7

Are there any classical analogues to the dementors in the Harry Potter franchise?

Many of the creatures that inhabit J.K. Rowling's world of Harry Potter and hogwarts are taken directly from classical folklore and mythology. Examples would be giants, centaurs, even boggarts. So I was curious if there were any related creatures to the dementors.

In other words, are there any classical mythological creatures (from any culture) that are associated with "eating souls" or spirits?

  • 3
    I can't think of anything "classical" off the top of my head (though, succubi are sort of similar), but the concept isn't exactly new – phantom42 Aug 17 '15 at 17:36
  • 3
    Form-wise they may not be rooted in mythology, but they do seem to be inspired by literature. Surely they are influenced in appearance by the Nazgul/Black Riders and The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (Scrooge's last ghost). – ThruGog Aug 17 '15 at 21:56
  • 1
    I definitely got a strong Nazgul vibe the first time I read Prizoner of Azkaban. I thought there must be something in classical literature or folklore that would represent a soul or spirit eating monster. I found a few things like the Abiku or possibly the Changlings in Celtic folklore, but nothing quite like the Dementors. – David Aug 18 '15 at 12:55
11

Out-of-universe, Dementors were an avatar for Depression:

Winfrey: So you became depressed after your mother died?

Rowling: Yes, but I think it was a kind of delayed – I think I had tendencies toward depression from quite young. It became really acute when I was sort of twenty-five to twenty-eight was a dark time. It’s that absence of feeling – and it’s even the absence of hope that you can feel better. And it’s so difficult to describe to someone who’s never been there because it’s not sadness. Sadness is – I know sadness – sadness is not a bad thing. You know? To cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling – that really hollowed-out feeling. That’s what the Dementors are. And it was because of my daughter that I went and got help.

(Interview here; quote is from the end of section 4)

Their form is very similar to any number of generic things - ghosts, wraiths, that thing from Scream - but if you want to tie them to a classical cause, you have to step outside classical creatures and take them as an allegory for Depression.

  • 1
    "that thing from Scream" you mean a person in a mask? – phantom42 Aug 17 '15 at 18:49
  • 8
    @phantom42 That was a mask? Okay, that movie makes much more sense now. – gowenfawr Aug 17 '15 at 18:50
  • It might be interesting to mention here that their mode of reproduction resembles, somewhat, the Warhammer 40K Warp Daemons: creatures existing in a parallel universe and created from the human psychic energies of malicious emotions and thoughts. I don't expect JKR derived any inspiration from W40K — I'm pointing to the convergent development from similar bases. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/8919 – can-ned_food Mar 13 '17 at 6:14
1

Shtriga from Albanian folklore

enter image description hereenter image description here

  • 5
    Do you have any evidence that JK Rowling was in-fact inspired by them? – Edlothiad Jan 22 '18 at 6:31
  • 3
    Those are absolutely fascinating. we know JKR borrowed from different mythologies, so it's entirely possible that undead such as wraiths or even ^these creatures served as inspiration for the dementors, but as there is no lack of repulsive hovering hooded figures who steal souls, drain life & happiness in diff cultures, it's hard to narrow it down which one she borrowed for her metaphor for depression. Probably an unconscious mix of them. – user68762 Jan 22 '18 at 10:08

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.