Weekly Kibbitz: Are the Goblins in ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ Antisemitic?

Dobby at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: “The Making of Harry Potter.” Rob Young from United Kingdom via Wikimedia Commons

Jacob Henry

When people enter the world of “Hogwarts Legacy,” the blockbuster video game that was officially released on Feb. 10, they will find themselves immersed in the fictional universe of “Harry Potter” … and face-to-face with an alleged antisemitic caricature.

The narrative of the game centers on a goblin rebellion in the 1890s, about a century before the fantasy books take place. Some who have had an early look at the game have echoed longstanding concerns that the creatures’ prominent hook noses and their role in the “Harry Potter” universe running the wizard bank, Gringotts, teeter on the edge of an antisemitic stereotype that Jews control the world’s money supply.

Others have taken issue with “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling’s views on transgender people, which LGBTQ rights groups have called transphobic.

The criticism does not appear to have significantly impeded sales of “Hogwarts Legacy,” which has become the best-selling game on Steam, the world’s most popular vendor for computer games.

While there have been Harry Potter games in the past, this is the first major studio video game from Avalanche Software, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Games. It lands several years after the depiction of goblins in Harry Potter books and movies elicited criticism.

Comedian Pete Davidson criticized author J.K. Rowling on “Saturday Night Live” in 2020 for creating a world in which “little giant-nosed Jew goblins” control the banks.

And in a podcast episode in 2021, comedian Jon Stewart said: “You can ride dragons, and you’ve got a pet owl, and who should run the banks? Jews.”

Those accusations have resurfaced.

Jack Doyle, a writer for The Mary Sue, a publication that describes itself as “the geek girl’s guide to the universe,” wrote that the video game “revives the antisemitic trope.”
He added that “the game seems to be of the opinion that the ‘moral’ choice is to crush the [goblin] rebellions, thereby returning goblins to subjugation.”

‘A World Lots of People Love’
Following Stewart’s comments, the U.K.’s Campaign Against Antisemitism said in a statement that “the portrayal of the goblins in the Harry Potter series is of a piece with their portrayal in Western literature as a whole” and “is a testament more to centuries of Christendom’s antisemitism than it is to malice by contemporary artists. So it is with JK Rowling, who has proven herself over recent years to be a tireless defender of the Jewish community.”

Travis Northup, who wrote a glowing review of the game for IGN — a popular video-game journalism website — said he didn’t think that the game’s premise echoed an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

“The story does not depict a cabal of bank-controlling goblins trying to take over the world,” he wrote in a Twitter direct message. “It’s about one particular goblin rebelling against the Wizarding World’s insistence on keeping magic out of the hands of their kind.”
Still, Northup said “I certainly won’t deny that the Wizarding World’s depiction of goblins in general has always been a bit questionable, even before this game.”


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