Mirror of Erised

The Mirror of Erised was a magical item that was capable of very strong magic. It showed someone their innermost desires as they stood in front of it.

The Definitive Glossary for Harry Potter

The Mirror of Erised was one of the most interesting artefacts present in Hogwarts, besides several magical artefacts found in the Room of Requirement with the ability to show a person’s deepest and innermost desires when they stood in front of it. It was named Erised possibly because ‘Erised’ spelt backwards was ‘desire.’ Even the inscription on the top of the mirror was a play on words when spaced differently than written. The inscription, Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi spelt backwards with its spacing conveniently changed, read I show not your face but your heart’s desire. 

The mirror first appears in the Harry Potter Universe in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when Harry comes across it in an abandoned classroom.

Magical Origins

The magical origins of the mirror are unknown, although it is possible that the mirror was created as an interesting magical item rather than as something that had any practical use. It is believed to have been created before the nineteenth century and is likely to have exchanged a few hands before it was brought into Hogwarts. It is believed that the mirror has been in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at least since 1891. The most likely explanation for it being brought to Hogwarts is that some professor who taught there must have traveled to a distant land and found it. Intrigued by its magic, they must have brought it to the school to show their colleagues and students.

Description Of The Mirror

The Mirror of Erised was an ancient ornate mirror. It had a gold frame and clawed feet to hold the mirror erect from the ground. The gold ornate frame had an inscription that read “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi” which appeared to be a foreign language. However, on close inspection, it was also a sentence written in English but reversed, and the spaces changed. Going by that observation, the reversed inscription read, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire,” which is on par with the function of this mirror. It resembled a normal mirror until a person stood in front of it, which is when its magical properties would be showcased. It is possible that the Mirror of Erised was inspired by the magic mirror like the one in the story of Snow White.

What It Showed

The Mirror of Erised showed a person’s innermost desires. In Dumbledore’s words, it showed the most “desperate desire of our hearts.” According to him, the happiest man in the world would see himself as he was, intact in every possible way. The enchantment used to create this mirror was a mystery, but it had the ability to look into the soul of the person who stood in front of it. 

Appearances in the Harry Potter Universe

The Mirror of Erised first appeared in the Harry Potter Universe in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry comes across this mirror when he is searching for a book on Nicolas Flamel in the Restricted Section of the library under the Invisibility Cloak. When Mr Filch and his cat Mrs Norris come to the library, Harry decides to make a run for it and eventually ends up in a deserted corridor and then an unused classroom where he finds the mirror.

He stands in front of the mirror only to see his parents James Potter and Lily Potter standing next to him in the reflection. Further, several members who look like James and Lily, many of whom have features like Harry, which included Harry’s knobbly knees and pairs of green eyes which, make Harry believe that those must be his ancestors. This was in the first book among the Harry Potter books. However, in the movie adaptation, only Harry’s parents are seen in the mirror.

On the next night, Harry is accompanied by his friend Ronald Weasley and they both try looking into the mirror independently. However, Ron sees himself as the head boy of Hogwarts, along with being the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and holding the Quidditch Cup and also the House Cup. This implies that the Mirror of Erised does not show one’s family members as Harry initially thought, but rather shows one his or her deepest and desperate desires. Ron Weasley, being overshadowed by his brother’s achievements, wanted to be successful more than anything else.

Harry revisits this mirror several times and it is on one such occasion that he meets Albus Dumbledore there. This is also the first time that Harry and Dumbledore talk to each other properly in the series. When Harry asks Dumbledore what he sees, Dumbledore claims that he sees himself holding a pair of socks. However, this happens to be untrue. It is believed that Dumbledore actually sees his sister Ariana and possibly his mother Kendra, both alive and well. It is also possible that Albus wanted to see his father Percival and his brother Aberforth along with his mother and sister so that it would finally make their family complete again.

Also, in the Harry Potter spinoff series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it is revealed that Dumbledore sees the reflection of him and his close friend and lover, Gellert Grindelwald, spending time together when he stands in front of the mirror. However, since the mirror shows a person their innermost desires, it is possible that the same person sees different things with the passage of time depending on what they desire at that moment.

Finally, the Mirror of Erised served as the final guardian of the Philosopher’s Stone in the chambers filled with challenges to prevent a thief from stealing the stone. It was believed that Lord Voldemort would somehow try to get his hands on the stone as it could make the Elixir of Life and finally let him come back to life. Hagrid had just recently retrieved the stone from Gringotts before it was broken into. It is revealed that Professor Quirrell was working on behalf of Voldemort and trying to steal the stone for him.

When Harry reached the chamber in which the Mirror of Erised stood, he saw Quirrell standing in a casual manner staring at the mirror. He was unable to retrieve the stone from it. However, when Harry was forced to stand in front of the mirror, the Philosopher’s Stone fell into his pocket, unbeknownst to Quirrell. Harry finally defeated Voldemort and Quirrell and safely returned the stone to Dumbeldore.

The mirror also reappears in the film adaptation of the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, during the fight between the trio and Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle in the Room of Requirement even though further use of the mirror has never been hinted at throughout the series. 

Harry Potter fans can also come across the mirror in other places within the wizarding world of Harry Potter, including the Lego Harry Potter series and the Hogwarts Mystery video games.

Making a Real Mirror of Erised

In the spirit of the Harry Potter series, one could actually make a setup for the Mirror of Erised in the real world, at least if the desire in question is to meet someone the person really wants to. This setup could use a two-way mirror, which is also called a partially reflecting mirror, and could be a great way to surprise someone with the people they want to, but wouldn’t expect to meet. For instance, if someone on a talk show badly wanted to meet a celebrity and if that celebrity was present there, it would be a fun addition to have a “Mirror of Erised” through which the person sees the celebrity standing next to them, while in actuality, the celebrity is standing behind the two-way mirror in a well-lit room.


What does Hermione see in the Mirror of Erised?

Hermione would see all her friends alive and happy, with Lord Voldemort finally being defeated. She would also see Ron Weasley embracing her romantically and with love. Hermione was adamant about somehow defeating Voldemort because his tyranny was a major cause of unhappiness in Hermione as well as a major part of the wizarding community.

What would Voldemort see in the Mirror of Erised?

Voldemort would most likely see himself reigning over the wizarding world without anyone to stop him. This would probably require him to see Harry Potter dead by his side. He would also become an immortal being, and his Horcruxes would be safe and untouched throughout generations.

What did Professor Quirrell see in the Mirror of Erised?

Professor Quirrell saw himself handing over the Philosopher’s Stone to his master, Lord Voldemort, on the Mirror of Erised. However, he was unable to retrieve the stone in real life from the Mirror of Erised as he exclaimed to Harry.

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