In this series of blogs on British Folklore, we've discovered a variety of beings and beasts that exist in UK myths and legends. How many of these creatures also appear in Harry Potter?
To answer, send an owl to this address – just joking, select your answer in the poll below and all will be revealed at the end of the blog!
Firstly, let’s talk about the author of the Harry Potter books, J. K. Rowling. She studied French and Classics at Exeter University. What is ‘Classics’, you may ask? This degree subject includes Greek and Roman literature and the culture of these civilizations. J. K. Rowling learned Latin on her Classics degree, which we can see in her writing. Some of the spells in Harry Potter books are in Latin - for example:
Accio is the spell Harry uses to bring his Nimbus to him in the Goblet of Fire. This is a Latin verb which means ‘to send for (something)’. The confundus charm is based on the Latin verb confundam, which means ‘to confuse’. J.K Rowling also knows a lot about British folklore, because some of the creatures in her books are from local or national myths. In this blog we’ll show you a few examples.
1. Cornish Pixies
These naughty, little beings appear in The Chamber of Secrets. They are brought into class by the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockheart. His plan to use these blue-coloured beings in his lesson does not go well! The pixies fly around the class causing trouble and are impossible to control.
Cornish pixies or piskies are not usually blue in traditional English folklore. Some myths show pixies looking like children, but Cornish pixies usually have narrow black eyes large pointed ears like these ones in Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling showed the bad side of a pixie’s character in her books, but these beings can also be very helpful to humans. For example, they can make horses calm by talking to them and use their magic to make flowers grow.
2. Boggarts (see also: What are the Top 5 Creatures in British Mythology?)
In the Harry Potter book and film The Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin is the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. When Lupin asks, ‘What does a boggart look like?’ Hermione answers ‘No-one knows. Boggarts are shapeshifters.’
In this class, the boggart changes into the thing each student fears the most. Neville Longbottom admits he is afraid of Professor Snape, so the boggart comes out of the wardrobe in that form.
· In British folklore, boggarts can become invisible, but they are not shapeshifters.
· They have been compared to poltergeists (evil spirits) because they throw and break things.
· No-one knows for sure what a boggart looks like, but many myths say they are short, hairy and ugly.
· Boggarts also appear in the Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) as ‘Boggles’.
· Boggle is the name of a word game! If you would like to learn about local boggart myths, you can read more here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boggart
3. The Common Welsh Green Dragon
Some good advice for if you ever meet a Welsh dragon is - carry an axe. Why?
Read on to find out! When Harry enters the Triwizard Cup in The Goblet of Fire, his first task to capture a dragon’s egg. There are four dragons and Harry chooses the most difficult one – a Hungarian Horntail. Another competitor, Fleur Delacour chooses a Common Welsh Green dragon.
Although there is no dragon with this name in Welsh folklore, there are many dragon myths in Wales. Indeed, the national animal of Wales is the Red Dragon.
A dragon that J.K. Rowling may have used for inspiration is the Welsh Wyvern. It is described as “a huge green reptile with wings” so basically, a dragon.
In one myth, a Wyvern attacked a village in North Wales over and over, eating all of the farm animals. A local wizard named Ganllwid gathered a team of archers to shoot the dragon down, but this didn't work. In the end, a young boy cut off the Wyvern’s head with an axe while it was sleeping.
You can read the complete story here:
We’ve only covered three of the fantastic creatures from Harry Potter and British Folklore. But how many beings and beasts feature in the Harry Potter series in total?
If you guessed between 21 and 25 then expect an to receive an owl with an invitation to Hogwarts!
In the Harry Potter series, there are also creatures from Greek, European, African, Asian and South American mythology (showing us that J.K. Really knows about fantastic beasts!)
For a full list and details see here: https://www.harrypotterfanzone.com/magical-creatures/
We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blogs about British Folklore, and that you’ll be prepared for any pixies, selkies or boggarts you might find in the British Isles!
Make sure you join us for the upcoming British Folklore webinars, to practice adjectives, comparatives, tenses and much more! It's easy to sign up, plus and each webinar has lots of fun activities and polls for you to take part in. but before you go to the webinar page – a quick quiz on everything we've learned so far in the British Folklore series!