You Probably Had No Idea What These Famous Stories Are Actually Based On

5 famous stories with surprising origins.

Martin Kaff
Created by Martin Kaff
On May 11, 2021

Harry Potter and the Bible

Ever wonder how movie writers and producers get their ideas? Sure, sometimes they just have crazy lives or wild imaginations, but sometimes they improvise with an old story or a piece of history. But, you wouldn't always know it from watching the final product.

While every movie seems to be relatively unique (every good one, anyway), many all-time classics are actually based on stories from way in the past. Some, you have probably heard of, and others? Well, that's what we're here for.

So, here are 5 famous movie storylines that are based on history or famous literature.

We all read the story of the Boy Wizard, Harry Potter, who went to a magical school and was mentored by a God-like figure, Dumbledore. The story of Harry Potter has many parallels to Jesus’s story in the Bible: Dumbledore, the all-powerful force of good and wisdom, and protector of the vulnerable, represents God; Voldemort, the apprentice-turned-force of evil, represents Satan; and Harry, the chosen one who fights evil and is killed and then reborn, is the Jesus equivalent. 

Much of the symbolism contained in the two stories is almost identical, from Voldemort’s connection to snakes throughout the books, similar to the snake in the Garden of Eden representing evil, or Voldemort’s attempts to lure Harry away from the “righteous” path, as Satan does to Jesus in the desert. 

In the end, the story of good vs evil, of weak vs strong, of leaving home on a journey, learning something, and being reborn all act as clear through-lines going from the New Testament all the way to Harry Potter’s adventures. 

Game of Thrones and European history

It seems relatively obvious that the Game of Thrones saga is loosely based on the Middle Ages, from their kings and queens, to the way cities and kingdoms are organized, to the way they talk and dress and fight. It’s the Knights of the Round Table, times a million. But many people don’t know that numerous elements of the story and the TV show are based on actual historical events. 

For example, the rivalry for power between the House of Stark and the House of Lannister is actually based on two houses in 15th century Britain, York and Lancaster (wonder which is which?). The creators of the TV series also talked about basing the dragon scenes of fire-breathing and destruction of cities on a mix of the burning of Pompeii and the nuclear explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

The frozen wall separating the unknown “North of the wall” is apparently modelled on George R.R. Martin’s trip to northern Britain, where he was struck by the overwhelming size of the wall the Roman emperor Hadrian had built to keep the Scottish hordes out. Huh!

The legend of Mulan

We all know the beautiful story of Mulan, but not everyone knows the real and dark legend that Disney based its animated movie on. Mulan is based on a Chinese tale about a warrior woman who goes off to fight and, after a decade, returns home. Although, throughout the war, she was nothing but honorable, in the end she is denied all her titles and returns home - depending on the version, disgraced or simply tired. The story’s different versions are quite varied, some more suited for a family motion picture, and some, more tragic. 

In one version, perhaps the darkest, Mulan returns home to find her father dead and her family falling apart, ending in another tragedy: Mulan’s suicide. The Disney version, although following the general plotline of the original legend, has a cheerful storyline with a much happier ending: she enlists in her father’s place to fight in the war, and, pretending to be a man, becomes a hero and falls in love. We like that version a lot better!

Star Wars and the Bible

Similarly to Harry Potter, the story of Star Wars is an all-time fantasy adventure story of good vs evil, and love overcoming all. And, like Harry Potter, Star Wars mirrors many key aspects of the Bible. While Darth Vader turns out to share characteristics with Satan (the Chosen One who turned to the Dark Side), he also shares some with Jesus. Both were born of immaculate conception, and both were known from birth to be the Chosen Ones. 

In Star Wars, however, Vader’s son Luke represents the Jesus figure, brought to his foster parents by Obi-Wan Kenobi (a mystical, God-like figure in the old movies) and raised as their own, only to leave home to fulfill his destiny, first dying and coming back, and then defeating evil and restoring good in the world. Obi-Wan also bears some similarities to Jesus, dressing and looking very similar to Christ’s images, being on a mission to save the young and vulnerable, and dying and coming back as an omniscient ghost (Holy Spirit-esque).

The Jedi knights and the concept of the Force also seem to reference the Crusaders or monks, pure fighters for God and carriers of His word. 

The Lion King and Hamlet

And lastly, who doesn’t love the Lion King? Perhaps the most famous and adored Disney movie ever, the story of the Lion King is as tragic as it is heroic: a king (Mufasa/King Hamlet) is killed by his brother (Scar/King Claudius), who marries his widow (Sarabi/Queen Gertrude), and a struggle for power develops between him and his nephew (Simba/Hamlet), seeking to avenge his father. 

What’s more, both stories feature the dead king’s ghost visiting Simba and Hamlet, telling them to avenge them by killing the evil king and taking back the throne. The love story that develops between Simba and Nala closely resembles Hamlet and Ophelia’s romance, and Simba and Hamlet share an emotional and psychological frustration with their quest and their destiny that must be overcome.