Jump to content



Is HARRY POTTER an epic fantasy?


Recommended Posts

An interesting question that I posed on Twitter last night, to some interesting answers. Does the Harry Potter series count as epic fantasy?



Points for:

The series features the struggle between a band of plucky heroes against a Dark Lord and his minions. The Dark Lord has previously menaced the world in a prior incarnation and been defeated, but is now returning, a fact initially greeted with scepticism in some quarters.


The central hero is a chosen one whose destiny is to defeat the Dark Lord, as agreed upon by pretty much everyone (even the Dark Lord and his minions, who make the hero's termination a priority).


The series features conspiracies, political intrigue and notable magical battles.


The series is set in a well-thought-out, internally consistent secondary world with its own rules, including a magic system.


The series incorporates numerous 'standard' fantasy creatures and monsters, including centaurs, dragons and griffins.



Points against:

The setting may be a secondary world, but it's closely based on the real world, meaning the author hasn't had to do that much worldbuilding.


The effects of the story are epic and wide in scope, but the majority of the story is geographically limited to one single location (Hogwarts and the surrounding region) for most of the story (six of the seven books).


A lack of guys with swords, hidden crowns or claims to a throne. Also, whilst there are significantly large magical battles, there aren't any massive clashes of sword-wielding dudes.


The lack of any maps in the books.




It's a difficult call (and ultimately a pointless display of semantics) but I think the series veers close to the standard definitions of epic fantasy. Some replies suggested it should be counted as urban fantasy, but for the most part the story doesn't take place in a traditional urban environment. There's also the question of if a fantasy can be simultaneously epic and urban rather than being limited to one definition.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

it seems like most of the points for arguement against HP being an epic fantasy are because of the lack of World Building on JKR's part.



i guess what you have to ask yourself is why do you consider a series to be an epic fantasy, is it because of the world thats created or the story thats being told. for me, it's always been about the story, and this is why i do consider it to be a Young Adult epic fantasy; because you have the same elements that are found story wise in other epics such as LoTR's & Wot yet it's ona level that younger readers can both enjoy and relate to.


not to mention the Character building JKR does.



so for me, an epic is more about the character building and story itself rather than the author having to build their own world or magic system. theres no reason why an epic fantasy can't take place in the RL setting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had a suggestion that the books are somewhat episodic (at least the first 3-4), which might count against it. I find that unpersuasive, since you can have single-volume epic fantasies, not to mention that both WoT and MALAZAN started off with episodic books before the more strongly serialised elements kick in.


The other suggestion is that epic fantasy relies on 'The Journey' as part of its appeal, essentially a journey by the main characters across a hostile wilderness. This is an interesting one as it's something that divides epic fantasy from POTTER, as in POTTER this never happens but a lot of acknowledged epic fantasies feature it: many in MALAZAN (the Chain of Dogs for one), ASoIaF (Bran from Winterfell to beyond the Wall; Daenerys in the east), WoT (lots, perhaps most notably Rand and co pursuing the cursed dagger in the second novel) and of course Frodo and Sam's journey in LotR.


I think 'The Journey' is certainly an identifying feature of many epic fantasies, but I'm not sure if it is something that is needed in order to count as an epic fantasy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

but even with a "Journey" you can hve two types. theres teh phsyical journey, where the hero must cross many miles to reach a goal, and then theres a personal journey that a character can take within. when written in the FP pov, the reader takes this journey with the character adn this is a journey that Harry progresses through in each book.


rand takes a similar journey of self awarness throught the series, so not only is crossing nations but he's also journing within himself to grow as a character, an internal journey we the reader are able to take with him and many other characters in the WoT.



i might also mention that in tDh's harry does take a journey as you describe. it's not long in comparision and has little impact on the total plot, but it is there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



(I'll leave the technical/classical definition of "epic" out of this, as it is irrelevant to the layman's understanding of the meaning.)


Epic fantasy is mostly a question of scale (not length of story) rather than of particular plots, characters, or elements. By that standard, I would say HP counts. Your points for and against seem drawn from the particular subset of epic fantasy called sword and sorcery (as if you didn't know!), but that kind of fantasy is not the whole of the genre. In my opinion, it isn't even the best of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe that Harry Potter is considered and epic fantasy. There is more than one type of epic fantasy. Those set in an fictional world such as WoT or SoT. Those that are set in a parallel world which can be entered through a portal from the primary world or parallel world such as Dark Tower or Chronicles of Narnia, and those that are a distinct world-within-a-world as part of the primary world such as Harry Potter. I believe Harry Potter is an epic fantasy of Good vs. Evil. As Red mentioned, what is that you consider and epic fantasy? Because I believe that it is what it means to you that is most important. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
an epic is more about the character building and story itself rather than the author having to build their own world or magic system. theres no reason why an epic fantasy can't take place in the RL setting.


In my mind I keep on thinking it's an epic fantasy, I think, for that very same reason!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...