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"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, showed the "deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts." The name "Erised" was "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 was intrinsically inherent for human nature to desire something greater than one's own self — meaning that an event wherein the mirror failed to carry out its intended purpose rarely, if at all, happened.[2]

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.[2]


Early history[]

"Men have wasted away before it, not knowing if what they have seen is real, or even possible."
— Albus Dumbledore explaining the danger of the mirror to Harry Potter[src]

The Mirror of Erised was created before the end of the nineteenth century. It is unknown who the creator was. The mirror was one of those magical artefacts that seemed to have been created in a spirit of fun (whether innocent or malevolent was a matter of opinion), because while it was much more revealing than a normal mirror, it was interesting rather than useful.[4]

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 were witnessing.[2]

It is unknown how it came to be at Hogwarts. A succession of teachers had 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.[4] The mirror had been kept in the Room of Requirement since around 1891.[4]

Global wizarding war[]

Dumbledore Mirror of Erised

Albus Dumbledore standing in front of the mirror and seeing his former best friend and lover, Gellert Grindelwald

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 had 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.[1]


Penny and Jacob's sibling before the Mirror of Erised in Herbology Classroom HM

The Mirror of Erised in the Herbology Classroom

During the 1987–1988 school year at Hogwarts, the Mirror of Erised was reported missing, much to Professor Dumbledore's concern. Several Hogwarts students including Jacob's sibling decided to locate the Mirror. After some research, Jacob's sibling and Penny Haywood found the Mirror of Erised in the Herbology Classroom, covered with a sheet before several potted plants, which Professor Sprout had placed there. After speaking to Sprout in the classroom, she admitted to taking the mirror but was upset over having any trouble by taking it, so she went with Jacob's sibling to speak with Dumbledore in the Headmaster's office, where she explained she took it after failing to nuture a Puffapod, and found that her heart's desire was being surrounded by flourishing plants.[5]

Mirror of Erised in Classroom 3C HM

The Mirror of Erised in Classroom 3C

However, when Sprout and Dumbledore went to return the Mirror in the Herbology Classroom, they found it vanished, much to their confusion. Jacob's sibling found the Mirror in the Owlery where their friend Talbott Winger had taken it to using magic. He told them he saw him standing with his deceased mother and father in the Mirror, with Tulip Karasu adding that she saw herself working for the British Ministry of Magic in the Mirror. Merula Snyde, Ismelda Murk and Barnaby Lee interrupted them with Merula declaring she and her gang intended to take the Mirror so they could see their hearts' desires. They took it to Classroom 3C, where Merula and her gang looked into the Mirror impulsively, where upon seeing their reflections, all left abruptly. Jacob's sibling later spoke to Barnaby in the Care of Magical Creatures paddock, where he told them he saw himself as the Care of Magical Creatures Professor at Hogwarts. Jacob's sibling later met with Ismelda and Merula in the Three Broomsticks Inn, where Ismelda told them how she saw herself telling everyone in her life how she felt over and over, with Merula commenting she saw herself with someone she though she would have never seen again, but refused to discuss any further.[5]

Mirror of Erised in the Headmaster's office HM

The Mirror of Erised in the Headmaster's office

After realising that some of their friends wanted to return the Mirror but others refused to part with their visions, Jacob's sibling and Penny spoke to Rubeus Hagrid, and after his advice (along with Dumbledore's), Jacob's sibling managed to persuade their friends in the Owlery not to rely on the Mirror's visions and to focus on their present lives. After returning it to Dumbledore in his office, Jacob's sibling was given the option by him to look into the Mirror or not, and Dumbledore gave them a miniature Mirror of Erised to remind them of their time spent with the Mirror, despite it not possessing the Mirror's magic.[5]


"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."
— Albus Dumbledore when he discovered that Harry had been using the Mirror[src]
Harry sees parents in Mirror of Erised

Harry Potter standing in front of the mirror and seeing himself with his dead parents, Lily and James

In 1991, Dumbledore 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.[4]

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.[2]

Dumbledore talking to Harry about the Mirror of Erised

Dumbledore advising Harry against seeking out the Mirror of Erised again

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 again. 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."[2] 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.[6] It is unknown if Grindelwald, as a redeemed man, was included in these later reflections.

The Philosopher's Stone[]

"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]
B1C17M1 Quirrell and Harry by the Mirror of Erised

Harry standing in front of the mirror and seeing himself holding the Philosopher's Stone

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.[3]

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.[3]

It is not known what happened to the mirror after these events. It might have stayed in the chamber or returned to its classroom.

The Calamity[]

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.[7]


"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 Mirror's powers to Harry Potter[src]

When someone looked into the the Mirror, it showed them a vision of their greatest desire upon its surface, often with them having achieved some goal or ambition, or, much more rarely (according to Dumbledore), reuniting with lost loved ones. Additionally, what a person desires most can change over time, and by extension, what a person saw in the Mirror can change.[2]

Since each person was unique, only they themselves could see their own greatest desire in the Mirror, and would likewise be unable to see the desire of anyone else who looked in the mirror.

According to Albus Dumbledore, the Mirror showed neither truth nor knowledge, only dreams. Dumbledore insisted that it's not good to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Many once great witches and wizards had previously wasted away in front of the Mirror, and some had even gone mad from their own longing.

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.[3]

Known desires[]

"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 seeing his extended family for the first time[src]
Person Date Desire
Albus Dumbledore
September, 1927 Himself with Gellert Grindelwald, his former lover.[1]
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.[2] 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.[8]
Pomona Sprout 1987–1988 school year A greenhouse full of flourishing plants.[5]
Talbott Winger Reunited with his deceased mother and father as a family.[5]
Tulip Karasu Working for the British Ministry of Magic[5]
Barnaby Lee Employed as the Care of Magical Creatures Professor at Hogwarts.[5]
Ismelda Murk Herself telling everyone in her life what she felt of them repeatedly.[5]
Merula Snyde Reunited with someone she thought she would never see again.[5]
Jacob's sibling United with their brother Jacob and Rowan Khanna.[5]
Jacob's sibling looking into the Mirror of Erised HM
Harry Potter 1991 His parents and extended family[2]
4 June, 1992 Himself shaking hands with Albus Dumbledore after winning the House Cup (a lie to Voldemort/Quirrell) [2]
Himself holding the Philosopher's Stone (he was able to get the stone because he had no intention of using it).[2]
1997 Lord Voldemort defeated and dead[9]
Hermione Granger Herself and her friends alive and unscathed, Voldemort defeated, and herself in a romantic embrace with Ron Weasley.[10][11]
Ron Weasley 1991 Himself as Quidditch Captain, Head Boy, standing apart from his brothers, and being better than all of them.[2]
Quirinus Quirrell 4 June, 1992 Himself presenting the Philosopher's Stone to his master, Lord Voldemort.[3]
Lord Voldemort 1997-1998 Himself, all powerful, more than anyone, immortal, and with no Harry Potter to stop him.[9][12](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[]

JKR Mirror of Erised illustration

An illustration of the mirror by J. K. Rowling

PS C12

The Mirror of Erised illustrated by Mary GrandPré

Screenshot 1012

The Mirror depicted in the console versions of the Philosopher's Stone video game

Mirror of Erised WU

The Mirror of Erised as seen in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

Mirror of Erised - PAS

Mirror of Erised as seen in Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells

  • 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.[13]
  • 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.[13]
  • 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.[14]
    • 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.[14]
    • 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.[14]
    • 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.[13]
  • 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."[15]
  • 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 Evil 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 simplified 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 could 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.

Author's comments[]

"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."[4]


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Notes and references[]