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Rephrasing, do any of the Harry Potter books create situations which conflict with earlier and/or later canon? What are the more conflicting or note-worthy examples?

It's been quite a few years since I last browsed the books and I never was a cult-tier enthusiast, but as the saying goes, the devil lies in the details.

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Yes. Yes they do. –  Simon Jun 9 at 15:12
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Thank you for your input, that's much appreciated. –  Nit Jun 9 at 15:13
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If there isn't a better answer than what I can post I shall do one tomorrow. For now I figured you'd like a quick answer at the moment I don't have time to do a proper one. I imagine @alexwlchan may come and demonstrate his talent for great answers. –  Simon Jun 9 at 15:15
    
Two words : Time Turner... –  Richard Jun 9 at 15:21
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This answer has never been more appropriate to explain canon discrepancies: "a wizard did it". –  Schwern Jun 9 at 17:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 28 down vote accepted

Yes, definitely.

What follows is not an exhaustive list, but should give you some idea of the sort of discrepancies and mistakes that exist.

  • The most significant example comes from Goblet of Fire. In an early printing of the book, in the scene where Voldemort’s victims emerge from his wand, James came out before Lily, despite Lily having been killed more recently. This was revised in later printings.

    See the question Why did Harry's father emerge before his mother in HP and the Goblet of Fire? for more details.

  • @DVK asked a question about six months ago about discrepancies between the main seven books, and the supplementary books Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch through the Ages and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

    My answer to Are there any discrepancies between HP1-HP7 and supplementary books? contains a list of the slip-ups that I know about.

  • Pottermore has also thrown up some discrepancies between the books, and the “word of God” additional text and interviews by JK Rowling. See @Slytherincess’s Meta question What is the best way to deal with complicated canon discrepancies when answering questions? which highlights one such example.

  • The Harry Potter Wiki isn’t generally considered canonical or accurate on this site, but their list of mistakes in the Harry Potter books is probably the closest to an exhaustive list that you’ll find. (Asking for the complete list on this site would almost certainly be closed as “too broad”.)

  • A running joke on this site is that JK Rowling’s maths is patchy, at best.

    For example, dates just don’t work. We know from Nearly Headless Nick’s deathday party in Chamber of Secrets that the books take place in the 1990s, but then weekdays don’t match, and the time between dates isn’t consistent with any known calendar. (See my answer to Do wizards use the same calendar as muggles? for one such example.) Related to dates are ages, which are sometimes inconsistent from book-to-book. The HP Wiki has a more complete list of dating contradictions.

    From an FAQ page on JK Rowling’s website, addressing one particular dating mistake:

    Maths is not my strong suit (though it's better than my geography, as those who have found the most recent Easter Eggs might already know).

    Another fairly obvious one is the size of the castle compared to the yearly intake. The school is far too small to merit such large premises, and the size of the magical population in Britain is unsustainably small.

    Searching this site is bound to find you other examples of JK Rowling’s dodgy maths.

  • Finally, JK Rowling has acknowledged, on multiple occasions, that there are mistakes in the books. From another FAQ page on her website:

    How do you remember everything from different books when you are still writing the HP series?

    As obsessive fans will tell you, I do slip up! Several classrooms move floors mysteriously between books and these are the least serious continuity errors! Most of the fansites will point you in the direction of my mistakes. But the essentials remain consistent from book to book because the story has been plotted for a long time and it is clear in my mind.

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@Simon: Do we ever hear that the 1st falls consistently on a Monday? (Not doubting you; I just don’t remember this point.) –  alexwlchan Jun 9 at 15:36
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Wish I could give a bounty to this.... –  DVK Jun 9 at 15:39
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Well, term always starts on the 1st of September and they always have lessons the next day, which doesn't really match up. That simply wouldn't happen in the six years Harry was there, because the 1st would land on a Friday or Saturday (so no classes the next day) at some point. It's possible the wording in some of the books is sufficiently vague to allow for a favourable interpretation, somebody would have to check them. –  Anthony Grist Jun 9 at 15:46
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The classrooms at least we can forgive. With all the things that move about, staircases that shift from floor to floor, rooms that can be practically anything, to say nothing of hidden passages, it's a wonder Hogwarts students make it to their class at all! –  Zibbobz Jun 9 at 16:05
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@Mallow the wizard world is a pocket of the muggle world. Wizard Government works closely with Muggle Government. Cultures overlap a lot. No reason they (UK wizards) would have a different calendar. Now an Islamic wizard community... –  cde Jun 9 at 23:48

The most common type of contradiction is when a statement in an interview with Rowling is contradicted by a later book. Here are some famous cases.

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TVTropes has a good example on a retcon:

In the first book Rowling had Voldemort tell Harry that his father "put up a courageous fight" before he died, and there was no reason for him to lie to Harry at this point (although it's not inconceivable that he was exaggerating). Seven books on, James Potter is killed in flashback without raising so much as a finger against Voldemort, though James did try to hold him off, but was killed quickly, having forgotten his wand.

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He said courageous, not effective. –  Harry Johnston Jun 10 at 4:04
    
@HarryJohnston maybe its a difference in culture, but hearing "put up a courageous fight" implies it wasn't a one sided Battleship vs literal Pea Shooter fight. Courageous, not so foolish it was pitiful. Otherwise, wouldn't Voldy rub it in Harry's face, considering the typically disney villain status that Voldy holds? –  cde Jun 10 at 4:30
    
Harry's parents had already defied Voldemort three times (per the prophecy). Perhaps that's what Voldemort was referring to? –  Joe White Jun 10 at 13:21

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