D-Day and Harry Potter:The Longest Day

Last Thursday, 6 June 2019, was the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe in 1944. ‘Operation Neptune,’ usually known just as D-Day, remains the largest invasion from the sea against a fortified beach-head. It led to the liberation of France and eventually to victory on WWII’s Western Front.

D-Day is often called ‘The Longest Day’ because of Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 popular history of the invasion that had that title as well as the blockbuster film made in 1962 based on the book. David Martin wrote me on Thursday, 6 June this year, to suggest that Rowling deliberately made the longest day in the Hogwarts Saga the 50th anniversary of the invasion, 6 June 1994, as a kind of tribute. 

We should, of course, honor the heroes of D-Day – June sixth, 1944.  That day is sometimes called “the longest day” because of the great struggle and because of the uncertainty as the whole world waited for the outcome.  There is a classic film about D-Day with the title “The Longest Day.”

J. K. Rowling appears to have honored that day in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  One of the few specific dates given in the Harry Potter novels is the date of Buckbeak’s scheduled execution – June sixth.  (Prisoner, page 400) 

The year would have been 1994 – fifty years, to the day, after D-Day.  In Prisoner June sixth, 1994, is the day when Hermione used her Time-Turner to take Harry and herself back three hours.  Thus they experienced a 27 hour day – their longest day.

Since none of us mere Muggles has yet mastered legilimency it is doubtful that we will ever discover all the hidden meanings and references in J. K. Rowling’s books.

A fascinating possibility, especially in a book with so many Nazi-Death Eater correspondences that more than one critic has suggested the series is an extended WWII allegory (e.g., Voldemort is Hitler, the Weasley-Delacour wedding is the Anglo-French alliance, etc.). MuggleNet gives the date as 9 June on its calendar but the Lexicon timeline for Prisoner has it as 6 June 1994 as David writes.

What do you think? Is the 6 June 1994 longest day in Harry Potter a word-play hat-tip to the Longest Day invasion of Europe in 1994?

Comments

  1. DAVID M MARTIN says

    Just a few additional comments…

    For the record, the date of the sixth is given twice in Prisoner.

    We have this on page 316:
    Just then, there was a rustle at the window and Hedwig fluttered through it, a note clutched tight in her beak. “It’s from Hagrid,” said Harry, ripping the note open.
    “Buckbeak’s appeal — it’s set for the sixth.”

    “That’s the day we finish our exams,” said Hermione, still looking everywhere for her Arithmancy book.

    And we have this on page 400:
    “It is the decision of the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures that the hippogriff Buckbeak, hereafter called the condemned, shall be executed on the sixth of June at sundown —”

    Also, from my 18 months spent living in Britain, I gained the impression that WWII is a much more present memory in Britain than it is in the US. After all, they were bombed – repeatedly – whereas for many of us lucky Yanks WWII was mostly just a time when a lot of young men went away for a while. There are war memorials like the one in Godric’s Hollow in many towns, listing the names of those who died in WWI and WWII. Further, the US memory of WWII revolves around several key events: The bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, fighting across the Pacific, and the atomic bomb. For Britain, the key events remembered are Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and D-Day. Thus D-Day looms very large in the British mind and I find it entirely plausible that Rowling would make a reference to it..

  2. I’m convinced, David. Hereafter in my mind 6 June 1994, Harry’s longest day by three hours, will be a pointer to the 50th Anniversary of The Longest Day, 6 June 1944. Thank you for sharing this fascinating find with us at HogwartsProfessor!

  3. DAVID M MARTIN says

    The fiftieth anniversary of D-Day – June sixth, 1994 – was a big deal. For example, it’s was the lead story covering half the front page of the Guardian newspaper that day. JKR would have been 29 at the time, so fully adult and well aware of what was going on in the world. And she was already planning the HP series. As near as I can estimate, JKR finished writing “Prisoner” in early 1999, so about four and a half years after that fiftieth anniversary. Even if she had not included this date in her plans earlier, it would have been very easy for her to remember what, at that time, would have been a fairly recent event.

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