The Golden Snitch is a brightly golden colored sphere attached to two silver wings that help it attain flight during a Quidditch match. The Golden Snitch is one of the three balls used during a Quidditch match and carries the highest points – a total of 150.
Furthermore, according to the rules of the game, the Golden Snitch can only be caught by the seeker of either team and it marks the final moment of a game as catching the Snitch declares the end of the game. Harry Potter is strongly associated with the Golden Snitch for several reasons. Most importantly, he proved his abilities as a skilled Quidditch seeker when he caught the Snitch with his mouth in his first-ever game. Furthermore, he was given the same Snitch which contained a Deathly Hallow inside it by Dumbledore.
Long before the Golden Snitches were created for the purpose of Quidditch, there existed bird a called a Golden Snidget that was thrown into the air before the Quidditch match began. Early Quidditch rules required the seeker of either team to catch this bird for the game to end.
The chief of the Wizards’ Council Barberus Bragge, set a Golden Snidget free before a Quidditch match on the Quidditch field in 1269 which was the first recorded use of this bird. 150 galleons were given to the Seeker who caught the Snitch, and this trend was continued by rewarding 150 points to the player, and the team in extension, that caught the Snitch. This bird could fly up to very high speeds but eventually, many wizards and witches came to realize the number of birds that simply got crushed during Quidditch matches and the Golden Snidget soon became an endangered species. This is when the skilled metal-charmer Bowman Wright carved the first Golden Snitch using a walnut-sized metal ball that resembled the Golden Snidget in flight patterns and speed.
It is believed that during one of the Quidditch matches on Bodmin Moor in 1884, the Golden Snitch evaded capture for about 6 months until the players from both sides finally forfeited the match.
Making Golden Snitches was a very complicated process as it had to be handled with gloves only. Snitches had flesh memory, making it necessary to use a new Golden Snitch for every match. Even the makers of the Snitch wore gloves to prevent touching the Snitch.
Quidditch makes use of three balls – the Quaffle, which is used by the chasers to score goals by throwing them through the opponent team’s hoops, which fetches the team 10 points. The second ball, called the Bludger is used by the beaters of the team to aim at the players of the opponent teams to distract and impede during the match. The Snitch as described above carries 150 points and is used to end the match when caught by the seeker of one of the playing teams.
Appearance in the Harry Potter Series
The Golden Snitch first appeared in the Harry Potter series in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Oliver Wood, the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team introduced Harry to the game of Quidditch at the Hogwarts Quidditch grounds. He first presents all the balls used in a Quidditch game, starting with the Quaffle and then the Bludger. Finally, he unveils the Golden Snitch and tells Harry that this is the ball that Harry, as the Seeker must be paying attention to.
The Snitch next makes an appearance immediately in the first-ever Quidditch match Harry ever plays, against Slytherin. Harry eventually catches the Snitch with his mouth and wins the match for Gryffindor. The Golden Snitch later appears in almost every subsequent book in the series, during the Quidditch matches. Harry, being a very skilled Seeker, catches almost every Snitch, except in a match against Ravenclaw where Harry is attacked by Dementors.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Molly Weasley prepares a Golden Snitch shaped birthday cake for Harry’s seventeenth birthday. However, another significant appearance of the Snitch occurs in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows again, where Albus Dumbledore leaves Harry the first Golden Snitch that he caught with his mouth. It is later found out that the Resurrection Stone was hidden inside it, and since the Snitch has flesh memories, it would respond to only Harry’s touch. It finally opens, revealing the stone when Harry plans to sacrifice himself at the Forbidden Forest.
Golden Snitches in the Real World
The first Golden Snitch to be made in real life is probably the one used in the Harry Potter movies. The Harry Potter filmmakers made it a point to make the Snitch as realistic and accurate as possible, despite the graphics covering all the flight scenes for it. The iconic Golden Snitch used in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was made of a metal ball made of copper and later plated with gold, with art nouveau shapes carved on it and combined the elements of industrial design to make an aerodynamically accurate Snitch. Furthermore, two thin feather-like structures in the form of a sail were added to it.
On the internet, authentic Harry Potter collectible items include Snitches and there are many different versions available in online stores. They range from a simple styrofoam ball coated with gold foil and white feathers for wings, to an advanced levitating collectible powered by AA batteries and even an AC adapter. These serve as a perfect gift for Harry Potter fans and also come with deluxe packaging options.
Imagining Golden Snitches in the Muggle World
While the game of Quidditch itself is very magical and far-fetched to actually be played in our real world, with modern advances in flight technology and the still-rising popularity of Harry Potter, it is not impossible to imagine a flying game of Quidditch to grace our muggle world eventually. While the flying broomsticks can probably be replaced by well-designed jet packs that are already under development, the Quaffle and the Bludgers can be aerodynamically designed to not fall easily under gravity.
However, our best bet for the Golden Snitch is advanced drone technology which can be assigned a random flight path at the beginning of every match and a proximity sensor to speed up when the Seeker tries to catch it. We hope the Golden Snitch, and by extension, the game of Quidditch will be a reality in the real world.
Is the Golden Snitch alive?
No, the Golden Snitch is a non-living being and therefore not alive. However, it is an enchanted object and is therefore magical and mobile in nature. It also has other magical properties such as speed control and flesh memory. Its flesh memory ensures verification of the first person who touches it, in case of a dispute during a match. Its speed control allows it to regulate speed and move faster when a player approaches it.
Is the Golden Snitch a Horcrux?
No, the Golden Snitch given to Harry by Dumbledore after his death is not a Horcrux. However, it contains a previously destroyed part of a Horcrux. The Resurrection Stone present inside the Snitch used to be embedded in the ring that the Gaunts had, and Voldemort later converted it into a Horcrux. It was hunted by Dumbledore and finally destroyed with the Sword of Gryffindor.
Can you win without catching the Golden Snitch?
Yes, it is theoretically possible to win a Quidditch match without having caught the Snitch. If both teams declared the match, deciding to stop playing, then the team with the higher number of points would win. However, it would be an extremely rare occurrence because nobody would want to lose a match deliberately and concede victory to the opponent. One of the cases where this happened is in Bodmin Moor in 1884, when the Seekers of either team failed to catch the Golden Snitch for six whole months, and the match was eventually stopped.