The Harry Potter books were stuffed to the brim with mysteries. But there was one in particular that continues to evade us all…
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Many (but not all) of our questions about the wizarding world have been solved. We know who the Half-Blood Prince is; we know who opened the Chamber of Secrets; we know why Voldemort was such a nuisance to kill. What we don’t know is what Rubeus Hagrid kept in his suspicious flowery pink umbrella. But we have a pretty good idea.

Let’s look at the facts. Hagrid was so large, hairy and bearded, swathed as he usually was in a capacious moleskin coat, that rain would have had a hard time penetrating his tough, half-giant exterior. What need would he really have for a pretty pink umbrella?

Of course, the flowery accessory was far less flimsy than it looked. Although the truth was never confirmed, it was Harry’s utmost belief that the brolly contained the broken pieces of Hagrid’s old school wand (oak, 16 inches, rather bendy) that was snapped in half when Hagrid was expelled during his third year at Hogwarts.

As an unqualified wizard who didn’t finish his education, Hagrid was not technically allowed to perform magic. And yet, the beloved gamekeeper seemed very magical.

When we first met Hagrid, he had been given special dispensation to use magical means to find Harry after far too many of his Hogwarts letters were suspiciously ignored. So when Hagrid finally caught up with Harry and the Dursleys in that leaky Hut-on-the-Rock, he was eager to put the opportunity to good use.

Hagrid illustration by Jim Kay

But, as Harry and Ron found out the hard way, it was virtually impossible to use a broken wand. Slug vomit, anyone? So unless something in the pink umbrella allowed it to channel magic, or unless very special magic had been used to repair it (an Elder wand, perhaps?), Hagrid shouldn’t have been able to have much luck with a couple of broken pieces.

There’s also the question of how much magic Hagrid could really know – he only had three years’ worth of lessons after all, with no O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s to help hone his skills.

Despite this, Hagrid seemed to know quite a bit. He got a boat to quickly transport Harry away from the Dursleys; he tapped the right brick to gain access to Diagon Alley, and admitted to giving his suspiciously large, boulder-sized pumpkins ‘a bit o’ help’ – and we don’t think he meant plant food.

Occasionally he struck unexpected gold, such as the intricate Transfiguration magic we imagine is required to give Dudley Dursley a pig’s tail.

Sadly, the umbrella didn’t always get it right. During Deathly Hallows, Harry and the Order of the Phoenix were pursued by Voldemort and his Death Eaters mid-flight, with Harry in the side-car of his late godfather Sirius’s flying motorbike. With Hagrid by his side, Harry’s car broke off at a very inconvenient time despite a ‘Reparo’ charm from Hagrid.

Hagrid flying into Privet Drive with a baby Harry.

But despite a few bumps, Hagrid would always have something that a lifetime of Hogwarts lessons could never teach him: fierce love for his friends, who happened to be some of the greatest wizards ever. Throw in an army of some of the most awesome magical creatures of all time (Buckbeak! Aragog! Norbert!) and Hagrid was more powerful than ten Voldemorts stood on top of each other wearing a big coat.

So leave the brolly at home next time, Rubeus – you’re magical enough.

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