Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Professor Quirrell
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Professor Quirinus Quirrell taught Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts during Harry Potter's first year. His class was held on the third floor of the castle, right in the Great Foyer near the Gryffindor tower.
Quirrell's wand is alder and unicorn hair. He is a Half-blood, and his birthday is 26 September. As a Hogwarts student, he was sorted into Ravenclaw. Quirrell never married or had children.
Notes on his Name
Professor Quirrell is never given a first name in the books, in the film, or in the video game. He does appear in two other places:
- A Wizards of the Coast trading card game based on the series included a card of Quirrell with the first name Quirinus. The Harry Potter Lexicon site states, however, that "these cards are not canon"
- Master Foods produced a line of Chocolate Frog treats with collectable Famous Wizards cards; Quirrel being given the first name Slatero. J. K. Rowling states that she wrote the information on those cards.
J. K. Rowling has confirmed, in Pottermore, that Quirrell's first name is, indeed, Quirinus.
Role in the Books
A very timid person, Professor Quirrell first appears in the Leaky Cauldron, where he is pleased to meet Harry; Hagrid comments at the time that he always seems nervous, ever since he took a year's holiday and met up with something he had been teaching about.
At the Arrival Feast, Harry notes that Quirrell looks rather odd, wearing a large purple turban on his head. It is while Professor Quirrell is speaking with Professor Snape that Harry first feels the searing pain in his scar that becomes his companion, on and off, for the nearly all the seven years in this series.
Harry and Ron get into trouble with Filch on the very first day of classes, when they are found trying to get through a locked door, which turns out to be the door to the forbidden third floor corridor. They are saved from being locked in the dungeons by Professor Quirrell, who happens to be passing by.
In Defence Against the Dark Arts, Professor Quirrell says that his strange purple turban was a gift from an African prince for dealing with a troublesome zombie. When Seamus asked excitedly how he had fought the zombie, Quirrell turned all pink and started talking about the weather. (Note: this is the only mention of "zombies" in the series, and thus is highly suspect. The magical construct most closely allied to the Muggle concept of zombies is the Inferius.) There is also a strange smell of garlic that hangs about the classroom; the Weasley twins insist that it is because Quirrell has stuffed his turban full of garlic to ward off vampires.
We don't hear much about his teaching, except that it is not as interesting as Harry and the rest of his class had expected; we do find out that he is concealing something, and that he and Professor Snape may both be looking for something, possibly the mysterious little package that Hagrid removed from Gringotts.
At the first Quidditch match of the year, against Slytherin, Harry's broom is jinxed and tries to buck him off. Hermione and Ron believe Snape is casting the jinx. In her haste to reach Snape and set his robes on fire to break his concentration, Hermione knocks over Quirrell.
The Weasley twins charmed several snowballs to bounce off the back of Profesor Quirrell's turban, in the snowfall during Christmas break.
Harry overhears Quirrell arguing with Snape about where his loyalties lie, and later hears him arguing with someone else about something he does not want to do.
At the conclusion, Harry, Ron, and Hermione pass through a series of chambers to find the Philosopher's Stone. One chamber contains a Troll, who fortunately has been knocked out. Harry alone reaches the final chamber, where he finds Quirrell. Quirrell boasts about his skill with trolls, admitting that he let the one troll into the school at Hallowe'en, and that it was his troll that Harry passed. He also says that Snape had been useful as misdirection, "flapping about like a great bat." Quirrell has been trying to kill Harry all year; Quirrell also jinxed Harry's broom during the Quidditch match against Slytherin, and Snape was attempting to counter the jinx. Quirrell's turban actually conceals Lord Voldemort's face that is attached to Quirrell's head, and Voldemort has been controlling Quirrell all year. Ordered to kill Harry, Quirrell is unable to touch him without getting burned; when Quirrell is preparing a killing curse, Harry grabs his face, causing him so much pain that he is disabled. Harry is also in much pain from his scar, triggered by Voldemort's nearness, and it causes him to pass out.
It is uncertain whether Quirrell actually dies here; it is suggested that he does, but while Professor Dumbledore does explain much of what happened, he never actually states that Quirrell is dead.
Expounding to the Death Eaters as to what had occurred while he was disembodied, Lord Voldemort describes his stay on the back of Quirrell's head. He mentions that "The servant died when I left his body". Though Voldemort never names Quirrell, referring to him always as his "servant", context makes it certain that this refers to Quirrell.
Before the school year starts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. While running down the list of Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers Ron and Harry have known, Fred and George Weasley mention "one died," which could only be Quirrell.
In her first Defence Against the Dark Arts class of the year, Professor Umbridge states that Quirrell was the only Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher that was up to standards for the Ministry. Harry gets into trouble for pointing out that he had Voldemort stuck to the back of his head.
To convince Horace Slughorn that Hogwarts is safe from Death Eaters, Harry tells him that Professor Quirrell is the only teacher who has died at Hogwarts. (This is not strictly true, Professor Binns clearly died at the school, though as it was of natural causes it likely would not concern Slughorn either way. It is true that Quirrell's death is the only one Harry knows of that could be attributed to Voldemort or his organization.)
Rather than magical ability, Quirrell's greatest strength was probably his intelligence, evidenced by his having been sorted into Ravenclaw House at Hogwarts, home to more intellectual students. Although timid in nature, he apparently had an adventurous spirit, traveling to many foreign countries whenever he could.
Quirrell, during the course of the first book, had been carrying what remained of Lord Voldemort on the back of his head. As such, he could partially utilize Voldemort's powers: for instance, Voldemort being a Legilimens, could inspect other wizards' minds and communicate what he found to Quirrell.
Quirrell possessed an extremely timid and nervous disposition. And though intelligent, his magical powers may have been rather ordinary. This may all have contributed to his becoming susceptible to Lord Voldemort's powers, resulting in the disembodied Dark Lord riding on the back of Quirrell's head while he attempted to resurrect his own physical body. As a result, Quirrell had to bow to Voldemort's commands, whatever they were, and was subject to any punishment Voldemort chose to mete out. As he was a relatively weak-willed wizard, Quirrell attempted to attain distinction by attaching himself to a powerful being, though that power instead latched itself onto him.
Quirrell was never seen performing magic, so it is uncertain how powerful a wizard he actually was. However, he was apparently able to control Trolls, and most likely had been able to before his encounter with Voldemort, as he seems proud of that ability.
Relationships with Other Characters
The closest relationship Quirrell appears to have had was the one with Lord Voldemort after being controlled by him. Quirrell was basically Voldemort's slave, doing his bidding without question. To help deflect suspicion from himself, Quirrell adopted a stammering, rather bumbling pose. He admits that Snape's fluttering about like a huge black bat and acting suspiciously was actually useful to him, allowing Quirrell to carry out Voldemort's commands while others were focused on Snape. Quirrell and Snape seem competitive with one another, and as Snape grew more suspicious about Quirrell's behavior, they seem to have been arguing frequently.
Though he was likely always shy and rather aloof, Quirrell's increasingly quirky manner and sudden stammering seems to have distanced others from him, while it also aroused Snape's distrust. It appears Quirrell never had any close relationships with the other teachers or students at Hogwarts.
Having been a Ravenclaw, Quirrell was obviously quite intelligent, but he appears to have been a rather ordinary wizard whose knowledge about magic and defensive arts may have been more academic than applied. Although Quirrell was commandeered by Voldemort, his lackluster distinction in life may have made him a somewhat cooperative accomplice, seeing this as an opportunity to obtain some significance and power. Unfortunately, he misjudged Voldemort's true intentions, failing to see that the Dark Lord considered him as little more than a disposable lackey. This ultimately cost Quirrell his life.
According to Professor Dumbledore, speaking in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Defence Against the Dark Arts teaching post is apparently jinxed. Ever since Voldemort had been declined the job many years before, no teacher has lasted more than one year in that post. One question that has been raised is, given that jinx, how could Quirrell have remained in that post for more than a year? According to the author, he had not. In an interview, Rowling stated that Quirrell had requested a transfer to that post, and had been studying the source material so he could teach it, when he encountered Voldemort in Albania.
All the same, there is some question raised on some fan sites as to how long Quirrell had been in that post. One very well reasoned essay suggests strongly that Quirrell's "year-long tour" in preparation for his teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts was not the year before Harry entered the school, but at least one year prior to that time. The essay predates publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and does not attempt to reconcile Quirrell's postulated at least two-year tenure with Dumbledore's statement "we have never been able to keep a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort." We could attempt that reconciliation here, by suggesting that Quirrell was perhaps only filling in as Defence teacher during the year before Harry's arrival, while another, possibly chronically ill, teacher held the actual post. However, we consider it more likely that we are simply seeing one place where the author temporarily lost track of her timeline.
- Why did Quirrell allow Voldemort to attach himself to his head?
- What might Quirrell have been like before he met Voldemort?
- Was Quirrell a willing Voldemort accomplice?