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There's a persistent argument online that the goblins from Harry Potter are anti-semitic caricatures, and most critics focus in on the fact that Rowling allegedly presents them with hooked noses:

From Forbes:

While goblins are often depicted in fantasy fiction as cruel, greedy, and generally malicious creatures, author J.K. Rowling depicted them in her Harry Potter series as a secretive cabal of hook-nosed bankers, who maintain a contentious relationship with the wizarding world, who view them with deep suspicion.

And a little further down:

Stewart is correct in his condemnation of the creatures, and in his assertion that Rowling could have reimagined goblins as whatever she wanted them to be - creating a hook-nosed race of bankers was not a clever interpretation of folklore, but simply another stain in the pages of Harry Potter.

Or from an NBC News opinion piece:

But critics have been pointing out for years that the hook-nosed, greedy goblin bankers who run Gringotts Wizarding Bank look a lot like the hook-nosed, greedy Jewish caricatures that have been a hallmark of antisemitic propaganda from the Middle Ages to Der Stürmer.

With that quote referencing an opinion piece from The Jewish Chronicle, although it references a theme park promotional shot and nothing about the actual writing:

It is not often that I am stopped in my tracks. But the press photography from the new Gringotts wing of Warner Bros’ Harry Potter Studio tour positively shrieked with antisemitic tropes; the long-nosed goblin, his natty suit, clawed fingers caressing a pile of gold coins. When I positioned a Gringotts shot alongside a series of cartoons from Nazi Germany’s Der Stürmer, it did not seem out of place.

I've already done a quick text search of the books, and the term "hook" does bring back several mentions of "hook-nose", but all of them refer to Snape. But that doesn't rule out that the noses are described with some other hook-like fashion. Other search terms I've used have returned too many results to be useful, and I also can't rule out that Rowling described the noses somewhere other than the books, like in an interview.

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    Are we sure the article talks about the books - and not the movies for which Rowling was a consultant - when referencing hook-nosed? Forbes eg says "While the books absolutely echoed anti-Semitic tropes, the Harry Potter films took the racist association a step further, with the goblin’s appearance [...]". The NBC article is also about a "'Harry Potter' movie".
    – tim
    Feb 6, 2023 at 10:51
  • 22
    This does seem disingenuous to focus on the books when Jon Stewart (referred to in the Forbes piece) was referring to the films, and has since distanced himself from the reactions calling his statements "light-hearted conversation". The NBC News opinion piece quotes people talking about the films too.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 6, 2023 at 13:16
  • Related History - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/….
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 9, 2023 at 18:10

1 Answer 1

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Not in the text of the main books

I used Potter search to find all instances of "hooked" or "hook" in the main series (books 1–7). I cross referenced the HP Lexicon to make sure there were no significant version differences. The character who was described the most as having this nose was:

There, his black robes rippling in a cold breeze, stood Severus Snape. He was a thin man with sallow skin, a hooked nose, and greasy, shoulder-length black hair, and at this moment, he was smiling in a way that told Harry he and Ron were in very deep trouble. (Chamber of Secrets)

Some other characters are described as having a hook(ed) nose:

  • Victor Krum (and his dad)
  • Madam Pince
  • Snape's dad

Broadening the search to just noses, I found some other characters that had distinctive noses, such as Dobby's pencil nose. However, I couldn't find a single instance of goblin noses being described. In the first book, this is the description we're given:

The goblin was about a head shorter than Harry. He had a swarthy, clever face, a pointed beard and, Harry noticed, very long fingers and feet.

They also sometimes wear glasses and one wrinkles his nose at Hagrid, so we know they have noses but not what they look like.

In the illustrations, yes

In a drawing that was showcased first at BBC's Harry Potter and Me (December 28, 2001 — transcript), there is an illustration of Harry's first Gringott's visit by JKR herself (which was likely created in 1995):

Hagrid, Harry, and Griphook in a mine cart

(See Reddit for more details.)

Griphook's nose is clearly hooked. Notably, he also has dark facial hair that I can only describe as a Fu Manchu, a feature which never appears in the movies.

In some versions of Deathly Hallows, the chapter art (which was not by JKR) depicts goblins (chapter 15, The Goblin's Revenge):

two goblins in front of a fire

There were three goblins in that chapter. The illustration is likely of Griphook's friends, Gornuk and Dirk.

In the movies, yes

Goblin noses are depicted in the movies as being extremely long or hooked. You need only look at the first depiction of Gringott's to see a wide variety of goblins. Here's another image, from Deathly Hallows Part 2:

Andy Herd playing a wrinkled goblin with a hook nose

Compare with the actor's real nose.

Rowling had what one article called "unprecedented creative control" over the movies from the start. What you see in the movies is how she wanted them to look and is most likely the depiction of hook noses that critics are complaining about.

Intertextuality

People were drawing connections between Rowling's goblins and stereotypical portrayals of Jews as early as 2007:

That’s right, Rowlings’ depiction of goblins reflects the type of stereotypes that are more fitting for Russia in the late 19th century or a second rate Gazan newspaper.

There doesn't seem to have been a direct, well-known connection between Jewish caricatures and goblins before Harry Potter. See Is folklore about Goblins rooted in anti-Semitism? (hat tip to Avery for finding this). At best, it's extremely obscure.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Skeptics Meta, or in Skeptics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 10, 2023 at 13:06

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