British Author

5 Real Inspirations for the Wizarding World

The Harry Potter Series has been a crowning jewel in J.K. Rowling’s repertoire of literary works. It has single-handedly shot Rowling to immense stardom, something that is not a common phenomenon.

Despite J.K. Rowling’s other works that are also considered good literary additions to her portfolio, it is very difficult to separate her from the Harry Potter series and look at her as an author without this connection. The first novel she ever wrote was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and for about 20 years since she started writing it, she has been writing the rest of the series and actively participating in helping out with its movie adaptations.

As detailed and exciting as the world she built for the Harry Potter series is, there are several things and people in the real world that inspired her to channel their identity into her Harry Potter books. These characters, things, and even abstract ideas, played a pivotal role in making the Harry Potter series every bit a masterpiece.

J.K. Rowling Real Inspirations for the Wizarding World


The Train Journey that Started it All

J.K. Rowling had been a passionate storyteller since a very young age. However, it took one delayed train journey from Manchester to King’s Cross Station in London for Rowling to stumble upon the boy wizard that would one day make her as famous as he was. It is very interesting to see this connection on several levels.

For one, Rowling’s parents, Peter and Anne met each other during a train journey from King’s Cross Station in London. Their eventual union led to the birth of J.K. Rowling. Around 25 years after her birth, on a similar train journey, she (Rowling) met her inspiration for what would be a significant part of the rest of her life – Harry Potter. In the first book, on a similar train journey, from King’s Cross Station, Harry Potter would meet everything that would change his life forever – the wizarding world, his best friends Ron and Hermione, and much more.

All three train journeys gave this world something significant. The first train journey gave us J K Rowling, the second train journey gave us Harry Potter, the third train journey gave us everything that makes the Harry Potter series such a significant read.

Harry Potter as a fully formed character was later developed by Rowling based on her childhood memories of an old friend and neighbor called Ian Potter. However, Harry’s characteristics and personality mirrored Rowling’s. They also share the same birthday, July 31.


Magical History and other Events

As refreshing and creative as the Harry Potter Series, a lot of stories and historical accounts depicted in the Harry Potter series are based on or inspired by events in the history and mythology of the real world. For instance, frequent references to the wizard Merlin is in fact an allusion to a very popular character in Arthurian Legend with the same name.

Furthermore, many magical beings and creatures, most notably the Basilisk already exist in Hellenic and Roman legends. Several key elements of The Tale of the Three Brothers were inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale from his famous Canterbury Tales.

Another significant historical connection is that of Nicolas Flamel. Nicolas Flamel was an actual person who lived in Paris, France in the 14th and 15th centuries. He was also married to a woman named Perenelle and they were both known for being affluent members of their locality, who made regular donations to charity and churches. Much later, in the 17th century, several myths about him being an alchemist and creating the Philosopher’s Stone circulated around. These myths were later narrated in several stories of that time.

Some instances in the books were also inspired by notable mythologies and books like The Bible, The Iliad by Homer, and Emma by Jane Austen. The character of Voldemort was inspired by Macbeth, both of whom similarly seal their fate by acting upon a prophecy that predicts their downfall.


Ron Weasley’s Blue Ford Anglia

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we’re introduced to Arthur Weasley’s blue Ford Anglia, bewitched to fly. Ron and his brothers Fred and George rescue Harry from his Uncle’s house with this car. The inspiration for this car and to some extent, the character of Ron Weasley came from Sean Harris, who was one of J.K. Rowling’s closest friends. He too had a blue Ford Anglia, and whenever Rowling was sad or gloomy, she and Sean would go on several trips in his car. She likened the experience of these joyrides to that of a flying car.

Sean Harris was also one of the first people Rowling confided to about her serious aspirations of becoming an author. He also supported her a lot when she was a single mother living on welfare with her daughter Jessica.


Dementors, Chocolate and Patronuses

J.K. Rowling has faced a lot of ups and downs in her life, but her mother’s sudden death from Lateral Sclerosis left Rowling torn with grief. She was very close to her mother. One of the strongest metaphors that Rowling channeled into her books were the characters known as Dementors. It is said that a major part of her inspiration to create these beings came from depression and continued grief resulting from her mother’s death. Dementors suck out all happiness from a person, making them live in a constant state of fear, making them feel like nothing will ever be good again.

However, the genius of Rowling was in suggesting ways to defend ourselves from these creatures. Dementors are an embodiment of fear itself, something that compounds when we are clouded by the effects of sorrowful events. Fear is the instant reaction to change, a coping mechanism depicting the inconvenience of the unknown. But in this book, two things counteract this fear – Chocolate to soothe oneself, and the Patronus to fight back these agents of fear. Rowling was not only inspired to create Dementors but she was also inspired to create ways to tackle fear and grief.

Chocolate can be seen as a substance that most children love to eat, something that also brings back joy in a person. The Patronus is similar to a spirit animal and is a glowing beacon of hope in an otherwise dark world.


Natalie McDonald

Natalie McDonald is the only Hogwarts student to be named after a real person. In the real world, Natalie McDonald was a young Canadian girl who loved reading the Harry Potter books but was suffering from Leukemia. One of her mother’s friends wrote to Rowling about this, but Rowling was not at home when the letter came in. As soon as Rowling saw this letter, she compiled a personal letter to Natalie which was said to contain various details from later books of the series.

However, it was sadly too late as Natalie succumbed to Leukemia before she got Rowling’s letter. As a tribute to Natalie, Rowling named a Hogwarts student who gets sorted into Gryffindor after Natalie. She appears on page 152 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as she is sorted into Gryffindor house in the British edition of the paperback book.

FAQs

Was Snape a real person?

No, Snape was not a real person. However, the character of Severus Snape is said to be loosely based on Rowling’s chemistry teacher John Nettleship. Snape might also be based on several other teachers that Rowling encountered from her childhood. Another teacher named Mrs. Morgan who J.K. Rowling had as a math teacher could also be a partial inspiration for the character of Snape as she was really strict.

Who was the richest character in Harry Potter?

Nicolas Flamel is most likely the richest character in the Harry Potter series. While there might be several other contenders to this title, the fact that Nicolas Flamel was more than 600 years old and possessed the Philosopher’s Stone that could turn any metal into gold, rule in his favor. Other than Flamel, the Malfoys might have been very rich too.

Was Merlin more powerful than Dumbledore?

Merlin was probably one of the earliest wizards in the Harry Potter universe. He was considered a gifted wizard. While it is impossible to be absolutely sure that Merlin was more powerful than Dumbledore, it is safe to say that both of them had their strong and weak points. Merlin may have had a lot of ancient wisdom due to his time period, while Dumbledore might have had the advantage of modernity and having lived after Merlin’s time. There is no doubt that they were both exceptional wizards each, one of a kind.

About Mohandas Alva
Mohandas graduated with a Master's degree in English literature. He is very passionate about deciphering the nature of language and its role as a sole medium of storytelling in literature. His interests sometimes digress from literature to philosophy and the sciences but eventually, the art and craft of narrating a significant story never fail to thrill him.
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