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JK Rowling reveals heartbreaking truth behind Deathly Hallows symbol

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Kayleigh Dray
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JK Rowling has revealed the inspiration behind the iconic Deathly Hallows symbol, which is prominent throughout the Harry Potter series.

A triangular mark, the sign is actually composed of three separate units: the Elder Wand is represented by a straight vertical line, the Resurrection Stone by the circle surrounding it, and the triangle enclosing them refers to the Cloak of Invisibility.

According to the books, a wizard who finds and combines these legendary objects will become the “Master of Death”.

Now, speaking in a new documentary called Harry Potter and the History of Magic (which you can watch on BBC iPlayer), JK Rowling has revealed that the symbol is very similar to one which appears in the 1975 film The Man Who Would be King, starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine – the very same film she was watching on the night her mother unexpectedly passed away.

“I was staying at a friend’s house and I had been writing Potter for six months and I stayed up when everyone else had gone to bed because I was watching the film, The Man Who Would Be King,” said Rowling.

“At some point during watching that movie… my mother died, 250 miles away, and I got the phone call the next day to say she had died.”

The beloved author went on to reveal that she never recognised the link between her own sketches and the film until she re-watched it many years later, and “went cold all over”.

“I looked at the sign of the Deathly Hallows and realised how similar they are,” she said.

“I’ve got a feeling that on some deep subconscious level, they are connected.”

Rowling added reflectively: “The Potter series is hugely about loss. If my mother hadn’t died, I think the stories would be utterly different and not what they are.”

Rowling has previously spoken about her mother’s death at the age of 45 from multiple sclerosis (MS), revealing that it came as an “enormous shock” to her.

The author – who set up the Anne Rowling Clinic to research neurological diseases in her memory – told The Telegraph: “[Mum] always seemed very young.

“She was very fit, she was a non-smoker, non-drinker, and I say all of this because of course then for her to be diagnosed at 35 with an illness that would kill her was just the most enormous shock to us and everyone who knew her.”

Rowling’s greatest sadness, though, is that her mother (a “passionate reader”) never knew that her daughter would be a successful author. She didn’t have the chance to read Harry Potter, as Rowling only started writing the first book six months before her death.

“Yes, she didn’t know, she never knew about Harry Potter – I started writing it six months before she died, so that is painful. I wish she’d known,” said Rowling.

The Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition is open at the British Library until 28 February 2018. Tickets – which cost £15 – are already sold out for several months, so do check the website quickly if you wish to attend.

Images: Rex Features

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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