LONDON — In one of the more tragic moments from the “Harry Potter” series — spoilers ahead if you’ve been meaning to get around to it for a decade or two — Dobby, an elf, dies in Harry Potter’s arms on an expansive beach that the creature describes, in one of his final breaths, as “such a beautiful place to be with friends.”
The “beautiful place” where the scene was filmed for the 2010 movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” was Freshwater West Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where fans have assembled a memorial to Dobby, a recurring character in the series who befriended Harry and his fellow wizards-in-training and became a fan favorite. Environmental officials, however, became concerned that the site’s popularity with tourists was having a negative effect on the beach and considered tearing the memorial down as part of an eight-month review.
Last week, Dobby’s grave site won a reprieve, when officials announced that it could stay, as long as visitors stopped leaving behind tributes to Dobby — or, from a different perspective, environmentally ruinous litter.
“The memorial to Dobby will remain at Freshwater West in the immediate term for people to enjoy,” the National Trust Wales, the conservation charity that initiated the review of the area, wrote in its assessment. “The Trust is asking visitors to only take photos when visiting the memorial to help protect the wider landscape.”
Part of the problem arose from a gesture many fans most likely intended as a tribute but had damaging consequences: People kept giving Dobby socks.
In the “Harry Potter” series, Harry tricks Dobby’s master, the evil Lucius Malfoy, into giving his captive elf a sock, which frees Dobby. The elf then wears the sock until his dying moment, making it a memorable symbol of his friendship with Harry.
Back in the real world, socks are a bad thing to leave on a beach. Many have been left at the grave site along with messages painted on rocks to match Harry’s final tribute to his friend: “Here lies Dobby, a free elf.”
The National Trust Wales said in its assessment that “items like socks, trinkets, and paint chips from painted pebbles could enter the marine environment and food chain and put wildlife at risk.” Tens of thousands of people visit the beach each year, the trust said, and more than 5,000 responded to an online survey as it sought the public’s opinion on the future of the site.
“While we’re delighted that so many want to visit, we have to balance the popularity of the site with impacts on the sensitive nature of the beach and wider environment, and pressure on the facilities and surrounding roads,” Jonathan Hughes, an official with National Trust Wales, said in a statement.