Owls

By J.K. RowlingOriginally published on pottermore logo on Aug 10th 2015The old British superstition that it is unlucky to see owls flying by daylight is readily explained, for when wizards break cover to send messages by day, something dramatic must be afoot in the magical world. Muggles may subsequently experience the unpleasant aftershocks, without any idea of their cause.

As a (mostly) nocturnal bird of prey, the owl is inevitably seen as sinister by Muggles, but it has been a faithful servant and helpmeet to witches and wizards for many centuries. In spite of the many alternatives available for magical communication across long distances (including Patronuses, Floo powder, and enchanted devices such as mirrors and even coins), the faithful and reliable owl remains the most common method used by wizardkind across the world.

The advantages of owls as messengers are those very qualities that make Muggles view them with suspicion: they operate under cover of darkness, to which Muggles have a superstitious aversion; they have exceptionally well-developed night vision; and are agile, stealthy and capable of aggression when challenged. So numerous are the owls employed by wizards worldwide that it is generally safe to assume that virtually all of them are either the property of the Owl Postal Service of their country, or of an individual witch or wizard.

Whether because they possess an innate bent for magic (just as pigs are reputed to be innately non-magical), or because generations of their ancestors have been domesticated and trained by wizards and they have inherited the traits that make this easy, owls learn very quickly, and seem to thrive on their task of tracing and tracking the witch or wizard for whom their letters are intended.

The mystical association between the name and the human who bears it has long been understood by witches and wizards of all cultures. While the process remains mysterious even to those who train up owlets to become wizarding pets or postal owls, the birds appear to be able to make such a connection between the name and its possessor that enables them to trace the witch or wizard concerned wherever he or she may be. An owl does not need to know an address, although witches and wizards generally add the place to the envelope on the off-chance that the owl is intercepted and the letter falls into other hands.

Should a witch or wizard not wish to be sent letters (or tracked in any other way), he or she will have to resort to Repelling, Disguising or Masking Spells, of which there are a great range. It is possible to protect yourself from all correspondence, or all but that carried by a specific owl. If a witch or wizard is determined not to be contactable by a persistent creditor or ex-boy or girlfriend, they might try a masking spell specific to that person, but this ploy is easily circumnavigated by asking somebody else to send the owl. In general, it takes strong protective magic, and a willingness to forego a lot of birthday cards, to avoid the attentions of Owl Post.

Trained owls are expensive, and it is quite usual for a wizarding family to share a single owl, or else only use Postal owls.

J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

My love of, and fascination with, owls long pre-dates the first idea for Harry Potter. I trace it to a cuddly owl toy that my mother made me when I was six or seven, which I adored.

Of course, owls have been associated with magic for a long time, and feature in many old illustrations of witches and wizards, second only to cats as Most Magical Creature. The owl’s association with wisdom was established in Roman times, for it is the emblem of Minerva, goddess of wisdom.

Owl breeds shown within the Harry Potter books include the eagle owl (large, tufted and fierce-looking, owned by Draco Malfoy); the Little Owl (tiny, cute, but perhaps not very impressive, like Pigwidgeon, owned by Ron); and the Snowy Owl, which is also known as the Ghost Owl (Harry’s Hedwig).

I made a few elementary mistakes when it came to my depiction of Hedwig. Firstly, Snowy Owls are diurnal (ie, they fly by day). Secondly, they are virtually mute, so Hedwig’s frequent hoots and chirrups of approval and comfort should be taken as signs of her magically enhanced abilities. Thirdly, as countless well-meaning owl-lovers and experts kept writing to me in the early days, owls do not eat bacon (Hedwig enjoys a bit of bacon rind when she delivers post at breakfast).

When I dreamed up Errol, the aged, long-suffering and overworked Weasley family owl, I had in mind a picture I thought I had seen, which featured a very comical, large, fluffy, grey, bewildered-looking bird whose breed I had never known. In fact, I wondered whether it had been a real photograph, or whether imagination was distorting the image. It was with sheer delight, therefore, that I rounded a corner on my first ever visit to the aviary at Leavesden Studios, where they were filming Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and saw a line of big, grey, fluffy, bewildered-looking owls blinking back at me, each an exact replica of the half-remembered picture I thought I might have dreamed. They were all playing Errol, and they are Great Greys.

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Original Writing

Vampires

By J.K. RowlingOriginally published on pottermore logo on Aug 10th 2015Although vampires exist in the world of Harry Potter, as shown by the literature that Harry and his friends study in Defence Against the Dark Arts, they play no meaningful part in the story. The vampire myth is so rich, and has been exploited so many times in literature and on film, that I felt there was little I could add to the tradition. In any case, vampires are a tradition of Eastern Europe, and in general I tried to draw from British mythology and folklore when creating adversaries for Harry. Aside from passing mentions, therefore, the only vampire whom Harry meets in the books is Sanguini in *Half-Blood Prince*, who makes a faintly comic appearance at a party.

Looking back through my earliest notebooks, however, I found that on my very earliest list of staff, there was a subjectless vampire teacher I had forgotten, called ‘Trocar’. A Trocar is sharply pointed shaft inserted into arteries or cavities to extract bodily fluids, so I think it a rather good name for a vampire. Evidently I did not think much of him as a character, though, because he disappears fairly early on in my notes.

For a long time there was a persistent fan rumour that Snape might be a vampire. While it is true that he has an unhealthy pallor, and is sometimes described as looking like a large bat in his long black cloak, he never actually turns into a bat, we meet him outside the castle by daylight, and no corpses with puncture marks in their necks ever turn up at Hogwarts. In short, Snape is not a revamped Trocar.

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Original Writing

Wand Lengths & Flexibility

By J.K. RowlingOriginally publishe on Aug 10th 2015

The following notes on wand length and flexibility are taken from notes on the subject by Mr Garrick Ollivander, wandmaker.

Many wandmakers simply match the wand length to the size of the witch or wizard who will use it, but this is a crude measure, and fails to take into account many other, important considerations. In my experience, longer wands might suit taller wizards, but they tend to be drawn to bigger personalities, and those of a more spacious and dramatic style of magic. Neater wands favour more elegant and refined spell-casting. However, no single aspect of wand composition should be considered in isolation of all the others, and the type of wood, the core and the flexibility may either counterbalance or enhance the attributes of the wand’s length.

Most wands will be in the range of between nine and fourteen inches. While I have sold extremely short wands (eight inches and under) and very long wands (over fifteen inches), these are exceptionally rare. In the latter case, a physical peculiarity demanded the excessive wand length. However, abnormally short wands usually select those in whose character something is lacking, rather than because they are physically undersized (many small witches and wizards are chosen by longer wands).

Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair – although, again, this factor ought not to be considered separately from the wand wood, core and length, nor of the owner’s life experience and style of magic, all of which will combine to make the wand in question unique.

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Original Writing

The Prophecy

                       

  a land                           
                      all lucky                          
                   and   smooth!                         
                   in   all lucky                        
                       very smooth                       
                        very smooth                      
                       very smooth                       
                      rather small                       
  in   a              rather small                       
 smooth!            mean, hot, new                       
  friend           fast, fool, easy                      
   friend          positively guide                      
    smooth!        fast, fool, zany                      
    skipping      fast, mean, foolish                    
    all lucky   auspicious, mean, silly                  
       fast, fool, humble, silly, common                 
        fast, humble, silly, common, easy                
         auspicious, fast, humble, common                
           hot adenturer jumping, joyfully               
               auspicious, hot, propitious               
               auspicious, easy, propitious              
               auspicious, easy, propitious              
               auspicious, hot, propitious               
               auspicious, humble, minute and            
               auspicious, fool, foolish    a a          
              auspicious, fast, hot, common, easy        
              auspicious, fool, mean, hot, common        
              auspicious adenturer hopping, joyfully     
               auspicious, fool, mean, hot, common       
               auspicious, fast, fool, mean, silly       
                fast, mean, humble, silly, common      a 
                auspicious, fool, mean, hot, easy        
                its hot adenturer skimming, joyfully     
                  all lucky auspicious, hot, minute a    
                  skipping   auspicious, silly, easy a   
                   a stone    auspicious, naive, lead   a
                   smooth!    auspicious, humble, fine   
                   green!      auspicious, mean, common  
                   without      auspicious, humble, lead 
                   goofy!       auspicious, naive, sleek 
                    santa        auspicious, fast, easy  
                   summer         auspicious, fool, new  
                all lucky         auspicious, hot, new   
                green! in          fast, mean, naive     
                                   santa  in

Colours

By J.K. RowlingOriginally published on pottermore logo on Aug 10th 2015

J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

Witches and wizards often reveal themselves to each other in public by wearing purple or green, often in combination. In Britain (and much of Europe) purple has an association with both royalty and religion. Purple dyes, being costly, were once worn only by those who could afford them; bishops’ rings are traditionally set with amethysts. Green has long had a supernatural connection in the UK. Superstition says that it ought to be worn with care; the fairies are supposedly possessive of it, as it is their proper colour. It ought never to be worn at weddings, due to a further association with misfortune and death. Green is the colour of much ‘Dark’ magic; of the ‘Dark Mark’, of the luminescent potion in which Voldemort conceals one of his Horcruxes, of many ‘Dark’ spells and curses, and of Slytherin house. The combination of purple and green, therefore, is suggestive of both sides of magic: the noble and the ignoble, the helpful and the destructive.

The four Hogwarts houses have a loose association with the four elements, and their colours were chosen accordingly. Gryffindor (red and gold) is connected to fire; Slytherin (green and silver) to water; Hufflepuff (yellow and black, representing wheat and soil) to earth; and Ravenclaw (blue and bronze; sky and eagle feathers) to air.

Colours like peach and salmon pink are distinctly un-magical, and therefore much favoured by the likes of Aunt Petunia. On the other hand, shocking pink, as sported by the likes of Nymphadora Tonks, conveys a certain punky ‘yes, I’ve got a Muggle-born father and I’m not ashamed of it’ attitude.

Colours also played their part in the naming of Hagrid and Dumbledore, whose first names are Rubeus (red) and Albus (white) respectively. The choice was a nod to alchemy, which is so important in the first Harry Potter book, where ‘the red’ and ‘the white’ are essential mystical components of the process. The symbolism of the colours in this context has mystic meaning, representing different stages of the alchemic process (which many people associate with a spiritual transformation). Where my two characters were concerned, I named them for the alchemical colours to convey their opposing but complementary natures: red meaning passion (or emotion); white for asceticism; Hagrid being the earthy, warm and physical man, lord of the forest; Dumbledore the spiritual theoretician, brilliant, idealised and somewhat detached. Each is a necessary counterpoint to the other as Harry seeks father figures in his new world.

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Original Writing

Trivia#30

Dumbledore is portrayed by Richard Harris in the film adaptations of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. After Harris’ death, Michael Gambon portrayed Dumbledore for all of the remaining films.