Chapter 42

Harry Potter: A Rankian Take on the Hero of Hogwarts

Most likely, you are already familiar with Harry Potter. Maybe you have even read the books and seen the movies. Now is the time to consider Harry's world from a mythologist's point of view.

First, note the title of this chapter—what does "a Rankian take" mean? In this chapter, M. Katherine Grimes bases her analysis of the stories about Harry Potter on the ideas of psychologist Otto Rank. (For more on Rank and his views, see the introduction to the chapter, p. 661).

One of the major facets of Rank's theories on mythology and the hero deals with family relationships; Rank observes that children's behavior commonly follows a pattern as they try to find a satisfactory relationship with their parents. Rank calls this the "family romance" and outlines specific events, motivations, and problems that are then illustrated through the lives of major heroes. Although Rank considered only male heroes, Grimes updates the application of Rank's theories and examines the mother figure, as well as the father figure, in J. K. Rowling's stories. This inclusive approach helps us to understand the power of the Harry Potter stories, as we see the ways the characters function as universal figures on the psychological level while they carry out great deeds in the world of Wizards and Muggles.

As you read the article, note how Grimes constructs her argument: she introduces and explains a particular aspect of Rankian theory and then proceeds to fit a character or situation from the Harry Potter series into her explanation. This represents a good example we can use to analyze other works.

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