“We do not need magic to change the world,
we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already…”
The “relationship between reality and fiction” is the main theme of this study, which is trying to give an overview of the thinking and imagination of J.K. Rowling, the author who brought the whole story of Harry Potter to life. The theme is addressed from several perspectives taking into account age and generation differences.
Being passionate about J.K. Rowling’s stories and the incredible adventures of Harry Potter novels’s main character, I think that this topic fits me perfectly because it allowed me to study more closely the real world connections I have been guessing since the beginning of the reading. This study has shown me that in any fantastic story we can find real-world symbols and nothing is accidental or just in our imagination.
The magical world of Harry Potter was first presented in a series of seven novels written by author J.K. Rowling. They tell the story of Harry Potter, a young wizard whose parents are killed by Lord Voldemort, the greatest dark wizard of all times. Harry is famous for being the only person alive to have survived the Killing Curse (“Avada Kedavra”). Why Voldemort wanted him dead, how he survived and the magical world to which these characters belong are all absorbing aspects. Throughout the story, Harry attends ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ whose Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, protects and guides Harry towards his destiny: to destroy Voldemort and thereby save the Wizarding World.
The Harry Potter novels, since the publication of the first book of the series in 1997, have become the leading book purveyors of all time, making their creator, J.K. Rowling, probably the highest earning author in the history of erudition. Observing the popularity and the appeal of the series, one might question the explanations for such a colossal recognition. One of the possible answers to such an enquiry would be the blend of magic and reality that Rowling has created through her language. The books with the powerful tool of ‘magic’ turn common, ‘real’ themes and things into something wonderful and appealing. The intermingling of these two elements makes the readers relate to the story and yet experience the fantastical within the mundane. The purpose of this study is to trace this relatable intermingling of magic and reality.
The paper is organised in 5 chapters, each featuring one aspect of the fantastic world and its connection to the real world.
The first chapter, “Blending fact with fiction”, analyses the way in which fantasy stories, such as the Harry Potter novels, can be unrealistic in their setting, but very realistic in the manner in which the messages they convey can be translated into everyday life and reality. We all live in what we believe to be ‘reality’ but can never be sure whether this is definitively true. The Harry Potter series, in particular, blurs the line between myth, fantasy, and reality.
In fictional stories, especially those of fantasy, the reader could imagine their own particular interpretation of an object or scene.
However, the notion of reality is a huge topic. By definition, the magical world is hidden from us and so could be occurring at the same time; this happens daily in our reality without our being aware of it.
Chapter 2, “Exploring magic realism”, begins with an understanding of the concept of ‘magic realism’ by tracing its meaning and evolution, following which, it will try to show that the Harry Potter novels do contain elements of magic realism although it is not commonly termed as a figment of the magic realism genre.
Chapter 3, “Associations with the real world” shows that, with a true invisible magical feather, handled by remarkable talent, J.K. Rowling described a world pigmented with terms and denominations of great significance in our real world. Names such as Sirius, Minerva, Hedwig, but also a multitude of Latin terms have brought the series a special charm. The filmmaker, Warner Bros company, continued this line, initiated by the writer, bringing its own contribution to an outstanding success. In this chapter, I will present some less known elements, related to the names and terms used in the Harry Potter series.
Also, some of the biggest journalistic scandals in recent wizarding history to see just how similar they are and the implication of Nicolas Flamel’s name in the story.
Chapter 4, “Colors, symbols and occultism”, identifies the way symbolic meaning can be found in the smallest of details in the Harry Potter books: there are messages and morals behind everything, and what we pick up on a first viewing is merely scratching the surface. Harry Potter is a franchise that forces its audience to think; there are symbolism and metaphor plenty to explore by looking at folklore, colors and religious debates over the Harry Potter series are based on claims that the novels contain occult or Satanic subtexts.
The last chapter, “Themes and motifs”, shows that various themes run through the Potter stories that relate to us as human beings.
Flawed as they may be, our senses, the mind, time, appearance, identity and life experiences enable us to maintain our connection to this reality. However much we deny or attempt to understand it, all of the topics explored and discussed in this thesis direct us to the conscious state and reality that we are living.
Chapter 3.Associations with the real world
3.1. Reign of terror and types of power
For people, all depart from the reality which we know it. No matter how far we come through the invention, innovation, imagination, each result has a basis in the palpable world or even in the world of possible ideas, even likely. There are writers who have “predicted” the technology that had to be invented or political progress of the world. Visionaries, as we call them now. But there are also authors who have hidden the real world in their fantasy. They have not played faithful, à la Stendhal, who used to say that “a novel is a mirror you take for a walk down the road”, they have hot the reality and beat it on the anvil until they gave another form; they have sewed a hidden pocket, wondering, perhaps, how many of those who will put the robe they will discover it. Among them is J. K. Rowling, the one who has created the magical world of Harry Potter. A series with children, generally regarded as being for children but pose current and mature problems. JK did not write a treaty on morality, but, nevertheless, gives a lesson about good and evil, about the identity, fairness, acceptance, and power, about love and about death.
The magical world differs in many ways to that of humans “non-gifted” but also magicians are human beings and need to gather in an organized community, to be informed, to communicate. Thus, the administrative system not only seeks a political logic which we can easily understand, but mirrors, even in an old bottle, dusty and perhaps even distorted in places, certain trends and even moments of the history of the world .
The wizards have a Ministry of Magic, which is headed by a Prime Minister, the supreme authority in the country. The departments cover all spheres, from justice to regulation rules on magical creatures, from sports to international relations. Have a hospital and a school, a prison, a magic neighborhood, a bank, shops, pubs, inns, mail, press, sports and even a World Cup an international competition between schools. They have everything a civilized community needs to work. And, like any state, have rich and poor, innocent and influential, corruption, propaganda, betrayal, terrorism, war, the struggle for power, the fight for good. And this is all about, about how some writers keep our eyes open without to keep us theories, we give ourselves permission to deduce what is wrong in their imaginary worlds, so that we can imagine a better real world.
“We have the power to imagine better.” (J.K. Rowling)
The history of wizards resembles somewhat with our history. The rise to power of Voldemort’s may be considered a sort of First World War, one as a result of which has remained unresolved accounts. The first years of Harry’s school are enrolled in a variety of interwar period for the magical world. After the fall of Lord Voldemort, some wizards breathed with relief, and some have remained skeptical about the calm which will prove to be only apparently. End of fourth year at Hogwarts will bring the beginning of a regime of terror harder than the first. Will be need a magical Second World War , culminated with The Battle of Hogwarts, to unite the wizard’s community against the universal threat represented by Voldemort and his followers, known as the Death Eaters .
They are a symbol of terror and obsessive quest of power. Although it is never officially the head of the wizarding community, Voldemort has infiltrated agents in the Ministry, reaching even to lead him entirely in the last volume. His regime is like a totalitarian one, approaching most of Nazism. The desire inherited from one the founders of the Hogwarts School, Slytherin, to keep the magic in full magical families makes fanatics to persecute any wizard with a trace of non-magic blood in the veins. Voldemort as well as Hitler took an old idea and exacerbated it by terror, partly because of its lack of confidence in anything other but his own power over others.
“Voldemort is of course a sort of Hitler. If you read books about megalomania types like Hitler and Stalin, it’s interesting to find how superstitious these people are, with all their power. It’s part of their paranoia, the desire to make themselves bigger then who they really are; they love talking about destiny and fate. I wanted Voldemort to also have those paranoid traits”. (J.K. Rowling)
The corruption of the political system starts to show in the second book and took proportion increasingly higher. Malfoy, originate from an old family of wizards and follower of the ideology of Slytherin, is very rich and influential. Along the series it takes advantage on several occasions by the power of money and the power of the name to manipulate the Minister of Magic.
The last volume presents better how it look a world where the law is in the hands of a dictator : once cheerful Diagon Alley is in ruin, more students are hiding in The Room of Requirement, the only place in Hogwarts where the Death Eaters cannot reach, people are kidnapped , blackmailed , imprisoned , killed . The ministry has files similar to those held by the Romanian security: all members of the Order of the Phoenix, confirmed or suspected, are kept under observation or are hunted. The wizard descendent from non-magic families are not offended only by the nickname mudbloods (dirty blood), but downright persecuted, interrogated in a room full of Dementors, symbol of depression and fear, humiliated , stripped of the wizard status, so their very essence .
“Could you please tell us from which witch or wizard you took that wand?”
“T-took? I didn’t t-take it from anybody. I b-bought it when I was eleven years old. It – it – it – chose me.”
“No. No, I don’t think so, Mrs. Cattermole. Wands only choose witches or wizards. You are not a witch.”
Corruption, manipulation of the masses, terror all come obsession for the power witch the actors have on the political scene in Rowling’s story. Although constantly asks Dumbledore’s advice, the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, lives with the fear that he was going to steal his job. The paranoia is one that allows to Voldemort’s a second and more powerful ascent to power. If Fudge would have known the truth about Dumbledore, the fact that in his youth he had been the supporter of the superiority of wizards, the period which he regrets, if he had not been so insecure and would not have put himself in the shadow of Dumbledore, then perhaps this Holocaust of the magical world could have been avoided.
Your point about Wizard dominance being FOR THE MUGGLES’ OWN GOOD—this, I think is the crucial point. Yes, we have been given power and yes, that power gives us the right to rule, but it also gives us responsibilities over the ruled. We must stress this point; it will be the foundation stone upon which we build. Where we are opposed, as we surely will be, this must be the basis of all our counterarguments. We seize control FOR THE GREATER GOOD. And from this it follows that where we meet resistance, we must use only the force that is necessary and no more.
“[…] I, meanwhile, was offered the post of Minister of Magic, not once, but several times. Naturally, I refused. I had learned that I was not to be trusted with power.”
“But you’d have been better, much better, than Fudge or Scrimgeour!” burst out Harry”
“Would I?” asked Dumbledore heavily. “I am not so sure. I had proven, as a very young man that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
Any regime of terror but has also its dissidents. The series is a continuous struggle for good, having in the center a child who becomes a young man and a really good leader, surrounded by friends willing to sacrifice themselves for him as a person, not him as a symbol. The members of the Order and Hogwarts students not only believe in The Chosen One, are not fanatics and followers of Voldemort, but believe in the power of innocence, in a boy who has proved since eleven years ago that he is ready to die for good.
“The Boy who lived’ remains a symbol of everything for which we are fighting: the triumph of good, the power of innocence, the need to keep resisting.” (Remus Lupin)
As well as his mother, Harry will sacrifice for loved ones, and the power of sacrifice will be far superior magic used by Voldemort. Because, in fact, of each of the types of power evoked in JK Rowling’s series, love is the one that defeat and repairs. Terror. Fear. Pain. Death.
“You won’t be killing anyone else tonight,” said Harry as they circled, and stared into each other’s eyes, green into red. “You won’t be able to kill any of them ever again. Don’t you get it? I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people—” “But you did not!”
“—I meant to, and that’s what it did. I’ve done what my mother did. They’re protected from you. Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them. You don’t learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you?”
3.2. Media: information or propaganda?
Most people usually start the day with a great cup of coffee and reading the newspapers, do not you? Even you have started the day in this way, am I right? Either you have bought newspaper or magazine favorite from the nearest booth, either you were briefed the events “browsing” online newspapers or checking out the news on social networks, you have been in search of the latest news.
A new day has begun.
But if the day would begin with a breakfast prepared according to a cookbook with magical recipes by the house-elves of a school of magic? If you dine in a huge hall and post would arrive with a gentle fluttering of owls’ wings and would let you the most popular wizard’s newspaper, The Daily Prophet, in exchange for a Knut? Everything seems to be impossible to believe.
The pictures from newspapers are moving, the headlines are increased to get your attention, the ads are different compared to things with which he was accustomed. Cauldrons commercials that mix their own content, to the latest creations of the wands at the famous Ollivander on Diagon Alley or a new model series of broomsticks of Nimbus. Times of freedom. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named disappeared for several years already. Is peace. But a peace which takes place between two wars. Two years passed. Two years since Harry discovered his true identity, that of a wizard. It is very well protected. Personalities of the world of magic have turned their thoughts on him. They all know this boy drama. Most of them know the connection between him and Sirius Black. The godfather of the famous Harry Potter is a notorious criminal … but for safety, Harry is deprived of these informations.
During the whole year, The Daily Prophet keeps them up to date on Black’s receiving information from reliable sources of the Ministry of Magic. The Hogwarts students are scared when they read the front page of the morning newspaper that the prison-breaker was seen on the streets of Hogsmeade village, located near the school. Whom seek for? What does he want? How can they defend themselves? Panic is installed long time ago in the souls of all. The newspapers do only to increase it. The feeling of fear makes their heart leap at every information that could be related to the killer. They all hope that their families will be safe. Everything is taken to the extreme, unknowingly.
Harry is confused. He knows the whole story. He knows that Black was a follower of Voldemort and, after he betrayed his parents, James and Lily Potter, he spent twelve years in prison for the Dark Lord. He knows it’s coming to kill him in the name of his Master to rectify the curse that failed.
Powered by the press, this story is maintained for a long period of time, even if Harry finds out the truth and knows that the real guilty for the death of his parents is Peter Pettigrew, Voldemort’s faithful servant. But for the readers of newspapers Sirius remains scary killer guilty for the death of twelve “muggles” until his closure in prison. Then Minister of Magic himself affirms that condemning Black to prison was a system error.
Actions, decisions and plans of the Ministry are filtered out by the informers for stories printed in The Daily Prophet to present in a favorable light the measures applied in accordance with the regime’s pacifist of Fudge. Therefore, concomitant with the beginning of the fourth year of study of Harry Potter there is a suspicious disappearance of an employee of the Ministry of Magic, which media passed under the silence.
Special correspondent of the newspaper The Daily Prophet for this event is Rita Skeeter, a journalist with personality and “inedited” methods to achieve the scandalous editorial. She embodies the image of the journalist tabloids of scandal, the Gossip, the paparazzi’s which invade the private space of the “subjects”. She invents stories, and flourishes the truth and hurts weak people to sell. Once elected, strangely, as the fourth competitor of magical competition Harry becomes her main target. All his past is exploited by Rita’s desire to have editions full of “sensational” and love stories are woven in need of advertising. Her article creates inconvenience for Harry, but also for his friends, all being ridiculed. Unfortunately, the “ridiculous” in which Rita Skeeter has turned Harry along the tournament is increasing in the next year…
Fear. This feeling that pushes the human being to the hasty decisions and actions, unproductive, blind. This feeling suffocate pride, choking minds incapable to see beyond reality and therefore it refuses. Make fudge things, inventing and falsifying truths are three things that define the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. A weak man, which can be easily modeled by his fears. His name means all of these. Manipulation and fear. Hiding the truth. The refuse to get help. The transmission of wrong information. Early establishment of a regime of terror. The propaganda of the Ministry could not be successfully completed without the aid of his faithful newspaper publishers, The Daily Prophet.
They made them liars and fools. The Boy who lived turned into The Boy who lies. The titles and honors of the magical world have been withdrawn to Dumbledore. Harry was a crazy boy who invent everything, and his teacher, an old senile no longer able to run the school properly. Propaganda can be so strong when there are gullible ears in which you dripping venom. Without it, no system of this world could not be established. Nazi Germany had a special ministry for propaganda. Goebbels, his leader, is famous for his methods to spread the love for the leader, anti-Semitism and hatred between peoples. Hitler himself speeches at night, filling stadiums full of people, igniting giant torches. Thus it’s propagating the information. Otherwise penetrated into the minds and souls of people. People paralyzed by fear. People who want to hope that nothing bad can happen. They want to believe that their reality will not turn upside down.
At this point, hitting the many obstacles in his willingness to warn the world, Harry granted an exclusive interview to another newspaper in the wizard’s world, The Quibbler, publication was often ridiculed because of the “different” articles and odd angles of seeing the world. Article written by none other than Rita Skeeter, who is blackmailed by Hermione. Taking advantage of the opportunity Harry tells in detail about the night in the cemetery. Two newspapers collide head to head. Credibility of the most read and most “serious” is overshadowed by the power of ideas that Harry will require in the interview appeared in The Quibbler. A strange situation similar to the journalism today: a world divided, in which each supports the one who defend their interests. […] “The world is not split into good people and Death Eaters” , Sirius tells to Harry, but the world is divided in accordance with what can truly support and what he wants to hear. Every political party, every regime has its supporters and the purpose to attract more people to his side. The press is crucial element, though many of us ignore it. We are bombarded with information from all sides. To filter is essential for the chaotic world in which we go around. After a candidate falls, comes another power-hungry. Cyclicality: we raise those whom we put down yesterday. To be true everything we read?
“Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy.”
3.3. Domination, rasism and slavery
Equality does not mean uniformity, to give up who you are for who you should be. Equality means respecting the right to be treated the same as your people, regardless of everything that put you apart. The need to categorize is part of the human process of identifying the object or person with whom they interact. But we do not limit ourselves to determine who we are dealing with, we go further, we begin to judge, criticize, devaluate, dehumanization. This creates discrimination, slavery, abuse, crimes motivated only but the hate. It’s one of the oldest wounds of humanity. It is not surprising that the issue of inequality creeps in literature, ironically, equally, regardless of gender.
In the Harry Potter’s series, JK Rowling addresses issues such as slavery and obsession for blood, whether linked to ascending or of disease. Remus Lupin, professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts in the third year of Harry’s study is one of the noblest characters of the series, an excellent teacher and a loyal friend. But it was turned into a werewolf in his childhood and lived a life marked by loneliness and poverty, humiliation and rejection. His fate is a metaphor for those discriminated against because of illness.
“Lupin’s condition of lycanthropy (being a werewolf) was a metaphor for those illnesses that carry a stigma, like HIV and AIDS. All kinds of superstitions seem to surround blood-borne conditions, probably due to the taboos surrounding blood itself. The wizarding community is as prone to hysteria and prejudice as the muggle one, and the character of Lupin gave me a chance to examine those attitudes.”
(J. K. Rowling)
Inherited blood is but a powerful pretext for hatred. Talking about the terror regime of Voldemort, similar to Hitler, we cannot draw a parallel between anti-Semitism and persecution of non-magical families.
“The expressions “pure-blood,” “half-blood,” and “Muggle-born” have been coined by people to whom these distinctions matter, and express their originators’ prejudices. … If you think this is far-fetched, look at some of the real charts the Nazis used to show what constituted “Aryan” or “Jewish” blood. I saw one in the Holocaust Museum in Washington when I had already devised the “pure-blood,” “half-blood,” and “Muggle-born” definitions and was chilled to see that the Nazi used precisely the same warped logic as the Death Eaters. A single Jewish grandparent “polluted” the blood, according to their propaganda.”
Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts School, is the promoter of the idea of superiority of the wizards, an idea which will be spread throughout the magical community, not just between antiheroes. Hundreds of years later, his successor, Voldemort is forced to resort to drastic means to clean the wizarding world of “impostors”. Begins a purge campaign and persecution, first in the illegality, then through the Ministry of Magic.
“It was rather frightening, this was a sculpture of a witch and a wizard sitting on ornately carved thrones […] Engraved in foot-high letters at the base of the statue was the words MAGIC IS MIGHT. […] Harry looked more closely and realized that what he had though were decoratively carved thrones were actually mounds of carved human: hundreds and hundreds of naked bodies, men, women, and children, all with rather stupid, ugly faces, twisted and pressed together to support the weight of the handsomely robed wizards.”
“Muggles,” whispered Hermione. “In their rightful place. […]”
Even in his weak moments Dumbledore had a noble character and his acts of youth are a proof that even the best of us make mistakes, but also not everything we do at the beginning should define forever the path.
The clearest proof of inequality socially acceptable stays but in the ratio of wizards and magical creatures. The saddest fate have perhaps elves house. Their slavery is spread over several pages of magical history, as has been present in our world since antiquity.
“’Slave labor’, said Hermione, breathing hard through her nose. ‘That’s what made this dinner. Slave labor’.”
The goblins’ indoctrination and slavery go beyond any imagination. It is in their being to feel guilt, to be subjected. They do not know the rights or equality. In spite of all these things life is not fair. People have no right to create slaves. Have no right to cut heads of the dead house elfs to keep them as souvenirs, as happens in the Black family home. Elf Kreacher waiting for their turn subjected…
“Kreacher lives to serve the Noble House of Black.”
Labels. We are looking everywhere for them. According to them people are more valuable or less valuable? Of course not. But humanity is characterized by pride. We cannot be friends with those who are different. We cannot love those with a „defect”. Why not? We are all people, whether we have blue blood, whether we are sick or the fate disadvantaged in one way or another.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are…”
Beyond the labels that society puts us, we are equal. Without any doubt. But today, unfortunately, some people are more equal than others …It is up to us to prove that discrimination of any kind should not have its place in this world.
3.4. Nicolas Flamel’s case
Any novel, even one of the fantasy genres, has elements of reality. To give greater credibility to his work, the author introduces specific geographic landmarks or historical characters. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling also has, in addition to landmarks like London, Romania, Transylvania, a historical character who become the spotlight in the first book, which was the first film – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001).
“Nicolas Flamel is the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone. […]”
“The Philosopher’s Stone is a legendary substance with astonishing powers. It will transform any metal into pure gold and produces the Elixir of Life which will make the drinker immortal […] The only Stone currently in existence belongs to Mr. Nicolas Flamel, the noted alchemist who last year celebrated his 665th birthday.”
These words, read by Hermione Granger , bring to light not only a key figure in the story, but also a character as possible real , its existence is attested by a street in Paris who bears his name.
Nicolas Flamel (1330-1418) is known firstly as the alchemist of medieval French period. But it became alchemist casually, as he himself confesses, was originally a simple man, modest, dealing copying ancient manuscripts.
“I, Nicolas Flamel, clerk, living in Paris in 1399, at Notary, next to St. Jacques Boucher, although I did not learn much Latin because of poverty of my parents – which, however, were considered honest and kind, even by those who envied most – I learned through God’s blessing, philosophers books and acquired a knowledge of them […] because of this, it will not be any point in my life where, reminding me of this infinite good, not to thank to the good and great God.”
At first, only the Flamel trust was his wife, Perenelle: “I could not find, however, no consolation in the fact that talking to her about this and wondered what I could do to find meaning.” The desire to discover more about the book and the Philosopher’s Stone , decided to copy drawings from the volume to show many scholars from Paris , hoping that someone will help, but most laughed at him, except of a licensee in medicine, Anselm.
After spends 21 years in a maze of false processes , Flamel realized that, in fact, the blood they were talking about in the book was the spirit of mineral metals, more exactly gold, silver and mercury. Disappointed by this time lost, the alchemist decides to seek answers to a Hebrew priest in a Spanish synagogue. He meets Master Candines who had heard of the book, but thought long lost. Unfortunately, the master dies five days after arriving in Paris, and Flamel remains to discover the recipe of the Stone Philosopher alone and will even succeed. Nicolas Flamel died in 1418 at the age of 88 years. Even if the existence of the Stone Philosopher is still questioned, that alchemist who claims to have created has lived in medieval France cannot be denied. His house, dating from 1407, is today the street Montmorency no. 51.
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