Harry Potter Archetypes

In this article, you will learn all about the different character personality archetypes found in the wizarding world of Harry Potter (aka Harry Potter archetypes).

12 Archetypes in Harry Potter

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series of novels are an excellent example of the use of archetypes in storytelling in literature (then translated to film).

Psychoanalyst Dr Carl Jung identified a whole range of archetypes passed down through cultures from ancient times and which are instantly familiar in modern society as a result.

Character archetypes in a story perform the function of arguing either for or against the central premise of the story.

Whilst the most obvious central story in the Potter series is the battle of Harry and his allies to defeat the forces of evil in the form of Voldemort, the central premise is actually that love in all its forms is stronger than any dark forces which may work against it.

The character archetypes in the series as a result either work to support or oppose this premise.

Exploring these archetypes as seen in the Harry Potter book and film series helps us to understand the lasting and popular appeal of the series with audiences around the world since their initial release in the 1990s.

Here are the Harry Potter archetypes as they relate to some of the main characters:

1. Harry Potter – The Hero/The Orphan/The Warrior

It is not unusual for characters in a story to embody more than one archetype and Harry Potter himself is an example of this.

His primary character archetype is that of the hero and central protagonist of the series. As such he is ‘special’ in many, and sometimes indefinable, ways though not all ways – for

Harry he has been born a wizard and has many other qualities which mark him out from others.

He sets out on a hero’s journey, an archetypal concept identified by Professor Joseph Campbell as the journey, adventure, task or quest which the archetypal hero must undergo in order to fulfil their destiny.

He displays many heroic qualities throughout the series – bravery, courage, endurance, strength, determination, morality and a determination to fight for the cause of good no matter the cost.

His willingness to be involved in physical battle also marks him out as fitting the warrior archetype.

However, the other significant archetype Harry fits is that of the Orphan archetype. He is without either of his parents and, though he lives with family, he is mistreated by them.

His nature as an orphan means when we meet him he has no real knowledge of his past and will only discover this through his journey alongside the reader.

2. Ron Weasley – Loyal Companion

The nature of Harry’s adventure makes it too difficult to complete alone and this means he needs allies – loyal companions who will help him along the way, willing to risk the same things that he is for the same ends.

Ron is the ultimate example of the archetypal loyal companion.

He is stable and supportive, always there for Harry when he is able to be and fiercely loyal.

Ron sometimes does not realise his own worth or when he needs to take the lead, another common feature in the archetypal companion character.

His main flaw, however, is that he is often too willing to comply rather than asserting himself, putting the perceived needs of others over himself.

However, despite not being the hero he is essential to the story and also brings some light relief in the form of humorous asides during the action.

3. Hermione Grainger – The Platonic Ideal

Like Ron, Hermione is an essential companion to Harry and one needed for the successful completion of his mission.

However, unlike Ron, she is the brains in the threesome and, as the nature of Harry’s relationship with her is based on friendship and mutual respect for each other’s intellectual qualities rather than physical attraction, she is therefore the archetypal platonic ideal.

Her intelligent strategies and ideas help Harry on numerous occasions to achieve his goals successfully.

She is far more mature than either Harry or Ron, making her often a leader in the trio and the one who is quickest to come to a realisation in any situation.

The archetypal platonic ideal, she is a feminist heroine in modern literature.

4. Lord Voldemort – The Villain/The Shadow

As the main antagonist of the series and archenemy of Harry, Lord Voldemort is the archetypal Villain and also the archetypal Shadow of the hero character.

He is the antagonist to Harry’s protagonist. In many ways this archetype makes him the opposite of the hero character – where the hero acts for good he acts for evil, where the hero represents the light he represents the darkness.

However, in fact the two are opposite sides of the same coin and share many common features.

Like Harry, he is strong, courageous, determined, focused on achieving his goals and ‘special’.

However, unlike Harry, he has no moral compass and acts for purely selfish motivations with dark ends in mind.

5. Severus Snape – The Shapeshifter

Changeability is the mark of the archetypal shapeshifter.

This can be change in their loyalties or even change in their physical manifestation, but whatever form the change takes it means that they are difficult to trust and understand both for the characters around them and the audience observing.

In the Harry Potter series the character who fits this archetype most clearly is Severus Snape.

Whilst the loyalties, mission and character of the central characters such as the Hero and Villain are clear to all, Snape’s are forever blurred and changing.

He is full of contradictions – for example, his patent dislike of Harry and past service of Voldemort contrasting with Dumbledore’s complete faith in him.

It is only at the end of the saga that it becomes clear where Snape’s loyalties truly lie, making him the ultimate shapeshifter.

6. Albus Dumbledore – The Mentor/The Wise Old Man/The Sage/The Wizard.

Albus Dumbledore is now one of the most well known archetypal mentors in literature and film, although he also fits the similar archetypes of the wise old man given his age, and that of the wise, knowledgeable and powerful sage.

The archetypal mentor is usually a profoundly intelligent man of great experience and wisdom who possesses a philosophical depth to their approach to the world.

They are renowned and sought out for the wisdom and sound judgement which they have to offer to others, and also display kindness, compassion and eloquence in their interactions with others.

Many also display similar characteristics such as being aged, white haired and often possessing a beard. Dumbledore fits the bill in terms of possessing all of these archetypal characteristics.

Often the advice they have to offer is presented in a somewhat magical or mystical manner, and this is also true of Dumbledore.

This feature also fits with another of the archetypes which Dumbledore fits – that of the archetypal wizard.

7. The Dursley Family – Threshold Guardians

An archetypal threshold guardian exists in a story to hold up, or thwart, the progress of the hero and their companions on the hero’s journey.

They may or may not prove to be serious obstacles which the hero must overcome if they are to succeed in fulfilling their destiny, but they act at a minimum as a form of test which must be passed.

The Dursley family are the family which Harry lives with at the start of the series.

They ill-treat young Harry and initially block his progress to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

However, once Harry overcomes this he soon starts to thrive and gains in confidence, something which they have also denied him through their treatment of him and which can be considered another threshold which must cross if he is to succeed.

8. Hagrid – The Herald/The Child

Like a number of other characters in the series, Hagrid represents more than one archetype.

Initially he presents as an archetypal Herald, a character who appears right at the start of the hero’s journey and signifies the beginning of that journey by bringing what Campbell termed the ‘call to adventure’.

In the Harry Potter series, Hagrid brings Harry’s ‘Call to Adventure’ by rescuing him from the Dursley family and informing him of his true nature as a wizard.

In many ways though, Hagrid is also an archetypal child when the real children around him act more like grown ups than he does.

Physically he is very clearly a full grown man, but his nature is one of innocence, naivety, purity and honesty as would be expected in a child.

Throughout the series he demonstrates that he cannot see bad intentions in others and this impacts on the action around him, again a childlike quality to his persona.

9. Sirius Black – The Outlaw/The Mentor

Sirius Black is Harry’s Godfather and most obviously fits the archetype of outlaw, having broken out of the prison of Azkhaban and as a result having to spend most of his time in hiding on the run from the law.

The archetypal outlaw usually wants to change the world for the better, but their means of doing so are more questionable or unconventional than that of the archetype hero, and this is true of Sirius.

They may also desire revenge for past wrongs and have a somewhat roguish and rebellious nature, all of which fits with Sirius.

Sirius also fits with the archetype of a mentor, though in a different manner to Dumbledore.

Where Dumbledore teaches Harry many of the technical wizarding skills and the related knowledge which he will need to succeed, Sirius acts more as a mentor for Harry’s internal needs and helps him through his inner struggle with his past.

He is able to help Harry navigate his emotional struggles because of his connection with Harry’s family, acting as a crucial additional mentor providing for a need that Dumbledore cannot.

10. Draco Malfoy – The Bad Boy

Draco Malfoy is a perfect example of the archetypal bad boy of modern culture.

Charismatic and somewhat arrogant, Malfoy is nevertheless an attractive individual to others who owns the room whenever he struts into it.

He appears cool on the outside, but has a moody, pessimistic, volatile and bitter nature underneath.

His external bad attitude is a hard shell he has formed to protect the inner pain and ultimately goodness underneath.

If a movie star embodies this archetype it is James Dean – the classic rebel without a cause – and Malfoy fits the archetype perfectly.

He appears bad on the outside but inside he is really good at heart and ultimately is misunderstood.

11. Neville Longbottom – The Underdog

Neville Longbottom is an excellent example of an archetypal underdog in literature – the character who is most expected to fail but who ultimately succeeds against all of that expectation.

Despite people doubting him throughout the series and questioning why he is a Gryffindor, it is Neville who in the final Battle of Hogwarts destroys the last horcrux.

This crucial action enables Harry to ultimately defeat Voldemort, and it is Neville’s courageous actions which have proved crucial to the final victory of good over evil.

The underdog in the end comes good and surprises everyone in doing so.

12. Barty Crouch Jr – The Outcast

The archetypal outcast is one who has been banished from their family and/or society and lives apart from others, in isolation and shunned by everyone around.

Barty Crouch Jr fits this archetype in the Harry Potter series.

Barty was exiled from his family because he was a Death Eater and worked in the service of the evil Lord Voldemort.

He was sent to the wizarding prison of Azkaban. He was sent to Azkaban for his crimes and as a result has been forced to live in isolation from society.

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