How J.K. Rowling Came Up With The Name For One Fan Favorite Harry Potter Character

Karkaroff, Snape, McGonagal and Dumbledore stand and clap at the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the G

Authors find inspiration in plenty of random places and, when it comes to the world of Harry Potter and the characters that inhabit it, J.K. Rowling is no different. In fact, one of the inspirations for a fan-favorite character was so random it took her a while to even realize that it had inspired her at all.

In the past couple of weeks, J.K. Rowling has been entertaining fans on Twitter by sharing anecdotes about how Harry Potter came to be. First, she dispelled some popular rumors about her inspiration for some of the novel’s most iconic settings and moments.

Then, she revealed -- with photographic evidence -- that one of the most notorious characters in the series was named after a sign she frequently went past:

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It’s kind of funny to think that Severus Snape, easily one of the most significant characters in the entire Harry Potter universe, a character that fans have spent considerable time debating and dissecting down to the last detail, was named after a random sign. Especially since she didn’t even realize where she’d found the inspiration at first.

The bigger takeaway from a lot of J.K. Rowling’s recent revelations is that creating a story like Harry Potter maybe isn’t as magical as it might seem. Despite common fandom misconceptions, a lot of the impetus for the series was a lot more ordinary than we may have assumed. Or, as she told another fan -- a tour of the inspirations for Harry Potter would probably be pretty impossible:

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At least we have The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to help us pretend, right? J.K. Rowling has found some pretty innovative ways of keeping the Harry Potter mythology alive, considering the fact that she finished writing the original series more than a decade ago. Some fans appreciate the fact that she regularly engages us by offering details about the world and creating new content. Others sometimes find it hard to reconcile the information she’s revealed with their original understanding of her stories. She’s also faced some backlash for expanding on some characters’ backstories, like Dumbledore, in a way that feels a bit haphazard.

Some might argue that J.K. Rowling is better off revealing more behind-the-scenes tidbits -- or just creating new works altogether -- than she is adding to the Harry Potter canon. After all, there’s less of a chance of her destroying the image that fans have of a character or a moment by revealing how she came up with it. Still, it’s her series, and she can choose to do what she will with it. For now, that means more of the prequel series, Fantastic Beasts -- and probably some more random facts, too.

All eight Harry Potter films are now available to stream on HBO Max.

Katherine Webb