Sunday, November 9, 2014

Nobility and Honor: the similarities of Harry Potter and Ned Stark

The genre of fantasy is one that often bleeds stories into one another. There are always influences, references, and similarities to be gathered. The work that has greatly pulled from all realms of literature is Harry Potter. The young wizard series shows links to Tolkien, Austen, Dickens, and many other famous authors. But one series the public is generally certain that Potter did not borrow from is A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Despite this fact, it is safe to say that both series can be seen as similar. Of course there are big and obvious differences as well but I have always viewed A Song of Ice and Fire being the next step after Potter. Not only is the writing more mature and intricate but so is the story and the characters. After reading the Potter series six times and Ice and Fire once, I noticed a similarity in lead character Harry and the beloved Ned Stark. Ned Stark, the Hand of King Robert Baratheon in the first installment titled A Game of Thrones, is known for his unmoving honor and nobility. He is always striving to do the right thing while not having any motive other than...well, doing the right thing. He never does anything for himself but serves to be a guiding light when others wander. Some may also call this stupidity. I call it believing in something bigger than ones own self interests. An example of Ned's honor is when he...chops off the deserted ranger's head. I know that sounds kind of weird but here is why I use this as an example. Ned brings his young son Bran to watch the beheading and he tells Bran that the reason he specifically was called to do such an act is because the man who passes the sentence must swing the sword. Ned helped keep said laws in check and therefore he must enforce them. He has an honor code and sticks to it.
Ice and Fire is very character driven while Potter is very plot driven so in Potter there is room for redeemable choices...meaning if a character makes a noble choice, something noble will come out of it. In Ice and Fire, Ned's choices have dire consequences and his honorable choice to not take action after Robert's death and claim Stannis as the rightful King proves fatal to many. Even when he makes the right choice, it isn't right for the realm.
Meanwhile, young Harry is having a lesson in ethics throughout his coming of age at Hogwarts. When he honorably lets Peter Pettigrew live is Prisoner of Azkaban, he is later returned the favor when Peter cannot kill him in the cellar of Malfoy Manor. Harry also shows his nobility when he uses expelliarmus. He uses this elementary spell on many life threatening occasions and always comes out relatively unscathed. When he uses it in the sky trying to escape from Privet Drive in Deathly Hallows, the Death Eaters immediately know it is him because of his honor to not kill or maim anyone. After this, Lupin criticizes Harry on his failure to act (and I have a feeling A Game of Thrones readers were to Lupin as Ned was to Harry). But Harry is unwavering. 
The two characters are also very internal. Rarely do either of them voice their deepest thoughts and are very reflective on their actions and the effect their actions have on how future events will unfold. A great example of Harry's internal dialogue with himself is in Deathly Hallows when he struggles with feeling alone amidst Ron and Hermione when he struggles with the idea to trust Dumbledore or not. Ned Stark also internalizes a lot and when he needs to think, he goes to the heart tree and prays to the Old Gods. To link back to Potter, many of Harry's thoughts in Deathly Hallows are like a prayer. This is especially apparent after Harry buries Dobby and is at shell cottage when he reflects, "is that why you [Dumbledore] made it so difficult? To give me time to work it out?"
Harry's adolescence very much echoes Ned Stark and I think it is safe to say he gives us a good picture of what Ned would have been like in his younger years.

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