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James and the Giant Peach:

  • full name James Henry Trotter
  • parents killed by a rampaging rhinoceros when he was very young
  • lived with 2 abusive aunts until magic came into his life

Harry Potter:

  • full name Harry James Potter
  • parents killed by a rampaging wizard when he was very young
  • lived with abusive aunt and uncle until magic came into his life

Circumstantial evidence points to a connection between the two books, but is there any more solid evidence for J K Rowling having been inspired by James and the Giant Peach? I've searched the internet without success, but there's a lot of people here who know much more about hunting down HP facts than I do!

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    Hot noodles made from poodles vs chicken noodle soup... you might be on to something. – Mr Lister Mar 31 '15 at 9:57
  • Maybe Harold James? Although don't think I ever read where anyone used "Harold". – Ernest Friedman-Hill Mar 31 '15 at 10:53
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    @Lexible I always thought Harry was short for Henry, though as Ernest says it could equally well be Harold. Do we have any canon info on what HP's name was short for? – Rand al'Thor Mar 31 '15 at 22:04
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    Has someone explored the Earthworm in the movie is voiced by the actor who played Remus Lupin angle? – DaveMorganTexas Apr 1 '15 at 1:08
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    Related (particularly to the earlier version): scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/173825/… – Alex Dec 23 '18 at 7:18
5

JK Rowling is definitely familiar with James & The Giant Peach.

In a 2001 interview:

People sometimes compare you to Roald Dahl.

I've been compared to him more than anyone else. I take it as a compliment. There are similarities in our humour sometimes. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and James And The Giant Peach are brilliant, but he's not one of my favourite children's writers. Our writing is really quite dissimilar. My books are ultimately more moral. An unfashionable word, but there you go. They're not moralistic, but there is often a good-versus-evil subtext. They're not absolutely black and white, though. Harry breaks a lot of rules. He's not good in the Enid Blyton sense.

She does say she feels her work is different than Dahl's and if she was influenced it was at most in quirky details (source):

I'll be honest with you, I take it as a huge compliment because he's very popular .... However, I don't actually think we're that similar. I think that superficially, very superficially-because from what I know about Roald Dahl, he was very good on quirky details--we have something in common. But at a deeper level, we're quite different. This is not at all meaning that I'm better than Roald Dahl. He's an absolute master at what he did. It's just that I think we set out to do quite different things. I think his characters are more cartoonlike than mine are. I also think--unfashionable a word as that is--that my books are a lot more "moral."

She does imply that Roald Dahl is an influence in this interview:

Much of her interest in writing came about because she dearly loved to read. Some of her favorite books as a child included those by Judy Blume, Louisa May Alcott and C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series. She also likes the writing of Roald Dahl, especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which she considers "his masterpiece."

"And I suppose the one book that very much influenced Harry Potter was Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge . . . I liked all the food descriptions and I try to put lots of descriptions about meals into all the Harry books."

The way the article is written, it sounds like that Roald Dahl came up as a list of influences for her work, but since we don't have the exact quote, we'll never know.

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51

It's worth noting that parental abandonment in some form or other is an extremely common trope in juvenile literature and particularly prevelant in British literature. Whether due to literal abandonment, neglect (often to the extent that would be considered abuse these days), boarding school, displacement during war or, ultimately, death.

It's a theme in most of Dahl's books, as well as many of the books listed as influences on Rowlings in the article linked in the previous answer. I'd consider it as the Harry Potter books being part of a broad literary tradition rather than it being an explicit reference to any specific book.

Some well known examples:

Death: Harry Potter, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach

Abandonment: The Chronicles of Prydain

Wartime Displacement: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Flies

Neglect (by contemporary standards, not making a judgement here it can just be a literary device): Enid Blyton, E Nesbit

Boarding School: Tom Brown's Schooldays, Billy Bunter, Saint Trinians

Of course this theme can also be found in literature from other countries, intended for adults and feature prominantly in many fairy tales. It's just particularly prevalent in British children's literature (at a guess I'd say it was due to abandonment issues due to displacement during WWII and the prevalence of boarding schools).

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    Well, sure, similar names, being orphan, having abusive family, it happens all the time both in real life and in literature. But... your answer does not address the issue of rampaging rhinoceros in one case, and rampaging wizard in the other. – Ennar Mar 31 '15 at 17:41
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    Don't forget parental abandonment features prominently in fairy tales and Disney movies. It's such a common trope that it's considered one of the basic structural features for many stories: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Propp – Adam Davis Mar 31 '15 at 17:51
  • And we know where Dahl's influence came from -- Dahl himself was sent to several boarding schools where he had an absolutely miserable time. – Atsby Apr 1 '15 at 0:15
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    Without alexwlchan's answer, this one doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Maybe you could refer to his answer briefly? – Mr. Bultitude Apr 1 '15 at 3:32
  • Different Chronicles of Narnia books touch on pretty much all of these. – GalacticCowboy Apr 1 '15 at 20:16
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As far as I know, JK Rowling has never said anything about James and the Giant Peach as a direct influence on Harry Potter, or for that matter, any other book. From a radio show transcript in 2000:

The question you are most frequently asked as an author is: "Where do you get your ideas from?" I find it very frustrating because, speaking personally, I haven't got the faintest idea where my ideas come from, or how my imagination works. I'm just grateful that it does, because it gives me more entertainment than it gives anyone else.

From Mr Darcy to Harry Potter by way of Lolita, Sunday Herald (May 2000)

There's a Wikipedia article entitled Harry Potter influences and analogues, which collects various interview quotes about books and authors which may have had some influence on her writing. However, Roald Dahl is not among them.

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    @randal'thor I said that JK Rowling has never said that she was influenced by Dahl's work, not that a) she wasn't or b) nobody has ever guessed a connection before. – alexwlchan Apr 1 '15 at 7:51
  • She did say Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of her favorite books as a child. – TheAsh Nov 14 '19 at 13:04
5

In Goblet of Fire, this happens,

Harry spent most of the afternoon in his bedroom; he couldn't stand watching Aunt Petunia peer out through the net curtains every few seconds, as though there had been a warning about an escaped rhinoceros.

That's the best possible evidence for this theory.

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    Welcome to SFF! Could you edit this to explain how this "the best possible evidence for this theory"? Not everyone is familiar enough with both works to know what this means. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 5 '18 at 8:01
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    @TheLethalCarrot - The OP notes that James' parents were killed by a rampaging rhinoceros. – RDFozz Jul 5 '18 at 18:01

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