Quidditch doesn’t sound like a very aggressive sport. After all, it’s played by a bunch of witches and wizards who use wands for almost everything they do. But Quidditch is probably on par with American football or rugby in terms of how rough and tough it can get, except for the added difficulty of playing it way up in the air on brooms (and that two of the balls are bewitched to attack players).
Like so many of its muggle counterparts, Quidditch prowess starts at the school level, with many students qualifying for and going on to play with their country’s national team. It’s a point of pride for witches and wizards to watch their team play, even if that team hasn’t won a game in nearly a century, as was the case with Ron Weasley’s favorite team, The Chudley Cannons.
Although most Harry Potter fans are familiar with Quidditch for its portrayal in the books and films, there’s a lot more to the game than meets the eye. As with everything she creates, J.K. Rowling has written a wealth of information about the game, how to play it, who plays it, and its full history.
Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Quidditch.
15 J.K. Rowling created Quidditch in a small hotel in Manchester
In a 1999 radio interview, J.K. Rowling mentioned that the word Quidditch was a completely made up word she created after deciding the wizard sport should start with the letter ‘Q.’ “I filled about, I don't know, 5 pages of a notebook with different "Q"-words until I hit ‘quidditch’ and I knew that was the perfect one,” she told The Diane Rehm Show.
She later elaborated on the creation of Quidditch in 2013 when she annotated a first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with notes on how she went about writing the book. "[Quidditch] was invented in a small hotel in Manchester after a row with my then boyfriend," she wrote. "I had been pondering the things that hold a society together, cause it to congregate and signify its particular character and knew I needed a sport.” She then went on that "It infuriates men...which is quite satisfying given my state of mind when I invented it." When was the last time you invented an entirely fictional sport to spite a lover?
14 Quidditch Through the Ages was released to muggles in 2001 for charity
Written under the pseudonym, Kennilworthy Whisp, to raise money for the UK charity, Comic Relief, Quidditch Through the Ages was released to muggles in 2001. Along with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which is getting an updated version in March) and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Quidditch Through the Ages was a companion book in a collection that became known as The Hogwarts Library.
The books were modeled off titles Rowling had created in the Harry Potter series that the major characters came in contact with. A wealth of information was released about the game in Quidditch Through the Ages , not just through the printed text, but through notes supposedly scribbled in the margins by Harry and Ron.
J.K. Rowling also provided her own illustrations of the elements of the game, including a diagram of the playing field. Along with how to play the game, there’s information about famous teams and players (especially within Great Britain) and even a complete history of Quidditch.
13 The snitch was originally a bird called a Golden Snidget
One of the tidbits of information found in Quidditch Through the Ages is the history of the Golden Snitch. Apparently, witches and wizards used to commit animal cruelty on a regular basis by using an actual bird, called a Golden Snidget, during gameplay. If you’re unaware of the purpose the Golden Snitch plays within Quidditch, it’s a winged ball the size of a walnut that gets released during the game. A Seeker (like Harry Potter) must find and catch the ball before the other team does because the Golden Snitch is worth 150 points.
Probably for his own enjoyment, the man responsible for first introducing this concept was the Chief of the Wizard’s Council, Barberus Bragge, who in 1269 offered 150 galleons during a match to whoever could catch a Golden Snidget. The idea caught on, changing the stakes of the game entirely while also endangering the Golden Snidgets to near extinction. Thankfully, a Chief of the Wizard’s Council nearly a century later, Elfrida Clagg, made them a protected species, invoking serious penalties for any harm done to the bird. The Golden Snitch, as the modern wizarding world knows it, wasn’t invented until the 19th century by a metalsmith named Bowman Wright.
12 Witches and Wizards have been using brooms since 962 AD
When thinking about the real-world history of witches, if you're a resident of North America, your mind might immediately go to the Salem Witch Trials. Although most of them took place in the late 1600s, before the United States of America was even officially founded, witchcraft (like everything else) had been practiced in Europe for centuries before that—and that's also the case in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.
Classic depictions of witches are often seen with a broom in hand, flying in front of the moon. According to Rowling, witches and wizards have been using brooms since 962 AD. Apparently, these early incarnations were extremely uncomfortable, as you might imagine, and were very limited in their directional capabilities.
With the advent of the Cushioning Charm, which does exactly what it sounds like, racing brooms came into vogue. Like muggle cars and airplanes before them, what was once only used as a method of transportation was fine-tuned and modified for recreation, namely speed and game play (e.g. Quidditch).
11 Quidditch is derived from 5 fictional games
Among further exploration into the content of Quidditch Through the Ages, it’s also revealed that the sport was inspired by five different, ancient magical games. They too involved broomsticks, but to varying degrees, and sometimes included ball-like objects. By J.K. Rowling’s logic, different elements of each game were then incorporated into Quidditch, with the first recorded match happening in 1050 at Queerditch Marsh, from which the game's name is derived.
Out of the game Swivenhodge came the most basic part of Quidditch: a pig’s bladder was passed back and forth over a hedge, inspiring the Quaffle and Chaser position. Stitchstock, a German guarding game, appears to have been the basis of the Keeper position, who are essentially goalkeepers. The hoop scoring technique in Quidditch came from a terrifying Irish game, Ainginein, sans its flaming barrel obstacles. Bludger balls and the Beater position come from the brutish Scots, who caught charmed rocks in cauldrons strapped to their heads. Although excessive force can warrant a foul during a match, players have been known to run into each other, which comes from Shuntbumps, a mid-air jousting game of the brooms.
10 There are 700 different fouls in Quidditch
Like soccer, or football to the rest of the world, fouls are an important part of regulating game play during a Quidditch match. They protect players from injury and ensure a fair game, for the most part. As you can imagine, introducing magic into a game of sport brings with it all kinds of creative ways to trip up an opponent. In fact, it was during the final of the 1473 Quidditch World Cup when what constitutes a foul was really put to the test.
Over 700 fouls were called during this game, from basic fouls like Blagging (grabbing an opponent’s broom to slow them) to preposterous ones like releasing 100 vampire bats from under a player’s robe. An entire list is supposedly kept by the Department of Magical Games and Sports, but has never been released to the public. Ministry officials didn’t want to inspire any current players with some of the dirtier fouls, since some people will do anything to win (cough, Slytherins, cough).
9 The proper name for the Quaffle is the Pennifold Quaffle
In keeping with the soccer association, the scoring ball in Quidditch, known as the Quaffle, is roughly the same size as a soccer ball. Since it was originally played in a “muddy ditch,” its color was changed from brown to red in the early 1700s. Early Quaffles also more closely resembled a small version of a hopper ball, with a handle attached, while later designs looked a bowling ball because it had finger holes.
The Quaffle, as it looks when the events of the Harry Potter series takes place, came about in the 19th Century when Gripping Charms were invented, doing away with handles and holes. Before then, Quaffles would also just drop to the ground like a normal muggle ball would, which made the Chasers’ jobs a lot harder. A witch by the name of Daisy Pennifold came up with the idea of enchanting the Quaffles to make them fall slower, so players could snatch them up again before they hit the ground. Thus, modern Quaffles are referred to as Pennifold Quaffles, to pay tribute to this valuable addition to the game of Quidditch.
8 The Quidditch World Cup was filmed at Beachy Head in East Sussex
One of the most impressive and exciting scenes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the Quidditch World Cup game that Harry attends with the Weasleys and Diggorys. Unfortunately, the film version was cut rather short in favor of showing the Death Eaters' destruction of the campsite and the Dark Mark cast in the sky by Barty Crouch, Jr.
Nevertheless, what’s shown takes place in a part of England called East Sussex, near Kent and Surrey, on the Southern coast of the country. The stunning chalk-white cliffs of Beachy Head provided the backdrop for the establishing shots of the Quidditch World Cup. When Cedric Diggory, his father, and Arthur Weasley are drifting to the ground after taking the Portkey, the cliffs are clearly seen behind them. However, like so many other elements from the books, the location of the World Cup doesn’t quite match the description. Harry describes the area they apparate in as a "deserted stretch of misty moor," which may be marshy, but isn’t a coastal area like Beachy Head.
7 The longest game ever played lasted 3 months
While muggle sports games can drag on into overtime, especially in the case of a tie, they’ve got nothing on Quidditch. As with any professional game, players try to score more points than their opponent, but usually under a certain time limit. In Quidditch, there’s no set time limit, since players just keep on playing until either a Seeker catches the Snitch or the two teams come to some sort of agreement or draw.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Quidditch captain, Oliver Wood, tells Harry that the longest game ever lasted for three months. “They had to keep bringing on substitutes so the players could get some sleep,” Wood explained. He also tells Harry how hard the Snitch is to catch because it’s so small and fast, which is why the Seekers have to be the same.
Since whoever catches the Snitch usually wins the game, Seekers get fouled the most, which also prolongs the game. Interestingly enough, Snitches are designed with a touch memory, both to determine who touched it first and to determine if a foul has been made (any player other than the Seeker who touches a Snitch causes a Snitchnip foul).
6 Players can bring their wands onto the field
An interesting rule found in Quidditch Through the Ages concerns the use of wands. The rule states the following: “Players may take their wands onto the pitch, but they must not be used on or against any players, any players' broomsticks, the referee, any of the four balls, or the spectators.” What then could they possibly have use of their wand for?
Although it’s not shown in the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore does use his wand in the books to slow down Harry as he fell from his broom. He also casts the Patronus Charm when the Dementors showed up on one occasion. He’s not one of the players, but there are still probably rules about spectators using their wands to interfere with a game as well.
If Harry had known the Patronus Charm at this point in his Hogwarts career, he could have cast a Patronus himself, since the Dementors aren’t exactly spectators. It seems like this is one of those “just in case” rules where a player might have to defend themselves against acts of God or outside forces (like those trying to suck out your soul).
5 A street in Cambourne Village, Cambridgeshire, UK is called Quidditch Lane
Many Harry Potter fans make a pilgrimage of sorts to Great Britain with the intent of visiting some of the locations used in the films. Aside from the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, a simple Google search will reveal a number of guided tours for London locations, as well as spots to the north of London and in Scotland.
One location that isn’t in any of the films or on a guided tour, but still manages to attract Harry Potter fans who have heard of it through the grapevine, is in the village of Cambourne near Cambridge. A small street called Quidditch Lane can be found there, which many a fan has posed in front of. “Quidditch,” in this case, was actually an old farming term used in respect of the land’s former use.
Most residents bought homes there before the sign was up or the village was completed in 2004. However, because of its popularity among tourists, they have now named their houses after Quidditch terms and related Harry Potter words. Located at 10 Quidditch Lane is a house called The Golden Snitch, which even has a plaque with its name next to the front door.
4 Viktor Krum came out of retirement to win the Quidditch World Cup in 2014
As seen by Ron’s fervent admiration of him in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viktor Krum was one of the best Quidditch players around. He was only eighteen when he played in the Quidditch World Cup for the first time as the Bulgarian National Quidditch team’s Seeker. Unfortunately for Krum, the Irish kicked their arses, despite his catching the Snitch.
A few years ago, J.K. Rowling published a series of articles (that have since been archived on Reddit) on Pottermore all about the Quidditch World Cups from 1990-2014. Since he was such a popular player, Viktor Krum is mentioned multiple times, as he continued to play for many years after the events of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
However, the new information obtained from these articles is that Krum actually came out of retirement to play for Bulgaria again in 2014 at the age of 38. The combination of his team’s underdog status and Krum’s impressive Quidditch tactics (Wronski Feint, anyone?) helped them reach the finals once again. Unlike the Quidditch World Cup twenty years before, however, Krum caught the Snitch while Bulgaria had a lead over the other team, securing their victory.
3 Each actor’s broomstick rig was molded to their bottom
One of the behind-the-scenes secrets on display at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour shows the mechanics of filming Quidditch. Each player had their own broomstick rig, which was attached to a green screen so that the atmosphere could be added with CGI. In an interview by the Hey U Guys YouTube channel, John Richardson, the Special Effects Supervisor on the Harry Potter films, goes into detail about these rigs.
The rig seen in the video and on the tour is Mad-Eye Moody’s, which was slightly different than everyone else’s because it had an actual seat. “Everybody else had a broomstick that had a mold on it that was actually molded to each actor’s bottom and that was then cast in Kevlar and bolted onto the broom with a harness attached so that when we put them up on the rig—because you know they were four meters up in the air—we could strap them on and we knew that whatever happened to the broom—you know sometimes it was moving around quite sortof violently— there was no way they could fall off.”
Even with a molded seat, the actors probably wished they had a Cushioning Charm after a few hours sitting on plastic.
2 Harry Potter is not the only film where you can see Quidditch
Since 1997, when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first released in the UK, J.K. Rowling has been breaking records and inspiring millions of people with her Harry Potter series. She’s the first and only billionaire author, and the Harry Potter books have sold over 450 million copies to date. That being said, it’s only natural that other forms of entertainment would develop out of the world she created.
Blink and you’ll miss it, but college musical-comedy, Pitch Perfect makes a reference to Harry Potter, and Quidditch specifically. In fact, the Harry Potter films aren’t the only films where you can see Quidditch being played. When Beca attends the clubs and activities fair in Pitch Perfect, you can catch a glimpse of a sign that says “Quidditch Club” and a group of students riding broomsticks around a field on the left. That’s right, real-life people playing real-life Quidditch. Say what?
Although the film came out in 2012, students on college campuses around the US had already been playing Quidditch as an intramural sport since 2005. Thanks to two Middlebury college students, Alex Benepe and Xander Manshel, Harry Potter fans can now play Quidditch for real.
1 Real-life Quidditch is played in 26 countries around the world
One thing’s for certain, anything that’s positively associated with Harry Potter is bound to succeed. Such is the case with real-life Quidditch, which has now expanded beyond U.S. college campuses. There are now local leagues in hundreds of cities and college campuses as well as a U.S. National Quidditch Team that competes internationally.
When the popularity of the sport started to spread like wildfire, attracting Canadian teams as early as 2008, the founders of the sport formed the International Quidditch Association, a non-profit organization to act as the official governing body for the sport. Now there are hundreds of teams in twenty-six countries on six continents (Antarctica is slacking) around the world.
Every year, the U.S. holds a World Cup tournament, but there is also the Global Games—held at a different international destination every two years—and the Australian’s have their own Quidditch championship nicknamed QUAFL. With the continued popularity of Harry Potter and newfound interest due to the Fantastic Beasts films, there’s no doubt that Quidditch will continue to be a popular sport among Harry Potter fans and contact-sport lovers everywhere.
What other fun facts do you know about Quidditch? Let us know in the comments.