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Hagrid's real intention, however, was to talk to Harry away from the rest of the class. He waited until everyone else had set off with their skrewts, then turned to Harry and said, very seriously, "So – yer competin', Harry. In the tournament. School champion."

“One of the champions,” Harry corrected him.

Hagrid's beetle-black eyes looked very anxious under his wild eyebrows.

(p294, Harry Potter 4, US edition)

There’s not so many varieties in eye color in people of my country and therefore in novels, except for in figurative expressions. This might be why eye-color descriptions draw my attention.

'Beetle-black eyes', not just black, is sometimes referred in the story as if it is Hagrid's trademark

I searched the Net for beetle-black and had an impression that the color is bright and pure black. Now I'm just wondering it might be connected to Hagrid's character and mentioned when the writer wants to emphasize his pureness. However, this is just a wild guess because I don't know English speaking people commonly connect eye color and people’s character, just like astrology.

I'd like to know if 'beetle-black eyes' is related to Hagrid's character. I'd be happy if you could help me!

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2 Answers 2

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There's no "real" answer to your question—in this case, it's just some art in writing.

It is not a common phrase in spoken English, and there's no particular phrase it brings to mind. Note that in the phrase, the b alliterates (begins both words)—beetle-black. The alliteration is a poetic way of describing something, and alliteration is often seen in literary English.

But I don't think it's a very good phrase. For one, beetles are not particularly black. They are all sorts of colours. Stan mentions that beetles are glossy/shiny, which is true, but when reading that passage, I didn't think of it (I didn't think of it until Stan mentioned it). You might just as well think of beetles as "covered in dust and dirt all the time."

So in summary, no, there is nothing whatsoever you are missing. The phrase would mean everything it means in English, translated to any other language. There is no "background" you're missing. And do not underestimate the power of alliteration, it makes it sound dramatic even if there's nothing to it!

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should be Hofstadter –  GEdgar Jul 4 '11 at 15:00
    
@Joe Blow – Thank you for your fascinating writing! It helps me a lot. You say full exploration is difficult, but it seems to me that you did it perfectly. Unfortunately, I haven't read the book, but I put it in my wish list at Amazon for future reading. Thank you! –  user7493 Jul 5 '11 at 4:02
    
Stan mentions that beetles are glossy/shiny, which is true, but when reading that passage, I didn't think of it (I didn't think of it until Stan mentioned it). You might just as well think of beetles as "covered in dust and dirt all the time." Disagree: The implication of shininess is definitely the intended one. –  TRiG Feb 2 '13 at 2:03

The problem is that black eyes has an entirely different everyday meaning in English -- it refers to the bruising around the eyes one might get from a fighting injury -- and terms like dark eyes all have an emotional or character connotation.

Hagrid's appearance is something out of the ordinary, but Rowling wants to maintain the idea that although he could be a scary character, he's a bit of a softie at heart (well, unless you threaten or harm someone he's loyal to). Beetle-black gets the physical description across (very dark, but bright and shiny) without bringing any other baggage along on the trip.

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+1, but there may be some intentional positive baggage. –  Callithumpian Jul 4 '11 at 5:37
    
@Stan Rogers – Oh, black eyes mean bruises! I see. I had a blind spot about that. Thank you! –  user7493 Jul 5 '11 at 4:03
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Beetle-black isn't a standard term like jet-black, coal-black, pitch-black, etc.. But it's easily understood to mean glossy-black, and as @Joe Blow points out, alliteration is always beloved of writers. If there are any metaphoric connotations, I think they be to conjure up the anxiety we'd all feel if we woke and saw a big black stag-beetle an inch away from our eyes/eyebrows! Somewhat echoing Hagrid's own state. –  FumbleFingers Sep 22 '11 at 1:44

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