Bram Stoker’s Dracula and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series present a main villain who is sought by the protagonists of each story. Not only are Count Dracula and Lord Voldemort two of the most famous fiends in literature, they are similar in tactics, personality and even appearance. It is stunning to compare the two. By taking a look at the two texts, and examining descriptions of certain details and plot events, Stoker and Rowling’s writing will amaze a reader of both novels and make him or her wonder if they were written by the same author.
The first and most obvious similarity between Dracula or Voldemort, né Tom Marvolo Riddle, is their looks. Stoker is quick to describe his title character, and does so at the reader’s first meeting of Dracula:
[He was] a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere.1
When we see Dracula in his vicious mode, sucking the blood of Mina Harker, Stoker continues his depiction:
His eyes flamed red with devilish passion; the great nostrils of the white aquiline nose opened wide and quivered at the edge; and the white sharp teeth, behind the full lips of the blood-dripping mouth, champed together like those of a wild beast.2
Indeed, when we meet Lord Voldemort after his rebirth, Rowling gives the reader a vivid picture, very similar to that of Stoker’s:
[Harry] saw the dark outline of a man, tall and skeletally thin […]. Wormtail [… picked] up the black robes, got to his feet, reached up, and pulled them one-handed over his master’s head. […] Whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes that was flat as a snake’s with slits for nostrils….3
Every feature, the weight, the skin color, the eyes, the nose and nostrils, and even the color of dress, is comparable. There are, in addition, other bits of general information that distinguish Dracula and Voldemort. For example, their titles, Count and Lord, may fall equally on the British aristocratic honorific system4,5; a count in the British system is known as an Earl, who in address is called a Lord. The title “Lord” may also be applied to a Viscount or a Baron, which are the next two positions below an Earl. In any case, the authors’ attempt to ennoble their villains is another notable similarity. There is a third point about Dracula and Voldemort that refers to possible faults in their character. Our first sense of Dracula being a villain is Jonathan’s encounter with the three vampire women. When Dracula tells these vampire women to get off of Jonathan, and states that the latter is for himself, one woman laughs: “ ‘You yourself never loved; you never love!’. ” 6 Even though it is not quite love that “drives” Dracula, it is obviously what “steers” Dracula into the direction of seducing Mina and Lucy. In Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore explains how the pivotal flaw with Lord Voldemort is that he never loved: “ ‘You have a power that Voldemort has never had. You can —’ ‘I know!’ said Harry impatiently. ‘I can love!’ ” 7 Dumbledore’s exchange with Harry immediately following the quotation strongly suggests that Harry’s love is superior to the evils that Voldemort could ever achieve. Dumbledore has stated that it is the love that Tom Riddle has never experienced that will cause his end, and, though it is impossible to say definitively what the downfall of Lord Voldemort will be, it can be argued that both characters are obsessive in their goal, and this obsession breaks the back of each. Dracula is obsessed with the symbolic seduction of Mina and Lucy, and even Jonathan. This obsession brings about his demise. Lord Voldemort is obsessed with eternal life, and it is fair to hypothesize that Lord Voldemort’s downfall will be caused by this quest for immortality.
Another reason for the antagonist’s demise in Dracula – and a factor that has been key in the “showdowns” in Harry Potter – is direct confrontation between the villain or villains and the hero or heroes. After Van Helsing, Morris, Seward and Godalming burst into the Harkers’ room and find the transfixing sight of Dracula seducing Mina, the Unclean sign is noticed on the latter’s head – a scar that Dracula has “been here:”
‘It may be that you may have to bear that mark till God himself see fit, as He most surely shall on the Judgment Day to redress all wrongs of the earth and of His children that He has placed thereon.’ 8
Is it not the lightning bolt scar, perched on Harry Potter’s head, that earned him the fame of defeating the powerful wizard Lord Voldemort at the age of fifteen months? Van Helsing, the wise mentor figure, emphasizes the drastic extreme found in the scar atop Mina’s forehead. Dumbledore, the mentor from his own tale, explains that, while Harry’s scar may be interpreted as a sign of victory over evil among all the Wizarding World, it is still cursed, and that is why his scar causes him exceptional pain. There is no doubt that “being marked” in this manner sets off Mina and Harry from the rest. Another comparison the reader can make is how the villain communicates with the “marked character” in the novels. Both books incorporate what Rowling terms Legilimency and Occlumency and Stoker, hypnotism. They revolve around the same essential idea. When Voldemort attempted to kill Harry “that night” and the Killing Curse was rebounded, some of Voldemort’s powers were transferred to the toddler, including the ability for each to share their thoughts. A unique thing about this mind-reading, though, was that one could see into the other’s mind no matter how far the distance.
All throughout Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry senses Voldemort’s rise, unbeknownst to the evil wizard. When Voldemort understands that Harry can see his thoughts and feel his emotions, he tries to create false images to mislead him. When Van Helsing hypnotizes Mina, she experiences a different effect – a trance: “Mina opened her eyes; but she did not seem the same woman. There was a far-away look in her eyes […]” 9 – but still is able to tell the others where Dracula’s current location is. An interesting difference is that Mina cannot recall her words during her hypnosis, while Harry is the only source of this information and readily retells it to authority and friends. In both instances, a character (Dumbledore in Harry Potter and Mina herself in Dracula) realizes that this process might also work both ways, and requests that no information be sent through to the other side. This plan fails for Harry, as he is unable to successfully train at Occlumency, but Mina, who only needs not be told of developments, is effective in blocking the transmission.
In each of these novels the villain has a loyal band of followers that assists the mastermind towards his ultimate goal – which is, once again, the same, in both cases -immortality. We see Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, seeking an object which was “ reputed to turn other metals into gold and to grant immortality;” 10 this stone was an ingredient in the Elixir of Life. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we learn of Voldemort’s attempts at immortality through the creation of Horcruxes. Voldemort splits his soul into multiple pieces in order to ensure that if he is “killed” this will not result in his actual “death”. Indeed, in Dracula, the “zoöphagous” patient Renfield tells Mina:
“ ‘I used to fancy that life was a positive and perpetual entity, and that by consuming a multitude of live things, no matter how low in the scale of creation, one might indefinitely prolong life’.” 11
He of course utters, “The blood is the life!” 12 throughout the book.
When Renfield is released from Dr. Seward’s lunatic asylum and first sees his Master, Stoker writes every ‘you’ in the dialogue with a capital ‘Y:’
‘I am here to do Your bidding, Master. I am Your slave, and You will reward me, for I shall be faithful.’ 13
We see similar actions in Peter Pettigrew. In the Graveyard scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Peter is rewarded with his silver hand:
‘My Lord,’ he whispered, ‘Master...it is beautiful...thank you... thank you...’ He scrambled forward on his knees and kissed the hem of Voldemort’s robes.14
Wormtail almost parallels Renfield in the sense that he goes to great lengths to find his Master, and considers himself the most faithful, as shown by his brave response to Voldemort’s anger at his followers the Death Eaters at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.15
One last comparison is the desire of both villains to become “god like” in their existence. Is Renfield’s “The blood is the life!” really his (or Stoker’s) invention? In fact, it is a Scriptural reference, likely to be Deuteronomy 12:23:
Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.16 (bold added)
The list of religious references in Dracula continue: the use of ‘Master,’ the Holy Wafer as the object that repels vampires, and the fact that only God can rid Mina of her red scar. Meanwhile, Voldemort’s name is ineffable to most members of the Wizarding community (who use “You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” as substitutes), as is, to members of the present-day world, God’s name, which is often written “G-d” rightly so, by the Third Commandment, is not to be said – or written – in vain. Why are there also vehement campaigners to ban Harry Potter in libraries or discredit the name?17 One reason is because of the strong association of witchcraft and sorcery with the Devil. While Rowling certainly has no intentions of luring children to be anti-Christian, some people feel it is necessary to shun even the smallest possible reference to sacrilege.
Overall, it is a wonder to think otherwise that Stoker and Rowling did not have similar inspirations. Their villains, who turned out to be so hauntingly wicked, share certain characteristics. It is a possibility that they stem from similar roots and it can be said that both authors are masters of their craft. Stoker and Rowling should be commended for their brilliant portrayal of obsession and how this obsession has created the evil, soulless creatures of Count Dracula and Lord Voldemort.
1. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. n.p.: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897. n.p.: Penguin Classics, 2003. p. 22.
2. ibid. pp. 300-301.
3. Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, 2000. p. 643.
4. Wikipedia, “Royal and noble ranks.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 23 May 2006, 17:59 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 May 2006 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Royal_and_noble_ranks&oldid=54745802.
5. Wikipedia,” Forms of Address in the United Kingdom.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 22 May 2006, 08:29 UTC.Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 May2006 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Forms_of_Address_in_the_United_Kingdom&oldid=54495952.
6. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. n.p.: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897. n.p.: Penguin Classics, 2003. p. 46.
7.Rowling, JK . Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, 2005. p. 509.
8. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. n.p.: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897. n.p.: Penguin Classics, 2003. p. 316.
9. ibid. p. 332.
10. HPL: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” 2000-2005. The Harry Potter Lexicon. May 2006. http://www.hp-lexicon.org about/books/ps/book_ps.html.
11. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. n.p.: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897. n.p.: Penguin Classics, 2003. p. 249.
12. ibid. p. 152 (and throughout the book).
13. ibid. p. 113.
14. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, 2000. p. 649.
15. ibid. pp. 647-649.
16. The Holy Bible. King James Version. “Deuteronomy 12:23.” The Blue Letter Bible. 26 May 2006. Blue Letter Bible http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Deu/Deu012.html#23.
17. Reuters. “Report: Pope Disapproves of Harry Potter.” 15 July 2005. MSNBC. 27 May 2006 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8566663/.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, 2000.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, 2005.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. n.p.: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897. n.p.: Penguin Classics, 2003.
The Blue Letter Bible. Searchable Bible dictionaries. 2006. http://www.blueletterbible.org/.
Wikipedia. Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 2005-06. Wikmedia. 26 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.
The Harry Potter Lexicon. “The Most Complete and Amazing Reference to the Wonderful World of Harry Potter” 2000-2005. The Harry Potter Lexicon. 27 May 2006. http://www.hp-lexicon.org/.