The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Harry Potter

Harry Potter is a fictional young wizard, the protagonist in a series of fantasy novels by J. K. Rowling and the movies based on them. The character's full name is Harry James Potter, born on July 31, 1980 (see timeline). The first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States), was released in 1997.



The Harry Potter books are primarily aimed at older children, but have fans of all ages, as demonstrated by the publication of editions of each book with more mature cover artwork. There is also a series of Warner Brothers films of the same name and based directly on the books, the first of which was released in 2001.

According to Rowling, the stories appeared in her head, fully formed, while she was on a train from Manchester to London, although her favourite place to write the first book was a table in a caf while she drank endless cups of coffee. The sales from the books as well as royalties from films and merchandise have, according to unsubstantiated rumours and magazine articles, made her richer than Queen Elizabeth II, though in a 2003 interview, Rowling denied having more than 280,000,000 (which is, supposedly, Queen Elizabeth's fortune). Each book so far chronicles one year in Harry's life at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he learns magic. Rowling has announced that seven books are planned, each gradually a little darker than its predecessor as Harry ages and his nemesis, Lord Voldemort (Tom Marvolo Riddle) gains power. As of 2004, five books have been published, and an English language publication date of 16 July 2005 has been announced for the sixth volume, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Hints about the plot of this book have been revealed by Rowling on her personal website [1].

Cover of the edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Cover of the United States edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The books are written in the third person, with limited omniscience, with Harry as its central character. Otherwise, the action doesn't take place directly either to Harry or to the reader. This is one reason readers feel such a strong kinship to Harry — the story is literally told through his character. There are three exceptions:

  • Chapter One of Philosopher's Stone: half of it is written from the point of view of Harry's uncle, Vernon Dursley and the other is written from an objective point of view
  • Two Quidditch matches in Philosopher's Stone are written from an independent point of view, depicting events which Harry would not be able to see while playing the game.
  • Chapter One of Goblet of Fire: apart from the initial scene-setting, this chapter is written from the point of view of a minor character, Frank Bryce; the action is however witnessed by Harry himself in a dream.

The books have been compared to Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, the novels of Diana Wynne Jones, The Once and Future King, Jane Yolen's Thornmallow , Gruesome Grange by Anthony Horowitz, and the works of Philip Pullman; they also fit into a British genre of novels about boarding school life, and the sections involving The Dursleys (Potter's relatives) remind some readers of Roald Dahl's works. Based on their common fantastic elements, the appeal to both children and adults, the fantasy-genre crossing over into mainstream popularity, and the movie adaptation, the series has also drawn comparisons to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

Elements of the Potter story also echo that of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga: both Skywalker and Potter are orphans raised by an aunt and uncle after the mysterious disapearance of their parents. Both possess a magical power that they do not fully comprehend and occasionally use recklessly. Both feature a messenger (Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Hagrid in Potter) sent to lead them to a sage (Yoda and Dumbledore) who will instruct them further. Also, Lord Voldemort and Emperor Palpatine are very similar in appearance and demeanour. Some have even compared the revelation at the end of The Empire Strikes Back to Harry's observation of the chapter "Snape's Worst Memory" from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and to Tom Riddle's revelation in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Certain aspects of the Harry Potter series have even entered the real world as products to be purchased by fans of the series. One such merchandising example is Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, which inspired an actual product of that name marketed by the Jelly Belly Company.

Several unauthorised derivative books have been written, either directly featuring Harry Potter, or using similarly named characters. J. K. Rowling and her publishers are making attempts to stop the distribution of these books.

The novels

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
    • Story time: 19911992
    • Release: June 26, 1997
    • Note: Both the book and the film were retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S., with similar alterations to the text
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

According to the timeline given here, the seventh and final book would cover 1997 to 1998. Harry is expected to leave the school in mid-1998, at age 17 — supposing, of course, that he lives to do so (as Rowling likes to remind her readers when asked about Harry's career after school).

The books have become popular enough that bookstores now hold "midnight release parties" on the day Harry Potter books are released.

The Harry Potter books have been translated into many languages. See List of titles of Harry Potter books in other languages and Harry Potter in translation series.

To read a complete synopsis of the story, broken down into the seven books, see Harry Potter (plot).

2001 also saw the publication of two books supposedly reproduced from copies held in the Hogwarts library (complete with notes scribbled in the margins by Harry Potter and friends): Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander and Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp. They were written by J. K. Rowling with proceeds going to Comic Relief.

The films

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
    • Release: November 16, 2001
    • Note: Both the book and the film were retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S., with similar alterations to the text
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Daniel Radcliffe played Harry Potter in the first four films. For details of which actor plays which character in the various movies, see the Harry Potter cast article.

All three of the currently released films made the top ten list for top grossing films of the year.


Like many works of science fiction and fantasy, the Harry Potter series uses analogies to real issues rather than confronting the issues themselves. The most obvious is the issue of blood purity equalling racism (it can be applied to any kind of racism, but the most applicable is arguably anti-Semitism.)

Much like Star Trek, Harry Potter makes statements about real issues of prejudice by assuming they do not exist. For example, it is taken for granted that every profession in Rowling's world has personnel who are both male and female.


The books have provoked various kinds of controversy.

Accusations of promoting witchcraft

The American Library Association tracks the number of challenges (formal written complaints made to a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness) made to books annually. The Harry Potter series are among the most frequently challenged from 1998 to present. The complaints allege that the books have occult or Satanic themes, are violent, and are anti-family.

Some Christian groups in the United States have denounced the series for promoting witchcraft or Satanism. "It contains some powerful and valuable lessons about love and courage and the ultimate victory of good over evil," said Paul Hetrick, spokesman for Focus on the Family, a national Christian-fundamentalist group based in Colorado Springs. "However, the positive messages are packaged in a medium — witchcraft — that is directly denounced in scripture."[2]. See Christian views on witchcraft.

Some groups have burned or attempted to burn (such burnings require permits in most locations) J.K. Rowling's books, often with other books deemed to contradict biblical teachings. See: Harry Potter censorship, book burning.

In contrast, the Catholic Church gave the series its approval by saying that it is imbued with Christian morals and that the good versus evil plot is very clear. Christian Congregationalist minister John Killinger also argued that, rather than corrupting children's minds, the novel encourages young readers to follow the teachings of Jesus. The book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter: Understanding the Meaning, Genius, and Popularity of Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter Novels, written by John Granger, a Reader in the Orthodox Church, claims to uncover Christian themes in its analysis of the story. The official exorcist of Rome, Father Gabriele Amorth, believes that the Harry Potter books can be a bad influence on some children by getting them interested in the occult.

Far less such controversy has occurred in the United Kingdom, where religion plays a much smaller role in public affairs than in the United States.

Accusations of plagiarism

Rowling prevailed in a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement, filed by Nancy Stouffer, writer of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles and allegedly of Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly. The first book features creatures called "muggles". U.S. District Judge Allen G. Schwartz rejected Nancy Stouffer's claims that she was plagiarised and fined Stouffer $50,000 for "submission of fraudulent documents" and "untruthful testimony", but stopped short of having Stouffer criminally charged with perjury.

Stouffer was also required to pay a portion of the attorney's fees incurred by Rowling, her U.S. publisher Scholastic Press, and Warner Bros. Films.

Though Stouffer's charges failed for lack of evidence, the original name of the character and the famous first line of the first book are quite similar to one found in episode 7 of Monty Python's Flying Circus. This is a transcript of the narration compared to the first line of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone":

Python Potter
"It was a day like any other and Mr and Mrs Samuel Brainsample were a perfectly ordinary couple, leading perfectly ordinary lives – the sort of people to whom nothing extraordinary ever happened, and not the kind of people to be the centre of one the most astounding incidents in the history of mankind ... so let's forget about them and follow instead the destiny of this man ... Harold Potter, gardener and tax official." "Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious ..."

There are also similarities with Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. In that book the main character, James Henry Trotter (as against Harry James Potter), is an orphan raised by his two aunts after both his parents were killed by a giant rhinoceros. In Eva Ibbotson's book, The Secret of Platform 13, there are two boys who resemble Harry and his cousin Dudley. One of them is actually the prince of a magical kingdom, which can be accessed through platform 13 of King's Cross train station. And in Jill Murphy 's book, The Worst Witch, Mildred Hubble studies magic at a Witch's academy, and her nemesis is teacher's pet to the cruel and sinister Potions teacher.

It is also worth noting that the name Hogwarts was taken from a fictional Latin play in a Molesworth book written by Geoffrey Willans.

Comic book fans have noted that a comic book series first published in 1990 by DC Comics called The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman shares many similarities to Rowling's book. These include a dark haired young boy with glasses named Tim Hunter who discovers his own potential as the most powerful wizard of his age after being approached by magic wielding individuals, the first of whom gifts him with a pet owl. Rowling officially denies being aware of this series, and Gaiman has gone on record stating that he believes similarities to be either coincidence or drawn from the same fantasy archetypes.

Parodies of Harry Potter


  • Barry Trotter, by Michael Gerber - a series of Harry Potter parodies published in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • Porri Gatter by Andreyi Zhvalevskiyi and Igor' Miyt'ko - Belarusian series of Harry Potter parodies.
  • Tanya Grotter (Таня Гроттер in Cyrillic), by Dmitri Yemetz (Дмитрий Емец in Cyrillic) - Russian series about a magical schoolgirl, described by the author, as "a sort of Russian answer to Harry Potter".
  • Heri Kkler , by K. B. Rottring (pseudonym) – a series of Harry Potter parodies in Hungarian. Kkler means 'mountebank, charlatan, swindler'. As of 2004, nine volumes have been published. See [3]

Sketches on Saturday Night Live


  • Harry Plodder and the Kidney Stone, a text-driven parody of the first book by Desmond Devlin, illustrated by James Warhola. Cover story of Mad Magazine March 2000 issue.
  • "Harry Plodder and the Sorry-Ass Story," a parody of the first film, by Desmond Devlin, illustrated by Mort Drucker. Cover story of Mad Magazine December 2001 issue.
  • "Harry Potter and the Lamest of Sequels," a parody of the second film, by Desmond Devlin, illustrated by Tom Richmond . Cover story of Mad Magazine December 2002 issue.
  • "Harry Potter and the Pre-Teen Nerds are Actin' Bad," a parody of the third film, by Desmond Devlin, illustrated by Hermann Mejia . Cover story of Mad Magazine July 2004 issue.
  • Bothering Snape and Trouble at Hogwarts - two PG-13 rated parodies featuring puppet-style Harry Potter characters in "new" adventures.
  • "Wizard People, Dear Readers", an audio work by Brad Neely of Austin, Texas. Originally a free CD shared with Neely's friends, "Wizard People" provides an ongoing farcical narration, meant to be played while a DVD of the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone plays with the sound off. In 2004, the New York Underground Film Festival rented a print of the film from Warner Brothers, screened it with the sound off, and played Neely's soundtrack instead. Shortly thereafter, website Illegal Art made Neely's work available for free download. In the following year, Neely also performed "Wizard People" live in several cities, until Warner Brothers took action against theatres that had rented prints, and forced them to cancel the shows.
  • Torg Potter and the Sorcerer's Nuts and Torg Potter and the Chamberpot of Secretions, two one-month storylines of the Sluggy Freelance webcomic, parodying the first two Harry Potter books (the links above show only the opening panels of each storyline).
  • Ethel Roberts: THE TRUTH BEHIND HARRY POTTER!! - A essay by the fictional Ethel Roberts, claiming that the Harry Potter books are promoting witchcraft. It has led to hate mail from Harry Potter fans who took it seriously. ([4] [5]).
  • In 2003, Comic Relief performed a spoof story called Harry Potter and the Secret Chamberpot of Azerbaijan. It featured Dawn French as a female Harry; Jennifer Saunders as Ron Weasley and JK Rowling; Miranda Richardson as Hermione; Nigel Planer as Dumbledore (wearing the beard and costume of Richard Harris); Jeremy Irons as Professor Severus Snape; Ronnie Corbett as Hagrid and Basil Brush as Dobby the House Elf (Basil explains that he only took the role after being turned down for Gollum in The Two Towers).
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, episodes feature "Toadblat's School of Sorcery", Nigel Planter (who has a L on his forehead), and other obvious Harry Potter spoofs.
  • Harvey Screamer was the title of a book series in an episode of the children's television show Arthur. A new book had just come out entitled Harvey Screamer and the Cabbage of Mayhem and all the characters were reading it.
  • Hari Potret, an Indonesian TV series for young children, aired from mid-2000 until late 2004. It features a little boy named Hari who loved photography (therefore nicknamed 'potret', means 'photo'). He lived with his cruel uncle (Oom Balon), aunt (Tante Rika), and cousin (Duta), and later on he discovered that he was the son of the most powerful wizardry couple. They are deceased, murdered by an evil wizard named Baron Muka Peot (= roughly translated as "Crumple-Faced Baron") who obsessed with the idea of taking control of the whole world. Hari made friends with little boy genie, Jin Farid, and a girl fairy, Pipit. They unfunnily resembles Harry Potter's best friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger respectively, as Jin Farid was portrayed as funny but plucky (compare to Ron) and Pipit was portrayed as bushy-haired, cunning and bossy (compare to Hermione). Hari was described as being able to turn all his photos into the moving ones, like those magically-transformed photos/paintings in Harry Potter books.The character of Duta also had a gang of three naughty schoolboys, who resemble Draco Malfoy and his colleagues, Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe.

Hari Potret first appeared in another TV series called Jin & Jun, probably as a small parody regarding to the booming popularity of Harry Potter in Indonesia. There, Hari used the famous spell "Wingardium leviosa" to do ALL kinds of magic (instead of only for levitating objects, as described in the first Harry Potter book). Later, after the producers ended Jin & Jun, they made Hari Potret into a separated series.

Strangely, though, the local TV channel that hosted "Hari Potret" had managed to cooperate with Warner Bros to air "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" movie, and Hari Potret acted as the 'warming-up' for two months before the actual Harry Potter showed.

Unauthorised books featuring Harry Potter

Written in Bengali
  • Harry Potter Kolkataye (Harry Potter in Kolkata (Calcutta)), by Uttam Ghosh
Written in Chinese


  • P. G. Wodehouse's 1948 novel Uncle Dynamite includes a character named Police Constable Harold Potter, and another called Hermione (not Granger, but Bostock)
  • Dutch Prime Minister (2002—) Jan Peter Balkenende is known for his resemblance to Harry Potter. A similar nickname was given to the Bulgarian politician Nikolay Vassilev who started his political career as Minister of Economy, and was later re-assigned Minister of Transport and communications.
  • Simon Ammann, Swiss ski jump athlete who won double Gold medals at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, is affectionately nicknamed "Harry Potter" because he likes to wear big round spectacles.
  • Supporters of Vladimir Putin have often accused the makers of the Harry Potter films of having deliberately modelled Dobby after the Russian president.
  • A skit on an episode of the British television series Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a character named Harold Potter.
  • A news presenter on Channel 10 News , Gold Coast, Australia, is called Harry Potter
  • Canadian Cabinet Minister Pierre Pettigrew entered federal politics the same year (1994) that traitor Peter Pettigrew escapes Harry and his friends.
  • Miranda Richardson will play journalist Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: following her appearance in the Comic Relief sketch, this makes her the second actress to have portrayed two JK Rowling characters on film to date. The first was Dawn French who played Harry Potter in the same sketch and the "Fat Lady" in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • Albus Dumbledore's partner in the Philosopher's Stone is Nicolas Flamel, an alchemist. An alchemist of the same name lived in Paris and is a well known historical figure.
  • Not counting Nicolas Flamel, the only other real person named in the Harry Potter books is Natalie McDonald, who was sorted into Gryffindor in Goblet of Fire; this girl, an avid Harry Potter fan, e-mailed J.K. Rowling, but tragically died of cancer the day before the author responded. Since her death Rowling has struck up a friendship with Natalie's mother, and decided to add the girl's name to her then-unfinished fourth book.
  • The gravesite in Jerusalem of a British soldier named Harry Potter has become a tourist attraction.

See also

External links

For further fandom links, see Harry Potter fandom.

Official websites

Unofficial websites

Articles about Harry Potter

The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy