Rowling and her way to success
Why are the series so special?
Types of characters in fiction
How to create a wizarding world?
A world within another world
Rowling´s masterpiece – a place where Muggles meet magic
Setting of the film and fiction
Objects with magical powers
Wizarding places carefully hidden from Muggles
Fantastic beasts in Harry Potter series
My Bachelor Thesis The Natural and Supernatural Phenomena in Harry Potter is concerned with the theme or phenomenon that I basically grew up with. When Rowling published her first book about a little wizard trying hard to find his place in the world, I was only seven years old. When playing, I always pretended that I am a little witch that makes magic with her wand and fights dragons and evil ghosts. When Rowling became famous for her first Harry Potter book, my parents heard the news and decided to buy it for me; and honestly, it was the best thing they could do for me ( apart from raising me and taking care of me). I became obsessed with the story, I read it multiple times and it was never enough. I was literally longing to get the letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry like little Harry did, so that I could leave the boring Muggle school that I had to attend every single morning. I wanted my magic wand to protect myself and my loved ones from evil forces lurking behind every corner. When other six books saw the light, I read them with passion and was very disappointed when there was no more story about the world of magic to read.
Now, that I am older and wiser (hopefully), I try to look behind the story and search for more; more information, more facts that stood behind the creation, I basically try to think like the author. Questions that roam my mind still partly resemble questions that the little girl always asked. How is it possible that such a genius idea could have ever entered mind of a human being? Has Rowling ever seen Hogwarts? Does she know any wizard? Does she know Harry? Is she a witch? Or how on Earth is it possible that she knows so much about the secret hidden world?
Questions like those above and the almost lifelong interest in the stories were the main reasons that led me on my way to choosing a thesis that was connected with fantasy and literature. I always wanted to search for more information when it comes to fictional worlds, especially the one that Harry lives in.
My Bachelor Thesis is mostly based on comparative analysis. Apart from the chapters concerned with Rowling´s biography, analysing the reasons why her novels are such a success and searching for the places where the movie versions were filmed, I compared the differences between primary and secondary worlds. I contrasted theories of Nikolajeva and Klingberg on how to create a magical world and compared them to the way how Rowling dealt with this phenomenon. I realized, that their opinions met in some ways; mainly in setting rules that every fictional world should follow in order to establish order and peace.
Other chapters involve information and explanations of how Rowling dealt with hiding the world of magic within the world of Muggles and how Muggles perceive the contact with magic; whether it concerns objects that possess magical powers, contact with wizards and witches or supernatural beings. I came to the conclusion that they always try to find some rational explanation on what they have just heard or seen.
Fantastic literature and other elements connected with this phenomenon are what interested me since I was a little girl. When re-reading books about Harry Potter, there was always something new I haven´t realized before; whether it was an event that did not make sense for me when I was younger, or an element that was connected with philosophy, racism or real human history. The idea of writing my thesis about Harry and his world probably originated in this fact; I felt the need to let the world know more about the series and about what stood behind its creation. I am nothing but thankful to my parents for introducing me to this work created by a real genius, that Rowling is without any doubt.
Rowling and her way to success
Joanne Kathleen Rowling, pen names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith, was born in Yate, Gloucestershire in 1965. As Sean Smith in his “J. K. Rowling: A Biography” states, she and her younger sister were raised on the outskirts of Bristol by Peter and Anne Rowling ( 2003, p. 55). She was interested in writing since her childhood; Rowling started to write her own stories in the early age of six; her first fairy-tale was about a little rabbit named Rabbit. According to Smith, her favourite authors were Edith Nesbit, C. S. Lewis and other well-known fantasy masters, who have influenced her through her career as a fantasy writer. She was always a perfect model student and studied at the University of Exeter ( 2003, p. 56). After her studies, as explained in Marc Saphiro´s “J. K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter” she worked as an English teacher and later she became involved in campaigns for Amnesty International. During this period, around the year 1990, the idea about writing a story of a little wizard was born when she was sitting in a delayed train to London ( 2007, p. 43). According to Smith, in the year 1992 she met and married Spanish man Jorge Arantes and a year later their daughter Jessica was born. A while after the birth of their daughter, Rowling left her husband in Spain and returned back to England, where she worked as a French teacher. She and her daughter lived in poverty until the first Harry Potter book was published ( 2003, p. 72) . When Bloomsbury Publishing bought the rights for Harry Potter and the Philosopher´s stone in 1996, she quit the job of a teacher and started to write, this time full time. In the following years Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) were published. And of course, became extremely popular ( ibid, p. 76).
The story about young wizard Harry Potter whose mission is to save the World of Wizardry has engaged the attention of many age groups, even though the story was originally written for children. The first book was published in 1998 and according to Connie Ann Kirk, another biographer who summarized Rowling´s life and achievements, during last decade, over 300 million copies have been sold all over the world in more than 30 languages ( 2003, p. 109).
Why are the series so special?
There has been much discussion about “Why Harry Potter…?” Why does everyone care? Why did these books receive such a success, when other books did not? The only possible answer is the extraordinary style which Rowling uses to introduce her readers to the main story. In the first book, she uses a genius way to make the readers sympathize with Harry. At first, there are the Dursleys that are described in such an awful way that the readers dislike them automatically: „ Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. … Mrs Potter was Mrs Dursley´s sister, but they hadn´t met for several years; in fact, Mrs Dursley pretended she didn´t have a sister, because her sister and her good-for-nothing husband were as unDursleyish as it was possible to be” (Rowling, 2001, p.7.) Then, there are the strange things that start to happen to him, even before he gets to know who he really is:
The vanishing glass is the first one and probably the most important element which makes the reader think that something is strangely different about Harry. It is not the kind of information that influences the mind of the reader not to sympathize with him; it makes him/her want to explore further events and learn more information about him.
„ Harry sat up and gasped; the glass front of boa constrictor´s tank had vanished. The great snake was uncoiling itself rapidly, slithering out on to the floor – people throughout the reptile house screamed and started running for the exits “ (ibid, p. 26). As the readers understand from the narrative, the glass vanished because Harry got angry when his cousin Dudley spotted that the snake was moving and he pushed him so much that he fell down to the floor. The anger activated the magic in Harry and he started to realise that he somehow does not fit the world of his godparents.
The speaking snake represents another example of uniqueness. The fact that an animal is speaking to a human is different itself.
„As the snake slid swiftly past him, Harry could have sworn a low, hissing voice said, ´Brazil, here I come ... Thanksss, amigo“ (ibid, p. 26). Harry did not even notice that the language which the snake used to communicate with him was different in some way. Only later during his years at Hogwarts he realised that the language of snakes is called Parseltongue and he can speak it because Voldemort left some of his traces in him when he killed his parents. And here comes the special and a little bit exciting fact; Harry and Voldemort share something unique – an ability that is not so common, something not everyone is capable of. Does it mean that they are related in some way? Is this fact good for Harry or not? What consequences will it have? These are the questions that probably roam readers´ minds when reading the chapter about Brazilian snake talking to a little boy. “Harry wasn´t sure what made him to do it. He wasn´t even aware of deciding to do it. All he knew was that his legs were carrying him forward as thought he was on castors and that he had shouted stupidly at the snake, ´Leave him!´ And miraculously – inexplicably – the snake slumped to the floor, docile as a thick black garden hose, its eyes now on Harry” (Rowling, 2014, p. 205).
Letters from no one delivered by owls „ Something came down the kitchen chimney as he spoke and caught him sharply on the back of his head. Next moment, thirty or forty letters came pelting out of the fireplace like bullets “ (Rowling, 2001, p. 35). The way the letters came - with the exact address of where Harry lived and despite all the attempts to stop them – seems to look quite terrifying at the first sight but later readers realise that delivering the letters at any price is in fact an attempt of the Wizarding World to fight hard to take its hero back. The letters make readers sure that Harry does not belong to the world of Muggles anymore. It, in fact, predicts that a new and completely different and unexplored future is waiting for him.
The story told by a half- giant that shows him his predestined future ( he is going to study at Hogwarts) „ ´Harry – yer a wizard.´ There was silence inside the hut. Only the sea and whistling wind could be heard. ´I´m what?´ gasped Harry. ´A wizard, o´ course,´ said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa ... ´an´ I reckon it´s abou´ time yeh read yer letter´“ (ibid, p. 42). Only the fact that a half-giant acting and speaking like an ordinary human is sent to disclose Harry his destiny looks very other-worldly. Harry is scared at the first place, but the idea about him being a wizard worshipped by a whole wizarding community attracts not only him but also the faithful fandom of readers. Right from the start, Harry is clearly a typical character worth following. He is such a polite, decent and humble boy that it is impossible not to like him; and generally all the people around him throughout the story are either characters the reader likes as well ( The Weasleys, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Hermione, etc.), or other characters that are from the beginning sentenced by readers to be disliked ( The Dursley´s, Snape, Voldemort, etc.).
The process of Harry´s maturation represents another reason of the success. Every book practically describes part of his life connected mainly with school years and adventures, either those dangerous ones or those connected with his friends. Some of the readers from children´s age group basically “grew up” with Harry and mapped his years at Hogwarts with every book they read. Rowling escalated and developed the story in chronological order; from the very beginnings when Harry was introduced to the wizarding world, through the first love affairs, to the moment when he had to take control of his destiny and fight against the evil. The fact that the maturation process was so clear and visible and readers of Harry´s age felt it even more strongly, pushed Rowling´s masterpiece to the top and made it one of the most famous and most read novels in history.
Except all the magic, story about Harry Potter is, in fact, a maturation story that includes and deals with ordinary emotions that humans are capable of. The target audience is very well aware of it as these problems are solved in real “Muggle” life, too. Rowling managed to attract readers not only by extraordinary elements that magic surely is, but also with themes that are essential part of a human life.
Types of characters in fiction
In the fictional literature, authors develop different types of characters. Each type fits the story from different angle and together, they create the main story and fulfil the roles in the narrative process. Creating all the characters allows readers to create some kind of empathy with the main hero and his companions; it helps to create mental images and make the readers feel like they are part of the narration. Thanks to the large number of well-developed characters in Rowling´s masterpiece, readers begin to feel like what is happening to the main hero, is at the same time happening to them . According to L. Rákayová characters of the narration may be not only persons but also objects or animals that are placed within the main story and may have some particular roles in a narrative (2009, p. 42) . There are several types of characters that can be found in Rowling´s books:
Round character may be anyone throughout the story who has a complex personality which may develop or change in some way during the narrative process. “Round characters are complex figures with many different characteristics and undergo development, sometimes sufficiently to surprise the reader“ ( Foster, 1956, p. 48). When shaping a new round character, author must take into consideration all aspects of character´s personality to develop it well; he or she must know about all the complex sides of the character, whether it should belong to the group of characters with positive personalities, or on the other side, it should belong to the group of villains. If the author decides that the newly developed character should comprise elements of positive character, it should be able of large variety of emotions and should have some activities that are of intellectual type; very often the best quality is learning. Learning does not have to necessarily mean good marks and results that are above the average level. It can be also perceived as a kind of ability to learn from the given situation and take the lesson from it. The best example for round character among all other characters in Harry Potter series is Hermione Granger, one of the three main characters. She has a complex personality; on one hand, she is the one with good marks, example behaviour and sense for fairness, but on the other hand, Hermione is the one who has the ability to stay calm and think logically in times of danger and dares to search for answers to the mysteries they encounter.
Dynamic character is a person who comprises the ability to change over the course of the story, it may usually happen as a result of facing a major crisis. Rákayová explains that the change may be caused by many factors; it may be change in appearance or in character (2009, p. 43). The reader does not have to be aware of the reasons why the character behaves in a way that is described in the story. It happens very frequently that the real qualities of a certain character are revealed at the beginning. Severus Snape, for instance, is the typical dynamic character in Harry Potter books. He joins Voldemort´s army, later he runs away and serves as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix. Students see him as the bad, cold teacher without feelings. However, at the end of the series when The Battle of Hogwarts is happening, his true character, sense of protection and deep feelings are revealed. In his last moments of agony, Snape reveals everything to Harry; he gives him his memories. Harry learns that Snape was the one who discovered him after Voldemort killed his parents, it is revealed that Snape was in love with Lilly Potter, Harry´s mother and because he was emotionally ruined after her death, he surrendered to Dumbledore and became a professor and spy. At the end of the story, readers are finally acknowledged with Snape´s true character and the reasons why he was hiding his true character for such a long time.
Flat character can be described as an opposite of a round character. This type of character is often recognised according to never-changing, “black-and-white” personality throughout the story. Forster claims that round character is always more interesting to create. However, creating flat characters does not mean that the literary work is sentenced to failure. He also confirms that there are some artists, like Dickens, that use flat characters only and their works are “unquestionably great” (1956, p. 5). Flat characters usually show only one or two typical traits of their personality and are not able to change or develop. Very often they serve as a way to parody and criticize. Rákayová states that flat characters are often called static because they are one-dimensional and do not undergo any significant change that could influence the story ( 2009, p. 43). Crab and Goyle are the typical examples to represent the flat character, they are faithful Malfoy´s followers; a villain always needs to have his sympathizers. Rowling describes them as all muscle, with no brain, which is how they always are. Their actions also serve as a sort of amusement to highlight their flatness.
Protagonist is often described as a central person in a story. He may be sometimes called “hero” by the readers and sympathizers of the literary work. The main story focuses on his/her life. Protagonist is not the kind of character that shows only once or twice in the story, but the story usually follows his/her life and actions; readers very often identify themselves with the hero while reading. They often have to deal with dangers and problems that need to be solved. According to Rákayová, protagonist is the character who is responsible for the main action and that is why they are crucial to the story (2009, p. 42). Of course, the protagonist in the case of Rowling´s novel is Harry himself. From the very beginning, readers know everything about “The boy who survived” and are able to map the way in which he learns the only truth about who he really is. They are also able to follow the story of how he finally finds his place in the world. Harry is clearly the hero in the novel and readers are allowed to examine him in depth; they are able to see the significant change from the weak little boy to the powerful man fighting against Voldemort at the end.
Antagonist usually represents the negative character in the story. A character like this usually stands in opposition to the hero or protagonist. These two characters determine the main change in one another, as they both are dynamic types; this fact helps a lot in the development of the main story. If there was no antagonist in the story of Harry Potter, it would be less interesting, because every fiction needs the central idea of the evil standing against the good. “Fiction, at the point of development at which it has arrived, demands from the writer a spirit of scrupulous abnegation. The only legitimate of all the irreconcilable antagonisms that make our life so enigmatic, so burdensome, so fascinating, so dangerous--so full of hope. They exist! And this is the only fundamental truth of fiction” ( Ambrosini, 2008, p. 152). Throughout the novel, many antagonists can be found, but the one who stands out the most is Voldemort. In Half-Blood Prince, his story is told through Dumbledore´s memories from the very beginning and readers can see how a poor little muggle-born Tom Riddle transforms and evolves into cold-blooded, dark-magic wizard Lord Voldemort who is willing to take the world for himself. “Even then, he wished to be different, separate, notorious. He shed his name, as you know, within a few short years of that conversation and created the mask of 'Lord Voldemort' behind which he has been hidden for so long“ (Rowling, 2005, p. 259).
Archetype is a character that represents a typical model of something; it can be a person, setting or even a single idea. Carl Gustav Jung defined the archetypes as images that were formed by the experiences of human ancestors and were inherited by the following generations; they were very often described in dreams, myths, literature and even in religion ( 1981, p. 5). Archetypes became something like prototypes for characters, in fiction they are used frequently and can be very easily identified. The most obvious archetype is Professor Dumbledore. He represents the wisdom and acts as a mentor. He is the one who decides about Harry´s destiny after his parents´ death, he is the one who is willing to send him the acceptance letter even if his godparents are trying to resist and at the end, it is Dumbledore who shows Harry how to destroy Voldemort´s last pieces of soul and how to fight to save the Wizarding World. In fact, Dumbledore also served as a kind of saviour and mentor for Voldemort before he crossed the dark side. He is the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry which shows his power, wisdom and importance, too.
Type, according to Rákayová, is represented by characters that act under some given conditions, for example social, economic, historical or ideological. In fiction, they are represented by concrete characters, for example antagonists and protagonists ( 2009, p. 44). Type in Rowling´s work is represented by Harry himself. He is an unwilling hero because he didn´t ask for his role in saving the wizarding community in Great Britain. He would have been happier to live a normal life with his parents still alive and without the burden of being “the chosen one” who is expected to fight the evil and establish liberty and piece for wizards living in a mysterious magical world. However, the whole Wizarding World relies on him; he has, in fact, no choice. He has his faithful followers that are determined to fight until their death to help him defeat the Dark Lord and establish the peace finally.
As listed above, many types of characters exist in literature; each one has its own function – they help readers create images in their mind and evolve imaginary relationships with some of them. Characters in fiction belong to the group of essential elements without which any piece of literary work would not make sense or would stop to serve its purpose. They complete every work and help to develop every single story.
How to create a wizarding world?
Maria Nikolajeva in her book The Magic Code: The use of magical patterns in fantasy for children provides the basic rules which show us and explain how to build up a fictional world. The first chapter “The Magic Law” explains, that in the very beginning the author who is planning to create an imaginative world, has to establish rules first. These are the laws of fantasy, which he/she has to follow when creating the contents of the world in which the main story will be set ( 1988, p. 10).
Nikolajeva also suggests, that there are many possible ways how to create a catchy fantastic literature; the most effective one is limitation. She explains that limitation means that in case a kind of magic is to be used in the narration process, it must be limited in certain ways ( 1988, p.28). There must be rules established to control every part of the magical world; to keep it in order and peace.
- Quote paper
- Lenka Šerešová (Author), 2015, The Natural and the Supernatural Phenomena in "Harry Potter", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/345534