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MonkeyNotes-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Joanne Kathleen Rowling (pronounced “rolling”) was born on July 31, 1965 in Chipping Sodbury, which is near Bristol and is not too far from the town of Dursley. Concerning where she was born, Rowling comments, “I think it doomed me to a love of weird place names.”

Her parents had met on a train as it left King's Cross Station in London. Her parents were young, only twenty when they had Rowling, and this is reflected in Harry’s young parents (James and Lily were both around twenty when they were killed, shortly after Harry’s birth).

Rowling’s sister Diana is two years younger than her and Rowling remembers that, “when we were younger we fought like cat and dog.” It’s possible that these sibling disputes inspired the bickering between Percy, Ron, and the twins. Rowling also says that, “I felt quite plain in comparison to my sister.” Perhaps this was the inspiration for Ron’s feeling overshadowed by his brothers.

From Chipping Sodbury, Rowling’s parents moved to Tutshill, a little village in South Wales. “It is a town dominated by a castle on a cliff, which might explain a lot.” Jo began her schooling at Wyedean Comprehensive in Tutshill in 1976. “The village school in Tutshill was pretty Dickensian... We were seated according to the teacher’s perception of our brightness, and after ten minutes she put me in the ‘dim’ row. There are a number of people who influenced the character of Snape in my books, and that teacher was definitely one of them. I found it extremely scary.” At school, Rowling became friends with Sean Harris, who is said to a partial model for Ron Weasley's character.


Rowling says that as a schoolgirl she resembled Hermione in that she was bookish, insecure worrywart. She got A's in English, French and German, which is reflected in the French Beauxbatons and the German Dursmstrang of book four. In her last years of school before college, there was one teacher that influenced Rowling who had characteristics very much like McGonagall: “...my English teacher Miss Shepard. She was strict, and could be quite caustic, but she was very conscientious...no-nonsense approach.”

Starting in 1983, Rowling studied French and Classics at the University of Exeter. Her love of Classics is clear in her use of Latin and her references to Greek mythology. After graduating from the University of Exeter in 1987, Rowling briefly worked for Amnesty International as a research assistant into human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. Her mother died of multiple sclerosis in 1990 at the age of 45, and Rowling describes it as the worst experience of her life. It was this depressing period in Rowling’s life that influenced Harry’s somber encounter with the Mirror of Erised.

Rowling came up with Harry Potter’s character while stuck on a delayed train in 1990. She spent the next five years creating Harry’s fictional world, including Quidditch, which she invented in 1991. Rowling thought up the Dementors (who appear in Prisoner of Azkaban) after a brief bout with depression in 1994.

In 1995, she finished the Philosopher's Stone. After several rejections from publishers, Rowling got Bloomsbury to agree to purchase the manuscript. In 1997, Philosopher's Stone was published in Great Britain and a year later Sorcerer's Stone was released in the United States by Scholastic.

In Great Britain, Bloomsbury released Chamber of Secrets in 1998. Scholastic published it in the United States in 1999. Later that year, Bloomsbury published The Prisoner of Azkaban in Britain and Scholastic released it in the United States. On July 8 th , 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was simultaneously released in Great Britain and the United States.

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