- "The Mirror of Erised is an ancient, ornate mirror. It has clawed feet and a gold frame inscribed with the phrase " Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi." The mirror shows the most desperate desire of a person's heart, a vision that has been known to drive men mad."
- — Description[src]
The Mirror of Erised was a magical mirror, which, according to Albus Dumbledore, shows the "deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts." The name "Erised" is "desire" spelled backwards, as if reflected in a mirror. The happiest and most satisfied person in the world would look in the mirror and see a reflection of them, exactly as they were, for they would then have no one and nothing more to yearn or desire for that the mirror could ever show them. But of course, it is intrinsically inherent for human nature to desire something greater than one's own self - meaning that an event wherein the mirror fails to carry out its intended purpose rarely, if at all, happens.
The writing engraved on the frame of the mirror was supposedly in a foreign and probably dead language, but if one looked closely it said "I show not your face but your heart's desire" backwards, with the spaces rearranged. Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
The Mirror of Erised was created before the end of the nineteenth century. It is unknown who the creator was. The mirror is one of those magical artefacts that seems to have been created in a spirit of fun (whether innocent or malevolent is a matter of opinion), because while it is much more revealing than a normal mirror, it is interesting rather than useful.
Indeed, it became grimly apparent over the years that the mirror could bring more harm than good; many wasted their lives before the mirror, losing track of reality as they were deluded by what they saw and unable or unwilling to accept it as mere fantasy. Some were even driven mad by seeing their most desperate desire presented before them as a mere image confined within the frames of the mirror, unable to achieve what they are witnessing.
It is unknown how it came to be at Hogwarts. A succession of teachers have brought back interesting artefacts from their travels, so it might have arrived at the castle in this casual manner, either because the teacher knew how it worked and was intrigued by it, or because they did not understand it and wished to ask their colleagues' opinions. The Mirror had been kept in the Room of Requirement since around 1891.
In September of 1927, the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor Albus Dumbledore looked into the mirror and saw his former best friend, Gellert Grindelwald, indicating he still has lingering feelings for him, as well an old memory of himself and Grindelwald in a barn where they made a blood pact; swearing an oath never to fight each other, showing that Albus still valued that memory, manifested before him by the mirror as his greatest desire, of the time when his friendship with Gellert was at its strongest that led to the two of them cementing it with the pact in the first place.
64 years later, in 1991, Dumbledore, now headmaster, had brought it out, and, tucking it out of sight in a disused classroom, initiated some key modifications to the mirror, so that it could hide the Philosopher's Stone.
- "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."
- — Albus Dumbledore, when he discovers that Harry has been using the Mirror[src]
The Mirror was discovered by Harry Potter on the night that he used his father's Invisibility Cloak for the first time, to search the restricted section of the library for information about Nicolas Flamel. In his attempt to stay hidden from Argus Filch, the school caretaker, he stumbled upon the classroom where the mirror was being stored. Upon looking into it, Harry saw his late parents, Lily and James Potter. On his next midnight visit to the mirror, he brought Ronald Weasley, hoping to show him his family. However, Ron saw himself as the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and Head Boy, holding up the Quidditch Cup, as he has always been overshadowed by his brothers and is always striving to be noticed by others.
Over the next few days, Harry proceeded to visit it as often as he could to see his parents' faces; the Mirror also occupied his thoughts beyond anything else, to the extent that he disregarded Ron's warning that he was growing obsessed with it. Dumbledore found Harry visiting the mirror one night, and after explaining to Harry what the mirror was all about, told him that the mirror was to be moved and requested that Harry not go looking for it. Before heading back to bed, Harry asked Dumbledore what he saw when he looked into the mirror. Dumbledore claimed to see himself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks, telling Harry that "one can never have enough socks." If this had been true, it would suggest that Dumbledore was so content with life that the only things he wished for were small things. However, Dumbledore was lying — the matter being a very personal one. Unbeknownst to Harry, for a long time, Dumbledore’s greatest desire was to be with his former lover, Gellert Grindelwald. But, by 1998, as revealed to Harry, Dumbledore, having come to terms with his guilt over his sister’s death, saw his family whole and intact, free of any pain or suffering. It is unknown if Grindelwald, as a redeemed man, was included in these later reflections.
- "He saw his reflection, pale and scared-looking at first. But a moment later, the reflection smiled at him. It put its hand into its pocket and pulled out a blood-red stone. It winked and put the Stone back in its pocket — and as it did so, Harry felt something heavy drop into his real pocket. Somehow — incredibly — he’d gotten the Stone."
- — Harry gaining the Philosopher's stone by looking into the Mirror of Erised[src]
In 1992, the Mirror was the final guardian of the Philosopher's Stone in its Chambers. Dumbledore placed an enchantment on the mirror, hiding the stone inside of it, and allowing the mirror to transfer the stone only to one who wanted to find the stone but not to use it. Anybody wishing more than simply to find it would see themselves making gold or the Elixir of Life, or in Professor Quirrell's case presenting the stone to his master. This is because the greatest desire of anyone wanting to use the stone would not have their greatest desire to be finding it in the first place; anyone just wanting to find the stone but not use it would thus have their greatest desire to find the stone thus have their wish granted.
When Professor Quirrell ordered Harry to look into the mirror, Harry focused on finding the stone, and, uninterested in actually using the stone for his own purposes, saw his reflection pocketing the stone, at which time it magically appeared in his real pocket.
It is not known what happened to the mirror after these events. It might have stayed in the chamber or returned to its classroom.
During the Calamity which mysteriously happened across the Wizarding world in the 2010s, the Mirror of Erised was one of the numerous magical artefacts and items that were displayed across the world as Foundables. Volunteer wizards and witches had to cast spells to banish the Confoundables guarding them, to return the Foundables to their rightful places of belonging.
- "Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help?"
- — Albus Dumbledore explaining the Mirrors powers to Harry Potter[src]
The Mirror shows the greatest desire of the one looking into it upon its surface, often with them having achieved some goal or ambition. However, since each person is unique, only they can likewise see it from their point of view and no one else. According to Albus Dumbledore, the Mirror shows neither truth nor knowledge (though it can if the subject being or question what is is it that the person most desires), and some have in fact gone mad from staring at it. Additionally, in time what a person sees in the Mirror can change, if that person's greatest desire changes. Dumbledore later bewitched the Mirror to hold the Philosopher's Stone, where the only one who could retrieve it from the Mirror would be one who wanted to find the Stone but not use it or have it used.
- "And slowly, Harry looked into the faces of the other people in the mirror, and saw other pairs of green eyes like his, other noses like his, even a little old man who looked as though he had Harry's knobbly knees — Harry was looking at his family, for the first time in his life."
- — Harry sees his extended family for the first time[src]
|September, 1927||Himself with Gellert Grindelwald, his former lover.|
|1991||(Purportedly) A pair of thick, white woollen socks. However, this was in response to a question of Harry's after learning the purpose behind the mirror. Dumbledore stated that he had so many books he could not possibly make use of them all, but a good pair of socks would be a nice gift. However, Dumbledore's simple desire may have also been intended to dissuade Harry from seeking further use of the mirror.|
|1991 or earlier-1997||(Correctly) His family alive, whole and happy — Percival and Kendra all returned to him, Ariana properly using magic and alive, and Aberforth reconciled to him.|
|Harry Potter||1991||His parents and extended family|
|4 June, 1992||Himself shaking hands with Albus Dumbledore after winning the House Cup (a lie to Voldemort/Quirrell) |
|Himself holding the Philosopher's Stone (he was able to get the stone because he had no intention of using it).|
|1997||Lord Voldemort defeated and dead|
|Hermione Granger||Herself and her friends alive and unscathed, Voldemort defeated, and herself in a romantic embrace with Ron Weasley.|
|Ron Weasley||1991||Himself as Quidditch Captain, Head Boy, standing apart from his brothers, and being better than all of them.|
|Quirinus Quirrell||4 June, 1992||Himself presenting the Philosopher's Stone to his master, Lord Voldemort.|
|Lord Voldemort||1997-1998||Himself, all powerful, more than anyone, immortal, and with no Harry Potter to stop him. (theoretical)|
The word "Erised" (pronounced eer-eh-said) is "desire" spelled backwards, meaning the name could also be known as the "Mirror of Desire". The backwards spelling symbolises how mirror reflections flip images around (for example, "erised" when reflected in a mirror spells "desire"). However, because this is no ordinary mirror, the text also shows how the mirror is very different from standard mirrors, in the way that it shows the inner desires and not the outside appearance of a person.
Behind the scenes
- Albus Dumbledore lied to Harry Potter in 1991 about what he saw in the Mirror.
- The quote "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi" on the mirror mentioned by Dumbledore reversed is "ishow no tyo urfac ebu tyo urhe arts desire", which with proper spacing becomes "I show not your face but your heart's desire".
- The Mirror of Erised can probably be considered to be an enchanted mirror, albeit an unparalleled advanced one.
- Contrary to Dumbledore's words, the mirror does give its users knowledge, as it shows them what they want the most, even if they do not know for certain. Stranger still, it is implied that the picture of his family Harry Potter saw in the mirror was accurate, even though he could not possibly have known what his grandparents and other distant relatives looked like beforehand.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Ron sees himself in a Gryffindor Quidditch team uniform while receiving a kiss on the cheek from Hermione Granger.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, when Harry touches Quirrell's/Voldemort's face and vanquishes him, his parents applaud in the mirror. When Harry is knocked unconscious and Voldemort's disembodied soul fails to grab the stone, his parents laugh at Voldemort's defeat.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, when Harry finds the lost diadem in the Room of Requirement, Draco (along with Goyle and Blaise) stands in the way of Harry's progress. Behind them the mirror can be seen among a pile of other hidden objects. Thus, it is quite obvious it was destroyed with everything else in the room by Goyle's spell, unless the prop was being reused as an easter egg for the fans. Neither is yet to have been confirmed.
- In the video game adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the mirror is shown with the ability to reflect spells, which is often used as a way to defeat Quirrell/Voldemort; how this often occurs varies:
- In the PC and GBA versions of The Philosopher's Stone, Harry must use the proper side of the mirror itself to deflect Quirrell's spells back at him in the second phase of the battle. In both cases, he must cast the Knockback Jinx on it to orient it properly.
- The PS2, Xbox and Gamecube versions instead involve having Harry stay close to the mirror, with Quirrell deeming that its power is protecting him; this is indicated with a white trail of magic connecting Harry to the mirror if he stays within a certain range of it, allowing him to absorb Quirrell's main offensive spell with no damage and to fire it back at him.
- The PS1 version instead, involves Harry charging the mirror with a spell cast at it; a second one right after fires a beam straight from it that can damage Quirrell, but the mirror is unable to be oriented and Quirrell must be in proper position.
- However, the only exceptions so far are in the GBC version of the game and in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, where Quirrell is engaged in direct combat with the mirror having no involvement in the battle.
- In 2003, J. K. Rowling said that she would probably see herself as she is in the Mirror, because she had had another child, David Rowling Murray, just a few months before. She also added that she would like to see her mother alive again, and would hope that "there'd be room over [her] shoulder to see a scientist inventing a cigarette that would be healthy" and "a particular journalist being boiled in oil."
- The Mirror is possibly inspired by the magic mirrors in classic fairy tales such as Snow White, in which the desire of the story's antagonist, The Queen, is to be the fairest in the kingdom.
- The scene where Harry sees his parents in the mirror for the first time makes an appearance in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix during Harry's Occlumency lessons with Snape.
- The Mainland Chinese version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone included various footnotes from the translator explaining various aspects of British culture to Chinese readers. The footnote for the Mirror of Erised's inscription incorrectly claims that it is a secret Taoist charm.
- The Mirror of Erised can be considered the polar opposite of a Boggart; though both have identical abilities, the Mirror shows the person's deepest desire while a Boggart shows their deepest fear. They are, of course, set apart by the fact that Boggarts are a type of creature, whereas the Mirror is merely an object, which has never shown any sort of personality or personal volition.
- In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the Mirror of Erised depicts both Albus Dumbledore together with Gellert Grindelwald and the two of them forming their blood pact, despite the latter simply being a re-enactment of something which had already happened, rather than something which Dumbledore desired. Though it is possible that the mirror reflected the desire of being in a similar situation again.
"Albus Dumbledore's words of caution to Harry when discussing the Mirror of Erised express my own views. The advice to 'hold on to your dreams' is all well and good, but there comes a point when holding on to your dreams becomes unhelpful and even unhealthy. Dumbledore knows that life can pass you by while you are clinging on to a wish that can never be - or ought never to be - fulfilled. Harry's deepest yearning is for something impossible: the return of his parents. Desperately sad though it is that he has been deprived of his family, Dumbledore knows that to sit gazing on a vision of what he can never have, will only damage Harry. The mirror is bewitching and tantalising, but it does not necessarily bring happiness."
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film) (Flashback on Disc 2)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
- LEGO Harry Potter
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- LEGO Creator: Harry Potter
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Harry Potter Trading Card Game
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault (Mentioned only)
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
- Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 12 (The Mirror of Erised)
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "The Mirror of Erised" at Wizarding World (transcription available here)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay, Scene 73
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King's Cross)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
- Bloomsbury.com Webchat with J.K. Rowling, 30 July 2007
- 16 July 2005 Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview with J.K. Rowling
- Accio Quote: Hermione Granger
- It is unknown if Hermione ever looked into the Mirror of Erised; J. K. Rowling only confirmed what Hermione would see if she looked into it.
- It is unknown if Voldemort ever looked into the Mirror of Erised; J. K. Rowling only confirmed what he would see if he looked into it.
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game)
- "Fry, Stephen, interviewer: J.K. Rowling at the Royal Albert Hall, 26 June 2003" at Accio Quote