The Irma Pince Theory

I'm a Prince anagram?!

Update - Posted on January 22nd, 2006

I read your analysis of the Irma Pince theory.  I am one of the posters on the hplexicon forum thread where this theory originated.  Over the past couple of weeks we've come up with lots more to substantiate the theory. I'll list the points that you have not yet addressed in your analysis.

1.  In the forward to "Quiddich Through the Ages" Dumbledore says that Madam Pince suggested to him the he avoid having to turn over the book to muggles by faking his death.  Odd isn't it?  And written in 1999?


2.  Madam Pince is described a few times as being like a vulture.  The vulture, in ancient times, particularly ancient Egypt, represents the goddess Nekhbet, and is the symbol of motherhood and also of royalty.  Maybe connecting to Snape's mother, a Prince?


3.  If Pince is Snape's mom, under some sort of Wizard Protection Program, and now has a new name, etc., then the library is a good place to be where she'll almost never see anyone other than students and faculty.  No students would recognize her.  Only faculty of her own age or older would have much likelihood of recognizing her.  But note that at Dumbledore's funeral, Madam

Pince is in a heavy veil down to her knees.  If there had been any danger of someone recognizing her, they wouldn't in that veil!


4.  Yes there are lots of anagrams in HP.  But this one is only a difference of ONE letter!  Wow!


5.  Last, why would she not have come out of hiding when Voldemort was presumed gone?  She was under Dumbledore's protection and he didn't think Voldemort was gone for good.  Further, it is likely that her life at Hogwarts was satisfying -- maybe better than her earlier life with a possibly abusive husband.  And if her death was faked, most people in her "past life" would think her dead.  It might be easier to just stay where she was.  Her son was there anyway.


Just too much circumstantial evidence.  The other thing is that these aren't obvious red herrings that the reader would be expected to pick up on and wonder about.  If it weren't for a particularly off-beat thread of conversation and someone just happening to mention "what if Dumbledore hid one of Snape's parents?" this connection would never have been made.  Even

then, odds were against this particular connection being made.  So I think it looks less like red herrings, and more like very carefully hidden clues sprinkled through the books so that later, after Book 7 when All Is Revealed, the reader can go back and re-read and say, "why yes, it was there all along!"


Just a humble reader's thoughts!


From Marty:

I found this in a discussion board and it opened up a whole lot of speculation on the part of my daughter and I.  Irma Pince is an anagram for "I'm a Prince".  Just move the "r" over.  Could the librarian be a relative of Severus?  We speculated it could be his mother, age would be correct. 

Also, what if 16 years ago Voldermort ordered Severus to get  job at Hogwarts and if he failed, death to him and potentially his mother, assuming Irma Pince is his mother.  What then?  We have seen Narcissa is upset and angry with Voldermort due to him sending Draco on a mission that will result in his death and his mothers death if he fails.

Would Severus go over to the light side if Voldermort gave him a task that would result in the death of someone he cared about.  If this person is a relative of Severus, and Dumbledore has been helping to hide this person at Hogwarts (a place safer than even Gringotts), is his trust in Snape somehow tied into this potential relative.  As we saw in Goblet of Fire, Severus saw his father beating his mother.  My experience with such cases is a child who becomes very protected of the mother. 

Anyway, the following is what I found.  Love to hear your thoughts: The scene in the library when Irma gets upset about Harry's potion book the description of her is : "Hermione stopped dead; Harry had heard it too. Somebody had moved close behind them among the dark bookshelves. They waited and a moment later the vulture-like countenance of Madam Pince appeared round the corner, her sunken cheeks, her skin like parchment and her long hooked nose illuminated unflatteringly by the lamp she was carrying ...

 I thought perhaps Madam Pince looked like she was about to have a seizure because she reconized her book in the hands of Harry. Also, there is no place safer than Hogwarts, (at least according it Hagrid!) so why not hide her there?

Cannon facts from the book about Madam Pince  From the HP Lexicon. 

  • Librarian at Hogwarts, very strict and suspicious.
  • Brandishes a feather duster (SS12).
  • Highly suspicious of students. Places nasty spells on books to make sure they're returned on time. (QA)
  • the vulture-like countenance of Madam Pince appeared round the corner, her sunken cheeks, her skin like parchment and her long hooked nose illuminated unflatteringly by the lamp she was carrying ...

distinguishing features: thin and irritable
appearance: thin, looks like an underfed vulture (CS10), shriveled face (OP29), vulture-like (GF26)
age: older
field: librarian, old-fashioned version (guardian of the books)
interests: following rules, protecting her books from nasty, scabby little students

  "What are you looking for, boy?"
     -- Madam Pince

My views on that theory:

I think this theory is very interesting and I was delighted for its being brought to my attention. However, I do hope my not truly finding it probable will not shock some of you too much.  

Though the physical description does sound like Snape's grandmother and she has quite a Snappish temper, I doubt she is a relation of Severus.  Why? Because there have been many anagram theories in the HP books up to now, yet only Voldemort's has proved right.  And then, it didn't take long before JKR unveiled that anagram (Book2) so that nobody had time to hypothesise on it in the first place. 

Also, I doubt it because, if Snape was working to protect anyone of his close family I believe we would have had a very slight hint by now. JKR always leaves small hints no matter what. Hints of interactions, not only physical traits as it is the case now.  Snape would have had some interaction with her or something like that. Not to mention he wouldn't just have bolted from the castle and leave someone in need of him behind at the end of Book6. My friend Afictionado and I agree on this.

As for Hogwarts being the safest place on earth, is it really?! Think of Quirrell, the chamber of secrets, Black, Mr. Crouch, the Dementors, the many Death Eater children and parents who have access to the school and spies like Draco. So would it be safe to hide a former student there in the person of Madam Pince?  When hiding people from Voldemort, they are not hidden in Hogwarts. They've been dispatched to secret hideaways like the Potters and in places like Grimmauld Place.  Or else, they would be holding Order meetings directly at Hogwarts.  But they don't because it's too obvious. I'm not saying it is impossible, but very unlikely for someone to stay cooped inside for so long, especially after the fall of the Dark Lord. Why keep that name if it was an anagram?!

Moreover, Madam Pince's character and traits depict exactly many librarians whom are portrayed in many books.  I can think of one or two librarians whom I met and could have been Madam Pince's sisters easily in fact.  It seems to be a requirement for that job! Ha ha!  But yes, thanks to that general description of her, I do not believe she is Severus' relative.  

As for Eileen, Snape's mother, we know she looked like this:

The picture showed a skinny girl of around fifteen. She was not pretty; she looked simultaneously cross and sullen, with heavy brows and a long, pallic face.

Is that someone we've met before?! I don't think so.  Could Irma be Snape's mother? I don't think so either.  How could she be working at Hogwarts under a false identity and still have been the Gobstone club's captain and a student of Hogwarts without anyone noticing who she really was?! If Snape was trying to make sure she was safe, he would have made sure she was hidden in a place where nobody would ever recognise her. One can't live so long on Polyjuice, I don't believe so and it wouldn't be worth it. One might as well use Polyjuice to leave the country altogether and start a new life elsewhere.

 And if this were his relative, how come she would have let Snape do that to his Advanced Potions manual? She would at least want to keep an eye on one of her relatives, and being as strict as she is, the first rule she'd make sure he followed would be to respect books and never write in them.

Of course I could be totally wrong, I am aware of that, and I'll congratulate those who came up with that theory if it happens to be true of course!! If I missed anything, please let me know!

Upon which, I rest my case.  

          Lady Claudia