The first part of the Harry Potter finale launched in theaters several weeks ago, and the number of people that have swarmed to see it is truly magical. On opening weekend, the movie made over $125 million, which is No. 6 on the box office list.
People are often unaware of the amount of European cultural, mythological and religious references in the books by J.K. Rowling.
In the first of Rowling’s novels, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (or “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” as it is known in the United States) the philosopher’s stone is said to be made by Nicolas Flamel. In the book, Lord Voldemort, the villain in the series, is chasing after the stone because it is an elixir of life. In real life, Flamel was an alchemist who supposedly created a philosopher’s stone, which turned metal into gold. Flamel, who is 665 years old, was a real person who lived in Paris in the 1300’s. If you go back 665 years from 1997 when the book was published, Flamel would have been born in 1332. His house in Paris is still existent today and is the oldest house in Paris. Also, a road in Paris near the Louvre Museum, the rue Nicolas Flamel, has been named after him. It intersects with the rue Perenelle, which is named after Flamel’s wife.
Rowling also has several references in her series from mythology. Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, is named after the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, one of Orion’s hunting dogs. In the series, Black has the capability of turning into a black dog. Sirius’ brother, Regulus Arcturus Black, who becomes an important character in the final book, “The Deathly Hallows,” is named after the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion. Bellatrix Lestrange, who is one of Voldemort’s main warriors, is named after one of the shoulder stars in the constellation Orion.
One cannot also help but notice the similarities between Voldemort and former German dictator Hitler. Hitler wanted a Germany made up of only the “Aryan race,” or full-blooded Germans, and killed people that were not of Aryan decent. In Harry Potter, Voldemort and his Death Eaters want a “pureblood society,” or those that are of 100% magical blood, and kill witches and wizards that are not 100% magical blood. Witches and wizards that are not 100% magical are called “Mudbloods.” One of the main characters, Hermione Granger, who is played by Emma Watson, is a “Mudblood,” which often makes her a target of Voldemort’s followers. In the new movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” there is a scene where Granger is tortured by Lestrange, and “Mudblood” is etched in blood on Granger’s arm. When filming this scene, director David Yates had to stop filming because he was so scared by the way Watson was acting out the scene.
The first time we did it, I [did] yell cut,” Yates said. “Emma said, ‘You cut too early! You cut too early!’ She was getting to this intense point. And I said, ‘Well, it was getting scary, Ems!’ And she said, ‘No no no no, let me try, let me try.’ There were one or two moments that were really powerful, where Emma was able to just let go a little bit and forget for a moment that she was acting. And the screams were quite horrible to listen to. It was a very odd energy in the room. She was kind of exploring and exorcising demons really, and serving the scene doing that. I felt in that moment, and in that day and in that room, she kind of crossed the line as an actress.”
In addition to these cultural references, this blog goes through many other references that Rowling uses in the Harry Potter series.
Below is a trailer for the latest Harry Potter movie, which hit theaters November 19.