Marjorie Eileen "Marge" Dursley was an English Muggle, who was Vernon Dursley's elder sister, sister-in-law to Petunia Dursley, and the aunt of Dudley Dursley. She had a career in breeding bulldogs, of which she owned twelve. Ripper, a particularly ferocious bulldog, was her favourite.
Marge was a spoiled, unpleasant and arrogant woman, whose wealth appeared to be great, as she gave her nephew Dudley expensive gifts. In 1993, she visited her brother Vernon for a week. She enraged Harry Potter when she spoke ill of his parents. This caused Harry's magical abilities to unintentionally erupt, which resulted in her body inflating. Her memory of this incident was later purged by the Ministry of Magic.
Marjorie went on to live in the country, in a house with a large garden where she bred bulldogs. She seemed to have a large amount of money, because she frequently bought her nephew, Dudley, expensive presents and was noted to be on holiday sometimes. She did not usually have time to cook. At some point in her life, she would live next to Fubster, a retired military colonel. She fell in love with Fubster but her attraction was unrequited, though the two still kept enough of a relationship for him to look after her dogs when she was away.
Early visits to Privet Drive
In June 1985, Marjorie went to Privet Drive to attend Dudley's fifth birthday party. She whacked Harry Potter, then four years old, around the shins with her walking stick to stop him from beating Dudley at musical statues.
Marge was present again at Dudley's tenth birthday party, when Harry was nine. Harry accidentally stepped on Ripper's paw, which caused the dog to chase Harry out into the garden and up a tree. Marge refused to call the dog off until past midnight, much to the Dursleys' delight.
On holiday at the Isle of Wight
- "Marge's ill. Ate a funny whelk..."
- —Marge's postcard to Vernon[src]
In June 1991, Marjorie travelled to the Isle of Wight. Unable to attend Dudley's eleventh birthday, she sent him a present. Whilst there, she fell ill after eating a "funny whelk" and wrote to the Dursleys to inform them about it.
Week at Privet Drive
- "Bad blood will out. Now, I'm saying nothing against your family, Petunia, but your sister was a bad egg. They turn up in the best families. Then she ran off with a wastrel and here's the result right in front of us."
- —Aunt Marge cruelly mocking the Potters[src]
During the summer of 1993, she stayed at the Dursleys' house for a week. Ignorant about Harry's "abnormality," Marge was told that Harry attended St Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys. She cruelly belittled Harry for the entire week that she was there – something that he took in stride. When she asked if the cane was used at St Brutus', she commented that she did not believe in not hitting people who deserved it. When she asked how often Harry was beaten and he casually replied "all the time." she insisted that the school was clearly not hitting him hard enough. She felt this way because Harry appeared too nonchalant in conveying the extent of his purported beatings.
She also delighted in comparing Harry to Dudley, and remarked about what made Harry such an unsatisfactory person. When Marge insulted his mother and his father, Harry accidentally lost control of his magic and blew her up like a balloon with an Inflating Charm. This caused her to float upwards towards the ceiling, forcing her brother, Vernon, to try and pull her down, only to be lifted up himself. Later, however, she was successfully punctured and her memory was modified by the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad from the Ministry of Magic, so she would have no recollection of the event.
After this, the Dursleys never invited Marge to stay again while Harry was in residence and he never saw her again.
Marge was described as resembling her brother: large, beefy, purple-faced, and even had a moustache, though not as bushy as his.
Personality and traits
- "I won't have this namby-pamby, wishy-washy nonsense about not hitting people who deserve it. A good thrashing is what's needed in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. Have you been beaten often?"
- —Aunt Marge antagonising Harry Potter[src]
Marge was an arrogant, spiteful, ignorant, abusive, selfish, cruel and vicious bully who seemed to brazenly take delight in making the lives of anyone she disliked miserable, given her spiteful, abusive treatment of Harry. In some respects she was even more horrible than her brother; although Vernon was likewise a bully to Harry, at the same time he preferred to avoid spending time with him whenever he could help it, which Harry was happy to comply with, while Marge seemed to want Harry under her watch at all times just so she could belittle him by spewing out suggestions about how he could improve himself. She ate and drank excessively and was, overall, a powerfully dominant woman who made even Vernon look weak and powerless.
Despite her fondness of bullying Harry and deeply unpleasant nature, she appeared to be on good terms with her like-minded brother, nephew, and sister-in-law, as shown when she assured Petunia that she "wasn't saying anything against her family" while calling Lily a "bad egg." However, it's implied that the Dursleys in return only tolerated Marge because she was Vernon's sister. Petunia, in particular, disliked Ripper making a mess in the house. Dudley only put up her kisses because he got paid for them. Even Vernon would make attempts to defuse Marge's attacks on Harry, by changing the subject or sending Harry out of the room, as he knew what Harry was capable of if he was pushed too far. When she visited, she always brought expensive gifts for Dudley (who only put up with her because he was well-paid for it), such as a computerised robot, and less satisfactory "gifts" for Harry such as a box of dog biscuits. It was unknown if Marge knew Harry's parents, but she constantly called them gross names (such as "good-for-nothing scrounger") and implied their uselessness to society (although technically, James Potter was unemployed, this was only because he was rich enough to not have to work). Marge also had no knowledge of Harry's magical heritage, which the rest of the Dursleys intended to keep secret.
While she was not a blood relative of Harry's, he grew accustomed to calling her Aunt Marge. She was generally very cruel to him and once allowed Ripper to chase him up a tree and refused to call him off until past midnight. She heavily favoured her nephew Dudley and even went as far as whacking a young Harry in the shins to stop him from beating Dudley at musical statues and also suggested that Harry be put into an orphanage instead of "being a burden" on the Dursleys. She finally pushed Harry too far when she insulted his dead parents to his face, showing that she was so unpleasant she could not even show respect for his loss at such a young age, much like her brother.
Much of Marge's reprehensible behaviour, however, was the result of having been shunned by Colonel Fubster, whom she was in love with, though it should be noted, that she was already a horrible enough person for Fubster to not wish to marry her on those grounds.
Marjorie is a variant of Margaret.
The name "Margaret" is derived from Latin Margarita, which was from Greek μαργαριτης (margarites) meaning "pearl", probably a borrowing from Sanskrit. Saint Margaret, the patron of expectant mothers, was martyred at Antioch in the 4th century. Later legends told of her escape from a dragon, with which she was often depicted in mediaeval art. The saint was popular during the Middle Ages, and her name has been widely used in the Christian world. "Eileen" is from Celtic, English and Irish roots and has a long-standing history in each culture. In Irish it is known as a variation of "Helen". It became a more popular name in the 19th century. It is rumoured to have roots in Latin, American, French and Greek cultures, however such claims are not backed up with much evidence. Another variation of this name is Eileene which is most commonly used in Ireland.
Other versions of Eileen; "Aileen" (Scottish), "Eibhlin" (the original source for the name), "Eila" (Celtic variant of both "Eileen" and "Aileen"), "Eireen" (Norwegian variant of "Irene" or "Eileen"), "Eleanor" (a similarly-rooted name to "Eileen" in Irish).
Dursley is a town in Gloucestershire, England. J. K. Rowling has commented that she visited the place as a child, and hated it, which likely affected her choice of surname for the awful family, remarking "I don't imagine I'm very popular in Dursley". The town is known for its Victorian history in coal mining. Rowling chose the name because it sounded "dull and forbidding".
Behind the scenes
- Aunt Marge was played by Pam Ferris in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, who also portrayed the cruel headmistress Miss Agatha Trunchbull in Matilda (1996) and Mrs White in the Third Series of Cluedo.
- Aunt Marge has been often compared by fans to Matilda's Miss Agatha Trunchbull not only due to the two being played by Pam Ferris but also to similar characteristics; both Trunchbull and Marge are hostile to the titular characters/protagonists (Matilda and Harry respectively), who in turn use magical powers to teach the antagonists painful lessons and to make them end their cruel acts and leave for good.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Marge could still speak while inflated, begging Vernon to help her and even screaming as she was floating. Harry also caused Marge to float outside along Privet Drive, while in the novel, she floated to the ceiling inside the house.
- Marge's personality was based on J. K. Rowling's grandmother, Frieda Volant.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Marge began to talk about Harry's parents when she found a picture of them.
- In the film, while Marge is considered to still be overweight, she is still noticeably slimmer compared to her brother, while in the book she was around the same size if not slightly larger. A more accurate way to describe her is thick in the film.
- In the film, Petunia was seen slowly waving goodbye to Marge as she floated away.
- In the book, Aunt Marge's tyranny to Harry lasted all week. In the film, all the incidents happened in the same day.
- Eileen Prince, the mother of Severus Snape, happened to share her first name with the middle name of Marjorie Dursley. Whether this was intentionally done by Rowling to provide an insight into a possible similarity in character, was unknown.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (Picture only)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 2 (Aunt Marge's Big Mistake)
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Marge Dursley" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3 (The Knight Bus)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 3 (The Letters from No One)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 2 (The Vanishing Glass)
- Margaret at Behind the Name
- 2001 BBC Online Chat
- 2000 article in The Daily Telegraph