J.K. Rowling responded to fan theories about where she came up with the idea for Harry Potter

By Ally Mauch
May 22, 2020 11:32 AM
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J.K. Rowling
| Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty

J.K. Rowling spent some time on Twitter Wednesday debunking fan theories about where her iconic Harry Potter series originated — and revealed the truth.

It all started after a Twitter user asked Rowling whether a cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland, The Elephant House, was really the birthplace of Harry Potter, as a sign on the establishment reads.

“I was thinking of putting a section on my website about all the alleged inspirations and birthplaces of Potter,” Rowling replied. “I’d been writing Potter for several years before I ever set foot in this cafe, so it’s not the birthplace, but I *did* write in there so we’ll let them off!”

Following the original tweet, Rowling divulged the real “birthplace” of the Harry Potter story — an unassuming apartment above a sports store.

“This is the true birthplace of Harry Potter, if you define 'birthplace' as the spot where I put pen to paper for the first time,*” she wrote, alongside a photo of the London apartment as it looks today. “I was renting a room in a flat over what was then a sports shop. The first bricks of Hogwarts were laid in a flat in Clapham Junction.”

“* If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” she added. “But I'm perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it's so far from the truth.”

Rowling also shared a photo of the place where she came up with the idea of Quidditch, the game her characters play throughout the books, involving balls with wings and flying broomsticks.

“This building is in Manchester and used to be the Bourneville Hotel (Pretty sure it's this building. It might be the one along),” the author said. “Anyway, I spent a single night there in 1991, and when I left next morning, I'd invented Quidditch.”

In addition to revealing the true birthplaces of her ideas, Rowling debunked a few popular fan theories about the places that inspired the book’s magical settings.

“I sometimes hear Hogwarts was based on one or other of Edinburgh’s schools, but that’s 100% false, too,” she said of the school her character’s attend. “Hogwarts was created long before I clapped eyes on any of them! I did finish Hallows in the Balmoral, though, & I can’t lie, I’d rate it a smidge higher than the Bournville.”

Rowling also disputed a theory that a bookshop in Portugal inspired the library in the books, as well as several streets’ claims to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, a windy shopping area where Hogwarts students could buy wands and chocolate frogs.

Her favorite (untrue) theory, however, was one regarding a parking meter in her native Scotland.

“My favourite bit of utter nonsense about Potter landmarks is still this one. I can't drive,” she wrote in response to a fan who said a Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh pointed out the parking meter she used while writing the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.