by John | Jan 22, 2016 |

Professor Snape of Snape: in memory of Alan Rickman


With the sad news of the passing of Alan Rickman, well known for his portrayal of Professor Severus Snape, we decided to investigate the significance of the name of Snape and the connection it has to the village of Snape on the Suffolk coast.

J K Rowling did indeed name Snape after the village of Snape. In an interview Rowling reveals that many names in Harry Potter are invented such as "Quidditch" and "Muggle", but she "also collect[s] unusual names, and [she] take[s] them from all sorts of different places. "Hedwig" was a saint, "Dumbledore" is an old English word for "bumblebee," and "Snape" is the name of a place in England". It has been suggested that Rowling chose the name only for its sound association with ‘snake’. As David Langford, author of The End of Harry Potter? (2006), writes: "It’s not any literal meaning that she seems to have in mind, though, but the sound association. Snape sounds very like ‘snake’, the emblem of Slytherin House". We would argue, however, that actually there is a connection between the village and professor. Seth Lerer, Professor of Literature at the University of California, suggests that tied to the complex character are "appreciations of aesthetic value" (2008, 227). Lerer explains that "What he [Snape] announces, on the first day of his class, to the young wizards at Hogwarts is nothing less that a program of aesthetic appreciation: “I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate powers of liquid that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses. … I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death.” Snape’s goal is an instruction in the arts of beauty and the recognition that the true powers behind public fame and fortune are the wizards". Rowling may only have chosen Snape as name for Hogwarts’ Potions Master, but the village itself offers a lesson on Snape’s programme of aesthetics. Standing at Snape on the banks of the River Alde at low tide, you can watch the channel of water snake its ways past the majestic Maltings and through the wildlife rich reedbeds and glistening mudflats: a truly magical scene to behold, especially at sunrise or sunset.

So, to all the Harry Potter fans in awe of Professor Snape, come to the village of Snape, admire the serpent river and ponder the enigma of the Head of Slytherin, and remember Alan Rickman.

By broomstick, Snape is not far from London, and the Muggles at Suffolk Cottage Holidays have hand-selected a number of properties at which you might like to stay. For further reading on Harry Potter and aesthetics, see Lerer’s Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter.

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