In the real world, a bezoar is a stone-like substance that is lodged in the stomach of not just goats, but the gut of an animal or even people. Bezoar is sometimes the cause of blockage in the digestive tract of humans. It is said to be made of foreign particles and other substances like hair which accumulate together to form a stone-like mass. Sometimes, even any undigested clumps of matter can form a bezoar.
A bezoar is a small stone-like object that is obtained from the stomach of a goat in the Harry Potter universe. It works as an antidote for a wide variety of common poisons when taken as a whole, with the notable exception of Basilisk venom to which the bezoar is no match. It is said that the bezoar is mostly a hairball that consists of hair, fiber, and other indigestible matter that has accumulated over the years in the digestive system of a goat which is later extracted and used in potion-making.
The First Mention of Bezoar in the Harry Potter Universe
We first come across the word bezoar in the Harry Potter series when Severus Snape asks Harry several questions in his first Potions class. Although Harry is keen on proving himself as an able student, Snape seems to have a seething grudge towards Harry and asks him several difficult questions. The second question he asks is about the source of a bezoar. Hermione is the only one in the class who knows the answers to all these questions. However, when Harry fails to answer these questions, Snape belittles him and calls him out for being famous. He later explains to the class that bezoars are hard ball-like objects found in the stomach or small intestine of a goat.
Other Mentions of Bezoar
The next time a bezoar is mentioned in the Harry Potter books is in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where Harry forgets to add a bezoar to one of the potions he is making in his Fourth-year Potions test, in a hurry as he is lost in thought about asking Cho Chang to the Yule Ball. He ends up getting very low marks on this Potions exam due to his distracted thoughts of Cho Chang. He eventually ends up being too late on asking out Cho Chang, as she already intends to go to the ball with Cedric Diggory.
Bezoar in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The bezoar is most discussed and appears the highest in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The first time the bezoar appears in this book is when Professor Horace Slughorn asks his students in the Potions classroom to brew an antidote for a mixture of poisons. He also asks the students about the Golpalott’s Third Law, to which Hermione is quick to answer that the law states that for a given mixture of poisons, a mixture of respective antidotes is not enough.
While the entire class is hellbent on the preparation of the antidote, Harry checks the newly acquired Half-Blood Prince’s Potion book for a solution that has a note that says to just shove a bezoar up the throat of the victim. So, instead of putting a lot of effort into making an antidote, Harry just presents a bezoar as his final work when Professor Slughorn comes for inspection. When Slughorn sees the Bezoar, he is deeply impressed and gives Harry the highest marks for ‘sheer cheek’.
The second time the bezoar appears in this book is when Ron Weasley is given a love potion. Originally intended for Harry, Romilda Vane, a fourth-year student sends sweets laced with a love potion to their dorm room. However, Ron has it first and starts speaking dreamily about Romilda. Harry decides to take him to Slughorn. Despite his rejected attempts to charm Slughorn into giving him his memory of Voldemort, Harry is still on good terms with him. Slughorn welcomes them and prepares a draught to cure him of his ‘lovesickness’.
Furthermore, Slughorn, being in a cheerful mood, decides to open the oak matured mead he intended to gift Albus Dumbledore for Christmas and drink it with Harry and Ron. Ron gulps it down first and immediately has a fit. He looks like he is poisoned, but Slughorn panics and doesn’t move. This is when Harry uses his quick wit, runs to Slughorn’s cupboard, and brings a bezoar from there. He then shoves it up Ron’s throat, and eventually, the toxins in the poisoned oak mead begin to slowly deteriorate.
Harry’s use of the bezoar and his quick wit are commended by Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Slughorn himself. When inspected later, it is found that it is the second attempt in that year to kill Professor Dumbledore. A few months ago, Katie Bell was sent under the Imperius Curse to deliver Dumbledore a cursed necklace.
The above-mentioned incident is the second one that harms a student before the intended target, Dumbledore. It is later found out at the end of the book that it was Draco Malfoy who perpetrated all these attacks, including a final attack where he lets several Death Eaters, including Bellatrix Lestrange, apparate into the Hogwarts Castle. This happens soon after Harry uses the Sectumsempra spell on Malfoy when they duel after Harry confronts Malfoy for his attacks based on Harry’s hunch.
Origin of the Term Bezoar
Bezoar is most likely derived from Persian pâdzahr (پادزهر), which translates to ‘protection from toxins.’ It is widely used in the preparation of several antidotes sometimes in the form of a powder. It is also used extensively in Chinese Herbology for preparing antidotes.
Bezoar and Panacea
The way Bezoar is portrayed in the Harry Potter series is very reminiscent of the Panacea, the medicine named eponymously after the Greek goddess of universal remedy. Panacea is a term used to describe a fictitious medicine that is capable of healing all ailments. It used to be a constant subject of interest among alchemists in the real world who believed that it could somehow be concocted from the Philosopher’s Stone. Panacea is also a term used to generally refer to any hypothetical medicine that can cure all ailments. The bezoar too is considered to be an antidote for almost all poisons in the Harry Potter universe with the exception of Basilisk Venom, just like Panacea.
How did Harry know to give Ron Bezoar?
Harry was very quick-witted and saved Ron’s life by shoving a bezoar down his throat. Despite being very bad at Potions as reinforced by Snape for five years, in his sixth year, Harry found a book that belonged to the Half-Blood Prince that changed his life. During one of Slughorn’s potions classes, Harry had presented a bezoar as an antidote after seeing it in the textbook of the Half-Blood Prince, and he suddenly remembered it when Ron had been poisoned. That is how he knew that a bezoar would cure Ron.
Who gave Slughorn the poisoned mead?
Slughorn received the oak matured mead from an unknown source and the instructions suggested that they be given to Professor Dumbledore. It is later found out that it was Draco Malfoy who sent this mead to Horace Slughorn. However, Slughorn intended to give it to him as a gift for Christmas and eventually ended up keeping it and then using it to share with Harry and Ron. However, only Ron drank the mead and they realized it was poisoned before all three of them drank it.
Who taught Harry about Bezoar?
Harry was taught about the Bezoar twice in the books. The first instance was in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where Severus Snape explained what a bezoar is in Potions class after he ridiculed Harry for not knowing this. The second time Harry learns about the bezoar is through the textbook belonging to the Half-Blood Prince which tells him to just use a bezoar as an antidote. Interestingly, since Snape is revealed to be the Half-Blood Prince, it so happens that Harry is taught both times about the Bezoar by Snape.