State Library of Victoria \ Inside a dog
Skip to main content

You're The Voice: Nisma on Harry Potter and Originality

Nov 12,2012
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Can you smell that?

 No, to be honest, I can’t either. Well, at least, I can’t think of a smell that describes the situation of NEVER EVER EVER EVER doing maths again. But if you can, do let me know.

But anyway, this isn’t about my permanent divorce with maths (yeah, that’s right, it’s so over). Recently, I read the current Residence blogger, Steven Lochran’s post on fanfiction… and it got me thinking about another post I read, on originality.

First up, fanfiction and I are not best buds. I already commented on the post itself – you should check it out – but just to reiterate, I just don’t like it when people rewrite an awesome story and destroy my favourite characters. Especially, good heavens, when they put Harry and Hermione together…

(And when people say this and I cry out in agony and say WHYYYYYYYYY? They say it’s because… both of them have dark hair….?

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the gif spammage.

Anyhow, on this originality post, this girl was upset because after writing her own novel, she suddenly realised that every ounce of her novel was unoriginal. The names she’d taken from other places, the concept – superheroes – was also apparently stolen.  The romance, the way the story progressed – all a rip off of stuff that already existed.

I thought… ouch.

Now, I can see why she’d think that, especially when she started listing exactly what she’d stolen from where, but somehow, I couldn’t agree.

Let’s talk… Harry Potter.

Isn’t that one of the most successful stories of all time? JKR takes stuff from mythology, Shakespeare, different languages, places she’s been to, people she knows. And, especially when I’m on somewhere like Pottermore, I get superdy excited to find the history of a name JKR used. Or a place. A thing.

 I mean, it’s not as if she invented the concept of witches and wizards… they’ve existed for eons. And super-villains bent on world domination of the supreme race?? *cough cough* Hitler *cough cough*

(Though I can’t think of any who’ve split their souls… hm o.O )

And yet I would never ever ever never ever ever never never ever doubt the awesomeness of Harry Potter. Ever.

Or even The Hunger Games! Did you know that ‘Panem’ comes from a Latin phrase: Panem et Circenses, or ‘Bread and Circuses’? So many of the names too, are derived from flowers and plants… I mean, I’m pretty sure Collins didn’t invent those flowers either.

But isn’t this what makes the story more exciting? The deeper you dig, the more little facts you pull out, the more realistic the novel feels.

I don’t think anyone could really question the originality of these stories. We’d be more fascinated, wouldn’t we? Intrigued by the secrets the stories hold, the depth. The effort put into it. That’s what the subject Literature is for, at school. Unpacking all the details, tracing back to the sources, and finding more meaning. Rather than stealing, I think it’s more like you’re using your resources, and moulding it to be your own. You’re putting in secret messages. Hints.

So while I’m not a fan of fanfiction (haha, that sounds funny… fan of fanfiction… geddit? No? Okay…) I guess I can understand it, and appreciate the overall concept. You take this fantastic idea and you write it differently, because the tiniest difference can change the entire tale. And then it becomes your tale.

That being said, if you ship Harry and Hermione in front of me… 




- Nisma

Nov 15,2012
@Daydreamer - of courses you do. My taste in books almost mirrors your own ;)
Nov 14,2012
@Nicole You know, for a weird reason, to SOME extent, I think I can agree. It kinda links to that idea about drinking from the 'same well of inspiration' Jordi mentioned below. But at the same time, if you thought up your own idea without any connection to another person's, but it still turned out familiar, while it may not be original on the grander scheme of things, the idea in your brain is still original? Like if a hermit who was never exposed to the rest of the world wrote a story and died and someone found it eons later and rolled their eyes because it was like a remake of 'Romeo and Juliet', but this poor little hermit had never been in contact with Shakespeare or anything in the like, wouldn't it be unfair to label this poor dude an unoriginal git? Because even if it's not original to all of us, in his little world, it must have been. Hm. I'm going to look that up - it's quite fascinating. But, on a side note: I think my brain just fried o.o
Nov 14,2012
I agree. x) Isn't there that quote by Albert Einstein that goes “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”? :P Anyway, loving the Harry Potter references. I applaud your taste in books. :)
Nov 14,2012
There is a popular belief that there are only 7 original story plots in the history of literature. It's interesting, because if you subscribe to this mode of theory then there is no such thing as originality. No matter how you write or what you write about it will always be considered within a framework of 7 story plots. It also brings up some interesting questions about plagiarism.
Nov 12,2012
I didn't know THAT. Wow o.o Still, maybe that part mirrors the Japanese book + Battle Royale, but I'm pretty sure the whole book doesn't copy another tale, right? Even if you pick and choose things from millions of different books, the whole compilation by itself would be a brand new thing, wouldn't it? I donno. Guess it's open to interpretation :/
Nov 12,2012
I did not know Panem was Latin! Awesome :) I like learning about the inspiration behind a particular name or idea. And I think, when those sorts of clues/histories are used consistently, it can add great depth to fantasy worlds (eg Lord of the Rings). Interestingly, I think The Hunger Games was criticised for lack of originality in that the dystopian world/teenage fight to the death scenario was done in the Japanese book + film Battle Royale. And yet Collins arrived at her idea in her own imagination. Who was it that said we all drink from the same well of inspiration?

Post new Comment

All comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. Please be patient - we're keen to know what you think and will get to your comment as fast as we can.