J.K. Rowling continues to dole out Harry Potter treats to fans at Pottermore. Today's festive surprise came along with an essay focusing on the creepy reanimated corpses that Voldemort enlisted to guard one of his Horcruxes. Included in her thoughts was an explanation for why zombies, specifically, were not used for this part of the story, and as it turns out, one of the reasons has to do with Michael Jackson. Apparently, Rowling's associations with zombies are too closely tied to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," which is partially why she created a different magical creature to serve the Dark Lord.

We're about to get into Pottermore spoilers here, so if you'd rather answer today's riddle and read the essay on your own, head on over to Pottermore (login required).

inferi

Today's riddle required people to name the zombie-like creatures with cloudy eyes, which surrounded the lake where Harry and Dumbledore were trying to escape.The latest Pottermore essay explains that Inferi are reanimated corpses, who can be enchanted and cursed to do their master's bidding. When explaining the difference between Inferi and zombies, Rowling includes a number of reasons for why she decided against going with zombies, the last of which was:
I'm part of the "Thriller' generation; to me, a zombie will always mean Michael Jackson in a bright red bomber jacket.

Well, that would've made for an amazing (and ok, ridiculous) twist. Imagine J.K. Rowling had used zombies instead of Inferi, and instead of creepy undead monster people attacking Harry and Dumbledore, they were treated to a zombie dance break...

Thriller

Yeah, somehow that probably wouldn't have set the right tone.

If you remember Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince well enough, you'll know that this scene happens near the end of the book, when the headmaster took Harry to help him search for the locket Horcrux. They were attacked by Inferi, which are not the same as zombies. As mentioned, the Michael Jackson association is just one reason why Rowling went with Inferi instead of zombies. Another is that, while zombies do exist in the Harry Potter universe, they're not part of British folklore. Rowling was also trying to avoid any conflict with the Horcrux story:
While zombies of the Vodou tradition can be nothing more than reanimated corpses, a separate but related tradition has it that the sorcerer uses their souls, or part of their souls, to sustain himself. This conflicted with my Horcrux story, and I did not wish to suggest that Voldemort had any more use for his Inferi than as guards of his Horcrux.

Considering the connection a Horcrux has with the soul of the wizard who makes it, it's understandable that Rowling would want to keep the line between Voldemort and his Inferi firmly drawn.

So, who were Voldemort's Inferi? Rowling's essay about the magical creatures states that the bodies used to protect the Horcrux were "mostly vagrant, homeless Muggles" murdered by Voldemort with the intent of turning them into Inferi. And a few were former witches and wizards who clearly got on his bad side and ended up "disappearing" without any explanation. RIP all those people.

Zombies aren't the only magical creatures that J.K. Rowling has addressed in her recent Pottermore updates. She also discussed vampires in one of the new essays. And the riddles keep coming, with a few more on the way, as we've been promised a festive holiday treat every day leading up to December 23.

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