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Harry Potter as Joseph Campbell’s Hero Archetype in the Novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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Harry Potter as Joseph Campbell’s Hero Archetype in the novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Literary criticism which merely deals with myths and symbols is called the archetypal approach (Frye, 1957). De Quincey stated that the word archetype was derived from two Greek words: arche which means first and unique and typos which means symbols, originated from myths which were buried in the collective unconscious (Jung, 1968). The Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung defines the term as a recurring symbols or patterns coming in different forms but whose meaning is universal (Vogler, 2007). Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, explores the concepts of archetype in his novel The Hero with a Thousand Faces which tackled the various adventures of hero characters in novels. Significantly, Campbell (2004) asserted that the hero archetype has to undergo several stages.

        The different phases that heroes must go through are the departure, initiation and return. The first station which is departure is subdivided into six stages. In this level, the hero leaves his ordinary world. Vogler (2007) mentioned that the hero must now be separated from his ordinary world once he has accepted the challenge. Though the call to adventure may come in various forms, it usually presents itself through a test or risk and the hero has the power to refuse the call. The hero’s encounter with his supernatural aid happens only when there is an ultimate adventure. Supernatural aids are responsible for protecting the hero in his journey (Campbell, 2004). The crossing of the first threshold meanwhile is when he gets into an adventure. Once he goes through it, the hero will now learn the other world’s ruling. The belly of the whale, a term derived from the story Jonah and the Whale is the lowest point of the hero’s quest and sometimes called as the ‘black moment’ (Vogler, 2007).

Initiation is the next stage through which the hero is tested. His path and quest is known as the road of trials. The meeting with the goddess is the part where a female figure would influence the hero. The woman as temptress becomes the hero’s temptation. Apotheosis meanwhile is the hero’s elevation of his higher place and innate ability to be godlike. The achievement of the hero’s goal is called the ultimate boon (Campbell, 2004). It is also the part when the hero gets his reward and hero title (Vogler, 2007).

The final stage to be accomplished by the hero is his return. Refusal of the return may be difficult for him to decide. The hero’s magic flight is when he returns to his home after achieving his goal, thus the hero’s safe return is called the crossing of the return threshold. Here, he will become the master of the two worlds after his fulfilment of becoming a hero (Campbell, 2004).

Boll (2011) mentioned that J.K Rowling applied Campbell’s journey of the hero in her Harry Potter novels; but she retained the original cycle which was departure or separation, initiation, and return (Berndt& Steveker, 2013). Her first Harry Potter novel published in 1997 was an instant hit. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone focused on Harry’s life and adventure in Hogwarts. Rowling structured Harry’s journey starting from his ordinary world and end in his return. In between, he accomplished his stations in Hogwarts, the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and fulfilled his prophecy to defeat Voldemort. The story ends in his return to the Muggle world, his ordinary world, with a hero badge for saving his fellow wizards from Voldemort’s evil plans (Algeo, 2009). Harry Potter in the novel Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone therefore certainly possesses Joseph Campbell’s hero archetype by going through a series of quest namely departure, initiation and return.

Departure: the start of Harry Potter’s journey

Harry Potter, a wizard with an exceptional magical ability, must complete his series of quest to be considered as Joseph Campbell’s hero archetype. Harry’s journey began with the departure stage. Campbell (2004) stated in The Hero with a Thousand Faces that a hero must start with his Ordinary world, the place of the known. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Albus Dumbledore left him in the front doorstep of his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon Dursley. His aunt and uncle lived at 4 Privet Drive, England and this became Harry’s Ordinary World. For eleven years, he lived in his aunt and uncle’s house where he experienced no love and acceptance (Berndt& Steveker, 2013). The Dursley’s harsh treatment to Harry made him unsuitable for his ordinary world. Chapter 2 entitled The Vanishing Glass showed Harry’s ability to talk to a snake resulting to its escape from the zoo (Rowling, 1997). Due to his extraordinary capability to speak with the snake and to make the glass disappear to free the snake, he went through another Campbell’s phase of the hero’s journey.

        Harry’s call to adventure was the next step under the departure stage. The letter from Hogwarts was his call to adventure. The letter, which was brought by the owls, was about his invitation to study in Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

        A hero may or may not refuse the call to adventure as expounded by Campbell (2004). In case of Harry, the Dursleys were the cause of his refusal of the call. They did several ways to make him not to study in Hogwarts. His uncle was annoyed that made him burn all the letters. The owls still continued to deliver Harry’s letter to make sure that he will read it, but Uncle Vernon nailed up the their letter box, so that he will not receive his invitation coming from the prestigious school for witches and wizards. They also moved to Railview Hotel to avoid receiving many letters (Rowling 1997).  However, nothing can stop Harry from getting his letter. Rubeus Hagrid, a Hogwarts staff, appeared on Harry’s birthday to give him a gift and to deliver his invitation from Hogwarts. Through Hagrid’s thoughtfulness and kindness can be considered Harry’s supernatural aid. The supernatural aid is responsible for the provision of the hero’s tool used to defend himself against evil or his opponent. They are also the ones who protect the hero in his adventure (Campbell, 2004). Hagrid took Harry to Diagon Alley, a place where Hogwarts’ stuff can be bought. He withdrew money from Gringotts Bank to buy Harry what he needed for studying in the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He also told him about his scar on the forehead. Hagrid led him to the station that could bring him to Hogwarts (Rowling, 1997).

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