In this article, the use of proverbs in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is analyzed and compared to the use of proverbs by J. R. R. Tolkien. The use of proverbs is especially interesting in fantasy contexts such as these because of the inherent juxtaposition that occurs between the familiar and traditional language of the proverb and the "otherness” of the created fantasy world. One important function of proverbs in fantasy literature, then, may be to provide the reader with a familiar link to the unfamiliar world, often while simultaneously distinguishing between that world and the reader’s everyday life. But proverbs may also serve two other functions, both of which could occur in other forms of literature as well. First, proverb use may be a mechanism by which authors reveal their characters’ personalities, attitudes, and views of the world. Second, authors may also draw on proverbs to help communicate the themes of the works. This article explores the ways that Tolkien and Rowling use proverbs to these ends.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.