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62 Magical Facts About . . .

Harry Potter

  1. As of 2008, Harry Potter books have sold over 400 million copies and have been translated into 67 languages.i
  2. A picture of Gandalf the Grey (from The Lord of the Rings) can be seen in the collection of great wizards in Professor Dumbledore’s study in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.f
  3. Author J. K. Rowling recently revealed that Dumbledore is gay and he had a crush on the wizard Grindelwald, whom he later defeated in a wizard duel.a
  4. As every Potter fan knows, Dementors are deadly, magical, wraith-like creatures. Rowling revealed that they represent depression and that they were based on her own experience with the disease. The remedy to lighten the effects of a Dementor is chocolate.e
  5. J. K. Rowling
    Rowling is the first author billionaire
  6. Rowling is the first person to become a billionaire (U.S. dollars) by writing books.i
  7. In 2007, Rowling was runner up for Time magazine’s Person of the Year.i
  8. The death of Rowling’s mother from multiple sclerosis significantly influenced her writing, and death is a major theme throughout the Potter series.j
  9. The actress who played Moaning Myrtle is actually 37 years old and is the oldest actress to portray a Hogwarts student.g
  10. Rowling discovered “witchy” sounding names such as toadflax, goutwort, grommel, and others in Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, a famous book of herbal lore from the 1600s.h
  11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on July 21, 2007, and sold 11 million copies on the first day of its release, breaking Rowling’s earlier records for the fastest selling book of all time.a
  12. Rowling said that if she were to be a teacher at Hogwarts, she would teach Charms. If she had a job in the wizarding world, she would write spell books.c
  13. Harry Potter’s pet snowy owl, Hedwig, shares her name with two famous saints. One is Saint Hedwig of Andechs (1174-1243), a former duchess noted for her benevolence and compassionate nature. The other is Saint Hedwig, Queen of Poland (1373-1399). The death of Hedwig in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows represents Harry’s loss of innocence and coming of age.b
  14. owl harry potter
    Wizards in Harry’s world primarily use owls to communicate
  15. Owls are the primary means of communication between wizards in Harry’s world. However, in many parts of the world, owls are considered bad luck and harbingers of death.b
  16. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, dragon blood is revealed to be an effective oven cleaner.g
  17. Rowling’s books were the first children’s books included on the New York Bestseller list since E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web in 1952.i
  18. When Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released in Great Britain, the publisher asked stores not to sell the book until schools were closed for the day to prevent truancy.e
  19. Several publishers rejected the first Harry Potter manuscript saying it was too long and literary, but Bloomsbury Publisher finally accepted it in 1996. The book’s publisher suggested Rowling use the name “J. K.” rather than her real name “Joanne Rowling” to appeal to male readers. She took the “K” from her grandmother’s name Kathleen, but neither "Kathleen" nor "K" is part of her legal name.c
  20. Rowling’s series has stimulated children to read and has concomitantly boosted the sales of other children’s literature, such as C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series and Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron series.i
  21. A few scholars have suggested that the Harry Potter series is sexist because the three most powerful figures are male, females use their power in ways that make them less appealing than the males, and Hermione is less powerful and less poised than the boys. Other scholars say those claims are unfounded.e
  22. Colors play an important role in the Harry Potter novels. For example, shades of red represent goodness, such as Gryffindor’s scarlet robes, Harry’s red ink, and the crimson Hogwarts Express train. The Weasleys have red hair and a red roof. Green is largely associated with negative events, such as when Harry sees a flash of green when his parents die and the green-colored curse that made Ron vomit.j
  23. Numbers are symbolic in the series, especially 2, 3, 4, and 7. For example, the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione suggest the power of three and the spiritual trinity. Harry fatally wounds the basilisk on its third strike, and Hagrid knocks on the front door of Hogwarts three times. Students attend Hogwarts for seven years and there are seven players on each Quidditch team. Sirius is also imprisoned on the seventh floor of Hogwarts.j
  24. Rowling said her favorite beast in the series is the phoenix, a mythical sacred bird who ignites into flames when it reaches 500 or 1,000 years old only to emerge from the flames as a new and young phoenix.c
  25. harry potter
    Harry Potter and Rowling share a birthday on July 31st
  26. Harry’s birthday is July 31, 1980. Rowling’s birthday is also July 31—but in 1966.b
  27. The name Voldemort comes from the French words meaning “fly from death,” and his entire goal is to conquer death. In the second Harry Potter novel, Rowling shows us that “I am Lord Voldemort” is an anagram of “Tom Marvolo Riddle,” which is his actual full name.a
  28. Harry Potter’s name may refer to a “potter’s field,” which is a cemetery in which people of unknown identity or the very poor are buried. This would be fitting because Harry Potter serves as a type of “everyman,” a powerful mythological archetype.a
  29. Rubeus Hagrid, one of Harry’s closest friends, is part wizard and part giant. Rubeus is Latin for something produced from a bramble or a thicket, which fits Rowling’s description of him as “wild.” Hagrid most likely comes from the term “haggard” which also means “wild” or “unruly.”a
  30. Cedric Diggory is one of four students to die in Rowling’s novels. Cedric is a common Welsh name, and Diggory is the name of the professor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe who traveled to Narnia where he picked an apple to save his mother. The seeds from the apple grew into a tree from which the wardrobe was made.a
  31. Rowling said she may have inadvertently taken the name of Harry’s school, “Hogwarts,” from a hogwort plant she saw in the Kew Gardens in New York City.b
  32. So many fans visit King’s Cross station to take pictures of platforms 9 and 10 that the station management erected a sign that says “Platform 9 ¾” which, in the Potter books, is invisible to Muggles but acts as a gateway for witches and wizards.c
  33. Voldemort’s wand is made of yew. Yew is seen by some as having immense supernatural power and being a symbol of death and rebirth, the same immortality that Voldemort seeks. Historically, nearly all wizards have used a magical wand of some sort that channels a wizard’s power and acts as a symbol of authority (such as a shepherd’s staff).e
  34. Golgomath (one of the largest giants in the Potter universe) may be a play on the word “googol,” a math term for a one with a hundred zeros after it—in other words, one of the largest numbers known.a
  35. Rowling said that when she took an online Sorting Hat quiz, it sorted her into Hufflepuff, one of the four houses of Hogwarts.c
  36. Rowling said if she could take Polyjuice Potion for an hour, she would become Prime Minister Tony Blair. She also said that she would be dreadful at playing Quidditch as she is “not sporty,” “not great with heights,” and is “clumsy.”c
  37. Quidditch is also known as Ikarosfairke or “Ikarus ball,” which refers to the Greek myth of Icarus who flew too close to the sun. His wings melted and he fell into the sea and drowned.e
  38. Rowling said that she would like to transform herself into her favorite animal: an otter. That is the Animagus shape of Hermione’s Patronus—which is not surprising, since Rowling has said Hermione is a lot like she is.b
  39. The curse used to kill Harry’s parents, “Avada Kedavra,” derives from a phrase in Aramaic Abhadda kedhabhra, which means to “disappear like this word.” It was used to make illness disappear, but there’s no proof it was meant to kill anyone. It is also likely the origin of abracadabra, which was used by doctors to cure fevers.a
  40. Harry’s godfather’s name, Sirius Black, comes from the name of one of the brightest stars in the sky, the “Dog Star” or Sirius (from the Greek word seirios, meaning “burning”). The star is a symbol of the goddess Isis and was central to the religion and philosophy of Egypt.a
  41. Sirius Black’s tattoos are borrowed from Russian prison gangs. The markings identify the person as someone to be feared and respected.e
  42. dumbledore
    “Dumbledore“ is an Old English word meaning “bumblebee“
  43. Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore is Dumbledore’s full name. Dumbledore is an Old English word meaning “bumblebee.” Albus is Latin for “white,” and Wulfric was the name of a twelfth-century saint who became a deeply holy man after seeing a homeless man in the street. Percival was a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table and may also mean “pierce the veil,” suggesting an ability to return from the dead. Brian is a Celtic name, meaning “strong.”a
  44. The original title of the first book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and appeared on books in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other territories. It was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by the American publisher because “Sorcerer’s” seemed more exciting. Rowling later said she would have fought this decision had she been in a better position.b
  45. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone refers to a mythical object called a “philosopher’s stone.” In the ancient practice of alchemy (from the Arabic word al-kimia, or the transformation of metals, and related to the word algebra), alchemists searched for a magical substance called the “philosopher’s stone” that would turn ordinary metals into gold. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the “philosopher’s stone” is described as “blood-red.”e
  46. Hogwarts wizards use cauldrons (from the Latin calere meaning “to be warm” or hot, and which is related to “calorie”) to create potions. Mundungus (from archaic Spanish for “stinky tobacco”) Fletcher was known to peddle stolen pots. Cauldrons are one of the oldest and most widely known symbols of magic—older, for example, than broomsticks. In fact, people once believed that witches flew in cauldrons.a
  47. “Morsmorde” is the command that makes the Dark Mark (the mark of Voldemort) appear and means “take a bite out of death” in French, making it an appropriate call for Death Eaters.a
  48. The Death Eaters were originally known as the Knights of Walpurgis, which is a reversal of “Walpurgis Night,” the name of an old witch’s holiday on April 30th celebrating springtime—exactly six months from Halloween. One holiday ushered in the growing season; one marked its passing. On both nights, demons and witches were free to roam. Saint Walpuriga was actually the name of a nun who lived between A.D. 710-779.e
  49. The divination textbook used at Hogwarts was written by “Cassandra Vablatsky.” Her last name refers to a real woman, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky who founded the Theosophical Society. Cassandra was the daughter of the rulers of Troy (Priam and Hecuba) who was cursed by Apollo to prophecy the truth but never to be believed.e
  50. The Hogwarts school motto is Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus which is Latin for “Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon.” In the novels, the school is located somewhere in Scotland and has various charms to make it appear as an old ruin to muggle eyes.b
  51. Hogwarts was founded 1,000 years ago by Godric Gryffindor (fire/lion), Salazar Slytherin (water/serpent), Helga Hufflepuff (earth/badger), and Rowena Ravenclaw (air/raven). Its crest includes each of the animal representations of the four founders.c
  52. In the Hogwarts school, grades include Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations, and Acceptable. The failing grades include Poor, Dreadful, and Troll.e
  53. Early in the series’ history, the Harry Potter books received positive reviews; however, later books were criticized as bland and cliché.i
  54. woman waiting train station
    The idea of Harry Potter “strolled“ into Rowling’s head during a four-hour train delay
  55. Rowling says the idea of Harry Potter just “strolled into her head” during a four-hour train delay.c
  56. According to Rowling, her favorite book as a child was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.c
  57. An outbreak of lice among the children cast members occurred while filming Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.f
  58. When Coca-Cola won the rights to tie in its product with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling insisted the company donate $18 million to the U.S. Reading Is Fundamental campaign to encourage children to read.d
  59. Natalie McDonald, who appeared in Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire, was based on a real girl Rowling knew who was dying of leukemia.a
  60. The driver and conductor of the Knight Bus, Ernie and Stanley, are named after Rowling’s grandfathers.a
  61. In 2003, members of the Jesus Non-Denominational Church in Greenville, Michigan, publicly demonstrated their concern over what they perceived to be evil in the Harry Potter books by gathering around a bonfire and burning Rowling’s books. In the Middle Ages, when books were rare, burning them was a radical statement.i
  62. Rowling claims that her wizarding world is purely imaginary and she doesn’t believe in the kind of magic found in her books.i
  63. Wizarding World of Harry Potter
    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is scheduled to open at Universal Orlando in 2010
  64. A theme park called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in 2010 at Universal Islands of Adventure in Florida. The park will include a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Forbidden Forest, and Hogsmeade Village.i
  65. Harry Potter books made the American Library Association (ALA) list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books for five consecutive years. A challenge is a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.i
  66. Most parent protests against the books include arguments that the books glorify witchcraft, encourage children to break rules and defy authority, and dwell on dark themes and death. But other parents argue in favor of the books, saying they serve as a mirror for finding a young child’s full potential.i
  67. When asked about the Harry Potter series, Pope John Paul II said the stories helped children see the difference between good and evil. However, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said the books “erode Christianity in the soul” of young people and are “inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Ratzinger said the books were a “subtle seduction.”i
  68. Nancy Stouffer, the author of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles and Harry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly sued Rowling because she said Rowling’s books were based on her ideas. Stouffer lost her case in 2002 and was fined for making her claim with forged documents. No other author has claimed that Rowling stole an idea.i

-- Posted May 24, 2009

References

a Ark, Steve Vander. 2009. The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials. Muskegon, MI: RDR Books.

b Beahm, George. 2005. Fact, Fiction, and Folklore in Harry Potter’s World. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.

c Boyle, Fionna. 2004. A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World: Exploring the Harry Potter Universe. Chicago, IL: Independent Publishers Group.

dCoke Backs Harry Potter Literacy Drive.” BBCNEWS.com. October 9, 2001. Accessed: May 21, 2009.

e Colbert, David. 2004. The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter: A Treasury of Myths, Legends, and Fascinating Facts. New York, NY: The Berkeley Publishing Group.

fHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (Trivia). IMDB.com. Accessed: May 21, 2009.

gHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Trivia). IMDB.com. Accessed: May 21, 2009.

h Leung, Rebecca. “The Magic Behind Harry Potter.” CBSNEWS.com. June 15, 2003. Accessed: May 20, 2009.

i MacDonald, Joan Vos. 2008. J.K. Rowling: Banned, Challenged, and Censored. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc.

j Schafer, Elizabeth D. 2000. Beacham’s Sourcebook for Teaching Young Adult Fiction: Exploring Harry Potter. Osprey, FL: Beacham Publishing Corp.