Actually, Remus Lupin is a werewolf.
You may be thinking, “Wow! Thom, you are a few years late on spoiling that bit of news!” I am 8 years late to be precise, because the “Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling was published in the spring of 2004.
But, I just want to geek out for a moment about something I realized while re-reading the “Harry Potter” series. Like a true literature nerd and student of history, let’s do some etymology and backstory.
First, let’s start with the most obvious part of Lupin’s name: Lupin. Lupin comes from the Latin word Lupus, which literally means wolf. Duh. I knew that. You probably knew that. Anyone that has studied Latin knew that.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, let us look at the first part of his name: Remus. Who knows who Remus is?
He was the brother of Romulus, and they were the nephews of a powerful Italian king. This powerful Italian king usurped their father and stole the throne. He ordered the boys be abandoned on a hillside to die, rather than having them grow up to overthrow him. The babies were taken in by a she-wolf, who suckled them until they were old enough to hunt for themselves. Once again, his name is connected to a wolf.
But remember the 7th book, when the radio program Potterwatch is on? Lupin’s code name is Romulus, the brother of Remus. Again, he is connected to a wolf.
Cool. I just gave you a lesson on how Remus Lupin’s name is all about a wolf. Why does that matter?
Let us make an application. Rowling wrote her books with a large knowledge of history. This is evidenced through Lupin and many of her other characters. Without knowing history, the full power of her foreshadowing would be missed. According to the wise sages of Wikipedia, foreshadowing, “is a literary device in which an author indistinctly suggests certain plot developments that will come later in the story.”
Rowling hints and foreshadows virtually every main plot in the book. But unless we look carefully, we miss the skill of her words. We miss the fact that her years studying the Classics inform her words. Rowling uses the height of creativity: she reuses and reinvents characters and ideas from several millennia.
My point, my passion, my application: a true craftsman does not just create from their own mind. They hone and interpret the past into a new creation. This is not new! Taking the past, applying it to the present, forming a new future. This is the story of Moral Philosophy.
Rowling embodies thousands of years of meaning and symbolism into one character’s name, and she did it so subtly most people miss it.
Pay attention to the details, please. They really do matter.