Thomas Hardy and Harry Potter

Emily Willingham mentioned on Twitter that the names of the Harry Potter characters Dumbledore and Hagrid come from Thomas Hardy’s 1886 novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. Both appear in this passage:

One grievous failing of Elizabeth’s was her occasional pretty and picturesque use of dialect words …

… in time it came to pass that for “fay” she said “succeed”; that she no longer spoke of “dumbledores” but of “humble bees”; no longer said of young men and women that they “walked together,” but that they were “engaged”; that she grew to talk of “greggles” as “wild hyacinths”; that when she had not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next morning that she had been “hag-rid,” but that she had “suffered from indigestion.”

Apparently dumbledore is a dialect variation on bumblebee and hagrid is a variation on haggard. I don’t know whether this is actually where Rowling drew her character names but it seems plausible.

4 thoughts on “Thomas Hardy and Harry Potter

  1. I believe being ‘hag ridden’ is also related to a cultural interpretation of the experience of sleep paralaysis. The Hag is similar to the Mara, from which we get the term ‘nightmare’.

    Sleep paralysis is gerenally reported to be terrifying and involves the perception of the presence of a threatening entity, but is typically considered harmless. However, see SUNDS for some examples of what may be a fatal variant, possibly culture-bound.(!)

    I love the novels of Thomas Hardy, but I think Jude the Obscure was one of the most depressing novels I’ve ever read.

  2. Careful with attributing these to local dialects. Thomas Hardy was a master of making up his own words. I believe even the title “Far from the Madding Crowd” has the made up word madding.

  3. The words “far from the madding crowd” are a quotation from Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard, written in 1750. “Hagrid” and “dumbledore” were around in Shakespeare’s time.

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