Many Harry Potter fans know that J.K. Rowling drew on many historical events and people for her books, especially when it came to the names of the characters. However, many of the aspects of the Wizarding War that drives the plot of the novels has a lot in common with other historical wars as well. Much of it comes from World War II (WWII), an event that rocked much of the UK.
WWII: Voldemort as a dictator spreading a “pure” state ideal.
Adolf Hitler was a dictator that decided the Aryan race should be the dominant race in Europe (and, eventually, the world). WWII was a way for Hitler to spread his ideals and conquer most of Europe. A lot of these ideas can be seen in the characterization of Voldemort. Voldemort’s view was that the “Pureblood” wizard (someone with two magical parents) should be the dominant power among the wizarding and muggle (non-wizard) community and would stop at nothing to make that belief a reality.
WWII: Enemy of my Enemy
Also in WWII, the Allied Powers (England, the United States, and the Soviet Union) all came together to defeat Hitler’s Nazi regime. By no means were the Soviets and the United States friends. As the saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This is also seen in the Harry Potter books. Centaurs, giants, and even Peeves the Poltergeist were asked by wizards to help fight Voldemort and his henchman, the Deatheaters. Normally, these magical creatures would not even be spoken to or spoken of, another example of “the enemy of my enemy”.
American Civil War: Brother vs. Brother
During the American Civil War, the US Army had the difficult task settling a rebellion by its own people. No longer were they fighting soldiers from an entirely different continent, but people of their own country as well. This also happened during the Wizarding War. Deatheaters and those under the influence of the “Imperius” curse (a curse that lets the conjurer control you entirely), were attacking people of their own kind. Families were split apart when some decided they didn’t like the “pureblood” view of the world. They were literally fighting “brother versus brother”.
Native American Relocation:
Although this isn’t precisely a war, we can also see this kind of prejudice in Rowling’s book. J.K. Rowling makes it clear that wizarding folk, over centuries, became wary of all the magical creatures, especially the intelligent half-human, half-horse Centaurs. In interviews and supplemental books, Rowling has revealed that the wizards alienated these creatures and drove them to specific places designated just for them. This is just like the United States’ actions towards the Native Americans during the move Westward. We grew wary of these new people and it was decided to allocate specific places for them to live.
It seems like a lot of Rowling’s writing can be traced to universal themes found in historical struggles and in my opinion, that’s brilliant. It gives these themes another point of view, and marks Rowling as a magnificent author. Even if the war did not specifically influence the country in which Rowling was writing, the themes are still there. If history repeats itself, we must learn what makes each war unique and what we have seen before so we, as a people, don’t make the same mistakes. Although her war was fictional, it still can give us insight into how people behave and think during these troubled times.
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