On the face of it, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a charming, quintessentially British tale of magic and friendship meant for kids. However, the books have become highly popular amongst adult readers, and for very good reason. Underneath the owls and wands and talking letters, there lies a world which is not that different from our own… meaning it has its kinks and its darkness. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 7 of the darker elements of Harry Potter you may not have picked up on as a kid. Enjoy!
(Note: this post is obviously full of ***spoilers***)
1. Dolores Umbridge was sexually assaulted by centaurs
In The Order of the Phoenix, after she goes into the Forbidden Forest with Harry and Hermione to find Dumbledore’s make-believe “weapon,” Umbridge manages to aggravate the smartest and most deadly creatures in the forest – the centaurs – and ends up being carried off by the herd. The next time we see her, she is in the hospital wing, described as being traumatised (though physically unhurt) with a number of “twigs in her hair.” So what happened to Umbridge?
One need only look to Greek mythology to find the answer. According to legend, centaurs had a nasty habit of abducting women, dragging them into the forest, and raping them repeatedly. Given J.K. Rowling’s familiarity with the Greeks, it’s extremely likely that she knew this and was alluding to it in her own work. Sort of puts Ron torturing her with clip-clopping noises into a new light, doesn’t it?
2. Albus Dumbledore had a thing for bad boys
Well, one bad boy in particular, actually – the notorious Gellert Grindelwald. Although Dumbledore confesses later in The Deathly Hallows that he knew Grindelwald’s intentions were not as well-meaning as his own, he failed to acknowledge this fact to himself until it was much too late… and it cost him the life of his sister. Now, we all know that Dumbledore is utterly brilliant even as a teenager, and so his wilful blindness really can’t be justified… unless there was a good reason for the young Albus to see Gellert as far more than he really was. Teenage hormones, maybe? An out-of-control crush?
Suddenly all those secret conversations and plans for the future as a team and sending notes in the middle of the night make a lot more sense, as does Dumbledore’s reluctance to face him later in life – he was the first boy he ever loved, and now he was going to have to kill him, or be killed by him. Who wouldn’t delay in those circumstances?
If you’re not convinced, I hate to be the one to tell you, but J.K. Rowling has explicitly stated on Pottermore that it’s 100% true – the announcement came shortly after she confirmed Dumbledore’s homosexuality.
3. Severus Snape really wished Neville was dead
…but not because he was rubbish at Potions. Snape is one of the very few people that knows Neville could have been the Chosen One – it was Severus, after all, who overheard the beginning of the prophecy (the bit where it still could have been Harry or Neville, as both were born at the end of July to parents that had thrice defied Voldemort, etc. etc. etc.).
Snape would much rather that it had been Neville and his parents that were brutally murdered, as then Lily would still be alive (happily married to another man, yes, but alive nonetheless). Harry’s existence might be a painful reminder that his childhood love chose someone else, but Neville? Each breath he takes is one that Lily should be taking instead (in his mind at least), which makes him a personal affront to Snape. Plus, there was that whole dressing-Boggart-Snape-in-drag thing. That probably didn’t help.
Poor Neville – he never knows how close he became to being Voldy chow, or that his good fortune is the primary reason Snape hates him so much!
4. Merope Gaunt was guilty of rape
Sorry to burst the bubble but a love potion is not romantic, not in the slightest. You’re removing consent from the equation and that can only mean one thing: any sex you have is not “making love,” it’s flat-out rape.
Everyone always hates on Tom Riddle for leaving Merope despite the fact that she was pregnant with his kid (including Voldemort, who killed him for it), but who wouldn’t want to get the hell outta Dodge after what he’d been through? If Merope was a man, readers everywhere would think he belonged in Azkaban. Yes, she might have had a horrible life and suffered at the hands of her brother and father, but that’s no excuse for drugging and stealing a boy-toy to keep her company as she starts a new life without them, is it? No wonder he legged it and never looked back.
5. Moaning Myrtle’s voyeurism was out of control
Although most of us raised an eyebrow when, in The Goblet of Fire, Myrtle admitted to spying on Hogwarts Prefects whilst they bathed, not many people pick up on the references throughout the books to her tendencies to hang around in toilets, even when they’re being used. Although Myrtle claims that she often caught by surprise, the fact remains that she has chosen to live in an S-bend rather than choosing another location in the castle. The only logical conclusion, then, is that she likes catching students with their knickers quite literally around their ankles, and has thus positioned herself in the perfect spot to witness the most private and intimate acts a person can perform.
6. Norbert wasn’t the only stolen goods Hagrid handled
In the very first instalment of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s adventures, The Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone if you’re in the US), we learn that Hagrid is the owner of a terrifying 3-headed dog named Fluffy. Anyone familiar with Greek mythology will know that 3-headed dog by another name: Cerberus, the hound of hell who guards the gates to the underworld.
Cerberus originally belonged to Hades until he was captured by Heracles (more commonly known in the West as Hercules) in the last of his twelve labours to repent for his sins. However, King Eursytheus was terrified when he was presented with the beast and demanded Heracles got rid of it. So, that “Greek chappie” in the pub who was keen to find Fluffy a new home might actually have been everyone’s favourite demi-god, looking to pass off his stolen goods! As it is said that Heracles could only control the beast due to his immense strength, it makes sense that he would choose a half-giant with a love of monsters to look after the creature.
7. The Sorting Hat knows all your dirty secrets
Well, the 11-year-old you, anyway. As we all know, all new arrivals at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are designated their Houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin) by the Sorting Hat. The Hat figures out which traits define you and then place you into the House that suits you best.
Have you ever thought about how exactly the Sorting Hat decides whether you’re clever, or brave, or loyal? Why, it uses legilimency, of course; it quite literally reads your mind (or at least, your memories) to determine exactly what sort of person you will grow up to be. Now I know the Sorting Hat is a sentient object, not a person, and it’s hardly going to spill your secrets to anyone else, but the idea that any object possesses that much power is a little unnerving.
Sidenote: the Sorting Hat is also a bit of a b*stard – not only did it place Snape in Slytherin away from Lily despite knowing how much he loved her, he also kept his mouth shut about the darkness inside everyone’s favourite nightmare child, Tom Riddle. Yeah, nice one Hat. Way to go. *slow clap*
Is there anything I’ve missed? Please feel free to share in the comments below!
(Images: Warner Bros. Studios)