In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, after Harry explained the boggart would change into a dementor for him, Lupin says, "That suggests that what you fear most of all, is fear itself. This is very wise."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural address (1933), "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

Is there a reason for this similarity? Or is it purely coincidental?


1 Answer 1


The reason for the similarity may simply be that it is a commonplace thought, neither unique to nor original with Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Yale Book of Quotations gives these examples:

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1580):

C'est dequoy j'ay le plus de peur que la peur.
The thing I fear the most is fear.

Francis Bacon (1623):

Nothing is terrible except fear itself.

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1831):

The only thing I am afraid of is fear.

Henry David Thoreau (1851):

Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933):

Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

  • That means that the Roosevelt statement is regularly misquoted. Who knew?
    – AJFaraday
    May 5, 2016 at 9:35
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    @AJFaraday it isn't misquoted, he did say it. It's just that he wasn't the first to utter what is, frankly, an obvious and kind of glib observation. I'm sure similar things have been uttered by wizened old tribal elders to goad the youngsters into attacking that enormous mammoth.
    – terdon
    May 5, 2016 at 11:19
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    It's more that I've often heard and read "We have nothing to fear but fear itself", attributed to him. Worded differently, and therefore misquoted, or to put it more kindly, paraphrased. And yes, I'm sure he's neither the first nor the last to say it. I never contradicted that.
    – AJFaraday
    May 5, 2016 at 11:20
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    Actually, @AJFaraday, the OP's quote is a correct sub-quote of FDR's statement (assuming user14111 got it right...). I'm not sure that I've ever heard it put quite the way you have quoted it. These are, however, minor quibbles in the context of the question itself.
    – FreeMan
    May 5, 2016 at 16:02
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    @user14111 "blood, sweat and tears" was Theodore Roosevelt's phrase in 1897. Churchill paraphrased it in 1940 as "blood, toil, tears and sweat". See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood,_toil,_tears,_and_sweat - amusing we now have two Roosevelts involved.
    – abligh
    May 5, 2016 at 19:41

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