It’s unlikely that there’s a single Harry Potter fan who didn’t shed a tear when Hedwig was killed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Despite a distinct lack of dialogue beyond the occasional hoot, Hedwig was a favourite of many fans of the series. Here’s why…
Hedwig had character
She may not have been able to vocalise it, but you know that Hedwig had a feisty spirit. How many times did she gaze at Harry reproachfully or nip his finger, or cuff him about the head with an outstretched wing…
The soup was stone cold, but he drank half of it in one gulp. Then he crossed the room to Hedwig’s cage and tipped the soggy vegetables at the bottom of the bowl into her empty food tray. She ruffled her feathers and gave him a look of deep disgust. ‘It’s no good turning your beak up at it, that’s all we’ve got,’ said Harry grimly.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Hedwig was more than Harry’s pet
While Harry stayed with the Dursleys every summer, Hedwig was one of the few reminders he had that Hogwarts was real. She was his constant connection to the wizarding world up until her death. She wasn’t just a pet to Harry, or a creature to deliver his post; she was also a friend. As Harry says in Order of the Phoenix, Hedwig ‘was the only friend he had at number four, Privet Drive’.
When Harry felt overwhelmed (or couldn’t deal with Ron and Hermione’s bickering) he would often visit Hedwig’s roost in the Hogwarts owlery. Her silent comfort and the quiet of the owlery was something of a refuge.
She nipped his finger, perhaps rather harder than she would ordinarily have done, but hooted softly in a reassuring sort of way all the same.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
She was smart (and not just for a bird)
Hedwig (and the same could be said of the other owls at Hogwarts – except maybe Pigwidgeon) proved time and time again that she had more smarts than your average snowy owl.
She always knew that a letter addressed to Snuffles was intended for Sirius; and now that we think of it, never even needed an address to be written on an envelope. She was also able to follow more complex instructions, such as ‘keep pecking [Ron and Hermione] till they've written decent-length answers’ in Order of the Phoenix.
She always managed to show up wherever Harry was, even when he had run away from Privet Drive. Harry was something of a homing beacon for Hedwig – and that’s perhaps because they were each other’s home.
She sometimes flew in to nibble his ear and have a bit of toast before going off to sleep in the owlery with the other school owls.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
She really meant something to readers
Nothing proved how important Hedwig was more than the reaction of fans when she was killed during the Battle of the Seven Potters in Deathly Hallows.
In the book, Hedwig was killed as she sat in her cage by Harry’s side – as she had so many times before – as they attempted to escape on the back of Hagrid’s motorcycle. In the film, the scene was made even more heartbreaking, as Hedwig was killed while attempting to protect Harry from Death Eaters.
J.K. Rowling has said previously: ‘The loss of Hedwig represented a loss of innocence and security. She has been almost like a cuddly toy to Harry at times. Voldemort killing her marked the end of childhood. I'm sorry... I know that death upset a LOT of people!’
‘No – HEDWIG!’
The broomstick spun to earth, but he just managed to seize the strap of his rucksack and the top of the cage as the motorbike swung the right way up again. A second’s relief, and then another burst of green light. The owl screeched and fell to the floor of the cage.
‘No – NO!’
The motorbike zoomed forward; Harry glimpsed hooded Death Eaters scattering as Hagrid blasted through their circle.
‘Hedwig – Hedwig --’
But the owl lay motionless and pathetic as a toy on the floor of her cage.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows