Even the most diehard fans might not have picked up on these secret meanings and cryptic clues! Take a look back at the wizarding world for the 22nd anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on June 26. Spoilers ahead! books, literature, popular fiction, books, literature, popular fiction, books, literature, popular fiction

1. The house colors represent the elements

In Harry Potter’s magical world, nothing is as it seems—and that goes for the books themselves. Master storyteller J.K. Rowling wove in all kinds of mysterious meanings, surreptitious signs, and cloaked clues that, when deciphered, illuminate the themes of the story.

For example, everyone knows that students are sorted into the four houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry based on their personalities—but did you know the house colors have a deeper meaning? “The four Hogwarts houses have a loose association with the four elements, and their colors were chosen accordingly,” Rowling wrote on the official Pottermore site. “Gryffindor (red and gold) is connected to fire; Slytherin (green and silver) to water; Hufflepuff (yellow and black, representing wheat and soil) to earth; and Ravenclaw (blue and bronze; sky and eagle feathers) to air.” For each book’s 20th anniversary, new U.K. editions are being released in all the house colors and crests, with special house-specific content inside. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the U.K. name for the first book in the series) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets‘ house editions are out now and available on Amazon; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban releases this month.

2. Harry has two contrasting father figures

Colors also come into play with orphaned Harry’s father figures in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Rubeus (or “red”) Hagrid and Albus (or “white”) Dumbledore. Rowling points out that red and white are complementary colors in the mystical science of alchemy, and represent different stages of spiritual transformation. “Where my two characters were concerned, I named them for the alchemical colors to convey their opposing but complementary natures: Red meaning passion (or emotion), white for asceticism; Hagrid being the earthy, warm, and physical man, lord of the forest; Dumbledore the spiritual theoretician, brilliant, idealized, and somewhat detached,” she wrote on Pottermore. “Each is a necessary counterpoint to the other as Harry seeks father figures in his new world.”

3. Names reveal who—or what—people really are

Several of Rowling’s characters’ names have hidden meanings—and in many cases, if you know what they are, you can uncover the plot. For example, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, beloved teacher Remus Lupin is discovered to be a werewolf, and Harry’s godfather Sirius Black is revealed to transform into a dog. Remus’s name refers to the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus, two brothers who were raised by wolves; and Lupin comes from the Latin word “lupinus,” meaning “wolfish.” Sirius, on the other hand, is the name of the “dog star” in astronomy, part of the Canis (i.e., canine) Major constellation… Show More

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