A Mythological and Archetypal Approach to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling

The first installment in the series of Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, can be analyzed through the various archetypes and myths present in the novel.

To begin with, let us look into the so-called heroic quest of Harry. As the story unfolds, Harry goes through the classic and mythic stages of a hero’s journey. First to these is a call to adventure. In the story, Harry receives the letters from Hogwarts. Second is a separation from the known world. This is seen in the part where Harry leaves for Hogwarts. Third is an initiation into the new world. This is evident in the Sorting ceremony, where Harry undergoes a placement-like ritual through the Sorting Hat. Next is the presence of threats which can be observed in Harry’s rivalry with Malfoy and also his encounter with the Mirror of Erised – both of which tried Harry’s character and desires. Another is the existence of a fellowship which can be justified by the characters of Ron and Hermione. The guidance of a mentor, through Hagrid and Dumbledore, the final confrontation with darkness – Harry versus Voldemort over the stone – Afterwhich, comes a rebirth or resurrection through Harry’s victory over Voldemort and finally, the hero’s return to the old world – Harry returns to his home, but this time he knows who he really is.

The Sorcerer’s stone or what is also known as the Philosopher’s stone is a traditional element from mythology that appears in Rowling’s work. In the story, the stone was created by Nicolas Falmal, Dumbledore’s partner, whose character is actually based on the history and legends surrounding thr real French alchemist Nicolas Flamel. The stone, both in the novel and in the field of alchemy, is described as a small red ball that can turn metal into gold and can also create an elixir that can grant eternal life.

The character of Lord Voldemort clearly illustrates the power of fear throughout the novel. In fact, most wizards, except Dumbledore, dare not refer to him by name. Instead, he is referred to as, ‘He Who must Not Be Named’. In this manner, Voldemort is taken as a metaphor for fear, which is a common element of mankind.

Most of the names of the characters in the novel have relevant meanings. One example is Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. His first name is derived from the Latin word alba which means ‘white’. His last name is old English for ‘bumblebee’. In symbolism, white stands fro purity, so the headmaster’s name suggests honor and a hard-working nature. Another example is Professor Severus Snape. Severus is the Latin word fro ‘severe’ and ‘strict’ – adjectives that can truly be associated to the professor’s character.

In Harry Potter, there are four Hogwarts houses. Gryffindor is the Hogwarts house to which Harry and his friends belong. Gryffindor is derived from Griffin, which means a fierce, legendary beast with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. And that is why this Hogwarts house uses a lion as its symbol. On the other hand, Slytherin, Gryffindor’s rival house, is actually a variation of ‘slithering’ a method of travel for snakes, the very reason perhaps why its symbol is a serpent.

In terms of archetypal men, Dumbledore is what we call, The Chief. He is a leader of wizards, highly-respected and he looks over his subjects very well. The Bad Boy, no doubt, is Voldemort. And we can also say that Ron’s character is fit to be the best friend archetype. In archetypal women, The Boss can be associated to Deputy Headmistress McGonagall due to first, her position in the school and next, her wise character. Hermione’s character, on the other hand, can be classified as The Librarian archetype. She has answers for almost any question because she has read a great deal of books and she can also be fierce, once provoked.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is one great novel that captured the hearts of both young and old alike for its myths and archetypes that bind all the readers together all over the world.

Source by John Zwelling

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