We all know the story of Harry Potter. A little boy escapes an attack from the most evil, dark wizard of all time with nothing but a scar, and he is destined to defeat his attacker. It’s a wonderful story that has been read by children and adults all over the world. But as the books were praised by so many, did anyone realize the Harry’s world and problems are similar to our own? Did anyone realize that these books may contain the information that we need to save our planet? The main problem in Harry’s story goes by the name “Lord Voldemort” where as ours happen to go by “Global Warming” or “Endangered Species.” What makes these problems so similar? Everything from their beginning to their ending.
Tom Riddle, an orphaned boy who knows almost nothing of his past, is astonished when he finds out that he has magical powers and will be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is a very intellectual, power hungry young man and the teachers automatically take to him, not knowing who and what he will soon become. Horace Slughorn takes him under his wing and gives him all the power and information that he needs. Horcruxes are a banned subject at Hogwarts and when Tom asks about them, Slughorn, however reluctantly, does give the polite schoolboy the answers to his questions.
Most of the problems in our world today started in generally the same manner. A small problem that we underestimate spreads like an epidemic disease and becomes larger and more powerful with time. For example, a little pollution is no big deal, right? Well, as time went on, more cars were sold, more planes were flown and more factories were built, thus, more pollution. The pollution was noticed but was overlooked by most, as if it were nothing. By the time someone took action, it was too late, we had already said goodbye to part of our ozone layer and bad things were starting to happen to the rest of the planet, as well.
Shortly after the meeting between Tom and Slughorn about Horcruxes, Riddle proceeded to open the Chamber of Secrets and kill Myrtle with the basilisk. He used her death to create his first Horcrux: the diary.1 Six more Horcruxes, and countless more innocent deaths followed this act of pure evil. His name was feared by almost every witch and wizard. People shook and flinched at every mention, not wanting to bring back the memories of evil and hatred. He was known as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” or “You-Know-Who.” At the height of his dominance, his powers were destroyed and he vanished, leaving the whole of the wizarding world to celebrate and raise their glasses to Harry Potter, the boy who lived. At that time, no one would have believed that in thirteen years Lord Voldemort would indeed return. Perhaps it is human nature to ignore problems rather than face them, but it is also dangerous.
In fact, human nature has a lot to do with why each and every problem we are facing today started. We have this sense of pride, this need to be the best and sometimes we act rashly because of it. For evidence you can look all around you, especially in the environment. Wild birds and other exotic animals, caged for human pleasure; sharks, killed brutally for their fins (the rest of their body thrown back in the ocean to be wasted) for a human to consume in a pricey bowl of soup; wild horses, captured, locked up, forced to work and perform in rodeos and circuses until they can’t meet a human’s expectations and then slaughtered; pigs, cows and chickens, given drugs to make them fatter, bred to die and be cooked into a burger at some fast food restaurant, where they will be eaten by a human that doesn’t need the food. We see pictures of the creatures that used to roam the earth, but are now endangered or extinct, because humans banished them from their natural habitats and took the land for themselves.
There is no doubt that we are the more dominant species, but I’m afraid we’ve taken it too far. Because of this pride, we are constantly trying to prove to ourselves and to others that we are the best: we have the most land, the most resources, and yes, the most money. When we aren’t conquering every non-human creature on earth, we are turning against our own brothers and sisters. We judge power not by ability or skill, but by size and possession. So when little Tom Riddle comes around and has nothing, blinded by pride, everyone underestimates him.
When we underestimate the impact of our actions, there can be terrible consequences. The adults in Harry Potter don’t understand how impressionable a young mind can be. The headmaster or headmistress that banned the subject of Horcruxes at Hogwarts understood the minds of children. But unfortunately, like so many people today, Slughorn did not, and saw no harm whatsoever in telling a poor teenager about this dark magic. Children are a little different from most adults. Their sense of pride and greed hasn’t quite developed. The way in which children think can be molded by the people who are close to them. They are also influenced in a much greater way by what they see, hear and read. Draco Malfoy, as we see at a young age, thinks exactly like his parents and his parents’ friends. They have spent a great deal of time telling him that Muggle-borns are bad, and pure-bloods are the only ones worthy enough to study magic. This rubs off on him pretty fast and soon enough, he’s treating Muggle-borns like scum. Whether Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy wanted Draco to present these ideas to his classmates or not is pretty obvious, seeing as they follow the Dark Lord; by telling Draco, they were ensuring the spread of these thoughts and feelings throughout Hogwarts. But they probably did not imagine that he himself would be forced by the Dark Lord into so much danger.
This ties back to the environmental problems in our world. It seems that the prior generations did a poor job of teaching their children that what we were doing to the earth was not acceptable and that the only thing we were doing was slowly destroying our world. As children, we were constantly told of how our species was doing great and amazing things in the world, so most of us didn’t think twice about it. We were only interested in the newest car or who was going to be the first to reach the moon. As we grew, we became positive that we were doing nothing wrong, and we shrugged off the people who told us otherwise. Now an entire generation is having trouble facing the consequences of their mistakes.
A similar thing happens in Harry Potter. In Harry’s fourth year, Voldemort returns, but the Ministry of Magic is not willing to accept it. They had told everyone that he was gone, and they don’t want to have to admit that they were wrong. There’s that pride again. Just as our government didn’t take Global Warming seriously, deciding to preserve their pride instead of admitting that they had been wrong to deny the evidence, the Ministry dismisses Lord Voldemort’s return as a lie. They absolutely refuse to accept it; but Harry and his friends don’t give up. They form their own society called Dumbledore’s Army, to prepare other students for the Dark Lord’s return. Harry, Ron and Hermione take notice of this sense of pride that is being shown by the adults and they decide that they need to turn to their own age group. It turns out that the kids at Hogwarts are much more open to believing that Harry might be right. They work and work until finally some of Dumbledore’s Army, the Order and the even the Ministry must encounter, face to face, Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, who were, indeed, at large again.
By underestimating dangers or ignoring problems to preserve our pride, we refuse to change the actions which are responsible for the danger that we face. Thus both of our problems – Lord Voldemort and Global Warming – have very similar beginnings. Is it possible that their endings could be the same as well?
The final hours of Voldemort and his Death Eaters take place at Hogwarts, during the final battle. Death Eaters are killed, one by one, until it is only Voldemort left (the main source of evil). Maybe to get rid of our problems we need to kill the smaller ones off, before we come to the big one. We need to get rid of the foundation the source of evil rests on before we even try to take care of the source itself. Of course, killing Voldemort didn’t get rid of all the evil in the world; it didn’t bring back Harry’s parents or Cedric. Killing Bellatrix didn’t heal Neville’s parents. As Dumbledore said, “It [is] important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then [can] evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.” 2 This is so true in so many ways. There will always be a reminder of what problems used to exist, but the least we can do is cut them off, so they don’t get any bigger.
As in Harry Potter, the problems in our world will only be taken care of when we all stand together, young and old, forget our differences, all work toward one goal, and trust in one special source: our children. During the final battle in Deathly Hallows, everyone did just that (most Slytherins excluded). The Order of the Phoenix and the other adults and Aurors came to fight alongside the students. Of course, they did send out the first years, but that was a smart choice. They wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in a duel. They didn’t send the older students away, though. Who was it that finally defeated Voldemort? It was Harry; a seventeen-year-old student who hadn’t completed his education.
Harry and his friends represent the younger population on earth, and the Order represents the older generation. This is what we need to do: we need to educate our children, show them right from wrong, dark from light, and let them do the rest. As the older generation we need to all stand together and protect our little Harrys, Rons and Hermiones, until it is their time to shine. Only then, will we be able to be rid of our steadily growing problems.
In conclusion, Harry Potter represents the problems in today’s world very well. Their beginnings are so similar, so what if the endings are too? We need to judge power by ability, instead of size, and trust in our children to show us the way. We need to ditch our pride and protect our little Harrys, until they’re ready to show us the way to the solutions to our world’s problems.
1. Rowling, “Bloomsbury Live Chat.”
2. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 644–45.
Rowling, J.K. “Bloomsbury Live Chat With J.K. Rowling.” Accio Quote, 30 July 2007. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/0730-bloomsbury-chat.html.
———. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.