The Greek Mythology in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

Pre-University Paper, 2015

36 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2 Definition: Myths

3 Brief Summary of Harry Potter

4 Mythical Naming
4.1 Main Characters
4.1.1 Hermione Granger
4.1.2 Minerva McGonagall
4.2 Minor Characters
4.2.1 Alecto Carrow
4.2.2 Merope Gaunt
4.2.3 Narcissa Malfoy
4.2.4 Andromeda Tonks
4.2.5 Nymphadora Tonks
4.2.6 Argus Filch
4.2.7 Sybill Trelawney

5 Mythology related Creatures
5.1 Centaurs
5.2 Giants
5.3 Basilisk
5.4 Phoenix
5.5 Griffin
5.6 Spiders (Acromantula)
5.7 Werewolves

6 Mythology inspired Objects
6.1 Invisibility Cloak
6.2 Magical Wand

7 Magic
7.1 Transfiguration
7.2 Shape – Shifting

8 Hogwarts

9 Conclusion

10 References
10.1 Primary Sources
10.2 Secondary Sources
10.3 Online Sources


Harry Potter, a parallel-universe, created by J.K. Rowling, has long since been a best-selling series. The focus of my paper is on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book of the series, and will retell the story of the orphan and pupil of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter, in order to give a thorough understanding of the world that witches and wizards call their own. Furthermore, my work intends to convey the extent to which the book was influenced by Greek mythology, by comparing Greek myths with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The main aspects that will be dealt with are naming, creatures and magical objects, with the paper aiming to highlight how much J.K. Rowling must have immersed herself in Greek Mythology in order to find objects, places, and branches of magic, as well as suitable names, stories and character-traits for some of her protagonists.

In the end, the paper will show that there are many parallels between Greek mythology and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

1. Introduction

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is one of the best- and fastest-selling books of all time1 and is a book adored by adults and children. The Sunday Telegraph goes as far as calling it “The final chapter in the final book of one of the greatest literary adventures of modern times.”2

This paper should primarily deal with the Greek mythology that occurs in the final book of the Harry Potter series “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”3, written by Joanne K. Rowling. It will show how deeply Miss Rowling immersed herself in Greek mythology in order to find suitable names for her characters, which myths she revived in her novel, which creatures are mythology-related and what magic and objects were inspired by Greek mythology. Furthermore it will also touch on the story of the Deathly Hallows itself in order to recall what happens and who wins the fight between Good and Bad.

One of the primary sources used in this paper, aside from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” itself, will be “The Sorcerer´s Companion. A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter”4, which is one of the only books that looks thoroughly at the use of Greek mythology in the world of Harry Potter. Secondary sources include books which reference Greek mythology, such as Bulfinch´s Greek and Roman Mythology5, which gives lucid summaries of many tales in Greek mythology, The Everything Classical Mythology Book6 reproduces the stories and lives of the Gods and some heroes, and The Complete World of Greek Mythology7 goes into detail concerning some of the more famous tales told in Greek mythology.

This paper aims to determine how much Greek mythology plays a part in J. K. Rowling’s book, and the extent to which these uses tally with their Greek origins, based on comparisons between literature that deals with Greek mythology and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

In sum, the paper will show by what measure Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is inspired by Greek mythology, and how much the story has in common with the ancient Greek tales.

2 Definition: Myths

According to the Oxford dictionaries a myth is [a] traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.8

3 Brief Summary of Harry Potter

Harry Potter grows up with the Durselys, his only remaining living relatives, who try to keep him as down-trodden as possible. For a long time he is told that his parents died in a car crash, which was also the cause for the lightening-shaped scar on his forehead. However, one day Harry finds out that the Dursleys lied to him all along and his parents were killed by the most evil wizard ever, Lord Voldemort. He also learns that his parents were wizards and therefore he is one too. The night his parents died, Voldemort wanted to kill the baby Harry, after he had finished off Lily and James Potter, but couldn´t. The reason for his longing to murder a baby was a prophecy. The usually deadly spell rebounded from Harry; leaving Voldemort to flee, barely alive. Harry survived, thanks to his mother´s sacrifice. The only reminder of the encounter with Voldemort is his scar.

Harry enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he is sorted into Gryffindor house. He soon makes friends with Ronald Weasley, a red-haired, friendly boy from an ancient wizarding family with six siblings; and Hermione Granger, a very intelligent, bossy girl from an all-muggle family. Together with his friends he has many adventures and comes face to face with Voldemort twice before the latter rises again, this time more terrifying and power-hungry than ever before. Harry manages to escape again and again.

Finally Harry finds out that the only way of killing Voldemort is turning him into a mortal again, which is only possible through destroying his seven Horcruxes; objects in which you can conceal a part of your soul. For this reason he drops out of school before the seventh year starts. Together with Ron and Hermione he hunts down the Horcruxes and destroys them one after another. The Battle of Hogwarts is the last encounter between Good and Bad. The last Horcruxes get destroyed; one of which has lived inside Harry ever since the encounter between himself and Voldemort nearly 17 years ago. Harry survives and manages to kill Voldemort. The battle is won by Harry and the rest of the Good side, even though they suffer severe losses.

Nineteen years later, Harry, now married to Ron´s younger sister Ginevra, is sure that the terror is over forever and Voldemort will never return again.9

4 Mythical Naming

4.1 Main Characters

4.1.1 Hermione Granger

Hermione was the beautiful daughter and only child of Menelaos, king of Sparta, and his wife Helen of Troy, a woman of breath-taking beauty. In Greek mythology she was promised to Orestes by her grandfather, but during the Trojan War, her father promised her to Achilles´s son Neoptolemos. Neoptolemos claimed her as his wife, so she went with him. However, he was killed in Delphi, so Hermione was able to resume her marriage with Orestes and gave birth to a son.10

The origin of the name Hermione comes from the messenger-god Hermes.11 Hermes was the son of Zeus and one of his many affairs, called Maia; one of the Pleiades. Hermes was mischievous, and was said to be the protector of travelers, for whom he removed stones from roads. His passion for sports and music lead to the invention of several music instruments and the invention of the Greek Alphabet, Astronomy, weights, and measures and numbers are also among his achievements. All in all, Hermes is said to be the god of theft and intelligence.12

Hermione Jean Granger is the only daughter of two dentists. She is a Muggle-born witch, and as such the fact that she is also a witch is very surprising. Hermione is exceptionally bright, hard working, bossy, loyal and brave. She is top of every class she takes, but is also thought to be a know-it-all. Her favourite class is Arithmancy, a method of fortune-telling based on names and numbers.13 She always shows true loyalty towards the people she loves and would by no means turn over to the dark side. Even when she is tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, she does not betray her friends and their plans. Hermione likes to rely on logic as well as her magical powers. Harry and Ron are her best friends, but she is also friends with the other Weasley siblings and a couple of Gryffindors. During her fourth school year, Hermione is romantically linked with Victor Krum, a famous Quidditch player, which greatly annoys Ron. At the end of their search for the Horcruxes she finally gets together with Ron.14

Much like the Hermione from Greek mythology, Hermione Granger is an only child. She also had two men, or rather boys, fighting over her, Ron and Victor. Both like her very much, but as Krum seizes the chance first, he and Hermione get together. Hermione, unlike Hermes, has an open dislike for mischief and rule-breaking. However, she becomes a bit more relaxed about this once she has made friends with Ron and Harry. On one occasion she even steals a couple of Potion ingredients from Professor Snape´s personal store, but in general disapproves of theft15. During their search for the Horcruxes, it could be said that she removes obstacles that are in the way, mainly through her intelligence16. Like Hermes she is incredibly clever and enjoys anything that has to do with school work. It is by no means a coincidence that Hermione´s favourite subject is Arithmancy and Hermes is the inventor of the numbers. All in all, it can be seen that Hermione does have some things in common with Helen of Troy´s daughter, but even more with the god Hermes, as intelligence is probably Hermione´s most striking feature.

4.1.2 Minerva McGonagall

Minerva, known in Greek mythology as Pallas Athene, is the goddess of wisdom, war and skills. She is one of the twelve Olympian Gods and the patron of the Greece capital Athens. Even though she is the goddess of war and sprang from her father Zeus´s head in full armour, she is not bloodthirsty and prefers peace over fighting. Her symbols are the owl, a sign for wisdom, a helmet and aegis, a shield or breastplate.17 Minerva is a kind goddess, she likes to be close to heroes and community alike and help those she favours in every possible way.18

Minerva McGonagall is a wise, stern, fair, courageous and remarkably intelligent witch, who was once a student of Gryffindor house at Hogwarts. When Harry enrolls at Hogwarts, she is the Transfiguration teacher and Head of Gryffindor house.19 Gryffindor stands for daring, nerve and chivalry20, qualities that Minerva possesses to an unusually pronounced degree. She, like her Greek counterpart, never wants to spill blood unnecessarily and likes peace. However, when enraged, the Hogwarts teacher´s and the goddess’s wrath could be devastating.21 A young girl called Arachne claimed that she could wave better and faster than Athene. She lost the battle and thereafter was transformed into a spider.22 When the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort start threatening Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall not only protects the School with spells and armours transfigured into soldiers, but destroys anybody, who dares to threaten pupils or teachers. In situations like this, she does not forgive, but is driven by her anger and is willing to fight to death.23

All in all, Minerva McGonagall and the goddess resemble each other in many striking ways. Both are highly intelligent, calm individuals, but when it comes to their honor or those they love, they do not forgive.

4.2 Minor Characters

4.2.1 Alecto Carrow

In Greek mythology Alecto is one of the three Erinyes, also known as Furies, which means “angry ones”. Their role was to tease and punish everyone who broke nature´s laws or was sent to the Tartarus. Instead of hair, they had snakes on their heads, blood dripped from their eyes and their bodies were similar to winged dogs. Altogether, they were not portrayed as pretty.24

Alecto Carrow is a brutal, bloodthirsty, constantly angry and ugly woman, who is a Death Eater, a member of Voldemort´s inner circle, which suggests that she is power-hungry. The person she cares most about is herself. Assigned the post as Muggle Studies teacher during the year Harry is absent from Hogwarts, she loves to torture anybody who puts one toe out of line or bends any rules. As she despises Muggles and Muggle-born wizards and witches, she tells the students that they are no human beings. Her blood-status is unknown, but it is very likely that she is at least Halfblood, which means that at least one of her parents was a halfblood too, or even Muggle-born. However, she would never admit this, as Voldemort´s followers pride themselves for their purity of blood.25 Alecto means Relentless26, which describes her character very well. She is adamant when it comes to punishment, but also in her belief, that Voldemort has good principles and makes the right choices and decisions.27

The Furies had to punish, for people who had been sent to them had indeed done something wrong28. Alecto Carrow however has the choice to decide whether she wants to torment and torture or punish in a less painful way. As she hates pupils it is an easy choice for her to make. Alecto enjoys battling and has no problem with killing or being the witness of a murder, as she proves the night Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, dies. Like the Erinyes she is everything but pretty as she is described as a stocky little woman29. She does not have hair made of snakes; however, she does have the Dark Mark, a tattoo that every Death Eater is branded with, which consists of a snake. To conclude, Alecto does have a lot in common with her mythological counterpart, however, she is, if possible, even more bloodthirsty and full of hatred.

4.2.2 Merope Gaunt

The Merope of Greek mythology was a Pleiad who had six sisters. They were the daughters of the Titan Atlas, and nymphs who accompanied the goddess Diana. Orion, the son of Neptune, fell in love with Merope and they married. Orion was a good-looking giant and a hunter. Legend has it that the Pleiades were turned into a star-constellation, of which Merope is the dimmest as a consequence of having married a mortal man.30

The Merope of Harry Potter grows up in the pure-blood family Gaunt, who descend from Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School. She is not particularly pretty and is treated with disrespect by her father and brother, who expect her to do the housework and cooking without complaint. Like her mythological counterpart, Merope Gaunt falls in love with someone her family deem inappropriate. Her father wants her to marry a pureblood man, but Merope has already fallen for the handsome Muggle man Tom Riddle, who lives in the same village as she does.31 He, however, doesn´t love her, which leads Merope to starts feeding him a love potion. They marry and elope. Some time later, Tom Riddle abandons Merope; because she has stopped giving him the potion; even though she is pregnant. From that point on, life doesn´t seem worth living for Merope anymore and soon after the birth of their child, Tom Marvolo Riddle Junior, Merope dies. Her son Tom, as a result of having a Muggle father, is a half-blood, and goes on to become the most horrible and terrifying wizard ever: Lord Voldemort.32

To sum up, both the Merope of Greek mythology and Harry Potter have a noble heritage, one descending from a Titan, the other from one of the notorious founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Both fall in love with a man their families do not approve of and are ashamed of this love; the Pleiad even after her death and both put their children in the situation of being a “Half-blood”, neither fully-fledged wizard or god, nor normal human being.

4.2.3 Narcissa Malfoy

Narcissus was an exceptionally handsome young man. Once, he went hunting into the mountains with friends, where Echo, a beautiful nymph, was also present. She had fallen in love with him, so when he was alone she wanted to talk to him, but hid because she was ashamed, having once been cursed to only be able to reply. When Narcissus inquired who was there, she didn´t show herself, but was finally persuaded to come out of hiding. Narcissus however rejected the nymph, like he did many other girls, one of which prayed for revenge, so that when he fell in love, the affection would not be returned. Then, when he saw his own reflection in a clear pool of water, he fell in love with himself, and naturally the love could not be returned. He sat there all the time, gazing at what he thought was a water-spirit. Ultimately, he died and the nymphs, especially the water-nymphs, were devastated. His body was never found, only a beautiful flower which nowadays is known as narcissus.33

Narcissa Malfoy, née Black, is a cold and superficial member of the Death Eaters. She is married to Lucius Malfoy, who is, like her, a pureblood wizard. As a descendant of the Black family she was part of Slytherin house and is known, like Narcissus from Greek mythology, for her beauty. She is also quite obsessed with the protection of her family, especially her son. During the Battle of Hogwarts, Narcissa shows a previously unseen, courageous side, by lying to Lord Voldemort when he asks if Harry Potter is dead. She does so after having asked Harry whether Draco, her only son, is still alive.34

To summarize, Narcissa is very pretty, just like Narcissus, but she is not obsessed with her own beauty. Even though she is rather superficial most of the time, she, in contrast to Narcissus, shows character during the Battle of Hogwarts. Unlike Narcissus, however, Narcissa Malfoy is not solely preoccupied with herself, but she also cares deeply about her family. All in all, the two share their name and beauty, but several of their character traits differ.

4.2.4 Andromeda Tonks

In Greek mythology, Andromeda is the beautiful daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, the king and queen of Ethiopia. She is of such beauty that her mother dares compare her with the Nereides, Sea-Nymphs. The Nymphs complain to Poseidon, the God of the Sea, who in turn sends the sea monster Cetus to attack the coast of Ethiopia, leading Cepheus, who is completely devastated, to ask an oracle for advice. He finds out that the only possible option is to offer Andromeda as sacrifice, only then will the monster leave the coast. Andromeda is chained to a rock, so that she cannot escape the terrifying creature and horrible death that awaits her. Perseus, having just slaughtered Medusa, flies overhead with winged sandals and sees the beautiful girl chained to the rock, when the monster is already approaching her. Perseus comes to her aid and kills the monster, saving Andromeda from a terrible fate.35 The couple then marry and and remain together even after their deaths, as they are placed in the sky as a constellation. They have one son called Perses.36

Andromeda Tonks, née Black, once belonged to the same family as Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. She and her sisters descend from a long line of pure-bloods, and, like the rest of the Black family, she attended Slytherin house. However, she differs from her sisters and family in many ways: Andromeda never took pride in being a pure-blood; she never despised Muggle-born wizards and Muggles, and she did not follow Lord Voldemort when he rose. Andromeda is kind and dislikes violence, in stark contrast to her sisters. As soon as possible she left her family, fell in love and married Ted Tonks, a Muggle-born wizard. Their daughter is named Nymphadora.37

Like the Andromeda from Greek mythology, Andromeda Tonks, along with her sisters, is envied and praised for her beauty. Her life is not easy, because as a member of the Black family she was expected to marry a pure-blood man. When she chose to go against that and marry Ted instead, she chose to go against her family as well. Just as Perseus rescued Andromeda from the sea monster, she too was rescued by Ted, from her family, from their bad influence on her, and from their stubborn belief that anybody whose blood-status is less than pure is worthless. She and Ted, like Perseus and his wife, had only one child and spent a happy life together until Ted´s untimely death at the hands of a Death Eater.

4.2.5 Nymphadora Tonks

In Greek mythology a Nymph is described as [o]ne of the lovely female beings, half-woman, half-deity, who are fabled to have peopled every region of the earth and waters.38 Nymphs stood for fertility, grace and beauty and were often the off-spring of a god and a nymph or a god and a girl. Many nymphs had love affairs with men or gods. Nymphs are not immortal, but have very long lives.39 Many Nymphs, like Io or Daphne, were transformed, against their will, into plants, monsters or animals by foes or even by people who meant well for them.40

Nymphadora Tonks is a young, halfblood witch, just graduated from Auror School; whose parents are Andromeda, née Black, and Ted Tonks. Nymphadora likes to be referred to only by her surname as she hates her first name; therefore nearly everybody calls her Tonks. Tonks is a Metamorphmagus, a person who can change her outward appearance at will, something which is required of her quite frequently for her job, but is also of great use when she grows tired of pink hair, or for the entertainment of her friends. Metamorphosis is a rare gift that you can only be born with. She likes to wear her hair in a bubblegum-pink colour and spiky. Tonks is somebody who always enjoys laughter and is pretty clumsy, but is also brave, loyal, outgoing and rebellious. During Harry´s sixth school year she falls in love with Remus Lupin, who doesn´t immediately return the affection as he thinks he would endanger Tonks by loving her. In his opinion Tonks deserves somebody younger and more worthy, who is not a werewolf. Finally he changes his mind, they marry and Tonks falls pregnant. She gives birth to their son Teddy while Harry is searching for the Horcruxes. Teddy, like his mother, is a Metamorphmagus and within the first hour after his birth changes his hair colour several times. When the Battle at Hogwarts takes place, Tonks and Remus decide to fight, leaving Teddy with his grandmother. Both of them die, Tonks is killed by her aunt Bellatrix Lestrange.41


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The Greek Mythology in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"
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Patrizia Hannemann (Author), 2015, The Greek Mythology in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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