Harry Potter (character)
|Harry Potter character|
|First appearance||Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone|
|Last appearance||Harry Potter and the Cursed Child|
|Created by||J. K. Rowling|
|Portrayed by||Daniel Radcliffe (films)
Jamie Parker (play)
|Family||James Potter (father)
Lily Potter (mother)
|Children||James Potter (son)
Albus Potter (son)
Lily Potter (daughter)
|Relatives||Petunia Dursley (aunt)
Vernon Dursley (uncle)
Dudley Dursley (cousin)
Harry James Potter is the title character and protagonist of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The majority of the books' plot covers seven years in the life of the orphan Potter, who, on his eleventh birthday, learns he is a wizard. Thus, he attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to practise magic under the guidance of the kindly headmaster Albus Dumbledore and other school professors. Harry also discovers that he is already famous throughout the novel's magical community, and that his fate is tied with that of Lord Voldemort, the internationally feared Dark Wizard and murderer of his parents, Lily and James.
- 1 Concept and creation
- 2 Appearances
- 3 Film appearances
- 4 Characterisation
- 5 Reception
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Concept and creation
According to Rowling, the idea for both the Harry Potter books and its eponymous character came while waiting for a delayed train from Manchester, England to London in 1990. She stated that her idea for "this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard became more and more real to me". While developing the ideas for her book, she also decided to make Harry an orphan who attended a boarding school called Hogwarts. She explained in a 1999 interview with The Guardian: "Harry had to be an orphan—so that he's a free agent, with no fear of letting down his parents, disappointing them ... Hogwarts has to be a boarding school—half the important stuff happens at night! Then there's the security. Having a child of my own reinforces my belief that children above all want security, and that's what Hogwarts offers Harry."
Her own mother's death on 30 December 1990 inspired Rowling to write Harry as a boy longing for his dead parents, his anguish becoming "much deeper, much more real" than in earlier drafts because she related to it herself. In a 2000 interview with The Guardian, Rowling also established that the character of Wart in T. H. White's novel The Once and Future King is "Harry's spiritual ancestor." Finally, she established Harry's birth date as 31 July, the same as her own. However, she maintained that Harry was not directly based on any real-life person: "he came just out of a part of me".
Rowling has also maintained that Harry is a suitable real-life role model for children. "The advantage of a fictional hero or heroine is that you can know them better than you can know a living hero, many of whom you would never meet [...] if people like Harry and identify with him, I am pleased, because I think he is very likeable."
Harry first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). Starting in 1981, when Harry was just one year old, his parents, James and Lily, were murdered by the most powerful Dark Wizard, Lord Voldemort (frequently called "You-Know-Who" and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" by those too superstitious to use his actual name). He attempted to kill Harry too, but was unsuccessful and only left a lightning bolt shaped scar on Harry's forehead. Voldemort's body was destroyed, but his soul was not. Harry later learns that the reason why he survived was because his mother sacrificed herself for him, and her love was something that Voldemort could not destroy.
According to Rowling, fleshing out this back story was a matter of reverse planning: "The basic idea [is that] Harry ... didn't know he was a wizard ... and so then I kind of worked backwards from that position to find out how that could be, that he wouldn't know what he was... That's... When he was one year old, the most evil wizard for hundreds and hundreds of years attempted to kill him. He killed Harry's parents, and then he tried to kill Harry—he tried to curse him.... Harry has to find out, before we find out. And for some mysterious reason, the curse didn't work on Harry. So he's left with this lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead, and the curse rebounded upon the evil wizard who has been in hiding ever since".
As a result, Harry is written as an orphan living with his only remaining family, the Dursleys, who are neglectful and abusive. On his eleventh birthday, Harry learns he is a wizard when Rubeus Hagrid arrives to tell him that he is to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he learns about the wizarding world, his parents, and his connection to the Dark Lord. When he is sorted into Gryffindor House, he becomes fast friends with classmates Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and foils Voldemort's attempt to steal the Philosopher's Stone. He also forms a rivalry with characters Draco Malfoy, a classmate from an elitist wizarding family, and the cold, condescending Potions master, Severus Snape, Draco's mentor and the head of Slytherin House. Both feuds continue throughout the series and are settled at the series's end (Draco's in the West End play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Snape's on his deathbed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In a 1999 interview, Rowling stated that Draco is based on several prototypical schoolyard bullies she encountered and Snape on a sadistic teacher of hers who abused his power.
Rowling has stated that the "Mirror of Erised" chapter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is her favourite; the mirror reflects Harry's deepest desire, namely to see his dead parents and family. Her favourite funny scene is when Harry inadvertently sets a boa constrictor free from the zoo in the horrified Dursleys' presence.
Second to fourth books
In the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling pits Harry against Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort's "memory" within a secret diary which has possessed Ron's younger sister Ginny. When Muggle-born students are suddenly being Petrified, many suspect that Harry may be behind the attacks, further alienating him from his peers. Furthermore, Harry begins to doubt his worthiness for House of Gryffindor, particularly considering he discovers he shares Lord Voldemort's ability to communicate with snakes via Parseltongue. In the climax, Ginny disappears. To rescue her, Harry battles Riddle and the monster he controls that is hidden in the Chamber of Secrets. To defeat the monster, Harry summons the Sword of Godric Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat supplied by Dumbledore's pet phoenix, Fawkes. In doing so, Dumbledore later restores Harry's self-esteem by explaining that feat is clear proof of his worthiness of his present house. In the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Rowling uses a time travel premise. Harry learns that his parents were betrayed to Voldemort by their friend Peter Pettigrew, who framed Harry's godfather Sirius Black for the crimes, condemning him to Azkaban, the wizard prison. When Sirius escapes to find Harry, Harry and Hermione use a Time Turner to save him and a hippogriff named Buckbeak. When Pettigrew escapes, an innocent Sirius becomes a hunted fugitive once again. Harry learns how to create a Patronus which takes the form of a stag, the same as his late father's.
In the previous books, Harry is written as a child, but Rowling states that in the fourth novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, "Harry's horizons are literally and metaphorically widening as he grows older." Harry's developing maturity becomes apparent when he becomes romantically interested in Cho Chang, a student in Ravenclaw house. Tension mounts, however, when Harry is mysteriously chosen by the Goblet of Fire to compete in the dangerous Triwizard Tournament, even though another Hogwarts champion, Cedric Diggory, has already been selected.
Voldemort uses the Tournament for an elaborate scheme to lure Harry into a deadly trap. During the Tournament's final challenge, Harry and Cedric are transported to a graveyard, using a portkey, where Cedric is killed by Peter Pettigrew, and Voldemort, aided by Pettigrew, uses Harry's blood in a gruesome ritual to resurrect his body. When Harry duels Voldemort, their wands' magical streams connect, forcing the spirit echoes of Voldemort's victims, including Cedric and James and Lily Potter, to be expelled from his wand. The spirits briefly protect Harry as he escapes to Hogwarts with Cedric's body. For Rowling, this scene is important because it shows Harry's bravery, and by retrieving Cedric's corpse, he demonstrates selflessness and compassion. Says Rowling, "He wants to save Cedric's parents additional pain." She added that preventing Cedric's body from falling into Voldemort's hands is based on the classic scene in the Iliad where Achilles retrieves the body of his best friend Patroclus from the hands of Hector. Rowling also mentioned that book four rounds off an era in Harry's life, and the remaining three books are another, "He's no longer protected. He's been very protected until now. But he's very young to have that experience. Most of us don't get that until a bit later in life. He's only just coming up to 15 and that's it now."
Fifth and sixth books
In the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic has been waging a smear campaign against Harry and Dumbledore, disputing their claims that Voldemort has returned. Harry is made to look like an attention-seeking liar, and Dumbledore a trouble-maker. A new character is introduced when the Ministry of Magic appoints Dolores Umbridge as the latest Hogwarts' Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor (and Ministry spy). Because the paranoid Ministry suspects that Dumbledore is building a wizard army to overthrow them, Umbridge refuses to teach students real defensive magic. She gradually gains more power, eventually ousting Dumbledore and seizing control of the school. As a result, Harry's increasingly angry and erratic behaviour nearly estranges him from Ron and Hermione.
Rowling says she put Harry through extreme emotional stress to show his emotional vulnerability and humanity—a contrast to his nemesis, Voldemort. "[Harry is] a very human hero, and this is, obviously, a contrast, between him, as a very human hero, and Voldemort, who has deliberately dehumanised himself. And Harry, therefore, did have to reach a point where he did almost break down, and say he didn't want to play any more, he didn't want to be the hero any more – and he'd lost too much. And he didn't want to lose anything else. So that – Phoenix was the point at which I decided he would have his breakdown."
At Hermione's urging, Harry forms a secret student organisation called Dumbledore's Army to teach more meaningful defence against the dark arts as Professor Umbridge is making them read off a textbook. Their plan is thwarted, however, when a Dumbledore's Army member, Marietta Edgecombe, betrays them and informs Umbridge about the D.A., causing Dumbledore to be ousted as Headmaster. Harry suffers another emotional blow, when his beloved godfather, Sirius, is killed during a duel with Sirius' cousin, the Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange, at the Department of Mysteries, but Harry ultimately defeats Voldemort's plan to steal an important prophecy. Rowling stated: "And now he [Harry] will rise from the ashes strengthened." A side plot of Order of the Phoenix involves Harry's romance with Cho Chang, but the relationship quickly unravels. Says Rowling: "They were never going to be happy, it was better that it ended early!"
In the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Harry enters a tumultuous puberty that, Rowling says, is based on her and her younger sister's own difficult teenage years. Rowling also made an intimate statement about Harry's personal life: "Because of the demands of the adventure that Harry is following, he has had less sexual experience than boys of his age might have had." This inexperience with romance was a factor in Harry's failed relationship with Cho. Now his thoughts concern Ginny, and a vital plot point in the last chapter includes Harry ending their budding romance to protect her from Voldemort.
A new character appears when former Hogwarts Potions master Horace Slughorn replaces Snape, who assumes the Defence Against the Dark Arts post. Harry suddenly excels in Potions, using an old textbook once belonging to a talented student known only as "The Half-Blood Prince." The book contains many handwritten notes, revisions, and new spells; Hermione, however, believes Harry's use of it is cheating. Through private meetings with Dumbledore, Harry learns about Voldemort's orphaned youth, his rise to power, and how he splintered his soul into Horcruxes to achieve immortality. Two Horcruxes have been destroyed—the diary and a ring; and Harry and Dumbledore locate another, although it is a fake. When Death Eaters invade Hogwarts, Snape kills Dumbledore. As Snape escapes, he proclaims that he is the Half-Blood Prince (being the son of a muggle father and the pure-blood Eileen Prince). It now falls upon Harry to find and destroy Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes and to avenge Dumbledore's death. In a 2005 interview, Rowling stated that [after the events in the sixth book] Harry has, "taken the view that they are now at war. He does become more battle-hardened. He's now ready to go out fighting. And he's after revenge [against Voldemort and Snape]."
This book also focuses on the mysterious activities of Harry's rival Draco Malfoy. Voldemort has coerced a frightened Malfoy into attempting to kill Dumbledore. During a duel in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, Harry uses the Half-Blood Prince's spell, Sectumsempra, on Malfoy, who suffers near-fatal injuries as a result. Harry is horrified by what he has done and also comes to feel sympathy for Draco, after learning he was forced to do Voldemort's bidding under the threat of his and his parents' deaths.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave Hogwarts to complete Dumbledore's task: to search for and destroy Voldemort's remaining four Horcruxes, then find and kill the Dark Lord. The three pit themselves against Voldemort's newly formed totalitarian police state, an action that tests Harry's courage and moral character. Voldemort's seizure of the Ministry of Magic leads to discriminatory and genocidal policies against Muggle-borns, fuelled by propaganda and fear. According to J. K. Rowling, telling scenes are when Harry uses Cruciatus Curse and Imperius Curse, unforgivable curses for torture and mind-control, on Voldemort's servants, and also when he casts Sectumsempra on Draco Malfoy during the bathroom fight in the sixth book. Each time shows a "flawed and mortal" side to Harry. However, she explains, "He is also in an extreme situation and attempting to defend somebody very good against a violent and murderous opponent."
Harry experiences occasional disturbing visions of Draco being forced to perform the Death Eaters' bidding and feels "...sickened...by the use to which Draco was now being put by Voldemort," again showing his compassion for an enemy.
Each Horcrux Harry must defeat cannot be destroyed easily. They must be destroyed with basilisk venom, Godric Gryffindor's sword, or some other destructive substance. In Book Two, Harry destroys the first horcrux, Tom Riddle's diary, with a basilisk fang, and in Book Six Dumbledore destroys the ring with Gryffindor's sword. Ron destroys Slytherin's locket with the sword, Hermione destroys Hufflepuff's cup with a basilisk fang, and Crabbe destroys Ravenclaw's diadem with Fiendfyre (cursed flame). Neville kills the snake Nagini with the sword, and Voldemort destroys the final accidental Horcrux: a fragment of soul embedded in Harry's scar.
Harry comes to recognise that his own single-mindedness makes him predictable to his enemies and often clouds his perceptions. When Voldemort kills Snape later in the story, Harry realises that Snape was not the traitorous murderer he believed him to be, but a tragic antihero who was loyal to Dumbledore. In Chapter 33 ('The Prince's Tale') Snape's memories reveal that he loved Harry's mother Lily, but their friendship ended over his association with future Death Eaters and his "blood purity" beliefs. When Voldemort murdered the Potters, a grieving Snape vowed to protect Lily's child, although he loathed young Harry for being James Potter's son. The memories also reveal that Snape did not murder Dumbledore, but carried out Dumbledore's prearranged plan. Dumbledore, dying from a slow-spreading curse, wanted to protect Snape's position within the Death Eaters and to spare Draco from completing Voldemort's task of murdering him.
To defeat Harry, Voldemort steals the most powerful wand ever created, the Elder Wand, from Dumbledore's tomb and twice casts the Killing Curse on Harry with it. The first attempt merely stuns Harry into a deathlike state; the murder attempt fails because Voldemort used Harry's blood in his resurrection during book four. The protection that his mother gave Harry with her sacrifice tethers Harry to life, as long as his blood and her sacrifice run in the veins of Voldemort. In the chapter "King's Cross," Dumbledore's spirit talks to Harry whilst in this deathlike state. Dumbledore informs Harry that when Voldemort disembodied himself during his failed attempt to kill Harry as a baby, Harry became an unintentional Horcrux; Harry could not kill Voldemort while the Dark Lord's soul shard remained within Harry's body. The piece of Voldemort's soul within Harry was destroyed through Voldemort's first killing curse with the Elder Wand because Harry willingly faced death.
In the book's climax, Voldemort's second Killing Curse hurled at Harry also fails and rebounds upon Voldemort, finally killing him. The spell fails because Harry, not Voldemort, had become the Elder Wand's true master and the wand could not harm its own master. Harry has each of the Hallows (the Invisibility Cloak, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand) at some point in the story but never unites them. However, J. K. Rowling said the difference between Harry and Voldemort is that Harry willingly accepts mortality, making him stronger than his nemesis. "The real master of Death accepts that he must die, and that there are much worse things in the world of the living." At the very end, Harry decides to leave the Elder Wand in Dumbledore's tomb and the Resurrection Stone hidden in the forest, but he keeps the Invisibility Cloak because it had belonged to his father.
In the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, which is set 19 years after Voldemort's death, Harry and Ginny are a couple and have three children: James Sirius Potter, who has already been at Hogwarts for at least one year, Albus Severus Potter, who is starting his first year there, and Lily Luna Potter, who is two years away from her first year at the school.
According to Rowling, after Voldemort's defeat, Harry joins the "reshuffled" Auror Department under Kingsley Shacklebolt's mentoring, and ends up eventually rising to become Head of said department in 2007. Rowling said that his old rival Draco has a grudging gratitude towards Harry for saving his life in the final battle, but the two are not friends. During the events of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, however, Harry and Draco become friends after they join forces to save their respective sons.
In the eight Harry Potter films screened from 2001 to 2011, Harry Potter has been portrayed by British actor Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe was asked to audition for the role of Harry in 2000 by producer David Heyman, while in attendance at a play titled Stones in His Pockets in London. The role has been highly lucrative for Radcliffe; as of 2015, he had an estimated wealth of $110 million and was paid a collective $53 million for the last two films.
In a 2007 interview with MTV, Radcliffe stated that, for him, Harry is a classic coming of age character: "That's what the films are about for me: a loss of innocence, going from being a young kid in awe of the world around him, to someone who is more battle-hardened by the end of it." He also said that for him, important factors in Harry's psyche are his survivor's guilt in regard to his dead parents and his lingering loneliness. Because of this, Radcliffe talked to a bereavement counsellor to help him prepare for the role. Radcliffe was quoted as saying that he wished for Harry to die in the books, but he clarified that he "can't imagine any other way they can be concluded." After reading the last book, where Harry and his friends do indeed survive and have children, Radcliffe stated he was glad about the ending and lauded Rowling for the conclusion of the story. Radcliffe stated that the most repeated question he has been asked is how Harry Potter has influenced his own life, to which he regularly answers it has been "fine," and that he did not feel pigeonholed by the role, but rather sees it as a huge privilege to portray Harry.
Throughout the series, Harry is described as having his father's perpetually untidy black hair, his mother's bright green eyes, and a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. He is further described as "small and skinny for his age" with "a thin face" and "knobbly knees", and he wears round eyeglasses. In the first book, his scar is described as "the only thing Harry liked about his own appearance". When asked about the meaning behind Harry's lightning bolt scar, Rowling said, "I wanted him to be physically marked by what he has been through. It was an outward expression of what he has been through inside... It is almost like being the chosen one or the cursed one, in a sense." Rowling has also stated that Harry inherited his parents' good looks. In the later part of the series Harry grows taller, and by the seventh book is said to be 'almost' the height of his father, and 'tall' by other characters.
Rowling explained that Harry's image came to her when she first thought up Harry Potter, seeing him as a "scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy". She also mentioned that she thinks Harry's glasses are the clue to his vulnerability.
According to Rowling, Harry is strongly guided by his own conscience, and has a keen feeling of what is right and wrong. Having "very limited access to truly caring adults", Rowling said, Harry "is forced to make his own decisions from an early age on." He "does make mistakes", she conceded, but in the end, he does what his conscience tells him to do. According to Rowling, one of Harry's pivotal scenes came in the fourth book when he protects his dead schoolmate Cedric Diggory's body from Voldemort, because it shows he is brave and selfless.
Rowling has stated that Harry's character flaws include anger and impulsiveness; however, Harry is also innately honourable. "He's not a cruel boy. He's competitive, and he's a fighter. He doesn't just lie down and take abuse. But he does have native integrity, which makes him a hero to me. He's a normal boy but with those qualities most of us really admire." For the most part, Harry shows humility and modesty, often downplaying his achievements; though he uses a litany of his adventures as examples of his maturity early in the fifth book. However, these very same accomplishments are later employed to explain why he should lead Dumbledore's Army, at which point he asserts them as having just been luck, and denies that they make him worthy of authority. After the seventh book, Rowling commented that Harry has the ultimate character strength, which not even Voldemort possesses: the acceptance of the inevitability of death.
Magical abilities and skills
Throughout the series, Harry Potter is described as a gifted wizard apprentice. He has a particular talent for flying, which manifests itself in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the first time he tries it, and gets him a place on a Quidditch team one year before the normal minimum joining age. He captains it in his sixth year. In his fourth year (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Harry is able to confront a dragon on his broomstick.
Harry is also gifted in Defence Against the Dark Arts, in which he becomes proficient due to his repeated encounters with Voldemort and various monsters. In his third year, Harry becomes able to cast the very advanced Patronus Charm, and by his fifth year he has become so talented at the subject that he is able to teach his fellow students in Dumbledore's Army, some even older than him how to defend themselves against Dark Magic. At the end of that year, he achieves an 'Outstanding' Defence Against the Dark Arts O.W.L., something that not even Hermione achieved. He is a skilled duellist, the only one of the six Dumbledore's Army members to be neither injured nor incapacitated during the battle with Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He also fends off numerous Death Eaters during his flight to the Burrow at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry also has the unusual ability to speak and understand "Parseltongue", a language associated with Dark Magic. This, it transpires, is because he harbours a piece of Voldemort's soul. He loses this ability after the part of Voldemort's soul inside him is destroyed at the end of The Deathly Hallows.
Harry's parents left behind a somewhat large pile of wizard's gold, used as currency in the world of magic, in a vault in the wizarding bank, Gringotts. After Sirius' death later in the series, all of his remaining possessions are also passed along to Harry, including Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, and Sirius's vast amount of gold were transferred into Harry's account at Gringotts. Rowling noted that "Harry's money never really is that important in the books, except that he can afford his books and uniforms and so on."
Among the school items Harry purchases in Diagon Alley after discovering his gold inheritance is his first wand, an 11-inch-long holly and phoenix feather model that he learns is the twin of Voldemort's wand, as the feathers that both wands contain as their cores both comes from Fawkes, the phoenix that Dumbledore keeps as a pet in his office until his death in Half-Blood Prince. Harry's wand is broken in Deathly Hallows. For a time, he borrows Hermione's wand, and later steals Draco's. With his defeat of Voldemort at the end of the series, he comes into the possession of the Elder Wand, but uses it only to repair his holly wand, before returning it to Dumbledore's tomb, from which Voldemort had stolen it. In the film version of Deathly Hallows Part 2, Harry destroys the Elder Wand.
Harry also inherits indirectly two of his father's prized possessions. One is the Marauder's Map, given to him by interim owners Fred and George Weasley, which endows Harry with comprehensive knowledge of Hogwarts' facilities, grounds, and occupants. The other is his father's Invisibility Cloak, given to him by Dumbledore, which eventually proves Harry's descent from the Peverell family. Harry uses these tools both to aid in excursions at school and to protect those he cares about; the Invisibility Cloak, in particular, can hide two full-grown people. If three fully-grown people hide under the cloak their feet will be visible. When Harry reaches his age of maturity at seventeen, Molly Weasley gives him a pocket watch which had once belonged to her brother Fabian Prewett, as it is traditional to give a boy a watch when he turns seventeen.
Throughout the majority of the books, Harry also has a pet owl named Hedwig, used to deliver and receive messages and packages. Hedwig is killed in the seventh book, about which Rowling says: "The loss of Hedwig represented a loss of innocence and security. She has been almost like a cuddly toy to Harry at times. I know that death upset a lot of people!" As a Quidditch player, Harry has owned two high-quality brooms. The first, a Nimbus Two Thousand, was procured for him by Professor Minerva Mcgonagall when Harry was added to Gryffindor's Quidditch team despite being a first-year student. This broom was destroyed by the Whomping Willow during a match in Harry's third year. It was replaced by a Firebolt, an even faster (and more expensive) broom, purchased for Harry by Sirius; however, as Sirius was believed to be trying to murder Harry at the time, the broom was subjected to stringent security inspections before Harry was allowed to ride it. Harry used it throughout his Hogwarts career until it, along with Hedwig, was lost during the July escape from Privet Drive in the final book.
Harry also owns a mokeskin pouch, or small 'bag' that is used for storing items, which no one but the owner can get out. He receives this from Hagrid as a 17th birthday present. Harry uses the pouch throughout the course of Deathly Hallows to keep several sentimental (yet, as he himself admits, otherwise worthless) objects such as the Marauder's Map, a shard of the magical mirror given to him by his god-father Sirius, the fake Horcrux locket that had belonged to Sirius's brother R.A.B (Regulus Arcturus Black), the Snitch bequeathed to him by Dumbledore, containing the Resurrection Stone that had previously been set into Voldemort's grandfather Marvolo Gaunt's signet ring, which Harry discovers is actually the second Hallow, a letter from his mother to Sirius with part of a photo (of him and his father, James), and eventually, his own broken wand (which Harry later repairs with the Elder Wand).
In the novels, Harry is the only child of James and Lily Potter, orphaned as an infant. Rowling made Harry an orphan from the early drafts of her first book. She felt an orphan would be the most interesting character to write about. However, after her mother's death, Rowling wrote Harry as a child longing to see his dead parents again, incorporating her own anguish into him. Harry is categorised as a "half-blood" wizard in the series, because although both his parents were magical, Lily was "Muggle-born", and James was a pure-blood.
Harry's aunt and uncle kept the truth about his parents' deaths from Harry, telling him that they had died in a car crash. James Potter is a descendant of Ignotus Peverell, the third of the three original owners of the Deathly Hallows, and thus so is Harry, a realisation he makes during the course of the final book. The lineage continues at the end of the saga through his three children with Ginny: James Sirius Potter, Albus Severus Potter and Lily Luna Potter.
In an original piece published on the Pottermore website in September 2015, Rowling described the history of the Potter family in greater detail, beginning with the 12th-century wizard Linfred of Stinchcombe, "a locally well-beloved and eccentric man, whose nickname, 'the Potterer', became corrupted in time to 'Potter'". Lindred was the inventor of a number of remedies that evolved into potions still used in the modern day, including Skele-Gro and Pepperup Potion. These successful products garnered Linfred the earnings that formed the basis of the family's wealth, which grew with the work of successive generations. Linfred's oldest son, Hardwin, married a beautiful young witch from Godric's Hollow named Iolanthe Peverell, the granddaughter of Ignotus Peverell, who continued the tradition of passing down Ignotus' Invisibility Cloak through the generations. Two of Harry Potter's ancestors have sat on the Wizengamot: Ralston Potter and Henry Potter. Ralston was a member from 1612-1652, and an ardent supporter of the Statute of Secrecy. Henry Potter, known as "Harry" to his closest loved ones, was a direct descendant of Hardwin and Iolanthe, and a paternal great-grandfather of Harry Potter. Henry served on the Wizengamot from 1913 - 1921, and caused a minor controversy when he publicly condemned then Minister for Magic, Archer Evermonde, for prohibiting the magical community from helping Muggles waging the First World War. Henry's son, Fleamont Potter, who was given his grandmother's surname as his given name in order to grant the dying wish of Henry's mother to continue her family name, garnered a reputation for his duels at Hogwarts, which were provoked when others mocked him for his name. Fleamont quadrupled the family gold by creating magical Sleekeazy's Hair Potion, selling his company at a vast profit when he retired. Fleamont and his wife, Euphemia, had given up hope of having a child when she became pregnant with their son, James, who would go on to marry Lily Evans and bear a son of their own, Harry Potter. Fleamont and Euphemia lived to see James and Lily marry, but they would never meet their famous grandson, as they both died of dragon pox, stemming from their advanced age.
In 2002, Harry Potter was voted No. 85 among the "100 Best Fictional Characters" by Book magazine and also voted the 35th "Worst Briton" in Channel 4's "100 Worst Britons We Love to Hate" programme. Entertainment Weekly ranked Harry Potter number two on its 2010 "100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years" list, saying "Long after we've turned the last page and watched the last end credit, Harry still feels like someone we know. And that's the most magical thing about him." UGO Networks listed Harry as one of their best heroes of all time, who said that "Harry is a hero to the often oppressed and downtrodden young fan boys and girls out there, who finally have an icon that is respected and revered by those who might otherwise look down on robe-wearing and wand waving as dork fodder". Harry Potter was also ranked number thirty-six on Empire's 2008 list of "100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time". IGN said that Harry Potter was their favourite Harry Potter character, calling him a "sympathetic figure" and saying in response to his fights against Voldemort that "everybody loves an underdog story of good vs. evil". Despite being the main character, Watchmojo.com ranked him #2 on their "Top 10 Harry Potter Characters" list in 2014 (Severus Snape was ranked #1 on the list).
In popular culture
According to halloweenonline.com, Harry Potter sets were the fifth-best selling Halloween costume of 2005. In addition, wizard rock bands like Harry and the Potters and others regularly dress up in the style of Harry Potter, sporting painted forehead scars, black wigs, and round bottle top glasses. Wizard rock is a musical movement dating from 2002 that consists of at least 200 bands made up of young musicians, playing songs about Harry Potter. The movement started in Massachusetts with the band Harry and the Potters, who cosplay as Harry during live performances.
In April 2009, a group of University of Michigan students (StarKid Productions: Darren Criss, Joey Richter.) performed Harry Potter: The Musical, a two-act musical parody that featured major elements from all seven books and an original score. They posted the entire musical on their YouTube channel but removed it in late June, to edit some more mature elements from the videos. The musical, re-titled A Very Potter Musical, was reposted on 5 July 2009, starring Darren Criss as Harry Potter. A sequel was premiered at the 2010 HPEF Harry Potter Conference Infinitus, and released on YouTube on 22 July at 8 pm EST. The sequel was called A Very Potter Sequel and featured the Death Eaters using the Time-Turner to go back in time to Harry's first year in Hogwarts. Harry Potter is spoofed in the Barry Trotter series by American writer Michael Gerber, where a "Barry Trotter" appears as the eponymous antihero. On his homepage, Gerber describes Trotter as an unpleasant character who "drinks too much, eats like a pig, sleeps until noon, and owes everybody money." The author stated "[s]ince I really liked Rowling's books […] I felt obligated to try to write a spoof worthy of the originals".
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- Works by or about Harry Potter in libraries (WorldCat catalog)