I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in around the year 2000 and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets immediately afterwards. Ever since I've questioned in the back of my mind where the structure of the 'Main Character and the...' title comes from. It has always struck me as familiar but I can't put my finger on it. I wondered if it was Sherlock Holmes or a group like The Famous Five, but no.

Hopefully the members of this site can finally help me to find me a concrete answer!

Where did JK Rowling find inspiration for her title structures, or what was she influenced by?

  • 1
    Biggles? – Harry Johnston Sep 29 '15 at 22:55
  • It’s almost like Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason books, which were always (?) titled The Case of the XYZ (with XYZ usually being something along the lines of ‘terrified secretary’, ‘mysterious nurse’, ‘masked millionairess’, ‘bedraggled brunette’, etc.). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 30 '15 at 0:59
  • TVTROPES WARNING the relevant trope is tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/… – b_jonas Sep 30 '15 at 8:21
  • At the moment, after 30 mins of digging, I can't find anything on the topic in any of the JKR interviews. She addressed individual book titles but never the pattern. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 30 '15 at 14:56
  • @b_jonas The trope references very few series... I think Indiana Jones might be the closest on there. Imagine if there was a blatant Indiana Jones tribute running through all seven Harry Potter books. Perry Mason is similar but it's the name at the beginning which really rings a bell with me. – ThruGog Sep 30 '15 at 19:12

"It could be the Tom Swift stories," he answered referentially.

The style isn't quite the same, most of the Tom Swift and Tom Swift, Jr. stories were titled "Tom Swift and his (latest invention)." But there were a few variations, e.g. "Tom Swift in the Race to the Moon," "Tom Swift and the Galaxy Ghosts."

The original Tom Swift stories go back to 1910, the Tom Swift Jr. stories came out in the 1960's and early 70's.

  • "Could be" isn't really "influence". It doesn't address whether JKR got inspiration from it as per her own acknowledgement. Absent that, you might as well semi-randomly pick oldest/most-famous pattern examples from TVTropes. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 30 '15 at 14:29
  • I like this because it references a series which is definitely what I was looking for. And your 'referentially' pun is very clever. As wise men say - if it's not punny, it's not funny! (But as DVK says I am looking for some evidence of influence on JKR). – ThruGog Sep 30 '15 at 19:08

Given the influence that the Blyton, Molesworth and Jennings books had on Hogwarts - boarding school adventure stories, it seems likely that these and their titles 'Jennings wins the Day' 'The Chalet school and the pony' and 'Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Hidden Room' probably were the influence.

Although whether that was Rowling, or her publisher/marketer's decision is not clear. Conan-Doyle's publisher wanted to call everything 'Sherlock Holmes and the X' for marketing reasons, whereas Conan-Doyle preferred simpler titles, like 'A Study in Scarlet.'

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