Many people who’ve read Harry Potter books and watched the movie Labyrinth can’t help but notice some similarities between the two. Both worlds depicted in the books and the movie are filled with magical creatures and elements that defy logic. So was J. K. Rowling inspired by Labyrinth?
J. K. Rowling never said that Labyrinth inspired her writing of Harry Potter. Labyrinth could be an influence rather than an inspiration for some names and characters, like “Hogwarts” and various magical creatures. However, J. K. Rowling had many other influences and inspirations from life.
In this article, I’ll discuss if Rowling was in any way inspired by the movie Labyrinth from 1986. I’ll mention some similarities between the movie and some Harry Potter books. I’ll also discuss a few other important influences for the Harry Potter series.
For many people who’ve already grown up, the Harry Potter books have been with them since they were kids. Moreover, the books have been with them for over a decade.
It took J.K. Rowling 17 years to write the Harry Potter series, from the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, to the seventh one, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (For more information about how long it took Rowling to create her epic series, check out my article How Long Did It Take To Write the Harry Potter Books?)
During that time, many of those who loved the books were also huge Labyrinth fans.
For many, Labyrinth was a movie that marked the 1980s, the same way the first Harry Potter book defined the 1990s. Over time, people who’ve seen the movie and read the Harry Potter books started noticing similarities between the two. Soon, forums and blogs became filled with theories that the iconic cult classic film inspired Harry Potter.
Labyrinth was more of a (possible) influence rather than an inspiration. For starters, J. K. Rowling never mentioned Labyrinth in any of her interviews. She doesn’t talk about other inspirations (with a few exceptions) for the Harry Potter books, but it’s safe to assume that Harry Potter was somebody Rowling invented herself.
That said, writers often soak in everything from the environment around them and use it (if only subconsciously) when imagining and writing about their fictional worlds. Some similarities are also present between Labyrinth and Harry Potter, as we’ll see below.
The most visible similarity between the Harry Potter books and Labyrinth is, of course, the magical world where the action takes place.
Both worlds are firmly rooted in reality, but they introduce the magical element to the real world. For example, Harry Potter and Labyrinth feature vast forests (real), but each forest is filled with various imaginative creatures and monsters (magical).
Speaking of creatures, that’s another similarity in their worlds. They both have goblins, giant, hairy monsters, and fairies. Because of this element, the Harry Potter and Labyrinth worlds can be fantastic and wonderful but also the darkest and most dangerous places.
This list would be incomplete without, well, labyrinths. Labyrinths feature prominently in the movie Labyrinth and in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The book actually features a maze rather than a labyrinth (yes, there’s a difference), but that doesn’t affect matters much.
Mazes and labyrinths are two of those places I mentioned in the previous point where reality and magic meet in these worlds. No spoilers, but in the movie and the book, participants have to finish some critical tasks while dealing with some terrible obstacles in a labyrinth/maze.
Apart from a scary and dangerous maze, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire introduces Harry’s Triwizard Tournament partner, Cedric Diggory.
To learn all about Cedric and his importance in the book, read my article Who Is Cedric in Harry Potter?
In the movie, the main character, Sarah, mispronounces a dwarf’s name and calls him “Hogwart” (instead of the real name, Hoggle). This mispronounced name is the most vital argument point for those who say Harry Potter draws its inspiration from Labyrinth. It’s just too similar!
The official Wizarding World page reveals that the inspiration behind the name came from the folk tale (in the Harry Potter lore) when Rowena Ravenclaw — one of the school founders — dreamed of a “warty hog” which showed her the location for the school. But the page adds that it’s “unknown…whether this is actually true,” adding even more mystery.
Many more influences and inspirations played a far more important role for Rowling when she was creating the world of wizards and witches. Ultimately, it’s the culmination of dozens of inspirations and influences that created the Harry Potter world, and Labyrinth, if it was an inspiration, was only one of them. And not the most important one, at that!
Other inspirations for the Harry Potter series include:
- Trains: Rowling imagined Harry Potter for the first time while traveling on a Manchester-London train. Her parents also met at King’s Cross train station, which also appears in the book. Harry Potter books feature trains and train stations also.
- Other books: Rowling was influenced by other books, most especially The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis) (the passage to a magical world) and The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge). Other books that inspired her include classical epics, like The Iliad.
- Rowling’s life: Great influences were more serious topics, like death, with the death of Rowling’s mother and her depressing state while living under difficult financial conditions. She studied Classics, and she used her knowledge of Latin for spells.
Although there are some similarities between Labyrinth and the Harry Potter world, the movie didn’t serve as a direct inspiration for the books. It might’ve had some influence when creating some names and characters, though.
Similarities in Labyrinth and the Harry Potter books include:
- A magical labyrinth
- The name Hogwart (in Labyrinth) and Hogwarts (in Harry Potter)
- The magical world filled with various creatures and dangers
Other books that influenced Harry Potter are:
- The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
- The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge)
- Wizarding World: The Origins of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
- Wizarding World: It’s been 10 years since J.K. Rowling finished writing Deathly Hallows
- English Heritage: What’s the Difference Between a Maze and a Labyrinth?
- Biography: 5 Little-Known Facts About How J.K. Rowling Brought Harry Potter to Life
- Satis Writes: Thoughts of the Week: Rowling’s Labyrinth
- Odyssey: Did J. K. Rowling Take Inspiration From ‘Labyrinth’ When Writing ‘Harry Potter’?
- Reddit: Did J. K. Rowing Draw (a Little) Inspiration from Labyrinth?
- Wikipedia: Harry Potter Influences and Analogues
- Zimbio: 20 Things You Never Knew About ‘Labyrinth’
- YouTube: From 1999: J. K. Rowling on the Origins of Harry Potter
- YouTube: J K Rowling on How She Created Harry Potter
- YouTube: J. K. Rowling on Her Inspiration to Write Harry Potter