Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #6: The Hero’s Journey

One of the Five Keys or “essential patterns” Ms. Rowling uses that are discussed in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader is the hero’s journey. Ms. Rowling uses a formulaic trip from Privet Drive to King’s Cross in Harry’s first six years that differs only in the details; every year we start out at Privet Drive, escape magically, discover a mystery, work with Ron and/or Hermione to solve the mystery, come to a crisis point, take a trip underground, confront the enemy, die a figurative death, rise from the dead in the presence of a symbol of Christ, do a denouement with Dumbledore, and return to King’s Cross. Except for Harry’s return to Hogwarts being delayed until the last eight of thirty six chapters, Ms. Rowling seems to have conformed to her formula. I was most impressed by the internal mysteries the Trio must resolve about the Deathly Hallows, Albus Dumbledore’s real character, and “the man in the mirror” while Horcrux hunting, not to mention Harry’s “resurrection” as this year’s Christ figure. Deathly Hallows, because it was not a Hogwarts year, seemed to work better than the other stories as a hero’s journey; Harry had his time in the Wilderness. What are your thoughts about Deathly Hallows as monomyth?


  1. sibelius says

    Harry gets carried into the Great Hall at Hogwarts after he has passed through ‘King’s Cross’, which is pretty smart writing. His journey there has been increasingly complex from book to book. (This would have been even more complete if Harry hadn’t made it into the Great Hall at all until after ‘King’s Cross’, but he gets there in Chapter 31.)

  2. I am disappointed that the war did not take place there, since my Dracula formula predictions did not come through with Kings Cross. But the fact that he used memories, and mind reading to find LV and to know how to kill him was spookily similar to Dracula.

  3. Having read ‘Unlocking Harry Potter . . .” I was looking for the elements of the Hero’s Journey pattern that JKR had established in the previous 6 books. There was one element which played out several times in DH. It seemed that we went from crisis point to crisis point in DH and Harry went underground no less than 5 times — four times literally, one figuratively — and each time he saved those doomed to death or eternal imprisonment. In fact, each instance involved either retrieving a horcrux, finding out where a horcrux was hidden or destroying one.

    1. Ministry of Magic = saved Half-Bloods, Mudbloods and retrieved locket horcrux

    2. Malfoy Manor = saved Ollivander, Griphook and Luna and realized that Hufflepuff Cup probably was hidden in the Lestrange’s vault at Gringott’s

    3. Gringott’s = released dragon and retrieved Hufflepuff Cup

    4. Secret Passage from Hog’s Head to Hogwarts ROR = saved DA and Hogwarts students (including Slytherins), saves Draco and Goyle while retrieving Ravenclaw’s tiara, and gives Neville information needed to destroy Nagini

    5. Forbidden Forest (representation of Hell, perhaps) = saves entire Wizarding World by allowing the horcrux within himself to be destroyed

    An argument also could be made about the crisis point where Ron leaves and then reappears as Harry attempts to retrieve Gryffindor’s sword which will destroy the horcruxes. Harry goes underground by jumping in the icy pool (undergoes the figurative death of baptism) and then is saved by Ron who destroys the locket horcrux. You could unpack this for days.

    There’s a lot going on in DH and the significance of the events detailed above go much deeper than just fulfilling a pattern in the Hero’s Journey. I was hoping for a discussion point on the alchemical resolution of contraries. I believe contraries were resolved along the way and within some of the events detailed above, though they didn’t necessarily conform to speculation in fandom. In any case, the Hero’s Journey in DH had greater depth and was more satisfying than in any other of the books, which only seems appropriate.

    John, I would love to see a discussion point or thread exploring the resolution of the Gryffindor/Slytherin contrary with special attention given to the Malfoys.

  4. Kathy, also recall that there’s a visit to a cemetery to view the graves of the Potters–another journey to the realm of the dead.

  5. One more trip underground, one that provided an absolutely vital turning point for the story: Harry has to step into Dobby’s grave to dig it by hand. (Had he dug it by magic, he would have stayed above ground.)

  6. GothicForest says

    Sorry to veer, but I need to vent. When I finished DH, my second thought was “I missed Snape.” In “Five Keys” John lists as one of the consistent Hero’s Journey elements Harry’s annual confrontations with Snape. Yes, he was slimy, greasy, mean and otherwise despicable, but in his un-silent suffering of Harry’s foibles he was often quite funny. His part in the action of DH was almost all offstage, and I missed him.

    (My first thought was, “what happened to Luna?)

  7. GothicForest says

    Many times, Snape acted as threshold guardian: to the art of potions, certainly; to the domain of Fluffy in PS; to the secrets of the Shrieking Shack in PoA; to the Polyjuice clue in GoF; to the rescue crew in OotP; and to Draco’s secret and more in HBP. In all instances, he offered personal in-your-face resistance to Harry’s chosen course. In the Hallows, he threw no obstacles in Harry’s way–just help and ultimately revelations, almost totally from offstage. Threshold guardians often reappear at the end of the journey as a kind of comic flourish, a reminder that passages that once seemed so hard can look much easier in retrospect. One common pattern is where the villian’s sidekick “reforms” and joins the good guys at the end. Snape follows in this vein. And the depth of his impact shows in the name Harry gave his second son. But I still wish I had seen more of Snape in DH. Better read it again.

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