Friday, July 13, 2012

Comparison of two fantasy novels; “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings”

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In the previous century there have been two major series of fantasy novels; “Lord of the Rings” and more recently “Harry Potter”. The genre, fantasy, is very broad, but generally contains one main character, the protagonist, who is fighting for, or against something, often against evil. In both these novels the main protagonist is fighting against evil and endures a kind of adventure and personal growth. As in most fantasy novels, the main characters are in an ulterior world, which is comparable in many ways. I intend to investigate into some of the many comparable components of these two novels.

Harry Potter lives in what the reader assumes is a kind of Earth. To begin with he lives on the outskirts of London, giving the book a very realistic setting. This all changes when Harry discovers he is a wizard and is to study at Hogwart’s Academy of Wizarding. We see an entirely new world full of many different magical creatures including elves, dragons and giants. Harry boards at school for a vast majority of the novels, so the setting is generally at his school, which is an incredibly old castle. The writer, JK Rowling, has described the castle incredibly well, without using useless jargon. Unlike in the Lord of the Rings, in which the characters move into has many different settings as the novel develops, Rowling was able to slowly create an image of the school as the story unfolds.

The setting in “The Lord of the Rings” requires much more depth in the description of setting as it is commonly unlike our real Earth. The writer, Tolkien, has incorporated a sense of reality into the settings, by giving his world a feel of an old Earth. This is similar to Harry Potter in the sense that the castle is hundreds of years old and although the novel is set in current times, their world of magic remains in a time from many years past. Both writers have created a setting in which the reader feels as though they are a part of the scene, watching from a distance.

The characters in both novels may not be entirely human, however all have very human qualities enabling the audience to relate to them with ease. In both novels the main protagonists have mentors who are able to bring calm and security to the scene when all seems lost. Harry Potter is an adolescent wizard, he is very kind in nature and often worries about what other people might think of him. He is to be admired for his fair nature and undoubtedly courageous acts. The main character in “The Lord of the Rings”, Frodo Baggins, is also very strong willed and performs many courageous acts. Frodo too is quite young, by the age standards in the novel, and although in appearance is less human than Harry, his human side is showed through various strengths and weaknesses.

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The main antagonists in “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” are both evil, as the fantasy genre generally requires. Voldemort, in “Harry Potter” had tried to kill Harry as a baby and due to that some of his powers have been given to Harry himself. This is similar to “The Lord of the Rings” in that a kind of power comes with the ring that has been passed on from the maker of the ring. Both of the evil characters, Sauron being the one in “The Lord of the Rings”, are hungry for power. They both need to gain back what they lost in order to restore the power they crave. There is a kind of mystery kept around the main antagonists in both “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings”. We can see that the main similarities in the two novels lie within the main characters.

Another component of the novels that is comparable is the intended audience. “The Lord of the Rings” series was written for a much older audience than that of “Harry Potter”. The age the audience has been written for is also reflected in the use of language in both books. Rowling has used relatively simple language. She hasn’t used long-winded, almost poetic sentences as Tolkien has. Rowling keeps her audience interested by keeping her writing straight to the point, incorporating made-up words and phrases. For example Rowling creates all sorts of interesting names for her wizards, such as Dumbledore and Lupin. She also uses words for spells that come from Latin and various other sources put together to create many interesting words and phrases. Rowling’s book is easy to read and is able to keep its readers interested because she keeps the plot moving and creates perfect imagery without needing to include too much detail.

Tolkien, unlike Rowling, has had to use many imaginary words and phrases to fit into his fantasy novel set in a different world. Because most of his characters are not human, he was forced to use language that is entirely foreign to his reader. Tolkien has used very formal language, which is interesting to read however does make it harder to do so. The language makes it plainly obvious that he has intended the novel for a much older audience. In the Lord of the Rings series, there are many poetic songs that help to set the scene and sometimes foretell events. Tolkien also includes very detailed descriptions of characters and settings, which are necessary because they are so different to anything that we experience on Earth, making it harder to imagine. We can see that in both the novels the different use of language is necessary in both cases for the intended audience as well as the purpose of the stories.

The characters, settings and language used are just some of the many comparable segments of these two novels. We can see that there are many ways in which the two can be seen as similar and different. Although these two novels have been written decades apart we can see that their fantasy genre has enabled us to compare different components of the novels. Rowling and Tolkien have both managed to successfully write their novels for their purpose, allowing many readers to enjoy the books in the past today and, no doubt, in the future.

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