JK Rowling's Harry Potter Halloween stories: Dolores Umbridge was based on real person she 'disliked intensely'

A new essay by the Harry Potter author went live on pottermore.com this morning

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The Independent Culture

JK Rowling today revealed new details about the evil kitten-loving witch and Hogwarts Professor Dolores Umbridge from her famous wizarding books.

The insights - which include the inspiration behind the character - were published this morning on the author’s website pottermore.com.

Played by Imelda Staunton (below) in the film adapations, Umbridge is one of the most malicious characters in the Harry Potter series.

"Dolores is one of the characters for whom I feel the purest dislike,” writes 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.”

The author also revealed that a real person was the inspiration for the character. But Rowling is deliberately vague on her identity, describing her as a person “whom I disliked intensely on sight."

She writes: "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.”

Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

Potter fans know Umbridge for her many infamous deeds: these include sacking teachers she believed incompetent or offended her own beliefs, such as Hagrid, and orchestrating the Dementor attack on Harry and Dudley at Magnolia Crescent.

She wears pussy-bow blouses, has a fondness for kittens and chintz. A girlish laugh and a preference for pink - all of which belie her ability for cruelty.

One of Dolores Umbridge's dictates at Hogwarts, from Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

In the books, Umbridge, whom we first meet  a Department of Magic undersecretary, but who takes over teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts and later appoints herself High Inquisitor, forces Harry to cut the words “I must not tell lies” into the back of his hand, thus becoming the only person other than Lord Voldemort to leave a permanent physical scar on Harry.


In Rowling's essay 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.

The essay 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. 

To access the piece on Pottermore double click on the door, taking you through to the office.When you click on Umbridge you unlock the new writing

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.