J.K. Rowling dishes on Dolores Umbridge in her new short story

By Michael Frye | Time Out New York

Just in time for Halloween, J.K. Rowling released an eerie essay this morning, detailing the background of Harry Potter villainess Dolores Umbridge. Just reading the latest entry brings all the wizarding nostalgia flying right back (accio childhood!). Here in New York, there are some wicked events that true Potter fanatics can take part in to keep the fandom alive. The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts a muggle-guided Harry Potter themed art tour throughout the year. Immerse yourself in The Goblet of Fire by attending a real Yule Ball with wizard rock group Harry and the Potters. The Bell House hosts an annual PotterCon, and film star Rupert Grint is further proving his acting chops on Broadway. J.K. Rowling has also strived to keep the story alive with her fan site Pottermore which has been gorwing a reputation as the Silmarillion to the Harry Potter universe. In her new 1,700-word entry, we learn not only what makes Umbridge tick, but we also learn about Rowling’s personal connection with the witch, and how one of the most malicious characters in the series is rooted in the author’s own past. But the Umbridge story is just a piece of the Halloween treat, with over 5,500 words detailing Thestrals, various Ministers of Magic, Trelawney and much more.

We spoke to one of the best sources for Harry Potter news, Kat Miller, Marketing and Creative Director at MuggleNet about what she hoped to see in the new story.

This new story by J.K. Rowling is supposedly a backstory to Dolores Umbridge, what do you think will be the most surprising thing we learn about her past?

I don’t want to theorize about a specific incident, but I would be SHOCKED to learn that Umbridge had any moments of redemption. I see her, in many ways, as more evil than Lord Voldemort. Situations that contradict that would be most surprising to me. She is a sad, lonely woman, and I do hope for her sake that there is love in her childhood…but like the best villains, I doubt it.

Why do you think Umbridge has become such an iconic Harry Potter villain?

We’ve discussed this before on our global re-read of Harry Potter, Alohomora!. I believe that Umbridge’s form of evil is so powerful because it’s REAL. Lord Voldemort, yes, is evil, but we live in the Muggle world and that kind of evil—the magical kind—isn’t something that we have experienced firsthand. There are people that exist in the Muggle world who are just like Umbridge; sadistic, biased, and cruel. That’s far scarier, because we have all dealt with that form of evil.

Pottermore has been posting various ‘tricks and treats’ on their site, revealing clues about the new story including a lot of hints at Bellatrix Lestrange. How do you think she will play into the Umbridge story?

Well I believe that the hints actually leaned towards a story about Azkaban prison, which of course plays a big part in Order of the Phoenix, with the mass breakout that happens early on. I believe Bellatrix will come into play in that story.

We got our first taste for Umbridge’s cruelty from the blood quill, making her ‘the only other person to permanently scar Harry’ as Pottermore first announced with this story. Do you think we will finally learn about its origins in this story?

I think this ties back to her childhood, and J.K. Rowling does love to create elaborate back-stories for her characters, starting in their early years. On Alohomora!, we concluded that we believe the blood quill was used on her as a child, thus why she uses it on her students. We tend to repeat the mistakes of our parents, and Umbridge is no exception.

When we first meet Dolores Umbridge, she is the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic with no hint at stopping there. What details do you think the extended story will cover on her rise to power?

I am hoping that we will get some insight into what caused Dolores to turn into the woman that she is today. We know quite a bit about her time at Hogwarts, but I am interested in her early years. I am also dying to find out what she was doing during the timeline that is Half-Blood Prince. She very clearly did not change her stance on many things after Lord Voldemort was proven to indeed be back, so why did she continue to blindly work for the Ministry of Magic? Obligation? Because she agreed with it’s direction? A bit of both? I am dying to find out!