J.K. Rowling caused a stir among Harry Potter fans last week when she announced that she’d be publishing a new story exploring Dolores Umbridge’s background on Pottermore.com this Halloween.
The new material doesn’t disappoint. Not only does Rowling detail the life story of Umbridge, a bigoted and cruel Ministry of Magic official with a surprising penchant for frills and kitten ornaments, she also discusses the inspiration for Umbridge’s character -- a teacher Rowling loathed as a young student, who shared Umbridge’s taste for girly accessories.
“I have noticed more than once in life that a taste for the ineffably twee can go hand-in-hand with a distinctly uncharitable outlook on the world,” noted Rowling, though she also takes pains to point out that her former teacher was by no means as ruthless as the character based on her.
Rowling didn’t stop with Umbridge, also adding new pieces to Pottermore.com about thestrals, Sibyll Trelawney and the Ministry of Magic, among other topics. Though a history of the Ministers of Magic may seem dull, Rowling’s flair for the clever name and kooky detail makes the brief biographies of the past ministers a riotous read. One elderly minister left office after he “attended Queen Victoria’s funeral in an admiral’s hat and spats, at which point the Wizengamot suggested gently that it was time he move aside.” Another lost political favor after introducing too many petty pieces of legislation -- “hat pointiness and so on.”
As with all of Rowling's new Harry Potter stories, a little dedication is required to enjoy the full catalog. The new content has been published on Pottermore.com, where users must register, then explore digital renderings of moments in the Harry Potter series in order to find and unlock the stories. With such a treasure trove of alternately funny and poignant new backstories to uncover, the effort won't be wasted.