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Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter



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  #21  
Old October 5th, 2008, 2:11 pm
TreacleTartlet  Female.gif TreacleTartlet is offline
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

This is my type of thread, as I just love the way JKR has drawn on myths and folklore and put her own spin on them. Reading through the thread I couldn’t find anything on the Veela, soI thought I’d add them in.

The Veela are a type of fairy creature found in Slavic folklore. As a ballet teacher I was already familiar with the legend of the Willis, found in Act two of the ballet Giselle. The ballet’s libretto was inspired by a passage from Heinrich Heine’s, ‘De L’Allemagne’, who took the idea of the Willis, from Slavic folklore. Like in HP they appear beautiful but can turn very nasty.


http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_fairies

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Wila
In Polish mythology, the Wila (VEE-lah) are reputed in Poland to be female fairy-like spirits who live in the wilderness and sometimes clouds. They were believed to be the spirits of women who had been frivolous in their lifetimes and now floated between here and the afterlife. They sometimes appear as the swans, snakes, horses, falcons, or wolves that they can shapeshift into but usually appear as beautiful maidens, naked or dressed in white with long flowing hair.

It is said that if even one of these hairs is plucked, the Wila will die, or be forced to change back to her true shape. A human may gain the control of a Wila by stealing feathers from her wings. Once she gets them back, however, she will disappear. (Compare Swan maiden.)

The voices of the Wila are as beautiful as they are, and one who hears them loses all thoughts of food, drink or sleep, sometimes for days. Despite their feminine charms, however, the Wila are fierce warriors. The earth is said to shake when they do battle. They have healing and prophetic powers and are sometimes willing to help mankind. Other times they lure young men to dance with them, which according to their mood can be a very good or very bad thing for the lad. They ride on horses or deer when they hunt with their bows and arrows and will kill any man who defies them or breaks his word. Fairy rings of deep thick grass are left where they have danced which should never be trod upon (bad luck).


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  #22  
Old June 28th, 2009, 8:47 pm
bookworm13  Female.gif bookworm13 is offline
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

The Sphinx in the Maze in GoF guarded the way forward very much like the Sphinx from Greek mythology. She too asked a riddle. "What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?" the answer is a man (crawling as a child, walking, and using a cane in older years) and the sphinx would devour every person who got the riddle wrong. When Oedipus finally got the right answer, she threw herself off the nearby cliff. Harry's Sphinx didn't do anything quite that dramatic, but the same principles apply.


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  #23  
Old July 2nd, 2009, 1:55 am
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

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Originally Posted by TreacleTartlet View Post
This is my type of thread, as I just love the way JKR has drawn on myths and folklore and put her own spin on them. Reading through the thread I couldn’t find anything on the Veela, soI thought I’d add them in.

The Veela are a type of fairy creature found in Slavic folklore. As a ballet teacher I was already familiar with the legend of the Willis, found in Act two of the ballet Giselle. The ballet’s libretto was inspired by a passage from Heinrich Heine’s, ‘De L’Allemagne’, who took the idea of the Willis, from Slavic folklore. Like in HP they appear beautiful but can turn very nasty.


http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_fairies

That's cool, I didn't know that. Interesting piece of folklore.

Trelawney's great-great-grandmother Cassandra is a reference to the Seer of Greek mythology. If I remember correctly, Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy, but later cursed by the gods that no-one would believe her visions. She warned the people of Troy to beware Greeks bearing gifts, of course she wasn't believed and it didn't end too well for the Trojans when they accepted the peace offering of a nice wooden horse.


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  #24  
Old July 14th, 2009, 2:56 pm
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

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Originally Posted by bookworm13 View Post
The Sphinx in the Maze in GoF guarded the way forward very much like the Sphinx from Greek mythology. She too asked a riddle. "What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?" the answer is a man (crawling as a child, walking, and using a cane in older years) and the sphinx would devour every person who got the riddle wrong. When Oedipus finally got the right answer, she threw herself off the nearby cliff. Harry's Sphinx didn't do anything quite that dramatic, but the same principles apply.
Yes. The sphinx was one of the things that I was going to mention as well. And Oedipus is one of the better known instances of the sphinx myth.

Another thing I wanted to mention was the fact that she used hippogriffs--which are legendary creatures that supposedly are born when a mare and a griffin are mated. It's interesting to note that griffins usually preyed on horses, so for the two to mate was thought impossible. So the hippogriff also represented such impossible love.


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  #25  
Old July 16th, 2009, 12:53 am
BiancaAura  Undisclosed.gif BiancaAura is offline
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

I enjoy mythology and had an art partner in school who was into Gorgons. I wondered if there is any mythology that is the source for Nifflers and Kneazles.


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  #26  
Old July 31st, 2009, 8:19 pm
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

I noticed that the mermaids in GoF that sing pretty songs, but actually turn out to be quite ugly in nature, and not very friendly, and they pose a threat in the task in the lake in GoF during the Tri Wizard Tournament.

These are similar to the sirens in the Greek mythology, as they sing beautiful songs that lure sailors to them, and then end up harming them. So, although they sang these heaven like songs, they were very dangerous, and had to be avoided, although this proved to be very hard at times, as is seen in Homer's Odyssey.


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  #27  
Old August 13th, 2010, 8:29 pm
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Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

Hiya!! I've decided to post this to know your opinion about mythological creatures that appear in Harry Potter in general, but most of all, to know which one of them you consider is the one most important for the series; and other things you would like to say about them, like which one of them is your favorite/ least favorite, if you knew these creatures existed before reading Harry Potter, which one scares you the most, and an over all opinion.

So, I'll start with myself and I hope you too will post your opinion on the matter

For me, I think the most important creature for Harry Potter would be the phoenix, because I think it represents what the Order and Harry are standing for, and of course, the Basilisk, which I think represents Voldemort... As for my favorite, it would be again the phoenix, and least favorite... I think maybe the Troll, because they are ugly, by far not intelligent, scary and I think they must smell awfully. And well, for me, reading Harry Potter has brought to my attention most of the things I know right now about mythology, and I'm glad it has!

So, what about you?


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  #28  
Old August 13th, 2010, 8:45 pm
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Re: Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

Most important one would probably be the Phoenix, . Not just because it stands for the Order and what they fight for, but also because of the whole twin core thing; the core of Harry and Voldemort's wands came from a phoenix.

My favourite creatures, though, are the Centaurs. I loved them before I even started reading the series. And I think Jo managed to write them very well. I love their pride, and I just like how enigmatic they are!


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  #29  
Old August 13th, 2010, 11:05 pm
MissGranger1979  Female.gif MissGranger1979 is offline
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Re: Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
Most important one would probably be the Phoenix, . Not just because it stands for the Order and what they fight for, but also because of the whole twin core thing; the core of Harry and Voldemort's wands came from a phoenix.

My favourite creatures, though, are the Centaurs. I loved them before I even started reading the series. And I think Jo managed to write them very well. I love their pride, and I just like how enigmatic they are!
True about the Phoenix. I think the House-elves are pretty important too though. Dobby saves their lives, Winky looks after Barty Crouch Jr and Kreacher tells the trio where to find the locket.


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  #30  
Old August 14th, 2010, 12:42 am
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Re: Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

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Originally Posted by BellatrixBL View Post
For me, I think the most important creature for Harry Potter would be the phoenix, because I think it represents what the Order and Harry are standing for, and of course, the Basilisk, which I think represents Voldemort... As for my favorite, it would be again the phoenix, and least favorite... I think maybe the Troll, because they are ugly, by far not intelligent, scary and I think they must smell awfully. And well, for me, reading Harry Potter has brought to my attention most of the things I know right now about mythology, and I'm glad it has!
Yeah, good point about who and what the phoenix and the basilisk represent. The basilisk, especially. I think in hindsight Harry's observation after meeting Aragog is very telling- that the basilisk was like a monster's version of Voldemort, in that other monsters feared to speak its name. Considering who the basilisk's master was...

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
Most important one would probably be the Phoenix, . Not just because it stands for the Order and what they fight for, but also because of the whole twin core thing; the core of Harry and Voldemort's wands came from a phoenix.
Good point. Fawkes the phoenix is very important. Literally, to the plot, and symbolically.

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Originally Posted by MissGranger1979 View Post
True about the Phoenix. I think the House-elves are pretty important too though. Dobby saves their lives, Winky looks after Barty Crouch Jr and Kreacher tells the trio where to find the locket.
Hmm, elves are traditional beings in folklore, but I don't think JKR's house elves are the same kind of idea. Aren't elves traditionally held to be mischievious little creatures? Although they are very like the elves in the fairy tale of The Elves and the Shoemaker -hardworking, helping humans, and leaving when they're given clothes... But I agree that the house elves play an important role in the series.


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  #31  
Old August 14th, 2010, 2:07 am
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Re: Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

The unicorn and phoenix would be two very important ones as they serve many uses. I don't think you can argue the phoenix just because of the circumstances with Harry. Twin cores could happen with unicorn hair or dragon heartstrings.

If you're talking about in the series specifically, then Fawkes would obviously take president over any other.


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  #32  
Old August 14th, 2010, 5:05 am
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Re: Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

I'll go with the phoenix too - not only the twin cores and all the other arguments, and all its other powers (carrying heavy loads, healing tears) but it's also a symbol of rebirth. Born again from its own ashes, like the Order of the Phoenix was. Got back to fight one more time after a good number of the original members were killed off or otherwise incapacitated (the Longbottoms for example.)

I always regretted that JKR never mentioned Fawkes again after "the Phoenix's Lament". I felt sure he'd pop up again during the last battles.

I also like the Centaurs a lot. In Greek mythology and in Harry Potter. They are a proud people in both, and usually very wise.

I'm surprised no one mentioned merpeople yet. Mermaids were a big part of Greek myth (remember Odysseus?) - and in HP, they also are wise, and independent.

I found the scene of Dumbledore's funeral, where all the different magical beings show up, to be very touching.

I don't remember any Elves in Greek mythology, but I guess you meant Celtic myth. The House Elves here, though they have similar traits with "the little people", are nothing like the Elves in, for example, Lord of the Rings. But they do play an important role.

Good point about the Basilisk being a symbol for Voldemort.


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  #33  
Old August 14th, 2010, 10:07 am
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Re: Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

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Originally Posted by Fleurdujardin
I'm surprised no one mentioned merpeople yet. Mermaids were a big part of Greek myth (remember Odysseus?) - and in HP, they also are wise, and independent.
I thought they didn't play much of role in the series, though.

I've been thinking about the Dragons actually. They played an indirect role in PS (Hagrid acquiring the Dragon Egg, and giving Voldemort the secret of Fluffy by mistake). Also, they played a role in DH (The trio escaping on a Dragon's back).


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  #34  
Old August 14th, 2010, 10:34 pm
FleurduJardin  Female.gif FleurduJardin is offline
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Re: Most important mythological creature in Harry Potter

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Originally Posted by bellatrix93 View Post
I thought they didn't play much of role in the series, though.
Maybe not, but they did play an important role in GoF, and they showed up at Dumbledore's funeral. Dumbledore seems to have consulted with them quite often. They are creatures to be reckoned with.

In passing, I'd like to note that I mentioned Odysseus in connection with mermaids when actually it was sirens who almost got his whole fleet to wreck. My explanation is that in French, we have the same word, "sirčne", for both mermaids and sirens. I actually don't know what the difference in English is, but that is beyond the scope of this thread, so I won't pursue it.

Quote:
I've been thinking about the Dragons actually. They played an indirect role in PS (Hagrid acquiring the Dragon Egg, and giving Voldemort the secret of Fluffy by mistake). Also, they played a role in DH (The trio escaping on a Dragon's back).
You're right. I was limiting my examples to Greek mythology, and though there are many snakelike, winged creatures there, they are not called "dragons" in that mythology. But they do figure quite a lot in other myths, including, actually, Vietnamese myths (and Chinese, and Asian in general, though they are viewed very differently in Asia than in the West - but here I'm veering off-topic again. Sorry.)

Dragons do play a big role in HP, but they are not depicted as sentient creatures, not the way phoenixes, elves, merpeople, giants (despite their limited intellect) and centaurs are. They are just animals, though powerful ones. Hippogryffs seem actually brighter than dragons in the HP universe.

Which leads me to winged horses - Pegasus, anyone? - though they, too, are animals, not sentient species. Ditto unicorns, despite their many magical qualities.

ETA - Oh, I forgot about the Sphinx. Yes, that's another mythological creature, with its riddles. (Refer to Oedipus!)

Treacle Tartlet, thanks for your input about the Wilis in "Giselle". I hadn't made the connection with the Veelas, but then I hadn't been aware of the Wilas in Swedish folklore. In "Giselle", the Wilis are spirits/ghost of wronged (loved then abandoned) maidens who take their revenge on men by having them dance until they drop dead. Giselle saves her beloved Albrecht (who IMO doesn' deserve it) by dancing with him until dawn, which helps him survive. In HP, though, the Veelas can be nasty, but they don't actually do any harm, and Fleur's Veela heritage doesn't seem to have turned her nasty or evil. She just inherited their beauty.



Last edited by FleurduJardin; August 14th, 2010 at 10:44 pm. Reason: ETA
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  #35  
Old August 15th, 2010, 10:50 pm
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

I don't want to focus on just one magical creature as being the most important. I just like the fact that all of the magical creatures helped Harry in some way. I like to think that it was because Harry was considerate of everyone. Not Nagini and Aragog, of course, but most of the others.


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  #36  
Old August 16th, 2010, 7:23 pm
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

Threstrals could also be the source of a mystical horse call Seipnir. Seipnir was an 8 legged horse that belonged to the Norse God Odin. Seipnir, which means "the slipper" or "slippery", is the horse the Odin uses to ride to Hel (Hell. Spelled different in mythology. Also, means death in Norse Paganism). He is also "the best horse of the gods". I don't have the book with me but, I believe when Harry tries to climb on the back of one of the threstrals in OotP, he describes it as slippery. It's a stretch but, possible. Here's the link to the stories that he's related to.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleipnir


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  #37  
Old September 1st, 2010, 11:13 pm
BellatrixBL  Undisclosed.gif BellatrixBL is offline
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

Well, I think most of the creatures that appear in HP (excluding a few like Dementors) are based in mythology, like the Basilisk, the phoenix, the hippogriff and all the others... Also, with Thestrals, I think they could have something to do with another winged horse like Pegasus... There are similarities, at least.

Talking about creatures, which one is your least favourite? For me would be the trolls all the way. And what do you think is the most powerful? For me, again, my favourite possibly: the phoenix :P


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  #38  
Old September 5th, 2010, 1:05 am
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Re: Myths and creature origins in Harry Potter

I love how Sirius and Regulus Black are both named after stars, it was such a cool connection! I'd always known that Sirius was a star, but while in Earth and Space science earlier this week, we were mapping out constellations and I saw Regulus and utterly freaked out, he's right next to Sirius! Though it's also fun to point out that Regulus and Sirius are never there together in the same season, but are opposite, just like in the story. And of course Orion and Cygnus Black also have their places in the sky. That's just such an awesome tradition in my opinion!

And I loved the Romulus/Remus connection which I spotted right away. I sort of have a thing for Mythology so I make those connections easily. When I was seven and read PS I knew instantly that Fluffy was Cerberus. ^^


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Last edited by Kierstoast; September 5th, 2010 at 2:43 am.
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