There’s a certain kind of feeling that comes from reading Harry Potter, especially if you have been a fan for a long time and are jumping back into the world of Magic and Hogwarts. When you read that first line, in the very first book, there’s this wonderful sense of peace and joy that comes over you. Almost like you drank a little elixir you brewed up in Potions class. When the final book in the series was released, Potterheads the world over, thought that was the end and we cried for all the characters we’d miss, and the world that we loved. But suddenly, there’s MORE to the story, and So many of us are just sitting here impatiently waiting. Personally I am a little upset that I live in Germany, and ALL SHOPS ARE CLOSED ON SUNDAYS, so I have to wait until Monday to grab my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Yes I am well aware that this is meant to be seen more than read, but I cannot make it to London anytime soon, so reading the script is the best I can do. On this wonderful weekend of Magic, I thought I would write about the rumored influence that my beautiful country Portugal had on Ms.Rowling very early in her writing process about a magical boy, who was about to change the world.
Lello Bookstore in Porto & Harry Potter
Back in June when I went to visit my family in Portugal, my brother asked me if I would like to visit Porto and more importantly visit Livraria Lello, which is the beautiful bookstore that first opened its doors in 1906. I automatically said, “FUCK YEA!!!” because I am a booknerd and child at heart first, but a sailor when speaking. When we arrived there, we were first making sure we were in the right location for this wonderful shop, and unfortunately the outside of it was covered in scaffolding and a tarp as they were doing some renovating and restoration to the front of the shop. Possibly in preparation for the fact that Levraria Lello is the Official site for the International Release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The shop ordered more than 5,000 copies of the book, and from the looks of their Facebook page, people are already lined up outside the shop ready for all the magical festivities they have in store for the midnight release. They say the shop itself heavily inspired Rowling. When I walked in for the first time, my breath literally caught in my throat and my heart rate sped up. It is just THAT beautiful. The red staircase, the shelves, and just the atmosphere of the entire shop. It would be hard to walk into that place as a writer and not feel some form of inspiration.
J.K. Rowling lived and taught English in Porto between 1991 and 1993. It is said that it was at one of the tables in a cafe in Porto that Rowling wrote a very early draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In fact, I found a quote where she supposedly states: “In those first weeks in Portugal, I wrote what has become my favorite chapter in The Philosopher’s Stone, ‘The Mirror of Erised’ — and had hoped that, when I returned from Portugal, I would have a finished book under my arm. In fact, I had something even better: my daughter, Jessica.” I could no longer find the source of this quote, so I am not sure how accurate and true it is, though the timing of when she began plotting the stories and writing sort of fits. The bookstore had to have some kind of influence on her, but I would say the entire city of Porto would be a great influence to anyone who visits the city.
Other Possible Portuguese Influences on Harry Potter
One that comes to mind instantly is where the name for Salazar Slytherin comes from. Here I am just playing some guessing games, but it’s a possibility that there was some influence that stems from Portuguese history. Quick little history lesson here: Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was the Prime minister of Portugal from 1932 until 1968. He started what was called the Estado Novo (New State) which was essentially an authoritarian form of government. There was heavy censorship and even a secret police to quiet down the opposition to the government. This form of government was in power until 1974. It is likely though not proven that Salazar Slytherin’s name was influenced by this less than likable figure of Portuguese History.
Another thing that might be of interest are the cloaks and outfits that the students of Hogwarts wear, could have been influenced by the outfits that the University of Porto students wear. They have traditional outfits that are made of black cloaks and once again while there is no sure fire proof that this was the inspiration, it can be seen in the photo I found below that these could be Hogwarts students.
There is a chance I am reaching for details and influences, but I write my own stories and living in Germany I have been heavily influenced by architecture and history here as well. I would go as far as saying that it would be impossible to live in a city as beautiful and as rich in history as Porto, Portugal and not have it influence your writing. This was just fun to research and look into on the eve of a the long awaited release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Cheers, Happy Birthday, and Congrats on the Magic you have let loose upon the world J.K. Rowling.