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"The giant, spectral dog that haunts churchyards! My dear boy, it is an omen—the worst omen—of death!"
Sybill Trelawney discussing the Grim with Harry Potter[src]

The Grim was an omen of death, which was reputed to bring about the demise of the person who encountered it. The Grim took the shape of a large, black, menacing, spectral dog. A well-known omen, the Grim had earned infamy throughout the wizarding world and was considered to be one of the worst, if not the worst, omens around.[1]


Bilius's death[]

At one point in life prior to 1993, Ron Weasley's uncle Bilius was rumoured to have seen a Grim and died a day later.[1]

This was mentioned by Ron to his best friends Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in the 1993–1994 school year.[1]

Harry Potter's 'encounters'[]

"Oh, for goodness' sake! Not that ridiculous Grim again!"
— Hermione Granger, after Professor Trelawney claimed to see the Grim in Harry's crystal ball[src]

In 1993, after accidentally inflating his aunt, Marjorie Dursley, Harry Potter ran away from number 4 Privet Drive, and by the time he reached Magnolia Crescent he witnessed "the hulking outline of something very big, with wide, gleaming eyes". Shocked, he stepped backwards and fell off the curb, into the street, and inadvertently summoned the Knight Bus to his rescue. By the time Harry had got back up again, the creature has vanished. Harry, describing it as "like a dog... but massive",[3] departed for Diagon Alley. Whilst in Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley, he noticed a book, entitled Death Omens: What to Do When You Know the Worst is Coming with the front cover depicting a large black dog with gleaming eyes, strikingly similar to the one he witnessed on Magnolia Crescent.[4]

Tea leaves 1

The Grim in Harry's teacup during Divination

The term 'Grim' was only first mentioned to Harry by Professor Trelawney during a Divination lesson studying the art of Tessomancy. When the tea leaves revealed the Grim, a horrified Professor Trelawney informed Harry, that the Grim is the possible omen of death. Harry's stomach "lurched" upon remembering he had witnessed the dog at Magnolia Crescent.[1]

Later, during a Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff Quidditch match, Harry saw a "the silhouette of an enormous shaggy black dog" in the topmost empty row of seats, which wildly distracted him. When he glanced back, the dog had disappeared. Seconds later approximately one hundred Dementors entered the proximity of the stadium, causing Harry to fall unconscious, plummeting fifty feet from his broom.[5]

The 'Grim' Harry witnessed on multiple occasions was revealed to be Sirius Black in his Animagus form, who had recently escaped from Azkaban Prison.[6] Therefore, Harry actually never witnessed the Grim, only believing he had done so. Although he was prophesied the Grim by Trelawney, like many of her other prophecies, it did not come true.

Biology and physical description[]

The Grim took the form of a jet-black dog of giant, bear-like size, and was pertained to be spectral. It had a pair of yellow eyes that could gleam in an ominous way.

Scepticism regarding the Grim[]

"There you are then. They see the Grim and die of fright. The Grim's not an omen, it's the cause of death!"
Hermione Granger arguing with Ron Weasley[src]

Hermione Granger highly doubted the Grim's status as an omen of death, thinking that if the Grim even existed, it was most likely the cause of death rather than an omen, as people who ever saw it would die of fear; she took Ron's claim that his Uncle Bilius died twenty-four hours after seeing a Grim as proof to her belief.[1] She also grew so tired of Professor Trelawney's continuous predictions regarding the Grim, such that when she claimed to see it in a crystal ball, she stormed out of the class and never returned.[7] Also, the assistant in Flourish and Blotts may have expressed a degree of scepticism, as he discouraged Harry from buying Death Omens: What to Do When You Know the Worst is Coming, saying "Oh, I wouldn't read that if I were you. You'll start seeing death omens everywhere, it's enough to frighten anyone to death".[4] However, it is also true that Harry eventually did die a violent death during the Battle of Hogwarts, thus one can argue, the Grim did bring about his demise - though the question, whether or not the Grim referred to that event, thus proving itself to be a real omen, remains an open one.

Behind the scenes[]


Mary GrandPré header artwork of "Grim Defeat" chapter

Seamus Finnigan: "The Grin? What's the Grin?"
Bem: "Not the Grin, you idiot. The Grim. "Taking the form of a giant spectral dog, it's among the darkest omens in our world. It's an omen...of death."
Bem explaining the meaning of the Grim[src]
  • As the only known "Grim" in the series was revealed to be Sirius Black in Animagus form, it is not known if the Grim actually exists within the Harry Potter universe. Ron's belief that his uncle died after seeing the entity suggests that this may be the case, however it's unknown how accurate his belief is. The reputed sighting may be due to superstition or an inaccurate family legend. It may also be that Billus imagined or hallucinated seeing the Grim, as he was described as having gone "loopy" towards the end of his life, and emotions caused by this hallucination triggered a health condition that lead to his death; or his death may have been coincidental.
  • Should the Grim truly exist, he may be an example of an animal ghost.
  • The chapter in which Harry falls from his broom during a Quidditch match after seeing what he believed to be the Grim is aptly named "Grim Defeat".
  • The Grim appears to be based on the Black Dog of folklore, spirits or demons that take the form of a monstrous black hound and are said to be an omen of death. Examples include Black Shuck and the Barghest of English folklore, or the Cù-sìth of Scottish legend.
  • The Grim's habit of haunting church yards could be a reference to the Church Grim of Scandinavian and English folklore. A guardian spirit created by burying a black dog alive when a new church was founded.
  • The Grim could be based on the urban legend of Cadejo Negro, a large black dog with glowing red eyes that is said to kill travellers at night. This beast is said to be stopped by it opposite, the Cadejo Blanco who protects travellers.
  • The Grim being a large black dog and the black shuck appear to be no coincidence as Black's nickname is Padfoot, this being one of the many alternate names of 'black ghostly dog' figures, and Black's transformed appearance is like that of the Grim.
  • During the Gryffindor vs Hufflepuff Quidditch match in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Grim is shown as a cloud formation in the sky, visible during a lightning strike, but then the clouds are blown away. In the book and video game, the Grim is seen standing on the topmost seats in the Quidditch field.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, the Grim (Sirius Black) appears on a roundabout in the playground.


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 6 (Talons and Tea Leaves)
  2. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3 (The Knight Bus)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 4 (The Leaky Cauldron)
  5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9 (Grim Defeat)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 17 (Cat, Rat and Dog)
  7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 15 (The Quidditch Final)