Harry Potter as a secondary world fantasy

I studied languages and literature at university and took an elective in children’s literature. My end of term paper was on Harry Potter. You can find my insights below!


In itself, any fictional text is a fantasy text. The concept of fiction can be divided into realistic-mimetic texts and fantastic texts. The first type of texts underpin the illusion that the story depicts reality as faithfully as possible. In fantastic texts, however, the writer clearly and deliberately departs from reality. This includes all kinds of genres such as: fairy tales, myths, sagas, science fiction and horror. The oldest known fantasy stories are myths and sagas; these still provide a very rich source of story forms and elements for modern fantasy literature and its many subgenres. Usually, however, authors use the term ‘fantasy’ in a narrower sense: “fantasy may be roughly defined as a narrative combining the presence of the primary and the secondary world, that is, our own real world and some other magical or fantastic imagined world.” (Nikolajeva, 54)

During the Romantic period, fantasy literature develops into a prominent genre within children’s literature. At that time, the idea arises “[that] children’s literature can develop or support the ‘imagination’ and that this has a key role to play in the development of personality” (Rosen, 24). One of the first fantasy stories written explicitly for children is John Rushkin’s King of the Golden River. This was followed by Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin (Rosen, 28).

In the early twentieth century, genres such as horror and science fiction in particular gain in popularity. Respectively Dracula by Bram Stoker and the works of H. G. Wells are examples of this from that era. In the mid-20th century, fantasy literature becomes one of the most successful commercial literary genres. Writers start criticising and discussing each other’s work, and so the first trade magazines emerge.

H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith become increasingly popular and are pushing fantasy literature forward. Lovecraft builds on mythology, while Smith creates a series of worlds in the distant past or distant future. But it is Howard who exerts the most influence: his Conan the Barbarian leads to the creation of the ‘sword and sorcery’ subgenre, which writers such as Fitz Leiber and Michael Moorcock build on (Drabble, Birch, 360).

Conan the Barbarian achieves huge successes and, as a result, the ‘sword and sorcery’ subgenre comes to dominate the fantasy literature of the period. But from the mid-1960s, ‘high fantasy’ takes over, thanks to J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Fantasy literature becomes an even more popular genre, gaining many imitators such as Ursula Le Guin and Terry Brooks. In the 1990s, another explosion of popularity comes with new successful epic book series such as Terry Pratchett’s Disc World, as well as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Shortly after the turn of the century, the film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson follows, and from then on ‘fantasy’ is a genre in its own right within almost all media.

The fantasy story

In and of itself, any fictional text is a fantasy text. The term ‘fantasy’ is then a collective term for all kinds of genres such as: fairy tales, myths, sagas, nonsense stories, science fiction and horror. Usually, however, authors use the term ‘fantasy’ in a narrower sense: “fantasy may be roughly defined as a narrative combining the presence of the primary and the secondary world, that is, our own real world and some other magical or fantastic imagined world.” (Nikolajeva, 2005).

Harry Potter is also such a ‘secondary world fantasy’, and belongs to the subgenre ‘sword and sorcery’. In this subgenre, the story is largely set in an unreal world and often deals with the struggle between good and evil, involving a lot of violence. “The plot of each book essentially centres on the attempts of dark forces to destroy [Harry]. As is customary in modern fantasies, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Star Wars, lurking in the background is an evil, powerful figure (almost always male) who wants to rule the world.” (Lurie, 116). Voldemort is the personification of evil in the Harry Potter books, and he is assisted by his minions the Death Eaters. Harry Potter symbolises good, led by the wise headmaster Dumbledore and assisted by his friends Ron and Hermione.

Göte Klingberg and his triptych

Göte Klingberg was born in Finland but grew up in Sweden. He began researching children’s literature in the 1950s. In 1964, he received a PhD from Uppsala University, for his research on children’s literature and its role in education. His doctoral thesis was the first on children’s literature in Sweden.

Klingberg has had a major impact on research into children’s literature in Sweden, but also beyond. A striking feature of his work is his great encyclopaedic knowledge, his far-reaching cultural interests and his strictly scientific approach. He noted the lack of terminology in children’s literature and tried to remedy this with his publications. He summarised existing research and reviewed what still needed to be researched. In 1982, he began work on his magnum opus, a large-scale reference work in which he recorded all Swedish children’s literature of the 19th century.

Reality and fantasy coexist

But Klingberg also researched fantasy stories specifically. He divides ‘secondary world fantasy’ into three groups. In the first group, the real and fantasy worlds coexist. The real world knows nothing about the existence of a fantasy world until the main character performs a certain action, such as opening a door or falling into a well. Thus, the main character travels from one world to another: “a strange world is visited by persons from the everyday one” (Klingberg, 87). An example of this is Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkönig by Christine Nostlinger from 1973. Life goes on its usual way for a family until the Pickle King suddenly emerges from their cellar and causes all sorts of adventures.

Reality is visited by a stranger

In the second group of fantasy stories, the real world is visited by a representative of the other world: “visitors from a strange world appear in the everyday one” (Klingberg, 87). This representative often possesses all kinds of special characteristics that are not normal in reality. Astrid Lindgren is an author who often writes these kinds of stories. Her books star free-spirited children. These children choose their own independence, which is made possible by all kinds of magical elements.

Her most famous story is Pippi Longstocking. Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking lives with her monkey Mr. Nilsson and her horse Lilla in Villa Villekulla. Her mother is in heaven and her father, Ephraim Longstocking, is a pirate and king of the island of Kurrekurredutt. Pippi is super strong and has a huge treasure chest full of gold coins. She does not abide by the social conventions imposed by the real world and has all kinds of adventures.

It can also happen that “magic appears in the everyday world in the form of magic objects” (Klingberg, 87). Thus, stories in which a doll comes to life belong in this second group. The best-known example, of course, is Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, a pseudonym of Carlo Lorenzini, from 1883. However, Collodi did not write the book primarily for children, as in the first publication Pinocchio is hanged because of his many mistakes. Only in later versions does the wooden puppet transform into a human child, and from then on the book becomes a children’s classic.

Finally, stories in which an animal acts like a human in an otherwise entirely human society are also included in this group. An example is Der Hund Kommt by Christine Nostlinger from 1988. This book is about a dog who goes out into the wide world and wants to experience something. The story of Reynaert the fox can also be included in this group. At first glance, these are fun children’s stories about animals experiencing all kinds of things, but they often conceal social satire.

Reality fades, fantasy takes over

When the presence of the unreal world increases, we arrive at the third group of fantasy stories, those in which there is hardly any real world at all. The story takes place almost entirely in the fantasy world, with only the beginning and end taking place in reality. “The story starts in an ordinary world, whereupon the protagonist is in some way carried away to another world, has adventures, performs a task, and in most cases is transported back into the real world.” (Nikolayeva, 54).

German author Michael Ende’s 1979 The Neverending Story is a great example. The main character Bastian is unhappy due to the death of his mother and bad relationship with his father. Then he steals a book titled The Neverending Story and, fearing the consequences, he hides in the attic and starts reading. Then a kind of blending of the real and unreal worlds takes place, and gradually Bastian is drawn more into the unreal world until he is completely in it. There he experiences all kinds of adventures, and the desire to return to reality arises. At the end of the story, he succeeds, leaving the fantasy world behind.

A fluid triptych

However, the distinction between these three groups is not always clear. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland from 1863, for example, is such an ambiguous story. The main character Alice dwells in our reality. Her world is disturbed by a strange talking rabbit and she decides to follow it. She falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in the unreal world of Wonderland. At first she is delighted by this new environment, but gradually the desire to return arises in her too. She has all kinds of adventures and eventually finds herself back in the real world. At the end of the story, she wakes up and finds that everything has been a dream. So the story belongs mainly to the third group of fantasy stories. This is because the story begins and ends in the real world, but the events mainly take place in the unreal world.

The initial transition from reality to fantasy is reminiscent of the first group of fantasy stories, where the fantasy world is unknown until a certain action occurs. The perception of the fantasy world happens here when Alice falls down the rabbit hole and ends up in a world ruled by the Queen of Hearts. In turn, the way Alice finds the rabbit hole belongs to the second group of fantasy stories. This is because Alice sees a rabbit that clearly does not belong in her reality. Her world is visited by a representative of a fantasy world, as in group two.

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie is another story that plays with these three groups. Again, it belongs largely to the third group, as it begins and ends in reality, on top of that the vast majority of the story takes place in the fantasy world. Once again, the trigger of the story is a visit by a representative of the unreal world, Peter Pan himself, in everyday reality as in group two. And again, an act is performed to enter the fantasy world as in group one, namely: sprinkle yourself with fairy dust and fly towards the second star on the right, straight ahead until morning.

To illustrate how Harry Potter fits into these three groups, I am going to discuss the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in detail below.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

At the beginning of the first book, we clearly see that Rowling starts from group one. The unreal and real worlds exist side by side and the main character is unaware of this split. Harry Potter is an ordinary boy whose parents died in a car accident when he was one years old. That is why he now lives with his uncle, aunt and nephew at Privet Drive, Little Whinging. Everything seems normal. In fact, his family prides themselves on being so normal and therefore tolerates nothing that could disturb their lives and reputation.

However, that all changes when Harry receives a letter from Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After some obstacles, he reads his letter – handed to him by the giant Hagrid – and discovers that he is a wizard. This is how he discovers the existence of the fantasy world. On the first of September that year, he goes to King’s Cross in London and at platform 9 ¾ he boards the train to the magical world.

Reality and fantasy coexist

So the ‘act’ that provides initiation into the magical world here is not voluntary or conscious. Harry turns 11, and discovers the unreal world. But, despite knowing nothing about the wizarding world, Harry is still not far behind the rest of his classmates at Hogwarts. They may have known about the existence of magic for longer, but they too do not really become part of the wizarding community until 11 years old. Only then can they learn the ways of magic. They do get some benefit from the fact that magic is normal to them, which means they do not have to adapt so much to this, for Harry very new, world. But in the wizarding world, there are still people like Harry who do not find out they are wizards until their 11th birthday, albeit for a different reason than Harry.

The other people, whom I just mentioned, for whom wizardry is also completely new, are often called ‘mudbloods’. Hermione Granger, Harry’s best friend, is one such person. Mudblood means as much as bedazzled blood. These are children whose parents are not wizards, and therefore do not come from ‘pure’ wizarding blood. So they also fit in the first group of fantasy stories, because their world is also completely separate from the magical world they end up in at age 11. The fact that Hermione Granger, a mudblood, is Harry’s best friend is also, I think, a clever trick by Rowling to ease Harry’s, and the reader’s, transition from reality to magic.

As for Harry, he knows nothing about the magical world. Because Harry’s parents did not die in a car accident; they were killed by Voldemort, a dark wizard who wanted to take over the world. Voldemort disappeared, but for his own safety, Harry was placed with his family, the Dursleys, who have an aversion to magic. He thinks he is a normal, if somewhat unhappy boy. He goes to school, does homework, hangs around at home. In short, he is a normal teenager. But then when he turns 11, he suddenly discovers all sorts of things about himself and his past, and finds himself in this unreal world.

Reality is visited by a stranger

But if we read the book carefully, we discover that Harry was never such a normal boy at all. Several examples are given that show that Harry has been a misfit all his life. For instance, Rowling writes that Aunt Petunia, fed up with Harry’s unruly hair, had once vigorously cut Harry’s hair. He was very embarrassed by his crooked and ugly cut, and really didn’t want to go to school. However, the next morning when Harry got up, his hair was completely normal again. Another example is when Harry was bullied by Dudley and his friends. They ran after him, Harry jumped behind a dustbin, and suddenly he was on the roof of the school. He didn’t know how he got there, but still, he was there. One last example I want to mention also has to do with Harry’s aunt Petunia. She wanted to force Harry to put on his cousin Dudley’s ugly, old, grey jumper. He refused, however, and as Aunt Petunia tried to pull the jumper over his head, it shrank.

These examples all fit Klingberg’s second group. This is because Harry is, unbeknownst to himself, a representative of the magical world in reality. He possesses magic powers, which are not normal in our reality. However, in this book we also find another representative, namely Hagrid. Rubeus Hagrid is the Gamekeeper and Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts. It is he who eventually delivers Harry his letter, and so he is also the first magical being Harry meets in the flesh.

Reality fades, fantasy takes over

This then brings us to the third group of fantasy stories. The major layout of the book is related to this. The story begins and ends in the real world, but the lion’s share takes place in the unreal world. So there is almost no real world left, since most of the book and the main adventures take place in the unreal world. In this book, the transition between these worlds happens in a very simple way: by train. Rowling does often imply that there is a link to the wizarding world behind familiar places, and in this case it is in King’s Cross Station. Indeed, between platforms 9 and 10, there is the hidden the magical platform 9 ¾, from which the Hogwarts Express departs. This way of travelling is still very normal, which makes it easier, and also more believable, for the reader to make the switch from reality to magic. Harry gets on in London as a normal boy, and gets off at Hogwarts as a student of magic. This transformation is further highlighted when Harry swaps his muggle clothes for his school robes on the train.

The same applies the other way round: Harry gets on at Hogwarts as a wizard who has just finished his first year at school, and gets off in London as a normal boy. Or at least, as normal as can be, if you remember that he is not at all looking forward to the holidays. This is also something that sets Harry Potter apart from most fantasy stories in this group, because usually this reunion is joyous. In most stories of this kind, towards the end of the story, a longing arises in the main character to return home. That desire is the motivation to bring the adventure to a successful conclusion, and smugly step back into reality. However, Harry has a very difficult time leaving behind this new world, where he finally feels at home, and returning to Privet Drive.

Subsequent books

I’m now going to briefly place the subsequent books in the Harry Potter series in the groups as well. Book 2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, book 3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and book 4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire all three fit perfectly into the third group of fantasy stories. The stories begin and end in reality, but everything else takes place entirely in the wizarding world. In book two, as in the first book, Harry comes face to face with Voldemort. After Harry’s victory, the school year is over and he returns home. In the third book, the threat comes not from Voldemort himself, but from his minions. Harry and his friends have some adventures and this school year also ends with Harry’s return to Privet Drive.

Book 2

The second book also briefly touches on the second group of fantasy stories. At the beginning of the story, Harry is in the Muggle world, and a representative of the wizarding world comes to visit him. The house elf Dobby comes to warn him and tries to prevent Harry from returning to the magic world. This is because Dobby thinks that terrible things are going to happen at Hogwarts that will put Harry in danger. The elf causes him much trouble with the Dursleys and Harry is locked in his room and forbidden to return to Hogwarts. But Harry’s friends Ron and his older twin brothers come to break him out.

Book 3

The third book also begins again in Privet Drive. Harry gets into an argument with his aunt and uncle and decides to run away. Here, Harry enters the wizarding world much sooner. He runs outside, is startled by something, and falls to the ground. Suddenly, a bus appears out of nowhere: the Knight Bus. This is a magical means of transportation, with several floors, and in the film it is one of those typical red English buses. Only wizards and witches can use the bus: it comes to pick them up as soon as they hold out their wizarding hand (which Harry accidentally did when he fell). The bus transports Harry to the Leaky Cauldron, where he spends the rest of his vacation.

Book 4

In the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rowling expands her wizarding world. Harry does not spend his entire vacation at home, but he goes with his friend Ron to his home. Ronald Weasley is the youngest son of a large wizarding family, and here Harry discovers how his life might have turned out had his parents not died. The reader is introduced to the daily life of a wizarding family, which is still surprisingly similar to reality. They then all go to the Quidditch World Cup together, where Rowling once again expands her wizarding world and even goes international. This makes our real world seem increasingly distant from the world in which Harry now resides. So again, this book still belongs in the third group of fantasy stories, although the proportion of real world here is already declining.

At the Quidditch World Cup, the second group of stories is also used, albeit in reverse. When Harry, Hermione and Ron and his family arrive at the camping grounds, they encounter a number of Muggles. These people are under heavy spells and protect the entrance to the grounds. Here we see that Rowling views her magic world as real, and the Muggle world as unreal. The Muggles are treated with contempt by all wizards, and it becomes clear that here they are considered representatives of the unreal world.

At the end of the fourth book, something happens that connects the two worlds even more: Voldemort is resurrected. The baddest wizard of all time, who was cursed when he tried to kill Harry, returns to his body and comes back. Harry sees this all happen at the end of the story. After this, he returns to Hogwarts and tells his story. Dumbledore, the principal, trusts him, but many students and parents have a hard time believing this. After the school year, Harry returns to the Muggle world.

Book 5

The next book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, also begins again with Harry in Privet Drive. But here we do see a difference from the previous books, Harry is completely cut off from the wizarding world. This is because the Ministry of Magic does not want to believe that Voldemort has returned, for fear of the consequences. Which therefore means that Harry is portrayed as a confused boy who is all too happy to be the center of attention and that this is his umpteenth cry for attention. This leaves Harry feeling very lonely and abandoned. Even his best friends, Ron and Hermione, have yet to hear from him. In fact, they are both at Ron’s home where the Order of the Phoenix, revived, is planning their resistance to the Dark Side. So they must not let anything be known, because the danger that their owl messages will fall into the wrong hands is very real. So here we see Harry shut out, back into the world he thinks of as normal. It becomes clear again that the wizarding world is the real world, and the Muggle world is considered abnormal. So from this moment on, the dichotomy reverses: Muggle world is abnormal, wizarding world is normal.

Book 6

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is another great example of this reversal of the third group of fantasy stories. The story does begin in the normal world, but is immediately linked to the wizarding world. This is because Harry and his cousin Dudley are ambushed by Dementors in an alley near his home. At this point, Harry discovers that Mrs. Figg, his crazy neighbour, is actually a Squib. A Squib is someone who comes from a wizarding family, but has no magical powers of their own. She is also a member of the Order of the Phoenix and has been watching over Harry for fifteen years. In the previous books, she is portrayed as a crazy old woman who has a lot of cats and is only concerned with them. Now, then, it becomes clear that her cats understand her and watch over Harry with her. All those times when she was talking to herself, there were actually members of the Order with her, invisible, coming to check if everything was all right. So here Mrs. Figg is briefly shown as a constant representative of the wizarding world in the normal world. In this way, then, we can also re-locate all the previous books to the second group of fantasy stories.

Another Squib in the Harry Potter stories is Argus Filch, the janitor of Hogwarts. Harry finds this out in the second book when he finds an envelope of “Quick Spell for Beginners” on Filch’s desk. Filch also has a close relationship with his cat, Mrs. Norris. This is something echoed by all the Squibs in the story, as Mrs. Figg also loves cats. Mrs. Norris often spies for Filch, and as soon as she sees a student doing something wrong, Filch will come running a few minutes later. This connection is also implied, when Harry learns that Mrs. Norris follows Hagrid everywhere, at Filch’s behest.

Book 7

In the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the two worlds are most intertwined. Harry, Ron and Hermione have dropped out of school and are now in full pursuit of the remaining Horcruxes. These are objects created by Voldemort to become immortal. In the previous books, Dumbledore has already found and destroyed some of them, with or without Harry’s help. Now that Dumbledore has died, Harry must find and destroy the others, and then fulfil his destiny to destroy Voldemort once and for all.

Meanwhile, Voldemort has gone public, and the entire wizarding world knows he exists. But since Voldemort has taken over the Ministry and Hogwarts, no one can do much against him. Harry, Hermione and Ron are also outlaws, so they can’t show themselves anywhere. They must constantly hide while searching for the Horcrixes. Logically, they often hide in the Muggle world because no one is looking for them there. Here, there is no longer really a distinction between the two worlds, and so this book is difficult to classify with the third group of stories, precisely because the two worlds are so intertwined.

When Voldemort is finally defeated, and the entire wizarding world freed from his atrocities and tyranny, the two worlds split again. The wizarding world now becomes entirely the normal world, and the Muggle world becomes, for Harry and his friends, the unreal world. Indeed, the last book ends with an epilogue, which shows how the main characters are faring 19 years later. In it, we learn that Harry is married to Ginny, and Ron and Hermione are also married. We see Harry’s children on their way to Hogwarts. We learn that Harry’s family has grown up in the wizarding world, which is therefore normal for them, and that, like Harry’s generation, they are now making their way to school on the Hogwarts Express.

Double chronotope

A double chronotope is what differentiates secondary-world fantasy from all other fantasy stories. In fairy tales, for example, time and location are always in only one dimension, whereas in secondary-world fantasy either time or location are in multiple dimensions. In Harry Potter, there is only one time dimension, and Rowling never specifies it: “the time of action is deliberately inderterminable, devoid of any specific identifiable tokens of time, apparently to make the stories last.” (Nikolayeva, 129).

There are, however, two distinct dimensions of place: the Muggle world and the wizarding world, “the ordinary and boring London and the exciting and dangerous Hogwarts” (Nikolajeva, 129). The two worlds created by Rowling are not far apart. The magical world lies like a veil over the Muggle world: “the world of Harry Potter might technically be described as a ‘parallel’ world, a wizardly world existing beside, and sometimes overlapping the everyday ‘muggle’ world” (Hunt, Lenz, 35). The wizardly world is very close to our own and also easily accessible from reality: “The fantasy world itself, of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, is not a remote one, but is present within our own as a continuous alternative between platforms 9 and 10 at King’s Cross Station.” (Manlove, 187).

Travel and transportation

The Hogwarts Express

This does not mean, however, that Muggles can simply enter the magical world. To get to platform 9 ¾, for example, you have to know exactly where the gate is. That gate is also only open on the day the Hogwarts Express leaves there, and can be closed (as Dobby does in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). Thus, Muggles cannot reach the platform.

The Leaky Cauldron

Rowling also takes on the challenge of offering a different way of traveling between the two worlds in each book. In the first book, for example, Harry and Hagrid go shopping together on Diagon Alley. They leave from the normal world, travel to London and enter a dingy little cafe, The Leaky Cauldron. This is a liminal place, removed from society. Harry tells himself that he would not have given the café a glance, had Hagrid not pointed it out to him. Then Hagrid and Harry walk out into a courtyard in the back, where they tap on some bricks with their wand, and only then does Diagon Alley appear.

The Knigth Bus

I have already mentioned the Knight Bus. The bus is driven by Ernie Prang and has a conductor, Stan Shunpike. During the day, the bus is filled with chairs and tables, at night bunk beds take their place. In the third year, Harry travels on this bus for the first time. Hermione takes the bus in her fifth year, to go to Grimmauld Place. And that year Harry also uses the bus again, along with a whole group of other wizards, to go from London to Hogwarts.

Floo powder

Another way to reach the wizarding world is via “floo powder”. This is a magical powder that allows wizards to travel between different hearths. It works as follows: throw a handful of powder and toss it into the hearth. Then, when the flames turn green, step into the hearth and clearly speak your destination. Muggles cannot use this method of travel, however, because your hearth must be connected to the “hearth grid” to travel through it. But when a wizard does not articulate his destination clearly, he may end up somewhere wrong. That happens to Harry when he travels this way for the first time in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He leaves from near the Weasleys, but mispronounces “Diagon Alley,” and ends up in a fireplace in Knockturn Alley.


‘Apparition’ is also a way to travel in the wizarding world. During their sixth school year, students at Hogwarts can learn this magical form of teleportation. A wizard or witch then makes himself or herself disappear into thin air and appear almost instantly in another place. Harry learns this in his sixth school year, but does not receive a certificate due to circumstances. He then usually has to “co-apparate” with Hermione. This involves Hermione taking him along when she apparates by holding him tightly. Thus, this method of travel cannot be performed by Muggles, although they could tag along. But the “Task Force on Inappropriate Spell Use” has made a law about this, and apparition near Muggles is illegal and punishable.

There is another restriction on this method of travel: in and around Hogwarts, one cannot apparate. The school is protected with all sorts of spells so that one cannot invade unexpectedly. We find this out in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Sirius Black breaks in and no one knows how he got there, since he cannot apparate. This method of travel is not without danger either, if a wizard does not concentrate properly he can “splinch”. Apparition then fails completely, and the wizard leaves a part of himself behind. This happens to Ron in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.


In Harry Potter, wizards also travel on brooms. This is a very common mode of travel in fantasy stories. Brooms are used by Rowling not only to travel long distances, but also to play sports: Quidditch. Quidditch is the wizarding sport of choice, and is sort of like a combination of cricket and basketball, on broomsticks. Harry’s first broom is a Nimbus 2000, given to him by Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to play Quidditch. This racing broomstick is destroyed in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when it flies into the Whomping Willow. Harry then receives a new broomstick from his godfather Sirius Black: the Firebolt. This is the fastest broom in Harry Potter, going from 0 to 250 mph in 10 seconds.


Next up is the “Portkey”. This is a simple object enchanted with the Portus spell. A timer is set on it, and if wizards hold this object at the right time, they are transported from one place to another. This is also a magical form of teleportation. These portkeys are objects from the everyday world of Muggles and wizards. But Muggles usually aren’t going to get the idea of grabbing them, because wizards only bewitch trash, such as an empty can or a broken car tire.

The first time Harry faces a portkey is in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the book, Harry goes with his friend Ron and his family to the Quidditch World Cup, as I mentioned. And this relocation is done with a portkey. The group hikes to a mountain, and there they meet the Diggory family. Together they stand around the portkey and at the right moment, they all take hold of it. Harry describes this way of traveling as a kind of fishhook behind the navel that pulls you to the right destination. This is how they end up at the World Cup campground. All the portkeys are collected there and discarded. These objects no longer have magical powers once they have worked the one time.

At the end of book four, there is another mention of a portkey. When Harry and Cedric have gone through the maze in the final task of the Triwizard Tournament, they take hold of the Triwizard Cup together and it turns out to be a portkey. They are transported to a graveyard, where Cedric is killed, and Harry faces the resurrection of Voldemort.

Flying creatures

Finally, there are also quite a few magical flying creatures that can transport people. However, wizards normally prefer to travel by other means than animals. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we already encounter one such creature: the hippogriff. A hippogriff is a fable animal, half horse and half eagle, which is used quite often in fantasy literature. This myth dates back to the Persians, and was often described in literature, such as by Virgil. Rowling, however, returns to medieval legends, where a hippogriff is described as a flying creature with characteristics of an eagle (head, torso, forelimbs and wings) and a horse (body, hind limbs and tail). Rowling further describes them as carnivores and very dangerous and proud animals.

Harry is introduced to these creatures in the third book, during the Care of Magical Creatures class taught by his friend Hagrid. Hagrid explains that they are very proud animals, and that you must approach them very respectfully. Harry is the first to rise to the challenge and he steps up to the hippogriff Buckbeak. He approaches this creature like Hagrid told him: walk up to it quietly, maintain eye contact (blinking is out of the question) and make a deep bow. As soon as the hippogriff bows back, you may go over and pet it. Harry does this very hesitantly, and eventually he even rides Buckbeak.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry and his friends travel with “thestrals”. They fly on these animals to the Ministry of Magic. These animals look like horses, but have reptilian, shiny black skin. They have very large wings, reminiscent of bats. So they are sort of dark versions of Pegasus. These animals are emaciated carnivores. But, unlike the hippogriff, thestrals are peace-loving creatures. Still, many wizards and witches fear these animals, and that is because of their reputation. Thestrals can only be seen by wizards who have seen someone die. Harry finds this out, when he can be the animals, while most of his classmates cannot. However, these animals also appear in all the other Harry Potter books, but in the first books we do not know. Thestrals, in fact, are the invisible horses that pull the carriages at Hogwarts.

The last animals I want to mention here are “abraxan”. These are huge flying horses, which appear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The French school Beauxbatons comes to Hogwarts in a huge carriage drawn by these horses. Nothing more is mentioned about these horses, other than that they drink only the finest malt whisky. So these creatures are really just horses, as we know them, that happen to be able to fly and thus are reminiscent of Pegasus.


Fantasy literature has an entire development behind it. It is based on the first myths and sagas and today it has evolved into the most successful genre of literature. This development has been particularly strong in recent years, due to authors such as J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, among others.

Harry Potter was written by J.K. Rowling, and is primarily a secondary-world fantasy. In this paper, I have applied Göte Klingberg’s subdivision to these books. The first four books largely belong in the third group of fantasy stories, where the real and unreal worlds are strongly connected. Harry grows up in the normal Muggle world and is introduced to the wizarding world on his 11th birthday. In books five, six and seven, we notice a gradual reversal of this dichotomy. Then Harry begins to see the wizarding world as normal more and more, and at the end of book seven it becomes clear that this is where he will spend the rest of his life. Then the reversal is complete: the normal world is now the wizarding world, and the Muggle world is portrayed as the unreal world.

Then I explained what a double chronotope is, and how it is depicted in Harry Potter. There is no double time dimension, but there are two place dimensions. There is frequent alternation between these two dimensions, and Rowling tries to come up with new ways of transportation in each book. The ways I have discussed are: the Hogwarts Express that leaves from platform 9 ¾, the Leaky Cauldron that leads to Diagon Alley, the Knight Bus for stranded wizards, flu powder, appparition, flying broomsticks and portkeys. Then I mentioned some magical creatures that can fly: the hippogriff, the thestral and the abraxan.

So from the paper we can deduce that “the Harry Potter books are based on two contrasting settings” (Nikolajeva, 129). These two worlds are those of the Muggles and the wizards. Harry Potter departs from the Muggle world and enters the wizarding world. He discovers that he has always belonged there, and the story ends with a reversal. Harry then feels completely at home in the wizarding world, and experiences the Muggle world as abnormal.

Thanks for reading!

Loes M.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.