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?


  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.

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    A belated hailing this as splendid!

    Fetching too far to wonder if there may be further play with hippogriff and the Pegasus emblem of the British Airborne Forces, including the 6th Airborne Division whose “first mission was Operation Tonga on 6 June 1944, D-Day, part of the Normandy landings, where it was responsible for securing the left flank of the Allied invasion during Operation Overlord” (Wikipedia tells me, noting, too, as one of its battalions “2nd Ox and Bucks”)?

  5. D.L. Dodds,

    Right off the bat I’m going to have to make two apologies in one. The first is for the late reply, the second is in the form of a confession. I’m familiar with just two works of Forster. The first is “A Passage to India”, while the second is the writing manual, “Aspects of the Novel”. In both cases, I can’t say I was impressed by what I read.

    I did, however, take the time to find a helpful online copy of Godfrey’s book. My first impression went something like: “………Wait, what?” While I was, and still remain somewhat skeptical of Godfrey’s claims. That said, I have to admit that Godfrey does provide a bit of insight on my own reading (limited) reading of the author.

    The irony is that I’ve always thought “Passage” is one of those stories where something vital was missing. Like it needed just one other element to make it interesting. The funny thing was that the story it reminded me the most of is “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. That’s another story featuring tragic events in a natural cave-like setting. However, that story really does introduce a low level of supernatural trappings. In that regard, it’s almost like “Hanging Rock” is the novel that “Passage” perhaps needed to be, yet never was.

    The final irony is that until you’d brought up Godfrey’s book, I’d always thought Forster was a straight up materialist. At least that’s the impression I was getting from “Aspects”. With Godfrey’s claims, however, the same problems that were less discernible with “Passage” becomes a bit more obvious on this revised reading of “Aspects”.

    If there’s any truth to Godfrey’s claim, then if Forster did have an interest in the supernatural, or Other World, the tragic flaw in his character is that he couldn’t seem to make any sort of committing opinion on the subject, one way or the other. The picture of the author I got at first was just someone with a flippant, naturalist approach to novel writing. Looking at it again after having all this info delivered, he sort of comes off a lot worse.

    The following passage about the treatment of time in a fictional setting is as best an example of the kind of double-faced standard I’m talking about:

    “…we do not know, and the experience of certain mystics suggests, indeed, that it is not necessary, and that we are quite mistaken in supposing that Monday is followed by Tuesday, or death by decay.”

    So far, so good. The author has made a statement that wouldn’t be out of place in a work by C.S. Lewis. The trouble is just a few pages after this statement Forster deliberately contradicts himself by saying:

    “But it is never possible for a novelist to deny time inside the fabric of his novel: he must cling however lightly to the thread of his story, he must touch the interminable tapeworm, otherwise he becomes unintelligible, which in his case, is a blunder (29)”.

    The contradiction rests on the profession of a possible metaphysic, only to turn round and apply the writing strictures of a naturalist, as opposed to a supernaturalist, belief system onto the novel as an art-form. The problem is if you go ahead and apply the dictum that Forster has established, then a lot of the novels of Vladimir Nabokov, or the plays of J.B. Priestly, where time not only suspended and broken up or suspended, but on occasion transcended, must all be counted as failures.

    I think what this reveals is that Forster is/was a lot like T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”. Even if he had an inkling into the metaphysical, he still lacked both the nerve and the belief necessary to “disturb the universe”. Because of this, both his novels and criticism suffer, and he ironical becomes a satirical target for artists like Eliot, who went on to surpass him by playing with the notion of time in an artistic medium. In the end, I’m this does little to change my mind about Forster as an artist of critic. In fact it just provides the worst sort of fuel to the original fire.

    As a consolation, however, I can mention one possible thinker who may have had an impact on the way Lewis might have conceptualized (as a “supposal”) the Other World. His name was J.W. Dunne, and he was mentioned near the end of Michael Ward’s “Planet Narnia”. I’ve found an essay on Dunne and as a possible influence on Lewis’s thinking, and I have to say it’s pretty darn interesting to say the least:


    Hope this reply was of at least some help.

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