The Boy who Lived

The Harry Potter series consists of 7 best-selling novels by author J.K. Rowling. In this series, Rowling has created a world filled with the most unique and amazing fantasies- dark and light. Filled with magical beasts, birds, mirrors and everything else; this is among the most popular fantasy series ever written. Here are 10 of the best creations of this series:

10. Owl Post

We have heard of pigeons delivering letters. Even eagles and kites. But owls? That’s something new! Imagine waking up in the morning to have your post delivered by a parliament of owls. Snowy owl, barn owl, screech owl; anything will do! And they are fast as well. Imagine having a pet like Hedwig!

9. The Marauder’s Map

Prankster’s Delight

This might look like an empty piece of parchment at first glance, but speak the words ‘I solemnly swear I’m up to no good” and watch it reveal a full map of the Hogwarts castle along with people in it! Animagus disguises, Polyjuice Potion and Invisibility Cloaks cannot fool this map. This amazing map was created by James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew while they were students at Hogwarts.

8. Polyjuice Potion

A draught of this potion allows you to take the form of any person. Just add their essence. That’s some way of impersonating! Kills the need for disguises. Sherlock Holmes would be glad. Don’t use this for animal transformations though. It can cause nasty complications (as Hermione Granger discover to disastrous effect in The Chamber of Secrets).

7. Boggarts

There is one creature that can impersonate anyone (even creatures) without the Polyjuice Potion. That’s the Boggart. Shape-shifting creatures, they take the form of what the person before it fears the most. Wicked! No one knows what a Boggart looks like when it’s alone. Muggles can see them too! Beware.

6. Felix Felicis

Liquid Luck

This golden potion is the dream of everyone. Also called ‘liquid luck’, it makes the drinker lucky for a period of time during which everything he attempts will be successful. It’s highly toxic in large quantities though and its use is banned in all organized competitions like Quidditch. Guess their world has doping scandals too!

5. Quidditch

Undoubtedly the best sport ever created (albeit imaginary), it is played on flying broomsticks. The 2 teams consist of 7 players each (3 chasers, 2 beaters, 1 keeper and 1 seeker). This rough, fast-paced game has one catch. It goes on indefinitely until a seeker successfully catches the Golden Snitch. The longest game, according to Quidditch Through the Ages lasted 3 months. And we curse test matches!

4. The Mirror of Erised

‘Erised’ spelled backwards is ‘desire’. And that tells you what the mirror does. It shows people the innermost desire of their heart. The Mirror of Erised was the final protection given to the Philosopher’s Stone in the Philosopher’s Stone. Only a person who wanted to find but not use the Stone would be able to obtain it. You are the happiest person on the planet if you can see yourself in the mirror just the way you are.

(More about magical mirrors here)

3. Pensieve

Sieve for Thoughts

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” It acts as a ‘sieve’ for your excess thoughts. Useful during examinations, don’t you think?

2. Dementors

Feeds on Happiness


In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin calls them ‘among the foulest creatures that walk this earth’. And rightly so. Dementors are dark creatures. They feed off human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them (a living analogue of exams). They can also consume a person’s soul (called a ‘Dementor’s Kiss’), leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as “soul-sucking fiends” and are known to leave a person as an ‘empty-shell’.


1. The Room of Requirement

A place of your dreams

This room beats all places on the planet. In Dobby, the house-elf’s words, “It is a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker’s needs” It cannot create food though, as that is one of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. So don’t expect 5-star hotels. Still, a room to die for!

There are others that almost made the list- the Hand of Glory, thestrals, remembralls, omniculars and howlers. Not to forget the Sorting Hat. Create your own list! The magical world of Harry Potter is yours to explore! If only we lived there (albeit as muggles). Sigh!

To read more about fantasy literature, click here

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J.R.R. Tolkien - The Father of Fantasy

Many of us have grown up reading fantasy literature. Everyone who read Harry Potter wanted to be a student at Hogwarts and emulate The Boy Who Lived. Those of us who read Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy wanted to have a shape-shifting daemon and travel across different universes. Everyone wanted to be a demigod after reading Percy Jackson. However, there is one universe that is so vast and so vivid that people of all ages wish they had lived in – Middle Earth, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien’s masterpiece. Since today is his 122nd birthday, we will celebrate his life and the influence of his works across generations. J.R.R. Tolkien is without a doubt a writer par-excellence. His magnum opus, the Lord of The Rings has been rated as the greatest fantasy work in the world and inspired an entire generation of fantasy authors.

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on this date in 1892 at Bloemfontein in South Africa. His family moved to England when he was a child after his father’s death. He lived in Sarehole in Birmingham which was full of hills and bogs. This inspired the landscape of Middle Earth, especially the setting of the Lord of the Rings. He was educated by his mother who raised him to be a very astute reader. After her early death, he moved to Edgbaston to live with a guardian. In his teenage years, Tolkien was fascinated by the fictional languages he and his cousins created, such as ‘Animalic’, ‘Nevbosh’ and ‘Naffarin’. In fact, when Tolkien served in World War I, he communicated with his wife Edith using codes that he created to bypass the censors. After 1917, Tolkien began his first work on Middle Earth ‘The Book of Lost Tales’. His romantic tryst with his wife inspired the poem ‘Beren and Luthien’ which later led him to work on the Silmarillion, a collection of tales encompassing the whole of Middle Earth.


Perrot’s Folly in Edgbaston, one of the inspirations for the Two Towers

After the war, Tolkien took up teaching posts in various English colleges where he worked on various aspects of linguistics and writing. He began his work on ‘The Hobbit’ and the first two volumes of the Lord of the Rings in 1925. He worked for the British government during World War II as a cryptographer due to his expertise in linguistics and code writing. After the war, Tolkien published his final work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy ‘The Return of the King’ which acted as the closure for the series. He had joined a club called The Inklings where he was close friends with noted author C.S. Lewis until his retirement.In the years of his life after retirement, Tolkien’s works became increasingly popular and had made him rich and famous. He settled down in Bournemouth with Edith until her death in 1971 and moved to Oxford where he lived until his death in 1973.

Beren and Luthien in life and in death

The collected works of Tolkien span volumes upon volumes of notes and books. In fact, the size of his unpublished notes is many times over the size of his books. Tolkien often said that his love for languages inspired the creation of Middle Earth. He himself said that the languages used in his works precluded the creation of Middle Earth itself and the characters were merely the vehicles for languages. His books were not mere stories, but rather a canvas to paint the picture of Middle Earth to the reader’s mental eye. It is said that Tolkien was the father of high fantasy, the fantasy of legendary characters fulfilling prophecies in magical worlds. Every fantasy story written today takes inspiration from the Lord of the Rings, such as ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin, ‘The Elder Scrolls’ game series and ‘The Wheel of Time’ by Robert Jordan. This reflects the legacy bequeathed by this great author who leaves his readers spellbound and invigorates their curiosity.

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If magical mirrors bring spookiness to fantasy literature, it’s the beasts and birds that bring life to it. From centaurs to dragons, satyrs to unicorns, the A-Z of magical creatures is illustrious. Humans have revelled in creating creatures with powers that we only wish we had ourselves. From breathing fire to raining coins, there is no limit to what beasts and birds can do in our literature.

Symbol of Grace

Dragons are the eternal favourites. There is no magical beast that occurs more widely in fantasy literature. Gigantic reptiles with wings, scales and talons, dragons are the picture of power, strength and virility. Unicorns are no less. These single-horned white animals have the head, body, and tail of a horse and the hind legs of an antelope. Swift and beautiful, they are the symbols of purity and grace. Kappas are different. These water demons look like a green monkey but with a turtle shell.  They delight in drowning people, especially children! Fantasy has produced some interesting hybrids. A sphinx is a creature with a lion’s body and a man’s head (think pyramids). Satyrs are men with the legs of goats, and sometimes have the tail and ears of a horse or donkey. Chimaeras beat them all. They are frightening creatures with the front of a lion, the middle of a goat, the rear of a dragon, and the heads of all three creatures. The Chimaera is capable of breathing fire from its mouths, and its breath is like the fumes in a volcano. Keep safe distance!

Wings of Fire!

Coming to the birds, there’s nothing like the phoenix. This magnificent bird lives for thousands of years, then jumps into flames and is reborn from the ashes. The symbol of resurrection! The ziz is a giant bird that came from the chaos at the beginning of time. Its wingspan eclipses the sun. A raicho is a majestic bird that can mimic the sound of thunder!

Cockatrice and cock of dawn, daemons and demons, fauns and fauths and ogs and orcs; the pool of magical creatures is immense! There is no limit to imagination. And hence, no limits to what these creatures can do. Let the magical fauna amaze you!

For another aspect of fantasy literature, click here!

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“Mirror, mirror, on the wall!

Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Mirrors have been an eternal part of fantasy literature. Their spooky other-worldliness and eerie beauty have caused many fantasies and superstitions to arise about them.  From C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling, generations of authors have feasted upon the wide scope for imagination they provide.  It is no doubt justified, hence, to start this series on fantasy literature with some memorable magical mirrors in literature.

Mirrors, mirrors, magical all! Who’s the most famous of them all? Undoubtedly, the silver mirror of Snow White. Both the mirror that showed the queen the fairest face in the land and the epic lines by the Brothers Grimm will remain etched in our memories. In Through the Looking Glass by C.S. Lewis, Alice steps through a mirror into an alternate world. This is one of the best-loved uses of mirrors in literature. The text itself utilizes a narrative that mirrors that of its predecessor, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The “Mirror of Galadriel” in The Lord of the Rings can show the one who dares look upon it, his past, present or future! In Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , a portrait serves as a magical mirror that reflects the true visage of the perpetually youthful protagonist, as well as the effect on his soul of each sinful act. There is an ancient story of Narcissus, who fell in love with and pined for his own reflection in a pool of water. Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem The Lady of Shalott, writes of a mirror that enables a character to look out on the people of Camelot, as she is under a curse that prevents her from seeing Camelot directly. J.K. Rowling has used magical mirrors in plentiful in her Harry Potter series. The “Mirror of Erised” is a classic example that’ll be remembered for a long time. It shows the person who looks upon it the innermost desires of his heart. Dumbledore, the ever-surprising man, remarks that he sees himself wearing a warm pair of socks! The series also has two way mirrors which consist of a pair of mirrors which allow their bearers to always see each other. Any place. Any time. Convenient!

Magic aside, mirrors also have an element of spookiness about them. In ancient Chinese mythology, there’s the story of the Mirror Kingdom, where creatures are bound by magic to sleep but will one day rise again to do battle with our world. Strange movements we see in mirrors out of the corners of our eyes are supposedly the first stirrings of this world as it wakes up. Mirrors are often connected to souls. Vampires, being soulless, show no reflection in a mirror (That’s how you identify them!). It is said that mirrors can trap dying souls. If you go to a mirror on New Year’s Eve with a candle in your hand and call out the name of a dead person in a loud voice, the power of the mirror will show you that person’s face. Spooky? Mirrors are more than mere reflectors of light!


To read about non-magical mirrors, click here!

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