Courage, honor, loyalty and personal sacrifice – these are the traits of a hero. Do heroes still exist? Or are they a thing of ancient times? Harry Potter is a fictional character from popular culture movies and literature who exemplifies a hero and embarks on his own mythical quest. This paper will show you Harry Potter’s characteristics, how he exemplifies a mythological hero and the purpose of his mythical quest.
Courage, honor, loyalty and personal sacrifice are the traits of a hero. Harry Potter exhibits all these traits and more. Harry Potter has courage. He was orphaned as a baby and grew up the only wizard in a family of Muggles (non-wizards). He has to face adversity and danger in every part of the series. In fact, there is always someone trying to kill Harry but he faces these challenges with little or no fear. He exemplifies honor by fighting for his parent’s name and keeping dark forces out of his school and from taking over the world. There is no one more loyal than Harry Potter. He never forgets his loyalty to Dumbledore and trusts him implicitly, even after Dumbledore has died. He even saves the lives of those who have tried to kill him because of his loyalty, such as Draco. Draco is a boy from his school whom Harry Potter has known since he was very young who switches over to the dark side. Despite Draco’s multiple attempts to kill him, Harry Potter still saves him from a fire. Personal sacrifice is no stranger to Harry Potter. When he learns that he must die in order for everyone else to live he does not shy away from the challenge. Harry could have run away at any time and saved himself but he never does this.
The Hero’s Journey is a well-documented path that all different heroes take. The different stages are Departure, Initiation and Return (The hero’s journey: summary of the steps, 2005). Harry Potter is clearly on a hero’s journey. Within the departure stage, the hero will experience a call to adventure. Harry receives a letter explaining to him his path. The next step is the refusal of the call. Harry’s family goes into hiding to avert his destiny. A hero also receives Supernatural Aid, and Harry receives plenty of this at various points in his adventures via Dumbledore or through the spirit of his mother, Lily. The Crossing of the First Threshold is where the hero crosses from his known world into his new role as a hero. Harry does this when he decides to face and fight Voldemort instead of running away. The Belly of the Whale is the final stage of the Departure portion of the hero’s journey. In the Belly of the Whale stage, the hero is fully separating from his known world and the new world. Harry spends the entire series knowing his full destiny. He knows he is going to die, he knows he is a marked man and he has acceptance around this.
The second stage of the hero’s journey is the Initiation stage. Within this stage, the hero faces a Road of Trials. Every portion of the Harry Potter series shows Harry facing a different road of trials. In each book or movie, he faces new challenges, is deceived by more people, and gets closer and closer to his own destiny which is dying and defeating Voldemort. Every time he gets and destroys a horcrux; he faces a huge trial to accomplish that. The Meeting with the Goddess is the portion of the story when the hero meets with someone for whom he has unconditional love and this gives him the strength to keep on going in his hero’s quest. For Harry, this goddess is represented by the spirit of his mother who visits him in various near-death experiences and visions and gives him the words or inspiration to keep fighting. The Woman as the Temptress is the stage in the hero’s journey where he becomes sidetracked. For the most part, Harry does not get sidetracked or give up, but when he is the closest is when he loses Sirius, his only living relative (Huff, 2011). Atonement with the Father is another step in this portion of the quest. Harry does not know his father, but he does have a father-figure in Snape. He feels betrayed by Snape because Snape kills Dumbledore. However, in Deathly Hallows, he finds out that Snape was directed by Dumbledore to perform the killing to show his loyalty to Voldemort. He also finds out about Snape’s unconditional love for Harry’s mother, and that Snape has really been on his side the whole time even though Harry sorely reminds him of Harry’s father, who took Snape’s love away. The Apotheosis is the portion of the quest where the hero becomes god-like (The hero’s journey: summary of the steps, 2005). This happens for Harry when he faces Voldemort and gets killed. Voldemort only kills the horcrux, or portion of himself inside Harry, but Harry does have an out-of-body experience as he visits Dumbledore at King’s Cross. The Ultimate Boon is achieved by Harry as he wins all of the Deathly Hallows and becomes the owner of the Elder Wand, which he subsequently destroys.
The final portion of the Hero’s Journey is the Return. In Deathly Hallows, Harry destroys the final horcrux, achieves perfect spiritual life and can finally rejoin with his beloved mother and father. So why, after all of that, would he return? Harry has always wanted to be a normal wizard, and now that his quest is complete, he has his chance. At first Harry Refuses the Return. He wants to stay with Dumbledore and his mother and father. The Return from Flight is dangerous for Harry because Voldemort thinks he is dead, and may try to kill him again once he finds out he is not. Harry’s Rescue from Without cannot be done alone. He is helped along the way by Rubeus Hagrid, the big brute who has always had a soft spot for Harry. He carries Harry’s body back to Hogwart’s when everyone thinks Harry is dead, he knows Harry is alive because he can feel his warm body. When Harry arrives back at Hogwart’s, he is showing that he is the Master of the Two Worlds and he has crossed the Return Threshold: both parts of the Return portion of the Hero’s Journey. Finally, he returns to marry Ginny, who has been quietly by his side for some time. In the final scenes of the last Harry Potter movie, he is shown as an older man, married to Ginny, taking their young son to the train to send him off to Hogwart’s. Hermoine and Ron are also married dropping off their children. This portion exemplifies the Freedom to Live, the final step in the hero’s journey. This shows that everything Harry has done has prepared him for this portion, and shows everyone that he has gone on to live a normal life since accomplishing his hero goals.
Harry Potter is a modern-day hero who travels along fulfilling his mythical quest step-by-step. He shows everyone that heroism can still exist through the qualities of courage, loyalty, personal sacrifice and honor.