Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

by J. K. Rowling

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How would you use Joseph Campbell’s classification in twelve stages of the hero’s journey to analyze the Harry Potter series? Are the seven archetypes still valid?

The Harry Potter series is the consummate hero’s journey, complete with the seven archetypes. They are all present, with Harry as a hero and mentor, Hagrid as a herald, Professor Snape as a shapeshifter, Harry as a trickster, a dementor as a shadow, and Dumbledore as a threshold guardian.

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J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is a prototypical jero’s Journey, and Harry easily fits into the seven-archetype narrative.

  1. Hero: At first, Harry is a hero by chance. In deference to the prophecy Snape reports to him, Voldemort singles him out over, for instance, Neville Longbottom. However, Harry chooses the heroic path later in his life.

  2. Mentor: Initially, Harry shuns the role of mentor/leader, but by the fifth book, he embraces it, leading Dumbledore’s Army and training up his fellow students in the fight against Voldemort.

  3. Threshold Guardian: Harry’s threshold guardians take not the form of his enemy, Voldemort, but rather of his allies, notably Dumbledore, who keeps many secrets from Harry right up until his death in book 6. (Harry’s aunt and uncle, who hide the truth of Harry’s parents, work here as well.)

  4. Herald: There could be several heralds in Harry’s journey. It might be best to use Hagrid, however, who delivers Harry’s letter to him telling him that he’s a wizard, thus precipitating Harry’s call to adventure.

  5. Shapeshifter: Professor Snape is the obvious shapeshifter in Harry’s story.

  6. Shadow: A dementor is shadow-like and forces Harry to see things other wizards do not, since, as Lupin says in the movie version of The Prisoner of Azkaban, “There are horrors in [Harry’s] life others can scarcely imagine.” Though not directly controlled by Voldemort at first, dementors, as Shadows, are “determined to destroy the Hero and his cause.”

  7. Trickster: Fred and George Weasley are certainly Tricksters who “relish the destruction of the status quo," but do they “make characters see the absurdity of the situation and perhaps force a change,” as a classical trickster might? A more accurate trickster is, of course, Harry himself. Harry disrupts the ministry by surviving Voldemort’s attacks in books 4 and 5 and by witnessing Dumbledore killed in book 6. By bearing witness, he and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix are able to force Fudge and the Ministry of Magic see how absurd their “Voldemort has not returned” mindset is.

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