Harry Potter's Shylocky Goblins


I'm not a Harry Potter fan myself, but I did see the last movie this weekend and I was struck by how much J.K. Rowling's Goblins appear to be modeled after anti-Semitic stereotypes. Aside from being small, miserly, and gifted with large schnozes, Goblins, like medieval Jews, appear to have been forced into a caste system where they're responsible for banking and money lending. Oh sure, some of you Potter fans will undoubtedly argue that the Goblins are naturally predisposed toward such professions, that they enjoy being the stewards of the magical economy, and to you I say, you're a rabid Anti-Goblinite!

In the final film, (spoilers) a Goblin named Griphook agrees to help Potter and his friends infiltrate the Gringotts Bank (run by Goblins, natch) in exchange for the sword of Griffindor. In a particularly Shylocky move, Griphook betrays Potter and his friends at the last minute, informing them that he never promised to lead them out alive. Griphook is slaughtered with the rest of the Goblins who try to foil Potter's theft of one of the last remaining horcruxes, magical items that must be destroyed for Potter's nemesis Voldemort to be made vulnerable.

Anyway, I doubt the similarity was deliberate, but I found myself sympathizing with the Goblins nonetheless, hoping they'd rebel against their human masters and fight their way out of an oppressive caste system. Instead the Goblins in Gringotts are massacred by a dragon, and that's pretty much it for the rest of the movie. Still, I hope their future is brighter than their past -- given the failure of previous Goblin Rebellions, perhaps strategic nonviolence offers a better path to freedom.


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