with other characters.

Example Fanworks

Fanfiction

Fan art

Meta

Fansites & Communities

Fansites

Livejournals

YahooGroups

Archives, Recs & Masterlists

Peter-specific Archives

Other Archives

Recs & Masterlists

Canon Resources

References

  1. Overanalyzing the Text: Real Wizards Aren't Squeamish (Pettigrew, Wizarding Culture) (accessed 11 September 2014)
  2. peterficathon: Profile (accessed 10 September 2014)
  3. Let's All Remember the W: Peter Pettigrew (accessed 10 September 2014)
  4. Let's All Remember the W: Gilleonnen Speaks (accessed 11 September 2014)
  5. Let's All Remember the W: Gothic Princess Speaks (accessed 11 September 2014)
  6. Let's All Remember the W: Ashfea Speaks (accessed 11 September 2014)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Let's All Remember the W: Miss Milton Speaks (accessed 10 September 2014)
  8. Idol Reflections: Peter Pettigrew. (accessed 11 September 2014)
  9. Let's All Remember the W: The Great FictionAlley Park Peter Debate (accessed 11 September 2014)
  10. Post dated 28 November 2002 by Juniatha at FictionAlley Park: P.O.K.E. - Peter Ought to be Kicked for Ever (accessed 11 September 2014)
  11. From Prisoner of Azkaban: "He was a very short man, hardly taller than Harry and Hermione. His thin, colourless hair was unkempt and there was a large bald patch on top. He had the shrunken appearance of a plump man who has lost a lot of weight in a short time. His skin looked grubby, almost like Scabbers's fur, and something of the rat lingered around his pointed nose and his very small, watery eyes."
  12. Post dated 29 November 2002 by Ashfae at FictionAlley Park: P.O.K.E. - Peter Ought to be Kicked for Ever (accessed 11 September 2014)
  13. For example, "A Weake Talentless Thing Like You" by Ani Bester (accessed 11 September 2014)
  14. Let's All Remember the W: Narcissa Malfoy Speaks (accessed 11 September 2014)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Harry Potter for Grownups: Peter Pettigrew (accessed 11 September 2014)
  16. See [1], [2]
  17. Let's All Remember the W: P.I.S.A: Peter is Sympathetic Association (accessed 11 September 2014)
  18. "Many fanfics turn Peter into a stupid, mean, or clumsy boy who is barely friends with the other three. Some ignore him all together." from Peter Pettigrew. by Greenie (accessed 11 September 2014)
  19. ratswhiskers: Untitled post by ani_bester (accessed 10 September 2014)
  20. pauraque-bk: Ship meme. Part one. (accessed 10 September 2014)
  21. Caius Marcius, referenced in Mike Gray's essay
  22. 22.0 22.1 Let's All Remember the W: Marauders (accessed 10 September 2014)