** This node contains spoilers if you have not yet read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. **
As he begins his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter and friends find that famous author Gilderoy Lockhart is Professor Quirrell's replacement as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. His credentials are impressive, as he repeatedly reminds everyone: "Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League and five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most-Charming-Smile Award." He wrote a series of alliteratively-titled books about the various evil creatures he has supposedly vanquished, all of which are required reading for his Defense Against the Dark Arts classes:
With all these books under his belt, plus his new autobiography Magical Me, how could anyone fail to be impressed with his credentials?
As it turns out, he is one of the most inept wizards around, spending far more time on basking in his own glory than actually teaching anything. On the first day of class, he begins with a 54-question quiz to see how well the students have read the textbooks over the summer. The quiz is made up entirely of questions like the following:
Though the girls in the class (even, surprisingly enough, Hermione Granger), are thoroughly smitten, the boys realize they are in trouble. Their fears are confirmed when Lockhart releases a cage of Cornish pixies into the classroom for a demonstration, but is then unable to recapture any of them himself. He winds up fleeing the room, leaving Harry, Hermione, and Ron Weasley to contain the pixies.
Further examples of his lack of skill are found throughout the book. When Harry's arm is broken by a cursed bludger in a Quidditch match, Lockhart rushes to his aid. Turning a deaf ear to Harry's protests, he tries a spell to mend the break, but instead manages to remove all the bones from Harry's arm. Later, Lockhart decides to start a Dueling Club at the school to teach the students to defend themselves against the creature that has been attacking them one by one. He serves primarily as a negative example, as Professor Snape immediately and forcefully disarms him with the Disarming Charm, Expelliarmus.
It should be clear by now that he is the living embodiment of the aphorism: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.
The truth finally comes out when Harry and Ron figure out that the creature preying on Hogwarts students is, in fact, a basilisk. They go to Lockhart to tell him what they've discovered, since the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is clearly the person to vanquish the creature. They find him packing to flee Hogwarts immediately, and he admits at wand-point that he never did any of the things he wrote about in his many books. Instead, he found the witches and wizards who had done them, got them to tell him how, then used a Memory Charm to make them forget telling him anything.
In the end, he actually is able to cast very powerful Memory Charms. He tries to use Ron's broken wand to make remove Harry and Ron's memories, but the malfunctioning wand explodes and the spell backfires. And, once again, Hogwarts needs a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
In the upcoming film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Kenneth Branagh has been cast to play the role of Gilderoy Lockhart.
Interesting note: In the Danish translation of the books, Gilderoy Lockhart is "Glitterik Smørhår," which would roughly translate back to English as "Slickfellow Butterhair." Thanks to liveforever for the info.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
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Update 30 Sep 2002: Added Danish translation information. Thanks to liveforever for the info.