It’s Harry Potter’s birthday on July 31. Can we even remember a world without Harry Potter in it? Here are 12 facts to celebrate Pottermania and a wondrous universe of wizards, witches and elves that the series introduced readers to.
* Author JK Rowling and Harry Potter both have their birthday on July 31, except that his falls in 1980 and hers in 1966.
* Rowling says the idea of Harry Potter fell into her head during a four-hour train delay, when she was travelling back to London on her own from Manchester. It started as a simple thought: “Boy who doesn’t know he’s a wizard goes to wizarding school.” She recalled, “I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.”
* JK Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was rejected 12 times, before being accepted by Bloomsbury in 1996. The publishers asked her to use initials instead of her real name Joanne Rowling, to appeal to male readers. The ‘K’ stands for Kathleen, her grandmother’s name, but isn’t part of her legal name.
* When Rowling wrote the first book in the series, she was broke, divorced and a single mother. She was also mourning the death of her mother, who died after years of suffering from multiple sclerosis, which is why the Harry Potter series deals with dark themes. She told Oprah Winfrey in an interview: “At least half of Harry’s journey is a journey to deal with death in its many forms, what it does to the living, what it means to die, what survives death; it’s there in every single volume of the books.”
* The Weasleys’ car, a Ford Anglia, harks back to the model and colour that Rowling has fond memories of driving around in when she was younger, with her best-friend from school.
* Ernie and Stanley, the driver and conductor of the triple-decker Knight Bus, are the names of Rowling’s grandfathers.
* In the movie series, child actors were asked to do their real homework during shoots, to make the scenes look more real.
* Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter, went through 160 pairs of glasses by the time the last movie in the eight-part series was done.
* Rowling has revealed that she may have adopted the name Hogwarts, Harry’s school of magic and withcraft, from a hogwort plant she came across in New York’s Kew Gardens.
* Rowling was somewhat like Hermione when she was younger and based the 11-year-old on herself. Hermione’s patronus (magical apparition that wards off evil), an otter, is also Rowling’s favourite animal.
* Dumbledore’s name is inspired by the Old English word for “bumblebee”, because Rowling imagined him humming to himself. Interestingly, Dumbledore and Rowling both like sherbet lemons!
* The actress who played Moaning Myrtle, the sad spirit haunting the girls’ toilet, at 37-years-old, was the oldest actress to portray a Hogwarts student.
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