harry potter howler guide

Harry Potter Howler Guide

Latest posts by Melika Jeddi (see all)

There are so many magical items mentioned throughout the Harry Potter series that it can be hard to keep track of them all. Thankfully, Wizards Welcome has you covered! Our guides and bios are designed to help refresh your memory so that you’re always in the know about all things Harry Potter.

In this one, we’re going to look at an underrated magical item – a howler! Although they don’t get much screen time in the movies, they feature more prominently in the books. Plus, the one movie scene with a howler is definitely one of the most memorable moments.

So, read on to learn everything you could possibly need to know about howlers!

Howlers at a Glance

Howlers are enchanted letters that shout and curse at the receiver. They are sent when a regular letter won’t convey enough anger. They are found in several scenes in Harry Potter including when Harry and Ron steal the flying car, or when Neville loses the Gryffindor Common Room passwords.

What is a Howler?

harry potter howler
Image from Harry Potter Wiki | Fandom

A howler is a magical letter that has been enchanted to appropriately convey the sender’s displeasure. It’s for when the anger/ disappointment is so strong that a regular letter just won’t cut it. The howler amps up the rage to make sure that the receiver knows exactly how ashamed they should be feeling.

Howlers are red letters that carry not just words, but voices. Once opened, the sender’s voice will shout their message at a high volume. It’ll be as if they’re right there in the room with you. Imagine a very angry voicemail played at full volume through a speaker… That’s basically a howler.

Unlike regular letters, howlers cannot be ignored. They know when they’ve been delivered, and once they arrive, the clock is ticking. The best you can do if you receive a howler in public is to try and quickly carry it to an adjacent room where you’re more private.

If left unopened, the envelope will start heating up. Eventually, it’ll burst into an explosion of flames, and scream the message at the highest possible volume. The earlier you open the letter, the better it’ll be.

Howlers Sent in the Series

Although not exactly common, there are still several instances of howlers being sent in the series. We only get to see one such occasion in the movies, but there are multiple mentions in the books. I’ve compiled a list of the most noteworthy instances of howlers being sent.

“Weasley’s Got Himself a Howler!”

weasley's got hmself a howler

Found in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 6, Gilderoy Lockhart. Ron receives a howler from his mother about stealing the flying car.

“Ronald Weasley! How DARE you steal that car!” (admit it, you read that in Molly Weasley’s voice).

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry, and Ron get trapped outside of platform 9 3/4 and miss the train to Hogwarts. Because they were reckless 12-year-olds, they proceed to do one of the dumbest things in the entire series and steal Mr. Weasley’s flying car to drive it to Hogwarts.

Naturally, Mrs. Weasley is less than pleased when she finds out. They endangered the secrecy of the entire wizarding world as they were spotted by several muggles before they remembered to turn on the invisibility filter. It resulted in Mr. Weasley facing an inquiry at the Ministry of Magic (quite rightly, in my opinion), which Mrs. Weasley was furious about.

The letter arrived in the middle of the Great Hall, much to the amused delight of the people around Ron. This scene is particularly funny in the movie as Rupert Grint’s facial expressions are excellent. He goes wide-eyed in fear as he opens the letter, and his mum starts shouting angrily at him.

Interestingly, at the end of the letter, it takes a softer tone of voice and turns to Ginny to congratulate her on getting into Gryffindor. Personally, I’d have found that really embarrassing, so I feel sorry for Ginny. Mrs Weasley should’ve sent Ginny her own private letter to congratulate her, rather than shouting it at the end of a howler.

Percy’s Desk Gets Ruined

Found in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 10, Mayhem at the Ministry. The Ministry of Magic receives lots of angry letters from the public about the lax security at the Quidditch World Cup.

We don’t physically see these ones in a scene, but we hear about them second-hand in the book version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The general public is less than pleased after the events at the Quidditch World Cup.

If you need a recap, Death Eaters stormed the grounds after the game, torching tents and attacking people. They were eventually stopped, but only after they’d already done considerable damage and the Dark Mark had been cast.

People felt that the Ministry of Magic didn’t do a good enough job protecting the event. It was their responsibility to ensure security, and they failed to deliver. In response, people started sending howlers to the Ministry to express their dissatisfaction. As Percy was working his way up the ranks, it was his duty to read and respond to all the howlers.

Unfortunately, he was getting so many that they started to pile up. One of the enchantments on a howler means that if it isn’t opened quickly enough, it will explode into flames. Percy was receiving them faster than he could open them, and the result was his desk getting completely ruined by exploding howlers.

Neville’s Grandmother is Less Than Pleased

Found in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 14, Snape’s Grudge. Neville receives a howler from his gran after Sirius uses his password list to break into the Gryffindor Common Room.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, there’s a big stir after Sirius Black breaks into the Gryffindor Common Room. This is the most accurate book-to-movie adaptation, but it still misses a few key details. In the movie, they only casually glance over how Sirius obtained the password (they also miss out on Sir Cadogan guarding the entrance after The Fat Lady is attacked, which is a devastating oversight as he’s comedy gold).

In the books, however, a huge deal is made of the fact that Neville wrote down all the passwords and then supposedly misplaced them.

Nearly everyone is furious at him, and Neville himself is wracked with guilt. He thinks he misplaced them and that his stupidity put Harry in danger. However, at the end of the book, it’s revealed that Crookshanks stole the list of passwords to give to Sirius.

Still, the presiding narrative is that Neville lost the passwords, and word of it gets back to his grandmother. She goes ballistic and sends him a howler to express her anger. Neville is already feeling bad, and the howler just adds insult to injury.

Personally, I feel really bad for Neville, as even his gran isn’t in his corner. I do wish they’d found a way to keep this scene in the movie, as Neville’s character is woefully underdeveloped throughout the series.

Petunia Better Not Forget Her Promise

Found in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 2, A Peck of Owls. Dumbledore sends a howler to Petunia reminding her that she can’t kick Harry out.

Dumbledore put a lot of effort into protecting Harry throughout the series. However, even before he meets Harry, Dumbledore puts plans in place to ensure the boy is kept safe.

One of the most effective measures he uses is keeping Harry with the Dursleys. Since it was Harry’s mother’s sacrifice that saved him from Voldemort, being around a blood relative helps keep the love magic surrounding him active.

Even though the Dursleys hate him, they begrudgingly keep him around every summer. However, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dudley is attacked by dementors (which is later revealed to be the handiwork of Dolores Umbridge). Harry brings him back, staggering through the door, where the Dursleys instantly assume that Harry is responsible.

What follows is one of the most dramatic moments of Harry’s life. This scene is done terribly in the movie and doesn’t capture anywhere close to the emotion of the book, so for this section, I’m only going to talk about what happens in the book.

Harry is convinced he’s going to be expelled from Hogwarts for using magic, as he had to cast the Patronus charm to save Dudley. He receives a series of magical letters, including one informing him that there will be a hearing at the Ministry of Magic. The Dursleys are practically frothing at the mouth, and are preparing to kick him out.

But then, a howler arrives from Dumbledore. It simply says, “Remember my last, Petunia.” Just like that, Petunia stops Vernon from kicking out Harry and insists he remains. The howler is referring to the letter that Dumbledore gave the Dursleys the night that Harry was dropped on their doorstep. Petunia remembers that Harry is only safe whilst he’s with them.

Much as she hates him, she doesn’t want him hurt, as ultimately, he’s a connection to her dead sister. The howler acts as a catalyst for Petunia to do a very rare kind act and advocate for Harry’s wellbeing.

Hermione is Falsely Accused

Found in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 28, The Madness of Mr. Crouch. Witch Weekly readers send hate mail to Hermione after Rita Skeeter publishes an article claiming Hermione is leading on Harry Potter and Viktor Krum.

Much like how middle-aged women in real life will get way too invested in the love lives of celebrity teenagers (looking at you, Twilight moms), the Harry Potter universe is no different.

One of the most popular women’s magazines in the wizarding world is Witch Weekly. To give you an idea of their standards (or lack of), they have Rita Skeeter as one of their writers.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rita Skeeter was lurking around Hogwarts, trying to dig up as much dirt on the Triwizard Champions as possible. When she couldn’t find any, she was more than happy to make stories up. Journalistic integrity was not something that Rita ever cared about.

She printed a story about Hermione being in a love triangle with Harry Potter and Viktor Krum, which was, of course, all bogus. Hermione was simply Harry’s friend, and Rita was twisting it into something it wasn’t. However, the Witch Weekly readers ate it up, and all hell broke loose.

Over the next few weeks, Hermione received a barrage of hate mail from women who thought she was leading Harry on or that he ‘could do better’ than her. Some of those letters arrived in the form of howlers and would shriek insults at her in front of the entire Great Hall. It was incredibly humiliating for Hermione and was a persistent problem for a while.

It makes you wonder how Hogwarts would allow that to happen. You’d think it would be a massive security risk for strangers to send completely unchecked mail to children. There should’ve been some kind of a system in place to stop those howlers from getting through, but unfortunately, there wasn’t, so poor Hermione just had to put up with it.

Make Your Own DIY Howler

diy howler one project closer

Sometimes just seeing the magic on a screen or reading it in a book just doesn’t feel like enough. There are times when you want to experience something for yourself in the real world. If that sounds like you, here’s a fun craft project that you can try out.

There are multiple ways you could do this, some more complex than others, but here’s a fun and simple method to create your very own howler.

You will need the following:

  • Red card stock
  • White card stock
  • A recordable greeting card (Optional: If you want it to actually shout)
  • Printable templates (provided in the link above)
  • Red ribbon
  • Sticky tape
  • Velcro dots
  • Scissors

The process will require you to print out a template which you will use when cutting and sticking the card. This should prove to be a fun and relatively quick crafts activity which shouldn’t take you more than half an hour. You will need to do some neat folds as well as careful sticking, but it shouldn’t require too much skill.

This activity does involve cutting things with scissors, so if you want to do this with young children, they’d need to be supervised. When all is said and done, you’ll be left with a really cool howler of your very own! If you use the recordable greeting card, you can even make it shout when you open it!


Question: What Happens if you don’t Open a Howler?

Answer: Ignoring a howler isn’t an option. If you don’t open it quickly, the response will just be worse. It’ll be louder, ruder, and it’ll explode into flames.

Question: Who Receives a Howler in Harry Potter?

Answer: Throughout the series, several characters receive howlers. The ones we know about are Ron, Percy, Hermione, Neville, and Petunia. It’s also possible that Hagrid received some, as we know he received hate mail, but it’s never specified if howlers were included.

Question: Are Howlers Sentient?

Answer: Howlers aren’t sentient in their own right, they’re simply letters that have been enchanted to carry an angry message for the sender. They take on the voice and anger of their creator, but they don’t have thoughts of their own.


All in all, howlers are an interesting piece of magic that crop up several times throughout the series. I wish they appeared more often in the movies, though, because they were often accompanied by fun reactions. In particular, I would’ve liked seeing the “Remember my last, Petunia” moment as it gave much more depth to her character.

Hopefully, this guide has answered all your questions and more. Anything you wanted to know about howlers, well, now you do. You can even make one for yourself… Minus the magical shouting, of course! If you’re curious about other areas of magic, then check out this massive lore guide that covers every aspect of the wizarding world!

If you’d like to learn more about the characters in Harry Potter, we also have an extensive characters guide to refresh your memory of the major and minor characters. We have cast bios too, so you can see who played your favorite character! Whatever you’re after, if it’s to do with Harry Potter, then we’ve got you covered here at Wizards Welcome!

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