Philosopher’s Stone And Graveyard Book: The Representation Of Magical And Supernatural

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Graveyard Book both explore the themes and ideas of magic and the paranormal. Harry Potter tells the story of an apparently ordinary young boy who finds out he is actually a magician. Harry fights his enemies, both inside and outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcrafts & Wizardry. Nobody Owens from The Graveyard Book (also known as Bod), is raised in a unique environment by the Mr. and Ms. Owens ghosts who live in the graveyard. Silas teaches Bod about the ways of life while also protecting him against the Jacks of All Trades. The authors of both texts used magic and supernatural elements to create a hierarchy between the magical world and those outside. The Graveyard Book has a clear difference between humans and ghosts. Harry Potter also distinguishes between wizards and muggles. The characters in The Graveyard Book (Bod) and Harry Potter (Hermione) are the main protagonists in both texts. They aim to destroy the social barriers through their characters. Both texts are a mixture of Gothic literature and fantasy fiction. The authors can use these elements to cement their social hierarchy by using grotesque, fantasy and mythical elements.

Hagrid’s reaction to Harry learning that he was a wizard shows the tension between wizards. Hagrid explains to Harry that a muggle is a non-magic person like Harry. It is clear that this label shows the Wizarding Community’s view of muggles as inferior. The Dursleys also share this disdain, with Mrs. Dursley calling her witch-sister a ‘freak’ in Rowling 57. While it’s true that muggles generally don’t even know witches exist, they also reject the notion of them. The muggles are claiming the wizarding community is superior based on ignorance. In a magically charged world, these two dominant people groups, wizards versus muggles are fighting to be at the top of the hierarchy. This is similar to the real world where people compete for the top position, like the USA and the USSR during the Cold War. Or even the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. Rowling shows this social order from the point of view of wizards who are in the highest position.

Harry Potter’s wizarding community is further divided into pure-bloods or half-bloods. There are also muggle borns and squibs. Squibs are children of wizard parents who do not possess magic. Also, there is a difference between pure-bloods or half-bloods that sympathizes with muggles. Ron Weasley and Draco Weasley are both victims of this discrimination. Ron Weasley comes from pure-blooded family known for their sympathy toward muggles. Draco is a scumbag who calls Hagrid, the Weasleys family and other riff-raff on the Hogwarts train. Draco says that Harry will find out soon enough which wizarding family is better, Potter (Rowling 116) as well as referring to ‘the wrong type’ (Rowling116). Draco has a pureblood background and is anti muggle. To him, anyone who does not have a pureblood background and who holds different views is the wrong type. There’s a hint of Neo-Nazism throughout the book, as pure-blooded magicians are compared to Aryans. Muggles and those born muggles are like Jews. This separation and the placement of these groups into a social hierarchy are the wizarding equivalents of the World-System Theory, which is based around wealth and power.

Hermione’s muggle blood is a major reason why she is seen as an Outsider in Harry Potter. She doesn’t fit into the wizarding culture, yet she is also not a muggle. Bod also has the same outsider image in The Graveyard Book. He’s neither ghost or human. The Graveyard Book also depicts hierarchy, although it’s different than Harry Potter. The structure is the same. The Graveyard Book portrays three distinct societies: the humans, the ghosts and ‘The Honor Guard’ (Gaiman 282). The humans have no idea what the supernatural is like the majority muggles from Harry Potter. They also perceive hierarchy based on the fact that they are ignorant. Gaiman makes a comparison between the ignorance of humans and that of third-worlders.

The graveyard has a very distinct social structure. The Honor Guard is the highest ranking group, including Silas Lupescu and Miss Lupescu. The text makes it clear that you need to be a supernatural creature like a werewolf or vampire in order for them to accept you. There is also a ghost at the top, the Lady of the Grey. She is highly respected by the other ghosts. The general ghost population is located in the middle of this hierarchy, which can be compared to middle-class or working class people of today. Liza Hempstock is a witch-turned-ghost who was executed. Liza, the witch ghost, is shunned by her fellow ghosts for being a supernatural creature. Gaiman makes a social statement by using this ironic circumstance to highlight the hypocrisy inherent in a hierarchical society.

Hermione is an outsider to the wizarding world, as we have already stated. Hermione plays a crucial role as the story unfolds in stopping Lord Voldemort from stealing the Philosopher’s stone. She uses intelligence to unravel key information such as the riddle of the potions that they need to solve in order for them to find the Philosopher’s stone. Hermione, who is a shrewd observer, says that many of the most powerful wizards do not possess a speck of logic (Rowling 307.) Harry’s lucky because Hermione can. Michelle Fry (157) explains the importance of Hermione to break down the social barriers. Hermione solving the riddle proves that pure bloods, such as Draco, view her as less than because she’s a muggle. She proves that pure-blood wizards are not the only ones who can’t solve this problem.

In Harry Potter, there is a carnival-like atmosphere where the oppressed, both muggles and those who sympathize with them, are empowered and rise to power (Nikolajeva). They take advantage of the opportunity to destroy the notions that pure-blooded wizards are incompetent and inferior.

The Graveyard Book contains carnivalesque elements, which are evident when humans dance with ghosts the Macabray. In the upside-down world of carnival, (Nikolajeva and Hall), the human social order is reversed, as the humans accept the supernatural for one night but do not remember it afterward. Silas says that ‘there are certain things people are not allowed to talk about’ (Gaiman 153), which shows that after the dance, the social order has returned. It has a grotesque theme of ghosts and humans dancing together as seen at carnivals and in Gothic literature. The lyrics for the song “Danse Macabre”, appropriately titled by Gaiman, are a mix of Gothic and carnivalesque humor. A good example is “one will leave and one will stay and we’ll all dance the Macabray”, which has a carnivalesque tone and a Gothic feel.

The grotesque motif is a Gothic one used in Harry Potter as a way to show the hierarchy of social standing. Hall uses Hagrid, the half-giant character, to explore grotesque representations. Hagrid has a “long, shaggy beard and a wild hair” (Rowling, 50) while his eyes look like black beetles (Rowling, 50). Not only is he a Half-blood, but a Half-breed with a Giantess mother. He is also at the bottom of hierarchy. Draco describes Hagrid as a “savage”, but we all know that Hagrid’s pockets are filled with’mint Humbugs’ and ‘teabags.’ Rowling (84). He also has a bag of dog biscuits. Rowling (79). The gentle giant is a great example of this. There’s a carnivalesque element to his character. Hagrid’s grotesqueness is a cause for disdain by most of the wizarding society, just as Draco’s was. Harry Potter’s portrayal of goblins is grotesque. Rowling describes goblins as “swarthy” (78), with a “clever face, a bead pointed at the end”, (78), and having’very long feet and fingers’ (78). The goblin is associated with villainy, treachery, and grotesqueness, all of which are motifs that are synonymous with Gothic Literature. As with Hagrid, it is no surprise that goblins also occupy the lowest social rung.

Harry Potter, The Graveyard Book and other fictional worlds have a hierarchy that is similar to the real-world. They stratify people using magic and supernatural elements. This structure is emphasized by using Gothic, especially grotesque, to make clear the differences between groups. Carnival elements can be found in the text and are used to remove social barriers. Social distinctions are made between the magical and human worlds, the latter of which often denies the existence or the supernatural. There are similar class distinctions in the magical and human worlds. Harry Potter’s and The Graveyard Book’s commentary on today’s social hierarchy is a great way to learn about the unintended consequences of labeling groups or people based on their assumed value.

Works Cited

Coats, Karen. Between Horror and Humour. Neil Gaiman’s Psychic Work of the Gothic. The Gothic of Children’s Literature. Eds. Anna Jackson and Karen Coats. Taylor and Francis (2008) 77-92. Print.

Fry, Michele. New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarship 7.1 (2001), pp. 157-167. EBSCO host. Web.

Gaiman, Neil. A story about a boy who is raised in a cemetery by the ghosts of its inhabitants. London, Bloomsbury. 2009. Print. Hall, Jordana. Children’s Literature in Education. 42 (2010), 70-89. EBSCO host. Web.

Kottak, Conrad P. Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity. 15th ed. McGraw Hill Companies. New York, 2013. Print.

Nikolajeva, Maria. Harry Potter: The Secrets of Children’s Literature. Ed. Elizabeth E. Hellman. Taylor and Francis published an unnamed work in 2008. 225-241. EBSCO host. Web.

Rowling J. K. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Print.



Makhi is a 34 yo educational blogger who is passionate about writing and exploring new content ideas. She has a degree in English from the University of Utah and is currently working as a teacher in a public school in Utah. Makhi has been published in numerous online journals and has been featured on national television networks.