Harry Potter’s Headless Toy Soldiers in the Cupboard Under The Stairs

In several Harry Potter films, magical orphan schoolboy Harry is shown living under his aunt and uncle’s stairs, living on their charity and cast offs, playing with his Cousin Dudley’s cast off toy soldiers. These are all shown as broken and headless. Very symbolic …

Toy soldiers, wargames and chess sometimes appear in films, books and adverts as shorthand symbols for tactics, scheming and strategy (Bond Living Daylights film, Callan, The Crown.)

At the end of the first Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone book and film, there is a giant, living and deadly chess game that Harry and friends must play and win to solve their quest.

Image source: https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Toy_soldiers

According to Harry Potter fandom site, these toy soldiers apparently only appear in the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The headless toy soldiers from “The Cupboard Under The Stairs” also appear briefly in the part 1 of the film adaptation of the final lengthy tome Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. They are briefly glimpsed as symbols of his deprived childhood as Harry leaves the magical protection of his neglectful blood relatives the Dursleys and their house on Privet Drive for the final time when he comes of age.

They did not appear in the books, although in a short interview clip with screenwriter Steve Kloves, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling approved of the film’s visual shorthand and symbolism of the headless soldiers, the “broken army” of cast out, cast off figures:


The YouTube clip of the interview and film clip of the soldiers under the stairs is also here

Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves interview quote – Screenshot from the attractively named Hello Giggles website!

Toy Soldiers as Symbols in Books and Films

Obviously the headless soldiers have a symbolic role, as toy soldiers in films usually have. They symbolise his abused, second class, neglected, cast-off status as an unwanted, unloved orphan child.

Symbolic headless soldiers – Maybe Harry Potter is both a helpless pawn or a increasingly clever game player in the quests and riddles that run through the Harry Potter books?

The Harry Potter fandom site suggests: “It’s not known if these toy soldiers were a cheap birthday present for Harry on one of his birthdays or if they were inherited toys from his cousin Dudley that he most likely no longer wanted.

It is not very easy from these screen shots to recognise which original figures they were, ones that the props department found headless or beheaded as props?

Anyone recognise the originals or makers of these figures?


Gaming Scenarios?

Maybe a good Halloween fantasy scenario (Pauline Clarke, Twelves and the Genii or Return of the Twelves style) where the headless figures must seek out their heads or the headless soldiers are some zombie automata …

I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter books, and later watching the Potter films, partly for their punning wordplay and also for their look, both the CGI fantasy of Diagon Alley and increasingly grungy, gritty look as the real world and the magical world collide.

Related blog posts – book nooks


Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 September 2021

6 thoughts on “Harry Potter’s Headless Toy Soldiers in the Cupboard Under The Stairs”

    1. I enjoy the early thinner books as they match my attention span …
      Like the X Files and many other lengthy series that I enjoyed, there come a time where there is too much ‘canon’ lore and too much tying up of loose ends and explanations and back story etc for there to be much action, story and enjoyment.


  1. Given that Wizard Chessmen are alive and able to fight on their own, I imagine there could be Wizard toy soldiers too; except that wizards don’t seem to go in for modernity. A Muggleborn might magic his soldiers, though. I seem to remember a horror story by George RR Martin in which toy soldiers are magicked to life by a witch and kill someone in an act of revenge.


    1. I wonder if there was a surge of teenage chess players of Ron Weasley ‘magic’ chess sets when the HP books came out? Imagine the enfranchise possibilities.

      George R R Martin collects toy soldiers, or at least toy knights. I confess to jot having seen Game of Thrones and managed only a couple of opening chapters but I have read all the Potter books over the years.


  2. A most interesting post . I haven’t read the books but enjoyed the films. I don’t know Game of Thrones at all but it is interesting to hear of the knights collecting.


    1. I am surprised with your muggle teaching mug from your painting table that you haven’t read them.

      Well worth reading, especially the early books. The HP films are worth watching after you have read the books so you have your own picture of characters and places in your mind. If you like Tolkien and European / British / Nordic folklore as you do, then I think you might enjoy them.
      The boxed sets of both DVD films and the books are cheap enough to pick up. Stephen Fry’s audiobook readings are OK too.
      I haven’t seen Game of Thrones and only managed a chapter or two of the first book. It didn’t catch me. Too many characters, too many factions and families for me to keep up with. Again with your Tolkien interest in this frozen Dark Ages Ancients sort of set up, it might be worth a try of the first doorstep of a book or the first series.


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