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.

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  1. dylan says:

    do you have a link to your posts about the return stage?

  2. Eric says:

    When will you post the return phase of this book?