Category Archives: Response 3

The Makings of a True Hero

In the book, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry is portrayed as the “hero” continuously and “the boy who lived” against Voldemort. Harry Potter is known as the hero in this text because from birth, he lived when Voldemort was trying to kill him and this was known throughout Hogwarts and the whole wizarding world. But the question is if he was considered a hero from birth or from what his deeds to protect everyone in the secondary world. James Potter, Harry’s father, was a well-known seeker for Hogwarts and lived up to his name, but because of this, Harry has to live up to his father’s name. His deeds also led him to be known as a hero because of what happened to him in the past and his special characteristics, including speaking snake language; he confronts dangers and near-death experiences. Outside of his reputation as James Potter’s son, he stands up courageously to defeat his enemies. The Dursleys were also his enemies because they treated him with cruelty and on page 16-17, Aunt Marge, who despised Harry, stayed over with the Dursleys for a week and forced Harry to blow her up because of the way she talked about his parents. He fought against his dangerous enemies such as the dementors, Peter Pettigrew, and Professor Snape, helped him to grow stronger as a wizard by learning new spells, such as expect patrolum and riddikulus. His deeds also led him to be known as a hero because of what happened to him in the past and his special characteristics, including speaking snake language; he confronts dangers and near-death experiences. On pages 162-163, Harry Potter and his friends find out that Scabbers, Ron’s rat, is actually Peter Pettigrew and that Sirius Black is actually his godfather that was trying to help Harry. Harry also saves Sirius and himself when the dementors came to give them a kiss, and using the spell that Lupin had taught him, he casts the dementors away, saving them. Throughout the book, Harry saves and risks his own life in order to save others and through these kinds of acts, he is proudly known as a hero.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Sirius Black

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling features characters who have been wrongly accused. The opening scene depicts Harry writing about innocent people being burned for witchcraft as a result of Muggles’ fear of magic. It is suggested that while Muggles took these events very seriously and believed they were protecting themselves, the actual witches knew it was fruitless. The unjust persecution of the first scene sets the tone for the rest of the novel and foreshadows later events.

In the opening scene, Harry reads about the witch-burnings of the fourteenth century. Harry’s book declares that often times the people accused of witchcraft were innocent and that although Muggles feared magic they were “not very good at recognizing it” (2). This discussion of wrongful prosecution closely resembles the unjust punishment that Sirius faces for the crimes he does not commit.

Concealed by his Invisibility Cloak, Harry overhears a conversation about the day his parents were killed Lord Voldemort. He learns that his parents, James and Lily, had entrusted Sirius Black with secrets which he later revealed to Voldemort, ensuring their demise. Harry also hears that another friend of his parents, Peter Petigrew, attempted to avenge their deaths, but is killed by Sirius. Harry is then under the false idea that his “parents had died because their best friend had betrayed them” (211). It is because Sirius betrayed Lily and James and killed Peter that he is sent to Azkaban, the infamous high security wizards’ prison. But later, Harry learns the truth: that it was actually Peter who had turned the Potters over to Voldemort, causing their deaths. Despite appearances, Black was the one who had been trying to protect Lily and James while Peter was the one who switched his loyalty to Voldemort. Peter had even survived that night and had only pretended to be killed by Sirius, but had actually transformed into a rat and slipped away unnoticed only to be presumed dead and awarded a wizard’s honor, the “Order of Merlin, First Class” (208).

Sirius’ imprisonment and Peter’s honorary status in the wizarding community are foreshadowed by the opening discussion of the witch burnings. Despite the fact that many people in medieval times were afraid of witchcraft and seriously believed that they were acting righteously by killing people, they were actually taking the lives of innocent Muggles. So it appeared obvious that Sirius had been the one to betray Lily and James, especially considering Peter’s fake death, while the real events leading up to their deaths went unknown for majority of Harry’s life.

Staying Strong and Feminine

One of the many reasons the characters in Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban seem so realistic is because they do not consistently subscribe to the typical stereotypes seen in most fantasy novels. Examples of this can be found in her depictions of the female characters such as Hermione and Mrs. Weasley. Unlike the novels we have read in the past, the females all have strong roles while still holding onto their femininity. Hermione is the most intelligent student of the third years and seems to have a thirst for knowledge that she is determined to encourage. This is pointed out when Ron points out “‘they’ve got you down for about ten subjects a day. There isn’t enough time…how’re you supposed to be in three classes at once?’” (Rowling 122). Even though she is a strong girl, Hermione still exhibits the typical characteristic of females to be the caring one; the one who looks after Harry and Ron to make sure they are doing alright and are behaving appropriately. When Harry shows the other two the Marauder’s Map Ron’s reaction is excitement whereas Hermione is more cautious and advises Harry to “hand it in to Professor McGonagall” because “…He [Sirius Black] could be using one of the passages on that map to get into the castle,” (Rowling 247).

Mrs. Weasley also shows this nurturing characteristic but more strongly being she is the main mother figure throughout the book and in Harry’s life. This is seen when Mr. and Mrs. Weasley argue over whether or not to tell Harry everyone is so worried about him specifically when it comes to Sirius.  Mrs. Weasley is worried “‘…the truth would terrify him! Do you really want to send Harry back to school with that hanging over him? For heaven’s sake, he’s happy not knowing!’” (Rowling 81). The uncharacteristic part of this scene is that fact that Mrs. Weasley is arguing her male counterpart, supporting her side of the argument with logical reasoning and even though Mr. Weasley uses the same tactic, it is he who ends up conceding to Mrs. Weasley’s wishes. Even though he does end up informing Harry before he leaves for Hogwarts, he does so without his wife’s knowledge (Rowling 91, 92), not wanting to upset her.

Lord Azriel: Good or Bad?

While reading The Golden Compass, you would think Lord Azriel is out to save Lyra and become a true hero.  When coming to the end of the story, it turns out he is a type of villian as well.  The topic of Lord Azriel is opinionated but he does make certain decisions that make him an anti-hero but a villian at the same time.  While captured, he does try and find out a way to destroy Dust.  When Iorek defeats Iofur, Lord Azriel is released.  Lyra then explains to Lord Azriel that she knows he is her father.  While she is telling this information, he does not seem to get in depth with her about the subject.  His mind is on defeating the Dust at this point.

When Iorek takes Lyra to the frozen mountaintop, Lord Azriel is trying to destroy Roger’s daemon.  He thinks this will help terminate Dust.  At this point, I find Lord Azriel to be a villian.  Destroying daemons is what the Gobblers had done the whole story.  It makes an impression to show Lord Azriel did not care if children were dying with their daemons.  He does try and finish the Dust and kill the madness but in a way, Roger is not the way to do it.  Lyra cares about Roger and if she is your daughter, he does not need to take the fault.  Lord Azriel seems to be a villian but if stepping into the new world helps kill the Dust, Lyra must think he is going into the right direction by following him.

Who is the True King?

In The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman makes it clear that everything happens for a reason. Nothing in the story happens by mere coincidence. So the fact that Iorek Byrinson was a prince and was suppose to be king, but of course was exiled from his land, and Iofur Rankinson took over as king and changed everything, all of this was part of a big plan that would lead Lyra, who would eventually lead Roger to Lord Asriel, but of course no one knew that would happen.

Iorek Byrinson was a very powerful bear. Unlike all the others, he was basically kicked out of his land and his armor was taken from him. Even though his armor was taken from him, he didn’t let that stop him; he went ahead and made himself another. For you see he was a very skillful bear and a bear without his armor is nothing because a “bear’s armor is his soul” (172). Once he regained his armor he was fiercer than ever. Iorek Byrinson was one of the few good bears left and he was able to gain the trust of the humans because he was a good listener as did what he was told.

Iofur Rankinson was very different from Iorek Byrinson. He was very greedy and in fact he didn’t want to be a bear. “His face was much more mobile and expressive, with a kind of humanness in it” (294). He wanted to be like a human so bad because he really wanted a daemon. When Lyra went to see him, he “was holding something on his knee, as a human might let a cat sit there-or a daemon” (295). He tried so hard to get one that he even pretended to have one, he even did everything Mrs. Coulter told him to do in hope of one day getting one. Iofur Rankinson was very easily fooled, which isn’t very common amongst bears, his greed got the best of him.

Iofur Rankinson and Iorek Byrinson were both very powerful and wise. They were both fooled at one point in their lives, and even though they were both princes, there is only one true king. Yes, Iofur Rankinson was king at first, he wasn’t supposed to be, he got there by cheating and betraying his own; and because he did so, Iorek Byrinson came back and defeated him in the battle that they had and took what was rightfully his.

Dust to Dust

 Dust is feared by many, and no one really knows where it comes from or its purpose. It is viewed as a bad thing, but no one except Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel were willing to experiment and research it. The church said that dust was something that came into existence from original sin. As Lord Asriel is telling Lyra what Dust is he tells of Adam and Eve and their sin, saying ‘“And that was how sin came into the world,” he said, sin and shame and death. It came the moment their daemons became fixed”’(326). He is saying that when Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they were no longer innocent, and they matured. This is just like how their daemons become fixed once they mature, and are no longer innocent. Their daemon becomes who they truly are. The more innocence that is lost in children, equals the more negative characteristics that come out in their adulthood.

The General Oblation board was set up by Mrs. Coulter to study dust more closely. She believed that she could rid children of original sin. She received money from the magisterium to run her own experiments with children. Asriel says ‘“Your mother has always been ambitious for power”’(328). Mrs. Coulter knew that people feared dust, and used that to gain power and open up her own site. The General Oblation Board would have never been made if she was so power hungry and ready to find out what dust was all about. Mrs. Coulter thought that cutting the daemons away from the children would possibly take away their sin. Asriel said that she had a feeling that dust and adolescence were related. ‘“the change in one’s daemon and the fact that dust began to settle. Perhaps if the daemon were separated from the body we might never be subject to dust-original sin”’(329). Just like the church, she believed that dust was the physical form of original sin and that simply by removing daemons, she could ultimately remove all original sin and children would grow up free and pure from it. Unfortunately the only thing she was doing was causing the children to die.

Lord Asriel had his own thoughts about dust. He believes that dust comes ‘“from the other universe we can see through the Aurora”’(330). He had realized and was fascinated by dust traveling through the different worlds, and that it had to have originated somewhere other than people in his world. He says ‘“Somewhere out there is the origin of all dust, all death, the sin, the misery, the destructiveness in the world”’(331). Asriel is determined to rid the world of dust, and by doing this he also believes that he will rid the world of sin, and all other negative characteristics of the world.

All you need is a little bit of Pixie Dust

Dust is also known as the Northern Lights. It is said to be a composition of storms that are charged particles and solar rays that have very extraordinary strength that cause a luminous radiation when they come into contact with the atmosphere. They give off the colors pale green and rose with a hint of crimson. Many people don’t know what it is and fear with while others are intrigued by it and try to figure out what it is; these people are called Dust Hunters. The dust is said to affect more adults than it does children and it starts to affect the person once they hit adolescence. Last class, we discussed the reason that it might not affect children is because they still have their own light of innocence and then it gets taken away when you grow up and start going through adolescence. Reading through the book, Lord Asriel explains to Lyra what Dust actually is. He explains dust as it being what is real in the world and everything around us. Children are way too young to understand what that means because they still have their innocence and don’t think anything bad can happen so they don’t have a full grasp on the world. Adults, on the other hand, know what it going on in the world and understand it so they can fall into temptation to do things that are wrong. They believe that it will cause more bad than good and want to get rid of it because it causes too much of a problem in humans. He parallels this by telling her the story of Adam and Eve and how dust is another name for original sin. Original sin was the fall of Adam and Eve when they listened to the serpent and ate from the Tree of Life. They gained knowledge of all around them and that caused their downfall to be kicked out of Paradise. The General Oblation Board is a board that is run by the people who are considered Gobblers and the head of it is Mrs. Coulter. In this board people steal children in order to cut their daemons because they believe that they free them of original sin. It is also known as an incision. The Catholic Church does this also to people who believe in Catholicism and give them a very special ceremony called Baptism. During Baptism, the child is assigned godparents who say their vows for them and promise that the child will keep said vows and they are bathed in holy water and stripped away from original sin that is given to them naturally because of Adam and Eve. When they are stripped away of this sin they are able to join God in heaven when it is time for them to leave earth. The same exact thing happens with the daemons, once they are cut from you, you are able to go into another world. At the end, Lord Asriel asks Lyra to come with him to the other world when he cuts Roger’s daemon. Lyra refuses and instead goes off to find the source of Dust.

The Unprincipled Heroine

Lyra is quickly defined as the hero of this novel simply because of her status as the protagonist.  This is further established when the Master mentions mysteriously that “Lyra has a part to play in all this,” suggesting that despite or youth and current ignorance, she will be important in future events (28).  Her heroics quickly become clear when she risks harsh punishment to save Lord Asriel’s from the poison, revealing herself to him, and resulting in some injury.   She is obviously brave, and willing to risk herself to help others, clear traits of a hero.  She is also, intelligent, highly inquisitive, and a natural leader of other children.  This allows her to not only lead but to search for answers and truth, often successfully.  On the other hand, Lyra is rambunctious and somewhat of a miscreant, often getting into fights and breaking rules.  Despite it being against the rules, Lyra has “been all over the roof” to play (35).  She is a gifted liar, even later gaining the name Silvertongue for her successful lying.  She is not the incredibly well-mannered, clean, and ladylike girl she is expected to be, instead choosing to rebel and play with servants and their children, running wild through the college and the town.


In same ways, particularly in her more positive qualities, Lyra is the perfect heroine.  Traditionally, heroes and heroines are expected to be young, brave, intelligent, self-sacrificing, and truth-searching.  Lyra has all of these strengths, and so at first seems the perfect traditional heroine.  Even some of her rebellious side can be considered traditional.  After all, most heroes are rebelling against some evil higher power.  Yet Lyra takes her rebellion to a new level, particularly as a female character.  She is certainly not supposed to be running around in dirty trousers, getting into fights with poor town children, yet she does just that, defying many levels of expectation.  She also seems to possess as small bit of cruelty, or rather apathy, a trait not expected in a hero or heroine.  This is evidenced when she explains that she “was going to kill and roast” a hurt creature, and only chose to help it get better when a friend insisted (34).  In the end, Lyra simply does not fit the expected passive female heroine.  She is incredibly active, and improper, instead becoming a new kind of reckless heroine.

The Humbling of a Powerful Enemy

On Ged’s first encounter with the Lord of Re Albi’s daughter he seems to be easily swayed by her. It is very interesting because in the text it says that he finds her to be, “very ugly” (32 in my copy). Instead of being persuaded by her looks he is more persuaded by her actions. She constantly talks and he warms up to her and starts to tell her all about his tricks and the different things that he has done. He tells her of the great fog he brought over the warriors that were attacking his village and she wants him to tell her more. It is here in their conversation that I think it says the most about Ged at this point in his life. She asks him if he could conjure the dead and he says that he can. When she asks him if it is difficult and dangerous to do so he replies, “Difficult, yes. Dangerous?” (32 in my copy). Later in the story we learn that it is dangerous and it is his arrogant attitude that is shown here that later releases the shadow into his world. At this point in Ged’s life he thinks that he can do anything. His power that lies inside of him feels limitless and he loves to brag about what he can do, even if he hasn’t done it yet.

When Ged encounters the Lord of Re Albi’s daughter (who he now sees as beautiful) for the second time he has done the one thing he said that he could do. Ged found out for himself that it was indeed incredibly dangerous. The result from trying to resurrect the dead has brought about the most dangerous thing in Ged’s life. He tells the Lord’s daughter, “ I had power once, once. I have lost it, I think” (128 my copy). Instead of having the huge head that he had before regarding his powers, Ged has now been humbled greatly by the bringing about of the shadow. He does not believe in himself as much anymore.  He is ashamed that he has come in contact with his enemy, been defeated, and run away.

“It is not what someone is born, but what they grow to be”

Ged, from A Wizard of Earthsea, and Tom Riddle (Voldemort), from the Harry Potter series, are very similar characters, both in their initial personalities and their upbringings. They are prideful, powerful, and arrogant. They have similar family lives and school experiences. Yet Ged grows up to be a hero, while Riddle becomes one of the worst literary villains. These two characters show us that through choices and life experiences two very similar characters can have very different endings.

Both Ged and Riddle came from very poor upbringings. Born in a small village and an orphanage respectively, each boy’s mother lived just long enough to give them names that would not follow them very far in life. Although both of their fathers remained living neither was very loving: Ged’s father used him to herd the goats and work the bellows in his silversmith shop and Riddle’s father abandoned him before he was born, never bothering to look for him later in life. Despite their home lives both boys would become powerful wizards and they discovered their powers at a very early age. At the age of seven Ged heard his aunt use a rhyme to control a goat. The next day “he yelled the rhyme aloud, and the goats came to him.”(3) He was almost trampled by all of the goats and so at an early age, he had at least experienced some fear with magic. Riddle never experienced this fear with magic. He too discovered his powers very young, but he also discovered that he could put them to evil uses, “He scares the other children…there have been incidents…nasty things.”(Rowling 267) Even before he was trained Riddle used his powers to cause fear, but he never felt fear from them. This initial fear of magic that Ged feels is key to what he grows up to become.

As these boys become preteens or young teenagers, their magical skills are each recognized by a great wizard and they are taken away from their dismal homes to further their magically learning. Ged is taken away by Ogion, a wise and powerful mage, to be his prentice, but Ged is too power hungry and impatient to learn from Ogion’s slow teaching exclaiming “how am I to know…when you teach me nothing…I have done nothing, seen nothing.” (23-24) He soon leaves Ogion to attend the wizard school on Roke Island. Riddle is visited by the powerful headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, and then enrolled in Hogwarts. Once the boys arrive at their respective schools, they flourish showing themselves to be the most skilled and brightest boys that have ever passed through their schools. Both boys are ambitious, power hungry, and eager to leave their heritage behind taking on new names for themselves: Ged becomes Sparrowhawk and Tom Riddle becomes Lord Voldemort. This naming is significant of what each boy will become. Ged’s name is a childhood name given to him by the people of his home village. Riddle’s name is one he fashions for himself, one that shows just how power hungry he is by calling himself “Lord.”

Though both boys are skillful, their thirst for power leads them to commit evil acts that will define them as adults. Ged, in an effort to prove himself to a fellow student, attempts magic that he is unsuited for and releases an evil “shadow” in the world. This shadow hunts Ged and tries to kill him on several occasions. Riddle experiments with many evils at school, but the worst by far is the path to immortality. Both young men are also afraid of death. The “shadow” that Ged releases into the world represents death that is always following, like a shadow. Ged fears death and at first tries to hide from and then fight it. Neither of these actions work and they lead to him running from death. Riddle also fears death which is evidenced by his obsession with immortality and the creation of horcruxes. Riddle creates horcruxes by murdering many people in order to rip his soul into several pieces so that he will be immortal. This is where significant differences  in the boys emerge. Although both are afraid of death Ged chooses to hide from it, whereas Riddle uses the deaths of others to make himself immortal.

This spilt in the ways that these characters handle death bring about Ged’s salvation and Riddle’s downfall.  Ged’s fear of death causes him to avoid and run from his “shadow” the symbol of death. This running does not intentionally hurt anyone and it gives Ged time to think and get advice. His old master Ogion tell him, “turn around…You must choose. You must seek what seeks you. You must hunt the hunter.” (127-128)Upon hearing this Ged comes to the realization that he can’t keep running, that he must actively seek and face death if he wants to be free. Once he arrives at that revelation Ged begins to look for death by hunting down his shadow. Eventually, he meets death, makes peace with it, and becomes whole once more. His acceptance of death allows him to live through the encounter and return whole and unscathed. Conversely, Riddle’s reaction to death brings about his destruction. Riddle never ran from death, instead preferring to take unspeakably evil measure to make himself immortal. Even when he  tries to kill Harry and his magic yields frightening results, he does not fear his magic nor does he accept death, but continues to search for a way to make himself invincible. In his eagerness to evade death, Riddle forgets about some very important aspects of living, such as love and friendship. When Riddle finally meets death, he is given the opportunity to repent his actions and accept death, instead of fearing it. Even in the face of death, Riddle cannot accept it and he clings to this frightened stubbornness until he is dealt the fatal blow.

Although Ged and Tom Riddle begin life similarly arrogant and power hungry their experiences with magic and death change who they are and shape the adults they become. Ged’s initial experiences with magic and death were frightening, causing him to seek to master magic and hide from death. Eventually Ged’s kind heart and his respect and love for his master and friends lead him to accept death and be saved. Riddle’s initial experiences with magic were ones in which he was in control; he was the one causing the fear and pain. This leads Riddle to grow up to be afraid to have anything out of his control, even death. He uses his magic only for evil purposes, such as to cause pain and become the master of death. The evil and fear in his heart makes him refuse to accept death and so cause his death.  These two characters started life almost the same yet one ended a hero, the other a villain because of their choices and life experiences.