Monday, 13 April 2009

Names: Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Hogshead

As all readers of the Harry Potter books know, the school of Wizardry and Witchcraft that Harry goes to is called Hogwarts.

J.K. Rowling said in an interview back in 1999, about the name: "I thought I made up Hogwarts, but recently a friend said, 'Remember we saw lilies in Kew gardens (a garden in London.)' Apparently there are lilies there called Hogwarts. I'd forgotten!"

Today, if you try to look up "hogwart" on the internet, the problem is that you just get referred to thousands of pages talking about the Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books. However, Hogwart as the name of a plant can also be found on lists over toxic plants that shouldn't be eaten by rabbits...

There are two more important "hog" references in the Harry Potter books: The village near Hogwarts Castle is called Hogsmeade, and in the village, there is also a pub called The Hogshead.

Mead is an alcoholic liquor of fermented honey and water. And if you look up hogshead in a dictionary, you will find that it is a large cask or barrel, or a measurement equaling around 50 gallons of liquid (for example beer).

It turns out in the last book in the HP series (after just being subtly hinted at in the previous ones) that the landlord of The Hogshead is Aberforth Dumbledore, brother of Albus. The earlier hints about Aberforth include that he is somehow mysteriously associated with goats. This connection is never really explained in the books, but...

… In Norse mythology, in the Hall of the Gods, Valhalla (the place where all the slain heroes go), there is a goat (named Heidrun), that continually produces mead. And the meat served at the same table comes from a boar (called Sarimner) that gets killed every night but always comes back to life again after being eaten…

(Digging deeper into Norse mythology, other links between the brothers Dumbledore and the Norse god Odin also seem possible, but I'm not going into that in this post.)

Furthermore, the pig/boar/ hog is also an animal connected to the wizard Merlin in the Celtic/ Arthurian legends. According to a book I have*, Merlin kept a pig as a "pet". The same book also provides this information about the pig in the Celtic tradition:

"It is, first of all, the preferred dish for the banquets that take place both here and in the Otherworld. The wild boar, 'le solitaire' or solitary one, is the animal symbol of the druid, adept in magic and prophecy, protector of heroes, bringer of abundance and good fortune. The position of swineherd was one of the most honoured among the Celts."
(as opposed to for example Biblical contexts)

*On the Trail of Merlin. A Guidebook to the Western Mystery Tradition, by Deike Rich and Ean Begg, 1991

If you want to look up the names from the Norse mythology, try Wikipedia, or just Google them.


Jonathan Toan said...

interesting. we do appropriate a lot from norse mythology without even knowing it... the most that people generally recognize is a little bit of greek/roman

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