Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker: Weighing the Similarities
Two of the biggest fandoms in the sci-fi and fantasy world are Harry Potter and Star Wars, and let’s be real, that’s for a good reason. But anyone who is a fan of both may have noticed there are some serious similarities in Harry’s and Luke’s journeys.
Right from the get-go, we are presented with two similar constructs. Baby Harry is placed with the Dursleys while (before the start of the film) baby Luke is placed with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Both boys are raised by family members who are disconnected from the world they came from: Luke at his family’s isolated moisture farm in the Tatooine desert and Harry in the similarly barren world of Little Whinging’s suburbia. More limiting even than their geography is the boys’ emotional isolation; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone opens on a friendless Harry (because of Dudley’s bullying,) and A New Hope shows us a Luke chomping at the bit to join his friends in the academy.
Harry and Luke are both born to famous parents and raised without any knowledge of what those parents did or the significance of their own births. Even more strikingly similar, both boys are placed under the watchful eye of an older, powerful man who keeps track of their movements and growth from afar. Luke may already be 18 when his story begins while Harry is only 11, but they both start off with a hunger for adventure beyond the world they grew up in, an innate skill for the magical, mystical forces that rule the worlds they are about to enter, and an unknown past that is about to catch up with them.
As Star Wars and Harry Potter progress, both Luke and Harry find themselves as key members of the rebellions in each of their worlds. While Luke knew about the resistance even before he’d left Tatooine, both Luke and Harry demonstrate a passionate dedication to the resistance against evil from the start, and both find themselves falling into a role where the fate of the rebellion rests on their actions and their abilities to master the Force or magic.
A major theme in Star Wars and the biggest struggle for Luke is finding the balance between darkness and light. The Dark Side is a constant temptation he is warned against, and the success of the rebellion hinges on his choices – to kill Vader, to defend himself, and to help Leia and Han. While the two sides are not quite as obviously named in Harry Potter, they are just as obviously identifiable, and Harry’s choices between violence and forgiveness, between the temptations that Voldemort offers and the toll they would take have just as profound an impact in the wizarding world as they do in space.
There is a moment for both Luke and Harry when they make the wrong decision in the name of love. For Luke, it’s when he sees the ambush laid by the Emperor on Han, Leia, and the rest of the resistance, and he simply cannot stand by and watch without acting even if it’s playing into the Emperor’s plan. For Harry, it’s when he falls into Voldemort’s trap at the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. His love for Sirius, like Luke’s love for Han and Leia, makes him reckless. But one of the most striking parallels comes at the conclusion of the series. Both Luke and Harry are faced with the responsibility of murdering someone. At first, it appears Luke will have to kill his own father but with the added complication of the Emperor/Sith Lord. Conversely, Harry discovers that not only must he either be the murderer or murder victim but he must sacrifice himself in the process. One of the most wonderful elements in both stories is that they each try to forgive before they make a choice: Luke urges Vader to find the good in himself, which Vader does when he defends his son from the Emperor, and Harry asks Tom Riddle to look for remorse in the moments before their final throwdown.
So whether you’re a wizarding world super fan, a Star Wars nut, or both, I think we can agree that our two favorite heroes not only had the stakes stacked against them but they dealt with them in flawed, wonderful ways. The similarities in their journeys are less a sign of weakness and more a testament that they will both live on in the public consciousness as beloved examples of the hero’s journey and humanity’s love of myth and narrative.