"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 is an omen of death, which is reputed to bring about the demise of the person who encounters it. The Grim takes the shape of a large, black, spectral dog. Perhaps the most well-known of omens,[1] the Grim has earned infamy throughout the wizarding world and is considered to be one of the worst, if not the worst, omens around.

Harry Potter's 'encounters'

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".[2] 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",[2] 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.

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.[3]

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,[4] 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(in the film, Harry saw it high in the clouds while chasing after the Golden Snitch, before having to dodge several Dementors, and eventually falling off his broom).


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

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 Ronald 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. 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 stalked out of class and never returned. 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".

Behind the scenes

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 explains the meaning of the Grim[src]
  • 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 Shuck of English folklore, or the Cù Sìth of Scottish mythology, black dogs which also signal death.
  • 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.
  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Grim is shown as a gigantic shadow in the sky, and not on the topmost seats in the Quidditch field.
  • The Grim may also be based on the Barghest, a large black dog in English legend.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, the Grim (Sirius Black) appears on a roundabout in the playground.
  • The Grim could be based off of the urban legend of Cadejo Negro, a large black dog with glowing red eyes that is said to kill travelers at night. This beast is said to be stopped by it opposite, the Cadejo Blanco who protects travelers.


Notes and references

  1. This is judging by the fact that in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban "nearly everybody else [in the class] clapped their hands to their mouths in horror" at the mention of the Grim, despite it being their first Divination lesson. Obviously the Grim must have enough renown so that even students know of it.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — The Knight Bus.
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — Talons and Tea Leaves.
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — Grim Defeat.
  5. Though Harry didn't die, or even see the real Grim, only Sirius Black, this may have heightened his belief in the existence of the Grim, as he was severely injured just seconds after witnessing what he believed to be the Grim.
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