Tolkien's LOTR and Harry Potter: Diffrences and Similarities

I thought I'd start a nice friendly discussion between Tolkien fans and Harry Potter fans.

The object of the posting is to discuss the differences and similarities between the Harry Potter book series and Tolkien's Silmarillion, Hobbit, and LOTR series.

Note: This topic is not to debate whether the Harry Potter series is evil or simple harmless fiction.

I'll start off with something I noticed. While Harry Potter is a human learning to become a wizard, Gandalf the Grey, Sarumon, and Radagast the Brown are not humans. They are Maiar: Ainur of lesser degree than the Valar.

Gandalf's original name was Olórin amongst the Maiar. If I remember right, Saruman's original name was Curumo.

Sauron is also of the race of Maiar and was servent of Melkor (or Morgoth).

Melkor is also one of the Valar, and Tolkien's middle-earth equivalent to satan.

The Balrogs are listed as servants of Melkor (Morgoth) in the appendix of the Silmarillion. There they are described as demons of might and demons of fire... and scourges of fire and demons of terror in the Valaquenta by the Noldor. The Balrogs were once Maiar who joined and were corrupted by Melkor.

In his book series, Tolkien intended the Valar and Maiar to be angelic like beings. The powers they exhibit are not magic but natural to their nature. Even though Gandalf, Radagast, and Sarumon are referred to as wizards (Istari), they are not sorcerers.

Gandalf, Sarumon, and Radagast have taken on the form of humans (much as angels do), but that is not their original form.

It also seems to be a trend in the Tolkien universe that beings who utilize sorcery granted from Sauron become corrupted. Even the use of the Palantíri (a device created by Fëanor) is portrayed as dangerous and corrupting to men and maiar when they come under the control of Sauron.

Whose next?

I don’t see it as a really huge difference really. When you break it down, it simply says a certain type of being in fiction is entitled to certain powers. These powers are pretty much within the natural ability of that being.

So, Harry Potter isn't defined as human in the fictional story world created by Rowling? If he is not human, then what is he?

I thought he was a human learning to become a wizard (sorcerer). What is the source of Harry's powers?

Tolkien pretty much defines his characters and their world very extensively. Does Rowling do the same for her characters in the same level of detail?

[quote="Sonic, post:3, topic:221595"]
So, Harry Potter isn't defined as human in the fictional story world created by Rowling? If he is not human, then what is he?

I thought he was a human learning to become a wizard (sorcerer). What is the source of Harry's powers?

Tolkien pretty much defines his characters and their world very extensively. Does Rowling do the same for her characters in the same level of detail?

[/quote]

Basically, what I'm trying to ask is does Rowling define what delineates Wizards from Muggles? We know that Wizards and Muggles can interbreed, and that suggests that they are not different beyond the fact that Wizards have magical potential and Muggles do not.

I believe that is a primary criticism of Rowling but it can be generally accepted that the difference is something in that there two different ‘races’ as it were.

Okay, the Muggles and the Wizards are two different races in Harry Potter in much the same way the Elves and Men are related to each other in Tolkien’s universe. That’s a point of similarity.

The thing is I don’t remember ever reading that the elves and men ever utilized magic in the LOTR unless it was somehow tied to the rings of power. In fact, Tolkien pretty much carries on an anti-magic theme through out the entire novel series. Those that become tied to the ring of power become corrupted, and the ring itself must be destroyed to free Middle-earth from it’s evil influence. That influence ultimately flows from Melkor through his servant Sauron. Even after the ring is destroyed, those scarred by the ring still feel the effects of it.

Is there a similar theme in Rowling’s novels?

I want to start off by saying that I don't really like comparisons. I think that LOTR is a far superior book to HP (let's face it, Tolkien is a master writer), but I still like HP. Just because there isn't parallels doesn't mean one is "better" or "worse" though (from a literary point of view, LOTR is better, but that has nothing to do with plot elements).

[quote="Sonic, post:3, topic:221595"]
I thought he was a human learning to become a wizard (sorcerer). What is the source of Harry's powers?

[/quote]

It depends how you use "learning". He can already do magic (as evidenced by letting out the snake on Dudley's birthday). It's an innate characteristic. She doesn't go into too much detail on the "why" because in all honesty it would be extremely boring and tedious and no one really cares. It's a fantasy novel, it has magic.

It's like asking where Merlin gets his magic in the Arthurian legend. It's fantasy. It's just a given :shrug:

[quote="Sonic, post:6, topic:221595"]
The thing is I don't remember ever reading that the elves and men ever utilized magic in the LOTR unless it was somehow tied to the rings of power. In fact, Tolkien pretty much carries on an anti-magic theme through out the entire novel series. Those that become tied to the ring of power become corrupted, and the ring itself must be destroyed to free Middle-earth from it's evil influence. That influence ultimately flows from Melkor through his servant Sauron. Even after the ring is destroyed, those scarred by the ring still feel the effects of it.

Is there a similar theme in Rowling's novels?

[/quote]

If you really want to compare, you could say that Voldemort is our Sauron. The horcruxes are the Ring equivalents. Harry is sort of our Frodo who has to destroy the horcruxes, although in his case the big bad is also a real person who's trying to kill him at the same time. Harry gets captured by snatchers like Frodo is captured after Cirith Ungol.

[quote="Sonic, post:6, topic:221595"]
The thing is I don't remember ever reading that the elves and men ever utilized magic in the LOTR unless it was somehow tied to the rings of power.

[/quote]

Well I haven't yet finished Two Towers and Return of the King, but I clearly remember that Galadriel's mirror as a pseudo-divination device and that the power is only called 'magic' even though it is something innate to the elves. :shrug:

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:8, topic:221595"]
Well I haven't yet finished Two Towers and Return of the King, but I clearly remember that Galadriel's mirror as a pseudo-divination device and that the power is only called 'magic' even though it is something innate to the elves. :shrug:

[/quote]

The thing about Galadriel's mirror is that it's like the Palantir, and I believe Tolkien meant there to be a comparison. The devices cause more harm when they are used improperly to predict the future. Galadriel, Sarumon, the Stewart of Gondor, and then Frodo all get sucked into improperly using the devices due to the influence of Sauron upon these characters. Remember, Galadriel holds one of the rings of power and so does Frodo. Imagine if Frodo had given into the temptation of the vision and used the ring to save Hobbiton. He was so frightened by the temptation, he offers the ring to Galadriel (who also gets tempted). Luckily, they both resist.

In the case of the Palantir, the devices were intended to be used like telecommunication devices... much like a videophone. Under Sauron's manipulation, they become like misinformation machines for those using them. Aragorn knows what the Palantir are intended to be used for, and he uses his will to play the same misinformation trick on Sauron.

Galdriel's mirror and the Palantir are used to promote an anti-divination theme. A lesson for anyone in the modern age that rely on television news to try an predict future events, btw.

[quote="curlycool89, post:7, topic:221595"]
It's like asking where Merlin gets his magic in the Arthurian legend. It's fantasy. It's just a given :shrug:

[/quote]

Merlin is a bad example, because people back in the middle ages did understand where Merlin got his powers. It was expressly understood that he received it from demonic sources. I forgot what the term used for Merlin (I'll find the term and post it), but one story says he was the child of his mother and incubi demon.

Modern versions of Merlin have kind of sanitized him from the original characters (there were more than one version of Merlin) that inspired him. The Disney version is the least like the original character.

[quote="Sonic, post:9, topic:221595"]
The thing about Galadriel's mirror is that it's like the Palantir, and I believe Tolkien meant there to be a comparison. The devices cause more harm when they are used improperly to predict the future. Galadriel, Sarumon, the Stewart of Gondor, and the Frodo both get sucked into improperly using the devices because of the influence of Sauron upon these characters. Remember, Galadriel holds one of the rings of power and so does Frodo.

[/quote]

Sucked in? I was under the impression that Galadriel was tempted by the One Ring and that had really nothing to do with her mirror. I also vaguely remember that what she predicts is not necessarily set in stone but merely the consequences of certain actions. Hence, you can't really say it's 100% divination.

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:11, topic:221595"]
Sucked in? I was under the impression that Galadriel was tempted by the One Ring and that had really nothing to do with her mirror. I also vaguely remember that what she predicts is not necessarily set in stone but merely the consequences of certain actions. Hence, you can't really say it's 100% divination.

[/quote]

That's true about what Galadriel said. I was editing my last post when you replied. You might want to read the small amount I added.

There's a lot going on in that part of the book. Frodo is continuously tempted to use the ring throughout the whole book. Galdriel is also being tempted, because she also bears a ring of power. There's sort of a two way temptation going on here, and luckily both characters resist that temptation. Frodo's temptation is implied through his vision. I got the feeling Galadriel was testing Frodo with the mirror in the same way Frodo tested Galadriel with the ring.

I'm working from memory here. I'll go back and reread that part to make sure.

Edit: You're right. It's not 100% divination, because the devices aren't intended to be used for divination purposes. Although, Galadriel has to know that the mirror is being influenced by something, because she says the events may or may not happen. I assume it's Sauron through Galadriel or Frodo's ring of power.

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:8, topic:221595"]
Well I haven't yet finished Two Towers and Return of the King, but I clearly remember that Galadriel's mirror as a pseudo-divination device and that the power is only called 'magic' even though it is something innate to the elves. :shrug:

[/quote]

Galadriel called it elf-magic, and it's pretty clearly a form of divination (looking into the future). Elrond also has the power of divination (he seems to look into Arwen's future). You could argue that Galadriel saw the need to give Frodo the vial also. At that point, the Fellowship had not even split up yet and no one knew that Frodo would go through Cirith Ungol.

Elves in general also seem to have magic forges. They have to imbue some sort of magic to make a blade turn blue when orcs are near (it's never explained how because it's a fantasy, and if Tolkien wants blades that glow when orcs are near then the blades glow).

[quote="Sonic, post:9, topic:221595"]
The thing about Galadriel's mirror is that it's like the Palantir, and I believe Tolkien meant there to be a comparison. The devices cause more harm when they are used improperly to predict the future. Galadriel, Sarumon, the Stewart of Gondor, and then Frodo all get sucked into improperly using the devices due to the influence of Sauron upon these characters. Remember, Galadriel holds one of the rings of power and so does Frodo. Imagine if Frodo had given into the temptation of the vision and used the ring to save Hobbiton. He was so frightened by the temptation, he offers the ring to Galadriel (who also gets tempted). Luckily, they both resist.

[/quote]

No, it's divination. The Mirror accurately predicts the takeover of the Shire by the Big People, which wouldn't even start until after the next book (because Saurman hadn't been deposed yet).

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:11, topic:221595"]
Sucked in? I was under the impression that Galadriel was tempted by the One Ring and that had really nothing to do with her mirror.

[/quote]

Galadriel was tempted. It's a turning point for her entire life actually. Because she resists, she is allowed to return to the West (she was a part of the group that got exiled and she was forbidden to ever return). It wasn't because of the Mirror, it was because of the Ring. The Mirror scene simple served as a set up for that part really.

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:11, topic:221595"]
I also vaguely remember that what she predicts is not necessarily set in stone but merely the consequences of certain actions. Hence, you can't really say it's 100% divination.

[/quote]

It predicts the take-over of the Shire. Was it caused by them? Yes, in a way by deposing Saurman. But it was caused by actions that were taken after by a character that didn't even look in the mirror (Gandalf), and it's not like anyone knew that was going to be a consequence (besides the Mirror itself apparently).

[quote="Sonic, post:12, topic:221595"]
Edit: You're right. It's not 100% divination, because the devices aren't intended to be used for divination purposes. Although, Galadriel has to know that the mirror is being influenced by something, because she says the events may or may not happen. I assume it's Sauron through Galadriel or Frodo's ring of power.

[/quote]

I don't think it's enough to assume that. I believe what Galadriel meant when she said things may or may not happen is simply because the future is ultimately not set in stone but in the actions we take at the present.

Furthermore, the mirror itself is a product of something natural to the elves. Even if you were to say Galdriel was under the influence of Sauron or the Ring, what was influenced was the person of Galadriel herself, not the power she possesses.

Finally, I vaguely also remember that Galadriel's ring already lost its power so I don't think she really has anything with Sauron at its source.

[quote="Sonic, post:12, topic:221595"]
That's true about what Galadriel said. I was editing my last post when you replied. You might want to read the small amount I added.

There's a lot going on in that part of the book. Frodo is continuously tempted to use the ring throughout the whole book. Galdriel is also being tempted, because she also bears a ring of power. There's sort of a two way temptation going on here, and luckily both characters resist that temptation. Frodo's temptation is implied through his vision. I got the feeling Galadriel was testing Frodo with the mirror in the same way Frodo tested Galadriel with the ring.

[/quote]

No, Frodo wanted to give Galadriel the ring. He wasn't testing her, he just didn't want it.

[quote="Sonic, post:12, topic:221595"]
Edit: You're right. It's not 100% divination, because the devices aren't intended to be used for divination purposes. Although, Galadriel has to know that the mirror is being influenced by something, because she says the events may or may not happen. I assume it's Sauron through Galadriel or Frodo's ring of power.

[/quote]

That's an unsupported conclusion. There's nothing that points to Sauron having control of the mirror. Also, Sauron doesn't have control of the 3 since he never touched them (he did on the other hand help forge the 7 and the 9 though).

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:14, topic:221595"]
Finally, I vaguely also remember that Galadriel's ring already lost its power so I don't think she really has anything with Sauron at its source.

[/quote]

No, Galadriel was using the ring to maintain Lorien (after the ring lost it's power after the 1 was destroyed, the realm of Lorien withered). Also, Gandalf used one of the 3 (it's the reason why many of his spells were related to fire), and Elrond had the other one (which had non-specific powers, but my guess is that it helped maintain Rivendell).

[quote="curlycool89, post:13, topic:221595"]
Galadriel called it elf-magic, and it's pretty clearly a form of divination (looking into the future).

[/quote]

I just reread the section. I had forgotten that Sam also looked into the mirror. Galadriel doesn't call it magic. Sam states that he hopes to see some elf-magic. Galadriel asks him to look into the mirror as says it's what his people refer to as elf magic (although she doesn't understand why since it's natural to the elves).

You may be right about the rings, but Galadriel does say that Sauron is trying to somewhat bend his will into her mind her.

Galadriel says...

"I know what it is that you last saw... for that is also in my mind."

"I say to you, Frodo, that even as I speak to you, I perceive the Dark Lord and know his mind, or all of his mind that concerns the Elves. And he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed."

Galadriel does say Frodo was testing her as she had tested him earlier.

Galadriel says... "Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting."

later she says... "I pass the test... I will diminish, and go into the west..."

There was some sort of test here. Whether, Frodo intended it or not I don't know, but we can be sure it was because he was frightened by what he saw in the mirror.

Remember, I'm working from memory, and this is not a debate. So, if I'm wrong... then please correct me. I'll look up the section of the book if you will point me to it.

btw, thanks for participating in the discussion... Curlycool89 and Lost Wanderer. :)

[quote="curlycool89, post:7, topic:221595"]
If you really want to compare, you could say that Voldemort is our Sauron. The horcruxes are the Ring equivalents. Harry is sort of our Frodo who has to destroy the horcruxes, although in his case the big bad is also a real person who's trying to kill him at the same time. Harry gets captured by snatchers like Frodo is captured after Cirith Ungol.

[/quote]

While we're trying to sort out the LOTR details amongst us, let's continue on with Harry Potter.

Could you explain further about Voldermort and the Horcruxes for the benefit of those who haven't read the books?

These are good examples. I'd just like to cement it further in my mind.

This is a good discussion :) I have read the Harry Potter books and also several books by Tolkien, including LOTR, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, etc. I like Tolkien's books more, for various reasons.

For those who haven't read HP..

In Harry Potter, Voldemort is basically a wizard who decided he wanted to conquer death.. and the way he wanted to conquer death is to find a way to always live on earth. He learned the dark arts and became a "dark", evil wizard, - and learned that he could split his soul into smaller parts if he killed another human being while doing some sort of complicated spell. This is all described as something very evil in the books. Then, using the complicated spell, he put a fragment of his soul into an object, and this is called a Horcrux. Voldemort made several Horcruxes. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, have to destroy the Horcruxes so that when Harry actually kills Voldemort, he won't come back to life through one of the objects.

I agree with the OP about the way magic is treated in the books... in Tolkien's world, elves have certain powers because that is how God created them, and they are a different species. In Rowling's world, it seems that the witches and wizards are also human, so they are not a different species, but they have these special powers, whereas others do not. These powers are inherited. Their origin is not explained beyond this. In Tolkien's books, all forms of magic or witchcraft are seen as evil, - and Gandalf and the elves don't count for the reason I just described. In Rowling's books, there is "good" magic and "bad" magic. I find that confusing.. but maybe HP doesn't describe these things in enough detail. Tolkien had a very well formulated view of why magic is evil.. I wish I had the reference for it.. it's not in one of the books, but rather in one if his essays. The world he invented is very consistent in terms of theology, and it doesn't contain anything that I as a Catholic would disagree with. It's fiction but it follows the moral (and others) laws of our world.

[quote="Monica4316, post:18, topic:221595"]
I agree with the OP about the way magic is treated in the books... in Tolkien's world, elves have certain powers because that is how God created them, and they are a different species. In Rowling's world, it seems that the witches and wizards are also human, so they are not a different species, but they have these special powers, whereas others do not. These powers are inherited. Their origin is not explained beyond this. In Tolkien's books, all forms of magic or witchcraft are seen as evil, - and Gandalf and the elves don't count for the reason I just described. In Rowling's books, there is "good" magic and "bad" magic. I find that confusing.. but maybe HP doesn't describe these things in enough detail. Tolkien had a very well formulated view of why magic is evil.. I wish I had the reference for it.. it's not in one of the books, but rather in one if his essays. The world he invented is very consistent in terms of theology, and it doesn't contain anything that I as a Catholic would disagree with. It's fiction but it follows the moral (and others) laws of our world.

[/quote]

I think your analysis is a question of semantics. What is "magic" really? It's really just one of those arbitrary words in the English language that remain such unless a proper context is introduced. However, in the case of fantasy fiction, that context is pretty much the same any way you slice it. Magic is generally any force that manipulates things without relying too much on either physical or technological means. Furthermore, the ability to manipulate would actually fit the description of natural capability so its not really 'supernatural' in the theological sense of the word.

[quote="Sonic, post:16, topic:221595"]
Galadriel does say Frodo was testing her as she had tested him earlier.

Galadriel says... "Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting."

later she says... "I pass the test... I will diminish, and go into the west..."

There was some sort of test here. Whether, Frodo intended it or not I don't know, but we can be sure it was because he was frightened by what he saw in the mirror.

[/quote]

Some sort of test, maybe. I don't Frodo intended it, but yes it did become a sort of a test for Galadriel (although it's not really explained. Her ban from the West is instantly overturned, but it's not explained why that happened, she just sort of says "Now I can into the West").

[quote="Sonic, post:17, topic:221595"]
Could you explain further about Voldermort and the Horcruxes for the benefit of those who haven't read the books?

[/quote]

Ok. horcruxes are basically pieces of Voldemort's soul hidden in an object (very dark and about as forbidden as you get by Rowling's in-world rules. Creating them involves murdering other people. Basically, everyone's completely horrified by it). He's got 7 (I think?) of them, and while they all still exist they can't kill him. So, Harry needs to destroy them all in order to make Voldemort "mortal".

[quote="Monica4316, post:18, topic:221595"]
I agree with the OP about the way magic is treated in the books... in Tolkien's world, elves have certain powers because that is how God created them, and they are a different species. In Rowling's world, it seems that the witches and wizards are also human, so they are not a different species, but they have these special powers, whereas others do not. These powers are inherited. Their origin is not explained beyond this. In Tolkien's books, all forms of magic or witchcraft are seen as evil, - and Gandalf and the elves don't count for the reason I just described. In Rowling's books, there is "good" magic and "bad" magic. I find that confusing.. but maybe HP doesn't describe these things in enough detail. Tolkien had a very well formulated view of why magic is evil.. I wish I had the reference for it.. it's not in one of the books, but rather in one if his essays. The world he invented is very consistent in terms of theology, and it doesn't contain anything that I as a Catholic would disagree with. It's fiction but it follows the moral (and others) laws of our world.

[/quote]

I don't think I'd call that consistent. Saying "All magic is evil, except for Gandalf and elves because they're special" is more like a cop-out. If you wanted to create a world where all magic is evil, then the good guys wouldn't use magic at all. Otherwise, you've got yourself a situation where they're doing it for "The Greater Good".

Ok, so wizard and witches in HP are special. There, now we've given them the same explanation that Tolkien used.

How do we know that they're not some sort of God-given abilities (in the HP-verse)? Rowling established that it's not exactly consistent who's got magic powers and who doesn't (Hermione for example has muggle parents are no evidence of a witch or wizard in her ancestry, while some kids of 2 magical parents are non-magical ("squibs"), so we can't exactly just say "genetics" or even "mutation"). Rowling never established where the magic "came from", but it is clear that some people can and some people can't (Harry's aunt Petunia for example begged to go with her sister Lilly to Hogwarts, but couldn't because she's a muggle). There's a very bright line drawn between who can and who can't.

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