The official Pottermore Twitter account drew attention to a bizarre piece of trivia this week, horrifying many Harry Potter fans.
Friday was National Trivia Day, and the Wizarding World website and database Pottermore took part. In a pair of tweets posted at midday, the site revealed how witches and wizards in J.K. Rowling's fictional universe disposed of human waste before the advent of plumbing.
"Hogwarts didn't always have bathrooms," the tweet read. "Before adopting Muggle plumbing methods in the eighteenth century, witches and wizards simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence."
What about the Chamber of Secrets, you ask? The new plumbing almost revealed the Chamber's entrance - find out more here: //t.co/SarSDGGrRs— Pottermore (@pottermore) January 4, 2019
This tidbit was not only gross to many fans, it was canonically confusing. In the second novel of Rowling's series, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Hogwarts' plumbing plays an integral role in the story. For better or for worse, Pottermore had an answer for that too.
"What about the Chamber of Secrets, you ask?" another tweet added. "The new plumbing almost revealed the Chamber's entrance."
The tweet included a link to the website's entry on the Chamber of Secrets, written by Rowling herself. It explained how, long before a teenage Tom Riddle opened it, Salazar Slytherin's descendents were guarding the Chamber of Secrets from detection for centuries. According to Rowling, the entrance to the Chamber was previously hidden under a discrete trap door, but it was threatened "when Hogwarts’ plumbing became more elaborate in the eighteenth century."
"This was a rare instance of wizards copying Muggles, because hitherto they simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence," she added.
At that point, Slytherin's contemporary descendant, Corvinus Gaunt, ensured that the chamber could still be accessed through Hogwarts' new system of pipes, which also provided a way for Slytherin's monster to travel more freely throughout the castle.
Rowling's entry on the Chamber of Secrets was not dated, though it is likely not new. Still, the attention drawn to it on Friday ignited fury for many fans. There were many problems with this work-around for plumbing, which fans elucidated at length in response to Pottermore.
For one thing, vanishing spells are not taught until the fourth year at Hogwarts in Rowling's story, meaning that younger students would need help from their classmates. For another thing, the books mention several times that Hogwarts has a collection of antique chamber pots, which would have been a far more elegant solution, even if combined with vanishing spells.0comments
More importantly, however, there were many solutions to human waste removal that pre-dated plumbing, and would have been made all the more efficient by magic intervention. Many fans outright refused to accept this strange canonical addition, which seemed to have little thought behind it.
Rowling has often been dragged for using social media to change or add to her fictional world in a seemingly whimsical fashion. Pottermore is a more centralized source of information, though that too sometimes comes under fire. Rowling has been criticized for her ongoing spinoff film series, Fantastic Beasts as well.