Harry Potter’s lightning bolt scar is one of the character’s most recognized symbols. But how does something like the lighting bolt tie to Greek myth?
The Harry Potter franchise is one of the most beloved book series of the past century. Since its debut in the ’90s, the character and universe have grown into a multimedia phenomenon that has continued to enthrall fans both new and old. While the story has had its own mythic quality that’s grown over the decades, there was actually a deeper connection to real Greek myth. But it’s not luck that provided that connection. In fact, the answer could be found in Harry’s iconic lightning bolt scar.
The scar represented a failed attempt at murder in the Harry Potter books when Voldemort tried to kill Harry as an infant. While it never gave him any issue for most of his childhood, his scar began to take on a mind of its own as he learned more about his past and family. Now, he could feel pain whenever Voldemort’s essence was near him or when anyone who felt negative emotions towards him was near, much like Snape’s unhappy surprise to see him in his class in his first year.
The scar also had a more mythic meaning that represented Harry’s long journey and the many battles he encountered. His scar has since served as a modern representation of the iconic scar on Odysseus’ thigh from the Illiad and the Odyssey by the poet Homer. In those stories, Odysseus was the fearless leader forced to fight in the Battle of Troy and later forced to endure a long journey home, where he encountered beasts like the Cyclops and witches like Circe. Throughout this time, Odysseus’ most notable physical feature was the scar he received as a child.
When he was young, Odysseus went out hunting and was caught off guard and stabbed by a boar. While he survived the attack, the scar represented what he had overcome, the future battles he would face and how he would also overcome those when the time came. The same could be said for Harry, who spent most of his young adult life fighting for his and his friends’ safety and protecting the innocents who didn’t know of Voldemort’s war. In that time, Harry suffered significant losses and was forced to witness terrible atrocities, like the death of Cedric Diggory and the murder of Sirius Black. However, even when he faced moments that made him feel hopeless, his scar reminded him that these moments were meant to define him and forced him to keep going.
Like Odysseus, Harry was a skilled fighter and brave leader. But it wasn’t his victories that made him admirable. Instead, it was his persistence to do the right thing and how he represented his family legacy every day. All of the darkness his scar represented also served as a physical example of his parent’s love for him. As a result, it gave him strength and helped him and others find their inner fortitude. Similarly, Odysseus’ scar served as a motivator for him and others around him to be better than the wounds they may endure and fight for peace and goodness.
Harry Potter is rich lore with dramatic highs and lows that have kept fans coming back for more every year. Ironically, it has taken on its own mythology that could very well be told centuries in the future, similar to how people look at Greek myth today. But thanks to narrative tropes, readers from any generation will be able to derive the core of some of Harry Potter’s smallest details to help enhance just how much of a hero Harry was when compared to a man like Odysseus.