Perceval, meet Harry, you've a lot in common

October 26, 2001

He prefers a game of quidditch to jousting and never pulled a sword from a stone (it was a hat) but two medieval scholars believe Harry Potter may draw strength from King Arthur.

A study of the popular books of J. K. Rowling - the first of which is about to be released as a Warner Brothers movie - has identified many parallels with myths of the Round Table.

Heather Arden, professor of Romance languages and literature, and colleague Kathryn Lorenz, both specialists in French medieval literature at the University of Cincinnati in the United States, analysed structure and detail in J. K. Rowling and the Arthurian legends, as recorded by the 12th-century French writer Chretien de Troyes.

"The Celtic resonance is one of the strongest, maybe the strongest, underpinning of the Harry Potter stories," Professor Arden said. "Their phenomenal popularity may be linked to the way they reflect the underlying attractions of the Arthurian world."

The academics saw common themes such as the ease with which characters move between the normal and magical worlds and the variety of magical beasts and objects.

They also detected links between Harry and Sir Perceval. Both are raised ignorant of their noble origins after the murder of one or both parents while their natural ability and courage emerges when they return to their rightful places - Harry to Hogwarts and Perceval to Arthur's court.

Furthermore, Harry and Sir Yvain both carry facial scars that mark them as outsiders.

Other parallels included Hogwarts and Camelot; Ron Weasley and Sir Gawain; Draco Malfoy and Sir Kay; and Albus Dumbledore and King Arthur or Merlin.

"While we do not know whether she read medieval romances at university - J. K. Rowling studied French literature at Exeter - the stories she writes show a familiarity with their themes, characters and plot structures," said Professor Arden.

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