Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows discussion

Is Harry Potter comparable to Lord of the Rings?

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message 1: by Frog (last edited Aug 09, 2015 11:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog I have run into people who tell me I should be reading Toilken instead of Harry Potter.

Usually these arguments are made by people deliberately trying to belittle the Harry Potter series (because of the sorcery) but have never truly given the series a chance.

I have read both series multiple times and see that they both have strengths.
Rowling has the upper hand when it comes to being down to earth and relatable. Toklien's world is fleshed out in a more vast and less intimate way.

I am studying Toilken and learning about the religious themes and deeper morality behind his work. Yet I always respected Harry Potter for having a uniquely solid moral foundation (as opposed to the majority of modern YA Fantasy). And I don't think it necessarily has less of truths behind it just because the author was not consciously trying to be religious (even Toilken said he did not write these themes into his books purposely). And indeed, I feel I have learned many powerful things from the Potter books when it comes to bravery and making the right choices, etc, etc.

That said, I think the Potter books have some strengths that Toilken's did not (and vice versa).

J.K Rowling's biggest strength is engaging the reader in her work. She has a brilliant (somewhat taken for granted) method of telling her stories.
Animators say things should be believable, not realistic. I have never seen anyone take advantage of this as masterfully as J.K Rowling.

She has characters who are blatantly one dimensional (Dursleys) yet uses them in just the right places so that they never become tiresome. It has just the right effect, truly giving us the best of everything.

She never apologizes for making something too "weird" and carries on as if it is the most expected and reasonable thing possible whereas lesser authors would milk an idea or hide behind a safety blanket of sarcasm (think of the snake haunting a bathroom).
J.K Rowling unapologetically does as she likes, causing us to accept it without a second thought. That is art.

I could go on, but those are just a couple examples.

Is it fair to write off Harry Potter's many unique strengths as a story? Are we taking it for granted? Is there a genius behind it that we just haven't quite put our fingers on? Is it really so popular just by chance? Should we give credit where credit is due? Do you believe there is truly something about Toilken that none of these things compare to, and what would that be? Would you ever consider them equals? Why or why not?

message 2: by Keri (last edited Aug 10, 2015 06:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Keri I adore Tolkien, it is because of his stories that I became the book lover that I am today. Though I don't feel the same way about Rowling herself, I certainly do about the Harry Potter stories. There is something special there and definitely credit should be given where credit is due. I do believe that there is something just as special about Tolkien also, just something different. The world he created certainly has more depth to it, for lack of a better word. Meaning, feels older and more real. Both authors have included the same type of themes in their work... love, sacrifice, honor etc., just in different ways. Where Tolkien took an old world approach to his work, with old world themes that aren't valued today; Rowling took a modern one with modern beliefs, which is probably why younger people can relate to Potter more. As far as having the upper hand in being relatable it is my opinion that it has more to do with the modern themes and the intended audience rather than in skill of writing, same for Tolkien. Of course, her writing will be more relatable to a young, modern generation (her intended audience) than Tolkien would be, the same for Tolkien being more relatable to an older, not so modern audience. I don't think that makes her superior. I don't know if I would consider them equals either because Tolkien was a brilliant, highly intelligent man and spent his life developing his stories and languages and it really shows in his work. He wrote a history that carries on for centuries and one can delve pretty far into his world. Whereas, JK hit gold with one story and I am not sure if she is as strong an author as Tolkien was to be able to do that again. But that doesn't mean that her story has any less value. And I certainly don't believe it is fair to write of Potter's strengths or to say that anyone should be reading Tolkien instead of Potter. Rather I would say a Potter fan would likely enjoy Tolkien as well and vice versa, though I know some Tolkien fans can be snobbish about HP, I feel they are really missing something to take that approach. Being an adult myself, I dismissed Potter for quite a while thinking that they were just children's stories that I probably wouldn't like. I have never been more happy to be proven wrong. I have now read HP nearly as many times as I have read LotR. I definitely believe the Potter story has just as much staying power as Tolkien, they wouldn't be as beloved as they are without reason.

message 3: by hannah renee. (last edited Aug 10, 2015 06:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

hannah renee. Fish wrote: "I have run into people who tell me I should be reading Toilken instead of Harry Potter.

Usually these arguments are made by people deliberately trying to belittle the Harry Potter series (because ..."

I would say that Harry Potter would not even be around if it weren't for Tolkien's work. Tolkien pretty much established the fantasy genre (yes, there were fairy-tales before his lovely works, but his books are what made it really become a real thing, I believe). Like Keri said, LotR is a bit more old-world, but I think that's what makes it so lovely. In some ways, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are the same stories in different settings. But I think that's why people love them; they speak of some transcendent truth. I think younger people connect to HP better because it's easier to read and a bit more personal sounding. I will say one thing though: LotR is definitely more epic and grandiose, making it just better than HP. The LotR extended tril movies were my childhood too though, so I obviously love it more.

Keri wrote: "I adore Tolkien, it is because of his stories that I became the book lover that I am today. Though I don't feel the same way about Rowling herself, I certainly do about the Harry Potter stories. ..."

I 100% agree with this. :)

message 4: by Frog (last edited Aug 10, 2015 12:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog I think you hit the nail on the head when you say they are both relatable in their own ways to different audiences. That could explain why there are two generations that don't seem to agree with each other.
Many teens will say Toilken is "hard to get through." (Not all of them, and not myself, for the record).

And of course, certain adults will tell me that to them Harry Potter is comparable to a mere "Disney movie" (obviously not true).

I'll agree that Toilkien was more intelligent. J.K Rowling may have been somewhat more lucky than clever (as far as the way she chose to write her story. Still I think many of her methods deserve to be considered). Comparing HP to her newer books this is what I feel.

The description of Toilken being more grand and epic is fair, while both of the series have unique ways of connecting with their audiences. Harry Potter is particularly unique for this generation. Many modern authors cannot connect the same way when they try to. Percy Jackson, Septimus Heap, Artemis Fowl, etc, etc. Rowling obviously understands a few things that the authors of these just don't grasp. I have a lot of theories concerning this... (which would admittedly probably apply to Toilken as well, as a matter of fact).

As far as being equals, I still don't know what to think.
I'm trying to analyze both right now. I can see unique things about both, really. I see some things about Potter that are taken for granted and some things about Lotr that tend to get a bit exaggerated (again, I'm not knocking it in any way; I love both). The Lotr world is undeniably bigger, I can see that. There is simply more of it. So you could say in that way it is better. As authors in general, I believe Toilken is wiser.

Rowling just seems more immersive to me. But I am the target audience, after all. I'm unsure whether I feel like Toilken's characters are harder to relate to because they are different or frankly just have less of personalities (I'm sorry to say that. But there were 13 dwarves in the hobbit, and I couldn't tell you about any of their personalities aside from very general traits like "brave," "strong" etc.)... It seems less personal of a story in that regard. Not necessarily worse for that.

Thanks for the insightful answers and discussion.

Keri Thanks for a great discussion Fish. :)

I agree about the Hobbit characters having less personality but again I think that part of it is because of the target audience which for TH was young children who weren't likely to care much about character development and more about a fun story. The other part being that Tolkien simply came from a much more reserved generation where showing strong emotion wasn't as commonplace as it is today as well as the time period of his writing was in a much more reserved time. Rowling let her characters be and show emotion about everything which makes it easier to relate to them, easier to become immersed. Tolkien can bring you to joy or to tears with great words and Rowling with great emotion. Though they have different ways of accomplishing their goal with their writing, they both excel at doing it. I also agree that HP is definitely unique in this generation as you said and I'd love to hear your theories about why modern writers can't seem to grasp what she does.
I can see why teens would say Tolkien is hard to get through, he can be at first until one gets used to his style. He certainly likes to describe things lol. I think the movies, as great as they were, are partly to blame for that too. All the extra action scenes that were added can make someone think the book is a bit boring. Plus people are impatient in this instant generation and don't want to wait for a story to develop slowly.
I think it is unfair of an adult to say that HP is a mere Disney movie, without giving the books a chance. There is just so much left out of the movies especially the later ones, that they almost don't compare. It's really too bad, they don't know what they are missing. ;)

message 6: by Guy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Guy L. Pace Rowling's Harry Potter series is an English school story, with magic. This is an old literary genre of series that follows a character or characters through a coming of age process. Horatio Hornblower, Seven Years Before the Mast, is another approach to this kind of story. What Rowling did with this is little short of amazing and she has a series of books that are so well written and that cross age barriers, we will have them for a very long time.

Tolkein's work (including The Hobbit) is the result of years of research into old Scandinavian pre-history and ancient language, and the series is a veiled commentary of the political and social climate of his time, and an analysis of friendship, courage, and faith.

The theme's in all the works mentioned are multi-leveled and are not just "children's stories." Anyone judging the literary work of either author on the merits of the Hollywood representation is missing the entire point.

message 7: by Ruby (last edited Aug 16, 2015 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby I like to say the LotR is my favorite book and Harry Potter is my favorite series:

I think that the strengths of LotR are that the world is almost fully fleshed out with lots of exposition and backstories and lore and whatnot while the wizarding world is not as completely worked out. I think Tolkien set up a better environment and setting for his stories than Rowling, who used the modern-day world with magic thrown in. There are definitely some holes in how the wizarding world works.

On the other hand, the books are completely different and do appeal to different audiences. Harry Potter focuses more on friendship, teenage-life, distinct moral ideas, and a fun magical world/how magic works. Tolkien's work is more about war, strength, honor, and bravery. The two books have different main points. They are sometimes compared because they are both popular and books, but its very much like apples and oranges because they came from different times and have different themes. They are comparable in a certain way, but the question is: what parts of each are we comparing? Because parts of HP shine through where parts of LotR don't, and vice versa.

I like Harry Potter because it gives us more character development and we get to see more thoughts and feelings of the characters. The wizarding world seems almost real to me, and the concept is fun to explore and read about. As for Lord of the Rings, I love it because it lacks no detail, has its own history, and is written better. I love the simple yet powerful themes in it (not allegory, of course) and how the past and the present are tied together in a logical yet coincidental way (EX: Gollum in the climax, Aragorn claiming his birthright...), but it's harder to sink into that world because it's so drastically different (timewise and culturally) from our own.

To conclude, I think LotR is written better with a better setting, backstories/lore, and a more powerful message. Harry Potter is more fun, with more character development, focus on life from the point of view of a teen, and a more interesting story in the way that there are a LOT of plotlines over those seven books whereas in LotR there are a few but they are REALLY fleshed out. In LotR there is character development, but it is very gradual and changes the characters in ways we all expect. I believe that Tolkien is a better writer than Rowling.

Another thing is that the world of Harry Potter seems more real and relatable than Middle Earth. It's easier to sink into the story that way even if LotR has a better setting. So yes-if we blanket-state which one is better, we overlook great parts of each.I think LotR is the better book but HP the more twisting, entertaining series with more character development.

hannah renee. Ruby wrote: "I like to say the LotR is my favorite book and Harry Potter is my favorite series:

I think that the strengths of LotR are that the world is almost fully fleshed out with lots of exposition and bac..."

Why aren't their "like" buttons on Goodreads for comments? Seriously.

message 9: by Frog (last edited Feb 11, 2021 10:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog Great answer, Ruby.

Now I think they are opposites in one sense.
Lotr is grand and vast while HP is accessible and personal.
(A really simple way of putting it).

So it's really like looking at something a different way, which is actually quite fascinating.

My next discussion is going to be about Harry Potter vs. Percy Jackson... where I think I will try to dissect even more of what sets HP apart from other modern fantasy.
(For whatever reason I seem to be obsessed with this lately...).

Shilpi Saha I think Harry Potter breaks all age barrier, while LOTR is a grand masterpiece. Harry Potter you can gift a child as well as your grandmother, while LOTR u need a connoisseur....like wine and beer. As a software programmer will say...read any book in C, and then to learn see read Kernighan Ritchie. :)
I loved Harry Potter...was awed by LOTR.

message 11: by James (last edited Aug 16, 2015 08:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James Fish wrote: "I have run into people who tell me I should be reading Toilken instead of Harry Potter.

Usually these arguments are made by people deliberately trying to belittle the Harry Potter series (because ..."

I've come to appreciate HP more and more, but despite its many virtues I still think Tolkien is the greater writer. I think the two tales are too different to be really comparable. JKR has a gift for inventing grotesque and Dickensian characters - Gamp's Law shares its name with a Dickens character - whereas Tolkien achieves his very different effects in different ways.

Tolkien had a sensitivity to language that JKR lacks; she is rather too fond of words like "zoom" and "silkily" and "snarled", and sometimes her grammar is off - "span round" is not the past of "spin round". "Span" may be a misprint - in which case it needs to be corrected. A great deal of the atmosphere, and thus, the power, of TLOTR is due to the great weight of the past that is the background to the events of the War of the Ring - the references to the Noldor, Feanor, the Two Trees, Morgoth, Gondolin, Sauron, Numenor, Elendil and much much more, is essential to the fabric of TLOTR. And not only is the past of Middle-earth unnumbered years long, but the events spoken of in later years are told in detail when they occur. Aragorn does not simply refer to Beren and Luthien and Thingol - the Silmarillion tells us who all of them are, and why they are important. The references to ancient and almost forgotten things are not dummy references, but references to things that shaped the past to make it the present in which the speakers who refer to these ancient things live. Gondolin is not a mere vanished name, but the city in which Elrond's own father was born. This is different from JKR's writing - she refers to Gregory the Smarmy, and to similar characters, but we are not shown them directly in the way that we are shown Feanor, Thingol, and the beech-woods of Arvernien. Emeric the Evil, or Barnabas the Barmy and his balletic trolls, remain things referred to, with little said of them but their names.

One of Tolkien's great strengths is his ability to use language evocatively - certain phrases live in the memory, and, like the Seeing Stones, conjure up pictures of things far off. The words make real to the reader what the author has seen, and do so with astonishing clarity. One of JKR's great strengths is to engage the reader's emotions - that much is proved by the hatred shown to characters like Umbridge.

The HP books are a magnificent achievement, but I think that Tolkien's story is more completely satisfying. Partly for a reason which is only indirectly if at all a literary one: the moral vision in Tolkien's books includes the possibillity of forgiveness - and there is very little forgiveneness in HP. A universe n which evil has been conquered, but not renewed by forgiveness and the restoration and pardon of the wrong-doer, is more vulnerable to future evil than one in which forgiveness renews relations between people. Forgiveness is more life-giving than the refusal or the absence of it - a universe in which forgiveness can happen is more spacious, contains more room for the soul, than one where forgiveness is not risked. For the offer of forgiveness is not only a sign of inner strength - it makes the person who offers it vulnerable. And the wizards in HP are constantly concerned not to be vulnerable. In the process of trying to ensure their security, they have constructed a psychological castle that is too secure to allow them to risk offering forgiveness. Their only solutions are Azkaban, or death. Grace and forgiveness and redemption are not on offer. This implies a much sadder ending than in Middle-earth, where lasting security from the "tides of time" is not available even to the Elves, and where Men, though they must die, can receive death as a Gift. Tolkien's tale offers "hope beyond the circles of the world", whereas there is little hope within the world of wizards, witches, Muggles and intelligent beasts.

As for belittling one story to praise another, that is just silly, because complaining of the faults of one story does nothing to show that the preferred story has any virtues of its own. If HP were ten thousand times weaker or stronger than it is, that would not in itself tell one anything about the strengths or weaknesses of any other book.

message 12: by Frog (last edited Aug 16, 2015 04:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog Toilken's world is bigger, hands down.
Also, I believe that as a Catholic he understood a few truths that were deeply ingrained into his works, which made them the better for that.
Your example about forgiveness is a good one. Stories are always better the more they reflect truth. That seems to be true with anything.

I do think Harry Potter has some good things to say as well; about our choices and bravery and death...
I'm not particularly sure I agree that they do not show forgiveness, but there are no examples on the front of my mind. I'm not too sure what you mean.
Rowling's main priorities seem, however, to be in other places. She personalizes the world she has rather than expands it.

I have another question. Does Toilken ever make you really laugh? That's one thing Rowling can do well.

message 13: by Ruby (last edited Aug 16, 2015 07:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby Tolkien I think does make us laugh by first showing us characters and demonstrating their habits and such-- and then a scenario occurs when their normal behaviors wouldn't work, making them act out of character a little so that the scenario can be overcome. EX: How Gimli is supposed to be tough but in some situations he is compared to Legolas and so on. The inverse I also find funny, which is when Tolkien's characters do something so completely within their character but at dramatic odds with the situation that you think: "They WOULD, wouldn't they?"

I do agree Rowling's humor is easier to understand/create- in a wizarding world full of infinite magical creatures and unexplored culture, almost anything can be put in a funny light when comparing it to our world. (Like how Ron thought Cinderella was an illness).

As a side note, I believe the reason Middle Earth seems like it will heal easier than the wizarding world is mainly because it is more unified. The Hogwarts houses are at odds with each other as is the ministry of magic/wizarding world with ours. Middle Earth's victory was based on camaraderie, valor, and honor, so the different lands and races can raise each other up. But in the wizarding world people are not as unified, so the healing seems harder.

message 14: by Frog (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog That's a good way to explain it. The way Bilbo acted when he first went on an adventure made me laugh because of his personality. Tolkien is good at that.

And that's absolutely right. I've been to the Wizarding World in Orlando, and acting like a wizard (especially to other people's confusion) is the most amusing thing on earth.

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