Everything I Know I Learned From Harry Potter: Important Life Lessons From the Boy Who Lived

Books and films are formative influences for the people who interact with them; people carry with them the stories they love. This is true for fantasy movies as much as it is for documentaries—books like Harry Potter have a tendency to leave their mark on the people who enjoy them. 

In the first book, Harry, Hermione, and Ron find themselves chasing after Voldemort. After Ron is injured, Harry and Hermione continue—only to be met with a test that will allow only one person to continue. Hermione volunteers to stay behind, in order to care for Ron. When she tells Harry that he is a great wizard, he says he is not as good at using magic as she is. She responds by saying while she is adept at books and being clever, that there are more important things that can help in a battle, such as friendship and bravery—Harry may not be the best magic-user, but technical skill is only one part of what will get Harry through this battle. Sometimes, the friendships someone has with others, and the knowledge that their friends will support them, is as valuable as weapons or skills. In the end, Voldemort’s army was no match for the family and friends Harry had; the support they gave him, the courage that support led him to claim, and their own bravery, was enough to triumph.

Later on, faced with an establishment that sought only to control them—and the reality of Voldemort returning to power—Harry and his fellow students banded together during his fifth year to create Dumbledore’s Army. With encouragement from Hermione, and additional help from Professor Lupin and Sirius Black, Harry taught his friends and fellow students how to defend themselves. Dumbledore’s Army was an inter-house effort of students, inspired to fight by a rising willful ignorance about the true situation of Voldemort’s return to power. This group of children—many of them underage—taught themselves and each other how to perform magic that most would have believed beyond their skill level. Instead of accepting this complacency in the face of true danger, Dumbledore’s Army risked almost everything to be involved in the secret society, including torture from Delores Umbridge, whose job it was to keep the students of Hogwarts controlled, so that they could not rise up against the Ministry of Magic, the Wizarding porno gratis government. (Dumbledore’s Army took up the name of their Headmaster as a kind of sardonic joke at the ministry’s expense—the fear was that Professor Dumbledore could and would create an army from his students to take on the ministry.)

In their seventh year, Harry, Hermione, and Ron left school to find and destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes in order to weaken him enough to finally destroy him. Snape became headmaster, and known Death Eaters not only openly held teaching positions but also used those places of power to torture students. The remnants of Dumbledore’s Army formed a kind of resistance. When the Death Eater Professors wanted them to torture younger students, they refused, and instead took the punishments themselves. The solidarity and resistance that Neville and the rest of Harry’s friends created lasted long enough for Harry to find most of the Horcruxes—and when Harry returned and needed help to find and destroy the rest of the Horcruxes, his friends did not hesitate to fight and risk their lives to help him or to help defend their school. They were invaluable in the battle that saw the end of Voldemort.

As children and people grow, they take with them the lessons they have been taught from their favorite stories, whether they learned them from a book or a film. The Harry Potter books and movies made sure to teach some incredible life lessons.

By Any Other Name: What Harry Potter Names Mean

Names in fiction are an excellent way to give readers a clue as to the personality or nature of a character—whether it’s in their nicknames, their first names, or their last names, the way characters are referred to in stories like Harry Potter are important.

Remus Lupin, for example. When Remus Lupin was a child, a werewolf bit him, and that bite turned Remus into a werewolf as well. This didn’t stop him from becoming a Hogwarts professor, or from having a group of loyal and dedicated friends. The interesting thing is Lupin’s name. Remus is actually also the name of a mythological figure. Legends about Remus and his brother Romulus detailed that they were raised by a she-wolf—and that they founded Rome. Like the legendary Remus, Professor Lupin manages to overcome his past and rise to great heights. Another interesting point about Lupin’s name is that ‘lupin’ is actually related to the Latin word for wolf. It seems that Remus Lupin was destined to be associated with wolves (and werewolves) from birth.

Sirius Black is Harry Potter’s godfather, as well as a close personal friend of Remus Lupin. While they were students at Hogwarts, Sirius, along with James Potter and Peter Pettigrew, studied and trained to become an Animagus, or a wizard who can transform into an animal. The animal that Sirius chose to take on the appearance of is a big, black dog—one that other characters routinely mistake for being a Grim, a particularly nasty omen of death. Astronomically speaking, Sirius is the brightest star of the Canis Major or “Great Dog” constellation. This association has led to the star/star system of Sirius being colloquially referred to as the “Dogstar”.

Merope Gaunt, the mother of Tom Marvolo Riddle, Jr. (who would later become Lord Voldemort) is named after the youngest of the Pleiades, the companions of Artemis. They were the daughters of the Titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione, and share their name with the star-cluster of Pleiades. In the mythology, Merope married Sisyphus, a mortal. After bearing him several sons, she faded away—this is in part because she was becoming mortal. It is interesting to note that Merope Gaunt died after giving birth to Tom Riddle, Jr. In some ways, there seems to be a reflection of the Merope of myth in the Merope of Harry Potter.

Tom Marvolo Riddle was Voldemort’s name, before he took up the mantle of Dark Lord. In both the book and the movie, it is revealed that Tom Riddle’s full name is actually an anagram of “I Am Lord Voldemort”. This means that when the books were translated into different languages, in order to translate the anagram with the name, the name of Voldemort had to be changed. For example, in the French edition of Harry Potter, Voldemort’s name is Tom Elvis Jedusor.

Voldemort itself is an interesting name—Voldemort can be translated from French to mean ‘flight from death’. (It’s a fitting title for someone who tried so hard to escape death by not only seeking eternal life but also by attempting to become death’s Master.)

The tradition of having names that relate to stars and mythology extends to the younger generations of Harry Potter characters—Draco Malfoy, for example. “Draco” is the Latin for ‘dragon’, and can refer to not only the mythological creature, but also an Athenian lawgiver. This lawgiver was known for his particularly ruthless laws. “Malfoy” can be translated from French to mean ‘bad faith’; this is particularly interesting, seeing as the Malfoy family was not only aligned with Voldemort for years, but also seeing as the family broke from Voldemort’s ranks and aided Harry Potter, Voldemort’s greatest enemy.

Hogwarts, A History: Who Were the Hogwarts Founders?

When Hogwarts was founded, each founder had a wildly different idea of what the future of Wizardkind should look like and should be. This disagreement led to the foundation of the House system. Each founder had an idea of the kind of student they wanted to teach.

Salazar Slytherin believed that magic should be kept within all-magic families; he is known for his distrust of Muggle-born students, and believed that they should not be admitted into the school. Slytherin handpicked his students, and paid particular attention to the qualities he valued—he wanted to teach students who were resourceful and clever, cunning and ambitious. He valued blood purity, a disregard for rules, and also selected students who, like him, were skilled in speaking Parseltongue, the language of snakes (the emblem of Slytherin house). It is believed that those who can speak Parseltongue are in some way related to or descendent from Salazar Slytherin. After his falling out with Godric Gryffindor—and the rest of the founders siding with Gryffindor—Slytherin built the Chamber of Secrets, which housed a Basilisk that Salazar intended for his heir to use to purge Hogwarts of Muggle-borns.

Rowena Ravenclaw is the person credited with the location and name of Hogwarts, which she chose after a dream she had that showed her both a warty hog and a cliff overlooking a lake. It was also Rowena who devised the Hogwarts floor plan—a floor plan that moves and changes like a living being. Ravenclaw was known as the best witch of her age. Her ideal student was creative and clever, with a sharp mind and wit. Ravenclaw disagreed with Slytherin about the value of Muggle-born students, and in fact, many students in Ravenclaw house were actually Muggle-born. She was the original owner of the Diadem of Ravenclaw, which was said to enhance the wearer’s own wisdom.

Godric Gryffindor was known as the best duelist of his age. Gryffindor valued courage and bravery, and picked students that he believed were capable of bold, heroic deeds. He was the founder most in favor of admitting Muggle-borns into Hogwarts, which became a major factor in the splitting of Slytherin from the school. Gryffindor is also the source of the Sorting Hat—when the founders realized there would be no method in place to continue sorting students into the four houses after they died, Gryffindor took off his own hat. The four founders enchanted the hat so that even after they died, the hat would act as a kind of representative and sort students according to their own values.

Helga Hufflepuff chose her students based not on blood purity or any specific traits such as ambition or intelligence. Helga Hufflepuff accepted students of all kinds, including Muggle-borns. Hufflepuff chose students who valued fairness and loyalty, and who were willing to work hard to gain their success. Helga took the students that the other founders would not, and brought them together, teaching them all everything she knew. She also treated them all equally and fairly. Hufflepuff is the one credited with bringing house-elves to work at Hogwarts, where they would not be subjected to the cruelty and abuse that is common among high-class pureblood households who employ house-elves. Helga’s recipes are also the basis of many of the staple foods seen and eaten at Hogwarts feasts—and many of those recipes are still in use.

Each founder had a vision for Hogwarts, and through the House system, each of those visions came to life. Even after death, the four founders of Hogwarts shape the world and the future. While Hogwarts may be their collective legacies, each house stands as evidence of each Founder’s individual impact on Wizarding society.

Houses Divided: What Do The Hogwarts Houses Really Stand For?

One of the most basic aspects of Hogwarts School is the fact that the student body is divided into four Houses: Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw. When the school began, each founder had a different perception and vision of what Hogwarts could and should be—and though these houses grew from those visions, they also took on an identity all their own.

Hufflepuffs are known for their loyalty—but this is not a one-dimensional house. While they may seem at first glance to be plain people, or not as brash as compared to other houses, Hufflepuffs are more than they may appear. Hufflepuffs are tenacious as well as loyal. They may not be flashy, or show off like other houses might, but they are intelligent, and they protect their own against any and every threat. Hufflepuffs are also adept at self-defense. While the other houses may require a password to gain access to the common room and dormitories, the Hufflepuff house dormitory needs only for one to tap on a particular area of a particular painting in a set rhythm—failing to do so correctly will result in said person being soaked in vinegar and being denied access to the dorm. Hufflepuff is the only house that has such a defense mechanism.

While Ravenclaw may seem to be a kind of stuck-up, bookish house, looks can be deceiving. Ravenclaw as a house prides itself on learning for learning’s sake—it’s not so much the books that are important. More important is the act of learning itself, the act of constantly pushing the boundaries of knowledge. The Ravenclaw dormitory itself helps to foster a culture of knowledge and wisdom by working to keep outsiders out—to gain entry into the dorm itself, a person has to correctly answer a riddle-question. While it may seem as a test for one individual, it is actually common to find a group of people outside the Ravenclaw dormitory door working together to come up with a correct guess to the riddle-question.

Slytherin is perhaps the most notorious—and most often misunderstood—house. Throughout the book, it is made clear that Slytherin is a house that has churned out more Dark wizards and witches than any other. While this may be true—and while Lord Voldemort himself may have come from Slytherin—the definition of Slytherin house does not begin and end with an all-consuming darkness. Slytherins, as a whole, tend not to be as obsessed with blood purity so much as honor and tradition. While the respect they garner is tinged with a little fear, that comes with the territory. There is a long history and tradition to uphold—it is said that Merlin himself was a Slytherin. Slytherin is a brotherhood, a place for people with a potential for greatness, a cunning wit, a sense of self-preservation. To be a Slytherin is to carry the reputation and the history of the House on your shoulders, and that is no small or easy task.

Gryffindor house is known for their bravery—but that bravery can often be a double-edged sword. The bravery of Gryffindors can sometimes veer into recklessness, and some accuse Gryffindors of having no regard for rules, or else being arrogant, self-righteous, or deliberately involving themselves in unnecessary heroics. Gryffindors tend to avoid associations with some of the other houses, Slytherin in particular. Slytherin and Gryffindor houses have a notorious and bitter rivalry, one that began during the founding of Hogwarts and is felt to even Harry Potter’s day.

Each house is not as cut-and-dry as it may seem, and appearances can be deceiving. The truth about each house is that, like the wizards and witches who founded them, the houses and the people in them defy definition.

The Secret World of Harry Potter: Things That Didn’t Make it To The Movies

The world of Harry Potter is full of magic, from shape-shifters to werewolves to dragons. On every page there is a new slice of magic, a new spell or hex or creature waiting to be found. It makes sense that when the books were adapted into films, some of that magic was left by the wayside. Here are some bits of secret magic that didn’t make it into the films, but that made the journey through Harry Potter’s world so magical.

Though the films made no reference to him, Peeves—the resident poltergeist of Hogwarts, known mostly for the devious pranks he played—was an integral part of the books. Throughout the novels, Peeves pranked or otherwise antagonized Hogwarts—from throwing things at students and staff, to emptying an inkbottle over a student’s head, Peeves made a name for himself through his antics. However, there were a few memorable moments that not only made readers laugh, but also showed a deeper side to the Wizarding World. During Harry’s fifth year, the Weasley twins left Hogwarts in protest of Delores Umbridge and her draconian rule—in the middle of exams, with a flourish that included fireworks, flying brooms, and a general disdain for authority. Their final words were to Peeves, and were followed to the letter: “Give her hell from us.” Peeves bowed to them, and tipped his hat, before starting an unparalleled reign of chaos. (It’s worth remembering that up to this point, the only people who could reliably control Peeves were the Bloody Baron—the Slytherin house ghost—and Professor Dumbledore.)  Another memorable moment for Peeves is the one time Professor McGonagall sided with him: during his rampage of chaos after the Weasley twins left, McGonagall happened to see Peeves trying to unscrew a chandelier. Her response was not to tell him to stop; instead, she told him the chandelier unscrewed the other way.

Harry himself is different in the books than in the movies. In the books, he is more independent, has a more explicit mistrust of adults and authority, and is generally a lot more sarcastic, with a darker sense of humor than in the movies.

This is most notable when Professor Snape corrected Harry for not calling him sir. Snape, at one point, merely repeated something that Harry had just said, but with the addition of the word ‘sir’ at the end. Harry responded with a simple, “There’s no need to call me sir, Professor.” This scene did not make it into the film adaptation, but it shows an integral part of Harry’s characterization.

The fifth book included a moment that is reflected in the film adaptation, but that wasn’t directly paralleled. At Christmas, Harry had a vision of Arthur Weasley, his friend’s father, being attacked by a large snake—from the perspective of the snake. This, along with the anxiety of being kept in the dark about the actions his friends are taking to fight against Voldemort, led to Harry isolating himself from his friends and those he knew best. In the book, this led to a moment where Harry, alone in his room, was afraid that Voldemort may have been possessing him at the time of the attack, or may be capable of possessing him in general. Understandably, Harry was deeply uncomfortable with this, but Ginny Weasley, another friend who has actually experienced the kind of possession Harry is afraid of, helped him to not only understand that he was not actually being possessed, but to also ease his mind about the whole ordeal.

These moments might not have made it into the movie, but they are the magic waiting in between the words of the stories that so many people love; they are the reason people keep coming back.