A person known to me only as Unscrewed once noticed that the following description:

A young wizard named Harry finds himself an orphan because of the machinations of a would-be evil overlord. His adoptive parents are cruel and neglectful. However, he learns his most important lessons (those of the heart) from a old, kind, and powerful wizard. He fights a variety of magical opponents, has a definite disrespect for authority, and suffers scorn from his peers. He eventually defeats the evil overlord, but finds the kind old wizard he respected so much wasn't as perfect as he originally seemed.

perfectly describes both Harry Potter books (which are extremely profitable) and The Dresden Files books (which have a cult following).

Clearly, this can't be a coincidence. Stories centered around orphaned wizards named Harry must innately call to something deep in the current zeitgeist, and there's bound to be a public some public domain work along these lines that I can exploit to become filthy rich and/or popular.

So, on a completely unrelated note, a question: what is the earliest story that features a magic-using named Harry? Bonus points if he's also an orphan.

  • 6
    "Clearly, this can't be a coincidence".... or, it's a coincidence. – KutuluMike Sep 10 '16 at 17:18
  • 3
    Seems like youve found 2 of the only major examples. I'm sure there may be fantasy novels starring a Harry, but i cant find any link to a Campbellian-esque cultural pattern. That also doesn't perfectly describe The Dresden Files, IMHO. – Dpeif Sep 10 '16 at 18:35
  • 3
    @Paul i dont mean its inaccurate, just a bit basic. IMHO that describes HP very well, but its not how i would describe HD, even though those are all basic plot points for both. – Dpeif Sep 10 '16 at 19:00
  • 6
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Houdini – Adamant Sep 10 '16 at 22:31
  • 3
    @Paul I think it's a real stretch to claim that Dresden suffers scorn from his peers -- he's incredibly well respected among the White Council and the Winter Fae, at the very least. He was made a Warden, he's the Winter Knight, and people go way out of their way to help him. Plus, he's never actually vanquished "the" evil overlord yet (since the series hasn't ended yet), he's merely vanquished "several" lesser evil overlords. – KutuluMike Sep 11 '16 at 14:45

A Night at the Magic Castle (1988)

Determining the earliest example of a wizard named Harry might be next to impossible. There are so many magic-users, and so few common English names, that the earliest example is likely to be quite old indeed.

That said, one of the earlier examples must be A Night at the Magic Castle, where the flying ghost of Harry Houdini, here a literal magician, takes a young boy to Hollywood’s Magic Castle, there to do battle with an evil magician.

This predates the first Harry Potter book by roughly a decade, and Storm Front by 12 years.

It is worth noting that Harry Houdini is the likely inspiration for most fictional magicians named Harry. As perhaps the most famous illusionist of all time, Houdini’s reputation is guaranteed to be known to most writers. The second example from the question, Harry Dresden, was in fact probably named after Houdini in-universe, since his other names come from magicians. Or possibly after Harry Blackstone. Blackstone is another possible inspiration for fictional magic-users named Harry, but he is certainly more obscure than Houdini.

| improve this answer | |
  • That's a very good answer, especially the part about two possible real-life inspirations. But, as is the tradition, I'll wait some time before marking it as accepted. – Dragomok Sep 11 '16 at 11:48
  • 1
    It's explicitly stated in the books that Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is named after famous stage magicians in universe with Harry coming from Houdini (Harry Dresden's father was a stage magician). I'm not sure if the book is explicit about Blackstone Sr. vs Jr., but that's irrelevant to the question. – CodesInChaos Sep 12 '16 at 9:56

The 1986 movie Troll has two characters named Harry Potter and Harry Potter, Jr. respectively. Harry Potter Jr. is the main character and while not a wizard, he does ask the (good) witch lady to teach him to be a wizard.

| improve this answer | |
  • Ah, the one movie where everyone has heard about the sequel, but not the original. Kudos for finding something two years earlier than the first answer, even if it's a bit of a stretch. – Dragomok Sep 17 '16 at 12:55

Harry Houdini was a fictional character created by Erik or Ehrich Weisz. Since Weisz died in 1926 and was using the name by 1893, he predates the depiction of his ghost by at least ninety years.

Weisz said that he got the first name from Harry Kellar, who was performing as early as 1873. While Harry was his real name, it is worth noting that every stage magician played a character who could perform real magic while actually using a variety of tricks. As such, I would argue that they are all fictional in the same way that WWE is fictional.

By that argument, the earliest fictional magician named Harry was Harry Kellar in 1873 (or even 1865, although he wasn't famous then). Of course, there may have been earlier occurrences of whom we don't know. But we can trace Harry Dresden to Harry Houdini to Harry Kellar directly. Houdini at least should also have been known to both the writers of Troll and J. K. Rowling. And thus we have the explanation of wizards named Harry. It's all Kellar's fault.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    A stage name is not a fictional protagonist – Valorum Oct 8 '17 at 19:30
  • @Valorum - Further, I doubt anyone here would accept a WWE answer to this question. – Adamant Oct 8 '17 at 23:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.