J.K. Rowling just gave us the best Halloween scare ever
In between writing a new book, writing a movie, and taunting us with riddles on Twitter, J.K. Rowling took a little bit of time to write us a new, spooky short Harry Potter story. Published on Pottermore—the Harry Potter online world—Rowling released a biography about cat-loving, Dolores Umbridge. Before I even read the piece, I had a sour taste from Umbridge in my mouth. I’m still kinda haunted by the fact that she made Harry write “I must not tell lies” over and over again, each time it etching into the back of his hand. As this new profile points out, she “is the only person, other than Lord Voldemort, to leave a permanent physical scar on Harry.” I never even though of it that way!
The short piece—under 2,000 words for those short on time—gives us all sorts of juicy details about Umbridge’s life before, and after, her time as the Inquisitor at Hogwarts. For one, we learn that she had a Muggle mother, who she despised, and a squib (aka, not magical) brother, who she also despised. Her father used to work for the Department of Magical Maintenance at the Ministry of Magic, but when she rose to power within the Department, she persuaded him into early retirement so no one would ask her, “are you related to that Umbridge who used to mop the floors here?” She’s literally the worst
We also learn that she’s never going to be a suitable role model, because she’s “judgmental, prejudiced and sadistic, although her conscientious attitude, her saccharine manner towards her superiors, and the ruthlessness and stealth with which she took credit for other people’s work soon gained her advancement.” And then of course, as we remember quite vividly, “her office became a place of frills and furbelows, and she liked anything decorated with kittens.” But, in a shocking twist, Dolores didn’t even own a cat! She “found the real thing inconveniently messy.” That’s probaably the most messed up thing about her right there. That, or the fact that “there is little to choose between her and Bellatrix Lestrange.” That’s the worst burn I’ve ever heard.
Also, Death Eaters found that she had “much more in common with them than she ever had with Albus Dumbledore.” And her hobbies include “inventing instruments of torture.”
Rowling then goes onto explain that Umbridge is actually based off a real teacher/instructor of hers. Her description of this real woman is particularity colorful— explaining that, she had incredibly childlike tendencies for a woman her age, and “[carried] undersized handbags, again as though they had been borrowed from a child’s dressing-up box.” And then Rowling really has to go to extremes, and compare the character of Umbridge to He Who Will Not Be Named himself. Umbridge’s “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.” If that’s not a horror story for Halloween, I’m not sure what is.
So while we might not love Umbridge, we love what Rowling has given us with this short story. It’s magical in every sense of the word. I know she’s a very busy woman and all, but I wouldn’t mind these little snippets every now and then, you know? Harry Potter’s story might be over, but he continues to live on in our hearts. Awwww.