Harry Potter Etymology- The Marauders and The Dursleys

It being Harry’s birthday, I decided to reprise my series once more. Today is about the people closest to his heart.

Remus John Lupin(10th Mar 1960 -2nd May 1998, killed by Antonin Dolohov)- This is an easy connection to make. Romulus and Remus were the twin founders of Rome, who were raised by wolves. They ultimately fought over Rome, and Remus was killed. Many speculated that Lupin must have a twin brother, but Rowling denied this, saying Remus’s rivalry with Romulus represented Lupin’s constant struggle with his other part, the werewolf. Romulus was the codename used for Lupin in Potterwatch. Lupin is derived from the root lupus, which is latin for ‘wolf’. Lupine, in english, is ‘wolf-like’. REMUS LUPIN is an anagram of PRIMUS LUNE, which means Full(first) Moon. Rowling could also have been making a reference to the comical characters from Monty Python- Professor RJ Grumbly and Dennis Moore, the Lupin Thief. Rowling has also stated that “Lupin’s failing is he likes to be liked. That’s where he slips up — he’s been disliked so often he’s always pleased to have friends so cuts them an awful lot of slack”. Lupin was so thouroughly shunned by society that he couldn’t bring himself to admonish the only people who accepted him- James and Sirius. Lupin was killed off by Rowling to compensate for leaving Mr.Weasley alive. He was the last of Harry’s father figures to have been killed. Lupin’s killing was Rowling’s way of drawing parallels between Harry and Teddy. Rowling felt it was important to show the evils of Voldemort’s actions and the devastating nature of war. Lupin’s outcast past reflects on his relationships, where he first rejects Tonks and then Teddy. Harry insults Lupin and forces him to go back to his son, and Lupin forgives and forgets by making Harry Teddy’s godfather. Lupin was one of the first few Order members who answered Neville’s call to arms in Hogwarts. After the Battle over Little Whinging, thirteen people (Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Fleur, Fred, George, Ron, Ginny, Harry, Hermione, Lupin, Tonks and Hagrid) gathered in The Burrow to mourn the death of Mad-Eye Moody. Afterwards, Lupin stood up first and offered to look for Moody’s dead body. Later in the Battle of Hogwarts, Lupin was killed thus making another of Trelawney’s predictions came true: that when thirteen dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die. (However, as it is not known when Lupin died, it is possible that Fred or Tonks died before him. )

Peter Pettigrew(1960-Mar 1998, killed by his own silver hand, fashioned by Lord Voldemort)- Peter was one of Jesus’s apostles, who, on the morning of the crucifixion, denied the Christ. He later repented for it. Petit, in French is ‘small’ and gros is ‘fat’. His name could also be petit and grew , symbolic of his animagus form. Pettigrew could also reference to his time as Ron’s rat, the pet he grew. Scabbers could stem from scab, a traitor or a horrible person. Pettigrew belonged to the Order, but defected to Voldemort and became a double agent. He is the only known Death Eater who was not from Slytherin. In fact, he was from Gryffindor house, but this could be due to his own choosing at the time of the sorting. His ‘official’ Death Eater name became Wormtail. Rowling has explained Pettigrew’s switch of allegiance by saying that he “out of cowardice will stand in the shadow of the strongest person.” She also said that James and Sirius allowed Pettigrew to be their friend “in a slightly patronising way” and that he ended up being a better wizard and better at hiding secrets than they ever knew. Voldemort seemed to be aware of Pettigrew’s weakness, and never trusted him and thus designed him a hand that would turn on its own owner if it sensed wavering in his faithfulness.

Sirius Black(1959/60-Jun 1996, killed by Bellatrix Lestrange)- Just as the star was/is a guide to sailors and travellers and star-gazers, Sirius was a father-figure and mentor to Harry. More details about Sirius’s name here.  Sirius was 22 years old when he was sentenced to Azkaban. He was killed by his aunt, Bellatrix, who also killed another one of her cousins- and Sirius’s best friend, Lupin’s wife, Tonks. In an interview, J.K. Rowling said that Sirius began to laugh hysterically when the Aurors lead him to jail because James and Lily’s death had unhinged him, and he knew what he had lost. Even though he was wrongfully convicted, being an unregistered animagus in fact, does result in a term in Azkaban. She has also said that she likes Sirius as a character, but she does not think he is “wholly wonderful“: “Sirius is very good at spouting bits of excellent personal philosophy, but he does not always live up to them. For instance, he says in “Goblet of Fire” that if you want to know what a man is really like, ‘look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’ But Sirius loathes Kreacher, the house-elf he has inherited, and treats him with nothing but contempt. Similarly, Sirius claims that nobody is wholly good or wholly evil, and yet the way he acts towards Snape suggests that he cannot conceive of any latent good qualities there…Sirius’ great redeeming quality is how much affection he is capable of feeling. He loved James like a brother and he went on to transfer that attachment to Harry.” Rowling also described Sirius as a “bit of a loose cannon” and once described Sirius as “brave, loyal, reckless, embittered and slightly unbalanced by his long stay in Azkaban.” “I see Sirius as someone who was a case of arrested development. I think you see that from his relationship with Harry in ‘Phoenix.’ He kind of wants a mate from Harry, and what Harry craves is a father.”

James Potter(27th Mar 1960-31st Oct 1981, killed by Lord Voldemort)-

His parents were very elderly when they had him, so he was extremely pampered. He was also very wealthy, and supported Lupin after they graduated and Lupin failed to find a job(due to his lycanthropy). Although in the first book he was stated to be a seeker and he played with the snitch, he was a chaser in the Gryffindor Quidditch team. It is quite possible he played both, just like Ginny.


The Four, after their OWLS


Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs

The Marauders were killed in the reverse order in which they were introduced- Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. All of them are killed while protecting Harry from Voldemort and the Death Eaters. James’s love for the Marauders is channeled into Harry, and their love for him is very evident; Harry summons Lupin and Sirius along with James and Lily with the Resurrection Stone.

Moony was Lupin’s nickname, referring to the moon. Pettigrew was a rat, whose tail was like a worm, James was a stag, whose antlers were prongs, and Sirius was a dog, that had padded feet. However, the names are much more symbolic-

A stag is a symbol of nobility, power and pride. It symbolizes macho ego(stag night, anyone?). A picture of a stag was often used by old Kings of England(and of course, the Baratheons). This image is fitting to James as the leader of his little gang. Further, Diana, the Goddess of the Moon was often depicted with a stag by her side. This image draws parallels with Lupin’s and James’s friendship.

A dog is a loyal and faithful companion. It is a symbol of love and courage, vigilance and companionship. Padfoot is a phantom black dog in English legends. These dogs guard churchyards or roads and roam the country in the night. They tend to be larger than ordinary dogs; can vanish instantly or fade slowly away while standing still, yet can run extremely quickly; typically described as having huge and “blazing” eyes; tend to be silent. Because of their association with graveyards, scholars once believed the black dog form was the preferred form of the Devil, and are usually considered an omen of death, and are, thus, also called the Grim. The House of Black’s name also seems to me to be a play on words-Grimmauld Place sounds a lot like Grim Old Place which could be related to Sirius. Sirius also lived off rats as a dog, after escaping for the second time. Dogs are early descendants of the Wolf.

A wolf also has many attributes that are associated with dogs- courage and guardianship. In the Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud states that dreaming about werewolves represents inner struggle, which definitely fits Lupin’s personality as wanting to be soft on his friends and at the same time, not betray Dumbledore’s trust. Just as dogs split away from wolves, Sirius’s trust in Lupin lessens, when he suspects Lupin to be a spy.

Since the time of the great plague in the middle ages, rats have been mistrusted and associated with impurity. A rat/ mole/ mouse is also someone who is a spy. Wormtail could also be Rowling’s tribute to Tolkein, where Grima Wormtongue was always referred toWormtongue. In fact, both are cowardly servants to a harsh, unforgiving masters(Saruman the White), and were double agents too(Theoden).  Wormtail could also be borrowed from Redwall’s character, who was a mouse and was missing one finger- yet again, Rowling using a children’s book character.

The Marauders’ Map

The four friends, in their nighttime wanderings amassed a wealth of information about the Castle that they formed the map. However, two main locations have been left out of the map.

Chamber of Secrets- None of the four were Parselmouths, so they could never have opened the Chamber even if they had heard of the myth that spoke about its existence. Given the nature of James and Sirius, I doubt they would have made any attempt at talking to Moaning Myrtle. Well, they would have found no reason to enter the girls’ bathroom, first of all!

The Room of Requirement- It is quite possible that they didn’t know about it. Remember how Fred and George did actually use it, but couldn’t go back to it? Now, even if they had known about it, I think the most plausible explanation is that the Room is Unplottable. It could one of the requirements that is asked of the room.

Speaking of being Unplottable, how does the Map show Hogwarts when it is Unplottable? Well, I don’t know if you ever asked that question, the answer is pretty dull, but people have asked this all over the internet. Hogwarts is indeed Unplottable, which renders its location hidden- ie, with reference to other buildings/landmarks, it is unplottable, but the architecture of the building evidently isn’t.

Why did Fred and George never notice Pettigrew on the Map? Because they didn’t know who he was. Even if they had recognized his name, they would have assumed he was just a student with the same last name. Pettigrew was one of many moving dots on the map, and Fred and George would have only been focused on the path their mischief took that day.

How did Fred and George figure out how to work the map? Rowling says, “This is how I explained it to myself at the time, and this does sound glib. Don’t you think it would be quite a Fred and Georgeish thing to say in jest, and then see this thing transform? You can see them sort of answering and joking with each other — And the map flickering into life here and there when they got closer and closer, and finally they hit upon the exact right word combination and it just erupts.”


Lily Evans(30th Jan 1960-31st Oct 1981, killed by Lord Voldemort)- Lily is a flower symbolizing purity, wisdom, chivalry, bravery, pride, and represents a mother. The flower is associated with the annunciation of the birth of Jesus.  When Aunt Petunia said Lily turned teacups into rats, she was exaggerating a little, although “just like her son, Lily was not averse to testing the limits of the Statute of Secrecy, so you can safely assume she will have had a few warning letters – nothing too serious, though.”

Evans is a Welsh name that means a young warrior. (No surprises there! Too bad Petunia had the same last name.) Lupin and Lily were made prefects in their fifth year. But being a prefect is not a pre-requisite to becoming a head boy/girl, because James went on to become the head boy, while Lily was the head girl. An unknown snippet- “Lupin was very fond of Lily, we’ll put it like that, but I wouldn’t want anyone to run around thinking that he competed with James for her. She was a popular girl, and that is relevant. But I think you’ve seen that already. She was a bit of a catch.”

A question that occurred to me, and has been commonly asked online is, why did James’s death not give protection to Lily? I think, probably because James had no option but to die, whereas Lily had the option to live(thanks to Snape? I hate to give that credit to Voldemort), but still chose to die to protect her son.

The Dursleys

JKR says, “Even though Petunia was raised alongside a witch, she is remarkably ignorant about magic. She and Vernon share a confused idea that they will somehow be able to squash the magic out of Harry, and in an attempt to throw off the letters that arrive from Hogwarts on Harry’s eleventh birthday, she and Vernon fall back on the old superstition that witches cannot cross water. As she had frequently seen Lily jump streams and run across stepping stones in their childhood, she ought not to have been surprised when Hagrid had no difficulty making his way over the stormy sea to the hut on the rock.”

The whole family seems to have been named after fauna. Dursley is a city in Gloucester County, Rowling’s home county.

Vernon– In French, Vernon is an alder tree.

Petunia– It is an annual bell-shaped flower. The flower is often associated with anger and resentment, as a symbolism of her relationship and jealousy towards Lily. Her jealousy eventually turned into intolerance, and she married a man who is completely the opposite of everything Lily, Snape and Hogwarts were- boring. While working as a clerk in London, she met Vernon and was floored by how ordinary he was. She said yes when he proposed to her in his mother’s living room.

Dudley– In English, it means ‘from the meadow’. It is also a play on the word dud, which means a stupid person. Dudley went on to marry and had atleast 2 children. His family is said to be on ‘Christmas Card terms’ with Harry’s family, and the families also visit each other occasionally.


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