Guest Post: Is Harry Potter a Collection of Character Shadows from Victor Hugo’s blockbuster novel, Les Miserables? Maybe!

William Sprague last wrote at to share with us his thoughts on the link up of literary alchemy and Ring Composition in the Hogwarts Saga. Today he picks up the idea that Ms. Rowling, French major and alchemical story teller, was inspired by Victor Hugo, perhaps the greatest of French novelists and also a hermetic writer. For fans of Les Miserables, I trust his tentative but intriguing suggestions will start a fascinating conversation. It’s all yours, William!

Harry Potter and Les Miserables

Thank you, John! My thoughts on this this subject were spurred by a post on Hogwarts Professor in which John explored the subject of Les Miserables and its connection to Harry Potter. I felt that there were many connections between the books, but readers will have to bear with me as I try to show the developing process of the character allusions made in Harry Potter.

  • Harry as Cosette

Harry is a Cosette that is living under the stairs with spiders who needs a Valjean to rescue him. The post linked above mentions the promise made to a dying Fantine by Valjean to take care of Cosette. The result of this parallel would seem to indicate that Snape, who protects Harry for Lily’s sake, is a Valjean character. It would also seem that Dumbledore acts as a Valjean character in being the one who provided a new home to live in each semester. Dumbledore is also loved dearly and, simultaneously, distrusted by much of the Wizarding establishment because of his brilliant yet unorthodox ways. Valjean as mayor was not so different in terms of popular opinion.

  • Harry as Marius in Relation to Snape as Valjean

I think that Harry is also a Marius character in his relation to Snape. He dismisses Snape constantly as a generally bad guy and eventually as a murderer. They are never reconciled while Snape yet lived, quite similar to Marius’ treatment of the self-revealed Valjean before his wedding. Yet Snape leaves behind his memory (reminiscent of Valjean’s confession) that tells the whole story and vindicates him before Harry. Harry then understands that Snape is one of the bravest men he knew. A quite similar scenario to the end of Les Miserables.

  • Harry as Valjean

I believe that Harry, undergoing his alchemical transformations, changes from a helpless Cosette-orphan into a young rebellious youth like Marius and eventually into a superhumanly courageous and loving Valjean by the end. He lays his life down for other’s sake and is a “better man” than Dumbledore, who reminds me much of the Bishop of Digne at the beginning of Les Miserables: flawed but still unbelievably merciful man. When Valjean is shown the inconceivable grace of God through the Bishop, he makes up his mind that he is either going to be a better man than the Bishop or a greater devil than he can imagine. The Bishop is also the light within him, and the Bishop acts as his conscience throughout. Harry was Dumbledore’s man, through and through, and it is Dumbledore who keeps an eye on him throughout every book (even after he is dead!).

These connections are but the beginning of the overlap, I fear. So it would be really awesome if in the comments section you could correct and augment what I speculated about in this post. Looking forward to the ensuing discussion!

For reading about the depths and artistry of Les Miserables, serious readers are encouraged to pick up a copy of John Morrison’s To Love Another Person: A Spiritual Journey Through Les Miserables.


  1. A few years ago I pointed out the similarities between Merope Gaunt, Eponine Thenardier, and Mayella Ewell (from To Kill a Mockingbird):

    I thought at the time that the resemblance was probably coincidental, but the reminder here that Rowling majored in French makes me think now it was probably not a coincidence.

  2. Snape as a Valjean is intriguing. I like the idea of Harry then being like Marius, but I wonder if sometimes he is also like Javert.

  3. Louise M. Freeman says

    The Carrows always reminded me a bit of the Thernardiers.

  4. I just saw the film Hugo directed by master Martin Scorcese, and couldn’t help but perceive similarities among Harry Potter and Les Miserables. Hugo (the character) is an orphan whose “crimes” include stealing bread. I suspect the book author Brian Selznick named the character as a tribute to Victor Hugo. The film is absolutely wonderful, a brilliant cinematic journey (fitting as it is itself a journey through the history of cinema) and I highly recommend it on its own merit. It is also delightful to see Helen McCrory and Frances de la Tour on the screen again.
    I look forward to reading “To Love Another Person…”

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