It’s been over a year since the last instalment and finally, the eagerly anticipated 7th film in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is here. And what better excuse is there to take a look at some of the fantastic species that inspired the magical and magnificent creatures and plants in Harry’s world?
Harry’s owl Hedwig is a beautiful snowy owl. In the wild snowy owls are loyal partners, often mating for life. They have even been known to boldly defend their young from predators such as wolves. Snowy owls are capable of taking prey the size of hares and geese so it is no surprise that Hedwig was able to carry a Nimbus 2000 with ease!
Plants with magical properties are an integral part of potions classes at Hogwarts and many real species of plant were once thought to have supernatural powers. The common butterwort is so called as it was thought that when the juices from the leaves were rubbed onto cows’ udders it would protect the milk and (and resulting butter) from evil influences.
In Harry’s world the basilisk is a fearsome venomous serpent whose gaze can kill those who look directly into its eyes. While it’s real life namesake isn’t nearly as fierce, it does have the seemingly magical ability to run short distances across water using its feet and tail for support, earning it the nickname “Jesus Christ lizard”.
Harry’s wand is made of holly, a plant which has long been associated with the supernatural. Holly is considered a symbol of resurrection and it is still widely considered extremely bad luck to cut down a whole holly tree. Ancient civilizations believed holly could protect you from lightening and poison and it was also thought to protect a house from witchcraft and goblins!
Although the dragons in Harry’s world are considered rather dangerous, Hagrid has a particular soft spot for them. While the Komodo dragon may be flightless and significantly smaller than its fictional counterparts, it is nonetheless a rather fearsome beast. It has recently been discovered that the Komodo dragon is venomous and this venom helps it to take down prey as large as buffalo. It is also able to consume 80% of it’s own bodyweight in one sitting.
Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher