Barricades and Wands: Comparing Les Amis de la ABC and Dumbledore’s Army

by Miryam Raizen

Abstract: If you have ever read the novel or seen the show of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” and wondered if perhaps there might be some slight similarities between the students in Dumbledore’s Army and students who fight on the barricade, you are correct.

Question: What are the similarities and differences between Dumbledore’s Army and Les Amis de la ABC?

Both Les Misérables and the Harry Potter series have created phenomenons that have captured people’s minds for many years and have employed the uses of various media such as books, movies, and even musicals. In 1862, Victor Hugo published his novel Les Misérables. It featured a group of courageous young men fighting for liberty, equality, and fraternity. They were called Les Amis de la ABC, led by a student named Enjolras. Almost 100 years later, Joanne Rowling published her series of Harry Potter books and the 5th book, The Order of the Phoenix featured Harry leading a group of students called Dumbledore’s Army. While Les Amis fought for France to be freed from the King and hoped to create a republic, Dumbledore’s Army was training to defend themselves against the Dark Lord Voldemort and his followers the Death Eaters, many similarities are shown between the leaders, the people, and their enemies.

Les Amis de la ABC were a small group of revolutionaries who took part in the barricades of 1832. Victor Hugo described them as “students, in close association with a few workingmen. The names of the Principals are as follows. To a certain extent, they belong to history: Enjolras, Combeferre, Jean Prouvaire, Feuilly, Courfeyrac, Bahorel, Lesgle or Laigle, Joly, Grantaire” (648). Each one had a very distinct personality and place in the group. The group was essentially headed by Enjolras, a young man said to have angelic features, and yet he was fear-inspiring. His friends were ready to lay down their lives and fight alongside him. One of his right-hand men was Combeferre, a medical student and a philosopher who always tried to take things logically and come up with a good solid plan. The other whom Hugo describes as the “Center” is Courfeyrac, a young law student who fancies himself as somewhat of a dandy. Although he tends to be a womanizer he does have respect for all men and women. Following these three are the other principals the first being Jean Prouvaire or “Jehan” and young Romantic poet who according to Hugo “spoke gently, bowed his head, cast down his eyes, smiled with embarrassment, dressed badly, had an awkward air, blushed at nothing, was very timid” (652). Feuilly on the other hand is different from the others because he is not actually a student, he is a young working man who taught himself to read and write, he is an orphan who adopted the people of Paris as his family. After Feuilly is Bahorel a man who has connections with more groups than just Les Amis. He brings in news from all over Paris but is very lax in his studies. One of the more interesting students is Laigle, who is most commonly called Bossuet. He is a very unlucky man who was bald at the age of 25. Despite his misfortune, he is one of the happiest members of the group. Laigle was very good friends with Joly, a medical student like Combeferre, but he happens to be a hypochondriac and chronically thinks he is ill. The last of the principles is Grantaire, a cynical drunk who has no belief in anything but Enjolras, who sees him as nothing more than a drunken fool. One more name that can be counted amongst these men is Marius Pontmercy, although he had little to no involvement with any of the students except Courfeyrac up until the 1832 barricades.

In contrast, Dumbledore’s Army was not intended to be a revolutionary group as it eventually became. Instead, it was created to prepare the students of Hogwarts to fight against the darkness that they knew was coming. Also, unlike Les Amis, they did very little to directly fight against the government. They had no real battle except for one that occurred near the end of Order of the Phoenix in the Ministry. In the book Harry Potter: Film Wizardry, Daniel Radcliffe says, “Dumbledore’s Army is basically a guerrilla revolutionary organization. And it’s Harry who’s the teacher, using the knowledge that he has gained over the last five years to train other people and teach them how to fight if they are called upon to do so” (122). As stated, Harry is leading the group but unlike Enjolras, he is not as keen to do so. He is not very confident with his skills and does not want these people to eventually lay down their lives for him.

There are some similarities however between the other members of Dumbledore’s Army to Les Amis. One of the first is Hermione Granger, a very bright witch who usually has the best plans and takes the place of Combeferre. Ron Weasley takes the place of Courfeyrac; although he has less of Courfeyrac’s flirtatious tendencies, he has a loyalty to Harry that Courfeyrac showed Enjolras. There are even some more minor members that show similarities to one another, the most prominent being Luna Lovegood, who shares some of Jean Prouvaire’s more quirky traits – this includes her wistful nature and her taste in clothes – yet when the time comes she shows strength among the others and means a lot to the group.

Not only are the people who made up both of these groups very important, but even where they met is important. Victor Hugo wrote that most of the meetings of the ABC were held “near the Pantheon in a little café on the Place – Saint Michel, called Le Café Musian” (647). It was in the backroom that the students spent their time, either enjoying each other’s company or creating plans for revolution and dreaming of a republic which was displayed on a map on the back wall. In this room it was limited as to who could enter; it was typically only Les Amis and new recruits. Women were not allowed in the backroom except for the dishwasher Louison. Dumbledore’s Army also had a place to meet in secret that was nearly impossible to find. The “Room of Requirement,” which is also known as the “Unknowable Room,” and the “Come and Go Room” was described by Hermione Granger in the film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as a room that “only appears when a person has real need of it, and is always equipped with the seeker’s needs.” This room made it possible for Harry to teach the other students without the worries of getting caught by the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge.

Both Dumbledore’s Army and Les Amis de la ABC had enemies that they eventually faced in battle. Les Amis de la ABC’s greatest enemy was the French Government during the time of King Louis – Phillippe; they wanted to create a republic and let the poor people of Paris try and live in better conditions. It was going to be a tough battle that would be very hard to win, as revealed in this quote from the musical: “For the army we fight is a dangerous foe, with the men and the arms that we never can match. Oh it’s easy to sit here and swat them like flies! But the National Guard will be harder to catch!” (Les Misérables). Also, the French Government was growing increasingly more paranoid at the thought of revolution. They began sending police out all over the streets to watch for suspicious behavior and creating laws that limited the size of a gathering of men. The Ministry of Magic did very similar actions; instead of sending out policemen, they sent Ministry Workers into Hogwarts like Umbridge to keep an eye on the students. At one point she even used her power to create her own set of rules or “Educational Decrees,” one of which stated that all clubs were to be disbanded (this included Quidditch teams as well). On the other hand, Dumbledore’s Army had no real fight with the Ministry of Magic; they were learning to protect themselves from the Dark Lord. So while Dumbledore’s Army never intended to really fight against the Ministry like the Les Amis did with the French Government, both of these groups were very convinced of the idea that a revolution or insurrection would descend upon them. Although neither succeeded in truly stamping it out, the French Government was able to suppress the students at the barricades and succeeded in killing all of them except for Marius.

These two groups of revolutionaries had very different agendas, each one with its own ideals in what they were fighting for. They did share a similar structure of how they ran their operations, and eventually for different reasons fought against their own government. The story of Les Amis de la ABC might be easier to understand because it was loosely based on actual events that occurred in French History; Dumbledore’s Army is a group of wizards that inadvertently got involved in a fight against the government.