J.K. Rowling Finally Tells the Full Story of Dolores Umbridge

JK Rowling
J.K. Rowling, seen here publicizing her book “The Casual Vacancy.” Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Consider saying a prayer today for one of J.K. Rowling's former teachers. The unnamed woman, wherever she is, may have just learned that she was the Harry Potter author's inspiration for Dolores Umbridge, the obnoxiously condescending Defense Against the Dark Arts who makes Hogwarts hell in the series' fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

This is according to a new story Rowling has published on Pottermore, the Harry Potter fan site, telling "the story of Dolores Jane Umbridge." In it, Rowling goes into depth about Umbridge's time at the Ministry of Magic, her thoroughly unpleasant appointment at Hogwarts and her eventual trial and conviction upon Voldemort's defeat.

Then, in a note below the story, she switches to the first person and reveals the inspiration behind Umbridge's physical qualities: the aforementioned instructor, whose grating personality, "taste for twee accessories" and "tendency to wear frills where (I felt) frills had no business to be" sticks with Rowling today.

But, Rowling warns, this woman is not the real Umbridge, whom the author considers "every bit as reprehensible as Lord Voldemort's unvarnished espousal of evil":

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, and it was that tiny little pale lemon plastic bow that I was remembering when I perched the fly-like ornament on Dolores Umbridge's head.

You'll need a login to read the piece at Pottermore, but it has been republished at Today.com for all readers. Those who do have a Pottermore login will be able to find several other Potter-related entries from Rowling, one of which is a history of wizarding prison Azkaban, as well as the story Rowling published there in July.