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Harry Potter Lexicon Minute

Pince and Prince

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Pince and Prince

Today, I’d like to talk about a cool fan theory from back in the day that still has not been conclusively proven or disproven. After the “I am Lord Voldemort” anagram twist in Chamber of Secrets, Potter fans were on high alert for any other relevant anagrams in the series. One especially popular one was “Ollivanders” being an anagram of both “Ronald Lives” and “Ronald’s Evil.”

But a theory that gained a lot of traction after Half-Blood Prince came out was the anagram of “Irma Pince” to “I’m a Prince”… as in Eileen Prince, Snape’s mother. Could the unpleasant Hogwarts librarian be related to the Potions master?

There’s no question of there being similarities between them, such as a pervading dislike of children. But more importantly, the one time Madam Pince is described in detail, we get the following: “Madam Pince appeared around the corner, her sunken cheeks, her skin like parchment, and her long hooked nose illuminated unflatteringly by the lamp she was carrying” (HBP15). A long hooked nose certainly reminds us of someone!

Furthermore, the context of this description was significant. It’s in chapter 15 of Half-Blood Prince, right before Madam Pince sees the Half-Blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making and has an apoplectic fit. If this was Eileen Prince, she just recognized her own Potions textbook with her teenage son’s writing in it – the loony cries about it being “despoiled” and “desecrated” may have been a front for her being agitated for totally different reasons. And it would be just like Jo to drop the Snape-like visual description right before a tantrum about Snape’s book, as a clue.

Lastly, and this opens up a fascinating can of worms, but Eileen Prince was likely a contemporary of Tom Riddle’s in school. We know the potions textbook is fifty years old; Tom Riddle was at school fifty-three years before the Trio. The timeline lines up that Eileen would have been at Hogwarts with Tom Riddle, perhaps a few years his junior. And if she was in Slytherin, like her son, she may even have been privy to Tom Riddle’s name change, and been inspired by the format.

As for the million-Galleon question of why: perhaps Eileen Prince was originally intended to be the one who revealed the Prince’s Tale to Harry in Book 7, instead of Harry fumbling with the memories leaking out of a dying Snape. Maybe Jo decided against it because she already had a lot of exposition coming from family members of the deceased – the Grey Lady and Aberforth Dumbledore. This would’ve been overkill. We can’t know for certain, but all these years later, the Irma Pince/Eileen Prince theory still has not been disproven. So I choose to keep believing they’re the same person, until Jo Tweets otherwise!

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In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.

Special thanks go to Felicia Cano who gave us permission to use her amazing artwork of Hermione reading a book for the logo, which was created by Kim B.

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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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