Last Names

As careful readers, we’re taught to pay attention to last names – when two characters have the same last name, there is usually a good reason why. But there are three instances within the books of two characters having the same last name, without any reason given explaining it. Obviously, that number grows exponentially if we include all the apocrypha, but let’s focus on the seven books this time, and go through the first two examples.

The first instance is the Smiths. There are two Smiths in the Potter series, both with a connection to Hufflepuff. There’s Zacharias Smith, the very unpleasant Hufflepuff who joins Dumbledore’s Army with an attitude that makes him deeply unpopular. And there’s Hepzibah Smith, the old hoarder who was besotted with and murdered by Tom Riddle. Hepzibah claimed she was descended from Helga Hufflepuff, which was how Hufflepuff’s Cup came to be in her possession.

It was long theorized that these two characters were related. The best evidence for this lay in the fact that Zach Smith seemed to be the antithesis of everything Hufflepuff House stood for, and his lineage offered the best explanation of how he ended up in that House. Not to mention, if Harry had to interact with Zach Smith in Deathly Hallows to get to the Cup, we all could have gotten a lot of laughs. Ultimately, however, Jo has never said one way or another if these characters are related, and Smith is a very common last name.

It’s also worth noting that there was a Smith in the Original Forty, the class list Jo made of everyone in Harry’s year. In that list, there was a Sally Smith who never showed up in the books. Her name had originally been Georgina, but had been crossed out as Jo worked on the class list. I believe that Sally Smith morphed into Zach Smith as Jo wrote the series, which would imply Zach Smith was in Harry’s year – we never receive canonical information about that one way or the other.

The second instance of matching last names comes to us from relative obscurity: the Gudgeons. Remus Lupin tells Harry in Prisoner of Azkaban about a boy named Davey Gudgeon, who nearly lost an eye trying to touch the Whomping Willow in the Marauder era. One of Gilderoy Lockhart’s most ardent fans is Gladys Gudgeon – the very first envelope Harry addresses in Lockhart’s detention is to her. And she remains a loyal fan – when Harry runs into Lockhart at St. Mungos in Order of the Phoenix, Lockhart tells him, “Gladys Gudgeon writes weekly.”

For extra credit, there is a third Gudgeon in the apocrypha: in the first Daily Prophet newsletter in 1998, there is mention of a Galvin Gudgeon, who played Seeker for the Chudley Cannons… though not very well. The etymologists at the Lexicon have figured out that Gudgeon comes from Old French and means “gullible,” which certainly seems to fit with the Gudgeons we know! Are any of these Gudgeons related? We’ve never had word from Jo, but they certainly sound like they could be an interesting family.

Those are the two instances of repeating surnames that Jo has not addressed. In a future episode, I’ll discuss the one instance she did address, so be sure to tune in!



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