In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Professor McGonagall is described as having black hair which would imply that she was at most middle-aged. Other characters of age were given grey or white hair. (Madam Hooch, Prof. Dumbledore)

The door swung open at once. A tall, black-haired witch in emerald-green robes stood there. She had a very stern face and Harry's first thought was that this was not someone to cross. "The firs' years, Professor McGonagall," said Hagrid.

-Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The answer to this question includes a quote by JKR from 2000 that Professor McGonagall was "a sprightly seventy."

Was she always intended to be this old (her hair color really is the only indication of a younger age) or was her age adjusted due to further character development or to reflect the casting of Maggie Smith?

  • 1
    Dumbledore is most certainly not of that age. Madam Hooch was born before 1901, so is at least 90
    – CHEESE
    Jan 5, 2017 at 20:16
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of When was Professor McGonagall born?
    – CHEESE
    Jan 5, 2017 at 20:17
  • ummm. I know several people under twenty with grey hair. Grey hair or the lack thereof is not a very afirmative characteristic of age. Jan 5, 2017 at 20:21
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    @MatrimCauthon Gray/grey hair would seem like a good indicator of age when used as a descriptor in a book, however. The fact that JKR didn't use gray/grey but rather black is at the very least, interesting. Jan 5, 2017 at 20:24
  • @CHEESE - that comes from a video game. Is her age referred to in books, or at least films? Jan 5, 2017 at 20:51

2 Answers 2


A quote from JKR herself in the question to which you linked reads:

Wizards have a much longer life expectancy than Muggles. (Harry hasn't found out about that yet.)

Dumbledore, for example, is able to do stuff actively, such as run into caves and grab Horcruxes, at his ripe old age of one hundred fifty. Armando Dippet apparently lived for like 350 years and was still functioning until he died. So it's possible that she could be 70 and not have gray hair. But we don't need to speculate. The accepted answer to the question you linked correctly states that she was 56 when Harry met her first, which, even for Muggles, is well within the non-gray hair range.

Dumbledore and Madam Hooch are not in that range; Dumbledore being over 100, Madam Hooch being at least 90.

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    The only evidence for Armando Dippet's age is his appearance on a poorly thought out movie prop. Hardly something that should be considered canon.
    – ibid
    Jan 5, 2017 at 21:57

Wizards live far longer than Muggles. Dumbledore was over a hundred at the start of the series and Bathilda Bagshot was over two hundred, and physically they were closer to 80 and 90-year old Muggles. Presumably if they can slow the aging process, they can slow the outward effects as well.

When Harry sees Dumbledore in Tom Riddle's Diary, he has red hair rather than white:

Then, as though he had suddenly reached a decision, he hurried off, Harry gliding noiselessly behind him. They didn’t see another person until they reached the entrance hall, when a tall wizard with long, sweeping auburn hair and a beard called to Riddle from the marble staircase. “What are you doing, wandering around this late, Tom?”

Harry gaped at the wizard. He was none other than a fifty-year-younger Dumbledore.

In the interview you link to, she said that Dumbledore was 150 in present-day (she went back on that after the series was published, saying he was around 110). That means that at the time of publication, she wrote a 100-year-old Dumbledore having red hair. McGonnagal staying black at only 70 isn't that far-fetched.

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