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Harry Potter: Characters, Author & Facts

Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

If you don't know who Harry Potter is, you might just be a muggle. Not to worry, though, because in this lesson you'll have the chance to meet the author of the series, along with some of her characters, who have captivated readers for nearly two decades.

Notable Characters in Harry Potter

What's a muggle? What's Harry Potter about? Let's take a closer look at the characters in the Harry Potter series, along with some facts about the series and its author.

Harry Potter, as you might guess, is the series' protagonist. Rowling's seven books focus on the magical and often perilous adventures of this young bespectacled boy who is the son of James and Lily Potter. He was orphaned as a baby and forced to live with his maternal aunt, Petunia, and her husband Vernon Dursley and cousin Dudley.

Despite the Dursleys' attempts to hide his true identity, Harry finally learns of his magical heritage on his eleventh birthday when he is summoned to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Once there, Harry quickly learns of his fame in the magical community, as he is easily recognizable by the lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead.

The characteristic scar and glasses are immediately evident in this illustration of Harry from the first book.
Illustration of Harry from the cover of Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis

Ron Weasley is Harry's best friend and the youngest son of Arthur and Molly Weasley. Given his red hair and penchant for mischief, Ron is unmistakably a member of this very old magical family and must often cope with the reputation of his five older brothers while at Hogwarts.

Hermione Granger is Ron and Harry's closest companion. Though she is 'Muggle-born,' she is a consummate student quickly on her way to becoming a first-rate witch. Although she never quite approves of the boys' misadventures, Hermione's quick wit is often to thank for saving the friends from certain doom.

Albus Dumbledore is headmaster during Harry's stay at Hogwarts and is responsible for hiding the boy following his parents' deaths. A very old and wise wizard, Dumbledore becomes one of Harry's closest advisers whose unwavering faith in Harry helps him achieve his potential as a truly powerful wizard.

Lord Voldemort (a.k.a. Tom Riddle) was once himself a student at Hogwarts. He was a singularly gifted pupil of magic; however, he became obsessed with studying the dark arts, leading him to become the most feared wizard of all time. As the series' main antagonist, Voldemort is responsible for many deaths in the magical community, including those of Harry's parents. This early encounter with the dark wizard is what gave Harry his telltale scar and the nickname 'The Boy who Lived.'

Lord Voldemort-the dark wizard and nemesis of Harry Potter
Statue of Lord Voldemort displayed at the 2010 Comic-Con in San Diego

About the Author

The mistress of magic herself, J.K. Rowling
Photo of Ms. Rowling reading exerpts from her book during the White House Easter celebration

Joanne (a.k.a. 'Jo') Rowling was born on 31 July 1965 and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent, in England. She attended Exeter University, where she earned her degree in Classics and French. Jo authored the Harry Potter series and several other books under the pseudonym 'J.K. Rowling' to mask her identity since her publisher thought young boys might be deterred from reading a series written by a woman. She continues to write under this name and as 'Robert Galbraith,' even recently working on the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Ms. Rowling is devoted to many charitable projects and has won numerous awards, including the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award and France's Légion d'Honneur.

Fun Facts

  • Since their first publication in June 1997, the Harry Potter books have enjoyed record-breaking success, selling over 400 million copies.
  • Due to their worldwide fame, the books have been translated into over 70 languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek.

Latin translation of the first book in the Harry Potter series
Cover to the Latin translation of the first book in the series

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