lethifold (lēthə-fōld)

A Lethifold is shroud of darkness that preys upon sleeping wizards or Muggles. (image from www.moviepilot.com)

In Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Newt Scamander states that a Lethifold is a very rare creature that dwells in tropical climates. A Lethifold looks like a black cloak that floats along ominously during the night seeking victims who are sleeping. Once its prey has been suffocated thoroughly, it simply digests them in their beds, leaving no trace of its victims.

Since Lethifolds are stealthy killers, it is difficult to find much information about them. However, Flavius Belby, who survived a Lethifold attack, wrote the earliest account of Lethifolds in 1782. During the attack, Belby writes that he tried to overcome the Lethifold by using a Stupefying Charm and an Impediment Hex, neither of which worked. Finally, Belby cast the Patronus Charm, which repelled the Lethifold successfully.

The Ministry of Magic rates these highly dangerous creatures XXXXX, meaning that they are known to kill wizards and it is not possible to train or domesticate them.

Lethifold contains the Latin root leth-, meaning deadly or fatal. Leth- was probably influenced by the Greek word “lethe,” referring to the mythological river in the Underworld whose waters caused spirits to forget everything about their former lives. It makes sense that the word “lethe” would later influence the Latin “leth-” because if a person forgets who he is and loses all his memories, he loses his sense of self which is similar to death.  Since the Lethifold is a deadly creature, this name seems apropos.

Join me next week as we continue exploring fantastic creatures from the Harry Potter world. I hope you are all enjoying these posts as much as I am enjoying writing them!

Harry Potter Spells – Levicorpus

In the movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry teaches the spell Levicorpus to Dumbledore's Army. However, this never happens in the book. (Photo from harrypotter.wikia.com)

Last week, I took a break from Harry Potter to talk about the Kentucky Derby but let’s return to exploring Harry Potter spells. Harry first discovers the spell “levicorpus” in Snape’s old potions book in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. 

Levicorpus comes from the Latin roots levi– meaning smooth or light and corp- meaning body. The spell “levicorpus” makes a body incredibly light, allowing it to float.

We discover the effects of the spell when Harry uses it against Ron. Harry pointed his wand “and the incantation sprang to mind without conscious thought: Levicorpus! Ron yelled as his heel was wrenched upward once more; he dangled helplessly, upside down, his robes hanging off him (Page 393).”

Can you think of another spell with the root word levi– in it?

Harry Potter Characters – Severus Snape

Severus Snape definitely lives up to his name! Photo from harrypotter.wikia.com

Let’s explore another charactonym used in Harry Potter! If you recall, a charactonym is a name that suggests a certain trait about a fictional character. Severus Snape is the feared Potions Master of Hogwarts and later becomes the Defense against the Dark Arts teacher.

The Latin word severus means strict and Severus Snape definitely lives up to his name. Snape is described as a “teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin” (Pg 126). “His eyes … were cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels (Pg 136). He “criticized almost everyone” (Pg 139) and especially loved to deduct points from Gryffindor for any minor offense. According to Ron, he could “turn very nasty” so it was probably best not to anger him (Pg 139).

*Quotes cited from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter Characters – Argus Filch

Let’s look at another example of how J.K. Rowling incorporates references to Greek mythology in the Harry Potter series.

Argus Filch is the despised caretaker of Hogwarts.  He is named after the Greek mythological character Argus Panoptes, the obedient watchman of Hera. Panoptes comes from the Greek roots pan- meaning all and -opt meaning eye or vision. Argus (the mythological character) had 100 eyes all over his body that enabled him to see everything around him at all times while Argus Filch seems to see everything that is out of place at Hogwarts at all times.  “Filch knew the secret passageways of the school better than anyone … and could pop up…suddenly” just in time to catch students breaking rules (Page 133). The students disliked him very much; Harry stated that something “even worse than Peeves, if that was possible, was the caretaker, Argus Filch” (Page 132).

Filch’s loyal companion was a cat named Mrs. Norris, who acted as another pair of eyes for him.  The students absolutely detested her because if they broke “a rule in front of her, put just one toe out of line, … she’d whisk off for Filch”(Page 132) and “…it was the dearest ambition of many to give Mrs. Norris a good kick” (Page 133) for she was so annoying.

Quotes cited from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Harry Potter Characters – Minerva McGonagall

J.K. Rowling uses references to mythological characters throughout the Harry Potter series. For example, the character Minerva McGonagall is named after the Roman goddess Minerva. Minerva is the goddess of wisdom and war; the Greeks called her Athena. Minerva (or Athena) is usually depicted holding the Aegis, her shield which bears the head of the terrible Medusa.

Minerva McGonagall is the wise and powerful Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As an expert in the difficult art of Transfiguration, Professor McGonagall can easily turn a table into a hog and a rat into a goblet. She can even transfigure herself into an orange tabby cat.

If I were fighting in a battle, I would want Minerva McGonagall on my side. In the Deathly Hallows, Minerva McGonagall fights bravely against Voldemort’s Death Eaters, never backing down. My favorite part is when Professor McGonagall wisely calls forth the statues and suits of armor to help defend Hogwarts. She shouts, “Hogwarts is threatened!” “Man the boundaries, protect us, do your duty to our school.”(pg. 602). Hundreds of statues, many brandishing swords and weapons, come alive and obey her.

Minerva McGonagall is both wise and fierce in battle, just like the Roman goddess.

bibliophile (bi-blē-ə-ˌfī-əl)

Books are my great love!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is all about love, so I have decided to write about one of my great loves – books. I am a bibliophile.

A bibliophile is a  lover of books. Bibliophile contains the Greek roots bibli- meaning book andphil meaning love of. The root phil- can occur at the beginning of words such as philanthropy or at the end of words like bibliophile.

I enjoy reading many different genres of books but my favorite books are those in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I have read these books countless times and I am captivated by the author’s use of Latin throughout the series. As a student of Latin, I find that the books are much more interesting because of the clever utilization of Latin.  I also love that the author makes many references to Greek mythology! During the next few weeks I would like to explore the Latin that occurs in the Harry Potter series as well as references to Greek mythology.  If you have never read Harry Potter, I strongly recommend reading these amazing books! If you are a Harry Potter fan, I hope you enjoy my series of posts on this topic.