J.K. Rowling's Halloween Post Reveals Dolores Umbridge Was Based on Real-Life Teacher
'Harry Potter' fans converged on the Pottermore website for 5,500 words of new material, including a short essay on the evil witch for whom the author felt the "purest dislike"
The wait is over — this Halloween J.K. Rowling gave millions of Harry Potter fans around the world another, albeit brief, peek into the world of wizards and one particularly nasty witch.
The Pottermore website today released the long anticipated short story on Dolores Umbridge, or rather a 1,700 word essay on the character first introduced to readers in the fifth book of the series (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) played so memorably by Imelda Staunton in the films. Rowling's essay also explained the origins of Umbridge, revealing that she was based on a real-life teacher the author disliked immensely.
Umbridge, who served as the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic, is a short, condescending and officious character notable for being particularly cruel toward Harry. Despite her obvious unpleasantness, Umbridge wasn't all bad given her fondness for the color pink and love of kittens.
In the essay on Pottermore, Rowling said Umbridge was "one of the characters for whom I feel the purest dislike" and that the character was based on a real person, someone "whom [she] disliked intensely on sight.” Rowling did not reveal the person's identity but did write that she had been her teacher "long ago … in a certain skill or subject."
"The woman in question returned my antipathy with interest. Why we took against each other so instantly, heartily and (on my side, at least) irrationally, I honestly cannot say," Rowling wrote. She was also struck by the woman's "pronounced taste for twee accessories," including "a tiny little plastic bow slide, pale lemon in color," which Rowling felt was more "appropriate to a girl of three."
Among the new bits of information released about Umbridge, we learn that during a detention she forced Harry to cut the words "I must not tell lies" on the back of his hand, thus becoming the only person other than Lord Voldemort to leave a permanent physical scar on Harry. Also, Umbridge is a half blood — the daughter of a wizard and a Muggle. This fact is particularly resonant given Umbridge's lies about her pure-blood status in the books.
The biographical essay about Dolores Umbridge is part of over 5,500 words of new writing by Rowling posted on Pottermore this Halloween, and the new material marks the launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix onto the website. Other entries include a look at the magical and mysterious creatures Thestrals, the dark history of the wizarding prison Azkaban, Rowling's thoughts on the character Sybil Trelawney, details of all who have held the position of Minister for Magic, and an introduction to the ancient wizarding practice of Naming Seers.
Although Rowling is busy working on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the writer has teased her fans of late with hints that she would like to return to the world of Harry Potter. Alas, despite the frenzy of interest, the wait goes on.