Is Hogwarts Legacy Antisemitic? Controversy Explained
Exploring the facts.
Though Hogwarts Legacy has been dazzling gamers with its vivid depiction of the wizarding world, it is not without its controversies. Many of these stem from problematic elements that date back to the original books, and require a little reflection in order to unpack their meaning. In this guide, we will explore whether Hogwarts Legacy is Antisemitic.
How Are the Goblins Offensive in Harry Potter?
Before we begin, we must address that the following is conjecture. Much of it does stem from JK Rowling’s noted tendency to lean into negative stereotypes, leading many to connect the dots between Jews and the portrayal of goblins in the Harry Potter world.
Goblins in Harry Potter are depicted as greedy, duplicitous and gold-obsessed, with physical traits such as prominent noses. The goblin Griphook, despite being saved by Harry and his friends, double-crosses them when he distrusts that they will give him the Sword of Gryffindor. Not only are these physical and personality traits consistent with hateful caricatures throughout history, but the thread between antisemitism and goblins is not a new thing.
In his 1992 book, Knockers, Knackers, and Ghosts: Immigrant Folklore in the Western Mines, author Ronald M. James discusses the Cornish folklore of the “knockers”, goblin-like creatures thought to be the ghosts of Jews who worked the mines in the 11th and 12th centuries.
The concerns about Rowling’s portrayal of goblins has long been ongoing, however the discussion was recently reignited when comedian Jon Stewart made reference to their similarities on his podcast in 2021, remarking, “here’s how you know Jews are still where they are. …Have you ever seen a Harry Potter movie? …You ever see the scenes in Gringotts Bank? …Do you know what those folks that run the bank are? …Jews!”
Stewart then goes on to talk about how he shows an anti-semitic caricature to people, only for them to mistake the illustration for a Harry Potter character. He even details how he thought it was weird that nobody else seemed to mind this while watching the films. It is important to note, Stewart later claimed these comments were intended as a joke.
The sentiment is not universal, and some groups have defended Rowling’s portrayal of goblins. In a Hollywood Reporter interview, director of policy at Jewish charity the Community Security Trust Dave Rich stated, “I don’t believe J.K. Rowling is an anti-Semite or is responsible for creating anti-Semitic caricatures. There is nothing in her record to suggest that she holds anti-Semitic views: quite the opposite in fact, as she has spoken out consistently and repeatedly in support of the Jewish community and against anti-Semitism, when there was no need for her to do so.
“Consequently, I think in this case, her goblins are just goblins. Now, we could have a fascinating discussion about whether the traditional depictions of goblins in European culture have been subliminally influenced by anti-Semitic depictions of Jews (you could do the same for vampires), but that doesn’t make every goblin an anti-Semitic caricature.”
To this, there is a definite possibility that Rowling’s portrayal of goblins was not based on any personal views, but unwittingly taken from existing stereotypes where the parallels had already been embedded. As mentioned previously, the above is conjecture based on circumstantial evidence, and provided only for context about the controversy surrounding the goblins in Hogwarts Legacy, as well as Harry Potter as a whole.
What Are the Antisemitic Themes in Hogwarts Legacy?
Specifically to Hogwarts Legacy, the goblins are entrenched in a bloody conflict known as the Goblin Rebellions, an insurgency caused by their alleged discrimination and prejudice at the hands of witches and wizards. You are able to either assist Ranrok, the goblin at the heart of this event, or put a stop to his machinations.
Choosing the former aligns you as a Dark wizard, suggesting that the goblins are evildoers in this case. This is further evidenced by his affiliation with another Dark wizard, Victor Rookwood, and their scheme to apparently abduct a child.
As noted in a Facebook post that has since been reposted to a viral response on Reddit, “you, the hero, are a wizard whose ultimate task it is to quash the rebellion and put these goblins back in their rightful place under the rule of the wizards.”
When placed under the scope of potential antisemitism (child abduction being one of many unfortunate falsities placed upon Jews), the encounter takes on an unsavory feel, and it has caused a stir among the gaming community.
Golbin Artifact Resembling a Shofar (Jewish Musical Instrument)
Twitter has also pointed out some troubling issues regarding one of the Goblin Artifacts, as user frostiefey points out that it is literally a shofar, a well-known Jewish musical instrument. In the description, it’s stated to be “used to annoy witches and wizards.” while also getting a date of 1612 for its origins.
The tweet goes on to explain that this was the year the Fettmilch uprising took place, which saw the outright massacre of Jewish people. The last bit of info is that the instrument would be “stuffed with gorgonzola to silence it,” referring back to the line about it being annoying.
Considering this line specifically states gorgonzola, a non-kosher cheese that Jewish people can’t eat, instead of just saying cheese, many found that it couldn’t have just been a coincidence, especially with everything else that was in the description.
Now that you have been presented with the facts, it is up to your discretion whether or not Hogwarts Legacy is antisemitic. As always, we encourage you to do further research to form your own views.
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