Mirror of Erised

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For the doujinshi, see The Mirror of Erised (Harry Potter doujinshi).
Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Erised
Related: Magic Mirror
See Also:
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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The Mirror or Erised is a magical object from the Harry Potter series. It shows the viewer their heart's desire.

The mirror plays an important role in the first book of the series, but it does not appear in any of the other Harry Potter books. Nonetheless, it is popular with fans and appears frequently in fanfiction and fanart.


The Mirror of Erised appears only in the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Harry first encounters it in a disused classroom when exploring the castle at night. When he looks into the mirror, he sees his family (all of whom are actually dead) standing around him. Albus Dumbledore describes the mirror as showing "nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts." He also warns against becoming fixated on what one sees in the mirror, as "men have wasted away before it".[1]

The mirror is an important element in the climax of the book, when it serves as a means of protection for the Philosopher's Stone. During Harry's confrontation with Quirrell and Voldemort, his pure intentions allow him to retrieve the Stone from the mirror. The Mirror of Erised is mentioned several more times throughout the series but is never re-encountered.

The 2011 launch of Pottermore included new background information about the mirror written by J.K. Rowling.[2] There, she revealed that the mirror had been brought to Hogwarts and stored in the Room of Requirement for "a century or so", until Dumbledore had use for it to protect the Philosopher's Stone. The 2016 Pottermore e-book Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide provides an additional paragraph to the writing on the website, stating that Dumbledore returned the mirror to the Room of Requirement after the events of Philosopher's Stone and "we must conclude, therefore, that the mirror was destroyed, along with all the other contents of the Room of Requirement, during the Battle of Hogwarts."[3]

"Erised" is "desire" written backwards. The mirror's full inscription, "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi," reads: "I show not your face but your heart's desire."


The Mirror of Erised appears most often in ship fic with a character realising whom they are in love with after seeing them in the mirror. It is also a popular tool for exploring characters' other potential "deepest desires"—for example, redeemable characters such as Severus Snape or Draco Malfoy seeing themselves without the Dark Mark. In addition to fanfiction, it is a popular subject of fanart (and has, for example, been the theme for several art challenges[4]) and shows up in fanworks for other fandoms.

The mirror is an occasional topic of fan discussion. Theories about whether it would make a future appearance in the series occurred when the canon was still open. Speculation about what a character would see in the mirror is sometimes used in character analysis discussions and meta.

Fanon & Tropes

Severus Snape and the Mirror of Erised, 2005. (Erised by Sakata)
Severus Snape and the Mirror of Erised, 2007. (One last look by kyla79)

One popular topic of speculation is about what Albus Dumbledore sees in the mirror: He states in Philosopher's Stone that he sees himself "holding a pair of thick, woolen socks," although Harry suspects that he is not being truthful.[1] Although the question is resolved in Deathly Hallows (Dumbledore, like Harry, would see his family[5]), this has remained somewhat of a meme, with Dumbledore depicted as being obsessed with socks or fans offering humorous alternate explanations for what Dumbledore may have seen.[6]

Due to Severus Snape's mysterious allegiance and motivations over the course of the series, what he would see in the mirror was a common question. One mid-series interpretation, based on the theory that Snape had truly reformed and repented, was that he would see himself without the Dark Mark. After Deathly Hallows, consensus is now that he would see Lily Evans alive and well, and Snape/Lily pieces have become among the most common fanart for the mirror.

Post-Deathly Hallows, the Mirror of Erised is commonly referenced in the context of George Weasley's grief over the death of his identical twin, Fred Weasley. A common phrase is "To George Weasley, every mirror is the Mirror of Erised."

Reaction to Pottermore Canon

The information about the mirror's destruction, released only in the 2016 "Pottermore Presents" book, is not widely known or accepted. It also presents an apparent contradiction with Deathly Hallows, assuming the mirror was in the "Room of Hidden Things" (the manifestation of the Room of Requirement that was destroyed during the final battle), as Harry believes that Dumbledore never knew about or entered that version of the Room.[7] However, before the new Pottermore information was released, fans had previously speculated about what looks like the frame of the mirror appearing in the Room of Requirement during the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 film.[8]

Although the statement about the mirror's destruction is limiting for canon-compliant futurefic, Pottermore opened the possibility of other characters, such as the Marauders or Voldemort, finding the mirror in the Room of Requirement in the past. The implication that the mirror was placed in the Room of Hidden Things after Philosopher's Stone raises the canon possibility that Draco Malfoy encountered the mirror during the events of Half-Blood Prince.

Example Fanworks




Links & Resources


  1. ^ a b Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling, Chapter 12: "The Mirror of Erised", published 26 June 1997.
  2. ^ The content was available from Pottermore's beta release in 2011: see Mirror of Erised (Pottermore) posted by lady-slytherin-forever on Tumblr, 15 August 2011 (archive.is capture). See also A Look into Pottermore: Book 1 Chapter 12: The Mirror Of Erised, posted by fireboltgymnast on YouTube, 15 April 2012, for a video of the original Pottermore content.
  3. ^ The changes in Pottermore Presents, posted by ibid-11962 at /r/harrypotter on Reddit, 07 September 2016, quoting Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling, published 06 September 2016.
  4. ^ hump_day_smut featured the Mirror of Erised as a weekly theme in March 2010 (Mirror of Erised....Its Naughty!, posted by tbranch, 17 March 2010; images now offline), Contest 15 at snapefanclub on DeviantArt in 2005 was "Snape and the mirror of Erised" (SFC Contest 15 - Entries, posted 13 October 2005), and at least one forum contest had the Mirror of Erised as an art prompt (Mirror of Erised by Blacks-Bitch, posted 25 June 2008, is a response to "The Mirror of Erised; what would someone else see?...").
  5. ^ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35: "King's Cross":
    "Harry did not ask whether Dumbledore had ever found out who struck Ariana dead. He did not want to know, and even less did he want Dumbledore to have to tell him. At last he knew what Dumbledore would have seen when he looked in the mirror of Erised, and why Dumbledore had been so understanding of the fascination it had exercised over Harry."
    When asked in a post-DH interview what Dumbledore saw in the mirror, Rolwing stated: "He saw his family alive, whole and happy – Ariana, Percival and Kendra all returned to him, and Aberforth reconciled to him." (J.K. Rowling Web Chat Transcript, 30 July 2007)
  6. ^ For example, _morning's slashy Snape/Dumbledore interpretation is reposted widely, often without credit, and floccinaucinihilipilificationa's "It's a very dangerous mirror Harry" comic has over 140,000 notes on Tumblr as of January 2018 and has inspired other fanworks based on it.
  7. ^ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, Chapter 31: "The Battle of Hogwarts", published 21 July 2007.
    "Of course, Dumbledore and Flitwick, those model pupils, had never set foot in that particular place, but he, Harry, had strayed off the beaten track in his time at school—here at least was a secret area he and Voldemort knew, that Dumbledore had never discovered—"
    For one discussion of this, see What was the fate of the Mirror of Erised? at Stack Exchange (July 2017).
  8. ^ See a clip of the scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011) on YouTube. The Harry Potter Wiki states in the Mirror of Erised's "Behind the scenes" section (accessed 03 January 2018):
    "In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, when Harry finds the lost diadem in the Room of Requirement, Draco (along with Goyle and Blaise) stands in the way of Harry's progress. Behind them the mirror can be seen among a pile of other hidden objects. Thus, it is quite obvious it was destroyed with everything else in the room by Goyle's spell, unless the prop was being reused as an easter egg for the fans. Neither is yet to have been confirmed."
    Fans first noted after seeing the film in 2011 that they thought they saw the Mirror of Erised in the Room of Requirement scene (see e.g. Things you didn't spot until the umpteenth time in the HP films v.2 at CoSForums, August 2011). The fanfic Mirror, Mirror by SailorChibi (Feb 2012) was written with this premise.
  9. ^ Originally posted at DeviantArt on October 7, 2005 (Wayback link); now deleted. Posted at ArtisticAlley on October 12, 2005. Response to SFC Contest 15, "Snape and the mirror of Erised".