Mirror of Erised: Dumbledore Seeing Socks?

Here’s why Dumbledore sees socks in the Mirror of Erised:

Dumbledore says that he sees himself holding a thick pair of wooly socks, and he says that it is because one can never have too many good socks.

That’s very likely a joke.

Dumbledore probably does not see socks at all but instead sees something deeply personal, like his dead sister.

So if you want to learn all about why Dumbledore says he has seen socks in the Mirror of Erised, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

Dumbledore Looking at Mirror of Erised: Why Socks?

Who Is Dumbledore?

We’re throwing some names around here, so we should probably make sure everyone is on the same page.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, you might not already know that Dumbledore is an essential character in the Harry Potter franchise.

During the original seven books (and the eight movies that were adapted from them), Dumbledore is the headmaster of Hogwarts—the premier British school for witches and wizards.

He’s often regarded as the most accomplished and capable wizard in the entire world during his lifetime.

He is renowned for his defeat of Grindelwald, one of the most powerful dark wizards of the last century.

He is also known as the only person Voldemort ever feared.

Voldemort, of course, is the antagonist of the original series and the most powerful dark wizard in the world at the time.

Dumbledore is also a mentor to Harry, and the two have a special relationship as headmaster and pupil.

It’s probably fair to say that Harry is Dumbledore’s favorite student, and the headmaster definitely takes a special interest in Harry’s life, well-being, and education.

More than anything else, Dumbledore is the mastermind on the side of the good guys, and his plans move the story significantly.

What Is the Mirror of Erised?

The Mirror of Erised is a magical item in the Harry Potter world.

It is quite literally a mirror, but instead of showing you your reflection, it shows you your heart’s greatest desire.

You might have noticed, but Erised spelled backward is “desire.” 

The mirror first showed up in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, depending on where you live).

It was present in both the original book and the movie adaptation.

Harry accidentally stumbles across the mirror when he is sneaking around the castle at night, and when he looks into it, he sees his mom and dad (you might remember that Harry was orphaned at a very young age).

Harry is so struck by the image that he stares into the mirror for a few hours.

He then returns several nights in a row.

At that point, Dumbeldore (who seems to know everything that goes on in his school) approaches Harry to intervene.

He explains to Harry what the mirror is and how it works.

He also explains that the mirror offers no knowledge or self-improvement.

It can’t actually give you what you want, and simply staring into the mirror can lead down an unhealthy road (although he says it in his charming Dumbledore way).

As it turns out, this is actually the very first conversation that the two characters have together, and it really sets the tone for their entire relationship, but that is a whole other article.

Why Did Dumbledore See Socks in the Mirror of Erised?

After giving Harry a quick but valuable lesson, Dumbledore explains that he’s going to move the mirror, and he asks Harry not to go looking for it.

Harry agrees, and then has a thought.

He asks the headmaster what he sees in the mirror.

Dumbledore’s answer is that he sees himself holding a thick pair of wooly socks.

Why? According to Dumbledore, one can never have too many pairs of good socks.

This is meant to be a disarming joke.

Dumbledore very likely doesn’t see himself holding socks.

He also doesn’t want to answer the question, as it is rather personal.

So, he tells a funny joke, and Harry accepts it.

Despite that, the books don’t really revisit that part of the conversation, and if you are to take Dumbledore at his word, then this actually says a lot about him.

If his deepest desire is a new pair of wooly socks, it suggests that he has found a high level of acceptance of the things in his life.

He doesn’t want for much, but as he does live in an old, drafty castle that is often cold, another pair of warm socks wouldn’t be so bad.

Wait, Did Dumbledore Really See Socks in the Mirror of Erised?

On the other hand, we probably shouldn’t take Dumbledore for his word.

Not this time.

Over the course of the books, we get to learn a lot more about Dumbledore.

Beyond that, his character has really received a lot more attention in the Fantastic Beasts series, and with all of that information, it’s likely that Dumbledore held deep-seated desires—the same as anyone else.

We’ll get into what he probably did see in the mirror in a bit, but first, allow me to explain why we should assume that the sock comment was really just a joke.

First off, Harry never actually believed that Dumbledore saw socks.

Even after he walked away from the mirror, he mused over Dumbledore’s comment.

A young Harry recognized that he had inadvertently asked a very personal question, and he respected Dumbledore’s shyness on the topic.

If young Harry is that aware, we can be too.

Also, in the fifth book of the series, Dumbledore explains a few of his major regrets over the years.

They aren’t necessarily his biggest regrets (we’ll get to that), but he definitely made mistakes along the way, and he knew it.

When Dumbledore explains to Harry why he withheld so much information, it is made clear that Dumbledore does have deep-seated desires—not the least of which was to protect Harry’s innocence and see him safe and happy for as long as possible.

That alone would be a more likely thing for Dumbledore to see in the mirror.

But, as you’ll see, Dumbledore’s greatest desire was probably significantly more heartfelt even than seeing Harry safe and happy.

If Not Socks, What Did Dumbledore See in the Mirror of Erised? (3 Scenarios)

If we’re going to accuse Dumbledore of lying (or of telling a silly joke), then that leaves the question open. What did he see?

It’s important to note that we don’t actually know. At the time of this writing, it has never been explicitly revealed what Dumbledore sees in the mirror. We can only speculate.

But, the character has seen a lot of development over the years, so we can put together some pretty reasonable guesses as to what he sees when he looks in the mirror, even as a wizened old wizard.

#1 Dumbledore’s Sister

Most likely, Dumbledore saw his sister in some fashion or another.

When he was still a relatively young man, his sister was killed in an accident, and Dumbledore was at least partially responsible.

No one is sure exactly which spell killed her, but Dumbledore was definitely a contributor to the commotion, and in the end, his sister was dead.

It’s a heartbreaking tale, and it’s hard to imagine that Dumbledore would desire anything more than seeing his sister alive and well.

It might be that he sees her happy and with a family.

Or, maybe he sees his sister and his brother, together with him, all one happy family.

It’s worth noting that Dumbledore’s brother is alive and well at this point.

That doesn’t preclude him from being in the mirror, but Dumbledore’s greatest desire is probably linked to his greatest regret.

It just seems fitting.

#2 Still Socks, But More Than That

Then again, maybe he really did see himself holding a pair of socks.

Maybe the joke was a half-truth.

If so, then the socks would have had more meaning to him.

It’s possible that he had a pair of socks that were given to him by his sister.

Or, in his vision of a happy family, his sister has made him the loving gift.

It’s even possible that his greatest desire is a life so simple that he wants nothing more than a pair of socks.

That would be a bit of a meta moment for a kids’ book, but it’s still possible.

It’s a lot of speculation, but the point is that socks could be something of sentimental value that really does show up in the mirror for any number of reasons.

If that’s the case, though, then the socks themselves aren’t the desire.

They’re a representation of something much more meaningful, and that’s the real point.

Dumbledore clearly had desires beyond a simple pair of woolen socks.

#3 Who Dumbledore Could Have Been

Everything above still applies, but this is where I would put my money.

Until we definitely see otherwise, I would bet that Dumbledore sees himself in the mirror.

With him is his family, and possibly some lost friends along the way.

More than anything else, it’s a reflection of who Dumbledore thinks he could have been had he avoided some of his greatest mistakes. 

Perhaps his friendship with Grindelwald could have prevented the latter from becoming a world-class dark wizard.

Maybe he could have maintained a happy relationship with his brother and sister.

Perhaps he could have even been a better mentor to Voldemort before he went down the path of the dark wizard.

There are a lot of maybes, and Dumbledore (by his own admission) is more than clever enough to imagine a lot of them.

He probably sees the version of himself that came out the best in all of those maybes.