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Five Fascinating Facts about Harry Potter

Here are our five favourite facts about one of the biggest publishing phenomena of the last twenty years, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Even if you’re a diehard fan of the series, we hope there’ll be something here to surprise you…

1. When J. K. Rowling visited the chatroom of Mugglenet, she was told by regulars to keep quiet as she didn’t know enough about Harry Potter. According to Rowling in an interview for the Leaky Cauldron website, the first time she Googled ‘Harry Potter’, she stumbled upon the Mugglenet site which is dedicated to discussion of the Harry Potter series. Deciding to join the discussion (under a pseudonym), Rowling found that she was treated with ‘outright contempt’ by regular users of the site, who told her, ‘Yeah, yeah, shut up, you’re not a regular, you don’t know a thing.’ Perhaps Roland Barthes had a point when he talked about ‘the death of the author’

Rowling2. The first fan letter J. K. Rowling ever received began: ‘Dear Sir…’ It is hardly surprising that Francesca Gray, the girl who wrote Rowling her first letter of appreciation, mistook her for a male writer, given the fact that her publishers had tried to conceal her gender from readers. Rowling published under the initials ‘J. K.’ because her publisher thought the first Harry Potter book would be less appealing to boys if it carried a woman’s name on the cover. ‘J. K.’ struck a suitably androgynous note, ‘J. K.’ standing for ‘Joanne Kathleen’. Kathleen, however, is not Rowling’s middle name. She doesn’t have one: she adopted the ‘K’ after her grandmother, who was called Kathleen (‘Rowling’, by the way, should be rhymed with rolling). The first Harry Potter book has been translated into Latin under the title Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis; the novel is still known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Britain, but was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US (Rowling has since said that she regrets letting this decision go by unquestioned, but she was an unknown writer at the time and didn’t feel that she could insist on keeping the original title). Total sales figures for the series are unknown, but it’s estimated that the seven books have sold a total number in excess of 400 million copies worldwide.

3. Rowling’s parents met at King’s Cross station. The London rail station is where Harry and his Hogwarts peers catch the train to the school of witchcraft and wizardry, of course – on ‘Platform nine and three-quarters’. It’s difficult to say for sure whether this fact – that Rowling’s parents met at this station – influenced her decision to make this the starting-point for Harry’s adventures…

4. Rowling invented Quidditch after a row with her boyfriend. Rowling has revealed that she came up with the idea for the game in a Manchester hotel room after an argument with her boyfriend of the time. This fact came to light in a special ‘second thoughts’ notebook version of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In this annotated first edition of the novel, Rowling writes, ‘I had been pondering the things that hold a society together, cause it to congregate and signify its particular character and knew I needed a sport. It infuriates men … which is quite satisfying given my state of mind when I invented it.’ Elsewhere in this special one-off copy of the book, which was auctioned for charity in 2013, Rowling provides insights into the writing of the first book: ‘I wrote the book in snatched hours, in clattering cafes or the dead of night.’ The rags-to-riches tale of Rowling is almost as well-known as the story of the fictional character she created: as a single mother living in Edinburgh, she would write in local cafes because taking her baby out and about was the quickest way to make the child fall asleep – and not, contrary to popular belief, because she couldn’t afford to have the heating on in her flat. The first book appeared in 1997, but she had been living with the idea of the Harry Potter series for seven years before. She was on a train from London to Manchester in 1990 when the idea for the character suddenly appeared in her mind. Evidently travel, whether by air or by rail, is good for Rowling’s creative imagination, as our next fact shows…

5. The names for the houses at Hogwarts were originally written down on a sick bag. Rowling came up with the names for the houses at Hogwarts while she was on a plane. Worried that she would forget them by the time she landed, before she had had a chance to write them down somewhere, she jotted the names down on an airsickness bag. And, in case you were wondering, don’t worry: the bag was empty.

And if you enjoyed those facts about Harry Potter, you might also enjoy our interesting facts about The Hunger Games and our facts about The Maze Runner series.

Image: J. K. Rowling (author: Daniel Ogren), Wikimedia Commons.

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About interestingliterature

A blog dedicated to rooting out the interesting stuff about classic books and authors.

Posted on November 21, 2014, in Literature and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on MorgEn Bailey's Writing Blog and commented:
    Five Fascinating Facts about Harry Potter – I love number one…

  2. thegreatannabanana

    Reblogged this on The Eternal Beginner.

  3. Reblogged this on Further Annotations and commented:
    We are huge, huge potterheads.

  4. This is awesome! Imagine being told you don’t know anything about the series that YOU created!

  5. Loved these facts! I figured I would know all of them, but didn’t know most of these yet. :-)

  6. I had to read this to my Littles. We are all huge Harry Potter fans, and it’s always fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at a favorite story. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Interesting! I like the fact about the sick bag!

  8. Very interesting! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Clearly all I need to do to become a mega-famous writer is write things on sick bags! Agh and all this time I’ve been wasting ink writing on trash bins and sidewalks while the answer was staring me in the face…seriously though, thanks for an interesting article! I love the Harry Potter series.

  11. Reblogged this on It's all kids stuff. and commented:
    The author was told she “didn’t know anything” about the series she created…. It’s interesting when a book goes from being an author’s to being a book for a community. I’m wondering: Does that somehow lessen the author’s ideas?

  12. The first one was hilarious! Thanks for the laugh.

  13. Reblogged this on Thoughts of a crooked mind. and commented:
    If you are into Harry Potter series,then you might wanna read these.

  14. We love Harry Potter because it captures everyone’s heart not just with the teens but also the adults who watched the movie series. Some people love the effects and imagined to be in Hogwarts. Actually, there is something new with the Harry Potter it’s about the book. According to this article http://www.exploretalent.com/articles/harry-potter-books-become-stunning-masterpiece/ the books becomes stunning that it’s hard to resist for you to buy a new set. Yes, a set. It’s an addition for your Harry Potter Collection.

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