In the Harry Potter series, the story is relayed to the audience via an extradiegetic narrator, a detached third-person observer close to the action, but in no point involved in it (heterodiegetic). At several points in the books, there are also intradiegetic (either autodiegetic or homodiegetic) narrators for a brief period, such as Bartemius Crouch Jr. in part of the thirty-fifth chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Veritaserum), or Rubeus Hagrid in part of the twentieth chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Hagrid's Tale).
The narrator is, at all times, heterodiegetic — that is, he is exterior to the story and never takes part in the action — and, as such, speaks in third-person. Verb tenses are invariably given in the past.
The narrator is also omniscient: he seems to have a detailed overview of what is going on at any place of the story, and at any time, as well as a deep level of insight into the characters' thoughts and feelings despite not always relaying them to the reader.
Rowling chose a close third-person narrator, which means that he tends to follow one character in the action and limits the information he relays to what is happening in the proximity of that character. This character is almost always Harry Potter, although there are moments in which this focalisation changes: Vernon Dursley (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, chapter one), Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, chapter one), Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, chapter eleven), Frank Bryce (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter one), the Prime Minister (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter one). There are times, however, like in chapter two of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or in chapter one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where the narrator is uncharacteristically objective, and does not relay anything more than facts about the scene before him — he becomes a third-person observant narrator. Rowling uses this device in crucial scenes in which the protagonist, Harry Potter, is not present, in order to deceive the reader into thinking characters mean something that they really do not whithout being overtly lying.
Behind the scenes
- Notably, a narrator makes an appearance in some of the early Harry Potter video games. In both the PC and PS1 versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game), the narrator reads Harry's story from an illustrated storybook. In the GBA version of the game, the narrator's lines are accompanied by a picture of Albus Dumbledore (when relaying the story prior to the start of the game), a Gryffindor crest (when relaying temporal information), or a GameBoy Advance (when relaying gameplay hints to the player). In the PS1 version of the following instalment, the storybook narrator makes his final appearance: in all the following instalments in which he makes an appearance (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), he speaks while cutscenes are playing.
- Some speculated that the Unidentified pipe-smoking wizard pictured in the back cover of the original editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was meant to depict the narrator, although this was not the artist's original intention. In fact, he was commissioned simply to create a portrait of a wizard and had no particular character in mind.