I’m still ruminating about the end of the Harry Potter saga. The mainstream media’s reaction has always interested me. They continue to be bemused by the idea of a novel taking the world by storm, and infiltrating popular culture. Never mind the fact that people were writing “Frodo Lives!” on subway walls 40 years ago, or the fact that The Lord of the Rings trilogy was extraordinarily successful, and, as far as wizards go, Gandalf the Grey is as well-known as Merlin, and is arguably the favorite and most-beloved of wizards amongst nerds and geeks world-wide.
I’m not trying to take away anything from J.K. Rowling’s accomplishment. It is not an easy thing to write one book, much less seven. And to have them become extraordinarily popular is a wonderful feat.
A quantitative comparison of the Harry Potter series versus the Earthsea Cycle.
Harry Potter series
by J.K. Rowling
|Chamber of Secrets||341|
|Prisoner of Azkaban||435|
|Goblet of Fire||734|
|Order of the Phoenix||870|
The Earthsea Cycle
by Ursula K. Le Guin
|Wizard of Earthsea||192|
|Tombs of Atuan||192|
Contrast this to The Lord of the Rings, which is only a measly 1,216 pages including the Foreword, Prologue, and Appendices.
Sources: amazon.com, wikipedia
But I think that literary debts need to be accounted for. Whether intentional or not, Hogwarts owes a lot to the Island of Roke, the center of Earthsea, which is the world created by the inimitable author Ursula K. Le Guin.
Interestingly, the titular character of the first book, Sparrowhawk, later known as Ged the Archmage, has a lot in common with Harry Potter. Which therefore means he also has a lot in common with Lord Voldemort. In fact, it seems more apt to compare Ged to Voldemort. Both were orphans, both were born with incredible power, both had massive egos, and both screwed around with the Dark Arts. But while Ged learned his lesson about playing with the Dark Side, and with this hard-earned wisdom eventually became the Archmage of Roke, slaying dragons, restoring kingdoms, returning balance
to the Force, umm, to the balance, and even settling down with a woman, Voldemort went on to be a ruthless mass-murderer and was generally not a nice guy.
Which brings in another comparison: Anakin Skywalker. I suppose he falls somewhere midway in the continuum. While not an orphan, he was born to pretty crappy conditions, considering that he was a slave. But like Ged and Voldemort, he was born with incredible power. Like Ged (and presumably, like Voldemort), he grew impatient with his Master and felt that he was being held back. Like Ged, this eventually leads him to dabbling with the Dark Side of the Force. But whereas Ged learns the error of his ways, Anakin gives himself up wholly to the Dark Side. But whereas Voldemort dies a wondrously anti-climactic death, still convinced that he was going to win, Anakin redeems himself by showing mercy to his son, and, naturally, in the process, ends up dying.
To go full circle, you could compare Anakin to Severus Snape. Both grew up, again, in crappy conditions. Both were extremely gifted in the Force/in magic. Both (probably) turned to the Dark Side both to escape the fear, ridicule, and distrust of their peers, and probably to win back/save the woman they loved. But whereas Anakin marries Padme, turns to the Dark Side, contributes to the cause of her death, gives himself wholly in service of the Dark Side and the Emperor, then attempts to capture and probably kill, or at least pervert, his kids, Snape loses Lily to James, turns to the Dark Side, contributes to the cause of Lily’s death, but then ends up switching sides completely, giving himself wholly in service to Albus Dumbledore, and attempts to protect the son of the woman he loves. Both are killed by their respective Dark Lords (Anakin by absorbing all that Force Lightning from Palpatine, Snape by getting killed by Voldemort’s pet snake.) And while both end up redeemed, I think Snape gets the raw deal here. Anakin got what he deserved, but Snape just ends up screwed.
(For some reason, finishing Deathly Hallows has only reinforced my belief that I am going to someday die a pointlessly violent death.)
There was a point to this post, but it seems to have eluded me.