The magical world of J K Rowling's Harry Potter is growing-- the new prequel film Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them came out in theaters earlier this year, The Cursed Child is coming to Broadway, and several more movies are currently in development. We are learning about the wizarding world in North America, getting a whole new perspective on the First Wizarding War, and looking forward to seeing new stories brought to life on the big screen that we’ve never read in a book. We are even being treated to younger versions of some of our favorite characters from the original series!
Dumbledore will definitely be making an appearance in some of the new movies, but could Rubeus Hagrid also re-surface in the prequels? Our favorite half-giant and Hogwarts groundskeeper, Hagrid certainly has an interesting history, and we’d love to see him interact with Newt Scamander – the only other wizard who has quite the same appreciation for potentially deadly creatures. There’s no news yet on whether or not Hagrid will return, but while we wait to find out, we’ve collected 15 Things You Never Knew About Hagrid.
Robbie Coltrane, who plays Hagrid in the movies, was in his 50s for most of the filming of Harry Potter. Because of this, many viewers imagine Hagrid to be around that age. It makes sense visually, but the character is actually far older than the actor – as are most of the Hogwarts professors.
In Rowling’s universe, witches and wizards age more slowly than muggles, and live far longer. (It seems that this happens later in life, though, as young witches and wizards appear the same age as their muggle counterparts). For example, Dumbledore is well over 100, yet the actor who played him for the final films (Sir Michael Gambon) was only in his sixties during filming. Hagrid, meanwhile, was officially born in 1928 – putting him in his 60s when Harry first met him, rather than his early 50s. This also puts him in a prime position to appear in the new films, which have been revealed to cover up until 1946.
Like many characters in Rowling’s novels, Hagrid is inspired by a real person. Obviously, the author doesn’t know many actual half-giants, but she did know a very large West Country biker who is the basis for the character. In the book Harry Potter Page To Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey, Coltrane describes the biker as “just huge and terrifying. And then he would sit down and talk about his garden and how his petunias had been very bad that year”. We can certainly see that in Hagrid, who is also physically intimidating, but actually very sweet and passionate about things in an unexpected way. For Hagrid, it’s magical creatures rather than plants, but the core character trait is very similar.
This is also where Hagrid’s distinctive accent comes from. The West Country accent comprises a few different areas of south England, but Hagrid’s accent comes specifically from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.
Everyone knows that Hagrid is half-giant, as that’s a huge part of his character. However, many don’t know a whole lot more about his early days. His childhood is mentioned in the books, but largely skimmed over in the movies. Hagrid’s father is not named, but is described as a wizard who is short by even human standards. He married Fridwulfa, a giantess, but she left when Hagrid was around three, and it was Hagrid’s father who raised him.
His small stature and Hagrid’s huge size made the son significantly larger than the father. Speaking to Madame Maxime, Hagrid says “Tiny little bloke, my dad was. By the time I was six I could lift him up an' put him on top o' the dresser if he annoyed me.” The two were very close, and Hagrid speaks fondly of his dad, although the wizard died in 1940. Though this meant that Hagrid was effectively orphaned at a very young age, he is happy that his father was not around to see him disgraced and expelled.
Although Hagrid’s character comes from his father, his size very obviously comes from his mother – but that’s not the only thing that he gets from Fridwulfa. There are a lot of negatives that come from being half-giant; the wizarding world is quite prejudiced against giants and half-giants (along with werewolves, house elves, and various other magical races), and Hagrid’s heritage doesn’t make his life easy. It also makes him too large to ride a broomstick, which is why he rides a magical motorbike.
However, there are some positives to having giant blood as well. Hagrid inherited giant-levels of strength (he can bend a shotgun like a pipe cleaner) and endurance (related to his sheer size as well as his genes), as well as a level of resistance to magic. This is especially useful when another wizard is attempting to curse Hagrid, as any curse’s effect will be significantly lessened on him.
Rowling has mentioned many times that she collects various unusual names, from people, from literature, from animals and places – if she thinks that a word is interesting, it is probably going to show up in a story as a name. The names Hagrid and Dumbledore have been found in a couple of places before they appeared in Harry Potter, including in a novel by Thomas Hardy.
In The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Hardy's novel first published in 1886, a single passage includes both words (although they are not names in this novel). In describing the character of Elizabeth, the passage reads: “she no longer spoke of “dumbledores” but of “humble bees”;… that when she had not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next morning that she had been “hag-rid,” but that she had “suffered from indigestion”. Another Thomas Hardy novel, The Return of the Native, also includes a word that reappears as the name of a Harry Potter character: Diggory.
Hagrid and Dumbledore may come from Old English, but the first names of these two key characters also tell an interesting tale. Rubeus comes from the Latin word "rubinus", meaning red. Albus, meanwhile, comes from "alba", meaning white. Red and white are mystical components of alchemy, and are often used to represent two sides of human nature. As Harry’s two father figures, it makes sense that Hagrid and Dumbledore be linked in this way.
According to Rowling herself, the choice to make Hagrid red and Dumbledore white is closely linked to their personalities. “Rubeus (red) Hagrid and Albus (white) Dumbledore… both hugely important to Harry, seem to me to represent two sides of the ideal father figure he seeks; the former is warm, practical and wild, the latter impressive, intellectual, and somewhat detached.” This is just one more example of the incredible level of detail and thought that went into Rowling’s world, and the way that she names her main characters.
Although Hagrid often provides a little comic relief (especially in the earlier films), and is a very warm, positive character overall, he’s also a deeply tragic figure. His mother left him (and his father) when he was only three, and while his father did a good job of raising him as a single parent, Hagrid was aware throughout his life that his father was heartbroken. His father then died when Hagrid was still only around twelve – making him functionally orphaned at a very young age.
As a half-giant, he has dealt with prejudice and loneliness his entire life, and any other family members disowned Hagrid and his father because of his father’s decision to marry a giant. This prejudice followed Hagrid to school, where he was largely a loner, and was wrongly accused of a major crime that led to his expulsion. At sixteen, Hagrid was friendless, orphaned, and disgraced, unable to use magic and without anywhere to turn – other than to Dumbledore, who saved him by managing to give him a position at the school. We love Hagrid, but his story is not a happy one, and highlights some of the major issues with prejudice in the wizarding community.
Despite Hagrid’s love of all creatures great and small, there is one furry friend who does not have a welcome spot in the groundskeeper’s hut: the cat. Rowling has revealed that Hagrid is allergic to our feline friends, and it's also mentioned in the first book, when he tells Harry that cats make him sneeze. This adds some extra depth to Hagrid’s interactions with Filch the caretaker (David Bradley) and his cat, Mrs. Norris.
The two are polar opposites, with Filch being a thin, sadistic man who hates the students, whereas Hagrid is an enormous man who loves them – one has a cat, and one has a dog (more than one, if we include Hagrid’s hound Fang, and his three-headed dog, Fluffy). Hagrid also believes that Filch has told Mrs. Norris to spy on him, which would be a sneaky thing to do in any circumstances, but is extra cruel given Hagrid’s allergies. Filch isn’t just spying on him; he’s intentionally making Hagrid sick!
Before Hagrid’s expulsion, he was a Gryffindor (and still is, in the sense that British witches and wizards continue to identify with their Hogwarts houses after graduation). In many ways, Hagrid is the epitome of a Gryffindor – brave, loyal, and daring, but also often reckless and short-tempered. His allegiance to Gryffindor may also explain some of his less-than-exemplary behavior toward Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and other Slytherin students, and his favoritism when dealing with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his Gryffindor friends.
Hagrid may have also had a big hand in Harry’s dislike of Slytherin. When Harry first found out about Hogwarts, it was Hagrid who told him everything he needed to know, including the (false) allegation that any witch or wizard who went bad was in Slytherin. It’s very likely that Hagrid’s loyalty to his house is a large part of why he conveniently forgot about wizards like Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who was (at the time) locked up in Azkaban for betraying the Potters.
Hagrid is a vital member of the re-convened Order of the Phoenix in the films, and plays a big part in keeping Harry safe, both at school and when he has to move from number 4 Privet Drive (as well as when he first arrived there as a baby). Although he doesn’t spend much time at Grimmauld Place, Hagrid is still a key member of the opposition to Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
What many don’t realize is that Hagrid has always been a member of the Order-- he was one of the original Order back in the 1970s. Since the Order was founded by Dumbledore, it’s not surprising that Hagrid would be included with the group, despite not legally being able to practice magic. His connections to the giants, as well as his loyalty to Dumbledore and physical size and strength, would be an asset on their own, as well as the magic that he secretly does with his “umbrella”. We can see Hagrid in the photo of the order taken in 1981, where he stands behind Dumbledore.
Hagrid does actually have a half-brother: the giant Grawp (Tony Maudsley), whom he hides in the Forbidden Forest after his visit to the giants. Hagrid’s mother, Fridwulfa, had Grawp after she returned to the giants, and although he is sixteen feet tall, he was bullied among his kind for being too short, which is why Hagrid brought him home to take care of him.
There was another brother mentioned in the books, however; Dirgah, Hagrid’s evil twin. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, there was a rumor among the students that Dirgah was hiding in the forbidden corridor, which is why it was off-limits. However, this turned out to be just a school rumor, as we all know that the corridor was actually off-limits because it housed the obstacles leading to the Philosopher’s Stone. The name Dirgah is simply Hagrid spelt backwards. It would have made for an interesting plot twist if Hagrid really did have an evil twin, though!
Although Hagrid is by far the tallest teacher at Hogwarts, and his giant heritage is a huge plot point in the films, he’s actually significantly shorter in the movies than in the books. In the films, his height is around eight foot six, based on visual comparisons to other actors. In the books, Hagrid is described as eleven foot six – a whopping three feet taller than in the movies.
The reason for this is largely practical, as the height difference would make many of the shots much more complicated. Hagrid would be bent almost double when inside a normal human sized room, so scenes like the one where the Order convenes at 4 Privet Drive to transport Harry to safety would become very difficult to film. Similarly, shots where Hagrid is seen along with other characters would require a different angle or distance simply to include Hagrid’s entire head. It is simply easier to make Hagrid only a few feet taller than the average wizard, which still leaves him as a significantly larger person.
Hagrid’s choice to ride that sweet motorbike isn’t just a matter of style (or even Rowling’s inspiration for the character). The half-giant is actually too big for the more common wizarding mode of transportation: the broom. A regular-sized broom (which is useable by a child) would never be able to carry someone as big as Hagrid – he probably couldn’t even fit his hands on the handle while sitting, and might just snap it in half accidentally!
There is one part of the Harry Potter universe where Hagrid rides a broomstick, though. In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, it’s possible to unlock and play the Hagrid character, including using him when riding a broomstick in the game. The Hagrid character is only slightly bigger than the other figures in the game (just enough to suggest his height), so although he shouldn’t technically fit on a broomstick, it works (and we aren’t going to get too fussy about that!).
When the Harry Potter book series was optioned for film, Rowling had only one person in mind to play the role of Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane. The Scottish actor was already well-known, with a career stretching back to the '70s and major roles in the James Bond franchise. For Rowling, he already embodied Hagrid, and she could think of no one else that she would rather have for the films.
As well as being the only choice for the role, Coltrane was actually the first adult actor cast for the franchise (potentially because Rowling wasn’t interested in seeing anyone else in the part). Things might have been different, however, had Rowling not insisted on an entirely British cast. Comedy icon Robin Williams was also eyeing the role of the big Hogwarts groundskeeper, and said that had there not been a ban on non-Brits, he could have seen himself in several roles in the first film.
The original Harry Potter live-action series (not including Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them) spanned eight films – and although most of the characters remained the same throughout, only fourteen actors actually appear in every movie. Robbie Coltrane is one of those elite fourteen, alongside Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis (Neville), Bonnie Wright (Ginny), James and Oliver Phelps (the Weasley twins), Alan Rickman, Warwick Davis, Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan), Josh Herdman (Gregory Goyle), and Geraldine Somerville (Lily Potter).
Originally, several other actors were also planned to appear in all eight films, but were re-cast or written out for reasons ranging from the passing of the actor (Albus Dumbledore, originally played by Richard Harris) to an actor being brought up on criminal charges (Vincent Crabbe, played by Jamie Waylett). But when an actor and character as perfect a fit as Robbie Coltrane and Hagrid, you don't mess with a good thing.
Is there anything we missed about Hagrid? Let us know in the comments!