Real Life Muggles Named ‘Harry Potter’

I picked up a copy of Book magazine, a super slick production of Barnes & Noble, in May 2003 because it had a picture of Rowling on the cover and two or three fun feature stories. My favorite part of the magazine, though, and the reason I still have a copy is a side-bar piece titled, ‘Will the Real Harry Potter Please Stand Up?’ It has four cameo pictures of men named ‘Harry Potter’ with brief descriptions — age, work, city of residence — and each Harry’s blurb description of what it is like to be named for the lead character in a tsunami cultural phenomenon.

They were a 45 year old “director of drop out prevention in schools” in Providence, Rhode Island, a 58 year old mailman in Scotia, New York, a 47 year old funeral director in Bedford, Massachusetts, and a 67 year old “retired pastor” in Wauchula, Florida. Only the pastor was a non-reader; he said “I am a Christian and the Bible says we should stay away from witchcraft.” Even he admitted the name business is “humorous to me, though.”

I even had a person call me from London, asking if I had a son named Harry Potter because they wanted a real Harry Potter in the movie. I said I could fit in. I could be the old Harry Potter who’s lost his zap. did a search in 2005 for “ordinary people called Harry Potter,” an investigation that yielded ‘Meet the Real Harry Potters.’ The retired “naval seaman” in Florida was probably the most interesting of that lot because he was Harry Potter III and also had a son named Harry Potter.

I pulled the Book magazine off my Harry Potter shelf today, though, after reading the piece, ‘Meet the real-life muggles named Harry Potter: How sharing a name with the Boy Who Lived transfigured the lives of a knighted criminal lawyer, a fitness guru and more.’ It’s a relatively extended and in-depth look at five men named Harry Potter (four in the picture above) and the advantages and drawbacks each has experienced in the two decades of sharing a name with The Boy Who Lived. I recommend it.

The RadioTimes piece includes, for example, this strange bit of nigh on incredible Shared Text data:

This boy will be famous!” McGonagall whispered to her companion, who was placing yet another lemon drop in the mouth hiding beneath his flowing silver beard. “There will be books written about him – every child in our world will know his name!”

She was, of course, completely correct. The baby, a young wizard called Harry Potter, would soon possess one of the most celebrated names on the planet. It was a name that became emblazoned across JK Rowling’s novels, which went on to sell 500 million copies worldwide in 74 languages. Four syllables that would garner their own registered trademark and font.

And even today, almost 21 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was published, ‘Harry Potter’ is still a name more popular on Google than Donald Trump, Kanye West and Gandalf combined, not to mention 17 times more searched for than Jesus Christ.

But however right McGonagall’s prophecy was, she had overlooked something huge. While the Boy Who Lived would soon bare the world’s most famous name, so too would a set of other Harry Potters across the country. The estimated 23 Harry Potters of voting age residing in the UK, for instance.

John Lennon famously quipped in 1966 that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” I don’t think Rowling is foolish enough to think that, not to mention say it in public, but, if Google searches equate to popularity rather than curiosity, I guess she could.

I share a name with a Harry Potter character, fortunately “the smartest witch of her generation,” and, because the connection is only the relatively common surname not the signature ‘Hermione’ first name, I am never bothered about it in my Walter Mitty existence. As the Dean of Harry Potter Scholars, though, I get comments, invariably a tease or in good humor.

It is a standing joke, for example, that Hermione was given the middle name ‘Jean’ in Deathly Hallows (Dumbledore’s will, right?) because Rowling was making a hat tip to ‘John Granger,’ know-it-all interpreter of children’s books, who like Miss Granger and Tales of Beedle the Bard, identifies the symbol but misses its meaning. Not a very funny joke, I know, but I haven’t got any good stories to share with you about being named ‘Granger.’ Maybe being an old guy rather than a young woman keeps people from making the association — everyone that is except very young readers who inevitably ask at the end of talks if I am related to Harry’s brilliant friend.

The Tom Riddles of the world are having a much harder time. ‘What’s it Like to Share a Name with Lord Voldemort?’

Do you know a Weasley, Snape, or Potter? How is life treating them? Let me know in the comment boxes below!


Lorrie Kim on Hermione and Ravenclaw

Lorrie Kim, author of Snape: A Definitive Reading, has been posting write-ups of her talks at the 2019 LeakyCon and the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Conference on her WordPress weblog, I posted a link to her thoughts on the relationship of Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore last month; today I direct you to her most recent work, a discussion of Hermione’s story arc, the mystery of Ravenclaw House, and how much we are obliged to read Rowling’s work in light of her biography. She acknowledges that others disagree with a psycho-biographical reading of the Hogwarts Saga but then makes this reading the focus of her conclusions about Hermione, Ravenclaw, and what the reader is meant to take away from the story.

Though I disagree with several of her assertions in addition to this ‘personal heresy’ and was a little startled by one or two statements of fact, I enjoyed J.K. Rowling, Giftedness, and the Ghost of Ravenclaw as I do everything Lorrie Kim writes. Her Potter Punditry is informed by a signature command of text and a unique perspective on the characters and their interactions. Her thoughts on Hermione alone and her annual “projects” are worth the time it takes to read; they complement in challenging fashion David Martin’s charting Hermione’s development as a reader book to book, Stone to Hallows.

Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below! Hat-tip to an anonymous correspondent for the pointer to this Kim post.


Sisters of House Black: Fan Fiction Film

Fan Fiction flies to film — flim flam or foto fun? Let me know what you think!

Shared Text: Voldemort’s Farm Subsidies

I have an American friend residing in Sri Lanka, a man writing a Young Adult series of novels with whom I correspond about ring composition and other writing devices. I look forward to sharing more here about Michael and his nomadic adventures when his books are published.

In our frequent email exchanges, he often sends links to articles available online about subjects of interest to him; it’s a relatively random set of news pieces and commentary, though Michael has set in granite political convictions and beliefs about the world, few of which I share. I suspect he sends them less to say ‘Hurrah for our side!’ or ‘Can you believe this?’ than to note that I need to change my ideas to better ones, say, his own.

I confess to clicking through in each email he sends, despite or because of my complementary aversion and addiction to news stories (cue link to ‘Avoid News’ by Rolf Dolbelli). Today’s piece was from The New York Times, in my youth a bastion of journalism, for at least a quarter century an advocacy newspaper: The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions. If you want an education in why millions of UK voters voted to leave the EU and why the elite have fought that mandate in order to remain at the trough in Brussels, this article is an excellent short course.

Why do I share it here? Even in an article about corrupt politicians in Central Europe and how they continue the feudal traditions of the Catholic Middle Ages and of the Marxist serfdom in the Communist era by redirecting subsidies to farmers from the EU to their own coffers, we get a reference to Harry Potter.

In one example, a powerful Fidesz lawmaker, Roland Mengyi, inserted himself into the leasing process in Borsod-Abauj Zemplen County, where one of his associates won leases for more than 1,200 acres. Mr. Mengyi is an outsized character, who referred to himself as “Lord Voldemort.” He was later convicted and sentenced to prison in a separate case for corruption related to European subsidies.

Clicking through on the link provided, I didn’t find the reference to Lord Voldemort made by Mengyi; it seems to be rather hearsay that the newspaper writer wanted to include to cast the villain in the properly dark light. The Times repeats it because the reference works. Everyone reading the article knows who the Dark Lord is, that he is a very, very bad man, and will conclude that any man referring to himself as “Lord Voldemort” is as indifferent to others and to right and wrong as can be.

That’s the power and constancy of allusions to Harry Potter, our era’s shared text. Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below (click on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post headline).

‘Writing Home’ by J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling has written a contribution to a collection of Remainer essays called ‘Dear Europe.’ Her brief and charming essay — 17 paragraphs with a ‘Freund Hanna’ latch and a story turn in paragraph 9 about her mother’s death –can be read at The Guardian website; see Writing Home.

I confess (after the jump!) to being delighted by the piece for three reasons: [Read more…]