The Harry Potter universe is one that’s managed to cast a spell over the entire world, introducing children and adults alike to a world of mysticism and wonder like none they’d ever seen before. In bringing that magical land to readers all the way back in 1997 with debut novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, author J. K. Rowling could never have predicted the huge success that would then follow as she went on to release one of the most read novel series of all time, consisting of seven books and moving onto the big screen in 2001.
Now, when you think of the Potter stories, the titular character is the one that springs immediately to mind, with Lord Voldemort – his adversary and the Dark Lord – coming in right after. This wasn’t to be the classic story of love versus hate, good versus evil, however. There were many different layers to this tale, and one particular group known as the Death Eaters played a massive part in the goings on of Hogwarts and beyond.
Here we take a look back at the villainous group and delve into 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Death Eaters. Some of these may really surprise you!
15 The Malfoys were lowest in the ranks of the Death Eaters
Whilst the Malfoy family are some of the most prominent Death Eaters we meet throughout the Potter stories, what many didn’t know was that they found themselves lowest in the ranks of their fellow Dark Lord appeasers when Draco Malfoy failed to kill Albus Dumbledore himself. Shortly after the failed murder, Lucius Malfoy was freed from the prison of Azkaban and his family were allowed to return to their home with their lives still intact. From this point on however, they were completely discredited and saw their hopes of earning the highest status under Voldemort’s regime completely dashed. The Dark Lord treated them from this point on with nothing but disgust and contempt, believing they were nothing more than weaklings and failures. Despite all of that, the Malfoy family survived the Battle of Hogwarts and all that came after it.
14 Fenrir Greyback wasn’t allowed to become an official Death Eater
This werewolf was rotten to his core, loyal to Voldemort and known for attacking children and youngsters simply for fun and pleasure. Despite being one of the Dark Lord’s soldiers, however, and even wearing Death Eater robes, he was never allowed to officially become a fully-fledged member of the group due to his werewolf bloodline. Though his loyalty didn’t earn him an official title or the Dark Mark, he still held a high status in the ranks of the Death Eaters and their allies. Voldemort realized that Greyback wasn’t fighting for anybody but himself, and so stirred the fires of hatred within the werewolf and inspired him to go forth and wreak havoc. He was much too useful to cast aside, even if he wasn't what the Death Eaters considered "pure."
13 Bellatrix Lestrange was Voldemort’s Death Eater lieutenant
Trained in the Dark Arts by Lord Voldemort himself, Bellatrix Lestrange was a pure-blooded witch who boasted she had knowledge of such dark spells, few on earth could comprehend them. All of her skills and talents earned her the position and status of Voldemort’s lieutenant, a position she relished. Rather than killing her victims immediately, she would enjoy torturing them at times to the point of insanity, and continued to prove herself to her master. Bellatrix was one of the best duellists in the Potter universe, notably becoming the only Death Eater to successful deflect a spell cast by Albus Dumbledore. Her skills were undeniable; it’s just a shame that she decided to use them for evil means.
12 The Death Eater’s KKK-esque pointed hoods in the movies were changed
When you saw the dark pointed hoods the Death Eaters wore in some of the earlier Harry Potter movies – notably Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - it became instantly clear exactly where their inspiration came from. The Ku Klux Klan (aka the KKK) are a real-life white supremacist group that believe they are the ‘master race’; so what better group to use as the inspiration behind a group of evil wizards who would rid the world of all those who aren’t pure blood, or at least bow down to pure blood wizards? At some point between Goblet of Fire and fifth movie installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, those behind the franchise decided to give the Death Eater costumes a makeover. From that point on, the pointed hoods became a thing of the past.
11 Lucius Malfoy betrayed the Death Eaters to escape prison
Lucius Malfoy is an extremely intelligent man, who’s managed to escape and evade the authorities time and time again, with many different techniques. The final one he used, however, was betrayal of his former fellow Death Eaters. Those who had served the Dark Lord and fled thought they’d gotten away without being captured, but Lucius provided evidence which would lead to their arrest and keep him out of prison. The Malfoy family have always prioritized their love of one another ahead of serving Lord Voldemort, so the decision was an easy one to make for the family patriarch. With Narcissa Malfoy already betraying the Dark Lord, the clan had nothing to lose other than their own livelihoods. Lucius made the choice that made the most sense and was able to live out his life surrounded by his family because of it.
10 Each Death Eater outfit in the movies had their own particular style or motif
Concept artist Rob Bliss has spoken extensively about the ideas he had for creating the Death Eater masks that appear throughout the Harry Potter movie series. While Goblet of Fire saw the Death Eaters just partially cover their faces, he wanted to find a creepier alternative, and so came up with some stunning designs to cover the entire face and create a uniform look across the entire group. Each mask and costume however were a little different to one another. Each Death Eater would be assigned their own design or motif so that they could still be personally identified behind the mask, with costume designer Jany Temime then using those very mask engravings to embroider specific and unique patterns for each of the Death Eaters’ clothes. On the topic of those masks…
9 The Death Eater movie masks were inspired by Mogul arabesque patterns
Concept artist Rob Bliss went on to confirm that the Death Eater masks designed for the Harry Potter movies were inspired by Mogul arabesque patterns. The Islamic art is said to arise from the Islamic view of the world, with abstract patterns preferred to the depiction of people or animals. Arabesque patterns tend to disappear at a framing edge without coming to an end, which is defined as meaning an infinitely extendable area outside of the space; very spiritual and also very relatable to the world of Harry Potter. In a universe full of magic and wonder, anything is possible and there are no limits; while the people behind the Death Eater masks would likely put an end to all of that if they were given the chance, the outfits they wore were subtly saying something very different…
8 They were almost called The Knights of Walpurgis
The Death Eaters almost had a completely different name entirely, with author J. K. Rowling originally planning to call them The Knights of Walpurgis. The name itself was Rowling’s way of playing on Walpurgis Night – the evening of April 30 when witches and demons would gather, according to German folklore. Rowling revealed that the Death Eaters rose out of this group, but they were likely given a different name later on to distinguish their new agenda in bringing power to the Dark Lord. In an interview with the BBC, the author made the admission while showing off her pile of notes that she kept on her whenever she was writing, in case they could be of use in the future. Now that Pottermore exists, we’re sure little titbits of information such as this will continue to find their way online and into the spotlight for many more years to come.
7 There’s a secret Death Eater called Pyrites
Not many people know of the Death Eater Pyrites. He was a man loyal to Voldemort who appeared only in early drafts of the first story, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Having worked for Lord Voldemort during the First Wizarding War, Pyrites was said to have been present when the Dark Lord killed both Lily and James Potter. J. K. Rowling named the character after the mineral fool’s gold and has described the character as “a dandy” who wore white silk gloves, which she thought “might stain artistically with blood from time to time”. Despite being a fan of the character, Rowling made the decision to cut him from her story, so it’s unlikely that Pyrites ever existed in the world of Harry Potter we all know and love today. It is however possible that he was present during the Second Wizarding War, but took a backseat role in proceedings. If indeed he did survive, he was likely killed or arrested following the Battle of Hogwarts.
6 J. K. Rowling slammed a Trump spokesperson as a Death Eater
Best known for her literary work, J. K. Rowling isn’t a woman afraid to voice her very blunt and frank opinions when it comes to politics. She’s rallied against Scottish independence, thinks the British Labour Party needs a new leader and even took a swipe at a former member of Donald Trump’s team, Katrina Pierson. In early 2012, Pierson took a swipe at both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, taking to her Twitter account to write: “Perfect Obama’s dad born in Africa, Mitt Romney’s dad born in Mexico. Any pure breeds left?” When Pierson then took up the role of Trump’s spokesperson during his Presidential campaign, Rowling brought the tweet back to life in January 2016, quoting it on her own Twitter account and adding: “Death Eaters walk among us.” We’ll let you draw your own conclusions on this one…
5 Death Eaters hoped Harry would be a better Voldemort - not an adversary
Remember all the way back in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Draco Malfoy offered his alliance and ‘friendship’ to Harry, only to be swiftly refused? This was likely all part of a plan put into place by Malfoy’s father Lucius and his fellow disbanded Death Eaters, who were hoping that Harry would grow up to be the greatest Dark Lord that had ever lived. Unfortunately for them, the good parts of Harry’s character proved to be too powerful to allow the dark pieces to take over, and it soon became apparent that although Voldemort was more powerful in almost every way, he wouldn’t be able to defeat the young wizard. That of course didn't leave us any happier in the knowledge that Harry would find happiness when the series wrapped up however, as those around him couldn't possibly all be as powerful as the boy wizard himself. This was proven with the hugely emotional losses we all suffered throughout the series, but hey, at least Harry turned out to be a good guy, right?
4 They humiliated a Muggle family at the 1994 Quidditch World Cup
With the Quidditch World Cup coming to Great Britain for a final between Ireland and Bulgaria, witches and wizards from around the world gathered to see just who would go home victorious. The Weasleys were some of those in attendance; what Fred originally thought was the Irish celebrating at the event, they quickly realized something bad was happening when they found masked men burning tents and causing riots. What many people don’t know however is that even a muggle family who managed the campsite near the Quidditch World Cup’s 1994 grounds were dragged into affairs. Death Eaters were brutal in their treatment of the Roberts family, levitating them into the air and humiliating them in front of all watching. Luckily their lives remained intact, and a few Memory Charms later, it was as if the event had never happened.
3 Not all Death Eaters could possibly be pure blood
That’s right: It’s utterly impossible that all of Lord Voldemort’s Death Eater followers were actually pure blooded, despite that being the sole reason for their 'cause'. Even You-Know-Who himself was a half blood, which he is said to have utterly despised. J. K. Rowling let the readers know that very point through Hermione Granger’s intelligence in the sixth entrant into the Potter book series. She told Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: “The Death Eaters can’t all be pure blood, there aren’t enough pure blood wizards left. I expect most of them are half bloods pretending to be pure. It’s only Muggle-borns they hate, they’d be quite happy to let you [Harry Potter] and Ron join up.” We’re not going to argue with the wisdom of Hermione! Despite it being right there on the books pages, this is often a fact fans of the Potter universe forget.
2 They gained the giants' alliance for Voldemort
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had always seen giants as useful tools in war, so he went to work on recruiting them to his ranks as soon as possible, safe in the knowledge that they would be easily persuaded to get to work in bringing chaos down on the innocents at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he couldn’t waltz into the giant’s den on his own and demand they do his bidding without becoming their next meal, so he got his Death Eater followers as a collective to do the hard work for him. It’s not known exactly what happened to the giants (those that survived, anyway) following the Battle of Hogwarts, but with such a long life cycle they’re likely living out their days in close proximity mountain ranges, fighting over the slightest thing and putting the future of their own species at risk. Probably for the best, as they're a group not afraid of destroying anything in their path if things don't go their way!
1 Narcissa Malfoy was never an official Death Eater
That’s right. Though she was one of the most prominent characters fighting on the wrong side of history, the Malfoy family matriarch was actually never given the Dark Mark or officially joined the ranks of the Death Eaters that her husband was a part of. There are a lot of different reasons offered up as to why this may be. Perhaps the Malfoy family were so intent on keeping Draco Malfoy with at least one of his parents, that Narcissa should never be given the mark in case things went bad? It’s clear through Narcissa’s actions in the final Potter story that her morals are widely different to that of the most loyal Voldemort followers – there’s always the chance she was simply following the Dark Lord to appease her husband, and she didn’t care much for Voldemort’s cause at all. Narcissa did however believe in the importance of blood purity, so she’s not exactly a loving, caring character when it comes to those who aren’t members of the Malfoy family.