Few fictional characters have generated as much debate about whether they are good or bad as Harry Potter fan-favorite Severus Snape. Those who love him acknowledge he was a pretty terrible person most of the time, and those who loathe him admit he was possibly the bravest and most self-less character in the series. Recently, J.K. Rowling took to Twitter to reveal the real-life inspiration behind Snape’s first name
Real Harry Potter inspiration alert: I walked past this sign every day on my way to work when I was living in Clapham . Much later – post-publication – I revisited the area & suddenly realised THIS was why ‘Severus’ had leapt into my head when thinking of a 1st name for Snape.
J.K. Rowling used to walk past a street sign while living in Clapham back when she was still setting up the Harry Potter universe in her mind. That sign, which reads ‘Borough of Battersea, Severus Road. S.W.11’, is what prompted Rowling to name the potions master Severus Snape. Interestingly, Rowling herself seems to have forgotten about the sign until she revisited the spot much later after her book series had become a worldwide phenomenon.
Over the past few years, ever since the Harry Potter saga ended with Deathly Hallows, Rowling has been using Twitter and the Pottermore website to continue to reveal bits and pieces of information about the wizarding world she created. This has ranged from revealing the secret sexual orientation of the headmaster of Hogwarts to informing unsuspecting readers that wizards in the olden days would poop just anywhere and vanish the evidence of their misdeeds.
Fans have not always been amused or in favor of Rowling’s continued tinkering with the world she created. Many have accused her of trying to make Hogwarts retroactively more inclusive and ‘woke’, instead of letting such elements be a part of the original novels. These accusations further intensified with the arrival of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which made further changes to Harry Potter canon, such as giving Dumbledore a secret brother, placing Professor McGonagall much earlier in the narrative, and giving Nagini a human form.
Of course, since Rowling is the one who created the franchise in the first place, it is perfectly within her rights to make any changes she wants to the story canon. The latest revelation about Snape is unlikely to upset any fans, but serves as an interesting little titbit about what is generally considered to be the most complex character in the series.
With the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie, Rowling is preparing to tie the world of the franchise even more closely in with Harry Potter, with a deeper exploration of Dumbledore and Grindlewald’s backstory. Who knows, a very young snape or one of his ancestors may end up being a part of the film. Or Rowling could just throw fans the biggest bone and announce a solo spinoff for Snape and his days as a double agent working with the Death Eaters.