From the front page of this week's The Jewish Press (link):
Harry Potter's Fabulous Jewish MonstersMore here.
By: Rabbi Natan Slifkin
The fabulous world of Harry Potter, so prominent in the news right now, may seem very far removed from Judaism. After all, magic, the central feature of the series, is prohibited by the Torah. But some of the most striking inhabitants of Harry’s world are very much part of Torah. Many of the strange beasts that Harry encounters, including mermaids, giants, centaurs and dragons, were described in the Talmud and Midrash long before J.K. Rowling ever took up her pen.
Harry’s headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, owns a magical phoenix, an immortal bird that is continually reborn in fire. The phoenix is also described in several instances in the Talmud and Midrash, having received its gift of immortality as a result of not eating from the Etz Ha-Da’at (Tree of Knowledge) in the Garden of Eden. Hogwarts, the school where Harry is a pupil, houses a lake inhabited by mermen and mermaids. Mermaids are also mentioned in the Midrash, and Rashi likewise discusses people who are half man, half fish....