Essay: The Mother Archetype, Part II

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, both Lily Evans and Hermione Granger, archetypal Mothers, champion the underdog. We—and Harry—see Lily defending Severus Snape in a memory in Snape’s Pensieve, and we see Hermione defending house-elves. Dolores Umbridge, on the other hand, targets those who are most vulnerable. She and Hermione are contrasted with each other constantly throughout this book. If Umbridge tries to discourage Harry from doing something, Hermione encourages him to do it. Professor Umbridge doesn’t want Harry to learn defense. Hermione helps him to start Dumbledore’s Army. Umbridge doesn’t want Harry to talk about Voldemort, while Hermione sets up an interview for him to speak about nothing but Voldemort.
Dolores Umbridge doesn’t want Harry to mature; her detentions are like a repressive parent punishing a child for masturbation. Writing—a healthy activity—is perverted into a painful, unnatural torture. She also bans Harry from Quidditch, locking up his broom, thereby symbolically emasculating him, taking his battle “rank” and removing his ability to “threaten” the establishment, since Quidditch is metaphorical war. (Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 10: All’s Fair in War and Quidditch.) Finally, Umbridge tries to keep Harry—and all of the students—from maturing magically by dumbing down her lessons so that the students will be, literally and metaphorically, “unarmed”.
Umbridge wants to keep Harry as a little boy in every possible way, unable to fight his battles, real or metaphorical. When she attempts to expel him from Hogwarts she’s going even further. His return to Surrey each year is a symbolic return to the womb for Harry before he is reborn each September by re-entering the wizarding world, by returning to Hogwarts. She wants, in effect, to enforce a permanent return to the womb of Surrey for him. In other words, she’s trying to metaphorically abort Harry.
The unifying theme running throughout the seven-book Harry Potter series is introduced in A Unified Theory of the Potterverse (and in Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 1: The Kids’ Table), that is, childhood and the things connected to childhood, and the fact that the entire series can be summed up by the three words “David and Goliath”. Umbridge is one of Harry’s many Goliaths; she disregards children and anything connected to childhood, and in Harry’s case, she even tries to prevent his no longer being a child and growing up. Throughout the fifth Harry Potter book, she is a repressive archetypal Mother not just to Harry but to all of the students of Hogwarts, treating even the older students like small children who cannot and should not learn the sort of magic that she and Fudge fear could make them a threat to the Ministry. She introduces one dictum after another to clamp down on the students, to treat them as far younger than eleven, the Hogwarts entry age, and in the face of this extreme repression and denial of the value and abilities of young people, Harry, Ron, Hermione and the other students in the DA have no choice but to become rebels.
Boys at the age of fifteen, which Harry is in Order of the Phoenix, often do rebel against their Mothers, and Harry especially rebels against Umbridge, the repressive Mother. He doesn’t rebel as much against Hermione, but he does balk at her orders more in this book than he did previously, and more than he does later in the series. Hermione doesn’t always cope well with his rebellion, especially in sixth year Potions. Slughorn evokes Harry’s mother when he praises him for his Potions prowess during Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. He thinks that Harry’s abilities are inherited from Lily. In his third year, in Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry assumes his father’s mantle when he conjures the Patronus he thought his father had created during the climax of the book, but in his sixth year he connects to his mother’s legacy.
Joseph Campbell’s desired-but-forbidden Mother (see The Mother Archetype, Part I) is Cho Chang. She’s an older girl who is initially with Cedric Diggory, who’s also older than Harry, and who is an admired Father-figure to Harry. (Listen to Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 5: Our Father.) When Harry witnesses Cedric’s murder it is, for all intents and purposes, a re-enactment of James Potter’s murder.
Harry accidentally contributing to Cedric’s death puts an Oedipal spin on his romance with Cho, as in Oedipal complex, the idea that Sigmund Freud promulgated that some men are in love with their mothers and, to pave the way to being with their mothers, those men fantasize about killing their own fathers. This dooms Harry and Cho as a couple from the start. Harry even encounters a sphinx in the maze during the Triwizard Tournament and he solves the riddle of the sphinx, just as Oedipus did.
In Greek mythology, Oedipus killed his father and married his mother after his father heard a prophecy telling him that this would happen. His father sends the baby away to die, but instead the child is found and raised by foster parents, which means that Oedipus doesn’t know who his real mother and father are, leading to his later killing his father and marrying his mother, fulfilling the prophecy his father was trying to thwart.
After turning Harry down for the Yule Ball during the Tournament, Cho takes all of the initiative in their relationship in the following school year. She talks to him first and hints that she wants Harry to take her out for Valentine’s Day, as well as setting the stage for their kiss in the Room of Requirement, after a meeting of Dumbledore’s Army. Cho Chang sees Hermione—another archetypal Mother—as competition, and she briefly even takes on Umbridge’s role by supporting Marietta, who rats out everyone in Dumbledore’s Army, after which Cho is very angry with Harry for siding with his “other mum”, Hermione, who cast a spell on the sign-up sheet for Dumbledore’s Army that resulted in the word SNEAK appearing on Marietta’s face. Harry is not sympathetic to Marietta’s plight, nor does he agree with Cho’s assessment of her as a “lovely person”.
Characters who are archetypal Mothers let us see Harry nurtured and coddled, fighting repression, maturing and developing into an autonomous adult and separating in a healthy way from his Mother-figures as he matures. At the end of the sixth book—especially once he knows more about his actual mother’s legacy—he’s poised to accomplish this transition to adulthood.
The three archetypal Mothers who are most important in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are Lily Potter, Hagrid and Hermione Granger. The way that Lily is one of the most important Mothers is counter-intuitive, however, because what Harry must learn in connection to her in this book is how to let her go. The temptation to hear his mother’s voice crying out as she grows closer to her death makes it impossible for Harry to conjure a Patronus at first because he knows that if he does, he’ll no longer hear this voice that is so precious to him, a voice he doesn’t consciously remember, that only comes swimming up out of the depths of his unconscious memory when he is too close to a Dementor. His experience with Dementors is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, he is reliving the worst experience of his life, his parents’ murders, and if he doesn’t control the Dementors he could be in danger of receiving the Dementor’s kiss, but on the other hand, he’s never been able to recall his mother’s voice before he encountered Dementors. To save his very soul it is important that Harry learn to conjure a Patronus, but in order to succeed he must stop desiring to hear his mother’s voice.
One of the new lessons that Harry begins to attend in his third year is Care of Magical Creatures, which is taught by Hagrid. In the previous two books the somewhat daunting creatures that Hagrid “mothered” included a newborn baby dragon and a giant spider. In his first year as a teacher, Hagrid introduces his students to hippogriffs, creatures that are a combination of a horse and griffin, while a griffin, in turn, is a combination of a lion and an eagle. Harry immediately takes to Buckbeak, the hippogriff he flies on during his first lesson with Hagrid, while Draco Malfoy immediately makes an enemy of Buckbeak, setting in motion the quest for justice pursued by both Hagrid and Hermione, though neither of them succeeds by strictly-traditional methods. It’s only Hermione’s Time-Turner that ultimately saves Buckbeak from the executioner—simultaneously saving Sirius Black from the Dementor’s kiss.
Of the archetypal Mothers in Prisoner of Azkaban, the one who best embodies the book's ruling archetype, the Mother, is Hermione Granger, whose actions color much of the book. She becomes a literal mother, not just an archetypal one, by adopting Crookshanks, her cat, at the beginning of the book, and Crookshanks becomes friends with Sirius when he’s in his dog form, helping him behind the scenes. Just when Hermione takes on responsibility for another life—her cat—she also experiences something a lot of new mothers go through: sleep deprivation. This is because while she is using the Time-Turner to attend lessons that are scheduled simultaneously, she doesn’t seem to be using it to get more sleep. If Hermione is using her Time-Turner for three additional hours of lessons per day but not giving herself more sleeping time, she’s effectively living through 27 hours each day and becoming progressively more and more sleep-deprived, since she is only increasing her waking periods.
This is likely to be why Hermione shocks everyone by rebelling against Professor Trelawney and storming out of her classroom. She’s also apart from Ron and Harry for an extended period of time during this book because of two things: the feud with Ron over whether her pet ate his pet—which is again related to her literal motherhood—and because she turns over Harry’s new broom, the Firebolt he receives from Sirius, to Professor McGonagall, since she’s afraid that it is from Sirius and that it’s cursed. (She’s half-right). This is another instance when she’s being like a protective mother toward Harry, and like any kid whose mother is doing something “for his own good”, he’s not always going to be happy about it.
Time is a key theme in the third book. Hermione uses a Time-Turner to get to all of her lessons, and she catches on to Remus Lupin being a werewolf, which Harry and Ron do not, perhaps because at this point in her life she also has a monthly cycle.
At the climax of the book, Harry echoes her earlier actions by using the Time-Turner, which, like Ginny using Riddle’s diary and Dumbledore’s efforts to protect the Philosopher’s Stone, readers didn’t get to see firsthand when Hermione used it before the climax of the book. Without stepping into Hermione’s shoes and echoing her earlier actions, Harry couldn’t have saved Sirius and Buckbeak, and he wouldn’t have been in a position to conjure the Patronus that saved him, Hermione and Sirius from the Dementors.
The archetypal Mother rules over time because she is ruled by time. However, with the Time-Turner, Hermione manipulates time, that which would control her, and Harry shares this attribute with her at the climax of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the book ruled by the Mother archetype.

Adapted from the script for Quantum Harry, the Podcast, Episode 4: Mother, May I? Copyright 2017-2018 by Quantum Harry Productions and B.L. Purdom. See other posts on this blog for direct links to all episodes of Quantum Harry.




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