Easter Eggs in Jim Kay’s Illustrations for “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
Jim Kay’s illustrations for Harry Potter are undeniably magical. Each page is enchanting, filled with his passion for history and natural beauty. He breathes new life into the story, hiding fascinating references and jokes in the details.
We previously published an in-depth analysis of Easter eggs in Kay’s illustrations for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Books 2 and 3 have been released since, and we are looking forward to Kay’s illustrations for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which come out next month. In the meantime, I thought I’d inspect my illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets more closely to find the secrets buried there.
My hunt for Easter eggs begins on the back cover where a mysterious figure has perplexed me for years. Kay revealed on Instagram that this Groot-like creature nods to his work on A Monster Calls. The creature also appears on page 24.
Kay makes reference models of figures like Dobby, as seen on page 12, to test them for posing and lighting. According to Kay, this original model is now part of a Hippogriff’s rear end.
The textbook on the floor displays an ouroboros, an ancient symbol connected to alchemy and the philosopher’s stone. It represents the cycle of life and death, possibly foreshadowing the death of Dobby or Harry.
On page 31, I spotted three gnomes sneaking back into the garden at the Burrow.
For page 45, Kay explains, “The carving around the door is taken from a very early piece of carved sculpture, possibly Saxon.” Engraved near the top is the only Deathly Hallows-like symbol I could locate in this book.
On pages 48–49, Kay designed many new shops for Diagon Alley, embedding charming surprises within:
- “Creepy Scrawlers” is the name of the company co-founded by Jim Kay and Louise Clark.
- The booth selling leeches proclaims, “We will bite them on the features!” Kay explains this as a reference to Winston Churchill’s famous line “We will fight them on the beaches!”
- “The Three Sheets” alludes to the phrase “three sheets to the wind,” meaning drunk. This heaving ship-shaped pub is surrounded by puddles of vomit.
- “Nollikins” might refer to the eccentric English sculptor Joseph Nollekens.
- Kay’s favorite bird is the red kite, Milvus milvus, which he heard singing while he illustrated Diagon Alley. “Grizedale” refers to an area that sought to reintroduce these birds. “Per volar sù nata,” or “born to soar,” is from Dante.
- “What larks!” is a Charles Dickens reference.
- “Culpeppers” references Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, which J.K. Rowling has cited as an influence.
- “Nell’s Bells” is a song by Irish singer Seamus Kennedy.
Diagon Alley continues with more Easter eggs on pages 50–51:
- “Shrew & Scold’s Bridal Wear” is a pun on scold’s bridle, a medieval torture device for punishing unruly wives and accused witches. This also alludes to The Taming of the Shrew.
- Kay reveals that “Trismus” is another term for lockjaw. The building even has teeth.
- “Gaudia certaminis” or “the joy of battle” is a phrase associated with Attila the Hun.
- Kay explains that Marcus Minucius was a Roman politician whose superstitious rival took a mouse’s squeak as a sign to give up his attack. Myomancy is a form of divination observing rodents. This shop resembles Bagpuss’s Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ.
- “Caput Mortuum” is a key paint color Kay used on Diagon Alley. Meaning “dead head,” it is also related to alchemy.
On page 61, the flying Ford Anglia soars over St. Pancras next door to King’s Cross. A bus below reads “JKR 310765,” which is J.K. Rowling’s birthday. Another bus says JEK, perhaps referencing Kay himself.
The mandrake illustration on page 74 recalls Leonardo da Vinci’s style.
“Myrtle smells of wee!” is carved onto the wall on page 119. The crown molding features three witches, possibly Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters or Asha, Altheda, and Amata from “The Fountain of Fair Fortune.”
On page 126, Lockhart’s mirror signifies vanity and deception. More subtle is the moth which represents attraction.
The snowmen on page 151 are dueling, possibly practicing Expelliarmus like the students in this chapter.
While Hagrid is based on an old biker, Kay gave him Churchill’s eyes. Check them out on page 199.
The phoenixes on pages 248–251 are inspired by Templar Publishing’s Ology book series. These fantastic beasts are “based on several birds, in particular the wonderful Hoatzin.”
The endpaper’s greenhouse is inspired by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew where Kay worked. I spotted his tame blackbird Ted and his dog Leroy, who passed away while Kay painted this piece.
It is a treat to hear Kay explain his methods and inspirations, and I enjoyed unpacking these details. He brilliantly captures the personality and whimsy of Rowling’s world while adding his own unique flair. I strongly suggest checking out more of his work.
Have you found any other Easter eggs in this book? Let us know in the comments, and come back soon as we reveal more of Jim Kay’s secrets in the next few weeks.