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MonkeyNotes-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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Literary/Historical Influences

Religious and Mythological Influences:

Greek Mythology - Rowling studied Classics at the University of Exeter and this has, consciously or subconsciously, found its way into her writing.

Argus and Argus Filch - Argus was a giant possessed of a hundred eyes, of which only two were asleep at a time. He was ordered by Hera to keep watch on Io, but Zeus sent Hermes to bore him to death; afterward his eyes were put on the tail of Hera’s sacred peacock.

Athena and McGonagall - Minerva McGonagall’s sternness can be seen in Athena’s treatment of Arachne: “Athena was a just goddess and she could be very stern. She knew that the gods [teachers] were great only as long as they were properly worshiped [respected] by mortals [students].” (D’Aulaires, 36)

Cerberus and Fluffy - “Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of the underworld, stood at the gates. He let the dead souls enter, but, once past his gnashing teeth and spiked tale, they could never go out again.” (D’Aulaires, 56)

“His silvery voice floated down through the dark [of Hades] like a gentle summer breeze and its magic moved the iron gates of Hades. They sprang open and let him in, and Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog, lay down at his feet and let him pass.” (D’Aulaires, 102)

Chiron the Centaur and Firenze - “There was one centaur who was kind and wise and was fond of children. His name was Chiron...[He taught his students] how to read the stars in the sky.” (D’Aulaires, 97)


Gorgons and Hagrid’s exclamations - “Gallipin’ Gorgons” and “Gulpin’ Gargoyles” both refer to mythology. In Greek mythology, a gorgon is any of three snake-haired sisters in Greek mythology whose appearance turns the beholder to stone. Gargoyles, also known as chimeras, were fire- breathing she-monsters in Greek mythology having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.

Hades and Voldemort - “Hades, lord of the dead, was a gloomy god of few words. Mortals feared him so much that they did not dare mention his name, for they might attract his attention and he might send for them. Instead of Hades they called him the Rich One.” (D’Aulaires, 56)

Hercules and Harry, both surviving dangers as infants -

“His father was Zeus, so Hera, of course, hated Alcmena and pursed Hercules with her wrath. When he was an infant the goddess sent two spotted serpents into his cradle, but little Hercules simply grasped them in his powerful hands and squeezed the life out of them.” (D’Aulaires, 132)

Hercules and Harry, both unaware of their strength and secluded from their people - “He [Hercules] grew stronger every day, but his trouble was that he did not know his own strength...Hercules was too strong to have around a palace so he was sent into the mountains as a shepherd.” (D’Aulaires, 130)

Hermes and the Weasley Twins - Hermes has many traits similar to Fred and George Weasley. All three are big on stealing (food from the kitchens, Apollo’s cows), not telling the whole truth, and magic tricks.

Invisibility Cap and the Invisibility Cloak - “The nymphs of the north received them kindly, and when they heard why Perseus had come [to slay Medusa], they gladly lent him the three things he needed: a pair of winded sandals to carry him through the air, a cap to make him invisible, and a magic bag to hold whatever was put in it.” (D’Aulaires, 108) Scholar Mary Baldwin has put forth a theory that the correct translation of The Odyssey also includes mention of an invisibility cloak.

Owls - Owls are the Greek symbol of wisdom. Athena is usually depicted with an owl on her shoulder.

Pan and Hagrid - Pan seems to resemble Hagrid: he is not a handsome god, he is the god of nature, he plays a shepard’s pipe (Hagrid’s flute), and is fond of drinking wine. (D’Aulaires, 90) Hairy beards, too.

Shape shifting and Animagus - Zeus changes himself into a snow-white bull. (D’Aulaires, 108)

Speaking to Snakes and Parseltongues - “Melampus, a cousin of Bellerophon, won glory and fame and one third of a kingdom, all because he was kind to animals. Once when he was a child, he found a dead mother snake on the road. He did not kick it into a ditch, but gave it a proper funeral, picked up the little motherless snakes, and reared them tenderly. In gratitude they licked his ears so clean that he could understand the language of all animals, crawling and flying.” (D’Aulaires, 130)

Zeus and Harry - both saved at birth, young Zeus’ mother Rhea saved him from his cannibal father Cronus as an infant by taking him to a secret island on the isle of Crete; Lily Potter saved baby Harry from Lord Voldemort, Hagrid and Dumbledore hid him with the Dursleys.

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