October 28, 2016

#CritYourFaves | Creative Inspiration in Books



This month I, along with many others in the blogging community, are participating in #CritYourFaves. This lovely idea was created and hosted by Aentee over at Read at Midnight. The idea behind this festival is to take a critical look at the things, specifically books this time that we love but might not be perfect. No book is perfect. But it is important that along with the love we also admit and talk about the problematic parts. Not talking about these problems will not make them go away. In many ways the most important thing that we can do as readers is to hold books to a certain standard. Without those standards, we would be allowing these problems to continue and just like in real life keeping silent is not an option.

When it came to picking a topic I was floored with all the options that began filling my head. Now, I did sign up to speak about two characters that I think are pretty problematic in Harry Potter (and is what it says officially on the Master List) but I recently came across another topic that out shined that specific topic and possibly will resonate with a lot more people and includes the entire first book. What is that topic?

The line between creative liberties and that of plagiarism and how sometimes those blur. Now you might be wondering, how this has anything to do with Harry Potter. Well, it has to do with a little book called Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t until I recently saw it on a Booktube channel and looked it up. I’m going to do something fun. I’m going to give the synopsis of the books and tell you why these books are so similar. With all of this information, I want you to guess which one came first.

Disclaimer: Now by no means am I saying that this book is exactly like Harry Potter. It can’t be. While Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/Philosophers Stone is about 320 pages (from what I remember the smallest of the series) Wizard’s Hall is only 144 pages long.


wizhPoor Henry. It’s not enough that his mother has sent him away from home to learn magic. It’s not enough that everyone at his new school calls him Thornmallow because he’s “prickly on the outside, squishy within.” It’s not enough that the only talent he shows at Wizard’s Hall is an ability to make messes of even the simplest spells. Now, when Wizard’s Hall is threatened by a cruel sorcerer’s fearsome beast, it is up to Henry–er, Thornmallow–to figure out how to save not only his new friends but also the entire school for wizards.






harry_potter_and_the_sorcerers_stoneHarry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.


Even with the synopsis, Harry Potter still seems to have more information and that is expected with 200 or so more pages. But there are also some very interesting similarities between the two that you’ll only figure out if you read Wizard’s Hall. Instead of going into so much detail that I bore myself I’m going to put into a list.


  • Harry vs. Henry: I’m going to start with the most obvious and well I’m not going to stick my nose up a book that has two similar sounding names. But it did make me raise my eyebrow.


  • The Plot: This is where my eyebrows went from more than raising an eyebrow. The plot of both speaks of 11 year old boys who journey to a magical school for witches and wizards. This magic school is filled with moving portraits, curses, and students in black robes. There is even an old wise man! Then both have to defend their classmates and potentially the entire world against a big dark evil wizard who has such terrible powers that ONLY they are able to fight.


  • Power of friends: While Harry had Hermione and Ron, Henry had Willoweed and Tansy. While Ron was a freckled redhead and was one of many in the Weasley family. Willoweed was a readhead and freckled….and had a lot of sisters. Hermoine was frizzy haired and a know it all. Tansy…..well she was frizzy haired and a know-it-all.


  • Date of Publishing: Here we go guys! With these similarities which do you think came first? Harry Potter or Wizard’s Hall? If you guessed Harry Potter that would be incorrect, Harry Potter came out in 1997 while Wizard’s Hall came out in 1991.


By bringing this up, by no means am I saying that J.K Rowling stole the idea for her entire series from Yolen. It isn’t conceivable to consider such a thing because of the scope of Yolen’s book is very small and the Harry Potter series is very large.

But this series of posts all month have been about critiquing your favorites and to me there does seem like a bit of similarities that can’t be ignored. Even if Rowling did not get her inspiration for Harry from Yolen and Wizard’s Hall, these two books bring up an excellent example of creative inspiration and when does it stop being creative inspiration and turn into plagiarism? Be it reviews, pieces of story, or any other creative outlet what is the difference? Does the person who uses another person’s words have a right to do so without giving the original person credit and to not acknowledge the inspiration? I’ve grown up being told that when you use inspiration for your papers or anything you have to give credit by citing the source of your inspiration.

A specific example comes to mind.  When the play Hamilton was made the writers of the play could have just made the play and ignored all the other various biographies that have been made about Hamilton (and because he was a piece of history it would have been really easy) but they did not. It was widely acknowledged by them that their inspiration for the play came from the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

So I want to know what you think. What makes the difference between creative inspiration and plagiarism? Do you know any other books that have some striking similarities that make you raise an eyebrow?

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