In Fantasy Matters, I noted Ursula K. Le Guin’s admonition—to fantasy/SF readers and writers alike— to “Know Thy Fantasy Literature.” To understand where, say, the Harry Potter stories “fit” into the sweep of fantasy literature, it is important to know the “school” corpus. J.K. Rowling did not create Hogwarts out of thin air, nor did she hang Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s school experiences on hooks entirely of her own invention.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, a number of readers were interested in this thought strand. I received several e-mails—all from the lower forty-eight, all interested in my parenthetical comment that I’d attended British boarding schools—wondering how “real” Hogwarts was, that is, how like a bona fide British boarding school Hogwarts might be.
With seven years of British boarding schools under my belt—ages 10-12 at one school, 12-17 at another—Hogwarts had always struck me as familiar, but I’d never thought much about the parallels: how many, how deep, how meaningful, how instructive?
Now I have.
Without writing a dissertation on The Reality of Hogwarts, a few thoughts about magical trains, inspiring architecture and secret passageways, Headmasters, quirky teachers (“masters”), quidditch, exams, and great friends.
These reflections also led to a startling realization: Hogwarts misses a thing or two. In the end, I wondered if J.K. Rowling had attended boarding school, or whether she just knew about it, as all Brits do—it’s part of the culture. Regardless, she certainly knew the “school” stories that preceded hers.
[ Magical Trains, Secret Passageways, & More ]