Loss and the Mirror of Erised – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapters 11 & 12

Hello, everyone! Welcome to Muggles and Mocha!

Guys, we’re covering TWO chapters today. It’s a lot of material to get through, but I know we can do it. In the video, we’re breaking down both of these chapters and raving about how fun Christmas at Hogwarts is. Check it out!

Okay, we’re getting serious today. Really. Our topic is pretty deep and will have us digging into some tough stuff. Are you ready?

Today, we’re diving into the idea of loss and the famous Mirror of Erised. I had a friend who had a model of this mirror, and believe it or not, you can get it at Target!

How nifty. We’ll talk about that mirror soon, but first…

Obviously, loss is a big subject in these books. This doesn’t only apply to the loss of loved ones though, although that’s definitely part of it. We also see the loss of innocence, the loss of home, the loss of security, the loss of guidance… While this is a children’s book series, J.K. Rowling isn’t afraid to jump into hard issues in a way that’s appropriate for children. It’s one of my favorite parts of her writing—it’s suitable for kids while still managing to be meaningful for adults.

But yes, loss will come up a lot as we discuss this series. In my opinion, this is the first time we see it rear its ugly head in full force. We’ve seen Harry’s sadness about the loss of his parents and that he never got the opportunity to know them, but this is the moment we realize and understand how deeply he longs to see his parents.

In chapter twelve, we witness two moments when Harry is deeply affected by objects related to his parents—the Invisibility Cloak and the Mirror of Erised.

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on Pexels.com

For the Invisibility Cloak, this is one of the first (if only?) objects besides gold that Harry receives from his parents. This cloak belonged to his dad. And this really impacts Harry. A couple of times, we hear him consider how he can’t believe this was actually his father’s, that he’s getting the opportunity to hold it and use it. He’s in awe of this discovery.

This gift of his father’s ends up being the key that leads him to this next object—the Mirror of Erised. This magnificent mirror shows him his family, and let’s stop and consider this for a moment—this is the first time he’s ever seen his parents. Remember, the Dursleys kept no pictures of them in the house, and at first, Harry doesn’t realize who they are. Slowly, he makes the connection: they’re his mom and dad, surrounded by other members of his family.

It gives me chills just thinking about it. Unsurprisingly, Harry is entranced by this mirror and the opportunity he’s been given to see his family.

Before we continue, though, I want to delve into what we know about the Mirror of Erised. It’s an extremely interesting magical artifact, and (surprise, surprise!) J.K. has written an article about it! According to her, it’s unknown who made it and when it was brought to Hogwarts. However, we do know it was there in 1927 during the Fantastic Beasts movies because we see Dumbledore look into it as a young man. Rowling does mention that many headmasters have brought interesting artifacts to Hogwarts, so I’m thinking that’s most likely where it came from.

Side note: Do you think we’ll get a peek at Voldemort during these Fantastic Beasts movies? After all, Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s big face-off happened during his time at Hogwarts. I guess we’ll see…

Back to the mirror. In this book, we learn it shows a person’s deepest desire, whatever they’re yearning for. Actually “Erised” is “Desire” written backward, and the engraving on top of the mirror is backward as well!

erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi


I show not your face, but your heart’s desire.

The more you know! A mirror shows images backward, so it’s pretty fitting this mirror speaks that way as well.

To segue into our next point about this mirror and its relationship with Harry, here are some of J.K.’s thoughts on it. In discussing the mirror’s power and effect on those who view it, she talks about how damaging it can be to hold on to that which is out of reach:

“The advice to ‘hold on to your dreams’ is all well and good, but there comes a point when holding on to your dreams becomes unhelpful and even unhealthy… Desperately sad though it is that he [Harry] has been deprived of his family, Dumbledore knows that to sit gazing on a vision of what he can never have will only damage Harry. The mirror is bewitching and tantalising, but it does not necessarily bring happiness.”

J.K. Rowling – “The Mirror of Erised” – Wizarding World

While some may feel a certain joy from looking into the mirror, it’s false. It’s gazing into a sometimes impossible future to the detriment of your present, as you sit paralyzed before it. For Harry, what he sees in the mirror is particularly gut-wrenching. Of course, I do believe Ron’s desire would also have been difficult to keep from dwelling on as well, but the two situations are a bit different. Even after only one visit, Harry is obsessed, desperate to go back. On his last visit, we learn he intended to stay there all night, simply staring at the parents he can’t bring back.

My heart aches for him here. Loss is confusing, tormenting, and world-changing enough without having something like this dangled in front of you. As an eleven-year-old, Harry most likely doesn’t know how to parse through the emotions plaguing him as he catches sight of his parents for the first time. He doesn’t want to eat, isn’t interested in hanging out with his friends—this object consumes him. But these depressive behaviors and his obsession with the mirror brings us to something deeper. I believe his fixation and sadness come from a realization that this mirror is the closest he can ever get to his parents. When Ron asks him if this mirror shows the future, he suddenly realizes the image he sees is impossible while Ron’s is not.

When Dumbledore meets him in that deserted classroom, his words of wisdom are correct. In my opinion, due to the nature of Harry’s desire, he would have been one of the men who waste away in front of it, wanting to live through a vision of something that will never be.

Something to consider: Dumbledore can completely relate to what Harry is seeing, which is most likely why he’s able to give Harry the advice he needs to hear. I’m sure Dumbledore has had to repeat those words to himself before, pulling himself away from the mirror. He, too, sees his family whole and intact. Like Harry, his deepest desire is something that can never come to pass, and Dumbledore recognizes the damaging effects continually dwelling on a wish like this can have on a person’s mind.

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Goodness! This one was deep, guys. The farther we progress into the series, the more often heartbreaking material will appear for us to sort through. I’m not a masochist, but… I can’t wait!

The Mirror of Erised with come back later in this book, as we know, so its story isn’t over yet!

Next week, we’ll be covering two chapters again! Be sure to read chapters thirteen and fourteen. From Nicolas Flamel to Norbert… next week is going to be wild.

Join us next Thursday on Muggles and Mocha! My social media links are located below, and don’t forget to check out the YouTube channel.

See ya, non-magic folk!

Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.


4 Replies to “Loss and the Mirror of Erised – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapters 11 & 12”

  1. As I write, we are on our way back from, The Wizarding World! Since I’m currently re reading all of the books and delving into the chapters of the first book, with the book club, everything seemed even more real. The mirror of Erised, currently at Madame Malcoms, did not show me my greatest desire!😲 In fact, it told me to tuck in my shirt. Lol. Thanks again for another great video!


  2. First things first: I thoroughly enjoyed the magical wardrobe change! 😂 Well done. Also, I’d like to echo your love for tea (it was my first love, long before I ever drank coffee, and now I want a London Fog).

    I have to say, I’m finding myself thankful that JK created such an interesting sport for this series – this is primarily the reason why these scenes remain entertaining. I actually am a little surprised that Voldemort chose this time to launch his first attack on Harry as well – this was a very public place, where all eyes tend to be focused on the Seekers. It’s also worth noting that performing magic to tamper with brooms is actually fairly advanced, so if done conspicuously it would automatically remove most of the students from suspicion – Hagrid points this out to Ron and Hermione. The only justification I can make in my head for the logic of this plan is that because it was so public, and during something as physical as Quidditch, that an “accident” like this wouldn’t be terribly uncommon, nor would it really be possible to trace it back to Quirrell. And yes, we must give some points to Snape for not being an accomplice to murder here – his gut reaction is to save Harry’s life which means he is indeed a human being after all. As is probably evident, I’m unwilling to sing his praises too much, as in my eyes he’s really only done the bare minimum here…

    I am absolutely in love with Christmas time in these books too! I love the decorations, the food, the (wonderful) music that always accompanies these scenes in the movies, and also the fact that (as you said in the video) we are given a brief respite from the fear and stress that rears its ugly head during the rest of the time. I really love this habit that JK has – it really reflects the effects that the holiday season has for me personally – its almost like I’m going home for Christmas too! I’d also like to take a brief moment to once again say I LOVE MOLLY WEASLEY. She is the absolute best, every time all the time. The fact that she knits him a sweater absolutely melts my heart.

    Speaking of gifts, I had actually forgotten that Dumbledore gave Harry the cloak – this strikes me as a very odd thing to do! I realize that it belonged to James and that eventually Harry should definitely have it, but the decision for the headmaster to give this kind of a gift to one of his students seems like he’s asking for every bit of trouble he gets! Side note: Dumbledore had to know that this was a Deathly Hallow, right?? I’d also hesitate giving a Hallow to an 11 year old but that’s just me. Perhaps Dumbledore knew that this would help him have experiences that would end up being pivotal to his development into the savior that the world needed.

    I’d also like to point out that Harry had to become invisible (some would say “ghost-like”) in order to see his family 😭. This part of the chapter really breaks my heart, and I think you also made a great point about Dumbledore being uniquely situated to empathize and give the best advice to Harry in that moment. I have little doubt that he saw a little bit of himself in Harry, which really begins to explain another reason why they have such a strong relationship throughout the series. As for your point about Dumbledore knowing about Harry and Ron’s trip to see the mirror, part of me hopes that he was alerted to their presence in the room some way other than him creeping on them, and knowing that Harry would return again stood waiting for him only that last time. Otherwise I’ll begin to feel a little uncomfortable lol.

    Lastly, I truly hope that we do end up seeing young Tom Riddle in the Fantastic Beasts movies! It really would make the most sense, as a lot of the events that happen during that time had to have had a major role in Tom’s development. I think we can draw a lot of clear parallels between Grindelwald and Voldemort – I think that Tom would have very much admired a lot of his ideas. Perhaps the path that Voldemort takes is his response to where he viewed that Grindelwald failed.

    Super excited to keep this going! 🍻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked the video! And I just discovered the BEST TEA EVER. Really. Remind me to tell you about it.

      Okay, I’ve been wondering if Dumbledore knew this was a Hallow. I’m almost positive that he does, because he says something to Harry about when he discovered James had it (when James was alive), he was certain this was THE invisibility cloak crafted by death. This does make this decision even more odd. Actually, when I reached the end of Chapter 15 and saw that Dumbledore had returned it, with “Just in case” written on the note, I was like, “What exactly are you expecting here?” It is kind of funny.

      Oh my, your point about Harry becoming invisible to see his family just killed me. It’s similar to the other moment when he actually gets to see and talk to them–when he’s walking to his death. Goodness.

      It’s decided–Tom Riddle HAS to be in Fantastic Beasts. If he’s not, it’s a crime.

      As always, thanks for commenting!


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