The Chosen One: Harry Potter, Buffy Summers, and the Hero’s Journey
Buffy Summers and Harry Potter, despite being entirely different at first glance (except for wielding only small pieces of wood against powerful supernatural beings), the two characters are similar archetypal heroes, who face similar narratives and are helped along the way by similar casts of friends and allies. As they walk the path of the hero’s journey, Buffy and Harry have some striking resemblances.
Buffy and Harry:
Besides the common burden of being the Chosen One, forced to save the world due to circumstances rather than noble choice, Buffy and Harry have a lot in common. As is often the case for fantasy heroes and superheroes alike, both Harry and Buffy are also parentless, forced to navigate the world largely on their own, with some help from father figures, in the form of Dumbledore and Giles. While both rise to the occasion and continually save Sunnydale or Hogwarts from defeat, Buffy and Harry also want to be normal teenagers. Harry would rather be on the Quidditch pitch, and Buffy would rather be at the Bronze, but they both desire (at least momentary) escape from the expectation that they must save the world. Despite incredible power, Harry and Buffy both get a lot of help from friends and mentors, and whether it’s the Scoobies or Dumbledore’s Army, the Chosen One would be helpless without their friends. Buffy and Harry both also suffer from a desperate need to be noble and protect the ones they love by distancing themselves from their companions – despite the fact that it never works. And while Buffy uses puns, and Harry is more sarcastic, both heroes are incredibly witty, even under pressure.
Willow and Hermione:
The two brightest witches of their age, Willow and Hermione make up the head of the head/heart/hand element of their respective trios. While Buffy and Harry bring the power and leadership, and Xander and Ron are always there for a witty remark and support, Hermione and Willow share a desire for knowledge and logic that balance out their friend’s impulses to rush into situations without the facts. Also like Hermione, Willow is constantly chiding her friends for not studying enough. Like Hermione Willow is teased mercilessly for her gawkiness and good grades, but grows more confident throughout the series and loses the adolescent awkwardness. Although both women lean more on their intellect than intuition, their hearts definitely take over when their loved ones are threatened: Hermione is rendered practically useless in the week after Ron abandons them in Deathly Hallows; Willow goes completely off the rails in the wake of Tara’s death.
Xander and Ron:
As the constant friend and joker, Xander and Ron are the oft under-appreciated heart of their trios, both in fiction and fandom. Friends and fans alike tend to forget just how many times these boys have saved their friends with their unwavering loyalty and love. After all, it’s only Xander’s love for Willow that saves the world in Season 6, and Ron defends Harry without question in nearly every book, even when faced with Sirius Black, whom he believed to be the most dangerous wizard in the world. Xander and Ron have similar insecurities: As Cordelia quips, “It must be really hard when all your friends have, like, superpowers; Slayer, werewolf, witches, vampires; and you’re, like, this little nothing,” a comment that Xander ignores because it’s uncomfortably true; when destroying the Horcrux, Ron faces his fear that Hermione would never choose him next to the Chosen One and that his friends were better off without him.
The archetype of the wise old man certainly takes different forms in these two characters, but they do share some similarities; Willow even compares the two at one point, when Giles takes her to Europe to study magic and acts as her guide. Both Giles and Dumbledore possess a great deal of power but allow the kids to take control in most situations, watching from afar in case the teens run into something beyond their capabilities. As the heroes enter adulthood, Giles leaves for England, and Dumbledore dies, forcing Buffy and Harry to learn to manage both their supernatural and very human problems at once, without the constant advice and assistance from the ever-present librarian and the watchful headmaster. While Giles is able to return physically when things look particularly grim, Dumbledore also returns, in some type of limbo, to advise Harry when it looks like evil is about to win. Faithful to the end, both characters endeavor to impart their wisdom on the young heroes, rather than use it for their own gain, being helpers and guides more than leaders.
Both an adversary and a foil to the heroes, Cordelia and Draco are more civilian evils in the grand scheme of things. In the right circumstances, both characters even become allies to their respective nemeses. Cordelia’s knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and Draco’s detention with the trio in Sorcerer’s Stone makes for a strangely fitting parallel: despite coming from different cliques, Harry and Draco, and Buffy and Cordelia, are thrown together in the face of danger and forced to get along despite their differences. Although Cordelia and Draco both offer friendship to Buffy and Harry, our heroes prefer the underdogs to the beautiful and popular crowd. Cordelia and Draco both come from wealthy backgrounds and place a high value on being the best and gaining approval, whether through cheerleading or being a prefect. Besides that, Cordelia is definitely a Slytherin: razor sharp, cunning, and ambitious, she would almost definitely be sorted into Salazar’s house.
What do you think? How else are Buffy and Harry similar heroes?