31st of July was Joanne K. Rowling’s 49th birthday. On the 8th of the same month the author released a new short story on her personal website, Pottermore. Titled “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites at Quidditch World Cup Final”, the tale is written in the form of a gossip column by Rita Skeeter, and supposedly takes place several years after the end of the characters’ adventures. Adding to that, on the 23rd of July was also Daniel Radcliffe’s birthday. Undoubtfully this month should be dedicated to Harry Potter.
So, if you are like me at all, you probably already know everything there is to know about the best-selling stories of Harry Potter and have also watched the films several times. However, if you are just starting to get interested in the story or were too young to remember the Harry Potter frenzy at its peak, do not worry. Here are some things to get you started with, so that you will not feel left out during conversations about this phenomenon.
1. Humans and Magic Creatures
– muggles: The name wizards use for non-magical humans
– muggleborns / purebloods: These two categories refer to the gene heritage of the wizards. On the one hand, you have those who have non-magical parents yet were born possessing powers, and on the other hand, you have the wizards that come from families of wizards as well.
– squibs: This category of wizards is the most unfortunate. Even though born and raised as wizards, these magical humans do not have the power to perform any magic.
– animagus: These wizards are able to change themselves into the shape of animals. An amazing trick, especially if one wants to disguise themselves.
– phoenix: The phoenix is a magical bird about the size of a swan. The phoenix has crimson feathers on its body and a golden tail as long as a peacock’s. Its claws and beak are gleaming gold and its eyes are black. The phoenix’s most unusual characteristic is that after its body begins to fail, it dies in a burst of flame, to be reborn from the ashes. Interestingly enough, Albus Dumbledore’s pet, Fawkes, is a phoenix and has managed to offer his assistance to Harry in several difficult situations.
– hippogriff: A flying creature with the head, wings and forelegs of a giant eagle and the body (including hind legs and tail) of a horse. The eyes are orange, while individual hippogriff colours vary as those of mundane horses do, including black, bronze, chestnut, grey, and roan.
– the house elfs: House-elves are small humanoid creatures who inhabit large houses belonging to wealthy Wizarding families. They are “bound” to the family of the house, which means they do all manner of menial tasks for them until they die. However be carefull, if you want your House elf to stay with you forever, you must never present them with any piece of clothing – as from then on they are free.
2. The Wizarding World
– Godric’s Hollow: The birth place of both Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore.
– Gringotts Bank: The only bank of the wizarding world, and is owned and operated by goblins.
– The Ministry of Magic: The governmental authority for the wizarding world, having as a basic mission to keep the muggles from finding out about an entire culture of magical folk.
– St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries: The primary (and likely only) wizarding hospital in Britain.
– The Leaky Cauldron: Famous and popular tavern, serving as a gateway between the non-wizarding world and Diagon Alley.
– Diagon Alley / Knockturn Alley: Diagon Alley, a long cobbled street where is to be found a strange and exciting group of shops and restaurants. It is unquestionably the hub of commerce in the British wizarding world, with virtually every wizarding business stationed there. However, if you are in the mood for some shopping you should be careful. As just around the corner from Diagon Alley lies a dark, twisting alleyway devoted to the Dark Arts, Knockturn Alley. You wouldn’t want to be found all alone over there…
– Azkaban: The wizarding prison, a terrible place from where no one has been able to escape without losing their minds. Prisoners were for years guarded by Dementors, horrible creatures who have been described as a wizard’s worst nighmare.
3. The Dementors:
Horrible, spectral creatures, hooded and robed, which feed on human emotions. Dementors drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even before a Dementor is seen, its presence is obvious; they are surrounded by an unnatural darkness and terrible icy cold and affect even muggles – even though they cannot see them. The only way to defend yourself against them is by using the Patronus Charm, ‘expecto patronum’, which results in conjuring a silvery phantom shape different for each caster.
4. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy
– Platform 9 ¾: This doesn’t seem right, does it? And yet, it is correct. The only way to access it though is by making your way toward the solid metal barrier between platforms nine and ten. Don’t worry, if you have found the right station, you will get through!
– Hogwarts Express: The Hogwarts Express is a passenger train which makes a run between King’s Cross Station, London, and Hogsmeade Station, and is the only way the students can get back to their school.
– Hogsmeade: Hogsmeade is the only entirely wizarding village in Britain. As Hogsmeade is located just down the road from Hogwarts, the school and the village have always shared a special relationship. On select Saturdays throughout the school year the village is filled with Hogwarts students, who are allowed to visit beginning in their third year.
– Sorting hat: Bewitched by all four of the founders of Hogwarts with brains and some amount of personality, this pointy hat’s function is to determine which of the four Houses each new student will enter.
– Quidditch: A competitive sport in the wizarding world. It is an extremely rough but very popular sport, played by wizards and witches, uniquely in teams with members of any age or gender. Matches are played between two teams of seven players riding flying broomsticks, using four balls called the Quaffle, two Bludgers, and the Golden Snitch. So, if you are interested in sports, this one is a definite must-know for you.
5. Magical treats
– Butterbeer: Very popular drink served cold in bottles or hot by the mug. Even though humans are not affected by it, you’d be surpsised of how easily a house elf can get drunk on this drink.
– Pumpkin juice: Everyone drinks it. On the train, during lunch in the big hall, even while studying.
– Chocolate: Remember your mom complaining that chocolate is not that good for you? Well, in the wizarding world it actually has special properties. Not only does it make a wonderful treat, but it also serves as a particularly powerful antidote for the chilling effect produced by contact with Dementors and other particularly nasty forms of Dark Magic.
– Chocolate frogs: These treats come with a collectable card of a famous witch or wizard in each pack. But be careful, if you are not fast enough, your frog may jump away.
– Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans: One of the most famous sweets in the wizarding world is Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. These beans are essentially the same as muggle jelly beans, but with literally every flavor for you to taste. So, before you start thinking about sweet treats, consider wisely all the tastes you could find in the world. You’d be surpsised…
– Owl post: Owl post consists of wizards either tying messages or parcels to owls’ legs or having the owls carry the parcel in their beaks. Considered by wizards to be “the normal way” of communicating, it is the reason why owls are also very common pets in the wizarding world.
– Fire talking: A form of travelling by Floo Powder in which the person travelling sticks only their head into the fireplace, rather than their whole body. The resulting effect is a person’s head sitting in a fireplace, talking with you. So, one must always be prepared to see a friendly face in the fire while messing around with the hot ashes.
– Broomstick: The most widely used and accepted form of magical transportation.
– Apparition: An advanced spell that allows the caster to disappear from one spot and reappear in another almost instantly. However, to be granted the license to perform it one must be over 18 years old and pass a test, demonstrating their mastery of the charm’s technique.
– Floo Network: The Floo Network is made up of various wizarding fireplaces all over Britain. When Floo Powder is thrown into a fireplace that is connected to the network, the fire will burn brilliant green and assume a state that allows a witch or wizard to enter the fire without being burned. It is important to state the name of the intended destination very clearly so as to avoid being connected to the wrong location. You wouldn’t want to end up in Knockturn Alley like Harry now, would you?
– Lord Voldemort: Even though his real name is Tom Marvolo Riddle, he is the ultimate evil figure of the book. Despite his half-blood origin (his mother was a witch and his father was a muggle) his hatred for all muggles has lead him to kill a large number of people both from the magic and muggle world.
9. The Death Eaters:
These are the wizards who follow Voldemort. There seems to be a fairly small number of them, yet still very catastrophic when doing the dark Lord’s work. However, the inner circle of his strongest supporters are only those that apparate to Voldemort’s side when the Dark Mark on their arms summons them.
10. The Unforgivable Curses:
Even though there are several charms that can definitely cause a lot of damage, in the magical world there are three curses that are considered unacceptable.
– imperius curse: By using the word ‘imperio’ this curse gives the ability of taking over someone and thus forcing them to do whatever you want. This has been also used as an excuse by many former Death Eaters in order to avoid spending time in Azkaban…
– cruciatus curse: With only one word, ‘crucio’, and their wands, wizards were able to torture other beings by inflicting on them unberable pain.
– killing curse: The ultimate price, ‘avada kedavra’. This curse has no turning back as it results in a person’s end. No one has been able to survive it, with the exception of course of ‘The Boy Who Lived’, Harry Potter.
By Kerasia Sklavounou
Student of MA Learning & Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts
University of Luxembourg
Study visitor at TermCoord