In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, what is a thestral?

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Everyone else has already defined this, but I would like to add that the thestrals demonstrate a dramatic shift in the theme of the book.  They are symbolic of death, but death as a natural and misunderstood part of life.  They foreshadow Sirius's demise. 

In the first book, the horseless...

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Everyone else has already defined this, but I would like to add that the thestrals demonstrate a dramatic shift in the theme of the book.  They are symbolic of death, but death as a natural and misunderstood part of life.  They foreshadow Sirius's demise. 

In the first book, the horseless carriages are a whimsical icon of the magical world.  It isn't until Harry sees what they really are in book 5 that we realize that Harry has not truly been seeing things as they really are in the wizarding world.

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A thestral is the invilible pullers of the carriages that carry Hogwart's students to the castle.  We find out in The Order of the Phoenix that they can be seen by those who have witnessed death.  That is why Harry, Neville, and Luna can see them.  They also provide transportation to the ministry for Harry and the gang in their attempt to save Sirius and the prophecy.

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A thestral is a horse-like creature with white eyes, wings and leathery skins. They have a very thin, skeletal appearance, but one of the most interesting things about thestrals is that they are the creatures who pull the horseless carriages to and from Hogwarts from Hogsmeade and the beginning of the year.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about the thestrals is that they are only visable to people who have witnessed death.  Harry is able to see them in fifth year because he has witnessed Cedric's murder.  They are also visable to Neville and Luna.

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