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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What world mythologies do you wish were hinted at in ‘Harry Potter’?

The beginning of the end of the Harry Potter saga is upon us: The Deathly Hallows Part 1 opens this Friday all over the planet. (You can watch the trailer here if you need a peek at what it’s all about. See, there’s this boy wizard…) I’m ridiculously excited about the movie, even though I already know how it ends — I’ll see the film this afternoon — partly because J.K. Rowling created such a rich world that gets even richer on film. There are some great ads for the film around New York City, in the subways and on bus stop kiosks, that put the kids smack in the midst of our recognizably muggle world:

I especially love the one on the right: Magic battles in the tube? Scary! (And I love that Hermione and Harry are wearing muggle clothes, too, not wizard robes. They look like they could be going to a prom, not saving the world from an evil wizard.) Setting Harry Potter just to the side of our real world — as opposed to one entirely invented — was a brilliant move on Rowling’s part that works even better on film, because we can see how to close to reality this could be.

Neatorama recently looked at another aspect of how Rowling did that with its rundown of some of the monsters and creatures and notions of Harry’s world, and how Rowling borrowed them from “real” mythologies. The piece quotes Rowling as saying:

Children know that I didn’t invent unicorns, but I’ve had to explain frequently that I didn’t actually invent hippogriffs.

As Neatorama’s Jill Harness explains:

[I]t actually makes sense that she would use mythologies of cultures from around the world, as it allows the mythologies to work with the stories –muggles have seen dragons and unicorns in the past, but the wizarding community has hidden these things so well in the last centuries that muggles now accept them to be nothing more than stories.


Of course, as the Neatorama piece shows, most — if not all — of the mythologies Rowling borrowed from are European. Which makes sense: her stories are set at a British wizarding school. But we can extrapolate from Harry Potter that there must be schools similar to Hogwarts all over the planet. The wizard school outside Beijing would have snakelike Asian dragons in its menagerie; the wizard school outside Washington DC in the Appalachians probably has to contend with Bigfoots… or perhaps a member of the Bigfoot race teaches there. I like to think so, anyway…

What world mythologies do you wish were hinted at in Harry Potter?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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