Hogwarts Legacy reignites allegations of antisemitism in Harry Potter universe

Despite calls to boycott the game, Hogwarts Legacy is expected to break records on its release


WATFORD, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Goblins in the original Gringotts Wizarding Bank set at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London on March 19, 2019 in Watford, England. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter unveils its biggest expansion to date, the original Gringotts Wizarding Bank will be open to the public from Saturday 6th April. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Warner Bros. Studio Tour London)

The release of the video game Hogwarts Legacy last week has reignited allegations that the goblins depicted in the Harry Potter universe embody antisemitic tropes.

Critics assert that the goblins, who control Gringotts bank within JK Rowling’s beloved wizarding world, resemble the caricatures depicted in the antisemitic 1903 book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Although largely background characters, the goblins’ appearance and profession parallel offensive antisemitic stereotypes such as having large, hooked noses and a particular covetousness for gold and money.

The game also includes a description of a special horn that closely resembles the Jewish shofar, which was used in the lore “during the 1612 Goblin Rebellion to rally troops and generally annoy witches and wizards,”

Critics were quick to also note that, coincidentally or not, the year 1612 coincides with The Fettmilch Uprising, a Jewish pogrom in Germany in which Jews were expelled from the city of Frankfurt. Although the uprising first began in 1612, Jews were only actually expelled in 1614.

Moreover, the game’s central plot line is ostensibly to resist the goblin uprising, who are typically subservient and oppressed creatures, returning them to a life of subjugation. Other details of the plot have been compared to the antisemitic blood libel myth in which Jewish people steal and murder children to use in rituals.

Some have also previously noted that in the Harry Potter films there appears to be a pattern resembling the Star of David on the floor of Gringotts bank.

The charity Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which exposes antisemitism around the world, released a statement last year defending Rowling as a “tireless defender of the Jewish community” and said the depiction of goblins was a testament to “centuries of Christendom’s antisemitism” rather than malice on the part of Rowling.

Beyond accusations of antisemitism, the game’s release had also been mired in controversy due to author JK Rowling’s alleged transphobia, with some arguing that purchasing the game would both benefit the author financially and provide credence to her views.

Despite the allegations of antisemitism, alleged transphobia on the part of Rowling, and calls to boycott the game, the sales of Hogwarts Legacy has so far not been impeded.

Hogwarts Legacy has become the best-selling game on the platform Steam and one of the most commercially successful games of all time.

On the video-game streaming website Twitch, Hogwarts Legacy reached 1.27 million concurrent viewers at its peak, the most ever recorded for a single-player game.

The game has become a commercial and critical success, and currently holds an 84 per cent rating on Metacritic, a review aggregate site.

Warner Bros. Games, the game’s publisher, has maintained that Rowling had no creative input in the game and, in an attempt to make the game more inclusive, included a trans woman character within the game.

Defenders of JK Rowling have pointed to her history of supporting Jewish causes and condemning antisemitism publicly. In 2018, Rowling spoke out against antisemitism among the supporters of former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, for which she wrote a parody of the crisis.

Like the CAA, Rowling’s defenders note that the depiction of goblins as covetous and grotesque far predate the Harry Potter series which was first released in 1997.

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