The mirror of Erised: seeing a better world through Harry Potter and critical theory


In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling, 1997), Harry Potter finds the Mirror of Erised hiding in a strange room deep in the labyrinth of Hogwarts castle. The mirror has a strange inscription on it “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi” (Rowling, 1997, p. 118), which when mirrored says, I show not your face but your hearts desire. When Harry, orphaned at a young age, looks in the mirror, he sees the deepest desire of his heart – his family. A familiar trope in the study of children’s and young adult literature is the idea that literature can act as mirrors, windows, and doors (Botelho & Rudman, 2009; Sciruba, 2014). Through literature, readers can see themselves reflected in the characters of a story, can get a glimpse at others and how they live, and can step into a world that is both like and unlike their own...