Comparison: Harry Potter & Aeneas

J.K. Rowling series, Harry Potter, was created during the 21st century and it was a wonderful escape from reality for individual, like myself, who felt life got too crazy or confusing. I grew up with this series and believed my Hogwarts letter was intercepted

harry-potter

Poster Art of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

by Voldemort and his Deatheaters, thus never had an opportunity to attend the school of witchcraft and wizardry, until I started to attend the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

UCI may not be the ideal institution to learn magic but I did learn about an individual who was given a prophecy, Aeneas from Virgil’s epic poem, Aeneid. Aeneas was born from famous or gifted parents (the son of Venus), given a prophecy to fulfilled at the end of a war (Find Rome), lead by the ultimate force in the world (Zeus), prone to obstacles created by an opposing force (Juno), and met his wife before  a war (Lavinia). Although the element of magic is nonexistent, the many similar archetypes are apparent between him and Harry make it seemed that both heroes are identical.

Both emerged after times of war and tragedy. Harry was born after and ended a war between light wizards (wizards who uses magic to not harm anyone) and dark wizards (wizards who uses magic to harm anyone). Aeneas was not born from this battle, but he escaped from a war in hometown between Trojans and Greeks and gained “new” life through his escape. Although these are two very different beginnings, they shared similarities of starting, or in Aeneas’ case restarting, a new life after a long period of bloody warfare and combat. Then these two individuals were granted with a prophecy in different ways–Harry acquired his fate when his murderer failed to kill him but left a scar on his forehead; Aeneas knew of his destiny when his wife’s final parting words was a message of his destiny.

aeneas

Aeneas

Thus, the roll of fate starts to unravel for these individuals and they start their journey, albeit Harry started his journey ten years later, to fulfilled their predetermined goals in order to bring a new era of peace and prosperity. Their fate is guided by two ultimate forces in their respective worlds, Dumbledore and Zeus. Both of these powerful figures are respectable and influential in their own rights such as the government of the magical world and the Roman deities. They are the most powerful incentive for the two heroes to never stray from their path and continue their objective. For example, Zeus uses Mercury, messenger of the gods, to send a threatening reminder towards Aeneas about his priorities which resulting in Aeneas’ leaving Carthage and Dido’s tragic suicide. Dumbledore appears in the end of most of the Harry Potter’s book to off Harry advice and a bit of reflection resulting in a stronger resolve in the wizard to complete his objective.  Although Dumbledore is more subtle than Zeus, it does not mean the two heroes are extremely different in fact they have an opposing force who is trying to prevent them from achieving their destiny.

Voldemort and Juno. They are the antagonists of their respective series, always trying to intercept the heroes’ journey in hopes they will fail and their failure will be their success. Harry and Aeneas would encounter a conflict after another created by their respective enemies but would always conquer it. Harry would have to battle a teacher or a manifestation of Voldemort’s power, and Aeneas would have to fight against Juno’s temptations and natural disasters. Both of these heroes are always fighting against these forces in various forms and manifestations throughout their respective narratives. Eventually, the evil forces are defeated but after the hero was able to conquer each other their obstacles.

Harry Potter and Aeneas are the same. If my childhood self loved Harry Potter, then my adulthood self loves Aeneas. Both have similar archetypes and a pleasing story (if you disregard the poetic bloodshed in Book 11 of Aeneas).  Tying modern literature to classical literature can make the classical article a bit more excited as several similarities can make that piece of classical work less cumbersome and more relatable. If you could compare a famous fictional character of the 21st to a classical figure, who would they be and what would be the similarities?


Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter series. New York. Arthur A. Levine (Scholastics), 1997-2007. 7 vols.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Translated by Robert Fagles. Penguin Books Ltd, 2010.

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One thought on “Comparison: Harry Potter & Aeneas

  1. As a fellow Harry Potter fan, I found myself particularly interested in this post. I really liked the connections that you made to the series. I especially enjoyed the connection between Voldemort and Juno. While reading your post I remembered a specific character from Harry Potter and drew my own connection between the two books. Mad Eye Moody’s sacrifice in book seven in which he dies attempting to protect Harry Potter remind me of Palinurus’ sacrifice in the Aeneid.

    Like

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