Innovative Literary Analysis / Potter at 20

Opinion: The Harry Potter Books Are Basically Rip-Offs of the 1928 Lesbian Novel ‘The Well of Loneliness’

The Harry Potter books are huge. I won’t deny that. They have become a fundamental part of the cultural lexicon, a lasting legacy of what children most enjoy in literature in the present day. As such, I do not underestimate their impact.

What I do have issue with is their originality. J.K. Rowling hasn’t been shy in saying she borrowed from mythology and folklore. But she’s been less open about her heavy ‘borrowing’ from the 1928 Radclyffe Hall novel, ‘The Well of Loneliness’. Why is that? Well, as I will show, it’s because Rowling did a little bit more than simply ‘borrow’ from that novel. She stole.

1. Both Novels Deal With Hidden Societies That Remain Unnoticed by Their Contemporaries

Radclyffe Hall delves into the world of the 1920s gay Paris subculture in her book. This is a hidden world, just beyond the notice of ‘polite society.’ When referring to this ignorance, the protagonist, Stephen Gordon, has the following thought.

The world hid its head in the sands of convention, so that seeing nothing it might avoid Truth. It said to itself: ‘If seeing’s believing, then I don’t want to see — if silence is golden, it is also, in this case, very expedient.

In the Harry Potter novels, the ‘muggle’ world does not notice the wizard world. When referring to this, the book says the following.

“Them!” said Stan contemptuously. “Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.”

Notice something? The quotes are essentially identical. It’s like J.K. Rowling just pulled it off of the page and put it in her book. The only difference is that instead of ‘Parisian lesbian subculture’ we say ‘Hogwarts’.

Speaking of which…

2. ‘Wizards’ Are Lesbians

The wizards in Harry Potter are basically the lesbians from ‘The Well of Loneliness’. Don’t believe me? Observe these two quotes and tell me I’m wrong.

The first is when Valérie Seymour speaks to Stephen about her sexuality.

You’re neither unnatural, nor abominable, nor mad; you’re as much a part of what people call nature as anyone else; only you’re unexplained as yet — you’ve not got your niche in creation.

And then this quote when Hagrid tells Harry that he’s a wizard.

You’re a wizard Harry!’

It’s blatant, and I can’t believe that she thought she could get away with such obvious theft. And if that isn’t enough, Rowling saddles the ‘wizards’ with a number of offensive lesbian stereotypes, like the idea that an anthropomorphic hat tells them which house they belong in.

IT’S 2017 J.K!!!!!!

3. Stephen and Harry Have Masculine Names

Stephen Gordon’s parents choose the name Stephen before she is born. Then she turns out to be a girl, and they keep the name anyway. As such, she has what is traditionally considered a masculine name.

Harry’s parents choose the name Harry before he is born. And he turns out to be a boy. So they keep it. And he has a masculine name.


4. Cats!

Cats play a big role in Harry Potter. Professor McGonagall is introduced in her animagus cat form, and later changes into a cat in class to show the children. Crookshanks, Hermione’s cat, plays a significant role in ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’, and then no other role in any of the other novels. And Hermione accidentally turns herself into a human-cat hybrid with polyjuice potion. I could go on.

‘The Well of Loneliness’… well, it never mentions cats in the text. But it’s a lesbian novel, so I kind of assumed they were there somewhere.


5. Dead Parent

In ‘The Well of Loneliness’, Stephen’s father, Sir Phillip, seeks to understand his daughter by reading hilariously dated books on sexuality. He accepts her, but then is crushed by a tree. Before he can tell her mother, Lady Anna, who is kind of a dick, about his acceptance, he dies. Then Lady Anna probably dies at some other time.

In Harry Potter, Harry’s dad, James Potter, is killed by a tyrant known by most of the wizarding world as ‘Tree Who Must Not Be Named’. In his last moments, he tries to tell his wife, Lily, that he’s being murdered, but he dies before he can do so. Lily then dies at some point.

The blatant plagiarism is just getting silly now.

Finally. Both Valérie Seymour and Albus Dumbledore Are Based on Natalie Clifford Barney

The character of Valérie Seymour plays an important role in Hall’s novel. She is a hostess, a guide, and a confidante to the lesbian community in Paris. And she is clearly based upon Natalie Clifford Barney, salon owner, poet, writer, and out lesbian. This important biographical detail gives context to the novel that enriches the reading experience.

When Rowling comes to write ‘beloved’ headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, however, she merely falls back on the same inspiration, only this time filtered through the character of Valérie.  As such, Dumbledore has the personality of an important lesbian icon of 1920s Paris, which makes no sense for his characterisation. And yet people eat it up.


So there we have it. Harry Potter is just a rip off of ‘the Well of Loneliness’, a fact with which all reasonable people will agree. Together we can decimate the popularity of this best selling series that has inspired so many people, and finally get Radclyffe Hall’s novel retroactively added to the series as ‘Harry Potter and the Well of Loneliness.’

Until next time.

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