Scott Hardie | November 26, 2001
Part of my long commentary on "Harry Potter" (see next entry) was a comparison of the movie, which is my only frame of reference since I haven't read any of the books, to Lord Raglan's list of the 22 standard elements of myth. He nails eight of them.


Of the 22 elements, Moses and Theseus have 20, Romulus 18, Hercules 17, and on down the list of classical heroes. Only Oedipus scores all 22. So, Mr. Potter isn't the highest-scoring figure on the list, but then again, he's only eleven years old, and the list is skewered towards ancient heroes anyway.
Let's do a run-down:

1. The hero's mother is a royal virgin; Uh, not that I know of.
2. his father is a king, and Check. He's not a king, but he's the symbolic leader of the forces of good (at least that's what I got out of Two-Face's plan to kill him in the flashback), and that counts.
3. often a near relative of his mother, but Check. They're married, but the point is that they're both powerful wizards. The point of this item is that the parents both have some special quality that is multiplied in the child.
4. the circumstances of his conception are unusual, and Maybe more revealed later, but nothing yet.
5. he is also reputed to be the son of a god. Nope. I kind of got the impression at the end that Hagrid is related to him, the way he was looking at the boy, but Hagrid doesn't seem to be the god of anything that isn't beef-flavored.
6. At birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or his maternal grandfather, to kill him, but Check. Evil Lord Vandelay tries to kill him but can't.
7. he is spirited away, and Check. It's the first scene.
8. reared by foster parents in a far country. Check. Far enough, anyway.
9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but Check. We get an impression of it, but given that eleven years pass and have no apparent effect on his psychological health nor on the rest of the tale, I'm going to count it.
10. on reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future kingdom. Check. See "Hogwarts Express" sequence.
11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast, Check. By the time all seven books and movies are done, probably all of the above.
12. he marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor, and So if he marries Hermione, will she turn out to be Evil Lord Farquaar's daughter?
13. becomes king, Gonna happen, even if only symbolically.
14. For a time he reigns uneventfully, and This is where the list veers off course. It's meant for a mythic tale with a tragic ending, while the series will probably have a happy ending with a bright future.
15. prescribes laws, but If he takes over Hogwarts, yes.
16. later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects, and I hope he loses favor with that excitable kid who did commentary during the quidditch match. How many pounds of sugar did that kid eat between takes?
17. is driven from his throne and city, after which "haw-haw"
18. he meets with a mysterious death Yeah right.
19. often at the top of a hill. If so, it will have some fancy name.
20. His children, if any, do not succeed him. If any? No need to be redundant here.
21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless Okay.
22. he has one or more holy sepulchres. Not if it's PG.

So there you have it, eight points on the mythic scale, with four and five possibly coming true later. While writing this I couldn't help but think of Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, which I just calculated: Milkman scores fifteen points! (Sixteen if you count item 5, which could be Solomon.) Damn them myths are powerful.

Scott Hardie | November 27, 2001
Correction, those are the 22 standard elements of the myth of the Hero King, not any old myth. But still. Damn.

Kris Weberg | December 3, 2001
It's a really good list, actually.
Interesting how many popular characters, even the non-kingly ones, fit this.

I think even Arthur misses one or two of these elements.

Beowulf is around 20 or 19 too.

Superman does ok too, if you take stuff from all his incarnations - around the same number as Harry.

Scott Hardie | December 3, 2001
This list is amazing. Some friends and I discussed it on Saturday. By their estimates, Paul Atriedes from Dune scored 18, Anakin and Luke and Leia together scored 19, and the hero of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (I haven't read it) scored 19. We also did King Arthur and he was at 17, but we disagreed on which ones counted. Crazy.


Want to participate? Please create an account a new account or log in.


Other Discussions Started by Scott Hardie

What's in a Streak?

Since I have gotten several emails asking how streaks work and why only Amy has such a big one going, I thought I'd offer a more public response. (I should probably put this somewhere on the GOO section of the site, shouldn't I?) Go »

Bond... Jimmy Bond

This Newsweek article (link) about the new series of young-adult novels about a 13-year-old James Bond just makes me want to cry. It's not out of love for the whole Bond franchise, which is generally agreed to have gotten worse the further it got from Ian Go »

Happy Birthday, Amy

Normally I let the site menu offer my birthday greetings for me, but since you've personally singled out so many authors, I'd like to wish you a happy birthday myself, Amy. Enjoy the day. Go »

The Princess and the Warrior

Last night Kelly, Jackie, Steve and I went to see "The Princess and the Warrior." It primarily interested me because I heard it was a follow-up to "Run Lola Run," with the same director, same cast, same themes, and same style. Go »

Spring Break, Day One

Left Macomb at 4:15. Kelly was getting off work in Galesburg at 5:30 and really wanted me to meet her boss, so I was happy to be leaving early for a change. Go »

Link Bonanza

In the three or so months that TC was offline, I stored all the interesting links that I came across in a folder. My plan was that the new TC would have some kind of "links" page to which I could add them when the time came. Go »