Q: Is Harry Potter a ripoff of Star Wars? A: Yes and no. It is another retelling of the Hero’s Journey. But the similarities are hard to deny.
In 1871, the English anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor was one of the first in his field to draw attention to the similarities between the myths and legends of otherwise vastly different cultures. This phenomenon would be further observed by American writer Joseph Campbell, who published a book called The Hero with a Thousand Facesin 1949.
Thanks to Campbell and his theory of the monomyth, narratologists popularized the concept of “The Hero’s Journey” as a fundamental part of storytelling through the ages. Examples of this so-called journey can be seen in nearly every work of modern and classical narrative, serving as the starting point of some of the most iconic pieces of fiction ever written.
That’s why it isn’t so strange to see two widely different stories that share some core similarities: the story of an orphan who decides to become a superhero after a family tragedy could be attributed to either Spider-Man or Batman, for example.
However, there are some cases where mere similarities aren’t the only thing that two stories have in common. Sometimes, two narratives are so overwhelmingly similar, and so distant in time, that some suspicions of plagiarism are bound to arise. Such is the case of the Harry Potter and the Star Wars franchise.
“Harry Potter is just Star Wars with sucky lightsabers” — Comedian Aaron Woodall
The timeless story of a gifted young boy who goes to live with his aunt and his uncle, hidden from the evil forces of a corrupt group of people – that’s the origin story of both Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter. While this fits with the overall structure of the Hero’s Journey, Campbell never wrote about the protagonist having to live with his relatives in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
It might sound like just a nitpick, but things only get more similar from here on out. Both Luke and Harry have a call to action that comes from the character that left them in their relatives’ house in the first place (Hagrid and Obi-Wan Kenobi.)
While the concept of the Force and magic (as seen in the world of Harry Potter) are vastly different, the main character’s ties to their special abilities play an integral part in both Star Wars and Harry Potter. It’s worth mentioning, however, that Luke eventually becomes quite fluent with the Force, while Harry could hardly pass his finals in Hogwarts.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of the whole Harry Potter saga is how forced the connection between Lord Voldemort and Harry feels. While the story of The Boy Who Lived has him tied to the evil wizard through some form of magic tie, Luke’s relationship with Darth Vader is just so much more effective on an emotional level.
Granted, there would be more than a few eyebrows raised if Voldemort suddenly revealed that he was Harry’s father, but, at the very least, a more consequential connection would have made their feud much more interesting.
3. Friends And Romance
Here’s one area where Harry might actually have an advantage over Luke. While Jedi can’t have romantic partners, Harry manages to establish a happy family with his best friend’s sister.
On the other hand, most fans thought that Harry was destined to end up with Hermione, who chooses Ron instead. This strange love triangle bears some resemblances to the one we see with Luke, Leia, and Han Solo. The good news is that, in Harry Potter, there are no uncomfortable kisses that everyone would love to pretend never happened. Skywalker family reunions must be extremely awkward indeed.
Harry Potter vs Star Wars – 3 Similarities and Differences
Two of the most significant media franchises ever produced have some striking similarities between them: Star Wars and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter might look like polar opposites at first, but there’s more in common between the two than meets the eye.
Not only do they share a similar plot structure, but the themes and even some of the characters are nearly carbon copies. Still, there are some areas where both franchises are diametrically different, but I’ll also address those differences when it’s due.
1. Space Wizards
While the “magic” in the Harry Potter franchise is never fully explained, it’s easy to see how an invisible force that does its master’s bidding could be similar to the Force in the Star Wars universe.
However, if the prequels are to be believed, the Force has some quasi-organic origins known as Midichlorians; this diverges vastly from Harry Potter‘s concept of magic, where it seems like a wizard’s power is dependent on the quality of their wands and the necessities of the plot.
Speaking of wands, while they’re not needed to use the Force in the Star Wars franchise, one could easily spot the similarities between the Harry Potter wands and the iconic lightsabers. One thing that I really like about the Star Wars mythos is that crafting your own lightsaber is a rite of passage for the Jedi or the Sith. I think it would have been great if we ever got to see that assembling your signature magic wand was part of Hogwart’s final exam.
Arguably the most evident parallel between Star Wars and Harry Potter is how similar Luke and Harry’s roles are in the grand scheme of their sagas.
Harry and Luke are both children of prophecy, destined to defeat some sort of pure evil. In Luke’s case, however, the prophecy is much clearer on what his victory means at the end of the day: Luke defeating the Emperor would bring balance to the Force and end the dark side’s rule. However, the only thing that Harry’s destined to do is defeat Voldemort.
The specifics of Harry’s role in the larger Wizarding World are never fully addressed. We know he wants to become an Auror – the wizard’s equivalent to a police officer. However, from a narrative point of view, this means that Harry aims to keep the status quo of the world safe – kind of a bland objective for a protagonist, wouldn’t you say?
3. Friends and Foes
Let’s get this out of the way first: there’s no one as cool as Han Solo in the entire Harry Potter universe. Now that that’s been addressed, let’s dive into why Han’s role isn’t that dissimilar from Ron’s.
Han and Ron are the first real friends of Luke and Harry, respectively. More than that, they serve as a way for the audience to get to know the world our characters inhabit. Han – a savvy smuggler – and Ron – a kid who has lived around wizards his whole life – are the perfect way to introduce audiences to these carefully crafted worlds.
The same goes for Leia and Hermione: both characters serve as headstrong female companions, and both of them marry the main character’s best friend in the end.
When it comes to the bad guys, it’s plain to see where the parallels are. From the dark tunics to the pompous names, Voldemort and Darth Sidious are certainly two peas in a pod.
However, the most fascinating character in both franchises is one whose allegiance is challenged at every step of the way. Severus Snape might not be Harry’s father, but his platonic relationship with Harry’s mom – and his instrumental role in Voldemort’s downfall – more than meet the quota to turn him into the Harry Potter version of Darth Vader (or Anakin Skywalker): all he needs is a cool helmet and a respiratory impairment.