This phrase is probably one of the most elusive aspects of the Harry Potter series, as very little is known of its true meaning or origin. It is believed that the school’s motto was created during the creation of Hogwarts and the coat of arms which followed it. The coat of arms consisted of the school crest and the Hogwarts school motto. The Hogwarts school crest includes the four houses, and they are each represented by an animal. Gryffindor is represented by a lion, Ravenclaw is represented by a raven, Hufflepuff is represented by a badger, and Slytherin is represented by a serpent. Below the school crest, the phrase “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus” is written.
There are several fan theories and speculations that try to decode the meaning of this elusive yet interesting phrase, but there is by no means a certain answer to why exactly J. K. Rowling decided to consider this phrase as the Hogwarts school motto.
J. K. Rowling’s Take on the Motto
According to the author of the Harry Potter series J. K. Rowling, she was considering a unique motto for Hogwarts to go on par with the school crest. However, she didn’t want it to be a concoction of words like nobility, fidelity, and charity put together. These words, while meaningful, still represented a very narrow range of virtues that the school and its members stood for, making the motto an obsolete phrase to represent an evolving school. Instead, she decided to take another route and decided to make an entirely practical piece of advice a motto for the school.
One of her friends, who was a professor of Classics, was fluent in Latin, so she requested him an accurate translation of her phrase. While most of the spells she created for the books were cod Latin spells and weren’t exactly Latin, her friend helped her come up with a proper Latin slogan which was not just a mixture of Latin but was purely Latin. He even came up with the exact right word for tickling, “Titillandus.” By making it an innovative message instead of a bunch of words, J. K. Rowling created one of the best school slogans in fictitious history.
The Four Houses
Another interesting fan theory suggests that the Hogwarts motto represents the four houses as the four words of the phrase each represent a different animal which represents the four houses of Hogwarts which in turn were named after its founders. “Draco” which means dragon, is similar to the serpent that Slytherin is represented by. Also, the Basilisk, which resided in the Chamber of Secrets “Dormiens” means sleeping, which is derived from “Dormire” which is Latin for “to sleep.” This is a common trait of the beaver in the daytime, as it is a nocturnal animal. The beaver represents the Hufflepuff house.
“Nunquam” which means never, is believed to be a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” which has the word “nevermore” repeated several times in it. Although the emblem of Ravenclaw house is an eagle, the name Ravenclaw itself has the word raven in it. This extends the possibility that Ravenclaw’s name was derived from Raven. Also, eagles and ravens are both birds adding another connection. Finally, “Titillandus,” which means tickle, is probably a nod to the Gryffindor house, which has historically been connected to the idea of bravery. The lion, being the king of the jungle, is considered very brave, and possibly, it takes a very brave person to tickle a sleeping dragon. The likes of Fred, George, James Potter, Sirius Black, Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione are quite the type to tickle a sleeping dragon with their adventurous spirit, and they were all from Gryffindor.
Hogwarts – The Sleeping Dragon
Another popular fan theory has long posited that the sleeping dragon being referred to is Hogwarts itself. It is possible that the founders decided to create a motto that reflected the retaliation that Hogwarts was capable of if anyone threatened its safety. The motto served as a warning to anyone who would try to hurt the residents or wizards and witches that were at Hogwarts. Hogwarts was an ancient school, and its castle and grounds were protected by a wide variety of charms and incantations.
The magic protecting the place also prevented apparitions and disapparitions inside the campus, with the exception of the headmaster, as we hear from Albus Dumbledore in the movies. When Voldemort tried to start an uprising against Muggle-borns being taught magic, despite the dangerous things he did, the castle tried its best to protect its people and eventually helped Harry and his friends defeat Voldemort forever. This protection is also illustrated when Professor McGonagall used the Piertotum Locomotor spell to summon an army of statues before the Battle of Hogwarts.
Some theories also claim that this motto is somehow related to Draco Malfoy, which is highly unlikely given how the school and the motto were set up in the 11th century.
Another wild and outlandish theory would be that the Hogwarts castle is literally a giant dragon sleeping. Although an unlikely possibility since the wizarding world is all about magic, it is possible that the Hogwarts castle is, in fact, a giant dragon that was transformed into a castle. It could, when the castle is threatened to an extreme level, rise up in its dangerous dragon form. There may be some incantations and spells that only a select few would know that would be used if Hogwarts were in grave danger. However, the secret would be very well guarded and known only to a few. Only in an extremely threatening situation would this come to light, which is probably why it has never happened yet.
What does Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus mean?
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus is a Latin phrase that means “never tickle a sleeping dragon.” It is believed to be practical advice rather than a conventional quote for everybody at Hogwarts to be wary of dangers and to not deliberately go looking for them as the consequences could be very bad.
Is Hogwarts’ motto mentioned in the books?
It is believed that the Hogwarts motto is never mentioned in the books. However, it is believed to be canon as it is a part of several illustrations and diagrams of the school crest in these books and it is also seen along with the school crest in every one of its appearances.
Why is Hogwarts’ motto “never tickle a sleeping dragon?”
The Hogwarts’ motto is Latin for “never tickle a sleeping dragon.” This may be a form of advice to everybody who sees the school crest, warning them of the dangers of looking for danger deliberately. This phrase is similar to another phrase, “let sleeping dogs lie,” and it addresses the people reading it and warns them to be wary of looking for danger.