Entertainment

13 Things You Didn't Know About Harry Potter

Published On 11/17/2016 Published On 11/17/2016

This weekend, Warner Bros. will release Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first film set in the Harry Potter fictional universe without the lightning-bolt-scarred hero at its center. Though the film is written by series creator J.K. Rowling -- and directed by veteran series helmer David Yates -- it won't have the familiar pair of glasses and floppy black hair of Daniel Radcliffe. Potter fans: We feel your wizardly pain.

As a healing spell, we've mixed up a potion of lesser-known trivia and obscure facts about "the boy who lived" that will hopefully provide comfort in these dark, troubling times. Drink up.

Warner Bros.

1. Harry Potter is partially named after one of J.K. Rowling's old neighbors

A name like "Harry Potter" just seems so… elemental, right? It's hard to imagine Rowling, who came up with the concept for her best-selling series while riding the train to London, just picking the name out of thin air. It turns out, like most things in the Potter-verse, there's an origin story: According to a 2000 interview, the last name "Potter" was the surname of a family who lived near her when she was growing up. So, aspiring writers: Always find out your neighbors' names.

2. He shares a name with the main character of Troll

For most people, the horror movie Troll is only notable for inspiring the truly awful Troll 2 and the hilarious "Oh my God!" scene. But, according to the director of the first Troll, John Buechler, J.K. Rowling must have been a fan because the 1986 film also had a main character that went by the name "Harry Potter." There's no way Rowling could have come up with the name without seeing Troll, right? At least, that's what Buechler seems to think. After filing a suit against Rowling in 2008, the director later announced plans to make another sequel to Troll called Troll: The Rise of Harry Potter Jr. One might say that Buechler is… trolling us.

Flickr/Lozikiki

3. His books have different titles when translated into other languages

If you're a Harry Potter fan, you probably already know that the first book in the series was released as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US. But, if you take a look at this list of the Potter books in foreign languages, you see a wide range of options. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets becomes Harry Potter and the Secret Room in Japanese. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban becomes Harry Potter and the Escapee from Azkaban in Chinese. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows becomes Harry Potter and the Relics of Death in German, which sounds pretty metal.

4. He made his creator the first literary billionaire

Before J.K. Rowling, no writer had ever become a billionaire from just putting words on the page -- not even Stephen King. But, she ended up dropping off the Forbes list of billionaires partially because she was too charitable. That's definitely the coolest way to drop off a list of billionaires.

5. Many of his best spells come from Latin

Harry Potter is an English boy -- he's got the "trainers" to prove it -- but many of the spells he uses to thwart off evil come from a dead source: Latin. J.K. Rowling studied Max Fischer's favorite language when she was a student at the University of Exeter and must have been taking copious notes because spells like "Crucio" and fan-favorite "Wingardium Leviosa" have their origins in the classics.

6. And many of the wild things that happen to him come from folklore and alchemy

In addition to peppering her prose with Latin, J.K. Rowling mastered the art of dropping bits of meticulous research into her writing. The use of folklore was particularly unnerving to Christian groups, who warned parents about the books, but Rowling herself has never claimed to be a witch. "I've never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that's a different matter," she said in a 1998 interview. "To invent this wizard world, I've learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy. Perhaps much of it I'll never use in the books, but I have to know in detail what magic can and cannot do in order to set the parameters and establish the stories' internal logic."

Warner Bros.

7. He's related to his arch-nemesis

Voldemort didn't end up being Harry's father -- that would have been a little too much of a Darth Vader-style twist -- but they are related through a distant relative named Cadmus Peverell. Don't believe us? Check out the Potter family tree and say goodbye to whatever you were hoping to get accomplished for the rest of the day. 

8. He could've had his own musical written by Michael Jackson

Of the many bizarre tie-in products and spinoffs that author J.K. Rowling has turned down since becoming a literary phenomenon, this one is definitely the best: Michael Jackson wanted to turn the series into a musical. Seriously, what a missed opportunity. Imagine all those pesky wands replaced with glittery gloves.

Warner Bros.

9. His eyes were a different color in the movie because Daniel Radcliffe couldn't wear contacts

In addition to his black hair, scar, and glasses, the Harry Potter in the books is said to have green eyes. That's an essential part of his Harry Potter charm. But, when making the film, actor Daniel Radcliffe had an extreme reaction to the contact lenses that would've turned his blue eyes green, so a producer called up Rowling to see if they could make the switch. "The only really important thing is that his eyes look like his mother’s eyes," she said. "So if you're casting Lily, there needs to be a resemblance, but they don't absolutely have to be green."

10. A French teenager got arrested on his behalf

At the peak of Potter-mania, there were countless rip-offs, unauthorized sequels, and bits of fan fiction, but nothing beats this 16-year-old French boy who got arrested for translating all 700-plus pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into French and then posting it on the internet. That's the type of cunning intelligence that would probably earn him a spot in Ravenclaw if he lived in Potter-world. But in the real world it could get you sent to jail! 

11. He will live a very long life

If you're worried that a fictional character will die, you can sleep a little easier: Harry Potter will live for a very long time. No, it's not because Warner Bros. wants to keep raking in more money than you could hold at Gringotts. It's because, according to an interview with Rowling, wizards have a much longer life expectancy than Muggles. You will die, but Harry Potter will live forever. (OK, probably not forever, but for a while.)

Warner Bros.

12. He could've ended up with Hermione

If you reached the end of the final Harry Potter book -- or just cheated and waited for the movie -- you likely shed a few tears during the poignant epilogue set 19 years after the events of the book, where we learn Hermione ended up with Ron, Harry married Ginny Weasley, and they all have children who will attend Hogwarts together. Sweet, right? Well, not for some shippers who wanted Harry to end up with Hermione, and years later J.K. Rowling gave them a bit of comfort by saying that she had some regrets about the pairing. "I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That's how it was conceived, really," she said in an interview. "For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron."

13. He grew up and got an adult job as a magic cop

You thought that epilogue was the final page in the Harry Potter journey? Think again. Just this year saw the release of the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which revealed that Harry is now Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Plus, he has a complicated relationship with his son Albus. So, basically, Harry Potter is a Law & Order character now.

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.

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