Quidditch for Muggles

These are excerpts from a story published in Kill Screen Issue #4.

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“Quidditch” is a game invented by J. K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series of books, which—you probably know—is about an English boy at a boarding school for witches and wizards. And because you can’t have an English boarding-school book without sport (“the playing fields of Eton,” and all that), Quidditch is introduced in the first novel as the magical world’s equivalent of soccer. Or basketball. Or rugby.

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One challenge of adapting Quidditch to real life lies in transforming a literary invention into a balanced contest where skill and strategy matter. The greater challenge involves getting around the lack of, you know, magic. You can’t fly. Neither can the bludgers, or the snitch. You can pretend to fly, though. And you can throw the bludgers. But the snitch is a problem.

The International Quidditch Association’s official rules employ a Snitch Runner—an athlete clad head-to-toe in gold clothing carrying a tennis ball stuffed in a sock and tucked into their waistband. In IQA rules, the seekers and the Snitch Runner are engaged in an elaborate game of cross-country flag-tag with two Its.

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But it’s the brooms that everyone wants to talk about. Always the brooms.

The brooms are key to the game’s identity, because they make things difficult. Since players must always hold them with either their hands or thighs, their motion is limited. Because of the brooms, the quaffle and bludgers are not fully inflated, allowing all players to grasp them with one hand, regardless of palm size.

But the broom is also a talisman that frees players from any self-consciousness about their appearance. No matter how ungainly you might be on your feet, when you’ve got the broom there, that is what people remember. Defeating humiliation with self-determination—these players are going to look silly on their own terms. They own it.


Photography by Brian Taylor