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Top 17 facts about Harry Potter

Do you consider yourself an expert on “the boy who lived?” Try again. Continue reading for a breakdown of the Harry Potter series. (Beware: Spoilers!)

1. J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter share a birthday.

They share a celebratory candle-blowing on July 31. And that’s not all; Rowling has remarked that Hermione is a little like her when they were younger, and that the otter is her favorite animal, which is why Hermione has an otter as her patronus. And Rowling has noted that the wizard has “had good taste,” therefore Dumbledore also enjoys sherbet lemons.

2. J.K. Rowling invented the names of the Hogwarts houses on the back of a barf bag.

In 2000, Scholastic hosted a Q&A session with Rowling where students from across the United States may submit questions about Harry Potter. A pupil inquired, “What inspired you to think of the Hogwarts students’ names and dorms?” Rowling retorted, “I came up with the names of the Houses on the back of an aircraft sick bag!” Indeed, this is the case. When I’m creating a new character, I like to flip through my notebook and pick a name that stands out from the crowd.

3. J.K. Rowling’s education came in handy for writing the Harry Potter books.

She studied Classics as a side interest in college and infused the books with Latin phrases she learned there. She commented in 2000, “It just amused me, the thought that wizards would still be using Latin as a living language, although it is, as professors of Latin will know.” When it comes to spells, I get really creative with the wording. In my opinion, it’s a form of mutation that the wizards are employing. For instance, the word “expeller” (from the Latin expellere) and “weapon” (from arma) form the word “expelliarmus,” which is used to disarm an opponent. The Latin word for “starting fires,” incendiarius, is the root of our English word “incendio.” And the school’s slogan is “Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon,” or Draco Dormiens Numquam Titillandus.

4. Early on, J.K. Rowling wrote a sketch of the final chapter of the final book.

Rowling dismisses as “rubbish” the notion that she had the first chapter of Deathly Hallows written and hidden away in a safe. She told Daniel Radcliffe, who played Potter on screen, that she had written a sketch for what she thought the final chapter would be very early on—but not the first day or anything, probably within the first year of writing—in an interview for the Deathly Hallows Part 2 DVD extra features, so there was a grain of truth to it. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to end with Hagrid carrying Harry out of the forest when he was still alive but in a state of apparent death. Knowing that the final battle at Hogwarts was inevitable, Harry’s decision to walk to his death, and the return of the ghosts (for lack of a better word) so that they could accompany Harry into the forest while he pretended to commit suicide only to later be found safe and sound in Hagrid’s arms were all part of my master plan.

Rowling claimed that Hagrid “would have been a natural to kill in certain ways,” but that his prescient mental image prevented that. But because I insisted in my mind that Hagrid was the one to bring Harry out, I never considered any other possibility. For me, that was the ideal scenario, as Hagrid was the one who released him into the world and would be the one to bring him home. That was our last destination. When it came to Hagrid, there was never any real danger.

5. The Dementors in Harry Potter are based on J.K. Rowling’s struggle with depression after her mother’s death.

Rowling’s mother died in 1990 from complications related to multiple sclerosis, and her loss sent her into a deep depression. She would later use this to develop the personality of the dementors in the Harry Potter series, who feed on human emotion. Rowling told Oprah Winfrey, “[depression] is not sadness,” highlighting the difficulty of attempting to explain the condition to someone who has never experienced it. That’s okay, because I’ve experienced sadness before. Grief is an emotional state characterized by tears and a sense of loss. However, it is the hollowness of emotion that is the most striking. So that’s what Dementors are.

6. J.K. Rowling created Quidditch after a fight with her boyfriend.

Rowling remarked in 2003 that if you want to make a game like Quidditch, you need to have a huge dispute with your then-boyfriend. “You go outside, have a pint at the local watering hole, and come up with Quidditch. Quidditch is a pretty violent sport, and maybe in my deep, dark soul I would quite like to see him hit by a bludger, but I don’t know what the connection between the row and the sport is.

7. The plants in Harry Potter come from a real book.

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal was the answer to Rowling’s prayers, she said on 60 Minutes. “I used to gather names of plants that sounded witchy,” she said. “flax weed, toadflax, fleawort, Gout-wort, grommel, knotgrass, Mugwort.” English botanist and herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote the book in the 1700s.

8. A proposed title for the American version of Philosopher’s Stone was Harry Potter and the School of Magic.

Rowling reportedly declined, telling American publisher Arthur Levine, “No—that doesn’t feel right to me…” Sorcerer’s Stone? How about that? (Harry Potter at the School for Wizards and Witchcraft in the French translation, as noted by Levine in J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography.)

9. J.K. Rowling made complicated outlines for the books.

Order of the Phoenix’s plan includes chapter headings, a broad summary of the story, and more precise details about the development of individual characters. (J.K. Rowling may have considered renaming Dolores Umbridge Elvira Umbridge, as evidenced by this summary.)

10. Arthur Weasley was supposed to die.

Rowling told Meredith Vieira that if everyone survived an epic struggle between good and evil, the result would have been “really fluffy, toasty books.” Halfway through “Goblet of Fire,” “everyone would just have a really nice life,” and “the plot would go AWOL,” as one character put it.

However, this does not mean that Rowling was aware of who would be eliminated. The fact that “there were very few nice fathers in the book” was a factor in her decision to save Arthur Weasley when he was attacked by Nagini in Order of the Phoenix. It’s arguable that Arthur Weasley is the sole exemplary parent in the Harry Potter canon. (She “really pondered” murdering Ron, but ultimately decided against it.)

Instead, both Lupin and Tonks were killed off at the end of the Hogwarts series, despite Rowling’s initial plan to keep them alive. She explained that she aimed for a repetition of Harry’s ordeal “to portray the total depravity of what Voldemort’s doing.” As a parent, I see the children left behind as one of war’s worst tragedies. Like Harry was in World War I, I hoped we would see another kid suffer the consequences of war. The fact that the baby was [Lupin and Tonks’] son added a lot of emotion.

11. Stephen King thought Dolores Umbridge was a great villain.

During his review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King proclaimed, “The gently smiling Dolores Umbridge, with her girlish voice, toadlike visage, and clinging, stubby fingers, is the finest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.”

12. To keep Deathly Hallows from leaking early, Bloomsbury gave it codenames.

You probably wouldn’t have read Edinburgh Potmakers or The Life and Times of Clara Rose Lovett: An Epic Novel Covering Many Generations.

13. Haley Joel Osment could have played Harry in the Harry Potter films.

Haley Joel Osment, star of The Sixth Sense, was Steven Spielberg’s first choice to play Harry when he was attached to direct the film adaptation. But the director quit because of an artistic disagreement with Rowling, and replacement director Chris Columbus had to cast a lead. Over the course of seven months, three hundred children participated in a Harry Potter test; even Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry McGuire) showed an interest. It seemed like there would never be someone who could capture Harry’s nuanced personality and complexity, Columbus remarked.

Then, on a random night, Heyman accompanied screenwriter Steve Kloves to the theater (who ended up penning all but one of the Potter scripts). A young man with piercing blue eyes was sitting behind me. “It was Dan Radcliffe,” Heyman revealed to HeroComplex in 2009. My first impressions of him were that he was very curious, quite witty, and very energetic. Real kindness and generosity were also present. On the other hand, he had an insatiable appetite for learning of all kinds. The rest, as they say, is history after he convinced Radcliffe’s parents to allow their son audition.

14. Rupert Grint’s audition was unusual.

Emma Watson, then nine years old, made her first of eight attempts to land the role of Hermione in her school gym. Grint, then age 10, took a unique approach to his video audition: “I found out that you could audition by sending a photo of yourself and some information to Newsround,” he stated in 2002. The video description reads as follows: “I did my own video with me, first of all, pretending to be my theatre teacher who unfortunately was a girl, and then I performed a rap on how I wanted to be Ron, and then I made my own screenplay thing up and sent it off.”

There was competition, too; Tom Felton had tried out for both Ron and Harry before being cast as Draco Malfoy.

15. There’s a good reason Harry’s eyes aren’t green in the movies.

Although Harry has “bright green” eyes in the books, Radcliffe actually has blue ones. Pre-production on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had just begun when Heyman gave Rowling a call with the following options: They had already attempted green contacts, and in post-production, they could color Radcliffe’s eyes green. He pondered the significance of Harry’s emerald eyes.

Lily Potter’s eyes must resemble Harry’s, according to Rowling, thus whoever plays Lily Potter must look somewhat like Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe was relieved by this news because he experienced a severe allergic response to the contacts. (He developed acne due to an allergy to the glasses.)

16. The brooms used in the Harry Potter movies aren’t regular brooms.

Using titanium suitable for use in airplanes, modeler Pierre Bohanna crafted these. According to Popular Mechanics, Global Entertainment Services’ chief creative officer Eddie Newquist said of the wands, “People think of them as a prop the kids are carrying about, but in actuality, they have to sit on them.” Green-screen and special-effects shots require very thin, extremely sturdy backdrops that may be installed on motion-control bases. The majority of these youngsters [started off] at a weight of around 80 to 90 pounds. All of them are adults now, which means they weigh more than 120 or 130 pounds each, so make sure your brooms are sturdy enough to handle that.

17. The Harry Potter makeup artists applied Harry’s lightning bolt scar thousands of times over the course of eight films.

Actually, 5,800 times. From what Daniel Radcliffe told us in an interview we had with him in 2014: “The lightning scar, on the first two films, we literally painted it on, and after that we used Pros-Aide, which was like a glue [to put it on]. Really, it couldn’t have been easier. A thousand times, the scar was painted onto his face; the rest was used on stand-ins and in the movies. As for Harry’s round-frame glasses, Radcliffe wore through 160 of them.

Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition

Enjoy a rare look behind-the-scenes during 10 years of filmmaking with this collection of rare photos. The Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition is a must-see for any lover of the Harry Potter series, as it features rare production photos and the only bottled Butterbeer bar in London.

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