Since the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997, J.K. Rowling’s best-selling series has become enormously popular, evidenced in part by its translation into more than seventy languages (Plunkett). As its popularity has increased, it has been held in correspondingly higher esteem until Harry Potter finally joined the likes of Peter Pan and Robin Hood, and Rowling’s series was unofficially labeled Children’s Literature. Due to this station, it is being treated more seriously and examined more analytically. This attention has illuminated allusions and patterns that impose additional layers of meaning onto the story. Harry Potter’s quest, detailed through seven books and thousands of pages, includes archetypal characters, situations, and structure of a classic epic.
The main character of a classic epic is the epic hero. This hero is usually male, and he performs courageous, even superhuman feats which “determine the fate of a nation” (Stephens). He “must undertake a long and perilous journey, often involving a descent into the underworld,” during which his “endurance, courage, and cunning” are tested (Characteristics of an Epic Hero). A trip to the Underworld is usually accompanied, at some point, by “epic games” and one or more “vision[s] of the future” (Stephens). Though the hero’s friends might be great warriors, “he undertakes a task that no one else dare attempt” (Characteristics of the Epic Hero). In the course of his development, the hero passes through three stages, each consisting of several steps: first, the hero departs the known world; then embarks upon the quest, is transformed, and achieves maturity; and finally, the hero must return to the known (The Hero's Journey). The storyline ultimately portrays good versus evil themes, with good usually vanquishing evil “despite great odds” (Stephens).
Harry Potter, “the Boy who Lived”, is both the hero of an epic and the title and main character of Rowling’s series (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 17). After Voldemort’s attack on his family when he is a child, Harry set apart from everyone else. He survives Voldemort’s Killing Curse, but at a price: he comes away with a scar shaped “like a bolt of lightning” (15). Harry’s scar is more than just an interesting blemish, however; it is the physical manifestation of Harry’s difference. Before Harry’s birth, Sibyll Trelawney prophesies his relationship with Voldemort, declaring that it will begin when Voldemort “mark[s] him as his equal” (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 841). As a fulfillment of Trelawney’s prophesy, Harry’s scar truly does mark him for greatness (Foster).
On Harry’s eleventh birthday, he meets Rubeus Hagrid, “Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts” (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 48). In the decrepet “Hut-on-the-Rock” (51), Hagrid, without much preamble, sounds Harry’s “Call to Adventure,” the first step to Harry’s becoming a hero (The Hero's...