Did J.K. Rowling Hide Meaning in Harry’s Scar?
Over the past several years, I have learned that the best way to make dull English class novels more interesting is to draw parallels to one of my favorite novels, or rather, all seven of them. Finally, after 12 years of Muggle schooling, my little “game” has paid off! While reading a book titled How to Read Literature Like a Professor (not as catchy as, say, Goblet of Fire, but a great read if you want to understand the goblet or the fire), I came across Chapter 25, “Marked for Greatness.”
Now, I can’t be the only one who immediately thinks of Harry Potter’s scar and the greatness predicted by Mr. Ollivander, right? Apparently not, much to my sheer excitement – and I do mean literal jump-out-of-my-seat excitement. The author, Thomas C. Foster, ended the chapter with a single command: “Now, go figure out what Harry Potter’s scar means” (Literature 200), and frankly, I am not one to ignore such a command.
A general Google search for “Harry Potter lightning bolt scar meaning” will lead you to a myriad of websites all explaining how Harry got his scar, which nearly anyone can tell you is the result of Voldemort’s attack. But J.K. Rowling, Queen of Symbolism, surely means something more by giving Harry a large lightning bolt cut on his forehead.
According to Literature, a scar – or any deformity, for that matter – is added by an author for the purpose of making a character stand out. Certainly, Harry stands out from his peers, Muggle and wizard-kind alike – from his glasses and untidy hair to the fact that he is the only one ever to survive the Killing Curse. The book also suggests that scars are meant to symbolize experience and destruction, the physical deformity being the last vestige of a tragic loss and/or event from which the character grows. It does not take a Sherlock sleuth to deduce the connections to Harry’s own childhood. But why the lightning bolt?
One theory is that the bolt is meant to draw parallels to the Greek god Zeus, who is infamous for his power to wield lightning. In Greek mythology, Zeus is the head of the Olympian gods, which could suggest that Harry is meant to be viewed as the head of his group. While Harry himself never asks to be in charge, he does on many occasions tend to become the leader – Dumbledore’s Army, for example.
In addition, Zeus is in charge of the skies, which just so happens to be the first place where Harry felt like he belonged at Hogwarts: “… and in a rush of fierce joy he realized he’d found something [riding a broomstick] he could do without being taught” (SS 148). Another popular fan theory for the scar’s shape suggests that the bolt is actually the wand motion a witch or wizard makes as they cast the Killing Curse.
As for the location, the forehead is quite an interesting choice. For one, it is a location that is quite noticeable, boding well with the idea that a scar is meant to draw attention. Furthermore, the scar’s location on his forehead alludes back to the Old Testament, in which God “set a mark upon Cain” (Genesis 4:15) that would cause whatever harm befell Cain to rebound upon the person sevenfold (yes, seven!).
Finally, an obscure website suggests that specific locations on one’s face correlate to different ages and emotions. According to the diagram, the upper left area of the forehead – the location every fan struggles to draw on come costume time – is linked to 17 to 18 years of age as well as anger. During the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry is 17 (nearly 18); meanwhile, it does not take a stretch of the imagination to presume that there has to be even a slight bit of anger or resentment flashing in Harry’s mind as he comes face to face with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for the final battle.
So what do you think? Do you think there really is a hidden meaning behind that infamous scar? Or was there just a really nasty thunderstorm as J.K. Rowling was writing? I’d love to hear what you think!