'The Force Awakens' Vs. Harry Potter Reveals More Than A Few Uncanny Parallels
What if Harry Potter and Star Wars existed in the same fictional universe, and what if all the Jedi were Hogwarts graduates? This is the question I started tossing around as I considered the numerous eerie parallels between Kylo Ren and Severus Snape. (As in that post, there will be spoilers ahead. You have been warned.) As I looked at the ways that Kylo Ren's — Ben Solo's — ascent to power paralleled the dark rise of Professor Snape across the seven Harry Potter novels, in which he moves from menacing potions professor to possible ally of the Dark Lord Voldemort, I realized that the characters around Ren make these parallels all the more evident. So might there be further overlap between The Force Awakens and Harry Potter?
It's not just characters: Though Snape and Kylo Ren, Dumbledore and Han Solo, Dobby the house elf and BB-8, all bear similarity, there's also a case to be made for analogies comparing the Force to certain spells and curses in Harry Potter, and even in the broader narrative arc of both The Force Awakens and the Harry Potter series. There are arguments for similarities in many narratives in science fiction and fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Eragon, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek all share the trappings of storytelling), but J.J. Abrams clearly did his homework when creating the revamped Star Wars universe of The Force Awakens. A veteran sci-fi storyteller (Abrams was also responsible for Lost, Alias, and the rebooted Star Trek films), he has stocked the screen with Easter eggs not only for longstanding Star Wars fans, but audiences of other franchise favorites — most notably, Harry Potter.
1. Rey Is The Orphan Marked For Greatness
Maybe she's not physically marked like Harry Potter with his lightning-bolt scar, but Rey — the heroine of The Force Awakens — is clearly destined to save the galaxy. Her family mysteriously absent from the scene, Rey is plagued by haunting memories of their flight from home, or perhaps their death. It's not entirely clear yet. Whatever their fate, Rey has been left to fend for herself on Jakku, awaiting the chance encounter with a stranger from another planet (to Harry, too, Hagrid must have seemed an alien being) that sets her on a new course entirely. Harry Potter's dreams are filled with a high-pitched scream — his mother, killed by Voldemort, leaving him on his own (in the care of his abusive aunt and uncle and their dunce son Dudley). And even further, Rey and Harry are both unnaturally ace pilots, or broomstick flyers, as the case may be.
2. Han Solo Is The Reluctant Mentor Betrayed By Someone Close To Him
When Snape casts an Avada Kedavra curse on Dumbledore, the Hogwarts headmaster topples out of the tower window. When Kylo Ren sabers his father Han Solo, Solo plummets from the narrow walkway bridging the Starkiller base. Dumbledore retreats from his relationship with Harry Potter towards the end of the series in an attempt to keep Harry safe, just as Solo returns to his pirating ways when his son turns to the dark side, keeping his distance from the danger — to little avail.
3. Snoke Is The Ultimate Arbiter Of Evil
Visual similarities aside (bald, alien, stuff of nightmares), Snoke and Voldemort are both the hand of evil acting through a proxy. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, this proxy is Quirrel; it then takes the shape of a diary, a basilisk, numerous horcruxes, and a plague of dementors before Voldemort obtains a body of his own once more. In The Force Awakens, Snoke is a similarly mysterious figure of evil, seemingly dictating Kylo Ren's actions at the Starkiller base from afar while remaining in the shadows himself. We'll have to await future movies to see if this comparison bears out.
4. Kylo Ren Is The Outsider From The Start
Though I wrote at length about the similarities between Kylo Ren and Severus Snape, there's an alternate possibility: Ren could also be the Tom Riddle parallel. Estranged from his family, Ren — or Tom — realizes the depth of his power, Force or magic, and how the darkness seems to augment that power. There's a redemptive value of the Ren-as-Snape narrative, in which he might be a double agent tasked with taking down the dark side. But perhaps he really is evil — Ren, like Riddle, takes another name when he turns to the dark side. Born Ben Solo, Kylo Ren is his First Order title, just as Voldemort is Tom Riddle's nom de guerre.
5. BB-8 Opens At The Close
Like the golden snitch in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, BB-8 of The Force Awakens contains crucial information that only becomes available to the right person at the right time. When BB-8 projects the map to Luke Skywalker that fits into R2D2's master copy of the rest of the galaxy, it sets our heroine Rey off on a course to find the old Jedi master in hopes of taking down the dark First Order.
6. Finn Is The Lovable But Maybe-Useless Sidekick
There's nothing not to like about Finn. Like Ron Weasley, he's cute, he dreams big, he makes a great sidekick — and comic relief. But in the end, he's quite handily taken down by the villain, leaving space for Rey to save the day. (And just as Cedric Diggory falls to Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Finn lies there, useless, while Rey battles a force of darkness with far more experience than she.)
7. The Force Is Just Another Word For Magic
The Force encompasses a variety of magic spells used daily in Harry Potter's universe: the summoning spell Accio; the mind-reading spell Legilimens; the various Unforgivable Curses; and the levitation charm Wingardium Leviosa. They're all handily captured under one supernatural ability, and wielded without the need for an incantation. Jedis are really just wizards by a different name — and perhaps even more advanced than your average Hogwarts graduate. Perhaps the Jedi are really aurors, seeking out the darkness to restore order to the universe, whether that universe is extraterrestrial or magic.
8. And Lightsabers Are Just More Elegant Magic Wands
"A more elegant weapon for a more civilized age," indeed. Lightsabers are like grown-up magic wands. Gone are the streams of light emanating from the tip of a magically-endowed tree branch; in their place, a handy implement made of that light itself.
In just two hours, J.J. Abrams has set up a new, cohesive Star Wars universe that draws cues from across J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter universe. On an individual level, the characters parallel those of Hogwarts and beyond, while the whole structure of the Jedi galaxy is upheld by the same principles — and the same supernatural forces — as the realm of wizards. It could be a science fiction coincidence, or it could be that the Jedi are really the Hogwarts wizards grown up and moved into the real world and beyond.
Images: Walt Disney Studios; Giphy (9)