CSUN Professor to discuss the ‘Witchcraft, Folklore, and the Ancestors of Harry Potter’

Lidya Munoz

Sabina Magliocco, chair and professor of anthropology, will be discussing the root motifs of the “Harry Potter” books during the lecture “Witchcraft, Folklore, and the Ancestors of Harry Potter” taking place today in Sierra Hall.

“First, I want to show people how many of the motifs in the ‘Harry Potter’ books really come from European folklore,” Magliocco said. “Some of the magical and fantastic creatures that are in Harry Potter, like the house elves, the griffins and some of the more fantastical beings.”

Magliocco explained that some of the creatures created by J.K. Rowling as a part of creating an imaginary literary world are straight from European folklore.

In the second part of the lecture, Magliocco will be discussing the concept of the witch in the “Harry Potter” books.

According to Magliocco, the witch is a negative figure in European folklore and as of right now people in American society consider the “Harry Potter” novels as witchcraft and evil. However, the children in the books, who are witches and wizards, are not evil at all.

“If you look at the kind of values that are highly held in the wizardry world, it’s a very Christian influence world in the sense that, for example, people are encouraged to sacrifice themselves for their friends, to think of the greater good and to think not of themselves but of ways that are going to benefit their friends and their school as a whole,” Magliocco said.

On the other hand, there is a group that shows evil and that is Voldemort and his followers. Magliocco said this group embodies the stereotype of what the witch is thought to be in European folklore and is the exact opposite of a just society.

With the growing popularity of Harry Potter, one would think it would lead to comics and graphic novels. However, Charles Hatfield, professor of English, said “Harry Potter” has not been officially turned into comics but there are similar characters portrayed in other comic books.

“The idea of a “school” for exceptional or gifted or “magical” children is an old one, and there is at least one recent comic book series, “The Books of Magic,” created by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton, features a very Potter-like character named Tim Hunter, a young wizard who has to go through training, etc. This series actually came out before the Potter books and many people have remarked on the similarities,” Hatfield said.

Magliocco hopes the lecture can make people appreciate folklore and how it turns up in literature. She also hopes people receive a deeper understanding of the dangers of projecting our fears onto a group of people.

The event will take place in the Whitsett Room, 451, at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.