7 Things We Learned About Harry Potter This Christmas
Even though the beloved series technically ended back in 2007 when the seventh and final book was published, author J.K. Rowling has had a hard time pulling herself away from the world of Harry Potter and has recently been adding short stories set in the Potter universe to the official fansite Pottermore. This started back in the summer, then another piece was added for Halloween, then Rowling announced that she was going to add a short story a day for each of the twelve days of Christmas. Now that Christmas has come and gone, here’s some of what we learned about Harry Potter and company from the new writing.
All About Inferi
Inferi are the reanimated corpses of dead people, wizards or Muggles, that Voldemort uses as part of his Army to guard the Horcruxes that contain pieces of his soul. In the new information about the mythical creatures of her creation, Rowling explains why she chose not to call the creatures “zombies” even though that’s what they most closely resemble. Partly she didn’t want to invoke the African and Caribbean voodoo tradition from which the concept of the zombie comes and which would be out of place in Harry Potter’s London.
“Lastly, zombies have been represented and reinterpreted on film so often in the last fifty years that they have a whole raft of associations that were of no use to me. I’m part of the ‘Thriller’ generation; to me, a zombie will always mean Michael Jackson in a bright red bomber jacket,” the author wrote.
Snape Is Not a Vampire
Similarly to how she felt about including zombies in her fantasy world, Rowling mostly kept away from vampires when creating the lore of Harry Potter. The writer pointed out that vampires are mostly a folklore tradition from Eastern Europe and that she tried to stick to mythology based in Britain when creating the major aspects of the Potter universe. The only vampire that Potter meets in the books is a character named Sanguini in Half-Blood Prince, who just makes a funny appearance at a party.
Vampires do exist in Harry Potter’s world and he learns about them in his classes at Hogwarts, but he never really interacts with any. Rowling reveals that she considered including a vampire character named Trocar early on, but the character quickly disappeared from early drafts of her notes. The author also used the opportunity while she was on the subject to dismiss a rumor amongst fans that Snape is a vampire. “While it is true that he has an unhealthy pallor, and is sometimes described as looking like a large bat in his long black coat, he never actually turns into a bat, we meet him outside the castle by daylight, and no corpses with puncture marks in their necks ever turn up at Hogwarts,” she wrote to do away with the rumor.
Ghost-Plot About Florean Fortescue
The character Florean Fortescue was the subject of a ghost-plot, or a side plot, written by Rowling that never made it into the final Harry Potter books. Through explaining why, Rowling gave a look into her writing process and some of the difficulties inherent in writing such a massive series with so many characters and so much going on. Rowling says that the character is the owner of an ice cream shop in Diagon Alley who Harry was to meet in the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban.
Rowling planned to use Florean and his deep knowledge about medieval wizards as a way to give Harry clues about the location of the Hallows, as Florean’s historical knowledge would be useful to Potter’s quests for various objects. As she wrote, Rowling made Fortescue get kidnapped by Voldemort’s army with the intention of having Harry rescue him, but the characters Phineas Nigellus Black and Lady Grey ended up being used to convey those clues. “He is not the first wizard whom Voldemort murdered because he knew too much (or too little), but he is the only one I feel guilty about, because it was all my fault,” Rowling wrote.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014
There Are LGBT and Jewish Students at Hogwarts
The information didn’t come in any of the new writing on Pottermore, but from fan questions posed to Rowling on Twitter. During all the hubbub about Christmas, one fan asked Rowling on the social media site if there are any Jewish students at Hogwarts. Rowling responded by naming one specific Jewish wizard she remembers placing at the school, but also saying there are more Jewish students at the school she doesn’t know by name. Rowling said “But of course” when another fan asked if there are LGBT students at Hogwarts as well. The author finally said that the only belief system she didn’t imagine at the school is the witchcraft-religion Wiccans, which makes sense given Wiccans practice a different sort of magic than Rowling has imagined in her fictional world.
Snape and Potter’s Parents’ Hometown
In order to give more background on some of the older characters in the books, Rowling wrote a little about where Snape and Harry’s parents, James and Lily, came from. Rowling invented the fictional working class town of Cokeworth, England to show that magic can come from the most unlikely places. “Cokeworth’s name is supposed to suggest an industrial town, and to evoke associations of hard work and grime,” Rowling said. Harry visits the town with the Dursleys in The Sorcerer’s Stone when Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon are trying to dodge the letters from Hogwarts, though it’s never made clear in the books this is the place where Harry’s parents are from. The town has at least one large factory, a river going through it, and the small homes of the working class.
The Order of Merlin’s Less-Than-Honorable History
The Order of Merlin is the highest award a member of the wizarding world can receive, with three different levels within it to signify the achievement. The award is given by the Wizengamot, which is sort of like the parliament and court of the magical world. Rowling wrote that while the Wizengamot and the award far pre-date the Ministry of Magic, unfortunately Ministry favorites are far more likely to receive the prize than is fair. Albus Dumbledore rightly received the highest honor for defeating the dark wizard Grindelwald, but Cornelius Fudge also gave himself the same award for a career that many would call into question. Sirius Black’s grandfather Arcturus Black actually bought himself an Order of Merlin by loaning the Ministry of Magic gold.
More on Malfoy
Similarly as she did for Dolores Umbridge at Halloween, Rowling wrote a longer piece fleshing out the backstory of one of Harry Potter’s biggest enemies, Draco Malfoy. Malfoy is Potter’s arch rival at school from the boys’ first days at Hogwarts. Among fans the character has become a bit of an antihero, which was aided in no small part due to the film portrayal by Tom Felton. Throughout their years at school together, Malfoy was envious of the attention Harry received both for his talent and for his famous story.
This most Potter fans would’ve already known, but Rowling fleshes out Malfoy’s confusion in the wake of the events of the final book further. He eventually marries a girl who was raised in a similarly intolerant family, but together they decide not to raise their children to believe that Muggles are scum. This is a big disappointment to Draco’s parents, but they are by that point disgraced to the lowest rung of Death Eaters. Finally, Draco maintains some fascination with the Dark Arts by collecting and holding on to Dark artifacts from his family, though he doesn’t use them. Rowling said she believes he will raise his own son in a much more tolerant manner than he was raised.
“Draco has all the dark glamour of the anti-hero; girls are very apt to romanticise such people. All of this left me in the unenviable position of pouring cold common sense on ardent readers’ daydreams as I told them, rather severely, that Draco was not concealing a heart of gold under all that sneering and prejudice and that no, he and Harry were not destined to end up best friends,” Rowling wrote.
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