Cultural Integration in Harry Potter

Being born a tad too late to take part in the generation raised on Tolkien’s works, the world of high fantasy in literature was introduced to me in a much more contemporary medium: Harry Potter. The globally loved and highly profitable series fostered in me a love for the little magics and the vast expanses of the worlds hidden in my imagination. Yet with all good things they must eventually come to an end. You see, there comes a time in our life when the rose-tinted glasses of childhood adolescence must come off. Although in my case the glasses were more akin to blinders-- and they weren’t taken off so much as shoved off my face. J.K. Rowling was neither subtle nor particularly creative in her bigotry. While I laud her for being the author that shaped a generation with her works, I also find it to be my obligation to hold her accountable for her rampant biases and the way they plagued her work in ways that twist the mind of a child still untouched by some of the cruller realities of the world. Her paltry attempts at retconning and forced diversity post hoc are disappointing to see and desperate attempts at relevancy at best. Yet, a tiny ember of nostalgia burns within me with the alternative reality of what could have been had she put in an iota of research. Imagine magic, but with a little bit of spice. 

  1. 1. North America

    I genuinely think having one school per continent is a horrible idea and so I reject the notion that Ilvermorny was ever a thing that came into being. Rather a much more appealing idea, and arguably more feasible logistically, was to have multiple places to learn magic dispersed throughout the continent and relating to the many indigenous people of North America. Many Native American people carefully cultivated the land and knew the practices that would be the most ecologically sound. North American wizards would have no need to use wands while being more in touch with the land or possibly ley lines. The adaptation of existing practices such as ritual burning, crop rotation, and migratory hunting could easily transition to magical means and would pair beautifully as a way to integrate cultural history from the indigenous people.

  2. 2. India

    A country already deeply steeped in mysticism and mythos, I’d argue this should have been an easy transition into the magical universe. Not to mention I will never forgive the atrocities done to both the book and film versions of the Patil twins. India is home to one of the oldest religions in the world, and thus could easily sustain magical practices far older than Hogwarts and its founders. The teaching method of sending young pupils to an ashram can be seen like a formal preparatory school, but the true merit is in the methodology of teaching. In ancient times the Vedanta was taught via purely oral tradition: everything was memorized and passed down by word of mouth. Sanskrit is considered a divine language and thus runic magic and the rhythm of spells are very important in invoking them properly.

  3. 3. China

    China has a similarly long and rich history resulting in a woven tapestry of real history and legends about real history. A notably popular genre in Chinese media in wuxia, which utilizes fantasy elements like magic, demigods, demons, and gods. The way this genre portrays magic is as something earned rather than something innate. In the realm of Harry Potter this could be influenced by stories like White Snake or Ne Zha where power is earned and control is the penultimate goal. Chinese magic is gained through patience and penance, or cultivation, and no magic is without a price. Young wizards don’t really use their magic until they’ve learned enough magical knowledge and gained enough power through cultivation.

  4. 4. Ancient Egypt

    I will readily admit that this is the product of my niche interest as a preschooler returning in full force. The pantheon of Ancient Egypt is chock full of animal-human hybrids with varying degrees of anthropomorphic characteristics. This leads well into the notion that the ancient Egyptians were the pioneers of transfiguration magic. As the first metamorphagi, their experimentation led to the surrounding mythos of gods with animalistic features.

 

 

Had J.K. Rowling being a bit more like her contemporaries she would have had ample material and ample opportunity to extend on her written universe to include the diverse perspectives she claims to have had. As a writer, research is one of the most important aspects to planning a work of fiction inspired by real life. Research helps to understand perspectives that are not our own and attempt to write them authentically. To the queer community and many POCs J.K. Rowling has failed them, but there is a dearth of material with characters that reflect reality and magic added for a little bit of spice.