Just in time for Halloween, which is like Christmas for wizards (they celebrate Christmas, too, but that’s more of a cultural thing), J.K. Rowling has put up six new stories on Pottermore (registration required), including a detailed character study of Ministry of Magic official Dolores Umbridge. In the essay, Rowling reveals that she based Umbridge’s love of all things pink and whimsical on a former teacher she particularly disliked. “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,” she explains. “[Umbridge’s] desire to control, to punish, and to inflict pain, all in the name of law and order, are, I think, every bit as reprehensible as Lord Voldemort’s unvarnished espousal of evil.”
Rowling also fills in a plot hole that has always bothered us: Why does Umbridge end up on Voldemort’s side in Deathly Hallows?
When the Ministry was taken over by the puppet Minister Pius Thicknesse, and infiltrated by the Dark Lord’s followers, Dolores was in her true element at last. Correctly judged, by senior Death Eaters, to have much more in common with them than she ever had with Albus Dumbledore, she not only retained her post but was given extra authority, becoming Head of the Muggle-born Registration Commission, which was in effect a kangaroo court that imprisoned all Muggle-borns on the basis that they had ‘stolen’ their wands and their magic.
The best details from the other five stories:
On Professor Trelawney: Her marriage “ended in rupture when she refused to adopt the last name Higginbottom.”
On thestrals: They are apparently carnivorous but “reward all who trust them with faithfulness and obedience.”
On the Ministers of Magic: “Albert Boot (1747-1752): Likable, but inept. Resigned after a mismanaged goblin rebellion … Basil Flack (1752): Shortest serving Minster. Lasted two months; resigned after the goblins joined forces with werewolves.”
On wizarding names: Sirius Black’s extended family has a tradition of naming “their offspring after stars and constellations (which many would say suggests their lofty ambition and pride.)”
On Azkaban: Here Rowling makes the Guantánamo Bay parallels more explicit than ever: “No Minister ever seriously considered closing Azkaban. They turned a blind eye to the inhumane conditions inside the fortress … Most justified their attitude by pointing to the prison’s perfect record at keeping prisoners locked up.”