Columns / Discourse / October 13, 2010

Did You Know: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter

As a lover of the Harry Potter series, an article on it was inevitable. Some of these random facts you might already know, but I’m hoping its news to you. Some of it sure was to me. Just as a warning, there is a little spoiler in here, so beware!

1. Ever pay attention to the pictures in Professor Dumbledore’s study? In “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, there’s a picture of Gandalf the Grey from “The Lord of the Rings” in the collection of great wizards. I’m so going to look that up!

2. Everyone who’s read Harry Potter knows what Dementors are. Well, Dementors are actually a representation of the depression J.K. Rowling went through at one point in her life. To lighten the effects of a Dementor, characters eat chocolate. Tells you about her experiences with depression, doesn’t it?

3. Death seems to be a major theme in the Potter series. Reason being? Rowling’s mother died from multiple sclerosis in 1990, seven years before the first Potter book came out. Her mother’s death heavily influenced her writing.

4. Harry Potter’s owl, Hedwig, actually shares her name with two saints. One is Saint Hedwig of Andechs (1174-1243). She was a former duchess known for her benevolence and compassionate nature. The other is Saint Hedwig, Queen of Poland (1373-1399). It can only be inferred that the death of Hedwig in the last Harry Potter book that it represents Harry’s loss of innocence and coming of age, though I’m not sure when he ever had all that much innocence.

5. Apparently, lots of students in Great Britain would play hooky to get their hands on Rowling’s books! The publisher of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” asked the stores in Great Britain to not sell the book until schools were closed for the day to prevent students from skipping class. Those are some really dedicated readers.

6. Rowling’s series has apparently encouraged children to read more. Sales for other children’s literature such as C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” series and Lloyd Alexander’s “The Black Cauldron” series have gone up.

7. Voldemort’s name comes from the French word that means “fly from death.” Voldemort’s entire goal throughout the whole series is to conquer death. Interesting, no? Too bad he fails.

8. The killing curse, “Avada Kedavra” comes from the phrase “Abhadda kedhabhra”, which means to “disappear like this word.” Funky phrase, huh? It was used to make illnesses disappear. The idea for the killing curse most likely also came from “abracadabra”, which was used by doctors to cure fevers. What interesting doctors they had back then!

9. Anyone know Dumbledore’s full name? It’s Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore. Dumbledore is Old English for “bumblebee,” Albus is Latin for “white,” and Brian is a Celtic name meaning “strong.” Wulfric was the name of a 12th century saint who became really holy and pious after seeing a homeless man on the street and Percival was the name of a knight in King Arthur’s Round Table. It can also mean “to pierce the veil,” suggesting an ability to return from the dead. Wow, looks like a lot of research was done for “Bumblebee’s” name!

10. And for the last, if you didn’t know already, a theme park called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has opened at the Universal Islands of Adventure in Florida. The park includes Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Forbidden Forest, and Hogsmeade Village. I don’t know about you, but as a Harry Potter nerd, I am dying to go there!

Emily Park

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