In several Harry Potter films, magical orphan schoolboy Harry is shown living under his aunt and uncle’s stairs, living on their charity and cast offs, playing with his Cousin Dudley’s cast off toy soldiers. These are all shown as broken and headless. Very symbolic …
Toy soldiers, wargames and chess sometimes appear in films, books and adverts as shorthand symbols for tactics, scheming and strategy (Bond Living Daylights film, Callan, The Crown.)
At the end of the first Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone book and film, there is a giant, living and deadly chess game that Harry and friends must play and win to solve their quest.
Image source: https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Toy_soldiers
According to Harry Potter fandom site, these toy soldiers apparently only appear in the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The headless toy soldiers from “The Cupboard Under The Stairs” also appear briefly in the part 1 of the film adaptation of the final lengthy tome Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. They are briefly glimpsed as symbols of his deprived childhood as Harry leaves the magical protection of his neglectful blood relatives the Dursleys and their house on Privet Drive for the final time when he comes of age.
They did not appear in the books, although in a short interview clip with screenwriter Steve Kloves, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling approved of the film’s visual shorthand and symbolism of the headless soldiers, the “broken army” of cast out, cast off figures:
The YouTube clip of the interview and film clip of the soldiers under the stairs is also here
Toy Soldiers as Symbols in Books and Films
Obviously the headless soldiers have a symbolic role, as toy soldiers in films usually have. They symbolise his abused, second class, neglected, cast-off status as an unwanted, unloved orphan child.
Symbolic headless soldiers – Maybe Harry Potter is both a helpless pawn or a increasingly clever game player in the quests and riddles that run through the Harry Potter books?
The Harry Potter fandom site suggests: “It’s not known if these toy soldiers were a cheap birthday present for Harry on one of his birthdays or if they were inherited toys from his cousin Dudley that he most likely no longer wanted.
It is not very easy from these screen shots to recognise which original figures they were, ones that the props department found headless or beheaded as props?
Anyone recognise the originals or makers of these figures?
Maybe a good Halloween fantasy scenario (Pauline Clarke, Twelves and the Genii or Return of the Twelves style) where the headless figures must seek out their heads or the headless soldiers are some zombie automata …
I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter books, and later watching the Potter films, partly for their punning wordplay and also for their look, both the CGI fantasy of Diagon Alley and increasingly grungy, gritty look as the real world and the magical world collide.
Related blog posts – book nooks
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 September 2021