After playing a lot of Lego Harry Potter, I reread all seven books in a week, which in retrospect might have been too short a time. They hold up much better as a series than I remembered, and although not in any way without flaw, JK at least manages a consistent and coherent character development for her leads - I was particularly impressed with the teenage rage showed by Harry and later referenced and overcome (5 and 6 respectively I think).
In conversation some weeks after said marathon (still playing the damn game) I realised that Harry, much like Luke Skywalker, is not the true hero of his saga, at least by certain definitions of the word. In Star Wars one can reasonably view the saga (glossing over the actual events portrayed by the Unholy Trilogy, Eps 1-3, but sticking with the themes presented) as the tragic fall from grace and ultimate redemption of the hero Anakin Skywalker. Everything with his son is merely a means by which he is redeemed. As a narrative device this was used by the Greeks in their myths and stories, which SW heavily draws on.
With HP, there is a similar hero, who turns to the Dark Side - er, I mean, becomes a Death Eater, yeah - before repenting and ultimately dying to save the world. Now I'm no Snape fangirl, Lupin and Bill held my affections much more, but for me his is the most compelling story. Before Harry's arrival at school, his plot hooks are:
- Turns to the Dark Side when the woman he has loved since he was a child falls in love with his worst tomenter and bully. A classic trope of love denied and vengeance sought.
- Repents when he discovers the information he gave his master will be used to kill her and her infant son. This repentance is one of very few follow-ups to the above; the only other options would be to honourably kill oneself, which isn't that common in (modern) Western mythology; to slay the Dark Lord in question, or to attempt to (dying in the attempt probably counts as honourable suicide, really); or to go along with it and become as terrible a figure as one's master.
- Spends ten years living in secrecy, manipulated by his new master, despised by everyone who knows that he was a Death Eater, wallowing in self-hatred and terrified that his worst fears will come to pass: that the Dark Lord will return. This is non-standard for the tragic hero.
Anakin, bless his emo heart, can't hold a proper candle to this much more quiet tale of love and loss, hatred and betrayal and redemption. Worryingly enough, JK Rowling appears to be the more subtle of the two creators; she convolutes and complicates her archetypes, adding genuine adolescent emotion to the mix; whereas Lucas deals in stereotypes mainly, with a few characters dragging themselevs up to archetypes only through the quality of their acting. Poor Mark Hamill the ever-tainted never had a chance with Luke; Ford does a little better with Solo, and Obi-Wan played by Guinness and McGregor is probably the best and most complicated of them all, if indelibly tarnished by the sheer magnitude of awfulness that were the prequels and the dubious "plot" which played out in them.
RIP Severus. You won it for me, at least.