Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone: Myth or Not?
Mythology is all around us. Myths can be found in the books, magazines, billboards, advertisements and probably even in that movie everyone’s talking about and you are dying to watch. Myths shaped the world we live in today and affect all sorts of media in ways we can’t imagine. If you’re wondering how a bunch of stories ancient civilizations made up to make sense of the world could be connected to anything in the modern world, you’re probably not the only one. But to understand how all these modern day things are connected to myths we must know about archetypes first.
Archetypes are very special symbols. Arch means original and type stands for stand or model. An archetype is defined as an original pattern or model from which all other things of the same kind are made .According to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, they are “innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge”. Why is it that when the first thing that comes to our mind when we see a rose is ‘love’? Or when we see the colour blue, we think of sadness? These are the kind of questions Carl asked himself and the answers he found was something he called ‘collective unconscious’. Carl’s theory stated that unknowingly we all think the same thing. We all know what make a villain a villain or what qualities a hero should have. When we look at the colour red, we automatically link it to blood or sacrifice and we’ve been doing so since ancient times. And that’s where mythology comes in. If you’re asked what does Harry Potter and Hercules have in common, the answer is … well, everything! Even though these are stories of heroes of very different times, our impression of what a hero should be like hasn’t changed. Even if you compare the different Myths you’ll find a lot of patterns in them. And that’s just what Joseph Campbell did.
Campbell explored the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure. He compared the myths to some of the modern day stories as well and he found that all the heroes go through the same process over and over. He called this the monomyth. In ‘a hero with a thousand faces’, Joseph Campbell’s pointed out the seventeen stages an archetypal hero must go through. Famous examples of movies based upon these stages are ‘the Matrix and ‘Star Wars’. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone is also a monomyth since is utilises many if not most of the stages of monomyth that a lot of myths also used.
There are three major phases to the stories in mythology, based on Joseph Campbell’s work and documented in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. These phases are Separation, Initiation and Return. Campbell also noted that there were some key story elements that went into these phases. Harry, as the Hero, goes through these elements in ‘Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone’ as many heroes of past myths did, starting with his call to adventure.
The letters addressed to Harry are his first call to adventure. In essence Harry not getting the letter’s because of intervention by Dursley can be acknowledged as a call unanswered or refusal to the call. Finally when Hagrid breaks though magical means (and extraordinary strength), a "messenger" subdues Dursley and finally delivers the message. Typically the hero starts off in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown. An example would be most Buddhist myths which describe the Buddha as becoming bored with his royal life and venturing into the world. Harry, like Buddha, leaves his ordinary life behind, when he receives the information that he is a wizard and he ventures to the unknown, to cross the threshold.
Before crossing the threshold, Ron, Hermione and Harry gathers clues, spells, and knowledge of ‘devices’...
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