This article argues that reflective surfaces throughout all seven Harry Potter novels symbolize thresholds between discrete worlds. By displaying Harry’s dead parents on ‘the other side’ of the Mirror of Erised, the text draws on the Myth of Narcissus and various other mythological death-mirrors to create the impression of an inverse afterlife realm where the dead live again, supporting the central themes of death and grief in the series. By drawing upon Lori M. Campbell’s theory of object ‘porters,’ the article shows how the gradual transformation of this framework through more abstract reflections (eyes, creatures, lakes) reveals a deep symbolic framework woven throughout the entire series, with further roots in Farah Mendlesohn’s sub-genre classifications as well as modern fantasy literature. When paired with John Granger’s contention that Harry’s confrontations with death parallel the descents of monomythic heroes across time, the text’s spatial symbology allows it to effectively signal the boy wizard’s escalating awareness of mortality and willingness to face it, courting death in the name of life.
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Mythcon 52: The Mythic, the Fantastic, and the Alien
Albuquerque, New Mexico; July 29 - August 1, 2022