dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #202

Anita Graham amgraham at cygnus.uwa.edu.au
Sun Aug 6 07:26:21 EDT 2000

At 02:18  05-08-00 +0000, you wrote:

>For some reason I have not heard anyone else compare the Harry Potter 
>books to Jill Murphy's "Worst Witch" series, which has some striking 
>similarities: old drafty school, mean potions teacher, broom-flying 
>lessons, sneaking around in the middle of the night...
>Lets just say JKR took a little from here and a little from there. As for 
>8 days of Luke - perhaps someone thought the underground snakes were liket 
>the Basilisk in HP2? (Neil Gaiman had the best Basilisk though, in his 
>Books of Magic series)

While I don't think HP is the greatest book in the world, and the 
Magic/Muggle interface gets more and more muddled, I think these 
comparisons are quite unfair.

Yes, there are lots of books with magic in them and lots of books with 
school in them, and even a few with both (Worst Witch, and The Great Ghost 
Rescue spring to mind ... that *was* a school, wasn't it?) to assume that 
because some of the external details are similar that one author has been 
ripped off, or even that JKR "took a little" is going too far.

Fans of school stories, I am one and know many others, look at her books as 
a variation on the school story theme and can point out features she 
"could" have borrowed from the genre. As fans of magical stories, you can 
do the same - but to assume anything more than JKR being fairly well read 
and knowing the conventions of the genres is going too far.

As for the Worst Witch - the draughty old school in a castle, mean 
teachers, midnight adventures and interesting sports  could all have come 
from any number of boarding school stories. But we don't go around accusing 
Barbara WIllard of plagiarism (do we?), we enjoy a variation on a theme. 
Same for JKR and Harry Potter, as far as I am concerned.

Anita Graham

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