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J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series (1997–2007) has turned into a global phenomenon and her Potterverse is still expanding. The contributions in this volume provide a range of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to various dimensions of this multifacetted universe. The introductory article focuses on different forms of world building in the novels, the translations, the film series and the fandom. Part I examines various potential sources for Rowling's series in folklore, the Arthurian legend and Gothic literature. Further articles focus on parallels between the "Harry Potter" series and Celtic Druidism, the impact Victorian notions of gender roles have had on the representation of the Gaunt family, the reception of (medieval and Early Modern) history in the series and the influence of Christian concepts on the world view expressed in the novels. Part II focuses on a range of prominent political and social themes in the series, including conspiracy, persecution and terror, racism as well as the role of economic, social and cultural capital. Other articles explore the concept of a Magical Criminal Law and its consequences as well as the significance of secrets and forbidden places. The articles in Part III go beyond the novels by taking the stage play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", the movie "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", Pottermore and fan fiction into account. Main topics in this part include trauma theory/PTSD, queerbaiting, a 'post'-colonial analysis of the representation of Native Americans in Rowling's "History of Magic in North America" and the depiction of violence, incest and rape in fan fictions. The concluding article highlights the diversification of the Potterverse and analyses strategies informing its ongoing expansion.
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Wissenschaftliche Beiträge aus dem Tectum Verlag
Wissenschaftliche Beiträge aus dem Tectum Verlag
Marion Gymnich | Hanne Birk | Denise Burkhard (Eds.)
“Harry – yer a wizard”:
Exploring J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Universe
Marion Gymnich, Hanne Birk and Denise Burkhard (Eds.)
“Harry – yer a wizard”
Exploring J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Universe
Wissenschaftliche Beiträge aus dem Tectum Verlag,
Reihe: Anglistik; Bd. 6
© Tectum Verlag – ein Verlag in der Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2017
ISBN epub: 978-3-8288-6752-9
(Dieser Titel ist zugleich als PDF unter der ISBN 978-3-8288-6751-2 und als gedrucktes Werk unter der ISBN 978-3-8288-4035-5 im Tectum Verlag erschienen.)
Umschlaggestaltung: Tectum Verlag, unter Verwendung zweier Fotografien
von Schleiereule Merlin und Janna Weinsch, aufgenommen in der Falknerei
Pierre Schmidt (Erftstadt/Gymnicher Mühle) | © Denise Burkhard
Gedruckt auf alterungsbeständigem Papier
Druck und Verarbeitung: Memminger MedienCentrum
Printed in Germany
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Hanne Birk, Denise Burkhard and Marion Gymnich
‘Happy Birthday, Harry!’: Celebrating the Success of the Harry Potter Phenomenon
Marion Gymnich and Klaus Scheunemann
The ‘Harry Potter Phenomenon’: Forms of World Building in the Novels, the Translations, the Film Series and the Fandom
Part I: TheHarry PotterSeries and its Sources
The Black Dog and the Boggart: Fantastic Beasts in Joanne K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Where to Find Them in Mythology and Traditional Folklore
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter: A Revival of the Arthurian Legend?
Denise Burkhard and Julia Stibane
Darkness, Danger and Death: Exploring Gothic Places in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Parallels between Celtic Druidism on the British Isles and in Ireland and the Magical World of the Harry Potter Novels
Double, Double Toil and (Gender) Trouble: The Gaunt Family
‘I read about it in Hogwarts: A History’: The Reception and Function of History in the World of Harry Potter
‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death’: Christian Elements in Harry Potter?
Part II: Themes and Structures in theHarry Potter Series
Conspiracy, Persecution and Terror: Harry Potter in a Post-9/11 World
Of Muggles and Men: Identifying Racism in the Harry Potter Series
‘Can someone just explain what that skull thing was?’: The Workings of Capital in the Wizarding World
Is Harry Potter a Criminal? Some Thoughts on Magical Criminal Law
Secrets and Forbidden Places in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Part III: Beyond theHarry PotterSeries
Haunted by Voldemort or Suffering from PTSD: Analysing Harry Potter’s Psychological Struggles in Adulthood in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Queerbaiting in the Harry Potter Series and in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
Native Americans in J.K. Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America” on Pottermore
The Dark Arts: Violence, Incest and Rape in Harry Potter Fan Fictions
Marion Gymnich, Denise Burkhard and Hanne Birk
The Ever-Expanding Potterverse: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Pottermore
List of Abbreviations
Hanne Birk, Denise Burkhard and Marion Gymnich
‘Happy Birthday, Harry!’:Celebrating the Success of theHarry PotterPhenomenon
If there ever was a powerful spell, it was Rowling’s initial incantation when she had Hagrid stating in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997): “‘Harry – yer a wizard’” (Stone 42), which was the first spark of a big bang that would bring the Potterverse into being. The publication of the first volume of her Harry Potter series (1997-2007) was the beginning of an amazing success story and of a series which has had a considerable impact on academic research. Rowling’s novels have contributed to rendering both children’s literature and the genre of fantasy more popular than ever – for fans, academics and “fan-scholars” (Hillis 2). Moreover, the novels have played a vital role in establishing the notion of ‘crossover/all-ages literature’ as one of the key terms within research in the thriving field of children’s and young adult literature studies. Twenty years after the publication of the first volume, the series seems to be as culturally visible and enchanting as ever – including now both a sequel, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a tie-in movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, released in 2016. By now, the Harry Potter universe has been significantly expanded: apart from the original series it also features audio-visual adaptations of the novels, a prequel, a sequel, the online platform Pottermore and further tie-in product(ion)s that keep being revisited by scholars and fans from many different disciplines and countries.
Most of the contributions in this volume are based on papers given at the Harry Potter students’ conference held at Bonn University on 4th-5th April 2017. The papers in the collection seek to explore a wide range of different aspects of Rowling’s Harry Potter universe and engage with the wizarding world in innovative ways. Using different theoretical approaches to advance the current state of research, the contributions employ a range of conceptual frameworks such as trauma studies, gender and queer studies, postcolonial studies and folklore studies. The variety of themes covered in the volume already indicates the manifold vantage points chosen to analyse and interpret Rowling’s works, ranging from the original series, her short stories on Pottermore to other facets of the Harry Potter franchise. The aim of the volume is to highlight the diversity of academic approaches that can be used to analyse Rowling’s world of Harry Potter as well as to emphasise its topicality twenty years after the publication of the first novel.
Marion Gymnich’s and Klaus Scheunemann’s contribution “The ‘Harry Potter Phenomenon’: Forms of World Building in the Novels, the Translations, the Film Series and the Fandom” focuses on selected facets of the (transmedial) Harry Potter phenomenon, such as the depiction of Britishness in the series, the creativity of the translators and the specific challenges they had to face, the ‘Rickmann effect’ and hallmarks of the Harry Potter fandom. Corresponding to the manifold aspects identified by Marion Gymnich and Klaus Scheunemann, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches have evolved. Part I introduces some of these approaches by elaborating on the connection between the Harry Potter series and its potential sources. In her contribution, Laura Hartmann examines the Black Dog/Grim and the Boggart in the context of British mythology and traditional folklore. She tries to answer the question in how far Rowling used, adapted or transformed certain characteristic features of both creatures and in how far the reader encounters Rowling’s creations. In a similar vein, Franziska Becker, Denise Burkhard, Julia Stibane and Jule Lenzen address the influence of cultural ‘textual resources’ (Wertsch) on Rowling’s work. Franziska Becker discusses the influence of the Arthurian legend on the Harry Potter series (according to the version which can be found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s HistoriaRegum Britanniae). The article written by Denise Burkhard and Julia Stibane uses Gothic literary frames as its basis and focuses on Knockturn Alley, the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts and the Chamber of Secrets as Gothic places in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998). Using accounts on Druidism, Jule Lenzen explores potential Celtic sources of the Potterverse and tries to correlate Rowling’s depiction of wands, spells and shape-shifting with possible equivalents found in historical and literary texts on Druids. There are, of course, many other, not exclusively literary sources, such as cognitive frames or socio-cultural ‘concepts’ that inform the series. Drawing on Victorian gender roles, Svenja Renzel provides an analysis of the Gaunt family and the ‘gendered agency’ of its members. While Marvolo and his son Morfin tend to adhere to the classical Victorian stereotype of the dominant male, Merope seems to represent the subordinate, victimised female, who lacks a voice of her own. Naemi Winter examines in how far ‘Muggle history’ is alluded to in the fictional universe. The foci of her argumentation include the parallels between the Wizengamot and the Anglo-Saxon ‘Witenagemots’, the incorporation of historical and fictional accounts on alchemy and the Philosopher’s Stone as well as the link between Early Modern witch hunts, their medieval roots and the Harry Potter novels. Closing the first section, Vera Bub’s contribution explores the connection between religious elements/Christian concepts and Harry Potter and addresses the notion of an afterlife, martyrdom and immortality as topics central to both.
In Part II, various themes and structures that pervade the series will be addressed. The first two contributions by Michèle Ciba and Carsten Kullmann discuss the representation of terror and racism respectively. Focusing on conspiracy, persecution and terror, Michèle Ciba identifies the correlation between conspiracy narratives and Rowling’s novels and analyses fictional reverberations of the increasing topicality of terror and persecution in post-9/11 public discourses. Precisely these mimetic and poietic potentials of literary texts have already been conceptualised by scholars such as Winfried Fluck and Hubert Zapf, who assume that one of the main functions of literary texts is that of highlighting deficits in a society. In many respects, the Harry Potter series seems to do just that: it addresses, for instance, the issue of racism and marginalisation by condemning prejudices against the so-called ‘Mudbloods’, an achievement which Carsten Kullmann addresses in his paper “Of Muggles and Men: Identifying Racism in the Harry Potter Series”. Drawing on Bourdieu’s “Forms of Capital” (1986), in which he subdivides capital into social, economic and cultural capital, Sarah Hofmann uses various examples to illustrate how fruitful and rewarding non-literary concepts can be for the analysis and interpretation of Rowling’s novels. Anne Schneider poses a highly innovative and provocative question, namely whether Harry Potter is a criminal and elaborates on the use and function of magical criminal law in the series. Firstly, she reconstructs the Magical Law system as presented in the novels and simultaneously questions its consistency; secondly she locates the Unforgivable Curses within the topography of the system and subsequently attempts to construct a possible defence for Harry. The final contribution of Part II by Denise Burkhard focuses on secrets and forbidden places and argues that Rowling tends to connect mysteries and secrets in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with spatiality. She examines the Forbidden Forest, the out-of-bounds third-floor corridor and the Mirror of Erised as places connected with the secrets revolving around Harry’s identity and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Part III comprises contributions that ‘go beyond’ the Harry Potter series and focus on the new stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rowling’s writings on Pottermore.com and fan fiction. Applying a psychological approach to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the paper by Anne Mahler identifies a range of symptoms in Harry that correlate with PTSD. It is also primarily the stage play that informs Marthe-Siobhán Hecke’s paper, which provides a conceptualisation of queerbaiting. Due to her thorough analysis, it becomes clear that the series can hardly be read as an example of queerbaiting, whereas the relationship between Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child does exhibit clear signs of queerbaiting. Employing postcolonial concepts, Alexandra Szczodrowski analyses modes of representation of Native Americans in Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America” (published on Pottermore) and reveals, for example, the influence of dominant historiographies and potentially damaging stereotypes. In her article “The Dark Arts: Violence, Incest and Rape in Harry Potter Fan Fictions”, Franziska Göbel engages critically with the potential merits of reading and writing fan fictions that include depictions of non-consensual sex and abuse. She elaborates on why the series invites especially the production of ‘darker fan fictions’ and criticises the terminology that online platforms provide to tag stories, which is often not adequate, especially from an ethical perspective. The final contribution, “The Ever-Expanding Potterverse: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Pottermore”, discusses various strategies of internationalisation and diversification of the Potterverse, which implicitly address how the ever-growing Harry Potter universe answers to the interests of fans and critics. As the play, the recent movie adaptation, which is only the first of five, and Pottermore already suggest, the Potterverse will continue to expand and enchant fans and readers alike.
In this sense: All the best, Harry, and many happy returns!
We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to Vivienne Jahnke, Tamara Kuhn and the entire team at Tectum publishers.
Many thanks to Janna Weinsch, who offered to become the witch on the cover photo, and the team at the Falknerei Pierre Schmidt (Erftstadt/Gymnicher Mühle) for their wonderful help and support in providing us with the opportunity to take a picture of their beautiful barn owl Merlin.
Last but not least, we want to give our heartfelt thanks to the students’ team who organised the conference.
Hillis, Matt. Fan Cultures. Routledge, 2002.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Bloomsbury, 1997.
Wertsch, James V. Voices of Collective Remembering. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Marion Gymnich and Klaus Scheunemann
The‘Harry PotterPhenomenon’: Forms of World Building in the Novels, the Translations, the Film Series and the Fandom
“[…] there is no doubt that since the advent of Harry Potter, the concept of an international bestseller for children has taken on a new meaning as well as a new epithet: ‘phenomenon’” (Lathey 141).
Two decades after the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997, the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has become legendary. As James Russell points out, it “may have started out as a series of thrilling novels for children, but Harry Potter became the quintessential product of the modern American movie industry: an ultra high-budget, transmedia franchise” (392). Three years after the publication of the first volume, the ‘Harry Potter phenomenon’ was already well under way: “After 2000, and the publication of Goblet of Fire […], the ritual of queuing outside a bookshop the night before the book went on sale became famous” (Sunderland et al. 178). The eager anticipation and media hype that accompanied the publication of new instalments of the series in the late 1990s and early 2000s may seem unusual, at least for novels. Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan observe that
it is easy to compare the marketing of the fourth instalment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, released on 8 July 2000, to that of a film. The release of the fourth book was unashamedly promoted according to all the rules of Hollywood’s blockbusters, especially those which herald a series of films, like Jaws, Star Wars, or The Lord of the Rings. The release-day was announced months before and was celebrated with queues of customers waiting through the night, hundreds of adults and children attending bookshop events in order to collect their pre-ordered volume (39-40).
The film series based on Rowling’s novels has of course also contributed to the ‘Harry Potter phenomenon’, and one can safely assume that by now significantly more people around the world have watched the entire movie series than have read all of the novels. Still, as far as one can tell today, for many people the movies have not simply replaced the novels, which continue to be as popular as ever.1
There was much speculation about the beneficial effects of the Harry Potter series on children’s literacy and their interest in reading, but it is still more or less an open question how extensive this so-called ‘Harry Potter effect’ on children’s reading habits has really been. Scholars such as Steve Dempster, Alice Oliver, Jane Sutherland and Joanne Thistlethwaite claim that the impact may actually have been a bit overestimated, especially since the undeniable length of the later volumes of the series seems to have prevented many young readers from finishing the books or even from reading them in the first place. What Dempster, Oliver, Sutherland and Thistlethwaite noticed in their study, however, is that the experience of reading the series on the whole does increase young readers’ interest in specific genres, i.e., in “fiction that centre[s] on fantasy, magic, action and adventure” (277). Harry Potter is much more than children’s literature, of course. Children and adolescents only constitute one segment of the Harry Potter fan community, and “[o]lder readers have made up a substantial portion of Rowling’s audience from the start”, as Rebecca Sutherland Borah (346) observes. This is also apparent in the fact that Harry Potter has become the prime example of ‘all-ages’ or ‘crossover literature’.
The emergence of the global ‘Harry Potter phenomenon’ in the late 1990s may partially be accounted for as a consequence of the innovative strategies of communication that accompanied the publication of the series almost from the start and that made use of new media. The first volumes were published at a time when the internet was gradually becoming a widely accessible, everyday medium for many people around the world, which made new forms of communication possible:
As the novels were being released, the widespread adoption of the internet was accelerating the possibilities for hype and promotion, and Rowling actively used the web to speak to her fans, and provide insights into the writing process. Throughout the early 2000s, the Potter novels were very visibly presented to the public as something J.K. Rowling was actively and currently doing (Russell 394, original emphasis).
Since the 1990s, fans have increasingly used the internet to construct an international virtual community, sharing their fascination with the wizarding world in forums or by means of fan fiction.2 In 2011 Pottermore was established as a platform for representing the franchise, distributing news and additional stories about the fictional Harry Potter universe that have an official/canonical status due to being sanctioned or even written by J.K. Rowling (cf. Sharp 112). Since its inception, Pottermore has undergone substantial changes in terms of its contents and functions, whose implications we will discuss in more detail below.
Though communication and marketing strategies are certainly important for the series’ global success, the substance of the Potterverse, i.e., the wizarding world with its countless memorable human and non-human inhabitants, its picturesque settings and its unique magical artefacts, is at least equally significant for making Rowling’s series as popular as it is and for bringing about the ‘Harry Potter phenomenon’. In the following, we will examine various media-specific forms of world building in Rowling’s novels, in translations of these texts, in the Harry Potter film series as well as on Pottermore and within the fandom, which have jointly shaped the Potterverse as we know it today (and which are still operating in its ongoing expansion).3
II. The novels
Somewhat paradoxically, a series whose global fame relies very much on new media has created a fictional world that eschews exactly these means of communication, presenting a community that uses parchment and quills instead of tablets and books instead of the internet. The old-fashioned, quaint atmosphere that is characteristic of the wizarding world seems to be an important factor in the series’ charm. In this context, Andrew Blake argues that the manifold references to the past in the “low-tech magical world, with its Victorian London shopping alley and a Highlands boarding school” (305) correlate with a general trend that started to inform British popular and consumer culture already in the 1980s:
The very past itself – our sense of ‘history’ – had been remodelled during the 1980s. The boom years of the 1980s indicated that almost any aspect of the past – including historic houses, Victorian gardening techniques, even opera – could be packaged as luxury consumer items for people with new wealth. With this in mind a younger generation of historians (and museum workers and archaeologists) tried to reinvent the past for present-day consumer culture, and to sell it. […] Museums offered not exhibitions, but simulated experiences of the past. Schools offered simulations of past experience rather than curricula centred on interpretation; pupils would dress up as medieval peasants rather than learn about the causes of the Wars of the Roses. […] The past was also available on the high street. A chain of shops, Past Times, offered copies of historical artefacts such as eighteenth-century maps or Victorian lamp stands, alongside classic novels and videos of televised costume dramas. History had become ‘heritage’ (306).
The world created by Rowling fits neatly into the approach to the past outlined by Blake. The readers witness Harry, a modern child, immersing himself in a world that allows him to experience a picturesque ‘past in the present’, which somewhat eclectically draws upon features of different historical periods and where he can star in the role of an Arthurian knight with magical powers.4 While entering the wizarding world means shedding many of the paraphernalia of modern life, which are repeatedly criticised in references to the various (technological) gadgets Harry’s despicable cousin Dudley covets, Hogwarts students do not really have to do without all of the social achievements of life in the late 20th/early 21st century.
Unlike in the periods of the past referenced most strongly in the everyday life of the wizarding world, neither ethnicity nor class are allowed to determine someone’s destiny in the wizarding community. As Blake points out, “Hogwarts represents the multicultural contemporary England” (308) and at Hogwarts “the abilities and activities” (ibid.) of a person are generally deemed more important than one’s ancestry. The fact that unpleasant characters like the Malfoys are shown to think differently ultimately only serves to drive this point home all the more forcefully. It is evidence of the modern outlook of the series that the fight against evil is also a fight against racial and class prejudices in various manifestations.5 Attending Hogwarts is a bit like entering a simulation of the past in a living-history museum or perhaps even a theme park or Renaissance fair (with the added bonus of adventure and magic). In this scenario, the protagonist Harry Potter, who embodies modern ideals of justice, equality and agency, can be seen as “a retrolutionary, a symbolic figure of the past-in-future England” (ibid., original emphasis).
In the further course of the series, readers find out that many of the potential drawbacks of doing without modern technology can be made up for by magic. Travelling by means of floo powder, a portkey or by Apparating gets you much faster from one place to another than any contemporary Muggle means of transportation possibly could. While communicating via owl mail must appear painfully slow to readers used to (mobile) phones and the internet, the later volumes of Rowling’s series suggest that there are alternative, faster ways of communicating in the wizarding world as well; wizards and witches can, for instance, use fireplaces to talk to someone or send your Patronus to deliver a message. Still, even magical devices that imitate the effects of modern technology are by definition profoundly anti-technological, which implies that the nostalgia for a way of life that is less determined by technology and is generally more slow-paced than the one of the Harry Potter readers remains essentially intact.
The different literary genres and traditions Rowling draws upon may also contribute to a sense of nostalgia triggered especially for many adult readers by the series. Using conventions of the genre of the boarding-school novel, including themes, stock characters and even the traditional plot element of the train journey, the Harry Potter series may remind adult readers of novels by authors like Enid Blyton, which they may remember fondly from their childhood.6 The parallels to Gothic literature, especially classic Gothic novels from the late 18th century with their medieval castles, dungeons and uncanny forests, reinforce the idea of a picturesque representation of the past in the present.7 In addition, Rowling’s series picks up many tropes that are familiar from Victorian classics, such as the figure of the maltreated orphan, who is a staple feature of novels such as Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1837-39) and David Copperfield (1849-50), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), to name just a few.8 The trope of the poor, abused orphan, which was employed time and again in Victorian literature to create empathy with literary characters as well as to express social criticism (cf. Reynolds 272-73), is still effective for today’s readership, adults and children alike. While the boy Harry Potter, the orphan with magical powers and a dark destiny, might not necessarily be a role model for all young readers, his fate is certainly apt to evoke sympathy. Additionally, values like loyalty, friendship, resilience as well as a sense of justice and fairness seem to resonate with modern readers as much as they did with Victorian ones. The dramatic story of Dumbledore’s younger sister Ariana, who was hidden away inside the family’s house due to her ‘insanity’, i.e., her inability to control her magical powers, echoes the Victorian interest in (women’s) ‘madness’. Ariana can be read as a magical (and younger) counterpart of Charlotte Brontë’s ‘madwoman in the attic’ in Jane Eyre, whose unstable psychological condition escalates in destruction which is similar to that caused by Ariana, who ends up killing her own mother in “one of her rages” (Hallows 455).9
What is even more significant with respect to resemblances between 19th-century literature and the Harry Potter series is the similarity between Rowling’s narrative style and techniques that are characteristic of Victorian realist novels. Philip Nel argues that “[o]ne of the assets of the Harry Potter books is that, as in Dorothy Sayers’ novels, even minor characters are distinctive and seem to have a rich life history of their own” (286). As far as Rowling’s approach to the representation of literary characters is concerned, again more obvious predecessors can be found among 19th-century novelists, ranging from Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. Rowling’s novels also share the attention to minute details that is typical of 19th-century realist novels, which more often than not create the impression of presenting a plausible world by means of detailed descriptions of characters and their everyday life. Especially the strategy of providing details about various aspects of material culture (descriptions of clothes, furniture, etc.), is reiterated in the attention paid by Rowling to (magical) objects in the wizarding world. These parallels between traditional realist novels and Rowling’s series are a decisive factor in the process of world building, since it is the wealth of details about all aspects of the wizarding world – from its fantastic fauna and flora to its customs and its rich material culture – which plays a crucial role in creating a believable fictional universe. Though the novels contain numerous scenes that highlight dramatic action, a considerable number of pages are dedicated to describing everyday life, which renders this magical world all the more plausible.
‘Heritage culture’ as it emerged in Britain in the 1980s is not just about recreating the past (typically without the more unpleasant aspects of historical periods). It is also about reimagining ‘Britishness’ or ‘Englishness’ in the context of the project of ‘rebranding Britain’ (cf. Blake 304), which sought to combine the past and the future in a positive reassessment of the nation, fuelling a new patriotism which incorporates a certain amount of nostalgia as well as irony and playful components. Popular music by bands like Oasis which was subsumed under the label ‘Brit Pop’ in the 1990s,10 romantic comedies such as Notting Hill (1999) and Love Actually (2003),11 the new James Bond movies and the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 are as much the outcome of a ‘new patriotism’ as the Harry Potter series. One of the features shared by the images of Britishness in these media products is their tendency to celebrate individuality and eccentricity. The Harry Potter series with its array of quirky and highly entertaining (minor) characters fits perfectly into this pattern. As the success of products of popular culture like the ones just mentioned has amply demonstrated, the new version of Britishness constructed in popular culture sells extremely well – and not just in the U.K. Thus, it comes as no particular surprise that a series that is extremely British in many respects could turn into a global success.
III. The translations
Even though English is a global language, novels written in English must be translated into other languages if they are to become international bestsellers and the basis of a transcultural hype. This is even more the case for children’s literature, since one cannot presuppose extensive linguistic competence in a language other than the child’s native language. The year 2017 was marked by the translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone into the 80th language: Scots. This most recent translation by Matthew Fitt already signals that Harry Potter is currently not just available in languages like French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese or Japanese, which are spoken by a large number of people. As Lathey observes, “Harry is also playing a part in the revival of politically significant minority languages. A Basque edition was published in 2002; an Irish Gaelic translation by MáireNic Mhaolain […] [was] published in 2004” (149). Further cases in point include the Tibetan translation by Norgy Puchunggal and the West Greenlandic translation by Stephen Hammeken. Beyond that, there are also translations into Latin (by Peter Needham) and Ancient Greek (by Andrew Wilson). All of these translations take part in the world building within the Potterverse for their respective readership. Translating a literary text from one language into another is an eminently creative act in which a dialogue between two inventories of linguistic signs and conceptual categories is established. This process may of course turn out to be substantially easier with some texts than with others.
Everyone who has read Rowling’s novels – regardless in which language – cannot help but notice that they constitute a major challenge for translators. In the following, we will briefly address some of the obstacles translators of the Harry Potter series are confronted with, i.e., (i) the linguistic creativity of the series, (ii) its Britishness (in terms of both linguistic features and cultural references), (iii) the consequences of addressingchildren as the primary target group, and (iv) the time pressure translators often experienced. After a succinct discussion of these four problem areas, we will have a closer look at a few examples in order to show how different translators met the challenges. For this purpose, we will draw upon translations into German (by Klaus Fritz), French (by Jean-François Ménard), Spanish (by Alicia Dellepiane Rawson), Italian (by Marina Astrologo), Russian (by Marii Spivak), Latin (by Peter Needham) and Turkish (by Ülkü Tamer).12
The word ‘Muggle’ is probably the most famous among all of the lexemes coined in Rowling’s series. This term, which has even been listed in the Oxford English Dictionary for some years now, has been left unchanged in a number of translations, albeit sometimes with slight adjustments regarding the spelling in order to provide a better ‘fit’ in the target language: the German translation, for instance, uses ‘Muggel’. In the Spanish translation, italics stress the ‘Otherness’ of this term (los muggles) and others coined by Rowling. Yet even if a word looks more or less like the original term on the page, the pronunciation readers will assign to the word is bound to vary to some extent depending on the reader’s reference language(s). Thus, the letter <u> in English ‘Muggle’, German ‘Muggel’, Turkish ‘Muggle’, Russian ‘mugl’ and Spanish ‘muggle’ will in all likelihood be pronounced differently by speakers of these languages. Some translators decided to coin a new expression to convey the key concept ‘Muggle’. Non-magical persons are referred to as ‘Moldus’ in the French translation and as ‘Babbani’ in the Italian one. While new words make both the wizarding world and the literary text look ‘exotic’, these terms generally do not render the translations difficult to understand, since the original text typically already provides explanations of these words.13
The situation is quite different when references to British culture occur in Rowling’s novels. Since the series is set on the British Isles and was presumably written with a British target readership in mind, readers who are not familiar with British culture may encounter features that prove to be more or less mystifying. In fact, the pervasive Britishness of the novels14 has even led to a separate American edition, in which the spelling, the syntax and some lexical items have been adjusted to American English.15 It is thus in particular due to the overall Britishness of the series that translators of Harry Potter have to negotiate
two basic goals of translation: that of preserving the characteristics of the source text as far as possible, even where this yields an exotic or strange effect, and that of adapting it to produce a target text which seems normal, familiar and accessible to the target audience (Davies 69).
In references to food and various aspects of boarding-school life the Britishness of the series is particularly apparent, but humour and the social implications of stylistic peculiarities may likewise prove to be difficult to translate (cf. Lathey 145). For instance, “[t]he nuances of British social hierarchies as represented in linguistic register are a challenge to any translator” (ibid. 149), which accounts for Hagrid ‘losing’ his “indeterminate working-class dialect” (ibid. 148) in many translations.
There are numerous attempts to categorise the different strategies employed by translators in order to cope with cultural differences. Eirlys E. Davies provides a useful typology, which includes preservation, addition, omission, globalisation, i.e., “the process of replacing culture-specific references with ones which are more neutral or general” (83), and localisation, i.e., “anchor[ing] a reference firmly in the culture of the target audience” (ibid. 84). Whether a translator opts for “domesticating or foreignizing” (ibid. 69) a text in the process of translation may depend on a range of additional factors, including conventions for literary translations within the culture(s) associated with the target language, which tend to be historically and culturally variable (cf. ibid.) and which, beyond that, may not be identical for children’s literature and general fiction. A comparative analysis reveals that the translators of the Harry Potter novels often strike a compromise between maintaining some of the British flair of the original and adapting some of the references to their target culture(s).16 Whatever course they choose, the translators’ decisions have an impact on the world building for their target readership. In cases where translators opt for maintaining culture-specific features of the original, they occasionally try to make the text more accessible for their audience by adding explanations.17 This strategy may very well be a concession to the young readers.
The task of the translator is exacerbated by the fact that children constitute the primary target readership of the novels, which means that “[t]he translator […] faces the challenge of preserving their child-appeal and transmitting it to the child readers of another culture” (ibid. 66). On the one hand, children may perhaps be less tolerant than adults when encountering passages that seem cryptic because they refer to a culture they are not familiar with.18 On the other hand, translations that retain elements referencing the original culture and/or language may foster intercultural competence. It is certainly not true that children generally prefer stories set in their own reality, as the success of narratives ranging from the Arabian Nights fairy tales to fantasy as one of the most popular genres in children’s literature indicates very clearly. By reading about a culture that is ‘foreign’ to them – no matter whether this culture is real or imaginary – children are made aware of cultural differences and learn how to cope with these, for instance by deducing the meaning of unfamiliar cultural practices or lexical items from contextual information. Thus, “the initially foreign effect may dwindle as the item recurs throughout the series” (ibid. 76).
Finally, the problems translators of the Harry Potter series had to face in the late 1990s and early 2000s were amplified by “[r]apid distribution” (Lathey 141) becoming one of the goals of many publishing houses authorised to publish translations. In an article from 2005, Gillian Lathey describes the accelerating production of translations as follows:
Time patterns of translation still vary across the world, but gaps are decreasing as the international Potter effect gains momentum with the publication of each volume. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was not published in China until October 2000, a delay of three years from first publication in the UK; for volume five the planned time lapse between publication of the original and the translation was barely four months (142).
The wish of publishing houses to cash in on the Harry Potter phenomenon as quickly as possible may be understandable, just as the wish of a readership that does not speak English to finally have access to the latest instalment of the series in their native language. In retrospect, one may perhaps wonder whether some of the translators’ choices resulted from due consideration or from time pressure. Be that as it may, a comparative analysis of Harry Potter translations proves to be a very illuminating (and entertaining) endeavour and testifies to the ingenuity displayed by the translators of Rowling’s novels.
The characters’ names, whose meaning has often been commented on by academics and fans alike, are an interesting starting point for such an analysis. Many translations preserve the original names, but there are also some striking departures from this pattern, as the following examples will illustrate. While the name of Harry’s nemesis Voldemort has been preserved in all of the translations examined for this article,19 the last name of Harry’s potions teacher is different in some of the texts. For native speakers of English the name ‘Snape’ presumably conveys “vaguely unpleasant connotations deriving perhaps from the sound-symbolism of the initial sn- cluster, which also features in words such as sneer, snide, snoop, sneak, snap” (Davies 79, original emphasis). Additionally, from a phonological point of view the name ‘Snape’ constitutes a minimal pair with ‘snake’ and thus perhaps reminds readers of an animal that tends to be seen as the (biblical) embodiment of evil and treachery. The snake is also the heraldic beast of Slytherin House and is consequently associated with both Salazar Slytherin and his heir Voldemort. The abovementioned connotations of the name ‘Snape’ are bound to get lost in translation. Still, some translators decided to keep the original surname (German, Latin, Spanish, Turkish), whereas others stress this teacher’s unpleasant character by giving him a telling name in the target language. While the English name presumably provides a comparatively subtle characterisation, Ménard went for a more obviously telling name – ‘Rogue’, which “in French means ‘arrogant’” (ibid.) – and “the Italian translator, Marina Astrologo’s decision to rename him Piton, literally ‘python’, again turns the original hint into something unambiguous” (ibid., original emphasis). The Russian name ‘Zlej’ is perhaps even more telling, since it is reminiscent of the adjective zloj, which means ‘evil, malicious, grim’.
According to Davies, “[t]he name of Harry Potter himself tends to be preserved unchanged, and it may have been judged preferable not to alter this name because it is the major identifying label for the series” (75). Still, the Russian translation alters at least the protagonist’s first name into ‘Гaрри’ (i.e., ‘Garri’). This change is one of several in the Russian text that result from the fact that there is neither the phoneme /h/ nor a letter corresponding to <h>; in other words, in contrast to languages like French and Italian, there is no ‘mute h’. Further names affected by this incompatibility of the Latin and the Cyrillic alphabets include ‘Hagrid’, who is called ‘Ogrid’ in the Russian translation, ‘Hedwig’, who becomes ‘Chedviga’, and ‘Hermione’, who is ‘Germiona’ in Russian.20 Even if Harry’s name stays the same in many translations, the cultural connotations of his name may be lost anyway; after all, “for the British audience, the name sounds a particularly banal and ordinary one, which contrasts with the extraordinary qualities of its bearer” (ibid. 75).
While names may be among the first terms that spring to one’s mind when thinking about translating Harry Potter, there are further difficulties, especially, as mentioned above, with regard to words that contribute to the overall Britishness of the series. On a very basic level, terms of address may already indicate an attempt at either maintaining this Britishness or privileging localisation. The translation by Alicia Dellepiane Rawson systematically uses Spanish terms of address, introducing for instance Harry’s uncle and aunt as “[e]l señor y la señora Dursley” (Piedra 9) to the readers – thereby losing some of the British flavour. The Italian and Latin translations adopt the same strategy, referring to “[i]l signore e la signora Dursley” (Pietra 15) and “Dominus et Domina Dursley” (Lapis 1), respectively. The French and Turkish versions, by contrast, use ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’, and the German translation chooses ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ as markers of an Anglophone context. The transliteration of the Russian version reads ‘Mister’ and ‘Missis’ and thus likewise evokes Anglophone connotations.
A semantic field that proves particularly challenging for translators due to the large number of culture-specific items is food. References to food play a quite prominent role throughout the Harry Potter series. Banquets in the Great Hall are among the highlights of the students’ life at Hogwarts, and the sumptuous feast Harry enjoys shortly after his arrival signals that the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is going to be much more of a home for the orphaned boy than number four, Privet Drive has ever been:
The dishes in front of him [Harry] were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, chips, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup and, for some strange reason, mint humbugs (Stone 135).
What is served during the banquet is not modern British cuisine of the kind propagated by Jamie Oliver (for example in his campaign for healthier school meals) but very traditional English food, which may support the nostalgic tenor of the series. While Harry relishes the food that appears in front of him, some readers – especially those who are used to a very different cuisine (or happen to be vegetarians) – may not find all of these foodstuffs quite that appetising. Since references to food that readers are prone to dislike would defeat the overall purpose of the list quoted above, translators may be inclined to avoid a faithful translation in this case. Muslims, for instance, might not be happy about the references to ‘pork chops’ and ‘bacon’, while Hindu readers might object to the ‘roast beef’. Food taboos motivated by culture and religion are likely to affect translations into languages like Arabic, Turkish and Hindi.21 This is exactly what can be observed in the Turkish translation, where Ülkü Tamer has translated “pork chops and lamb chops” as “pirzola” (Taşı 112), which means ‘chops’, but is only used to refer to lamb chops in Turkish. ‘Bacon’ is left out in the Turkish text; instead, there are two terms referring to sausages, “sosis” and “sucuk” (ibid.). ‘Socis’ is used for poultry sausages, whereas the latter term is the more common one used in Turkish to refer to ‘sausage’, which may be indicative of a certain localisation. The first item on Rowling’s list (‘roast beef’) has been adopted with minor changes in some of the translations – presumably in an attempt to stress Britishness: there is German “Roastbeef” (Stein 136), French “roast-beef” (Ecole 125), Italian “roast beef” (Pietra 126) and Russian “rostbif” (Kamen’ 176-77). Other translators opt for what Davies calls ‘globalisation’ in this case, choosing a somewhat more general expression which corresponds to ‘roasted meat’: “carne asada” in Spanish (Piedra 107)22 and “kızarmış et” in Turkish (Taşı 112). Although the vegetables mentioned in Rowling’s list are not likely to cause any major cultural problems, at least not with the languages of the translations chosen here, it is worth mentioning that the French translation replaces “peas, carrots” by “légumes divers”, i.e., ‘mixed vegetables’ (Ecole 125), which is a standard item on French menus. Thus, the choice may be seen as an example of localisation.
A particularly intriguing item on the list of foods is ‘Yorkshire pudding’, a quintessentially English dish, which is bound to be unknown to most non-British children. Thus, it comes as no particular surprise that the French and Turkish translations simply dispense with this item. Moreover, the Spanish “pudín” (Piedra 107) is not likely to suggest ‘Yorkshire pudding’ to Spanish-speaking readers. In the German and Italian translations, however, there are references to “Yorkshire-Pudding” (Stein 136) and “Yorkshire pudding” (Pietra 126), respectively; in the Russian translation a dish called “jorkširskij puding” (Kamen’ 177) is mentioned. Presumably, for most readers of the German, Italian or Russian version (especially for children) ‘Yorkshire pudding’ is unfamiliar, too (or evokes completely wrong associations). Here, the term thus clearly serves as marker of (exotic) Britishness.
In terms of their target audience, the translations into Latin and Ancient Greek differ from the ones discussed so far. While Lathey assumes that these “may be no more than an amusing gag for the learned” (149), teachers might also hope for a somewhat different readership, i.e., young people who might be more interested in reading about Harry’s adventures in an ancient language than in studying classical texts such as Cesar’s De Bello Gallico. There is a tradition of translating English children’s classics into Latin; cases in point include J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Hobbitus Ille), Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Alicia in Terra Mirabili), Michael Bond’s A Bear Called Paddington (Ursus Nomine Paddington) and A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh (Winnie Ille Pu). Thus, children who want to read entertaining texts and practise their Latin have access to quite a lot of reading material. In German schools, translations of the popular Asterix comics by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo into Latin are used quite successfully in Latin classes.23 Since many young readers of Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis already know the Harry Potter books in their first language, the language barrier might be easier to overcome; they will recognise more easily what they already know in a different language.
Given the special premises for the Latin translation, the culture of the target readership is not that important in this case. Ideally, the text may make readers curious as to how Harry’s adventures have been transformed into Harrius’s world and, along the way, may make them more familiar with how Latin ‘works’, for instance with respect to its declension system. The latter may give nouns a distinct ‘ancient’ touch by producing constructions such as “loco communali Gryffindorensium” (Lapis 116) and “Malfoy Crabbem et Goylem contemplavit” (ibid. 124). The impression of ‘ancient Otherness’ is reinforced by the fact that some of the names have been Latinised (e.g. Harrius Potter, Ronaldus, Fredericus et Georgius Vislius). Others, however, have been adopted without change from the English text (e.g. Voldemort, McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Snape, Hermione, Draco Malfoy). Regarding the abovementioned foods, the Latin version does something special with ‘Yorkshire pudding’, translating it into “placenta comitatus Eboracensis” (ibid. 100). Here, the Latin name for York (Eboracum) is used, which means that a reference to a local dish is translated faithfully, but still ‘disguised’ in such a way that even English readers will be hard-put to recognise the term.
IV. The movies
The worldwide fame of Harry Potter does not rest solely on the novels written by Rowling. The filmic adaptations of the series have contributed very much to turning ‘the boy who lived’ into a well-known fictional figure. Some scholars have argued that Rowling’s novels provide very good material for audio-visual adaptations, being quite ‘filmic’ themselves: “[a]ction sequences, such as the roller-coaster-like ride through Gringotts, the defeat of the troll or the journey through the trapdoor, punctuate the narrative in precisely the way they would be expected to in a film” (Cartmell/Whelehan 43). Still, the novels (especially the later ones) are quite long and all of them provide an amount of detail that no adaptation that is limited to the length of a feature film (or two in the case of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) can hope to capture. Thus, the plot has been ‘streamlined’ to a certain extent in the movies. This meant in particular “emphasizing Harry’s journey over and above incidental events” (Russell 398), thus, for instance, reducing other characters’ back-stories. Omissions are of course inevitable in adaptations of texts that are as long and detailed as Rowling’s. Still, some of the deletions arguably are to the detriment of the world building and/or characterisation.
In Mike Newell’s film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), for instance, there are some omissions that affect the impression of the wizarding world in general and the characterisation of Hermione Granger in particular. Although Nel argues that “[p]erhaps the need to condense justifies […] the omission of the S.P.E.W. subplot” (281), the fact that the house-elves have been left out in the fourth movie has several repercussions.24 The deletion of information on house-elves, who are after all one of the most prominent non-human species in the wizarding world, reduces the complexity of this world.25 Unlike the readers, the viewers do not find out that even in Hogwarts house-elves are kept as ‘indentured workers’ – a fact that Hermione discovers in her fourth year at the school.26 In other words, ‘evil’ families like the Malfoys are not the only ones who exploit this non-human race. This adds to the ambiguity of the wizarding world, which is – contrary to what some people may assume – not idealised in Rowling’s novels. The fact that Muggle-born Hermione is apparently the only one who is outraged by what she considers to be downright “‘[s]lave labour’” (Goblet 202) and is willing to take action on behalf of the house-elves adds an important facet to the portrayal of one of the series’ protagonists. Moreover, her attitude shows that a perspective shaped by an upbringing among Muggles may prove to be progressive. By leaving out Hermione’s political activism the film limits the character very much to her role as a potential love interest and ‘belle of the ball’, which reaffirms traditional concepts of femininity.
Another feature of the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that reiterates gender as well as national stereotypes is the depiction of the visiting students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Their choreographed entries in the Great Hall, which juxtapose the (supposedly feminine) seductive and dance-like movements of the exclusively female French students with the marching and the athletic Cossack-style performance of the exclusively male Eastern European visitors, are not based on the novel. The reduction of the students of the visiting schools to simplistic gender and national stereotypes suggests that Hogwarts is a more progressive, coeducational wizarding school, where girls and boys are even on the same sports teams. While the movie suggests that the other wizarding schools are not coeducational, the novel mentions at least in passing that both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons are in fact coeducational institutions as well.27 This also means that Beauxbatons could have a male Triwizard champion, which implies that the selection of Fleur Delacour presumably results from her being more capable than her (female and male) fellow students. In other words, the novel is more balanced in terms of its approach to gender roles than the movie, which activates both gender and national stereotypes to maximise the differences between the three schools.
As the examples above have shown, changes in terms of plot and characterisation may have a significant impact on the world building, leaving people who only know the films with a somewhat different impression of the wizarding world than those who have also read the novels.28 Moreover, even people who are familiar with the texts as well as their audio-visual adaptations are likely to be influenced by the films to a certain extent. The movies inform what many readers imagine characters, places and objects to look like when (re-)reading the novels: “The dominance of perceptual images leads to an overlay with the imaginative image” (Cuntz-Leng 57). This is perhaps particularly apparent with respect to the portrayal of potions teacher Severus Snape, as Vera Cuntz-Leng argues. She claims that the extensive interest in this particular character and his popularity among fans can largely be attributed to Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the teacher rather than to the presentation of the character in the first volumes of the series. In the first novels, there was no reason to like Snape, and “[a]lthough fanfiction had been written about Harry Potter before 2001, Snape had been a character of minor interest in the early years of the fandom”, as Cuntz-Leng (65) observes. This changed quickly after the release of the first movie when, due to a felicitous casting decision, the British actor Alan Rickman became Snape – or did Snape become Alan Rickman at this moment (cf. ibid. 64)? From this point onward, there was a remarkable change in the fans’ attitude towards Snape, who now began to play a much more important role in fan fiction.
With respect to the interpretation of Snape, the relation between the book series and the films is rendered even more complex by the fact that the production of the movies started before Rowling’s series had been completed. As Cuntz-Leng points out, “the parallel development of film adaptations and new novels brings both media into an inevitable dialogue wherein the books can react upon the movies and upon fan works – something quite unusual” (56). She assumes that Rickman’s portrayal of Snape had an impact on the depiction of ‘his’ character in later volumes of the series:
Deathly Hallows is – although Snape is physically absent from most of the narrative – the only book in the series that provides us with the full spectrum of Snape’s emotional complexity that has been excessively explored through fanfiction: He is greedy, timid, self-confident, arrogant, loyal, happy, in love, mean and unfair, bitter, shy, ashamed, suicidal, angry, desperate, righteous, etc. This corresponds with […] [the] assumption that Rickman’s performance as well as the reactions by fans regarding his interpretation of the character influenced Rowling’s writing in later books to more easily motivate Snape’s ambiguous personality and his key position in the subject areas of love and sacrifice that are at the core of the series’ finale […]. Rowling’s later novels show a stronger awareness for the romantic and erotic possibilities of the character and ultimately, the Byronic hero archetype becomes decipherable in her text (ibid. 68).
The lasting impact of the late Alan Rickman on the character of Severus Snape is also apparent in the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2016) in London, in which the portrayal of the potions teacher tries to emulate the appearance of Rickman as well as his very distinctive way of speaking. T-shirts, hoodies, cushions, phone cases, mugs, bracelets and other types of merchandise that refer to Snape’s famous (and characteristically laconic) admission that he still loves Harry’s mother Lily (‘Always’) provide further evidence of the character’s transformation from an entirely unpleasant, malicious teacher into a romantic hero.
Alan Rickman is not the only charismatic actor who has contributed to the success of the film series. The cast reads very much like a ‘who is who’ of British actors and actresses, including Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes and a number of further well-known actors and actresses. Some of the young stars, who have grown up ‘in Hogwarts’, have moved on to very successful careers on screen and/or on the stage. This seems to be particularly true for Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) and Emma Watson (Hermione). The idea that the cast should reflect the Britishness of the series (cf. Cartmell/Whelehan 38) has paid off. In the movies the actors and actresses use different regional and social varieties of English, all of which are, however, associated with the British Isles. In conjunction with productions like Peter Jackson’s TheLord of the Rings (2001-2003) and The Hobbit (2012-2014) trilogies and the HBO series Game of Thrones (2011-), the Harry Potter film series has arguably contributed to establishing varieties of English that are associated with the British Isles as the predominant audio-visual ‘language of fantasy’.
There are four different directors behind the Harry Potter movies, who, despite their distinctive styles, have all contributed to world building in the Potterverse. The first two movies, directed by Chris Columbus, have been much maligned by critics due to their supposedly strong ‘fidelity’ to Rowling’s books. This impression is partially due to the films’ emphasis on world building. Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan argue that the first instalment “was a film that tried too hard to be the book and one which was destined to suffer invidious comparisons with a much more successful book-to-film adaptation in the form of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)” (39, original emphasis).29 On a similarly disparaging note, James Russell perceives “some obvious ‘Hollywood’ elements” (397) in the first two movies; he criticises that they display “a relatively bright, accessible, aesthetic: they are upbeat in tone, there is less emphasis on the weather and the seasons, and they are structured according to a familiar children’s film template” (ibid.). To a certain extent, the more upbeat tone of Columbus’s movies in comparison to the later ones is of course in accordance with the overall optimism of the first novels, which stress the protagonist’s enthusiasm for becoming part of a new and exciting world at least as much as the dangers awaiting him in this new environment.
Columbus’s first movie has also been criticised for its pace and “cumbersome style” (Nel 280). Especially the depiction of the arrival at Hogwarts has come under fire:
Columbus’ emphasis on sets and effects slows the pace. For example, when the students approach Hogwarts for the first time, the camera shows the castle as boats approach, then shows the first-years looking awed, then lingers on the castle once more, then moves to a close-up of awed students’ faces again, and finally moves back to linger on the castle…again. After nearly a minute of switching back and forth between the castle and the children’s faces, what began as an impressive sight grows tedious (ibid. 280).
Although Nel may have a point if one applies the conventions of the standard fast-paced, action-driven Hollywood blockbuster, one may venture the hypothesis that many fans of the series actually want
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