The Harry Potter series is the greatest story of my generation.
After having a HP-binge sesh with my partner, I wanted to write about why this story is so damn irresistible and uplifting for so many people—and I feel like I’ve stumbled upon an answer.
I think Harry Potter contains every element of a good story and is permeated with layers upon layers of meaning. The real reason it’s the best-selling book series of all time is because J.K. Rowling got the archetypes right. The story, with its vast array of characters, plots, motifs, and themes, tapped into the deeper parts of the human psyche and gave us a hopeful vision of humanity.
One of my favorite characters in the story—the one I’ve taken the most inspiration from—is Albus Dumbledore. He is representative of the wise king, the mentor. Once upon a time, Dumbledore was the hero, but his time has passed. Now, he uses his knowledge to guide the new hero into saving the world. He is the clever old man—the skillful and experienced mind—behind the raw and unseasoned talent of the young Harry Potter, showing him the path he must take to manifest his highest potential. In essence, he is the father figure of the story.
This reminds me of the oldest story in recorded human history, that of the Egyptian gods Osiris and and Horus. This is basically the same story shown in Disney’s “The Lion King,” interestingly enough, in which the wise king can no longer rule because he is betrayed, leaving his son to fight Osiris’ evil brother for the the throne. Horus has one eye, the “all seeing” eye, which conveys the fact that it’s his time to manifest. His father is dead and therefore can no longer see. Horus can see, and it becomes his responsibility to uphold the values of his once-heroic father by overcoming evil. He defeats his evil uncle and becomes king.
It is the same with Harry and Dumbledore. Dumbledore cannot defeat Voldemort, because his time to be the hero has passed. Only Harry can save the world, because he can see, and it is Dumbledore’s role to reveal the wisdom of the past to Harry so that he can use it in the present. This story has been repeated endlessly throughout human history, and that’s why it’s so compelling. This “archetype” speaks to a fundamental truth of human nature, and the series is full of similar mythological anecdotes.
As a testament to the series and to the infinite wisdom and depth of Albus Dumbledore, I want to list some of my favorite quotes of his to show why Harry Potter hit home for so many of us.
“It is our choices that show who we are, far more than our abilities.”
We all have good and evil inside of us. Harry knows this quite well, as a piece of Voldemort lives inside of him throughout the story. In spite of this impulse toward violence and destruction, Harry chooses to embody the good. A true hero knows their own capacity for evil and takes it upon themselves to transcend the shadow side of the human soul. It is our actions that define us, not our abilities or inclinations. Rowling is such a f*cking genius.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
The past is dead. Our capacity to see—to understand what is happening in and around us—is contingent on living in the present. To dwell on the past is to resist and deny the movement of life. No matter how much we would like to return to the innocent dreamlike safety of childhood, we have a responsibility to live in the now. The now is the only place that’s real, the only place where anything ever happens—and if we look to the dream of our past for the answer, then we will lose the abundance of life that is offered to us in the here and now.
“Do not pity the dead, Harry, pity the living. And above all, those who live without love.”
I’ve always loved this. It is the living who have the responsibility to defend what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful. It is the living who must protect the world. The dead have returned home; it is no longer their duty to preserve the world. They have played their role, and their time has passed. The greatest tragedy is to live without love.
“The best of us sometimes eat our words.”
In other words: b*tch, be humble.
Harry Potter is one of the greatest stories ever told, because it illustrates certain truths about the human experience. We have been telling stories since the beginning of time, because a story is the best way of conveying meaning. The Harry Potter series does an incredible job of expressing what it means to be alive, through its archetypal narrative—and the billions of people who have enjoyed it are a testament to the depth of the story.
“While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”
Dumbledore, you’re so f*cking cool.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May