“What You Fear Most of All Is Fear” – What On Earth Does Lupin Mean? – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ch. 8

Welcome back to Muggles and Mocha! Are you ready for Chapter 8 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

It’s been a second since we’ve had an article as summer has kicked into gear, but we’re diving into “Flight of the Fat Lady.” This chapter is full of interesting, character-building scenes and a classic holiday feast—Halloween! However, as we’ve realized at this point, something always seems to go wrong on that day at Hogwarts…

Watch our video to tune in to our discussion of Chapter 8. Spoilers ahead!

Today, we’re focusing on a famous line from one of the most beloved characters in the series—Remus Lupin.

In this chapter, Harry and Lupin have their first deep conversation, and we immediately see the bond between them. Little do they know, from this point forward, they’ll continue to be a part of each other’s lives. Harry is sad because he wasn’t able to go to Hogsmeade, and Lupin sees him walking through the halls, dejected. He invites Harry into his office to cheer him up, and below, I’ve pasted bits and pieces of the conversation that follows. As they sit together, Harry asks Lupin why the professor didn’t let him fight the boggart.

“Well,” said Lupin, frowning slightly, “I assumed that if the boggart faced you, it would assume the shape of Lord Voldemort.”

Harry stared…

“Clearly, I was wrong,” said Lupin, still frowning at Harry. “But I didn’t think it a good idea for Lord Voldemort to materialize in the staffroom. I imagined that people would panic.”

“But then,” said Harry honestly. “I—I remembered those dementors.”

“I see,” said Lupin thoughtfully. “Well, well… I’m impressed.” He smiled slightly at the look of surprise on Harry’s face. “That suggests that what you fear most of all is—fear. Very wise, Harry.”

Harry didn’t know what to say to that, so he drank some more tea.

“Flight of the fat lady,” Harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban

You and me both, Harry!

Honestly, when I first read this quote this time around, I couldn’t help but think it was more than a little cliché. I believe this is because this quote is actually famous, a line that has withstood the test of time, making its way through history.

Of course, most of us know it from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural address:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

However, you might be surprised to learn this quote has been stated in one form or another by many people throughout history, even before FDR. As it turns out, this quote dates as far back as 1580! Here are a couple of people who have expressed something similar throughout the years:

  Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1580)    “The thing I fear the most is fear.”  
  Francis Bacon (1623)  “Nothing is terrible except fear itself.”  
  Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1831)    “The only thing I am afraid of is fear.”
  Henry David Thoreau (1851)    “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”
  Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933)    “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  

Wow! I was a bit shocked by the length of this list.

So what makes this saying so attractive to people, enough that it has left a trail through history? As I mentioned, this list only includes people who are known, so who knows how many others have used this phrase? It makes me wonder what inspired J.K. Rowling’s use of it in this book.

Let’s talk about this quote. Today, we’ll discover that, in this chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this saying is more than simply a cliché—in Harry’s case, it’s a very true description of his greatest fear. We’ll also ponder why this phrase is so popular among humanity, no matter what time period they’re from.

Photo by Shayna Douglas on Unsplash

When I read this sentence as Harry and Lupin sat in the professor’s office, I tried to break it down and consider what Lupin is really saying to Harry here. He says it in response to Harry’s admittance of his greatest fear—dementors.

“That suggests that what you fear most of all is—fear. Very wise, Harry.”

But does fear of a dementor necessarily mean a fear of fear? How does all of this work together?

Lupin’s comment holds a lot of weight because there’s something we need to remember about Harry’s first encounter with a dementor: Lupin was there.

Lupin was in the compartment during Harry’s first dementor attack. He was actually the person who explained to Harry what a dementor was for the first time, in response to Harry’s question: “What was that thing?” Because of this, we can be certain Lupin knows Harry wasn’t aware of what dementors were before this attack.

This may seem like a small detail, but for Lupin’s statement to Harry, it’s very significant. This information and Lupin’s knowledge about Harry’s attack on the train help Lupin pinpoint what Harry is truly afraid of regarding dementors. He knows Harry wasn’t scared of the lasting effects a dementor could have on him (the Dementor’s Kiss) because Harry wouldn’t have known about it. He also didn’t have much time to be particularly scared of what a dementor looks like, especially in the face of passing out.

No, he witnessed what happened to Harry, and he’s certain that what this boy is afraid of is that feeling… the feeling of dread, of pure, paralyzing fear. Ice in the chest, an inescapable hopelessness.

Because of this knowledge, Lupin is right—Harry is literally afraid of those feelings of fear more than anything else in the world. It’s guaranteed that dementors will give him that feeling every time he encounters them, and at this point, he’s helpless against them.

In this situation, Lupin’s comment isn’t something to make Harry feel better or stroke his ego—it’s the truth behind Harry’s biggest fear.

I really enjoy this character trait in Harry because it demonstrates the magnitude of what he’s been through. Thinking back on that Defense Against the Dark Arts class, the kids in that room were thirteen. I’m certain their fears changed as they got older and learned more about the world, which is only natural. Your biggest fear today most likely isn’t what you were afraid of at thirteen. But for Harry, his deepest fear goes far beyond this creature, the dementor. It’s a reflection of the cruel, cold feelings he’s experienced too many times in his young life. Even though he technically doesn’t remember the night Voldemort killed his parents, ever since he was eleven years old, he’s had to live with the knowledge of what happened; additionally, later that year, he finds out this murderer is trying to return. He’s had to learn to cope with a constant dull fear that follows him, along with a couple of intense spikes from the events with the Sorcerer’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s a very mature fear for someone so young.

On a side note, I think this conversation about Harry’s greatest fear further emphasizes that a Gryffindor heart beats within him.

But why is this statement a cliché in the first place? What makes it so popular? Why are writers, politicians, artists, speakers, and philosophers all saying it over and over again?

Well, I believe it’s for the same reason Lupin respects that this is Harry’s deepest fear.

Lupin realizes Harry subconsciously understands the greatest threats come from within ourselves rather than outside of ourselves. This is a key theme in this book series, and it’s what separates Harry from his enemy, Voldemort. Harry desires to draw strength from inside himself from joy, love, and light, and this strength helps him withstand the most brutal of attacks. It’s the strength that, deep down, all of us strive for—the strength to overcome. Fear strangles and debilitates, disrupting us to our core. That’s why this saying continues to ring true and attract us. There’s something extremely powerful about recognizing that the ultimate threats are born from our own hearts. These are the threats that are truly strong enough to tear us apart, so we look to squash this fear however we can.

Humanity will continue to gravitate toward this idea because fear is something that haunts all of us. Consider J.K. Rowling. I find it interesting that Harry’s worst fear, dementors and the dread they cause, is based on something she experienced in her life, the worst thing she could think of. She technically gave Harry her worst fear, which makes me think she recognized that fear and the effect it has on us is something we can all relate to.

Those were my deep thoughts for today! I hope my ramblings were the catalyst for some deeper thinking and that you enjoyed them. I know I’ll definitely view this statement in a different light moving forward.

As I mention in the video, I love this first scene between Lupin and Harry, and this little detour into Harry’s biggest fear makes this chapter all the better to me. Don’t forget to check out the video above!

Before we end for today, I have something embarrassing to share… In the video, I mention a Harry Potter character ranking I did about a year ago using a website called TierMaker. It’s only been a year, and I already think some of my choices were crazy! I’m going to redo this again and reveal my new options in our next article, but I thought it was only fair to show you the one I already did. So here it is. Please don’t heckle me too much.

I hope it’s not too hard to tell who all the characters are. Again, don’t judge too harshly! I’m going to make another one soon with my updated list.

In the meantime, I have the hardest question ever for you: Who is your favorite character in the Harry Potter series and why? I CAN’T WAIT to hear your answers. Watch my social media (which you can follow below) because I’ll be posting a poll with this question as well. However, if you already have your answer solidified, feel free to leave it in the comments below.

NOW, ON TO SOME QUIDDITCH! Next time, we’ll cover Chapter 9, “Grim Defeat,” and you may be surprised to hear what I have to say about it…

See ya, Muggles!

Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.


5 Replies to ““What You Fear Most of All Is Fear” – What On Earth Does Lupin Mean? – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ch. 8”

  1. Yeah, I’m with you; I’m here for pretty much any Harry/Lupin time. It’s special to get to see Harry interact with (almost) anyone who was close to James and Lily, but especially so with Lupin and Sirius. It is pretty remarkable that Harry seems to be unable to help himself and completely opens up to Lupin in that way. Not to get too dark here, but these interactions make it all the more sad that Harry loses pretty much all of the men that were father figures to him. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to lose a father, much less two other men who would have been a great support to him.

    As for my favorite character, I reserve the right to change my decision at any time. BUT. For right now I think I have to go with Dumbledore. I have always gravitated towards characters who are wise, and we know that Dumbledore has this in spades. I envy the ability to keep a level head and to always divine the proper context and priorities and I guess I look for that in my favorite characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man, Tyler, I’ve never really thought about the fact that Harry loses all of the father figures in his life. That’s heartbreaking. Maybe the only one he doesn’t lose is… Arthur? And J.K. almost killed him off in the fifth!

      Haha, you definitely reserve the right to change your decision. I do it all the time! I’ve been narrowing down my choice all week, and I’m shocked and a little disappointed in myself about my final pick for reasons I can’t put my finger on. I can’t wait to tell you guys! I’ve come up with a video idea because of this experience that I’ll be recording tomorrow, so that will be fun!

      For your favorite character, I think Dumbledore is a great one. He has so many good qualities, and I agree that wisdom is one of his best. I also love that we see how human he is in the last book. He’d always been larger than life, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it was neat to get that relatable side of him right at the end. Thanks!


      1. Arthur crossed my mind too! He’s definitely the closest man remaining, and definitely fulfills part of that role for Harry. I do think that Sirius and Lupin held a slightly more special place in Harry’s life though.

        Looking forward to the video!


  2. My top characters would be the same as yours but I would add Dumbledore, Lupin and Luna to the top. Luna is kind of a under rated character. Luna has been through a lot but yet she always stays positive. In the books, it really shows how rejected she is among her classmates. They treat her like she is some weirdo. I know, she is a little odd but she is so kind. It’s nice to see Harry and Ginny see her value.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent idea! I do think Luna is an extraordinary character, and you’re right—she’s been through so much and is still so happy and optimistic. One of the sweetest people in the books!


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