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"Defence Against the Dark Arts […] was being taught at the time by an old Professor by the name of Galatea Merrythought, who had been at Hogwarts for nearly fifty years."
Albus Dumbledore[src]

Professor Galatea Merrythought was a witch and Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from around 1895 until her retirement in 1945. From some point between the 1920s and the 1940s, she taught Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Before her retirement, she worked alongside Albus Dumbledore and Horace Slughorn, her former students; after her retirement, Tom Riddle, another one of her pupils, was refused the chance to take her place, and so he vengefully jinxed the post so no professor could hold the occupation for longer than a year.


Early life

Nothing is known of Galatea Merrythought's past, although it is likely that she attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and would have purchased her wand from Ollivanders Wand Shop at Diagon Alley at the age of eleven.

She would have graduated at the age of seventeen and it is likely that she had high Defence Against the Dark Arts marks — almost definitely a N.E.W.T. in the field.

Career at Hogwarts

Early years

"Dumbledore, in his time had access to superb teachers at Hogwarts…"
— A description of Albus Dumbledore's teachers, which included Merrythought[src]

Professor Merrythought's office

Merrythought returned to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to teach sometime around 1895,[3] though what subject is unclear. Among her pupils was a young Gryffindor named Albus Dumbledore; other students she taught included Elphias Doge, Aberforth Dumbledore, Horace Slughorn, Theseus Scamander, Newton Scamander, Leta Lestrange, Tom Riddle, and Rubeus Hagrid.

The Headmaster during her early years was presumably Professor Phineas Nigellus Black, although she also went on to work under Professor Armando Dippet.

Having authored at least two books on the subject (Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts, required reading when Albus Dumbledore was teaching the subject in the 1910s),[4] at an unknown point in her teaching career, certainly between 1927 and 1945, Professor Merrythought became the Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, taking ownership of Classroom 3C and an office on the sixth floor.

The Chamber of Secrets and retirement

Tom Riddle: "Sir, is it true that Professor Merrythought is retiring?"
Horace Slughorn: "Tom, Tom, if I knew I couldn’t tell you. I must say, I’d like to know where you get your information, boy, more knowledgeable than half the staff, you are."
— Tom Riddle questioning Slughorn about Merrythought[src]

Many years later, when Professor Dippet was Headmaster, Galatea became the teacher of a brilliant student named Tom Riddle. Her fellow colleagues, and possibly Galatea herself, had been impressed by Riddle's skills and determination, and taught him all they knew.

During her fifth year of teaching Riddle, the Chamber of Secrets was opened and many of her students were petrified. Eventually, a third-year named Rubeus Hagrid was accused of releasing Slytherin's monster from the Chamber and he was expelled.

It was during this year that Galatea decided to retire, whether it was because of these events or not, and she left the school the following year.

Magical abilities and skills


  • The surname Merrythought could imply that she was adept at conjuring the Patronus, which would fit with her having taught Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.
  • Her given name Galatea may well be derived from Greek mythology. In Ancient Greek, the root forms would be gala(-ktos), meaning "milk", and -tea, "white". There are three notable women in Greek mythology named Galatea:
    1. Galatea of Sicily, one of the fifty Nereids (daughters of Nereus and Doris), was courted by both Polyphemus and Acis.
    2. Galatea of Cyprus was the wife of King Pygmalion. Pygmalion was famous for having created a statue of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, that the goddess brought to life at his request. After receiving the gift of life, Galatea married the king.
    3. Galatea was the name of the wife of King Lamprus. Galatea prayed to the Greek goddess Leto to transform her daughter into a son so she would not have to sacrifice her according to the command of her husband. Leto granted Galatea's request.

Behind the scenes

"And I'll want Professor Merrythought's old office! Not the water closet I had before!"
Horace Slughorn[src]
  • In the sixth film, after finally agreeing to come back and teach at Hogwarts, Horace Slughorn demands that when he comes back to Hogwarts, he is given Merrythought's old office; however, this does not coincide with the book, in which he merely asks for a pay raise.
  • A woman is seen in Tom Riddle's memory in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film), this could possibly be Galatea.
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald revealed that Albus Dumbledore taught Defence Against the Dark Arts in the 1910s and 1920s, when Professor Merrythought already taught at Hogwarts. It's unknown if Professor Merrythought and Professor Dumbledore taught together or if she taught another subject before.


Notes and references

  1. As Galatea was employed at Hogwarts around 1895, she must have been of age (17) by then.
  2. "World Exclusive Interview with J K Rowling," South West News Service, 8 July 2000 - "Hogwarts just serves Britain and Ireland."
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 20 (Lord Voldemort's Request)
  4. "Advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts - 1910 Edition" from MinaLima Design (prop featured in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald)
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