From Pardoner to Potter: Exploring the Influences of Chaucer in the Harry Potter Novels
Phyllis D. Morris
In an interview after the release of Book Seven, J.K.Rowling revealed that she based The Tale of the Three Brothers on Geoffrey Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale. In “From Pardoner to Potter: Exploring the Influences of Chaucer in the Harry Potter Novels,” Phyllis Morris will analyze the parallels between the two tales, both of which relate the stories of three men on a quest to thwart death who end up facing death due to their mishandling of the gifts they were given.
Ms. Morris will also examine the broader influence of Chaucer in general, and The Pardoner's Tale in particular, on the Harry Potter series. The wise old man the three men meet in The Pardoner's Tale is unable to be harmed by death because he is as spiritually alive as the three men are spiritually dead – similar to the contrast between the eternal Albus Dumbledore, who is unafraid of death, and Voldemort's death-fearing soulless shell. The Pardoner's sexuality is questionable; he is a neuter as Voldemort is a neuter due to the loss of both his physical and his sexual identity from mutilating his soul to create Horcruxes. Moreover, while the Pardoner presents himself as facilitating the other pilgrims' entry into heaven (for the price of a Pope-blessed relic), the Pardoner is actually a thief who does not provide anything of value in return for the money he charges, in the same way that Voldemort promises rewards to his Death Eaters but is only interested in using them to achieve his own ends. The Pardoner is as spiritually dead as the three men in his tale, just as Voldemort, while physically alive, is not spiritually alive.
Ultimately, both The Tale of the Three Brothers and The Pardoner's Tale - and the entirety of the Harry Potter series - are about the choices people make when faced with critical decisions, how those choices define them as a person and the way in which those choices impact the future course of their lives.
In addition to having led the wildly unsuccessful effort to convict Severus Snape at Accio 2005, Phyllis Morris has delivered presentations on the Heir of Gryffindor theory at Convention Alley 2004, on Arthurian-Harry Potter connections at Accio 2005, on the role of fear in the series at Lumos 2006, on Rowling's use of misdirection at Phoenix Rising 2007, on the significance of the number seven at Prophecy 2007 and on character transformation at Accio 2008. Phyllis also served as Co-Chair of Accio 2008 and as Programming Chair for Convention Alley 2004. In what the non-wizarding world refers to as "real life," Phyllis lives in Albany, New York and directs policy for three New York State public assistance programs.