Within the Harry Potter universe there are few characters that conjure up more disdain and animosity from readers than Hogwarts Professor Dolores Umbridge. The pink she-devil was the latest topic of conversation in an essay written by J.K. Rowling available on the author’s website pottermore.com.
“…Dolores…is one of the characters for whom I feel the purest dislike…” writes J.K. Rowling in a note at the entry’s conclusion. “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.”
At 1,700-words the new entry from J.K. Rowling is one of the lengthiest additions to the Potter-lore since the final novel, and it includes the author’s personal inspiration and opinions on Umbridge. Readers first encountered Umbridge as the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Though she stopped short of identifying the character by name, there was a real person that inspired Dolores Umbridge. Rowling describes her as a person “whom I disliked intensely on sight. 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.”
During detention, Umbridge 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. She is revealed to be a half blood – the daughter of a wizard and a Muggle (non-magical person). This is especially noteworthy because in the books Umbridge lies to bolster her own pure-blood credentials.
“A great fantasy novel can’t exist without a great villain,” wrote novelist Stephen King, author of more than 40 horror novels, in his review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the July 11, 2003, issue of Entertainment Weekly. “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. We turn the pages partly in fervent hopes that she will get her comeuppance…but also in growing fear of what she will get up to next. For surely a teacher capable of banning Harry Potter from playing Quidditch is capable of anything.”
The essay about Dolores Umbridge is just one entry in over 5,500 words of new writing by J.K. Rowling posted on Pottermore at Halloween, to mark 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, 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.
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