Harry Potter (character)
The English used in this article may not be easy for everybody to understand. (November 2011)
|Harry Potter character|
|First appearance||Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone|
|Last appearance||Harry Potter and the cursed child|
|Created by||J. K. Rowling|
|Portrayed by||Daniel Radcliffe|
|Family||Lily Potter (mother) (deceased) |
James Potter (father) (deceased)
Vernon Dursley (uncle)
Petunia Dursley (aunt)
Dudley Dursley (cousin)
|Children||James Sirius Potter (son)|
Albus Severus Potter (son)
Lily Luna Potter (daughter)
Harry James Potter is the main character in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series. The books cover seven years in the life of the orphan who, on his 11th birthday, learns he is a wizard and the son of magical parents Lily and James Potter. He goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn magic. Harry soon learns that he is already famous in the world of wizards. He also learns that his fate is connected to Lord Voldemort. Voldemort was an evil wizard who killed Harry's parents, but was believed to have died when he tried to use the Killing Curse on the baby Harry. Rowling said that the idea for the Harry Potter character came to her while waiting for a train in 1990. She decided to make him an orphan following the death of her mother.
Concept and creation[change | change source]
According to author J. K. Rowling, the idea for both the Harry Potter books and the character came while waiting for a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. J.K. Rowling said that in the hours she waited, her idea for "this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard became more and more real to me." Rowling also decided to make Harry an orphan at a boarding school called Hogwarts. She explained, "Harry HAD to be an orphan - so that he's a free agent, with no fear of letting down his parents, disappointing them … Hogwarts HAS to be a boarding school - half the important stuff happens at night! Then there's the security. Having a child of my own reinforces my belief that children above all want security, and that's what Hogwarts offers Harry."
The death of her mother on 30 December 1990 led Rowling led to write Harry Potter as a boy longing for his dead parents. His pain became "more deeper, more real" than in earlier versions because she related to it herself. In a 2000 interview with The Guardian, Rowling also said that the character of Wart in T.H. White's novel The Sword in the Stone is "Harry's spiritual ancestor." In that book, a boy called Wart meets the mysterious wizard Merlin. Merlin helps the child grow into a noble, powerful warrior who later becomes King Arthur. She also said that Harry was born on 31 July and has the same birthday as herself. However, she says, Harry is not directly based on any real-life character, "he came just out of a part of me".
Appearances[change | change source]
First book[change | change source]
Harry first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) as the book's protagonist, or main character. When Harry was a little over one year old, his parents were killed by the powerful Dark Wizard, Lord Voldemort. Harry survived Voldemort's Killing Curse after his mother died to protect him. The Curse was turned back at Voldemort and ripped his soul from his body. Because of this, Harry has a lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Rowling has said that creating the story about Harry Potter's past was a matter of reverse planning: "The basic idea [is that] Harry … didn't know he was a wizard … and so then I kind of worked backwards from that position to find out how that could be, that he wouldn't know what he was… When he was one-year-old, the most evil wizard in hundreds of years attempted to kill him. He killed Harry's parents, and then he tried to kill Harry - he tried to curse him… Harry has to find out, before we find out. And - so - but for some mysterious reason, the curse didn't work on Harry. So he's left with this lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead, and the curse rebounded upon the evil wizard who has been in hiding ever since".
Harry is written as an orphan living unhappily with his only family left, the cruel Dursleys. On his eleventh birthday, Harry finds that he is a wizard when Rubeus Hagrid tells him that he is to go Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he learns about his parents and his connection to the Dark Lord. He is sorted into Gryffindor House by the Sorting Hat and becomes friends with classmates Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Near the end of his first year at Hogwarts, he stops Voldemort's attempt to steal the Philosopher's Stone. He also forms rivalries with characters Draco Malfoy, a classmate from an elitist wizard family, and the Potions teacher and head of Slytherin House, Severus Snape. Both feuds continue throughout the series. In a 1999 interview, Rowling stated that Draco is based on several schoolyard bullies she had known and Snape on a teacher of hers who abused his power.
Rowling has said that the Mirror of Erised chapter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is her favourite. The mirror reflects Harry's deepest desire, namely to see his dead parents. Her favourite funny scene is when Harry accidentally sets a boa constrictor free from the zoo in the horrified Dursleys' presence.
Second to fourth books[change | change source]
In the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling pits Harry against Tom Marvolo Riddle, a memory of Lord Voldemort locked up in a secret diary that Ron's younger sister Ginny Weasley finds in a bathroom. When muggle (non-magic) parentage students are found being petrified, many think that Harry may be the one behind the attacks, making him become more detached from his classmates. At the height of the book, Ginny Weasley is found to be missing. To rescue her, Harry battles Riddle and the monster he controls that is hidden in the Chamber of Secrets.
In the third book, called Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Rowling uses time travel as the basis for the book. Harry learns that his parents were sold out to Lord Voldemort by their friend Peter Pettigrew, also accused of framing Harry's godfather Sirius Black for crimes he didn't make, locking him up in the wizarding prison, Azkaban. When Black escapes to find revenge, Harry and Hermione use a Time Turner to save him and a hippogriff named Buckbeak. Pettigrew, and the truth, escape from Sirius, causing him to be on the run from the authorities.
In the previous books, Harry is written as a child, but Rowling states that in the fourth novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, "Harry's horizons are literally and metaphorically widening as he grows older." Harry's developing maturity becomes apparent when he becomes interested in Cho Chang, a pretty Ravenclaw student. Tension mounts, however, when Harry is mysteriously chosen by the Goblet of Fire to compete in the dangerous Triwizard Tournament, even though another Hogwarts champion, Cedric Diggory, was already selected. It is actually an elaborate scheme by Lord Voldemort to lure Harry into a deadly trap. During the Tournament's final challenge, Harry and Cedric are teleported to a graveyard. Cedric is killed, and Lord Voldemort, aided by Peter Pettigrew, uses Harry's blood in a gruesome ritual to resurrect Voldemort's body. When Harry duels Voldemort, their wands' magical streams connect, forcing the spirit echoes of Voldemort's victims, including Cedric and James and Lily Potter, to be expelled from his wand. The spirits shortly protect Harry as he escapes to Hogwarts with Cedric's body. For Rowling, this scene is important because it shows how Harry is brave, and by finding Cedric's corpse, he demonstrates selflessness and compassion. Says Rowling, "He wants to save Cedric's parents additional pain". She added that preventing Cedric Diggory's body from falling into Voldemort's hands is based on the classic scene in the Iliad where Achilles finds the body of his best friend Patroclus from the hands of Hector. The author said: "That [Iliad scene] really, really, REALLY moved me when I read that when I was 19. The idea of the desecration of a body, a very ancient idea... I was thinking of that when Harry saved Cedric's body." She also said that she cried while writing the scene when Harry's dead parents are drawn from Voldemort's wand, the first time she cried while penning her story.
Fifth and sixth book[change | change source]
In the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic has been waging a smear campaign against Harry and Dumbledore, disputing their claims that Voldemort has returned. A new character is introduced when the Ministry of Magic appoints Dolores Umbridge as the latest Hogwarts' Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor (and Ministry spy). Because the paranoid Ministry thinks that Dumbledore is building a wizard army to overthrow them, Umbridge decides not to teach students real defensive magic. She gradually gains more power, eventually seizing control of the school. As a result, Harry's growing angry and erratic behaviour nearly estranges him from Ron and Hermione. Rowling says she put Harry through extreme emotional stress to show his emotional vulnerability and humanity–a contrast to his nemesis, Voldemort. "[Harry is] a very human hero, and this is, obviously, a contrast, between him, as a very human hero, and Voldemort, who has deliberately dehumanised himself. And Harry, therefore, did have to reach a point where he did almost break down, and say he didn’t want to play anymore, he didn’t want to be the hero anymore – and he’d lost too much. And he didn’t want to lose anything else. So that – Phoenix was the point at which I decided he would have his breakdown." At Hermione's urging, Harry secretly teaches his classmates real defensive magic to thwart Umbridge and the Ministry, but their meetings are found and Dumbledore is ousted as Headmaster. Harry suffers another emotional blow, when his godfather, Sirius Black is killed during a battle with Death Eaters at the Department of Mysteries, but Harry ultimately defeats Voldemort's plan to steal an important prophecy and helps uncover Umbridge's sinister motives. Rowling stated: "And now he [Harry] will rise from the ashes strengthened." A sideplot of Order of the Phoenix involves Harry's romance with Cho Chang, but the relationship quickly unravels. Says Rowling: "They were never going to be happy, it was better that it ended early!"
In the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Harry enters a tumultuous puberty that, Rowling says, is based on her and her younger sister's own difficult teenage years. Rowling also made an intimate statement about Harry's personal life: "Because of the demands of the adventure that Harry is following, he has had less sexual experience than boys of his age might have had". This inexperience with romance was a factor in Harry's failed relationship with Cho Chang. Now his thoughts concern Ginny Weasley, Ron's sister, a vital plot point in the last chapter when Harry ends their budding romance to protect her from Voldemort.
A new character appears when former Hogwarts Potions master Horace Slughorn returns to replace Severus Snape, who takes over the Defence Against the Dark Arts post. Harry excels in Potions by using an old textbook once belonging to a talented student known only as, "The Half-Blood Prince." The book contains many handwritten notes, revisions, and new spells; Hermione, however, believes Harry using it is cheating. Through private meetings with Dumbledore, Harry learns about Lord Voldemort's orphaned youth, his rise to power, and how he splintered his soul into Horcruxes to achieve immortality. Two Horcruxes have been destroyed, and Harry and Dumbledore locate another, although it is a fake. When Death Eaters invade Hogwarts, Snape kills Dumbledore. As Snape escapes, he proclaims that he is the Half-Blood Prince–Harry's admired mentor is actually his hated enemy. It now falls upon Harry to find and destroy Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes and to avenge Dumbledore's death. In a 2005 interview with NBC anchorwoman Katie Couric, Rowling stated that [after the events in the sixth book] Harry has, "taken the view that they are now at war. He does become more battle hardened. He’s now ready to go out fighting. And he’s after revenge [against Voldemort and Snape]."
Final book[change | change source]
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron and Hermione leave Hogwarts to complete Dumbledore's task: to search for and destroy Voldemort's remaining four Horcruxes, and then find and kill the Dark Lord. The three put themselves against Voldemort's newly formed totalitarian police state, an action that tests Harry's courage and moral character. According to J.K. Rowling, a telling scene in which Harry uses Cruciatus and Imperius (unforgivable curses for torture and mind-control) on Voldemort's servants shows a side to Harry that is "flawed and mortal." However, she explains that, "He is also in an extreme situation and attempting to defend somebody very good against a violent and murderous opponent".
Harry comes to recognise that his own single-mindedness makes him predictable to his enemies and often clouds his perceptions. When Severus Snape is killed by Voldemort later in the story, Harry realises that Snape was not the traitorous murderer he believed him to be, but a tragic anti-hero who was loyal to Albus Dumbledore. In Chapter 33 ("The Prince's Tale") Snape's memories show that he loved Harry's mother Lily Evans, but their friendship ended over his association with future Death Eaters and "blood purity" beliefs. When Voldemort killed the Potters, a grieving Snape vowed to protect Lily's child, although he loathed young Harry for being James Potter's son. It is also revealed that Snape did not kill Albus Dumbledore, but carried out Dumbledore's prearranged plan. Dumbledore, who was dying from a slow-spreading curse, wanted to protect Snape's position within the Death Eaters and spare Draco Malfoy from completing Voldemort's task to murder him.
To defeat Harry, Voldemort steals the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's tomb. It is the most powerful wand ever created, and he twice casts the Killing Curse on Harry with it. The first attempt merely stuns Harry into a deathlike state. In the chapter "King's Cross", Dumbledore's spirit tells Harry that when Voldemort failed to kill baby Harry and disembodied himself, Harry became an unintentional Horcrux; Voldemort could not kill Harry while the Dark Lord's soul shard was within Harry's body. Voldemort's second Killing Curse also fails because Voldemort used Harry's blood in his resurrection. Voldemort's soul shard within Harry was destroyed because Harry willingly faced death. In the next chapter, "The Flaw in the Plan", it is established that Harry, not Voldemort, became the Elder Wand's true master. In the book's climax, the Elder Wand disobeys the Dark Lord's command and rebounds the curse onto Voldemort, killing him. J.K. Rowling said, the difference between Harry and Voldemort is that Harry willingly accepts mortality, making him stronger than his nemesis. "The real master of Death accepts that he must die, and that there are much worse things in the world of the living."
After Voldemort's defeat, Harry joins the Auror Office for a revolutionised Ministry of Magic. Ten years afterwards, Harry is appointed department head by new Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt. Ron, who helped George run the Weasley Wizarding Wheezes Joke Shop for a time, is also an Auror. In the end, Rowling said his old rival Draco Malfoy has overcome his animosity after Harry saved his life three times in the seventh book.
In the Deathly Hallows epilogue, set nineteen years after Voldemort's death (i.e. 2017), Harry and Ginny are married and have three children: James Sirius, Albus Severus, and Lilly Luna.
Movie appearances[change | change source]
In the eight Harry Potter movies from 2001-2011, Harry Potter has been played by British actor Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe was asked to audition for the role of Harry Potter in 2000 by producer David Heyman, while in at a play titled Stones in His Pockets in London. The Harry Potter role has earned much money for Radcliffe. As of 2007, he has an estimated wealth of £17 million.
In a 2007 interview with MTV, Radcliffe stated that, for him, Harry Potter is a classic coming of age character: "That's what the movies are about for me: a loss of innocence, going from being a young kid in awe of the world around him, to someone who is more battle-hardened by the end of it." He also said that for him, important factors in Harry's psyche are his survivor's guilt about the death of his parents and his lingering loneliness. Because of this, Radcliffe talked to a bereavement counsellor to help him prepare for the role. Radcliffe was quoted as saying that he wished for Harry to die in the books, but he clarified that he, "can't imagine any other way they can be concluded". After reading the last book, where Harry Potter and his friends survive and have children, Radcliffe stated to be glad about the ending and lauded author J. K. Rowling for the conclusion of the story.
Radcliffe stated that the most often repeated question he has been asked is how Harry Potter has influenced his own life, to which he regularly answers it has been "fine", and that he did not feel pigeonholed by the role, but rather sees it as a huge privilege to portray the character of Harry Potter.
Characterisation[change | change source]
According to author J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter is strongly guided by his own conscience, and has a keen feeling of what is right and what is wrong. Having "very limited access to truly caring adults", Rowling said, Harry "is forced to make his own decisions from early age on." He "does make mistakes", she conceded, but in the end, he does what his conscience tells him to do. According to Rowling, one of Harry's pivotal scenes came in the fourth book when he protects his dead schoolmate Cedric Diggory's body from arch villain Lord Voldemort, because it shows he is brave and unselfish.
Rowling also said that Harry's two worst character flaws are "anger and occasional arrogance", but that Harry is also innately honourable. "He's not a cruel boy. He's competitive, and he's a fighter. He doesn't just lie down and take abuse. But he does have native integrity, which makes him a hero to me. He's a normal boy but with those qualities most of us really admire." After the seventh book, Rowling commented that Harry has the ultimate character strength, being able to do what even Voldemort can not: he is not afraid of death.
Rowling has also maintained that Harry is a suitable real-life role model for children. "The advantage of a fictional hero or heroine is that you can know them better than you can know a living hero, many of whom you would never meet […] if people like Harry and identify with him, I am pleased, because I think he is very likeable."
Outward appearance[change | change source]
Rowling also gave Harry Potter an uncanny outward appearance. Throughout the entire series, Harry sports his father's perpetually untidy black hair, his mother's green eyes, and a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead because of his encounter with Lord Voldemort and round, thick eyeglasses. She explained that this image simply came to her when she first thought up Harry Potter, seeing him as a "scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy".
In the books, Harry's scar serves as an indicator of Voldemort's presence: it burns when the Dark Lord is near or feeling particularly murderous or exultant. According to Rowling, by attacking Harry when he was a baby, Voldemort gave him "tools (that) no other wizard possessed – the scar, and the ability it conferred, provided a magical window into Voldemort's mind." Asked why Harry's forehead scar is lightning bolt-shaped, Rowling said, "to be honest, because it’s a cool shape," and joked, "I couldn’t have my hero sport a doughnut-shaped scar."
Abilities and interests[change | change source]
In the books, Harry is categorised as a "half-blood" wizard in the series, because although both his parents were magical, his mother, Lily Evans, was "Muggle-born". According to Rowling, to characters for whom wizarding blood purity matters, Lily would be considered "as loathsome as a Muggle", and derogatively referred to as a "Mudblood".
Throughout the series, Rowling wrote Harry Potter as a gifted wizard apprentice. She stated in a 2000 interview with South West News Service that Harry Potter is "particularly talented" in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and also good in Quidditch. Rowling said in the same interview that until about halfway through the third book, his good friend Hermione Granger –written as the smartest student in Harry's year– would have beaten Harry in a magical duel. From the fourth book onwards, Rowling admits Harry has become quite talented in the Defence Against the Dark Arts and would beat his friend Hermione in a magical duel. His power is evident from the beginning of the series; specifically, Harry shows immediate command of a broomstick, produces a Patronus at an early age and survives several confrontations with Voldemort. Harry is able to speak and understand Parseltongue, a language associated with Dark Magic, which, according to Rowling, is because he harbours a piece of Lord Voldemort's soul. After Voldemort destroys that soul piece in the seventh book's climax, Harry loses the ability to speak Parseltongue. Harry "is very glad" to have lost this gift.
Possessions[change | change source]
When Harry's parents were murdered by Lord Voldemort, they left behind a large pile of wizard's gold, used as currency in the world of magic, in a vault in the wizarding bank, Gringotts. This becomes Harry's source of paying for all of his Hogwarts textbooks, wizarding clothing, and spending money.
As is the case with most wizards in the Harry Potter series, his wand is among his most valued magical items. Harry's is made of holly, a wood Rowling chose because it is said to get rid of evil. It forms a deliberate contrast to the wand of his nemesis Lord Voldemort, whose wand is made of yew, which symbolises death. Rowling states she later learned that in the Celtic calendar a type of wood is assigned to each month; and Harry's fictional birthday (31 July) is linked to holly. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger also happened to get wands made from the appropriate woods identified the Celtic calendar, according to their fictional birth months.
Another valued and useful possession is Harry's Cloak of Invisibility. In his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he gets it anonymously as a Christmas gift. He later learns it was given by Albus Dumbledore, who had it in turn from Harry's father.
Harry also owns half of a pair of two-way mirrors, given by his godfather Sirius Black, as a means of maintaining covert communications. In Book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry and several friends are captured at Malfoy Manor, which Lord Voldemort was using as his headquarters, Harry uses the mirror to communicate with Aberforth Dumbledore, who sends rescue in the form of Dobby the House Elf.
After Sirius' death, all of his remaining possessions were passed along to Harry. This included the Black family residence, located at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, and all the contents and furnishings of the house, including Kreacher (the old Black family House Elf). Harry also inherited the remainder of Sirius' wealth in wizard's gold at Gringotts.
Another notable possession of Harry's is a magical knife, given to him by Sirius Black. The knife has the power to open most mechanical locks and magical seals. The knife was destroyed when Harry attempted to use it on a lock in the Department of Mysteries, when instead of opening the desired lock, an enchantment destroyed the knife's blade.
By the end of Deathly Hallows, Harry possesses all three Deathly Hallows: the Cloak of Invisibility, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand, They are three of the most powerful magical items in all of the wizarding-world. However, Harry lost the Resurrection Stone inside the Forbidden Forest, and decides to leave it there. Harry also takes the Elder Wand and lays it with Dumbledore's body, so the power of the wand might be extinguished if he dies a natural death. However, the new portrait of Dumbledore in the Headmaster's Office agrees that Harry should keep the Invisibility Cloak for himself, since it was his father's.
Throughout most of the books, Harry also has a pet owl named Hedwig, used to deliver and get messages and packages. When Hedwig is killed in the seventh book, the author said she expected the strong emotional reaction of her readers: "The loss of Hedwig represented a loss of innocence and security. She has been almost like a cuddly toy to Harry at times. I know that death upset a lot of people!"
Family[change | change source]
In the novels, Harry is the only child of James and Lily Potter, but orphaned as an infant. Rowling made Harry an orphan from the early drafts of her first book. She felt an orphan would be the most interesting character to write about. However, after her mother's death, Rowling wrote Harry as a child longing to see his dead parents again, incorporating her own anguish into him. Harry's aunt and uncle kept the truth about their deaths from Harry, telling him they died in a car accident. Through his marriage to Ginny Weasley, Harry links the Peverell and the House of Black families. It is unknown whether there have been other links between the two families' history, but this is possible, as they are among the most prominent wizarding families.
In popular culture[change | change source]
In 2002, Harry Potter was voted No. 85 among the "100 Best Fictional Characters" by Book magazine and also voted the 35th "Worst Briton" in Channel 4's "100 Worst Britons We Love to Hate" program. In addition, Harry Potter is spoofed in the Barry Trotter series by American writer Michael Gerber, where a "Barry Trotter" appears as the eponymous anti-hero. On his homepage, Gerber describes Trotter as an unpleasant character who "drinks too much, eats like a pig, sleeps until noon, and owes everybody money." The author stated "[s]ince I really liked Rowling's books […] I felt obligated to try to write a spoof worthy of the originals."
In real life, Harry's iconoclastic appearance has become cult. According to halloweenonline.com, Harry Potter sets were the fifth-best selling Halloween costume of 2005. In addition, wizard rock bands like Harry and the Potters and others regularly dress up in the style of Harry Potter, sporting painted forehead scars, black wigs and round bottle top glasses.
Wizard rock is a musical movement dating from 2002 that consists of at least 200 bands made up of young musicians, playing songs about Harry Potter. The movement started in Massachusetts with the band Harry and the Potters, who cosplay as Harry during live performances
Harry Potter appears in the Robot Chicken episode "Nutcracker Sweet" voiced by Seth Green. He is shown to have Firebolt in a delicate place on himself. Quinton Flynn voices Harry Potter in the episode "Password: Swordfish." When the threat of the puberty creature Pubertis is known, Harry sees Dumbledore about this and receives a stone that might help him fight Pubertis. Upon confrontation with Pubertis, he rubs the stone two times, which summons ghosts to punch it. When it comes to the third time, (the stone starts "chafing") Dumbledore appears and tells Harry that the stone can only be warmed up three times (four if you take a week off) and that Pubertis cannot be destroyed since it lives in everyone.
In Epic Movie, a 2007 parody movie, he is played by Canadian comedian Kevin McDonald, whereas Harry is portrayed as being somewhat of a pervert as seen when Harry tries to touch Susan Pevensie's breasts.
Episodes of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy has spoofed Harry as Nigel Planter. Unlike Harry, Nigel has an L-shaped scar on his forehead.
In an episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Potter is referenced trice, once when Jimmy is watching a reel of movies rapidly (Where Hagrid says "You're a Wizard, Harry") and later in the filming for Jimmy's movie, as Jimmy plays a parody of Harry, called "Terry Bladder".
Wizards of Waverly Place once referenced Harry, as Justin was wearing a robe and glasses like Harry, to which Alex comments on with trying to guess who he looks like ("Barry something", "Jerry something", etc.)
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