Inspired by Does Hogwarts teach non magical classes question, as well as the Harry Potter series' supposed effect on children in introducing them to reading.

I'm curious whether there are mentions in the story / Word of God about wizards' knowledge of literature by authors known to Muggles. Like, say, Ron arguing with Neville about Nabokov, Hermione quoting 1984 at Umbridge, or Harry curling up with The Great Gatsby. Or a professor saying something in class that acknowledges the existence of great real-life literature. Or even JKR mentioning some specific Muggle book Dumbledore likes. Anything like that.

Basically, is there any specific word by JKR in books or exchanges to suggest that wizards read something other than news and magic-world-related things?

  • 26
    Dumbledore likes reading muggle knitting magazines
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 20:16
  • 22
    A wizard in the films is reading "A Brief History of Time"
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 20:16
  • 2
    @Valorum I suppose that seems a little unsatisfying. I guess I'm looking for mentions of great literature - i.e. creative fiction. The reason I'm asking about that is because of the seeming lack of core English classes at Hogwarts, and the supposed encouragement that Harry Potter provides to children to start reading books. I'll change the question to reflect that.
    – Misha R
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 20:21
  • 2
    Possible answer here? scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/57097/…
    – fez
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 20:32
  • 2
    harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_books - There's lots of books seen in the films and almost none mentioned in the books
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 20:41

4 Answers 4


Some do, at least.

In “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”, Dumbledore quotes the Muggle poet Alexander Pope.

“We may smile, a little sadly, at what this tells us about human nature. The kindest interpretation would be: “Hope springs eternal.”21

In the corresponding note, J.K. Rowling says that Dumbledore was familiar with the writings of this poet as well as being well-read in the wizarding world, and this implies it’s an intentional quote.

21 [This quotation demonstrates that Albus Dumbledore was not only exceptionally well-read in Wizarding terms, but also that he was familiar with the writings of Muggle poet Alexander Pope. — JKR]”
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Dumbledore was pro-Muggle and was a bit of a philomath in general, so it’s unclear exactly how common it is for wizards to read Muggle literature, but it’s possible even for someone who grew up entirely in the wizarding world to have read some Muggle literature as well.

  • 19
    Dumbledore: an unbelievably lonely man surrounded by fanatics and fireworks.
    – Misha R
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 1:00
  • 5
    Presumably Hermione Granger does too. And Harry might know some though even if he was inclined to being a bookworm he had a harsher upbringing. But your last point is also valid. He was after all pro-Muggle. Look at the way the Malfoy clan viewed Muggle ideas. Contempt at best. And although they were extremists (although Draco rather tried to break away from that some he still was obviously affected by his parents being that way and so not perfect) many were still contemptuous of Muggles.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 2:23
  • 7
    @Pryftan Hermione almost certainly would have - she was raised by Muggles, and so was Harry. Dumbledore having read Muggle literature shows that even someone who grew up in the wizarding world could find and read Muggle literature. Yes, I strongly suspect Dumbledore was willing to read it since he was pro-Muggle. I highly doubt that someone like Lucius Malfoy would bother with it. Noble pure-bloods would never read that Muggle filth! ;)
    – Obsidia
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 3:29
  • 5
    I don't know how familiar you'd need to be with Pope in order to quote the literally most famous sentence he ever wrote
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 11:46
  • 5
    @Valorum Quoting something he hasn't read feels very out of character for Dumbledore.
    – Misha R
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 12:32

Not children's stories, at least.

We find this dialogue in The Deathly Hallows:

He felt as though he were sitting in an examination with a question he ought to have been able to answer in front of him, his brain slow and unresponsive. Was there something he had missed in the long talks with Dumbledore last year? Ought he to know what it all meant? Had Dumbledore expected him to understand?
“And as for this book,” said Hermione, “The Tales of Beedle the Bard . . . I’ve never even heard of them!”
“You’ve never heard of The Tales of Beedle the Bard?” said Ron incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?”

Harry looked up, diverted. The circumstance of Ron having read a book that Hermione had not was unprecedented. Ron, however, looked bemused by their surprise.
“Oh come on! All the old kids’ stories are supposed to be Beedle’s, aren’t they? ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’ . . . ‘The Wizard and the Hopping Pot’ . . . ‘Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump’ . . .”
“Excuse me?” said Hermione, giggling. “What was that last one?"
“Come off it!” said Ron, looking in disbelief from Harry to Hermione. “You must’ve heard of Babbitty Rabbitty —”
“Ron, you know full well Harry and I were brought up by Muggles!” said Hermione. “We didn’t hear stories like that when we were little, we heard ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ and ‘Cinderella’ —”
“What’s that, an illness?” asked Ron.

“So these are children’s stories?” asked Hermione, bending again over the runes.
“Yeah,” said Ron uncertainly, “I mean, that’s just what you hear, you know, that all these old stories came from Beedle. I dunno what they’re like in the original versions.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 7: "The Will of Albus Dumbledore" (emphasis mine)

We can see from this that the Weaselys, at least, have never touched these, from which we can extrapolate that most Wizarding families won't have. And, extrapolating again, if they haven't heard of these fairy tales, it's highly unlikely that they'd have heard of other Muggle works.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 20:56
  • 15
    And especially since Arthur Weasley is so fascinated by Muggles, he'd probably be one of the most likely wizarding parents to have read these stories to his children, and since he evidently didn't, I think it's fair to assume that no other wizarding children would've heard these stories either. Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 21:26
  • I think it's unclear if Ron have never actually heard about 'Cinderella' or is he just mocking Muggle culture.
    – Agent_L
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 15:28

Wizard children get the ordinary Muggle-equivalent education up through about 5th or 6th grade. That's far enough to cover "The Three R's": Reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, to a reasonable if basic degree of proficiency in all of them. Beyond this, closest we see to a typical Muggle education is the number of essay-length and longer writing assignments.

One can understand why some of the other Muggle skills are neglected at this point. The further foundational math and science skills exist primarily to support engineering, and engineering in the magical world is in the main supplanted by magic. Want to build a bridge? Why learn geometry or materials science when you can just magic the bridge into place? Want to sell ball-point pens insted of quills? Why learn about inks or the physics of fluid dynamics when you can just magic the parts into place. Want to be a doctor? Why bother learning all that fuss about anatomy when you can just magically re-grow bones with a potion?

Which isn't to say the wizarding world neglects all science education. They just have a more-complete view of the natural world, and focus their time on (for their needs) the more practical areas of science. And so Potions replaces Chemistry, Charms replaces Physics, Herbology replaces Biology, Arithmancy replaces Calculus, and so on. You could make a good argument the wizard's school does a better job of teaching how the world actually works. It's not the wizards ignoring Muggle topics. They are at least aware the topics exist to some degree. Rather, it's the Muggles completely ignoring the magical aspects of the World.

Of course, that's not the whole of it. The wizarding world still functions on an economy. Wizard businesses still need to keep the books, and while basic arithmetic may be enough to get by in the highly-informal world shown to us by Ms Rowling, where everyone seems to know just about everyone else, the Muggle world teaches that those who know more math will be able to do better at business than those who don't, using data to do better at setting pricing, production levels, marketing, and all manner of other things.

We also only see the wizard's education system up through the High School level. We don't know what happens afterwards. For example, I'm sure Madam Pomfrey actually did spend quite a bit of time studying mundane anatomy before working in the Hogwarts hospital wing. If Ms Rowling ever really does want to extend the Harry Potter stories, I'm sure a 4-book series devoted to Harry's college years would be amazing.

But this question focuses specifically on literature, and this is the point that leaves me sad. I see no analogue in Hogwarts for literature at all. Forget Muggles; they don't seem to even study literature produced by wizards and witches.

  • 3
    The first book explains that wizards and witches are largely unskilled when it comes to science and logic, which is why Snape's challenge protecting the Sorceror's Stone was the most robust and it took an academic mind like Hermione's to get through it. Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 21:00
  • 1
    Rather than providing a more complete view of the natural world, magic largely invalidates science. They are opposites in a way. Except perhaps in the case of potions. Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 21:01

Do you know of great literature from other cultures?

How well-versed are you on great Arabic poets? On ancient Chinese tales? On Indian fables? Spanish? German? Russian? Colombian? Ugandan?

In general, all cultures tend to focus on their own literary outputs, often lumping the rest into subjects such as "World Literature" or the like.

My personal experience attending schools in different countries was very bizarre in this respect, seeming as if each lived in a different world where entirely different things mattered, from lauded poets to transcendent historical episodes, each society and culture had its own perspective, and often ignored whatever was beyond their borders.

For most wizards, Muggle culture at large would be uninteresting simply out of basic human cultural inertia, and only those with an interest in Muggles would make that extra effort to read up on it.

  • 2
    There are works of literature that are known internationally. For example, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Steinbeck were part of the curriculum in Hungary when my mom was in school, and she remembers reading Uncle Tom's Cabin at some point in her childhood. (All of that in translation, naturally.) This wasn't "extra effort", it was just part of growing up and getting an education.
    – Martha
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 16:11
  • I agree with that notion, but my personal experience has shown that is not always the case. In one particular case I remember a World Literature teacher skipping most of the content of the actual textbook to focus only on anglo-saxon literature, but the again, in other countries there wasn't even a focus on World Literature at all.
    – Oskuro
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 17:29
  • 1
    @Martha I agree with Oskuro when it comes about curriculum in Spain. Shakespeare is not in the curriculum. In fact, it's not just that foreign languages literatures aren't in the curriculum: authors in Catalan or Basque aren't mentioned since the subject is just Spanish literature (meaning literature in Spanish). As far as I remember, Dickens, Zola or la Chanson de Roland were only mentioned in one sentence giving the international context of their equivalent literary movement in Spain. Not very different from how Wizards deal with Muggle literature.
    – Pere
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 8:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.