3 April 2013

Harrius Potter Latin in Modern Fiction

Like so many children I grew up with Harry Potter. I am fortunate enough to own first editions of all of the books. I remember being very young and walking into our local bookstore and seeing a small display of books with a cartoon of a boy with a funny scar on his head. It turns out that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone in the US) had been released that day and I had purchased one of the very first copies.

From the second I read the words "The Boy Who Lived" I was hooked. I grew up in a household full of books, where the written word was worth far more than any new toy or game and knowledge really was power. I remember finding it strange that friends were more interested in watching cartoons and playing with dolls and action figures than reading books. This all changed with Harry Potter, because suddenly children were reading again. J.K. Rowling really did inspire a generation.

Coincidentally I ended up studying at the same University as J.K. Rowling (Exeter). Everywhere I turned I could see parts of Hogwarts. Exeter Uni even has its own Great Hall, dorms (or halls as we called them) with motto's (mine, Kilmorie was nimis non est satis, which is Latin for excess is never enough). Beautiful cobbled streets and villages which bare a striking resemblance to Hogsmead surround the city.

Peter Needham (a former Latin professor) translated the books into Latin. I've been studying Latin for a couple of years now and have decided that it was about time I try to read them. I'm starting with Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis.

You may be wondering the purpose of this post, and I am getting there I promise! Other than the obvious opportunity for me to reminisce about my childhood, I'm conducting a study into the usage of classics in modern books. For example Cassandra Clare includes many references to Latin, Greek and Romanian in her Mortal Instruments series. In The Hunger Games series Suzanne Collins called her distopian nation, Panem (after the famous Latin phrase 'Panem et circenses' meaning the bread and circuses, by which trivial matters appease nations).

The list goes on...! If you have any suggestions of ancient languages appearing in modern books (particularly YA books please do let me know).

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