The Mythological Figures That Inspired Tonks' Name In Harry Potter

The "Harry Potter" universe, in particular the original seven books by author J.K. Rowling that introduced the character to the world, is filled to the brim with references to mythology. Specifically, the books' universe relies on references to people, beings, and situations that have, for centuries, appeared in the cultures of Western Europe and the British Isles (among other places), as noted by Virginia Tech University. Examples include the Philosopher's Stone (rendered as the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S. translation), references to werewolves and vampires, and even Greek mythology.

A popular character from later in the series bears a name from Greek mythology. Nymphadora "Dora" Tonks Lupin famously goes by her last name when introduced in the narrative, possibly because her first name is a mouthful. Also, the first syllable of her name comes from a being from ancient Greek legend, although a "nymph" probably is not what you think it is.

The nymphs weren't the sexed-up stereotype

These days, the word "nymph" is a sort of shortcut for referring to a woman with an insatiable sexual appetite, almost certainly due to the word "nymphomaniac," and indeed, the prevalence of the use of the word in the adult entertainment industry hardly needs exposition. Nevertheless, according to ThoughtCo, sex was just a small part of whom the nymphs were. The nature spirits, who appear as beautiful young women and kind of goddesses but not really (Greek religion is complicated), were often lovers or caretakers of other heroes in the story. Indeed, the nymphs were known for being particularly kind to men in general, although it bears noting that didn't always necessarily mean sex was involved.

In the case of Nymphadora Tonks, Rowling doesn't appear to have assigned any significance to it, and indeed, there's little to nothing nymph-like about her character arc. In fact, in the narrative, it's revealed that Dora actually dislikes her name, possibly explaining why she prefers to go by her surname.