JK Rowling explains Dolores Umbridge background

Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Picture: Warner Bros
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Picture: Warner Bros
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HARRY Potter author JK Rowling has returned to the world of the teenage wizard to explain the background of one of her most evil characters.

The best-selling author, who lives in Edinburgh, has written more than 5,500 words for her Pottermore website in an piece released to mark Halloween, which goes into the history of Azkaban prison and the story of Dolores Umbridge.

Rowling revealed that Umbridge, a teacher who tormented the teenage wizard at Hogwarts, is based on a real person, one of her former teachers, whom she “disliked intensely on sight”.

She said: “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.”


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Rowling said Umbridge, played in the films by Imelda Staunton - was ‘one of the characters for whom I feel the purest dislike’, adding: “Her desire to control, to punish, and to inflict pain, all in the name of law and order, are, I think, every bit as reprehensible as Lord Voldemort’s unvarnished espousal of evil.”

In her essay on her website did not reveal the woman’s identity but did write she had been one of her teachers ‘long ago...in a certain skill or subject.’

Rowling added: “I have noticed more than once in life that a taste for the ineffably twee can go hand-in-hand with a distinctly uncharitable outlook on the world,” recalling a time when she shared an office with a woman fond of ‘pictures of fluffy kitties’, who was also ‘the most bigoted, spiteful champion of the death penalty’.

“A love of all things saccharine often seems present where there is a lack of real warmth or charity,” Rowling continues.

Rowling also revealed Umbridge is a ‘half blood’ – the daughter of a wizard and a non-magical person, or Muggle – a status frowned on by some wizarding families.

Rowling said this was ‘especially noteworthy because in the books Umbridge lies to bolster her own pure-blood credentials’.

Fans of the Harry Potter books first encountered Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, originally published in 2003, as Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic.

Later on she joins Hogwarts school as its new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Umbridge displayed a fondness for fluffy pink cardigans and lace and speaks in a “sweetly girlish voice.”

Harry likens the black velvet bow on the top of her head to ‘a large fly perched unwisely on top of an even larger toad.’

The relationship deteriorates further when she gives him detention for speaking out in class about the return of Voldemort, and she make him use a magic pen to write the lines ‘I will not tell lies’.

“Harry placed the point of the quill on the paper ... He let out a gasp of pain,” Rowling writes in the novel. “The words had appeared on the parchment in what appeared to be shining red ink. At the same time, the words had appeared on the back of Harry’s right hand, cut into his skin a though traced there by a scalpel.” In his review of the book,

Stephen King wrote in Entertainment Weekly that ‘the gently smiling Dolores Umbridge, with her girlish voice, toadlike face, and clutching, stubby fingers, is the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter’.

Rowling has previously used the Pottermore website to offer fans a glimpse into the lives of her characters after the books ended.


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