Harry Potter


"The Legend of Rah and the Muggles"

by Deepti Hajela (Associated Press, May 24, 2001)

``The Legend of Rah and the Muggles'' (Thurman House, 267 pages, $19.95) - Nancy Stouffer

Nancy Stouffer, author of ``The Legend of Rah and the Muggles,'' has been talking for months about what she considers suspicious similarities between her books and the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.

But there's one undeniable difference - Rowling is readable. Meant to be a children's tale, Stouffer's book is an excruciating mix of cliche, preachiness and just poor writing.

``The Legend of Rah and the Muggles'' was first published in 1984 and later went out of print. It is being reissued by the Maryland-based Thurman House.
Stouffer, now calling herself N.K. Stouffer, has sued Rowling, charging that elements of her book appear in Rowling's works. Rowling and her publisher, Scholastic Inc., filed a lawsuit in November 1999, along with Time Warner Entertainment Co., which owns the film rights to two Harry Potter books. They are asking a judge to rule that Rowling's books do not violate Stouffer's trademark and copyright.

Stouffer's book is set in Aura, a once peaceful country now ravaged by civil war. After a nuclear devastation, the ``elites'' leave, abandoning the ``have-nots'' to life in a cloud-covered wasteland. But after 500 years, the descendants of those left behind are still there. They're called Muggles - small, bald, delicate baby-looking humans with potbellies.

``The Legend of Rah and the Muggles'' tells the tale of two orphaned twin boys who come from a land across the ocean, and who are found and raised by the Muggles. The two brothers grow up, and eventually deal with issues of jealousy and rivalry.

What moral lessons Stouffer wants to teach are lost in her graceless writing.
``They lost the freedom and liberties they had worn like a comfortable pair of old shoes,'' reads one passage. Stouffer also writes: ``The self-appointed 'chosen ones' felt no pity for the have-nots they had entombed in shoreline caves. In their minds there could be no reason for a have-not to survive if it meant one of them would not.''

And that's just the introduction.

The book doesn't get any better. The story is thin, and some characters are completely unnecessary. At one point Stouffer throws in touches that seem to be right out of a romance novel. They are passages that are inappropriate and just plain icky in a children's book:

``Just then Walter drew her even closer to him, bending his head down besides hers, until his lips nearly touched her ear,'' Stouffer writes. '``Madame, it is not I who is the wicked one in this room!' She nearly fainted in his arms, and he felt her knees weaken.''

Rowling also has Muggles in her books; they are what magical folk call ordinary humans.

On Stouffer's Web site, she lists numerous examples of such ``similarities,'' some of which are silly, like both authors putting a fleet of boats in their works. By that logic, Stouffer had better make sure that Jimi Hendrix's estate isn't feeling litigious, since the author refers to the ``year of the Purple Haze.''