J.K. Rowling comments on Harry Potter insanity theory

We all know that fans love dissecting alternative interpretations of their favorite franchises. It’s happened time and time again over the years, with some of the most famous being that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was actually all about best-friend Cameron’s schizophrenia and that The Matrix actually involved some Inception-style levels of simulation, where the “real” world is just another matrix – maybe even one that was created by humans, rather than their mechanical enemies.

But here’s one that might be new to you: there’s a rumor going around that the entirety of the Harry Potter franchise existed completely within the realm of one troubled boy’s imagination – and that his abusive aunt and uncle drove him to insanity by making him live in a cupboard.

Now, J.K. Rowling herself has commented on the theory while sitting down to a behind-the-scenes interview with screenwriter Steve Kloves, which will be featured in the comprehensive new box set, The Harry Potter Wizards’ Collection. “In the script, when he was in the cupboard, I invented a spider named Allistor who he talked to,” recalls Kloves in the exclusive clip from Huffington Post, “and he used to knick broken soldiers out of the rubbish bin, and he lined them up on the shelf – his broken army that Dudley had thrown out. He used to talk to them, and the point is that he seemed slightly mad when I wrote the first draft. When Hagrid appeared, you thought he was out of [Harry’s] imagination for a minute; that he had summoned this guy.”

Rowling, compelled by the conversation, quickly jumps in. “I think that’s a fabulous point, and it speaks so perfectly to the truth of the books,” she says. “I’ve heard it suggested to me more than once that Harry actually did go mad in the cupboard, and that everything that happened subsequently was some sort of fantasy life he developed to save himself.”

So, was The Boy Who Lived crazy after all? ~Devin Garabedian

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Comments & Discussion

  1. Mask • September 6, 2012 @ 9:28 AM

    “Siriusly?”

    Then we might as well say Belle read the whole Beauty and the Beast story in a book, sitting in her father’s basement, Snow White went crazy from lack of vitamin D, Cinderella (already bonkers seeing as she has mice friends) went Lady Macbeth crazy in all her washing the same spot and invented her story.

    It’s also a fairy tale…let it go.

  2. Amanda • September 6, 2012 @ 11:44 AM

    J.K. Rowling is the one who’s insane.

  3. Ezduke • September 6, 2012 @ 2:40 PM

    This is complete crazy and no I do not mean the books I mean all the people who are knocking something as brilliant as the series, yes we all see this point but had she choosen to wrote the books in that way we would all have none it, as such she did not. So maybe we should appreciate the great work she has done with these books and stop coming up with silly things because a) your mad that the series ended and want to continue with this different theory and b) you have nothing better to do.

  4. Leslie M Utting • September 6, 2012 @ 8:54 PM

    I loved the books, and the movies… I don’t look past this as anything a sheer entertainment, I truly believe the J K Rowling created a smashing tale, that lasted for over ten years, by the movie scores.

    So really, people have to let stuff go, if you didn’t like it, that’s fine, keep it too yourself..

    just my thoughts…
    aka the witch

  5. Lloyd • September 7, 2012 @ 4:22 AM

    I thought the HP series did a wonderful job of creating a fantasy world in which an outcast finds purpose and meaning. It was a heart warming story of the triumph of good, strength of character and love. This alternative interpretation is just depressing. Just read the book for what it is…captivating fantasy.

  6. Dianne O • September 7, 2012 @ 11:13 AM

    I enjoyed the Harry Potter books and movies and hope to share them with my son when he is older.

    All this talk that Harry went crazy and that he created Hogwarts and his friends as a coping mechanism to living in the cupboard is completely off mark.

    If J.K. Rowling was trying to portray that then why would Harry in his fantasy life ever go back to his mean aunt and uncle and bratty cousin at all? They treated him like rubbish so if it is a dream world or young boy heading into insanity why would he bring into that world those that hated and belittled him when he was looking for acceptance and love? The fantasy/dream/insanity world would be to go to a place where he would have no association with those people as if they didn’t exist! – Not go back to them once the school term is over – even as a young boy he would continue to live in the fantasy world and most likely then his “REAL” world self would have died in that cupboard! In the dreamworld he would have found a new family that wanted him and cared for him such as being adopted or taken in by his teacher or by the Weasley’s not sent back and tortured more.

    So the insanity view I believe is complete nonsense. No way to back it up! So stop trying to ruin or change a wonderful magical story! I hope R.J. Rowling creates another masterpiece that is moving and entertaining and gets kids imaginations rolling – there is something magical in the idea of a school for wizards and witches! Stories of wizards and witches and Supernatural beings or even in princes and princess that gives young minds an idea that anything is possible and to give them something spectacular to believe in!–And that maybe magic IS real!

    Now all you Muggles, give it a rest and enjoy the story as it should be enjoyed! Over and over with the next generation of kids. HAPPY READING!

  7. Angelina • September 7, 2012 @ 2:15 PM

    What a depressing theory/explanation.

  8. Minerva • September 7, 2012 @ 3:33 PM

    Are these people serious??? It’s a story! Stop trying to turn a great story Ito something sad, depressing, wrong, and something it’s not. I have never seen any evidence to support their bizzare theory. Heaven forbid we cultivate creativity from great works of fiction.

  9. Julia • September 7, 2012 @ 5:08 PM

    JK Rowling just said that it was suggested to her, not that she actually wrote it that way. The magical world did exist for her and for us, and that’s what counts.

  10. Amelia Magana • September 7, 2012 @ 6:09 PM

    I don’t personally believe it was all in his imagination but so what if it was and so what if people think it was. That doesn’t change the fact that they were really great books and movies. It won’t change anything.

  11. Pearlily • September 7, 2012 @ 8:03 PM

    There is a lot of overreaction to this theory. I would understand these reactions if J.K. Rowling seemed disturbed by it, but (at least from the story above) she seems to be fine with the theory. Isn’t the point of great literature to be discussed and dissected time and again. If people weren’t coming up with theories and still discussing Harry Potter, then J.K. Rowling would have failed as an author. The fact the the above is happing shows how amazing her writing and this story is.

    I actually think that it is a plausible situation. I don’t think it is sad or depressing at all. It would show that there is hope because in the end Harry prevailed. @ Dianne O., if the insanity theory were true, why would Harry go back to his abusive “real” home? Because even people who are insane have to step back into reality now and then, no matter how horrible real life is. In the context of the story, if the insanity theory were correct, the process of his returning to reality after every school term allowed each book to end and the next to begin.

  12. WTM • September 9, 2012 @ 2:26 AM

    They say that about us, perhaps we are playing a role with an imaginary role like; one vs none.

    Perhaps having a great imagination, such as JK, what makes you think, that our life is not real?

  13. AKS • September 10, 2012 @ 10:15 AM

    Stop getting your knickers in a twist people. It was just a comment some person made when trying to be a pseudo-philosophical intellectual. It doesn’t really matter either way, it’s a book series, not real life. None of it is real so why does it matter if people believe Harry was bonkers. Books are like art, open to interpretation, there’s not really a “right” or “wrong”. Just enjoy it.

  14. Bee • September 18, 2012 @ 3:22 PM

    Sad if it’s true, because then all the fantasy and the idea of imaginary is thrown out in the garbage. It will loose its beauty. Hope it’s not true. All the fantasy and brillance of the serie will go down.

  15. Bill • July 18, 2014 @ 6:37 PM

    He is crazy. I don’t know if he is dreaming, but he is obsessed with some quest, to the point of blaming unknown bad things, and creating all sorts of illogical excuses within Hogwarts philosophy, to further his crazy quests.

  16. DinoPro • March 30, 2015 @ 3:19 PM

    I believe the insanity theory…..
    Which makes the tale all the more exciting!

  17. dannie • August 20, 2015 @ 10:18 AM

    Whattttttt???!!! What a stypid theory. JK Rowling, why? I mean, its insane this theory its insane…after every beautiful moment with the books, movies fantasy and magic and the wizardring world, EVERYTHING we have been through, all these years?! Please do not try to make this more than perfect and great and blessed story, dont try to turn it into depressive and full of sadnes

    WTM
    They say that about us, perhaps we are playing a role with an imaginary role like; one vs none.

    Perhaps having a great imagination, such as JK, what makes you think, that our life is not real?

    totally agree.

    Minevra
    Are these people serious??? It’s a story! Stop trying to turn a great story Ito something sad, depressing, wrong, and something it’s not. I have never seen any evidence to support their bizzare theory. Heaven forbid we cultivate creativity from great works of fiction.

    with this too!

    Dianne O
    I enjoyed the Harry Potter books and movies and hope to share them with my son when he is older.

    All this talk that Harry went crazy and that he created Hogwarts and his friends as a coping mechanism to living in the cupboard is completely off mark.

    If J.K. Rowling was trying to portray that then why would Harry in his fantasy life ever go back to his mean aunt and uncle and bratty cousin at all? They treated him like rubbish so if it is a dream world or young boy heading into insanity why would he bring into that world those that hated and belittled him when he was looking for acceptance and love? The fantasy/dream/insanity world would be to go to a place where he would have no association with those people as if they didn’t exist! – Not go back to them once the school term is over – even as a young boy he would continue to live in the fantasy world and most likely then his “REAL” world self would have died in that cupboard! In the dreamworld he would have found a new family that wanted him and cared for him such as being adopted or taken in by his teacher or by the Weasley’s not sent back and tortured more.

    So the insanity view I believe is complete nonsense. No way to back it up! So stop trying to ruin or change a wonderful magical story! I hope R.J. Rowling creates another masterpiece that is moving and entertaining and gets kids imaginations rolling – there is something magical in the idea of a school for wizards and witches! Stories of wizards and witches and Supernatural beings or even in princes and princess that gives young minds an idea that anything is possible and to give them something spectacular to believe in!–And that maybe magic IS real!

    Now all you Muggles, give it a rest and enjoy the story as it should be enjoyed! Over and over with the next generation of kids. HAPPY READING!

    I Agree with these tree comments the most its just insane the idea that was suggested to her(jk Rowling)

  18. KB • November 19, 2015 @ 10:38 PM

    I hate this theory! It’s so depressing, it’s sad, and I wish the person who invented it would go jump off a bridge. I also wish JK Rowling had firmly and unequivocally said it couldn’t apply. And don’t tell me it’s “Art” and we can have “Different interpretations” because this isn’t some funky pseudo psycho modern new age type series, or a cyber reality or something like that, no offense at all to either of these genres. Harry Potter is a whole world, and that world in its right is meant to be completely real every time you open one of the books or watch the movies. Something that close to an entire generation’s hearts is the way it is because it had heart and warmth, love and fear and darkness and humanity in it.Not to mention fred and george weasley. So please….turning something that good into something faked, cheap and a bad case of mental abuse, is just horrible. I wish people would do better things with their time. Ugh.

  19. Hermione Granger • February 8, 2017 @ 11:30 PM

    If according to JK Rowling Harry was just imagining this all story then why was he going to Dursleys every holidays……
    If he was imagining then why he will go to the place which he hates ????

  20. Ice Star • April 9, 2017 @ 12:49 PM

    This is a really depressing theory man. I hope it’s not true. At least Rowling didn’t actually say it WAS true … and Hermione Granger, you have a point there. Also, at the beginning of the series the story is not being told in Harry’s POV, and if Harry really dreamed up the magical world he and his parents wouldn’t be wizards and the Dursley’s wouldn’t hate him!

  21. Luna Lovegood • June 21, 2017 @ 10:09 PM

    THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!!! THIS THEORY RUINS THE ENTIRE STORY! YOU ENJOY BELIEVING IN THE MAGIC, AND THEN THIS THEORY POPS UP!!!!! J.K., PLEASE tell us the truth directly instead of infering it, so we know that it is 100% true because if we don’t know then it completly ruins the ENTIRE point of the story and is litterly causing me Harry Potter depression.

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