The Harry Potter Compendium

Albus Dumbledore: "Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help?"
Harry Potter: "It shows us what we want… whatever we want…"
Albus Dumbledore: "Yes and no. It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts."
Albus Dumbledore explaining to Harry Potter what the mirror does.[src]

The Mirror of Erised is a mirror, which, according to Albus Dumbledore, shows the "deepest and most desperate desire of one's heart." The name "Erised" is "desire" spelled backwards, as if reflected in a mirror. The happiest person in the world would look in the mirror and see a reflection of exactly the way he or she is. Inscribed across the top of the frame is the following text: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi. Reversing the inscription and rearranging the spaces produces: I show not your face but your heart's desire.


The Mirror shows the greatest desire of the one looking into it upon its surface, often with them having achieved some goal or ambition. However, since each person is unique, only they can see it from their point of view. According to Dumbledore, the Mirror shows neither truth nor knowledge, and some people have in fact gone mad from staring at it. Dumbledore later bewitched the Mirror to hold the Sorcerer's Stone, where the only one who could retrieve it from the Mirror would be one who wanted to find the Stone but not use it or have it used.


"Men have wasted away before it, not knowing if what they have seen is real, or even possible."
Albus Dumbledore explaining the danger of the mirror to Harry Potter.[src]

The Mirror of Erised was made before the end of the nineteenth century. It is unknown who created it or how it came to be at Hogwarts. A succession of teachers have brought back interesting artefacts from their travels, so it might have arrived at the castle in this casual manner, either because the teacher knew how it worked and was intrigued by it, or because they did not understand it and wished to ask their colleagues' opinions.[1]

The Mirror had been kept in the Room of Requirement since around 1891.[1] It was only about a century later, in 1991, that Headmaster Albus Dumbledore brought it out and, tucking it out of sight in a disused classroom, initiated some key modifications to the mirror, so that it could hide the Sorcerer's Stone.[1]

The Mirror was discovered by Harry Potter on the night that he used his father's Invisibility Cloak for the first time, to search the restricted section of the library for information about Nicolas Flamel. In his attempt to stay hidden from Argus Filch, the school caretaker, he stumbled upon the classroom where the mirror was being stored. Upon looking into it, Harry saw himself surrounded by his dead parents and relatives. He saw several smiling family members. Some had the same green eyes, one had the same knees, one of his grandmothers was nodding and smiling at the same time. On his next midnight visit to the mirror, he brought Ronald Weasley, hoping to show him his family. However, Ron saw himself as the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and Head Boy, holding up the Quidditch Cup, as he has always been overshadowed by his brothers and is always striving to be noticed by others.

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."
Albus Dumbledore, when he discovers that Harry has been using the Mirror.[src]

Over the next few days, Harry proceeded to visit it as often as he could to see his parents' faces. Dumbledore found Harry visiting the mirror one night, and after explaining to Harry what the mirror was all about, told him that the mirror was to be moved and requested that Harry not go looking for it. Before heading back to bed, Harry asked Dumbledore what he saw when he looked into the mirror. Dumbledore claimed to see himself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks, telling Harry that "one can never have enough socks."[2] If this had been true, it would suggest that Dumbledore was so content with life that the only things he wished for were small things. However, Dumbledore was joking - the matter being a very personal one. As revealed to Harry in 1998 Dumbledore always, since the incident in his youth, saw his family whole and intact, free of any pain or suffering.[3]

In 1992, the Mirror was the final guardian of the Sorcerer's Stone in its Chambers. Dumbledore placed an enchantment on the mirror, hiding the stone inside of it, and allowing the mirror to transfer the stone only to one who wanted to find the stone but not to use it. Anybody wishing more than simply to find it would see themselves making gold or the Elixir of Life, or in Professor Quirrell's case presenting the stone to his master.

When Professor Quirrell ordered Harry to look into the mirror, Harry focused on finding the stone, and, uninterested in actually using the stone for his own purposes, saw his reflection pocketing the stone, at which time it magically appeared in his real pocket.[2]

It is not known what happened to the mirror after the events described here. It might have stayed in the chamber or returned to its classroom.

Known desires

Albus Dumbledore

  • (Purportedly) A pair of thick, white woollen socks (claimed) (1991) - whether Dumbledore actually does like socks and did want some for Christmas, as he complained that people "keep giving [me] books", is unknown.
  • His family alive, whole and happy – Percival and Kendra all returned to him, Ariana properly using magic and alive, and Aberforth reconciled to him.[4] (~1899-1997)

Harry Potter

Ron Weasley

Hermione Granger

Quirinus Quirrell

Lord Voldemort

  • Himself, all powerful and now immortal[5][8] (theoretical)


The word "Erised" (pronounced eer-eh-said) is "desire" spelled backwards, meaning the name could also be known as the "Mirror of Desire." The backwards spelling symbolises how mirror reflections flip images around (for example, "erised" when reflected in a mirror spells "desire"). However, because this is no ordinary mirror, the text also shows how the mirror is very different from standard mirrors, in the way that it shows the inner desires and not the outside appearance of a person.

Behind the scenes

  • In the video game adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the mirror is shown with the ability to reflect spells.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Ron sees himself in a Quidditch uniform while receiving a kiss on the cheek from Hermione Granger.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, when Harry touches Voldemort's face his parents applaud in the mirror. When Harry is knocked unconscious and Voldemort fails to grab the stone, his parents laugh at Voldemort.
  • 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.
  • In 2003, J. K. Rowling said that she would probably see herself as she is on the Mirror, because she had had another child, David Rowling Murray, just a few months before. She also added that she would like to see her mother alive again, and would hope that "there'd be room over [her] shoulder to see a scientist inventing a cigarette that would be healthy" and "a particular journalist being boiled in oil."[9]
  • The Mirror is possibly inspired by the classic fairy tale, Snow White, in which the story's antagonist; The Queen, desires to be the fairest in the kingdom.
  • Contrary to Dumbledore's words, the mirror does give its users knowledge, as it shows them what they want the most, even if they do not know for certain.
  • The scene where Harry sees his parents in the mirror for the first time makes an appearance in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix during Harry's Occlumency lessons with Snape.


The Harry Potter Compendium has 2 images related to Mirror of Erised.

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Pottermore background information on the Mirror of Erised (transcription available here)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  4. Webchat with J.K. Rowling, 30 July 2007
  5. 5.0 5.1 16 July 2005 Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview with J.K. Rowling
  6. Accio Quote: Hermione Granger
  7. It is unknown if Hermione ever looked into the Mirror of Erised; J. K. Rowling only confirmed what Hermione would see if she looked into it.
  8. It is unknown if Voldemort ever looked into the Mirror of Erised; J. K. Rowling only confirmed what he would see if he looked into it.
  9. "Fry, Stephen, interviewer: J.K. Rowling at the Royal Albert Hall, 26 June 2003" at Accio Quote