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J.K. Rowling reveals past, 'source of inspiration' for 'Harry Potter' character Dolores Umbridge

Dolores Umbridge is a sadistic teacher whom Harry encounters. Rowling posted a piece on the website Pottermore with new information about the character's past and revealed how she was inspired to give the cruel teacher a love of bows and kittens.

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    The 'Harry Potter' films star Imelda Staunton (center) as Dolores Umbridge.
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Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has published a new piece on the website Pottermore that focuses on “Potter” villain Dolores Umbridge.

Rowling has written new material for the site before, with previous work including information about wizarding world singer Celestina Warbeck and a fake news article reporting on Harry, his wife Ginny, and his friends Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna attending the Quidditch World Cup.

The new work centers on “Potter” villain Dolores Umbridge, who figures most prominently in the fifth book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Umbridge takes on the newly created government post of Hogwarts High Inquisitor in order to try to control the magical school of Hogwarts. She is a sadistic teacher, forcing students to carve words into their own skin if they disobey her (after Harry tells her repeatedly that villain Voldemort has returned, his phrase is “I must not tell lies”).

The new work by Rowling details the early life of Umbridge as well as the author’s inspiration for part of the character. Umbridge is half-wizard, half-Muggle-born (non-magic person), according to Rowling, though she noted that Umbridge “pretended to all she met that she was a pure-blood.” 

“Dolores secretly despised both of [her parents]: Orford for his lack of ambition (he had never been promoted, and worked in the Department of Magical Maintenance at the Ministry of Magic), and her mother, Ellen, for her flightiness, untidiness, and Muggle lineage,” Rowling wrote, according to “Today.”

The author writes that Umbridge entered the Ministry directly after graduation.

“Even at seventeen, Dolores was judgemental, 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,” Rowling wrote.

She notes that Umbridge’s hobbies are “collecting the 'Frolicsome Feline' ornamental plate range, adding flounces to fabric and frills to stationary objects, inventing instruments of torture.”

And, Rowling writes, a teacher of the author’s was “a source of inspiration” for Umbridge, though the author made clear that the instructor “was NOT ‘the real Dolores Umbridge.’”

“Why we took against each other so instantly, heartily and (on my side, at least) irrationally, I honestly cannot say,” she wrote. “What sticks in my mind is her pronounced taste for twee accessories…. She did not look like a toad, she was never sadistic or vicious to me or anyone else, and I never heard her express a single view in common with Umbridge (indeed, I never knew her well enough to know much about her views or preferences, which makes my dislike of her even less justifiable). However, it is true to say that I borrowed from her, then grossly exaggerated, a taste for the sickly sweet and girlish in dress.” 

To read more of the new information about Umbridge, check out Pottermore or the version on the “Today” website here.

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