This may sound like a bizarre question, but when I was rewatching the classic 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, I noticed something about this scene.

Nigel Tufnel: He just was like, a flash of green light, and that was it.

This struck me as sounding similar to the earliest descriptions of Avada Kedavra in the Harry Potter novels.

Harry first dreams of Avada Kedavra in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

... then Malfoy turned into the hook-nosed teacher, Snape, whose laugh became high and cold — there was a burst of green light and Harry woke, sweating and shaking.

Over and over again he dreamed about his parents disappearing in a flash of green light, while a high voice cackled with laughter.

The spell is actually first shown cast in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

There was a flash of blinding green light and a rushing sound, as though a vast, invisible something was soaring through the air....

The question of where the green-colored flash for the killing curse came from has been asked before, without a really compelling origin coming to light. (No pun intended.) However, it occurs to me that Rowling might have been (unconsciously, probably) influenced by This Is Spinal Tap, if she had seen it.

So, it is known whether Rowling had seen the movie when she started writing the Harry Potter series?

  • 44
    Also Harry is 11 in the first book. Coincidence, or design...?
    – Machavity
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 15:29
  • 8
    The question is more, which line is not taken from another work? The whole HP set of villains is the most trite of clichés... Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 10:49
  • She has borrowed from everyone and everything... including Hans Christian Andersen and Roald Dahl. She is the Noel Gallagher of children's stories. Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


She's certainly seen it, and it had influence on at least one aspect of her book writing, the curse against the DADA teachers.

QI Twitter: According to J.K. Rowling, the curse of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers was inspired by the Spinal Tap drummers regularly dying in bizarre circumstances.

JKR: Sad but true.

Per twitter


And Defence Against the Dark Arts was also fun because every year you had a new teacher. For the older members of the audience they will remember the Spinal Tap drummer ... and ... some of you do, clearly. (laughs) Well, when I planned the books I thought that every year we'll have a different Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, because the job was cursed, as you know.

J.K. Rowling answers questions at the White House Easter Egg Roll, 5 April 2010

With that in mind, it's not at all unlikely that the 'green flash' was also inspired by the same film.

You might also want to note a slightly later line in the same film;

Ian: The specific reason why he was knighted was for the founding of Hoggwood, which is a summer-camp for pale, young boys.

Hoggwood isn't a million miles from Hogwarts (linguistically speaking) and Draco Malfoy is persistently referred to as a "pale boy".

  • 14
    While I think you’ve answered the question as asked, it still feels like a real stretch to link avada kedavra to this scene. A flash of green light is an extremely generic description. The Death Star shot a flash of green light. And moreover the Spinal Tap flash was emitted by the person being killed, whereas Voldemort’s green flash is implied to come from the spell/wand.
    – jl6
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 19:04
  • 9
    @jl6 - A "flash of green light" (word for word, I might add) that kills someone? That sounds mighty coincidental, even if it was only a subconscious reference
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 19:05
  • 6
    Worth mentioning, sure. I just struggle to see why it is a more likely explanation than other SF examples of “green energy=evil” like the Death Star, Klingon/Borg disruptors, The Wicked Witch of the West, Kryptonite, The Riddler, ...
    – jl6
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 19:25
  • 8
    @jl6 - Because she said that this film was a key influence and she didn't say that the others were.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 19:33
  • 7
    More than that, she said that the specific point of how drummers regularly died was used as a plot element. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 21:14

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