"Flint nearly kills the Gryffindor Seeker, which could happen to anyone, I'm sure..."
-- Lee Jordan, commentating a Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin (PS11)
Quidditch, “the sport of warlocks,” is the premier sport of the wizarding world. Everyone follows Quidditch. Quidditch is a fast, dangerous, exciting game in which two teams flying on brooms compete for points scored by throwing a ball–the Quaffle–through hoops on either end of a large grassy pitch. Quidditch is played by children on broomsticks in the back apple orchard, by teams of students at Hogwarts and by professional athletes whose exploits are followed avidly all over the world. The Quidditch World Cup matches attract hundreds of thousands of fans.
Quidditch falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, part of the Ministry of Magic. The professional organization is called the International Association of Quidditch. Professional matches are attended by trained mediwizards and while there are many injuries, there are few deaths from Quidditch accidents. However, referees have been known to disappear completely only to turn up weeks later in the middle of the Sahara. There are seven hundred possible ways to commit a foul in Quidditch, all of which occurred in a Quidditch World Cup match held in 1473.
Rules of play
Quidditch is played up on broomsticks up in the air. There are three goal posts at either ends of a field. That field is called a Quidditch pitch. There are seven players on each side: the Keeper, the Seeker, three Chasers and two Beaters. One player is also appointed as the Captain. Professional teams will also have a manager.
Quidditch has three balls: a Quaffle, two Bludgers and the Golden Snitch. The ball that scores the points is the Quaffle. The Quaffle is 12 inches in diameter and is made of leather bindings. The Quaffle has made some different changes over the years. The Bludger is probably the most dangerous ball of all of them. It flies through the air being hit by players called beaters. Serious injuries have been caused by Bludgers hitting people and causing them to fall off their brooms. The third and most important ball is the Golden Snitch. The Golden Snitch is a tiny ball that has wings and is enchanted. The first Snitch was a tiny bird that was very small and very fast, but changes to the rules made it illegal to use the actual live bird. The current enchanted, winged-ball version of the Snitch was invented by Bowman Wright of Godric’s Hollow. If the Seeker catches the Golden Snitch, his or her team earns 150 points and usually wins the match. At either end of the Quidditch pitch are three hoops through which the Quaffle can be scored. In the centre of the Pitch is a circle where the balls are all thrown into the air and the match begins. As the balls are thrown, the players all gather on the ground and then kick off as the referee blows his/her whistle. During the game a player can get a penalty for fouling (breaking a rule). Some fouls that a player can receive are: blagging (applies to all players, it is when a player seizes opponent’s broom tail to slow or hinder), blatching (applies to all players, it is when a person is flying with the intent to collide), bumphing (applies to beaters only, it is when a Beater is hitting a Bludger towards the crowd, necessitating a halt of the game as the officials rush to protect bystanders – sometimes used by unscrupulous players to prevent an opposing Chaser from scoring).
On the face of it, Quidditch scoring is unfair. In fact, it’s so unfair that you can barely call it a sportsmanlike. Since catching the Snitch gains one side the equivalent of fifteen goals and ends the game so the other team can’t counter it, Quidditch is essentially a match between the two Seekers and nothing else. So what makes it so popular? Do witches and wizards just watch it for the violence and fancy broom tricks?
Not at all. Quidditch is always played in a series. Unless you’re playing an informal game in the apple orchard, every Quidditch match is part of a larger series of matches, and accumulated points are what count toward ultimate victory. The Quidditch Cup at Hogwarts goes to the team with the most total points, not the one who has won the most matches. The standings we see in the Daily Prophet for the British and Irish Quidditch League (DP1, DP2, DP3, DP4) list the teams in order of how many points they have in total, from the Tutshill Tornados with 750 points down to the lowly Chudley Cannons with only 230. Nowhere in the standings does it note how many matches each team won. Although we don’t see evidence of it, there must be a similar system for the World Cup, which would imply that Bulgaria and Ireland were the top scorers in the world that year. Would it have been possible, then, for Bulgaria to have won the 1994 Quidditch World Cup with Viktor Krum‘s capture of the Snitch, even though Ireland won the match? Apparently so.
Quidditch places and equipment
- Beaters’ bat
- Golden Snitch
- Keeper’s gloves
- Quidditch pitch
- Quidditch stadium
- Quidditch World Cup stadium
Other Quidditch organizations
- International Association of Quidditch
- British and Irish Quidditch League
- International Confederation of Wizards Quidditch Committee
The colourful, exciting history of this thousand-year-old sport is detailed in the excellent book, Quidditch Through the Ages, also available in a Muggle edition. Proceeds from the early editions went to a worthy cause.
According to "Quidditch Through the Ages", the name "Quidditch" comes from Queerditch Marsh, the place where the game originated in the 1000s.
Rowling actually invented the name herself. She says:
I love making up words. There are a few key words in the books that wizards know and muggles, as in us - no-magic-people, don't know. Well, "muggle" is an obvious example. Then there's "quidditch." Quidditch is the wizarding sport. A journalist in Britain asked me... She said to me, "now, you obviously got the word "quidditch" from "quiddity," meaning the essence of a thing, it's proper nature," and I was really really tempted to say, "yes, you're quite right," because it sounded so intellectual, but I had to tell her the truth, which was that I wanted a word that began with "Q" -- on a total whim -- and I filled about, I don't know, 5 pages of a notebook with different "Q"-words until I hit "quidditch" and I knew that was the perfect one - when I finally hit "quidditch." Yeah. (DRS)
Rowling on the creation of Quidditch:
- "I sat in a hotel room after a row with my then boyfriend and invented it. Looking back, I can understand why I liked the idea of Bludgers." (WBD)
- "I invented Quidditch while spending the night in a very small room in the Bournville Hotel in Didsbury, Manchester. I wanted a sport for wizards, and I'd always wanted to see a game where there was more than one ball in play at the same time. The idea just amused me. The Muggle sport it most resembles is basketball, which is probably the sport I enjoy watching most. I had a lot of fun making up the rules and I've still got the notebook I did it in, complete with diagrams, and all the names for the balls I tried before I settled on Snitch, Bludgers, and Quaffle." (AmazonUK)
- "I invented the game of Quidditch after a huge row with the boyfriend I lived with in Manchester. I stormed out of the house, went to the pub - and invented Quidditch." (Scot, 2002)
- "Right well, if you want to create a game like Quidditch – what you have to do is have an enormous argument with your then boyfriend, you walk out of house, you sit down in pub and you invent Quidditch. I don’t really know what the connection is between the row and Quidditch except that Quidditch is quite a violent game and maybe in my deepest, darkest soul I’d like to have seen him hit by a ‘bludger’." (RAH)
- "Oh Quidditch ... the irony of me inventing a sport! I managed to break my arm playing netball, which as you know is *not* a famous contact sport. Um ... I decided that if the wizards had this whole secret society thing going on ... I was thinking of things that unified society, and I decided that one thing would have to be a sport, and that would be an opportunity for the wizards to meet in secret, and all, you know, congregate together, and it would just be too difficult for them to congregate and watch baseball or something. We'd notice! They'd get upset. They'd fire their wands off and stuff in the crowd. That wouldn't work so they'd have to have their own sport. So I had a lot of fun making up the rules of Quidditch. It's a violent and dangerous game and I'd be appalling at it, but it's fun to think about." (NPC)
- "Quidditch is a name I invented. I just wanted a word which began with the letter 'Q' (I don't know why, it was just a whim)." (AOL)
"I played around with words beginning with 'Q' for ages I don't know why 'Q', it was just a whim and then I came up with Quidditch and knew it was the one." (CR)
- When asked what she likes most about Quidditch: "That would probably be the violence." (RC)
- When asked if it was based on a real game: "Completely new. In America they say it’s a game like soccer, and if you've ever seen a game of football anything like Quidditch then ... um ... no, I just made it up. I always want to see a game where there were four balls in play at once .. or more than one ball in play, I just thought it would be funny ... and violent and it is and so it just loads of fun to write and that’s probably the thing in the film I'm most looking forward to seeing, because I've been watching this inside my head for so long." (BP)
From the Web
Muggles play a form of Quidditch, with organised leagues and tournaments:
The word 'quidditch' is trademarked in the UK and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017: