vote on everything
714.9k readers

All the Historical References In Harry Potter

Updated April 19, 2019 714.9k views19 items

Many have fallen in love with the Harry Potter series and the fantastical wizarding world created by JK Rowling. Harry Potter's history is rich with detailed fiction – from the idea of a Horcrux to the intensely terrifying presence of Dementors. It's got decades of rules and words and customs that even hardcore fans struggle to keep straight. However, while the stories themselves are fictional, real world inspiration lies behind the series. There are tons of Harry Potter references based on real life events, myths, or traditions. 

JK Rowling has a knack for foreshadowing what's going to happen in Harry Potter with historical references. From Britain's biggest prison break to the bombings of the Irish Republican Army, the real world events in Harry Potter grant the books a rich, intelligent context. Readers will enjoy picking apart fact vs. truth in the books, especially those who paid attention in history classes in high school and college. The true events alluded to in the books and movies make the wizarding world – with all its spells and sorcerer's stones -- seem that much more real. 

From Nazis to Catholic saints, here are some historical references you may have missed in Harry Potter (but don't even get us started on the The Fantastic Beasts universe).

  • The Reason You Don't Name Your Kid After A Wolf In Harry Potter

    JK Rowling uses mythological names to foreshadow various events in Harry Potter. If Rowling gave you a mythological wolf-related name, you're eventually turning into a werewolf. Remus Lupin's name is a nod to the myth of Romulus and Remus, a set of twins in Roman mythology who were raised by a she-wolf and allegedly founded Rome.

    Meanwhile, Fenrir Greyback, who bites Lupin and turns him into a werewolf, gets his name from Norse mythology where Fenrir is a giant wolf. Fenrir was known as a malevolent figure who carried out acts of evil, which makes his name fitting for the villainous Greyback.  

  • Quirinus Quirrell Is Straight Out Of Ancient Rome

    In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Quirinus Quirrell secretly has the face of Voldemort hidden on the back of his head. He covers it up with a turban, so we only see it during a big reveal at the film's climax. The whole idea of Quirrell's second head comes from Roman mythology.

    The Roman god Janus Quirinus has two faces. He was the Roman god of doors and beginnings, which may be a nod to the fact Quirrell was the first villain in the franchise. 

  • Voldemort Was Doomed From The Start Thanks To Oedipus

    Merope Riddle is the mother of Voldemort and the reason you should never use a love potion to start a family. Merope used a love potion to make Tom Riddle fall in love with her and eventually had her son, Tom Riddle Jr. Tom Riddle Jr. eventually killed Tom Riddle Sr. after discovering he was a muggle. This turn of events was predicted by ancient Greek mythology.

    In Greek mythology, Merope is Oedipus's adoptive mother. Like the story goes, Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and marries his biological mom, unaware of the family relations. Voldemort, like Oedipus, was not raised by his biological family and instead was brought up in an orphanage. Voldermort did kill his own father, but never got the chance to act out the incestuous portion of the myth as his mother died in childbirth. 

  • Hedwig Was Made To Take Care Of An Orphaned Harry Potter

    Hedwig was Harry's trusted pet owl. She was glued to the star's side throughout the entire series until she was tragically killed by a Death Eater while trying to protect her faithful owner (arguably the cruelest thing JK Rowling has made us witness). This is pretty significant because Hedwig's name foreshadowed her fate.

    Hedwig gets her name from Saint Hedwig of Silesia. St. Hedwig's life's work was protecting and caring for abandoned and orphaned children. She's often referred to as the patron saint over the death of children. Given the real life saint's dedication to helping children in need, it makes sense Hedwig would be willing to die for her beloved master. 

PopularPlaces/TravelHistoryFantasyHarry Potter