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The SparkNotes Blog

Homework help made hilarious.

9 Things J.K. Rowling Totally Stole From Tolkien

It’s hard to be original these days, which is why my novel about a boy wizard who must fight to the death with his vampire boyfriend will be hitting the shelves forthwith. Even J.K. Rowling, the pinnacle of all human endeavor, is not immune to the temptation of borrowing—as evidenced by some of the stuff in her books that you might recognize from a little thing called The Lord of the Rings.

And we ain’t even mad. Without these similarities, my Firenze/Legolas crossover slash fiction wouldn’t make nearly as much sense. But let’s take a look at some of those similarities in detail, just for the heck of it.

Dumbledore = Gandalf

Let’s start with the obvious. Dumbledore and Gandalf are so similar that for an embarrassing percentage of my misled youth, I thought Michael Gambon (who plays Dumbledore in the films) and Ian McKellan (Gandalf) were actually the same person. I also kept mixing up Ian McKellan and Ewan McGregor, which was unrelated but didn’t help, and I’m still not entirely sure who Michael Ian Black is or if he’s even relevant to the discussion. The point is, these characters are TOO SIMILAR, and I am hopelessly out of touch with pop culture.

Kreacher = Gollum

If there’s anything we’ve learned from droopy, bitter, jewelry-obsessed creatures that look kind of like hairless cats, it’s that they’re eventually going to screw you over. Not only do they look eerily similar, but they serve similar plot purposes: Kreacher misdirects the search for Sirius in a way that ultimately leads to his death, and Gollum indirectly leads Frodo to the Orcs via spider-related doom. Speaking of which…

Aragog = Shelob

Do you hate spiders? Of course you do. You’re a human being with a life that you value. Well, Rowling and Tolkien both like spiders, or at least they like spider antagonists who will murder you for sport.

Dementors = Ringwraiths

Presumably, both Tolkien and Rowling sat down and thought, “You know what this children’s tale needs? HOODED NIGHTMARE DEMONS.

Horcruxes + the Invisibility Cloak = the One Ring

Look, there’s a metric butt-load of overlap between these three magical plot devices. The Ring grants the wearer the power of invisibility, and it also corrupts them in a way that’s super Horcrux-like. My theory: Rowling took the Ring and spliced it into two separate, convenient halves so that Harry could wreak magical mayhem after hours without drop-kicking his soul out the window.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named = Him That We Do Not Name

When the wizarding world wants to mix it up, they trade out the classic “You-Know-Who” in favor of “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” In a similar fashion, Boromir calls Sauron “Him That We Do Not Name.” This is possibly because, like Voldemort, Sauron is someone to be feared. But maybe it’s because Sauron hated his name and he was kind of sensitive about it, and everyone sympathized with that whether they liked him or not. That didn’t stop them from saying it a lot, but at least it wasn’t, like, to his face.

Wormtail = Wormtongue

Wormtongue: the grossest person on the planet, right-hand man to Saruman. Wormtail: the grossest person on the planet, right-hand man (literally) to Voldemort. Pun intended. I’m saying he lost his right hand.

The Whomping Willow = Old Man Willow (or “The Old Gray Willow-Man,” as Tom Bombadil and I like to call him)

They’re both sentient trees with a passion for bringing the ruckus.

Dumbledore = Dumbledor

Okay, so “dumbledor” is an old, obsolete word that anyone can use. Tolkien doesn’t get to call dibs on the word for ye olde bumblebees. But he did use it in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and then Rowling added an “e” and used it for the Albus Percival Wulfric Brian variety. So maybe she yoinked it. Maybe she didn’t. The point is, both J.K. Rowling and Tolkien used it, so that’s what I’m going to name my firstborn and that’s a fact.

We never knew how many similarities there were between LOTR and Harry Potter, and we find this shiz downright FASCINATING. Kreacher and Gollum? Dementors and Ringwraiths? Consider our minds BLOWN ALL TO PIECES. And we even thought of a comparison that’s not on this list—can you guess what we’re talking about? (Hint: THIS GIF.)