Harry ended Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as he did the previous novels, by saying his goodbyes to his friends and discussing his plans for the summer vacation. This year, he intends as usual to return to the Dursleys’ for two weeks as he promised Dumbledore he would do. But before Ron could remind him that he must attend his brother Bill and Fleur’s wedding, Harry also announced that he intended to go to Godric’s Hollow: “For me, it started there, all of it. I’ve just got a feeling I need to go there.” 1 This, then, sets the scene for the last book of the series, the book in which we know that Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort will face each other and one of them, or perhaps even both, will die.
Godric’s Hollow is the name of the Muggle village where Harry’s parents went into hiding, protected by a Fidelius Charm, after Dumbledore warned them that the Dark Lord Voldemort intended to kill them. After the betrayal of their location by a trusted friend, Voldemort appeared at the house in Godric’s Hollow and murdered Lily and James Potter but failed to also kill Harry.
Harry must return to Godric’s Hollow because something there will help him in his quest to find the missing Horcruxes and destroy them (rendering Lord Voldemort mortal once more) before the Dark Lord tracks him down and finally kills him. We know so little about this place – its location and why it is significant – but there are some clues.
When Hagrid flew to Surrey with baby Harry, he said that Harry fell asleep over Bristol.2 To many of us, this pointed to Godric’s Hollow being a Welsh village. However, after examining British history, clues from the books, and interviews with J.K. Rowling, I feel certain that that there is a much more likely candidate for Godric’s Hollow in Gloucestershire: Lydney in the Forest of Dean.
Godric’s Hollow is connected to and must have been named after one of the founders of Hogwarts. We know this because J.K. Rowling confirmed it in a CBBC interview in 2000.
The significance of the place where Harry and his parents lived – the first name...
JKR: Godric Gryffindor. Very good, you’re a bit good you are aren’t you. I’m impressed.
You’re not going to tell me but…
JKR: My editor didn’t, I said to her – Haven’t you noticed the connection between where Harry’s parents lived and one of the Hogwarts houses? And she said no, no – I’m not being rude about Emma, she’s a brilliant editor, the best ever. But no she didn’t pick that up either, you’re a bit good you are.3
Hogwarts itself was founded “over a thousand years ago.” 4 At that point in history, England was largely in Anglo-Saxon hands. The Welsh and the Scots still resisted invasion. The Vikings were harrying the coast and had established a kingdom around York, but most of what we now call England was the domain of the various Angle and Saxon kings.5
Due to the successive waves of invasion in the island of Albion, the nationality of a name gives clues to the location in the United Kingdom and time in history. Godric is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning “power of God.” 6 Gryffindor, however, is an invented last name and so cannot absolutely identify Godric Gryffindor as an Anglo-Saxon.
There is an Anglo-Saxon poem called The Battle of Maldon about an attack by the Vikings on the Britons, most of whom were at this time united under the Mercian/Wessex kingdoms. After the death of the Earl of Essex Beornhtoth, one Godric distinguishes himself with his courage by leading the men who did not run away, but fought until the last man was standing. The poem fragment that remains ends with praise for Godric’s courage, “he was not the Godric who escaped from the fight.” 7 That the battle of Maldon took place is accepted as a fact and the date is given as 991 A.D.8 This is close to the time of the founding of Hogwarts and helps to place Godric, with his revealing first name, in England itself. More importantly, it helps to place him in the kingdoms of Mercia/Wessex in the southern part of England. Godric Gryffindor was known for his courage, as is Harry Potter, which fits in well with the Saxon heroic code and his identification as a Saxon.9
Although the Battle of Maldon takes place on the southeast coast of England, the area around the Severn Estuary was subjected to Viking attacks as well. There is one notable battle in 914 in which the Bishop of Ergying was captured by the Vikings, but the Mercians were successful in driving the Vikings out of Hereford and Gloucester nevertheless.10 Perhaps our Godric distinguished himself at one such battle and thereby was honoured by having a town named after him. There is no doubt that Lydney, or Lindenee as it was called then, was already a town at the time of the Domesday Book.11
On the biography page of J.K. Rowling’s web site, she says that “around my ninth birthday we moved for the last time, to Tutshill, a small village just outside of Chepstow, in Wales.” 12 Perhaps she meant that Chepstow is in Wales and not Tutshill, as she appears to be saying. In either case, there is a structure called Offa’s Dyke which runs alongside Tutshill, Gloucestershire, where Rowling lived until she went to Exeter University. Offa’s Dyke was named for the Saxon King of Mercia who, late in the eighth century and well before Hogwarts was built, constructed a boundary and a defensive work between Wales and his kingdom; the dyke runs northwards from the River Wye, in the south, to the Dee Estuary in the north for about 240 kilometres, although not continuously.13 “It was customary for the English to cut off the ears of every Welshman who was found to the east of the dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman whom they found to the west of it.” 14 So in his day, Godric Gryffindor should never have been caught on the west side of the dyke, which even now is still more or less the border between Wales and England. The county of Gloucester, on the Saxon side of the Dyke, is far more promising as Godric’s home. We do not know the street address for her former home, but it appears that Rowling lived on the “Saxon” side of the Dyke and the Wye River as all of Tutshill proper is in Gloucestershire, which is relevant, as you will see at the end.
About eight miles from her home in Tutshill, a fifteen-minute drive away on the A48, is another town in the Forest of Dean called Lydney. In 1929, there was an archaeological excavation at a Roman camp that was found at Lydney Park. (The group from Oxford University also included one J.R.R. Tolkien – Rowling was not the only author to be inspired by the Forest of Dean.15) The site included a shrine, built by the Romans, that was unique to England, Scotland, and Wales. This shrine was dedicated to the God Nodens, whom the Romans equated with their god Mars. Nodens was the Celtic name of an Irish deity, Nuadda of the Silver Hand,16 and Nuadda/Nodens was the owner of The Sword of Nuadda, one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha dé Danann. With this very unusual shrine dedicated to the owner of the sword that was one of the “Four Hallows of Ireland” in the Forest of Dean, could the wielder of the sword be far away? Could this be a clue to the intended Horcrux object?
Figure 1: Map of Bristol area with places of interest highlighted. Courtesy of Road Atlas of Britain. London: Collins, Hammersmith, 2005, 39. Please click image to enlarge.
Figure 2: Larger map of 11th C. England. Courtesy of Atlas of British Irish History. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 2005, 73. Please click image to enlarge.
Interestingly enough, Godric Gryffindor was not the only magical inhabitant of Godric’s Hollow. There also lived Bowman Wright, whose “mother was a witch, and father was a Muggle. He is famous for combining his loves of magic, science and sports by creating the Golden Snitch, which greatly improved the game of Quidditch,” 17 in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.
It also makes sense from the Bowman Wright standpoint to locate Godric’s Hollow at Lydney. The Modesty Rabnott Snidget Reservation is just a short broomstick ride across the Severn River in Somerset.18 In his time, the Snidgets were an endangered species, but essential to the game of Quidditch, and the Reservation was one of the few places where they remained. Bowman Wright could have crossed the Severn River, turned right at a town called Dursley (which had already been established by the fifteenth century19) and headed south to study the flight patterns of the Snidgets. Through his efforts, he saved the game of Quidditch by manufacturing a perfect metal duplicate of the birds. Unless Wright lived on the Reservation itself, he must have been nearby to have observed enough of their movements to conclude it was possible to make a metal copy: the Golden Snitch.
But if Godric Gryffindor and Bowman Wright did live in this area, they are not the only wizards to have done so:
Stephen Fry: Where were you at school?
JK Rowling: In the Forest of Dean – that’s why Hagrid has that accent; He comes from The Forest of Dean.20
One wonders – at whose house did the Potters stay in Godric’s Hollow? It does not appear to have been their own. Perhaps it once belonged to Hagrid’s father, since Hagrid stayed at Hogwarts during the school year, and that was why Hagrid was chosen and able to fly to Godric’s Hollow that night. As the rightful owner of the home, the Fidelius Charm would not apply to him; the fears of Dumbledore with regard to Bellatrix and Grimmauld Place would attest to that.21 From there, he could have taken Harry to some other safe location in Wales, later to fly over Bristol and meet up with Dumbledore at Privet Drive on the next evening as prearranged. Sounds like a plan. And, if his home has been demolished, it explains why Hagrid lives year round now at Hogwarts.
Placing Godric’s Hollow in the western part of the UK fits with the Western/Classical location of the fire element, Gryffindor’s element.
Figure 3: Placement of the Four Elements With Their Directions
It is the tradition to have four houses, but in this case, I wanted them to correspond roughly to the four elements. So Gryffindor is fire, Ravenclaw is air, Hufflepuff is earth, and Slytherin is water, hence the fact that their common room is under the lake. So again, it was this idea of harmony and balance, that you had four necessary components and by integrating them you would make a very strong place.23
This placement is in conflict with the elements associated with the Four Treasures of the Tuatha dé Danann. After all, the element of the Sword of Nuada is air, Ravenclaw’s element. The element for the Dagda’s cauldron, which is analogous to Hufflepuff’s cup, is water and Hufflepuff’s element is earth. The Stone of Fal bears no resemblance to a locket but is a large rock perched still on the Hill of Tara and its element is earth.24 However, Rowling is not writing an allegory of the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebor_Gab%C3%A1la_%C3%89renn”>Lebor Gabála Érenn, and if she gave Harry Potter her birthday, why would she not also give him her home?
Lydney is very close to the Welsh border and this may be what makes many believe that Godric’s Hollow is in Wales. But all the evidence leads to Lydney in Gloucestershire being the true Godric’s Hollow. And if this is correct, this leads to some tantalizing hints as to the identity of an “heir of Gryffindor” and the object that was to be Voldemort’s final Horcrux. If the sword were going to be the last Horcrux, it would explain why one of the Potters was supposed to survive that night. “Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat.” 25
And Voldemort, being a Slytherin, would need a Gryffindor to summon the sword. So if the sword is to be the final Horcrux, this will help Harry to identify and track down a Ravenclaw Horcrux – as there are four founders, four elements with their corresponding four points of the compass, and four “Deathly Hallows.” It will be a difficult journey for Harry, and it starts at Godric’s Hollow, but first Harry must find his way there.
1. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 606.
2. Ibid., Philosopher’s Stone, 16.
3. Mzimba, “Rowling talks about Book Four,” Part 4.
4. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 114.
5. Piggot, “Southern England, c. 1000” (map).
6. Behind the Name, s.v. “Godric.”
7. Crossly-Holland, Anglo-Saxon World, 19.
9. Ibid., 2. “Much of the best literary source for information about the Germanic tribes is the first-century Roman historian Tacitus. In his Germania he makes the following observations: ‘As for leaving a battle alive after your chief has fallen, that means lifelong infamy and shame.’ ”
10. Nash Ford, “Timeline.”
11. National Archives, “Lydney Gloucestershire.”
12. Rowling Official Site, “Biography.”
13. Davies and Vaughan-Thomas, “Offa’s Dyke.”
14. Borrow, Wild Tales, Chapter 9.
15. BBC.co.uk Gloucestershire, “Tolkien’s Tales from Lydney Park.”
16. Wikipedia, s.v. “Nodens.”
17. Lexicon, “Wizards and Witches from A to Z: W.”
18. Rowling, Quidditch Through the Ages, 14.
19. Wikipedia, s.v. “Dursley.”
20. Rowling, Interview by Stephen Fry.
21. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 52–53.
22. Wikipedia, s.v. “Classical Element.”
23. Anelli and Spartz, “TLC/MN interview Part Three.”
24. Wikipedia, s.v. “Tuatha de Danann.”
25. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 245.
Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. “The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet Interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling, Part 3.” The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005. /#static:tlcinterviews/jkrhbp3 (accessed 28 January 2007).
BBC.co.uk Gloucestershire. “Tolkien’s Tales from Lydney Park.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire/films/tolkien.shtml (accessed 28 January 2007).
Behind the Name, s.v. “Godric.” http://www.behindthename.com/php/view.php?name=godric (accessed 28 January 2007).
Borrow, George Henry. Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery, 1862. Project Gutenberg, http://gutenberg.com/eBooks/Adelaide/b/borrow_g/wild/chapter9.html (accessed 29 January 2007).
Crossly-Holland, Kevin, editor. The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Davies and Vaughan-Thomas. “Offa’s Dyke.” Castles of Wales, http://www.castlewales.com/offa.html (accessed 28 January 2007).
The Harry Potter Lexicon. “Wizards and Witches from A to Z: W.” Member of the Floo Network. http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizards/a-z/w.html#Wright (accessed 28 January 2007).
J.K. Rowling Official Site. “Biography.” http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/biography.cfm.
Mzimba, Lizo. “JK Rowling talks about Book Four.” CBBC Newsround, 02 November 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/tv_film/newsid_2353000/2353727.stm (accessed 28 January 2007).
Nash Ford, David. “Timeline of the Early British Kingdoms.” Britannia 1998, www.britannia.com/history/ebk/ebktime2.html (accessed 28 January 2007).
The National Archives Documents Online. “Lydney Gloucestershire.” www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/details-result.asp?Edoc_Id=7577183&queryType=1&resultcount=1 (accessed 26 January 2007).
Piggot, Reginald. Map drawn for Simon Keynes. “Southern England, c. 1000.” Anglo-Saxons.net, http:// www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet/?do=get&type=map&id=map1000 (accessed 28 January 2007).
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, Revised Canadian Edition, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2000.
———. Quidditch Through the Ages. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2001.
———. Interview by Stephen Fry. “J.K. Rowling at the Royal Albert Hall,” 26 June 2003. Transcript, AccioQuote!. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0626-alberthall-fry.htm (accessed 28 January 2007).
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Classical Element.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_elements (accessed 28 January 2007).
———, s.v. “Dursley,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dursley(accessed 28 January 2007).
———, s.v. “Nodens” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nodens (accessed 28 January 2007).
———, s.v. “Tuatha de Danaan.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuatha_De_Danaan (accessed 28 January 2007).