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Eerie Links Between 'Harry Potter,' Osama bin Laden; Why Movie May Benefit

While Warner Bros. has never pushed the comparison, the entire Potter saga -- both the books and the movies -- has had an inevitable subtext, colored by the events of 9/11.

Harry Potter and Osama Bin Laden

While Hollywood scrambles to figure out ways to exploit the death of Osama bin Laden onscreen, the first movie that could actually benefit from the news of the terrorist’s death is likely to be the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which Warners will release on July 15.

While Warners has never pushed the comparison, the entire Potter saga -- both the books and the movies -- has had an inevitable subtext, colored by the events of 9/11. PHOTOS: Inside Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

While the first volume in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book series was originally published in England in 1997, the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was released in November 2001, just months after 9/11.

It set up the ongoing conflict between Harry, the young, orphaned wizard, who gradually discovers his powers, and the malignant force of evil, Lord Voldemort, who is bent on destroying him. First referred to only as “He Who Must Not Be Named,” Voldemort is introduced as something of a formless boogie-man -- not unlike the mysterious Osama -- but then, over the course of the series, takes on more and more of a physical presence until in the last volume he and Harry go head-to-head in a final, cataclysmic battle. PHOTOS: Harry Potter and other anticipated summer blockbusters

For a generation of kids who grew up reading Rowling’s books and watching Hollywood’s big-screen adaptations in the shadows of 9/11, there have been inevitable echoes of the real world in Harry’s sometimes reluctant quest to defeat Voldemort.

Back in 2004, a poster on mugglenet.com made some of it explicit, comparing the Death Eaters to Al Qaeda and noting of that “just as Voldemort was shaped by his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Osama was shaped by his personal struggle between Western pleasures and Islamic discipline.”

And just as Harry is known in the books as “the anointed one,” a number of President Obama’s critics like Rush Limbaugh have frequently dismissed the President by disparagingly referring to him as “the anointed one” as well -- though on Monday, even Limbaugh had praise for how Obama orchestrated Osama’s demise.

Mild spoiler ahead, so stop reading if you don’t know the outcome of the final book...

Meanwhile, in the wake of bin Laden’s death in a mansion near Islamabad, a meme has already popped up on the web, noting the weird coincidence that Osama and Voldemort both died on the same day, May 1. But true Potter fans have been quick to point out that’s not quite true: When Harry and Voldemort actually finally come face to face in the Battle of Hogwarts, in the books’ chronology the date is really May 2, 1998. PHOTOS: Stars of Harry Potter
 
Of course, even without an end to bin Laden, the final Potter movie is already on track to be one of the biggest of the summer. The franchise has already grossed more than $6.3 billion at the worldwide box office.

But bin Laden’s death is now likely to give the movie an extra emotional resonance for the Potter generation, and that could translate into an even bigger box-office bonanza.

E-mail: gregg.kilday@thr.com