As the wizard completes twenty years of existence, we dig out twenty facts about the world of Harry Potter that not too many might know about:
* The idea of Harry Potter is believed to have come to JK Rowling in 1990, when she was on a train trip from Manchester to London. The trip was delayed by four hours, giving Rowling time to think. And she thought of a boy wizard and a school of magic. She is said to have put down her initial ideas on a napkin.
* JK Rowling’s real name is Joanne Rowling – there is no “K” in it. The publishers, however, suggested that she use an additional initial in her name as the name with initials would disguise her gender – they were not too sure about how the target audience would take to a fantasy series written by a woman. Rowling opted for “K” for “Kathleen,” the name of her maternal grandmother. And JK Rowling was born.
* The terrifying Dementors of the Harry Potter series that “drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them…” are said to be inspired by Rowling’s own feelings of depression, following her failed marriage in 1993. Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and is believed to have contemplated suicide at one point.
* If the first outline of Harry Potter was written on a napkin, then the names of the houses were written on an even more interesting medium – Rowling says she thought of them and then wrote them down on an airplane barf bag!
* Both Harry and his creator have the same birthday: July 31.
* Which Harry Potter character is closest to the person who created him? Hermione Granger is based largely on the young Rowling.
* A lot of Harry Potter was written in cafes. This was mainly because her still young baby used to go to sleep easily when taken out of their house for a walk.
* The first Harry Potter book was finished in 1995, but no fewer than 12 publishers rejected it before Bloomsbury decided to go with it. The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997.
* Evidently one of the major reasons for Bloomsbury going with the book was the fact that the chairman of Bloomsbury gave the first chapter of the book to his eight year old daughter, who just loved it and demanded the next one!
* Even Bloomsbury were not overwhelmingly optimistic about Harry Potter. The first book had a print run of 1,000 copies with 500 of those going to libraries.
* Bloomsbury editor Barry Cunnigham advised Rowling to go for a regular job as she was unlikely to make much money from writing children’s books.
*Rowling is a billionaire today – she is actually supposed to be the first person to have become a billionaire by mainly writing books!
* JK Rowling had a pretty good idea of what the ending of Harry Potter would be. She says she had sketched out the final chapter of the series, within the first year of having written the first book.
* The word Dumbledore (the name of the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Magic) is actually an old English one and means “bumblebee.” Why Bumblebee? Because Rowling felt that the Hogwarts’ head would like humming!
* Speaking of names, it seems that the magic school Hogwarts might owe its name to a plant named Hogwort that Rowling saw in Kew Gardens in New York.
* Want still more on names? Well, a number of the magical names in the series come from a 17th century classic on herbs, Culpeper’s Compete Herbal. Yeah, toadflax and grommel are in it, as are many others.
* Rowling had a tough time writing a particular chapter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She evidently had to rewrite it many times to ensure it fitted well into the plot.
* She was all right with films, but Rowling once turned down the idea of a musical based on Harry Potter. The person who proposed the idea was none other than Michael Jackson!
* For a long time, Rowling wanted the last word of the series to be “scar”. However, she finally went with the more conventional “all is well”.
* Although Harry Potter has made her a household name, JK Rowling has tried to move on from writing about the Wizard and has written a series of books under the pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. They have received their share of critical and commercial acclaim, but nothing that can be compared with what Harry Potter received. Shades of Doyle and Sherlock?