And the child that has been protected from the Dementors in fiction, I would argue, is much more likely to fall prey to them later in life in reality.
-- J.K. Rowling (R4)
A conversation with Stephen Fry on BBC Radio 4. This interview was recorded in the late summer of 2005 and broadcast as a Christmas special.
SF: Did it occur to you when you were planning the books, hoping the first one would be published, that so many people who have never been inside a boarding school would relate to the very particular world of an English boarding school which Hogwarts represents?
JKR: Well, the truth is, I've never been inside one either, of course. I was comprehensive educated. But - it was essential for the plot that the children could be enclosed somewhere together overnight. This could not be a day school, because the adventure would fall down every second day if they went home and spoke to their parents, and then had to break back into school every week to wander around at night, so it had to be a boarding school. Which was also logical, because where would wizards educate their children? This is a place where there were going to be lots of noises, smells, flashing lights, and you would want to contain it somewhere fairly distant so that Muggles didn't come across it all the time.
But I think that people recognize the reality of a lot of children being cloistered together, perhaps, more than they recognize the ambience of a boarding school. I'm not sure that I'm familiar with that, but I think am familiar with what children are like when they're together.
And the child that has been protected from the dementors in fiction, I would argue, is much more likely to fall prey to them later in life in reality.
I've taken horrible liberties with folklore and mythology, but I'm quite unashamed about that, because British folklore and British mythology is a totally bastard mythology. You know, we've been invaded by people, we've appropriated their gods, we've taken their mythical creatures, and we've soldered them all together to make, what I would say, is one of the richest folklores in the world, because it's so varied. So I feel no compunction about borrowing from that freely, but adding a few things of my own.
But you're right, yes, children, they know, obviously, they know that I didn't invent unicorns, but I've had to explain frequently that I didn't actually invent hippogriffs. Although a hippogriff is quite obscure, I went looking, because when I do use a creature that I know is a mythological entity, I like to find out as much as I can about it. I might not use it, but to make it as consistent as I feel is good for my plot. There's very little on hippogriffs. I could read...
They also felt that illustrations might aim it a little bit at a younger audience than they were aiming for.
SF: Yes. I think it turned out to be quite right.
JKR: And they were right. The American edition, which is a very beautifully produced book, I must say, they have very small line drawings at the beginning of every chapter, which I like. It’s just a suggestion of what’s to come.
SF: ... that with that rather marvelous, occasionally rather tired, worn quality that Dumbledore has, because he’s experienced so much, and he can cope, but he would almost rather not be able to.
JKR: Absolutely. That’s exactly right. Dumbledore does express the regret that he has always had to be the one who knew, and who had the burden of knowing. And he would rather not know.
They tend to be things I’ve collected or stumbled across in general reading. The exception was Gilderoy – Gilderoy Lockhart. The name Lockhart, well, I know it’s quite a well-known Scottish surname…
JKR: …I found on a war memorial. I was looking for quite a glamorous, dashing sort of surname, and Lockhart caught my eye on this war memorial, and that was it. Couldn’t find a Christian name. And I was leafing through the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable one night. I was consciously looking for stuff, generally, that would be useful and I saw Gilderoy, who was actually a highway man, and a very good-looking rogue.
JKR: Well, Phoenix, I would say, in self-defense – Harry had to, because of what I’m trying to say about Harry as a hero. Because he’s a very human hero, and this is, obviously, there’s a contrast, between him, as a very human hero, and Voldemort, who has deliberately dehumanized himself.
JKR: And Harry, therefore, did have to reach a point where he did almost break down, and say he didn’t want to play anymore, he didn’t want to be the hero anymore – and he’d lost too much. And he didn’t want to lose anything else. So that – Phoenix was the point at which I decided he would have his breakdown.
JKR: And now he will rise from the ashes strengthened.
SF: It is such a primary energy, particularly with children, and we lose it, I suppose, at our peril, the outrage of injustice, which is one of the primary sort of motor forces in all the books, isn’t it?
JKR: The feeling of the twelve-year-old boy that they’ve been unfairly accused - the burning sense of outrage. You’re right, we shouldn’t lose that.
JKR: But we do, often.
JKR: Adults do.
SF: Yeah. No, that’s quite right.
I always leave myself latitude to go on a little stroll off the path, but the path is what I’m essentially following. So much that happens in six relates to what happens in seven. And you really sort of skid off the end of six straight into seven. You know, it’s not the discreet adventure that the others have all been, even though you have the underlying theme of Harry faces Voldemort, in each case, and – you know better than anyone – there has been an adventure that has resolved itself.
JKR: Whereas in six, although there is an ending that could be seen as definitive in one sense, you very strongly feel the plot is not over this time and it will continue.
JKR: It's an odd feeling. For the first time I'm very aware that I'm finishing.
Living with Harry Potter