Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: The Real-Life Inspirations Behind J.K. Rowling’s Characters

June 26th marks the 20th anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s debut novel, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.’ We take a look at some of the most memorable characters from the HP series and the real-life people the British author used as inspirations to create them.

Harry Potter

Rowling modeled her young hero after her childhood neighborhood friend, Ian Potter, who once lived four doors down from her in her home near Bristol. Ian, who is now a damp-proofer, was a mischievous trickster when he was young, forming an unwelcoming habit of placing slugs on his friends’ picnic plates and encouraging Rowling to run through wet concrete with her sister.

Ron Weasley

Of the characters Rowling liked the least, Dolores Umbridge takes the cake. Modeling her character after a teacher whom she admitted she “disliked intensely on sight,” Rowling created the pink- and kitten-obsessed torturer who would later be revealed to be in Lord Voldemort’s pocket. Describing the real-life person, Rowling writes: “I particularly recall a tiny little plastic bow slide, pale lemon in color that she wore in her short curly hair,” adding, “I used to stare at that little slide, which would have been appropriate to a girl of three, as though it was some kind of repellent physical growth.”

Aunt Marge

Not all relatives are easy to be around, and for a writer like Rowling, they apparently gave her a creative opportunity to channel her grievances. Thanks to the unkind ways of Rowling’s real-life maternal grandmother, Frieda, whom the author describes as someone who enjoyed the company of “her dogs to human relatives,” the caustic and girthy character of Aunt Marge was born — bulldogs and all.