Is Harry Potter really The Worst Witch? But told from a boy’s perspective? Maybe, it is. I mean the similarities are striking. But perhaps there’s another reason too.
Growing up in the 80’s one of my most favorite Halloween memories is when one of the “movie” channels (HBO, Showtime, TMC, Cinemax) would play the movie The Worst Witch.
The TV movie came from a book series by author Jill Murphy and was first published in 1974 with book sequels in the 80’s, 90’s, and the early 2000’s.
The protagonist was a young girl by the name of Mildred Hubble, played spectacularly by the awesome Fairuza Balk (The Craft). I was spellbound by her adventurs as she had to overcome her school yard bullies as well as her own bumbling self all while attending Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches.
Not only that but it seemed as if the potions teacher Miss Constance Hardbroom really had it in for her too.
Fast forward to 2001 when the world was captivated by a young wizard destined for greatness in the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone if you will).
After seeing the film and falling in love with the “Wizarding World” I had a small inkling of a feeling that I had been there before. But what was it exactly…?
Is Harry Potter really The Worst Witch?
Both are about two children learning magic at a magical school in a magical castle. While normal non-magical people can’t see or find the castle.
Both of the protagonist are at odds with a stern potions teacher. The potions teacher actually prefers the antagonist who is a blonde from an “upstanding” and rich magical family.
Both of the protagonist have a penchant for breaking the rules and getting away with it.
Both of the protagonist seemingly fall into situations in where they save the lives of their fellow students and teachers.
Both of the protagonist are more powerful and brave than they give themselves credit for.
Both of the protagonist have special relationships with their pets. Mildred’s cat Tabby, and Harry’s owl, Hedwig.
Both of the protagonist have exactly 2 best friends.
Both schools are run by wise, good-hearted, white-haired, bespectacled old magic types.
Both headmasters are super fond of the protagonist and frequently help them out of jams that should get them expelled.
The students are forbidden to go into the nearby forest after dark.
Draco Malfoy and Ethel Hallow are the student’s day to day antagonist. The stuck up rich blonde student who can buy their way out of anything. But their similarities do not stop there.
Both antagonist are from a very prominent wizarding family.
Both antagonist‘s fathers are HEADs the school’s Board of Governors.
Both antagonist are favored by the potions teacher who is a lot stricter on the protagonist.
Both antagonist do great in potions class.
“So there are some similarities” you say, “big deal!” you add.
“The Hero’s Journey” archetypal story pattern is widly in play with both Harry Potter and the Worst Witch. Let’s face it, these days, most movies are.
It’s like how The Matrix, Star Wars, and Harry Potter are basically all the same story.
But did J.K. Rowling rip-off Jill Murphy? NO!
Is Harry Potter really The Worst Witch? NO!
It would be like asking if every fantasy writer ripped-off Tolkien.
Admittedly there’s some similarities but the characters are not the same. The relationship between the characters are different and the overall plot is very different.
Rowling didn’t “rip off” as much as borrowed and expanded on ideas that were in Murphy’s story. Or maybe some of the ideas are so “on the nose” that they would have to be true. For example if there was a magical school I feel it would have to be in a hidden magic castle. Otherwise it’d just be another boarding school.
Plus there’s no Quidditch, sorting hat, divination lessons, nor are there four separate houses in Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches.
Authors, filmmakers, and actors all borrow ideas from others all the time.
Just enjoy both.