Welcome to this guest series on Harry Potter written by my colleague Dr. Priscilla Hobbs. In this series, Dr. Hobbs explores each of the twelve archetypes identified in the PMAI®. She illuminates the ways in which these archetypal energies find narrative form in Potter-verse characters. Keep a watchful eye out for a perspective that offers a balance between archetypal analysis and strong cultural critique. We hope you enjoy this collaboration. Please get in touch with any questions or feedback. Let’s conjure a magical conversation.
By Priscilla Hobbs, Ph.D.
In Harry’s world, a Seeker is a Quidditch player. In the game, each team has seven members: the Keeper, who protects the goal, three Chasers, who fly the Quaffleto the end of the field and pitch through the goal posts, three Beaters, who hit the Bludgers (enchanted balls that fly around trying to knock players off their brooms—a well-defended Bludger could fly into the opposing team’s players), and the Seeker, the player responsible for catching the Golden Snitch and ending the game. The Seeker is an appropriate archetype to affiliate with this character, and not only because of the obvious naming. Individuals in the throes of the Seeker archetype are literally seeking new things, perspectives, and experiences.
Harry proves to be a natural broomstick flyer during his first flying lesson in his first year. Not only does he immediately command the broom, but he also catches a small Rememberall (a ball that helps one remember forgotten things—about as effective as tying a string to one’s finger) several stories in the air just inches away from hitting the side of the castle. Because of this feat, he is invited to try out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Typically, first year students don’t play Quidditch, and Harry’s peer group is immediately awe-struck.
His first match ends unusually: he catches the Snitch by nearly swallowing it. At this stage in his adventure, Harry is hungry for new experiences and curious about the Wizarding World he finds himself in. But also, because Harry is meant to be the voice of the audience, by catching the snitch in his mouth, he is calling in transformation. This is because the Golden Snitch is an alchemical egg (with wings). In alchemy, eggs represent the vessels containing the prima materia, or the starting material for the transformation represented by the alchemical process.
The golden alchemical egg appears in three places throughout Harry’s saga at points in his journey where he is facing significant transformation. The first is the aforementioned Quidditch match. The second is a golden egg Harry rescues from a dragon that can be opened only under water because it contains a siren’s song.This egg comes in the middle of the Tri-Wizard Tournament in Harry’s fourth year, when he is forced into a rapid maturity both because of the competition and because of his encounter with death (a classmate, Cedric Diggory) and resurrection (Voldemort). The egg in this case is more of a catalyst than a significant factor in Harry’s transformation.
The third example is that same Golden Snitch from the first Quidditch match. Gifted to Harry at the start of his seventh year, it comes with the instruction “I open at the close,” with no real hint to unlock the riddle. Towards the end of Harry’s adventures during the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry goes into the Forbidden Forest to face his death. Deciding that death is pretty much a closure, Harry pops the Snitch into his mouth. It indeed opens and reveals one of the Deathly Hallows Harry had spent the past year questing for: the Resurrection Stone. For Harry, this stone resurrects the spirits of his dead parents and parental figures to comfort him for the last stretch of this journey.
Following the green glow of the Avada Kedavra curse, Harry awakens to find himself at a spiritual crossroads, where he is joined by Dumbledore and a small piece of Voldemort’s soul, lodged in Harry’s spirit when Voldemort attempted to kill Harry as a baby. Here, Dumbledore imparts one last piece of wisdom that empowers Harry to choose between life or death. In choosing life, Harry is able to sacrifice that bit of Voldemort’s spirit and become the actualized self that he spent the last seven books developing. He transforms from The Boy Who Lived into Harry Potter and is launched into adulthood and a future divested from the specter of Voldemort’s shadow.
The potency of Harry’s story is that it is compelling and brings readers along.Harry’s transformation becomes our transformation, and this is what sets Harry Potter apart from other coming-of-age narratives. It’s not just a matter of aging and growing into a different person; it’s about morphing into a different person while also holding onto the magic that makes one unique.
Dr. Priscilla Hobbs is a senior associate dean at Southern New Hampshire University. She is the author of Harry Potter and the Myth of Millennials: Identity, Reception, and Politics. Her work takes an interdisciplinary view of Harry Potter, as a series and as a phenomenon, to uncover how the appeal of Harry became a lifestyle, a moral compass, and a guiding light in an era fraught with turbulence and disharmony. She argues that this prepared an entire generation for the chaotic present marked by the 2016 election and 2020 pandemic by shaping the political attitudes of its readers, many of whom were developing their political identities alongside Harry. Her analysis focuses on both the novels themselves and the ways in which fans connect globally through the Internet to discuss the books, commiserate about the events swirling around them, and answer calls to action through Harry Potter-inspired activism. In short, the book examines how Harry Potter became a generation’s defining mythology of love, unity, and transformation. Her recent TEDx talk focuses on transformation and the American Dream.
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The potency of Harry’s story is that it is compelling and brings readers along. Harry’s transformation becomes our transformation.