: [Fwd: Bullying, DWJ, and Harry Potter...]

Gili Bar-Hillel abhillel at hotmail.com
Sun Feb 2 03:46:06 EST 2003

Johanna wrote:

>Anyway, I honestly didn't find anything that made me think Rowling
>borrowed too heavily from DWJ--nothing like I'd been led to believe,
>anyway. To me, the whole "adolescent witch & all the attendant trials &
>tribulations at school" thing is a whole genre on its own, practically.
>Just because you write about one doesn't mean that you're automatically
>going to end up copying someone else... there are no new ideas left
>anyway, right?
>Or is it something specific in Chrestomanci, or in another book (that
>perhaps I haven't read, being new to DWJ), that I'm missing?

I agree - I can't see anything that was obviously copied, and I was a bit 
perturbed that DWJ herself seemed a bit bitter in some of her replies. But 
maybe I'm reading too much into them, or maybe the bitterness is just a 
natural result of seeing someone else succeed so wildly in something you've 
been doing for years without a tenth of the trappings of success that you 

Anyway, as far as "lifting" details into HP, there are several books that 
can get in line before the Chrestomanci series: Jill Murphy's "The Worst 
Witch" series for one, particularly descriptions of certain potions lessons 
with the nasty potions teacher who plays favorites - uncomfortably 
reminiscent of certain scenes in HP, though "The Worst Witch" was written 
for much younger readers and in far less detail. Eva Ibbotson's "The Secret 
of Platform 13" has a Dudley clone (fat, spoiled and obnoxious) growing up 
in the same household with a Harry clone (noble and neglected), and some 
unnervingly similar details such as passage to a magical world via one of 
the platforms at King's Cross station. Neil Gaman's character of Timothy 
Hunter as he first appears in the comic "The Books of Magic" bears a 
striking physical resemblance to Harry - thick glasses, shaggy black hair - 
and also discovers on his 11th birthday that he is destined to become a 
great wizard.

But then you can go back a bit further, and find the literary sources that 
inspired these authors in turn. James from "James and the Giant Peach" has 
the same miserable childhood as Harry and Eva Ibbotson's protagonist - but 
for that matter so does Cinderella. "The Once and Future King" was surely a 
great inspiration for some of these authors, and in turn is based on much 
older legends about King Arthur. I can think of examples where DWJ seems to 
have been inspired by C.S.Lewis, and where C.S.Lewis seems to have been 
inspired by E. Nesbit, and so on and so forth. It's just part of the game.

This is why I could not believe the nerve of the American writer, Nancy 
Stouffer, who accused Joanne Rowling of ripping off her books, on the basis 
of a couple of not-very-amazing coincidences. For a while I think she got 
exactly what she wanted: global attention, and her books back in print (I 
haven't read them, but they sound absolutely dreadful and I have not read a 
single positive review of them). I must say I felt justice had been served 
when the court not only ruled against her, but found that there was reason 
to believe she had falsified evidence to support her claims, and penalized 

Gili Bar-Hillel
Tel-Aviv, tel.(03)5250014


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