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Well, this is a Harry Potter-themed blog, so I supposed I'd better make an actual post about Harry Potter!

Magic is, of course, the core driving force in the Harry Potter books (besides, y'know, love and death and Voldemort and such), but J.K. Rowling's approach to magic in a children's book is different than what one might expect. Typically, magic spells in children's books will rhyme, but the world of Harry Potter uses spells like "Evanesco" (Liquid-Vanishing Spell), "Petrificus Totalus" (Full-Body Bind Curse), or "Expecto Patronum" (Patronus Charm). While the words might have a sort of rhythm to them, they don't necessarily need to rhyme. In fact, the only instance in the books where a spell rhymed was a failed, fake spell in the first book. Ron Weasley's brothers tell him to try a rhyming incantation to change the color of his rat, Scabbers, as you can hear in this amazing audiobook rendition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as read by Stephen Fry:

(skip to 7:40)
Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow
Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow!

The spell does not work, leaving Scabbers as dull and grey as before.

So, if rhyming isn't good enough for Harry Potter, why is it good enough for other works of fiction? Why do their spells so often have rhythm and rhyme? They don't even have to be children's stories; series like Charmed had entire episodes devoted to rhyming incantations. There are entire websites dedicated to spells, many of which rhyme. Even William Shakespeare himself had rhyming incantations in the famous "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" speech given by the three witches in Hamlet.

Part of this may be a tradition; spells seemed to have always rhymed, so why break away from what both you  and the audience are familiar with? Rhymes and rhythm do seem to add a layer of mysticism and intention to a phrase, which may be part of what led to the connotation of magic.

So, do they have to rhyme? Not at all! While the rhyme and rhythm do add a certain flair to a spell, they are by no means necessary. They sure do make it sound nice, though.

And remember, it's levi-OH-sa, not levi-oh-SA.


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