Books and Writing
Canon discussion / Rants

Quotes and Mis-Quotes


"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."
-- Albus Dumbledore, saying one of my favorite genuine quotes in the books (HBP3)

Quotes and Mis-Quotes

We all know the quotes. They’re turned into memes, they’re spouted by cosplayers — they seem to define the characters who said them. Except DID they say them? In many cases, the answer is no.

Yes, Quirrell did say “Troll — in the dungeons — thought you ought to know” (PS10) And Dumbledore did say “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that” (PS12). But what about these famous quotes?

“Wait till my father hears about this!”

No, Draco never said this. He got close on two occasions:

“That oaf teaching classes, my father’ll have a fit when I tell him…” (PA6)

“But this is servant stuff, it’s not for students to do. I thought we’d be copying lines or something, if my father knew I was doing this…” (PS15)

And we don’t know what he might have been saying when he was restored after being turned into a ferret:

Malfoy, whose pale eyes were still watering with pain and humiliation, looked malevolently up at Moody and muttered some thing in which the words “my father” were distinguishable. (GF13)

But he never said “Wait till my father hears about this.”

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”

This never appears in canon. Actor Michael Gambon delivers the line majestically in the film version of Prisoner, but it definitely was never written by Rowling. Many people find it inspiring, although I find it a bit trite — there’s no context which gives it any more meaning than simply what it says: when it’s dark, turn the light on. I realize that this is not a popular view, however, judging by the High Wisdom status it has been granted in memes all over the Interwebz.

“We have all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

Unlike the “tun on the light” quote, this line spoken by Sirius Black in the film version of Order of the Phoenix does have some real depth to it. It echoes Dumbledore’s famous statement “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are, it is our choices.” But like the “turn on the light” quote, this one is not from the Harry Potter canon. Rowling never wrote it.

“I shouldn’ta told yeh that!”

Relax, yes Hagrid did say that. But only once (PS16), not over and over in a running joke. Oh, Scrimgeour did say it once, too (HBP16).

“Bloody hell!”

No, Ron never says this. Well, okay, he says it in Cursed Child, but as that was written way after the films and not even by Rowling, I think it’s safe to say that they were just copying the non-canon catchphrase.


There’s nothing particularly wrong with these quotes just because they didn’t appear in the books. I am a huge fan of the films. What bothers me is when I see these lines mis-identified as canon. That does a great disservice to the brilliant writing of J.K. Rowling, who herself wrote so many wonderful lines that it makes me a sad to see how often the scriptwriters ignored hers to create their own.

What other quotes do you see mis-identified as being from the Harry Potter canon? Did I miss somewhere in canon where these quotes were said? Or do you consider film quotes to be just as canon as any other? Let me know in the comments.


Pensieve (Comments)

  • ALameHippogriff

    I consider myself to have a good knowledge of the Potter canon and even I thought the “Happiness can be found” quote was indeed written by Rowling, but after flipping through Azkaban and an online search, you are of course correct, Steve. Interestingly, it seems that Scholastic and the Wizarding World folks like this quote so much as to have adopted it. I bought my copy of Cursed Child on release day at Target, and it included artwork by the illustrator who did the new American paperbacks (Kazu Kibuishi, if I have my editions correct) with the Kloves-written Dumbledore quote. A movie-specific quote on a book-specific illustration, sold along with the travesty that Rowling insists is canon, is another example of the blending of book canon with other media that seems to be occurring in this CC/Fantastic Beasts age.

  • Alana Shee

    Agreed, I seriously hate that flipping quote. It doesn’t really mean anything – if someone told me to “turn on the light” during “dark times”, I’d probably tell them to buzz off. And what about the other greatest hits by Albus Dumbledore? Death is but the next great adventure? Nitwit, blubber? That awesome stuff about Aberforth and goats? Come on people.

  • Hope Martof

    Sirius does not give the light quote on film during Goblet, it comes during the Black family tree scene of Phoenix.

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