The Pensieve

An Academic Guide to Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Initiation of the Hero

Written By: Dana Huff - Aug• 28•11

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces describes the hero’s journey, which Campbell calls the monomyth. This story has been told in just about every culture throughout history and remains a popular and familiar story today. Modern films such as Star Wars and The Matrix follow the hero’s journey; their creators have admitted Campbell’s influence in writing the films’ stories. Campbell separates the hero’s journey into three main steps: the Departure, the Initiation, and the Return. Campbell also describes several archetypical characters that appear in these stories. This post concerns the middle of Harry’s journey and describes his own initiation for his grand adventure.

Harry and Draco Duel

The first part of the hero’s initiation is the Road of Trials. These are all the tasks that the hero must overcome on his journey. In SS, they include such tasks as dealing with a teacher who doesn’t like him (Snape), participating in a midnight duel that turns into discovering a vast three-headed dog, fighting a mountain troll, winning his first Quidditch match, overcoming the Mirror of Erised, ridding Hagrid of an illegal dragon, escaping the frightening hooded figure of “Quirrellmort” in the Forbidden Forest, and breaking through all the enchantments to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone so that Voldemort cannot return. Of course, each book has its own Road of Trials, and most of them function well as a smaller hero’s journey in and of themselves. For instance, they each have an ultimate goal:

Book Goal
SS Obtaining the Philospher’s Stone before Voldemort
CoS Defeating the monster in the Chamber so the attacks stop
PoA Saving Sirius Black
GoF Winning the Triwizard Tournament
OotP Rescuing Sirius from the Department of Mysteries
HBP Obtaining the horcrux from the cave
DH Defeating Voldemort

However, if you look at the series as a whole, the ultimate end of Harry’s journey as a hero occurs in DH.

Harry and Ginny

Some time down the Road of Trials, the hero may chance a Meeting with the Goddess. The goddess represents the hero’s perfect soulmate, and if he can win her, she will offer him the same kind of unconditional love one might receive from a parent. Harry finds this companion in Ginny, but there are some hiccups along the way. First, he is not interested in her when she first attends Hogwarts, but she does not give up on Harry, as we learn later. Second, Harry develops a crush on Cho Chang. He determines she isn’t right for him, but by that time, Ginny has begun dating other boys (notably Michael Corner and Dean Thomas). When they finally do begin dating, the war with Voldemort interferes, but the reader knows that they will manage to find their way back to each other in the end because they have found that perfect acceptance and love that underscores the type of relationship the hero has with the goddess. By the epilogue of DH, we learn they have married and had three children.

Sirius's Death

On the other hand, sometimes the hero can be sidetracked by the Woman as Temptress. The temptress need not necessarily be a woman; it can be anything that distracts the hero from his journey. In Harry’s case, one factor that temporarily tempts him away from his journey is the loss of Sirius. At that point, he threatens to quit. He also learns at King’s Cross that he can choose to die and end his quest before destroying Voldemort. Ultimately, however, Harry recognizes the importance of finally defeating Voldemort and goes back to his body in the Forbidden Forest.

James Potter

Another step in the hero’s initiation is the Atonement with the Father. Harry never knew his father, and he idolized him. However, he learns that James was a bully, at least to Snape, and perhaps more arrogant than Harry would have liked. Coming to terms with these faults of his father’s and learning to love the man in spite of these faults enables Harry to accept his father and make peace with him.

King's Cross

Near the end of this phase of the journey, the hero reaches an Apotheosis, the state of becoming nearly godlike or reaching the point of being able to perform the final task. Harry’s Apotheosis occurs when Voldemort kills the horcrux inside Harry and sends him to King’s Cross. Harry comes back to fight again, and this time, he offers the protection of his sacrifice to all who fight on his side.

Voldemort with the Elder Wand

The final step of this part of the journey is the achievement of the Ultimate Boon. Harry wins all three Deathly Hallows and becomes the master of death. Like his ancestor, Ignotus Peverell, he chooses to meet death as an old friend at the end of his days. He uses the Elder Wand only to repair his own, then puts it away and refuses to use it. He purposely loses the Resurrection Stone. Putting the Elder Wand out of commission is healing to the wizarding world because Harry ends its cycle of violence and death.

In the next posts I will discuss Harry’s return and the types of archetypes and events in the series that conform to the hero’s journey.

Harry Potter and the Departure of the Hero

Written By: Dana Huff - Aug• 26•11

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces describes the hero’s journey, which Campbell calls the monomyth. This story has been told in just about every culture throughout history and remains a popular and familiar story today. Modern films such as Star Wars and The Matrix follow the hero’s journey; their creators have admitted Campbell’s influence in writing the films’ stories. Campbell separates the hero’s journey into three main steps: the Departure, the Initiation, and the Return. Campbell also describes several archetypical characters that appear in these stories. This post concerns the beginning of Harry’s journey and describes his own departure for his grand adventure.

Harry's Letter

The first step of the hero’s journey is the Call to Adventure. The hero is typically asked to join a quest and travel to a new realm. Harry discovers a wizarding world he knew nothing about, and he is invited to join it when Hagrid bursts through the door to the hut on the rock in the sea where the Dursleys, who believe the old superstition that witches cannot cross water, think to keep Harry separate from the wizarding world. As Campbell said, this other realm varies, but is often described as “a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state.”

Often the next step is the hero’s Refusal of the Call. “Surely not me?” he thinks. “I am not smart/strong/brave/etc. enough to accomplish this task; someone else would be better.” Harry is at first disbelieving of Hagrid’s story, and when he wakes up the next morning, he is almost afraid he dreamed that a giant man came and told him he was a wizard. Because Harry has had such a difficult life and nothing to tie him to the Muggle world he can leave behind if he accepts the Call to Adventure, Harry accepts the Call with little of what Campbell might describe as Refusal.

Harry and Hagrid in Diagon Alley

Once the hero accepts the Call to Adventure, he often finds supernatural aid in the form of a guide or mentor who reveals himself to the hero and gives the hero gifts, amulets, or talismans that will help the hero on his quest. Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley to purchase all the equipment he will need to successfully transition into life at Hogwarts. Certainly Hagrid does not present these items to Harry as gifts, but he does present Harry with a gift of knowledge: that Harry has a pile of wizarding gold in Gringotts that he can use to purchase all of the items he needs, including a wand, arguably the most important artifact a wizard possesses. Hagrid does, however, buy Harry his owl, Hedwig, which will allow him to communicate with other wizards and functions also as a pet.

Harry learns how to get on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

The first task the hero accomplishes on his journey is known as Crossing the Threshold. Harry crosses the threshold when he passes over from the Muggle world into the wizarding world at Platform 9¾. In fact, the platform is more than just a figurative threshold: it is quite a literal one, as Muggles cannot find the barrier or cross over into the platform to the Hogwarts Express, which will take Harry to school. Figuring out how to get on the platform is Harry’s first major task, and Mrs. Weasley can be seen as a guardian of sorts who recognizes Harry as a fellow wizard who needs instruction on how to pass.

Sorting Hat

One could argue that being Sorted is yet another threshold Harry must cross, as his Hogwarts House will set him on his path and shape his destiny in the years to come (even beyond school, as we see with adult characters). The Sorting Hat can be seen as a guardian who decides not whether one will pass, but how. He offers Harry a choice between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and Harry’s choice frames the course of the rest of his journey.


The final step of the Initiation is described as the Belly of the Whale. Sometimes this is a moment of darkest danger when the hero could be lost, but Campbell also describes it as a kind of temple. Hogwarts can be seen as a temple guarded from intruders by charms and enchantments. Once Harry enters, he is, in effect, hidden from the Muggle world he has left behind. Muggles will only see a Danger sign if they approach Hogwarts (assuming they can even find it). It’s unplottable and cannot be reached by Apparition. Once inside the Belly of the Whale, the hero undergoes a change, just as Harry does as he begins to learn to use magic and becomes accepted by the wizarding world as one of their own. At this point, he is completely separated from the Muggle world he has left behind. In some ways, Hogwarts can represent a kind of womb where Harry is reborn into the person he was meant to be.

Look for Harry’s Initiation and Return in the next posts.

Welcome Back

Written By: Dana Huff - Jul• 31•11

Harry's ScarHappy birthday to the Boy Who Lived and his creator J. K. Rowling!

In commemoration of their birthdays, I am blowing the dust off this old blog and resurrecting anew with a new purpose.

I am an English teacher and Instructional Technology Specialist. I have been a Harry Potter fan since 2001, when I read the first four books in quick succession. One of the things I have always liked about the series is the fact that the books can be enjoyed on a surface level as great stories with quick-moving plots and admirable characters, but they can also be enjoyed on a deeper, more analytical and philosophical level.

What I plan to do with this blog is share some insights into the series, particularly now that all the books have been published, the movies have been released, and I just clicked the verification email link in my Pottermore registration email. I have struggled with what to do with this site, and I have wondered what on earth I could contribute to a fandom that is already so rich and full of content that is not only more regularly updated by a cadre of fans who have personal relationship with J. K. Rowling, but is also creative and and different enough from what’s already out there. The answer is I can’t. But I love Harry Potter, and I want to share anyway.

I am re-enabling comments on this blog, but only on posts less than a year old. My first series of posts will concern how Harry Potter’s story arc follows Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.

Updates and Plans

Written By: Dana Huff - Apr• 10•10

It’s been a long time since I updated this poor, neglected blog. First things first: our school has a Harry Potter Club that has had four trivia tournaments for students and one for faculty. I won the faculty tournament and will go on to face the champions from Slytherin (12th grade), Gryffindor (11th grade), Ravenclaw (10th grade), and Hufflepuff (9th grade).

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter Companion‘s updates and thoughts about each chapter of the series. Now that all seven books have been released (as well as The Tales of Beedle the Bard), and the seventh movies are currently filming, I think I would like to re-read the series with some sort of analysis or connection to my own experiences with the books might be fun for me. And if you like it, well, that’s so much the better.

I’m in grad school hell at the moment, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the time. Summer?

Dangerous Wands

Written By: Dana Huff - Dec• 17•09

I have watched this a bunch of times, and it cracks me up every time.

Wrackspurt Got You?

Written By: Dana Huff - Jul• 17•09

If there is one single mythical creature Luna Lovegood refers to, or for that matter in the HP universe, that I’m tempted to believe in, it’s the Wrackspurt. Luna defines the Wrackspurt thusly:

They’re invisible. They float in through your ears and make your brain go fuzzy. (HBP 140)

In the HBP film, Luna can see Wrackspurts with her Spectrespecs, a fun addition, although not one that seems to support JKR’s canon.

We have probably all experienced the feeling Luna describes at some time or another. I found this guide to Wrackspurts in Mugglenet’s fanfiction area, and I thought it was fun. One has to wonder what the updated edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them looks like after Luna Lovegood joined the Scamander family. Would her husband possibly have included any of Luna’s mythical animals?

P. S. I am tentatively opening comments on this blog again, but comments on all posts prior to this month (7/2009), are still closed and will remain so.

Well, that experiment didn’t last long. For some reason, folks are just not able to leave civil comments at this blog, and it puzzles me because I don’t get uncivil comments at my other blogs. I hate to think HP fans are just kind of jerks.

HP6 Review and New Feature

Written By: Dana Huff - Jul• 15•09

First of all, this blog has lain dormant for too long. I can’t bring myself to delete it, as it does represent a lot of writing on a topic I’m in which I’m very interested and invested. The carnival proved to be too cumbersome and ultimately not rewarding, and I think finally the reason I decided not to continue is that I really didn’t feel like I was contributing anything. No new content. I really like HP fan art and HPL and similar sites because they create new content and are creative. With that in mind, I plan to use this blog to expound upon some feature or other in HP books or fandom. Perhaps the idea that I’m creating content that might be interesting or fun will entertain others, and that will be nice, but I also think it will be fun for me.

I saw the new HP movie today, and I liked it a lot. I feel that Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint in particular have come a long way as actors, and I felt both were very good in this film. Alan Rickman, as always, was great. I liked Michael Gambon as Dumbledore in this film more than in any of the others, but part of me really wishes Richard Harris had been able to do the entire series. It’s just a shame, as Gambon on the whole has not done the character of Dumbledore justice. I really enjoyed parts of the movie, but I was puzzled by the extraneous (i.e. non-book scenes) like the burning of the Burrow. Wouldn’t the action in the Astronomy Tower have been just as exciting as that scene that never occurred in the book? The script included most of the major details, which was good to see, but the movies never quite capture the books, and the minor characters are reduced to extras. Still, within the confines of the medium, I think they do a good job telling the story of the books. I really liked the two young actors who portrayed young Tom Riddle, too.

As a result of an analysis of Hogwarts teachers I wrote, I was invited to discuss the Hogwarts education on Sean Moncrieff’s show on Newstalk in Ireland. You can listen to it here:

Moncrieff interview of Dana Huff


Written By: Dana Huff - Jun• 09•08

I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I am permanently closing comments on this blog.  I don’t receive many comments, but the few I do receive, particularly lately, have done nothing to contribute to conversation about the posts and frankly have me wondering about the future of the human race.

Updates and Thoughts on JKR’s Case Against RDR

Written By: Dana Huff - May• 13•08

It has been quite some time since I updated this blog.  Partly it’s the time of year.  As a teacher, I find spring taxing.  That said, I am finding the Harry Potter Carnival difficult to maintain.  I rarely received submissions, and those I did receive often made it patently obvious that submitters were looking for links to their blog rather than really trying to share information with HP fans.  It was a lot a work.  It was a labor of love.  I always told myself I would stop doing it if it began to be a chore, and after DH came out, I’m afraid that’s what it became.  I am putting it on hiatus indefinitely.  I am not willing to hand the carnival over to someone else.  I did that with another carnival I ran, and they never did a thing with it.  Technically speaking, the carnival probably belongs to Blogcarnival, as that is where I created it.  However, I created it and have been alone in throwing it together and almost alone in finding links to share.  So it is on indefinite hiatus, as I said.

I do have some thoughts on the case JKR brought against RDR books, a company that was set to publish the HPL with Steve Vander Ark.  A lot of the press who only started following the case when the trial started gave JKR a hard time.  They insinuated that she was being greedy.  In my opinion, she was being protective of her rights.  JKR has been generous to her fans.  She has allows fanfiction, fansites, and all kinds of fanart.  To me, any doubt as to whether or not Mr. Vander Ark was in the right was erased when TLC severed their ties with HPL.  Mr. Vander Ark did not seem to be able to hear the opposition, and to be honest, I think that’s because so many fans were so nasty.  I wouldn’t want to hear it either.  But there were some voices of reason he didn’t listen to, either.  I feel sad that a man who has done so much for the HP fan community feels cast out.  Vander Ark has been silent about the case over the last few months, and perhaps that’s for the best.  I wish him well, but I agree with Jo on this one.  She would have been within her rights to put a stop to a lot of what goes on in the HP fandom, but she has been remarkably supportive.  I think she was right to pursue the case.  TLC has a good summary of the case.

Harry Potter Carnival #60

Written By: Dana Huff - Feb• 16•08

Welcome to the 60th Harry Potter Carnival! As promised, this month our focus is Harry Potter: TNG.  Star Trek fans will get that.
I received no submissions related to Harry Potter at all this month (and for that reason, I’ll post my own theories about HPTNG soonish); the four submissions I received could best be categorized as spam.  It’s a pity that people bother with that sort of thing.  For one thing, because of all the spam, off-topic submissions, and submissions for material that has been submitted to the carnival before, I have to remind submitters of criteria for acceptance. It really bothers me that I feel obligated to post this reminder each month, but every month I receive submissions that are not suitable.  I’m not picky.  I just have three basic rules:

  1. Blog posts submitted to the carnival need to be made within the last month (between the last carnival and the current one).
  2. Submissions must not previously have appeared in the carnival.  I would like to provide carnival guests with recent information and news when I can; therefore, please check to see if news has already been posted in a carnival before submitting it to the next carnival.
  3. The information must be related to Harry Potter.

The best way to be published in the carnival is to be an active reader of it — advice which is true of any other publication.

J.K. Rowling

Beyond Hogwarts compiles some information JKR shared about the fates of her characters following DH.

Fan Art

This month’s featured artist is Frizzy Hermione, who submitted this work to Argentinian site Amortentia Multimedia:

Albus Severus…

You can view the submission and more details here.

Theories and Speculation

DH hints that Albus Severus could end up in either Gryffindor or Slytherin.  Which one do you think he ended up in?  Folks at Mugglenet’s CoS Forums speculated.  I think a lot of fans wanted him to be in Slytherin, but truthfully does he exhibit any characteristics that would make sorting him into Syltherin plausible?  We know already that James is a Gryffindor.  What about Victoire?  I am thinking either Ravenclaw or Gryffindor.  Teddy Lupin, I think, was probably a Gryffindor like his father; however, it’s worth noting his mother was a Hufflepuff, so who knows?  Scorpius Malfoy most likely wound up in Slytherin.  I’m betting Rose Weasley will be a Gryffindor, too.  The Scamander twins I see in Ravenclaw like their mother.  You can look for my thoughts on this issue some time soon, but until then, let’s speculate: where do you think HPTNG ended up?

Hermione’s Library

If you want to mine DH’s Epilogue for clues about the fates HPTNG, you might find HPL’s reader’s guide handy.

Random Fandom

If you want to display your appreciation for HPTNG characters on your Web site, you can join the following Fanlistings:

No individual Fanlistings exist for any of TNG Weasleys.  If you’re interested, why not propose them?

Just for Fun

While not strictly related to HPTNG, this site is kind of interesting.  Translate anything into Parseltongue.  I know Harry received this gift from the bit of Voldemort’s soul that resided in him, according to JKR, but I wonder if any of his children can speak Parseltongue.  If any of them can, my bet is on Albus Severus.

Thanks to everyone for the submissions! To submit Potterica for the next carnival, use my carnival submission form. Please note the category for which it should be considered. Deadline is 10:00 P.M. Friday, March 14. The next HP carnival will appear Saturday, March 15. Please be careful to read past carnivals before you submit articles to be sure you are not submitting material that has already been included. Also, keep in mind this is a carnival for HP fans, and your posts must be directed toward that audience.

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