Sunday, January 6, 2013

Harry Potter and the Grand Tour

cover of harry potter and the deathly hallows
US cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with Roman arches and columns.

It's been a while since I wrote a Harry Potter post, and something must be done about that! Actually I was watching part one of The Deathly Hallows during Christmas, and I realized that Harry's, Hermione's, and Ron's last year of education is similar to the English tradition of the Grand Tour.

The Grand Tour started in the mid-17th century and, by the 19th, was considered a necessary part of every young man's education (at least if you were part of the upper-class). After studying the classics, the civilizations of Greece and Rome, and reading about the art of Michelangelo and Raphael, the best way to conclude one's schooling was by seeing the art and the ruins of these civilizations for oneself. Obvs, since they didn't have the intrawebs or photography back then, the only way to do this was to travel.

Like Ron, Hermione, and Harry, travelers on the Grand Tour would take EVERYTHING with them. I don't know about you guys, but when I go somewhere, even for a really long time, I pack ONE bag. If I need more clothes, I can buy them when I get there. For travelers on the Grand Tour, though, they packed like they were going to the moon and included every single thing they could possibly need, in quantities to last them the years it would take before they returned to England. Unlike the Harry Potter People, however, they didn't have a bottomless purse to stuff everything in, so they had to hire carriages and porters to carry it all. Not to mention guards to keep from being robbed by unscrupulous highwaymen!

More importantly, people on the Grand Tour had a typical set of destinations that defined it as "the" tour. They went in search of specific objects, places, and knowledge. Like, you HAD to visit Paris and sleep with a prostitute, or else what was the point? Haha. They also typically visited the Vatican, saw the Sistine Ceiling and paintings by Raphael, saw an opera, and sketched the Roman Forum. The itinerary for the Grand Tour wasn't too different from the typical modern tourist's to-do list in Italy, actually.

Of course, Harry, Ron, and Hermione don't go to Italy, but they do take a "tour" of sorts of the British Isles, and this is further emphasized in the locations of the films. They visit the Giant's Causeway, Buckinghamshire, Yorkshire, Suffolk, and Wales, among other locations. Also, although Harry isn't technically traveling to "finish" his education, he does learn a lot about himself and the past--especially the past of his hero, Dumbledore. He also collects objects (the Deathly Hallows), similarly to how people on the Grand Tour collected souvenirs.

What would a Grand Tour look like for you?


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