Book Article

Secret Ingredients

J.K. Rowling's literary influences -- We spot the ''Harry Potter'' author's nods to ''Macbeth,'' ''The Lord of the Rings,'' and Jane Austen

Macbeth
William Shakespeare

Just as Macbeth murders Duncan after hearing the witches' prophecy, so Voldemort tries to murder Harry after hearing another prophecy — or at least a fragment of it. What's more, Rowling has said this is one of her favorite Shakespeare works.

The Little White Horse
Elizabeth Goudge

In this novel, which Rowling read and loved as a child, just-orphaned Maria Merryweather arrives at her new home, Moonacre Manor, only to discover it has a most sinister feel. Could there be flashes of plucky little Maria in Harry?

E. Nesbit

Like Rowling, Nesbit mixes potent fantasy with heart-stopping adventure in books like The Phoenix and the Carpet. Unpleasant fairies? Magic eggs? They're all here.

The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Rowling has said she read The Lord of the Rings back when she was a teen (and only read The Hobbit after finishing Sorcerer's Stone). But fans of both series love to list their likenesses: Wormtongue and Wormtail, Sauron and Voldemort, dementors and Nazgul.

Star Wars

Just like Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker struggles against a dark lord — and, occasionally, against the same darkness in himself. And like George Lucas, Rowling had conceived her entire story before she began.

Jane Austen

Rowling once said, ''My favorite writer is Jane Austen, and I've read all her books so many times I've lost count.'' Perhaps Austen taught Rowling about the fine art of characterization — and surprise endings.

Matilda
Roald Dahl

Remember those piggish, loutish Wormwoods (portrayed so memorably by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman in the movie), who were so awful to their bookish daughter, Matilda? So do plenty of other Potter fans, who see parallels between them and the Dursley family.

The Once and Future King
T.H. White

The young boy who becomes King Arthur in this classic series offers multiple comparisons to Harry. And Dumbledore, of course, is a dead ringer for White's wise and gentle Merlyn.

Tom Brown's Schooldays
Thomas Hughes

A brave 11-year-old arrives at boarding school, where he excels at rugby, makes good friends, and bests a nasty bully. Though Rowling has never mentioned this Victorian-era novel, it inspired dozens of other British ''school'' tales.

The Chronicles of Narnia
C.S. Lewis

Rowling read the first book as a child. And like that mystical wardrobe, her platform 9 — offers an everyday passage into another world.

Roddy Doyle

Okay, maybe there are no obvious correlations here. But Doyle — Rowling's favorite living author — turns out some of the most beautiful, scorching, riveting dialogue around. Could she have learned a thing or two from him? It isn't out of the question.

Spider-Man

Harry has his own version of ''Spidey sense'' — his lightning-bolt scar begins to hurt when Voldemort is near.

Originally posted Jul 27, 2007 Published in issue #946 Aug 03, 2007 Order article reprints
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